You may email your answers to each section as you finish it or save them all up and email me the lot when the quiz is complete, so don’t lose your answers in the meantime if you choose to do the latter.
Even if you don’t manage to answer every question, or think that you might have got some wrong answers, do still join in and send me your entry – you might still win.
In the spirit of Christmas I suppose I should tell you what the small prize is – after all, one is allowed to open one’s presents today. The winner will receive a copy of 'The Terror of Existence: From Ecclesiastes to Theatre of the Absurd' by Theodore Dalrymple and Kenneth Francis.
This book poses many interesting questions. The cultural death of God has created a conundrum for intellectuals. How could a life stripped of ultimate meaning be anything but absurd? How was man to live? How could he find direction in a world of no direction? What would he tell his children that could make their lives worthwhile? What is the ground of morality?
Existentialism is the literary cri de coeur resulting from the realisation that without God, everything good, true and beautiful in human life is destined to be destroyed in a pitiless material cosmos. Theodore Dalrymple and Kenneth Francis examine the main existentialist works, from Ecclesiastes to the Theatre of the Absurd, each man coming from a different perspective. Francis is a believer, Dalrymple is not, but both empathise with the struggle to find meaning in a seemingly meaningless universe.
Part literary criticism, part philosophical exploration, this book holds many surprising gems of insight from two of the most interesting minds of our time and I thoroughly recommend it as a cracking good read for the winter.
Should the United States Be the Leader of the Free World?
by Michael Curtis
The decision of President Donald Trump to withdraw U.S. forces from Syria and Afghanistan led to the announced departure on December 20, 2018 of Secretary of Defense James Mattis, 4 Star General often regarded as a force for stability in the administration. Policy differences between Mattis and the President already existed over a number of issues, NATO, Korea, Afghanistan, Syria, Iran nuclear deal, proposal for a military Space Force, American attitudes to allies. However, the manner and timing of the firing or resignation of Mattis without serious formal consultations of military advisers, including the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, by Trump was questionable at best, and reckless according to his critics.
Yet, irrespective of controversy over Mattis’ departure, more important is the issue of the desirable role of the United States in world affairs: should the U.S. continue or expand its overseas activities and be the leader of the global order; or should it reduce its commitments and withdraw from certain areas.
The issue has faced British as well as American politics. In the first British election at the end of World War II, in 1945 the Labour Party defeated the Conservatives led by Winston Churchill. The colorful Minister of Health, Aneurin Bevan, the architect of the National Health Service proudly declared on July3, 1948 “We now have the moral leadership of the world.” In contrast, President George Washington in his Farewell Address on September 19, 1796 spoke of the need for the new U.S to "pursue a different course." It is, he argued, U.S. true policy to steer clear of permanent alliances with any portion of the foreign world. Instead, the U.S. may safely trust to temporary alliances for extraordinary emergencies. The great rule of conduct for the U.S. in regard to foreign nations is in extending our commercial relations to have with them as little political connection as possible.
The logic of Washington's advice was to avoid political or economic entangling alliances, foreign economic commitments, or international agreements. Yet this was not considered isolationism. The dilemma poised in trying to reconcile action to deal with actual practical problems with any fundamental doctrine was early shown by President Thomas Jefferson who indeed coined the phrase and warned of "entangling alliances," but who engaged in the war in 1801 against the Barbary pirates who held US sailors for ransom, and decided on military action rather than remain neutral, and also engaged in the Louisiana Purchase in 1803 for $15 million.
Differences on the U.S. role varied throughout its history. The country and President Woodrow Wilson were divided over U.S. policy toward World War I, willingness to participate in it or remain neutral and uninvolved, until the German submarine attacks on U.S. ships and the sinking of the British Lusitania in 1917. Similarly, strong differences were expressed over both participation in the conflict and the conduct of that War, unconditional surrender or early armistice, and on post War policy, the Versailles treaty, the League of Nations, which was rejected by isolationists in the Senate, and about reconstruction of Europe after the war. The crucial issue was the same in 1918 as it remains today, the nature of the role and global reach of the U.S. President Wilson wanted a just peace, based on his 14 points of democracy and self-determination. If internationalists, and the business and financial community wanted a larger global U.S. role, isolationists in the mid-West often descendants of German and Irish immigrants, opposed involvement.
The dilemma remains for the contemporary U.S., the world’s only superpower and leading country with a high GDP and GDP per capita, 80% of financial transactions world-wide, almost 40% of global military spending, generous foreign aid programs, and more than 45 million who were born in foreign countries. The problem for U.S. foreign policy, especially since the end of World War II has been whether to withdraw from complex foreign problems in which the U.S. has no direct interest, or whether to exert influence and become, because of its economic and military might, the dominant force in world affairs.
It is not clear if President Donald Trump has considered the Farewell Address message of George Washington, or has aligned himself in one particular camp, but can he be considered an isolationist? He is not a multiculturalist, has no interest for a policy of humanitarian military intervention or for regime change, and certainly opposes the subsidizing of the armies of other countries at U.S. expense. He has pulled out of the Trans-Pacific Partnership, the Paris Climate Change agreement, and the UN Human Rights Council.
The resignation of Mattis immediately followed the statement by Trump on December 19, 2018 that he intended to pull all 2,000 U.S. troops out of Syria, and 7,000, half of the total stationed there, from Afghanistan. Mattis was critical of the decision, but spoke in a broader way, of the need to maintain strong alliances and partnerships and of the need to treat allies with respect. He wrote that while the U.S. remains the indispensable nation in the free world, the armed forces of the U.S. should not be the policeman of the world. Instead, the U.S. should use all tools of American power to provide for the common defense, including providing effective leadership to our alliances.
This statement may or may not imply that Trump’s withdrawal of troops is a policy of isolationism. Yet, in spite of his powerful nationalist rhetoric, “Make America Great Again,” Trump’s policies do not resemble those of the isolationists of the 1930s, say the America First group, with attitude of neutrality towards Hitler. Perhaps the best summation of Trump’s not consistent remarks was that of French Ambassador Francois Delattre who thought that Trump policy was a strange mixture of unilateralism and isolationism, one in which the U.S. does not seek to be the last resort or enforcer of international order, though he continues to support NATO.
It is worth examining Trump’s explanation for his decision to withdraw from Syria.
He claimed his only reason for being there during the Trump presidency was to defeat ISIS in Syria and this had been done. For him the U.S. mission was over. Here the evidence is mixed. In December 2018 ISIS had lost Hajin, its last urban stronghold in Syria. ISIS has lost 95% of the territory it controlled in 2014 and is no longer controls more than a very small amount of territory along the Euphrates in Syria or in Iraq, but 2,500 of its forces are still there and they are likely to return to insurgent tactics or use Syria for global operations.
Whatever the reality of the future activities of ISIS, and differences remain on whether U.S. troops in Syria are vital to national security interests, it is difficult to define Trump as an isolationist because of his concern about military entanglements, their high financial cost and casualties. Nor does it mean that the U.S. will lose its credibility on the world stage or as a leader in the fight against terrorism. It is not self-evident that Trump’s decision to withdraw troops will embolden the insurgency.
However, the result of Trump’s action is unpredictability in relation to action by and towards Turkey, and Iran. It is crucial that Turkey be prevented from launching an offensive against Kurds, the Syrian Democratic Forces YPG, an ally of the U.S. which fought ISIS and lost 1,500 doing so, but which Turkey labels “terrorist organizations.” Turkey persists in regarding this group in northern Syria as an extension of the PKK, the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, a separatist group in Turkey itself.
In any case, the ambivalent U.S.-Turkish relationship has to be resolved irrespective of the Kurdish issue. Turkey is friendly with Iran and imports gas and oil from it. But it also in October 2018 released the U.S. pastor who had been detained on charges of terrorism. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has bought an S-400 air defense system from Russia, and may buy F-35 jet fighters and Patriot missiles from the U.S. The two countries are presently discussing a 20 mile buffer zone along the Turkish-Syrian border.
It is premature to argue that Trump’s decision means a U.S. retreat from the Middle East or abandonment of allies. Relations with Israel and Saudi Arabia have not deteriorated, nor has the policy of limiting the role or influence of Iran or Hezbollah, in addition with concern about Russia.
For Washington the crucial problem remains: to what degree should the U.S. engage in activities for reasons of national security? Politics is full of difficult choices, and the discussion should focus on the main problem, not on partisan rhetoric or premature pessimism.
It’s Christmas Eve and traditionally carols are sung. We’ve all sung them, or heard them, since we were little children, but how well do you actually know your carols? Let’s see how many of the following questions you can answer without recourse to your hymnal or song book (or a well known search engine).
1) When the cattle lowed what didn’t Jesus do?
2) After you’ve struck the harp what else are you supposed to do?
3) When you’ve risen there are two more things that you’re instructed to do. What are they?
4) What appeared in flesh?
5) What did they want in a cup?
6) What did the angels touch when they bent?
7) What came from the east and was given to the earth?
8) Who quaked?
9) How many pipers piping?
10) What was The Dayspring exhorted to do?
11) What did the bark taste of?
12) What should be swungen?
13) (a) What was offered and (b) what was mine?
14) In order, name all the carols used in the previous questions.
There will be answers to every part of the quiz after the New Year.
There will be a small prize for the first person, drawn at random, who correctly answers all, or the most, questions in the whole quiz and emails me their answers to
If you missed it, you can find Part One of the Prize Christmas Quiz here.
Jesus Christ is our spiritual king, the emperor of our souls, and of course there is the story of the three Kings—the three wise men—that is traditionally a part of Christmas (see the Gospel of Matthew Ch. 2 for the Adoration of the Magi). The kings and emperors in my next set of questions all hoped that they were doing their Christian duty. The main event in each question happened on the twenty-third of December in their various years, which is, of course, today’s date and the last Sunday in this year’s Advent-tide.
1) On the twenty-third of December in AD 1688 the last Roman Catholic monarch of Scotland landed at a small port in north-west France.
(a) What did Napoleon I plan to do from there?
(b) What did Pluto have to do with this town?
2) The following is an extract from a famous poem extolling the virtues of Bohea and published in AD 1700:
“BY Avon's Stream (the Muses calm Retreat)
Palaemon liv'd in his un-envy'd Seat,
None better knew, or practis'd, in his Cell
The chast Delights that with Retirement dwell.
And thus confin'd to Safety's humble Sphear,
Desiring Little, had not Much to fear;
Was neither Fortune's Envy, nor her Sport;
Free from the servile Arts of Town or Court,
The nauseous Task, that gen'rous Souls contemn,
Of Knaves Caresses, and Caressing them.
Yet (whether Novelty his Fancy fir'd,
Or some Diviner Pow'r the Thought inspir'd,)
Through Foreign Climates he resolv'd to roam,
And view those Wonders which he read at home.
Most strict Survey in every Realm he made
Of Men and Manners, Policy and Trade;
But none he found, his gentle Soul to please,
Like the Refin'd and Civiliz'd Chinese.
Rich in Improvements of his well-spent Time,
The Bard returns to his own Native Clime:
The Neighb'ring Shepherds, who his Absence mourn'd,
Visit with Joy their wandring Friend return'd.
Short Salutation past, he feasts their Eyes
With pleasing View of Eastern Rarities.
Nature and Art's choice Gift, the Goa-stone,
With Plants and Herbs to Western Swains unknown.
Yet, more surpriz'd, they found their Senses chear'd,
Soon as the Verdant fragrant TEA appear'd;
It's Nature, Use, confus'dly they demand,
What Name it bore? The Product of what Land?
'Twill Time require to have at full exprest
(The Bard reply'd) what you in hast request.
Come to my Bow'r, and I'll inform you there,
What curious Souls must needs be pleas'd to hear.”
. . . and so on for two cantos.
What did two monarchs do to the author of this poem on the twenty-third of December in AD 1692?
How is Psalm 42 connected to the Christmas carol describing the Annunciation to the Shepherds and also to the poem in this question?
3) The Castle of Bliss saw something dreadful happen to Le Balafré on the twenty-third of December in AD 1588.
How was the “Forty-five”, which belonged to a king, involved and who was the king?
What connection through two authors does Le Balafré have to the Right Honourable Lawrence, Earl of Rochester?
4) A well-loved and very brave king, who succeeded to his throne on the twenty-third of December, AD 1909, once said in pointing out the risks in abandoning Christian ideals in his country: “Every time society has distanced itself from the Gospel, which preaches humility, fraternity, and peace, the people have been unhappy. . ." This same king also refused to comply with a great empire’s demand that its troops be allowed safe passage through his country and so the United Kingdom of Great Britain was forced to go to war over that issue, amongst others.
What does the city of Lumbashi have to do with this king’s wife?
What did the Tiwa, or Tigua, peoples of New Mexico give to this king?
Why was this king’s wife awarded the title Righteous Among the Nations by the Israeli government?
5) On the twenty-third of December in AD 962 this Mohammedan occupied city was stormed by a victorious Christian general who became known and feared as ‘The Pale Death of the Saracens’ and who went on to become an emperor. By his side was his nephew, another future emperor. They razed the city to the ground and killed or enslaved all the Mohammedan inhabitants, carrying off several tons of silver dirhams (a coin of the primitive currency of the Mohammedans) that had been amassed by extorting Christians and Jews, together with thousands of camels and mules and much more treasure besides. Most importantly they retrieved and carried off the ancient and tattered tunic of the Forerunner.
What is the name of the city that was razed?
How is the ‘Pale Death of the Saracens’ linked to Herod Antipas (Herod the King)?
Why is his nephew important to Mount Athos?
There will be answers to every part of the quiz after the New Year.
There will be a small prize for the first person, drawn at random, who correctly answers all, or the most, questions and emails me their answers to
You may email your answers to each section as you finish it or save them all up and email me the lot when the quiz is complete, but don’t lose your answers in the meantime if you choose to do the latter.
Even if you don’t manage to answer every question, or think that you might have got some wrong answers, do still join in and send me your entry – you might still win.
In the spirit of Christmas I’ll tell you what the small prize is on Christmas Day – after all, one shouldn’t open one’s presents early.
What is behind the Gilet Jaune Insurrection in France? An interview with Nidra Poller
by Jerry Gordon and Rod Reuven Dovid Bryant
For five weeks beginning November 17th, tens of thousands of Gilet Jaunes (Yellow Vests) protesters have wracked Paris and other major French cities each Saturday. Instead of peaceful protests under permits granted by Paris municipal authorities, they rampaged, smashed and burned businesses, and defaced national monuments around Place de l'Étoile. They have torn apart barriers turning them into spears to throw at the police. Police have been advised not to engage in anything other than defensive measures. Some Yellow Vest protesters have reportedly stolen assault weapons from the police. Guy Milliere, a noted French public intellectual referred to this chaotic scene in a Gatestone Institute op-ed as the “Meltdown of France, disdained by President Macron.” Ultimately, Macron, who rushed back to France from the G-20 Meetings in Buenos Aires, gave in to the demands of this leaderless anarchic mob of Yellow Vests—reversing so-called green gas taxes and taxes on pensions. But the mobs wanted more—they also wanted Macron dismissed. Even leaders of the extreme left and extreme right like Jean-Luc Mélenchon and Marine Le Pen, who both believe in a wealth transfer tax, couldn’t budge this leaderless hoard.
The inevitable anti-Semitism undercurrents emerged. A hand-written sign on an overhead skywalk over Auto Route 6 translated from the French read “Macron whores after the Jews”. Fears of Muslim involvement intensified when Cherif Chekatt a former convicted felon, radicalized in prison, screaming “Allah Akbar!” shot and killed five people, injuring 11 at the Strasbourg Christmas Market.
The estimates of the economic damage from the weekly violent protests by over 300,000 Yellow Vests could run to hundreds of millions, maybe billions, of Euros—from loss of tourism during the Christmas and New Year’s holidays and destruction of hundreds of shops and major emporiums. Ironically, French polls show dissonance: 77 percent of the respondents condemn violence, while 85 percent approve what the Yellow Vests are seeking: elimination of low wages and massive transfers of wealth – the dead end of socialism resulting in the inevitable mass poverty most recently seen in Venezuala.
We turned to American ex-pat writer and journalist Nidra Poller living in Paris to speak about what was roiling Paris and major cities in France. Poller urges those concerned about the survival of Western democracies and Judeo-Christian values to bolster civil society alliances against the violent tribalism and Islamist alliances intended to overturn our societies and suborn the rule of law.
Sign on French Autoroute 6: “Macron PUTE A Juifs!!" “Macron whores for the Jews”
Nidra Poller is an American Zionist, a long-term resident in Paris, translator and novelist. Over the past 18 years she has warned about the political warfare of Islamist jihadists, Palestinians and compliant media. She was one of the earliest investigators into the Mohammed al Dura affair that involved France Channel 2 in a decade-long investigation in Israel and series of French trials. Her recent books of note include: Al-Dura: Long Range Ballistic Myth(2014), The Black Flag of Jihad Stalks La République (2015), and the Troubled Dawn of the 21st Century. Poller’s articles have been published in The Wall Street Journal, National Review, FrontPage Magazine, The New York Sun and The New English Review.
Rod: Jerry, we have seen in the last few weeks a lot of chaos and turmoil in France. Many of our English-speaking listeners may or may not know of the details, they have probably seen a couple of articles and reports on TV. But this has a much broader and wider impact on modern democracy and we are going to have a conversation with Nidra Poller about that.
Jerry: Nidra Poller is a long-term friend of eighteen years, a fellow Zionist and defender of Israel. She is also the author of a rather remarkable chronicle called Troubled Dawn of the 21st Century in which are the views that she is about to express on this program. They are remarkable insights, essentially captured in her book. What we are also going to hear is what is going on in Paris and elsewhere in France.
Rod: Jerry, you and I had a show here a while back when we talked about the very complex structure of Islamic chaos, (fitnah) that they have tried to plant throughout the world. Iran is using proxy protest and violence to push their agenda. We need to have people with their eyes wide open and realize that we are living in a different time and in a different society. With social media as it is, society can be easily manipulated. We need to be people with wide open eyes seeing very clearly. I'm hoping this show does that today.
Rod: Nidra Poller, thank you so much for joining us.
Jerry: Guy Millière published a Gatestone Institute op-ed called "Melt-Down in France: Macron's disdain." What is really going on in France, Nidra?
Nidra: I want to start by saying that I do not subscribe to any romantic view of the movement of the Gilets Jaunes, the Yellow Vests. I do not think that anything that's good for us can come from this movement and I'm astonished to see how they have been able to distort public opinion in such a short time. That is what I have been analyzing. Let's take one aspect: Jerry and I know each other as Zionists. For the last eighteen years we have been defending Israel against not just fake news—that the others have suddenly discovered—but the inability of the general public to understand the nature of the conflict between Islam and democracy, with Israel on the frontlines.
Let me tell you something extremely important that you should know about the Gilets Jaunes: their economic vision is Venezuela. When people listen to the first part, they only hear, “Oh, you know, we can't make it on these low wages.” Yes, wages are very low in France. The way people live isn't so bad really, but wages are very low and it's a problem. It's not just a problem for the lower middle class, it's a problem for highly educated people doing highly specialized work. No one has come up with the solution so when the Yellow Vests say “we can't get along on these wages,” everybody jumps in and repeats the message: “They can't get along on these wages! Listen to them! Why don't you listen to them? Can't you hear? Don't you see what they want?”
Well, I listen to what they say after the first part. It's Venezuela. They think that the solution to this problem that no one else has found is simple—we take the money from the rich and give it to the poor. Did we ever see a movement that hates the rich so much that they set fire to a home, a mansion near Place de l’Etoile, with an elderly couple inside? Elderly, maybe my age . . . they set fire to this home with the people inside! They set fire to the bank and the flames went up to the upper floors, where people live. They hate the rich so much. I never ever saw a movement that hates the rich and doesn't end up hating the Jews.
Jerry: Nidra, having said that, the sense we take away is that, if this is indeed France transforming itself into Venezuela, what is the status of its Jewish leadership there and the Jewish community?
Nidra: Well, it's not going that far yet—but that is what those people want. They are a very small minority. I haven't seen any kind of statements of collective Jewish support. Individually, many Jewish thinkers are siding with the Gilets Jaunes, saying this government isn't listening. Okay that's one aspect.
I think, at the most, they had 300,000 people in the whole of France that were active in some way. That has been reduced. The worst was this past Saturday and yet they estimated there were only sixty thousand activists. Violence everywhere, not just in Paris. The Gilets Jaunes are a very small minority. Then the pollsters chime in and, here again, you get “listen to these people that are suffering.” But nothing about Venezuela. So, the poll shows something like seventy-seven percent of the French people back the movement. And eighty-five percent of the people polled say they are against the violence! Are you kidding me? How can they back the movement and be against the violence? Is the movement against the violence? No way. The movement not only accepts the violence, the movement is calling for another day of violence next Saturday.
Anyone within the movement who takes a conciliatory position receives not one but a whole night full of death threats. Threats against them, their husband or wife, their children. The threats come from people in the movement. That's the kind of movement we are dealing with. When you see the scenes of violence you have many people wearing those vests. This movement is totally unorganized. It defines itself as the "Yellow Vests." You put on a yellow vest, you belong. You see them participating in violence or standing around while the violence is being committed, and not leaving.
It's worse than that. On Saturday we had groups from the extreme left, groups from the extreme right, groups from this new Yellow Vest movement and, hold your breath, groups of what they call the “smashers” . . . from the banlieue. I want you to understand that this movement that claims to know better than anyone else how France should be run is using these people as its armed branch, and not disassociating from them, only saying we have to understand people are so angry. What does this mean when you consider how many people, especially in the United States, are under the illusion that this lower middle class . . . that suffers directly from illegal immigration and Islamization . . . that they were the ones that would rise up against Islamization. When things went from bad to worse, they said, watch out there will be Civil War. They would be fighting, the jihadists . . . the punk jihadists as I call them. They thought these people would be in the street fighting them. My friends, they were in the street with them. Do you realize how serious that is? They were in the streets with them, they were looting with them, they were threatening people with them, and they were burning down whatever they could get their hands on with them and today they still don't disassociate themselves. That's why . . . don't count on me to say that you have to listen to their suffering.
Rod: I think that the alarming evidence here points to the fact that there is a history behind this kind of behavior in many different modern societies. That always ends up with a chaotic government shifting toward more antisemitism. I see it as clear as day when you mentioned it.
Nidra: We can spread it to the whole democratic world including the United States. What we are experiencing from the point of view of the jihad strategy is Fitnah. In other words, you attack these democratic countries with what's called terrorist attacks and then you pull back and you just let them start to fall apart.
I'm not a specialist in geopolitics, I'm a novelist and I observed it because when something is happening in front of me I can see the plot and the characters. So let's call it Fitnah. Now let's talk about Gaza because people rush in with comparisons. Our own Minister of the Interior called it la peste brune, the brown shirts are marching. People rush in with comparisons, it's the French Revolution, it's May '68. No, I believe it's Gaza. When you look at the images of Paris, last Saturday . . . it's Gaza. The stupidity is really striking. The stupidity of seeing grown men and women throwing things at the police, swarming the police, pushed back and sprayed with tear gas and water hoses, pushing back . . . all day long. It’s so stupid. They know better than everybody how to run the country . . . and this is how they demonstrate. They learned that from Gaza. There’s this thick black smoke, things burning. I tell you at one-point Saturday I think I saw some of those Yellow Vests try to launch incendiary balloons. I'm not sure, but I think that's what I saw. And the TV commentator said,” oh, they're sending up lanterns, a sign of peace.”
Rod: That is what the Gazans have been doing all this time.
Nidra: And this commentator, Arlette Chabot, wasn’t News Director at France 2 when the al-Durrah hoax was launched but, when she was appointed, she defended Enderlin. When she saw lanterns. I saw incendiary balloons. Another aspect of Gaza is the kind of discourse that we have been trying to counter for the past eighteen years. It is: these people are desperate. Their lives are miserable. They have no other way to express or defend themselves. Israel won't listen. Israel is strong and comfortable. Their citizens are sitting easy, they are the ones who should make concessions. You can watch French TV all day long and hear people from every direction of the political spectrum insisting that concessions that should be made. The other aspect of Gaza is that they only destroy. The people that are demonstrating want more money. They want more money and they have now destroyed so much property and so much economic potential that every single person in this country could have gotten a big Christmas gift. It's incalculable what they have destroyed. They are very narrowly focused. They don't look at the outside world at all. How many people have cancelled their Christmas trips to Paris? Do you think they are going to be strolling on the Champs Elysées?
Rod: I doubt it seriously.
Nidra: The other aspect of the discourse is: we must listen to them, you must make concessions. And they're not accountable for anything. Small businesses and shops, destroyed, Christmas, when they do maximum business, destroyed. We have policemen telling what they experience. “These people want to kill us.” For a long time now, in France, police strategy with this kind of urban warfare or violent demonstration is “no demonstrator should be killed.” So they don't use their force. My friend Richard Landes, who happened to be in Paris, said, “They're getting exactly what they told Israel to do! They called for restraint? Okay these are desperate people that are trying to destroy you, but don't use the full force of your military.” That’s the Gaza comparison.
There's also the Arab Spring comparison. Do you remember how that was covered? “Oh, great here we go . . . this is the Facebook/Twitter generation, look at these wonderful young people. They want democracy, they want freedom. Oh well, it's true, the Muslim Brotherhood has the best organization, but we are not going to let the Muslim Brotherhood take it over. And we ended up with all these Muslim Brotherhood controlled countries. And chaos in Libya. They could criticize Bush, they can even criticize Obama, they can criticize everybody but nobody knows what to do about this yet.
Rod: Nidra, let me ask you a question that I feel that's important. Is anyone in France recognizing that even though we are seeing the ugly head of chaos and rebellion in the society in some way it's got to backfire on these people, don't you agree or no?
Nidra: Backfire I don't know. The government is going to be very active in the coming days. And the government is not just the president and his ministers it's the legislature. Do you know what these people are demanding? They demand concessions before they meet with anybody in the government. The government says, “okay you say we don't listen to you, please come, we want to hear what you have to say.” But they reply, “First you have to make the concessions and then we will come to talk to you.” Any member of the Yellow Vests who says he will talk to the government gets death threats.
Rod: These guys are just wanting chaos and violence. I mean it is protests for the sake of protests. It sounds very much like what we have seen in small pockets here in the United States.
Jerry: Nidra, there have been press reports mainly in English saying that the Macron government is considering a state of emergency to deal with this chaos. What is the reality of that?
Nidra: On the contrary, hardly anyone thinks that we should have a state of emergency. It isn't necessary. The existing law can deal with this. They have already made decisions and one of these decisions is that they if these people insist on coming out into the streets again next Saturday the police, the riot police, the gendarmes and all law enforcement forces will have a different approach, a different strategy. And this time, they warned that if some people get killed don't come back and tell us we should have done this or that.
The things the police describe are really horrifying. For instance, some of these people came with a tool that can cut up the rungs of the crowd-control barriers, they take them apart and sharpen the end into a spear and then throw it at the police. You can be sure the Macron government is scrambling in every direction to figure out how to handle this. I thought Macron's campaign was very deceptive and the candidate [François Fillon] that I considered to be the adult candidate was honest about what would have to be done to put France on the right track economically. The comments all around were: “Oh that's too hard, people don't want to hear that.” Macron made them think that it could happen painlessly. And it can't. Anyway, they don't need to declare a state of emergency. I might emphasize that people have a right to demonstrate, but they don't have a right to demonstrate without declaring the time, the place, the route, etc.
Jerry: Marine Le Pen, what has she said about the Yellow Vests?
Nidra: Oh! Marine Le Pen! Well, of course she wants dissolution [of the legislature] she wants everybody to resign and everything to be dissolved and of course she thinks she should have won the election, and that this time she will win. In November, she was complaining it wasn’t fair because the government wouldn’t let the Gilets Jaunes demonstrate on the Champs Elysées. This week, they were told they could demonstrate on the Champs Elysées so they didn't. They went to l’Etoile. She encouraged them all day long to go ahead, show them [the government] . . . finally, something like seven in the evening, she solemnly called on the Yellow Vests to now leave the Place de l’Etoile. Of course they didn't listen to her in the beginning and ignored her at the end. How could she imagine anyone was listening to her? Still, I have former allies in the United States that defend Marine Le Pen. Jean-Luc Mélenchon is the far left, he is contested in his own party, Marine Le Pen is far right, contested in her own party, and economically they both support socialism. I think these people that tell me I should defend Marine Le Pen don’t know or care about her economic program.
Rod: What is disturbing is we are even seeing it in the politics in the United States with this extreme polarization of political views and ideas neither one of them are very palatable. Most people would not agree with it but, yet they seem to rule the day. It boggles my mind. This needs to be exposed in our post-modern society to bring out the absurdity of these ideas and how they don't work. I would really like to ask you besides electing you president of the world what would you suggest that the listener do to be more conscious and aware of what's going on around them in their own societies and culture as well as in Israel?
Nidra: Yes, because there is a crisis in our democracies which we could see as the failure to deal with the jihad strategy. Instead of facing up to it, our societies are in deep crisis and people within our societies are turning against each other. This is much further advanced in the United States than in Europe. I say to my friends in America, don't gloat over what's happening to us. The only solution is for our democracies to become more intelligent not less intelligent, more democratic and less tribal. And we can’t have our people acting like Islamists—they are saying these people [Gilets Jaunes] are totally right, the government must do whatever they demand. It’s totalitarian.
Nidra: This is what I have been struggling with for eighteen years… observing and writing to help people see clearly. And this eruption of the Yellow Vests—it just shows us how critical the situation is. Because many people who were seeing clearly about a lot of things immediately fell into this trap. Immediately. We must remember that whether it's Gaza or Syrians or black people or poor people or women who are saying that they are abused, there is always some truth to the complaints. There is always some truth to it and the trap is to just grab onto the truth and then ignore everything else.
Rod: Are you intimating or saying that what we need to be careful with moral social outrage in situations. However, there are Islamists, there are certain elements within our cultures, within our democracies that want to use that as an instrument, a tool to bring down or tear up our democracies. Is that what you are saying?
Nidra: Yes. Always, in any collectivity there are gripes, there is injustice. Excuse me, but the people want to do away with injustice should choose another planet. Injustice is our human condition. So what do you do with injustice? How did we react to the Shoah? Do you know of a greater injustice, collectively, that happened to any human group? How did we react? We built, we rebuilt, we rededicated ourselves to life. There are always some people that would like to destroy everything and the question with any society is how do you keep them quiet and off to the side and not bring them in to the center and give them the power. And that's the test.
Rod: What is the name of the book that you wrote and why it's so important for our listeners to read?
Nidra:. Troubled Dawn of the 21st Century includes a chronicle that I started on September 30, 2000. When I saw what was happening then in France, saw in a flash, and then followed it step by step. That’s when I started to publish in all kinds of media. It's important to read that now, and understand better what happened then to understand what's happening now.
Rod: We are going to have to go. I'm so sorry, we are out of time. I wish we had two hours with you Nidra Poller. Thank you so much for being such a wonderful guest on the show. You have been listening to Beyond the Matrix here on Israel News Talk Radio. Shalom.
Listen to the Israel News Talk Radio -Beyond the Matrix interview with Nidra Poller
Just in Time for Hanukkah, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez Remembers Her Jewish Roots (Part One)
by Hugh Fitzgerald
Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the much-ballyhooed new — and at 29, the youngest ever — member of the House of Representatives, recently announced, at a celebration in Queens on the last day of Hanukkah, that she has Jewish — Sephardic — ancestry. She claims that she is a descendant of Sephardic Jews who fled Spain during the Inquisition, and made it to Puerto Rico. How many Sephardic Jews there are in her family tree, and what percentage of her ancestry, is “Sephardic Jewish,” she did not make public. Only she and ancestry.com — or some similar group — know for sure.
Why, one wonders, did she raise this only now? Why not have mentioned it when running for Congress from New York, to appeal to some Jewish voters, and to try to immunize herself from criticism for the ill-informed remarks about Israel that she made during an interview with Margaret Hoover of Firing Line on July 18?
For let us remember what Ocasio-Cortez, a self-styled “progressive” — a word which nowadays, alas, often suggests a palpable want of sympathy for Israel — said in that interview on July 18. She described Israel’s presence in the West Bank as an “occupation.” That word implies that Israel has no claim to the West Bank, save as a military occupier. This would put the West Bank on the same level as Occupied Japan (to which the United States made no permanent claim), Occupied France (to which Nazi Germany had only the claim of military conqueror), or Occupied Berlin, divided into four sectors under the control of the United States, Britain, France, and the Soviet Union, with all four countries seen as temporary military occupiers, having no permanent claim on Berlin.
But Israel’s claim to the West Bank is not solely, or even mainly, that of a military occupier. It has two separate and very strong claims to all of the land on the west side of the Jordan River.. The first claim is based on the Mandate for Palestine itself. The entire territory of the West Bank (as the Jordanians deliberately renamed those parts of Judea and Samaria that they held at the end of the 1948-49 war) was originally included in the territory allocated to the Mandate for Palestine, which had been created for the sole purpose of establishing the Jewish National Home. It was well understood that eventually that Jewish National Home would become the Jewish state. The only reason the entire West Bank was not originally included in the new state of Israel is that the Jordanian army managed to hold onto part of it when hostilities ended in 1949. Had Israel been in possession of all of the West Bank at the end of those hostilities, that would have been the end of the matter. The Jordanian claim, unlike that of Israel, was based only on it being a military occupier of part of the West Bank from 1949 to 1967. By their military victory in 1967, the Israelis were at long last able to enforce their pre-existing legal claim, which had been established in1922, by the provisions of the Mandate itself.
A second, and independent claim, to the West Bank by Israel is that which arises out of the language of U.N. Security Council Resolution 242. That resolution, as its author Lord Caradon, the British ambassador to the U.N., repeatedly made clear, did not require Israel to return all of the territory it had won in the “recent conflict” (the Six-Day War of June 1967). Lord Caradon described Israel’s pre-1967 lines as impermanent armistice lines, reflecting only where the Israeli and Arab troops were located at that moment when the armistice went into effect. He further described those lines as “a rotten border,” and for good measure added “you couldn’t have a worse line for a permanent international boundary.” In other words, there should be no forcing Israel back into the1949 armistice lines. Despite Lord Cardamon’s insistence on the meaning of the resolution, the Arab states kept trying to claim that Resolution 242 required Israel to withdraw “from all the territories” it had just seized. Lord Cardamon said, heatedly, that the Resolution most definitely did not mean that; if he had intended to mean that he would have written it that way; he deliberately wrote instead “from territories” taken in the recent conflict.
Furthermore, Israel was entitled to withdraw to “secure and recognized boundaries.” And who would decide what constituted “secure” boundaries? That could only be Israel itself. During the Johnson administration, a group of high-ranking American officers, asked to study the military significance of the territories Israel had won in the war, concluded that for the security of the state, given its tiny size, and its 8-mile-wide waist from Qalqilya to the sea, certain changes were indispensable, including Israel’s military control of the Judean hills, and permanent retention of the West Bank.
I am convinced that Ocasio-Cortez has not studied either the Mandate for Palestine or Resolution 242, as elucidated by its author Lord Caradon. Nor has she studied the topography of the West Bank. She admitted at the end of her interview with Martha Hoover that she was “not the expert on geopolitics on this issue.”
That was clear. For after mentioning the “occupation of Palestine,” she delivered herself of judgments about “an increasing crisis of humanitarian condition.” [sic] What crisis is that? Was she referring to the “crisis” in “Palestinian” civil society because all of the leaders, whether of Hamas or of the Palestinian Authority, have helped themselves to billions of dollars in diverted aid? Mahmoud Abbas and his two sons have accumulated a family fortune of at least $400 million. Recently Abbas used $50 million in aid money — while “Palestinian” propaganda proclaims the dire condition of the “Palestinian people” — to buy himself a private jet. Abu Marzook, one of the main leaders of Hamas, has accumulated a private fortune of $2.5 billion. Khaled Meshaal, the recently “retired” leader of Hamas’s political wing, has outdone even that, with a fortune, according to Arab sources, of from $2.5 to $5 billion. He doesn’t bother to live in Gaza; his longest visit there lasted four days. This “Palestinian” leader prefers his cosseted existence in a mansion in Qatar. Mohammed Rashid, the financial advisor to the late Yasser Arafat, has a fortune of $500 million. Arafat himself had at one time a fortune of $3 billion; at his death, billions seem to have disappeared. Does Ocasio-Cortez know about any of that? Someone should let her know.
Does Ocasio-Cortez know that Israeli hospitals treat “Palestinian” and other Arab patients with the best possible medical care, often for free? She might want to see the Arabs filling the charity wards at Hadassah Hospital in Jerusalem. Does she know about the hundreds of Muslim Arabs from Syria who have been treated for free in Israeli hospitals? Or the humanitarian aid sent by Israel to civilians in Syria? Is she aware of the truckloads of medical supplies that Israel attempted to send to Gaza last May, but Hamas prevented those trucks from entering the Kerem Shalom crossing, preferring that ordinary Gazans suffer rather than be helped by aid from Israel? Hamas benefits by the suffering of the very people it claims to lead; such suffering provides good copy for anti-Israel propaganda. Few in the international media report on Israel’s attempt to supply, and Hamas’s preventing, such aid from reaching Gazans.
In her PBS interview, Ocasio-Cortez said that “what people are starting to see, at least in the occupation of Palestine, is just an increasing crisis of humanitarian condition. That, to me, is just where I tend to come from on this issue.” I don’t quite know what she means here. Does she mean that she can’t be bothered to read up on this matter, on what the Mandate for Palestine was intended to achieve, or what Resolution 242 was all about? All she knows is that she’s been told that people — “Palestinians” — are suffering from a “humanitarian” crisis. She doesn’t know how that “crisis” began, but a little googling would tell her that Hamas whips up civilians to protest, to riot, and to throw Molotov cocktails and other explosives into Israel, and to let loose incendiary kites that have already burned up thousands of acres in Israel, all part of an attempt to breach Israel’s security fence. She does not know, and has not tried to find out, that Israel tries to supply humanitarian aid to civilians in Gaza, but Hamas, wanting that “humanitarian crisis,” blocks that aid.
by Liddy -------, from a labor camp in Siberia, 1930
Tonight on Christmas Eve
All my thoughts rush into the distance
Searching for the loved ones
who will gather around.
But I am alone as twilight falls;
A black line of evergreens on white snow
Crawls into the night.
I whisper a Christmas carol,
But there are no church bells ringing,
No Christmas trees and no candles glowing.
But look! Before my eyes, as if in a dream,
Christmastime past surrounds me.
People, precious and familiar, peek out from behind
the tree with laughter and merry Christmas greetings.
I greet you in return; for a moment I am free and joyful.
I greet you too, my beloved homeland,
and remain faithful to your memory!
(The author of the poem was from Riga, Latvia. During the Russian Civil War when the Reds came into Riga, Latvia they took the wives of some of the town’s prominent citizens and held them as hostages to insure the good behavior of the town. Later, the town fell under the control of the Whites, but the Bolsheviks held on to their hostages just the same. Above is a sketch by Edvard Soloft showing the hostages entering a prison in Moscow in June, 1919.)
Some Predictions for the Year to Come in Canada and the US
Trudeau will lose his majority, but still eke out a victory over Scheer. The NDP will suffer a near-death experience (richly deserved).
by Conrad Black
It is time for a few predictions for 2019. I’ll confine myself to political and economic matters. The economic picture in Canada will be satisfactory enough as we receive the customary spinoff from a continuing full-employment, non-inflationary economic boom in the U.S. That economy will grow at about three per cent (an additional US$700 billion of GDP, while the population grows by only half of one per cent). The U.S. workforce will continue to expand and the only unemployed people will be those changing jobs. The U.S. trade deficit will shrink by 50 per cent, energy imports will continue to decline, the federal deficit will be reduced by about a third. No one will remember the Obama “new normal” of flat-lined disposable income in buying power for the middle and working classes, two-per-cent economic growth at best, and the accompanying shrinkage of the work force, trillion-dollar federal deficits, and rising crime rates. With the Trump boom, Canadian public finances would have to be very severely mismanaged for this country not to do tolerably well. In keeping with Canada’s frequent incongruities in the appreciation of our fortunes, we will not moderate our disdain for President Trump, and will also fail to see that he is chiefly responsible for Canada’s relatively high standard of living.
Trump … is chiefly responsible for Canada’s relatively high standard of living
It is relatively high, but it is impossible to be optimistic about Canada overhauling some of the countries whose standards of living (GDP divided by the population) have surged ahead of ours in the past 20 years, such as Ireland, the Netherlands, Germany, Taiwan, Australia, and Austria. These setbacks have all been due to mismanagement in both the private and public sectors in this country. Fifty years ago, Ireland and Taiwan were poverty-stricken and had never known anything but poverty; Germany and the Netherlands had been rebuilt after the war, but the Dutch, like the Austrians, have almost no resources and Germany has had to assimilate the dead weight of the Communist economic and sociological basket case of East Germany. Australia is rich and unscarred by war, but not as rich as Canada, less populated, and not on the doorstep of the world’s greatest market. To be fair, the World Economic Forum (a distinctly fallible and in some respects ludicrous organization, but statistically thorough), rates Canada’s quality of life as exceeded only by Finland. All the G7 countries are in the Top 20, according to their three criteria: basic human needs (medical care, housing, sanitation); foundations of well-being (education and technology); and opportunity (social equality, legal system, general fairness).
These quality of life estimations are somewhat arbitrary: a great many inhabitants of such great historic metropolitan centres as London, Paris, New York and Rome, would consider most of prize-winning Scandinavian life barbarous for its lack of world celebrities resident or passing through, and absence of highest quality museums, art galleries, opera companies or sports franchises. This debate need not be conducted here; it suffices that Canada by the usual criteria ranks very highly, and always has, and its leading cities, even by the most sophisticated standards, are very respectable. It is a splendid country, as we all know. But economically, we have lost ground, which is regrettable in itself, unnecessary, and potentially conducive to apologia-based theories that wealth is mitigated by evenness of distribution and that Canada is, the prime minster has said, a “post-national” country. Wealth and income disparity are legitimate issues, but we must be wary of weak excuses for inadequate economic growth, which is all that raises prosperity and finances creativity and all comforts.
We must be wary of weak excuses for inadequate economic growth
There is, of course, no such thing as a post-national country, and nor should any such concept be aspired to or even accepted. There are scores of pre-national countries; sovereign countries that have emerged from disbanded colonial empires or have languished as isolated sovereign states for long periods (Myanmar, Liberia, Paraguay), or been patched together in the chancelleries of the Great Powers without a thought to the ethnic and demographic facts on the ground. (All the countries created after the First World War have disintegrated: Czechoslovakia, Yugoslavia, Syria and Iraq.) Canada has been at it for over 150 years, longer than any large country with continuous political institutions except the United Kingdom and the U.S.A. We have much to be proud of in our ancestors and ourselves, as well as to be grateful for in our circumstances, and post-nationalism could throw a lot of it away.
French President Emmanuel Macron took a shot at President Trump, in his presence, on the centenary of the end of the First World War, on Nov. 11: “Nationalism is the corruption of patriotism.” He was almost immediately repudiated by his countrymen, who rioted and struck against the asinine concept of paying increased taxes on gasoline and home fuel, to pay France’s bloated social costs, all in the chimerical cause of saving the world from climate change. France was one of the founding Great Powers at the dawn of the nation state, with Britain, Spain and Turkey, and is the politically serious champion of the revolution and the coup d’état, having had nine between 1789 and 1871, and three republics and four other provisional or exile regimes since then (as well as the joys of Nazi occupation). Paris has seen it all, and it is the bellwether of sophisticated political opinion. It is not buying post-nationalism.
Paris has seen it all, and it … is not buying post-nationalism
The point of this apparent excursion from predictions is that the whole concept of what is Canada’s goal and direction is central to the federal election we will have next October. The Liberals have moved far enough left and the NDP leader (elevated after the shameful betrayal of Thomas Mulcair, a man of stature with whom I had my disagreements) is so completely unserviceable in his role that the NDP can be almost eliminated. The Conservatives have not had a leader who can lift the country’s spirits since Brian Mulroney at his strongest, and Andrew Scheer is no barnburner or stemwinder, but he’s not Joe Who (Clark) or Bob Stanfield dropping a football or eating a banana, or the terminally desiccated Stephen Harper either. Quebec will not deliver to Justin as it did to leaders it deeply admired: Wilfrid Laurier, Ernest Lapointe (as the virtual co-premier with W.L.M. King), Louis St. Laurent and Pierre Trudeau, who all carried that province en bloc. He is more like Jean Chrétien, of whom Quebec was never proud, and Scheer will gain 10 MPs in Quebec. There will not be more than three or four Liberals elected between the Lakehead and the Rocky Mountains. The far west will be closely divided between the three parties, and outside Ontario, the Conservatives will have a slight lead. I predict that Justin will lose his majority, but probably come in a nose ahead of Andrew Scheer, as his father did against Bob Stanfield in 1972. The Liberals will always outbid the Conservatives for the support of the NDP, who will suffer a near-death experience (richly deserved). But Justin and his entourage will not play that hand with anything like the cunning and panache that Pierre-E. and Jim Coutts and Michael Pitfield did.
In other countries: it will be a squeaker in the U.K., but Theresa May will lose her Brexit bill in Parliament, Brussels will make last-minute further concessions, and she will, tumultuously and by a hair’s breadth, get it through. It will be a two-tier Europe: a common market for all and political integration for those who want it — essentially Germany, the Baltic countries, Czechs, Poles, Austrians, and Dutch: the Grosse Deutschland of Bismarck, but by magnetic attraction and not by force. In the United States, the Democrats will not after all be so foolish as to try to turn the smutty nonsense wrung by New York prosecutors from the corrupt plea bargain system over Stormy and the Playboy Bunny emerita into an impeachment trial. Robert Mueller’s inquiry has just been an exercise in tormenting Paul Manafort with consecutive life sentences in solitary confinement on bread and water (until Trump commutes them), and every few months indicting another 10 names out of the Moscow telephone directory. The report will try to be righteous but will vanish in the political air of Washington, which has inhaled greater olfactory challenges. Donald Trump will get serious trade concessions from China and a nuclear non-proliferation agreement from North Korea. In the course of the year, there will be a race between his considerable policy successes and the weariness of the country with his schtick. But that is a matter for predictions a year from now.
Merry Christmas to all and may we all have a happy and successful 2019.
Under Obama, we had troops in Syria trying to overthrow Assad. Trump changed the mission to simply defeating ISIS. At this point, those few troops were increasingly vulnerable to attack from Iran which would pull us into great big mess of a war. Do we want a war with Iran? Do we want a war with Russia? Do we really care if Assad stays in power for now?
Trump's choice was likely to either send more troops or pull out. If he had sent more troops, that would likely have been the first step in an expensive involvement both in lives and treasure - for what goal? The kneejerk reaction to oppose Russia in any and all things no matter what the cost is not an intelligent policy.
Will ISIS grow back in Syria the way they did in Iraq? Not with Assad now re-asserting control over the country. Iraq had a very weak government. In Syria, Assad, backed by Russia and Iran will mop up the remainder of ISIS.
Do we give up our seat at the table during peace negotiations? Yes, but having that seat would likely be expensive in terms of re-construction of Syria. Why not let Russia foot this bill? Let Russia's coffers be drained by Syria, the way ours have been drained by Iraq.
Trump's philosophy seems to be to allow the local stakeholders fight it out until some sort of stability is naturally achieved. Is this wrong?
Afghanistan is another lost cause. How can we save Muslims from the natural result, that is, the violence and war, their Islamic culture naturally engenders? Trump is concluding we can't. He will likely switch from the forlorn hope for Islamic cultural transformation to the grim necessity of its containment.
Trump is a natural strategic thinker. He keeps our main national goals in mind and is not seduced by ever shifting tactical goals the way so many pundits and military men are.
Khaled Beydoun: The Saudi Regime Does Not Represent Islam (Part Two)
by Hugh Fitzgerald
He has also liberalized Saudi society. It may seem from a Western perspective to be a minor matter, but it was huge for the Saudis: giving women the right to drive represents an enormous step forward, in curbing the misogyny of mainstream Islam. At the same time, recognizing that he would have to proceed cautiously so as not to alienate the reactionary religious establishment, and even some conservative family members, Mohammed bin Salman (MBS) did have some women activists arrested. Not content with the freedom to drive, they had been demanding more reforms, such as giving women the right to vote. MBS likely shares their desires, but he wishes to proceed more cautiously. He has to worry, as the activists do not, about a conservative backlash.
Finally, MBS has made clear, with his plans for a $500 billion Economy City, or NEOM, that this is one of his mega projects designed to reshape the Kingdom and its economy.”We try to work only with the dreamers,” the crown prince told investors in Riyadh. “This place is not for conventional people or companies.”
Plans call for the city to be powered entirely by renewable energy, while also making use of automated driving technology and passenger drones. MBS must become less dependent on oil. He would also like to encourage a work ethic among Saudis, many of whom are used to 3-4 hour work days in government offices, while the real work in the Kingdom is done by a vast army of foreigners. To change Saudi work habits remains a tall order.
Khashoggi, who represented honesty and evenhandedness, courage and the possibility of journalistic freedom in a nation entirely devoid of it, offered the world a living counterexample of what it meant to be Saudi. He was proud of both his faith and his national origins; his work and his very being stood as an affront to the Saudi regime and the assent of its unpredictable strongman, Mohammed bin Salman.
Khashoggi’s brave journalism was inspired in great part by Islam, and indicting it on account of the vile actions of the Saudi regime, is a double injustice: first, to the memory of a courageous journalist, who post-mortem will continue to symbolise the quest for a journalistic freedom wholly denied in Saudi Arabia; and second, to a global religion that stands apart from the vile actions of the Saudi regime, or any single state or government that wields it to further its earthly objectives.’
No one, despite Beydoun’s insistence, is “indicting [Islam] on account the vile actions of the Saudi regime.” Bedouin need not worry. All criticism has been directed, as it should be, to MBS and, in some cases, to his father as well.
Beydoun’s praise of Khashoggi does leave out the fact that he was not exactly “evenhanded” when it came to Israel, where his opposition to the Jewish state never wavered. Indeed, one of his main reasons for opposing MBS was the latter’s willingness to enter into an informal alliance with Israel against Iran. Khashoggi was no secularist, either. He had been a member of the Muslim Brotherhood since the 1970s, and he remained a supporter of that organization. He stood by Mohamed Morsi, the Muslim Brotherhood’s presidential candidate in Egypt, whom real secularists deplored.
It is not clear why Beydoun declares that Khashoggi’s journalism was “inspired in great part by Islam.” The Western democratic ideal is that a government’s legitimacy depends on whether it follows the will of the people, however imperfectly expressed in elections. The Islamic ideal is that a government’s legitimacy depends on whether the ruler follows the will of Allah, as expressed in the Qur’an. The ruler may or may not be a despot, but he must be a good Muslim. Khashoggi supported democracy as a way to bring about Islamic rule, as had happened in Egypt with Mohamed Morsi.
Beydoun refers to the ‘“vile actions of the Saudi regime.” That is one thing we can all agree on. Murdering Khashoggi was indeed a “vile action.” But Beydoun’s belief that Islam itself is being blamed, and not Saudi Arabia, or the Saudi royals, is simply not true. He claims that Saudi Arabia has made itself synonymous with Islam. Saudi Arabia might well have wanted that, but it simply hasn’t happened. There are hundreds of articles online about Khashoggi’s murder that castigate not Islam, but only MBS, his underlings, and in some cases, King Salman.
It is Beydoun himself who raises the issue of blaming the faith because, he claims, the powerful Saudis have persuaded the world that their country represents the true Islam. But who believes that outside of Saudi Arabia? No Westerner, and very few Muslims, thinks that because the Saudis control Mecca and Medina, and have spent tens of billions paying for Wahhabi mosques and imams around the world, they have become the de facto leaders of the Camp of Islam. Does Erdogan think that Saudi Arabia represents Islam? Does the Ayatollah Khamenei? The Saudi writ does not run very far, not beyond the handful of Gulf Arab states that have joined Saudi Arabia in attempting — so far without success — to change Qatar’s pro-Iranian and pro-Muslim Brotherhood policies. Just how powerful can Saudi Arabia be if it can’t bring even tiny Qatar to heel?
Though there was plenty to admire about Khashoggi, there was also plenty to deplore. His deep animus toward Israel, his support for the Muslim Brotherhood, his underestimating the need for MBS to proceed with social reforms — especially more rights for women — at a cautious pace that would not cause a rebellion among the religious, are in the debits column. But in the column of credits, there is Khashoggi’s remarkable bravery in continuing to criticise a regime that, as he well knew, did not take such criticism lightly, though just how far it was prepared to go to shut down his voice must, on the afternoon of October 2, have astonished even him.
As the year ends, the Trump legal drama winds down towards its tawdry end. The immense fraudulent fantasy of a Benedict Arnold on steroids collaborating with a foreign enemy, a Manchurian Candidate “groomed for the presidency by his Russian controllers,” has come down to a squalid dispute between the president, his crooked former lawyer, and the publisher of the National Enquirer over the nature of incentivizing the pre-electoral silence of a porn star and a former Playboy bunny.
The slab-faced, trim and grim Robert Mueller, closing in like a heat-seeking missile on the start of the third year of the most ineffective and redundant investigation in history, could be a brilliant straight man, desperately serious and purposeful as he silently marches across our television screens every night in reruns of the same old news film in the elaborate pretense that he is doing something useful and important. It is the same pattern as the Clinton investigation, which began with the financial improprieties of Whitewater and meandered around to checking the president’s semen against a White House intern’s carefully preserved dress. The lust to tear down a president leads ostensibly serious and responsible people to act contemptibly, and ultimately to become absurd.
Many of the president’s enemies do not, cannot possibly, realize what is happening to them. It was well known long before he became president of the United States that Donald Trump was, by traditional standards, a somewhat déclassé character. As an impresario, he had sheared the hair off Vince McMahon, founder of World Wrestling Entertainment, before 90,000 people at the Pontiac Silverdome (but has compensated by making the temporarily glabrous McMahon’s wife the administrator of the Small Business Administration). His divorces and courtships prior to his relationship with Melania Trump were massively and often rather tastelessly publicized, and his entire public personality intentionally offends half the people, while amusing or pleasing the other half by his irreverence and disdain for the pompous, the indecisive, and the mealy-mouthed categories that enfold the majority of politicians. As president, Donald Trump has considerably moderated his formerly outlandish behavior. He often looks and sounds more like a president than George W. Bush referring to the country of “eye-rack” (Iraq), President Carter sitting in a cardigan beside a roaring fire in the White House fireplace telling the country to turn down its thermostats in the “national malaise” speech, some of the antics of Lyndon Johnson, or even Gerald Ford falling down the steps of Air Force One.
The country knew what it was getting with Donald Trump; the fact that he affronted scores of millions of Americans pleased a numerous enough mass of other Americans to elect him. His enemies attacked savagely, invented the Russian-collusion nonsense, have been forced off that ledge, and are now scruffing around in the gutter with this bunk about paying off indiscreet female claimants of former intimacy. It is very hard to make a serious claim that the payments to them were campaign contributions, or that anyone but Trump ultimately paid the money, but impossible to take the word of Michael Cohen and the publisher of the National Enquirer, David Pecker, over that of the president to an extent that meets the required threshold of being “beyond a reasonable doubt.” And no one with the slightest acquaintance with American history or jurisprudence could conclude that whatever Mr. Trump did with or about these women (no coercion of or contemporary payments to the women are alleged), it amounts to the “high crimes and misdemeanors” stipulated by the Constitution for removal from office of a president. The point is that Trump has actually raised his game appreciably as a president and his enemies have descended to a nether region of depravity and imbecility that he never, even in the least edifying moments of his astonishing career, came close to excavating: Not Trump University, not some of the unfortunate properties bearing the Trump name, not Trump’s health plan (what he called “cutting edge health and wellness formulas . . . to achieve the American dream,” but was in fact $1,080 for twelve bottles of vitamins and two urinalyses per year) — it was never more or less than ludicrous hucksterism straining the ambit of the phrase caveat emptor.
In assaulting him, the political elite has abased itself. Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama and their chief collaborators invented the Russian canard, dispatched the intelligence services and Justice Department, including the FBI, to put meat on the bones of this fraud, tried to legitimize the monstrous malicious fabrications and defamations of the Steele dossier, and are now trying to maintain their threadbare credibility by inciting their congressional and media lackies to amplify completely pedestrian tales of sexual dalliances. Even these facts are contested and unprovable, and in any case unexceptionable, and no one’s business but the Trumps’, and POTUS and FLOTUS have obviously sorted it out between themselves. There isn’t even a vivid image to play to the prurient howling mobs, such as Bill Clinton being fellated by an intern in the Oval Office while smoking a Freudian cigar and conducting official business on the telephone. (There was nothing illegal about that either, but it wasn’t an image builder in Norman Rockwell’s America.)
A clear indication that the Washington political elite has lost its collective mind was furnished on Tuesday when federal district judge Emmet Sullivan implied General Michael Flynn had committed treason by being an undeclared agent of a NATO ally (albeit a wayward ally — Turkey), an offense he apparently committed but which has not been officially charged. The other headliner was fired FBI director Jim Comey claiming memory loss regarding the events of two years ago 245 times before the House Judiciary Committee, denying any responsibility for the public-relations problems of the Bureau, disputing that his political biases influenced his performance in office, and telling a New York audience that the future of the country depended on throwing Trump out of office in 2020. J. Edgar Hoover, “the nation turns its lonely eyes to you.”
All of these attacks — on the Trump charities, the Trump inauguration committee, and by the two angry (and greedy) women — is piffle. The president can’t lose this match politically, and as his opponents have descended beneath him, he has already won morally.
Khaled Beydoun: The Saudi Regime Does Not Represent Islam (Part One)
by Hugh Fitzgerald
Khaled Beydoun, author of a preposterous book about “Islamophobia,” has taken to the pages of Al Jazeera (the media mouthpiece of the government of Qatar, now at daggers drawn with Saudi Arabia) to deplore what he sees as blaming Islam for the murder of Khashoggi.
The Khashoggi affair is yet another reason for the world to abandon the assumption that the kingdom represents Islam.
The recent disappearance of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi has the world’s fingers pointed in the direction of the Saudi government, specifically at its de-facto leader, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman….
And where Saudi Arabia is the subject of wrongdoing, Islam stands alongside it. Collaterally implicated and indicted as the source of the vile actions taken by a government that, since its inception as a sovereign state, has been popularly anointed as the living embodiment of the religion.
This, again, was the case with the Khashoggi affair. The unknown whereabouts of the journalist, widely regarded to be among the most courageous indigenous critics of the Saudi regime, implicated Islam in the minds of many. The “redeployment of Orientalist tropes,” as articulated by law scholar Leti Volpp, surged to the surface and steered the popular discourse, driving immediate conclusions that Islam itself is “intolerant to criticism,” “resistant to independent media voices,” and “suppressive of dissidence.”
These blanket assessments of the religion, spurred by the actions of the Saudi state, colored conversations about Khashoggi’s disappearance, and cast Islam as the source of Saudi actions. However, what is more insidious than these stereotypes is the assumption that undergirds them: specifically, that Saudi Arabia itself is the primary manifestation of Islam, and everything that it does is representative of the religion.
Saudi Arabia does not represent Islam. Despite its best efforts to promote and project itself as the symbol and “centre of Islam,” the Saudi state represents a regime steered by a desperate and austere few and, namely, one Mohammed bin Salman. Home to Medina and Mecca, the two holiest sites in Islam, the regime leverages its role as ward to these cities to shroud its legitimacy with religion; and function as the gatekeeper to the 1.8 billion Muslims around the globe called to enter its bounds to complete the mandated pilgrimage to Mecca. Being home to these holy sites has been just as potent as its boundless supply of crude oil to sustain the regime, with ruling monarch after monarch strategically intertwining the heft of their petrodollars with the global promotion of Wahhabism to propel the idea that Saudi Arabia and Islam are interchangeable entities.
Let’s be clear: while the bulk of the idea that Islam and Saudi Arabia are one is rooted in Orientalist ideas and portrayals of Saudi clerics, sheiks and monarchs as the very archetypes of Islam, Saudi Arabia itself has been very intentional in distilling that idea and disseminating it broadly in the Middle East, Muslim majority countries, and the West. In fact, Wahhabi thought is largely intolerant of other Islamic traditions, and holds itself out to be the only authentic mode of Islamic practice. In addition to this, strategic alliances with global powers, principally the US, have emboldened the Saudi regime to further its project of positioning itself as the political representative of Islam. For better, and far more frequently, as represented by the Khashoggi affair, for worst.
But it does not represent Islam, before and especially today. Saudi Arabia is just one nation, which enshrines an austere and primitive interpretation of Sunni Islam, Wahhabism. This tradition is only practised within the country of approximately 32 million people and other nations where the Saudi regime has spread its influence by way of direct economic and political influence, or indirectly, through the spread of terror networks. In fact, Indonesia, Pakistan and India are home to far bigger Muslim populations, and Nigeria has two-and-a-half times the number of Muslim citizens as Saudi Arabia. Beyond its spiritual and demographic shortcomings, Muslims globally are beginning to see Saudi Arabia as a blight to how Islam and Muslims are viewed, a sentiment that is especially strong in the US.
To highlight the force of the popular association of Saudi Arabia with Islam, it is common for both media pundits and lay people to conflate the whole of Islam with the aberrant tradition of Wahhabism, viewing the latter as a stand-in for a religion comprised of distinct sects, subsects, and diverse schools of thought. Again, this is in great part the work of prominent Orientalists and modern Islamophobes, but also the intended fruit of Saudi policy and propaganda, proselytization and posturing. At most, Saudi Arabia represents the insular and static canon of Wahhabism. But further investigation of its domestic and global maneuvering even renders that position obsolete, revealing that the regime is fundamentally driven by the all-costs ambition of one crown prince and the shadowy figures backing his rise to power.
In what way does “Wahhabism” represent an “insular and static canon”? Having spent $100 billion to promote Wahhabism, it is certainly no longer either insular nor static. Wahhabism is simply the name that has been given to the strict Saudi version of Salafism, which stands for a deliberate return to the purity of early Islam. It is literalist, strict, and puritanical. Khaled Beydoin claims that Salafism, under the name Wahhabism, is only to be found in Saudi Arabia. But Salafism has appeared in a great many countries other than Saudi Arabia: half the Muslims in the U.A.E. and Qatar call themselves “Salafists.” Salafists are found, thanks in large part to Saudi financial support for mosques and imams, all over the Muslim world: in Pakistan, in Nigeria (the Uzala Society), in the Sudan (only 10% of the population is now Salafi, but they continue to make inroads against the 60% who are Sufis). Salafists have been increasing in numbers, and shown their power by destroying Sufi mosques and shrines in Somalia, Egypt, Chechnya, and a half-dozen other Muslim countries. Their greatest act of civilizational vandalism was the destruction by Salafists of the ancient Muslim library in Timbuktu, Mali. In the United States, the Sufi cleric Hisham Kabbani claims that 80% of the mosques he investigated were “Wahhabi” or “Salafist” in orientation.
The Saudi regime is not yet a one-man affair, as Khaled Beydoun seems to think. In fact, it is farther away than ever. MBS has been shaken by the Khashoggi fiasco, and will be even less able to consolidate all power in his hands after the death of King Salman. His ambitions are not nearly as sinister as Khaled Beydoun seems to think. What, after all, has MBS done so far? First, he rounded up both rich businessmen and members of the ruling family whom he accused of corruption, and holding them hostage in a luxury hotel, forced them to disgorge to the Saudi state $100 billion in ill-gotten gains. That is something no previous leader in Saudi Arabia had attempted. Was he hypocritical, given his $500 million dollar yacht, and his $400 million French chateau? Of course. But he has made a start, in combating the culture of corruption, by clawing back $100 billion, much of it from his relatives.
Where Is the Original FBI Report of the Flynn Interview?
by Gary Fouse
On Friday, Robert Mueller's prosecution team turned over to US District Court Judge Emmet Sullivan a redacted copy of an FBI report (form 302) pertaining to the FBI interview of Michael Flynn in the White House on January 24, 2017. Strangely, this report was dated July 19, 2017 and concerned an interview not with Flynn, but with one of the interviewing agents, the infamous Peter Strzok. Earlier we learned that FBI reports had been written regarding the Flynn interview months after the interview took place. In my experience as a retired DEA agent operating under the same laws and guidelines, I sensed that something was quite fishy. I still do.
As I pointed out in this article, if an agent submits a report that contains a factual error in it, it is his or her responsibility to submit a new report documenting the error and correction. You cannot simply destroy the old report. Both reports become part of the case file. Copies of the corrected report are sent to all other offices/recipients who received the first report. Both reports are submitted to the prosecutor and made available to the defense attorney (under rules of discovery) in the event of eventual prosecution.
It appears in this case that there should have been a report written by one of the interviewing agents in the days after the interview. If the FBI has a five-day rule, that is quite reasonable. Sometimes it takes a couple of days to complete the report, get it typed and signed off on by a supervisor. My question is-and I am sure Judge Sullivan's question is- where is the original report that should have been completed within a few days of January 24? A report based on an interview of the interviewer, Peter Strzok, in July 2017 doesn't suffice in any way, shape or form. The submission of this report without an original report makes it even more suspicious. In this Fox News report, there is mention of an FBI interview report finalized on February 19, 2017. A report written even three weeks after the interview is strange. Especially in a high profile case like this, timely reporting of interviews is essential and would be expected by FBI supervisors. In addition, a special counsel's sentencing memorandum on Flynn reportedly contains a footnote referring to a report (302) being written on the interview on August 22, 2017.
Could it be that the FBI, at some point in their investigation, wanted to bury the fact that, originally, the agents interviewing Flynn did not believe he was lying? We have also learned that FBI supervisor Andrew McCabe, in calling Flynn to set up the interview by Strzok and another agent, told Flynn that he did not need a lawyer present, which, given what we know now, he surely did. So why did the FBI not go through what would have been the normal routine-arranging the interview through the White House Counsel Office? James Comey himself gave us that answer a few days ago when he told interviewer Nicole Wallace that the Trump White House was so disorganized, he thought it best to avoid the trouble. That speaks volumes about James Comey.
It should also be pointed out that under the so-called Brady Rule, the prosecution has the duty to turn over to the defense any and all information that may be helpful to the defendant in a trial. It is very possible, even likely, in my view, that this rule was violated.
The absence of an FBI report submitted within days of the actual interview raises red flags to anyone familiar with the process. Reports written long after the fact, whether in February, July, or August 2017, only raise more red flags. Is it possible that somebody destroyed the original report which should have been written within five days of January 24? Is it possible that the FBI initially felt the interview was so unimportant that they initially neglected to even write a report-until some point later in time? That latter possibility seems somewhat remote given what they wanted to know from Flynn about his alleged contact with the Russian ambassador to the US. Whatever it is, something is wrong here, and I don't think there is an innocent explanation for it.