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June 26, 2016 / 20 Sivan, 5776

Posts Tagged ‘country’

With Democracy for All and Freedom for None

Wednesday, November 28th, 2012

It would be tempting to attribute the disaster spreading across the Middle East to a brief flirtation with democracy snake oil, but for the better part of the last century the political class of the United States could talk of nothing else. Nearly every war was fought was to spread democracy, protect democracy or worship at the altar of democracy.

For much of the 20th Century it was the working assumption of the sort of men who got up to give speeches in crowded halls that it was democracy that made America special. But it is not so much that democracy made America special, as America made democracy special and workable. And that is because democracy only works when government is limited. When government power isn’t limited, then democracy is just tyranny with a popular vote behind it.

In a poignant historical irony, American democracy went into a prolonged decline just as its political class was busy speechifying about the importance of exporting it abroad. Government authority was increasingly centralized and elections began to come down not to ideas, but to divided groups fighting it out in a zero sum struggle for total control of each other’s lives. American democracy has been exported to Iraq. And Iraqi democracy was exported to America.

With unlimited authority vested in the government, we no longer have elections to decide policy, but to determine whether an oppressive social and cultural agenda complete with a loss of civil rights will be forced on the rest of the country. And our last election was as polarized as an Iraqi election and with a similar outcome.

Democracy was never the solution for the Middle East; a region that is properly multicultural in the sense of being a collection of quarreling tribes, religious factions and ethnic groups. And all that democracy accomplished was to give the majority another tool for oppressing the minority. Instead of bloody revolts leading to dictatorships, there were bloody revolts leading to elections which then led to dictatorships. And only a fool or Thomas Friedman would consider the addition of this extra step to be any kind of improvement.

A multicultural society does not invalidate government by popular vote unless that society is also so split along tribal lines that elections are decided based on the rate at which races and religious groups make up that society. When demographics become valid predictors of political outcomes, then democracy becomes theocracy and ethnocracy. And the only alternative is to resort to reserved political offices for different groups in Beirut style.

There are two elements that make democracy livable. Limited government and national character. And the former depends on the latter. Dispense with the national character and you lose the limited government and democracy becomes a slow descent into tyranny, accompanied by the spectacle of hollow elections.

The Muslim world lacked either limited government or national character and so the democracy experiments there were doomed to become one type of horror show or another. The two dominant streams of political ideology in the region are Socialist and Islamist. The difference between the two is that the Socialists are mildly Islamist and the Islamists are mildly Socialist. Both of them however have no tradition of respect for the law and are motivated by utopian programs based on absolute power.

There was never going to be a good outcome. Understanding that democracy would no more solve the region’s problems than shooting a rabid dog full of PCP would improve its mood was as easy as looking at the dominant political movements that were going to compete in such an election. Each of those movements, aside from hating America, also has no ability or interest in working with anyone outside their narrow agenda except in temporary alliances that would end in the inevitable betrayal.

American leaders were ill-prepared to grasp this because the Republicans were still besotted with an idealistic vision of American democracy propounded by the Democratic Party in the first half of the last century and utterly incapable of understanding that democracy is a tool and it only works in the hands of a people of good character.

No major Republican leader has spoken against the democracy export business because questioning the export of democracy to another country also questions the character of the people there. Republicans talk about American Exceptionalism, but limit it to the country’s political systems. In such a narrow reading, America is superior because its political systems are superior, not because its people are any different or better than anyone else.

Daniel Greenfield

Norwegian Police Apologize for Deporting Jews to Auschwitz

Wednesday, November 28th, 2012

On November 26, 70 years after the rounding up and deportation of over 500 Jewish Norwegians to Auschwitz, the Norwegian Police Service issued an apology for taking part in the murder of Jews.  The request for forgiveness came from Norwegian Police Chieff Odd Reidar Humlegaard.

On the same date in 1942, Norwegian police herded 532 Jewish citizens aboard the German ship SS Donau en route to Auschwitz.

This year, Norwegian Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg issued a formal apology for the Norwegian government’s role in deporting Jews to Auschwitz.

Only a few dozen of the 770 Jews deported from Nazi-occupied Norway survived the war.  Hitler invaded Norway on April 9, 1940 and remained in the country until May 1945.

Malkah Fleisher

Polish Court Rules Against Ritual Slaughter

Tuesday, November 27th, 2012

A constitutional court in Poland reportedly has ruled against allowing Jewish and Muslim ritual slaughter in that country.

The Warsaw court’s ruling, which was made known on Tuesday, said the government had acted unconstitutionally when it exempted Jews and Muslims from stunning animals before slaughtering them as their faiths require, according to Piotr Kadlcik, president of the Union of Jewish Communities in Poland.

Kadlcik told JTA that in addition to the special exception announced by the Polish Ministry of Agriculture, Jewish ritual slaughter—shechitah—is permissible under the 1997 Law on Regulating the Relations between the State and the Union of Jewish Communities in Poland.

“It appears there is a legal contradiction here and it is too early to tell what this means,” he said. “We are seeking legal advice on this right now.”

Poland has approximately 6,000 Jews, according to the European Jewish Congress.

According to Kadlcik, Poland has no kosher slaughterhouses but locally slaughtered kosher meat is nonetheless served at kosher canteens across the country.

“I’m not sure we will be able to keep serving meat there,” he said.

JTA

There are no Jewish Sectors, Only One Nation

Tuesday, November 27th, 2012

I, like all Jews, sincerely hope that the current cease fire between Israel and Hamas will live up to its namesake. And yet, Israel still has enemies very close to its borders, and peace with them is not yet knocking at our door. In the midst of last week’s war, I embarked on an emotionally profound visit to our brothers and sisters down south. The trip was planned, with the thought that they would be in need, while the rest of us should be concerned for them and yet personally find ourselves in a safer situation.

However, while down there, it seemed that it wasn’t an attempt to comfort those in danger, as opposed to ourselves.

While the rockets were flying in to southern Israel daily, and creating a terrible and dangerous lifestyle for the residents of the south for nearly 12 years, this week the rockets were  reaching  as far as my own home in Gush Etzion.  Fatal rocks are thrown at an innocent women driving home, a bus blows up in Tel Aviv, and it seems that there aren’t many locations in the country that are not under attack.

Going back a few years, we can add in the entire northern frontier [including Haifa] that came under attack during the days preceding and proceeding the 2nd Lebanon war. With the events in Syria of the last few weeks, it seems that almost the entire country is a target, or a highly probable potential target. It seems that Israel is at war everywhere.

During this tragic and tense time in Israel, I believe something has changed drastically in the eyes of our enemies that goes against our own Israeli mindset, and that is the notion of subdivisions.

For as long as I can remember, we have subdivided both the population of Israel [i.e.- Dati, Chiloni, Charedi, Chardali and more,] as well as the land of Israel [i.e.- the territories, the green line, the Golan, then Dan region versus Jerusalem, etc.] into different categories.

We think that territories captured after the Six Day war are in a different category than those that were in our hands prior to it. We further believe that there are areas beyond the Green Line that are within a consensus not to give away, even in a peace treaty, versus others. And then, when rockets fly in, many have said that having them land in the small villages along the Gaza border is different than landing in the Tel Aviv and Haifa areas, with the response of the IDF being less or more fierce based on their target.

I am not one that believes that we should take lessons from the degraded enemies of Israel. But if our sages learned the great value of “Kibud Av Vaem” from the wicked Esav [Bereishit Raba 65,] then this past week should teach us one thing; in the eyes of the enemy, Israel is one Israel, and all Jews, regardless of the diameter of their Kippa or their willingness to give land for peace, are their enemies. Rockets are sent almost everywhere [including Tel Aviv and the outskirts of Jerusalem,] both army personal as well as civilians are targeted, and our enemies make no distinctions between them! Whatever way you attempt peace at this time, dare we ever forget that we are one people that should not be subdivided.

I , for one, would feel utterly embarrassed in front of the Almighty,  if these degraded forms of human beasts, sending murderous rockets and bus bombs to kill innocent Jews, understand the unity of the Jewish people, while the Jewish people see divisions! If the Talmud states that the evil “Cenaan” [Grandson of Noach,] left a will to his progeny to continue to steal, etc., and yet obligated them as well to “Ahavu ze et ez” (“Love one another”) (Tractate Pesachim 113b) shall we be on any lower level?

If there is any lesson that we Jews should reiterate, it’s the feeling of that we are all one nation, we are all part of our family. Thus, when the Torah commands against taking revenge on a fellow Jew (Vayikra, 19/18) the Talmud (Yerushalmi, Nedarim 9/4) explains this prohibition by simply stating that if your right hand cuts your left, would you take revenge on your right hand by cutting it off?! Indeed, this analogy assumes that the Jewish people are like two hands in one body.

Rabbi Yehoshua Grunstein

The Islamist Regime’s Game Plan for Egypt

Tuesday, November 27th, 2012

Originally published at Rubin Reports.

What’s been happening in Egypt this week is as important as the revolution that overthrew the old regime almost two years ago. A new dictator has arrived and while the Muslim Brotherhood’s overturning of democracy was totally predictable, Western policymakers walked right into the trap. They even helped build it.

President Mursi has now declared his ability to rule by decree. The key concept is that he can do everything to protect the revolution. In doing so, he is defining the revolution—as the Iranian revolution of 1978-1979 which was made by a broad coalition of forces soon after became defined—as an Islamist revolution.

One could call the Islamist strategy a short march through the institutions. Once Islamists take power—in Iran, the Gaza Strip, and Turkey, perhaps, too Syria—that is only the beginning of the story. They systematically do a fundamental transformation of them.

The media, or at least a large part of it, is tamed. The draft constitution written by the Brotherhood and Salafists allows the government to shut down any newspaper or television station by decree. The courts are made impotent and judges are replaced. Mursi’s decree said he could ignore any court decision.At a November 18 press conference, a few days before Mursi issued his decree, the leading secular-oriented representatives in the constitution-writing constituent assembly resigned, charging the new document would enshrine Sharia law. The problem was not the statement in Article 2 about Sharia being the main source of Egyptian legislation but rather later provisions making it clear that Islamist-controlled institutions would interpret precisely what that meant. Amr Moussa, former foreign minister and Arab League secretary-general, said the new constitution would bring disaster for Egypt. Abdel Meguid called this combination “Taliban-like.”

Scattered secularist forces, Coptic Christians, liberals or the remnants of the old regime, and modern-minded women do not pose a real threat to the regime. They are not violent, not organized, and not flush with cash. They can expect no material international support. There will be no civil war between the moderates and the Islamists the suppression of one by the other. The Salafists are itching for confrontation; the Muslim Brotherhood is patient. But when Salafists harass women or stab secularists or attack churches, the Brotherhood-controlled government will do nothing to protect the victims.

Of critical importance for Egypt is control over the religious infrastructure: the ministry of Waqf that supervises huge amounts of money in Islamic foundations; the office of qadi, the chief Islamist jurist; al-Azhar University, the most important institution defining Islam in the Muslim world; which clerics get to go on television or have their own shows; and down to appointments of preachers in every public mosque in the country.

Many clerics are not moderate but most are not systematic Islamists. Soon they will be or at least talk as if they were. Revolutionary Islamism will become in Egypt merely normative Islam. Thus is the endless debate in the West about the nature of Islam—religion of peace or religion of terrorism?–short-circuited and made even more irrelevant. The real power is not what the texts say but who interprets them. And the Islamists will do the interpreting.

While the judges are still holding out bravely only the army has real power to counter the Islamist revolution transforming the most important country in the Arabic-speaking world into the instrument of the leading international anti-Western, anti-American, and antisemitic organization. It doesn’t matter how nicely Mursi spoke to Obama any more than say how Lenin–who moderated Soviet policy in the 1920s to consolidate the regime and get Western help–did in his day.

What is going on inside Egypt’s army, the last remaining institution that could offer resistance? We don’t really know but there are certainly some important indications. In theory, the army is the only force that can challenge the Muslim Brotherhood’s drive to transform Egypt into an Islamist state. But why should we believe the officers want to engage in such a battle?

Under the leadership of a secret society called the Free Officers, Egypt’s army overturned the monarchy in 1952 in a virtually bloodless coup. Yet while Egypt was for decades thereafter ruled by the resulting regime, the military government soon became a military-backed government. Officers either moved over to civilian offices or if they opposed the regime were purged.

Barry Rubin

Protester Dies: When Is a Dictator Not a Dictator? Never

Tuesday, November 27th, 2012

The recent Hamas-Israel confrontation ended abruptly when U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton announced last Wednesday, November 21, a ceasefire that essentially put the relatively new, largely unknown Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi in the role of peacekeeper for Israel and Gaza.

“Egypt’s new government is assuming the responsibility and leadership that has long made this country a cornerstone of regional stability and peace,” exclaimed US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

Well, Egypt had been a source of stability in the area, but Egypt’s new leader was not exactly in the mold of a Mubarak.  At least not in the positive ways.

The day after the U.S. administration cast Morsi in the role of new peacekeeper, he recast himself as something more like a new pharoah.  And, despite what the New York Times and the Washington Post wrote, he is not giving back any of the real power he’s granted himself.

On Thursday, November 22, while most Americans were eating turkey, Mohamed Morsi, the post-revolutionary leader of Egypt, issued a stunning series of decrees in which he usurped virtually all governmental power.  Morsi placed himself above the judiciary, sidelined the moderates in his council and signaled to all that his lifetime in the Muslim Brotherhood is his essence, no matter what role the U.S. seeks to cast him in.  He was now – in virtually every way possible – above the law.

On Friday, Samir Morcos, a Coptic Christian presidential adviser, resigned in protest, calling Morsi’s Decree, “undemocratic and a leap backwards.”

Secularists, liberals, women, journalists, and Christians have all resigned from the council, out of protest over the dominating influence of the Muslim Brothers and Salafists.  Nearly one quarter of its members walked out.

The Egyptian people were – briefly – stunned, and then they came back to doing what they do best: they rioted, and were beaten – some to death – in Tahrir Square.

After three days of ugliness captured on film and in photographs, President Morsi seemed to acknowledge he had gone too far, and “reminded” his people that his usurpation of power is intended to be only temporary, “until a new constitution is ratified. ”

Yeah, right.  When was the last time a dictator decided it was time to relinquish his control?

In at least one draft of the constitution, the Islamists insisted on changing women’s rights and obligations to match those under the rules of Sharia law.  This would require all women to wear the hijab and to be subservient to men, as is the case in Saudi Arabia and Iran.  If Sharia is to be applied, the rulings will have to be interpreted by Muslim legal scholars who would then have the same status as constitutional judges.

There have also been discussions in the constitutional council about lowering the legal age of marriage for women from 18 to 14, or even to as young as 9 years.  The constitutional council, which is now dominated by Islamists, could have been disbanded under the constitutional court, but Morsi’s decree made the council immune from such action.

The 2012 Egyptian uprising already has its first martyr – a teenager, Gaber Salah, nicknamed “Jika,” a member of the April 6 movement.  The boy died from wounds he received during confrontations between police and protesters on Mohammed Mahmud street where protesters had been marking the first anniversary of deadly clashes.

Two other protesters have since died, the latest, Monday morning, November 26.  Since Morsi issued his dictatorial decree, there have been three deaths, more than 450 injuries, more than 260 detainees, and most of Egypt’s courts have been on strike.

Muslim Brotherhood’s political party offices were torched in several cities on Friday. In Alexandria, Egypt, Brotherhood members held up prayer rugs to protect themselves as they were pelted with stones.

Throughout the day on Monday, clashes were reported between pro- and anti-Morsi protesters in eight governorates. Those clashes reportedly took place in Alexandria, Ismailia, Assiut, Port-Said, Suez, Mahalla, Damietta, Menya, and Aswan.

Not surprisingly, the Muslim Brotherhood issued an official statement in support of Morsi’s declaration, one that is highly critical of the opposition.  The Brotherhood stated that Morsi’s actions were taken in order to rid the government of Mubarak holdovers and to fully complete the revolution and attain stability, “economic prosperity and social justice” for all Egyptians.

The Brotherhood described all those who oppose Morsi’s actions as seeking to keep Egypt in a state of chaos “as a prelude to toppling the elected regime and grabbing power.”

The Brotherhood claimed that certain political leaders were promoting distorted views of the president’s Decree.  The statement continued:

Thus they went out in counter-demonstrations chanting insults and obscenities for slogans. Joining them were groups of thugs who went on the rampage, destroying and burning the headquarters of the Freedom and Justice Party (FJP) in Alexandria and in other cities. Others attacked police officers with Molotov bombs and stones, setting public and private institutions on fire.
Then we heard irresponsible calls for escalation, sabotage and strike actions to disable state facilities. All this is certainly neither wise nor patriotic. In fact, it ignores the higher interests of the country, the popular will and the majority that represents the principles of democracy, which all parties claim to respect.
Despite material and moral harm, we still call on everyone to show a spirit of responsibility and to work with citizens to gain their trust. We call for honest political rivalry to achieve the interests of the country in the light of democracy and justice.
The majority of Egyptians, including the Muslim Brotherhood, strongly support the President’s Decrees, seek to build constitutional institutions and achieve the demands of the people and the revolution.
Ahmed Mekki, Egypt’s Justice Minister,  has been walking a political tightrope.  Mekki has expressed support for Morsi, but he has also said that it was wrong to place the president above the judiciary in the Nov. 22 Decree.

Earlier this week, more than a dozen groups called for mass demonstrations across the country on Tuesday to protest Morsi’s decree and the Constituent Assembly. Those groups include the liberal Constitution party, the Socialist Popular Alliance party, the Egyptian Social Democratic party, the leftist Popular Alliance, the Free Egyptians party, the Karama party, the April 6 Youth Movement, the National Association for Change, the Revolutionary Socialists, the Youth for Justice and Freedom movement, the Kefaya movement and several others.

The U.S. Embassy in Cairo announced that it will be closed today, November 27, in order to avoid anticipated violence between anti- and pro-Morsi factions.

The Egyptian Government and its supporters also announced plans to hold rallies today, but after moving the location from Tahrir Square to Cairo University, the pro-Morsi factions eventually cancelled their events.

U.S. REACTION

Thus far the U.S. government has been largely silent about the roiling unrest in Egypt.  The State Department’s spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said, “We call for calm and encourage all parties to work together and call for all Egyptians to resolve their differences over these important issues peacefully and through democratic dialogue.”

But Egypt is heavily dependent on the U.S. for financial aid.  Will this country use its financial leverage to dissuade Morsi from continuing in his dictatorial march?

According to the American Enterprise Institute’s vice-president for foreign and defense policy studies Danielle Pletka, “Obama has already made it clear he’s okay with Egypt as Morsi likes it – refusing to suspend aid after Morsi ignored attacks on the US Embassy in Cairo.”  Pletka then asks, “Will Congress take the same attitude?”

Pointing out that the Senate refused to suspend aid to Pakistan, Egypt and Libya in the wake of anti-U.S. demonstrations on 9/11 this year, Pletka wonders whether Congress will simply rubber stamp the $1.5 billion in taxpayer dollars without making some demands?  And, “shouldn’t those conditions relate to rule of law, treatment of minorities, economic reform, and other priorities that could insulate the Egyptian people from yet another pharaoh?”

IMF INFUSION

Not only was Egyptian President Morsi catapulted to global stature by the Middle East peacekeeping role bestowed upon him by the U.S., at the same time Egypt was informed it was to become the recipient of a $4.8 billion International Monetary Fund Loan.  Would those funds be in jeopardy because of the anti-democratic presidential decrees and crackdown on dissidents authorized by the Egyptian President?
The answer to that question is probably no.
“The latest developments could bring into question the stability of state institutions and raise doubts that could delay the loan,” stated an anonymous IMF official to Ahram Online.
“Broad-based domestic and international support will be crucial for the successful implementation of the planned policies,” Andreas Bauer, IMF Division Chief in the Middle East and Central Asia Department, stated last week.
“I do not think the IMF will rescind its agreement, but if the situation in Egypt deteriorates it could suspend the loan,” Samir Radwan, former Egyptian finance minister, told Ahram Online.
RESPONSE TO UNREST BY MORSI

On Monday, tensions rose in Egypt as protests continued in the streets.  An anxiously anticipated meeting between the judiciary and President Morsi took place late in the day.  It was an effort to negotiate a compromise between what the judiciary could accept, and what President Morsi was willing to relinquish of his newly-wrested powers.

The meeting ended with an announcement issued by Morsi’s spokesperson.  That statement was covered by a New York Times article which was headlined: “Egypt’s Leader Said to Agree to Limit Scope of Judicial Decree.”  Well, the title of the article is correct, Morsi did say that, but a more than cursory review of Morsi’s statement reveals something quite different.

Following his meeting with the Supreme Judicial Council, Morsi issued a statement that his decrees would only remain immune from judicial review in cases pertaining to “sovereign matters.”  But of course, it is entirely within Morsi’s control to decide what constitutes a “sovereign matter.”  In other words, there was no agreement whatsoever.

Members of Egypt’s Supreme Judicial Council told the Egypt Independent late on Monday, there had been no resolution to the crisis between the executive and judicial branches, and that while they had tried to reach an agreement, their efforts were in vain.
In other words, President Morsi is now not only immune from judicial review, he feels entirely comfortable in speaking for the judiciary, even when what he says completely contradicts the views of the judiciary.

On December 4, a case brought by lawyers and activists challenging Morsi’s power grab will be heard by a Cairo administrative court.  More than a dozen suits against the decree have been filed, according to Abdel Meguid Al-Moqannen, the deputy chief of the State Council, Egypt’s highest administrative body.

In one indication of Egypt’s Mohamed Morsi’s quirky rise to fame, Time Magazine included Morsi in its list of potential “2012 Person of the Year” candidates for online polling.

In the short time that Morsi has become almost a household name, he has gone from rock star status to one who is being referred to in the social media of Twitter as “Morsilini” and “Mubarak 2.0.”  He probably considers the latter a bigger insult.

UPDATE: During protests taking place today in Cairo, 50 year old Fathy Gharib, a member of the Socialist Popular Alliance Party (SPAP), died of asphyxiation from tear gas inhalation. According to eyewitnesses, there are hundreds of thousands of anti-Morsi protesters in the streets. Tahrir Square is bursting with people chanting.

Lori Lowenthal Marcus

Gimme Five

Tuesday, November 27th, 2012

This is U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Sarah Baker with a group of children during a security halt in Qalat City, Afghanistan. Baker is assigned to the Provincial Reconstruction Team Zabul’s security force and is deployed from Malmstrom Air Force Base, Montana.

It is a staged picture, obviously, directed by the photographer, or, worse, by headquarters’ PR person. They called the kids over and asked them to slap five, or worse, bussed the kids over from their neighborhood, or, worse yet, hired the kids and the soldier from Central Casting – we have no idea.

So that, strangely, this image of a female U.S. soldier joshing with a group of Afghani children represents bot a reality but a kind of visual wishful thinking. Because we know there aren’t in the world Afghani children joshing with U.S. soldiers, not in the wild, anyway. Because Afghanistan is quickly retreating into what it has always been, a backwards, mountainous, harsh land, with a warlike people who grow poppy and kill each other for sport.

Somehow, the U.S. leadership figured it could succeed in “civilizing” the Afghani, save their women from a life of slavery, educate their children, improve their hospitals – after the Soviet Union and the British Empire and half a dozen other invaders have failed.

Or maybe it just gave us something to do to while away the time and the budget. Folks got rich, nothing to scoff at.

So we’re looking at a soldier and some children pretending to be having some cross-cultural fun together, as dreamed up by a PR team in a conquered country soon to be left to its own devices at the whopping cost of many billions of dollars.

Your tax dollars at make-work?

Yori Yanover

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/news/photos/gimme-five/2012/11/27/

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