Tag Archives: Israel

Jews, Zionism, Israel


With all the current economic and political problems, it is something of a curiosity that the Europeans – including the British – are again tussling over the Jews and their relationship to the larger society. It’s no secret that Europe’s old-fashioned anti-Semitism – hatred of the Jews – has found a new ally in the new radical political left. That explains, to some extent, why the British Labor Party, so long a bastion for U.K. Jewish voters, has just expelled two prominent members for their alleged anti-Jewish statements.
No one has ever given a completely adequate explanation of Western anti-Semitism. True enough, in a time of more radical fundamentalist Christian beliefs in the Catholic Church, particularly; there was the accusation that “the Jews killed the Christ”. Of course, what makes that accusation ridiculous for those who know the history of the Roman conquest of Biblical Palestine and the repeated Hebrew revolts against it, is the acceptance in Christianity of so much of the older religion. That “the Jews” like other social, ethnic or religious groups have their share of ignominy could never be contested but whether it merits the attention it gets is another issue altogether That is, why anti-Jewish prejudice and activity should be such a prominent part of European social history, even now that the great bulk of European Jewry has been annihilated by the Nazis, is again inexplicable..
“The Jewish question” as it used to be called in European politics, merges, of course, into the issues of Zionism. This is the catch-all name for all those various efforts and movements to return the Jews, or at least a significant portion of them, to a state of their own in its former historic hinterland. The subject, unfortunately, covers everything from those – Christian as well as Jew – who have propounded the idea from the late 19th century. Some antagonists saw it as an effort to expel the Jews from European society, others as a fulfillment of Biblical prophecy and/or the culmination of their faith which would bring a second coming of the Christ and usher in a period of heaven on earth. But in part as a result of the Holocaust, Zionism in the post-World War era took on a mantle of dynamic secular statehood which despite all odds and repeated efforts by its Arab Moslem neighbors has created a new independent and relatively successful state of the Jews in the Middle East.
But the existence of a functioning state has — if not aggravated — made the problems of Jew-hatred and its “solution” even more complex. It was inevitable, perhaps, that any state – much less a Jewish one created in the morass of the Middle East – would undertake policies to which some of its critics have taken strong objection. One aspect is that the Arabs of British Mandated Palestine between the two world wars took on their own identity – “the Palestinians” — and a nationalism which had never existed in an Arab or Moslem state in the area. It was also perhaps inevitable that as the Israeli state became stronger and assertive, a less cohesive if modernized Arab population in the same neighborhood would become a sympathetic underdog figure for Western idealists, particularly on the left.
This has, in turn, added to a powerful political debate over Israeli policies, and the difficulty of distinguishing its more virulent critics from the traditional anti-Semites with their Jew hatred. Why, the accusations and counter-accusations over these arguments given so many other issues, should take such a prominent place in current European politics is again something of a mystery. One explanation, of course, is that the growth of anti-Semitism in the contemporary period is as seen by many as a candle in the mineshaft. It is too often associated with those European political circles tempted, now once again, by authoritarianism and chauvinist dictatorship which dominated European politics in the 1930s and helped bring on World War II.
Whatever the failings of the Israeli state, it still constitutes the only country in the area which represents Western democratic values. It is no accident, as the Communists used to say, that Mideast Christians today are only safe from persecution and even annihilation in an Israel which while dedicated to the concept of “a Jewish state” preserves the rights of its significant Arab minority however much they are victims of their own incapacities and discrimination.
As the debate continues, it is important to try to cultivate the particulars. By not doing so, we again risk running into dangerous territory.
sws-04-30.16

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Israel: remaking the Mideast again?


Events are drawing Israel into a major war with neighboring Arab terrorist organizations to result in another total reordering of Mideast relationships.

Comparison of the current scene with the eve of the Six Day War in 1967 is almost unavoidable. Then, too, a reluctant Israel waged a preemptive action because of what it saw as an existential threat from an alliance of Arab neighbors.

As great as the possibility for another complete regional redispositioning is, the outcome of events is even more unpredictable than it was in 1965. Today’s situation is vastly different:

First, Egypt, the largest and traditionally the leading Arab state, will not be the tripwire which brought on Israel’s preemptive strike then. This time Cairo could well be a benevolent neutral if not an ally in any new encounter between Israel and its principle enemy, the radical Arab Islamicists. Cairo’s military junta is waging a ruthless campaign against the jihadists, voted into power but which it dislodged with considerable popular support.

Secondly, the prospect of a Soviet Union intervention is missing – and a clash of the then two superpowers – which hung over the earlier events. Russian Pres. Vladimir Putin’s nuclear arsenal notwithstanding, his ability to influence events in the region with conventional military forces and aid is marginal. In part, that is because his imbroglio in Ukraine having produced early victories is now turning into a Russian disaster.

Thirdly, the ambivalent position of the Obama Administration despite all its public protestations of loyalty to a U.S. ally, is a sharp contrast to Pres. Lyndon Johnson’s profound pro-Israel sympathies at a time when the U.S. Left had not made a bogus Palestinian crusade a central issue.

And, fourthly, there is a new aggressive and potentially nuclear-armed Iran, dedicated to the destruction of Israel, mobilizing long suppressed Shia minorities throughout the region in a Muslim sectarian conflict. Tehran’s mullahs have been able to bridge the historic Arab-Persian divide to bolster Arab Shia and even non-Shia allies.

Instead of the pan-Arab ideology so successfully evangelized by the charismatic Egyptian leader Gamal Abdel Nasser.— however dented by the earlier Egyptian defeat in 1956 – the cement of any anti-Israel alliance today is radical Islam. Rather than the artificial national entities drawn by the World War I victors, Jerusalem today faces on all sides fanatical regional guerrilla organizations evolved into threatening major organized terrorist entities.

In the south, Hamas, a child of the Sunni Muslim Brotherhood so favored by the Obama Administration as a “moderate” political force, has crossed over the sectarian line in the past to accept Iranian aid. Despite what is a tacit combined Israeli and Egyptian embargo, it has accumulated a growing and increasingly sophisticated arsenal. In the north, the Hezbollah with its roots in southern Lebanon, is now bloodied with its significant participation with Iran in salvaging the al Assad regime in Syria. Both these organization now could inflict far more pain on Israel’s civilian population than the artillery, mortar and rocket attacks of ’67.

On the east, the always fragile Jordan, beset with enormous destabilizing refugee flows from both Syria and Iraq and the growing seduction of its own majority Palestinians by the radical Islamicists, now faces the ultra-fanatical Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant on its once secure border with Iraq. ISIL’s claim to restoration of a trans-national caliphate, a Muslim empire headed by a religious figure invoking 7th century codes of justice, may not be sustainable. But its announcement in the half of Iraq it tentatively controls with like-minded allies is a powerful rallying cry for traditional Muslim jihad, holy war against all “non-believers”. That appeal to ruthless and bloody fanaticism, always just below the surface in traditional Islam with its validation in Koranic text, is cutting through yesterday’s regional allegiances.

Washington has not caught up. Obama’s tentative choice to meet the new threat in the area incrementally – dribbling advisers to a crippled Baghdad government – is not likely to stem the tide of success against the jihadists’ bandwagon. There is already evidence that the new ultra-radical Muslims have adherents in both the Israeli-Occupied West Bank and under relatively more moderate Hamas’ nose in Gaza. Washington indecision confirms the belief throughout the umma [the Muslim world]that the U.S. is no longer the major factor in the region’s power struggle. They see an American retreat providing the opportunity for dedicated minorities to determine events.

Thus, Israel faces the same dilemma as in 1967, that is, whether to wait for the always powerful fissiparous tendencies of Arab and Muslim societies to tear themselves apart or to move before a new and aggressive enemy tyranny consolidates. In that earlier conflict, by happenstance as much as design, Israel established itself as the region’s military “superpower”. That, in turn, produced however recalcitrant and imperfect, peace treaties with Egypt and Jordan. Their defection from the anti-Israel front formalized the division of the Arabs despite their profession of unity which had been one of the sources of the Israeli victory.

Today the Arabs are no less divided. And, in fact, the Syrian civil war has not only set Muslim fanatics against a pretended secular if dictatorial regime, but because of Damascus’ Alawite [an offshoot of Shia] leadership and the Iranian Shia mullahs’ support, it has set off a new regional test between the majority Sunni regimes and long oppressed Shia Arab minorities.

Their tactics, claiming as many Muslims as non-Islamic lives – from suicide bombings to kidnappings – strike deep at the vulnerability of Israel’s Western-style civil society And whether targets are a relatively new light rail system in Jerusalem or vacationers on a foreign beach, Israel’s growing prosperity and sophistication as a leading world industrial society make it all that more susceptible.

Ironically, Israeli leadership today – while as contentious and disputatious as ever – is probably freed from two of the principal concerns on the eve of the Six Day War in deciding strategy. Regard for the UN – even then under the hapless leadership of Sec. Gen. U Thant – is less a consideration. UN peacekeeping in the region, as elsewhere, has come and gone with little if any effect. One suspects, too, that despite frequent public obeisance to the Obama Administration for the U.S.’ invaluable source of military hardware, no one in Jerusalem is blind to its pro-Muslim sympathies and its incompetence.

Obama’s insistence on prioritizing Jewish settlements in the traditional sites of the ancient Hebrew kingdoms, the basis of Israel’s legitimacy, was a guarantee of failure of Israel-Arab negotiations. [No one seems to ask if there is to be a two-state solution with a 1.8 million Israeli Arab minority, are Jews to be excluded from the proposed Palestinian state?] In continuing to insist on direct negotiations between Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abas who has had to concede the growing power of the Islamicists by a coalition government with Hamas, Obama and Sec. of State John Kerry appear totally at sea in the Arab desert.

Yet Jerusalem has other deepening concerns. The kidnapping and murder of three Israeli teenagers and a subsequent kidnapping and brutal murder of an Arab teenager – perhaps by Israeli vigilantes in retribution – are dramatizing a deterioration of the domestic scene. The civil strife in predominantly Arab northern Israel is further evidence. The fact that Hamas cannot or will not control escalating missile strikes against southern Israel and the new ISSL threat to Jordan are forcing the Israelis into consideration of more dramatic action to preserve their stature. While future action might become a full-fledged invasion, or even reoccupation. of Gaza, it is likely as in 1965, to coincide with developments on the other “fronts”.

Assuming the Israeli military superiority, including the tacit endorsement of Cairo and the Gulf states to action against the jihadists, a new perspective would unroll in the Mideast. But given the incredible complex of cross currents [as in 1967] the outcome is totally unpredictable.

sws-07-06-14

 

Israel-Palestine — enough already!


By Sol Sanders

It must have been a shock to its “allright-nick” listeners. But even government-subsidized National Public Radio [NPR] had a commentator last week declaring that the so-called Israel-Palestine “Peace Process” isn’t going anywhere. And, more importantly, he noted, the rest of the Middle East at the moment doesn’t care all that much about the issue. That’s quite an admission for the increasing anti-Israel lobby which now counts The New York Times and NPR among its brightest stars.

Nor was Pres. Barack Obama likely to have heard much about the Israel-Palestine schmoozle in his peripatetic travels including trying to put a band aid on worsening Washington-Riyadh relations. True, the Arab League – which has more differences among its members than the United Nations Security Council –recently did come out against “a Jewish state”. But the Arab League has become less and less a spokesman for the Arabs. Its anti-Israel screeds are all that’s left of what broke away from British tutelage with Gama Nasser’s overthrow the British protected Egyptian monarchy in the early 50s.

Indeed, the list of issues is long facing the Arab world, and Muslim majority nations in general, and the Western powers ostensibly led by the U.S. in the Middle East. It is fraught with so many other threats that the problem of Israel’s relations with the Arabs pales in comparison. Nor does anyone believe the myth held among Pres. Obama’s Arabist coterie that “solution” of the Israel-Palestine problem would be an open sesame to solving all the Middle East myriad difficulties.

Foremost now, for the Sunni Arab regimes – and even those nominally secular such as Egypt’s new military rule – is the specter of the growing regional power of the mullahs in Tehran. That’s exemplified for the Saudis by the growing evidence that the bloody Syrian Dictator Basher Assad relies on Iran for life support. The Saudis publicly keep reminding Obama and the Europeans they had promised to eliminate him. Instead, there is even the prospect that Assad may negotiate his way into some sort of permanence through, ironically, Washington-sponsored peace talks.

The Saudis, who continue to call for an American commitment in Syria – which Pres. Barack Obama originally promised and then welshed on — see it as an extension of Tehran’s increasingly successful reach for regional hegemony. That’s not only by its support of Assad [along with Moscow] with both boots on the ground and armaments, but its encouragement of the Lebanese Shia Hezbollah. Hezbollah, the terrorist organization which before 9/11 had taken most American lives, has now become the dominant force in always sectarian strife-torn Lebanon. Furthermore, its troops blooded in the Syrian civil war are armed by Iran with increasingly state of the art missiles for any new engagement with Israel. Hanging over all this is the threat of the Tehran mullahs acquiring nuclear weapons and delivery systems which U.S. allies in the region increasingly see Washington’s efforts to halt faint-hearted.

Yet Obama puts an Israel-Arab settlement at the top of his public agenda most of the time, and Kerry frenetically hops from one side to another with professions of “progress”. They both ignore the reality, clear to all to see but Washington and Obama’s advisors – including CIA Director John O. Brennan, who continues to view the notorious Moslem Brotherhood as the Islamic equivalent of European Christian Democrats.

As this is written, there appears to be a considerable chance “the peace process” will break down completely. That could be the best thing all around, at least for the time being. In fact, there is in reality no negotiating process because there is no Arab partner and no policy but stonewalling from the Palestinian self-appointed leadership. No Israeli government facing these conditions can do more than stall, too. So anti-Israel forces in Europe and America use the failure as a weapon to beat the Israelis.

As this is written, a further “dispute” has paralyzed continuing talks: Israel refuses to release unilaterally another 30 Palestinian prisoners – some terrorist killers – unless the Palestinians agree to further “talks” before they are released. And the Palestinians say no talks resumption until the prisoners are released. This is just one more piece of the inanity of the whole “process”.

In the first place, Washington’s efforts are with an Arab leadership –only installed on the so-called West Bank. No one is prepared to negotiate, were it possible, with Hamas in Gaza. There terrorists, officially labeled by both the U.S. and the Europeans. publicly boast of their refusal to recognize Israel or give up claims to the whole of the old British League of Nations Palestinian Mandate.

No Palestinian leader – speaking in Arabic rather than English or French – has given a clear-cut statement of acceptance of the existence or the right to exist of an Israeli state. More recently, that has been reinforced with Washington’s chief Arab interlocutor, Mahmoud Abas now rejecting the concept of “a Jewish state”.

Obama and Kerry have reinforced the Palestinian objections to Jewish “settlements” on the West Bank, although, obviously, any agreement would have to include some 1.7 million Arabs living within Israel’s 1967 armistice lines. A two-state solution would have to include large minorities of each group or call for an enormous population swap – which Israeli Arabs have already forcefully rejected.

Demilitarization of any future Palestinian state would have to be a basic issue for the Israelis given the pattern in Gaza, where a withdrawal [including the Israeli destruction of Jewish “settlements”] has resulted in a base for constant missile harassment. Yet Abbas has already rejected the Israeli insistence that its security [concurred on by Jordan] requires it hold on to bases in the JordanValley, its first line of defense on the east.

Abandonment of the traditional Hebrew centers in Judea and Samaria [the time-honored names for the West Bank] would further the outrageous radical Muslim campaign to deny Jewish/Hebrew history despite their own religious texts reliance on it. In fact, it was there for the most part where the ancient Hebrew kingdoms which the Zionists seek to restore in their modern state were located – not in the plains around Tel Aviv, now its largest center of Jewish population. Abandoning them would further the whole campaign to delegitimate Israel.

Increasingly, so-called “pro-Palestinian” sentiment in the West has either merged with traditional anti-Semitism or the remnants of the Communist and their fellow travelers.. Whatever excesses exist – in an embittered Israeli Occupation of predominantly Arab areas — have followed six unsuccessful attempts of the Arab coalitions to wipe out the Jewish state.

Hamas and its rival Islamic Jihad in Gaza are gaining strength for Muslim jihadists in the West Bank [as witness recent rioting in Jenin, a flashp[oint going back to 1936 Arab attacks on British Mandate authorities and the then small Jewish community.]. There is every reason to believe that were elections held, Abbas and his “moderate” following in the non-Gaza areas would be decimated by Hamas [which may partially explain his tortured extension of his current office]

The United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees [UNRRA], the only organization created for a single refugee group, has well over a billion dollar basic annual funding. It perpetuates the refugee problem by including all descendants of those who either voluntarily left or were pushed beyond the 1948 armistice lines, its schools are a hot bed of racist propaganda against Jews and its summer camps sponsor training for terrorists according to its former counsel. The Palestinians’ negotiating demand for a return of all Arab “refugees” to Israel is not only unrealistic but is just one more stumbling block to real negotiations.

And the list goes on and on.

So what are Obama and Kerry talking about when they sponsor a continued “peace process”?

It appears more than anything else an extension of Obama’s highly trumpeted outreach to the Muslim world announced early in his first Administration [with the rather shaky historical review of his Istanbul and Cairo speeches]. Since then, we have seen The Arab Spring turn to The Arab Winter, a brutal massacre of his own people by Assad in Syria with an answering radicalization of the opposition, the fall of an Egyptian autocrat to the Muslim Brotherhood’s “one man, one vote – one election” to the reinstitution of a military authoritarian Cairo regime which Obama has spurned and therefore with whom Washington has little influence, and a frightened and disaffected group of Persian Gulf American allies.

There are times when “just stand there” is the proper advice.

Minus the encouragement – and financing of some of the most corrupt politicians in the world – by the U.S. and the Europeans of the so-called Palestinian cause, the current Israel-Palestinian stalemate continues intractable. Statesmanship dictates that it be put on the back burner, at least for a while, and a turn to other far higher priority problems from the Black Sea to the Baltic as well as the continuing threat of the Iranian bomb and East Asia where the results of the ballyhooed “pivot” are still awaited.

 

sws-03-30-14

 

The end of a geopolitical model


Whether Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan survives the current crisis, the legend of “The Turkish model” is dead. The implications of the loss of Turkey’s image abroad, particularly in the Islamic world, may be far more important than the explosion of corruption scandals which always cynical Turkish voters may take in their stride.

But the possibility that Turkey could be the template for a predominantly Muslim, democratic, prosperous, stable society has failed after more than a half century when it was a highly vaunted prototype. The longer-term implications of that failure reach far beyond what happens to 70 million Turks and the 10 Turkish million immigrants to Europe. It goes to the heart of what Samuel P. Huntington called the clash of civilizations, and the long sought modernization of Afro-Asian societies where 1.3 billion Muslims live.

Erdogan, without daring to acknowledge it publicly, turned his back on the top-down secularization of Mustafa Kemal, the general-politician-philosopher who founded the modern Turkish state after the collapse of the Ottoman Empire in World War I. Over the past decade, Erdogan nibbled at Atatűrkism’s basic building blocs – political authoritarianism, state capitalism and anticlerical tenets. He even edged into recognizing the multiculturalism of the Anatolian peninsular instead of Atatűrk’s Ne mutlu Turküm diyene! [How happy is he/she who calls himself/herself a Turk!]. That included not only the ancient, cosmopolitan megametropolis Istanbul [Constantinople] [14 million] at the crossroads of Europe and Asia where Erdogan’ S political career began as mayor. He also hesitantly recognized the identity of Turkey’s 15 million Kurds who have waged guerrilla war and terrorism for autonomy or independence for more than three decades. But simultaneously he moved toward more and more conservative Muslim concepts, appealing to rural Anatolia which had given him his big parliamentary majorities. That process is seen as a threat by the Alevi sect, another disproportionately wealthier 20 percent of the population, whose Sufism is considered apostate by many in the orthodox Sunni majority.

Erdogan’ policies – particularly his continued economic liberalization –ushered in a period of growing prosperity and optimism about the country’s future with continued if diminishing hope of entering the European Union. Most critically, he adroitly broke the hold of Atatűrk’s secularist heirs in the military. He probably ended the possibility of another of the half dozen coups by the military whose intervention had prevented political chaos and kept more outspoken Islamic forces at bay.

But in the process – and not least because of his egotism – his tactical skills were less than a strategy, bereft as it has been of consistency and integration. His foreign policy aiming at neo-Ottoman regional leadership has collapsed. Overall progress has been at the expense of growing destabilization Perhaps much of that was inevitable in a rapidly growing and changing society. But now the exploding corruption scandals and more importantly, the in-fighting inside his Justice and Development Party [AKP], a coalition of Muslim-oriented political groups, could bring down the regime as well as his administration.

But the culmination of these Turkish events has much larger implications:

  • ·        The increasing instability and possible collapse/transformation of Erdogan’s administration again puts the question of whether there can be a modern state in Muslim-majority lands without a formal break with traditional Islam.
  • ·        Pres. Barack Hussein Obama’s reliance on Erdogan – in 2011 more telephone conversations with him than any other foreign leader except British Prime Minister David Cameron – is another sign of the failure of the American administration’s Mideast policies.
  • ·        The growing economic crisis in Turkey, a result of reaching a development plateau and the growing political instability, puts into question for other Muslim states economic liberalization which permitted growth but [as in Iran] fed a new reactionary Muslim-oriented middle class..
  • ·        Turkey’s growing instability is writing finis to its effective participation in NATO, and may, indeed, point to the growing inability to turn the spectacularly successful anti-Soviet alliance into a broader security and peacekeeping coalition.
  • ·        Turkish instability is going to further imperil assimilation of the 10 million Turkish émigrés in Western Europe, recruited, especially in Germany as gastarbeiter, but who now constitute a growing European social and political problem in a period of extended high unemployment and growing Muslim fanaticism.

Islam has never had its Reformation or its Counter-Reformation paralleling Christianity in the West. Its religious thinkers for at least a half millennium have largely been ignored Greek logic and philosophy and its Roman progeny, the foundations of Western – and increasing universal – law. Orthodox Islam calls for no separation of church and state. In fact, orthodox Muslims demand the reestablishment of a worldwide ruling religious leader such as the Ottoman Empire’s sultan who also as caliph was the commanding religious figure. In majority Muslim countries, both Sunni and Shia ecclesiastics refuse the hard fought fundamental of Western democracies, equality of all religions before the law – including minority Islamic sects. Turkey’s role as the most successful example of a predominantly Muslim country advocating that concept – and rejecting much of sharia, traditional Islamic law — is now crumbling. Advocacy by Asian and African leaders of emulating Ankara’s road to modernization is not likely to be heard in the future.

That has implications for American policy. Obama had accepted that old hypothesis and said that Erdogan was one of his closest friends. It was to him in part that the Arabists surrounding the U.S. president sought counsel. But Erdogan’s neo-Ottoman dreams of becoming the go-to for the area’s regimes, has gone a glimmering. Instead, Turkey is at odds with virtually all its neighbors, especially Egypt and Israel, and, of course, Syria. There the al Assad regime now under siege after Erdogan effusively courted it only a few years earlier is driving tens of thousands of refugees into Turkey as well as the surrounding countries. Furthermore, the corruption accusations link some perpetrators to the mullahs of Iran – the Turks’ historic competitor for influence through the Mideast and Central Asia. As the internal conflict among Turkish Islamicist groups likely intensifies, Now Washington will find itself hard put – if it already has not done so – to pick sides.

Abetting the crisis is the rather sudden turn in Turkey’s economic outlook, after its gross domestic product more than tripled during Erdogan’s office. Now the trade deficit is widening dramatically, the lira is devaluating at a rapid pace, unemployment is increasing, and the political turmoil has taken a toll of the stock market, discouraging foreign investment as well as fueling a capital flight.

What may be even more significant longer term is that the liberalization of the economy which began in the 80s before Erdogan’s arrival at the helm has produced a new and growing class of entrepreneurs. They, like their Persian counterparts as a result of reforms by Mohammad Reza Shah Pahlavi, seeking a new orientation from their peasant backgrounds, tend toward religious obscurantism.

The growing Islamicist sentiment of the Erdogan administration itself – including accusations that growing opposition to his government among Turkish groups is plotted by kafir [unbelieving foreigners] including the Americans – is distancing Turkey from the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. It will add to NATO’s renewed conundrum of its future role with the messy U.S.-led alliance’s withdrawal from Afghanistan. Erdogan’s threat to go to the Chinese for new weapons, which would create security lapses in integration with NATO, has further put into question the allegiance of one of the alliance’s most loyal members in time past. With Western Europe’s dramatically falling birthrates, Turkey’s army was seen in Washington and European capitals as an important element in any NATO peacekeeping effort. Given the growing decline in most of the European military budgets, Brussels had looked to Turkey’s young population [more than a quarter under 14] as a stalwart partner. That hope vanishes as the political crisis matures.

Although a first generation of immigrants to Western Europe seemed to be assimilating, their offspring have in more than anticipated numbers turned to radical Islam. There is a growing number of second and third generation Turks [and European-resident and native Arabs] who have joined the jihadist-led opposition to the ostensible secular regime in Syria’s civil war. Mosques in Europe, many supported by the militant Wahabbi sect of Saudi Arabia, have become hot houses for the spread of radical Islamicism and recruitment for jihadist terrorism. If the once secular regime of Turkey continues to move away from its Atatűrk traditions, as seems likely whatever the result of the current political crisis, it will have an adverse influence on assimilation of these immigrants.

Overall, this Turkish crisis inevitably becomes an integral part of the instability sweeping the Muslim umma [world] from Casablanca to Zamboanga, an accelerator in the age-old struggle for modernization in that impoverished and retrograde cultural environment. At the moment, the forces of reaction [and terrorism] are winning in the face of the incapacity of Muslim modernists [or “moderates”] and the Obama Administration to offer an effective counter to a romantic call for a return to simplistic, medieval orthodoxy [Islam=”submission”]. That, unfortunately, as 9/11 tragically proved, produces a growing threat not only to the future of Muslims themselves but to peace and stability throughout the world.

sws-12-28-13

Hmmm. Perception vs. reality?


 

Perhaps the most difficult intellectual problem of human consciousness always has been sorting out perception, what seems to be, and reality, what is actually true.

It is clear that the digital revolution has intensified the conundrum. For the internet is a constant flood of false evidence but dressed in a seeming reality that often makes it indistinguishable from the real thing. So, a “photoshopped” picture of a bare-chested Pres. Vladimir Putin riding horseback with a Pres. Barack Obama behind him looks for all the world as an actual event. Although, immediately, in this instance, we know it is a good laugh – a joke, a hoax, perpetrated by one of Obama’s many critics with bitter humor since it is obvious no such meeting could have taken place without considerable publicity we never heard.

The very fact that a still photograph captures only a second in a more complicated scene or action in continuing life can be totally misleading. I marvel now looking at a splendid photograph [even if I do say so myself] I took more than a half century ago, published in my A Sense of Asia [Scribner’s,1969]. It is a serene Madonna-like portrait of a Lao mother and child with mist floating in behind their heads. Idyllic? Yes, but what’s missing, of course, are the terrible smells, the filth, the disease and the generally primitive living conditions that surrounded them in their isolated village in Southeast Asia on the edge of the Ho Chi Min Trail. There was no suggestion of the danger they constantly lived with, both from nature and the North Vietnamese Communists passing through enroute to South Vietnam.

But now an “audioshopped” recording of a human voice can be manipulated to sound, for example, just like a conversation that never took place. Some of those radio “interviews” between talk radio hosts are, in fact, conversations between backroom “producers” and the interviewee with the master’s voice and his questions inserted as an afterthought. [Transparency alert: I recently was inveigled into one.] Not exactly a total hoax but …not reality either.

Since the permanent capture of images began in mi-19th century, photographs have often been responsible, either by being falsely identified or tampered with, for faulty argument. They can play an enormous role in propaganda. The heart-rending photograph of an Arab father unsuccessfully shielding his son from Israeli military gunfire played into the saga of the Palestinians as only victims of the Israeli-Arab conflict. It just happened to have been concocted for a major French TV network which had to finally admit it was a fraud. But probably never wiped out was the effect of the whole affair on world opinion. Or we are still sorting out a photograph of the execution of a group of soldiers in the Syrian Civil War, presented as an atrocity of rebel jihadists but perhaps, in fact, a staged event by the al Assad regime.

In the pre-internet world, newspapers, radio and TV provided a diet of news and comment, at least to some extent vetted by the professionalism of the journalists, who, if for no other reason, were in pursuit of their reputations. But in the anonymous world of the internet, launching a canard of whatever proportions may have no repercussions for the author since only the most technically skilled recipient is capable of detecting subterfuge or even its origin if the author chooses to remain unknown.

It came as something of a shock a few years ago – I hadn’t given the whole issue that much thought – from the head of a business organization for hire to investigate financial and other business fraud that his field had mushroomed. “It is virtually possible to counterfeit any signature, any document and any transaction through the new digital tools”, he said. No wonder he was employed then by a Swiss “private” bank.

Thus, once again technology has proved itself neutral in the battle of ideas and the struggle between good and evil. Islamic terrorists, for example, have now learned not only to use the internet for propaganda of all kinds, but for instruction in terrorist techniques, and recruitment of jihadists. The sheer volume of the flow of the internet with few if any “intellectual” filters is what cascades down on those of us with even a minimum of computer literacy these days.

There was a time when, if you were interested in politics or even just general affairs of the world, you chose a newspaper with something of your “worldview” – and there were in “the good old days’’ a variety to choose from. You left it to the editors to give you their choice, for better or for worse, of what was important – even if as a New York Times Sunday reader that might amount to a heavier load than one hand could lift from your doorstep. Of course, that was when that august periodical was “the ‘paper of record” and not part of the current claque for a failing presidency.

This all comes to mind trying to sort fact from fiction in what is, obviously, whatever else it is, the campaign of the Iranian mullahs to ingratiate themselves with the Obama Administration and a war-weary American public. They have wielded a wide pitch to all and sundry, probably at the behest of their hired American public relations firm, or the instigation of their American-schooled Foreign Minister Javid Zarif who has also been a very busy salesman on TV and radio as well as in the printed media..

Pres. Hassan Rouhani has been interviewed repeatedly by everyone from Christiane Amanpour, herself reared in Tehran of a Muslim Iranian father and British Christian mother, to Ann Curry, who spent part of her childhood in Japan. [Speaking of perceptions: Curry’s interview was dominated — for me at least] — by a grotesque version of the Muslim hejab, a floor length veil which has been a symbol for centuries of the misogyny and subjugation of women in Islam and other traditional pre-industrial societies.]

There were the UN speeches, and in another jerk of Pres. Obama’s zig-zagging Mideast strategies, there was an on and off again scheduled handshake and personal meeting which finally ended in a telephone call by Obama with Rouhani enroute to his departure from New York City. [Was the NSA listening? After all, it was a call from a well-known terrorist to an American citizen.] All this was followed by a report from Obama on the call — all of 15 minutes we are told with time out for translations, one assumes, although both managed a “goodbye” in the other’s tongue.] Obama in a public statement gave assurances progress might be achieved on reaching a settlement of the long-standing issue of the Tehran mullahs’ pursuit of weapons of mass destruction and opposition to it from virtually all its neighbors as well as the U.S. and the European Union..

Mmmm. Perception versus reality? We are told Rouhani is a “moderate” [even if he did publicly brag of outfoxing the Americans, the EU and the UN International Atomic Energy Agency by “negotiating” for some two years while the Persians got another enrichment facility up and going at Isfahan]. And he was met by ]supposed?] protesters at the Tehran airport on his arrival with the 30-year-old slogans of “Death to America” and “Wipe Out Israel”. He even had a shoe tossed at him, that symbol of Muslim disrepute [which once almost caught Pres. George Bush but he ducked]. Yes, it may well be that there is dissension among the mullahs over policy. Yes, the sanctions – particularly the recent third party financial measures of the U.S. Treasury – have impacted on the Iranian economy despite a series of “passes” we have given allies to trade in Iranian oil.

But the question remains whether an authoritarian government, which is the principal support for the bloody al Assad family tyranny in Syria, and Hezbollah [which until 9/11 had killed more Americans in terrorist attacks than any other organization], Hamas, and other American enemies around the world, and which waged bloody war on our troops in Iraq, will give up nuclear weapons in its continued pursuit of hegemony in the Middle East? Is it not far more likely, having seen Pres. Obama march up the hill with flags flying and trumpets tooting, and then march down as quickly, the opportunity for another round of talking while progress continues on a nuclear weapon is not the real goal?.

Hmmm. Perception or reality?.

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Hello? Something in the water?


Follow the money No. 87

 Could more conspiratorial environmentalistas’ interpretations of our times be correct, that is, someone has been putting something in the water and we are all being lobotomized, even without major brain surgery?

You could make the case this week. Much of the world’s leadership, even though presumably suckling their bottled water, exhibits all the manifestations of imbibing something adversely affecting the normal cognitive processes:

  • Pres. Barack Obama gets on television to boost his proposal for creating jobs by massive government expenditures and tax increases at a time when mostAmericans think the main problem – after disappeared jobs — is a runaway federal deficit. Never mind he sent a $447 billion spend and tax bill up to the Congress without a co-sponsor in either of the houses, that his own Party’s Senate leadership initially refused to look at it, then introduced something radically different as a Millionaires’ Tax. All that even though the President has repeatedly endorsed his Republican opposition’s claim any tax increase during a recession is job-killer. Of course, neither bill has a – woops! we can’t say that any more – chance of getting through the Republican-dominated House or the splintered Democratic Senate. Hello?
  • Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin [soon scheduled to slip back into the presidency in Moscow’s musical chairs] has dreamed up a restoration of Stalin’s old USSR as a “Eurasian Union”, a regional agglomerative dictatorship. Putin’s vision is a world of such regional blocs, graciously allocating the U.S. the Western Hemisphere. Unable to accomplish fundamental post-Soviet reforms, he has put together helter-skelter economic collaboration with neighbors [including pumping their gas and oil] with Belorussia, Kazakhstan and a loose customs union [Common Economic Space]. He now aims bringing in the current pro-Moscow Ukraine leadership. But his present arrangements already cost Moscow $1.7 billion in tariff sharing revenues last year. Meanwhile, prospective investors in this harebrain scenario are trading every ruble to dollar they can get their hands on and tossing them out of the country – more than a record $49 billion so far this year. Hello?
  • Luxembourg Prime Minister Jean-Claude Juncker, chairing the Eurogroup finance ministers, says “[E]verything will be done”. He means in an effort to avoid Greek default and without Athens opting out of the 17-member single currency. But the rating agencies just whacked Italy’s credit rating, Spain’s soaring borrowing rate fell only because the already strapped European Central Bank bought its increasingly high risk bonds, and debt-ridden Portugal is failing to meet targets. The decision whether Greece will get the next tranche of its bailout was delayed until mid-November so the European Union, the European Central Bank and the IMF can pull themselves together to decide whether Athens has met conditions for receiving help. Latest official figures say not: the Greek budget deficit will hit 8.5 percent of GDP in 2011 instead of the 7.6 percent it promised creditors. Greek officials now pledge the 2012 deficit will be slashed 6.8 percent of GDP instead of the promised 6.5 percent if a €6.6 billion [$8.83 billion] worth of supplementary austerity and reform measures package is forthcoming by 2013 Without the “current” €8 billion [$10.71 billion] tranche, Athens would bankrupt by this November with major repercussions for Europe and the world. Hello?
  • Syrian Dictator Bashar al-Assad allegedly told visiting Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu Damascus would strike Israel with missiles if NATO helps his country’s rebels during his rapidly escalating civil war. “If a crazy measure is taken against Damascus, I will need not more than six hours to transfer hundreds of rockets and missiles to the Golan Heights to fire them at Tel Aviv,” Assad warned after Turkish foreign minister conveyed a United States’ polite request to clear out. Assad continued: “All these events will happen in three hours, but in the second three hours, Iran will attack the US warships in the Persian Gulf and the US and European interests will be targeted simultaneously” True, Assad is rumored to have chemical and bacterial warfare stocks. But the Israelis sit on the Golan Heights less than 75 miles, downhill to Damascus. After Assad’s father tangled with the Israelis in 1982 — the largest air-to-air combat of the jet age and one of the shortest – Syria lost 85 Soviet MiGs. Hello?

Yep, must be something in the water, the wine, the arak or wherever.

 

Sol Sanders, a veteran international correspondent, writes weekly on the intersection of politics, business and economics, can be reached at solsanders@cox.net and blogs at http://www.yeoldecrabb.wordpress.com

Americans abroad — in the Mideast


Behind the Desert Storm

Pavel Stroilov

Price World Publishing, LLC

ISBN: 978-1932549676

$19.95, Publication date Aug.1, 2011

One cannot read this book without recalling that wonderful aphorism of Otto von Bismarck: “There is a Providence that protects idiots, drunkards, children and the United States of America.” Almost on every page is an illustration of the blundering American policymakers blabbing their way through conversations in the jungle of Mideast problems with their native interlocutors, seemingly oblivious to realities demonstrated for all to see all around them. In the short term, of course, Washington did luck out with the immediate collapse of the Sadam Hussein tyranny in The First Gulf War.

For those of us – not Orientalists but the ordinary variety of human beings – who try to follow events in the region, there are not that many totally surprising moments here. Who did not know the perfidy of Washington’s Arab allies? We knew that not only Saudi Arabia but the so-called Bathist Arab Socialist regime in Damascus joined the most extensive alliance in history for their own narrow interests – not for the love of liberty for the relatively tiny sheikhdowndom [cq] of Kuwait which had been attacked and bested quickly by Sadam. Contrary to Washington’s perennial wishful thinking – aided and abetted by the usual Sovietologist suspects in the academy who have never called a shot right yet — most of us sensed, too, that Mikhail Gorbachev was not a “reformer” but another Communist apparatchik trying to save what was left of the system on the eve of the Soviet implosion. [In all transparency, this writer whipped out a book on that hypothesis, Living Off the West: Gorbachev’s Secret Agenda and Why It Will Fail {Nov 1990}, never anticipating Gorbie would blow it so quickly!] Nor did many of us underestimate the scheming, venal, anti-Americanism of Francois Mitterand – perhaps the only politician in European history to reverse the peregrination of that old French adage, “Heartless if not a socialist at 20, headless if a socialist at 40”.

But what a young Russian “nerd”, a student/programmer who has stolen one of the most fascinating archives in recent diplomatic history, has given us is documentation for all those old assumptions – and much more. This observer, for example, never had any doubts about Jimmy Baker’s fierce anti-Israel monomania verging on anti-semitism. But I had always assumed we were dealing with a hard-nosed, clever by half as the British would say, cynical manipulator who knew from where the world’s oil supply was coming. Instead, what is revealed in these pages, is a total amateur, buying into every trap Moscow, Paris, Baghdad and London, can lay for him, sometimes to be saved, by of all people, Brent Scowcroft, a fellow traveler in most of his prejudices.

Washington finally lucks out, Bismarckian fashion, apparently, mostly because having – as Joe Alsop used to say – marched up the hill with flags flying, drums rolling and trumpets flaring, pulling together the most sophisticated fighting machine the world has ever seen [as noted repeatedly by the Chinese Communists], there was nothing to do but use it to break Sadam.

Stroilov lays all this out with several footnotes and documents text on every page. We are told that as a student he worked on papers Gorbachev was withdrawing from state, KGB and other Soviet files. Gorbachev, who comes through these pages, too, as a pigmy who never got through Machiavelli 101, apparently intended to use them to prove that he was a martyred political genius, defeated by the likes of that ruffiian and drunk Boris Yeltsin and the evil intent of the U.S. But, Stroilov says, Gorbie decided after a few leaks that there should be no further releases – perhaps sensing they would prove the opposite.

Meanwhile, Stroilov says, under the sponsorship of the noted dissident, Vladimir Bukovsky, and the former KGB operator, Alexander Litvinenko whom Russian émigré circles believe Vladimir Putin had murdered in London with radioisotopes, he smuggled the whole lot out of Russia. If –and some intelligence mavim in Washington are prepared to to believe his story, his bonafides, and the integrity of his 50,000 documents — he is going to tell what really happened in the waning days of the Soviet empire, there should be much, much more to come as we saw in a recent Der Spiegel lifting germane German material

Regrettably, the book, itself, is less than its parts, mainly because Stroilov – and one feels for him – cannot contain his anger, his contempt and his sarcasm for most of the leading characters, not least the Soviet players. The narrative leaves out too much for those of us who are not Sovietologists, but pounds too many obvious points too many times too heavily. The epilogue – a cri de coeur for Western democrats not to repeat the follies of Iraq, Act I and II, but to support the intent of “the Arab Spring” – is no less naïve than the players he describes. He, like the rest of us, has no hard solutions for the intractable problems of Arab/Muslim society, not least a rambunctious youth bulge seeking jobs as much as new free societies, perhaps too ready to accept the totalitarian temptation of Islamic fundamentalism.

— Sol W Sanders

A version of this book review appeared in The Washington Times, Friday, Sept. 9, 2011

“I don’t have anything to give you but pieces of broken glass.”


Gossips report when Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu gifted Vice President Joseph Biden a glass-framed photograph taken in Israel of his recently deceased Zionist-sympathetic mother, he accidentally crushed it. Apparently, in an apologetic malapropism, the usually suave Bibi blundered again. Psychobabblers would conjure up a subconscious working overtime.

It wasn’t meant to go that way. On the eve of Passover, the Jews’ ancient feast of liberation, Mr. Biden had been sent with words of support to salvage a deteriorating relationship. But the Vice President had nothing the Israelis wanted to hear. In essence, his message was that Mr. Obama’s efforts, first to appease the Tehran mullahs, patently had failed. And then Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s “crippling sanctions” came a cropper. Penciled in bottom line: the Israelis must not move unilaterally unleashing Armageddon, the world was going to have to live with an Iranian bomb.

For Mrs. Clinton’s efforts were stymied. Never mind the Chinese and Russian UN Security Council veto. Even Brazil’s Pres. Luiz Inacio “Lula” da Silva publicly lectured Mme. Secretary on how she should play nice with the mullahs. Lula, likeBrazil, is on a roll with enormous new deepwater oil discoveries. [BP is now desperately trying to buy in.]

Almost forgotten were Brazilian ethanol imports blocked to protect Midwest corn producers and all the other frictions nearing trade war proportions. The Brazilians could smirk at the Obama Administration’s “green energy” subsidies after decades of their dumping billions into developing sugar-based fuel. Now Brazil, soon to be a net oil exporter, wants to play with the big boys. That includes Iran with the world’s second largest fossil fuel reserves. Old roustabouts recall how way back under the Shah, Tehran was prime mover in the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries calling for higher priced energy.

If Washington really believes it is going to cobble together sanctions against the bloody Revolutionary Guard – Mrs. Clinton publicly guessed they are now in the Tehran driver’s seat — the mist really has closed in on Foggy Bottom. Many of the U.S.’ two million Iranian exiles, traditional Persian-speaking merchants and hawala money launderers on the west bank of the Persian Gulf, are in bed with the Pasdaran.[IRG]. Even The New York Times found out that major U.S. corporations are violating American sanctions through dummy corporations cluttering every new skyscraper directory in bankrupt Dubai and its neighboring sugar-teat, Qatar.

Whether the Israelis gird their loins for a strike to slow Iranian bomb and missile development may be as disputed inside their government as it is among American TV talking heads. But it may be that Pres. Ahmadenijad’s threats to wipe Israel off the map are less important than just the very existence of a Mullah Bomb. It would reconfigure Mideast geopolitics. The Saudis, whose only foreign policy is to try to buy whomever, and the feckless oil-rich Emiratti, would likely knuckle under to Persian dominance if and when Tehran succeeds. Mercurial Syrian Dictator Basher al-Asaad already publicly threw personal insults at Mrs. Clinton during a kumbayah with Pres. Ahmadenijad only days after she refurbished diplomatic relations and dropped some sanctions. At the other end of the Mideast, Egypt totters on in a succession crisis having long since lost Sunni leadership.

Following in Bush Administration footsteps, Mr. Obama is behind the time curve by refusing to aid Iranian dissidents in Cold War fashion. Washington could well face a strengthening regime. The twentieth century taught us just how far terror would go in castrating much more sophisticated societies. Add nationalist fervor if and when Iran becomes the tenth world nuclear power, and you have a recipe for dramatic erosion of America’s influence in the region.

Tehran holding a bomb could wield enormous power on world energy markets. The Obama Administration’s “green energy”import independence is at best a distant mirage. New technologies to develop abundant domestic gas face the same old enviromentalistas’ fury. A parallel is bankrupt California tolerating pollution of its beeches from seepage in the Santa Barbara Channel rather than go for offshore drilling.

The matriarch Golda Meir’s lament that Israel was the only place in the Mideast without fossil fuels is no longer true. An American outfit has struck gas off the Mediterranean coast.  It’s enough to limit Israel’s dependence on Egypt and end airy-fairy tales of underwater pipelines from Turkey carrying water and Central Asian crude.

But none of this solves the pressing problem of how to get U.S.-Israel relations back on track. One could hope Pres. Obama would turn away from his Palestinian-Syrian-Pakistani friends who thought blocking settlements would carry the day. It never had been an a priori consideration in the endless negotiations. Netanyahu, stronger in part because of his Washington nose-thumbing, can’t and won’t buy it. The self evident fruitless negotiations with divided, unrealistic Palestinian leadership – including Gaza’s jihadists — are striking. But when does realism set in at the State Department?

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Presidents come, and some go


The former Israeli president Moshe Katzav has been sentenced to seven years in prison for rape.

In a dramatic scene, the 65-year-old cried and screamed after learning of his fate, shouting that the charges against him were a lie and that the courts had “made a mistake”.

THE JEWISH CHRONICLE ONLINE
March 22, 2011
Moshe Katzav

The Senate yesterday acquitted William Jefferson Clinton of high crimes and misdemeanors, preserving a presidency indelibly tarnished by scandal, but unshakably sustained by public approval. Clinton, condemned even by senators who had voted to keep him in office, survived only the second presidential impeachment trial in history as the Senate rejected two articles charging him with perjury and obstruction of justice in attempting to conceal his sexual relationship with White House intern Monica Lewinsky.” “Clinton Acquitted By An Angry Senate: Neither Impeachment Article Gains Majority Vote”, The Star-Ledger of New Jersey, Saturday, February 13, 1999, p. 1, 6.

Mrs. Clinton’s Mideast chicken salad


Secretary Hillary Clinton, after briefly nurturing husband Bill, is in the Mideast skirting [in pantsuits] two dangerous games of chicken.

Headlined, of course, is confrontation with Tehran’s mullahs over their nuke ambitions. She’s there to buck up Washington’s Persian Gulf minipetrostate allies. Touring Defense Secretary Robert Gates earlier promised new weaponry for the shaky sheikhs who might be first casualties if hostilities explode. But despite Mrs. Clinton’s  “crippling” sanctions threat, Iran’s defiance – backed by Russian and Chinese obdurate opposition to ratcheting them up – trips the Geiger counters.

Mme. Secretary is skipping Israel. Just as well not to have eye-to-eye contact what with Israel’s implied threat to unilaterally attack to slow Mr. Ahmedenijad’s efforts. As the Obama Administration keeps redrawing the “red lines” closer and closer to accepting a nuclear-clad Iran – first enrichment, then weaponization, then delivery — aggravated by Tehran’s threats, the Israeli “never again” syndrome swells.

That’s why part and parcel of Washington’s Iran confrontation is a parallel nuanced tit-for-tat between Israelis and Washington. The President’s extensive pre-White House Palestinian, Pakistani and other Muslim acquaintanceship lurks quietly offstage. That seems the only justification for Washington’s renewed efforts to woo Syria, keystone in regional forces arrayed against Israel. For, defying Washington, Syrian Dictator Bashar al-Assad reasserts control in Lebanon, transfers Tehran’s weapons to Hizbullah, provides sanctuary for radical jihadists, allows terrorists infiltration into Iraq, all the while tightening Tehran ties.

On the Israeli-Palestinian front, Mr. Obama’s dramatic initiative to feature Israeli “settlements” in Occupied Territories taken after Jerusalem’s 1967 victory got his peacemaking efforts off to a bad start.  No American, Israeli – or even Palestinian – negotiator had ever made their disposition sine qua non for starting negotiations. That gambit, apparently, was dreamed up by the first ever retired uniformed National Security Adviser, Marine Gen. James Jones. Earlier he tried to draw up a minimal security agenda — for the Israelis, if you please. It didn’t. And he hasn’t been heard from recently on this subject, and not much on other issues.

In any event, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu grabbed the ball and ran. Sentiment for expanding suburban Jerusalem for Israeli metrosexuals, military Jordan River strongpoints for Israel Defense Forces, and Judea and Samaria hilltops for the religious have coalesced behind him. Howsoever growing European criticism, Israel’s crushing Gaza campaign at least temporarily halted Hamas’ missiles. So “Bibi” has more support than “normal” for an Israeli PM facing the notoriously fractious Knesset and Washington’s incessant intrigue to wangle a more pliant replacement.

Mr. Netanyahu did throw a sop to U.S. negotiators with a temporary postponement of “settlements” construction. Mme. Hillary, stroking a sow’s ear into a silkpurse in Israel last fall, labeled it an “unprecedented” concession. It’s the only one she is likely to get, confronted with Israeli dominance of an Arab Palestine divided between dissolving West Bank Fatah and Tehran-backed jihadist Hamas in Gaza.

Furthermore, Mr. Netanyahu deals from a pretty tall deck. It was he, after all, as finance minister – with PM Ariel Sharon – who broke the back of the traditional Histadrut-socialist lock on the economy. Unleashed, finally, old fashioned Jewish entrepreneurship has blossomed – not least in digitals, pharmaceuticals and weaponry exports. Building an independent central bank with Stanley Fisher, Nairobi-born professor, quintessential New York Citibanker, and IMF veteran, Mr. Netanyahu has led Israel through the perils of the worldwide financial crunch better than most. The economy dipped only briefly into negative growth. There’s even been some unacknowledged spilloff for Palestinian West Bankers.

So when U.S. Special Emissary George Mitchell publicly threatened to scratch U.S. loan guarantees unless “settlements” were halted, the current shoot-from-the-hip Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz brazenly countered that Israel could do without them — and besides, he said, they had already been negotiated for the next round. Now Mitchell, whose stock and trade is his role in the Northern Ireland settlement [which keeps coming apart], leaves no footprints as he commutes around the region. In fact, just before getting off, Mrs. Clinton boosted former UK Prime Minister Tony Blair into the so-called “peace process” leadership. Blair is more acceptable to Jerusalem – even if he will likely arouse Israeli allergies when he taps Foreign Office Arabists for expertise.

Quietly, too, the U.S. is pressuring the Israelis through weapons transfers. Washington refuses [as it does Britain] special Israeli adaptations of F35 joint fighter radar. There has also been a hold on the latest helicopters. With American supply lines overstretched in two wars, Israel’s American partisans who argue there is no formal Obama Administration embargo are probably correct. And, at a time when Mr. Obama’s huge Congressional majority is fracturing with medical “reform”, blue dogs, abortion, and growing apprehension about the fall elections, Rahm Emanuel doesn’t need a showdown with Israel’s staunch, extensive [mostly Democratic] Congressional Jewish [and Christian Evangelical] lobby.

Still, games of chicken have a way of getting out of hand – especially in the world’s most volatile poultryroost fitted out with escalating weapons buildups.

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The West: mugged by reality


Encounters between the so-called Peace Flotilla and Israeli Defense Forces have far reaching implications beyond the conflict between the Jewish state and the Palestinians and their supporters.

Those concerns eventually will dictate the course of the U.S. fight against terrorism. Basic trends are now obscured by Washington’s desperate attempt to minimize friction with the umma, the whole of the 1.3 billion Muslim world.

But the clash has dramatized an ugly reality: a world torn apart by Islamic fanaticism verging on nihilism is increasingly abetted by old European and American leftism. That is further compounded by an attenuated economic recovery in the West. And that, in turn, threatens what has been until now rapidly growing export-led Eastern economies.

This economic and political devil’s brew includes:

  • Turkish government knowledge/participation in the Flotilla operation, is a touchstone which casts doubt not only on Ankara’s role but questions hoped for rapid modernization of other Muslim societies
  • NATO’s eastern flank crumbles as member Turkey courts Iran, Russia and Syria and other pariahs, in an effort to establish regional hegemony.
  • Israel poses a moral, political and military dilemma for the West as multidirectional hostile forces threaten Jerusalem’s existence, forfeiting any possibility of major compromises from the Jewish state — including land for peace.
  • Pres. Barack Hussein Obama’s outreach to the Islamic world has failed — all signs pointing to growing radicalization and no evidence of emerging strong reformist leadership.

All these issues are complex, of course, and there will continue to be conflicting evidence. VIP voices will deny these interpretations because geopolitical reality is always difficult to acknowledge. But just as the collapse of European welfare statism has proved those critics clairvoyant who argued against creating socially dependent societies, so inevitably will the true nature of the present conflict become self-evident.

As anti-Nazi German Lutheran Pastor Martin Niemoeller acknowledged so long ago, the Jews – this time in their own country — are the canary in the mineshaft.

That Jerusalem underestimated the capacity for violence is intriguing. The Turkish activists’ affiliation to known Istanbul terrorists was well-known. Counter-intuitively, caution led the Israelis to incur casualties, grist for propaganda of the new alliance of red and green, the traditional Western radical left and Islamicist sympathizers. Their attempt to portray their provocative voyage as a mercy rescue ignored Gaza’s large food and vitals stocks provided through additional European and American aid millions., actually flowing through Israel and Egypt.

The Israelis now facing rapidly arming terrorist neighbors – Hamas in the south, Hezbollah in the north, and an increasingly unstable Jordan to their east – can take no new gambles on their security in any “peace process”. Israel’s Gaza withdrawal has proved a strategic catastrophe.

Meanwhile, the Tehran mullahs who arm these groups are moving relentlessly toward nuclear weapons at some indeterminate date. However credible Tehran’s threat to wipe Israel off the map, a nuclear Iran would dominate world oil and gas, a constant threat to regional stability and the world.

Turkey’s new role as an apologist for Tehran means turning its back on its half-century alliance with the U.S. It returns to an equivocal position, much like that during World War II when former German Chancellor Franz von Papen made Istanbul the Nazis’ overseas intelligence center.

As with more than one contemporary administration around the world [perhaps including the U.S.], it is hard to judge how much Turkish Prime Minister RecepTayyip Erdogan’s policies are Michaevelleian and how much amateur hour. But clearly a half century of top-down Kemalist secularism is fading rapidly under attack from a new Anatolian, conservative Muslim middle class — ironically in no small part created by huge post-World War II American aid. As an anti-Soviet ally, Washington pumped more than $12.5 billion in economic and $14 billion in military aid [in unadjusted dollars] into Turkey. This does not include vast sums spent on and from U.S. bases and training programs. In riposte, Turkey, of course, blocked US/NATO base transit during the Iraq invasion.

Although Ankara now runs a bilateral trade deficit because of energy dependence on Moscow, Turkish companies are investing heavily in Russia. In return Prime Minister Vladimir Putin has promised to build Turkey’s first nuclear power plant — ominous given Moscow’s collaboration in helping to lay the groundwork for Iran’s nuclear weapons program.

Unlike the Korean War, and even Vietnam, where Turkey played a role, its 1800 troops in Afghanistan are smaller than Holland’s contribution and restricted to training. So much for calculations that its high birthrate and military tradition would make Turkey the principal NATO European fighter pool.

It was in Turkey, of course, where Pres. Obama launched his celebrated foreign policy initiative, an attempt to dialogue with a hoped for strengthening moderate Islam. Pres. Obama’s reiteration of American support for Turkish entry into the European Union rings hollow today with membership out of the question. To the contrary, how to deal with radicalization of Europe’s growing emigrant Muslims – including Turks — has become a chief West European headache. And nowhere has new, effective reformist Muslim leadership arisen.

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