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August 24, 2016 / 20 Av, 5776

Posts Tagged ‘east’

Turkey, Syria, And The Mess In The Middle East

Wednesday, August 3rd, 2016

The systematic and pervasive purge being conducted by Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan is fueling analyses in many quarters that Mr. Erdogan is using the recent abortive coup as a vehicle for realizing his long-held desire to assume near dictatorial powers.

Indeed, many now fear that the biggest casualty of the recent events in Turkey will likely be Turkey’s heretofore growing democracy. Given Turkey’s key role in NATO, this will force Turkey’s NATO allies, particularly the United States, to make a choice between working with a country liable to be led by a dictator for the foreseeable future or drumming Turkey out, thereby undermine the alliance.

It is also likely to lead to a revisiting of events surrounding the Arab Spring when the U.S. and other nations threw in their lot with domestic challengers of several dictatorial governments. The U.S. of course had by then already deposed Saddam Hussein.

Although many of the dictators in question were savage despots, they kept their countries together. Indeed, it was because Saddam Hussein was no longer on the scene that ISIS was able to come into existence, establish its pseudo-caliphate, and wreak the murderous havoc it has.

This is a singular moment for the United States. President Obama has vowed that Syrian president Bashar Assad will not survive in office, but that vow affects American efforts in the region to eliminate ISIS because it means Syrian rebels seeking to oust Mr. Assad will not be challenged by any firepower the U.S. directs at ISIS, which has seized much of Syria.

Yet the rebels’ success in diminishing Mr. Assad’s power works against the goal of defeating ISIS. Further, the Russians, who are also trying to defeat ISIS, are supportive of the Assad regime and opposed to the rebels.

So any possibility of joint and effective action to destroy ISIS is undermined by the U.S. refusal to accept the survival of Mr. Assad.

Editorial Board

Middle East Strategic Outlook – July 2016

Tuesday, July 19th, 2016

{Originally posted to the Gatestone Institute Website}

Saudi Arabia

Approval of the National Transformation Plan

The Saudi Cabinet approved (June 6) the National Transformation Program (NTP), part of Saudi Vision 2030, led by Deputy Crown Prince Muhammad bin Salman. The NTP is supposed to be the basis for laying out targets to be met by government ministries and departments. The NTP was well received not only be the Saudi mainstream media (to be expected) but by the Saudi social media that represents to a great degree the public opinion of the younger Saudi generation. It may be expected that Prince Mohammad bin Salman will continue to take steps in the framework of his initiative that will, at least, preserve the sense of momentum and the public support he is enjoying.

Saudi-US Relations

In this framework, Mohammad bin Salman visited Washington DC in a bid to sell his project and himself as the future Saudi leader. During the visit, and especially in the meetings with officials from Congress and the security and intelligence Community, he also sought to build his own stature as future king and as the leader who must be at the helm throughout the period of implementation of his “Vision 2030” plan and beyond. His goal therefore was also to usurp Crown Prince Mohammad bin Nayef’s status as the favorite of the Washington officialdom as the successor to King Salman. This status derived not only from Washington’s respect of the Saudi rules of succession, but also from his years-long and tight cooperation with US agencies on security and counter-terrorism issues. Therefore, Mohammad bin Salman made an effort to project himself as a preferred effective interlocutor on those issues. The fact that Mohammad bin Salman was accorded meetings with President Obama, an honor usually reserved for heads of state, and the red-carpet reception he received, indicates that the administration now considers him as a likely future king and therefore seeks to establish a dialog with him and influence him.

Iraq

The War against the Islamic State

The liberation of Fallujah from the “Islamic State” after a month-long campaign (23 May-26 June) may be an important milestone is not the “beginning of the end” and it will certainly not lead to a stronger and more unified Iraqi state. The campaign and its anticipated aftermath will only exacerbate the sectarian divide in the country and encourage further conflict, whether in the name of the “Islamic State” or its successor under another name

The overt American support for the Iranian involvement[1] will also serve to rally Sunnis to an anti-American position. By backing a military campaign against Sunnis in which Shiite militias and Iran played a direct role, the US-led international coalition was fighting against the symptom — the Islamic State — while actually exacerbating the main problem: the sectarian divide in Iraq. Therefore, the American involvement in the Fallujah campaign will not buy it Sunni gratitude. The view of the US as pro-Shiite and pro-Iranian must have been enhanced by Secretary of State John Kerry’s statement (28 June) that Iran’s presence in Iraq is helpful to American attempts to beat back the threat of the Islamic State, and the praise heaped on the Shiite militias by the US special envoy tasked with defeating the Islamic State, Brent McGurk[2].
Many Sunnis — in Fallujah and elsewhere in Anbar Province — view the Fallujah campaign as part of a strategic Iranian plan to take control, through its Iraqi proxies, of central and western Iraq, from the Diala Governorate on the Iraq-Iran border to the Iraqi-Syrian border, in order to create a safe land-bridge from Iran through Syria to Lebanon. To achieve this objective, the Sunnis of western Iraq have to be weakened and denied the ability to stage a meaningful resistance[3].

No End to the Political Stalemate Expected

The paralysis of the Iraqi Parliament further complicates the situation. The parliament cannot reach agreement on the composition of a new cabinet, and cannot pass the 2016 budget. While Iraq can continue to muddle along with a caretaker government under al-‘Abadi (just as Lebanon “survives” without electing a president), passing a reduced 2016 budget is a sine qua non for execution of the agreement that that the government reached in May with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) for a low-interest loan of $5.4 billion and for loans from other international institutions.

Iran’s interest is to maintain its control over the government in Baghdad, On one hand, this calls for a relatively stable and cohesive Shiite establishment. On the other hand, Iran enhances its position in Baghdad by playing one party against the other and positioning itself as the only acceptable broker between the different Shiite factions. In the eyes of Tehran, Muqtada al-Sadr is a loose cannon, and al-‘Abadi is too close to the West and therefore must be held in check. By maintaining the innate instability of the Shiite political system, Iran attempts to preserve the Iraqi Shiites’ dependency on it to bridge the differences between the different factions.

Therefore, the Shiite infighting will continue as long as al-Sadr is around. This is clear to Iran and to al-Sadr’s rivals and increases the possibility that an attempt will be made to assassinate him. In such a case, the reaction of those elements in the Shiite community who currently support him will be violent and extreme, possibly ultimately leading to the total breakdown of the Shiite political establishment that Iran is trying to prevent.
Iran and Hezbollah in Syria and Iraq

In contrast to its singular status as power-broker in Iraq, the situation in Syria and Lebanon does not bode well for the Iranian strategy. Since these two theaters are critical for Iran’s regional designs, it has no options for an exit strategy, disengagement or even reduction of its footprint. Its primary agent, Hezbollah is suffering setbacks on all the fronts. Without massive Russian military support in Syria, Hezbollah has had to resort to repeated tactical withdrawals and it and the Iranian forces are suffering increasingly heavy fatalities, wounded and fighters taken as prisoners by the Syrian Sunni rebels. In addition to that, the rebels know their own turf better, limiting Hezbollah’s ability to deploy more troops in the more sensitive areas of the theater. Nevertheless, Hezbollah is committed to increase its footprint in the Syrian theater and cannot back down — even as its growing casualties cause increasing discontent within its Shiite Lebanese constituency[4].

Iran is entering a new stage of war in Syria which evokes the situation that the Soviet Union found itself in in Afghanistan in 1985. Until that year, the Soviet Union achieved no decisive victory over the mujahedeen, but also did not lose any battle on the ground. Like the Soviet Union in that stage of the Afghan war, Iran has achieved no decisive victory, but has incurred significant domestic opposition to the war and has no additional resources that could tip the scales. In light of this, our forecast is that the current situation in Syria will become a stalemate for all the parties at least in the months to come.
Israel-Syria-Lebanon

In these circumstances, a conflict with Israel does not serve the interests of either Iran, Hezbollah or Syria. Therefore, all four parties (and Russia) have adapted themselves to a routine of tolerance towards Israeli attacks on Syrian and Hezbollah targets that endanger Israel directly or threaten Israel’s “strategic edge” in the Syrian-Lebanese theater. In a series of actions directed towards enhancing Israel’s deterrence, the IDF held an extensive war game (12-14 June) based on a scenario of confrontation with Hezbollah. Subsequently, Israeli aircraft hit a Syrian military target near the Israeli border and uncharacteristically released a communiqué that the target had indeed belonged to the Syrian regime and had been hit in response to shelling by the Syrians near the border fence.

Hezbollah seems to be losing its predominance even within the Lebanese theater itself, where it had been almost unchallenged for decades. The attrition of Hezbollah in Lebanon is weakening it within the Shiite community. At the same time, the large (1.4 million) Syrian Sunni refugee population has effectively changed the demographic status quo in Lebanon and created a large restive population for whom Iran, Shiites and particularly Hezbollah are the prime enemy.
Syria

Bashar Assad is defiant, but not delusional

On June 7, Bashar Assad delivered a speech to the newly “elected” Syrian Parliament. This was his first major speech since the collapse of the peace talks sponsored by the International Syria Support Group (ISSG) in Geneva in April. Assad vowed to retake every inch of the country from his enemies, and effectively dismissed the concept of a peaceful transition of power, which is at the heart of the ISSG’s approach to the resolution of the crisis.

Assad is not — as the US State Department implied — “delusional”. He clearly perceives no military or political threat to his rule. He may rationally asses that Secretary Kerry’s reported “Plan B” that called for escalated military action if Assad continued his defiance will not receive support of President Obama, who will be reluctant to increase the American military involvement in Syria and to risk damaging Iranian-American relations and the nuclear agreement, which is the centerpiece of Obama’s foreign policy legacy.

Assad also most probably assesses that neither Hillary Clinton, whose Libyan experience will discourage her from intervention, nor Donald Trump, who has laid out a non-interventionist foreign policy approach, would undertake a more active involvement in Syria than that of President Obama. Assad therefore felt free to obstruct the international efforts to transport emergency aid to civilians trapped in rebel-held areas, and to reject in his speech the August 1 deadline set by the US for developing a transition plan leading to his stepping down.

Assad’s attitude, the limits of the American, Iranian and Russian interventions and the absence of any additional forces that could appear in the theater and tip the scales means that the war will grind on. It may be expected, therefore, that in the coming months, the Syrian efforts to implement “ethnic cleansing” of Sunnis in the north will continue and even escalate, resulting in a growing stream of refugees into Turkey, Lebanon and Jordan. This will continue to destabilize these countries and to pose a challenge to a weakened Europe.
Iran

New Political Appointments

It may be assumed that the Iranian leadership understands that restoring full control by the Assad regime over all of Syria is unrealistic and it has an undeclared “Plan B”. This would entail defining “useful Syria” as the stretch of land from Damascus along Lebanon’s border through Homs to Aleppo and along the Syrian coast that would be essential for the above objectives. This “useful Syria,” however, does not correspond territorially with the “useful Syria” that Russia envisions. Russia’s “useful Syria” focuses on maintaining a viable “Alawistan” that would enable Russia to maintain a beachhead on the Mediterranean and a presence on the Turkish border.

There has been disagreement inside the Iranian power elite since the Syrian uprising began to deteriorate into a full-fledged civil war. The disagreement focused on the extent of the Iranian investment of resources to support Assad’s objective of restoring the regime’s control over the entire country.

The Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC), which dominated the policy on Syria and was the key executor of the policy through the Qods Force and Hezbollah, has supported these objectives. Other Iranian power-brokers — notably those associated with the Rouhani camp — have warned against a Syrian quagmire and have opposed tying Iran to Assad’s fate. They argue that while it is of strategic importance to prevent Syria from falling into the hands of radical Sunni groups, it is not prudent to insist on Assad remaining in office, particularly in view of his use of chemical weapons against his own population. (The use of chemical weapons is a sensitive issue in Iran since their use by Saddam Hussain against the Iranians in the Iran-Iraq war.)

The recent appointment of Rear Admiral Ali Shamkhani as military and security coordinator of the Iran-Syria-Russia joint cooperation group, and the reshuffle in the Foreign Ministry, may indicate a move towards willingness to project more flexibility vis-à-vis the Syrian peace process even before the anti-Assad forces have been crushed militarily, and a formal willingness to consider the possibility of a post-war Syria without Assad personally.

This was implied in the statement by Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif after his meeting with US Secretary of State John Kerry, that “there will be no solution if we focus on any individual [i.e. Bashar Assad],” and that the process must “focus on institutional dispersion of power and the future form of governance, through which it will be possible to reduce or even eliminate the centrality of the role of any individual or ethnicity.”

If Iran no longer insists on Bashar Assad staying in power, it could open the road to some procedural progress in the peace talks, which have been blocked by the dispute regarding his future, with Western powers and the Sunni Arab states insisting on his departure. However, the damage done by the civil war is irreversible. Even if some formula is found that would facilitate negotiations, the crux of the crisis is whether Syria will return to be dominated or even co-ruled by an Alawite minority. The Assad regime and Iran (and even Russia) cannot accept a Sunni-dominated Syria that would inevitably take revenge on the Alawites and destroy all the assets that Iran has built up over the last thirty years.

The Financial Sanctions Issue

The US administration is continuing in its determined efforts to convince the Western business community to invest in Iran. In May, John Kerry and US Treasury Department officials met with European bankers in London to tell them “legitimate business” is available to them in Iran and to “dispel any rumors” regarding future American sanctions on Iran. The administration’s message was that as long as the banks do their normal due diligence, “they are not going to be held to some undefined and inappropriate standard.”

Nevertheless, the international banking system continues to view Iran as high-risk and is likely to continue to do so for the foreseeable future. Regardless of the credibility of the guarantees of the current American administration, which will not be in office after January 2017, the reluctance of the international financial community to approach Iran derives from real risk assessment. Iran ranks 130th (out of 168) on Transparency International’s “Corruption Perception Index” and 118th on the World Bank’s “Ease of Doing Business” list.

Given the current state of affairs, these goals are far from achievable. The approval of the Iran Petroleum Contract (IPC) model does not guarantee its implementation, given the opaque and informal character of the Iranian economy. The goals of the regime’s Five Year Plan are also not clearly detailed and it is difficult to see how they can be achieved. Furthermore, Iran cannot comply with the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) rules without a fundamental transformation of its economic structure and the very essence and worldview of the regime. Taking into consideration the leadership structure, the predominance of the Supreme Leader and the position of the IRGC in economy, such a move is impossible.
The Kurdish Factor

The alliance between the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) and the Movement for Change (Gorran) is openly challenging the Barzani clan’s dominance of Kurdish politics and raises the pressure on Massoud Barzani. To consolidate his popularity among the Iraqi Kurdistan Region’s population, Massoud Barzani might therefore resort to “patriotic” acts, like holding his promised referendum on Kurdish independence soon, which PUK-Gorran will not be able to oppose. This could lead to “Kurexit” (Kurdish exit from Iraq), which would be the result not of well-thought-out strategic planning but of Kurdish political infighting.
Israeli-Turkish “Reconciliation”

The Israeli-Turkish reconciliation is a formal step that will certainly not revive the golden age of Israeli-Turkish relations. Turkey will continue to support Hamas and to incite against Israel in international fora, though it will stick to the letter of the agreement and will take advantage of the economic opportunities afforded by the reconciliation.
The French Peace Initiative

The chances that the French peace initiative will succeed in relaunching the Israeli-Palestinian peace process are very slim. The Israeli position remains that negotiations must take place directly between Israel and the Palestinians, and not through international fora. The French initiative, however, will encourage the Palestinian Authority to reject alternative proposals for direct negotiations, pending the international conference.
Terrorism

The spate of terrorist attacks by the Islamic State during the period of this report highlights the disconnect between the situation on the ground in Syria and Iraq and the threat of Islamic State or al-Qaeda inspired jihadi terrorism in susceptible countries. Most the latest attacks took place in Muslim countries (Istanbul, Turkey in June; Dhaka, Bangladesh in June; Baghdad, Iraq in June, and Mecca, Qatif and Medina in Saudi Arabia on July 4) in which the ability to “profile” potential attackers is limited and security measures are weak.

The explanation put forward by the American administration that the attacks reflect the Islamic State’s “despair” in the face of its defeats in Syria and Iraq over the last months is specious. International terrorism “to strike fear in the hearts of Allah’s enemies” has been a hallmark of the Islamic State since its beginning and it does not need the excuse of military defeat in Syria and Iraq to continue to carry out such attacks. Furthermore, these attacks were obviously planned many weeks or even months in advance. The Islamic State will continue to attempt to carry out such attacks according to its strategy to project its jihad into the heartland of its enemies — into Europe and in the territory of its enemies in the Middle East.
Spotlight on the Saudi Economic Transformation Plan

Deputy Crown Prince Muhammad bin Salman’s economic plan represents far more than economic change: it calls for no less than a transformation of the nature of the Saudi state and political order through creation of an economically independent citizenry. The developments in the level of education of the Saudi population and particularly the potential of Saudi women entering the upper levels of the workforce, coupled with the high level of unemployment among those parts of the society, are among the unspoken drivers of the Vision 2030 plan. The goal of this process is to gradually replace the waning traditional tribal and clerical power base of the regime with a young professional economic power base out of concern that the high percentage of (unemployed) youth in the country would be a recipe for social unrest that, along with the loss of the influence of the traditional Wahhabi power base to more radical anti-establishment Salafi clerics, may destabilize the country.

Mohammad bin Salman seeks therefore to mobilize their support by making Saudi society advanced technologically and by creating a large number of jobs in technology. Monitoring of social media shows significant support for Mohammad bin Salman and his plans among the younger Saudi population, including high expectations that the economic initiatives will be followed by social change — loosening religious controls and social restrictions, expanding women’s rights and increasing social mobility. The Saudi leadership, however, is on the horns of a dilemma; accelerated change will raise the ire of the conservative elements in the elite, whereas a sense among the younger population that change is too slow will give rise to a crisis of expectations and subsequent instability.

Dr. Shmuel Bar is a senior research fellow at the Samuel Neaman Institute for National Policy Studies at the Technion in Haifa, Israel, and a veteran of Israel’s intelligence community.

[1] Secretary of State, John Kerry, declared that Iran has been very “helpful” in Iraq.

[2] McGurk said that Iran-backed Shiite militias are mostly helpful in Iraq, though some go rogue: Most of them do operate under the control of the Iraqi state, but about 15-20% of them actually do not, “and those groups are a fundamental problem”.

[3] This Sunni suspicion finds support in statements of senior Shiite Iraqi leaders like former PM Nouri al-Maliki, whose hard-handed policies towards the Sunnis in Anbar Province fed the rise of the “Islamic State”, and who now praises the role of Iran and the Shiite militias, and accuses Iraq’s Sunni political leaders of supporting terrorism.

[4] Hassan Nasrallah (26 June): “The defense of Aleppo is the defense of the rest of Syria, it is the defense of Damascus, it is also the defense of Lebanon, and of Iraq. … It was necessary for us to be in Aleppo and we will stay in Aleppo. We will increase our presence in Aleppo…”

Gatestone Institute

Connecting East and West, Istanbul Airports Suffer Serious Security Breaches

Wednesday, June 29th, 2016

Remarkably, despite the severe plunge in tourism Turkey has been experiencing for several years, with millions fewer tourists from Germany, Austria, the UK, Israel and more recently Russia making Turkey their vacation destination, air traffic in and out of Turkey remains massive. This is due to a decision made by President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, to turn Turkey into the world’s international hub. The country’s location, one part in Asia, the other part in Europe, made this a logical and rewarding move.

There are two international airports in Istanbul: Ataturk, which is about fifteen minutes from downtown Istanbul, and Sabiha Gökçen, on the Asian side, which is about half an hour from downtown. Ataturk, with 60 million passengers a year, is the third largest airport in Europe, and the Turks are already working on a third international airport, to help manage the traffic.

Cognizant of the security threats to commercial traffic in the region, Turkey has invested a tremendous amount of resources in securing both international airports, with several security circles, Walla reported Wednesday. The airports are surrounded by security fences, at the main vehicle entrance there is a police check post, and at the entrance to each terminal the suitcases go through an x-ray scan, while each passenger must go through a metal detector. After the check-in the passenger goes through another metal detector and their luggage is x-rayed. On flights to Israel and the US passengers are also checked before entering the plane.

According to Walla, despite what appears like standard security checks which are familiar to anyone flying in the US, Turkish airports share several weak spots. For one thing, modern airport security systems, like the one in Israel, operate three separate circles which are run separate from one another: a circle securing the airport; a circle for the flight security; and a circle for securing the flight path.

In Istanbul airports, those circles are indistinguishable from one another, creating needless lines at the various check points, and compromising both the airport and the individual planes’ security. Also, there are no snipers situated in strategic locations, ready to take out potential attackers.

But the problem begins earlier, at the bus service hauling passengers from downtown Istanbul to the airport. Those buses don’t check their passengers, and they pass through to the terminal doors without an inspection.

Ataturk’s problems are similar to those of the Brussels airport where terrorists managed to blow themselves up with horrendous casualties last March. Both airports concede parts of the terminal to potential terrorists, where passengers move in and out unobserved.

Walla has speculated that one immediate benefit to the Turks from the thaw of their relations with Israel would be to seek Israeli assistance in setting their security systems straight.

David Israel

“If we don’t get East Jerusalem, we’ll make sure there is no peace in the region”

Tuesday, June 28th, 2016

Originally posted to the author’s website, Elder of Ziyon}

Here is the Wikipedia definition of extortion:

Extortion is a criminal offense of obtaining money, property, or services from an institution, through coercion. It is sometimes euphemistically referred to as a “protection racket” since the racketeers often phrase their demands as payment for “protection” from (real or hypothetical) threats from unspecified other parties. Extortion is commonly practiced by organized crime groups. The actual obtainment of money or property is not required to commit the offense. Making a threat of violence which refers to a requirement of a payment of money or property to halt future violence is sufficient to commit the offense.

Now explain how this does not fit that definition:

In response to EU support for French initiative to pressure Israel to make yet more concessions for “peace,” Mahmoud Abbas is planning to make a speech sometime within the next 48 hours.

His spokesman Nabil Abu Rudeina said, “We welcome this European stance and call for the US administration to support these efforts that lead to real peace, and to exert pressure on the Israeli government to bow to the international will and the international consensus and international legitimacy and the Arab peace initiative. The only way to stability and peace in the region is a Palestinian state with its capital in East Jerusalem. Without it, the region and the world will remain in a state of imbalance and instability.”

This is a threat, and a threat that has been made countless times before. It is a Mafia-style protection racket being employed daily to every nation on the planet. “Do what we say and no one gets hurt.”

If you follow the logic through, it means that the Palestinians say that if they don’t get what they demand, even if that demand – Jerusalem – has no basis in history or international law, they will make sure that the world will suffer the consequences.

There isn’t an iota of evidence that a Palestinian state with Jerusalem will result in less Middle East bloodshed than a Palestinian state without Jerusalem. Jerusalem is an arbitrary demand – one of many that Abbas has made, including “return” and prisoners being released and no Jews allowed on their holiest spot. It has nothing to do with statehood, nothing to do with peace, nothing to do with stability.

It has everything to do with erasing the Jewish connection to the land.

The world is being extorted, yet the world is happy to accede to the blackmail that is being practiced openly every day by the “President of the State of Palestine.”

Why isn’t the world outraged at being threatened every day by a two-bit, terror supporting, Holocaust denying criminal?

Because the only ones that have to pay the extortion price is Israel and the Jewish people.

Elder of Ziyon

Israeli Food Exports Gain Popularity as Economic Ties Expand in East Asia

Wednesday, June 1st, 2016

{Originally posted to The Tower Magazine website}

As Israel’s economic ties expand across East Asia, so does the popularity of the Jewish state’s food products.

Costco stores throughout Japan hosted an Israeli food festival last week, featuring pita, matza, Wissotsky teas, Angel cookies, Adafresh spices, Hanasich tahini, and a variety of Israeli wines. The festival was sponsored by the Israel Export Institute and the economic attaché of the Israeli Ministry of Economy office in Tokyo.

“In 2015, the government decided to take steps to strengthen the economic relations between Israel and Japan. The Israeli and Japanese prime ministers held reciprocal visits over the past several years under this framework,” Ohad Cohen, exports manager for the Ministry of Economy, told Ynet. “We’ve seen great interest for Israeli products and technological cooperation from Japanese companies in a variety of fields including the medical, communications, pharmaceutical, and automation fields,” he added.

The initial contacts between dozens of Israeli and Japanese companies has led to over $1 million in exports.

Another promising market for Israeli food products is opening in Vietnam, which last week hosted an Israeli food festival in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City. The events featured cooking demonstrations by Israeli celebrity chef Ruthie Rousso and others. Israeli dishes prepared at the festival included majadra, musabaha style hummus, fresh pita made on site, malabi with pistachios, and sweet Israeli meatballs made with date honey, Ynet reported.

“Over the last several years, Vietnam has greatly developed economically and presents a great opportunity for Israeli industry and food exports,” said Caroline Nevo, the head of the Food and Drink Branch of the Exports Institute. She added that her organization has “seen more interest and demand for Israeli flavors and products in the east, and conversely, we have been expending great efforts to open up markets which will facilitate the entry of Israeli products and fully realize the potential of these markets.”

In addition to the food festivals in Japan and Vietnam, four Israeli wineries — Adir Winery, Morad Winery, Psagot Winery, and Binyamina Winery — attended the China (Guangzhou) International Wine & Spirits Exhibition this year, the largest exhibition of its kind in China.

 

The Tower

How to Turn a Campus Into an Indoctrination Center

Sunday, September 29th, 2013

Originally published at Rubin Reports.

If you want to understand how the far left controls campuses, consider this story.

There is no university more supportive of the Arab nationalist (historically), Islamist, and anti-Israel line in the United States than Georgetown’s programs on Middle East studies. Every conference it holds on the Middle East is ridiculously one-sided. The university has received millions of dollars in funds from Arab states, and it houses the most important center in the United States that has advocated support for a pro-Islamist policy.

One day in 1975, not long before he died, the great Professor Carroll Quigley walked up to me when I was sitting in the Georgetown University library. Everyone was in awe of this brilliant lecturer (remind me to write him a tribute explaining why he was so great).

[In fact the  classroom where Carroll Quigley taught his main class was Gaston Hall, where decades latest Obama demanded to cover up the cross before he spoke there! What would this pious Catholic have said!]

I thought he might have remembered me from my extended explanation of why I was late for class one day because I had rescued a sparrow and taken it to a veterinarian (true).   I vividly recall that detail, because I couldn’t think otherwise why he would want to talk to such a lowly person.

“May I sit down?” he asked.

“Of course!” I said, stopping myself from adding that it was an honor. Without any small talk, he launched into a subject that clearly weighed on his conscience. “There are many who don’t like your people.”

What was he talking about? I thought, is he talking about Jews?

He explained that he had just come from a meeting where it was made clear that the university had a problem. They were getting Arab money, but on the secret condition that it was for teaching about the Middle East but none of it could be used to teach about Israel. How was this problem to be solved?

Simple. They would call the institution to be created the Center for Contemporary Arab Studies. It was explicitly expressed that this was how the problem would be dealt with.  Quigley was disgusted. Ever since then, I have referred to that institution as the Center for Contemporary Arab Money.

Georgetown was the place where the university accepted tens of thousands of dollars from Libyan dictator Muammar Qadhafi–who was, of course, very active in promoting anti-American terrorism–to establish an endowed chair in Middle East studies. When the president of the university backed down due to bad publicity, the professor who had been named to the post responded by calling the Jesuit university president a “Jesuit Zionist.”

This same professor–and I am not joking in saying that compared to today, he was a fine scholar and a comparatively decent man given what goes on now–was also a personal friend of Palestinian terrorist leader Nayif Hawatmeh and an outspoken Marxist.

To his credit, he told me in 1974 on a visit of mine to Lebanon, “One day we will be ashamed of all the terrorism [against Israel].” But I don’t think he ever spoke out publicly. At my Ph.D. oral exams, he said something like this as his question: “I don’t care whether you believe it or not, but give the Marxist analysis of development in the Middle East.” He did not ask me to critique it! As a Marxist, atheist though, the son of a Muslim imam, he did participate in the traditional glass of scotch after they passed me. And they did pass me, something I would never assume might happen today. These professors really did believe in scholarship and balance in the classroom.

Another professor (you can guess I was sure he was not on my board), however, was an example of the new generation of indoctrinators. One day, I was standing in the line in the campus post office shortly after I had clashed with him in class. The two girls I could overhear were talking about the disturbing incident in class. To my relief, they took my side. I guess that, too, wouldn’t happen today.

This teacher’s radicalism and knee-jerk hatred of Israel was so terrible that we used to joke about it.  A right-wing Zionist in the class did an experiment. He wrote an exaggerated version of a Marxist, anti-Israel rant. It read like a satire. He got an “A” from this professor. In retrospect, however, we should have seen that the field was getting far worse.

Barry Rubin

Go East

Tuesday, September 24th, 2013

The anniversary of the Yom Kipur War always reminds one of Israeli fallibility, arrogance, and overconfidence, yet at the same time of its capacity to defy the odds and come back from the brink. It was another example of our bringing disaster upon ourselves and then fighting back to survive. After all, that is what the name “Israel” means in the Bible: “to struggle with man and God and survive”.

If I were to listen to the voices, Jewish and non-Jewish, that I hear in such examples as The New York Times, in The New York Review of Books, the intellectual and leftwing talking heads of Europe and the USA, or indeed popular left wing opinion, I would have a depressing sense of impending catastrophe. This week Peter Beinart, in The New York Review of Books, tells us that we Jews neither know, nor understand, nor feel the suffering of the Palestinians, whether under Hamas or the PLO. Ian S. Lustick goes on at length in a one-sided peroration typical of The New York Times that the lays the blame on Israel for making the Two State Solution irrelevant. They are not entirely wrong. But I tell you I am bloody fed up with people lumping all Israelis, all Jews together in their simplistic apportioning of blame, seeing things in black and white rather than in greys. Palestinians are good victims. Israelis are bad oppressors. In fact, both are both. That’s what humans are, a mixture of good and bad.

Some Israelis, some Jews are indeed intolerable racists. It is as true as is the fact that in South Africa under Apartheid there were Jews who acquiesced, who remained silent and failed their moral duty. But it is equally true that many Jews fought long and hard and at great cost to themselves, to oppose Apartheid and to promote freedom for the black population. That the ANC finally triumphed has not replaced immorality with morality, discrimination with equality. Sadly, too often those who suffer respond not by continuing the drive towards greater freedom but by grabbing all they can for themselves. This is the usual consequence of most struggles for freedom. Similarly, in Zimbabwe the relatively benign but overtly racial regime of Ian Smith was replaced by the much more evil and murderous regime of black Mugabe. Good fighters for freedom turn into very bad governors of countries. But that is the price of the struggle. And politics is dirty and messy everywhere.

The role of government is to protect its citizens and the vision of its founders. Israel was created as a state with a Jewish heritage, just as much as Muslim states were established to preserve and propagate Muslim heritage. Most of us would like to see both as tolerant and democratic societies. Israel is imperfect indeed, but it is our homeland. If we care for it we should fight to protect it and to improve it, not to undermine it. We should focus just as much on those who are working hard on reconciliation, on doing good, not just on the bad, on Syrians treated in Israeli hospitals, on Israel providing for Gaza what Egypt is not. But don’t expect this from the anti-Israel amen chorus.

So how are we expected to relate to a dysfunctional Middle East that is constantly stirred up against us by a distorted Western mentality? Surely not by capitulating to its mental diseases. I suggest we try to ignore its pathologies as best we can. But I must stress, I do not advocate cutting ourselves off from the Muslim world. The Middle East is not the only Muslim location. I do not think the divide between Judaism and Islam is either inevitable or healthy. We have far more in common with each other than we do with Western religions. To both of us, religion is not a series of theological propositions but a way of life. However if we want to heal the breach we must look further east.

It always surprises Jews to learn that the Muslims of the Far East, from India to Indonesia, from Cambodia to China, see the Arab jihadis of the Middle East in much the same way that non-Orthodox Jews view Charedim. They regard the Salafists and the Wahhabis as over the top extremists. It’s true in both cases that guilt often leads them to support the pious at arm’s length. The Far East also has its extreme and violent Islamic movements and terrorists, but the general mood of Islam is far more benign the further you get from the Middle East. It is more tolerant, less anti-West, and less fixated on blaming everyone else, especially the Jews, for their own ills. Yes, you can quote me that nasty former Malayan premier Mahathir bin Mohamad, who blamed the Jews for everything. But, thank goodness, he was not typical. I believe Israel should reduce its links with Europe with is ghastly legacy and history. It should be cultivating relations and economic involvements with India, China, Korea, and other emerging powers out in the Far East.

Daniel Goldhagen, the controversial and outspoken American historian who wrote Hitler’s Willing Executioners: Ordinary Germans and the Holocaust, has stirred things up with his latest book about Western anti-Semitism, The Devil That Never Dies: The Rise and Threat of Global Antisemitism. Anthony Julius wrote a dismissive review in the Wall Street Journal accusing Goldhagen of sloppy research and unreliable statistics, even if he agrees with the core of his thesis. But even if Goldhagen exaggerates when he says 200 million Europeans compare Israelis to Nazis, let us reduce it by half. The fact is that huge swathes of opinion in Europe and the USA are venomously opposed to Israel’s existence on principle. So who is Israel to rely on? We knew Europe would never go to war to defend the Jews. Now we have seen all too clearly that the USA cannot be relied upon to fight. It is war weary. Israel must defend it itself as best it can, both socially and militarily. It is time to look for friends elsewhere.

In addition, I believe Judaism has more in common with and is more appreciated by the religion and mysticism of the East than of the West. The West is fixated on pain, suffering, guilt, and negativity. The East has much more positive religious energy. We have been identified with the Western religious tradition for too long. We have adopted too much of this guilt and pain. We could well redress the balance. It is time to think about a new alliance, a new love affair, with the Far East for Israel and Jews in general. I only hope our present leaders, secular and religious, will not be as myopic as those of the past.

Jeremy Rosen

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/opinions/go-east/2013/09/24/

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