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April 19, 2014 / 19 Nisan, 5774
At a Glance

Posts Tagged ‘Iraq’

Human Rights Watch: Turkey Pushing Back Thousands of Refugees

Monday, July 1st, 2013

Iraqi, Jordanian, and Turkish border guards are pushing back tens of thousands of people trying to flee Syria, Human Rights Watch charged on Monday.

“Iraq, Jordan, and Turkey have either closed numerous border crossings entirely or allowed only limited numbers of Syrians to cross, leaving tens of thousands stranded in dangerous conditions in Syria’s conflict-ridden border regions. Only Lebanon has an open border policy for Syrians fleeing the conflict,” the statement from the human rights body said.

Turkey denied the allegations, which if true, are a violation of the 1951 Refugee Convention, which prohibits sending anyone back to – or pushing back anyone trying to leave – a country where their life or freedom would be threatened or where they would face a serious risk of torture or other cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment.

The Art of Building Things

Tuesday, June 11th, 2013

Creativity is an individual act. The act of building something, whether with hammers, blueprints, words, boards or plans is individualistic. Collectives can build, but not creatively. A mass has no vision because it has no personality. It can follow rules but not dreams.

American exceptionalism emerged out of a society which empowered the creative talents of the individual, not through grants, regulations, instructional pamphlets, inspectors and guidelines, but through the simple virtue of leaving men alone to do their work.

Freedom is the greatest creative force because it liberates the individual to build and as freedom diminishes within a society so does its creativity. Progress in restricted areas dwindles to a trickle as collectives expend a thousand times the money and effort, and still fail to equal the achievements of individuals operating on shoestring budgets.

The Soviet Union fell because its Communist collectives were not able to equal the West in the military or the economic arena. The only technique that Communist states ever had was to create a heavily regulated top-down infrastructure and when a crisis occurred, a mass of people would be thrown at the problem.

The collective approach allowed the Soviet Union to construct massive infrastructure projects; building roads, power stations and housing. But these were flawed imitations of Western projects and were poorly designed and implemented. The same pattern repeated itself across the Communist sphere. The collective could inefficiently mobilize armies of workers to carry out a project, but the planning and design of the project was grandiose, derivative and poorly adapted to the task at hand. Communist projects were mechanically conceived, mechanically implemented and unfit in the way that any project purely designed by machines would be for human use.

The Soviet Union, China, North Korea and Vietnam all won their engagements with enemies in the same way; by throwing so many men at the problem that the enemy would become bogged down and eventually forced to retreat. Their military victories did not emerge from strategy or heroism, but the mechanical willingness to sacrifice numberless individuals for the goals of the collective.

The few bits of genuine scientific progress came from scientists like Pavlov and Sakharov who were open critics of Communism and the Soviet Union. They did not come out of the collective that collectively crippled Russian science and ensured the collapse of its efforts at military parity with the United States. Ultimately the collective destroyed its own rule.

The seduction of the collective as builder however is not limited to countries that flew the red flag.  When Obama and Warren proclaimed that there were no monads, that no man was an island, but that we were all part of one great economic collective to which we owed an eternal debt, they were following up on some very old ideas.

Obama’s interpretation of individual creativity occurring only within the context of state institutions is a natural outgrowth of a political philosophy that views those institutions as the essence of the country and the true foundation of its national greatness. This “Institutionalism” is the dominant liberal mindset which sees individualism as a chaos that must be ordered by the state.

Institutionalism says that individuals are not creative, only institutions are creative. Individuals who create are harnessing the creative energy of institutions. In the liberal institutionalist view, the state must create the conditions that make creative acts possible and those who fail to acknowledge their debt to the state are “free riders” who exploit the system without paying back to it.

21st century America is institutionalist, though it derives the greater part of its economic energy from individual creativity. The official philosophy emphasizes the virtues of committeedom; of agencies, corporations, governments and mass determinants which slowly move forward, consuming any form of progress and transforming it into mulch. The official debate is not over the virtues of this rank institutionalism, but over which forms of institutions are best and who should be running them.

To the east and the south, the core of the Muslim world has finally gotten around to adopting the democracy that their Western friends had insisted would be their salvation. And the essence of their experiment with democracy was to reaffirm a collective identity based on Islam. What the masses of individuals in Egypt, Tunisia, Turkey and Iraq, not to mention the Palestinian Authority, wanted was an Islamic state that would eliminate any individuality.

In the face of chaos, Muslims chose not liberal institutionalism but Islamic institutionalism.  What this means in practice, beyond women with covered faces and more bombs going off on buses, is that the state and its economic monopolies will be in the hands of the devout who will nobly take care of the needs of the people. The practical difference between Islamism and Socialism is that the former is more backward, more tyrannical and more violently disposed toward us. But these are distinctions in degree, not in essence. Both Islamists and Socialists institute tyrannies based on theorists from the last few centuries that recreate a more ancient feudalism in the name of an absolute call for justice.

Americans with Obama, like the Egyptians with Morsi, chose a collective leader who would inspire and take care of them. A leader who would make them feel united into one single group. The promise of transcendence lingered over Tahrir Square and the United States Capitol, a promise that individual differences and divisions would melt away leaving only a perfect collective that would be capable of doing anything it set its mind to.

Even if Obama had been genuinely well-intentioned, the project of collective creativity was doomed from the start. Institutions excel most at their own construction. In their early stages they can fund creative works, but with the passage of time they become incapable of meaningfully interacting with the outside world.

The longer an institution exists the more likely it is to develop its own groupthink, its collective mentality and culture that allows for internal consistency, but makes creative work impossible. Like the Soviet Union, these collectives can draw up grandiose plans that are inefficient, have no purpose and are implemented without regard to actual conditions on the ground.

These collectives can envision masses of wind farms, without taking into account what will happen when winter comes or whether there is enough wind to make the project worthwhile. They can pay foreign architects and foreign workers to create symbols of Islamic grandiosity, such as the Dubai Burj and Saudi Arabia’s Royal Mecca Clock Tower, and symbols of Socialist grandiosity such as North Korea’s Ryugyong Hotel or the USSR’s Palace of the Soviets; but these are not signs of creativity, only pyramids representing the entombing of creativity within a display of mindless power.

Creativity brings new things into the world, but new things are the bane of institutions which already have too many things to deal with and see such creativity as elementally disruptive. Institutionalism strives to repress creativity by forcing everyone into a collective plan, a mandate to follow the central program of the collective. And the only thing that the institutions of the collective are interested in creating are monuments to themselves.

An individual building things according to his own plan is disruptive. Even when following tested techniques and using standard tools to complete the same task that he has already done ten thousand times before, the individual can still find easier and better ways to do something. The individual can also find that a thing might be better done in an entirely different way or that there is no reason to do it at all.

This expression of creative energy is what tyrants like Obama or Morsi fear because it upsets their goal of using institutional power to maintain a completely ordered society. Institutionalist societies believe that bigger is better, that the individual is wrong and the rule book is right, and that a difference is a danger. They may talk up their commitment to progress, but what they truly do is accept a lack of progress in exchange for order and control. They would rather own everyone and everything than have a society that actually moves forward and creates things worth owning.

It is not the state that builds things, it is individuals who build the state. Once the state is built it begins by protecting individual creativity and ends by consuming it. Institutionalism does not unleash creativity, it suppresses it in the name of its own consensus.

Institutionalists like Obama do not believe in the individual, they believe that the individual is the root of all evil. They see him as an exploiter, a free rider, a breaker of commitments, a smasher of idols and a disruptor of their plans. They wrongly believe that the individual owes them something for the privilege of living under their rule and they are wrong in this. It is they who are indebted for their parasitism, for their free ride on his back, for the muzzle they have put in his mouth and the spurs they have planted in his side.

The art of building things is a simple art. It is the art of learning about the world as it is, of learning what one’s own hands and mind are capable of. And above all else it is the art of being free.

Originally published at Sultan Knish.

Iraq Uncovers Al-Qaeda WMD Jihad Plot

Sunday, June 2nd, 2013

But but but but but there were no WMD in Iraq, right?

This is not the first time we have seen Muslims use the remote control plane tactic before, that time with a planned C4 explosive payload. Massachusetts Muslim, Rezwan Ferdaus, got 17 years in prison in a plot to fly remote-controlled model planes packed with explosives into the Pentagon and U.S. Capitol.

Iraq uncovers al-Qaeda ‘chemical weapons plot’ BBC, June 1, 2013
The authorities in Iraq say they have uncovered an al-Qaeda plot to use chemical weapons, as well as to smuggle them to Europe and North America.
Defense ministry spokesman Mohammed al-Askari said five men had been arrested after military intelligence monitored their activities for three months.

Three workshops for manufacturing the chemical agents, including sarin and mustard gas, were uncovered, he added.

Remote-controlled toy planes were also seized at the workshops.

Mr Askari said they were to have been used to release the chemical agents over the target from a “safe” distance of 1.5km (0.9 miles), reports the BBC’s Rami Ruhayem in Baghdad.

All of the arrested men had confessed to the plot, and said they had received instruction from another al-Qaeda offshoot, he added.

As the defence ministry spokesman spoke on Iraqi TV, footage was shown of four men with black hoods on their heads, our correspondent adds. Three of them were wearing bright yellow jumpsuits and a fourth was in a brown jumpsuit.

All of the arrested men have allegedly confessed
Their arrests were possible because of co-operation between Iraqi and foreign intelligence services, Mr Askari said.

Chlorine bombs

Al-Qaeda in Iraq is believed the only offshoot of the Islamist militant network to have used chemical weapons.

It detonated a 16 crude chlorine bombs in Iraq between October 2006 and June 2007.

Chlorine inhalation made many hundreds of people sick, but no deaths resulting from exposure to the chemical were recorded, US officials said at the time. Instead, the bomb blasts are believed to have caused the fatalities.

At the time, US officials said al-Qaeda appeared to want to use debilitating agents like chlorine in their bombs to cause casualties beyond those hit by the initial explosion.

US and Iraqi troops subsequently killed or detained many of the militants who were building the chlorine-laced bombs and seized much of their stockpiled chemicals.

A letter written by the late al-Qaeda leader Osama Bin Laden five days before he was killed in a US military raid in Pakistan in 2011 urged members of the group’s offshoot in Yemen who he believed were considering using “poison” to be “careful of doing it without enough study of all aspects, including political and media reaction”, according to CNN.

Visit Atlas Shrugs.

Bombing Syrian Weapons and Securing Israel’s Future

Monday, May 6th, 2013

I just watched some video of stuff blowing sky high in Syria.

I won’t add to the speculation about whether they are bombing weapons intended for Hizballah, chemical weapons, or “military research installations.” I do think we can say without fear of being wrong that it is Israel that is doing it, for the second time this week.

I recently listened in on a discussion about whether to be optimistic or pessimistic about Israel’s survival. My thought was: “I am guardedly optimistic.” Recent events make me feel even more so.

The way I see it, long term trends are mostly in Israel’s favor, although there are serious short-term threats that have to be overcome.

One of the most important of the long-term changes is the erosion of the Muslim oil monopoly. New sources of oil and gas in Canada, the U.S., China, even some in Israel, will make it harder for Israel’s enemies to pressure the West or Far East, and will reduce the amount of excess cash available to buy politicians and universities.

Although the Islamist takeover of Egypt is often placed in the negative column, the fact is that Egypt — once Israel’s most formidable enemy — is falling apart, as it proves that as far as running a country goes, Islam is not the answer. Egypt’s economic problems are immense, and it will be a long time before it will be capable of using its U.S.-supplied weapons for anything other than putting down demonstrations.

While there has never been anything that united the Muslim Middle East more than hatred of Israel, today the ideological and religious issues dividing it are more important than ever.

Syria, another formerly formidable enemy, is cratering itself as we speak. Although there are justifiable fears that a radical Sunni regime even more hostile than Assad’s may take over, it appears that a decision has been taken in Jerusalem that it is the lesser evil compared to an Iranian/Hizballah takeover. Anyway, whoever follows Assad won’t inherit his massive arsenal, because it won’t be there at the end.

Assad’s exit — as long as Iran is kept out — will cut Hizballah off from its source of weapons, money and expertise. This is important because Hizballah is one of the main short-term threats I mentioned above.

War with Hizballah still seems probable, although less likely than before. In the event of war, its 60,000 missiles will have to go somewhere — I expect some will be destroyed on the ground, others will be launched and intercepted, and some will hit their targets. Hizballah also has built formidable defenses against ground attacks in South Lebanon and even has plans for incursions into Israel. One has to take the threat seriously, but on the other hand there’s no doubt that Israel would prevail.

Without support via Syria, Hizballah will be weakened and opposing forces in Lebanon — who do not want to see their national infrastructure damaged yet again by a pointless war of Hizballah’s making — may restrain them.

Iraq is also out of the picture, riven by internal conflict.

What about Iran? There are both short and long-term considerations. In the short term, we can’t minimize the danger from its nuclear program. The probability of American action seems small, so if they are to be prevented from developing actual weapons — and they don’t have far to go — Israel will need to do it. It is certainly correct that the program can only be set back, not taken out entirely.

But for the long term, the regime is highly unpopular. Like Lebanon, there is a large, relatively advanced segment of the population who would prefer peace and development to belligerence and Islamic fundamentalism. The Persian people also have not displayed the degree of Jew-hatred that one finds among the Arabs, unless the present regime has succeeded in “reeducating” them. There is a good chance that a more moderate regime can arise, especially if it is encouraged to do so by the West.

So much for the good. What about the bad and the ugly?

The PLO and Hamas have little military capability, but their hatred is implacable and they can be expected to continue doing whatever they can by means of diplomacy, terrorism and subversion to destroy the Jewish state. Thanks to the “educational” program established by Yasser Arafat and continued by the present Palestinian leadership — despite promises to end incitement — today’s residents of the territories are more pathologically consumed by hatred than ever before.

Israel’s options are limited — it must continue security precautions, work to assure loyalty among its Arab citizens, and make sure that the rest of the world is aware of the true intentions of the “Palestinian” leadership (insofar as it doesn’t share them — see below).

The only thing that can make this problem go away is time, and that’s only if incitement can be ended. Unfortunately, Israel has little or no power to control this.

What historically empowered the Palestinian cause was the Soviet Union and Arab petrodollars. Russia is now more neutral in this particular conflict for various reasons and the Arabs have fewer and fewer petrodollars to throw around. But there is another factor, one which was kick-started by those same forces, that has taken on a life of its own almost everywhere in the world — Muslim nations, Europe and the academic sector of the U.S. — old-fashioned Jew-hatred, now transmuted into anti-Zionism.

I’m not going to discuss all the ways that Israel should respond, but one is based on a simple psychological principle: humans hate weakness and victims; they like strength and winners.  The way to end Jew hatred is not to apologize or compromise with it, and not to appeal to the haters’ better natures, but rather to maintain our honor: to fight the enemies of the Jewish state with determination, to develop respect — love is not available — and deterrence, the political aspect of fear.

Bombing Syrian weapons depots is a good start.

Visit Fresno Zionism.

The Collapsing Crescent

Sunday, May 5th, 2013

In contrast to the desert that covers most of the Middle East, the Fertile Crescent has been an area that kingdoms thrived in since the dawn of history. The reason is simple: it was possible to maintain a reasonable and stable community life in this area because communities could establish an economy based on agriculture and raising herds of animals. The children of Israel in the Land of Israel, the Phoenicians in Lebanon, the Assyrians in Syria, the Sumerians, the Babylonians, and the Chaldeans in Iraq, all established kingdoms with a strong and effective central government, based on an agricultural society dwelling in permanent communities from which it was possible to collect taxes and enlist its sons into the ruler’s army. The desert, on the other hand, was not a place of kingdoms and regimes because its nomadic residents do not represent a civil and economic basis upon which it is possible to establish a permanent, central framework.

The modern era is a continuation, to a large extent, of the classic picture of the Fertile Crescent: Lebanon, Syria and Iraq were established as states that should have been frameworks for legitimate states with governmental systems based on a egalitarian and shared civil society, that would include the tribes and the many ethnic, religious, and sectarian groups that populate the area. The objective data of the area -plentiful precipitation, comfortable weather, flowing rivers and fertile ground – could have provided a comfortable life for the people of these states, if only they could have lived with each other in peace. The borders of the states were drawn by the colonial forces that ruled in the area, and these borders define their territories, the area of their sovereignty and the identity of their citizens. Protection of the borders is a prerequisite for the existence of every state in the world.

But in the past decade – and especially in the past two years – the borders of Lebanon, Syria and Iraq are continually being penetrated, undermined, dissolved, eroded and annulled. Those who are undermining the states are its neighboring states, organizations and individuals, who relate to borders of states as if there is no need to respect them. It is important to note that great sections of borders exist only on maps, while in reality, there is no fence, wall or any real barrier that would enable the state to protect its borders from invasion of evildoers and prevent their entry.

The efficacy of border protection is an effective indicator of a state’s overall condition: a state that protects its borders and prevents the entry of hostile elements is a state with the power to live and survive even if it is situated in an unfriendly environment. On the other hand, a state that does not succeed in protecting its borders from foreign and hostile elements  penetrating into its territory is a state in the process of deterioration that might end in its demise. The recent events in Iraq, Syria and Lebanon fully confirm this assumption.

Iraq

For the whole of the twentieth century there were factors that undermined Iraq’s borders, mainly Iran of the Shah: He supported the Kurds in the North of Iraq until 1975 and channeled weapons, equipment, fighters and money to them via the border. This undermined the integrity of Iraq, and ever since the Kurdish area was declared as a no-fly zone for the Iraqi air force in 1991, the Kurds of Iraq have lived almost totally independently. They have a parliament, government, political parties, an army, police, communications media, mass media and independent economic viability. From a practical point of view, the borders of Iraq do not include today the Kurdish area that was once the northern part of the state.

The border between Iraq and Iran has been wide open ever since the beginning of 2004, less than a year from the day when Iraq was occupied by the Western coalition led by President Bush. After the Iranians understood that the Americans did not want an additional front in Iran, they began to transfer weapons, ammunition, explosives, money and fighters into Iraq by way of the border in order to strengthen the Shi’ite militias to the detriment of the badly defeated Sunni militias, and so that the Shi’ites could successfully resist with the occupation armies and act against the influence of al Qaeda, which had established an organization called “The Islamic State of Iraq.”

Thousands of fighters from the United States and its allies were killed in Iraq with weapons and explosives that Iran smuggled into the Land of the Two Rivers. The border between Iraq and Saudi Arabia as well, served as a conduit for weapons, ammunition, money and jihadists for the Sunni organizations, chiefly al Qaeda. Only in recent years did Saudi Arabia set up  a fence on the length of its border with Iraq in order to prevent the Iraqi chaos from seeping into its territory, but the fence did not prevent Saudi Arabia from transferring anything that the Sunni Jihadists could think of, into Iraq.

Turkey never respected its border with Iraq, and its forces would often cross the border into Iraqi Kurdistan to attack the bases of the “Kurdish Workers Party” (PKK), which would send its fighters into Turkey.

Syria

The border of Iraq with Syria has served for more than ten years as a two-way membrane. Between the years 2004 and 2011 the porous border served as a passage for Hizballah fighters who crossed from Lebanon into Iraq by way of Syrian territory in order to support the Shi’ites. Since March of 2011 the border has served as a passage for Shi’ites from Iraq to support the regime in Syria, but Iraqi Sunnis also cross it freely with their weapons and explosive material in order to help their Syrian brothers in their struggle against the Assad regime and indirectly against Iran, which controls Iraq.

Since 2011, fighters, weapons and equipment have also been freely transferred by the tribes of northern Jordan to their brothers in the area of Hauran in southern Syria.  And until today almost a half million Syrian refugees have fled the Syrian inferno to Jordan.

The border between Syria and Lebanon has never been taken seriously on either side: smuggling of goods from Lebanon to Syria has provided livelihood for many thousands of Lebanese ever since the two states were established in the forties, and many Syrians have crossed the border illegally into Lebanon, fleeing the oppression of the regime, mainly since Hafez al Asad rose to power towards the end of 1970. Many Syrian workers have moved to Lebanon illegally via the porous borders, and in peak years the number has been estimated at a million.

Syria’s border with Turkey is not sealed either and many have crossed it unofficially over the years: Syrian and Turkish Kurds have always crossed it almost without restriction, just as the border between Iraq and Turkey has served as a passage for the Kurds on both sides. In the past two years Turkey has been sending to the Syrian rebels support and jihadists  who come from Saudi Arabia, from Qatar, from North Africa and from other areas, even from Europe.

Not in vain have the rebels against Assad captured the border crossings in the early phase of the rebellion, because having control of the border crossings makes it possible for them to bring into Syria people who support them in the fighting against the regime.

Lebanon

Hizballah has turned smuggling into an art form: in broad daylight as well as in darkness, in the paved streets as well as the dirt roads, at official as well as unofficial  border crossings from Syria to Lebanon, large amounts of missiles, light and heavy weapons and ammunition have been transferred from Iran, China and Russia, through Syria into Lebanon, and fighters from Hizballah have crossed by way of the Lebanese-Syrian border into Syria and Iran in order to train for their jihad against their Lebanese brothers as well as against Israel.

In the past two years Hizballah fighters have crossed with their weapons  and equipment into Syria via the breached border, in order to help Assad. In the beginning, Hizballah snipers shot demonstrators in the streets of Dara’a from the roofs, and afterwards the Hizballah people joined in the street fighting, primarily in the streets of Homs, Hama and Damascus. The “shaheeds” of Hizballah who were killed in Syria were usually smuggled into Lebanon via the open border and were buried temporarily and secretly in the Buqa’a valley, near the border, primarily to avoid media exposure. Lately, since Hizballah’s involvement in Syria has become common knowledge, the shaheeds are brought to their families for burial.

The only border of Lebanon that looks like one is the coastline, but by any effective test this border does not exist: On the breached shores of Lebanon are tens of unofficial mooring places that have served for many years in the smuggling of goods – primarily automobiles – that are stolen in Europe to Lebanon, and are transferred by agents to the Lebanese market and other Arab states. Since 2011 these moorings, along with the port of Triploli, have served the Sunnis, as a transfer point for the smuggling of weapons and ammunition to the rebels in Syria. These weapons come mainly from Libya, from two sources: Qadhaffi’s military storehouses and surplus European and American weapons that Qatar sent to the anti-Qadhaffi rebels in 2011. On the other hand, Alawites who live in Lebanon – chiefly in the  Jabal Mohsen quarter of Tripoli – cross the border between Lebanon and Syria illegally in order to support Assad.

The conclusions that can be drawn from all of the above is that the borders of the Arab states in the Fertile Crescent – Iraq, Syria and Lebanon – are increasingly losing their effectiveness, and that this phenomenon has been increasing in the past two years, since some of the Arab regimes have been under attack, but this time from within. When the borders of a state are breached, its existence as a state is undermined, and the more violated its borders become, the more its existence and its meaning are threatened.

The architecture of the fertile crescent that was bequeathed by colonialism is changing before our eyes: Iraq is breaking up, Syria is crumbling and Lebanon for some time has lost the pluralistic character that its constitution was supposed to ensure.

On the ruins of these countries new bodies arise with many and varied agendas. Some have an Islamist slant, and see the modern states as illegitimate creations that were born in the basements of colonialism, and therefore must be totally done away with. Some have a local slant – ethnic or tribal – and they are interested in establishing new frameworks based on the demographic data that colonialism tended to ignore completely.

In recent months, the battles in Iraq, Syria and Lebanon have taken on an old-new hue that these states – as long as they were effective states – had relegated or marginalized, which is the religious hue, and the historical conflict between the Sunni and the Shi’a floats on the surface and becomes the name of the game, or – preferably – the name of the conflict. In Iraq, the Shi’ite government bombs the Sunni citizens using fighter jets. In Syria, the regime of Alawites, a sect that broke off from the Shi’ites and are supported by Shi’ites, bombs its Sunni citizens with jets and even uses chemical weapons against them. In Lebanon the Shi’ite group threatens to take over the whole state, and because of this threat, the state conducts itself in such a way that no one is willing to gamble on its democratic future.

The struggles along the fertile crescent have become dirty, filthy and bloody, while all of the traditional limitations increasingly collapse and man becomes an unbridled predator. The forces of the governments are not righteous, and the forces of the rebels are not pious. Both of them murder, maim, rape and cruelly violate the rights of many victims, most of whom are not involved in active fighting.

In comparison: Israel’s borders serve as an almost absolute seal against foreign invaders, with various and sundry intentions. The border with Egypt has been closed off and the number of infiltrators has become negligible. The border with Jordan is well protected by right of the joint interest of the two states. The border with Syria in the Golan Heights survives, despite the chaos in Syria, the border with Lebanon holds firm by right of Israel’s deterrence versus Hizballah, and if it weren’t for the drug smugglers, this border would be hermetically sealed. The coastal border also is protected effectively by the Israeli Navy, and only the border with the Gaza Strip serves as a point of tension because of the jihadists that have taken over the Strip.

In comparison with her neighbors, the State of Israel is an island of stability and normal life, and the borders of the state testify to this clearly and accurately. The situation in our days gives an interesting meaning to the passage from the poem in the weekly Torah portion “ha’azinu” (“listen”): “When the Most High divided to the nations their inheritance, when He separated the sons of Adam, He set the bounds of the people according to the number of the children of Israel.” (Deuteronomy 32:8).

Originally published at Israel and Terrorism. Translated from Hebrew by Sally Zahav.

Faces of Israel: Mazal Elijah, Immigrant from Iraq

Thursday, May 2nd, 2013

Mazal Elijah and her family had a very difficult life. As members of the Baghdad Jewish community, Mazal’s mother endured much suffering during what is known as the “Farhud Pogrom” or just “Farhud” in Baghdad, June 1941. Within 24 hours of the start of the pogrom, 250 people died. Mazal claimed that some Arabs were decent and tried to save Jews from the Farhud, yet other Arabs behaved horribly and sought to do the same to the Jews of Iraq as Hitler did to the Jews in Europe, yet they were fortunately stopped by the British. Thus, upon getting married around that period of time, her husband was drafted into the army, thus forcing her to move in with her parents so that she wouldn’t get killed. Eventually, he managed to escape from the army, yet for a while things were very uncertain.

After the Farhud, there was a period of calm, yet right before Israel became a state, things became unbearable for the Jewish community in Iraq. “It was impossible for children to play outside for there was a fear that the children would be kidnapped,” Mazal conveyed. “The Arabs hit Jews and there was no police to report it to for the police were corrupted. You could not report abuse to the police.” In Iraq, there were no social rights for Jews. According to Mazal, “All of the Arabs were against the Jews. Jews became like trash.”

Mazal

Yet as if all of this were not bad enough, Mazal asserted that whenever there were weddings or bar mitzvahs in Iraq, one had to bribe the Iraqi Police in order to ensure the event went ahead peacefully. Otherwise, Arabs would show up and start abusing Jews at the event. Mazal asserted that during this period of time, right around Israel’s independence, continuous massacres against Jews occurred in Iraq and during these massacres, Arabs broke into Jews homes, stole whatever they wanted, and then flooded the homes, so that Jews would not be able to live in them anymore. Furthermore, Iraqi Jewish women traditionally would make preserved foods so that certain types of vegetables would be available in the winter months. The Arab thieves would eat up all of the preserves that the Iraqi Jewish women worked very hard to prepare, thus leaving Iraqi Jewish families with nothing.

The situation was especially dire for Iraqi Jewish women. Mazal asserted that rapes occurred all of the time and that if an Arab barged into your home and demanded to marry your daughter, it was impossible to refuse him. Iraqi Jewish women were forced to wear the face veil for their own protection. Pretty Iraqi Jewish girls were hidden by their families, so that Arabs would not demand to marry them. Women could not leave the home without an escort and they weren’t allowed to work, except to sew, knit or do beauty jobs for women. It was not even possible for Iraqi Jewish women to go out for a movie.

Yet as if that were not bad enough, sanitary conditions were horrible, as was the medical care. As a result, Mazal’s mother lost 14 children in Iraq due to these atrocious health conditions. She only managed to bring her four living children to Israel. Yet, even the children who lived didn’t have an easy life. Children’s dolls and games didn’t exist in Iraq during that period of time.

Mazal2

However, despite all of these atrocious living conditions, Mazal’s family hesitated to leave because they had many belongings that they didn’t want to part with. For this reason, they didn’t cross the border with Iran and from there go to Israel illegally, like other Iraqi Jewish families did. In the end, they left only when they were expelled from the country. Mazal and her family arrived in Israel without any clothes or food. The Israeli authorities provided them with food, yet her family struggled to eat it because the food given to them seemed too foreign and strange. For example, European-style tea was not dark enough for Iraqi Jews and thus originally they thought it was urine, implying undrinkable. Hot dogs seemed bizarre and not kosher as well.

Yet food was not the only problem. For their first three years in Israel, Mazal and her family lived in a tent instead of a house. This meant that for three years Mazal and her family were exposed to atrocious weather conditions. Sometimes the wind would blow the tent over. When her family was finally given a better place to live, it was a hut without a solid foundation. There were also no paved roads around where she grew up. Another child would be born in that hut under those conditions.

Common Sense on the Syria Mess

Monday, April 29th, 2013

Originally published at Rubin Reports.

“I know what the world thinks of us, we are Communists, and of course I have said very clearly that we are not Communists; very clearly.” –Fidel Castro, 1959

U.S. policy toward Syria has changed but it is too late. A senior State Department official said at the meeting just concluded of opposition groups: “We have to help the moderates, people like [Chief of Staff of the Free Syrian Army] Salim Idris….”

This is what I proposed two years ago but I have to admit that I almost never saw anyone else who suggested that the strategy should be to help the non-Islamists with money, weapons and diplomatic support.

Unlike Castro, the Islamists in Syria never lied about their goals and ideologies. Now the Islamists are far more powerful and well-armed than anyone else, courtesy of U.S. policy. Oh and there’s one more problem. Many or most of the Free Syrian Army’s troops, that is the supposed non- or anti-Islamist alternative, are also Muslim Brotherhood supporters.

So what’s there to do with revolutionary Islamists controlling Syria and sooner or later, though it might take a couple of years, taking over the whole country or at least gaining recognition as the legitimate government of Syria while the regime holds out in the northwest of the country?

That’s okay, says the main line of U.S. policy. We don’t care if they are America-hating fanatics who want to impose Sharia, suppress or even massacre Christians, and commit genocide against Jews. Just as long as they aren’t affiliated with al Qaeda.

Beyond this, there’s mostly wishful thinking. Compare these statements by a Turkish diplomat and a Saudi newspaper:

“Once Assad is gone, al Qaeda won’t stay long in Syria.”

“We know that there are radical forces like [al Qaeda] but do not overestimate them.”

But it seems impossible to get the mainstream debate to recognize the fact that the problem is not merely al Qaeda but other radical Salafists and another Muslim Brotherhood government.

What kind of situation would another Egypt bring about in the Middle East?

What will happen within Syria which historically is a far more radical entity (for historical, political culture, and geopolitical reasons) than Egypt? What will be the fate of all those modern-oriented women, liberals, Alawites, Christians, Druze, and Kurds?

Going beyond the largely worthless current debate on Syria let’s look ahead into the seemingly inevitable future. We can reasonably assume that the Assad regime might last another year or two but it will either retreat to the Alawite areas by then or have fallen totally. There is by the way another possibility. Rebels make advances in Damascus, then use the opportunity to announce the establishment of a provisional government there. The United States and other countries then recognize it–despite Assad’s continuing hold on much of the country–as the legitimate government of Syria.

Whatever happens, there will be a Muslim Brotherhood regime in Syria and Obama will support it. The Salafis will not rule but they will kill people, intimidate non- or anti-Islamist forces, and probably be the main force in various local areas of the country.

Many conservatives and Republicans favor more intervention which means in practice working even harder to install an Islamist regime in Syria. That’s a terrible idea. With few exceptions they never seem to grasp the point about supporting the non-Islamist forces and not just the Syrian rebels in general as if they were glorious freedom fighters.

A few other people favor supporting the Assad dictatorship to keep the Islamists out of power. (Note: These were suggested prior to reports about the regime’s use of chemical weapons). This is another terrible idea. Aside for morality and the impossibility of saving Assad, no Western country is going to adopt such a policy. Whatever its past, the Assad regime had in effect become an Islamist regime, a Shia Islamist regime, and its fall will weaken Iran and Hizballah.

The problem, of course, is that its fall will also strengthen the Sunni Islamists. According to estimates by my colleague, Dr. Jonathan Spyer:

Jabhat al-Nusra, the Syrian branch of al Qaeda, has about 6,000 fighters. The Syrian Islamic Front (dominated by Ahrar al-Sham) has about 13,000 fighters. And, the Syrian Islamic Liberation Front, which seems close to the Muslim Brotherhood, (including the Farouq Brigade of Homs; Suqour al-Sham of Idleb, and Tawhid Brigade of Aleppo) has about 40,000 fighters.

The True Conflict of the Middle East

Tuesday, April 23rd, 2013

Originally published at Rubin Reports.

The Arab-Israeli conflict has been largely replaced by the Sunni Muslim-Shia Muslim conflict as the Middle East’s featured battle. While the Arab-Israeli conflict will remain largely, though not always, one of words, the Sunni-Shia battle involves multiple fronts and serious bloodshed.

Shia Muslims are a majority in Iran and Bahrain; the largest single group in Lebanon; and significant minorities in Saudi Arabia and Iraq. While the ruling Alawite minority in Syria is not Shia, it has identified with that bloc.

The main conflict in this confrontation is in Syria, where a Sunni rebellion is likely to triumph and produce a strongly anti-Shia regime. A great deal of blood has been shed in Iraq, though there the Shia have triumphed politically.

The tension is already spreading to Lebanon, ruled largely by Shia Hizballah. In Bahrain, where a small Sunni minority rules a restive Shia majority, the government has just outlawed Hizballah as a terrorist, subversive group, even while European states have refused to do so.

By Islamizing politics to a greater degree, the victories of the (Sunni) Muslim Brotherhood group have deepened the Sunni-Shia battle. And, of course, on the other side, Iran, as leader of the Shia bloc, has been doing so, too, though its ambition was to be the leader of all Middle East Muslims.

Yet also, especially when it comes to Iran, the Sunni Muslim bloc is also very much an Arab one as well. Many Sunnis, especially the more militantly Islamist ones, look at Shias—and especially at Iranian Persians—as inferior people as well as heretical in terms of Islam. I don’t want to overstate that point but it is a very real factor.

This picture is clarified by a recent report by the Cordoba Foundation, a research center based in the U.K. and close to the Muslim Brotherhood. The name, after the Spanish city where Islamic religion and culture flourished before the Christian reconquest in the fifteenth century, may seem chosen to denote multiculturalism and peaceful coexistence. But, of course, it was picked to suggest the Islamic empire at its peak and the continued claim to every country it once ruled, including Spain.

The report is entitled Arab and Muslim National Security: Debating the Iranian Dimension and summarizes discussions among “a group of prominent and influential Islamic figures,” though no names of participants are included. The focus was to define and warn about the Shia and Iranian threat to the Sunnis and Arabs.

In the report, Iran is identified as the aggressor against the Sunni Muslim (Arab) world, pushing “its political influence through religious sectarianism.” Implicitly the discussion rejects the idea that either “the Palestinian issue” or unity as Muslims overrides the Iranian national security threat.

One concern is that of demography. “Such demographic pockets [that is, non-Sunni Muslims and non-Arabs] in some Arab countries pose a threat to society regardless of how small they are.”

Remarkably, the paper states that Iraq’s population changes “have distanced it from the Arab order.” In other words, because there are more Shia Muslims and non-Arab Kurds in Iraq, it is out of phase with other Arab states and might look toward either Tehran or Washington.

Another demographic concern is Iran’s alleged effort to convert non-Muslim Alevis in Turkey (they say they are Muslim but they aren’t really); Syrian Alawites (same story), and Yemeni Shia Muslims (of a different sect) to Iran-style Shia Islam (Twelver Shiism).

Iran has also succeeded, the paper continues, “in securing strategic victories, such as its gains in Iraq and Afghanistan, Bahrain, Yemen, and the eastern parts of Saudi Arabia. Actually, though these are pretty limited gains in each case.

Syria, where the pro-Iran regime is likely to be replaced by a Sunni, Muslim Brotherhood one, is a setback for Iran. And by overthrowing Syria’s regime, the sponsor of Hizballah, that will cut Iran’s sponsorship of Lebanese Shia (Hizballah), “almost thirty years of hard work totally wasted.” That’s overstated but it contains some basic truth.

The paper also states, accurately, “Although Islamic movements in the Arab world may seem on the surface to be homogeneous and inspired by the same intellectual sources, there is lack of coordination and total chaos.” As an example it cites the Sunni Islamist movement in Iraq which faces: “Serious challenges from expanding Turkish economic interests, Iranian cultural and sectarian influence, and Kurdish expansionism.” It then asks whether the Iranian and local Shia or the Iraqi Kurds are the bigger threat.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/analysis/rubin-reports/the-true-conflict-of-the-middle-east/2013/04/23/

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