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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
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edited by S.B. Kelly
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by J. E. G. Dixon
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by David P. Gontar
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by Theodore Dalrymple
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by Kenneth Hanson
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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
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by Norman Berdichevsky
The New Vichy Syndrome:
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Jihad and Genocide
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Spanish Vignettes: An Offbeat Look Into Spain's Culture, Society & History
by Norman Berdichevsky



















These are all the Blogs posted on Thursday, 27, 2011.
Thursday, 27 October 2011
Muslims In Australia Would Be Offended By A Visit From Israeli Scientists

From Contentions

Forum With Israeli Scientists “Offends Muslims”

It’s come to this:

University of Sydney scholars set to exchange ideas with visiting Israeli experts on neuroscience, tissue regeneration and other cutting-edge research areas are being warned the event will offend potential Muslim undergraduates.

 

Associate Professor Jake Lynch, director of the university’s Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies, has urged his colleagues to withdraw from the research gathering, and the university administration to cancel it. Dr. Lynch has been a strong supporter of the boycott, divestment and sanctions campaign designed to isolate Israel. He says he has been asked to intervene by the Campaign for Justice and Peace in Palestine….

He says most Muslim students live in the west and feel “a sense of resentment and alienation resulting from the predominance of pro-Israeli voices in Australia’s political and media discourses.”

The poor dears. They feel “resentment and alienation” from “political and media discourses,” and because of that doctors aren’t allowed to make progress on curing brain diseases. Really, there’s nothing like having the director of a “Peace and Conflict Studies” program explain why the mere presence of Israelis at a scientific conference aimed at human betterment is an affront to Muslims. And to think, some people have suggested that anti-Israel viciousness in the Ivory Tower has allowed hatred to cloud clear thinking.

Australia has managed to nurture a fairly active – albeit still very fringe – anti-Israel boycott movement. The insanity has touched the country’s mainstream parties, but it remains a broad embarrassment to normal Australians and to mainstream Australian politicians. Australian media has been complicit in fomenting anti-Israel bias – taking articles about how Israel wants genuine, not indirect peace talks and headlining them, “Israel to reject new peace talks” – but even they couldn't stomach [former Australian Prime Minister] Rudd’s hysterical overreaction to the use of Australian passports in the al-Mabhouh hit, which included abandoning Israel to the UN’s Goldstone lynch mob.

All of which is to say, don’t expect Lynch’s call to become anything but the passing disgrace that it is. His instinctive rhetorical appeal to multicultural victimhood – nonetheless – is deeply revelatory personally and institutionally. Pathetic appeals to Muslim resentment, marshaled as pretexts for halting scientific research and medical progress. Perfect.

 

Posted on 10/27/2011 6:41 AM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Thursday, 27 October 2011
Hutton Hotel Faces Lawsuit from Liberty Counsel

The Tennessee Freedom Coalition and the other sponsoring organizations of this conference have decided that it is more important to make a stand against hotels cancelling bookings at their whim than it is to go ahead with this particular conference. The reason our lawsuit against Loews did not proceed is that we found another venue at the last minute and went ahead with our conference, so we couldn't prove harm except to our reputation. Bob Smietana writes in The Tennessean:

Organizers of an anti-Shariah conference in Nashville are demanding that the Hutton Hotel honor a contract to host it.

The Shariah Awareness Action Network had planned to hold a Preserving Freedom conference at the Hutton on Nov. 11.

On Monday, Hutton officials told leaders of the group, who include Lou Ann Zelenik of the Tennessee Freedom Coalition, that the hotel would not honor the contract it signed with them in August.

Lawyers for the conference sent a letter to the hotel Wednesday, demanding that it reverse that decision.

“I write to demand that you immediately reverse this decision to prevent irreparable harm to the sponsors, participants and attendees of the conference, consisting of the loss of the conference location and the attendant damages you have caused these individuals and groups,” wrote Mathew Staver, founder of the Liberty Counsel, a Christian legal group that is one of the conference sponsors.

Hotel explains move

Steve Eckley, senior vice president of hotels for Amerimar Enterprises, which owns the Hutton, said he’d canceled the event after learning it might attract protests.

Amerimar issued a statement Tuesday, defending that decision.

“Our judgment was that the conference had the potential to disrupt the safe, secure and positive experience that our guests demand, and our associates deserve,” the statement read.

Staver accused Hutton management of violating the free speech rights of conference organizers and of giving in to radical Islam.

If the conference was spawning safety issues, hotel management should have called the police, Staver said.

“If you truly have received serious threats of violence to legitimate First Amendment expression, you have an obligation to report it to the government, not act in concert with the demands of radical Islam,” he wrote in the letter.

The letter gives the hotel until today to respond or face possible legal action.

Here is page 1 of the letter sent to Hutton by the Liberty Counsel.

Posted on 10/27/2011 6:32 AM by Rebecca Bynum
Thursday, 27 October 2011
Will Dropouts Save America?

As a college drop-out myself, I understand both sides of this debate. I would like to see the education bubble burst because college is ridiculously overpriced today, but at the same time I understand that most people aren't driven to self-educate and so they benefit from the structure of college. Michael Ellsburg writes in the NYTimes:

I TYPED these words on a computer designed by Apple, co-founded by the college dropout Steve Jobs. The program I used to write it was created by Microsoft, started by the college dropouts Bill Gates and Paul Allen.

And as soon as it is published, I will share it with my friends via Twitter, co-founded by the college dropouts Jack Dorsey and Evan Williams and Biz Stone, and Facebook — invented, among others, by the college dropouts Mark Zuckerberg and Dustin Moskovitz, and nurtured by the degreeless Sean Parker.

American academia is good at producing writers, literary critics and historians. It is also good at producing professionals with degrees. But we don’t have a shortage of lawyers and professors. America has a shortage of job creators. And the people who create jobs aren’t traditional professionals, but start-up entrepreneurs.

(...)

Certainly, if you want to become a doctor, lawyer or engineer, then you must go to college. But, beyond regulated fields like these, the focus on higher education as the only path to stable employment is profoundly misguided, exacerbated by parents who see the classic professions as the best route to job security.

That may have been true 50 years ago, but not now. In our chaotic, unpredictable economy, even young people who have no interest in starting a business, and who want to become professionals, still need to learn the entrepreneurial skills that will allow them to get ahead.

True, people with college degrees tend to earn more. But that could be because most ambitious people tend to go to college; there is little evidence to suggest that the same ambitious people would earn less without college degrees (particularly if they mastered true business and networking grit).

(...)

If I were betting on the engines of future job creation, I wouldn’t put my money on college students cramming for tests and writing papers with properly formatted M.L.A.-style citations in order to bolster their résumés for careers in traditional professions and middle-management jobs in large corporate and government bureaucracies.

I’d put my money on the kids who are dropping out of college to start new businesses. If we want to get out of the jobs mess we’re in, we should hope that more will follow in their footsteps.

Posted on 10/27/2011 7:58 AM by Rebecca Bynum
Thursday, 27 October 2011
Another Glimpse Of The Libyan Rebels And Of Sincere Mahmoud Jibril

Watch here.

Posted on 10/27/2011 8:07 AM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Thursday, 27 October 2011
Adi Weinstein: Israel, PR, And The Shalit Campaign

From YNET Daily:

 

Israel ruled by PR

Op-ed: Shalit prisoner swap proved that most powerful players in Israel are ‘salespeople’

Adi Weinstein

10.27.11
 

 

 

Gilad Shalit left to Gaza as a soldier and returned to Israel as the country’s most beloved and media-covered brand. At this time, Shalit is not only a cherished brand name associated with the state, but rather, he is the state itself. Many parties played a role in turning Shalit into a loved consumer good. Prisoner swap critics like to blame the media for the “Shalit Festival” of recent weeks, yet in this case media outlets were no more than a relay station.

 

In recent years, extensive parts of Israel’s public discourse – ranging from well-known artists to anonymous Facebook status lines – partook in a calculated strategic move with one aim: Keeping Gilad in the headlines, at any price. After bringing him to the headlines, his way home was already paved.

Sign of Weakness
 
Israel's missing red lines / Yoel Meltzer
 
Op-ed: Alarmingly, over time Israeli leaders have withdrawn from most of our red lines
Full Story
 

 

As opposed to what swap critics think, the “Giladization” was not born in newsrooms, but rather, on the initiative of several copywriters and strategic planners from one of Israel’s largest, most prominent advertising agencies. In the world they created, an IDF soldier became a child shared by all Israeli citizens.

 

The campaign revolved around two simple, memorable values that every Israeli is expected to identify with – the IDF and the family. So on the one hand, people were enlisting for Shalit’s “Friends Army”, while also celebrating the “kid’s” fifth birthday in captivity." And the campaign worked, not only for the whole of Israel, which was glued to the television screen, but mostly for the media, which were caught off guard.

 

Newsrooms and newscasts are always hungry for features about the bad guys versus the good guys, with victims who have a name, a look that stirs empathy, and preferably a personal military ID number. Within Israel’s multifaceted reality, the campaign created a uniform reality where there is only one way to address the question of releasing the kid - sorry, the abducted solider. And so, not only was the soldier abducted, but the discourse too was abducted to the world of advertising.

 

Taking no prisoners

When it comes to Israel’s media, being right is not enough – one also needs a touching story and a PR expert. The Shalit coverage was just one example of a mega-story that receives infinite airtime, while issues that are no less significant and meaningful fail to make it into the news.

 

Have you recently heard about construction mishaps in the media? After all, a laborer is killed every two weeks. And what about car accidents where “only” one or two people die? Or the violence of West Bank residents against IDF soldiers? The quality of education in peripheral communities? Animal abuse in the food industry? Cancerous pollution?

 

Nobody talks about our quiet dead, the ones who are not backed by a well-oiled public relations arsenal that constantly tells the media what to air and which tone to use.

 

Shalit’s release day was also a holiday for members of the ad agency that ran the campaign to return him (notably this was done voluntarily and in coordination with Shalit’s parents). And this is what they wrote to their employees in the office blog: “With your great and simultaneously modest help, you saved the life of one person, and no less importantly, you stirred new hope in all the country’s citizens.”

 

The above should serve as a warning sign to Israeli society in respect to what lies ahead. The ad agency’s people took full credit for Shalit’s release, and it indeed appears that they deserve most of the credit. Their effort was felt throughout Israel’s media world and resonated in the Knesset corridors as well.

 

It would not be far-fetched to claim that in our state-of-all-its-soldiers, the catchy slogan hit the soft underbelly of our top decision-makers. Precisely for this reason, we should treat the authentic glee of these PR experts seriously.

 

 

Although it’s hard to predict what lies in store, the Gilad Shalit case proved to us that in the fight for the Israeli psyche, the most powerful players are the “salespeople,” and they take no prisoners.

 

Adi Weinstein is a copywriter and a Master’s students in culture studies. She supports the Shalit deal.

 

Posted on 10/27/2011 9:38 AM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Thursday, 27 October 2011
Could It Be That The Libyan Leadership Deceived The West?

Jerusalem Center For Public Affairs

  Lt. Col. (ret.) Jonathan D. Halevi 

Vol. 11, No. 17    27 October 2011 



Did the Libyan Leadership Deceive the West?


Jonathan D. Halevi



  • On October 23, Mustafa Abdul Jalil, Chairman of the National Transitional Council (NTC) that is the temporary power in Libya replacing the Gaddafi regime, announced: "We, as an Islamic state, determined that Islamic law is a major source for legislation, and on this basis any law which contradicts the principles of Islam and Islamic law will be considered null and void."
  • The NTC has the support of the West and NATO countries, which helped it militarily to bring down the Gaddafi regime, hoping to establish a democratic regime in Libya.
  • In early October, Dr. David Gerbi, who was born in Libya and fled to Italy in 1967, arrived in Tripoli and asked to repair the synagogue. The NTC was quick to remove him, while demonstrations were held in Tripoli calling to prevent any Jewish presence in Libya or the establishment of synagogues. The NTC did not condemn this expression of anti-Semitism, nor was there any objection by any other political factions in Libya.
  • NTC and Western officials have already stated their growing concerns that Qatar is trying to interfere in the country's sovereignty, and the rebels are said to have received about $2 billion from the Qatari government. Qatari involvement is likely to produce a regime in Libya that follows the political orientation of Sheikh Yusuf Qaradawi, thereby giving the Muslim Brotherhood an open door in the new Libya.
  • The political debate in Libya will be within an essentially Islamist universe, with different leaders distinguished by the degree to which they seek to implement their Islamism. It seems that the strategy of the democratic states that trusted the promises of the rebel forces to adopt and implement the principles of democracy has collapsed, and that Western aid to overthrow Gaddafi's tyrannical regime prepared the groundwork for the establishment of an Islamic state, which eventually may become hostile to the West.


The Supremacy of Islamic Law


Libya is opening a new page in its history after the execution of former leader Muammar Gaddafi. At a ceremony in Benghazi on October 23, Mustafa Abdul Jalil, Chairman of the National Transitional Council, which is the temporary power in Libya replacing the Gaddafi regime, announced the completion of the "liberation of Libya" and outlined the characteristics of the new government, which adopts Islamic law (Sharia) as a major source for legislation. That means Libya's transformation into an Islamic state.


In his victory speech, Abdul Jalil said: "We, as an Islamic state, determined that Islamic law is a major source for legislation, and on this basis any law which contradicts the principles of Islam and Islamic law will be considered null and void. As an example of such laws I will mention the law of marriage and divorce which limited polygamy. This law is contrary to Islamic law and its application is suspended." Abdul Jalil added that the new regime intends to base the banking system on legislation consistent with Islamic law that prohibits interest, which he described as fundamentally evil and corrupt. As an immediate measure to realize this intention, Abdul Jalil announced an exemption from interest for bank loans up to ten thousand dinars, and in the future, he said, interest will be cancelled completely in accordance with Islamic law.


The National Transitional Council has the support of the West and NATO countries, which helped it militarily to bring down the Gaddafi regime, hoping to establish a democratic regime in Libya. NATO's political, military, and economic support of the rebels played a decisive role in breaking the yoke of the Gaddafi regime. This included economic sanctions, military attacks on targets in Libya, enforcing a no-fly zone over Libya, and intelligence assistance.



The Democratic Vision of Libya


The West's basic assumption was that the leadership of the National Transitional Council would remain faithful to its promises and commitment to the implementation of democracy in Libya, protecting human rights, and fighting terrorism. The message conveyed by the National Transitional Council was clear, as reflected in its platform published in the Council's official website. The section "The Democratic Vision of Libya" reads as follows:


The National Transitional Council presents the vision to building a democracy in Libya....There is no alternative to building a free, pluralistic and democratic society, a unified state based on the rule of law, human dignity, and protecting human rights and formation (of these rights)....We recognize without reservation our duty and our commitment as follows:


Formulation of a national constitution...keeping a civil constitutional state which will ensure ideological and political pluralism...protecting freedom of expression...promising that the state will draw its power from the provisions of religion which teach of peace, right, justice and equality...applying a political democracy and the principles of social justice, including...


A constitutional civil state which respects the sanctity of faith and condemns fanaticism, extremism and violence...a country to which we aspire that condemns violence, terrorism, fanaticism and cultural isolation, seeing how it respects human rights and the foundations and principles of citizenship and the rights of minorities and weaker groups. Every person shall enjoy the full rights of citizenship regardless of color, sex, race or social status.


The building of a democratic Libya which bases our foreign relations and relations with regional countries on (the following principles): establishing democratic values ​​and democratic institutions that honor our neighbors, that build partnerships and recognize the independence and sovereignty of other countries...a country which will promote the values ​​of international justice and citizenship and will respect international humanitarian law and human rights conventions...a country that will join the international community in the opposition and condemnation of discrimination, racism and terrorism and will strongly support peace, democracy and freedom.


The National Transitional Council emphasized the words "democracy," "pluralism," "civil rights," "justice," and "equality," but their meanings in its eyes are quite different from those of the Western democracies that supported it and actually enabled its rise to power in place of Gaddafi. Like the Muslim Brotherhood, the National Transitional Council subjects "democracy" to Islamic law (Sharia), and actually drains it of its contents by stating that Islamic law is the source of legislation and that all laws that contradict it are null and void.


The declaration by Mustafa Abdul Jalil of an Islamic Libyan state was not received with any opposition from members of the National Transitional Council and the Libyan public, and it apparently expresses the dominant mood within the public, which tends to accept Islamic rule.



No Tolerance for Jews


One can learn about the atmosphere on the Libyan street from the hostile and anti-Semitic public reaction to the arrival of Dr. David Gerbi in Tripoli in early October. Gerbi, who was born in Libya and fled to Italy in 1967 out of fear of harm to the Jewish community after the Six-Day War, visited the synagogue in Tripoli and asked to repair it. Upon learning of the synagogue visit, the National Transitional Council was quick to remove him from the synagogue, arguing that he was not authorized to enter the complex, which is under the authority of the Department of Archaeology. At the same time, many demonstrations were held in Tripoli calling to prevent any Jewish presence in Libya or the establishment of synagogues in the country. The National Transitional Council did not prevent this expression of anti-Semitism and did not condemn it, nor was there any objection to this by other political factions in Libya.



Key Islamic Figures


A central force of power in the National Transitional Council is Abdelhakim Belhadj, commander of the military forces in Tripoli who led the campaign to remove the Gaddafi regime and occupy the presidential compound in Bab al-Azizia. Belhadj, who was appointed by Mustafa Abdul Jalil, has an extensive jihadist background. He fought alongside the mujahideen in Afghanistan against Soviet forces and was a senior member of the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group (LIFG), a radical Islamic terrorist organization, which until recently held a world view rather similar to that of Al-Qaeda. The Al-Sharq Al-Awsat newspaper reported that nearly 800 soldiers from the LIFG were involved in the fighting in Tripoli, some of them former combatants in Afghanistan and Bosnia.


In September 2010, a former leader of the LIFG and colleague of bin Laden in Afghanistan, Noman Benotman, addressed an open letter to bin Laden, calling on him and al-Qaeda to "abandon armed struggle,"stating that "Your actions have harmed millions of innocent Muslims and non-Muslims alike. How is this Islam or jihad? For how much longer will al-Qaeda continue to bring shame on Islam, disrupt ordinary Muslims' lives, and be the cause of global unrest?"1


Just a year earlier, the LIFG published a very long, revisionist document to repudiate al-Qaeda's ideology of global jihad. This was part of a more comprehensive deal, orchestrated by Saif al-Islam Gaddafi, who was interested in promoting his planned reforms and the leadership of the LIFG and other imprisoned Islamist groups, to release them from prison in return for their reintegration into society and abandonment of terror.2 The document, however, did not mean that the LIFG was to abandon its Islamist tendency. Indeed, it was mainly endorsed by senior scholars close to the Muslim Brotherhood's ideology like Saudi Sheikh Salman al-Awdeh.


In addition to Benotman, Libyan Sheikh Ali al-Salabi, who until recently resided in Qatar, served as the intermediary between Saif al-Islam and the LIFG leadership. Salabi is a member of the International Union of Muslim Scholars (IUMS),3 a global umbrella group headed by Sheikh Yusuf Qaradawi, the Qatar-based leader of the Muslim Brotherhood on a global scale. Even though he had no official position in Libya at the time, Salabi had already won the title of the "spiritual guide of the Libyan revolution,"4 and was also described by the New York Times as someone who may well be the most important politician in the new Libya.5


A few weeks ago, Salabi called on the top leadership of the NTC to resign, saying that they supported the West's agenda and interest in taking control over Libya's resources.6 Salabi further stated that the rebels had received about $2 billion from the Qatari government,7 and indeed, NTC and Western officials have already stated their growing concerns that Qatar is trying to interfere in the country's sovereignty, bypassing an internationally-agreed assistance strategy for Libya to throw its support behind individuals and factions contributing to the continuing political instability.8 Qatari involvement is likely to produce a regime in Libya that follows the political orientation of Sheikh Yusuf Qaradawi, thereby giving the Muslim Brotherhood an open door in the new Libya.


In North Africa, Libya is emerging as a very different country from Morocco or Algeria, for, unlike its neighbors, Libya is headed towards the establishment of an Islamic state.  The political debate in Libya will be within an essentially Islamist universe, with different leaders distinguished by the degree to which they seek to implement their Islamism.  We already can see that many of its new leaders are far from the values ​​of democracy and human rights as understood in the West. It seems that the strategy of the democratic states that trusted the promises of the rebel forces to adopt and implement the principles of democracy has collapsed, and that Western aid to overthrow Gaddafi's tyrannical regime prepared the groundwork for the establishment of an Islamic state, which eventually may become hostile to the West.


*     *     *


Notes

 

1. http://www.quilliamfoundation.org/index.php/component/content/article/690

2. http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/wikileaks-files/libya-wikileaks/8294845/QADHAFI-FOUNDATION-CONTINUES-DIALOGUE-ON-RELEASE-OF-FORMER-LIBYAN-ISLAMIC-FIGHTING-GROUP-MEMBERS.html

3. http://www.iumsonline.us/ar/default.asp?ContentID=1039&menuID=13

4. http://www.irishtimes.com/newspaper/world/2011/0903/1224303431024.html

5. http://www.nytimes.com/2011/09/15/world/africa/in-libya-islamists-growing-sway-raises-questions.html?_r=1&ref=global-home&pagewanted=all

6. http://almoslim.net/node/153294

7. http://www.elkhabar.com/ar/monde/266747.html

8. http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2011/oct/04/qatar-interfering-libya

 

Posted on 10/27/2011 9:44 AM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Thursday, 27 October 2011
Prof. Stuart Cohen On The Shalit Exchange

Why the Schalit Decision Makes Military Sense

by Prof. Stuart A. Cohen

BESA Center Perspectives Paper No. 152, October 27, 2011

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY: The Schalit prisoner exchange was a rational and sensible recognition of the need to reaffirm society's commitment to the welfare of its soldiers. The injunction to “leave no man behind,” which has been internalized by all Western armies, reinforces the mutual commitment that soldiers and their governments make to one another. The obligation of the state is even more pronounced in Israel’s case, as the IDF is a conscript army, in which far from all draft-age youngsters in fact serve.

No sooner was the Schalit prisoner exchange concluded than pundits began criticizing it in the Israeli press. "A strategic defeat of the first order, a harsh blow to our national security," thundered Ben Caspi in The Jerusalem Post. "A sacrifice of the common interest to individual concerns," complained Professor Yedidya Stern of the Israel Democratic Institute in Makor Rishon. Even Haaretz, generally critical of anything that carries the merest whiff of so-called 'militarism', warned that the harm caused to Israel's posture of deterrence by the Schalit exchange was enormous and perhaps irrevocable. Israel's enemies would deduce that neither its public nor government had the will to bear sacrifices and could therefore be blackmailed time and again.

Before we allow ourselves to be carried away by this wave of near-hysteria, it is best to recall some of the salient facts of the Schalit case. Once these are given their due weight, other conclusions can be drawn. Specifically, it can be demonstrated that the decision to repatriate Schalit, even at the price of freeing so many convicted terrorists, does not deserve to be caricatured as a weak-kneed capitulation to public sympathy for the Schalit family. Certainly, such sympathy was a contributory factor. But, beyond this, the deal was a rational and sensible recognition of the need to reaffirm society's commitment to the welfare of its soldiers. As such, it made sound military sense.

Basic to the argument are two observations. First, when taken hostage, Schalit was on active military duty; he belonged to that special class of citizens who are soldiers. Second, relationships between societies and their soldiers have, ever since the dawn of civilization, been founded on an implicit contract. The forms of that contract have necessarily changed over time and in Western societies have certainly become more apparent since the advent of democracy. In essence, however, the obligations which the terms of those contracts impose on armed forces and the societies that they swear to defend have remained remarkably consistent and span religions and cultures.

Most obviously, this is the case with respect to the obligations that the contract imposes on soldiers. As has been the case throughout military history, today too soldiers commit themselves to make every effort to defend the security of the state in whose name they serve, even at the risk of killing other human beings and endangering their own lives. At the same time, they undertake not to use the power placed at their disposal in order to usurp the prerogatives of government, nor to resort to the use of force against external enemies without due authorization from the civilian echelons who are their ultimate masters.

On the other side of the coin, governments that raise and maintain armies (and with very minor exceptions, all governments have felt it necessary to do so) likewise enter into a set of parallel obligations vis-à-vis their soldiers. For one thing, they undertake not to place the soldier's life at unnecessary risk by embarking on military adventures that are avoidable and/or redundant. Second, they undertake not to order soldiers to carry out missions that are patently immoral or illegal. Third, they promise to ensure that soldiers are provided with the equipment required to facilitate the accomplishment of the military mission and to make available budgetary resources for that purpose. Finally, and perhaps above all, governments and commanders promise that they will do all in their power to ensure that soldiers who carry out their duties are returned safely to their homes or, if killed on active duty, that their bodies will not be left on the battlefield to rot or be mutilated.

It would be hard to exaggerate the resonance of this last obligation, which is epitomized in the injunction "Leave no man behind." Indeed, the phrase and the creed it conveys have been traced as far back as the great literary epics of classical Greece and Rome.1 Not surprisingly, therefore, its influence on the strategic culture of most Western armed forces is immense. It has become a central pillar in a tradition that considers the promotion and preservation of individual combat motivation to be a key ingredient of battlefield success.2 More than mere sentiment, this slogan gives expression to the belief that wars are won by the side whose soldiers are most committed to fight and to the corollary belief – that among the factors influencing the commitment displayed by soldiers is their confidence in the promise that their comrades, commanders and government will fulfill the obligation to do everything possible to ensure their return to hearth and home – dead or alive. Absent that assurance, troop morale could plummet to depths that would impair the combat effectiveness of the entire force.

The need for governments and commanders to cultivate the confidence of their soldiers is especially pronounced in the case of conscript armies. Primarily, this is because of the nature of the circumstances in which conscripts are drafted into service. They do not enlist of their own volition. They are compelled to do so. Certainly, many conscripts consider that obligation to be a duty and a privilege – as, for instance, did the vast majority of conscripts who fought, on all sides, during World War II. Nevertheless, precisely because they are conscripts, they still possess an intrinsic moral right to demand that their governments display particular consideration for their welfare and for the sensitivities of their families. Traditionally, democracies have appreciated the importance of that circumstance, and in so doing have made measurable contributions to the military effectiveness of their forces.3

Saving Private Ryan (1998), the fictional Spielberg movie that relates the fortunes of a US army unit ordered to locate and extricate from Normandy in 1944 a soldier whose brothers have all been killed in battle elsewhere, vividly captures the operational lengths to which societies and armies feel they must go in order to fulfill their contracts with their soldiers. In the film, fulfillment of the mission to save Ryan and bring some relief to his bereaved mother supersedes every other consideration, including – in a cruel paradox – the safety of the soldiers who are dispatched to carry it out. All members of the unit, is the implication, are prepared to obey the command to risk their lives on this operation, which possesses no other strategic importance. They do so because they are certain that, were the roles reversed, Ryan would be expected to abide by the same rules.

Seen in that context, the military logic behind the Schalit repatriation becomes even more incontestable. After all, Schalit was not merely a soldier who, like any other soldier, has a right to demand that his welfare be a prime consideration. Nor was he even just a conscript, whose expectations of special consideration are even more justifiable. He was also a conscript soldier in an army that, contrary to its own ethos, can by no stretch of the imagination be considered a truly representative national fighting force.

Never an entirely accurate reflection of reality, the image of the Israel Defense Force (IDF) as a "people's army" has over the past couple of decades become increasingly false. True, the legislation requiring the enlistment of all 18-year old Israeli citizens, female as well as male, still remains on the statute book. However, figures released by the IDF prove that in many instances the relevant laws have virtually become dead letters.4 In fact, one in every four Jewish Israeli males of service age receives a legal discharge from service (the vast majority of exemptions are given on the grounds that "the study of the Torah is their profession"). Some 40 percent of the annual female cohort likewise receive legal discharges due to their religious lifestyles. And, 14 percent of all drafted soldiers receive an honorable discharge after just one year of duty. Enlistment, then, far from being a rite de passage to full citizenship, is well on the way to becoming a minority phenomenon.5

Statistics such as these have led some observers (the present author included) to advise that Israel face up to realities, abandon conscription altogether and make official the IDF's shift to a professional army.6 But, for a variety of reasons, the realization of that vision still seems far off. It certainly was not a practical option when Schalit enlisted and, as required by law, reported for duty at the IDF's induction center. In so doing, he joined what was already becoming an increasingly rare breed.

It is precisely that characterization which gave Schalit and his family every right to expect special consideration when he fell into captivity whilst on active service. The charge that the price paid for his repatriation places numerous civilians at risk of further outrages by released terrorists is devoid of all validity. Soldiers, too, are citizens, and, because they undertake extraordinary commitments, their welfare and sensibilities warrant extraordinary measures. A fortiori is that the case when the soldiers are conscripts – even more so when soldier-conscripts are fast on the way to constituting a minority of the citizenry.

Had Netanyahu's government not agreed to an exchange for Schalit when the opportunity arose, its decision might certainly have assuaged the feelings of the commentators who spout platitudes about the importance of 'national pride'. But it would also have threatened to undermine the confidence in the IDF of the very youngsters who carry the practical burden of guaranteeing Israel's security and of the families who educate their children to shoulder that burden.

Notwithstanding continued high rates of enlistment among most sectors of the Israeli Jewish population, cracks in the wall of societal support for the IDF have become increasingly evident ever since Israel's military first began to sway on its pedestal of near-infallibility in 1973. Confidence was further undermined by evidence of incompetence and lack of preparedness during the 2006 Second Lebanon War. It cannot but have been further damaged by the disgraceful failure of the IDF and other Israeli security services to obtain any hard information about the whereabouts of Schalit, who for over five years was held captive by a ragtag bunch of gun-slingers, located not a stone's throw from some of the most sophisticated intelligence-gathering devices ever known to man.

It is against that background that Schalit's repatriation makes sound military sense. True, it was an admission of failure – and perhaps of guilt too, and hence a blow to Israel's self-esteem. On the other hand, the deal was an essential requisite for the maintenance of troop morale, an asset of supreme strategic value.

Hard-headed realism requires us to master our emotions and not allow our hurt pride to master our sense of proportion. Undeniably serious though they are, the deficiencies and potential dangers inherent in the Schalit deal carry far less strategic importance than does society's duty to honor its obligations to its soldiers. After all, in the long run, even the most horrendous of random terrorist outrages pose far less of a threat to Israel's security than does the possible erosion of combat motivation amongst Israel's military personnel.

Stuart A. Cohen is a senior research associate at the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies and a professor of political science at Bar-Ilan University.

Posted on 10/27/2011 5:10 PM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Thursday, 27 October 2011
A Cinematic Musical Interlude: Whistling In The Dark (From "Pennies From Heaven")

Watch, and listen, here.

Posted on 10/27/2011 5:14 PM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Thursday, 27 October 2011
Erdogan's Bullying Leads To Greater Military Cooperation Between Israel And Cyprus

From Contentions

Israel-Cyprus Military Exercises Show Turkey is Increasingly Isolated

More evidence that Turkey’s neo-Ottoman campaign to isolate Israel is backfiring badly:

Cypriot media outlets reported last week that Israel was conducting Air Force exercises with its Greek Cypriot counterpart over the Mediterranean and Greek island. The exercise is being seen by some reports as a “message to Turkey,” which has repeatedly threatened both Israel and Cyprus over deep-sea drilling in the Mediterranean. Greek Daily Phileleftheros published a document detailing the Israeli-Cypriot exercise, which included mid-air refuelling of fighter jets and quick touchdown landings by Israel Air Force combat helicopters in Cyprus.

 

The exercises are particularly noteworthy in light of a rumored incident over Cypriot airspace, where Israeli and Turkish planes may or may not have almost had an “aerial encounter.” If there are to be incidents in the area as American influence precipitously declines, the signal is presumably being sent–Cyprus and Israel will be on one side and Turkey will be on the other. Israel and Cyprus’s newly forged ties are in line with recent moves made by Athens and Sofia to solidify their mutual defense interests with Israel.

In the Arab and Muslim world, Turkey finds itself at odds with the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood over democratization, distanced from Iran over missile defense, and alienated from Syria over the Arab Spring. With Russia also alarmed at Turkey’s moves against energy exploration, seemingly the only reliable ally Erdogan has left is President Obama.

Per reports, “by all accounts Mr. Obama sees Erodgan as a constructive partner, speaks with him frequently by phone and seeks his views on the region.” Obama is supplying Turkey with F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, Predators, and Super Cobra helicopters. Those assets contain technology that Turkey seems increasingly predisposed to transfer to our enemies, reverse engineer for its own uses, and turn against Israel. So at least they’ll have plenty of U.S. technology to play with, even as the Middle East and Europe turn against them.

None of which has stopped Erdogan’s shills in the media and the foreign policy community from celebrating his oh-so-delicate regional diplomacy.

As a small example, Anthony Shadid of the New York Times is desperately trying to peddle “analysis” to the effect that Erdogan is, despite all outward appearances, popular in the Middle East. Given the mountain of evidence showing the exact opposite, one almost wonders whether Shadid’s private opinion – “that Israel’s foreign policy is myopic and it is the most short-sighted state in the region” – is a bit of wishful thinking that’s clouding his journalistic objectivity.

Shadid is better known for his journalism-cum-agitprop dispatches during Lebanon II (my favorite example of his Hezbollah propagandizing is here, and CAMERA debunked him here). These days he can’t seem to get over how awesome Erdogan is, with content typical of vapid paint-by-numbers media pseudo-sophistication but a style all his own.

In May, under the headline “Leader Transcends Complex Politics of Turkey,” Shadid declared that Turkey under Erdogan was “emerging as a decisive power… building relationships with Iran and Arab neighbors at the expense of Israel.” A few months later, under the headline “In Riddle of Mideast Upheaval, Turkey Offers Itself as an Answer,” Shadid offered that while “no one is ready to declare a Pax Turkana in the Middle East” just yet, “officials of an assertive, occasionally brash Turkey have offered a vision” for the Middle East’s future.

Back in the real world, of course, Turkey ended up on the wrong side of just about everyone in the region. Which isn’t to say Turkey won’t manage to become a regional hegemon. It’s only to emphasize if they do so it will be because of the gunboats and helicopters we gave them, not through Erdogan’s vaunted soft power. Meanwhile, Shadid and like-minded foreign policy reporters will keep peddling the tale of oh-so-delicate Turkish diplomacy and oh-so-pervasive Israeli isolation – the better to lull a quiescent West into telling itself that Everything Is OK – even as evidence piles up that the region is terrified of Turkish ascendency.

 

Posted on 10/27/2011 5:24 PM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Thursday, 27 October 2011
"And The Rest Is Rust And Stardust"

Scientists: Star dust could be key to beginning of life on earth

The State Column -
A new study released Thursday finds that matter ejected by stars contain organic compounds, a key component for sustaining life forms.

 

Posted on 10/27/2011 6:46 PM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Thursday, 27 October 2011
A Commentator In Coronado Has His Say

From the Coronado Eagle:

All Cultures Are Not Created Equal

A commentary by J. F. Kelly, Jr. | Posted: Thursday, October 27, 2011

Several newspapers carried a photo recently of a camel being prepared for sacrifice in honor of Libya’s freedom fighters. What human being with an ounce of compassion could look at the contorted face of the terrified beast without pity for the helpless animal and disgust for its tormentors? What had the camel, a faithful, hardworking beast of burden, done to deserve such torture? Is there any justification for this barbaric custom?

Yes, I know. Ancient Christians and Jews also practiced the ritual sacrifice of innocent animals as an offering to their God. It was, in my view, a barbaric act then as well. But at least that was centuries ago and this is 2011. However, you wouldn’t know that in most of the Arab and Muslim countries because the modern world and enlightened values have not intruded on these primitive tribal cultures. There is no justification for sacrificing animals, but these cultures are mired in the primitive past.

It is illustrative of the chasm that exists between western culture and the tribal cultures and customs of much of the Middle East. Political correctness decrees that we consider all cultures as created essentially equal but are they really? Can we be comfortable even coexisting with societies where women are treated as property, denied the right to drive a car, expose their faces or travel without a male relative escort? Can we respect a culture that punishes rape victims and excuses honor killings? Yet we call them friends and allies and ply them with foreign aid.

War, to be sure, makes strange bedfellows. We relied on the cooperation of Middle East despots and dictators to prosecute the war on terrorism but we should be under no delusions. They are not our friends. Westerners are not regarded with affection in most of these lands and reaching out to hearts and minds has proven largely an exercise in futility. Opinion survey after survey reveals that most of the populations dislike, to put it mildly, Christians and Jews and many believe that killing them is justified.

The revolutions in Tunisia, Egypt and Libya and the ongoing protests in Syria and Yemen were hailed in the West as a new awakening of freedom and liberty and euphemistically referred to as the Arab Spring. These sentiments are naïve. Does the Arab Spring portend a new era of women’s rights and tolerance for other religions? Not likely.

In Egypt, Coptic Christians continue to be attacked and murdered and their churches burned. In Libya, a rabbi, a resident of Libya, was denied permission to build a synagogue. There is, essentially no freedom of religion in these countries.

Since the overthrow of the Mubarak regime in Egypt, the country’s stance toward Israel has hardened, further isolating our only democratic friend and ally in the region. Hatred of the Jews still abounds throughout the area, encouraging the Palestinians to reject efforts to get them back to the negotiating table.

Our ethics and values are far apart. Christian-Judeo ethics teach the value of human life. Contrast this with the often- demonstrated willingness of Arab and Muslim fundamentalists to sacrifice innocent lives or to commit suicide in the process of killing westerners or Jews. As a further measure of the difference in the way human lives are valued, consider Israel’s willingness to release a thousand Arab prisoners, including murderers who showed no remorse and, indeed, vowed to continue to kidnap and kill more Jews when released, just to recover one Israeli hostage.

While hatred of all things western and modern persists in Arab and Muslim lands, there will never be compatibility between our very different cultures. This hatred, moreover, will continue to spawn religious fanatics and terrorists who devoutly believe that they are serving their God by murdering infidels like us. We should, moreover, have no illusions about our ability to change this dynamic as long as their children are socialized and taught to hate us and our freedoms.

Posted on 10/27/2011 7:31 PM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Thursday, 27 October 2011
American-Israeli Ilan Grapel is freed in prisoner exchange with Egypt

Ilan Grapel greeted my mother at Ben Gurion Airport

Ilan Grapel was free today in exchange for 25 egyptians held by Israel, not the 80 the Egyptian originally requested. No terrorist were exchanged just drug smugglers and gun runners. But the new regime in Cairo, such as it is, will have another bite at the apple. There is an Israeli Arab imprisoned there, Oudeh Suleiman Tarabin. There is no doubt Obama's Defense Secretary Leon Panetta's visit with the Egyptian regime may have communicated something about continuing the military aid they had been recieving under deposed strongman Mubarak. Clearly, those salafi preachers will have a field day on Friday lording this prisoner exchange over the hated Israelis. 

Watch this You Tube video of Grapel's meeting with Israel PM Netanyahu with his family upon his release and read the Reuters report.

By Jeffrey Heller and Tamim Elyan, Reuters

Egypt released an American-Israeli it held as an alleged spy and Israel freed 25 Egyptians in a prisoner swap on Thursday that will ease strains between Cairo’s new rulers and the United States and Israel.

Ilan Grapel, 27, flew to Israel accompanied by two Israeli envoys sent by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, whom he was due to meet later in the day. Smiling, he embraced his mother who waited on the tarmac at Tel Aviv airport.

The freed Egyptians crossed overland into Egypt’s Sinai desert, some of them kneeling in a thanksgiving prayer.

Egypt arrested Grapel in June on suspicion that he was out to recruit agents and monitor events in the revolt that toppled Hosni Mubarak, an ally of Israel and the United States.

Israel denied that Grapel, who emigrated from New York in 2005 and was wounded as an Israeli paratrooper in the 2006 Lebanon war, was a spy. His links to Israel were apparent on his Facebook page, which contained photos of him in Israeli military uniform.

A law student in the United States, Grapel had been working for Saint Andrew’s Refugee Services, a non-governmental agency, when he was detained.

The United States, which provides the army that now runs Egypt with billions of dollars in military aid, had called for Grapel’s release. He was freed three weeks after U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta visited Egypt.

The U.S.-brokered exchange deal was reached shortly after a more high-profile, Egyptian-mediated swap between Israel and Gaza’s Hamas Islamist rulers freed captive Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit in exchange for more than 1,000 Palestinian prisoners.

Eli Avidar, a former diplomat who headed Israel’s mission in Qatar, said securing the release of Egyptian prisoners could help Cairo’s new leaders domestically.

“The Egyptian administration needs this for its prestige,” he said on Israel Television.

Israel is widely unpopular in Egypt, which signed a peace treaty with its northern neighbor in 1979.

EMBASSY ATTACK

In September, Israel flew its ambassador out of Egypt when the Israeli embassy was attacked by protesters angry at the killings of Egyptian border guards when Israeli troops pursued raiders who killed eight Israelis in August. Israel said the gunmen infiltrated from the Gaza Strip via the Sinai.

Many of the prisoners on the release roster were jailed for drug trafficking, infiltration into Israel and gun-running, but not for espionage or attacks on Israelis, Israel’s Prison Service said.

“Raise up your heads, you are Egyptian,” cried relatives waving the country’s red, white and black flag as the bus carrying the men crossed the border.

“I’ve been in jail since 2005. Thank God. I feel reborn,” Mursi Barakat told Egyptian state television. “The treatment in jail was very tough and it was clear there was discrimination.”

U.S. Congressman Gary Ackerman who pressed for Grapel’s release, travelled to Israel to accompany him back to the United States, his office said in a statement.

Israel has also called for steps to help free another Israeli, Oudeh Suleiman Tarabin, jailed by Egypt.

Amos Gilad, a senior Israeli Defense Ministry official, rejected arguments by right-wingers in Israel that it had capitulated to Egypt in the 25-1 exchange.

“The bottom line is you have to decide, will he (Grapel) stay there in prison, or not? If you ask, me, he needed to be freed,” Gilad said on Israel Radio.

Additional reporting by Dan Williams and Ori Lewis in Jerusalem and Shaimaa Fayed and Omar Fahmy in Cairo; Writing by Jeffrey Heller and Edmund Blair

Posted on 10/27/2011 7:17 PM by Jerry Gordon
Thursday, 27 October 2011
Excellent News From Marseilles (In French)

From lefigaro.fr:

Nouveau revers pour la Grande Mosquée de Marseille

 

Jérémy Maccaud Publié

Réactions (5)

La maquette de la Grande Mosquée.
La maquette de la Grande Mosquée. Crédits photo : MICHEL GANGNE/AFP
 

Le projet phare du maire UMP Jean-Claude Gaudin, attendu par 250.000 musulmans phocéens, est encore bloqué. Le permis de construire du lieu de culte vient d'être annulé. Retour sur dix ans de bataille.

Le tribunal administratif de Marseille a annoncé jeudi l'annulation du permis de construire de la Grande Mosquée. En cause, des inquiétudes des commerçants et des habitants du quartier concernant les places de parking. Si la création de 450 emplacements pour voitures est inscrite au permis de construire, «il n'a pas encore fait l'objet d'un engagement formel ou d'une programmation de la part du maitre d'ouvrage » a estimé la juridiction. D'où cette annulation, synonyme d'un nouveau revers pour un projet qui a déjà mis plusieurs années avant de réellement débuter. Retour sur dix ans de bataille.

L'attente d'un lieu culte digne de ce nom remonte désormais à une dizaine d'années pour la communauté musulmane marseillaise. Plus précisément en 2001 lorsque Jean-Claude Gaudin, maire UMP de la ville, gagne son second mandat. Avec son aval, un projet est lancé pour les 250.000 musulmans, un quart de la population totale de la ville.

Pendant près de quatre ans, le projet patine, aucun consensus n'est trouvé avec la communauté musulmane qui est divisée par différents courants liés à l'origine géographique ou à la pratique religieuse. Presque résignée, l'équipe municipale envisage une amélioration des lieux de culte existants en lieu et place d'une nouvelle mosquée.

Une nouvelle impulsion

En 2005, Abderrahmane Ghoul, considéré comme un musulman modéré, arrive à la tête du Conseil régional du culte musulman pour la région Paca. Le projet est relancé, une association est créée. « La mosquée de Marseille » voit le jour et a pour but de mener à terme le projet. Nourredine Cheikh, qui a créé à Marseille son entreprise de vente de viande Halal en 1964, en devient le président.

Un lieu pour accueillir l‘édifice est trouvé dans le quartier Saint-Louis et un bail de 300 € par année sur 99 ans est signé entre l'association et la mairie. Les mouvements régionaux d'extrême droite, FN en tête, saisissent alors le tribunal administratif car ils jugent le montant de ce bail « anormalement bas ». Ils obtiennent gain de cause : le tribunal rejette la délibération accordée quelques mois plus tôt. Le projet est finalement revoté en juillet 2007 et un nouveau bail de 24.000 euros par an sur 50 ans est signé et validé par le tribunal. En 2008, Maxime Repaux est désigné architecte, son projet est sélectionné.

La mosquée enfin en route

Le permis de construire est délivré le 6 novembre 2009 par Jean-Claude Gaudin. Le 20 mai 2010, on pose même en grande pompe la première pierre de l'édifice. Le chantier semble enfin prêt à démarrer. Sauf que le FN fait sa réapparition et défère le permis de construire devant le tribunal administratif avec un argument de poids : l'absence de places de parkings pour un lieu qui doit attirer un grand nombre de fidèles. À ce recours, viendra s'ajouter un autre, similaire, de la part d'habitants et de commerçants du quartier Saint-Louis.

Après une première demande d'annulation, l'association présente en mai 2011 un permis modificatif qui inclut la construction d'un parking de 450 places à proximité du futur lieu de culte. Mais cela n'offre pas assez de garanties pour les commerçants et habitants du quartier qui se lancent derechef dans un nouveau recours au mois de juin. Celui-là même qui a abouti à l'annulation du permis de construire ce jeudi. 18 mois après la pose de la première pierre, aucun autre coup de pioche n'a eu lieu, et le projet est de nouveau stoppé. Quant au budget pour la construction, seuls 300.000 euros de dons ont été récoltés, sur les 22 millions nécessaires.

 

Posted on 10/27/2011 8:00 PM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Thursday, 27 October 2011
In Tunisia, Ennahda, "Moderate" Extremist Party, Gets 41% Of Vote

From Reuters:

Violence erupts after Tunisian Islamists win vote

 
 
 
Supporters of the Islamist Ennahda movement celebrate outside Ennahda's headquarters in Tunis October 25, 2011.  REUTERS-Anis Mili

TUNIS | Oct 27, 2011

(Reuters) - Tunisian electoral officials confirmed the Islamist Ennahda party as winner of the North African country's election, setting it up to form the first Islamist-led government in the wake of the Arab Spring uprisings.

But the election, which has so far confounded predictions it would tip the country into crisis, turned violent when protesters angry their fourth-placed party was eliminated from the poll set fire to the mayor's office in a provincial town.

Ennahda has tried to reassure secularists nervous about the prospect of Islamist rule in one of the Arab world's most liberal countries by saying it will respect women's rights and not try to impose a Muslim moral code on society.

The Islamists won power 10 months after Mohamed Bouazizi, a Tunisian vegetable seller in the town of Sidi Bouzid, set fire to himself in an act of protest that led to the fall of Tunisia's leader and inspired uprisings in Egypt and Libya.

"We salute Sidi Bouzid and its sons who launched the spark and we hope that God will have made Mohamed Bouazizi a martyr," said Ennahda leader Rachid Ghannouchi, a soft-spoken Islamic scholar who spent 22 years in exile in Britain.

"We will continue this revolution to realize its aims of a Tunisia that is free, independent, developing and prosperous in which the rights of God, the Prophet, women, men, the religious and the non-religious are assured because Tunisia is for everyone," Ghannouchi told a crowd of cheering supporters.

Announcing the results, election commission members said Ennahda had won 90 seats in the 217-seat assembly, which will draft a new constitution, form an interim government and schedule new elections, probably for early 2013.

The Islamists' nearest rival, the secularist Congress for the Republic, won 30 seats, the commission members told a packed hall in the capital, ending a four-day wait since Sunday's poll for the painstaking count to be completed.

ISLAMIST-LED GOVERNMENT

Ennahda, banned before January's revolution, fell short of an absolute majority in the new assembly. It is expected to broker a coalition with two of the secularist runners-up and, with them, form a government.

The Islamists will get the biggest say on important posts. They have already said they will put forward Hamadi Jbeli, Ghannouchi's deputy and a former political prisoner, for the post of prime minister.

Tunisia's complex election system, which replaced the rigged, one-horse races conducted before the revolution, made it impossible for any one party to win a majority of assembly seats.

Ennahda lies at the moderate and liberal end of the spectrum of Islamist parties in the Middle East. Ghannouchi models his approach on the moderate stance of Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan.

The party's victory is the first for Islamists since the Hamas faction won an election in the Palestinian Territories seven years ago.

It is a result which will resonate in Egypt, where a party with ideological ties to Ennahda is expected to do well in a multi-stage parliamentary poll that starts in November.

REVOLUTION BIRTHPLACE

Thursday night's violence broke out in Sidi Bouzid, the birth-place of the revolution which ousted autocratic leader Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali.

Protesters there were angry that election officials had canceled seats won by the Popular List, a party led by businessmen Hachmi Hamdi, over alleged campaign finance violations. The party is popular in Sidi Bouzid.

"They have set fire to a large part of the mayor's office, and the police are nowhere to be seen," local resident Mehdi Horcheni told Reuters by telephone from the town.

He said elsewhere in the town, the protesters set fire to an Ennahda campaign office and police used tear gas in a failed attempt to disperse the crowd.

Another witness, Hafed Abdulli, said the crowd was burning tyres in the streets. "People are protesting against the cancellation of the Popular List," he said.

The Popular List was running in fourth place in the election, according to preliminary results, before its seats were canceled. The party's leader used to support Ben Ali and during the election ran a populist campaign heavily promoted on the British-based television station he owns.

The violence appeared confined to Hamdi's supporters, as the three main secularist parties have already accepted defeat.

There have been none of the clashes that were predicted involving hardline Islamists who are more radical than Ennahda or the secularists who believe the election result will threaten their liberal lifestyles.

Ghannouchi and his party officials have issued a carefully-choreographed series of announcements designed to reassure skeptics that there is no need to fear an Islamist government.

They have said there will be no ban on foreign tourists -- a vital source of revenue for Tunisia's spluttering economy -- drinking alcohol or wearing revealing beachwear.

The party has also reached out to anxious investors by saying it will not impose Islamic banking rules and that it is inclined to keep the finance minister and central bank governor in their posts when it forms the new government.

Posted on 10/27/2011 8:04 PM by Hugh Fitzgerald

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