DANNY, THE MATHS GENIUS WHO TRANSFORMED THE WEB 6 February 2014
Danny Lewin was an entrepreneurial American-Israeli mathematician, who devised technology allowing websites to deliver content faster than ever before. His incredible achievements are recounted in a recently released book, No Better Time, written by Molly Raskin.
The biography, based on dozens of interviews and reminiscences, offers a tantalising glimpse of Lewin's multifaceted character: as a budding entrepreneur, mathematical genius, businessman and proud Jew.
It recounts his early years as an avid Zionist, making aliyah with his family at the age of 14. Raskin shows how Lewin was able to withstand the pressures of life in a new country, excelling at high school and reaching a peak of physical fitness at a training centre.
After joining the IDF, he was recruited to Sayeret Matkal (Israel's equivalent to the SAS) where he became a captain. For obvious reasons, the book says little about the operations in which Lewin was involved, but does reveal much about his character. As a highly intelligent, courageous and plucky individual, Lewin was an ideal fit for the IDF's elite service.
But his main love was mathematics and, after studying at the Technion, he carried out postgraduate research at MIT with Professor Tom Leighton. Both men worked on producing mathematical algorithms to optimise the huge flow of internet traffic. The result of their prodigious labours was Akamai Technologies, a company that burst on the scene during the 'tech bubble' when investors were pouring vast sums of money into new internet start ups.
Virtually overnight, Lewin was transformed into a paper billionaire, only for his company's share price to plummet when the tech bubble burst. Nonetheless the company's success was confirmed dramatically on September 11, 2001 when CNN's internet site, which was using Akamai technology, remained up and running despite an unprecedented surge for news.
Tragically, Lewin did not live to witness this triumph. On the morning of the attacks, he was a passenger on board one of the planes that was flown into the World Trade Centre. The evidence from flight records indicates that the combative Lewin tried to tackle one of the hijackers before he was fatally stabbed from behind.
For a man who had spent years battling for what he believed in, such unhesitating courage was hardly surprising. He remains an incredible symbol of the west's struggle against barbarism.
WHY PALESTINIANS ARE TRAGIC VICTIMS OF THEIR OWN NARRATIVE February 21, 2014
Recent reports suggest that Palestinian leaders have decided to reject John Kerry’s framework for resolving the Arab-Israeli conflict.
There are serious disagreements over the issue of refugees, the borders of a future Palestinian state, an Israeli presence in the Jordan valley and the status of Jerusalem.
Netanyahu, by contrast, is likely to accept the Kerry framework in principle, subject to it being a non- binding document to which the government can express reservations. Of all the Palestinian rejections, perhaps none is more galling than their refusal to accept Israel as the “nation state of the Jewish people”, part of Kerry’s formula for mutual recognition.
Nabil Shaath, a leading ‘moderate’, was bold enough to ask: “Do you think that any Palestinian leader in his right mind can ever accept this?”
For Saeb Erekat, this rejection was about respecting their “history, culture and religion” while for Mahmoud Abbas, his people had a “right” not to recognise “the Jewish state”. Such sentiments reflect a stubborn streak of rejectionism that’s dogged the peace process from the start. Netanyahu has been criticised by some for making this demand of the Palestinians.
Yair Lapid, Yesh Atid’s leader, recently declared: “My father didn’t come to Haifa from the Budapest ghetto in order to get recognition from Abu Mazen”. Shimon Peres has said it is unnecessary, while for former Mossad chief Meir Dagan, insisting on such recognition is “nonsense”.
Yet Netanyahu has sound political reasons for issuing this demand. He knows that if Abbas recognises Israel’s Jewish character, it would undermine the PA’s argument for a Palestinian ‘right of return’ to Israel. ‘Palestine’ would be declared the logical destination for refugees in the Arab world with no legitimate claim being made against the Jewish state.
It is precisely because Palestinian leaders refuse to budge on the right of return that they won’t accept Israel as a Jewish homeland. Second, recognition shows Palestinians want to end the conflict.
The failure to acknowledge Jewish national rights in the Holy Land has been the root cause of the 90-year war between Jews and Arabs and a constant spur to murder, terrorism and rejection since the start of the British mandate.
Thus accepting that Israel is a Jewish state would signal a willingness to change perspectives, leave behind past intransigence and build optimistically for the future. Netanyahu wants the Palestinians to acknowledge the obvious: that his country’s Jewish identity is not some passing phenomenon but is intrinsic to the Israeli state.
Third, accepting Jewish statehood would undermine the grotesque Judaeophobic incitement commonplace throughout the disputed territories.
A key theme of this media war is that Israel’s Jews are thieves, liars and usurpers in a land which is essentially Arab. Recognising Israel as a Jewish state suggests instead that Jews have exercised an internationally accepted right of self-determination.
Yet Abbas remains intransigent because, like his predecessors, he cleaves to a distorted narrative of Jewish cunning and Palestinian suffering. He sees Israel as a Western-backed, colonialist enterprise, and a pariah among the family of nations.
He has consistently denied that the Jews have any legitimate presence in Jerusalem, hence his comment in 2012 that the city “will forever be Arabic, Islamic and Christian” and his derogatory references to an “alleged” Jewish Temple.
Erekat raised eyebrows recently with an historically illiterate claim that his ancestors had lived in the region “5,500 years before Joshua Ben-Nun came and burned (his) hometown Jericho”. On this view, the Jews have no right to be in the land and are bludgeoning their way through the region like latter-day Crusaders.
When you erase another people’s history like this, you assault their identity and demonising them becomes natural. Now we know why Palestinian leaders cannot accept Israel as the Jewish state: it would be tantamount to legitimising theft, colonialism and exploitation. Weighed down by such a perspective, it becomes impossible to compromise for peace.
HOW WESTERN DELUSIONS HAVE CREATED A GALLING IMPASSE April 9, 2014
So just as predicted last year, John Kerry’s mission to bring an end to the Arab-Israeli conflict is likely to end in failure and humiliation.Talks between the sides have collapsed with frantic efforts now underway to salvage something amid the embarrassing diplomatic wreckage.
But if negotiations resume, they will scarcely moderate the Palestinian position while Israel will face yet another barrage of unwanted demands.To appreciate why, one need only look at what has happened thus far in these negotiations. Israel agreed to Abbas’ price for restarting talks: the release of more than 100 terrorists from jail.
But far from benefiting from this unwise concession, Israel received a hardline response. During the talks, Abbas offered a trio of rejections: no to Israel as a Jewish state; no to an “end of conflict” clause in the framework agreement; and no to abandoning the “right of return”. In other words, he was ruling out in advance any viable basis for a peace settlement.
Aware that Abbas was not committed to continuing the talks beyond April, Israel delayed releasing the final batch of prisoners.
But instead of condemning the Palestinians for their exasperating intransigence and rejectionism, John Kerry offered more sweeteners. Under US pressure, a further deal was arranged whereby Israel would release 400 security prisoners, together with the remaining terrorists, in return for extending negotiations.
But shortly before the deal was put to him, Abbas submitted applications for the PA to sign 15 international treaties and conventions, defying a prior commitment not to seek such recognition without an agreement. This action, more than anything else, led to the current breakdown.
Secretary of State John Kerry stands with Israel’s Justice Minister and chief negotiator Tzipi Livni, right, and Palestinian chief negotiator Saeb Erekat at the State Department in Washington.
The decision to make these applications is a particularly egregious breach of faith. It contradicts the key premise of these talks, namely that Palestinian statehood must be a product of bilateral agreement, not unilateral gestures.
It is an attempt to achieve recognition of “Palestine” without having to make any significant concessions. It also allows the Palestinians to launch criminal prosecutions against Israel in international arenas.
Washington has downplayed the significance of Abbas’ slap in the face. In a fit of moral equivalence, US officials have blamed both sides for their “unhelpful steps”.
One of Israel’s “unhelpful steps” was to allow more than 700 housing tenders in the Jerusalem suburb of Gilo, despite the fact that this area will never become part of a Palestinian state. It is frankly an irrelevance.
Yet true to form, the Palestinians have simply upped their demands. Spurred on by Washington’s desperation to appease them, they have insisted that Israel release 1,200 prisoners, lift the “siege” of Gaza and accept the 1949 armistice lines if they are to resume talking. It is little wonder that Livni threw up her hands in despair.
Abbas’ tactics are clear enough. He intends to extort maximum concessions from the Jewish state while destroying any chance for compromise. This way, he retains credibility among the hardliners and keeps up the pretence that he is a legitimate leader.
But legitimacy is precisely what he lacks. He has no democratic mandate in the West Bank, given that his term of office expired five years ago, nor can he speak for Hamas ruled Gaza. When we add his unwillingness to budge on core issues, one can see why these talks are a farce.
But this is not just about Abbas the hardliner. He would be a forgotten man, a Middle East irrelevance, were it not for the delusions of western leaders. They view him as an indispensable moderate, a bulwark to Hamas and the best hope for peace in a generation.
As a result, vast sums of money pour into the corrupt PA, financing the salaries of convicted terrorists and funding incitement. The more obdurate Abbas’ leadership, the more that Ramallah’s coffers are replenished. It is an irrational reversal of how things should be.
The appeasement of the PA has done nothing to advance peace. As these talks demonstrate, it has simply hardened positions and encouraged a belligerent mentality.
But when we blame Palestinian leaders for this maddening impasse, we tell only half the story. The behaviour of western leaders is equally maddening.
A CLIMATE OF SIMMERING HATE LED TO BRUSSELS ATTACKS May 28, 2014
Last Saturday an Israeli couple, Emmanuel and Mira Riva, were among four fatalities in an horrific shooting at the Jewish Museum of Belgium.
Almost immediately, Joel Rubinfeld, President of the Belgian League Against Anti-Semitism, described the murders as “the inevitable result of a climate that distills hatred” and called for the authorities to “silence the preachers of this hate”.
Benjamin Netanyahu made the same linkage, declaring that the murders were “the result of constant incitement against Jews and their state”.
Like many countries in Europe, Belgium has witnessed a dramatic rise in anti-Semitic incidents. Only three weeks before the shooting, some 500 far-right extremists, describing themselves as the “European Congress of Dissidence”, gathered in Anderlecht, where some performed the quenelle.
The gathering was later dispersed, much to the credit of Belgium’s interior minister. It was organised by Laurent Louis, a member of Belgium’s Chamber of Representatives, who once spoke of “how Zionists financed Hitler and created the Second World War” and how they had become the “masters of the world”.
It isn’t just the far-right who make incendiary comments on Israel. European Commissioner for Trade Karel de Gucht said in 2010: “Do not underestimate the Jewish lobby on Capitol Hill. There is a belief among most Jews that they are right.”
It’s little wonder Raphael Werner, a leader of Flemish Jewry, said pro-Palestinian politicians “don’t make a difference between Jews and Israelis”.
Last year, a Belgian website linked to the Education Ministry featured an image by Brazilian cartoonist Carlos Latuff, which compared Israel with Nazi Germany. Latuff is notorious for mocking Jews and the Shoah in his political cartoons.
With such toxic attitudes becoming more widespread, it’s not surprising anti-Semitic abuse and violence are on the rise, up by 30 percent in 2013.
But there is another dimension to this which cannot be ignored – namely an Islamic one. According to a leading Belgian anti-terror expert, Saturday’s killings are “reminiscent of Toulouse” (referring to the murders committed by Mohammed Merah) and “resembles other similar attacks, including by Islamists”.
This points to the fact that the main propagators of hate within Belgium are likely to have come from within the country’s Muslim community.
Belgium is home to more than 600,000 Muslims, some 300,000 of whom live in metropolitan Brussels. In recent years, there is much evidence of growing radicalisation within the community, particularly among the young.
According to a report by French intelligence think tank CF2R, “Second-generation Belgian-Muslims have been significantly influenced by the growth of extremism” and much of this is put down to overseas jihadists.
Salafism, the ultra-conservative pan-Islamic movement, is popular in Belgium and contributes to deepening divisions and a lack of integration. The radical group Sharia4Belgium has called for the country to become an Islamic state and issues denunciations of democracy and homosexuality.
Meanwhile, it is widely believed that dozens of Belgian Muslims have fought with jihadists in Syria.
Not surprisingly, such extremism has gone hand in hand with racism. Brussels University’s Mark Elchardus carried out a survey of 4,000 schoolchildren aged between 14 and 18 in Antwerp and found shocking levels of anti-Semitism among Muslim youth.
Some 50 percent of those surveyed totally agreed (another 24 percent partially agreed) with the statement that Jews incite war and blame others for it. A total of 35.4 percent completely agreed and 37 percent partially agreed with the statement that Jews had too much influence in Belgium. Other clearly anti-Semitic views received similarly strong levels of support.
It hardly takes a genius to connect the dots between radical jihadism, anti-Semitic attitudes and the horrific murders witnessed last weekend. It will therefore come as little surprise if there was Islamist involvement in the Brussels museum attack.
Fortunately, extreme acts of physical violence have been rare in Europe since the 1980s. But violence and terror become more likely when they are fostered by a climate of hatred.
Unless that hatred is tackled at source, both in Belgium and across the continent, its results could become more frightening.
IN A DIFFERENT STATE July 17, 2014
Since the 1990s, the dominant consensus in foreign policy circles is that only a two- state solution can resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Creating a Palestinian state has become an article of faith across the political mainstream, both in Europe and the United States.
Yet with the collapse of peace talks in Washington, the recent reconciliation between Fatah and Hamas and the current conflict in Gaza, that solution looks increasingly unlikely. So is it time for the two-state answer to be ditched altogether? That is certainly the conclusion of Caroline Glick in her new book, The Israeli Solution: A One State Plan for Peace in the Middle East.
Glick pulls no punches. She describes the two-state plan as “among the most irrational, unsuccessful policies the United States has ever adopted”. She establishes her case by showing that for some nine decades, Palestinian leaders from al-Husseini to Abbas have shown no appetite for compromise and moderation. Their principal aim has been “the destruction of Israel” and this they have pursued through terrorism, violence and political rejectionism.
What Glick shows, however, is that far from being punished for their intransigence and unrelenting hatred, the Palestinians have been amply rewarded by western leaders.
Terrorism in the 1970s and 1980s led to UN recognition and appeasement from European governments. During the 1990s, the Clinton administration ignored or downplayed Palestinian incitement and continually put pressure on Israeli governments to offer more concessions to the PLO.
Despite the terror war unleashed by Yasser Arafat, President Bush called for a Palestinian state and the end of settlement building. Even today, Western governments bankroll the corrupt PA despite the fact that it pays the salaries of convicted terrorists.
It is little wonder that no progress is being made in all the peace talks Washington sponsors. Glick’s solution is for Israel to apply its own law and sovereignty over Judea and Samaria, nullifying the two-state solution altogether.
Palestinians living in these areas would be eligible for permanent residency and eventually citizenship in the Jewish state.
But this approach raises as many questions as it answers. There may be 1.5 million Arab residents in the territory, many of whom have been reared on the Jew-hating propaganda of the Palestinian Authority.
The incorporation of such a hostile population would pose considerable security risks for Israel given that Palestinians would be free to travel across the country.Worse, Israel would face a renewed demographic challenge from the sudden doubling of its Arab sector. The social strains entailed by this policy, to say nothing of the economic costs, would be considerable.
Glick is aware of these problems and discusses their implications in several chapters. She also considers the diplomatic fallout that Israel would suffer after implementing such a plan, the worst coming from the European Union.
The EU, she says, would impose harmful sanctions, though Israel could weather the storm due to its status as a rising economic power. While Arab states like Egypt and Jordan would reject a one state approach, they could do little to stop it given their dire economic performance and political instability.But Israelis too may need some persuading. According to recent opinion polls, the majority believe that disengagement is necessary in principle, even if it does not end the conflict.
There appears to be little support for binationalism or offering Palestinians citizenship.
The Israeli Solution is controversial and will infuriate many, but it is certainly well argued throughout. Whether or not you agree with her approach, Glick’s book deserves close reading and is sure to stimulate debate in policy circles.
THE BIGOTRY AND HATRED THAT FUELS 'PRO PALESTINIAN' DEMOS July 24, 2014
Thousands of “pro-Palestinian” protesters marched through the capital to hear defiant speeches from such notables as Diane Abbott, Tariq Ali and George Galloway.
As with rallies elsewhere, this one produced an outpouring of hate, hypocrisy and double standards, although fortunately not the violence witnessed elsewhere.
In a fiery speech, veteran demagogue George Galloway compared the outrage over the shooting down of flight MH17 over Ukraine with the western indifference to deaths in Gaza. He asked: “Why is the blood in Ukraine more noteworthy than the blood in Gaza?”
For Tariq Ali, Israel was a “rogue state” that had been targeting children and was allowed to “get away with murder”.
Jenny Tonge declared that a country which “had lost its legitimacy” and was “no longer a democratic state” now “had to leave the international family of nations”.
The crowd was asked to denounce Zionism and many cheered calls for a one-state solution to the conflict. Placards were held up which denounced the Gazan “massacre” and some compared Israel with Nazi Germany.
For these speakers and their supporters, all Palestinians, including Hamas terrorists, are as innocent as plane travellers flying over Ukraine. All Israeli forms of self-defence, no matter how targeted and precise, are acts of mass killing and savagery.
These marches, with all their vituperative rhetoric, have become a forum for the worst kinds of hate and bigotry. Worse, as we have seen in Paris, they have resulted in violent attacks against the Jewish community. The worst thing about these protestors for “Palestinian rights” is their odious hypocrisy.
They refuse to condemn the rocket fire which precipitates the very Israeli responses they condemn. Indeed Hamas terror is usually seen as part of the glorious Palestinian “resistance”.
Yet it is a strange form of resistance when the leaders of Hamas hide underground while their people suffer, when those leaders force Palestinian civilians to act as human shields and when the same leaders enrich themselves at the expense of their population.
Hamas use Gazans as human fodder in their insane war against Israeli civilians. These “pro-Palestinian” protesters, by giving the Hamas leadership a free pass, do the same. Worse, we see no marches outside the embassies of Arab countries where Palestinians suffer in far greater numbers.
The most glaring example is Syria where more than 2,000 Palestinians have reportedly lost their lives in the civil war. For one year, the Yarmouk refugee camp has been under siege by government forces with all aid cut off. More than 100 Palestinians have starved to death, thousands have fled and today, the UNRWA talks of “a desperate situation”. Yet no one marches in solidarity with these innocent victims of war.
Only when Palestinians die at Israeli hands, and during a war of self-defence, are they suddenly worthy of attention. These peace activists who claim to be standing up for beleaguered Muslims are selective in their outrage. While civilian deaths in Gaza are undeniably tragic, there are vastly more Muslims being killed elsewhere.
Thousands of Iraqi civilians have been killed in recent months by the extremists of ISIS. Assad has used poison gas to exterminate Syrians with the total death toll in the civil war nearing 170,000. Vast numbers of Muslims have been displaced in these conflicts.
When anti-western tyrants slaughter Muslims, innocent or otherwise, there is scarcely a whimper. However, when a western power, particularly Israel, causes a fraction of such deaths in vastly different circumstances, there is hell to pay.
Western protestors are galvanised less by Muslim victims than by who is killing them. Israel is seen as the embodiment of many things that the liberal left abhor, including colonialism, national pride and democracy itself.
Hating Israel is a barometer of wider contemporary discontent. Yet for many Arab and Islamist protestors, it is a prime opportunity to vent a prejudice which is far more sordid and visceral. We all know what it’s called.
TRUE FRIENDSHIP REALLY COUNTS WHEN IT'S NEEDED THE MOST 14 August 2014
In recent months, Ed Miliband has sought to build bridges with the Anglo-Jewish community. On more than one occasion, he has spoken warmly of his Jewish roots and identity. He has expressed a desire to be Britain’s first Jewish prime minister, even though Benjamin Disraeli beat him to it in 1868.
More interestingly, the Labour leader has hinted that he is a Zionist and a friend of Israel.
His recent remarks about the conflict in Gaza, however, suggest his ‘friendship’ may be rather lukewarm. In an outspoken attack on the government, he pulled no punches.
Israel’s military incursion was “wrong and unjustifiable” and David Cameron’s “silence on the killing of hundreds of innocent Palestinian civilians” would be “inexplicable to people across Britain and internationally”.
In other comments made in the White House, Miliband defended “Israel’s right to defend itself against rocket attacks”, but staunchly opposed “the further escalation of violence”. He added: “I don’t think it will help Israel win friends.”
The deaths of Gaza civilians have indeed been terrible. Few can fail to be moved by stories of children killed, or innocents losing their jobs and livelihoods. But to deny Hamas’ responsibility for launching a war at the Palestinians’ expense is highly disingenuous.
Large parts of Gaza have effectively been turned into an armed camp. UNRWA schools have been converted into weapons dumps, and hospitals have become military bases. Buildings have been booby-trapped in the hope of killing Israeli soldiers, as well as other Palestinians.
Rockets have been repeatedly fired from residential neighbourhoods, though western journalists have tweeted that they cannot report this for fear of reprisals. This is the inhuman environment of the Middle East, where radical actors refuse to play by the rules of war.
If Miliband really believes Israelis have a right to defend themselves, what does he suggest they do? Self-defence can only mean the elimination of Hamas’ infrastructure of terror. If rockets and tunnels have to be struck, it will involve the overwhelming application of force and, in a densely-packed urban environment, civilians will tragically die.
If no incursion is legitimate, then what is the alternative? Non-escalation is not viable for, as Churchill put it: “Victory will never be found by taking the line of least resistance.”
This is war, after all, not a game of cricket. In the White House, Ed Miliband argued the violence had resulted from the failure of talks, hence the need to “restart a [peace] process”.
But Hamas does not believe in peace talks or negotiations with Israel. Such things are, according to its Charter, un-Islamic. Instead, the Islamists are committed to the destruction of Israel in line with Muslim Brotherhood ideology.
That is why Hamas TV stations, like those of ‘moderate’ Fatah, glorify the demonisation of Jews. That is why Hamas leaders have invested 40 percent of their budget to build a tunnel system designed to kill and kidnap Israelis. That is why Hamas terrorists are trying so desperately to import long-range weapons from Iran, a regime that similarly dreams of Israel’s demise.
The latest violence has not resulted from the lack of a peace process. The peace process has failed because of violence, rejectionism and an unyielding belief in Israel’s illegitimacy. Even Fatah cannot accept Israel as the ‘Jewish state’ or give up on a Palestinian ‘right of return’.
Miliband says the two-state solution is the only long-term remedy for the conflict. Perhaps he is right. But if Gaza is anything to go by, further territorial withdrawals could well create more dangerous breeding grounds for terror.
A Hamas-run West Bank, allied to and funded by Iran and Qatar, would be a recipe for further bloodshed, poverty and instability.
Of course, political moderates may emerge from within Palestinian society. But the Middle East has a habit of snuffing out those voices and wherever we look right now the forces of jihad are on the march. Ignoring this shows a starting lack of insight.
Ed Miliband may claim to be a friend of Israel, but he must realise that true friendship really counts when it is needed most, namely in the crucible of war. Tony Blair once recognised this, while Labour’s current leader does not.
WHY THE BOARD IS GUILTY OF AN ALARMING LACK OF JUDGMENT September 4, 2014
It is often said that British Jews are poorly served by the organisations representing them. Too often there is a lethargic response to anti-Semitism and anti-Israeli hostility with a lack of willingness to raise the communal head above the parapet.
Now the Board of Deputies has given us another reason to question our leadership after signing a joint statement with the Muslim Council of Britain.
On the face of it, the sentiments expressed are laudable. Few can argue with the view that it is vital to work for better communal relations and that it is better to ‘export peace’ than to ‘import conflict’.
Clearly there can be “no excuse for racism, violence, or other forms of intimidation” when expressing one’s views. There is a welcome call for ‘constructive dialogue to limit our disagreements’ and for the communities to harmonise on the issues that unite them. So why the furore exactly?
In a nutshell, the Board has separated the issue of anti-Semitism from the demonisation of Israel, failing to see how one is directly causing the other. As a result, it has allied with a group that has given succour to bigots because of its hysterical presentation of the recent conflict.
Critics have rightly seized on one sentence from the recent statement, namely that “the targeting of civilians is completely unacceptable and against our religious traditions”. If this was intended as a denunciation of Hamas and its indiscriminate warfare upon Israeli civilians, then who could complain?
But that was clearly not the MCB’s intention. A spokesman for the Council subsequently confirmed that the accusation referred to both sides, not just Hamas. The notion that the IDF deliberately attacks civilians is a staple of anti-Israel propaganda, a modern blood libel that helps to demonise the Jewish state.
Yet the MCB can now claim that this venomous charge is supported by Anglo-Jewry’s leading communal body. Indeed, the MCB seems to be at the forefront of anti-Israeli activity. It has called on Muslims to support boycotts against the Jewish state and urged people to attend global anti-Zionist rallies. On its website, there is a reference to Israel’s “indiscriminate slaughter” in Gaza, as well as other vituperative language.
It is one thing to argue for a just Israeli-Palestinian accord, while criticising the Netanyahu government. It is quite another to espouse insidious anti-Zionist propaganda. For the Board to hope that such hostility will be lessened by this rapprochement is naive and misguided, as the Oxfam precedent clearly shows.
More importantly, the Board has given a Jewish seal of approval to an Islamist organisation which masquerades as a moderate one. The MCB has been implicated in the so called Trojan Horse plot, where there was clear evidence that religious extremism was being promoted in some Birmingham schools.
Counter terrorism expert Peter Clarke specifically blamed the Muslim Council in his investigation, citing a pamphlet written in 2007 by a former MCB chair which allegedly set out a blueprint for the ‘Islamisation’ of secular state schools.
In its response, the MCB condemned extremism and called for an “inclusive” education. This was followed by a caveat, namely that it was unwise for the state ‘to pass judgement on the acceptability of certain strands of Islam over others’. Such a statement ignores the fact that some strands of Islam are so anti-western, racist and homophobic that they feed the violence we abhor.
The state has not just a right but a duty to challenge them. Yet it is hardly surprising that the MCB excuses more extreme or “conservative” interpretations of Islam. Some of its member groups openly admire the Muslim Brotherhood and Hamas, and have adopted quite willingly the virulent antisemitism of its spokesmen.
With such associations, it is absurd to regard the MCB as a voice of reason and moderation. Certainly, British Jews should ally themselves with moderate Muslims as part of a united stand against extremism. But the hysterical demonisation of Israel, invoking age old stereotypes, is part and parcel of that extremism. By allying with the MCB and its dubious agenda, the Board’s leadership has shown an alarming lack of judgment and done a disservice to those it claims to represent.
ISRAEL IS PERIPHERAL TO THE SAVAGERY UNFOLDING ACROSS THE MIDDLE EAST 23 October 2014
John Kerry seems to think that resolving the Arab-Israeli conflict would arrest the growth of Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS). At least that is what he implied in a set of extraordinary comments last week.
Speaking at a ceremony to mark Eid, Kerry called for a two state solution to be implemented with haste.
He then added: “As I went around and met with people in the course of our discussions about the (ISIS) coalition, there wasn’t a leader I met with in the region who didn’t raise with me spontaneously the need to try to get peace between Israel and the Palestinians, because it was a cause of recruitment and of street anger and agitation”.
Leaving aside the complex question of Palestinian statehood, it is not hard to appreciate how risible his comments were.
Firstly, the terrorists of ISIS reject any negotiated settlement between Israel and her neighbours. They view the Jewish state as a hated symbol of western decadence and power, an ‘infidel’ intrusion in the heart of the Islamic ummah.
Nothing short of Israel’s destruction will satisfy these fanatics. What they seek is a Sunni based Caliphate ruled by Sharia Law, a medieval theocracy which subjugates or kills all those under its control. Handing the West Bank to Mahmoud Abbas will not alter that.
Secondly, it is far from obvious that Muslims who join ISIS are primarily motivated by the ‘Palestine question’. This is certainly true of the recent surge in recruitment from South East Asia, an area with little traditional interest in the Middle East conflict.
In recent years, however, countries like Indonesia and Malaysia have come under the influence of radical Islamist preachers with their particularly venomous anti-Western message.
This points to the third reason why Kerry’s comments were so myopic, namely that they ignore the real recruiting sergeants for ISIS among America’s Islamic allies. For years, donors in Saudi Arabia and Qatar have provided lavish amounts of material support to ISIS, Hamas and other jihadist outfits.
They have also given these terror groups an ideological structure by promoting their intolerant brand of militant Wahhabism.
As General Jonathan Shaw, a former assistant chief of the Defence staff, recently pointed out, ISIS is simply “a violent expression of Wahhabist Salafism.” The monster that Arab nations helped spawn has now come back to haunt them.
Nouri Al-Maliki, Iraq’s former Prime Minister, should not escape censure either. The Shi’ite leader helped alienate his country’s Sunni population with a series of divisive interventions.
His heavy handed approach towards the opposition, using security services that were packed with his own supporters, led to accusations of authoritarianism and sectarian rule.
By alienating the Sunni Arab militia, he encouraged defections and weakened his country’s defences during the recent ISIS advance.
It isn’t just about western allies. Syria too must take some of the blame, having previously facilitated the flow of foreign fighters into Iraq to help target American troops. Many of these troops now form part of ISIS’s ‘foreign legion’.
Finally, one must mention the Obama administration’s own policies. Many informed voices argue that America’s failure to support the Free Syrian Army in 2011 created a vacuum that has now been filled by the extreme jihadists.
But whether we blame the Gulf States, Iraq, Syria or the US, it’s clear that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict scarcely figures in these calculations. It is simply peripheral to the savagery now unfolding across the Middle East.
The gory and repellent beheadings of the Yazidis, the ethnic cleansing of non-Muslims, the mass rape of women and the enslavement of children are not expressions of rage against the Jewish state. Instead they are manifestations of a warped death cult being propagated by bloodthirsty, totalitarian theocrats.
Kerry’s comments are therefore spectacularly ill informed. But they reflect the narrative given by Arab leaders who naturally want to shift the focus from themselves to the West and Israel. This obsessive attempt to blame ‘the other’ has become one of the most ubiquitous features of Arab political discourse.
Put simply, the blundering Kerry has failed to appreciate a most fundamental point. It is the region’s surging extremism, reflected in ISIS, that rules out a Palestinian state, not the other way round.
HOW DID ISRAEL TURN FROM PLUCKY UNDERDOG TO PARIAH? 13 November 2014
In the aftermath of the Six Day War, Israel was feted across much of the West. According to many polls, Americans and Europeans favoured Israel over the Arabs by a huge margin with liberals admiring this plucky, underdog nation. Fifty years on and the picture has changed completely. Israel is seen by many as an illegal, colonialist oppressor and a prime candidate for 'pariah among the nations'.
Why did this change occur? According to Professor David Muravchik, in his book Making David into Goliath, it isn't primarily about the 'occupation'. The transformation occurred because the conflict was redefined. After 1967, it was no longer Israel versus the Arab world but Israel versus the Palestinians. The latter were depicted as a pitiful people desperately seeking a return to their ancestral homeland.
Modelling themselves on the Vietcong, the PLO mastered the vernacular of the global left. It presented itself to the West as a liberation movement, desperately seeking to resist the worst ravages of First World colonialism. It was a propaganda coup that gave the PLO instant credibility in the halls of 'enlightened' opinion.
But that was only part of the explanation. Throughout the 1970s, Palestinian terrorists launched a series of violent attacks across Europe. Instead of responding robustly to this murderous campaign, European countries simply wilted. Terrorists were quickly released in the hope that their nationals would be spared further attacks. Such behaviour, combined with submission in the face of oil sanctions, helped to ensure that Arabist sympathies prevailed on the Continent.
The Arab lobby's biggest diplomatic coup was its seizure of the UN in the 1970s. During this decade the UN became dominated by a Soviet/Arab/Third World bloc which was responsible for the creation of an anti-western, anti-American zeitgeist. The UN became the world's most powerful bastion of anti-Israel hostility, passing one hostile resolution after another, including one equating Zionism with racism.
Muravchik doesn't ignore Israeli policy. Menachem Begin's dream of a 'Greater Israel' and his settlement policy proved to be less endearing than the socialist vision of Israel's pioneers. It helped spawn an 'adversary culture' among Israeli academics who quickly became their country's fiercest critics.
The book's arguments are readable and cogent. Muravchik shows how the centre left, both in Israel and around the world, has got it badly wrong. Israel bashing didn't start with the 'occupation', nor will it end with another Palestinian state.