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So They Won’t Have to Serve

Tuesday, December 25th, 2012

Last night, at the very end of my day – already close to midnight, I headed home, stopping by my daughter’s house to pick up the car seat for the baby. There in the quiet of the middle of the night, knowing I’d have to be up in six hours, I had a short talk with my son-in-law. He is a very special person in so many ways, more than I could ever explain without my eyes filling with tears. I’m so blessed to have him – well yes, my daughter has him, but he has her and together, they have each other. For a mother to see that…is beyond words. After two years, he finishes the army this week, returns his uniform and will be free to do what he wants, when he wants. It hasn’t sunk in yet, he told me.

I told him that it was good he had served and how it is good for a son to have a father who has gone through the army. Elie didn’t have that – what he brought to us, the stories, the process, the problems – were all new. My husband listened but couldn’t offer his own opinions, advice, army stories of his own. Each thing that happened to Elie was a discovery for us, an unknown, a path never traveled by any of us. It was easier for Shmulik and Chaim because they had Elie to guide them, advise them. Where a parent might call a commanding officer, Elie has taken that role if it was needed; Elie answers the questions, explains.

So when my grandson gets to that age, I said, if he serves in the army, Haim will be able to guide him, to share from the side of knowing. Haim is happy he served, enriched in many ways by the experience. There is a lot that is good about the army, he told me, but he looked down and around when I mentioned his son serving. It is years and years away – his son, my amazingly special grandson, is just a baby.

When you get to be my age, you understand how fast time goes – when your first is just a young toddler, it seems the future is ages away. And then Haim told me something I had forgotten, something friends of mine had told me when their son went into the army.

“It wasn’t supposed to be like this,” my friend said. “We served so that he wouldn’t have to.”

My son-in-law wants to believe in a future in which there will be peace and no reason for his toddler to ever grow into a soldier. He served so that his son wouldn’t have to. I’d forgotten that. My son-in-law needs to believe that there will be no need for soldiers in another 18 or so years. Deep down, I want to believe that too, but there is this massive wall inside me that doesn’t believe.

Visit A Soldier’s Mother.

The Breakneck Speed of Islamist Transformation in Egypt

Wednesday, December 12th, 2012

Originally published at Rubin Reports.

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

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

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

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

–The army would not defend it.

–The army then overthrew it.

–The Muslim Brotherhood-led opposition would not compromise.

–The West would not support the regime.

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

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

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

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

–The army chooses its own leaders.

–The security services set their own budgets.

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

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

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

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

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

Originally published at Rubin Reports.

Former Senior US Official: ‘Killing Palestinians Popular in Israel around Elections Time’ (Video)

Monday, December 10th, 2012

Chas Freeman, former US ambassador to Saudi Arabia under President George H. W. Bush, former assistant to former Secretary of Defense William Perry, a member of the State Department for the last thirty years and a renowned critic of Israel, told Russia Today TV in an interview that Israel’s recent Operation Pillar of Defense was a preemptive attack against civilians, which was baseless and uncalled for.

“The fact that one side commits occasional acts of terrorism does not justify state terrorism,” Freeman said about Israel’s strikes against Hamas in Gaza.

“In this case, there was not rocket fire of any consequence from the Gaza Strip prior to Israel’s inauguration of the military raid that killed the military leader of Hamas… You can’t bomb people into peaceful coexistence.”

Freeman suggested the timing of the operation was not a coincidence: “It’s popular in Israel to kill many Palestinians in Gaza…a war against Hamas wins votes.”

According to Freeman, the rabbis and settlers are to blame for Israel’s belligerent military actions. Explaining the significance of the name Pillar of Cloud by its biblical meaning, Freeman expounded: “The religious element in the Israeli armed forces, largely settler driven … religion is very much bounded up with its operations. The language of some of the rabbis during [operation] Cast Lead was simply hair-raising in terms of evoking Old Testament images of genocide against non-Jews…evoking memories of Old Testament violence raises questions… This is a typical example of what the Israelis call Hasbara, which is the control of the narrative and propaganda (it actually means simply PR – JP), and they do it very well.”

It should be noted that the names of IDF operations are generated by computer, chosen from a bank of random words, and not picked by rabbis for their religious implications. Freeman would have to explain the biblical significance of Operation Summer Rains (28 June – 26 November 2006), Operation Autumn Clouds (31 October–7 November 2006), Operation Orchard (6 September 2007), and Operation Sea Breeze (31 May 2010).

Freeman had much to say about the pro-Israel lobby in the U.S. He claimed that Israel can influence staffing in the American security establishment, as a means of extending its own defense. He denied there was a similar Arab lobby, suggesting it’s a fiction of the Israel lobby’s imagination.

“The Arabs have plenty of money, but they also have no understanding of importance of institutions,” Freeman said, adding: “They don’t have a habit of sustained effort on anything…probably many of them consider it improper to buy votes, and I happen to agree with them. They are behind the times, unfortunately, every one else is doing it.”

We consulted Wikipedia on Freeman’s previous remarks regarding the Jewish state:

In a 2005 speech to a conference of the The National Council on U.S.-Arab Relations Freeman stated, “As long as the United States continues unconditionally to provide the subsidies and political protection that make the Israeli occupation and the high-handed and self-defeating policies it engenders possible, there is little, if any, reason to hope that anything resembling the former peace process can be resurrected. Israeli occupation and settlement of Arab lands is inherently violent.”

In a 2006 speech to the annual U.S.-Arab Policymakers Conference, Freeman said that Americans allowing Israel to “call the shots in the Middle East” had “revealed how frightened Israelis now are of their Arab neighbors” and that the results of the “experiment” were that “left to its own devices, the Israeli establishment will make decisions that harm Israelis, threaten all associated with them, and enrage those who are not.”

In a 2007 speech to the Pacific Council on International Policy Freeman said that “Al Qaeda has played us with the finesse of a matador exhausting a great bull by guiding it into unproductive lunges.” He cited the 2003 invasion of Iraq which “transformed an intervention in Afghanistan most Muslims had supported into what looks to them like a wider war against Islam.” He held that the U.S. had “embraced Israel’s enemies as our own” and that Arabs had “responded by equating Americans with Israelis as their enemies.” He chared that the U.S. now backed Israel’s “efforts to pacify its captive and increasingly ghettoized Arab populations” and to “seize ever more Arab land for its colonists.”

US Senate Approves Massive Defense Budget

Wednesday, December 5th, 2012

The US Senate approved a massive $631 billion defense bill authorizing new funds for weapons, air and sea craft, and pay raises for military officials.

Of the money approved – in a sweeping vote of 98-0 – $526 will go to current defense programs, $17 billion to Energy Department defense projects, and $88 billion to the ongoing US war in Afghanistan.

The Senate also overwhelmingly voted for an investigation into the possibility of instituting a no-fly zone over civil war-torn Syria. The Obama administration has warned Syria not to use chemical or biological weapons against its citizens. The bill faces a possible veto by the president.

Last year, Obama and congressional Republicans agreed to a half a trillion dollars in defense cuts over the next decade. The bill also added new stringencies to sanctions against Iran, targeting the Islamic republic’s energy and shipping sectors. Though some sanctions are already in place, Iran has continued to work on developing its nuclear program.

Egypt in Dire Straits

Monday, December 3rd, 2012

Ever since Mubarak was forced to resign in February 2011, a sense of a new dawn has swept over Egypt. Grand words and phrases such as “democracy,” “civil rights,” “freedom” and “state of institutions” have become the focus of political discourse, because of the sense that all of those fine characteristics of democracy have finally come to Egypt. As citizens of a state that has been treading on the path of independence and sovereignty for more than two hundred years, the Egyptians have been waiting for their turn to board the democracy train and enjoy its advantages, which many other peoples have been doing, among them peoples who have overthrown dictators and won their freedom only a few years ago, like the peoples of Eastern Europe.

For the first time in the history of modern Egypt, true, not rigged, elections were held for parliament and the presidency, and for the first time the people of Egypt saw how their sweet dream to be a state of its citizens is coming true, a state of constitution and law, of law and order, not the state of a dictator and his sons where every decision is an expression of the personal interest of someone who no one knows when – if at all – his autocratic rule will come to an end. The immediate expression of these hopes was supposed to be an upgrade to the Egyptian economy and an increase of per capita income. In a country where tens of millions live in unplanned neighborhoods, without running water, sewage, electricity or telephone, economic welfare is a matter of existential importance, and without it, life is too much like death.

But the greater the hope, the greater the disappointment. Almost two years have passed since the beginning of the “Spring” and Egypt only continues to slide down the slippery, dangerous slope into the swamp of political, civil, constitutional, and administrative problems, with almost no control of how things develop as they bring Egypt closer to the brink. The paralysis that has taken hold of the government is an obstacle to any progress in the wording of the new constitution, which was supposed to give the country a set of consensual and binding rules of the political game, and the rage over the lack of these rules drives many Egyptians out of their minds.

The elected president, Muhammad Morsi, a representative of the long-standing and well-known Muslim Brotherhood movement, at first enjoyed much credit from the public at large, but is now perceived in these troubled times  as the new dictator, after issuing a few “constitutional declarations” which grant him broad powers over other governmental agencies, particularly the legal system.

Morsi dismissed the attorney general, despite the claim that he had no authority to do so. According to Morsi’s “declarations,” his decisions are not subject to legal review, not even by the high court. Many Egyptians – even those who believed in him, supported him and voted for him – now feel that two years ago they managed to overthrow a military dictator and in his place they got a religious dictator.

In the summer, when Morsi dismissed Field Marshall Tantawi and other military commanders, his prestige increased in the eyes of most of the citizens of the country because this step was interpreted as the end of the rule of officers and the beginning of civilian rule.  Even the cruelty of the military in breaking up the demonstrations against him added to Morsi’s popularity, since he was seen as an opposing force to the military. However, he quickly lost a significant portion of the public credit because he failed to reconvene the parliament after it had been dispersed by the high court and because he did not convene the committee for drafting the constitution.

Morsi’s public struggle with the legal guild arouses the anger of opponents and supporters alike: his opponents rage over his attempts to control the legal system, which is supposed to be free, professional and without political bias, and his supporters are angry because he has not controlled this elite, professional class, which is not elected, but imposes its agenda on the state.

With the military, Morsi succeeded in avoiding conflict, but this is because he does not dare touch the economic monopolies from which the military makes a very good livelihood. The reason that Morsi did not take over the assets of the military is because he needs loans from the deep pockets that the military controls without oversight of the office of treasury or the tax authority.

Military Courts Chief to Consider Imposing Israeli Law in Judea and Samaria

Thursday, November 29th, 2012

President of the military court in the West Bank Colonel Aharon Mishnayot says he will promote an initiative to apply Israeli Penal Law in Judea and Samaria, where military security laws and Jordanian criminal law have been in effect since 1967, Haaretz reports this morning.

Since the Israeli occupation of Judea and Samaria is still considered temporary, the Jordanian penal code is still the law of the land, together with some 1700 military orders that have been added over the years. Nevertheless, court procedure and the rules of evidence are followed as they are in Israel, based on a military order to that effect.

Security laws are by far more stringent in Judea and Samaria than they are in Israel, in order to cope with terrorism-based felonies. For instance, murder is punishable by death in Judea and Samaria (the law was never implemented), compared to life in prison in Israel. Attempted murder gets life imprisonment compared to 20 years in Israel. On the other hand, Jordanian law does not punish a man who rapes his wife. The two codes also differ on the rights of detainees and on detaining and interrogating minors.

Pointing out that Colonel Mishnayot is a resident of Efrat, in Judea, Haaretz reports that recently, as chief of the military courts across the green line, he has been promoting the idea of legal reform that would apply the full Israeli Penal Law in the territories under his jurisdiction.

Mishnayot is careful to emphasize that his aim is not to introduce a de facto annexation of Judea and Samaria, but to put an end to instances of injustice stemming from the differences between the codes which often contradict each. He proposes to use a military decree to impose Israeli law in the “territories,” a factor which would be a barrier before an unwanted slippery slope toward annexation.

Haaretz notes that Israeli law already applies in Jewish towns in Judea and Samaria, and new laws enacted in Israeli are automatically applicable in those areas. Israelis who commit felonies in J&S are tried in Israeli courts according to Israeli law.

Real estate law, on the other hand, is a true legal nightmare currently, being comprised of a seemingly random hodgepodge of Turkish, British, Jordanian, military and Israeli laws, a fact which on occasion is being used by forces hostile to Jewish settlement in the area to annul legal transaction and uproot legal residents.

The IDF spokesman’s office pointed out that the decision on Mishnayot’s proposal will be made in time by those in charge of legal issues in the area.

Nobel Laureates, Notables Say Military Tie with Israel “Unconscionable”, Call for Boycott

Thursday, November 29th, 2012

A group of Nobel peace prize-winners, artists and activists are calling for a military boycott of Israel following the recent attempt by the Jewish state to protect its citizens in the south from rocket barrages from Gaza.

In a letter signed by 52 prominent figures, including Nobel Prize winners Nelson Mandela, Mairead Maguire and Adolfo Perez, Pink Floyd performer Roger Waters, movie directors Mike Leigh and Ken Loach and others, the group called the US, EU, and other countries “complicit” in the death of Palestinians in Gaza due to their purchase and sale of weapons to Israel.

An article by England’s Guardian newspaper quotes the letter as saying:

“Horrified at the latest round of Israeli aggression against the 1.5 million Palestinians in the besieged and occupied Gaza Strip and conscious of the impunity that has enabled this new chapter in Israel’s decades-old violations of international law and Palestinian rights, we believe there is an urgent need for international action towards a mandatory, comprehensive military embargo against Israel,” the letter says.

“While the United States has been the largest sponsor of Israel, supplying billions of dollars of advanced military hardware every year, the role of the European Union must not go unnoticed, in particular its hefty subsidies to Israel’s military complex through its research programmes.”

The letter calls Brazilian, Indian, and South Korean military ties “unconscionable given their nominal support for Palestinian freedom”.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/news/nobel-laureates-notables-say-military-tie-with-israel-unconscionable-call-for-boycott/2012/11/29/

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