STOCKHOLM - From his party's office in the basement of a Stockholm parking garage, Jimmie Akesson is running for Parliament, preaching sharp cuts in immigration and calling Islam the greatest threat to Swedish society.
That message until now has gained little traction in Sweden, but polls are predicting gains for Akesson's far-right Sweden Democrats that could give them a king-maker role in national elections this year if neither mainstream bloc wins an outright majority.
It's an unnerving scenario for Swedes and their self-image of being more tolerant of outsiders than the rest of Europe.
Opinion polls show the Sweden Democrats could get 4 to 6 percent of votes in the September election, enough to win 15-20 seats in the 349-member Riksdag and potentially throw Swedish politics into disarray.
But by law a party needs at least 4 percent to get into the legislature, and the Sweden Democrats could well fall short. Also, paradoxically, their poll numbers are up at a time when another survey show the number of Swedes worried about excessive immigration is declining.
All the same, the mainstream parties which hitherto simply ignored the far right are being forced to say where they stand. The center-left says it won't govern with the Sweden Democrats under any circumstances. The incumbent center-right hasn't put it quite that strongly, but sounds very reluctant to line up with the far right.
Akesson, the clerkish 31-year-old leading the Sweden Democrat charge, insists voters are more disenchanted with liberal immigration laws than they admit out loud.
"In Sweden, if you voice criticism against the immigration policy, you are viewed as a racist or xenophobe," Akesson said. "It's difficult to get people to stand up and say 'Here's what I think.'"
"Our self-image is that of a tolerant country," said Lena Sundstrom, a Swedish writer who has studied the hardening attitudes toward immigrants in neighboring Denmark. Swedes, she says, draw national pride from such achievements as gender equality, and the brand names they have exported worldwide — Volvo cars, Ikea furniture.
And even though one in every four residents or their parents were born in a foreign country, and an estimated 300,000 Muslims live in the otherwise Christian but secularized country of 9.35 million, it hasn't swept any nationalist movements to prominence.
Denmark, by contrast, has a minority nationalist party whose king-maker power imposed curbs on immigration, making it a role model for the Sweden Democrats.
The other Nordic neighbors, Norway and Finland, also have such parties in their legislatures, advocating strong controls on immigration. So do other western European countries including Italy, Switzerland, Austria, Belgium and the Netherlands...
More Somali Men Arrested Trying to Return to Fight For Al Shabaab
These young men probably came to this country with their parents as refugees - refugees from the jihad violence and civil war in Somalia. Now these two were going back to fight on the side of the most radical Muslim group trying to take over Somalia, the al Shabaab. So, what were they fleeing in the first place? They were fleeing from the normal outworking and effects of Islam, but the families brought Islam with them (didn't abandon it) and then the sons were going back to fight for more Islam. No one knows the exact number (estimated at well over 100), but many young Somali men are returning to Somalia to fight with the al Shabaab, then if they are American citizens, they can easily return. Fox News:
The FBI arrested Two New Jersey men at JFK International Airport on Saturday night as they were preparing to board separate planes in an alleged terrorism plot tied to a radical Islamic group based in Somalia, FOXNews.com confirmed.
Mohamed Hamoud Alessa, 20, of North Bergen, and Carlos Eduardo Almonte, 26, of Elmwood Park were charged with conspiracy to commit international terrorism and were picked up by the FBI before boarding flights to join the Somali Al Qaeda affiliate Al Shabaab, officials said. Both men are believed to be American citizens.
The two men were arrested following a years-long investigation and were charged with conspiring to commit an act of international terrorism through a group tied to Usama bin Laden’s Al Qaeda network, a federal law enforcement source told FOXNews.com.
ALEXANDRIA, Va. — This much is known about Anthony Joseph Tracy: He told government agents he helped 270 Somalians illegally enter the United States through Cuba. He flunked a lie detector test when he denied helping members of the Somali terror group al-Shabaab. He was some sort of informant for the federal government going back at least as far as 2002.
And on Friday, the Winchester, Virginia, man was sentenced to roughly four months in jail, equal to time served, and walked out a free man.
The case against Tracy, who spent significant time in Kenya running an illicit travel agency, is shrouded in secrecy. His sentencing hearing Friday was held in open court, but lawyers and the judge talked around the specifics of what he actually did.
In fact, his guilty plea, apparently entered earlier this year, remains under seal. So the exact nature of Tracy's misconduct remains unclear.
The few court records that are unsealed indicated that federal agents have been working feverishly for months trying to find the people that Tracy said he helped enter the U.S.
Tracy, 35, told government agents that members of al-Shabaab, a group seeking to impose strict Islamic law in Somalia that has claimed responsibility for suicide bombing attacks on United Nations facilities and other targets, were among those who contacted him for help securing phoney travel documents. Tracy denied helping them but flunked that portion of a polygraph test.
"There have been around-the-clock attempts to locate individuals through certain methods, and we are working tirelessly to corroborate some of what the defendant has said," prosecutor Jeanine Linehan told U.S. District Judge Leonie Brinkema, according to a redacted transcript of a pretrial hearing that was unsealed this week.
U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement spokeswoman Cori Bassett said Friday that the agency has investigated Tracy's claims. "At this point, ICE does not have any evidence that links individuals who fraudulently obtained documents or visas from Tracy to any terrorist organizations," Bassett said in an emailed statement.
The unredacted portions of the transcript indicate that Tracy, while living in Kenya, served as an informant for ICE and at least one other government agency as far back as 2002. In a 2010 email to an associate, Tracy wrote, "i helped alot of somalis and most are good but there are some who are bad and i leave them to ALLAH...."...
The following post, one of hundreds, perhaps thousands recently posted on Atlas Shrugged, expresses the state of American society after 15 months of the Obama presidency – many of our so called intellectuals, our so called liberal universities, and many in the Jewish community who blindly supported Obama are willfully deaf, dumb and blind to the travesty, engineered, abetted and furthered by the media. This has become crystal clear as a result of Heln Thomas’ gleeful remarks that the Jews should return to Germany and Poland.
What alarms me is the radicalization of the liberal--the press, the politician, the citizen. They've gone from moronically liberal to vicious hard left virtually overnight. It's like they're in lockstep and can't afford an independent thought, inexorably heading to their doom. This is the kind of thing we always used to wonder at when I was growing up: how a seemingly civilized society like Germany could descend into such madness. Apparently, it isn't that much of a stretch; the madness of crowds hovers just beneath the surface, needing only one spark to light the whole thing into a conflagration. That spark was Obama's election. I cried for three months after he was elected. I could foresee what was coming, and it only gets worse.
Helen Thomas, has long been considered the “quirky darling” of the Left for her strong anti-Bush stance and remarks that she would shoot herself if he were reelected.
What is all the more galling is that this woman of Lebanese-Christian ancestry is apparently related to comedian Danny Thomas, who played in several Jewish roles including a modern remake of the Jazz Singer. A generous philanthropist, Thomas founded the St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis, Tennessee in 1962.The hospital has treated thousands of children for childhood cancers.
The plight of the thousands of Lebanese driven from their homes in the South of the country by the PLO and the atrocious massacres perpetrated (see Damour –an event almost entirely neglected by the media) whose victims were mostly helpless civilian Christians, Sunnis and Druze never was nor is of any concern to Helen Thomas. It is them she should have told to go home.
The Damour Massacre occurred on Jan. 20, 1976 as part of a series of events during the Lebanese Civil War, in which Palestinians joined the Muslim forces, in the context of the Christian-Muslim divide. Subsequently, Beirut was divided along the infamous Green Line, with Christian enclaves to the east and Muslims to the west.
At Damour, PLO guerrillas locked in the women and children before lighting the church on fire. The attackers destroyed the buildings in the seaside village systematically and then took revenge on the remaining Christian inhabitants. The Christian cemetery was destroyed, coffins dug up, the dead robbed, vaults opened, and bodies and skeletons thrown across the graveyard. The church was burnt and an outside wall was covered with a mural of Fatah guerrillas holding AK47 rifles. A portrait of Yasser Arafat was placed at one end.
Twenty Phalangist militiamen were executed and then civilians were lined up against a wall and sprayed with machinegun fire. None of the remaining inhabitants survived. Estimates of the civilian dead is 584.
According to N. Y. Times correspondent, Thomas Friedman, it was the Phalangist Damouri Brigade which carried out the Sabra and Shatila massacres during the 1982 Israeli incursion. It sought revenge not only for the assassination of President Bashir Gemayel, but also for what he describes as past tribal killings of their own people by Palestinians including those at Damour.
Official: Elite Revolutionary Guards are prepared to intervene
updated 9:15 a.m. ET,Sun., June 6, 2010
TEHRAN - Iran's elite Revolutionary Guards are ready to provide a military escort to cargo ships trying to break Israel's blockade of Gaza, a representative of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said on Sunday.
"Iran's Revolutionary Guards naval forces are fully prepared to escort the peace and freedom convoys to Gaza with all their powers and capabilities," Ali Shirazi, Khamenei's representative inside the Revolutionary Guards, was quoted as saying by the semi-official Mehr news agency.
Any intervention by the Iranian military would be considered highly provocative by Israel which accuses Iran of supplying weapons to Hamas, the Islamist movement which rules Gaza.
The Guards, with their own navy, air force and command structure separate from the regular armed forces, are seen as fiercely loyal to the values of the Islamic Republic.
"If the Supreme Leader issues an order for this then the Revolutionary Guard naval forces will do their best to secure the ships," Shirazi said. "It is Iran's duty to defend the innocent people of Gaza."
Last Monday Israeli troops killed nine activists on board one ship in a convoy trying to deliver aid to Gaza, sparking international outrage, especially in Muslim countries.
Another ship was boarded on Saturday and pro-Palestinian activists have promised more as they challenge the blockade imposed four years ago with the stated aim of stopping arms getting to Hamas.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Israel will continue to stop ships reaching the shore and creating "an Iranian port in Gaza," a reference to Iran's support for Hamas.
Efraim Inbar: Turkey Says Goodbye To Israel And The West
Perspectives Papers on Current Affairs
June 6, 2010
Turkey Says Good Bye to Israel and the West
by Prof. Efraim Inbar
EXECUTIVE SUMMARY: By endorsing the Gaza Flotilla Turkey escalates tensions with Israel. This is just another reflection of the change in Turkish foreign policy, which acquires a greater Islamic coloration and is distancing itself from the West. Only a change of government in Ankara can bring Turkey back into the Western fold and restore the partnership between Ankara and Jerusalem. The next elections in July 2011 provide the Turkish citizens an opportunity to remain democratic and part of the West.
The Turkish Role
The Gaza flotilla incident has revealed once again the Turkish government's ugly face and particularly the great hostility harbored by its prime minister, Tayyip Erdogan, towards Israel. Many Israelis watched TV broadcasts of incited Turkish mobs chanting Death to Israel. Prime Minister Erdogan, who occasionally makes anti-Semitic statements, takes every opportunity to slam the State of Israel. Moreover, it seems that the Turkish government was behind the organization of this provocation and it definitely endorses it. Even more troubling is the fact that the Turkish government has cooperated with IHH (Turkish Relief Organization), an outfit with links to Al-Qaeeda and other Islamist terrorists.
Turkey Slides Away
It is a shame to see Turkey, an important strategic partner of Israel in the 1990s, turn into a bitter adversary. Turkey, an important regional state and an important Western ally, stayed away from the Middle East for almost a century, because the Turks perceived this region as backward, fanatical, corrupt and undemocratic. Yet, in the last few years, Turkey is returning to the Middle East and tries to carve a leadership role commensurate with its imperial past. Moreover, in the last few years, Turkey has been in the throes of an identity crisis, in which Muslim tradition, which is still entrenched within Turkish society, aspires to greater expression than was hitherto permitted by the secular regime in Ankara. Attitude toward Israel is part of that debate.
The ruling Islamist party (AKP) since November 2002 become emboldened only after its reelection in July 2007 to make significant changes to Turkish foreign policy. Ankara's relations towards Israel cooled, especially in the wake of the Gaza war in the winter of 2008. Scathing criticism, cancellation of joint military maneuvers and warming up toward Hamas have characterized Turkish policy. As of late, the fact that Washington has a weak president who emphasizes improvement of relations with the Muslim world, even at the expense of Israel, only encourages Turkey to distance itself from the Jewish state.
The deterioration of relations between Ankara and Jerusalem is a Turkish initiative, over which Israel has no influence. The hostile stance taken by Turkey towards Israel is part of the major transformation of Turkey's foreign policy. In fact, Turkey is turning away from the West. Its position diverges from that of the West on Hamas, but also on other important issues. Ankara hosted Sudanese President Omar Hassan al-Bashir, accused of war crimes, despite the protest of the European states. Turkey is the only member of NATO to have hosted Iranian President, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Turkey is also growing closer to Syria, which is anti-American and deep in the Iranian camp. Moreover, Turkey has stepped up its activity in the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC). Undoubtedly, Erdogan feels more at home in Middle Eastern markets than in Western cities. Turkey has also tightened its relations with Russia, which aims to curb the role of the US in international affairs. Indeed, Turkey did not hesitate to deviate from American preferences. It announced that it will not join sanctions against Iran and in the past month has strived, together with Brazil, to extricate Iran from its uncomfortable diplomatic position due to its ongoing nuclear program. Backing the flotilla and Hamas, Turkey also affected negatively the dim prospects of the proximity talks between Israel and the Palestinians a major American priority. Unfortunately, Turkey slides away from the West into an independent posture largely colored by the Islamist tendencies of the current government.
The Potential for Democratic Change
Despite the above, it is not a foregone conclusion that Turkey will persist in this direction. The hope for change is not based on the expectation for a military coup. The army, which constitutionally enforced the secular-democratic nature of the regime, has become weaker in its position in the past few years. One should hope for change through democratic channels. Among Turkish society many still support the secular parties, which are far from pleased with the rush towards the Muslim world. Even among moderate Muslim quarters there is a sense of unease regarding the government's policy pushing Turkey to join radical Islamic elements such as Hamas and Iran. One should also recall that Shiite Iran was an historic rival of the Sunni Turks.
Indeed, support in public opinion for the ruling Islamic party is in decline, despite Erdogan's remarkable political skills. This is mostly due to corruption and abuse of civil rights. Were elections held last week, the Islamist party would lose many seats, and two secular parties would possibly have made up the coalition. If current public opinion is held till the next elections, scheduled for July 2011, it is likely that Turkey will emerge with a new prime minister. It is possible that precisely due to his domestic situation as reflected in the polls, Erdogan has decided to exacerbate his relations with Israel in order to gain public support.
In its relations with Turkey, Israel should stand its ground on Israeli vital interests. Moreover, Israel should not tolerate insults. This will only be perceived as a weakness. Israel should distinguish between the Turkish state and society, and the current government that deserves a strong riposte. Firm, level-headed responses will be of assistance to pro-Western Turks in their domestic debate.
A major political drama is unfolding before our eyes in this important country. Only the Turks can determine their future, but the opposition to the Islamist regime deserves Western assistance. The strategic consequences of Turkey becoming a part of an anti-American axis are far reaching. For the sake of the free world, but mostly for their own sake, let us hope that the Turks will choose democracy and progress and not the poverty, ignorance and authoritarianism offered by Islamist regimes.
The author is professor of political studies at Bar-Ilan University and director of the Begin-Sadat (BESA) Center for Strategic Studies.
NEWARK - Two men were arrested at a New York City airport Saturday night as they attempted to travel overseas to participate in jihad, law enforcement officials told NBC News.
Mohamed Hamoud Alessa, 20, and Carlos Eduardo Almonte, 26, were arrested at John F. Kennedy International Airport before they could board separate flights to Egypt and then continue on to Somalia, The Star-Ledger of Newark reported. The newspaper cited officials familiar with the details of the arrests who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the investigation publicly.
Alessa, of North Bergen, and Almonte, of Elmwood Park, were charged with conspiring to commit an act of international terrorism through al-Shabaab, a violent extremist group based in Somalia and connected to al-Qaida, the officials told the newspaper. Al-Shabaab was designated by the U.S. as a terrorist group in 2008.
Federal officials said the arrests were made at the airport but were not related to "any known immediate threat to the public or active plot against the United States," NBC News reported.
Both men are scheduled to appear Monday in U.S. District Court in Newark.
Members of the Joint Terrorism Task Force raided two homes in New Jersey at about 11 p.m. Saturday, NBC News said. Both suspects are American citizens, officials said.
Jose Lozano, a spokesman for the state Office of Homeland Security and Preparedness, confirmed two arrests at the airport but would not provide details.
Tactical training The arrests were made as part of an investigation known as Operation Arabian Knight. Authorities said an undercover NYPD officer had infiltrated the suspects' group of friends and was able to monitor their consumption of jihadist videos and literature, overseas travel preparations, and purchase of airline tickets.
The two men had planned their trip Somalia for several months, saving thousands of dollars, undergoing tactical training and test runs at paintball fields to condition themselves physically, and acquiring equipment and clothing they could use when they joined al-Shabaab in Somalia, the officials said. Both had bragged about wanting to wage holy war against the United States both at home and internationally, investigators said.
Somalia, an impoverished East African nation of about 10 million people, has not had a functioning government for more than a decade, although the U.S. is backing a transitional government there. The Pentagon's top commander in the region has included Somalia on a list of countries where clandestine American military operations designed to disrupt militant groups would be targeted.
Al-Shabaab, whose full name means "Mujahideen Youth Movement," is reported to have had ties to al-Qaida since 2007.
The arrests follow two failed terrorist attacks in the U.S. in recent months: an alleged attempted car bombing in Times Square by Pakistani-American Faisal Shahzad last month, and the alleged attempted Christmas Day bombing of a Detroit-bound airliner by Nigerian Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab.
'Cap is producing around 10,000 barrels of oil a day to the surface'
msnbc.com news services
Sun., June 6, 2010
ON BARATARIA BAY, La. - A containment cap fitted onto a leaking well in the Gulf of Mexico is capturing 10,000 barrels of oil per day, BP Chief Executive Tony Hayward said Sunday.
Hayward, the subject of speculation that he may be forced out of his position due to the political fallout from the environmental disaster, also told the BBC that he had strong support from BP's board.
"The containment cap is producing around 10,000 barrels of oil a day to the surface which is being processed on the surface," he said.
Asked what proportion that represented of the total oil leaking, Hayward said: "At the moment it's difficult to say but we would expect it to be the majority, probably the vast majority of the oil."
Coast Guard Adm. Thad Allen said Saturday that after its first full day of work, the cap placed on the gusher near the sea floor trapped about 252,000 gallons of oil, which is somewhere between a quarter to half of the oil flowing from the well, according to government estimates.
Next, BP engineers must attempt to close vents on the cap that were deliberately allowing streams of oil to escape the system so water cannot get inside. When water and gas combined in an earlier containment box, it formed a frozen slush that foiled the system.
Allen, who said the goal is to gradually increase the amount of the oil being captured, compared the process to stopping the flow of water from a garden hose with a finger: "You don't want to put your finger down too quickly, or let it off too quickly."
While BP plans to eventually use an additional set of hoses and pipes to increase the amount of oil being trapped, the ultimate solution remains a relief well that should be finished by August.
'Absolute commitment' Public and political pressure has been mounting on London-based BP to cap its gushing seabed oil well and take full financial responsibility for the clean-up and damage caused to Gulf coast fisheries, wildlife and tourism.
"We are going to stop the leak, we are going to clean up the oil, we're going to remediate any environmental damage and we are going to return the Gulf coast to the position it was in prior to this event," Hayward said. "That is an absolute commitment. We will be there long after the media has gone making good on our promises."
The oil has steadily spread east, washing up in greater quantities in recent days.
Government officials estimate that roughly 22 million to 48 million gallons have leaked into the Gulf since the April 20 explosion that killed 11 workers.
In Gulf Shores, Ala., boardwalks leading to hotels were tattooed with oil from beachgoers' feet. A slick hundreds of yards long washed ashore at a state park, coating the white sand with a thick, red stew. Cleanup workers rushed to contain it in bags, but more washed in before they could remove the first wave of debris.
"This makes me sick," said Rebecca Thomasson of Knoxville, Tenn., her legs and feet smeared with brown streaks of crude. "We were over in Florida earlier and it was bad there, but it was nothing like this."
Alabama Gov. Bob Riley and Allen met for more than an hour Saturday in Mobile, Ala., agreeing to a new plan that would significantly increase protection on the state's coast with larger booms, beachfront barriers, skimmers and a new system to protect Perdido Bay near the Florida line.
At Pensacola Beach, Erin Tamber, who moved to the area from New Orleans after surviving Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans, inspected a beach stained orange by the retreating tide.
"I feel like I've gone from owning a piece of paradise to owning a toxic waste dump," she said.
Back in Louisiana, along the beach at Queen Bess Island, oil pooled several feet deep, trapping birds against containment boom. The futility of their struggle was confirmed when Joe Sartore, a National Geographic photographer, sank thigh deep in oil on nearby East Grand Terre Island and had to be pulled from the tar.
"I would have died if I would have been out here alone," he said.
With no oil response workers on Queen Bess, Plaquemines Parish coastal zone management director P.J. Hahn decided he could wait no longer, pulling an exhausted brown pelican from the oil, slime dripping from its wings.
"We're in the sixth week, you'd think there would be a flotilla of people out here," Hahn said. "As you can see, we're so far behind the curve in this thing."
After six weeks with one to four birds a day coming into Louisiana's rescue center for oiled birds at Fort Jackson, 53 arrived Thursday and another 13 Friday morning, with more on the way. Federal authorities say 792 dead birds, sea turtles, dolphins and other wildlife have been collected from the Gulf of Mexico and its coastline.
Experts say the Gulf's marshes, beaches and coastal waters, which nurture a dazzling array of life, could be transformed into killing fields, though the die-off could take months or years and unfold largely out of sight. The damage could be even greater beneath the water's surface, where oil and dispersants could devastate zooplankton and tiny invertebrates at the base of the food chain.
"People naturally tend to focus on things that are most conspicuous, like oiled birds, but in my opinion the impacts on fisheries will be much more severe," said Rich Ambrose, director of the environmental science and engineering at program at UCLA.
The Gulf is also home to dolphins and species including the endangered sperm whale. A government report found that dolphins with prolonged exposure to oil in the 1990s experienced skin injuries and burns, reduced neurological functions and lower hemoglobin levels in their blood. It concluded that the effects probably wouldn't be lethal because many creatures would avoid the oil. Yet dolphins in the Gulf have been spotted swimming through plumes of crude.
The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report.
Even The Washington Post Recognizes That Erdogan's Turkey Is Not The Turkey That Was Allowed To Join NATO
Turkey's Erdogan bears responsibility in flotilla fiasco
Saturday, June 5, 2010; A12
WESTERN GOVERNMENTS have been right to be concerned about Israel's poor judgment and botched execution in the raid against the Free Gaza flotilla. But they ought to be at least as worried about the Turkish government of Recep Tayyip Erdogan, which since Monday has shown a sympathy toward Islamic militants and a penchant for grotesque demagoguery toward Israel that ought to be unacceptable for a member of NATO.
On the opposite page today, Turkey's ambassador to the United States makes the argument that Israel had no cause to clash with the "European lawmakers, journalists, business leaders and an 86-year-old Holocaust survivor" who were aboard the flotilla. But there was no fighting with those people, or with five of the six boats in the fleet. All of the violence occurred aboard the Turkish ferry Mavi Marmara, and all of those who were killed were members or volunteers for the Islamic "charity" that owned the ship, the Humanitarian Relief Foundation (IHH).
The relationship between Mr. Erdogan's government and the IHH ought to be one focus of any international investigation into the incident. The foundation is a member of the "Union of Good," a coalition that was formed to provide material support to Hamas and that was named as a terrorist entity by the United States in 2008. In discussions before the flotilla departed, Turkish officials turned down offers from both Israel and Egypt to deliver the "humanitarian" supplies on the boats to Gaza and insisted Ankara could not control what it described as a nongovernmental organization.
Yet the IHH has certainly done its best to promote Mr. Erdogan. "All the peoples of the Islamic world would want a leader like Recep Tayyip Erdogan," IHH chief Bulent Yildirim proclaimed at a Hamas rally in Gaza last year. And Mr. Erdogan seems to share that notion: In the days since an incident that the IHH admits it provoked, the Turkish prime minister has done his best to compete with Iran's Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Hezbollah's Hasan Nasrallah in attacking the Jewish state.
"The heart of humanity has taken one of her heaviest wounds in history," Mr. Erdogan claimed this week. He has had next to nothing to say about the slaughter of Iranians protesting last year's fraudulent elections, but he called Israel's actions "state terrorism" and a "bloody massacre" and described Israel itself as an "adolescent, rootless state." His foreign minister, Ahmet Davutoglu, said in Washington on Tuesday that "this attack is like 9/11 for Turkey" -- an obscene comparison to events in which more than 2,900 genuinely innocent people were killed.
Mr. Erdogan's crude attempt to exploit the incident comes only a couple of weeks after he joined Brazil's president in linking arms with Mr. Ahmadinejad, whom he is assisting in an effort to block new U.N. sanctions. What's remarkable about his turn toward extremism is that it comes after more than a year of assiduous courting by the Obama administration, which, among other things, has overlooked his antidemocratic behavior at home, helped him combat the Kurdish PKK and catered to Turkish sensitivities about the Armenian genocide. Israel is suffering the consequences of its misjudgments and disregard of U.S. interests. Will Mr. Erdogan's behavior be without cost?
We are constantly urged to look "beneath the veil", as if it is only the veil that is preventing us ignorant infidels from seeing the true beauty and depth of Islam. Beneath the Veil is the predictable title of an article in The Age by a convert to Islam who, as Dumbledore's Army points out, sneakily uses her Australian name rather than her Arabic-Muslim name, the better to "push the wondefulness" as D.A. puts it, of the "Muslim slave rag":
UMM Yusuf, an Australian convert to Islam who lives in suburban Fawkner, is finishing her afternoon prayers. The house is fragrant with the smell of the tomatoes, cumin and coriander her Bangladeshi husband is cooking in the kitchen.
Take note, O Unbelievers, of the husband cooking. O ye who believe that Muslim woman is oppressed, wake up and smell the coriander. I smell a rat.
I'm sitting on cushions on a richly patterned rug on their living room floor, waiting. I smile at the three girls and their brother gazing at me with unashamed curiosity. I've come to ask their mother about how she embraced Islam as a teenager 17 years ago and then converted, and how she came to wear the face-veil known as the niqab soon after.
She asked that I give her name as Umm Yusuf, an Islamic honorific meaning 'mother of Yusuf'. Back when she converted, she says, 'I didn't know there were any women in Melbourne that did wear the niqab.' Yet now she says it gives her a great sense of freedom.
The niqab (face veil) and burqa (full body covering), which vary in style from region to region, have attracted recent controversy in Australia. Liberal Senator Cory Bernardi has labelled the burqa 'un-Australian' and called for a ban based on his belief that it signals Muslim women's oppression. He also said he wanted to prevent a possible boom in bank robbers who might abandon hoodies or ski masks for niqabs.
Politicians have similarly called for legislation to ban face-veiling by Muslim women in Belgium, France, Spain and elsewhere. But according to Sherene Hassan, vice-president of the Islamic Council of Victoria, such ideas show cultural arrogance. 'For many people it's inconceivable that a woman would choose to wear niqab,' she says, 'so therefore they make the conclusion she must have been forced.'
Hassan says she has never heard of any women being forced to wear the niqab and she points me to Prime Minister Kevin Rudd's statement that no law-enforcement agency has recommended a ban.
Tasneem Chopra, of the Islamic Women's Welfare Council of Victoria, says they have never had a request for help from a woman being forced to 'veil'.
That could be because such women have much to fear if they bring shame on their husbands by asking. There's more, culminating in this:
'There are layers and layers of veils between us and Allah, which is the true reality,' she says. 'To be hidden, to be concealed, is something really beautiful. It enables us to always be reminded of that link.'
Foreign Ministry officials said Saturday that Israel would not apologize to Turkey for the deaths of nine Turkish pro-Palestinian activists who were killed during the Israel Navy's raid on the Turkish-flagged 'Freedom Flotilla' ship earlier this week.
A top official in the Foreign Ministry, who wished to remain anonymous, said that the Turkish demand for an official apology was mainly an excuse to allow Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan's to cut diplomatic ties with Israel.
The foreign ministry officials said that they were surprised by the request for an apology which came from Turkey's Ambassador to Washington Namik Tan, as the demand was not relayed through any other diplomatic channels.
Tan, who was Turkey's ambassador to Israel before his U.S. appointment, was known to be a supporter of Israel, the officials said.
"If he is speaking like this it is probably an official order he received from top officials in the Turkish government," an official said. "It seems that the deterioration is continuing and a complete cut in diplomatic ties is only a matter of time."
Meanwhile, Minister Dan Meridor canceled his participation in an international assembly taking place this week in Istanbul.
The summit, the Conference on Interaction and Confidence Building Measures in Asia, is sponsored by Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan and is focused on increasing security and cooperation in Asia. Meridor canceled his participation due to security concerns in light of the rising anti-Israel sentiment in Turkey. Officials from the Israeli consulate in Istanbul and the Israeli envoy in Ankara will be taking Meridor's place.
Australia, as Dumledore's Army points out, has a much smaller Muslim presence than the UK or the USA, and yet they have some of the same problems, because Islam is everywhere the same. There are hate rallies in Sydney and Melbourne:
IN Sydney, more than 4000 demonstrators descended on the Sydney Town Hall on Tuesday evening for a hurriedly organised demonstration.
Spearheaded by Australians for Palestine, dozens of other groups were represented at the rally, including the Socialist Alliance, the Maritime Union of Australia, Green Left Weekly, the Greens, and a myriad Arab and Muslim community groups, including a very significant Turkish presence.
Protesters held anti-Israel banners, reading “Boycott the Israeli apartheid regime”, “Israeli terrorists – day of reckoning is near”, “Stop Israeli murder and piracy” and “Israel is the terror state”.
One Jewish protester held a sign reading “Not in My Name” written in both Hebrew and English.
Controversial Sydney Sheikh Tajeddin al-Hilaly was among the speakers who condemned Israel. Leading the chant “down down Israel, down down Jewish State”, he held a Turkish flag, and shouted “Turkey is coming, Iran is ready”.
The third item Dumbledore's Army sent in covers the fact that "the fact that, in the wake of the taking of the Hate Boat, Jewish students on Australian campuses are afraid for their safety:
AN escalation in tension around Australian university campuses is expected after the Gaza flotilla raid this week.
Notice the bland phrasing, as if the "tension" were being escalated by Jews as well as Muslims and their enablers.
Australasian Union of Jewish Students (AUJS) vice-chairman Glen Falkenstein warned students need to be aware and report any incidents.
“If a student is harassed or intimidated on campus, then we encourage them to contact their campus AUJS president or their equity and diversity unit.”
Inmates at one of Britain's highest-security jails hatched a plot to behead a prison officer and post the killing on the internet, officials have revealed.
The Prison Officers' Association said it had received "credible intelligence" of a kidnap plot by a group of Muslim extremist inmates at Belmarsh prison in south-east London. The plot was subsequently foiled, but officers warn that serious attacks on prison guards have hit an all-time high.
The association said that scores of its members have had to be moved to "safe houses" or temporary hotel accommodation after receiving threats from inmates, and that an increasing number of shivs – knife-like weapons – are being made inside jails. Three prison guards in Frankland top-security prison in county Durham were recently stabbed with a shard of glass.
Glyn Travis, assistant general secretary of the Prison Officers Association, said: "The concern throughout the prison estate is that a member of staff is going to get killed."
Prison authorities compiled an action plan two years ago for dealing with a kidnap plot involving radicalised Muslim convicts. The Belmarsh beheading plot was hatched three years ago; Travis said he had decided to reveal details now because of growing risks to his members.
Civil servants feared inquiry into 7/7 bombings would focus negatively on Muslims
From The Telegraph. Civil Servants are no longer as upright and honest as they once were. Now some have their own agenda.
Senior civil servants warned ministers that if they ordered a public inquiry into the July 7 suicide bombings it could "focus negatively" on Britain's Muslim community, it can be revealed.
The warning was delivered in a briefing paper to Charles Clarke, the then-home secretary, as he considered whether or not to launch an inquiry into the 2005 bombings, in which 52 innocent people were killed.
In the paper, Sir John Gieve, the Home Office permanent secretary, said that upsetting Muslims would be a "potential cost" of ministers agreeing to demands for a full inquiry
After receiving Sir John's paper, Mr Clarke decided not to order a public inquiry – a decision which infuriated many survivors and relatives of those killed. One survivor said last night that she was "outraged" by the revelation.
Sir John's note, written four months after the bombings but newly-released under Freedom of Information laws, outlines the determination of senior civil servants to ensure that any inquiries into the atrocity were "low key".
It warned of "potential community tension in the event that any inquiry came to be perceived as an exercise in special pleading by one community, or alternatively if it was believed that it focused negatively on the Muslim community".
Jacqui Putnam, a survivor of the Edgware Road Tube bombing, said: "This is outrageous. It is such patronising twaddle. "If anyone else in the Muslim community, or anywhere else, were to commit a murder would the Home Office say this is a reason not to investigate?" Er, yes, actually.
Sir John's note to the Home Secretary added that there was "strong pressure from Muslim communities" for an inquiry, but went on to say that this was driven in part by a desire in sections of the Islamic community to establish that the attacks had not, after all, been carried out by members of their faith.
Last night the Home Office declined to comment on the content of the released documents.
A study conducted by the German authorities has found that the more devout young Muslims become, the more prone to violence they get. The study says the phenomenon is not due to Islam itself, but to the way it is taught.
The willingness to commit violent crimes grows among young Muslim immigrants in Germany the more religious they become, according to a joint survey by the German interior ministry and the Institute for Criminology Research of Lower Saxony (KFN).
By comparison, the study found that just the opposite was true for Christian immigrants. The willingness to commit violent crimes, such as armed robbery or assault and battery, among young Catholics and Protestants decreases with religious fervor, the KFN study revealed.
The study said the reason for this difference had to do with the very different image of masculinity. Muslim devotion promotes the acceptance of macho behavior, said Christian Pfeiffer, the director of the Lower Saxony research institute and one of the authors of the study.
Pfeiffer said that in their religion, and in the family at home, young Muslim immigrants are frequently exposed to a more conservative world view and lay claim to a variety of male privileges.In an effort to explain their results, the study's authors draw on the findings of Rauf Ceylan, a religious education expert and himself of Turkish extraction, who points to the number of non-German imams, or Muslim priests, preaching and teaching in Germany.
Ceylan maintains that these foreign imams are generally only in Germany temporarily, speak no German and have little contact with German culture. Most of them, he says, call for a return to a more conservative Islam and retreat into the practitioner's original ethnic culture. For them, male dominance is normal and their teachings demand the same from Muslim youths, Ceylan says.
Christian Pfeiffer, from the KFN, also points out that the phenomenon is not due to Islam itself, but to the way it is taught.
No, I think you will find that it is all down to the Koran.
The New Jersey Star Ledgerreported, that two American recruits for Somali Al Qaeda affiliate Al Shabaab from northern New Jersey,Mohamed Hamoud Alessa, 20, of North Bergen, and Carlos Eduardo "Omar" Almonte, 24, of Elmwood Park, were arrested by the FBI Joint Terrorism Task Force (JTTF) trying to board a flight to Egypt at JFK. According to the Star Ledger account, “they were intent on killing American troops”.
Watch this Star Ledger video of the NYPD and FBI JTTF raid on the home of suspect Mohamed Hamoud Alessa.
FBI and NYPD raid home of Mohamed Alessa in North Bergen
This comes on the heels of revelations from Steve Emerson’s The Investigative Project about an Al Shabaab operative taken off an Aeromexico flight diverted to Montreal, Canada from London’s Heathrow airport with a final destination of Mexico City. The suspectAbdirahman Ali Gaal, who was on a no fly list, was then arrested and delivered to US authorities.
Law enforcement officials appear increasingly concerned Al-Shabaab members are trying to come back to America. But these members aren't disenchanted young men like Hassan, seeking to escape the terrorists' hold. Rather, the concern is that they are returning either to recruit more members or perhaps to plot attacks here.
[ . . .] In an interview with Canada's National Post newspaper from the Plattsburgh, N.Y. jail where he is being held, Gaal said FBI agents asked about Al-Shabaab when they questioned him two weeks earlier in Mauritania. He denies any connection to the group.
Gaal admits that he had submitted a false refugee claim in Canada in 2008. In it, he claimed to be escaping the conflict in Somalia even though he was actually a legal resident of the United States.
His arrest comes after the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) issued an alert to police and sheriff's deputies in Houston last month urging them to be on the lookout for a Somali man. He was allegedly connected to Al-Shabaab and was believed to be in Mexico preparing to illegally cross into the United States.
Corcoran had reported Friday the verdict on the Somali Smuggler case in the Eastern US District Court of Alexandria, Virginia. The suspect was given a sentence for his time already served amid revelations that he may have been an agent for DHS/ICE and other federal counterterrorism groups in Kenya. While there the suspect Anthony Joseph Tracy married a second wife in an Islamic ceremony. Somali smuggler walks! In the meantime, the DHS/ICE still doesn’t know the whereabouts of the 270 Somalis the smuggler brought into the US illegally.
We have warned repeatedly that American Al Shabaab recruits, whether Somali émigrés or American converts represented a clear threat to US national security. The New Jersey recruits appear to have been identified through investigations by a New York City undercover police officer. The FBI JTTF was involved in the arrest and investigations. The Virginia Somali smuggler case is ominous because it reflects that the DHS/ICE and federal counterterrorism agencies appear to have been ineffective in stopping illegal immigration that may harbor Al Shabaab recruiters and possible terrorist training operatives. These operatives entering the US illegally could easily assimilate in the significant US Somali émigré communities established under our magnanimous humanitarian legal immigration program.
Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf Supports Pro-Hamas Propaganda Stunt
By ANDY SOLTIS
June 5, 2010
The imam behind a proposed mosque near Ground Zero is a prominent member of a group that helped sponsor the pro-Palestinian activists who clashed violently with Israeli commandos at sea this week.
Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf is a key figure in Malaysian-based Perdana Global Peace Organization, according to its Website.
Perdana is the single biggest donor ($366,000) so far to the Free Gaza Movement, a key organizer of the six-ship flotilla that tried to break Israel's blockade of the Hamas-run Gaza Strip Monday.
Nine passengers aboard the largest ship died in clashes with Israeli commandos, and a new confrontation loomed today, when another Free Gaza Movement ship was due to reach Gaza waters in defiance of Israel.
Efforts to reach Imam Abdul Rauf yesterday for comment were unsuccessful.
Deborah Burlingame, the sister of the American Airlines pilot whose hijacked plane struck the Pentagon on Sept. 11, 2001, said the indirect ties of the imam to the protesters who confronted Israeli forces Monday were not surprising.
"I think it goes to show he is not the man he represents himself to be. We have two Imam Raufs," she said.
"We have the anti-Israel, anti-democratic imam, and we have the smiling, soft-spoken moderate Muslim who says 'Why can't we all get along?' "
The Free Gaza Movement is a charity that has made nine seaborne aid missions in the past two years to break the Israeli blockade.
In the latest effort, the group's ship, the MV Rachel Corrie, which sails under an Irish flag, had made it about 35 miles off the Gaza coast last night before it was intercepted.
Israeli ships were shadowing the vessel, but it had not been boarded. Earlier yesterday, the Irish government said it had reached an accord with Israel to avoid another showdown, but the activists aboard rejected the deal.
Irish diplomats said that under the agreement, the ship would have docked at the Israeli port of Ashdod for inspection of its cargo under the supervision of UN officials.
Israel agreed to transfer all the content, except weapons and war materials, to Gaza, accompanied by two Free Gaza members, according to the agreement. But the activists said they would only allow a security check at sea.
"We will never stop at Ashdod," said Free Gaza Movement spokeswoman Greta Berlin.
One of the more famous episodes from the 2006 Israel-Hezbollah war was the discovery that Reuters was doctoring photos to enhance the appearance of destruction in Lebanon.
Now we have what seems to be another example: Reuters has cropped a photo of a wounded IDF commando to eliminate the appearance of a knife in the hand of one of the flotilla “peace activists” standing over him. LGF has the details.
Geert Wilders could join a Conservative cabinet should Mark Rutte of the VVD (Liberal) Party, become the next Prime Minister of The Netherlands. Rutte as the leading candidate could form a coalition government after the June 9th general election.
Geert Wilders, the far-right Dutch politician who wants to tax Muslim headscarves and ban mosque building, could join the next government, the leader of the country’s biggest party said.
Mark Rutte, who is tipped to be the next Prime Minister after Wednesday’s vote, told The Times that he was prepared to share power with the anti-Islamic MP in a new coalition.
Mr. Rutte’s right-wing Liberal Party (VVD) is expected to win the largest number of seats in the general election and polls suggest that it could form a majority with the Christian Democrats and Mr. Wilders’ Freedom Party.
[. . . ]
Asked if he thought that the Netherlands would suffer from problems in the Islamic world if Mr. Wilders were part of the government, he said: “I don’t think so. For me it is just another party.”
Latest polls for the 150-seat Parliament put the VVD on 36 seats, Labour on 29, the Christian Democrats on 24, the Freedom Party on 18 — double its current number of MPs — and the Socialist Party on 12.
Wilders defended Israel’s actions in the Gaza Flotilla episode last week. He commented:
‘I am certainly not going to make a cheap attack on Israel by howling in the woods with the rest of the wolves,’ he told TV show Nova.
Israel was fully justified in entering the ships to see if they were also carrying weapons, he said.
NICOSIA, Cyprus — In a document presented here on Sunday by Pope Benedict XVI, bishops from across the Middle East called on Christians to become a dynamic minority in a conflict-ridden region and attributed their declining population here to “instability” caused by the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the war in Iraq and unrest in Lebanon.
It also lamented the rise of “political Islam,” and said Christians suffered in countries where Muslims often “make no distinction between religion and politics.”
Benedict’s five-year-old papacy has been marked by tensions with Muslims and Jews, which his visit last year to Jordan, Israel and the West Bank did not entirely put to rest. The document issued Sunday, a working paper for a meeting of bishops to be held in Rome this fall, touched on some of the most contentious issues of Middle East politics and seemed poised to elicit controversy.
Ending his three-day visit to Cyprus, Benedict also made a “personal appeal for an urgent and concerted international effort to resolve the ongoing tensions in the Middle East, especially in the Holy Land, before such conflicts lead to greater bloodshed.”
His visit, the first by a pope to Cyprus, was aimed at strengthening ties between the Catholic and Orthodox churches and calling attention to the situation of Christians in the Middle East.
But even as the pope called for peace and dialogue, the weekend was darkened by the killing in Turkey on Thursday of Bishop Luigi Padovese, 62, the head of the Turkish bishops conference and one of the authors of the document. His Turkish driver has been arrested and charged with the crime. The pope has played down the killing as a “personal” matter and not driven by religious or political motives, although the details surrounding the death remain unclear.
In recent decades, the percentage of Christians in the Middle East has fallen from 20 percent of the population to less than 5 percent, and the number is dropping.
“Today, emigration is particularly prevalent because of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the resulting instability throughout the region,” the bishops’ document said. “The menacing social situation in Iraq and the political instability of Lebanon further intensify the phenomenon.”
It also said that the Israeli occupation of Palestinian territories created “difficulties in everyday life, inhibiting freedom of movement, the economy and religious life,” as well as making access difficult to some Christian holy sites in the West Bank, like the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem.
Israel’s ambassador to the Vatican, Mordechay Lewy, said the document’s assessment of the situation of Christians in Israel and the Palestinian territories was “more or less realistic,” but he dismissed the idea that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict was the main cause of Christian flight.
“We reject any view which pinpoints the conflict between the Palestinians and us as the source of every instability in the region,” he said. “The region is also unstable without this conflict.”
In a passage that seemed aimed at American evangelicals, the document said that “certain Christian fundamentalist theologies use sacred scripture to justify Israel’s occupation of Palestine, making the position of Christian Arabs an even more sensitive issue.”
The Italian-language version of the passage was more critical of Israel and said that scripture should not be used “to justify the political injustice imposed on the Palestinians.”
The Vatican spokesman, the Rev. Federico Lombardi, said both versions were official. “They are rather different,” he acknowledged. “But this is a working document.”
The document was written by a dozen bishops and top Vatican officials, including the Latin patriarch of Jerusalem and bishops from Egypt, Syria and Iran, based on comments submitted by bishops across the Middle East before a monthlong bishops’ meeting in Rome in October.
Benedict sees Christians “not as a minority in decline, but as a creative minority,” said Andrea Riccardi, the founder of the Community of Sant’Egidio, a lay Catholic group active in interreligious dialogue that helped organize the pope’s visit to Cyprus. “The Christian minority in the Middle East is important to prevent Muslim totalitarianism.”
The document said relations between Christians and Muslims were often difficult “principally because Muslims make no distinction between religion and politics, thereby relegating Christians to the precarious position of being considered noncitizens, despite the fact that they were citizens of their countries long before the rise of Islam.”
But Adnane Mokrani, a Tunisian Muslim who teaches Islamic studies at the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome, said the link between religion and politics came from “history and culture” more than Islam. “The real problem is dictatorship, which often tries to justify itself using religion and nationalism,” he said.
Brice Hortefeux Also Has His Defenders On The Left (In French)
Quand des personnalités de gauche défendent Hortefeux
LEMONDE.FR avec AFP | 06.06.10
ue les membres de la majorité présidentielle volent au secours du ministre de l'intérieur, Brice Hortefeux, condamné vendredi à une amende de 750 euros pour avoir tenu en septembre 2009 des propos jugés
envers les personnes d'origine arabe, c'est peu surprenant. Mais quand ils s'agit de personnalités de l'opposition, ça l'est plus.
C'est le député PS Julien Dray qui le premier est venu dimanche à la rescousse de l'ancien ministre de l'immigration. "Je ne considère pas que M. Hortefeux est un raciste, c'est un ministre de la République, un républicain" qui a "eu une phrase inacceptable", a expliqué l'élu de l'Essonne, invité du Grand Rendez-vous Europe1/Le Parisien-Aujourd'hui en France."Si j'avais une démission à demander à Hortefeux, ce ne serait pas sur cette phrase-là" mais sur sa "politique en matière de lutte contre la violence [qui] est un échec", a poursuivi M. Dray.
Un avis partagé par Michel Charasse, ancien sénateur du Puy-de-Dôme et actuel membre du Conseil constitutionnel, qui a également estimé dimanche que Brice Hortefeux, élu auvergnat lui aussi, n'est pas raciste.
A la question de savoir si M. Hortefeux est raciste, M. Charasse, exclu du PS en 2008 pour avoir soutenu un candidat dissident à la présidence du conseil général du Puy-de-Dôme, a lancé: "Ah non, ça, attendez ! Depuis la disparition de Pierre Laval, puisqu'on est dans son ancien canton ici, à ma connaissance, il n'y a pas d'homme politique raciste dans le département du Puy-de-Dôme. Il faut arrêter !" Ces polémiques, "ce sont des risques du métier, surtout avec la manie d'indiscrétions des journalistes qui, lorsque vous êtes en train de discuter en privé dans un coin, trouvent le moyen de vous coller un micro sous le nez alors que vous dites 'Dupont est toujours aussi con, Durand m'a fait chier toute la semaine'. Et puis, pan ! Tout ça, c'est enregistré."
Why have Israel-Turkey relations gone from alliance to what seems to be the verge of war?
The foolish think that the breakdown is due to the recent Gaza flotilla crisis. The merely naive attribute the collapse to the December 2008-January 2009 Israel-Hamas war in the Gaza Strip.
Such conclusions are totally misleading. It was already clear-and in private every Israeli expert dealing seriously with Turkey said so-well over two years ago. For example, the Justice and Development (AK) party government did not permit a single new military contract with Israel since it took office. The special relationship was over. And the cause was the election in Turkey of an Islamist government.
After all, Turkey needed Israel as an ally when a secular government in Ankara regarded Iran, Syria, and Saddam Hussein's Iraq as the main threats. Once there was a government which regarded Iran and Syria as its closest allies, Israel became a perceived enemy.
When the Turkish armed forces were an important part of the regime, they promoted the alliance because they saw Israel as a good source for military equipment and an ally against Islamists and radical Arab regimes. But once the army was to be suppressed by those who hated it because of the military's secularism and feared it as the guardian of the republican system it sought to dismantle, the generals' wishes were a matter of no concern and depriving them of foreign allies was a priority of the AK party government.
And when Turkey thought it needed Israel as a way to maintain good relations with the United States, the alliance was also valuable. But once it was clear that U.S. policy would accept the AK and was none too fond of Israel, that reason for the alliance also dissolved. Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan announced, "It's Israel that is the principal threat to regional peace." Not Iran, Israel.
At first, this outcome was not so obvious. The AK Party won its first election by only a narrow margin. To keep the United States and EU happy, to keep the Turkish army happy, and to cover up its Islamist sympathies, the new regime was cautious over relations with Israel. Keeping them going served as "proof" of Turkey's moderation.
Yet as the AK majorities in election rose, the government became more confident. No longer did it stress that it was just a center-right party with family values. The regime steadily weakened the army, using EU demands for civilian power. As it repressed opposition and arrested hundreds of critics, bought up 40 percent of the media, and installed its people in the bureaucracy, the AK's arrogance, and thus its willingness to go further and throw off its mask, grew steadily.
And then, on top of that, the regime saw that the United States would not criticize it, not press it, not even notice what the Turkish government was doing. President Barack Obama came to Turkey and praised the regime as a model of moderate Muslim democracy. Former President Bill Clinton appeared in Istanbul and, in response to questions asked by an AK party supporter, was manipulated into virtually endorsing the regime's program without realizing it.
Earlier this year, the situation became even more absurd as Turkey moved ever closer to becoming the third state to join the Iran-Syria bloc. Syria's state-controlled newspaper and Iranian President Ahmadinejad openly referred to Turkey's membership in their alliance. And no one in Washington even noticed what was happening. Even when, in May, Turkish policy stabbed the United States in the back by helping Iran launch a sanctions-avoiding plan, the Obama Administration barely stirred in its sleep.
Then there is the theatrical demagoguery of Erdogan himself who threw a choreographed fit at the Davos conference because Israel's President Shimon Peres, the mildest and most dovish of men, "offended" him. He returned home to an excited demonstration.
Bashing Israel to gain popularity and stir nationalist and religious passions is not the oldest of such tricks. It is merely a variation of doing the same historically to Jews in general. And yes it still works. Boy, does it work!
Then there's Turkey's new foreign minister. Ahmed Davudoglu. It's a pity that his writings in Turkish haven't been translated because when he writes in English Davudoglu says Turkey wants to be everyone's friend, but in the Turkish version he makes clear that his goal is to be friends with those who hate the West. Davudoglu's appointment completes the AK party's conquest of the Foreign Ministry, another institution that hates Islamism.
And so with electoral victories; advancing control over Turkey's bureaucracy, military and society; and Western complaisance, the regime has become continually bolder.
A few weeks ago, the Turkish prime minister said that Iran isn't developing nuclear weapons, that he regards President Ahmadinejad as a friend, and that even if Iran were building nuclear bombs it has a right to do so. And still no one in Washington noticed. Turkey was not only what the Obama Administration wanted in a Muslim-majority country, it was also one of the "responsible powers," to quote the administration's national security strategy document, that the White House saw as necessary attendants to shore up a weak America at the Home for Aging Senile Superpowers.
The current Turkish government hates Israel because it is an Islamist regime. Note who its friends are: it cares nothing for the Lebanese people, it only backs Hizballah. It never has a kind word for the Palestinian Authority or Fatah, the Turkish government's friend is Hamas.
Lately for the first time, however, the AK government began to run into domestic problems. The poor status of the economy, the growing discontent of many Turks with creeping Islamism in the society, and finally the election for the first time of a popular leader for the opposition party, began to give hope that next year's elections might bring down the regime. Indeed, polls showed the AK sinking into or very close to second place. With the army neutered, elections are the only hope of getting Turkey off the road to Islamist .
Now, however, the corpses of those killed after they or their colleagues attacked Israeli soldiers will probably guarantee AK's victory. As one Turkish columnist put it, the AK, "will sail on this wind into a third term in power."
This is a prize well worth sacrificing Israeli trade and tourism. And the action is all the more attractive since Turkey in doing so will not have to sacrifice any Western and particularly U.S. support. By making this behavior so cheap, the U.S. government has made it inevitable.
But even that is not all. On September 12, Turkey will come to a crossroads when a referendum will be held over constitutional amendments introduced by the government. If passed, these changes will give the government control over the court system, virtually the only remaining institution it hasn't taken over. As one Turkish analyst wrote, "This would be the end of checks [and balances] and democracy."
In light of national solidarity and outrage over the Gaza incident, how can the government not win?
A Turkish colleague gave a good guideline for dealing with the Turkish government's defection to the other side and march toward Islamism some time ago, an analogy most ironic given the nautical nature of the Gaza flotilla issue. It was very important, he explained, that the Turkish people not become the enemy for the West and Israel. They were, he continued, merely the passengers. The regime-the captain and the crew-was the problem.
Even within the AK party there were more moderate elements, mostly those who joined from non-Islamist center-right parties. When I hosted the Turkey-Israel parliamentary friendship committee, these were the people most eager for good relations, because they saw this alliance as a check on the more extremist forces in their own party.
But then the Gaza flotilla sailed in. Many Turks who support opposition parties see this as close to a conspiracy, and one can hardly blame them for doing so. A radical Islamist group close to the government organized this whole affair which, while nominally independent, enjoyed the Turkish government's patronage. This flotilla was a semi-official operation by the AK-ruled state apparatus.
This campaign set up the intensification of the regime's manipulation of the two powerful symbols in Turkey that motivate people: nationalism and Islam. This is an anti-nationalist government, dismantling the traditional traditions of Atatirk's republic. But it has managed to wrap itself in the Turkish flag. Thus, the less than 30 percent who support the AK and would back an attempt to help Hamas has been turned into 100 percent by turning this from an Islamist into a nationalist issue.
A national hysteria has been whipped up. In huge demonstrations, Palestinian flags were waved and slogans should like: "Stop military collaboration with the Israeli army," "Kill all the Israelis," "Allah akbar," "Death to the Jews," and "Attack Israel."
This has taken on dangerous proportions. For example, an article in the Islamist newspaper Zaman claims that Israel "ordered" the Kurdish PKK to attack a Turkish naval base. This is a blood libel. The PKK declared it would renew attacks long before the Gaza incident and the Israeli government went out of its way to declare the PKK a terrorist group years ago in order to support Turkey! Given such behavior, all Israeli tourism to Turkey is likely to end for a long time given the danger and the government might not be able to stop terror attacks on Jewish and Israeli targets in Turkey even if it wants to do so.
Even the opposition parties, persuaded or intimidated by nationalist fervor, shouted their outrage, with a unanimous vote in parliament supporting the regime's stance. The Turkish media censored out almost everything that challenged the narrative of peace-loving demonstrators brutally attacked. Thus, Turks--largely locked into only there own media due to language--don't have the basis to question what they are being told.
I do not mean to suggest here that Israel might not have made tactical mistakes or that the Turks don't have a reason to feel upset at the death of nine of their nationals. But a different government in Turkey would express anger and then try to resolve the matter calmly and peacefully through some kind of compromise. Past, non-AK party governments have at times been harsh in criticizing Israel but they also had a strong incentive to resolve the crisis. This government finds the crisis useful.
The AK government had three demands: all Turks be released immediately, something Israel had already announced would happen but the regime pretended only came about due to its tough stance; there should be an international investigation; and Israel must pay compensation. Turkey's top leaders spoke of Israel as committing "piracy" and "terrorism," the latter term one never applies to Hamas or Hizballah.
Indeed, Erdogan said something very revealing of his true intentions. Turkey, he said, chose to side with law, peace, justice, Palestine and the Gaza Strip. In other words, this is a political alliance, theoretically with the Palestinians but actually only with his fellow Hamas Islamists.
Incidentally, I think there is one hidden price Turkey will pay for this strategy. Although its chances of getting into the EU were already quite low, a view of Turkey as extremist will put the last nail into the coffin of its candidacy succeeding. Even if European states don't like Israel, a display of Islamic fervor in Turkey will not make them feel good.
Another is the increased antagonism in the United States which, up until now, has treated the regime uncritically. In a remarkable editorial, the Washington Post blames Erdogan. It is a signal of a significant potential rift in U.S.-Turkey relations.
Is this demagogic mobilization of nationalist and religious passions the magic weapon the AK will use to gain reelection next year? Many Turks think so and are angry at Israel for, in their eyes, helping the survival of the regime they hate.
But for the AK government to succeed in gaining a political advantage, it's going to have to create several more crises to keep nationalist fervor stoked.
Unnoticed in the hoopla and hysteria surrounding this incident was the Turkish government's insulting treatment of the United States, as an errant schoolboy to be bullied and punished. President Barack Obama seems to have swallowed this meekly. Davutoglu said, "We expect the United States to show solidarity with us....I am not very happy with the statements from the United States yesterday."
Quickly, U.S statements came into line. One might ask why the United States should show solidarity with a regime that organized a massive and aggressive operation on behalf of Hamas and had just stabbed it in the back by cooking up a deal with Iran to sabotage sanctions against Israel, an ally which had supported U.S. policies and made several tough concessions at Obama's request.
Yet such is what has become normal in these times and under this U.S. government. The message has thus been sent: The Turkish government can do anything it wants and its American counterpart won't even squeak in protest. Indeed, in his interview with Larry King, Obama went out of his way--in a situation where it was totally unnecessary--to praise Turkey and urge that it play a central role!
He said: "I think Turkey can have a positive voice in this whole process once we've worked through this tragedy. And bring everybody together to figure out how can we get a two-state solution where the Palestinians and Israelis can live side by side in peace and security." Presumably, the second sentence was meant to say that the United States would "bring everybody together" but it could be read as if he were referring to Turkey.
Ironically, Turkey's own behavior--which no other government or even news media seems to be mentioning--runs rather counter to its protestations. Since 1993, Turkey has blockaded Armenia in support of Azerbaijan. One wonders how it would respond to a humanitarian convoy trying to cross the border and attacking Turkish soldiers. It has repeatedly sent soldiers into Iraq to attack Kurdish rebels, too, even as the incident at sea unfolded. And the regime's human rights' record has many spots on it.
Any idea of saving Israel-Turkey warm relations is an illusion as long as the AK party remains in power in Turkey. Any thought that Turkey can be an acceptable mediator for Israel, a country the regime loathes, with the Palestinians or Syria is ridiculous.
As long as the AK party remains in power this is only the beginning of its unfolding friction with the West. For one thing, the regime will demand that Israel be found guilty, that the United States support this verdict, and that Israel pay compensation. If not, Erdogan will go into more fits of outrage and tens of thousands of angry demonstrators will be unleashed into Turkey's streets.
This internal battle, however, is far from over. Turkey remains enough of a democratic state that the voters can either throw out that party or so reduce its votes as to force it into a coalition where its power would be reduced and policy moderated. A good scare at the polls could also force the AK regime to resume the moderate mask, pulling back on foreign policy while continuing its effort to transform Turkey.
One of these options is the best hope for Turkey at present. For as bad as things seem, if a different party took leadership in Ankara, while the old days of a warm Turkish-Israel relationship could not return so easily, a more normal situation would prevail. In other words, Turkey's defection is not necessarily permanent if the AK party does not remain in power for a long time.
The question now becomes: how much will this Turkish government sabotage U.S. interests before U.S.-Turkish relations go the same way? The defection of Turkey to the other side is the biggest strategic shift in the Middle East and loss for the democratic West since the Iranian revolution three decades ago. Pretending that this isn't happening will make no difference in reality.
A note to Turkish readers. I can hear some of you saying: You are blaming Turkey for the breakdown of relations, what about Israel's responsibility? First, I'm not blaming Turkey but the current government. A lot of you know that's basically true. Indeed, many of you have told me that you are really angry at Israel because you feel the situation has been successfully exploited by the regime to further its ends, which are very bad for the Turkish people and democracy. Second, I'm glad to debate over the Gaza flotilla issue with you (and have been corresponding with many Turkish friends on this issue) but before this latest event Israel has done nothing that anyone can claim has damaged Turkey or is against Turkish interests and yet the relations were already terrible.
Think also of what this is doing to your country. When martyrdom is celebrated as public funerals; when individual Turks can decide to take over the country's international policy by choosing to attack the soldiers of another country; when Jihad replaces "peace at home, peace in the world," is this not taking Turkey down the path that Arabs have followed for sixty years?
Will this approach bring to Turkey the dubious benefits of such "heroism" that have fallen upon Lebanon and Iraq: fanaticism, instability, intolerance, dictatorship, endless bloodshed, long-term conflict with the West; social stagnation, and financial ruin? This is precisely the kind of thing that Ataturk sought to ensure never came to Turkey.