ISLAMABAD, Pakistan — In a nation thirsting for energy, he loomed like a messiah: a small-town engineer who claimed he could run a car on water.
The assertion — based on the premise that he had discovered a way to easily split the oxygen and hydrogen atoms in water molecules with almost no energy — would, if proven, represent a stunning breakthrough for physics and a near-magical solution to Pakistan’s desperate power crisis.
“By the grace of Allah, I have managed to make a formula that converts less voltage into more energy,” the professed inventor, Agha Waqar Ahmad, said in a telephone interview. “This invention will solve our country’s energy crisis and provide jobs to hundreds of thousands of people.”
Established scientists have debunked his spectacular claims, first made one month ago, saying they violate ironclad laws of physics. But across Pakistan, where crippling electricity cuts have left millions drenched in the sweat of a powerless summer, and where there is hunger for tales of homegrown glory, the shimmering mirage of a “water car” received a broad and serious embrace.
Federal ministers lauded Mr. Ahmad and his vehicle, sometimes at cabinet meetings. The stand-in minister for religious affairs, Khursheed Shah, appeared on television with him and took a ride in his small Suzuki rental, which was hooked up to a contraption that Mr. Ahmad described as a “water kit.” Respected talk show hosts suggested he should get state financing and protection.
The country’s most famous scientist, Abdul Qadeer Khan — revered inside Pakistan as the father of the country’s nuclear weapons program and reviled elsewhere as a notorious figure in the international nuclear black market — gave it his imprimatur, too. “I have investigated the matter, and there is no fraud involved,” he told Hamid Mir, a popular television journalist, during a recent broadcast that sealed Mr. Ahmad’s celebrity.
[Comment: A. Q. Khan was not, and is not,a nuclear scientist at all, but a humble metallurgist who, working in Western labs, was able to steal nuclear secrets. That's what his "science" consisted of]
The quest to harness chemical energy from water is a holy grail of science, offering the tantalizing promise of a world free from dependence on oil. Groups in other countries, including Japan, the United States and Sri Lanka, have previously made similar claims. They have been largely ignored.
Not so with Mr. Ahmad, even if he is an unlikely scientific prodigy. Forty years old and a father of five, he graduated with a degree in mechanical engineering in 1990 from a small technical college in Khairpur, in southern Sindh Province, he said in the interview. For most of his career he worked in a local police department. He is currently unemployed.
But he sprang up at a moment when Pakistan was intensely aware of its power shortcomings. Violent riots erupted across Punjab and Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa Provinces recently as temperatures in some places hovered around 110 degrees amid electricity shortages that stretched up to 20 hours per day. Chronic shortages of natural gas, which powers many cars and homes, result in lines snaking from gas stations. Energy politics are expected to play a prominent role in elections set to take place within the next 10 months.
In another measure of the issue, the United States government has donated heavily to electricity generation projects, hoping to win support from Pakistan’s largely hostile public; last week, Congress authorized $280 million for various hydroelectric projects.
[Comment: ]A policy of spending still more American money in order to "win support" from people who hate and fear the Infidel Americans, and have been hating and fearing them during the past decades when tens of billions of dollars, in economic aid, and debt relief,and military aid, have flowed into Pakistan from those Americans. What makes Pakistanis dislike, hate, suspect Americans, is that Pakistanis have only Islam as their identity, and thus are much more extreme, with no competing identity, than any other group of Muslims save, of course, for the Arabs themselves. There is no way to buy Pakistani gratitude or friendship, and the best way to handle Pakistan is not to support it, but to let its own failures become obvious, without any continuing rescue by the West, so that in the end, the connection of those failures -- political, econmic, social, intellectual, and moral -- to Islam itself, having been openly described in the Western world, will be overheard by Muslims everywhere, and since that connection cannot convincingly be denied, it will leave Muslims demoralized, and some, perhaps, ready to grasp what Ataturk grasped -- that for the sake of Muslims themselves, the power of Islam as a political and social force has to be ruthlessly constrained. It's the only strategy that makes sense. Nothing else does.]
News media commentators said the coverage of Mr. Ahmad’s claims was the Pakistani version of Britain’s “silly season,” when journalists and politicians embrace the unlikely during the annual lull in politics. But for established scientists, it was a symptom of a wider, more worrisome, ignorance of science.
It shows “how far Pakistan has fallen into the pit of ignorance and self-delusion,” wrote Pervez Hoodbhoy, an outspoken physics professor, in The Express Tribune, a national English-language daily. He added: “Our leaders are lost in the dark, fumbling desperately for a miracle; our media is chasing spectacle, not truth; and our great scientists care more about being important than about evidence.”
The “water car” is not the first unlikely episode in Pakistani science. In 2010 Atta ur-Rahman, head of the state higher education body, aired views that the United States government was financing a covert science project in Alaska that sought to manipulate the world’s weather and that could set off earthquakes, floods and tsunamis.
Dr. Rahman’s article incited a furious public debate with other scientists, notably Dr. Hoodbhoy, who has also sought to highlight a worrisome decline in academic standards in Pakistan.
Stories of widespread plagiarism, fake qualifications and doctorates granted under dubious circumstances have circulated in academic circles for several years. “We have had a flood of academic garbage,” Dr. Hoodbhoy said. The trend was inadvertently accelerated under the military ruler, Pervez Musharraf, who required all members of Parliament to hold a college degree — prompting some to acquire fake ones.[and some of those people have used those degrees to obtain positions in colleges and universities in the United States, where they have taken to presentring themselves as "experts" -- whatever their original, unmerited degree was in -- in "policy toward Pakistan" and, as well, become busy apologists, plausible because anglophone, for Islam. I've seen such people spreading their honeyed poison myself].
Pakistan is not lacking in academic talent. With 68 percent of the population under 30, according to the United Nations, education is a preoccupation among parents across the social spectrum. This year 200 Pakistani undergraduates will start at 50 different American colleges under the government-financed Fulbright educational exchange program.
Yet even the country’s academic achievements are mired in the old problems of politics, prejudice and religion.
The work of a Pakistani particle physicist, Abdus Salam, won him a Nobel Prize along with two others scientists in 1979, and it has been credited with paving the way for the discovery of what appears to be the Higgs boson particle, which was announced July 4.
But Dr. Salam, who died in 1996, is largely ignored in his homeland because he was a member of the Ahmadi sect, whose members suffer state-sponsored discrimination and, in recent years, attacks by violent extremists.
For his part, Mr. Ahmad brushed off his critics, claiming to have run the Suzuki for 250 miles on 10 liters of water.
“I am not concerned with theory. I have given a practical demonstration that a vehicle can run on water,” he said. “What more proof do these critics need?”
In a word, more. “Water car” jokes have circulated widely on Twitter, while an Internet comedy group, The Naked Tyrant, rolled out a spoof video featuring a religious man who claimed to make his car run on “pious deeds.”
And, as a reader of one newspaper noted in a letter to the editor: “What is odd is that the only specimen so far on display is the one fitted in his own car.”
Even in the depths of war in occupied France, Florence Waren and Frederic Apcar — or “Florence et Frederic,” as they were billed — dazzled Paris, he in tails, she in jeweled gowns with flowers in her hair, the two of them gliding and swirling across the stage as one of the most famous ballroom-dance teams in Europe.
Florence Waren with Frederic Apcar, her dance partner.
United States Holocaust Memorial Museum
Mr. Apcar and Ms. Waren with the singer Édith Piaf, center.
In old black-and-white photographs, Ms. Waren, then in her early 20s, is often airborne, seemingly weightless in Mr. Apcar’s arms. At times they shared the stage with Édith Piaf and Maurice Chevalier. And on many nights Nazi officers were in the audience.
But what the members of the Wehrmacht did not know was that Ms. Waren was, as she put it, “hiding in the spotlight.”
Ms. Waren was a Jew in disguise, performing in a Nazi-held city where Jews lived under constant threat. She was a lawbreaker, hiding other Jews in her apartment, risking her own deportation to a concentration camp. And she was a smuggler, helping to supply guns to the French Resistance.
“I think she was very scared,” her son, Mark Waren, said in a telephone interview. “But I don’t think it was something she thought much about. It was simply what one did.”
Ms. Waren died on July 12 at her home in Manhattan, her son said. She was 95. She had eluded capture during the war and had come to New York not long afterward, to dance at the Copacabana with Mr. Apcar. She went on to carve out a career on stage and in television and to lead the dance and theater department at City College, even though she had never finished high school in her native South Africa.
Ms. Waren was a dancer at the Bal Tabarin Music Hall in Paris and had not yet met Mr. Apcar when the Germans occupied France in 1940. Jews were ordered to register with the police, but an owner of the music hall urged her not to. She took his advice, and her religion went undetected. But because, as a South African, she was a British citizen, the Nazis considered her an enemy alien, and in late 1940 she was among several thousand people, mostly Britons, who were arrested and interned for months in a louse-infested prison in Besançon.
After her release, she resumed dancing at the Bal Tabarin, which had become a favorite destination of German officers, and teamed up with Mr. Apcar. Briefly, they were lovers. They moved in glamorous circles, with Ms. Piaf, Mr. Chevalier and another immensely popular singer, Charles Trenet.
Ms. Waren had friends in the Resistance and began to help them, hiding and transporting guns, hiding Jews in her apartment or helping them find their way from one safe house to another. After performing in Germany in a camp for French prisoners of war, she carried home a suitcase full of their letters to relatives, an act for which she could have been arrested.
In a documentary film by her son, “Dancing Lessons,” Ms. Waren, still graceful and elegant at 86, described a time during the war when she noticed a French policeman following her. He caught up with her on a bridge over the Seine. He told her not to be afraid but also not to speak or even turn her head to look at him.
“You have some people in your apartment,” he said, and it was going to be searched. Her landlady had told the police that Ms. Waren was hiding two Jewish sisters there.
“You must get them out,” the policeman said. “Tonight.”
That night, Ms. Waren escorted the sisters through the darkened streets to a convent. Across the street, she said, Nazis were raiding an orphanage, throwing Jewish children out of high windows.
Near the end of the occupation in 1944, Mr. Apcar was told that Ms. Waren was going to be arrested, so he rented a house in the suburbs to hide her and several other Jewish performers. One morning, American soldiers drove up in a tank and asked directions to Paris. Ms. Waren and Mr. Apcar set out for Paris, too, to watch the liberation.
After the war, the French government declared Ms. Waren a “privileged resident.”
She was born Sadie Rigal in Johannesburg on March 28, 1917, one of seven children. Her father was a traveling salesman for a department store. Her mother, who had been a teacher in New York, had a breakdown after the death of her youngest son during an influenza epidemic in 1919 and was committed to a mental hospital in South Africa. Mr. Rigal raised the family alone.
A childhood event shaped Ms. Waren’s life: seeing the Ballets Russes, one of the world’s greatest ballet companies. She dreamed of becoming a dancer and began taking lessons. She became good enough to win competitions, and in 1938, at 21, she left Johannesburg for Europe, hoping for a career in ballet. She studied in England and Paris, with renowned — and stern — teachers from Russia. When one struck her in the calf with a cane, she snatched the cane and broke it, then had to buy the teacher a new one before being allowed back in class.
She was soon hired by the Bal Tabarin and began dancing in revues there, elaborate shows with dozens of dancers in fancy costumes (or none at all). She changed her first name to Florence. In 1939 she was offered her dream job — a place in the Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo, a descendant of the company that had inspired her in the first place. But World War II broke out before she could join the troupe.
In 1948, she and Mr. Apcar were performing in New York at the Copacabana when she met Stanley Waren, an actor, director and teacher. On their first date, they went to a delicatessen and got into such a furious argument that they were thrown out, Mr. Waren said. They were married in 1949, and Ms. Waren decided to leave the dance act. Mr. Apcar was said to have been devastated, but Ms. Waren agreed to train a replacement. In New York, she began a new career, appearing in plays and on television, on the Ed Sullivan and Kate Smith shows. Mr. Apcar died in 2008 in Las Vegas, after a long career producing shows at the Dunes hotel and casino.
Ms. Waren also worked with her husband — she as choreographer, he as director — on shows in Africa, Taiwan and China. From about 1973 to 1983, she was a professor of theater and dance at City College, leading the department for part of that time. She was also a dance panelist on the New York State Council on the Arts.
Besides her son and her husband, a granddaughter survives her.
“She led a rather adventurous life,” Stanley Waren said. “Wherever she went, she somehow became part of the scene, and people helped her and she helped them. She didn’t want anything from anybody except to work. She was really one of those natural-born performers who loved what she was doing.”
Islam Disrupts; Fear Of Islam Can Even Lead Non-Muslims To A Lapsus
Gard: il tue l'ami de sa fille au fusil
Un homme de 53 ans devait être présenté dans la journ&e à un juge d'instruction de Nîmes pour avoir tué de deux coups de fusil, dans la nuit de vendredi à samedi à Vauvert (Gard), le compagnon de sa fille avec lequel il entretenait une relation conflictuelle.
Une information judiciaire va être ouverte pour "assassinat", la préméditation étant retenue.
Les gendarmes de la compagnie de Vauvert ont été "prévenus par un voisin qui a entendu des coups de feu et un remue-ménage qui l'a inquiété", selon le parquet.
Les faits se sont déroulés dans une villa que le meurtrier présumé, qui n'était pas connu des services de police, laissait à disposition de sa fille et où "il n'était plus admis que son ami réside", a ajouté la même source, évoquant "un couple tumultueux".
Selon les premiers éléments de l'enquête, la belle-famille "ne supportait pas" la victime, âgée de 24 ans, pour "toute une série de raisons". Parmi les motifs de discorde, figuraient notamment "les sympathies que ce jeune homme avait pour la religion musulmane".
I picked a good weekend to be out of cell phone range and unconnected to the internet – and judging from how the rest of the week has gone, I’d have been minded to stay there…
As most readers are probably aware, there was an op-ed in the Saturday New York Times from Richard Muller announcing the Berkeley Earth team’s latest results. It was odd enough that a scientific paper was announced via an op-ed, rather than a press release, odder still that the paper was only being submitted and had not actually been accepted, and most odd of all was the framing – a ‘converted skeptic’ being convinced by his studies that the planet has indeed warmed and that human activity is the cause – which as Mike and Ken Caldiera pointed out has been known for almost 2 decades.
Not wanting to be upstaged, plenty of ‘unconverted skeptics’ – including Anthony Watts and Ross McKitrick decided to stage dramatic press events and release barbs of their own. This was followed by a general piling on of commenters and bloggers trying to spin the events in their preferred direction combined with plenty of cluelessness in the general media about exactly who these people are (no-one special), what earth-shattering discovery had been made (none) and what it all means (not a lot).
The ‘best’ response to this circus is to sit back and see how pretzel-like the logical justifications can become. I particularly like the recent twist to the “No true scotsman” post-hoc rationalisation. Since the ‘converted skeptic’/prodigal scientist meme is a very powerful framing for the media, the obvious riposte for the ‘skeptics’ is to declare that Muller was not a true skeptic. But since these terms have become meaningless in terms of any specific position, this ends up as a semantic argument that convinces no-one but the faithful.
The actual trigger for all this hoopla is the deadline for papers that can be cited in the Second Order Draft of the new IPCC report. They needed to have been submitted to a journal by Tuesday (31 July) to qualify. Of course, they also need to be interesting, relevant and known to the IPCC lead authors. But there seems to be far too much emphasis being put on this deadline. The AR5 report is pretty much 90% written, and the broad outlines have been known for ages. Very few of the papers that have been submitted this week are anything other than minor steps forward and only a small number will be accorded anything other than a brief mention in AR5, and most not even that.
Furthermore, once the SOD is finalised (Aug 10), Tuesday’s deadline becomes moot, and the only thing that matters for the final report is whether papers are accepted by March 2013. (In a spirit of full disclosure, I should mention that I was working on a couple of papers with an eye to making this deadline, but in the end decided it was preferable to take the time to do a good job on the papers than to submit something shoddy).
The only worthwhile substance to any of this is the work that has mostly been done by Robert Rohde on the Berkeley Earth code and database as we’ve noted previously – and once this weeks drama has faded into the distance overshadowed by some new blog-storm, this work will still be a useful advance.
But still the games go on. Senate hearings are one of the longest running games of political theatre going – where the Senators pretend to listen to the panelists and the panelists pretend that this is an efficient way to inform policymakers. This week’s was little different from the ones in the past – some earnest submissions from the mainstream, and a cherry-pickers delight of misinformation from the Republican invitee, John Christy, who even quoted the woefully inept first draft of the Watts paper as if it meant something.
To confuse the metaphor even further, Roger Pielke Sr loudly declared that whatever the results of the Watts paper it will end up being a gamechanger:
The TOB effect could result in a confirmation of the Watts et al conclusion, or a confirmation (from a skeptical source) that siting quality does not matter. In either case, this is still a game changing study.
If only people would change the games they play…
My inclination is just to sit back and watch the spectacle, admire the logic-defying leaps, marvel at the super-human feats of hubris and, in two weeks time, remark on how little actually changed.
RESIDENTS of Gao in Islamist-occupied northern Mali yesterday prevented extremists from chopping off the hand of a thief, the penalty for stealing according to strict sharia law.
"They [Islamists] were not able to cut off the thief's hand. Very early on Sunday hundreds of youths stormed independence square in Gao to prevent the sentence being carried out," a local teacher told AFP by telephone.
On Saturday night the Movement for Oneness and Jihad in West Africa (MUJAO) announced on private radio that they would carry out the sharia sentence yesterday at the square.
"They [Islamists] were not able to take the prisoner to the square to cut off his hand. The residents of Gao occupied the square and refused to allow the thief's hand to be amputated," the leader of a local NGO said on condition of anonymity.
According to corroborating sources, the accused was a young MUJAO recruit who had stolen weapons to re-sell them. "We don't want to know what this young man did, but they are not going to cut his hand off in front of us. The Islamists have retreated and the civilians sang the national hymn as a sign of victory," another resident said.
This is the first report of the extremists attempting to carry out an amputation since they occupied the north of the country four months ago, enforcing strict sharia law. The residents of Gao have kicked back against the occupation, and MUJAO had eased up on the application of sharia after violent anti-Islamist protests in May left one dead.
Jeffrey Gettleman On The Alawites (And Alevis) Of Turkey
In an excellent article in today's New York Times, Jeffrey Gettleman gives some sense of what the Alawis fear from murderous Sunnis. He notes that there are plenty of Alawis across the border, in Turkey, too, whose sympathies are with Assad. But when he refers to 15 to 20 million Alawis, he is treating, as identifcal to Alawites, the Alevis of eastern Turkey. This is understandable. But it is not quite true that the Alevis in Turkey (as opposed to the often Arabic-speaking Alawis in Turkey on the border with Syria) are exactly the same as the Alawis. There are differences, which he might have pointed out if only, then, to minimize them, or to explain why those differences, under Sunni pressure, are lessening. He might also have noted the veneration of Mary that is everywhere apparent in Alawite villages, and how the Alawis are clearly not Orthodox Muslims, either Sunni or, as some now assert, Shi'a Islam, but practice a syncretistic faith with a lot of Christian belief intermixed. If, for protective coloration, Syria's Alawites managed to get an Iranian cleric to declare them to be full-fledged, Shi'a Mulims, and if, for further protective coloration, Syria's Alawites have been ostentatiously, even hysterically, anti-Israel in their propaganda, that doesn't turn them into orthodox Muslims. And their problem, in a Muslim sea, not only remains, but now cannot be undone. For the Camp of Islam, that's a bad thing. For the Camp of Infidels, that's a good thing.
Here's Gettleman's piece:
As Syria War Roils, Unrest Among Sects Hits Turkey
by Jeffrey Gettleman
Many Turkish Alawites, estimated at 15 million to 20 million strong and one of the biggest minorities in this country, seem to be solidly behind Syria’s leader, Bashar al-Assad. [Gettleman makes no distinction between Syrian Alawites and Turkish Alevis, There is one, but it's becoming less important in response to Sunni hostility]
ANTAKYA, Turkey — At 1 a.m. last Sunday, in the farming town of Surgu, about six hours away from here, a mob formed at the Evli family’s door.
The ill will had been brewing for days, ever since the Evli family chased away a drummer who had been trying to rouse people to a predawn Ramadan feast. The Evlis are Alawite, a historically persecuted minority sect of Islam, and also the sect of Syria’s embattled leaders, and many Alawites do not follow Islamic traditions like fasting for Ramadan.
The mob began to hurl insults. Then rocks.
“Death to Alawites!” they shouted. “We’re going to burn you all down!”
Then someone fired a gun.
“They were there to kill us,” said Servet Evli, who was hiding in his bedroom with his pregnant wife and terrified daughter, both so afraid that they urinated through their clothes.
As Syria’s civil war degenerates into a bloody sectarian showdown between the government’s Alawite-dominated troops and the Sunni Muslim majority, tensions are increasing across the border between Turkey’s Alawite minority and the Sunni Muslim majority here.
Many Turkish Alawites, estimated at 15 million to 20 million strong and one of the biggest minorities in this country, seem to be solidly behind Syria’s embattled strongman, Bashar al-Assad, while Turkey’s government, and many Sunnis, supports the Syrian rebels.
The Alawites fear the sectarian violence spilling across the border. Already, the sweltering, teeming refugee camps along the frontier are fast becoming caldrons of anti-Alawite feelings.
“If any come here, we’re going to kill them,” said Mehmed Aziz, 28, a Syrian refugee at a camp in Ceylanpinar, who drew a finger across his throat.
He and his friends are Sunnis, and they all howled in delight at the thought of exacting revenge against Alawites.
Many Alawites in Turkey, especially in eastern Turkey where Alawites tend to speak Arabic and are closely connected to Alawites in Syria, are suspicious of the bigger geopolitics, and foreign policy analysts say they may have a point. The Turkish government is led by an Islamist-rooted party that is slowly but clearly trying to bring more religion, particularly Sunni Islam, into the public sphere, eschewing decades of purposefully secular rule. Alawites here find it deeply unsettling, and a bit hypocritical, that Turkey has teamed up with Saudi Arabia, one of the most repressive countries in the world, and Qatar, a religious monarchy, both Sunni, to bring democracy to Syria.
The Alawites point to the surge of foreign jihadists streaming into Turkey, en route to fight a holy war on Syria’s battlefields. Many jihadists are fixated on turning Syria, which under the Assad family’s rule has been one of the most secular countries in the Middle East, into a pure Islamist state.
“Do you really believe these guys are going to build a democracy?” asked Refik Eryilmaz, an Alawite member of the Turkish Parliament. “The Americans are making a huge mistake. They’re helping Turkey fight Assad, but they’re creating another Taliban.”
American officials recently disclosed that a small group of C.I.A. agents were working along the Turkey-Syria border with their Turkish counterparts, vetting which rebels receive weapons. American officials have acknowledged concerns about Syria turning into a magnet for jihadists, but they believe that foreign fighters still make up only a small slice of the Syrian resistance.
Ali Carkoglu, a professor of international relations with Koc University in Istanbul, said Turkey’s government was increasingly using sectarian language and trying to play the role of “the Sunni elder brother” in the region. Like Syria, Turkey’s population is predominantly Sunni.
The Alawites here are worried they could become easy targets. Historically, they have been viewed with suspicion across the Middle East by mainstream Muslims and often scorned as infidels. The Alawite sect was born in the ninth century and braids together religious beliefs, including reincarnation, from different faiths.
Many Alawites do not ever go to a mosque; they tend to worship at home or in Alawite temples that have been denied the same state support in Turkey that Sunni mosques get. Many Alawite women do not veil their faces or even cover their heads. The towns they dominate in eastern Turkey, where young women sport tank tops and tight jeans, feel totally different than religious Sunni towns just a few hours away, where it can be difficult even to find a woman in public.
“We’re more moderate,” explained Turhan Sat, a Turkish Alawite who works at a gas station in Bridgeport, Conn., and was on vacation in Turkey. He was swigging tea the other day in the leafy town square of Samandag, a predominantly Alawite town not far from the Syrian border.
“We’re all with Assad,” he said.
Not far away in the Alawite-dominated town of Harbiye, there is a new best-selling item that cannot seem to stay on the shelves: cheap tapestries bearing Mr. Assad’s portrait.
“Everybody wants them,” said Selahattin Eroglu, a vendor, who had just sold his last one. “People here love Assad.”
Part of this sentiment may be self-protective. The Syrian rebels hardly conceal a vicious sectarian antipathy. Khaldoun al-Rajab, an officer with the rebel Free Syrian Army, said he witnessed two Alawites in a car take a wrong turn in Homs and end up in a Sunni neighborhood. “Of course they were arrested and killed by rebels,” he said.[this may remind many of the two Jewish reservists who made a wrong turn and were lynched by Arabs in Ramallah, who gleefully held up, from a window for a crowd of fellow frenzied Arabs to see, in their hands dripping with blood, intestines and other parts of the two murdered Israelis]
Few in Turkey expect such bedlam to break out anytime soon in this country, which is tightly controlled and has escaped violent sectarianism, for the most part.
But the threatening mob at the Evli family’s home in Surgu reminded many Alawites of the killing of more than 30 Alawites in 1993 who were burned alive by a group of Islamists in the Turkish town of Sivas.
It was only after police officers reassured the mob that the Evli family was moving out of the neighborhood, which was news to the Evlis, that the mob dissipated.
Though the Evlis are also Kurdish, another minority group in Turkey, which may have contributed to the nasty feelings against them, Songul Canpolat, a director of an Alawite foundation in Turkey, said, “The idea that Turkish Alawites should be eliminated is gaining ground.”
Turkish government officials denied any bias against Alawites, saying they had made extra efforts to be “attentive and sensitive” to Alawite fears.
“Of course, we do not claim that all issues are resolved,” said Egemen Bagis, minister for European Union affairs.
A few months ago, Mr. Eryilmaz, the member of Parliament, who belongs to an opposition party, went to see Mr. Assad in Damascus. He said that Mr. Assad was actually quite relaxed and that this whole conflict was really about religion.
“What’s happening inside Syria is the Syrian leg of an international project,” he said, with the Turkish government aligning with Saudi Arabia and Qatar to make this part of the Middle East more religiously “radical.”
He was sitting in a cafe in Antakya, a border town with a large Alawite population, and digging into a plate of baklava during the bright, sunny hours of the afternoon, when Muslims observing Ramadan usually fast.
“Look at my people,” he smiled, spreading his hands wide and encompassing families eating ice cream and one young couple nuzzling on a couch. “My people are free.”
Former U.S. defense secretary tells Fox News that international sanctions have had no impact on the Iranian regime • Given leaks at White House, Rumsfeld says he would not notify U.S. of Iran plans if he were in the Israeli government.
Former U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld expressed firm support this weekend for Israel's position on the Iran nuclear issue and said that international sanctions have not influenced the Iranian regime. Rumsfeld also said that if he were Israel, he probably wouldn't notify the U.S. of an impending strike on Iran given the current state of the relationship and frequent leaks out of the White House.
"Well, I think the prime minister of Israel, [Benjamin] Netanyahu, is probably correct," Rumsfeld said in an interview with Greta Van Susteren on Fox News Thursday. "Their intelligence on Iran is excellent."
Rumsfeld said that sanctions usually don't work well over a prolonged period of time. He added that sanctions tend to hurt people more than governments.
Rumsfeld cited the example of Iraq, where sanctions didn't affect the actions of Saddam Hussein. "He kept building palaces and importing weapons and doing what he wanted to," Rumsfeld said of Hussein.
"I think any prime minister of Israel who gets up every morning and reads in the newspaper that the leadership of Iran says that the Israeli state should be annihilated, eradicated, incinerated, has to know that it's that prime minister's responsibility to see that that doesn't happen," Rumsfeld continued.
When asked how the U.S. should respond if Israel were to strike Iran's nuclear facilities, Rumsfeld said it would depend on who is in the White House at the time.
"We historically have looked at Israel as a very important relationship," Rumsfeld said. "We have been cooperative, and we have assisted them with various types of technology and weaponry."
Rumsfeld went on to speak out against White House leaks on the Iran nuclear issue.
"If I were in the Israeli government, I don't think I would notify the United States government of any intent to do anything about Iran," Rumsfeld stated. "I think that their [Israel's] relationship with the United States is such that it conceivably could leak out of the United States government that he called and that he plans to do something on Iran."
"So my guess is, given the pattern of leaks out of the White House, that any prime minister of Israel would not call the United States and give clear intentions as to what they plan to do."
Asked about Israel's capabilities to stop Iran's nuclear program, Rumsfeld said that Israel wouldn't need to destroy every Iranian nuclear site.
"All the Israelis need to do is delay them [the Iranians]," Rumsfeld said. "They [Israel] don't need to — you don't need to do something like that 100 percent, like they were able to do in Iraq when they had the bombing raid and took out the Iraqi nuclear facility, or in Syria, where they took out the Syrian nuclear facility."...
You might think that even the New York Times would get tired of publishing rants from failed Israeli politicians denouncing not only their nation’s current government but also the entire society that had rejected them. But apparently the newspaper’s appetite for such tirades is undiminished as the publication of Avraham Burg’s in the Times’ Sunday edition today proved. There isn’t much that is particularly original about Burg’s piece that takes the point of view that Israel is on the brink of no longer being a democracy and is intolerant of minority views. That this is not remotely closely to being the truth is no barrier to its publication since it is exactly what American leftists want to be told. His views are an absurd conflation of egotism and blindness but his foolishness is not limited to his analysis of his own country, he also understands nothing about U.S.-Israel alliance and the strength of the across-the-board support the Jewish state has here.
In the conclusion of his article in which he envisions a post-Zionist government of Israel that will reject Jewish nationalism in favor of something more inclusive, he claims:
When a true Israeli democracy is established, our prime minister will go to Capitol Hill and win applause from both sides of the aisle.
That is, I suppose, a shot at Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, whom he accused earlier in the piece of being a “warmonger.” But as anyone who bothered to watch Netanyahu’s address to a joint meeting of Congress last year, he was widely cheered by both Republicans and Democrats with both parties competing with each other to show their enthusiasm for their Israeli ally. This is the sort of obvious mistake that any editor, even one with no love for Israel, should have caught. That it wasn’t tells us that the gatekeepers at the Times are as out of touch with reality as Burg.
Burg, who is the scion of a famous family and was once thought to be a man with an unlimited political future, seems to despise his country these days. Though he attempts to wax lyrical about trends in its society, the main reason he thinks Israel is no longer a democracy is that Israel’s electorate has consistently rejected his views about the peace process as well his own hopes for high office. This has caused him to question not only their judgment but the entire ideological edifice on which the country rests. His egotism is pathetic but it is fed by a stubborn refusal to see what the vast majority of his compatriots understand. They agree with him that a two-state solution to the conflict with the Palestinians would be ideal but have come to terms with the fact that their antagonists have no interest in such a deal.
Burg despises what he calls the “religious, capitalist” state that Israel has become. Most Israelis would be happy if the ultra-Orthodox would have less power but what he is really longing for is the Israel of the past in which secular Jews of European origin dominated a country in which socialist economic policies served to keep the power of existing elites in place. He rejects Netanyahu’s free market reforms that have made Israel a burgeoning economic powerhouse because more economic freedom has created a messy but more genuine democracy in which “princes” like Burg are no longer in position to tell everybody else what to do.
Burg also does an injustice to the overwhelming majority of Americans who, contrary to his belief that the alliance is now rooted in “war, threats and fear,” still care about the common democratic values that he seems to think have been abandoned by everyone but himself. Most Americans, even those who don’t particularly like Netanyahu, respect the will of Israel’s voters more than Burg. They also recognize that the threats to Israel’s existence, principally the nuclear danger from Iran is a life or death matter that requires more serious thought than Burg seems capable of these days.
Burg is right about one thing. Israel could use a written constitution and smarter people than him have been thinking and writing about it for a generation. But the course of Burg’s career shows that the only constitution he is really interested in is one that could guarantee that his views could be imposed on his country. Not even the imprimatur of the New York Times Sunday Review can disguise the fact that Burg’s post-Zionist views are outside the Israeli mainstream. In publishing his article, the Times has shown that, contrary to the title of the piece, its real complaint is not about the absence of Israeli democracy, but its vibrancy.