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February 22, 2017 / 26 Shevat, 5777

Posts Tagged ‘Constitution’

Biden Reveals US Going Out of Its Way to Extradite Erdogan’s Archenemy

22 Av 5776 – August 25, 2016

Turkish rage at the US has been mounting since the failed July 15 coup, which President Erdogan blamed on his former ally Fethullah Gulen, a self-exiled cleric living in Pennsylvania. It has gotten so bad, President Obama sent his VP to smooth things over, and the Turks were not making the task easy for Joe Biden. The Turks began by sending Ankara’s deputy mayor to greet Biden—the highest-ranking U.S. official to visit Turkey since the coup—at the airport. And while the VP was still visiting, the pro-Erdogan Daily Sabah stated: “Biden wasted a trip, Turkey wasted time.”

But Joe Biden, no stranger to hardball politics, took all of that in stride and stayed on message. For one thing, as Anadolu reported Wednesday, Biden hinted that Obama may be prepared to throw Gulen under the bus. “I can understand Mr. President how some of your countrymen would feel that the world didn’t respond rapidly enough to the existential crisis your country is facing,” the VP said at a joint press conference in Ankara Wednesday. “That’s why I want to personally be here. And I was asked by the president to personally be here to represent him, to tell you and all of your colleagues and your countryman how very, very sorry I am, the president and the American people are for the suffering and loss you have endured.”

Biden then said the US is “committed to doing everything we can to help bring justice for all those responsible for this coup attempt. Even as [we] speak, our American experts are on the ground here in Ankara, meeting with your people, closely coordinating with our Turkish counterparts to evaluate and gather material with regard to Turkish requests to extradite Gulen in accordance our bilateral extradition treaty.”

“We have more lawyers working on this case than any other extradition in recent history,” Biden reassured his host. According to Anadolu, during his earlier meeting with Speaker of Parliament Ismail Kahraman, Biden said he and Obama “wish Gulen were in another country, not in the US.”

Erdogan lectured Biden on how Gulen is operating a global terrorist network from his little home in Pennsylvania, and repeated his demand thata the US immediately detain Gulen, so he won’t give media interviews. Biden reportedly put his face in his hands at this point, and tried to explain the US Constitution to his Turkish host.

“The Constitution and our laws require for someone to be extradited that a court of the United States has to conclude there’s probable cause to extradite,” Biden said. “How long it will take will depend on what evidence is presented. Thus far, until yesterday, there has been no evidence presented about the coup.”

“God willing, there will be enough data and evidence to meet the criteria that you all believe exists,” Biden added later.

Good luck, Mr. Vice President.

Turkish Parliament Approves 3-Month State of Emergency

16 Tammuz 5776 – July 21, 2016

The Turkish Parliament approved a three-month state of emergency Thursday by a vote of 346-115. The last state of emergency in Turkey lasted from July 1987 to November 2002.

The approval came hours after the government declared the state of emergency late Wednesday (July 20), “in order to eliminate the terror organization which attempted to make a coup, swiftly and completely,” President Recep Tayyip Erdogan announced.

The state of emergency allows law enforcement officers to shot individuals who violate surrender orders or attempt to exchange fire — or in self-defense.

Detentions can be extended beyond 48 hours, which is the normal maximum for detentions before suspects must be tried by a court under the Turkish Constitution.

A state of emergency allows authorities to impose limited or full crfews and to prevent gatherings, impose travel bans at certain times and in various places.

Body, vehicle and property searches and seizure of potential evidence has been authorized, and people have been ordered to carry identification with them at all times.

The government has been authorized to ban publication, distribution and replication of newspapers, magazines, pamphlets, books and leaflets, and to seize publications that were banned before.

Controlling, recording and banning certain speeches, scripts, pictures, films, records, theaters and films — as well as audio and image records and all audio-related broadcasts have also been authorized.

Individuals and groups can be blocked from entering certain places, and removed from others; public gatherings and meetings, marches and parades can be banned or postponed. Operations of association can also be stopped.

Erdogan urged Turkish citizens to be wary of “speculations,” according to an article posted on the Turkish Hurriyet Daily News website. He added the state of emergency was not synonymous with martial law.

“Restrictions on rights and liberties during the state of emergency are not in question. There is no such thing. We guarantee it,” Erdogan said.

But the move has already had an effect on everyday Turkish citizens: a Turkish business contact who was slated to travel to the United States abruptly “postponed” those plans, citing “recent developments in Turkey.”

In a brief email to a source who requested anonymity out of concern for his safety, the contact said he could not say when he might be able to reschedule. The source told JewishPress.com he was so concerned for his friend’s safety, he could not even respond with an email to ask for details about the family or what was happening in the company.

Islamic State Recruitment of Americans Brings War to Home Front

23 Shevat 5775 – February 12, 2015

More than 150 Americans have joined 20,000 others fighting for the Islamic State (ISIS) and pose a clear and present danger of terrorist attacks in the United States.

The threat of violence in the United States from ISIS recruits could be carried out by less than a dozen “uncoordinated and unsophisticated” attacks, National Counter Terrorism Center director Nicholas Rasmussen said at a House Homeland Security Committee hearing Wednesday.

The Islamic State on which President Barack Obama wants Congress to declare war has grown into a monster that finally prompted the president on Wednesday to ask Congress to give him the power that he already has under the Constitution to unilaterally declare war.

Obama wants broad support, and his decision not to use the power under the Constitution and instead turn to Congress for support could make it difficult for future presidents to declare war at a time of emergency.

He has ordered Air Force strikes on ISIS by relying on a general Congressional authorization from 2002 for military operations against Al Qaeda and other terrorist threats, but the ISIS’ success in working through social media in the United States has brought the threat of war to the shores of the United States.

US-led global task force raids have killed and wounded thousands of ISIS fighters, and it seems that for every one that dies, 10 new ones show up for the funeral.

“The number of those seeking to go to Iraq and Syria is going up,” Counterterrorism Director Nicholas Rasmussen testified at the hearing.

He added:

We assess that at least 3,400 of these fighters are from Western countries, and that number includes also over 150 U.S. persons who’ve either traveled to the conflict zone or attempted to do so.

Homeland Committee Chairman Michael T. McCaul, a Republican from Texas, said the Islamic State “now controls an area equal to the size of Belgium” despite US-led aerial bombings, and “governs millions of people, draws on billions of dollars in revenue and commands tens of thousands of foot soldiers.”

“This evolving Islamic terrorist landscape has given rise to the dual threats of foreign fighters returning to the United States and homegrown terrorism,” he added.

McCaul cited ISIS social media for “inciting their followers and potential recruits to wage war…in their home countries, and it’s working.

“ISIS social media also gives step-by-step instructions on how to get to the fight and how to return,” he said.

The committee investigated profiles of American who have traveled or have tried to travel to join the ISIS and sis covered that they come various backgrounds without a single stereotype.

The list includes six teenagers from Chicago and Denver who were recruited online.

McCaul said he was “worried about our ability to combat this threat abroad, but also here at home.”

Arkansas Shooting Range Declares Itself ‘Muslim-Free Zone’

8 Tishri 5775 – October 2, 2014

The woman owner of the Gun Cave Indoor Shooting Range in Hot Springs, Arkansas has declared her territory a “Muslim-free zone” because of domestic terror by Muslims.

Jan Morgan posted on her website 10 reasons to support her new policy, which is certain to be challenged in the courts.

Lawyers are going to make a lot of money over this.

One of her arguments is that the United States refused to classify several murders as acts of terrorism, particularly last week’s beheading by a Muslim convert in Oklahoma, the attack by a Muslim on Fort Hood and the Boston Marathon bombing carried out two years ago by two Muslims.

Morgan also wrote that two Muslim men, speaking in broken English, came to her range recently and asked to rent and practice with semi-automatic rifles and ammunition but could not provide identification other than a California’s driver’s license.

She agreed to rent one weapon but removed all other customers from the range while the two men shot.

Morgan is preparing for lawsuits charging her with discrimination.

Following are her 10 reasons for a “Muslim-free zone,” complete with her spelling of “Muslim” with a small ”m.”

1) The Koran, which I have read and studied thoroughly and (which all muslims align themselves with), contains 109 verses commanding hate, murder and terror against all human beings who refuse to submit or convert to Islam….

2) My life has been threatened repeatedly by muslims who are angry that I have studied their koran and have, over the past two years, been exposing the vileness of the Koran and its murderous directives.

3) The barbaric act of beheading an innocent American in Oklahoma by a muslim;

* the Boston bombings(by muslims)

* the Fort Hood mass shooting (by a muslim) that killed 13 people and injured over 30 people

* and the murder of 3000 innocent people (by muslims) on 9/11

This is more than enough loss of life on my home soil at the hands of muslims to substantiate my position that muslims can and will follow the directives in their Koran and kill here at home.

4) Because the nature of my business involves firearms and shooting firearms in an enclosed environment, my patrons are not comfortable being around muslims who align themselves with a religion that clearly commands hate, murder, and violence against all non muslims…..

5) My range rents and sells guns to my patrons. Why would I want to rent or sell a gun and hand ammunition to someone who aligns himself with a religion that commands him to kill me?

6) * Muslims, who belong to and, or, support ISIS, are threatening to kill innocent Americans.

* Muslims, who belong to or support AL Qaeda, are threatening to kill innocent Americans.

* Muslims who belong to or support HAMAS are threatening to kill innocent Americans….

7) I not only have the right to refuse service but a RESPONSIBILITY to provide a safe environment for people to shoot and train on firearms. I can and have turned people away if I sense they are under the influence of alcohol or mind altering drugs. I have a federal firearms license…

The ATF informed us when we received the license that if we feel any reason for concern about selling someone a firearm, even sense that something is not right about an individual, or we are concerned about that persons mental state, even if they pass a background check, we do not have to sell that person a gun.

In other words, a federal agency has given us this kind of discretion for service based on the nature of the business. I can and have turned people away if I sense an issue with their mental state. So… it’s difficult to imagine how the DOJ could have issues with this when ATF gave us this discretion.

8) I have no way of looking at Islam other than as a theocracy, not a religion. Islam is undoubtedly the union of political, legal, and religious ideologies. In other words law, religion and state are forged together to form what Muslims refer to as “The Nation of Islam.” Once again it is given the sovereign qualities of a nation with clerics in the governing body and Sharia law all in one. This is a Theocracy, not a religion.

The US Constitution does not protect a theocracy. The 1st Amendment is very specific about protecting the rights of individuals from the government, as it concerns the practice of religions, not theocracies. It clearly differentiates between government and religion. Again protecting the individual’s religious beliefs and practices from (the state) government. In Islam religion and state are one.

We are a Nation governed by laws, or the law of the land the U.S. Constitution. We are not a Nation that is governed by religion, politicians or clerics.

How then, can anyone say that, the practice of Islam is protected by the U.S. Constitution?

The muslim brotherhood has a documented plan for the destruction of America from within, discovered by our own government during a raid of MB operatives in America. In addition, I am very cognizant of the civilization jihad under way in my country by American muslims. In a number of states Muslims, through our legal system, are trying to force us to accept Sharia Law over Constitutional law. I do not wish to do business with people who stand against the Constitution and are fighting to replace it.

9) Islam allows Muslims to kill their own children, (honor killing) if the behavior of those children embarrasses or dishonors the family name. ( did you know that dating outside of the faith is justification for murdering their daughters and this has already occurred on American soil?) Why would I want people (who believe it’s okay to murder their own children), be in the presence of other children? My patrons often bring their kids to the range to teach them to shoot. I am responsible for providing a safe environment for those children to learn gun safety and shooting sports.

10) In the 14 hundred year history of Islam, muslims have murdered over 270 million people. Not all muslims are terrorists, but almost all terrorists in the world right now are muslim. Since you can’t determine by visual assessment, which ones will kill you and which ones will not, I am going to go with the line of thought that ANY HUMAN BEING who would either knowingly or unknowingly support a “religion” that commands the murder of all people who refuse to submit or convert to that religion, is not someone I want to know or do business with. I hold adults accountable for the religion they align themselves with.

In summary, I not only have the right, but a responsibility to provide a safe environment for my customers. I do not believe my decision is religious discrimination because I do not classify islam as a religion.. It is a theocracy/terrorist organization that hides behind the mask of religion in order to achieve its mission of world domination.

People who shoot at my range come from all religious backgrounds… some are atheists… I do not care about their religious beliefs. I care about the safety of my customers who come to shoot here….

I will do whatever is necessary to provide a safe environment for my customers, even at the cost of the increased threats and legal problems this decision will likely provoke.

Egypt Constitution Wins 98% But only 40% Vote

18 Shevat 5774 – January 19, 2014

The Egyptian voters have approved their new constitution by a staggering 98.1 percent majority, which the junta government declared a popular endorsement of the army’s overthrow of president Mohamed Mursi.

But the result of the Tuesday-Wednesday vote is less than encouraging for Egypt’s new rulers, coming from fewer than 40 percent of the eligible voters.

According to electoral commission head Nabil Salib, the turnout only “reached 38.6 percent” of the 53 million registered voters, and only 1.9 percent of those voted “no.”

The new charter replaces the Islamist constitution that was adopted in the December 2012 referendum, when Mursi and the Muslim Brothers were still at the helm, and which received about two-thirds of the vote, with a 33 percent turnout.

Maybe Egyptians just don’t like referenda?

The State Dept. issued a press release that I’m sure the Egyptians will just adore. Among other things, the U.S. “urges the interim Egyptian government to fully implement those rights and freedoms that are guaranteed in the new constitution for the benefit of the Egyptian people, and to take steps towards reconciliation.”

But who’s patronizing? Wait, there’s a moralistic caution from the Boston Brahmin which I’m sure the generals over in Cairo will print out and put in a special place:

“Democracy is more than any one referendum or election. It is about equal rights and protections under the law for all Egyptians, regardless of their gender, faith, ethnicity, or political affiliation.”

And, naturally: “The United States again urges all sides to condemn and prevent violence and to move towards an inclusive political process based on the rule of law and respect for the fundamental freedoms of all Egyptians.”

Or what, we’ll send a drone over?

I think it’s time the United States, especially under the current Administration, will do the planet a favor and Shut Up.

Here are the final figures, according to Al Ahram:

Total registered voters: 53,423,485

Turnout: 20,613,677 (38.6 percent)

Invalid votes: 246,947

Yes: 19,985,389 (98.1 percent)

No: 381,341 (1.9 percent)

Egypt Approves Constitution, but Brotherhood Boycotted Vote

16 Shevat 5774 – January 16, 2014

Egyptians gave landslide support for a proposed new constitution after two days of voting, but the Muslim Brotherhood boycotted the balloting, which was accompanied by violence, ballot stuffing and bribes.

An official told the Associated Press that 90 percent of the voters cast a “yes” vote, but BuzzFeed reported that it obtained documents that provided evidence that the voting was a “disaster” for democracy.

The ruling military regime needs lopsided approval for the constitution to help it drive the Muslim Brotherhood into the ground and pave the way for army chief Gen. Abdel Fattah al-Sisi to run for president.

Pro-Muslim Brotherhood groups blocked roads so people could get to the polling stations, and they also bribed people not to vote.

One activist told BuzzFeed, “What I saw at the polling stations were not just problems’ they were disasters.” He said army personnel stationed inside the polling station handed out gifts to voters, and he also “saw two women taking extra ballots and putting them in the box.”

One international election observation monitor said there was an atmosphere of intimidation in the polling stations.

Outside the voting locations, Muslim Brotherhood protests clashed with Egyptian police, and eight people were killed in two clashes on Tuesday.

Radical, Democratic Changes to Egypt’s Constitution, MBs Out

13 Elul 5773 – August 19, 2013

The technical committee has been assigned the task of “amending” Egypt’s 2012 Muslim-Brothers inspired constitution is almost finished, Al Ahram reported. The committee is headed by Interim President Adly Mansour’s legal advisor, Ali Awad.

In a press conference Sunday, Awad told the press that the committee will finish its work Monday, and the new draft constitution will be announced Wednesday. Al Ahram quotes the basic instruction given the authors of the new document: “Fundamental changes must be introduced to 2012 Islamist-backed constitution.”

By fundamental, they mean no Muslim Brothers in politics, ever again.

“The 2012 constitution was drafted under the former regime of the Muslim Brotherhood to grant Islamists an upper hand and a final say in Egypt’s political future, and this must be changed now,” Ahram quotes a committee source. “When the people revolted 30 June, their main goals were not confined to removing Mohamed Morsi from power, but also changing the fundamental pillars of the religious tyranny the Muslim Brotherhood regime tried its best to impose on Egypt.”

The source revealed that the new constitution must impose a ban on political parties based on religious foundations.

The source explained that “the anticipated ban gained momentum after the committee received requests and proposals from more than 400 political, economic and social institutions, pressing hard for the necessity of safeguarding Egypt against Islamist factions trying to change the civil nature of the country into a religious oligarchy.”

Except that – surprise, surprise, despite the anti-Brotherhood sentiment common to the new masters of Egypt, the source says the new constitution “will keep Article 2 of 2012’s Islamist-backed constitution — which states that Islamic Sharia is the main source of legislation — in place.”

This, according to committee chairman Ali Awad, is done “in order to stress the Islamic identity of Egypt.”

According to the source, most political institutions have recommended that “if it is necessary to keep the Islamic Sharia article in place as a nod to Islamists like El-Nour, it is by no means necessary to maintain the 2012 constitution’s separate article (Article 219) that delivers an interpretation of Islamic Sharia.”

Article 219 of the 2012 constitution states: “The principles of Islamic Sharia include its generally-accepted interpretations, its fundamental and jurisprudential rules, and its widely considered sources as stated by the schools of Sunna and Gamaa.”

Not any more. They’re also going to scrap the Shura Council, the upper house of parliament, that was created in 1980 by late President Anwar El-Sadat to befriend his Islamist foes. They shot him anyway. The MB exploited its majority in the council in 2012 to “Brotherhoodise national press institutions and the state-owned Radio and Television Union (known as Maspero) and gain legislative powers to Islamise society.”

Sources are saying there will be radical changes of articles aimed at regulating the performance of the High Constitutional Court and media institutions. “We aim to reinforce the independence of these institutions and not to face any more intimidation by ruling regimes,” the source said. He also indicated that, “The electoral system is also expected to see a complete overhaul in order not to cause any discrimination against independents or come in favor of party-based candidates.”

And another noteworthy change: Article 232 of the 2012 constitution, imposing a ban on leading officials of Mubarak’s defunct ruling National Democratic Party (NDP), will be annulled.

So, it appears the Egyptians are quite capable of taking care of their legal affairs without nasty interventions from their patron wannabes in Washington. Perhaps it would be best for the U.S. to shut up for a couple of weeks and not meddle?

Terrorism and the Methodology of the Left

22 Iyyar 5773 – May 1, 2013

The left has a clearly defined set of responses to a terrorist attack. After all the hopes for a properly right wing terrorist have come to naught, it begins the long slow process of rolling back the laws and emotional attitudes stemming from the attack.

For it, terrorism, like anything else, either fits into its narrative or conflicts with it. The narrative defines the world, past, present and future, in terms of the political agenda of the left. An event that clashes with the agenda must have its meaning changed so that the power of the narrative is restored.

Most violent attacks, from a street mugging to September 11, cause people to seek out security by combating the attackers. The left’s task is to shift the narrative so that people see it in an entirely different way. The perpetrators become the victims by the trick of transforming the real victims into the real perpetrators. The lesson shifts from going on the offense to learning not to give offense.

The process is gradual and the playbook is infinite. Weapons of mass distraction are brought out. New villains are introduced and the emotional resonance of the events is drowned in ridicule. The tones are also many, from urging everyone to let love defeat hate to displays of virulent hate against the people “truly” stirring up trouble, but they all share a common agenda. Only the tactics vary.

Unlike the right, the left is systematic. It studies structures and people and plots its lines of attack accordingly. It pits emotion against emotion and law against law. It waits for the initial shock to fade before launching its first wave of attacks over process.

The left’s honest response, the one that shows up on its Twitter feeds and in posts on its own sites, is that the country is overreacting. Some leftists will even be bold enough to say that we had it coming. But its public response is more discreet. It exploits the grief for its own ends, diverting shocked city residents into interfaith memorials, some of which are progressive enough to include denunciations of American foreign policy and vigils for the dead on both sides.

But even here, the left generally restrains itself. It waits until the weeks or months have passed to begin deadening the emotion surrounding the event with sarcastic remarks and jokes until the sacred becomes fully profane. It waits somewhat less time to begin lecturing the country on how our foreign policy made them hate us, knowing that in a contest between the establishment’s narrative of inexplicable Islamic radicalization for unknown reasons and their narrative of American evil, they have the upper hand because they provide a realistic motive and the establishment does not.

Still this too comes later. The left knows that there is a window on human emotion. There is a time when people need to mourn and a time when they will feel a diminishing outrage and even begin to agree with observations whose thrust is that the United States of America is the real terrorist. And so there are things that the left will say on DailyKos and then on Salon that it will not say on CNN or the editorial page of the New York Times.

The editorials explaining how a lack of American support for Chechen independence led to the marathon massacre are coming. They just haven’t splashed ashore in mainstream liberal newspapers yet. Timing is everything and the difference between the left of the counterculture and the left of the culture is that it knows what people will be willing to listen to and when. And it knows where to begin.

Against the horror of the bombing, the left juxtaposes the horror of police state. It pits the fear of terrorists depriving us of our lives and freedoms against the fear of the government doing the same. And considering the history of government abuses, it does not take long for this line of argument to make a compelling emotional dent in the responses of even many ordinary people to the attacks.

The left begins by raising all sorts of procedural questions about how law enforcement and the military are treating the enemy. It develops a burning conviction that our civil rights are the only thing about the country worth keeping. It hammers away at any law enforcement or military mistake, no matter how minor, and collects these together to amass a narrative of the police state.

‘Moral Authority,’ Jewish Style

2 Adar 5773 – February 11, 2013

There’s an interesting article in the Jewish Press by Joe Settler which hinges on the concept of “Moral Authority.”

When a drafter of Israel’s Constitution says there is a problem because too many IDF commanders are religious, we need to worry about what kind of Constitution he is drafting.

“I meant, that as long as there is no solution for the source of the authority in the IDF in general, and specifically, including the integration of women [because listening to women sing, is the biggest problem the army faces], the problems will grow and increase. As the number of religious soldiers and commanders grow, since the authority of their Rabbis is what rules for them, the size of the problem will get larger. More and more officers and soldiers will find themselves indecisive when they face this conflict.” Dr. Arye (Arik) Carmon, head of the Israel Democracy Institute For many years, I’ve been troubled by the fact that even Torah observant (aka Orthodox) Rabbis, especially American Yeshiva University educated ones, such as Rabbi Shlomo Riskin and Rabbi Aaron Lichtenstein, have somehow added non-Jewish concepts/ideologies of Liberalism and Democracy to the 613 mitzvot, Torah commandments.

We Jews have a much more veteran and well documented social and political philosophy/ideology in our Torah and Talmud.  It actually contradicts many modern “moral” philosophies/ideologies, because it’s timeless.

I was especially disturbed in the troubling times leading to the Disengagement expulsions when so-called Torah observant rabbis said that a Knesset vote could over-ride the Jewish connection to the Land of Israel and even banish Jews from their homes, communities and businesses.

ישוב הארץ Yishuv Ha’Aretz, the Settling of the Land is a cornerstone of Judaism, and a large portion of the Torah is centered on it.

The Torah is our MORAL AUTHORITY.  Without it, we Jews couldn’t have had survived as a People during the thousands of years of exile from our Holy Land.  Our Land and our Torah are what has kept us a people.

Last night, I was at a shiur by  Inbal Amiton – “Believe and plant: The Redemption of Land as a Reflection of the Redemption of the Nation, According to Yirmiyahu 32”  in Matan.  Amiton said that according to Yirmiyahu (Jeremiah,) first G-d will return us to the Land and then we will do Teshuva, repent.

I see the process of Torah observant Jews growing in the IDF (Israeli Army) as proof that it is happening today.

Israel’s secular and quasi-secular/religious  leaders don’t understand that our true Moral Authority is G-d given.

Visit Shiloh Musings.

Too Many Religious Officers and a Constitution

30 Shevat 5773 – February 10, 2013

In an interview last week with Makor Rishon, Dr. Arye (Arik) Carmon, head of the Israel Democracy Institute said,

“as the number of religious commanders in the army increases, we’re in for bigger problems.”

Dr. Carmon is not only the president of the Israel Democracy Institute, but he is one of the senior members of a group of people trying to put together a Constitution (“by Concensus”) for the state of Israel. A Constitution that is supposed to represent all of Israeli society and our shared values.

HIS CLARIFICATION

Following the publication of his statement last week, Carmon felt that there was a need to clarify what he really meant.

Carmon said (with my comments added in [italics]):

“As someone who was injured during my army service [yes, because that now gives any statement he makes automatic legitimacy], and whose sons fight shoulder to shoulder with their brother’s [see previous comment], the religious soldiers, the alumni of the National-Religious educational system, I have much respect for them, to the soldiers and commanders in the IDF whose contributions to the security of Israel are priceless [did he mention that some of his best friends are religious too?].It’s important for me to clarify that in the heat of the interview, my words were not understood properly [Actually, I think we did understand them properly].

I meant, that as long as there is no solution for the source of the authority in the IDF in general, and specifically, including the integration of women [because listening to women sing, is the biggest problem the army faces], the problems will grow and increase. As the number of religious soldiers and commanders grow, since the authority of their Rabbis is what rules for them, the size of the problem will get larger. More and more officers and soldiers will find themselves indecisive when they face this conflict.

Any other way to understand my words is mistaken.”

I’m honestly not sure what is worse, the original statement or his clarification.

Carmon is clearly afraid of two things, that the soldiers have a moral authority and value system that he doesn’t share, that supersedes blindly following orders, and that religious soldiers are blocking his coercive goals of secular-democratic supremacy.

His first problem is that religious soldiers listen to a higher moral authority, and he is afraid of the conflict that religious soldiers might have, especially if there are too many of them, and how that will affect their following orders.

Though logically that doesn’t make sense, because if there are more religious soldiers who share a common moral thought process, the conflict is unlikely to trickle down, as obviously immoral and illegal orders will be identified and stopped higher up in hierarchy – as they should be.

But, Carmon is thinking of two specific issues – one he states, which is the integration of women, and the other, which I believe he implies, is not following orders in case of another Expulsion/Disengagement – the classic Israeli argument of moral/religious right vs. the tyranny of the majority- the Jewish-Democratic state conflict.

Carmon has firmly placed himself firmly on one side of that argument, the secular side that immorally kicked out 8000 Jews from their homes and let a terrorist state develop in Gaza, and would do so again in Judea and Samaria if they could.

ONE SIDED CONCERN

Yet Carmon apparently doesn’t have a problem with too many left-wing pilots or reservists, hundreds of whom famously signed onto petitions saying they won’t follow orders to attack our enemies. You would think that he would find an identifiable group who seditiously and openly called for disobeying orders to attack the enemy to be far more worrisome than religious soldiers and officers, with a healthy and respected value system. But as you’ll see later in the article, he doesn’t.

To my knowledge, Carmon has never said that as the number of Left-wing pilots grows, the problems will increase. No, he specifically said the problem is with too many religious commanders.

Obama’s Threats

10 Shevat 5773 – January 21, 2013

In his quest to raise the debt ceiling, President Obama issued a threat in his press conference last week that troops won’t get paid and veterans’ pension payments will be delayed.  He warned of delays in Social Security payments as well.

It’s important to understand that these comments constitute a threat (which may or may not be a hollow one).  Obama is not stating some inescapable reality, to which he along with the rest of us is subject.  If retirees and vets see a delay in their payments, it will be because Obama himself decides to hold the payments up.  Moreover, Obama is not caught in a trap when it comes to paying the troops; he can make sure they get paid, if it’s his priority to do so.

The payments to retirees are going to go out unless Obama stops them.  The debt ceiling doesn’t prevent those payments from being made.  It requires that other types of federal expenditures – current-year operating expenses like federal purchases, welfare outlays, payrolls, etc – be suspended or managed differently.

The two Social Security Trust Funds (one for old-age benefits and one for disability benefits) had nearly $2.7 trillion in assets at the end of fiscal year 2011. The most recent for which a trustees’ report is posted online.  The funds are used every year to ensure obligated pay-outs to beneficiaries, and have been borrowed against many times by Congress, under routine fiscal circumstances.  While repayment of any amount expended during a government shut-down should be part of a debt-ceiling deal, the trusts allow Social Security payments to be made on time during a shut-down – unless Obama decides against that.

Likewise, the Military Retirement Fund had about $428 billion in total assets at the end of fiscal year 2012, three-and-a-half months ago.  The fund’s assets can certainly be used to make on-time pension payments to veterans in early 2013 – again, with a repayment plan as part of the debt-ceiling deal.  In fact, military retired pay is already programmed for electronic distribution throughout FY2013; it takes active intervention to prevent it from being distributed.

Active-duty military pay is a current-year expenditure, and would be directly jeopardized by a government shut-down.  But whether or not the troops get paid is up to Obama’s leadership.  He could agree with Congress to set aside enough to pay the troops while the negotiations continue – a move that could well require cutting or suspending expenditures elsewhere in the federal government, in order to remain under the debt ceiling until a deal was reached.

Obama could also get a read from his attorneys on the precedents for and propriety of borrowing against one of the big trust funds to meet the uniformed payroll during the government crisis.  Paying the troops, especially when the military is forward-deployed and much of it is in combat in Afghanistan, ought to be politically unifying.  It’s hard to imagine Congress trying to impeach or otherwise hobble Obama over the actions he might take to ensure the troops are paid.

What Obama is doing, in effect, is issuing threats about what he will do, if Republicans don’t give him what he wants.  But he’s representing the threats as a consequence for which the GOP lawmakers would be responsible.

This kind of mendacious demagoguery flourishes when the press is biased and/or cowed, and fails to challenge the political leaders.  Every appeal from the leadership gets to be emotional; government is discussed in unaccountable, irrational, and even hysterical terms, as when the president postulated, in his speech on gun restrictions during the same press conference, that the victims of mass shootings had been “denied their rights” by the shooters.  The distinction between committing crimes against individuals, which the citizens can do, and denying the people’s rights – which only government can do – is one of the most important concepts underlying the American system of government.  But Obama elided it out of existence on last week, in his quest to depict the use of firearms as, principally, a means of injuring others.

Parse, parse, parse, my friends.  This president doesn’t speak in the terms of American political philosophy, which holds government and its leaders accountable for meanings both philosophical and practical.  It is not our practice, in American government, to shrug off misleading demagoguery.  That’s not “business as usual” for us.  Our president is supposed to bind himself to constitutional meanings.  He is supposed to depict the actions of government honestly.  It’s a big deal that this one doesn’t.

So You Say You Want a US Style Constitution in Israel…

24 Tevet 5773 – January 6, 2013

After you make aliyah from the United States, it’s hard not compare everything to what you’ve come to expect from your prior life.  Whether it’s people’s attitudes, prices, the government bureaucracy, and so many other things. As a lawyer who has studied American and Israeli law and someone who has been politically active in both the US and Israel, I compare Israeli and American constitutional law.

The first thing, of course, that jumps out is not that there is no constitution in Israel. That doesn’t in and of itself bother me. What bothers me is that the Supreme Court believes there is one and therefore acts as if it has the power of judicial review.

But after that, there is the fact that when Israeli legal authorities talk about a constitution they didn’t really mean a whole constitution, they mean only a bill of rights. That’s why it was so easy for Aharon Barak and the Supreme Court he led to rationalize giving themselves the power of judicial review. Israel, they thought, has basic laws on everything except a bill of rights. Now the Knesset has approved a basic law on “human dignity and liberty” so therefore the constitutional process has been competed and what are termed “basic laws” will automatically be considered superior law to regular laws.

That was how they glossed over the fact that only some basic laws have “entrenchment clauses,” which say make the law superior to later laws unless the later law is approved by a certain sized majority, and that when Basic Law: Human Dignity and Liberty was approved legislators were told by the Chairman of the Knesset committee on the Constitution, Law and Justice that it would not give the Supreme Court the power of judicial review.

But a constitution is much more than a bill of rights. It’s about the structure of government and how that impacts decision-making and in and of itself protects the rights of the people.

Unfortunately, it doesn’t appear much thought was put into the system of government in Israel – not the serious kind of political philosophy that when into the U.S. Constitution. Israel’s governmental structure is very simplistic. There are no districts, so elections are just one big free for all, with whoever can form a majority-coalition in the legislature forming the government. And then off to the side there is the Knesset. Of course, that doesn’t make politics simple. In fact it makes it unduly complicated, but in all the wrong ways.

While studying the evolution of judicial review in Israel, I read Emmanuel Rackman’s account of early Israeli constitutional decision-making – both in the provisional government and then in the Constituent Assembly, the body elected to adopted a constitution and which became Israel’s first Knesset. The main constitutional issues which were discussed and debated were the concept of the a written constitution and a bill of rights. No one could agree on those so it was agreed to disagree and make laws about the basics parts of government in “basic laws” which would later be used as the basis for a constitution.

In my op-ed in last Thursday’s Jerusalem Post, I wrote that the Disengagement – which involved a forcible mass transfer of thousands of a certain class (Jews) – was a result of the inability of the Israeli governmental system to protect citizens’ rights and ensure the adoption of sound policy, due to the fact that it lacks the checks and balances as they exist in the US constitutional system (as well as many others).

My conclusion was that,

Those who recognized the disengagement as the act of despotism it was ought to consider how our form of government affects the policies which are adopted and how it should be changed to ensure that a plan that pits soldiers against thousands of their countrymen is never approved again.

But against all my arguments and comparisons between the Israeli and American systems, first person to comment on the article argued that, “The grass really isn’t greener elsewhere. Here in the US, our one-time system of checks and balances has been largely destroyed, and we are on the fast track to financial ruin.”

That wasn’t the first time I’ve gotten such a response to a US-Israel constitution comparison. Once, while making the point about Israel’s judicial selection procedure (judges are chosen by a committee of nine, three are from the Supreme Court, two from the Knesset (one is an opposition member), two from the government and three from the bar association who side with the judges) and how it was inferior to the American judicial selection procedure, in which judges are more tied to the people since they are chosen by the political branches, a distinguished ivy-league educated law professor remarked about how judicial committee hearings in the Senate can be a joke, so perhaps it should not be so emulated.

That all may be true. The US system has its dirty moments. It’s the nature of democracy and politics in any system that politicians will play to the cameras and their base for popularity and in so doing make a mockery of themselves and potentially lead to bad decisions.

Nevertheless, the US system is quite remarkable and renowned around the world. It has also served the US quite well. When it was first adopted it was not even agreed that the US was to comprise a nation, but in the framer’s vision that’s what the country became.  And it stayed that way despite deep-seeded differences between the North and the South, which only turned to civil war once (which was perhaps inevitable) – and the Union – i.e. the United States as bound by the Constitution won out.

Senators who might make a show for the public over a judicial nomination dispute are doing just that – making a show. The rhetoric is just the public face for whatever  actual reasons they are voting for or against the judge, reasons which may differ from time to time, but it’s still a story as old time.

And the US may be facing a recession, maybe one day another depression, I don’t know. But something tells me – that the US will come out alright in the end. I believe it will remain the world’s foremost superpower for decades to come, if not much longer.  (One of those things that informs my opinion on this is an excellent essay, “The World America Made,” by Robert Kagan).

As for Israel – thank God, Israel has survived and done pretty well since it’s birth. But I wouldn’t thank it’s current system. Let’s face it, people here don’t vote for representatives. Party bosses and power players do. The judges choose themselves. The government controls the legislature. It’s just a no good, very bad, terrible system.

For Israel’s survival and lack of devolution into civil war or national destruction at the hands of our enemies, I would thank those who had the foresight not to let things get out of hand – such as Menachem Begin, when he did not allow the Irgun to retaliate for the Saison or the Altalena, who ensured that Israel would have a democracy instead of a one-party dominated system, and whose victory stopped the two-state solution from being implemented (Labor had by that point endorsed withdrawal from all disputed territories).

More generally the culprit of our prosperity is the ingenuity and persistence of the Jewish people, that, and by God’s grace do we go on. Those things will keep Israel around despite whatever terrible decisions are wrought by it’s current governing system. Not that anyone should rely on that – bad things do happen when the citizenry is apathetic, regardless of divine preference (recall the joke about the Rabbi praying for God to save him, but every time someone comes a long to rescue him he says he would rather wait for God to do it) or our national qualities.

Making these comparisons is not to simply to complain and let out frustration, or to put the US on a pedestal (though denying American strength, success and generosity is just being intellectually dishonest) or conjure up fear that if we don’t change things the state will be destroyed some time soon (the direction that many Israel-related political arguments take).

When it comes to our national prosperity, we should never shy from imagining the ideal and advocating for its realization.  And while we’ve done relatively amazing compared to the odds stacked against us, life in Israel and Israeli policy making is still far from ideal. If we can prosper even with this system and in our geopolitical situation, imagine how much better we could do with a system of government that could properly reflect and channel our exceptional national ingenuity and will.

Egypt Falls Over the Islamic Cliff

10 Tevet 5773 – December 23, 2012

Both the Islamists and the opposition in Egypt confirmed that Egyptians overwhelmingly chose to become yet another Islamic, Sharia-based state with the adoption of their new constitution.

It is estimated that 64% of those voting in both rounds, voted “yes”, with numerous irregularities reported during both votes.

And to top it off, as pointed out in Forbes, the new constitution does more than just enshrine Islamic Sharia law, it also enshrines socialism as their economic structure.

Ahram Online reports that Egyptian President Morsi has announced his list of 90 representatives who will become members of the Shura council (out of 270 members).  The Shura Council will take on the powers from the president to issue laws.

But despite Morsi including a handful of women and minorities in his list, Ahram Online reports:

Tens of liberal and leftist figures have declined the positions offered to them by the president in the Shura Council.

This means that members of the main opposition’s parties, previously represented in the now-dismantled People’s Assembly, are now not represented in new appointments to the Shura Council.

 

Egypt Democratically Adopts an Anti-Western Dictatorship

5 Tevet 5773 – December 17, 2012

Originally published at Rubin Reports.

The victory in the referendum on the Constitution is the fourth straight Muslim Brotherhood success—including the overthrow of President Husni Mubarak’s regime with army assistance, the parliamentary election and the presidential election–in the process of taking over Egypt for the long-term and fundamentally transforming it into a radical Islamist state. This last one should be sufficient to go all the way.

This event is also producing a new stage of Western rationalizations that whitewash the Muslim Brotherhood and rationalize support for Islamists being in power.

It isn’t that the constitution, as many Salafists would have liked, explicitly mandates a revolutionary Sharia state. Rather, the constitution sets up a framework that will allow the Brotherhood to do so. Between the president and the constitution, the Brotherhood will now march through every institution and remake it. Judges will be appointed; school curricula rewritten; army generals appointed; and so on. As the Brotherhood shows patience in carrying out this process of gaining total, permanent control, many in the West will interpret that as moderation.

“The problem with [President] Morsi isn’t whether he is Islamist or not, it is whether he is authoritarian,” said a Western diplomat in Cairo. Wow, talk about Western misunderstanding of the importance of ideology. Perhaps whether or not he is an Islamist—and of course he is–has something to do with his being authoritarian? Since his goal is a Sharia state then that is an authoritarian destination for which authoritarian means are considered acceptable and are in fact a necessity. One might as well insert the words Communist, fascist, or radical Arab nationalist for Islamist.

There are three factors involved here in setting Western policy: ignorance, a desire to avoid crises, and a foolish belief that having a radical regime in Egypt will moderate the extremists.

To add insult to injury—literally—the New York Times, which has continually portrayed the Brotherhood in glowing terms, now explains to its readers that the opposition has nothing to offer:

“The leading opposition alternatives appeared no less authoritarian [than the Brotherhood]: Ahmed Shafik, who lost the presidential runoff, was a former Mubarak prime minister campaigning as a new strongman, and Hamdeen Sabahi, who narrowly missed the runoff, is a Nasserite who has talked of intervention by the military to unseat Mr. Morsi despite his election as president.

“’The problem with ‘I told you so’ is the assumption that if things had turned out differently the outcome would be better, and I don’t see that,’ the diplomat said, noting that the opposition to the draft constitution had hardly shown more respect than Mr. Morsi has for the norms of democracy or the rule of law. ‘There are no black hats and white hats here, there are no heroes and villains. Both sides are using underhanded tactics and both sides are using violence.’”

This is disgraceful, a rationalization for either failure or worse. The idea is that it really didn’t matter who won because they are all the same so why not a Muslim Brotherhood government with a powerful Salafist influence? Any leader of Egypt is going to be a strongman. The question is a strongman for what causes? And if people were talking about unseating the democratically elected Mursi that’s because they view him as the equivalent for Egypt of some new Khomeini, a man who will drag Egypt into decades of repressive dictatorship and war.

I’ve often written of the weakness and political incompetence of the anti-Islamist forces but these are courageous people fighting for a good cause. True, their side includes leftist and nationalist extremists but should that be used to discredit them all when the Islamists are constantly whitewashed?

And for U.S. interests it certainly does matter who wins. Extend this wrong-headed analogy: the Iranian Islamists are no worse than the shah; Saddam Hussein was no worse than the oligarchs who ran Iraq before it went radical in 1958; the current Islamist regime in Turkey is no worse than the high-handed Kemal Ataturk? One might have well had Communist regimes in South America rather than military dictatorships?

It might not sound nice to some people but the main task of Western diplomats is not to worship democracy but to try to promote behavior in other governments favorable to their own country’s interests. In those terms, Mubarak or Shafik is better than Mursi. And since Mursi doesn’t even stand for real democracy the choice is even more obvious.

And there is a dire implication here: If there is no real democratic opposition then the United States doesn’t have to help it. Is this principle thus extended to Iran, Turkey, Lebanon, Syria, and Tunisia? Are Islamists the only alternative or, to put it in a slightly less obviously objectionable way, should we accept and even help Islamists because everyone is the same?

Wow, has the Western elite lost its way. There is so little sense of who is a friend and who is an enemy; the lesser of two evils; the strategic interests of their own country that one can only despair of any lessons being learned from experience.

It’s ironic that Obama has spent so much time talking about how past U.S. support for pro-American dictators has been a mistake that led to a legacy of crisis when he is now supporting an anti-American dictator.

The argument presented by U.S. officials that compromise is in the Brotherhood’s interest is laughable. Do people in Washington know what the Brotherhood wants and conditions in Egypt better than the Brotherhood leadership? We have seen this same mistake made many times before by Western governments and editorial writers, lecturing a radical regime that it would accomplish more by being totally different.

What is most disturbing is not that the Obama Administration is supporting this regime–which is bad enough–but that its not even suspicious of the Egyptian government’s intentions and behavior. It thinks the Brotherhood is going to curb the Salafists while it actually uses them as storm troops. And so in the coming months we will see more obfuscations and apologies about Cairo’s behavior.

The sad truth is that it is too late for U.S. leverage—which the Obama Administration doesn’t want to use any way—to have an impact. The Brotherhood is already in power. If the United States gives it money and support, the Brotherhood will use that to consolidate its rule while mobilizing the people against the United States; if Washington doesn’t, the Brotherhood will then mobilize the people even more effectively in that way. A U.S. policy coddling the regime will be seen as the weak and stupid response of enemies; a tougher policy will be portrayed as hostile.

True, if Obama doles out money and military equipment to the regime with conditions and slowly, Morsi has an incentive to go slower and more carefully yet it also strengthens the regime’s ability to fulfill its goals and entrench itself in power. But the army isn’t going to do anything against the regime even though, at this point, it will not repress the opposition for Morsi. The Islamists aren’t going to be won over by the United States. And Obama isn’t going to be serious about using pressure except for meaningless statements and phone calls. The administration will speak nice language about protecting women’s and minority (Christian) rights while it looks the other way when these are violated.

Understandably, the democratic opposition—like its counterparts in Lebanon, Syria, Turkey, and Iran—has learned that the United States will not help them. As one sign at a demonstration put it: Obama: Our dictator is your bitch. One day, decades in the future, an American president might be apologizing to Egyptians for a U.S. policy that backed a repressive Islamist regime in their country.

What are the next steps for Morsi? To out-wait the opposition demonstrations, which might well diminish since the constitution is now an established fact, begin the transformation of Egypt’s institutions, and figure out how to handle the problem of parliament. Can he reinstate the results of the earlier election—with a 75 percent Islamist majority—or will he have to hold a new vote next year that might yield a much smaller majority?

Originally published at Rubin Reports.

The Breakneck Speed of Islamist Transformation in Egypt

29 Kislev 5773 – December 12, 2012

Originally published at Rubin Reports.

A critical moment has arrived for Egypt. But in what way?

President Morsi has rescinded much of his decree claiming total power right now. But he could accomplish much the same thing after the Constitution is confirmed and perhaps by forcing reinstatement of the parliament whose election was declared invalid by a court. At any rate, Morsi’s concession has not quieted the demonstrations–another sign that concessions in the Middle East don’t bring agreements–and so this crisis isn’t going away.

There are three broad possibilities: the regime will fall; the opposition will be repressed; or there will be an increasingly violent civil war.

The regime will not fall due to these demonstrations. Remember what happened to the previous, Mubarak regime. It fell for the following reasons:

–The army would not defend it.

–The army then overthrew it.

–The Muslim Brotherhood-led opposition would not compromise.

–The West would not support the regime.

These conditions, except possibly the first one, are not in place today. Ultimately, Mubarak’s regime—not just Mubarak but the whole regime—fell only because the army overthrew it. There is no sign of this happening now. And the West, ironic as that might be, supports the Muslim Brotherhood government, especially because it is willing to go ahead with almost $10 billion in aid. And the Brotherhood will not give in to the opposition on any substantive point, whatever cosmetic maneuvers it makes.

Let’s remember that Western, and particularly U.S. policy has spent the last two years talking about how terrible it is to have a dictatorship or military rule. The armed forces have been systematically discouraged by the West from being in government.

By definition, of course, the Brotherhood regime is supposedly not a dictatorship because it won two elections and is probably about to win a third one. So an elected regime cannot be a dictatorship? Yet this regime has declared that it is above all court decisions and all previous laws. Isn’t that a dictatorship? It intends to impose a highly repressive law on its society. Isn’t that a dictatorship?

The opposition thinks so; the West doesn’t. But what does the army think? Well, it does not take a principled stance against having a dictatorship. It is happy to live with a dictatorship that meets the military’s conditions. These are:

–The army chooses its own leaders.

–The security services set their own budgets.

–Nobody interferes with the military’s vast economic holdings.

The regime has already met the second and third conditions and to retain the military’s backing would give in on the first as well. But the regime wants more: that the armed forces actively put down the demonstrations and this is something that the generals are reluctant to do.Now Morsi has given the army the power to arrest civilians but does it want to do so? The army doesn’t want to be hated, shoot down people, and set off a civil war in which it has to round up hundreds of thousands of people and launch scores of operations each day. True, the police are obedient and will act against these demonstrations just as it formerly tried to repress the anti-Mubarak demonstrations. But the police alone aren’t sufficient.

What happens, then, if the regime doesn’t give in and the army doesn’t stop the demonstrations? The logical conclusion is that the Brotherhood and Salafists will increasingly send violent vigilantes into the street to defend their government. (As this article predicted, on December 11 gunmen opened fire on anti-government demonstrators in Tahrir Square, wounding nine.) They want to ensure the Constitution is adopted on December 15—whether the opposition boycotts the vote is irrelevant to them—and afterward the Brotherhood regime can operate under that Constitution.Then, the opposition will be told: you’ve lost, accept it; you have no choice. And besides, we are acting legally under this Constitution that the people accepted.

President Morsi will have to decide whether to try to override the courts and reinstate the previously elected parliament (almost 75 percent Islamist) or make a concession and allow elections for a new parliament (that might be only 55-60 percent Islamist).

Thus, the key issues are how high the level of violence will rise and whether the current conflicts will make the regime speed up or slow down the fundamental transformation of Egypt into a Sharia state in which Islamic law is strictly interpreted.

Originally published at Rubin Reports.

Constitutional Confusion and Contusions in Egypt

28 Kislev 5773 – December 11, 2012

In a democratic state, a constitution is supposed to express in words the basic values of its citizens and state the foundational principles that will guide the conduct of the government in a way that reflects the values that most of the citizens believe in, led by the value of freedom. The constitution is intended to limit the powers of government and to defend the citizen from the whims of those in positions of power.

Even in dictatorial states there are laws, however they are mostly not effective; they do not defend the citizen from the power of the government, and the recent situation in Syria is a convincing proof of this fact. In dictatorial states the constitution is the tool that is used to carry out the will of the dictator, as well as his intentions and sometimes even his excesses, while he shuts the mouths of his opposition with the usual claim that everything he’s doing is in accordance with the constitution and the laws that are based on it.

Egypt, after the revolution of January 25th 2011, is a state that has freed itself from the burden of a dictator, Husni Mubarak, who, together with his cronies and predecessors, the officers, ruled Egypt since July 1952 in accordance with a constitution that served as a fig leaf to cover up the fact that the government was entirely in his hands, and the whole country revolved around him as if he were a god.

Now the Egyptians want a different constitution, a “democratic” one, which on one hand will promise that the government will not become a dictatorship again, and on the other hand will express the basic values of the society and defend them. This is the reason that Egypt needs a new constitution, because the previous one was nothing more than a tool to serve Mubarak.

The reality of recent days is that certain groups are not pleased by the way that President Muhammad Morsi is trying to secure the constitution by referendum, so they go out into the streets to express their opinion with demonstrations that sometimes deteriorate into acts of mass violence, injuries and deaths. In order to simplify the discussion for the purpose of this article, we will say that the population in Egypt is divided into three main groups: the Secular, the Muslim Brotherhood and the Salafis.

The secular group wants to turn Egypt into a modern, liberal, open, Western style state, that is neither religious nor traditional in character, where the status of citizenship is equal for everyone, and takes the place of all of the other ethnic, tribal, religious, and sectarian affiliations.

The Muslim Brotherhood wants a religious state, in which Shari’a rules but does not prevent the state from adopting modern tools that exist in the world. They are in favor of women’s participation in public activities, with limitations for modesty, and believe that it is important to integrate the Coptic citizens – who are Christians – into the society, economy and the various governmental systems. But equality among citizens is seen as problematic, because according to Islam a Muslim and a Christian can never be equal, since the Christian is a “ward of the state” (dhimmi) who, according to the Qur’an (Sura 9, Verse 29) must exist in the shadow of Islam and under humiliating conditions. The statement that women are equal to men is problematic for them too, because of traditional concepts that say that “the men are responsible for the women” (Sura 4, Verse 34).

The Salafis want to see the implementation of Islamic Shari’a in all areas of life, and do not accept the adoption of any Western, modern characteristic. They insist on regarding Copts as class B citizens, and do not accept the idea that women should have public positions. They take literally the saying attributed to Muhammad, the prophet of Islam: “The best hijab for a woman is her home.”

The main problem with the constitution in Egypt today is that every one of these three sectors sees the revolution as his own revolution, defines “democracy” according to his own concepts and values, and if the new constitution goes in a different direction then he will claim that “they stole the revolution,” he will go out to the streets and will raise hell. The only common factor to all of the sectors is their avowed refusal to allow a dictator to take control of the state, even though each one of them would agree that whoever represents their world view should rule with broad powers. In other words: each sector would agree to a “soft dictator” if he would represent that particular sector’s world view.

Egypt’s New Constitution Laying Foundation for Sharia State

20 Kislev 5773 – December 3, 2012

Originally published at Rubin Reports.

On November 30, a Constituent Assembly consisting almost 100 percent of Islamists voted to approve the draft of Egypt’s new Constitution. The next day, President Muhammad Mursi ordered that a referendum be held on December 15. In other words, Egypt’s population will be given two weeks to consider the main law, which has 230 articles, that will govern their lives for decades to come.

Most of the non-Islamists had walked out of the Assembly because they objected to the proposed Constitution and it seems as if the remaining opposition members did not even attend the vote. So great is the outrage that Egypt’s judges–who supervise elections and were explicitly asked by Mursi to oversee the forthcoming referendum–have refused to do so.

Yusuf al-Qaradawi, the Muslim Brotherhood’s chief spiritual guide raved about how great the Constitution is and then responded to the walk-out with a phrase that might serve as the slogan for the new democracy in Egypt and other Arabic-speaking countries:

“You should not have withdrawn. It’s your right to express your opinions freely.”

Yes, they could say what they thought and then be outvoted. Now that, indeed, is democracy. But what if you can already see that the democratic procedure will produce a dictatorial result? For example, Mursi was democratically elected president. He then issued a decree that said no court could countermand anything he decides. Isn’t that democratic, at least in the broader sense? Well, no it isn’t.

The competing street demonstrations of regime supporters and anti-Islamist oppositionists have now coalesced around two slogans. Pro-Islamists chant, “The people want the implementation of God’s law.” The opposition chants, “The people want to bring down the regime.”

But this time, unlike 2011, it is the regime that enjoys the support of the armed forces and Western governments, being buttressed also with almost $10 billion in aid. “The people” aren’t going to bring down this regime and the new rulers are going to implement their interpretation of “God’s law.” That is the new meaning of democracy in Egypt.

I draw here from the analysis in the Egypt Independent newspaper. For a BBC comparison of this with the previous Egyptian constitution see here. And here’s the full text. Keep in mind that neither we nor Mursi knows for sure what will happen to the parliament already elected. The Islamists have 75 percent of the seats in that body (Muslim Brotherhood, 50 percent; Salafist party, 25 percent) but the high court has ruled the lower house’s election to have been unconstitutional. If this decision stands new elections will be necessary next year. In the presidential election, the Brotherhood’s vote was only 52 percent.

While this lower vote could be due to extraneous factors–the abstention of many Salafist supporters for partisan reasons; some Islamists preferring someone other than Mursi in the first round presidential balloting and not switching to support him in the second–Mursi doesn’t know how well the Brotherhood will do if there is a new parliamentary election. Consequently, he needs to find a way to either overrule the court’s decision (hence, his decree letting him overturn what the judges say) or prepare for rule with a parliament less favorable to the Brotherhood. Hence, the constitutional provisions creating a strong presidency are very much in his interest and frighten the non-Islamist opposition.

–Islamic Sharia law is the main source of Egypt’s laws. While this has been in previous constitutions, the problem is interpreting how strictly Sharia will be interpreted and how widely it will be applied. What that passage means for Egypt is going to be a lot more significant under a Muslim Brotherhood government with major input from even more radical Salafists than it did under President Husni Mubarak’s relatively secular-style regime.

–A basic principle of the Constitution (Article 4) is to consult al-Azhar, the country’s influential Islamic university on any issue when Sharia is concerned, which potentially means on every issue. That elevates al-Azhar above all other non-governmental institutions. Al-Azhar is not (yet?) in Muslim Brotherhood hands but its leaders, who know which way the wind blows, can be expected to back a tough interpretation of Sharia law.

–To further ensure that Egypt will be a Sharia state, another provision (Article 219) states that the principles of Sharia are to be found in the four Sunni schools of thought, ruling out any reformist possibilities.

–The state must preserve the “genuine nature” of the Egyptian family and its moral values (Article 10) and has the power (Article 11) “to safeguard ethics” and morality. In other words, the government can do just about anything to determine how people should live and any aspect of their existence it chooses. This is repeated in other articles which limit rights to those that do not contradict what the state might not allow as unacceptable (Article 81) and lets the police arrest people for such crimes (Article 199).

–Islam, Christianity, and Judaism are the only legal religions in Egypt (Article 43). This is in accord with the general interpretation of Islamic law that only these three “people of the book” religions are legitimate. Of course, the face of Christian property will be in the hands of an Islamist government that is unlikely, for example, to approve the construction—or possibly even the renovation—of churches, again in accord with Sharia. Many of these things were also done by the Mubarak regime but one can expect an even tougher approach now.

–It is against the law to insult a prophet (Article 44). This might seem only to be a bother for those who would burn Korans or Bibles or make deliberately provocative videos. But it is important to remember that Islamists have charged that academic research has crossed this line and also the novels of Naguib Mahfouz, Egypt’s Nobel Prize-winning author as well as a tweet from the main backer of the leading non-Islamist party. Islamist groups will be able to bring law suits against anyone whose writing or statements or tweets they don’t like.

–Freedom of expression is limited (Article 48) by the principles of state and society, national security, and others things. That means that any television station or newspaper that says anything that can be deemed contrary to Sharia or Islamic morality as interpreted by a Muslim Brotherhood government can be shut down. A National Media Council (Article 215) will be responsible for preserving “societal principles and constructive values,” which presumably means it can order publications and television channels to be closed down.

–There can be only one trade union for each profession (Article 53). This has hidden implications since in the past the state has controlled the sole such organization in each area. In addition, though, suppose doctors, journalists, engineers, or members of other professions are tired of being in associations that are controlled by the Brotherhood. They cannot form their own separate groups.

–The president can force parliament to meet in secret rather than public session (Article 93). In that case, the legislators would have no say in the decision. This makes observers suspicious about how much the president will dominate parliament, since Egypt has been a country ruled by a single man for six decades in which parliament was a rubber stamp. In addition, anything critical of the regime can be kept secret.

–This concern is furthered by another provision (Article 104) only allowing parliament to overturn a presidential veto on laws by a two-thirds’ majority. This is, of course, also in the U.S. Constitution but, again, Egypt is a country that has long seen a dictator who rules and a parliament which has no significant influence.

–There is no maximum number of members for parliament set (Article 114 and 128), raising suspicions that the president and the Brotherhood’s political party can add more people if needed to maintain control.

–If the lower house of Parliament does not approve the government platform set by the president (Article 139) he can dissolve it. Since members of parliament don’t like to be forced to run for reelection and possibly lose their seats, this pressures them to accept the president’s policies. This provision is also found in other parliamentary democracies but again there are suspicions given Egypt’s history and the regime’s ideology.

–A provision intended to make the army accept Muslim Brotherhood rule (Article 197) establishes a National Defense Council, with a majority of officers, to set the military budget. This had been a major demand of the armed forces. Another thing that will make the army happy (Article 198) lets civilians be tried by military courts for crimes that “harm” the armed forces.

–The president has the power to appoint the heads of many public institutions (Article 202).

–Two provisions (Article 231 and 232) are explicitly designed to reverse the Supreme Constitutional Court’s ruling that parliament was elected on the basis of an unconstitutional the elections law. Thus, approval of the Constitution at the referendum would lead to Mursi arguing that a parliament with two-thirds Islamist membership would be legitimate, rather than facing new elections in which the Islamists might lose seats.

Probably the provision most bruited in the Western media will be the taking out of a provision that explicitly said women’s equality would be subject to revision based on Sharia (removed from Article 68). Another article (Article 30) states that citizens are equal before the law and equal in rights and obligations without discrimination.

Presumably, however, this changes nothing since conformity with Sharia law is already mandated in the Constitution. But that last point is a good symbol of the Constitution’s meaning. It enshrines Sharia rule without rubbing people’s faces in it. Thus, the Western media and governments can cheer the Constitution as democratic and proof that Islamists are now moderate even though that document opens the door for dictatorial rule.

Originally published at Rubin Reports.

Maryland Congressman Apologizes for Holocaust Reference

22 Elul 5772 – September 9, 2012

A Maryland congressman apologized for referring to the Holocaust as he discussed his opposition to federal involvement in providing student loans.

Rep. Roscoe Bartlett (R-Md.) apologized Thursday for the remarks, which drew criticism.

“While explaining my position on an important Constitutional issue I regrettably used an extreme example as a comparison that was ill-advised and inappropriate,” Bartlett said in a statement. “I should never use something as horrific as the Holocaust to make a political point, and I deeply apologize to anyone I may have offended.”

In his initial comments at a town hall meeting on Wednesday, Bartlett had argued that the federal government lacked the authority under the Constitution to offer student loans and warned of a “slippery slope” if the Constitution is ignored.

“If you can ignore the Constitution to do something good today, tomorrow you will be ignoring the Constitution to do something bad,” he said, adding: ” The Holocaust that occurred in Germany — how in the heck could that happen? And when you start down the wrong road, it can be a very slippery slope.”

Morsi Instituting Sweeping Changes in Army leadership, Constitution, Political Appointments

25 Av 5772 – August 12, 2012

Egyptian president Morsi made several sweeping decisions on Sunday afternoon, announced by the presidential spokesperson in a televised statement.

Al Ahram reported that, to start, Morsi cancelled the addendum to the constitutional declaration, issued by the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) on June 17. The addendum included clauses that gave the armed forces a high level of autonomy; with SCAF retaining the final say in all military-related issues. It also stipulated that the head of the SCAF, Field Marshal Hussein Tantawi, was to remain minister of defense until a new constitution was drafted.

Next, Morsi issued a decision to retire Hussein Tantawi, the minister of defence and the general commander of the Armed Forces.

Morsi also retired Sami Anan, the Army’s Chief of Staff, from his duties. Both men were awarded state medals and appointed as advisors to the president.

The president next appointed the head of the military intelligence, Abdel Fatah El-Sisi, as Minister of Defence to replace Tantawi.

Sedky Sobhy, the commander of the Third Army, was appointed as Chief of Staff of the Armed Forces.

Morsi also retired the Commander of the Navy, Mohab Memish, and appointed him as head of the Suez Canal Authority.

Reda Hafez, the commander of the Air Force, was also retired and appointed as minister of Military Production.

Mohamed El-Assar, the SCAF member in charge of armaments, was appointed as assistant to the Minister of Defense.

Finally, Morsi appointed Mahmoud Mekki, the deputy head of the Cassation (appellate) Court, as his Vice President.

Immediately following the announcement of their appointments, Mahmoud Mekki, Egypt’s new vice president, and Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi, the new minister of defense, were both sworn into office before President Morsi shortly after 5 PM on Sunday.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/news/breaking-news/morsi-instituting-sweeping-changes-in-army-leadership-constitution-political-appointments/2012/08/12/

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