So can liberal Tunisians expect any real Western help or sympathy? Well, as we’ve seen in Iran, Turkey, Lebanon, and Syria the answer is pretty much “no.” Why? Because the prevailing Western narrative—which is dominated by the far left— holds that it is the Brotherhood and not the liberals who are the “good guys” in the Middle East.
Think of how “unnatural” this is. There are leftists in the region and real liberals, too, who are the precise counterparts of the current Western elites in terms of ideas or of Western democratic societies in terms of goals. Shouldn’t all those academics, intellectuals, journalists, and government officials be cheering the liberals and booing the Islamists, including the Brotherhood? Marxists and Communists used to call the equivalents of the Brotherhood, “clerical fascists.”
Here’s a rare example today of old-fashioned leftism from the Communist Party of Great Britain’s newspaper, December 1, 2011:
“In 1979, a wave of euphoria for the uprising against the shah of Iran swept through the left, which failed to warn of the danger that was presented by other bourgeois forces, particularly the mullahs. The left adopted the attitude of ‘My enemy’s enemy is my friend’, rather than adopting the position, developed by Marx and Engels, and later by Lenin and Trotsky, that the working class should focus on defending its own interests, developing its own independent organisations and maintaining a strict separation from the bourgeoisie.”
Refreshing, isn’t it? Makes you yearn for the good old days. And the article continues:
“As Engels and Lenin, in particular, made clear, our aim is not bourgeois democracy, but socialism. We defend bourgeois-democratic freedoms not as an end in themselves, but only in so far as they facilitate the independent organisation and struggle of the workers.”
So Marxists aren’t supposed to support reactionary clerical regimes (said to be “bourgeois”) while Marxists only pretend to be for democracy in order to get Communism. But nowadays most of the Western left does back the Brotherhood or at least serve as its public relations’ agency. Forget about ‘Islamophobia’. The real attitude of these circles can be called ‘Islamomania,” a belief that Islamist groups are the true revolutionaries of our time, the “progressives” of the Middle East.
Why should Western liberals, or leftists for that matter, support reactionary clerical regimes (totalitarians) that only pretend to be for democracy in order to get Islamist dictatorships (Iran, the Taliban’s Afghanistan, Hamas’ Gaza Strip, and coming soon to Egypt, etc.?)
Can you think of one liberal Muslim, in the West or in the Middle East, who has become a hero to Western onlookers? No. Such people remain small in numbers and obscure in terms of publicity. In a few cases, they are let into the Western media but only to argue that the Brotherhood is going to be their protector. This is what happened after the brief period of cheerleading for the Tahrir Square “Facebook kids.” If you are a liberal or secularist Middle Easterner or Western Muslim don’t expect any support from liberal secularist Westerners.
How do you make the bad guys into good guys while ignoring the good guys? By making the even-worse guys the apparent threat. Al-Qaida is evil and now so are the Salafists. In Egypt, that role is also assigned the army, which will soon be out of political power. But the “mainstream” Islamists then become the hero, even as they persecute the liberals.
Chicago Police Supt. Garry McCarthy announced publicly that his department will never conduct blanket surveillance of Muslims the way the New York Police Department had done in Newark, N.J., when he was the chief of police there.
“We are deeply committed to respecting the civil rights of all Chicagoans,” McCarthy said, the Wasington Times reports.
McCarthy and Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel have been laboring to calm local Muslims since The Associated Press exposed the NYPD spying program in Newark. The AP reported last month that in 2007, the NYPD’s clandestine Demographics Unit targeted the heavily Muslim Newark, photographing mosques and eavesdropping on Muslim businesses. Earlier, the AP reported that the department was conducting similar surveillance in New York City, constructing a database of places where Muslims live, shop and pray.
When the AP story broke, last February, New York’s Mayor Michael Bloomberg offered a strong defense of the NYPD surveillance program, according to the Boston Globe.
“We just cannot let our guard down again,” Mayor Bloomberg said on his weekly radio show on WOR-AM. “We cannot slack in our vigilance. The threat was real. The threat is real. The threat is not going away.”
The AP reports this morning that Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and Defense Secretary Leon Panetta are rejecting Republican criticism of President Barack Obama’s policy on Israel.
The two senior Administration officials say the attacks, fueled by the 2012 elections, ignore the strong cooperative relationship and the record billions of dollars in U.S. aid for the Jewish State.
The two appeared separately on Capitol Hill on Wednesday.
Clinton highlighted Obama’s budget for next year, which calls for $3.1 billion in military assistance for Israel, a slight increase over the current level and the most for any foreign country. Panetta said U.S. support for Israel is unshakeable.
But if the overall US support for Israel continues to hover around $3 billion, let’s not forget that, though very large, it is the same amount promised at the signing of the Camp David Accords in 1978 – not adjusted for 34 years of inflation. The real figure should have been just under $10 billion ($9,913,218,705 to be exact). It was awarded to Israel back then in exchange for giving back the Sinai, to cover one-time as well as on-going costs born by the major restructuring of its military operations.
If not for the $3 billion going to Israel and $2 billion to Egypt, there would have been no Camp David accords. Indeed, the Muslim Brothers have threatened to revoke the accords should the US halt its aid to Egypt.
Also — the military aid money is being spent in the US, on purchases from American companies, a hidden government jobs program, if you will. Opting not to reduce it, at this point, is the same as opting not to commit political suicide — regardless of who sits in the White House.
Clinton noted that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had called the bilateral security cooperation between the two countries unprecedented.
All of this is taking place just before Netanyahu’s visit to Washington next week and his scheduled meetings with Obama and congressional leaders.
The AP story points out that Republicans see a political opening in the disagreements between Washington and Jerusalem over two major issues: Jewish settlements in Judea and Samaria and their influence on the peace talks with the Palestinians, and the Obama administration’s pressure on Israel to hold off on a military strike against Iran’s nuclear program.
A House Budget Committee pressed Panetta on why the administration budget requests for Israel’s missile defense program to help protect Israel from short-range ballistic missiles and rockets that might be fired from Gaza or from Lebanese Hezbollah territory or for longer-range missiles from Iran or Syria had declined.
Rep. Tom Price, R-Ga. wanted to know “what justification, given what we see out of the nation of Iran, can you give?”
Panetta struggled to show the panel that the Administration has significantly increased, rather than decreased the funding, “It’s now $650 million, which more than doubles what was the level in the prior administration of about $320 million.”
But the bulk of Republican accusations has not been so much about foreign aid to Israel, but about military support in a strike against Iran.
AP reports that Rep. Dan Burton, R-Ind., asked Panetta why the administration “doesn’t give complete support to Israel and say, you know, if Iran continues with its program, we will do whatever is necessary to stop that program and give Israel the support that I think they need.”
Not highly articulate, perhaps, but quite astute. The support Israel really needs should come in the form of American air power that would make possible a multi-pronged attack on Iran’s nuclear facilities. Israel, according to recent expert views, can only consummate a single such attack, while the US can get the job done.
When Netanyahu arrives in Washington, he will surely be pushing this point both with the President and on the Hill.
WASHINGTON – For the Jews of Cuba, it was the ultimate Internet connection. The high-tech equipment that U.S. contractor Alan Gross brought with him to Cuba in 2009 to help connect local Jews to the Internet reportedly included a SIM card that makes it almost impossible to track satellite signals and is generally unavailable to civilians, even in the United States.
That was one of the revelations in an Associated Press report earlier this month that has exacerbated concerns Cuba will hang tough on its stated determination not to release Gross, a 62-year-old Maryland Jewish man who was in Cuba to do work for the U.S. Agency for International Development, or USAID. Gross is serving a 15-year prison sentence in Cuba for crimes described as “acts against the integrity of the state.”
Yet the AP report, apparently based on mission reports by Gross, helps reinforce the claim that Gross, his family, his employer and the State Department have made all along – that Gross’s mission was straightforward and not at all nefarious: He wanted to hook up Cuba’s Jews with their brethren worldwide.
The AP article “doesn’t change what we’re doing,” said Malcolm Hoenlein, executive vice chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations. “We never argued the matters that were raised” regarding Gross’ activities, he said.
According to the AP story, Gross understood the dangers he faced. That is evident both in his reports – he called his enterprise “risky business in no uncertain terms” in one memo – and his actions. He recruited Jewish tourists to help bring in the devices, and the most damaging evidence, according to AP, was the sophisticated SIM card he has in his possession.
Yet the story also makes clear that Gross, who was arrested on Dec. 3, 2009, hardly fits the profile of a spy, which is how Cuban President Raul Castro described him.
“Alan Gross was working as a contractor for the U.S. government to promote democracy in Cuba,” said William Daroff, the Washington director for Jewish Federations of North America.
“He was convicted by a court in a country that does not respect the rule of law. His now over two years in a Cuban prison is unjust and we demand the Cuban government release him and that the American government use all of its influence to bring him home.”
The Jewish Federations and the local Jewish Community Relations Council in Washington have taken the lead in pushing publicly for Gross’s release, including petitions and vigils outside the offices of Cuban representatives.
“It hasn’t had any impact at all, if anything it’s only strengthened peoples’ resolve,” Ronald Halber, the director of the Washington JCRC said, of the AP story. The JCRC is set to launch on Wednesday a petition at FreeAlanGrossNow.com urging Pope Benedict XVI to make the case for Gross’s release when he visits Cuba next month.
Gross is said to be ill, having lost 100 pounds of the 250 pounds he weighed before his arrest. His daughter and mother have suffered bouts with cancer during his incarceration.
Those close to the case say privately that the AP’s revelations would not be news to the Cuban authorities. However, they are concerned that making them public will inhibit any Cuban willingness to release Gross.
The AP story describes Gross’ mission as setting up hundreds of Cubans – particularly the island’s 1,500 Jews – with WiFi hotspots for unrestricted Internet access as part of the democracy promotion by USAID, a State Department program. The story depicts Gross’s interactions as primarily with Cuba’s Jews.
“He did nothing wrong other than to connect peaceful non-dissident Jewish communities to the Internet,” said Steven O’Connor, the spokesman for Development Alternatives Inc., the USAID contractor that hired Gross.
Gross’s wife, Judy, addressed the AP story’s claims for the first time on Sunday in a breakfast with congregants at Congregation Chizuk Amuno in Baltimore.
“To suggest that Alan had any ulterior motive other than to help Cuba’s small Jewish community improve its access to information through the Internet and Intranet is categorically false,” she said in prepared remarks shared exclusively with JTA.
“Unfortunately, in countries like Cuba, the free flow of information is forbidden, and therefore it should come as no surprise that Alan had to be careful and discreet while he was in Cuba.”
She added, “That members of the media and the blogosphere continue to debate and analyze Alan’s work – a discussion in which the participants openly speculate as to his motives and his actions, despite having never met the man or even spoken with him – while he rots in a Cuban prison without the opportunity to freely and openly respond, is deplorable.”
Judy Gross described her husband’s mission as setting up unfettered Internet access to communicate with Jews outside Cuba and an Intranet so the communities – some in remote areas – could communicate with one another, “allowing them to share things like recipes, prayers and even sports scores.”
King Abdullah of Jordan met with Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal on the Hamas chief’s first official visit to Jordan since he was expelled in 1999.
The visit is seen as an attempt to engage increasingly influential Islamists in the Arab world. Still, an AP report quoted a Jordanian official as saying that Jordan will not allow Hamas to reopen a branch in Jordan.
An Associated Press report on Sunday that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had agreed to negotiate the borders of a Palestinian state based on the 1948 Armistice lines understandably created quite a stir. Mr. Netanyahu’s public confrontation with President Obama over this very issue remains vivid in everyone’s memory, as does the enthusiastic and virtually unanimous bipartisan support for Mr. Netanyahu’s position expressed by Congress.
That this “red line” would be so abruptly and unceremoniously abandoned can hardly be deemed a simple matter. Did the AP somehow get the story wrong? Mr. Netanyahu’s supporters certainly hoped so, but then on Monday more news outlets, in Israel and abroad, confirmed that the prime minister had in essence accepted President Obama’s proposal that Israel affect a near total withdrawal from the West Bank.
To be sure, by Tuesday the AP was reporting that the Israeli government was “distancing” itself from the initial report, and that government sources insisted Mr. Netanyahu was merely willing to “show some flexibility” on the border issue.
When all the platitudes are put on the shelf, the gulf between President Obama and the Netanyahu government has been about whether Israel will be required to concede pre-1967 land as part of any peace agreement with the Palestinians. United Nations Security Council Resolution 242, formalizing an end to the 1967 Six-Day War, spoke of Israel’s entitlement to defensible borders with no mention of accompanying land swaps. The notion of land swaps arose only as a way to account for changes on the ground subsequent to the 1967 war involving the growth of Israeli population centers in the West Bank.
Thus, when President Obama spoke of “land swaps” with the pre-1967 lines as the starting point, he was extending the notion of an exchange of land to Israel’s minimal entitlement to defensible borders rather than only post-1967 changes in reality on the ground. And this was a monumental shift.
In the weeks since the Netanyahu-Obama brouhaha, the administration has, for whatever reasons, been eager to downplay the implications of the president’s initial statement. At the same time, it’s clear from statements made by Mr. Netanyahu that there is a dynamic in play, driven no doubt by the Palestinian Authority’s determination to win UN recognition of a Palestinian state.
In the run up to the final Palestinian push for that recognition come September, one can only hope that principle will prevail.
The Weinbaum Yeshiva High School, a Modern-Orthodox high school in Boca Raton, Florida, is one of the leading academic high schools in the region.
A Scholar with Honors is defined as a student that achieves an average of at least 3.25 and has completed four exams. This status is held by Alexa Bryn, Ariella Davis, Jessica Friedman, Harry Ganz, Aaron Gold, Jonathan Levenson, Daniel Shimansky, and Yocheved Tirschwell of WYHS.