Wednesday, April 30, 2008

"Yom HaShoah"

Arlene Kushner

Holocaust Day, or, as it is more properly known in Israel, Day of Remembrance of Martyrs and Heroes -- the feeling being that those who were brave and did fight back should not be forgotten.

This is one of those times when I feel that my 'regular' posting material can be put aside.

Observance began at sundown, and, as I do every year, I watched the televised ceremonies at the Holocaust Memorial, Yad Va'Shem. And, as I do every year, I wept. The core of the ceremony is the lighting of six flames, by six survivors, to represent the six million. Each of those who lights has been filmed telling his or her story, and that film runs before the flame is lit. One story is more painful than the next.


But today was, somehow, different. For each of the magnificent people who told his/her story has made a significant contribution to the State. One, for example, was recruited by the Mosad, and sent into Germany, where he broke into an office and photographed the documents that convicted Eichmann. And one helped found a yishuv, a settlement, in the north in the early years of the State. His face lit with pride as he spoke of his contribution.

And -- oh! -- the lessons to be learned from this. Lessons of bravery and hope and meaning in life.

And, of course, I thought once again that this all hasn't happened to come to naught, and that whatever the horrors of what we are dealing with, we must come through at the end.

There is an honor guard on the stage for the ceremonies, and I watched them with their military precision and prayed for all of our army to be strong, strong.


Tomorrow at 10 AM a siren sounds and everyone stands still wherever he or she is in memory of the six million. People stop their cars and get out to stand. It's a moving and uniting experience.

Except, of course, that Arabs don't stand still. And that's a story for another day.

see my website

COP: Gas Prices - Dems are getting exactly what they fought for

Patrick Casey

Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell has a wonderful little snippet up at The Hill's Congress Blog, As Gas Prices Rose, Democrats Ignored Opportunities to Help Production:

Gasoline today at the pump is $1.25 more, on average, than it was when the Democrats took over Congress. Why is that a good place to measure? Because during that period, we've had an opportunity to build more refineries, and the Democratic majority voted it down . We've had an opportunity to open up additional parts of the Outer Continental Shelf and the Democratic majority voted it down. It's clear that on the production side of the equation, this new majority is not interested in doing anything.

He's right. In addition, what we have today is exactly what the Democrats and the environmentalists have wanted for years - high gas prices that should, by their very nature, reduce demand. The only thing that the Democrats would like more is if a few U.S. oil companies were going bankrupt at the same time, but unfortunately for them you can't have both things at the same time.

Remember, it was just last July that Democratic Representative John Dingell of Michigan announced that he wanted to increase the gas tax by 50 cents, as a punitive measure that he believed would cause consumers to drive less, thus reducing "greenhouse gases." You'd think that the recent rise in gas prices, and the subsequent howling from the Democrats about how awful the rise is for the average voter (err, consumer), would cause the Democrats to reconsider any increase in the gas tax. On the contrary, Dingell is still pushing the issue, even though polls are showing that Americans are against such a move.

There are many issues affecting the rise in oil and gasoline prices, not the least of which is open-market speculation by entities unrelated to the oil companies. But you have to look at the underlying fact that is part of the basis for such speculation - the oil producing countries have the United States by the short hairs.

The world knows that with the power structure in Congress that's been in place since long before the Democrats took over the majority, the Dem will fight against and, in fact, will not allow 1) any more domestic oil production; 2) any more domestic refining capacity; and 3) the further development of any existing technology, such as nuclear, that could have an immediate and significant impact on our domestic energy production. Couple that with domestic policy thrusts that are designed to increase the price of gasoline at the get the picture.

Imagine sitting at a negotiation table, and you already know that your opponent will not take any positive steps to help him or herself out. They've also been upfront and open about the fact that they have no secrets up their sleeve. Your opponent is just going to sit there and wait for you to dictate to them your terms -- terms that they will have to accept.

That's the position that oil-producing nations have us in. And that's the position that the Democrats want us to be in, and are doing everything in their power to make sure we will always be in.

How does it feel?

Thomas Lifson adds:

This should be a major campiagn issue for the GOP in Congressional races across the country. Instead of playing defense, Republicans should be on the offense, tying Dems to higher gas prices.
Gateway Pundit scored some great points:

Democrats promised they had a plan to cut energy prices--
So far they have not produced this plan.

Page Printed from: at April 30, 2008 - 04:10:09 PM EDT

Muslim leader condemns Myrick anti-jihad plan!

"'Myrick's latest attempt at fighting terrorism is nothing more than a fear campaign,' said Jibril Hough, a spokesman for the Islamic Center of Charlotte. 'It is nothing more than a new McCarthyism, or Myrickism. As Muslims, we have become expendable as politicians like Myrick seek political gain.'

"Myrick said she wants the group to give a point-by-point rebuttal of her plan."

Yes, that would be most interesting. What could Jibril Hough say? Let's go through the Myrick Plan and see: 1. Investigate all military chaplains endorsed by Abdurahman Alamoudi, who was imprisoned for funding a terrorist organization.

Alamoudi is doing 23 years for funding jihad terrorism. Is it possible that some of the military chaplains he endorsed shared his jihadist views? Can Jibril Hough explain why not?

2. Investigate all prison chaplains endorsed by Alamoudi.

Same question as for #1.

3. Investigate the selection process of Arabic translators working for the Pentagon and the FBI.

An FBI whistleblower has reported that Arabic translators there cheered the 9/11 attacks. Can Jibril Hough explain why this should not be a cause for concern?

4. Examine the non-profit status of the Council on American-Islamic Relations.

The Council on American-Islamic Relations has had several of its officials convicted on jihad terror-related charges, and was named an unindicted co-conspirator in a Hamas funding case. Can Jibril Hough explain why its tax-exempt status should not at least be examined?

5. Make it an act of sedition or solicitation of treason to preach or publish materials that call for the deaths of Americans.

Objections, Mr. Hough?

6. Audit sovereign wealth funds in the United States.

If these funds may be used to conduct warfare against the U.S., what exactly is Mr. Hough's objection?

7. Cancel scholarship student visa program with Saudi Arabia until they reform their text books, which she claims preach hatred and violence against non-Muslims.

It is demonstrably true that they do. Does Mr. Hough endorse this?

8. Restrict religious visas for imams who come from countries that don't allow reciprocal visits by non-Muslim clergy.

This is simply in the interests of mutual tolerance and understanding, is it not, Mr. Hough?

9. Cancel contracts to train Saudi police and security in U.S. counterterrorism tactics.

Given ongoing Saudi financing of the global jihad, what exactly is Mr. Hough's objection?

10. Block the sale of sensitive military munitions to Saudi Arabia.

Same question as #9.

But I doubt that Hough will provide a point-by-point refutation, for the same reason that John Esposito will not debate me. What can they say?

"Muslim condemns Myrick plan: Senator says she welcomes dialogue on anti-terrorism proposal," by Jim Morrill for the Charlotte Observer (thanks to Twostellas):

A spokesman for a Charlotte-area Islamic group Monday accused U.S. Rep. Sue Myrick of leading a "fear campaign" with her proposal to curb the expansion of radical Islam.

Myrick, a Charlotte Republican, proposed a 10-point "Wake Up America" plan this month that, among other things, calls for investigations into the selection of the Pentagon's Arabic translators and some Muslim military and prison chaplains.

"Myrick's latest attempt at fighting terrorism is nothing more than a fear campaign," said Jibril Hough, a spokesman for the Islamic Center of Charlotte. "It is nothing more than a new McCarthyism, or Myrickism. As Muslims, we have become expendable as politicians like Myrick seek political gain."

Myrick said she wants the group to give a point-by-point rebuttal of her plan.

"I'd be glad to have a dialogue with them," she said. "The whole point is that we're trying to get people to work together."

Myrick's proposal has also drawn criticism from the Washington-based Council on American-Islamic Relations. One of her proposals was to investigate the group's nonprofit status....

Making Mischief

Jonathan Spyer
April 30, 2008

Whatever the Israelis offer, Syria won't give up its alliance with Iran, which allows it to punch above its weight in the region.
With attention in the Middle East focusing on the US congressional hearings regarding a possible Syrian nuclear programme, the Syrian newspaper al-Watan made a surprising announcement last Wednesday. According to the newspaper, Israel, via Turkish channels, had in the previous 24 hours expressed its willingness to exchange the entirety of the Golan Heights area for peace with Syria. The same day, Syrian expatriate affairs minister Buthaina Shaaban confirmed the information in an interview with al-Jazeera. Israeli spokespeople neither confirmed nor denied the reports. Senior officials said only that both Israel and Syria understood the "price" of an agreement. Could the latest diplomatic feints herald a renewed peace process between Israel and Syria? Almost certainly not. Here's why.
The Turkish channel of communication is a reality. The Israeli and Syrian governments send regular messages to one another. And Israel's statement in response to Shaaban's remarks is indicative of the Olmert government's willingness in principle for compromise on the Golan.
But with regard to Israel's position - the international and domestic contexts need to be borne in mind. Internationally, the Israeli defence establishment is known to have been opposed to the US decision to make public aspects of the intelligence behind Israel's bombing of a suspected nuclear facility in eastern Syria on September 6 2007. Part of this opposition related to the issue of revealing of sources. But a large part derived from the Israeli desire to avoid placing the Syrian leadership in a humiliating position from which it would feel obligated to retaliate for the attack.
From the Israeli point of view, the attack itself was sufficient to convey the desired deterrent message to Syria. The regime of Bashar al-Assad is regarded by the Israeli defence establishment as a weak and brittle entity. Apart from a general desire to avoid open conflict, Israel also has no desire to place Assad's regime in jeopardy - since whatever would replace it in the event of its falling would almost certainly be worse. Israel has no desire to see the Assad family franchise to its north replaced by a hungry, newly-minted Sunni Islamist government. Hence, the sudden dangling of the possibility of talks may be seen as a face-saving device for Assad, provided partially by Israel.
Domestically, Israeli opposition to concessions to Syria remains widespread and reaches to the highest levels of the current government. This will continue to be the case for as long as Syria remains part of the Iran-led alliance in the region. Both the president, Shimon Peres, and deputy prime minister Shaul Mofaz have asserted in recent days that if giving up the Golan Heights to Syria means in essence ceding it to Iran, then no deal is possible.
This then leads to the key question. Could Israeli concessions to Syria prove a sufficient prize to lure Damascus away from its 25-year alliance with the mullahs in Tehran? Answering this requires taking a closer look at the Syrian regime's interests in the region.
Syria lacks the size of Egypt and the resources of Saudi Arabia. But it has been able to project power and influence in the region because of its willingness to support radicalism, act as a disruptive force and thus create a situation in which it cannot be ignored. Thus, Damascus backs a host of Palestinian groups opposed to a peaceful settlement of the conflict with Israel - including Hamas, Palestinian Islamic Jihad, PFLP-GC and others. Syria offered significant support to the Sunni insurgency in Iraq. And most importantly, Damascus maintains influence in Lebanon - following its ignominious departure in 2005 - via its relationship with the pro-Iranian Shia militia, Hizbullah.
The ability to foment chaos and project influence in Lebanon is key for the Assad regime. The expulsion from that country was a personal humiliation for the young president, and its loss is exacting an economic cost on Damascus. Furthermore, the regime seeks to prevent at all costs the commencement of the work of the tribunal into the killing of former prime minister, Rafik al-Hariri. Its chosen method for doing this is the fomenting of instability in Lebanon and the instrument it chooses to use is Hizbullah.
The mainstream Arab states - most importantly Egypt and Saudi Arabia - are frightened by the growth of Iranian influence across the region. They are furious with Syria for its backing of non-Arab Iran. But only by backing the radical power in the region can Syria maintain its powerful role as mischief-maker. No Iran means no more fomenting radicalism, no more reaping the benefits of having to be bought off, no more pro-Iranian militias to help out in Lebanon, no return to Lebanon, and the nightmarish possibility of seeing major regime figures collared for the killing of Hariri. It is a near certainty that the regime will prefer to maintain all of these - with the additional mobilising charge of the "occupied Golan" into the bargain - rather than give it all up and become a minor, status quo power.
In other words, Syria is too deeply committed, on too many levels, to its alliance with Iran to consider abandoning it for the Golan and the Arab mainstream. Syria's conflict with Israel can't be separated out from Damascus's larger regional concerns. Hence, with all due respect to the Turkish mediators, we are faced here with another manifestation of that well-known Middle Eastern phenomenon: much ado about nothing.
Dr. Jonathan Spyer is a senior research fellow at the Global Research in International Affairs Center at the Interdisciplinary Center, Herzliya Israel.

Thanks to:
Professor Barry Rubin,
Director, Global Research in International Affairs (GLORIA) Center
Editor, Middle East Review of International Affairs (MERIA) Journal
Editor, Turkish Studies

You think these people can be talked to rationally?

Itamar Marcus and Barbara Crook
Palestinian Media Watch

Hamas Holocaust perversion:

Jews planned Holocaust to kill handicapped Jews

Comment: Read the next part-this is the mind set of the Hamas people-it is pervasive across all levels of their society-this is not some isolated or aberrant behavior set. Western thinking cannot get its collective intellect around this behavior-best start realizing some simple truths. To continue to deny,ignore or explain the behavior due to occupation mentality is ignorant and policies that are the result of this ignorance are killing human beings on both sides of the battle.

Jewish leaders planned the Holocaust to kill "disabled and handicapped" Jews to avoid having to care for them, according to a Hamas TV educational program. As much of the world prepared to commemorate Yom HaShoah, Holocaust Remembrance Day, Hamas TV presented its latest sinister twist on Holocaust denial.

The Hamas TV educational program, broadcast last week, taught that the murder of Jews in the Holocaust was a Zionist plot with two goals:

1- To eliminate "disabled and handicapped" Jews by sending them to death camps, so they would not be a burden on the future state of Israel.

2- At the same time, the Holocaust served to make "the Jews seem persecuted" so they could "benefit from international sympathy."

Amin Dabur, head of the Palestinian "Center for Strategic Research" explained that "the Israeli Holocaust - the whole thing was a joke, and part of the perfect show that [Zionist leader and future Israeli prime minister] Ben Gurion put on." The "young energetic and able" were sent to Israel, while the handicapped were sent "so there would be a Holocaust."

click here to see video

The following is the transcript,

Al-Aqsa TV (Hamas) April 18 2008


"The disabled and handicapped are a heavy burden on the state,"

said the terrorist leader, Ben Gurion. [Zionist leader - Israel's first PM]

The Satanic Jews thought up an evil plot [the Holocaust] to be rid of the burden of the disabled and handicapped, in twisted criminal ways.

[Picture: Holocaust death camp, dead bodies]

While they accuse the Nazis or others so the Jews would seem persecuted, and try to benefit from international sympathy. They were the first to invent the methods of evil and oppression."

Amin Dabur, head of the Palestinian "Center for Strategic Research":

"About the Israeli Holocaust, the whole thing was a joke and part of the perfect show that Ben Gurion put on, who focused on strong and energetic youth [for Israel], while the rest- the disabled, the handicapped, and people with special needs, they were sent to [to die]- if it can be proven historically. They were sent [to die] so there would be a holocaust, so Israel could "play" it for world sympathy."

"The alleged numbers of Jews [killed in the Holocaust] were merely for propaganda."

Gas in Israel Rises to $7.19 a Gallon at the Pump

Ezra HaLevi

Fuel prices in Israel will rise to an all-time high of $7.19 a gallon at midnight Wednesday – a rise of 4.6 percent. Self-service 95 octane gas will be priced at 6.58 shekels a liter, with 96 octane 6.60 a liter – a rise of 29 agorot per liter for both types.

Gas prices
Add Image have risen for three months straight, rising 5.6 percent since the beginning of the year.

The rising prices are due to a general rise in oil prices worldwide, with the cost of a barrel nearing the $120 mark. Where Does Israel Get Its Oil?
Israel’s gas prices have always been relatively high, as it must buy its fuel from middle-men and smaller oil-producing nations across the globe. Israel has purchased oil from Mexico, the UK and Norway, and more recently, from Russia and Kazakhstan. A steadily increasing amount of natural gas is bought from Egypt, and Israel also imports coal for some of its power plants from Australia, Angola, South Africa and Columbia.

For the decade following the 1967 Six Day War, Israel benefited from direct reasonably-priced fuel piped in from Iran, when it was ruled by the Shah. In 1979, when Iran underwent an Islamic revolution, the pipeline was closed. Israel also lost a major source of oil when it relinquished the oil fields of the Sinai Peninsula in exchange for a treaty with Egypt in 1982.

In 2004, Minister of Infrastructures Yosef Paritzky (Shinui) revealed that most of Israel’s oil imports originate in countries with which the Jewish state does not maintain diplomatic relations. He did not elaborate.

In response to Israel’s recent condemnation of a Swiss oil deal with Iran, Swiss newspapers alleged that Israel continues to purchase a large amount of high-quality oil from the Islamic Republic through a European intermediary.

About 3 percent of Israel’s energy consumption is supplied by solar power, mostly in the form of rooftop solar panels to heat water for residential buildings. Several projects to expand solar power through large facilities in the Negev desert are currently underway.

Holocaust/Heroism Day Begins Tonight

Hillel Fendel

Jews around the world, and particularly in Israel, will commemorate the six million Jews murdered in the Holocaust, as well as those who were able to fight back, beginning Wednesday evening.

Yom HaShoah V'Hagvurah, Holocaust Martyrs and Heroes Remembrance Day, begins this evening at 8 PM with a public ceremony at Warsaw Ghetto Square in Yad Vashem, Jerusalem. President Shimon Peres and Prime Minister Ehud Olmert will speak, survivors will light six torches (see below), the Chief Rabbis will recite prayers, and Cantor Asher Heinowitz will sing the El Malei Rachamim prayer. The central theme of this year's commemorations is "Choose Life." Last year, it was "Bearing Witness." At 10 PM, a symposium will be held on the topic of "Choose Life," with the participation of Holocaust survivors and Yad Vashem Chairman Avner Shalev.

The six survivors lighting the torches are the following:

* Esther Samuel-Cahn, born in 1933 in Norway. A religiously observant professor at Hebrew University in Jerusalem, she was awarded the Israel Prize in Statistics in 2004. When she was 9, her father, Rabbi Dr. Yitzchak Samuel, the rabbi of Norwegian Jewry, was arrested by the Nazis and sent to Auschwitz. Several months later, she and her family were hidden behind potato sacks and smuggled to Sweden. At age 13, a year after World War II ended, she immigrated to Israel with her mother and two brothers.
* Meir Brand, born in 1936 in Poland. In 1943, closed up in a Nazi-built ghetto, his parents decided to smuggle him out, and after many narrow escapes, he arrived in Budapest, Hungary. He was on the Kastner Train - a trainload of almost 1,700 Jews who escaped from Hungary to safety in Switzerland - but was one of the few dozen who was detained in the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp. After his rescue in 1945, he was brought to Israel via the Jewish Agency's Aliyat HaNoar (Youth Immigration) project. Here he learned that his parents had been murdered. Meir lived in the Jordan Valley's Kibbutz N'vei Eitan, and fought in most of Israel's wars.
* Naomi Shadmi, born in 1931 in Hungary. At age 13, her father, older brother and mother were abducted, one after the other, by the Nazis. Naomi and her remaining younger brother were taken to the Budapest Ghetto. After their release, they found that their relatives had been murdered. They came to Israel, where Naomi worked for Israel Police for 20 years.
* Tzvi Ungar, born in 1929 in Poland. He survived the Birkenau and Buchenwald concentration camps, as well as the infamous Death March, but the remainder of his family was murdered. In 1948, he immigrated to Israel, fought in the War of Independence, and helped found Kibbutz Malkiyah, practically atop Israel's border with Lebanon, where he still resides.
* Menachem Katz, born in 1925 in Poland. At age 17, he and his family were taken to a ghetto, then banished to the Belzec concentration camp in Poland, where an estimated 600,000 people were murdered. He escaped, and was later followed by his family. In 1946, they were caught on their way to Palestine and taken to Cyprus, where they remained for about a year. A prominent architect, Menachem designed the museum at Kibbutz Baram in memory of the Jews of Berezhany, his birthplace.
* Michael Maor, born in Germany in 1933. His family fled to Yugoslavia, then to Italy, and then to the forests with the partisans when Italy came under Nazi influence. In 1944, the Nazis murdered his parents, and he was taken to an orphanage. In Israel, he worked for the Mossad Intelligence Agency, collected evidence against Adolph Eichmann, and established the Border Guard's intelligence department.

The date of Yom HaShoah was chosen to mark the anniversary of the Warsaw Ghetto uprising. Although the day became official by an act of Knesset, it has been traditionally commemorated by Jewish communities around the world. Some religious communities prefer not to commemorate the Holocaust on this day, which falls in the generally happy month of Nissan, but rather on Tisha B'Av or on the Tenth of Tevet, which the Chief Rabbinate of Israel fixed as the day for the recital of the Kaddish prayer for those murdered during the Holocaust whose date of death is not known.

Historic First: IDF Chief at Head of March to Auschwitz

Ezra HaLevi.

IDF Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Gabi Ashkenazi visited the Warsaw Ghetto and a Jewish cemetery in Poland ahead of Holocaust Remembrance Day, which begins Wednesday night.

The top IDF commander visited the Jewish cemetery in Warsaw, Poland where the Jews who died in the Warsaw Ghetto were buried. Ashkenazi reportedly stood silent for a few moments and then said: "The answer to what we see here is us, the State of Israel, the IDF and victory." Ashkenazi met with Jews who continue to live in Poland and visited the Nozyk synagogue. He also visited a memorial to the Warsaw Ghetto uprising, located at the site of the home used as a command center by Mordechai Anielewicz, the local commander of the Jewish uprising against the Nazis.

"In this place Mordechai Anielewicz didn’t just hide from the Nazis,” Ashkenazi noted, “he also fought. It is fitting that the soldiers of the IDF soldiers learn the story of this uprising. That is why we came to admire and salute the heroes who - despite the realities and balance of power, and the fact that they were untrained civilians - got up and took action and fought. Today we call these principles and moral norms."

“They knew they had no chance of winning, but they fought nevertheless. That is bravery… The importance of victory is a norm for the IDF and a central part of it, alongside remembrance and study of the Holocaust."

The IDF Chief of Staff will lead thousands of young people in the annual March of the Living at the Auschwitz concentration camp on Thursday. It will be the first time an IDF commander has led the march.Accompanying Ashkenazi is IDF Chief Rabbi Brig.-Gen. Avichai Ronsky, who recited the E-l Malei Rachamim prayer, IDF Education Corps Chief Brig.-Gen. Eli Shermeister and IDF Spokesman Brig.-Gen. Avi Benayahu.

Also accompanying the Chief of Staff is Sgt.-Maj. Tal Shabbat, who was badly wounded while conducting counter-terror operations in the northern Gaza rocket-launching capital of Beit Hanoun in November, 2006. Corp. Ro'i Granitza, wounded during the Second Lebanon War by a rocket fired at his tank, is also a member of the delegation.

Ashkenazi will meet with Polish defense officials during his visit as well. Both Israeli and Polish security forces are deployed throughout the region, in anticipation of Islamist attempts to attack the IDF chief.

Egypt: On the Brink of Revolution?

Jamie Glazov

Frontpage Interview’s guest today is John R. Bradley, a British journalist and author. His last book on the Middle East was the critically acclaimed Saudi Arabia Exposed: Inside a Kingdom in Crisis (2005). He joins us to discuss his new book, Inside Egypt: The Land of the Pharaohs on the Brink of a Revolution. He maintains a website at FP: John R. Bradley, welcome to Frontpage Interview.

Bradley: Greetings, Jamie. It’s very nice to be chatting with you again.

FP: What inspired you to write this book?

Bradley: I’ve been semi-permanently based in Egypt for about a decade, apart from a two-and-a-half-year stint in Saudi Arabia from a few months before September 11, 2001. I speak the Egyptian Arabic dialect fluently, and consider Cairo my home. So after I left Saudi Arabia and published my book on that country, Saudi Arabia Exposed, I instinctively made my way back to Egypt.

I suggested to my publisher that I should write a book on contemporary Egyptian politics and society since -- amazingly -- there’s no similar book out there, and apart from Saudi Arabia it's the Arab country I'm most familiar with. Egypt moreover is the most populous Arab country, the region's historic trendsetter, and a crucial US ally, so it's very important that Westerners understand the inner workings of this country better -- especially as it appears to be entering a period of serious instability.

Back in 2005 I had a strong sense, based on what I was seeing and hearing on the ground and on my own close reading of the recent Egyptian past, that the country was approaching a pivotal moment in its history. Rather riskily, I decided to call the book Inside Egypt: The Land of the Pharaohs on the Brink of a Revolution. It turns out, though, that I was right to have trusted my instincts. Inside Egypt is published this month, as the country is being rocked by the most serious disturbances since the 1952 revolution.

FP: Yes, your book is extremely timely. Egypt is presently witnessing an endless series of strikes, demonstrations and riots. What is the cause? And what are the chances of them leading to serious instability?

Bradley: There are many causes: extreme poverty, endemic torture, rampant corruption, political oppression, the complete evisceration of the middle class, the theft of the country's vast wealth by the fat cats under the guise of privatization and opening up the economy to foreign investment. Then there's the ideologically bankrupt regime itself that has absolutely no interest in solving any of these problems -- indeed, which is the root cause of them all.

There's no indication that the latest wave of strikes and riots will in and of itself topple the Mubarak regime. There are 1.4 million members of the Egyptian security forces, and their brutality in stifling dissent is legendary. As I write in my book, these thugs even beat, rape, and murder little boys for allegedly stealing packets of tea, apparently just for fun of it, so they can be completely relied upon to beat protestors in the street to a pulp.

My sense is that, rather than through organized opposition, an unpredictable event in the near future may act as a spark that will set the whole country ablaze. An uprising could also be triggered by an announcement that the president's son, Gamal Mubarak, will himself stand for president, as is widely anticipated. Opposition to Gamal inheriting the reins of power is the one thing that unites all the Egyptian opposition groups: secularists, leftists, Islamists, Christians and Muslims, and the mass of the population not actively involved in politics but fed up with being ruled by this bunch of ignoramuses.

Only one thing is for sure: the next 18 months or so in Egypt are going to be extremely tense, and things here are going to get a lot worse before they have any chance of getting better. There's a very real risk of the country descending into chaos, and therefore of a military coup -- especially if it seems that the Muslim Brotherhood is set to make a power grab.

FP: How popular is the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt? What are your thoughts on Washington entering some kind of engagement with the Islamist group in the attempt to “moderate” or democratize it?

Bradley: The Muslim Brotherhood is not very popular at all here in Egypt. Debunking the myth of the group's popularity, which has gained widespread currency in the West, is one of the main aims of my book. The group apparently has about 500,000 members -- out of a population of 78 million. There are probably a million or so more Egyptians who are vaguely sympathetic to their goals, or who would support them because they believe any group would be better than the tyrant who rules them at present. In other words, at most they have the support of about 2 percent of the population.

There are obvious reasons why their fundamentalist interpretation of Islam doesn't resonate among ordinary Egyptians, one of which is that the kind of Islam practiced by the country's Muslims is an intriguing mishmash of Sunni, Shia, and Sufi traditions.

For instance, there are at least six million men in Egypt -- about a third of the adult male Muslim population -- who are members of one Sufi order or other; and at least twice that number of men -- and countless millions of women and children -- participate in the festivals the Sufi orders organize called moulids. That these figures are likely to surprise outsiders is proof of how the coverage of Egypt in the Western media has tended to favor analyzing developments almost exclusively in relation to the Muslim Brotherhood, to the detriment of other more moderate and mainstream Islamic trends.

The Muslim Brotherhood condemns moulids as un-Islamic, and that is one of a number of reasons why they can count such a small number of members in their rank and file. Praying to holy men and women, even celebrating Prophet Muhammad’s birthday, is akin to idolatry, according to these Sunni fundamentalists. The tedious fatwa-issuing sheikhs of Al-Azhar agree with them.

Add to this the roughly 10 percent of the population that is Christian, and other large ethnic groups like Bedouin and Nubians for whom Islamism is anathema, along with secular Egyptians and moderate Sunnis and fiercely independent tribal Upper Egyptians, and it isn't difficult to understand why the Muslim Brotherhood has failed to garner mass support, and never will.

Most Egyptians live in horror at being ruled by a hard-line Sunni Islamist regime.

For all these reasons, and many more, I have nothing but disdain for those foreign policy experts in Washington who promote dialogue with the Muslim Brotherhood as a way of cultivating an alternative to the Mubarak regime. Of course, the group is the main political opposition -- but how many Egyptians care about mainstream politics? Less than two percent voted in the latest elections. And the Muslim Brotherhood have been cultivated as a political opposition force by Mubarak himself precisely to play up the fear in Washington of an Islamist takeover if he is removed from power. Western policy makers who promote the Muslim Brotherhood are, however inadvertently, doing Mubarak's dirty work for him, and in the process they are doing a great disservice to the Egyptian people.

Of course, if these Western apologists for the Muslim Brotherhood happened to be secular Egyptian Muslims working, say, as professors of politics or literature at Cairo University, they wouldn't be nearly so eager to promote this brand of cultural fascism, because they themselves would have to face the consequences.

FP: Inside Egypt paints a grim picture of the country, where torture, poverty, and corruption are endemic. How did things reach this point?

Bradley: Inside Egypt shows that all the problems in the country can be traced back, directly or indirectly, to the 1952 coup that overthrew the British-backed monarchy and brought to power Gamal Abdul Nasser and the Free Officers. Before the coup there was a constitutional monarchy and a functioning and democratic parliament; after the coup Nasser banned all opposition parties. Before the coup there was a vibrant and free media; after the coup Nasser nationalized the newspapers and appointed his lackeys as the editors in chief. Before the coup Cairo was wonderfully cosmopolitan; Nasser then expelled the foreigners and his rank xenophobia then ruled supreme. Then there was the curse of his pan-Arabism, a fallacious dream that evaporated once it encountered reality, and which brought the Egyptian people nothing but defeat and despair.

Colonialism is always bad, and I'm not defending the British colonial period in the book. Far from it. I merely point out that the Free Officers inherited the wealth and corruption of the ousted monarchy, and in doing so got rid of everything that was good and replaced everything that was bad with something even worse. Modern Egypt has a long history of foreign occupation: by the French, the Ottomans, the British. In Inside Egypt, I argue that the country has effectively been occupied since 1952 by the military. The military have created a system of oppression that has only one goal: perpetuating their own rule and increasing their own wealth and privilege. For this to happen, the Egyptian people must be cowed into subservience through systematic torture and other crude forms of intimidation.

FP: So what are the chances that Egypt is the next domino to fall? If Islamists capture power, is the Middle East lost?

Bradley: If Washington does decide to listen to the voices of policy analysts inside the Beltway and turn on Mubarak or his successor only in order to cultivate the Muslim Brotherhood, it will not so much mark a “triumph of Islam” but the final death knell for Egypt’s deep-set democratic and pluralistic traditions, with devastating consequences for the wider region. Egypt is the only buffer left that can keep Islamism from completely dominating the region's political landscape.

Of course, the Islamists’ perpetual argument that their agenda not only embraces democracy but in fact takes it to a higher level of true popular participation is eyewash. Western democracies in theory guarantee the political participation of all citizens regardless of ideology, opinion, or religion; but the Muslim Brotherhood and their like make political participation of individuals in society subject to the principles of the sharia. In the West, the legislative and judicial branches of government monitor state actions to ensure they conform to democratic rules: The three powers keep each other in check. In an Islamist setup, the actions of the state would be monitored by the Muslim Brotherhood to ensure they conform to the rules of sharia. In other words, the Islamists would monitor only themselves.

The Muslim Brotherhood guarantees freedom of belief only for the followers of the three revealed (Abrahamic) religions, since the Qur’an, due to the Prophet’s particular circumstances, is wholly ignorant of, say, Buddhism, and only takes issue with polytheism (of which Mecca was a center in his time), which it naturally condemns since it seeks to supersede it. And the freedom of association enjoyed by civil organizations in a democracy would, in an Islamist system, be conditional on their adherence to the strictures of the sharia. The Brotherhood opposes the notion of a state based exclusively on Western-style democratic institutions: Islamic government is based on the shura (consultative assembly) system, veneration of the leader, and the investiture of a Supreme Guide. So says the Islamic canon, and it must therefore be.

In short, it is a circular argument, positing that perfect freedom and human rights have already been achieved in the Islamist democracy, obviating the need for any doubt, debate, expression, exploration, and whatever else fuels the development of a culture, except for such minor niggles as the ruler may from time to time bend his august ear to. That is the principle guiding Saudi Arabia, and the results are there for all to see in the arid kingdom’s magnificent achievements over the last seven decades in music, art, literature, philosophy, science, and technology.

When the Muslim Brotherhood laid down its first detailed political platform in October 2007, it showed its true colors. Women and Christians would be barred from becoming president, and a board of Muslim clerics would oversee the government in a move that many observers noted was terrifyingly reminiscent of Iran’s Islamic state. The president cannot be a woman because the post’s religious and military duties “conflict with her nature, social and other humanitarian roles,” the document said. Amazingly, the blueprint reportedly discussed women’s issues under its “Issues and Problems” chapter, alongside other “problems” like unemployment and child labor. While underlining “equality between men and women in terms of their human dignity,” it warned against “burdening women with duties against their nature or role in the family.”

Let’s not forget, either, that the Muslim Brotherhood wants to reinstate the Caliphate. Toppling the Egyptian regime is crucial to achieving that goal. How can Washington possibly work with such a bunch of extremists? And why should the Egyptian people have to suffer the Muslim Brotherhood’s inevitable campaign to kill off cultural expression, from literature to beauty contests, with accusations of blasphemy as their bullets?

FP: So should Washington continue to prop up the Mubarak regime? Can or should the $2 billion aid package the US sends Egypt's way each year be used to encourage reform and greater democracy? What is your advice for U.S. policy toward Egypt?

Bradley: The key, of course, is the $2 billion the United States gives Egypt annually in aid, which should unequivocally be tied to progress on reform and with a clear threat that the money will be diverted to grassroots projects in Egypt that promote democracy if reform is not only said to be happening but seen to be happening as well. Washington should get something for its money. And what does Washington really have to lose by following such a course? The Mubarak regime is hardly likely to hand over power to the Muslim Brotherhood when its bluff is called, or stoke up popular anger to the extent that it might get out of control. Who among the Egyptians would not be happy that the regime is getting a metaphorical slap in the face, bearing in mind the very physical slaps and worse so many of them have to suffer at the hands of the regime’s thugs everyday? Israel, meanwhile, is so superior militarily to Egypt that an attack by the latter on the former would be nothing short of suicide.

Regionally, Egypt’s influence is also greatly diminished. From Palestine to Iraq, Lebanon to Syria, and crucially Iran, it is Saudi Arabia that is now calling the shots, and there is no more reliable Washington ally in the Arab world than the House of Saud -- an ally, moreover, pretty much immune to pressure from Washington when the price of oil is hovering at all-time highs.

Under such pressure, the Egyptian regime would have no choice but to introduce meaningful reforms, however slowly. Inching forward is preferable to no movement at all.

For two hundred years, Egypt has steered a course between the two poles of the East and the West. Ordinary Egyptians are Washington’s natural allies, if they can see real benefit to themselves in the alliance. For Washington to abandon the Egyptian people by letting things fester, with all the risk that entails of bringing the Muslim Brotherhood to power, as though the Egyptian people deserve nothing better and want nothing more, as many Washington-based policy analysts seem increasingly to advocate, would be more than just a betrayal of what has historically been the Arab world’s most vibrant and diverse culture: It would, as I have said above and would like to emphasize again here, also sound the death knell for democracy and pluralism throughout the region.

In short, Washington must think long-term, slowly reassessing its support for Egypt’s dictator while doing its utmost to resolve the Palestinian issue, which he exploits to deflect attention from his own considerable shortcomings. It should recognize the Muslim Brotherhood only for what it is: a genuinely important political movement that nevertheless has very limited support among the Egyptian masses.

FP: John R. Bradley, thank you for joining us.

Bradley: You're very welcome. Thanks, Jamie.

Jamie Glazov is Frontpage Magazine's managing editor. He holds a Ph.D. in History with a specialty in U.S. and Canadian foreign policy. He edited and wrote the introduction to David Horowitz’s Left Illusions. He is also the co-editor (with David Horowitz) of The Hate America Left and the author of Canadian Policy Toward Khrushchev’s Soviet Union (McGill-Queens University Press, 2002) and 15 Tips on How to be a Good Leftist. To see his previous symposiums, interviews and articles Click Here. Email him at

Saving Hamas

P. David Hornik

Hamas, under pressure from Israel’s partial blockade of Gaza, Israel’s military activities, and Egypt’s clampdown on the Rafah crossing between Gaza and Sinai, is pulling a trusty weapon from its sheath that will probably get it out of this jam: a ceasefire.

According to a deal being discussed by Hamas and Egyptian intelligence minister Omar Suleiman, Hamas is talking about a stoppage of rocket fire and other terrorist attacks on Israel for six months. Israel is saying in return that the deal would have to apply not only to Hamas but also to the smaller terrorist factions in Gaza, and would have to include a total halt to weapons smuggling into the Strip.
The Olmert government has good reason to try and sound stringent this time. During a previous almost-six-month “ceasefire” with Hamas that lasted from November 26, 2006, to May 15, 2007, various Gazan terror groups never ceased to fire, launching a total of 315 rockets at Israel without a single Israeli response.

But even if Hamas et al. were to genuinely hold their fire this time, senior Israel Defense Forces officers are against such a deal and Maj.-Gen. Yoav Galant, head of Southern Command, has reportedly “expressed fierce opposition” to it.

It’s not hard to see why: Israel’s chances of enforcing a no-smuggling clause would be nil; Hamas would use the time, as Galant warned, to “rebuild its damaged infrastructure and increase its arms smuggling under the Philadelphi Corridor from Sinai”; Egypt has reportedly already assured Hamas that the Rafah crossing, used in the past to smuggle terrorist personnel and funds, would be reopened.

Nor is that all: reportedly Hamas, in cooperation with its parent Egyptian Islamist organization the Muslim Brotherhood, has already acquired and transferred to Gaza know-how and equipment to make bomb-carrying drones; reportedly Iran is already succeeding to smuggle rockets and other advanced weapons into Gaza by sea.

Against these rational military and strategic considerations, however, stands the Olmert government, led by Israel’s most superficial, incompetent, sound-bite prime minister of all time and easily enticed by short-term promises of respite or, as Hamas calls it, tadhiyyeh.

It’s hard to imagine Olmert resisting the chance to declare a ceasefire as Israel’s 60th anniversary celebrations in May approach; it’s much nicer to have a party when the only aerial explosions are fireworks instead of rockets bursting in air beside terrified citizens. Olmert would also like to claim he’s making progress toward freeing captured Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit even though a ceasefire wouldn’t change the fact that the chances of Hamas proposing terms for a prisoner exchange that even Olmert can live with are small.

And still another factor likely to dispose Olmert toward a ceasefire is that the Bush administration is now also, reportedly, pushing for it.

Bush’s plans to visit Israel on May 14, its 60th Independence Day, don’t seem to have affected the usual disdain for Israel’s independent decision-making as pressure grows to accept a deal with Hamas. Quiet in Gaza, the U.S. believes, will increase the likelihood of Israel and the Palestinian Authority signing a peace settlement by the end of 2008.

Bush’s perseverance toward that goal is especially striking given that PA president Mahmoud Abbas didn’t share Bush’s enthusiasm after their meeting in the White House last Thursday.

Bush, in his upbeat report on their parley, said that he “assured the president that a Palestinian state is a high priority for me and my administration. A viable state, a state that doesn’t look like Swiss cheese, a state that provides hope…. I am confident that we can achieve the definition of a state.”

Abbas, though, in an interview to a decidedly un-Israel-friendly Associated Press reporter, said that “Frankly, so far nothing has been achieved.” He complained especially bitterly about Israeli building in places he demands to be Judenrein and about Bush’s, and Rice’s, refusal to commit to driving Israel back to the 1967 borders. He didn’t mention any problems on the PA side like persistent terrorism and inculcating anti-Israel hatred in a whole generation.

Despite, though, the Israeli military’s well-founded objections to a ceasefire and the stark irrationality of subordinating all other concerns to creating a Palestinian jihad-state by the end of this year, Hamas knows the weaknesses of its Israeli and American opposite numbers and knows it has a good chance of being saved by them once again.

The U.S., after all, initially pushed to allow Hamas to run in the 2006 PA elections and, almost two months ago, put a quick stop to what finally looked like a larger-scale Israeli campaign to hit Hamas hard. Why change now?

P. David Hornik is a freelance writer and translator living in Tel Aviv. He blogs at He can be reached at

Thinking the Unthinkable

The terrorist nuclear threat is real, but we're doing nothing about it.

By Clifford D. May

The next time Islamist terrorists attack us it could be with a nuclear weapon. Am I "fear mongering" by saying that? If so, I'm in good company. Graham Allison is a Harvard professor who served with distinction in the Defense Department under Presidents Reagan and Clinton. He wrote a book in 2004 arguing that "on the current course, nuclear terrorism is inevitable." There has been no change of course since — quite the contrary. Ashton B. Carter, co-director of the Preventive Defense Project at Harvard, said recently that the threat of nuclear terrorism has been increasing due to Iranian and North Korean proliferation and the failure to secure Russia's nuclear arsenal following the Cold War. The probability of a nuclear attack on an American city, he believes, is now "almost surely larger than it was five years ago."

Gary Anthony Ackerman, research director of the National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism, also recently told Congress that "the prospect of terrorists detonating a nuclear device on American soil sometime within the next quarter-century is real and growing."

And Cham D. Dallas, who directs the Institute for Health Management and Mass Destruction Defense at the University of Georgia, says flatly: "It's inevitable." Testifying before a Senate hearing this month, he added: "I think it's wistful to think that it won't happen by 20 years."

Should a ten-kiloton nuclear bomb explode near the White House, Dallas estimates that 100,000 people would be killed. A radioactive plume would lethally contaminate thousands more. In a densely populated city such as New York or Chicago, a similar blast would result in a death toll perhaps eight times that high.

Charles Allen, undersecretary for intelligence and analysis for the Department of Homeland Security, has said there is no question that Islamist terrorist groups are seeking nuclear materials. But the intelligence community, he added, is "less certain about terrorists' capability to acquire or develop a nuclear device."

Could the intelligence community be more certain? Yes, our spies could do more to increase our chances of detecting — and preventing — terrorist attacks of all varieties. But they are being denied the tools. The most notable example: The law that gave America's intelligence agencies the authority to freely monitor the communications of foreign terrorists abroad expired in February.

A bill to restore that authority passed the Senate by a solidly bipartisan 68-to-29 majority. A bipartisan majority in the House would almost certainly vote in favor of the same measure but Speaker Nancy Pelosi — for more than two months — has used the power of her office to stop members from casting their votes yea or nay.

Why would she do something so irresponsible? Groups on the Left, important to the Democrats in this election season, demand that foreign terrorists abroad be given the same privacy protections enjoyed by American citizens here at home.

This policy may already have cost American lives. In at least one instance, U.S. officials labored for nearly ten hours to get legal approval necessary to conduct wiretaps to help them locate three American soldiers kidnapped by al-Qaeda combatants in Iraq. The soldiers were not successfully rescued.

"We are extending Fourth Amendment (constitutional) rights to a terrorist foreigner . . . who's captured a U.S. soldier," Director of National Intelligence Michael McConnell complained to a congressional committee during a legislative battle over this same issue last year.

Also in the mix: Trial lawyers are suing telecommunications companies that cooperated with intelligence officials immediately after 9/11, allowing them to "mine" data for patterns of terrorist activity. If the trial lawyers — the biggest donors to Democrats — succeed, they will reap billions of dollars. They also will teach the private sector never again to assist government efforts to identify terrorists. The Senate bill would protect the telecoms from these laws suits.

Almost two dozen moderate Democratic House members sent Pelosi a letter saying that until this measure is passed, America's national security will be "at undue risk." But that was months ago. Since then, with few exceptions, Democrats have been keeping their mouths shut.

Is worrying about nuclear terrorism fear mongering? After the suicide-bombing of the U.S. Marine barracks in Beirut in 1983, and again after the truck-bombing of the World Trade Center in 1993, most politicians exhibited not fear but complacency. They did nothing serious to anticipate or avert the next terrorist attacks. The consequence was the atrocity of 9/11.

Nancy Pelosi and those following her lead appear to have learned nothing in the years since.

— Clifford D. May, a former New York Times foreign correspondent, is president of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, a policy institute focusing on terrorism.

© 2008 Scripps Howard News Service
Thanks Aggie

Israel's Wine, Kosher and Classy

Ezra HaLevi

As Israeli wines gain world renown, more and more are going Kosher - which entails a return to Avoda Ivrit (Jewish Labor). Arutz-7 visited several wineries: the Kfar Tavor winery, which has recently made the decision to turn Kosher; the Binyamina Winery, which has been producing Kosher wines since before the establishment of the state, and which has expanded into the top-shelf wine market; and the IsraWine Expo 2008, which showcases Israel's wines to importers, restaurants and experts from around the globe. And here is the rest of it.

Score one for the Muslim Brotherhood

CLARE M. LOPEZ (Middle East Times)

SPECIAL REPORT: The Bush administration has decided that calling the enemy by his name is too risky, too politically incorrect, or oddly, somehow too laudatory.

And so, henceforth federal agencies of the United States government are to refrain from identifying the Islamic jihad with words that in any way convey genuine understanding about the links between terrorism and religion in the war that has been launched against Western liberal democratic civilization.

The U.S. government seems to think that declaring such links don't exist will make it so. Score one for the Muslim Brotherhood. As Walid Phares describes in his post-9/11 three-book series on the meaning, structure, and progress of the current jihad, words can be enormously influential in the war of ideas. So, when the White House announces that government employees both at home and abroad must employ euphemisms such as "violent extremists" or "South Asian youths" instead of "Muslim jihadis" because the latter somehow confers legitimacy on the enemy, the entire Islamic world understands that the U.S. leadership has been infiltrated and influenced to a state of almost unbelievable confusion about this war.

This serves to encourage the enemies of the United States and dismay its friends and would-be friends within the Muslim world. It also leads the American public to a dangerous misunderstanding of theological motivations that drive jihadis to hate and seek to destroy Western civilization.

That the U.S. administration could even suppose that its choice of vocabulary might influence the jihadi enemy betrays a woeful lack of understanding about what actually motivates him. Concern about offending non-jihadi Muslims must not deter the country from conducting a realistic assessment of the Islamic roots of jihadi terrorism. Non-jihadi Muslims are the target and victims of jihadis to a far greater extent than kufar (non-believers in Islam). They welcome the West's outreach and need the empowerment it could offer, but are weakened when political correctness replaces focus on defining and defeating the enemy that would dominate both societies.

What motivates the international Islamic jihad movement is a literal textual interpretation of doctrinal Islam as laid out in the Koran, hadith, and Sunna plus centuries of Islamic scholarship and consensus on the concept of just war. Within this construct, it is true that words such as jihad, mujahedin, and Caliphate carry intensely positive and honorable connotations – for the Muslim jihadis – but hardly for the rest of us, their intended targets for subjugation within the totalitarian system that Sharia would impose.

In any case, use or non-use by infidels of the very terms by which jihadis identify themselves, to the extent that it might even be noticed, cannot possibly confer any additional measure of legitimacy on what has been for the mujahedin a centuries-old campaign of duty to spread their faith.

What Americans need to understand is that Islamic jihadis, whether part of a formal terrorist organization such as al-Qaida or the Muslim Brotherhood, or merely ideologically driven by the actions and proclamations of such groups, are internally motivated by what they believe is a divine mandate to fight and kill until the entire world comes under the sway of Dar al-Islam (where Sharia law prevails). The only relevance for this enemy that the choice of descriptive words may have is in the area of psychological operations.

If the jihadi enemy can achieve such a state of muddled confusion among the top administrative, legislative, and military leadership of its primary enemy (the United States of America) that we no longer even permit ourselves to utter the name of those sworn to our destruction, then truly they are winning the "War of Ideas."

From a series of excellent recent media pieces, as well as extensive documentation entered into evidence in last year's Holy Land Foundation terror financing trial, we now know the extent of Muslim Brotherhood activity throughout our society.

Muslim Brotherhood organizations such as the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA), the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), and the International Institute of Islamic Thought (IIIT), all three listed by the Department of Justice as unindicted co-conspirators, have achieved unprecedented access to the Department of Defense and even the White House.

But aware now of the enemy's stealth and cunning in seeking to influence U.S. national security policy, the nation is obligated to reject his agenda — an agenda that prioritizes concealment until it is too late of the true nature of their campaign of conquest, whether by Dawa (persuasion, including by way of deception) or terrorist attack.

Many millions of Muslims, the overwhelming majority of whom have no desire to associate with or support in any way the agenda of Islamic jihadis, are looking for American leadership. They need the commitment of the nation's enormous national resources to this long war because it is their war for existence, too. Millions of Muslims, both U.S. citizens and others, look to American courage of conviction and the will to defend our common belief in universal human dignity to encourage their own desire to speak out, stand up, and seize back the everyday practice of the Islamic faith from those who now control it — and them. Muslims who are humanists, who abhor the violence jihadis derive from Islamic doctrine, need an ally who will encourage them to set aside that doctrine but still remain faithful to a spirit of Islam that is tolerant, not bent on world conquest.

When the world sees American resolve quail in the face of a resurgent, aggressive Islamism, because it refuses to admit it is attacked by an enemy who defines his assault in religious terms and quotes the revealed scripture of his faith to justify his murderous rage, the world loses not just respect but hope.

Issuance of a misguided primer on U.S. government usage of those terms does nothing to confront or defeat that rage. Instead, it leaves federal employees and U.S. citizens alike only more confused about who and what they are fighting.

Distracting American attention from the enemy's real identity, persuading the people that it is only some inchoate "extremists" with no connection to the doctrine of Islam who attacked the United States on 9/11, in Nairobi, and Dar Es Salaam, and Aden, and Dhahran must be recognized for what it is: a denial and deception tactic designed to deny the nation the ability to grasp clearly the reality of this menace.

The way to win this confrontation with jihadism has less to do with word-smithing than with a candid assessment of the enemy's capabilities, ideology, motivations, intentions, and scope of operations. To be effective at this, national leadership must first assess the extent of Muslim Brotherhood penetration of the government and society, root it out, and then move forward with a vocabulary that is appropriate to defeating the jihadi enemy.


Clare Lopez is vice president of the Intelligence Summit, a professor at the Centre for Counterintelligence and Security Studies (CI Centre) in Alexandria, VA, USA, and a private consultant on issues related to the Middle East.
Thanks American Congress for Truth

BBC censors criticism of jihad-linked group

"There is...evidence that Tablighi Jamaat directly recruits for terrorist organizations." How dare you imply they're not moderate!

"BBC ‘censored Christian party broadcast,’" by Andrew Norfolk for the Times (thanks to all who sent this in):

The BBC is facing a High Court challenge over its decision to censor a party political broadcast in the run-up to Thursday’s local elections. AA Christian party has begun legal action after the corporation insisted on changes to a short film in which the party voiced opposition to the building of Europe’s biggest mosque next to the site of the 2012 Olympics.

Tablighi Jamaat, the Islamic missionary group behind the £75 million Abbey Mills mosque, opposes inter-faith dialogue and preaches that non-Muslims are an evil and corrupting influence. One of its British advocates has said that it aims to rescue Muslims from the culture and civilisation of Jews and Christians by creating “such hatred for their ways as human beings have for urine and excreta”.

The Christian Choice election broadcast would have described Tablighi Jamaat as “a separatist Islamic group” before welcoming that some “moderate Muslims” were opposed to the mosque complex.

Alan Craig, the party’s candidate in the London mayoral election, also on Thursday, said that he was forced to change the wording at the insistence of lawyers at the BBC and ITV, which will also feature in the court action.

The BBC refused to accept “separatist” — the corporation asked for “controversial” instead — and barred the use of “moderate Muslims” because the phrase implied that Tablighi Jamaat was less than moderate.

ITV went a step farther, demanding that the adjective “controversial” be used merely to describe the planned mosque and not the group itself....
Thanks Dhimmi Watch

Syrian pol: "I am optimistic that within ten years, Israel will come to its end"

As Israel contemplates giving up the Golan Heights to Syria, Syria contemplates the total destruction of Israel.

"Syrian Minister Riyad Na'san Al-Agha Justifies the Persecution of Syrian Intellectuals and Declares: I Am Optimistic that Israel Will Come to an End within 10 Years," from MEMRI (thanks to Joel): Following are excerpts from an interview with Syrian Minister of Culture Riyad Na'san al-Agha, which aired on Al-Hiwar on April 19, 2008.


Interviewer: In five years, the government might call Israel and say: Let's put an end to this.

Riyad Na'san al-Agha: I will be the first they have to take to jail.

Interviewer: Will we be saying that the president maintained "dubious relations" with Israel?

Riyad Na'san al-Agha: Those who will want to do this, God forbid, will have to get rid of me and many others like me beforehand.


Imagine the Arab nation without those resistance fighters. By Allah, it is not worth being stepped on.


Blair is gone, Bush will be gone, and so on...

Interviewer: But in the meantime, people are dying, entire generations...

Riyad Na'san al-Agha: That's our fate. We are talking about an eternal conflict. I am not optimistic that it will be resolved any time soon, but by Allah, they suffer more than us. Here in Syria, the people are united. Sheik Hassan [Nasrallah] himself said that in 2006, the decision of whether Syria should join the war was left to him. It's not me who says this. He said so. We were ready to join the war. This does not mean tgat we will necessarily win. We might be defeated, but at least we will prove that we exist. I am optimistic that within ten years, Israel will come to its end.

Interviewer: But the pressure on Syria is continuously increasing, and the price you might pay is the economic exhaustion of your people.

Riyad Na'san al-Agha: So what if they get exhausted?...

No Jihadis Here!

Robert Spencer
Human Events

Break out the flowers and tie-dye t-shirts: the jihad is over -- if you want it. Or at least, if you’re listening to the Bush Administration.

Last week the State Department, the Department of Homeland Security and the National Counter Terrorism Center issued new guidelines forbidding personnel from using the words “jihad” or “jihadist” in reference to Islamic terrorism and its perpetrators.

A Homeland Security report tellingly entitled “Terminology to Define the Terrorists: Recommendations from American Muslims” explains that this initiative comes from a concern not to offend moderate Muslims. By calling the terrorists “jihadists,” American officials could be “unintentionally portraying terrorists, who lack moral and religious legitimacy, as brave fighters, legitimate soldiers or spokesmen for ordinary Muslims.” Using the term “jihad” may not be “strategic.” Why not? “Because it glamorizes terrorism, imbues terrorists with religious authority they do not have and damages relations with Muslims around the world.” American officials “should not concede the terrorists’ claim that they are legitimate adherents of Islam.”

Unfortunately, other illegitimate adherents of Islam, at least by Bush Administration standards, include some of the most prominent scholars of religious law in Islamic history -- many of whose writings remain influential in the Islamic world today. One Islamic jurist, Ibn Abi Zayd al-Qayrawani, declared that “jihad is a precept of Divine institution” -- and he didn’t mean the struggle to avoid sin that the State Department envisions. Religious war was the only thing he had in mind: “It is preferable not to begin hostilities with the enemy before having invited the latter to embrace the religion of Allah except where the enemy attacks first. They have the alternative of either converting to Islam or paying the poll tax (jizya), short of which war will be declared against them.”

Ibn Taymiyya (d. 1328), a favorite of Osama bin Laden and other modern-day jihadists, said that “lawful warfare is essentially jihad and…its aim is that the religion is God’s entirely and God’s word is uppermost.” Therefore, “according to all Muslims, those who stand in the way of this aim must be fought.”

Nor is this the view of just a few ancient jurists. Majid Khadduri (1909-2007), an internationally renowned Iraqi scholar of Islamic law, explained in his 1955 book War and Peace in the Law of Islam that “the Islamic state, whose principal function was to put God’s law into practice, sought to establish Islam as the dominant reigning ideology over the entire world….The jihad was therefore employed as an instrument for both the universalization of religion and the establishment of an imperial world state.” Revival of the supranational Islamic state is high on the jihadist to-do list today. Imran Ahsan Khan Nyazee, Assistant Professor on the Faculty of Shari’ah and Law of the International Islamic University in Islamabad, in a 1994 book on Islamic law says that “the primary goal of the Muslim community, in the eyes of its jurists, is to spread the word of Allah through jihad, and the option of poll-tax [jizya] is to be exercised only after subjugation” of non-Muslims.

As Iran’s Ayatollah Khomeini put it: “Islam makes it incumbent on all adult males, provided they are not disabled or incapacitated, to prepare themselves for the conquest of [other] countries so that the writ of Islam is obeyed in every country in the world....But those who study Islamic Holy War will understand why Islam wants to conquer the whole world....There are hundreds of other [Qur’anic] psalms and Hadiths [sayings of the Prophet] urging Muslims to value war and to fight. Does all this mean that Islam is a religion that prevents men from waging war? I spit upon those foolish souls who make such a claim.”

In sum, the imperative to wage war against unbelievers in order to establish over them the hegemony of Islamic law wasn’t invented by Al-Qaeda; it is taught by all the Sunni schools of jurisprudence, and by the Shi’ites also. This doesn’t mean that every Muslim takes it seriously. But it does mean that it’s just whistling in the dark to think that Al-Qaeda’s claim to represent Islamic purity can’t draw on genuine elements of Islamic theology that encourage bellicosity. And it’s short-sighted and foolish to refrain from studying those elements of Islamic tradition -- a study that can reveal a great deal about the motives and goals of modern-day Islamic jihadists -- in order to avoid offending Muslims.

It is also revelatory that these recommendations apparently come from “American Muslims.” Which ones? And who has made sure where they themselves stand -- a question made all the more urgent by the shadowy ties that vaunted faux-moderate groups such as the Council on American Islamic Relations have to convicted jihadists and jihadist groups?

Probably no one vetted them at all, because no one knows how, because the questions that would have to be asked have already been ruled out as politically incorrect and “offensive.”

Fantasy-based policymaking is never wise. Yet that is what the Bush Administration has embarked upon – yet again, years after the President proclaimed Islam a “religion of peace” – with these Orwellian new directives. But hey, “moderate” Muslim groups in the U.S. are happy, the politically correct media is happy, so what could be the downside?

The only losers will be the victims of the next jihad terror attack, victims of the impossibility of defeating an enemy we refuse to know and understand -- and whom we are afraid even to name.

Mr. Spencer is director of Jihad Watch and author of "The Politically Incorrect Guide to Islam (and the Crusades)" , "The Truth About Muhammad" and "Religion of Peace?" (all from Regnery -- a HUMAN EVENTS sister company).

"When you love God and his messengers, then join the jihad, because that is the way to paradise"

Europe continues to export jihadists. Imagine what it will be like when Eurabia is in full swing -- if that ever happens. And note also the strongly religious language -- the very language that State and DHS analysts are now forbidden to use in discussing this threat. Somehow these German jihadists didn't get the memo. "German Islamist Appears in Jihad Video," by Matthias Gebauer and Yassin Musharbash in Spiegel Online (thanks to all who sent this in): Two short films have appeared on the Internet featuring the German Islamist Eric B. in which he calls his "brothers" to join the jihad. The authorities have been hunting him for weeks, fearful that he could be preparing a terrorist attack in Kabul. The video messages are fanning those fears.

The news spread like wildfire through the offices of Germany's intelligence agencies. Two new terrorist videos had turned up on the Turkish-language Web site "Time for Martyrdom," which has become an important mouthpiece for Islamist propaganda. And once again there were was a clear connection to Germany.

German terrorist investigators are alarmed at the new videos. After an initial assessment, it was clear that the two short films feature the German Islamist Eric B. from Neuenkirchen in Saarland. For the past few weeks, a publicity campaign in Kabul (more...) has focused on finding him and his presumed accomplice Houssain al-M.

The new images are militaristic. The 20-year-old German convert is seen in the first film standing in front of a mountain, with a machine gun thrown over his shoulder and wearing an ammunition belt. Abdul al-Gaffar, B.'s nom de guerre, addresses his audience in barely audible and unusually halting German. First of all he praises the suicide attack carried out by Cüneyt Ciftci (more...), the 28-year-old German-born Turk who blew himself up in the Afghan province of Khost at the beginning of March. B. describes this as a "good deed" which sent many infidels "to hell."

A masked man next to him asks him to send a message to his "brothers in Germany." B., who only converted to Islam in 2007, tells the camera: "When you love God and his messengers, then join the jihad, because that is the way to paradise." Those who aren't able to come and fight are asked to help with money or to support the jihadists at the front with prayers. No Muslim should stand by and watch while the "infidels shame our women in our countries and jail and torment our brothers," he says.


The video has spread worries that it's now just a matter of time before the two German Islamists mount an attack. Their pictures now hang at every EU entry point, and in all German airports. Officials are also taking steps to confiscate al-M.'s passport. But no one believes these measures will keep any of them from trying to carry out their plan.

Thanks Jihad Watch

Think tank proposes bill to define IDF-government relations

Amos Harel, Haaretz Correspondent

A group of experts from the Institute for National Security Studies has drawn up a draft law which defines, for the first time, the nature of the relationship between the government and the Israel Defense Forces, and the division of powers and responsibility between the two bodies. In its report on the Second Lebanon War, the Winograd Committee said the lack of such organizational clarity was a "structural weakness" which "critically" needed repair. The proposed law, which was sent to Haaretz, will be disseminated among cabinet ministers and Knesset members in the near future.

The INSS proposal touches upon a range of issues, such as the declaration of war, setting strategic goals and defining what types of authorization IDF operations in enemy territory require. "It gives leeway to leaders to act in accordance with their job requirements," Dr. Shmuel Even, a senior research fellow at the INSS, explained. "The main problems we have identified lay in the executive branch's inspection of the army. That's where the vacuum exists."

In 1974, the Agranat Commission - appointed to investigate the circumstances that led to the Yom Kippur War - wrote that the relationship between the army and the executive branch needed to be set in law. As a result, a Basic Law was passed in 1976 that officially subjected the army to the government and defense minister, but the law is believed by many to be too vague and general.

In comparison, a law passed a few years ago that defines the relations between the government and the Shin Bet security service goes into much deeper detail. According to the INSS, their proposal will complement the existing Basic Law and determine which responsibilities are placed under the authority of which government officials with regard to the army.

The existing Basic Law does not mention by name the position of the prime minister, though certain military operations require his direct authorization. The Winograd Committee considered the army to be placed under the authority of the defense minister and prime minister, though such an interpretation lacks any factual basis in law.

Another issue the INSS proposal addresses is the Basic Law's definition of the Israel Defense Forces as a "the state's army." It claims the army's purpose should be clearly defined as "defending the State of Israel, its citizens and suzerainty; to carry out any legal order given to it by the government to ensure state security and peace for its citizens." The INSS experts say their definitions are flexible and lawmakers and army officials may want to add or subtract clauses from the proposal.

Lebanon's lessons learned

Even says that the idea to draw up the proposed law and campaign for its legislation was influenced by the government's conduct during the Second Lebanon War.

"A few months before the war we had a very strong trio that included a prime minister, defense minister and chief of staff who were very professional and knowledgeable in security matters," Even said. "Then, during the war we had a different trio who lacked elementary knowledge, and this requires regulation by law. If we are satisfied with leaving it to the government, then it might disappear. This way, they will understand their responsibilities and what they need to know when they are appointed"

Former National Security Council director, Major General (res.) Giora Eiland, and Zvia Gross, a former legal aide to the Defense Ministry, were also part of the team that drafted the proposal. A senior IDF official who has read the draft believes the army will accept most of its suggestions. Yet experts believe the IDF is comfortable with the current situation which does not impose legalities that narrows its method of conduct with the executive branch.

"The executive branch in charge of the IDF must take more of an interest in what goes on inside the army and has to treat the chief-of-staff like a managing director," Even warned. "On most issues the chief-of-staff decides for himself and only in a few percent of incidents are they brought to the ministers' attention - but the government must not avoid its duty of defining what it should deal with."

Top Syrian emissary: Israel peace won't cut our Iran ties

Yoav Stern and Barak Ravid, Haaretz Correspondents

Syria will not sever ties with Iran and Hezbollah even as part of a possible peace agreement with Israel, a senior Syrian analyst who is handling the government's contacts as it relates to the peace process said on Tuesday.

"It would be naive to think Syria will neglect or abandon its strategic alliances that do not stem from the Arab-Israeli conflict," the analyst, Dr. Samir Taqi, said in an interview with Al-Manar television. When asked why Syria elected to trumpet messages from Israel and relayed by Turkey of Jerusalem's willingness to cede the Golan Heights in exchange for peace, Taqi replied that the intent behind the media campaign was "to solidify the right" of Syria to the strategic plateau it lost as a result of the Six-Day War.

As such, Taqi sought to emphasize that he is personally not involved in the recent developments, but is rather providing commentary on the matter.

Israeli officials told Haaretz Taqi was very close to decision-makers in Damascus and enjoyed the confidence of the Turkish government. People who know Taqi personally said yesterday they believed he was very well-connected to the Syrian intelligence services.

Taqi served for years as an adviser to the previous Syrian president, Hafez Assad. In recent years he received the official title of adviser to the prime minister, and heads the Center of Oriental Studies, a political think tank.

Prior to taking up his advisory posts, Taqi, who is a Christian, was a cardiac surgeon, who studied medicine in London. In recent years he has has frequently met with journalists and academics to discuss political issues.

Last year, the Turks welcomed Taqi's visit to northern Cyprus at the head of an unofficial Syrian delegation, when he met with with the foreign minister of the breakaway Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus. His act aroused the ire of Greek Cypriots, who oppose recognition of the Turkish part of the island as an independent state, which only Ankara recognizes.

Haaretz has learned that Taqi was the bearer of Israel's main message to Syrian President Bashar Assad more than a week ago, following his visit to Ankara. Taqi's principal contact in Ankara is Ahmet Davutoglu, a close associate of Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

Taqi, in an interview broadcast on Saturday on Al Jazeera, spoke from Damascus and said Syria was interested in moving ahead in talks with Israel even during the present American administration. He said now was the time to prepare for for the pre-negotiation phase, to declare intentions and points of view, until the parties reach the point at which the Americans would be prepared to intervene.

The Shift Toward an Israeli-Syrian Agreement

George Friedman

The Middle East, already monstrously complex, grew more complex last week. First, there were strong indications that both Israel and Syria were prepared to engage in discussions on peace. That alone is startling enough. But with the indicators arising in the same week that the United States decided to reveal that the purpose behind Israel’s raid on Syria in September 2007 was to destroy a North Korean-supplied nuclear reactor, the situation becomes even more baffling.

But before we dive into the what-will-be, let us first explain how truly bizarre things have gotten. On April 8 we wrote about how a number of seemingly unconnected events were piecing themselves into a pattern that might indicate an imminent war, a sequel to the summer 2006 Lebanon conflict. This mystery in the Middle East has since matured greatly, but in an unexpected direction. Israeli-Syrian peace talks — serious Israeli-Syrian peace talks — are occurring.

First, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert told the Israeli media that Israel had been talking to the Syrians, and then that “Very clearly we want peace with the Syrians and are taking all manners of action to this end. They know what we want from them, and I know full well what they want from us.” Then Syrian President Bashar al Assad publicly acknowledged that negotiations with Syria were taking place. Later, a Syrian minister appeared on Al Jazeera and said that, “Olmert is ready for peace with Syria on the grounds of international conditions, on the grounds of the return of the Golan Heights to Syria.” At almost exactly the same moment, Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Moallem said that, “If Israel is serious and wants peace, nothing will stop the renewal of peace talks. What made this statement really interesting was that it was made in Tehran, standing next to Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki, an ally of Syria whose government rejects the very concept of peace with Israel.

We would have expected the Syrians to choose another venue to make this statement, and we would have expected the Iranians to object. It didn’t happen. We waited for a blistering denial from Israel. Nothing came; all that happened was that Israeli spokesmen referred journalists to Olmert’s previous statement. Clearly something was on the table. The Turks had been pressing the Israelis to negotiate with the Syrians, and the Israelis might have been making a gesture to placate them, but the public exchanges clearly went beyond that point. This process could well fail, but it gave every appearance of being serious.

According to the existing understanding of the region’s geopolitical structure, an Israeli-Syrian peace deal is impossible.
The United States and Iran are locked into talks over the future of Iraq, and both regularly use their respective allies in Israel and Syria to shape those negotiations. An Israeli-Syrian peace would at the very least inconvenience American and Iranian plans.
Any peace deal would require defanging Hezbollah. But Hezbollah is not simply a Syrian proxy with an independent streak, it is also an Iranian proxy. So long as Iran is Syria’s only real ally in the Muslim world, such a step seems inimical to Syrian interests.
Hezbollah is also deeply entwined into the economic life of Lebanon — and in Lebanon’s drug production and distribution network — and threatening the relationship with Hezbollah would massively impact Damascus’ bottom line.
From the other side, Syria cannot accept a peace that does not restore its control over the Golan Heights, captured during the 1967 war. Since this patch of ground overlooks some of Israel’s most densely populated regions, it seems unnatural that Israel ever would even consider such a trade.
Forget issues of Zionism or jihadism, or even simple bad blood; the reality is that any deal between Israel and Syria clashes with the strategic interests of both sides, making peace is impossible. Or is it? Talks are happening nonetheless, meaning one of two things is true: Either Olmert and Assad have lost it, or this view of reality is wrong.

Let’s reground this discussion away from what everyone — ourselves included — thinks they know and go back to the basics, namely, the geopolitical realities in which Israel and Syria exist.

Peace with Egypt and Jordan means Israel is secure on its eastern and southern frontiers. Its fundamental problem is counterinsurgency in Gaza and at times in the West Bank. Its ability to impose a military solution to this problem is limited, so it has settled for separating itself from the Palestinians and on efforts to break up the Palestinian movement into different factions. The split in the Palestinian community between Fatah in the West Bank and Hamas in Gaza helped this strategy immensely, dividing the Palestinians geographically, ideologically, economically and politically. The deeper the intra-Palestinian conflict is, the less of a strategic threat to Israel the Palestinians can be. It is hardly a beautiful solution — and dividing the Palestinians does not reduce the security burden on Israel — but it is manageable.

Israel does not perceive Syria as a serious threat. Not only is the Syrian military a pale shadow of Israeli capability, Israel does not even consider sacrificing the Golan Heights to weakening the Israeli military meaningfully. The territory has become the pivot of public discussions, but losing it hasn’t been a real problem for Israel since the 1970s. In today’s battlefield environment, artillery on the heights would rapidly be destroyed by counter-battery fire, helicopter gunships or aircraft. Indeed, the main threat to Israel from Syria is missiles. Damascus now has one of the largest Scud missile and surface-to-surface missile arsenals in the region — and those can reach Israel from far beyond the Golan Heights regardless of where the Israeli-Syrian political border is located. Technological advances — even those from just the last decade — have minimized the need for a physical presence on that territory that was essential militarily decades ago.

The remaining threat to Israel is posed by Lebanon, where Hezbollah has a sufficient military capability to pose a limited threat to northern Israel, as was seen in the summer of 2006. Israel can engage and destroy a force in Lebanon, but the 1982-2002 Israeli occupation of southern Lebanon vividly demonstrated that the cost-benefit ratio to justify an ongoing presence simply does not make sense.

At the current time, Israel’s strategic interests are twofold. First, maintain and encourage the incipient civil war between Hamas and Fatah. The key to this is to leverage tensions between neighboring Arab states and the Palestinians. And this is easy. The Hashemite government of Jordan detests the West Bank Palestinians because more than three-quarters of the population of Jordan is Palestinian, but the Hashemite king rather likes being king. Egypt equally hates the Gaza Palestinians as Hamas’ ideological roots lie in the Muslim Brotherhood — a group whose ideology not only contributed to al Qaeda’s formation, but also that of groups who have exhibited a nasty habit of assassinating Egyptian presidents.

The second Israeli strategic interest is finding a means of neutralizing any threat from Lebanon without Israel being forced into war — or worse yet, into an occupation of Lebanon. The key to this strategy lies with the other player in this game.

Ultimately Syria only has its western border to worry about. To the east is the vast desert border with Iraq, an excellent barrier to attack for both nations. To the north are the Turks who, if they chose, could swallow Syria in a hard day’s work and be home in time for coffee. Managing that border is a political matter, not a military one.

That leaves the west. Syria does not worry too much about an Israeli invasion. It is not that Damascus thinks that Israel is incapable of such an operation — Israel would face only a slightly more complicated task of eliminating Syria than Turkey would — but that the al Assads know full well that Israel is happy with them in power. The al Assads and their fellow elites hail from the Alawite sect of Islam, an offshoot of Shiite Islam that the Sunnis consider apostate. Alawite rule in Syria essentially is secular, and the government has a historic fear of an uprising by the majority Sunnis.

The Israelis know that any overthrow of the al Assads would probably land Israel with a radical Sunni government on its northeastern frontier. From Israel’s point of view, it is far better to deal with a terrified and insecure Syrian government more concerned with maintaining internal control than a confident and popular Syrian government with the freedom to look outward.

Just as Syria’s defensive issues vis-à-vis Israel are not what they seem, neither are Syrian tools for dealing with Israel in an offensive manner as robust as most think.

Syria is not particularly comfortable with the entities that pose the largest security threats to Israel, namely, the main Palestinian factions. Damascus has never been friendly to the secular Fatah movement, with which it fought many battles in Lebanon; nor is it comfortable with the more fundamentalist Sunni Hamas. (Syria massacred its own fundamentalists during the 1980s.) So while the Syrians have dabbled in Palestinian politics, they have never favored a Palestinian state. In fact, it should be recalled that when Syria first invaded Lebanon in 1975, it was against the Palestinians and in support of Lebanese Christians.

That invasion — as well as most Syrian operations in Lebanon — was not about security, but about money. Lebanon, the descendent of Phoenicia, has always been a vibrant economic region (save when there is war). It is the terminus of trade routes from the east and south and the door to the Mediterranean basin. It is a trading and banking hub, with Beirut in particular as the economic engine of the region. Without Beirut and Lebanon, Syria is an isolated backwater. With it, Damascus is a major player.

As such, Syria’s closest ties among Israel’s foes are not with the two major indigenous Palestinian factions, but with the Shiite group Hezbollah. The Syrians have a somewhat tighter religious affinity with Hezbollah, as well as a generation of complex business dealings with the group’s leaders. But its support for Hezbollah is multifaceted, and anti-Israeli tendencies are only one aspect of the relationship. And Hezbollah is much more important to Syria as a tool for managing Damascus’ affairs in Lebanon.

The Basis of a Deal
Israel and Syria’s geopolitical interests diverge less than it might appear. By itself, Syria poses no conventional threat to Israel. Syria is dangerous only in the context of a coalition with Egypt. In 1973, fighting on two fronts, the Syrians were a threat. With Egypt neutralized now and behind the buffer in the Sinai, Syria poses no threat. As for unconventional weapons, the Israelis indicated with their bombing of the Syrian research facility in September 2007 that they know full well how — and are perfectly willing unilaterally — to take that option off Damascus’ table.

Since neither side wants a war with the other — Israel does not want to replace the Alawites, and the Alawites are not enamored of being replaced — the issue boils down to whether Israel and Syria can coordinate their interests in Lebanon. Israel has no real economic interests in Lebanon. Its primary interest is security — to make certain that forces hostile to Israel cannot use Lebanon as a base for launching attacks. Syria has no real security interests so long its economic primacy is guaranteed. And neither country wants to see an independent Palestinian state.

The issue boils down to Lebanon. In a sense, the Israelis had an accommodation with Syria over Lebanon when Israel withdrew. It ceded economic pre-eminence in Lebanon to the Syrians. In return, the Syrians controlled Hezbollah and in effect took responsibility for Israeli security in return for economic power. It was only after Syria withdrew from Lebanon under U.S. pressure that Hezbollah evolved into a threat to Israel, precipitating the 2006 conflict.

This was a point on which Israel and the United States didn’t agree. The United States, fighting in Iraq, wanted an additional lever with which to try to control Syrian support for militants fighting in Iraq. They saw Lebanon as a way to punish Syria for actions in Iraq. But the Israelis saw themselves as having to live with the consequences of that withdrawal. Israel understood that Syria’s withdrawal shifted the burden of controlling Hezbollah to Israel — something that could not be achieved without an occupation.

What appears to be under consideration between the supposed archrivals, therefore, is the restoration of the 2005 status quo in Lebanon. The Syrians would reclaim their position in Lebanon, unopposed by Israel. In return, the Syrians would control Hezbollah. For the Syrians, this has the added benefit that by controlling Hezbollah and restraining it in the south, Syria would have both additional strength on the ground in Lebanon, as well as closer economic collaboration — on more favorable terms — with Hezbollah. For Syria, Hezbollah is worth more as a puppet than as a heroic anti-Israeli force.

This is something Israel understands. In the last fight between Israel and Syria in Lebanon, there were different local allies: Israel had the South Lebanese Army. The Syrians were allied with the Christian Franjieh clan. In the end, both countries dumped their allies. Syria and Israel have permanent interests in Lebanon. They do not have permanent allies.

The Other Players
The big loser in this game, of course, would be the Lebanese. But that is more complicated than it appears. Many of the Lebanese factions — including most of the Christian clans — have close relations with the Syrians. Moreover, the period of informal Syrian occupation was a prosperous time. Lebanon is a country of businessmen and militia, sometimes the same. The stability the Syrians imposed was good for business.

The one faction that would clearly oppose this would be Hezbollah. It would be squeezed on all sides. Ideologically speaking, constrained from confronting Israel, its place in the Islamic sun would be undermined. Economically speaking, Hezbollah would be forced into less favorable economic relations with the Syrians than it enjoyed on its own. And politically speaking, Hezbollah would have the choice of fighting the Syrians (not an attractive option) or of becoming a Syrian tool. Either way, Hezbollah would have to do something in response to any rumors floating about of a Syrian deal with the Israelis. And given the quality of Syrian intelligence in these matters, key Hezbollah operatives opposed to such a deal might find themselves blown up. Perhaps they already have.

Iran will not be happy about all this. Tehran has invested a fair amount of resources in bulking up Hezbollah, and will not be pleased to see the militia shift from Syrian management to Syrian control. But in the end, what can Iran do? It cannot support Hezbollah directly, and even if it were to attempt to undermine Damascus, those Syrians most susceptible to Tehran’s Shiite-flavored entreaties are the Alawites themselves.

The other player that at the very least would be uneasy about all of this is the United States. The American view of Syria remains extremely negative, still driven by the sense that the Syrians continue to empower militants in Iraq. Certainly that aid — and that negative U.S. feeling — is not as intense as it was two years ago, but the Americans might not feel that this is the right time for such a deal. Thus, the release of the information on the Syrian reactor might well have been an attempt to throw a spoke in the wheel of the Israeli-Syrian negotiations.

That might not be necessary. Nothing disappears faster than Syrian-Israeli negotiations. In this case, however, both countries have fundamental geopolitical interests at stake. Israel wants to secure its northern frontier without committing its troops into Lebanon. The Syrians want to guarantee their access to the economic possibilities in Lebanon. Neither care about the Golan Heights. The Israelis don’t care what happens in Lebanon so long as it doesn’t explode in Israel. The Syrians don’t care what happens to the Palestinians so long as it doesn’t spread onto their turf.

Deals have been made on less. Israel and Syria are moving toward a deal that would leave a lot of players in the region — including Iran — quite unhappy. Given this deal has lots of uneasy observers, including Iran, the United States, Hezbollah, the Palestinians and others, it could blow apart with the best will in the world. And given that this is Syria and Israel, the best will isn’t exactly in abundant supply.

Thanks Ted Belman