These are all the Blogs posted on Sunday, 8, 2013.
Sunday, 8 December 2013
Alain Finkielkraut On Muslims In France -- Good, But Not Quite Good Enough
You can read, and find those passages where he holds back, or mis-diagnoses, or fails to come to grips with the effect of the immutable ideology of Islam, and the attitudes to which that ideology naturally gives rise even among those who, suffused with its atmosphere, cannot throw off its influence; only a complete break will do.
Posted on 12/08/2013 8:25 PM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Sunday, 8 December 2013
A Small Israeli Musical Interlude
Posted on 12/08/2013 11:02 PM by John M. Joyce
Sunday, 8 December 2013
Dr. Maya Angelou, On Behalf Of The American People, Pays Tribute
Posted on 12/08/2013 5:33 PM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Sunday, 8 December 2013
A Thought Experiment: Role Playing as Israeli PM
Fred Leder, from Fairfield, Connecticut issued a challenge for me to respond to a thought experiment. He asked that I play the role of Israel’s Prime Minister confronted with a deepening divide with the Obama Administration over the latter’s engagement with nuclear Iran and simultaneously endeavoring to facilitate a final status agreement resolving the dilemma of the Israeli Palestinian conflict. This thought experiment challenge came on the cusp of the 10th Annual Saban Forum at the Brookings Institution in Washington, DC with the topic: “Discussing U.S.-Israel Relations in a Dynamic Middle East”.
Major appearances by key figures in this Forum included Israel’s Foreign Minister, Avigdor Lieberman, US Secretary of State Kerry, President Obama and Israeli PM Netanyahu.
Watch their respective Saban Forum presentations and Question and Answer sessions here:
Webcast Sessions of the 2013 Saban Forum
Leder laid out the following challenge:
I challenge you to a thought experiment, ala Einstein:
If you were the PM of Israel and the following hypothesis were accepted as fact:
1. Barack Obama has essentially made it impossible for Israel to attack Iran, thereby insuring that Iran will have nuclear weapons.
2. Barack Obama has no regard for the safety and security of Israel. Further, he appears to be committed to some kind of parity between Islam and the West.
3. Barack Obama has spoken in favor of a border between Israel and another Arab country to be called Palestine based on the 1949 Armistice Line, with minor adjustments to be negotiated. All Jews outside of that border, 500,000 people, would have to be moved to 1949 Israel with US Security guarantees.
Given these hypotheticals and given that you are charged with the safety and security of the majority of the world’s Jews, what do you do?
My role as the hypothetical Israeli PM in this exercise is based, in part, on the following opinion poll findings of fellow Israeli citizens as recently reported by the Washington Post.
The key findings are:
A monthly poll carried out by the Israel Democracy Institute in Tel Aviv, one of the most respected surveys in the country, found that 77 percent of Israelis do not believe that the agreement between Iran and the world powers [P5+1] will lead in the end of what Israel suspects is an Iranian nuclear weapons program.
The survey also assessed Israeli opinion on Israel’s relationship with the United States and other potential allies. In response to a question on who is Israel’s greatest ally, 71 percent of Israelis said they believed the United States to be Israel’s most loyal and important ally.
Earlier this year a Gallup poll of Americans indicated support for Israel was at an all time high, while support for the Palestinians was flat in the low teens:
Americans' sympathies lean heavily toward the Israelis over the Palestinians, 64% vs. 12%. Americans' partiality for Israel has consistently exceeded 60% since 2010; however, today's 64% ties the highest Gallup has recorded in a quarter century, last seen in 1991 during the Gulf War. At that time, slightly fewer than today, 7% sympathized more with the Palestinians.
Noting results by political affiliation, Gallup reported:
Consistent with prior years, Republicans are substantially more likely than Democrats to favor the Israelis, 78% vs. 55%, with the preferences of independents -- currently 63% …
Support for Israel has increased among all three party groups since 2001, but particularly among Republicans and independents. The percentage sympathizing more with the Israelis has increased by 18 percentage points among Republicans (from 60% to 78%) and by 21 points among independents (from 42% to 63%). By comparison, Democrats' support has increased four points (from 51% to 55%).
Republicans' sympathy with Israel spiked to 77% in February 2003, likely associated with the run-up to the Iraq war, when Israel supported U.S. aspirations to remove Saddam Hussein from power.
Against this background here is what I would suggest as a hypothetical role playing Israeli PM.
Dealing with the Iranian Nuclear Threat.
As Prime Minister, I know that notwithstanding the Obama Administration’s agenda of engagement with a nuclear Iran seeking a final agreement, the reality is that it is not achievable. I would adopt a multiple pronged approach to assure that Israel’s sovereign right to protect its people is preserved.
- First, I would continue to directly lobby key members of Congress seeking passage of additional sanctions to both preserve and increase economic pressure on the Islamic regime under pending Amendment to the US Defense Appropriation legislation.
- Second, I would direct my military and strategic intelligence services to undertake a comprehensive covert program to disable the Iranian nuclear program and its means of weapons delivery directly or indirectly through terrorist proxies; Hezbollah, Palestine Islamic Jihad and Hamas.
- Third, I would suspend all military and strategic intelligence cooperation with the US.
- Fourth, I would instruct the Ministry of Defense to change the codes of their radars and IAF planes, so that the US can't track flight operations and thus allow Israel to attack Iran through Saudi Arabia and Azerbaijan.
- Fifth, I would launch an international public diplomacy initiative directed at the IAEA to obtain Iran’s signature on the 1994 Nuclear Safety Agreement, which Israel has already signed. This should be coupled with demands to inspect Iranian facilities for adherence to earthquake construction, operations and maintenance standards.
- Sixth, I would ramp up funding and support of Iranian civil polity opposition via enhanced Farsi language programming, secure I satellite access and internal communications to foster regime change.
- Seventh, I would expand rapprochement with Putin and Russia to bring economic pressure on the EU via coordinated natural gas policies to force the EU to relent on use of tied trade restrictions tied to anti-settlement policies.
On the Palestinian intransigence regarding a possible final status agreement
As Prime Minister I would adopt a pro-active approach recognizing that the current PA leadership is plagued with corruption that seeks to delegitimize Israel through an active international boycott, divestment and sanctions campaign. The multi-pronged approach would have the following elements.
- First, a pro-active public diplomacy campaign documenting the evidence of undemocratic practices and diversion of foreign funding contributions by the President of the Palestinian Authority and PLO-Fatah leadership. Moreover, the PA as currently constituted does not meet the definition of statehood under the 1933 Montevideo Convention.
- Second, conduct of active Lawfare to bring suit in international and American jurisdictions for recovery of assets contributed by state sponsors of terrorism in commission of crimes of violence against Israeli and Jewish citizens.
- Third, promotion of Jordan with the requisite natural resources to foster repatriation and absorption of several generations of residents in UNWRA refugee camps in Jordan, the PA, Gaza, Lebanon and Syria.
- Fourth, abandon the UNWRA donor support program and replacement it with a regional Marshal Plan for development of Jordan backed by the Saudis and the Gulf Emirates.
- Fifth, hold free and fair elections for a Parliament in Jordan with a secular non-Sharia based Constitution.
- Sixth, expand the existing Israeli-Jordanian Free Trade Agreement with the US coupled with creation of private sector investment programs emphasizing light industrial manufacturing, energy development, commercial agricultural production, and water resource development.
- Seventh, maintain and expand internal security arrangements for Judea and Samaria.
- Eighth, amend existing treaties with Jordan covering control of the frontier between the two states.
- Ninth, transfer of control over Gaza to Egypt under possible amendments of the 1979 Camp David Accords.
These are entirely my own views and not those of the State of Israel, the Palestinian Authority, Kingdom of Jordan, Republic of Egypt or the US Government. Comments and reactions are cordially invited.
Posted on 12/08/2013 7:23 PM by Jerry Gordon and Fred Leder
Sunday, 8 December 2013
In Syria, Greek Orthodox Cleric Calls Christians To Arms
Against whom? Against "the rebels." That is, against the Sunni Arab Muslims, and among that population those who take Islam most to heart, who are opposed, in turn, by the Alawites. who might best be described as honorary Muslims, and the Shi'a (to whose sect the Alawites would wish to be assigned), Druze, non-Arab Kurds, and Christians.
Posted on 12/08/2013 11:16 AM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Sunday, 8 December 2013
More French fly in to take on defiant Muslim fighters
This is the Sunday Times, behind the paywall, of course. However this article does recognise that the danger for the Central African Republic does lay with the Muslim Séléka, notwithstanding some Christian defensive retaliation (some of which, if the allegations are true, was indeed brutal) as a result.
French jets and helicopters mounted a show of force over the capital of the Central African Republic yesterday as Muslim fighters defied orders to disband following the massacre of 400 people at the end of last week. Another 200 French troops arrived to join 1,400 in position since Friday after the UN authorised France to intervene to halt a bloodbath in its former colony. Bodies still littered the streets of Bangui as French air and land patrols sought to deter armed Muslim groups known as the Séléka from further attacks on Christian neighbourhoods. Christians, who make up the majority of the population, welcomed the French troops as saviours.
“When people see us, they are coming out of their houses and applauding, especially in the Catholic districts,” said a French officer. “But we can’t stay long and as soon as we leave, the Séléka come in. That’s why we are telling people to stay inside to avoid attack.” Several churches around Bangui were packed with people fleeing the massacres that erupted last Wednesday with a rampage by the Muslim rebels who installed Michel Djotodia as President in March.
Posted on 12/08/2013 5:01 PM by Esmerelda Weatherwax
Sunday, 8 December 2013
One Trillion American Dollars Later, It All Pays Off
Iraqi Shi'a, now in control in Baghdad thanks to the American military, have made clear they are not going to help in the sanctions against Iraq, and do not interfere with Iranian interference in Syria. They are friends to Iran, though they would like American military aid to "fight Al Qaeda" or, rather, to fight the Sunnis.
And in that other major theatre of American operations and squandering (of men, materiel, morale), Afghanistan, the inimitable Karzai, in Teheran today, signed a pact with his neighbor and new best friend. You can read about it on the Internet, or you can wait until tomorrow's newspaper. Why disturb your Sunday night?
Posted on 12/08/2013 5:02 PM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Sunday, 8 December 2013
Guy Bechor On Al Qaeda, American Credulity, And Israeli Security
The al-Qaeda takeover
Op-ed: Security arrangements suggested by Americans are irrelevant to Salafi Spring era
The "security arrangements" the Americans are talking about may have been relevant for the 1980s. the Salafi Spring changed everything. The Salafi gangs, al-Qaeda terrorists, have turned into one of the main threats. Using shoulder-fired missiles, they can bring Ben-Gurion Airport to a standstill, and in fact – the entire State of Israel. No force of "peace" or "security" will stop these terrorists, who are undaunted by regular deterrence; especially not the "security" systems of the Palestinian Authority, which no one in Israel trusts.
Would the Americans be willing to hand a large part of their capital Washington, DC to al-Qaeda terrorists and place the White House under the threat of missiles? Then why are they suggesting that Israel do that? would any country in the world be prepared to do that, what with the Salafi storm raging all over?
The Arab Spring turned out to be a Salafi Spring. The Fatah movement has already turned into a museum exhibit in Judea and Samaria, a remnant belonging to the past, and so has Hamas to a great extent. They are both hated by the local public.
A new force is growing in the territories: The Salafi movement, part of which is called the Party of Liberation ("Hizb ut-Tahrir") and whose center of activity is in Hebron. Two huge demonstrations of force held by the movement in central cities in Judea and Samaria were attended by tens of thousands, carrying the black al-Qaeda flags. They hate "the Authority" more than they hate Israel, and they hate Hamas too. They reject a Palestinian state and refuse to recognize any borders or negotiations. Their proclaimed aspiration is to establish Islamic caliphates all across the Middle East, and their point of solidarity is the Salafis in Syria, Lebanon and the rest of the Arab countries.
This week the al-Qaeda movement announced the establishment of its first branch in the Judea and Samaria territories, and the IDF has already killed three activists of this Salafi organization. The Salafis accused the Palestinian Authority of passing on the intelligence on their location to the IDF. Al-Qaeda admitted that the terrorists killed belonged to the movement and vowed to carry out additional acts of terror.
Let's just imagine a reality in Judea and Samaria without the permanent presence of the IDF and the defense establishment. Why, within several days the territory will turn into Salafland. Will Secretary of State John Kerry rush to defend Israel with the "security arrangements" his experts suggest? Not to mention the fact that the Palestinian leadership has announced that it plans to import to the independent territory hundreds of thousands and maybe even millions of "Palestinians" from Syria and Lebanon – in other words, trained Salafis with their weapons. What will the reality of life in Israel look like then, if there even is a life?
And what will be the fate of the last Christians still left in the Palestinian Authority territories? Expulsion and brutal oppression, just like what is happening to the few Christians still left in the Gaza Strip. And Christianity's holy places? It's enough to see what happened this week to a monastery in Christian Maaloula, north of Damascus. The Salafis cleansed it, and the poor nuns hiding inside. Perhaps Kerry's experts could bring a "security" plan for Syria. That would be a refreshing change.
The Salafi movement is taking over more and more areas in the Middle East: In Lebanon, in Egypt, in Iraq and in North Africa. Can Secretary Kerry visit all these places? The only place he can afford landing safely in is Israel, thanks to the Israeli security. If the Salafi expansion continues, he won't even be able to visit the Palestinian Authority territories, and even Israel may become dangerous for him.
So please bring security which is relevant to the present time; not to history or archeology.
Posted on 12/08/2013 5:28 PM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Sunday, 8 December 2013
Measuring A Doctor's Performance
Some of the residents of Hyde, the town in Cheshire, England, where the late Dr. Harold Shipman practiced family medicine, used to say, “He’s a good doctor, but you don’t live long.” Indeed not: it is now believed that Dr. Shipman, over a period lasting a quarter of a century, murdered 200 or more of his elderly patients with injections of morphine or heroin.
If the preservation of life be not the definition of a good doctor, what is? Here is the definition published in a recent edition of the New England Journal of Medicine:
The habitual and judicious use of communication, knowledge, technical skills, clinical reasoning, emotions, values, and reflection in daily practice for the benefit of the individual and the community being served.
Whatever one thinks of this definition, it is clear that it would not make the goodness of doctors altogether easy to measure.
It does not follow from the unmeasurability of something, however, that it does not exist or is unimportant: nor, unfortunately, that what is measurable truly exists or is at all important. Nothing is easier to measure in an activity as complex as medical practice as the trivial, and nothing is easier to miss than the important.
The above definition of a good doctor appeared in an article on the need for Obamacare to ensure that doctors provide value for money so that they can be paid by result. This is a potential problem whenever there is a financial intermediary between the doctor and the patient. Thenceforth it is not the patient who decides what he wants from a doctor but an insurance company or, increasingly under Obamacare, the government.
But as the article points out, measuring a doctor’s performance is very difficult. Most doctors perform a large number of tasks, only a tiny proportion of which can be measured at the same time. Moreover, what is measured may not, and often does not, measure his performance as a whole. For example, radiologists have been graded according to the exposure time of patients during fluoroscopy, the taking of moving pictures under x-ray exposure. This is not unimportant, of course, because x-rays cause burns and exposure to x-rays increases the risks of developing cancer later; but fluoroscopy is only a small part of a radiologist’s work. As the article points out, a radiologist’s “primary role is to provide accurate and complete interpretations of imaging studies.” Time of exposure of patients to x-rays under fluoroscopy – which may vary with the patient as well as the radiologist – is not an adequate measure of the radiologist’s overall competence.
Like must always be compared with like for any valid comparison to be drawn, and this is difficult, time-consuming and expensive to do. Even if it were not the case that measuring a doctor’s performance is like trying to catch a cloud with a butterfly net, the gathering of information is not without cost, both financial and psychological (a point the authors do not make). It is not difficult to take up half or more of a doctor’s time by gathering from him the information necessary to prove that they are efficient in whatever the time is left to them. It reminds of what Karl Popper once accused Wittgenstein of doing: perpetually polishing spectacles but never actually looking through them.
He who pays the piper calls the tune (there is a very good reason why this should be a cliché). Moreover, there is a tendency for measurement in all modern systems to escape its ostensible purpose, to become an end in itself as well as an employment opportunity for bureaucratic mediocrities. The process seems as inevitable as ageing.
First published in PJMedia.
Posted on 12/08/2013 5:53 AM by Theodore Dalrymple
Sunday, 8 December 2013
No Good Deed Goes Unpunished: Israel and the Bedouins
Some of the usual suspects in the politically correct British company of Israel-bashers are at it again. This time, fifty public figures signed a letter in The Guardian on November 29, 2013 demanding that the British government protest what the letter called "forced displacement of Bedouin Palestinians" by Israel.
Not only should these automatic critics be ashamed of themselves for their insufferable ignorance and arrogance, but they are also espousing a politically reactionary, not progressive, point of view.
The letter was signed by "experts" on people, law, and conditions in the Negev in Israel, such as the actress Julie Christie, the filmmakers Mike Leigh and Ken Loach, and members of Parliament, including Jeremy Corbyn and Lady Jenny Tonge. Many of the signers have long exhibited their acute criticism or hostility on many occasions, having signed statements about alleged violations of something or other by Israel. It is less clear their "expertise" extends to mastery of the intricacies of Ottoman Land Law in the Middle East.
All can agree that the Bedouins, numbering 210,000 in the Negev, are the most impoverished group in Israel, and one with serious social problems. They have a high birth rate -- 5%, one of the highest in the world -- and about 120,000 are under 18 years old. They suffer from a high poverty rate and also a high crime rate. To help them over the years, Israel has provided and still is allocating considerable resources -- about 1.2 billion shekels -- for development in the Negev in areas of employment, education, infrastructure, and personal security.
The tribal Bedouin population is still partly nomadic, as well as partly settled. To foster their development and integration into mainstream society, Israel has attempted their settlement with so far partial success. Between 1968 and 1989, Israel built seven townships, including Rahat and Hura, in the Northern Negev for Bedouins and provided housing, health, utilities, public services, and education. About half of the Bedouins went there, and the rest remained in their villages.
As nomads, Bedouins have wandered across the area, and many in the Negev come from Arabia, Sinai, and Egypt. Slowly, they have been making the transition from animal husbandry to agriculture in the context of modernization and urbanization in Israeli society. The Bedouins face problems of tension between tradition and change. Most important, the problem of Bedouin ownership of land and the settlements in which they live has perplexed Israel for many years.
Israel has been confronted with a number of issues: settling Bedouin ownership claims to land, ending the villages built illegally, fully integrating the Bedouins into Israeli society and economic prosperity, reducing the economic and social gap between the Bedouins and Israel society as a whole, and in general developing the Negev with emphasis on employment, education, and the rule of law.
Instead of welcoming Israeli efforts to deal with these complex issues, the uninformed and prejudiced letter in The Guardian criticizes the Israeli Prawer-Begin plan to deal with them. This plan was presented by a committee chaired by Ehud Prawer, head of the Department for Policy Planning in the Office of the Prime Minister. The bill proposing the implementation of the plan was accepted in principle, after an impassioned debate in the Knesset, by 43-40 on June 13, 2013. It obviously will undergo revision on details before its final passage.
Land, appropriate settlement, and economic development are related. About 40% of Bedouins live in "unrecognized villages." These villages, 45 in the Negev, were built without official permission and therefore are not recognized or eligible for municipal services. More than 70,000 Bedouins live in homes that are not regulated, in buildings constructed illegally and with unresolved land ownership claims.
The Prawer plan would lead to decision on Bedouin claims to land ownership, based on land claims made according to the land survey in Northern Negev in 1971. In a general way, the Israeli plan is concerned with economic development and growth for all in the Negev, particularly focusing on employment, and education, including higher education. Specifically, the idea is to expand existing towns and to build 41 new villages or towns, and to relocate about 40,000 Bedouins with compensation to designated towns from their "unrecognized" villages. In the new towns, the homes would be equipped with modern utilities, and the inhabitants would have title to about a quarter of an acre of land.
A major controversial problem is that of land ownership. According to the Land Law of the Ottoman Empire, which ruled the area for almost five hundred years, lands that were not registered as private were considered state lands. Bedouins did not usually register, largely because of fear of taxation and military duties. Israeli law on the issue is derived from British Mandatory law, which incorporated Ottoman Law to a substantial degree. Bedouin claims to land rights are hard to prove. Nevertheless, the Prawer plan does not disregard Bedouin property rights, nor does it fail to recognize appropriate land ownership or refer to Bedouins in derogatory terms. The plan for reform does not have as its objective discrimination and separation.
Critics of Israeli intentions hold that the tribal structures and agricultural way of life should be maintained in the Bedouin villages, and that the "unrecognized" villages, which cover less than five percent of the area of the Negev, should remain. It is true that Bedouins have their own culture, honor code, and code of laws. But though the status quo may be sentimentally nostalgic, to fight for its existence amounts to a reactionary argument.
Not only is the claim of beneficial association of those "unrecognized" villages to historic ties overstated, but to honor it would also mean leaving Bedouins in a less developed, really backward condition, lacking basic services of water, electricity, telephones, roads, schools, and health clinics. Do the signers of the letter know that some of the villages, which they implicitly sentimentally admire, presently consist of a few shacks made from corrugated iron?
It is hard to believe that Julie Christie and the other 49 people, actors, writers, artists, musicians, who signed The Guardian letter really want the Bedouins to remain in this condition. If they really do not approve the modernization and economic development of the Bedouins and would like to see them remain in squalor, they should say so.
Michael Curtis is author of Jews, Antisemitism, and the Middle East.
First published in the American Thinker.
Posted on 12/08/2013 8:00 AM by Michael Curtis
Sunday, 8 December 2013
ASIO cancels passports of Muslim men 'over jihad war fears''
From the Sydney Morning Herald
Australia's domestic spy agency ASIO has cancelled the passports of 20 men from across western Sydney, accusing them of being prepared to ''engage in politically motivated violence'' if they were allowed to travel overseas or of having a ''jihadi mentality'' that made them a threat to national security.
The move came without warning for some of the men, who only discovered their passports had been cancelled or were deemed to have been ''invalidly obtained'' as they tried to leave Australia on holidays to Thailand, Bali and Saudi Arabia.
Another of the men, 19-year-old Abu Bakr, who spoke to Fairfax Media on Friday, said the first he knew that ASIO thought he would become a foreign fighter was when he received a registered letter saying he was a threat to national security and must surrender his passport. ''It is a 10-page letter saying I had a jihadi mentality … I have never been approached by ASIO to talk about this,'' he said. ''We have been treated unjustly. My record is clean - shiny gold. I am not a criminal.'' Abu Bakr said he had not made any plans to travel overseas and the only reason he believed he had been targeted was because he was outspoken about atrocities taking place against Muslims. He said the cancellations were threats designed to scare people.
Australia's intelligence agencies believe that more than 100 Australians have travelled overseas to fight with groups such as Jabhat al-Nusra in Syria. A Brisbane man is believed to have become the first Australian suicide bomber in Syria in a truck bomb attack earlier this year.
Representatives of the group, who are aged from 17 to 40 and come from suburbs stretching from Lakemba to Penrith, have spoken out about the crackdown, saying they are outraged at the infringement on their human rights.
Wissam Haddad, owner of the former Al Risalah Bookstore in the Sydney suburb of Bankstown, who has not had his passport cancelled, but knows many of the men, said there was nothing to link them except their religion and their reputation for speaking up about discrimination.Mr Haddad said they knew of each other, but had little in common, and did not attend the same mosques or prayer halls.
Fifteen of the men have instructed lawyer Zali Burrows to seek a review of the cancellations. ''I anticipate it will be a battle,'' said Ms Burrows.
Posted on 12/08/2013 3:42 AM by Esmerelda Weatherwax