Diary

Double standards over incitement

30 August, 2010

The White House has been swift to condemn the words of Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, the spiritual leader of Shas. Rabbi Yosef, known for his controversial views, had described Abbas as an' evil hater of Israel' and called for a plague on the Palestinian leader and his people. Accordingly, a State department spokesman said that his words were 'not only deeply offensive, but incitement' which 'hurts the cause of peace.'

There is nothing wrong with the criticism per se. Of course they were disgraceful remarks which seem designed to place added pressure on the Israeli PM as he travels to Washington.

But notice the double standards here. Every day in the West Bank, young Palestinians watch television programmes which demonise Jews and Israelis and which use the most vicious anti semitic imagery around. Palestinian imams vilify the Jewish state and describe the ongoing conflict with the Zionists as a 'religious war' (ribat).

Abbas delights in naming buildings after suicide bombers and terrorists who were responsible for the most heinous crimes in the past. This is an egregious form of incitement and a blatant encouragement to murder. It is also the antithesis of the spirit of reconciliation and goodwill that the region so badly needs. Yet do we hear a single word of criticism from the White House? Go figure.

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richard

london, uk

31/08/2010

good point.

Obama's one way concessions

29 August, 2010

James Corum has written a timely article about the carcrash that is Obama's recent Middle East policy. As he points out, the central objective of previous American foreign policy has been to 'safeguard the national security and to further vital national interests.' That has now changed under a radical President, addicted to internationalism, and who apologises for his country's role in the world.

Thanks to the indifference of President Obama and Secretary of State Clinton, Iran is well on the way to become a nuclear power. This month, the Russians loaded up Iran’s nuclear reactor with high-grade fuel. That is nothing less than a disaster for the United States.

Now this event may or may not be a proliferation risk, depending on whether Russia uses the spent nuclear rods properly. The point is that America is reliant on Russian trust and goodwill, hardly the most stable foundation for American foreign policy. Yet as Corum points out, this is what the Obama administration has been reduced to:

Last year, Obama threw away a carefully prepared and negotiated missile defence of America and its European allies at the insistence of Russia. For this huge concession America got from Russia – nothing.

After forsaking defences, the other pillar of the Obama/Clinton foreign policy was to trust Russia and China to apply serious sanctions and pressure on Iran to stop its rapidly accelerating nuclear programme. And what happened? Russia and China have cooperated to block the UN from applying real sanctions that might work. Indeed, Russia went so far as to build Iran a nice new nuclear reactor and provide the fuel. China has also sold technology to Iran. Again, America got nothing for its misplaced trust.

In other words, Obama has made generous concessions himself with precious little reward. Eastern European allies have been sold out and Iran is a greater risk than before. China and Russia are the happy recipients of US largesse and they remain a danger to world security. It's hardly a bargain, is it?

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The latest footnote in the non-peace process

23 August, 2010

The clearest indication that Mahmoud Abbas is not interested in the proposed peace talks next month comes in his repeated remarks about Israeli settlements. Khaled Abu Toameh reports that Abbas has told the PLO to give the talks one month, and added that they will probably fail when the moratorium on settlement construction ends on 26th September.

Abbas has reportedly told the Quartet that "settlements and peace are two parallels that don't meet" and “If Israel continues with the settlement construction, we will withdraw from the talks.” Naturally he has been spurred on in his rejectionist attitude by the uncompromising hostility to settlements in the US, the UN and the EU. Obama made plain his feelings on the subject during Joe Biden's recent visit to Israel earlier this year.

Granted, there is a strong case for delaying any settlement construction in the West Bank. It is seen by the majority of Israelis as disputed territory and the process of disengagement will only be made harder by having to evacuate more of the civilian population. But the same cannot be said about east Jerusalem. If Abbas wants construction to stop there, he is effectively saying that this part of the city should be under permanent Palestinian control, presumably with its Jewish settlement blocs evacuated. This is clearly a demand that Israel would never agree to, a red line too far.

However, settlements are a red herring. The wider issues, which are notoriously glossed over by the Obama administration, are the unreasonable demands of Fatah, the weakness of Abbas (who would be seen to have sold out if he were to deliver the peace process), the growing power of Iran (with or without a nuclear weapon) and the continuing incitement to violence and Jew hatred in the West Bank (encouraged by Abbas). These constitute the collective big elephant in the room that the West chooses to ignore at its peril. For that reason, this latest attempt at conflict resolution will go nowhere very quickly. Not that that will bother the Fatah leader one little bit of course. Expect to hear a lot more about settlements in the days and weeks to come.

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Panorama's documentary on the Marmara

17 August, 2010

Having watched the Panorama documentary about the Turkish flotilla, broadcast yesterday evening, it is clear that the BBC deserve to be congratulated. On the whole this was an insightful, balanced and very clear account of the events that night, eschewing the usual lazy lapses into pro Arab propaganda. In 30 minutes, a wealth of archive footage showed very clearly that the IHH, the terror group stationed the Mavi Marmara, were planning a violent confrontation when the IDF boarded the ship, and some were prepared to be shaheeds. An array of captured weapons was shown, including knives, guns and clubs.

The footage also clearly showed the Israeli naval commandos being attacked the moment they descended from helicopters. It is a great wonder that none of the Israelis were killed, such was the level of violence they encountered. Another revealing finding was that the medicines that were on board the ship, supposedly part of the 'aid' consignment, were in fact out of date, rendering them of dubious value if administered to the sick and dying.

But as Jane Corbin correctly concluded, this was not about aid. It was instead 'a political move designed to push pressure on Israel and the International community' or, at the very least, further demonise Israel in the eyes of the world. It was very much a win-win situation. In some respects the Turkish terror mob succeeded. But at least this documentary was prepared to take Israeli claims seriously, and for that it deserves some credit.

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Ground Zero is no place for a mosque

16 August, 2010

President Obama has got the Ground Zero mosque completely wrong. Cordoba House, the name of the proposed mosque and cultural centre, should not be built at this site, period. It is deeply insensitive and crass and a slap in the face to the victims of terror.

It is not, as the President would maintain, a simple matter of religious freedom. No one is suggesting that there is a problem with mosques per se, except those that are used to foment religious fundamentalism. No one is suggesting that it is right to deprive peaceful Muslims of their religious liberty. No one, save the very most bigoted, would dare question America's sacrosanct freedom of worship.

This is about erecting an Islamic building on the site of the worst terrorist outrage in American history, one carried out by radical Islamists who were themselves schooled in mosques led by hate filled preachers. As Daniel Pipes argues with his usual clarity in today's Jerusalem Post, Ground Zero is 'hallowed ground' (in the secular sense). This means:

It belongs to those who suffered and died there – and that such ownership obliges us, the living, to preserve the dignity and memory of the place, never allowing it to be forgotten, trivialized or misappropriated.

For this reason, he points out, 'Pope John Paul II ordered the Carmelite nuns to leave the convent they had established at Auschwitz. He was in no way devaluing their heartfelt mission to pray for the souls of the dead. He was teaching them a lesson in respect: This is not your place, it belongs to others.'

Some might argue that banning this mosque is tantamount to lumping all Muslims with Bin Laden. Of course, such a position would be intellectually and morally untenable. Most Muslims in America share the nation's liberal values.

But what if the imam, either now or in a decade, was a radical? What if such a person declared that the 3,000 victims 'had it coming to them' because of their country's 'dubious' foreign policy? Would this not desecrate the memory of the 9/11 victims, and on the very site of the atrocity that claimed their lives? Would this not be sacrilegious? Indeed the current architect of these plans, Feisal Abdul Rauf, has hardly been unequivocal in his denunciation of the September killers.

Cordoba House should be built but not at Ground Zero. This site should be left as a permanent monument to the grieving families and their terrible memories. If Sheikh Rauf was a true moderate, he would scarcely demur.

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Andrew Roberts speech on Israel

13 August, 2010

Some weeks ago I went to the House of Commons for the British launch of the Friends of Israel initiative. I had little time to blog on this but I want to share with readers the text of the marvellous speech given by Andrew Roberts on that day. It was a truly electrifying piece of oratory delivered with passion and gusto. I reproduce it below without further comment:

I would like to speak to you today as an historian, because it seems to me that the State of Israel has packed more history into her 62 years on the planet than many other nations have in six hundred. There are many surprising things about this tiny, feisty, brave nation the size of Wales, but the most astonishing is that she has survived at all. The very day after the new state was established, she was invaded by the armies of no fewer than five Arab countries, and she has been struggling for her right to life ever since. And that is what we are here for today, to reiterate Israel’s right to self-defence, inherent in all legitimate countries.

From Morocco to Afghanistan, from the Caspian Sea to Aden, the 5.25 million square miles of territory belonging to members of the Arab League is home to over 330 million people, whereas Israel covers only eight thousand square miles, and is home to seven million citizens, one-fifth of whom are Arabs. The Jews of the Holy Land are thus surrounded by hostile states 650 times their size in territory and sixty times their population, yet their last, best hope of ending two millennia of international persecution – the State of Israel - has somehow survived. When during the Second World War, the island of Malta came through three terrible years of bombardment and destruction, it was rightly awarded the George Medal for bravery: today Israel should be awarded a similar decoration for defending democracy, tolerance and Western values against a murderous onslaught that has lasted twenty times as long.

Jerusalem is the site of the Temple of Solomon and Herod. The stones of a palace erected by King David himself are even now being unearthed just outside the walls of Jerusalem. Everything that makes a nation state legitimate – bloodshed, soil tilled, two millennia of continuous residence, international agreements – argues for Israel’s right to exist, yet that is still denied by the Arab League. For many of their governments, which are rich enough to have economically solved the Palestinian refugee problem decades ago, it is useful to have Israel as a scapegoat to divert attention from the tyranny, failure and corruption of their own regimes.

The tragic truth is that it suits Arab states very well to have the Palestinians endure permanent refugee status, and whenever Israel puts forward workable solutions they have been stymied by those whose interests put the destruction of Israel before the genuine well-being of the Palestinians. Both King Abdullah I of Jordan and Anwar Sadat of Egypt were assassinated when they attempted to come to some kind of accommodation with a country that most sane people now accept is not going away.

‘We owe to the Jews,’ wrote Winston Churchill in 1920, ‘a system of ethics which, even if it were entirely separated from the supernatural, would be incomparably the most precious possession of mankind, worth in fact the fruits of all wisdom and learning put together.’

The Jewish contribution to finance, science, the arts, academia, commerce and industry, literature, philanthropy and politics has been astonishing relative to their tiny numbers. Although they make up less than half of one per-cent of the world’s population, between 1901 and 1950 Jews won 14 percent of all the Nobel Prizes awarded for Literature and Science, and between 1951 and 2000 Jews won 32 percent of the Nobel Prizes for Medicine, 32 percent for Physics, 39 percent for Economics and 29 percent for Science. This, despite so many of their greatest intellects dying in the gas chambers. Civilization owes Judaism a debt it can never repay, and support for the right of a Jewish homeland to exist is the bare minimum we can provide. Yet we tend to treat Israel like a leper on the international scene, merely for defending herself, and threatening her with academic boycotts if she builds a separation wall that has so far reduced suicide bombings by 95 percent over three years. It is a disgrace that no senior member of the Royal Family has ever undertaken an official visit to Israel, as though the country is still in quarantine after more than six decades.

Her Majesty the Queen has been on the throne for 57 years and in that time has undertaken 250 official visits to 129 countries, yet has not yet set foot in Israel. She has visited 14 Arab countries, so it cannot have been that she wasn’t in the region. Although Prince Philip’s mother Princess Alice is buried on the Mount of Olives because of her status as Righteous Among Gentiles, the Foreign Office ordained that his visit to his mother’s grave in 1994 had to be in a private capacity only. Royal visits are one of the ways legitimacy is conferred on nations, and the Coalition Government should end the Foreign Office’s de facto boycott.

After the Holocaust, the Jewish people recognised that they must have their own state, a homeland where they could forever be safe from a repetition of such horrors. Putting their trust in Western Civilisation was never again going to be enough. Since then, Israel has had to fight no fewer than five major wars for her very existence. She has been on the front line in the War against Terror and has been fighting the West’s battles for it, decades before 9/11 or 7/7 ever happened. Radical Islam is never going to accept the concept of an Israeli State, so the struggle is likely to continue for another sixty years, but the Jews know that that is less dangerous than entrusting their security to anyone else.

Very often in Britain, especially when faced with the overwhelmingly anti-Israeli bias that is endemic in our liberal media and the BBC, we fail to ask ourselves what we would have done placed in their position? The population of the United Kingdom of 63 million is nine times that of Israel. In July 2006, to take one example at random, Hizbollah crossed the border of Lebanon into Israel and killed eight patrolmen and kidnapped two others, and that summer fired four thousand Katyusha rockets into Israel which killed a further forty-three civilians.

Now, if we multiply those numbers by nine to get the British equivalent, just imagine what we would do if a terrorist organization based as close as Calais were to fire thirty-six thousand rockets into Sussex and Kent, killing 387 British civilians, after killing seventy-two British servicemen in an ambush and capturing eighteen. There is absolutely no lengths to which our Government would not go to protect British subjects under those circumstances, and quite right too. Why should Israel be expected to behave any differently?

In the course of researching my latest book on the Second World War, I recently visited Auschwitz-Birkenau. Walking along a line of huts and the railway siding where their forebears had been worked and starved and beaten and frozen and gassed to death, were a group of Jewish schoolchildren, one of whom was carrying over his shoulder the Israeli flag, a blue star of David on white background.

It was a profoundly moving sight, for it was the sovereign independence represented by that flag which guarantees that the obscenity of genocide – which killed six million people in Auschwitz and camps like it - will never again befall the Jewish people, to whom the rest of Civilisation owes so much. I said at the start that I was speaking to you as an historian, and so I say: No people in History have needed the right to self-defence and legitimacy more than the Jews of Israel, and that is what we in the Friends of Israel Initiative demand here today.

http://www.friendsofisraelinitiative.org/article.php?c=61

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The class war bobby

10 August, 2010

The Chief Constable of Cambridgeshire, Julie Spence, has seen fit to declare war on the middle classes. In an outspoken and ill judged tirade, she declared that middle class drivers who broke the speed limit while also condemning yobs and vandalism were guilty of hypocrisy. This is what she said in the Telegraph :

'Speeding is middle-class anti-social behaviour. People think, 'we should be able to get away with it’. They wouldn’t tolerate law breaking by somebody else but they do it themselves without thinking.'

Come again? So it's just the middle classes who break the speed limit, is it? Perhaps Ms. Spence is unaware of the often reckless behaviour of teenage tearaways who endanger other people's lives with their driving. Or is it that her police force is unwilling to catch them and is thus content to prey on more agreeable 'criminals?' If anything annoys the public, it is the perception that they are victims of arbitrary road traffic schemes which milk them for all they are worth, and all in the name of meeting government targets.

In any case, the equation of speeding with other forms of anti social behaviour is really galling. Admittedly, dangerous driving is sometimes lethal and people rightly deserve punishment for it. But being caught over the limit on a deserted road is the not the same as mugging an OAP or burgling a house. Well at least not in the minds of those who have to put up with these crimes on a regular basis. Ms Spence's remarks show just how aloof she is from the public.

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Why was the US ambassador at Hiroshima?

8 August, 2010

The appearance of the US ambassador to Japan at Friday's annual Hiroshima commemoration will have raised just a few eyebrows from spectators. After all, the US does not normally send a representative to this event. But then this is the era of Obama, the US President with a radical agenda to apologise for American exceptionalism, diminish the unilateral exercise of US power (even though this has frequently been a bulwark of the world order) and subordinate his country's interests to international organisations like the UN, whose agenda he shares. Hence his often repeated comment that he seeks a world free of nuclear weapons.

It is actually no surprise at all that he would seek to involve his country at the Hiroshima event. Modern Japan views WW2 though the lens of victimhood and sees herself as the injured party, refusing to accept any of the blame for the years of horrific aggression meted out to the peoples of South Asia. This is brilliantly pointed out by Jonathan Tobin in Commentary Magazine. As he writes:

No previous American president has been at such pains to apologize for what he thinks are America’s sins.

Indeed, to listen to the Japanese, their involvement in the war sounds limited to the incineration of the cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, as well as the fire bombings of many other urban centers in the country, followed by a humiliating American occupation. The horror of the two nuclear bombs didn’t just wipe out two cities and force Japan’s government to finally bow to the inevitable and surrender. For 65 years it has served as a magic event that has erased from the collective memory of the Japanese people the vicious aggression and countless war crimes committed against not only the Allied powers but also the peoples of Asia who fell under their cruel rule in the 1930s and 1940s.

He goes on to observe the fundamental flaws in Obama's anti atomic drive with terrific precision:

The notion that nuclear weapons themselves are a threat to the world and must be banned is the sort of piety we expect to be mouthed at Hiroshima, but it betrays a lack of both historical and contemporary understanding of strategic realities. These weapons may be terrible, but the plain truth is that their existence kept the peace between the rival superpowers during the Cold War. America’s nuclear arsenal ensured the freedom of Western Europe as well as that of Japan after World War II.

He goes on conclude:

The greatest foreign-policy challenge facing Barack Obama is not how to dismantle America’s nuclear deterrent but rather how to forestall the possibility of the Khamenei/Ahmadinejad regime's acquiring a nuclear device, which will allow them either to pursue their own genocidal agenda or to serve as an umbrella for their Hamas and Hezbollah terrorist allies.

Indeed this is the point. Apologising for your country and its perceived misdeeds is bad enough at the best of times. But when roguish dictators are on the move, and seek the worst means of terrorizing their neighbours, it is an utterly disastrous folly.

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Middle East war games

05 August, 2010

Anyone who thinks that the incident on the Israeli-Lebanese border was a trivial one off misunderstanding does not really understand the Middle East. This was more likely to have been a clear signal from Hezbullah and Iran of their willingness to start a regional conflagration at a time of their choosing.

Let us be clear. the IDF did not cross over into Lebanese territory. Israeli soldiers were chopping down a tree within their own sovereign territory though close to the border with Lebanon. This has since been confirmed by UNIFIL. A group of Lebanese soldiers (but it may have been Hezbullah in disguise) carried out a murderous and wholly illegal raid on the IDF, with the Israelis responding in self defence. There was zero provocation from the Israeli side of the border.

So why now? The obvious answer is that the special tribunal set up to investigate the Hariri assassination is soon to report its findings and there is a strong chance they will indict elements of the Hezbullah leadership, including their Secretary General, Shiekh Hassan Nasrallah. If Hezbullah are found guilty of conspiracy in assassination, it is highly likely that other Lebanese politicians will desert them, sparking another Civil war in Lebanon. Hence the diversionary tactic of sparking trouble with their southern neighbour, who will, of course, be blamed for any deaths that occur.

It is also in Iran’s interests to see some bloodletting between Israel and Lebanon. A repeat of the 2006 war (though the next one will be far bloodier) removes attention from Iran’s nuclear programme and shifts media focus westwards. Iran could well give the green light to Hezbullah to give it yet more breathing space as it plays cat and mouse with the West.

Amid this turbulence, it is at least encouraging to see Israel on the attack with Benjamin Netanyahu stressing that his country will deal robustly with any attacks on his soldiers. In coming days and weeks, this defiant spirit will be tested to the utmost.

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Adam Edwards

Los Angeles, USA

08/08/2010

Israel should be preparing for the next outbreak of prolonged fighting with Hizbollah. This time they should start the fight when they are ready and not in response to bear baiting from cross border incursions by Hizbollah. They must take the initiative.