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The Oil Cringe of the West: The Collected Essays and Reviews of J.B. Kelly Vol. 2
edited by S.B. Kelly
The Impact of Islam
by Emmet Scott
Sir Walter Scott's Crusades and Other Fantasies
by Ibn Warraq
Fighting the Retreat from Arabia and the Gulf: The Collected Essays and Reviews of J.B. Kelly. Vol. 1
edited by S.B. Kelly
The Literary Culture of France
by J. E. G. Dixon
Hamlet Made Simple and Other Essays
by David P. Gontar
Farewell Fear
by Theodore Dalrymple
The Eagle and The Bible: Lessons in Liberty from Holy Writ
by Kenneth Hanson
The West Speaks
interviews by Jerry Gordon
Mohammed and Charlemagne Revisited: The History of a Controversy
Emmet Scott
Why the West is Best: A Muslim Apostate's Defense of Liberal Democracy
Ibn Warraq
Anything Goes
by Theodore Dalrymple
Karimi Hotel
De Nidra Poller
The Left is Seldom Right
by Norman Berdichevsky
Allah is Dead: Why Islam is Not a Religion
by Rebecca Bynum
Virgins? What Virgins?: And Other Essays
by Ibn Warraq
An Introduction to Danish Culture
by Norman Berdichevsky
The New Vichy Syndrome:
by Theodore Dalrymple
Jihad and Genocide
by Richard L. Rubenstein
Spanish Vignettes: An Offbeat Look Into Spain's Culture, Society & History
by Norman Berdichevsky



















These are all the Blogs posted on Wednesday, 23, 2011.
Wednesday, 23 November 2011
Please Do Not Assume Islam Is A Religion

Al-Aqsa TV (Hamas/Gaza) - November 3, 2011

Posted on 11/23/2011 6:17 AM by Norman Berdichevsky
Wednesday, 23 November 2011
Honesty?

The Times has done some good work in exposing the grooming of young girls by older men. In today's leader it states that lack of honesty has been an obstacle to bringing the perpetrators to justice, but in doing so it falls prey to the very evasiveness of which it accuses others:

To state the problem clearly, as far as anyone can see and the statistics can be analysed, the phenomenon of group grooming has been disproportionately one of Asian men picking up and using young girls.

[...]

[H]onesty about what is going on is the essential condition for ending a terrible national scandal.

In using the word "Asian" instead of the correct word "Muslim", The Times is still being dishonest, and this leader, together with all news reports that use the A-word instead of the M-word, are grossly maligning Hindus, Sikhs, Christians and apostates of Indian or Pakistani origin, who do not worship a "prophet" whose "marriage" to a nine-year-old girl set such a disgusting example.

Later in the paper, Alice Thompson writes about a parallel Dutch phenomenon, known there as "loverboys". Are the offenders in The Netherlands disproportionately "Asian" men?

They also confronted the issue of race, admitting that the majority, though not all of those who have been involved in grooming girls, have been of Moroccan and Turkish descent.

Insofar as the word "race" means anything, Asian, Moroccan (Arab) and Turkish are three different races, so race is not an issue, is it? But what do those three groups of groomers have in common? Are we talking about Arab Christians, "Asian" Hindus and Turkish Kemalists?

Answers on a naughty seaside postcard, please.

Interestingly, I don't recall the Catholic Church child abuse scandal, gleefully seized on by "progressive" thinkers, being referred to as an Irish or Roman phenomenon. On the contrary, religion has been mentioned quite openly, even though its founder said of Mohammed's ilk: "It were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and that he were drowned in the depth of the sea."

Posted on 11/23/2011 7:23 AM by Mary Jackson
Wednesday, 23 November 2011
Another Mad Scientist

The blithe and flippant attitude of scientists who claim to have found the key, not only to remove the idea of morality from mankind ala Darwin, but to remove the concept of moral agency completely, never ceases to amaze me. Here is a prime example from "celebrated neurologist" Michael S. Gazzaniga as interviewed by Gareth Cook in Scientific American:

Cook: You talk about “abandoning” the idea of free will. Can you explain what you mean by this, and how you came to this conclusion?

Gazzaniga: As I see it, this is the way to think about it: If you were a Martian landing on Earth today and were gathering information how humans work, the idea of free will as commonly understood in folk psychology would not come up. The Martian would learn humans had learned about physics and chemistry and causation in the standard sense. They would be astonished to see the amount of information that has accumulated about how cells work, how brains work and would conclude, “OK, they are getting it. Just like cells are complex wonderful machines, so are brains. They work in cool ways even though there is this strong tug on them to think there is some little guy in their head calling the shots. There is not.”

The world is not flat. Before this truth was realized, people use to wonder what happened when you got to the end of the earth-- did you fall off? Once we knew the earth was round, the new perspective, made us see how the old questions were silly. New questions also seem silly many times until a new perspective is accepted. I think we will get over the idea of free will and and accept we are a special kind of machine, one with a moral agency which comes from living in social groups. This perspective will make us ask new kinds of questions. 

Cook: Do you think this science is going to force philosophers to change how they think about free will? And how about the rest of us?

Gazzaniga: Human knowledge can’t help itself in the long run. Things slowly, gradually become more clear. As humans continue on their journey they will come to believe certain things about the nature of things and those abstractions will then be reflected in the rules that are set up to allow people to live together. Beliefs have consequences and we will see them reflected in all kinds of ways. Certainly how we come to think and understand human responsibility in the context of modern knowledge of biologic mechanisms will dictate how we choose our laws and our punishments. What could be more important?

Yes, indeed. The Western concept of government, law and justice are all based on the concept of free will; that man as a son of God is given full freedom to choose either to move toward God (Love, Goodness, Truth and Beauty), or to move away from God by consistently rejecting those values and embracing selfishness, sin and iniquity. God himself stands back and allows man full freedom of choice and therefore any human being or system of government that deprives man of his moral freedom is UNJUST. You simply cannot remove the concept of Freedom from the concept of Justice. This man speaks as though the Western concept of Justice can be abandoned cheaply - without the most profound consequences. To conceive of human beings as machines will lead inevitably to the fall of Western civilization, mass genocide and inequaled destruction. It is madness to pretend not to notice the consequences as though scientists are "above" morality and are not accountable for the direction their philosophy leads. Our free will is what makes us human.

Posted on 11/23/2011 6:55 AM by Rebecca Bynum
Wednesday, 23 November 2011
Lee Smith On The Obama Administration And Syria, And Is Too Quick To Find Fault

From The Tablet:

Split Ends

Rather than focusing on the goal of removing Bashar al-Assad from power in Syria, the White House is busy worrying about the fractured nature of the opposition

In March, the Syrian regime began slaughtering peaceful demonstrators in Deraa, a small city close to the Jordanian border. In August, the American president called for the man responsible for the killing to step down. It took six very long months, but President Barack Obama’s statement [1] of August 18 seemed quite definitive: “The future of Syria must be determined by its people, but President Bashar al-Assad is standing in their way,” he said. “The time has come for President Assad to step aside.”

Given this stated policy, you would think that news of the Syrian opposition gaining ground on Assad’s regime—the Free Syrian Army, for example, now has 17,000 men under arms and has carried off a number of daring operations—would be welcomed in Washington. But you would be wrong.

In the past three months, the White House has failed to realize its stated goal of removing Assad from power. A key reason it has failed isn’t for lack of ability to project power, but rather because it has become distracted by the fractured nature of the opposition—over what comes after Assad—rather than focusing on the far more manageable pursuit of bringing down a long-time U.S. adversary.

Yes, the Obama Administration has built a strong sanctions regime, which is choking off the Syrian regime’s finances. But fearful of owning a potential civil war, the White House has shied away from any talk of force—not only U.S. force but even force on the part of the opposition. Taking up arms will play into the regime’s hands, undermine international support, and “divide the opposition,” the Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs Jeffrey Feltman said [2] earlier this month.

But it’s too late for such warnings. The Syrian opposition, as Feltman surely knows, is already divided. One faction, the Syrian National Council, has modeled itself after Libya’s Transitional National Council in the hopes of attracting the same international support, including a no-fly zone. The group just released its political program, which says [3] it aims to “build a democratic, pluralistic, and civil state by … breaking down the existing regime, including all of its operatives and symbols.” Another faction, the National Coordinating Committee, has reportedly met [4] with officials from the Islamic Republic of Iran, Assad’s closest—and, increasingly, its only—ally. The Iranians’ purpose in backing the National Coordinating Committee is to create a ready-made ally should Assad fall, much like they backed various actors inside Iraq, such as Moqtada al-Sadr. In Iraq, this competition turned into armed conflict. In Syria so far, it has set the opposition against itself. This group has so far distinguished itself by countering the Syria National Council’s strategy, arguing that the opposition does not want foreign intervention, or a no-fly zone.

The Obama Administration is reluctant to throw its support behind any Syrian opposition group when those factions are already at one another’s throats. But the White House should learn from the Iranians: Choose your horse and ride it. Moreover, it was Washington itself that gave an opening to the National Coordinating Committee—and Tehran—by over-emphasizing the importance of the opposition. The administration ought to be pulling every possible lever to overthrow the Syrian dictator, and U.S. policymakers are making a mistake by getting caught up in the details of the opposition’s weaknesses. What’s more, this obsession with “what comes after” is quickly becoming the undoing of U.S. foreign policy.

***

The White House doesn’t want post-Assad Syria to look like post-Saddam Iraq, torn by civil war. But that outcome is probably unavoidable, regardless of U.S. involvement. Syrian political culture suffers from most of the same pathologies that marked Iraq before and immediately after the 2003 U.S. invasion. The main purpose of authoritarian security states is to stifle political opposition to the ruling regime. Thus it should come as no surprise that the political skills of any opposition group in a country like Syria are going to be rudimentary at best. And, as happened in Iraq, Syria’s opposition movement is going to attract opportunists, especially from the exile community, who have more contact with Western officials even though their understanding of what is happening on the ground is often murkier.

There will be much more conflict to come in Syria, perhaps as much as there was in Iraq. Like in Iraq, Syria’s sectarian strife has deep roots. Syria is historically a Sunni-majority region, dating back to the beginning of the Umayyad dynasty, which ruled from 661 to 750. Some fear that the specter of civil war now threatens Syria, but the truth is that the country’s civil war has been under way since 1966, when the Alawite minority first came to power and the Sunni majority lost its privilege to a heterodox Muslim sect with beliefs both Sunnis and Shiites consider heretical. Certain Sunni factions, spearheaded by the Muslim Brotherhood, rose up against Bashar al-Assad’s father, Hafez, in the late 1970s, a revolt the late president put down with the 1982 massacre in Hama, killing tens of thousands. What we are watching now is the latest effort on the part of the Sunni majority to overturn the system and retake control of the country. This time around, the Sunnis will almost certainly be successful, and the Alawites, and perhaps other minorities, will pay dearly for it.

The Obama Administration is understandably concerned about the country’s various minority communities, even as some, like several Christian clerics [5], have disgraced [6]—and perhaps further endangered—themselves by siding openly with a dictatorial regime whose business of late has been slaughtering Sunnis. [the Christians in a Muslim sea can do no other -- they know that it is the Alawite rule that protects them, for they understand, as no outsiders can, what those Muslims would do to them if they could. In Syria the government closes for Christmas. In Syria Good Friday celebrations can be held, openly, and until this year, without fear.]] Nonetheless, in the end there is little Washington can do to cool the enmities that have been roiling Syria and the region for more than a thousand years. It was not the presence of U.S. troops that gave rise to civil war in Iraq, and it will not be the absence of them that touches off more killing in Syria. Those conflicts are indigenous to the region.

Given the political character of the Middle East, which the Iraq war dramatically exposed, the Obama Administration is rightly wary of nation building. However, it does not seem to recognize that the desire to manufacture the ideal opposition movement in Syria and other Middle Eastern countries in turmoil is an outgrowth of the same hubris. The United States is limited in its ability to shape the political climate of foreign countries.

And yet policymakers on both sides of the aisle now seem beholden to the so-called Pottery Barn rule famously articulated by Colin Powell when he was George W. Bush’s first-term secretary of State. But, in fact, Washington is not required to buy something it has broken—especially if the damage was caused for the purpose of advancing U.S. interests. The Pottery Barn conviction has effectively become an article of faith in the foreign-policy establishment, and one that will eventually come to deter the United States from taking actions to protect U.S. citizens, allies, and interests. American taxpayers cannot be expected to sign on for foreign adventures if the price-tag is going to include remaking failed states, including those with leaders and publics who might wish us harm regardless of our contribution.

In the end, all Washington can control is what touches us directly. Right now, we want Assad fighting for his life in Syria because it will restrain the regime from projecting power abroad—exporting terror across the country’s borders into Israel, Lebanon, Jordan, and Turkey. [this is the point that has been made, here, repeatedly, over many months. And it does not mesh with the criticism of the Obama administration for not doing enough to weaken Assad -- Assad is now permanently weakened, the Alawites permanently preoccupied with staying in power. That's fine. It is far better that they stay in power than that they be removed, and Sunni Arabs take over. This is what Lee Smith does not say, apparently because he does not agree].  With Iran’s lone Arab ally neutralized, the eventual fall of Assad will weaken the regime in Tehran and its regional proxies, especially Hezbollah, whose supply line goes through the Lebanese-Syrian border. For the United States, that simple outcome is a victory that we’ve sought for more than 30 years.

Posted on 11/23/2011 11:14 AM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Wednesday, 23 November 2011
Lee Smith Offers A Conclusion That Doesn't Match His Prescription

Here is a peculiar article by Lee Smith. It expresses frustration with the Obama Administration for not being more forceful in trying to end the Assad regime. At the very end, there is a paragraph that states what is surely true (and that has been stated here, repeatedly, for many months): a regime in Syria that is preoccupied with staying in power cannot make, easily, as much mischief as it has until now.

But if the Assad regime falls, the triumph of the Sunni Arabs there will fill Sunni Arabs elsewhere with triumphalism. And they will not, as 70%of the population, have to worry about mass demonstrations against them. The terrified Christians will lie low, or start to emigrate. The Alawites will return to their most solid because most Alawite redoubts, and hope they are not massacred. And both Christians and Alawites will try to make an appeal to the Sunni Arabs, about the need not to descend into sectarian strife, because that would only serve the interests of...who? Why, the Zionists, of course. And a regime run by Sunni Arabs, who would not have to worry about civil war, would be much more dangerous to Israel than a regime run by Alawites who are unsteady and have to devote all their efforts into holding onto power.

Here is Lee Smith's last paragraph:

"In the end, all Washington can control is what touches us directly. Right now, we want Assad fighting for his life in Syria because it will restrain the regime from projecting power abroad—exporting terror across the country’s borders into Israel, Lebanon, Jordan, and Turkey. With Iran’s lone Arab ally neutralized, the eventual fall of Assad will weaken the regime in Tehran and its regional proxies, especially Hezbollah, whose supply line goes through the Lebanese-Syrian border. For the United States, that simple outcome is a victory that we’ve sought for more than 30 years."

The sentence that makes sense is the second one: "Right now, we want Assad fighting for his life in Syria because it will restrain the regime from projecting power abroad—exporting terror across the country’s borders into Israel, Lebanon, Jordan, and Turkey."

But surely if Lee Smith's criticisisms of the Obama Administration were taken in, and acted on, then that would mean adding American support to more forceful measures -- including military ones -- to overthrow the Alawites. It does not further the interests of non-Muslims to have the Alawites removed -- not of the non-Muslims (i.e., Christians, Arab and Armenian, nativges of Syria and Christian refugees from Iraq), not of Israel, and not of the West. What does further the interests of non-Muslims is for permanent turmoil in Syria, where the Alawites maintain control, but have to spend all their time staying in power. That's fine. That's a good outcome. More cannot be wished.

It is true that the Obama Administration would be horrified, no doubt, to find that that  is what it is doing. But so what? By removing American troops from Iraq, the same administration is at long last making possible the conditions that may allow sectarian (and ethnic) conflict to take off, and that, especially if it continues with no certain winner, and attracts men, money, and weaponry from Iran on on side and Saudi Arabia, and other Sunni powers including the Gulf statelets, would also be a good thing.

Objectively the Obama Administration, by doing so little in Syria, is doing  the right thing. By doing so little until it was too late, when it comes to Iran, it has done a very wrong and very bad and very dangerous thing. There is, however, still time to take military action -- and not leave it up to Israel, for it is in American interest that there be, in Iran, the alternative narrative in which pre-Islamic Iran, in which friendly relations between Persians and Jews play an important role, is not only available for those sick of the Islamic regime, but also sick of Islam itself. Persians, unlike Arabs, have an alternative identity to resurrect and develop, one that weakens, rather than reinforces as does 'Uruba, Arabness, their Islamic identity.

Posted on 11/23/2011 11:08 AM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Wednesday, 23 November 2011
Did Newt Gingrich Win Last Night’s GOP Contenders’ Debate?

Former Speaker Newt Gingrich  Nov. 22, 2011

Watch this Dick Morris’ assessment of last night's GOP contenders’ national security debate.   You may also watch the archived 2 hour CNN broadcast here.

You may demur from his assessment, but in the main they are acute observations. The questions from CNN Wolf Blitzer, the Heritage Foundation and AEI scholars in the audience were on-point.  In many ways the debate format was much better than prior ones.

With the exception of Ron Paul with his isolationist, decidedly anti-Israel rhetoric, the rest of the contenders were highly supportive of Israel's predicament vis a vis Iran’s existential nuclear threat. (See this AP/Reuters account of responses by GOP contenders to Israel security questions raised in last night’s debate).

Paul opined in response to a question about a possible Israel attack on Iran’s nuclear program:

"Why does Israel need our help? We need to get out of their way. that's their business, but they should suffer the consequences," Paul continued. He added that Israel has hundreds of nuclear missiles, so "they can take care of themselves."

For the most part I agree with Morris’ assessment of this debate. By far Newt Gingrich was head and shoulders above the rest in his depth of understanding of national security and foreign policy issues, specifically Israel, the Islamic threat to its existence, Pakistan, Afghanistan and how to bring Iran to account. Gingrich blasted Pakistan for harboring the late Osama bin laden, “who killed 3000 on 9/11.” Moreover he suggested that the US had to remove the strictures placed by current agreement with Pakistan against hot pursuit by NATO coalition forces into neighboring areas of Pakistan controlled by the Taliban and Haqqani Islamic terror networks.

Gingrich endorsed what many thoughtful analysts and some in Congress have espoused, the necessity of crippling Iran's economy via a moratorium on delivery of gasoline from foreign refiners. Also the need to support important Iranian civil opposition to ultimately topple the hated Islamic regime. That countered the suggestion by Gov. Perry about sanctions against the Iranian Central Bank that has been unanimously supported in the House and Senate, the later under the effective leadership of Sen. Mark Kirk (R-IL).  Herman Cain’s responses showed a lack of knowledge and appreciation of these issues. Pity, as he had been afforded the opportunity to be briefed by national security think tanks. The turmoil in his campaign staff management was deficient in scheduling those opportunities in the run up to debates this fall. His lack of preparation showed in last night’s debates, although he spoke of his commitment in support of Israel.

Gov. Romney's commitment to make Israel one of his first foreign visits, if he was elected, was a smart move. That is a not so subtle reference that Obama, despite his visit to Israel as a Senator from Illinois, has not accepted an invitation to visit Israel in his three years as President. Romney also seized the baton of being a full fledged national security candidate by opposing deep cuts in defense appropriations and not second guessing the military leadership, although the latter have not entirely distinguished themselves.   

Michelle Bachman was surprisingly good on some of the dangers of Pakistan's nuclear arsenal given her membership on the House Select Intelligence Committee. She noted that Pakistan has 15 nuclear sites, sic of which have been attacks by Islamic terror groups giving rise to alleged security concerns, unwarraented according to this report on The Blaze.

 Huntsman in the view of Morris is a nominee in the wrong party.

Santorum is always very good on the Islamic doctrinal threat, but also understands the commitment to sub-Sahara Africa via the Millennium foreign aid program to prevent al Qaeda inroads there. He also drew attention to the compelling matter of the rise of socialist autocratic regimes in Central and South America and their alliance with the radical Islamic regime in Iran. 

If Gingrich mis-stepped it was in his response on immigration. He said it was only humane to find a legal means to differentiate between long term illegal aliens versus those who been recent arrivals, a throwback to the amnesty issue that rankled the 2008 campaign. As Morris’ lawyer wife Eileen immediately suggested Gingrich’s proposal would fly in the face of the equal protection provisions of the 14th Amendment.

Gingrch's responses to questions and the exchange with the other contenders about the possibility of Israel attacking Iran's nuclear weapons and missile delivery development programs by covert, conventional or unconventional military means were cogent. He noted that without support for a secular democratic civil opposition ready to replace the Mullahs Iran's people will not be free. Neither the Bush nor the Obama Administration have paid much attention to that nor underwritten support for it akin to what was done back in Reagan era with support for civil groups given the rise of Solidarity in Communist Poland.

It will be interesting to see how the Iowa caucuses shape up in what could emerge as a two person race for the GOP nomination pitting Romney against Gingrich. Gingrich would have to overcome both his personal and ‘lobbying’ baggage, against a non-issue, Romney’s Mormon faith, and his support of Romney care during his gubernatorial term in Massachusetts.

For a view on the matter of GOP contender’s electability read Michael Medved’s opinion piece in today’s Wall Street Journal, Conservatives, Romney, and Electability.  Medved argues that the GOP needs to nominate moderates to win over Independents vital to defeating Obama in November, 2012.

Posted on 11/23/2011 2:36 PM by Jerry Gordon
Wednesday, 23 November 2011
A Musical Interlude: So What Papa? (Coot Grant, Sox Wilson)
Listen here.
Posted on 11/23/2011 4:11 PM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Wednesday, 23 November 2011
In His Anecdotage, H. D. S. Greenway Begins To Understand What He Failed To Before

For decades bow-tied H. D. S. Greenway wowed the stiffs on Morrissey Boulevard for his presumed sense of style. Bets were placed on which of his cars he would drive to the office from his house -- or rather, family compound -- in Needham.  And before that, when he had worked as a reporter, as the Globe's Middle East Bureau Chief stationed in Jerusalem, he consistently reported wrongly, and viciously, about Israel. He never understood, and had no sympathy for, the Jews of Israel. He did not know what the Mandate was about, he did not know details that one would have to know about the demographic and cadastral history of the area, he did not know the exact terms of the Mandate for Palestine, he did not know the history of that Mandate and how the British fulfilled, or failed to, their solemn commitments as Mandatary. He did not know a lot of things, but he was smug about turning aside the complaints that mounted about his coverage. And what he did not know about most of all was Islam. He never read Qur'an, Hadith, and Sira, never understood that the mistreatment of all the non-Muslims in the Middle East was not accidental, but systematic, and it was only the European intervention -- the British in Egypt for a while, the French in Lebanon-Syria, that allowed the non-Muslims to obtain something like legal equality or, in Lebanon, to maintain themselves in power because they outnumbered the Muslims until the last half-century.

And if he was, and remains, unsympathetic and uncomprehending of what the Jews of israel face, possibly uncomprehending because he is so unsympathetic, he also failed, during his entire professional life, to make the Middle East explicable. For he left out Islam. And it is only by undersanding Islam that everything that happens in the Middle East becomes explicable, including, for example, the support hundreds of thousands of Iraqi Christian refugees now living in Syria must surely be quietly giving to the Alawites, hoping that they stay in power.

You can read a piece today by H. D. S. Greenway. He still can't explain, to himself or to his readers, why the mistreatment of the Copts is not a surprise, and why it is not even new. He can't explain why it is entirely unsurprisiing that once Bethlehem was given over to the Arabs to control -- the "Palestinian" Arabs for whom H. D. S. Greenway has felt, over so many years, such a deep sympathy equal to his ill-concealed antipathy for the Israelis -- pf course the Christian population would sink, as it has, from nearly 100 percent to 30 percent.

With that little explanation of why H. D. S. Greenway has failed, in his professional life, to make clear what as a reporter and analyst he had decades to make clear, I give you his New York Times opinion piece in which, at long last, he seems to recognize that Islam is not healthy for Christians and other living non-Muslim things:

______________________________________________

From The New York Times:

N ov. 23, 2011

The Copts and the Arab Spring

When Egypt’s Anwar Sadat made his historic visit to Jerusalem 34 years ago, I was one of the reporters chosen to meet him along his personal via dolorosa in the Old City. My station was the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, and I was told that I would be allowed only one question.

I waited in the gloom of that venerable space until, suddenly, Sadat stood before me.

“Mr. President, I know you are a pious Muslim,” I said. I could see the mark that comes to the faithful from touching foreheads to the floor in prayer. “What does it mean to you to be here in the very heart of Christianity?”

The president of Egypt looked me up and down and said, “Young man, I will have you know there are more Christians in my country than there are Jews in Israel.”

He was referring to the Copts, an ancient Christian community that according to tradition was introduced to Egypt by Saint Mark in 42 A.D. Copts comprise nearly 10 percent of Egypt’s 80 million people. Like the peace that Sadat wrought with Israel, the Coptic community is holding fast, but it’s feeling threatened by the Arab Spring.

Copts joined with Muslims in Tahrir Square to overthrow Hosni Mubarak, but the unity forged in that popular up-rising has not lasted.

Last month a peaceful march protesting the destruction of a church in upper Egypt was broken up by police and army troops in central Cairo. Twenty- seven people were killed, some of them run over by military vehicles, and more than 300 people were injured.

Reports from Egypt said state television had called on citizens to turn out and protect their army from cross-wielding Christians, and a melee ensued. The incident has become a cause célèbre in Egypt, and an internal army investigation, much criticized by human rights organizations, is proceeding.

Copts have long faced discrimination, but today, with the tide of political Islam on the rise, they fear that religious bias and violence against them may increase.

Western diplomats in Cairo told me on a recent visit that Copts were increasingly showing up at their embassies enquiring about emigration opportunities.

Wahib El-Miniawy, a former ambassador and a Copt, confirmed that many of his coreligionists felt under assault, though he insisted that he would never leave his country. It was not so much that Copts were not being allowed to build churches without hard-to-get government permission, he told me, but a deep-seated hostility towards Christians that began in elementary school.

That mind-set took hold soon after Gamal Abdel Nasser took power in Egypt in a coup in 1952. He appointed an ignorant minister of education, and the branding of Christians as “the other” began, El-Miniawy said.

In truth, Christians have been leaving the Middle East for decades. When Sadat came to Israel, Bethlehem was nearly 100 percent Christian. Today it’s 30 percent, many Christians having fled to North and South America.

The Iraq war saw a considerable exodus of Christians from Iraq. And whatever the other failings of Hafez and Bashar al-Assad in Syria, Christians in Syria were closely protected under their rule, perhaps because the Assads were from a minority — the Alawites — themselves.

Today, Syrian Christians are trying to stay out of the fray, but they, too, feel nervous about their future in the Arab Spring.

More broadly, since the breakup of the Ottoman Empire and the end of European colonial rule, many of the great polyglot cities of the Levant and North Africa have been shorn of their minorities. The establishment of Israel, and the Arab hostility to it, led many Jews to leave for the Jewish state. Baghdad, for example, had a large Jewish population that has now shrunk to a handful.

The vibrant Greek and Italian populations of Alexandria largely fled to their homelands following the virulent nationalism that Nasser introduced into Egypt. Muammar el-Qaddafi kicked thousands of Italians out of Libya. In Turkey, ancient Greek, Armenian and Jewish communities have all been sharply reduced.

There are many reasons for the exodus of these various minorities ["Are there? The reason is the fear of Muslims, born of the experience of living with Muslims. That is the "reason" in every case, for the exodus of these "various minorities."]. But it would be a shame indeed if the Arab Spring and the fall of dictators led to a further unraveling of a vibrant cultural tapestry that once so enriched the lands bordering the eastern and southern shores of the Mediterranean.

Posted on 11/23/2011 3:41 PM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Wednesday, 23 November 2011
The Worthless H. D. S. Greenway
A re-posting prompted by his opinion piece on the Copts at the website of the New York Times:
Saturday, 19 August 2006
The Worthless H.D. S. Greenway

“Once upon a time I lived in the NE. The anti Israel bias of the Boston Globe turned me into a Boston Herald customer. The Globe had more than one op-ed columnist weighing in against Israel. HDS Greenway was the worst.” - from a reader

Was, and is. Though he is officially retired, the vaporings of HDS Greenway can still be found on Fridays at The Globe, where he has spent many years. Greenway is a Peter-Jennings sort of fellow. He never liked the Jews and always demonstrated a preference for the Arabs. He had lots of friends among them -- charming, liquid brown-eyed. He found them his sort.

He is not quite as bad as Robert Fisk, more sure of himself than the uncertain but vicious Chris Hedges, and more intelligent than the vacuous Tom Ashbrook -- who after having proved his intense dedication to journalism by leaving The Globe for a get-rich scheme of some Internet company that was going to sell household goods, rushed back and begged for a job, and was finally taken in by Jane Christo. While the smarmy Dick Gordon was fired, the just-as-smarmy and even dumber Ashbrook was kept on, and there he is today, with his "On Point" that, whenever it comes to the Middle East, apparently vets the callers so that those offering a word of support of Israel are always swamped by the others. I know several such callers whom Ashbrook has banned -- he has their phone numbers and names. The young people who answer the phone take these down, then go away, look up the list of those whom Ashbrook has banned because they are too damn convincing, and then they always come back -- several people have told me -- and always say "Gee, we have another question just like that ahead of you" or "Gee, afraid we won't have time to get to you." So much for the phoniness of that invitation to "join the conversation" that Ashbrook keeps repeating.

Well, back to Greenway. He would show up on Morrissey Boulevard, wowing the inkstained wretches with his rotation of cars each day, and his Yankee bowties (there's one bow-tie wearer in every Ropes & Gray or Hill & Barlow, and so too at The Boston Globe), and the Winships thought he was just fine.

He knew, and knows, nothing about the Middle East. He knows nothing, even though he spent years reporting from there, because he has never understood Islam, its centrality, its relevance to everything that happens. He deeply believes in the existence of the "Palestinian people." He deeply refuses to find out very much -- he never showed any interest -- about the history of the Mandate for Palestine, the history of land ownership in that area under the Ottomans and later, the demographic history of the area, or for that matter the demographics related to Jews and Christians in what became Mandatory Palestine, or all over what Greenway no doubt thinks of as "the Arab world." He has no linguistic gifts, no historical training. Some find him ornamental. From time to time he has been pressed into service to introduce a visiting speaker for some local foreign-affairs-council, for those who like to think they keep up with events, and for whom a good lecture by, say, Rami Khouri, or someone else of that ilk, will tell them all they need to know in order to understand the Middle East.

Greenway fits right in with an Op/Ed page that favors outside commentators of the Wiliam Pfaff-Jonathan Power variety, all of whom overlap on one point: their complete lack of sympathy or understanding for Israel, their deep belief that there is no problem with Muslim peoples or polities that cannot be solved by giving them what they demand from Israel, now and in the future.

Has H.D. S. Greenway ever taken the trouble to study the Qur'an, the Hadith, and the biography of Muhammad? In the hundreds of thousands of words he has produced, in his mere reporting over many years, and in his attempt more recently to make his own kind of sense of men and events, he has never given the slightest hint of having done so.

His entire professional life has been, thus, worthless.

[Coda: And he's not the only one.]

For more on H. D. S. Greenway,  there is also this:

In His Anecdotage, H. D. S. Greenway Begins To Understand What He Failed To Before

For decades bow-tied H. D. S. Greenway wowed the stiffs on Morrissey Boulevard for his presumed sense of style. Bets were placed on which of his cars he would drive to the office from his house -- or rather, family compound -- in Needham.  And before that, when he had worked as a reporter, as the Globe's Middle East Bureau Chief stationed in Jerusalem, he consistently reported wrongly, and viciously, about Israel. He never understood, and had no sympathy for, the Jews of Israel. He did not know what the Mandate was about, he did not know details that one would have to know about the demographic and cadastral history of the area, he did not know the exact terms of the Mandate for Palestine, he did not know the history of that Mandate and how the British fulfilled, or failed to, their solemn commitments as Mandatary. He did not know a lot of things, but he was smug about turning aside the complaints that mounted about his coverage. And what he did not know about most of all was Islam. He never read Qur'an, Hadith, and Sira, never understood that the mistreatment of all the non-Muslims in the Middle East was not accidental, but systematic, and it was only the European intervention -- the British in Egypt for a while, the French in Lebanon-Syria, that allowed the non-Muslims to obtain something like legal equality or, in Lebanon, to maintain themselves in power because they outnumbered the Muslims until the last half-century.

And if he was, and remains, unsympathetic and uncomprehending of what the Jews of israel face, possibly uncomprehending because he is so unsympathetic, he also failed, during his entire professional life, to make the Middle East explicable. For he left out Islam. And it is only by undersanding Islam that everything that happens in the Middle East becomes explicable, including, for example, the support hundreds of thousands of Iraqi Christian refugees now living in Syria must surely be quietly giving to the Alawites, hoping that they stay in power.

You can read a piece today by H. D. S. Greenway. He still can't explain, to himself or to his readers, why the mistreatment of the Copts is not a surprise, and why it is not even new. He can't explain why it is entirely unsurprisiing that once Bethlehem was given over to the Arabs to control -- the "Palestinian" Arabs for whom H. D. S. Greenway has felt, over so many years, such a deep sympathy equal to his ill-concealed antipathy for the Israelis -- pf course the Christian population would sink, as it has, from nearly 100 percent to 30 percent.

With that little explanation of why H. D. S. Greenway has failed, in his professional life, to make clear what as a reporter and analyst he had decades to make clear, I give you his New York Times opinion piece in which, at long last, he seems to recognize that Islam is not healthy for Christians and other living non-Muslim things:

______________________________________________

From The New York Times:

N ov. 23, 2011

The Copts and the Arab Spring

When Egypt’s Anwar Sadat made his historic visit to Jerusalem 34 years ago, I was one of the reporters chosen to meet him along his personal via dolorosa in the Old City. My station was the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, and I was told that I would be allowed only one question.

I waited in the gloom of that venerable space until, suddenly, Sadat stood before me.

“Mr. President, I know you are a pious Muslim,” I said. I could see the mark that comes to the faithful from touching foreheads to the floor in prayer. “What does it mean to you to be here in the very heart of Christianity?”

The president of Egypt looked me up and down and said, “Young man, I will have you know there are more Christians in my country than there are Jews in Israel.”

He was referring to the Copts, an ancient Christian community that according to tradition was introduced to Egypt by Saint Mark in 42 A.D. Copts comprise nearly 10 percent of Egypt’s 80 million people. Like the peace that Sadat wrought with Israel, the Coptic community is holding fast, but it’s feeling threatened by the Arab Spring.

Copts joined with Muslims in Tahrir Square to overthrow Hosni Mubarak, but the unity forged in that popular up-rising has not lasted.

Last month a peaceful march protesting the destruction of a church in upper Egypt was broken up by police and army troops in central Cairo. Twenty- seven people were killed, some of them run over by military vehicles, and more than 300 people were injured.

Reports from Egypt said state television had called on citizens to turn out and protect their army from cross-wielding Christians, and a melee ensued. The incident has become a cause célèbre in Egypt, and an internal army investigation, much criticized by human rights organizations, is proceeding.

Copts have long faced discrimination, but today, with the tide of political Islam on the rise, they fear that religious bias and violence against them may increase.

Western diplomats in Cairo told me on a recent visit that Copts were increasingly showing up at their embassies enquiring about emigration opportunities.

Wahib El-Miniawy, a former ambassador and a Copt, confirmed that many of his coreligionists felt under assault, though he insisted that he would never leave his country. It was not so much that Copts were not being allowed to build churches without hard-to-get government permission, he told me, but a deep-seated hostility towards Christians that began in elementary school.

That mind-set took hold soon after Gamal Abdel Nasser took power in Egypt in a coup in 1952. He appointed an ignorant minister of education, and the branding of Christians as “the other” began, El-Miniawy said.

In truth, Christians have been leaving the Middle East for decades. When Sadat came to Israel, Bethlehem was nearly 100 percent Christian. Today it’s 30 percent, many Christians having fled to North and South America.

The Iraq war saw a considerable exodus of Christians from Iraq. And whatever the other failings of Hafez and Bashar al-Assad in Syria, Christians in Syria were closely protected under their rule, perhaps because the Assads were from a minority — the Alawites — themselves.

Today, Syrian Christians are trying to stay out of the fray, but they, too, feel nervous about their future in the Arab Spring.

More broadly, since the breakup of the Ottoman Empire and the end of European colonial rule, many of the great polyglot cities of the Levant and North Africa have been shorn of their minorities. The establishment of Israel, and the Arab hostility to it, led many Jews to leave for the Jewish state. Baghdad, for example, had a large Jewish population that has now shrunk to a handful.

The vibrant Greek and Italian populations of Alexandria largely fled to their homelands following the virulent nationalism that Nasser introduced into Egypt. Muammar el-Qaddafi kicked thousands of Italians out of Libya. In Turkey, ancient Greek, Armenian and Jewish communities have all been sharply reduced.

There are many reasons for the exodus of these various minorities ["Are there? The reason is the fear of Muslims, born of the experience of living with Muslims. That is the "reason" in every case, for the exodus of these "various minorities."]. But it would be a shame indeed if the Arab Spring and the fall of dictators led to a further unraveling of a vibrant cultural tapestry that once so enriched the lands bordering the eastern and southern shores of the Mediterranean.

Posted on 11/23/2011 4:06 PM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Wednesday, 23 November 2011
Suspicious Stories About Blast at Hizbullah Arms Cache in Southern Lebanon

UNIFIL Soldiers in Southern Lebanon

There was an explosion last night at the Hizbullah stronghold of Siddiq near Tyre in Southern Lebanon. Contrast what the Beirut Star says versus what Arutz Sheva, Israel National News reported and the credibility given, once again, to the speculations of US blogger Richard Silverstein. 

Silverstein doesn’t like us, he bars our linking to his Tikkun Olam website, as we are considered “spam”.  Doubtless it may be due to our having called attention to his strident anti-Israel stands and the lack of his credibility of his report on the recent IRGC missile test explosion.  We have serious questions about the credibility of those “authoritative Israeli source with considerable military experience” that Silverstein conveys by way of his Seattle website.  Nonetheless, news outlets in Israel, like Ynet and now Arutz Sheva pass on his “Exclusive” speculations.

The Beirut Star story, “Huge Blast Rocks Hezbollah Stronghold in Southern Lebanon” which is also questionable, alleges this about the suspicious blast:

The Lebanese Army released a statement Wednesday afternoon saying that the explosion was likely the result of a landmine or a cluster bomb left over from the July-August war between Lebanon and Israel in 2006.

Earlier Wednesday, the security source, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the cause of the blast, which was heard shortly before midnight, could not be determined due to a heavy security blanket by Hezbollah that followed the explosion.

In its statement Wednesday, the army said it had searched the area but found no trace of the explosion as it “left any visible effects.”

Early in the day, local media said the explosion likely took place at a Hezbollah arms cache.

In a statement later in the day, Hezbollah denied that the explosion in south Lebanon was a result of an explosion at an arms depot.

"What has been circulating in the media regarding the explosion in Sidiqq in and that it is related to storage center for Hezbollah is utterly false,” the party said in the statement.

Four Israeli warplanes were spotted flying over Siddiq at around 10.00 a.m. and patrols by the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (INIFIL) were active in the area. A UNIFIL helicopter could also be seen flying over the village.

Then we had this News Brief from Israel National News, Blogger: 'Israel Responsible for Explosion in Lebanon'

American blogger Richard Silverstein claimed on his 'Tikkun Olam' blog that Israel is responsible for the blast on at a Hezbollah weapons cache in Southern Lebanon Wednesday morning.

Silverstein claimed that "an authoritative Israeli source with considerable military experience" told him that the IDF used a "Trojan Horse" style trap. A few weeks ago it was reported that an Israeli drone disappeared over Lebanon. Silverstein now claims Israel "out foxed Hezbollah" as Hezbollah brought the downed drone to its arms cache. Once inside the arms cache it was detonated, causing a massive explosion.

Israel National news then posted this “Explosion Rocks Hizbullah Weapons Warehouse”:

A secret Hizbullah terrorist warehouse exploded overnight near the coastal city of Tyre, located in southern Lebanon not far from Israel's northern border, about 50 miles (80 kilometers) south of Beirut.

The blast occurred in an area under the control of the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL).

Nevertheless, Hizbullah forces have prevented security personnel from reaching the site, making it impossible to obtain any information about what actually happened.

A UNIFIL spokesman told reporters, “We have no information as yet,” in response to questions about the explosion. The international force is expected to investigate.

Hizbullah has boasted that the group possesses tens of thousands of missiles of varying ranges that it can aim at Israel whenever it chooses.

U.N. Resolution 1701, the ceasefire agreement that ended the Second Lebanon War in 2006, specifically prohibits Hizbullah from storing munitions or other ordnance in southern Lebanon.

We really don’t know what happened at Siddiq, last night. Nor are we likely to find out either. Under UNSC Res. 1701 that ended the Second Lebanon War in 2006, Hizbullah is not supposed to keep arms and weapons in Southern Lebanon. Moreover, UNIFIL forces have to be invited in by the Lebanese government to investigate. All of which is a sham, because Hizbullah has re-fortified and restocked the area with huge caches of rockets, missiles and ammunition.  As to those Israel aircraft seen flying overhead this morning, reported by the Beirut Star could they have been the usual complement of surveillance drones keeping a constant watch on Hizbullah activity in Southern Lebanon?  Drones of the type recently reported missing because of Hizbullah’s alleged expertise in electronic warfare?  As to Silverstein’s speculations, who knows where those come from?   Moreover, why would Israel reveal any connection or its own independent investigations of the explosion in Southern Lebanon? it doesn’t appear to fit the traditional IDF modus operandi of saying anything about such matters in the media.

       

      

Posted on 11/23/2011 4:41 PM by Jerry Gordon
Wednesday, 23 November 2011
Protests Against Manhattan JCC Other Israel Film Festival

The Jewish Tribune, Canada’s leading Jewish weekly, published a story about the New York-based JCCWatch.org (JCCWatch) organizing  a protest of the Other Israel Film Festival (OIFF) sponsored by Manhattan’s West Side Jewish Community Center (JCC).  OIFF features progressive Israeli Jewish and Palestinian filmmakers conveying anti-Israel cinematic messages. OIFF was held over the period from November 10th to the 17th.  The JCCWatch, whose  motto is ”Holding Jewish Groups Accountable”, has created a stir in New York and nationally by targeting  alleged pro- Palestinian support by progressive local and national Jewish leaders. Richard Allen, co-founder of JCCWatch, has been unstinting in specifically challenging local New York Jewish groups.    We posted about the JCCWatch’s demand that John Ruskay, CEO of the New York UJA Federation, be fired for funding pro-Palestine programs.  JCCWatch organized a group of both Jewish and non-Jewish activists to protest the launch of this film festival.

We did a Google search is see if the Jewish Telegraph Agency, the New York Jewish Week and Jewish Journal picked up this Canadian story. The results:  nada, zip, nothing.  The New York Jewish Week had marginalized the group last March in an editorial comment, “Advocacy Gone Awry”.

The Canadian Jewish Tribune story, “Protesters Condemn JCC in Manhattan” notes the issue of Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) that JCCWatch accused the JCC of supporting, which the later disputes.  Among those cited in this Jewish Tribune report are ZStreet board member, Jeffrey Wiesenfeld, Helen Freedman, chair of Americans for a Safe Israel and local New York Jewish activist, Dr. Marvin Belsky.  Here is the Jewish Tribune account:

NEW YORK - More than 100 people protested outside the JCC in Manhattan recently, while the JCC was holding the 'Other Israel Film Festival.'

Jewish community leaders and others at the rally condemned the JCC in Manhattan for partnering with organizations that support the anti-Israel Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement.

The demonstration was organized by JCCWatch.org, Americans for a Safe Israel, and the Israel advocacy organization, ZStreet.

Erica Werber, senior director for public relations for the JCC in Manhattan, disputed their claim, stating that "the JCC in Manhattan does not support BDS and we do not partner with organizations that support BDS. We stand with Israel against delegitimization and support open and respectful dialogue within our community."

However, among those organizations listed by the JCC in Manhattan as partners in the film festival are the New Israel Fund, B'Tselem, and Partners for Progressive Israel.

According to Richard Allen, founder of JCC Watch, "Meretz-USA, which has just changed its name to Partners for Progressive Israel, on its website, calls for a boycott of Israeli products such as Ahava cosmetics, B&B Baked Goods, Sodastream and wine products from nine Israeli vineyards.

"The NGO Monitor website, run by Professor Gerald Steinberg of Bar Ilan University, said that the New Israel Fund provides money to groups that work to delegitimize Israel and force sanctions against Israel in international and European forums. It's time for the board of directors of the JCC in Manhattan to stop these nefarious partnerships."

Community activist Dr. Marvin Belsky also spoke out against the JCC in Manhattan:

"The Jewish Community Center of Manhattan, by aligning with anti-Israel groups supporting boycotts, divestment and sanctions against Israel such as the New Israel Fund, Progressives for Israel and B'tselem, besmirches its reputation by confusing misinformed innocents to the detriment of Israel and demeans their Jewish heritage".

Allen also claimed "that the JCC gives these groups free access to solicit JCC members; they provide BDS supporting groups with tables to recruit members and access to speak to members in forums that are set up for that purpose.

"Jews do not call upon Jews to boycott Jews," he added. "In these perilous times when Israel is under economic assault by the BDS movement, Jewish organizations must not tolerate any attempt to delegitimize the state of Israel."

Jeffrey Wiesenfeld, board member of ZStreet, agrees: "Organizations should be made to follow guidelines that they will not partner with groups that boycott part (outside pre-1967 borders) or all of Israel."

Referring to Jewish groups that run programs within the framework of the Jewish community, Wiesenfeld said, "Anyone who partners with groups that support BDS does not belong in the tent."

Robert Sidi, a rally participant from Manhattan, said "The JCC in Manhattan's leadership is shamefully weak when it comes to Israel. I urge all the Jews on the Upper West Side to stand up to the JCC and demand that they support Israel or step down if they continue to delegitimize and defame the state of Israel”.

US-TV personality Timberly Whitfield also came out for the rally. "As a non-Jew and frequent visitor to the Holy Land, I came out Sunday to protest the terrible anti-Israel activities going on at the JCC in Manhattan," she stated. "I don't like the idea of any organization supporting groups that go against Israel as a Jewish state."

AFSI chair Helen Freedman also condemned the JCC in Manhattan. In addition, she and her organization have an antidote to the BDS movement. "We support a 'Buy Israel' program being launched on Nov. 28, with the emphasis on purchasing goods made in Israel, and continuing such a program until the entire BDS plan fails miserably."

Posted on 11/23/2011 6:55 PM by Jerry Gordon
Wednesday, 23 November 2011
Erdogan Apologizes For Killing 14,000 Kurds, Which Makes His Refusal To Do So For The Armenian Massacres Even More Maddening
  • From Associated Press
  • 23.11.11

Turkey PM apologizes for 1930 killing of 14,000 Kurds

Recep Tayyip Erdogan apologizes for campaign in southeastern Turkey between 1936 and 1939, as Ankara continues to fight Kurdish guerrilla seeking autonomy.

By The Associated Press

Turkey's prime minister has apologized for the first time for the killings of nearly 14,000 people in a bombing and strafing campaign to crush a Kurdish rebellion in the 1930s.

The apology Wednesday by Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan comes at tense time for relations between Turkey and its minority Kurds. Erdogan's government is currently fighting against autonomy-seeking Kurdish rebels and despite efforts to seek peace, it says it is determined to crush the rebels if they don't lay down arms.


The fighting that has killed tens of thousands since 1984 is the latest of several uprisings by Kurds in Turkey's largely Kurdish southeast.

Erdogan on Wednesday offered his apology for the killings of 13,806 people in the southeastern town of Dersim - now known as Tunceli - between 1936 and 1939. The apology came after a war of words between Erdogan and the leader of the main opposition party.

An opposition lawmaker from the Republican People's Party said a dozen of his relatives were killed in Dersim and lawmakers needed to shed light on the suppression of the rebellion. Erdogan then called on Republican leader, Kemal Kilicdaroglu, to face up to his party's past.

His offering of the apology appeared to be a political tactic to tarnish the image of Kilicdaroglu, whose family is rooted in Tunceli.

"If there is need for an apology on behalf of the state, if there is such a practice in the books, I would apologize and I am apologizing," Erdogan said in a televised speech. Erdogan said Kilicdaroglu must also apologize because his party was in power at the time.

Posted on 11/23/2011 8:04 PM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Wednesday, 23 November 2011
Arctic Sea Ice Disappearing

From Bloomberg News:

Loss of Sea Ice is ‘Unprecedented’

Arctic sea ice is disappearing at a rate that’s “unprecedented” in more than a millennia, according to a study that suggests the cause may be human- influenced climate change.

Trends from the last several decades suggest there may soon be an ice-free Arctic in the summer, according to a study published today in the journal Nature. Ice shrinkage is occurring at a rate that’s unmatched in duration and magnitude in 1,450 years, and greenhouse gases may be contributing to the warming, researchers said.

The ice, which melts every summer before cold weather makes it expand again, shrank this year to its second-smallest size since 1979, covering 4.33 million square kilometers (1.67 million square miles), according to the U.S. National Snow and Ice Data Center. Although previous sea ice declines have occurred at a similar pace, they don’t match the extent of the melt, the study authors said.

“This drastic and continuous decrease we’ve been seeing from the satellites does seem to be anomalous,” Christophe Kinnard, a study author and a geographer at the Centro de Estudios Avanzados en Zonas Aridas in La Serena, Chile, said in a telephone interview. “It does point to a continuation of this trend in the future.”

The researchers used ice core records, tree ring data, lake sediment and historical evidence to reconstruct the amount of Arctic cover. The thickness and extent of sea ice have declined dramatically over the last 30 years, the researchers said.

Arctic sea ice influences the global climate, since 80 percent of the sunlight that strikes it is reflected back to space. When the ice melts in the summer, it exposes the ocean surface, which absorbs about 90 percent of the light, heating the water, according to the National Snow and Ice Data Center. That influences climate patterns.

“You increase the radiation that’s absorbed by the oceans, that’s one of the strongest climate feedback mechanisms,” Kinnard said. “The more sea ice you lose, the more energy you get in the ocean, which warms the atmosphere.”

Posted on 11/23/2011 11:34 PM by Hugh Fitzgerald

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