Saturday, October 29

Iran’s comments on the Destruction of Israel

There is a widespread Islamist fanaticism that is spreading like a cancer in certain countries of the Middle East. Many Arab states are showing signs of pragmatism in recognizing Israel’s right to exist. Apart from lunatic Islamist fringes in some countries such as Hezbollah in Lebanon, Islamic Jihad and Hamas in the Palestinian Camp, Al Qaeda, whose origins seem to be in many Arab countries of undefined boundaries, as well as many splinter extremist Islamist groups too numerous to mention . Beneath it all is a member state of the United Nations – Iran under President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad - which seems to be the most vociferous country of all in its official attitude towards the destruction of Israel.

Ahmadinejad’s remarks are abominable, irresponsible and unjustifiable. A member country of the UN coming out with such invective against a member state is enough grist to the mill for member countries to vote for its expulsion from the UN body. Ahmadinejad’s remarks are so unacceptable that a strong response towards Israel’s defense by fellow UN members was quick in coming.

Naturally, these remarks will soon be forgotten and the storm in the teacup will pass. It will be back to business as usual in the UN. It is highly unlikely that any action will be taken against Iran despite Israel’s justified lobbying for Iran’s expulsion from the UN.

This is a great shame and brings no credit to the UN. Another rather interesting phenomenon is that none of the member Arab States condemned Ahmadinejad’s despicable remarks. This could be due to one of two reasons:

  1. A passive support for these remarks stated what many Arab States feel.

  1. Fear of Iranian terrorist infiltration into their countries because of their “so-called support for Israel” in Iranian eyes.

What is interesting and noteworthy is the responsible statement condemning Ahmadinejad coming from Saeb Erekat, the Palestinian negotiator who said:

"What we need to be talking about is adding the state of Palestine to the map and not wiping Israel from the map," he told the BBC News website. “Palestinians recognize the right of the state of Israel to exist and I reject his (Ahmadinejad,s) comments.”

He is to be praised for his level headed remarks. This is more than can be said of many of the Arab states.

It is a black day for freedom loving peoples all over the world when a member state of the UN comes up with racist and abominable remarks against a fellow state in the UN. If no disciplinary action is taken against the leadership of Iran in the UN, apart from sterile verbal condemnation, a precedent could be started legitimizing statements calling for the destruction of Israel from the podium of the world body.

Iran has made a counter statement that it abides by the UN Charter and has no intention of committing aggression against member states. Perhaps this is some form of apologetic backtracking as a result of the reactions caused?

Tuesday, October 25

Promoting Regime Change in Syria

It would not be in Israel’s interests to interfere with the Bashar Assad regime in Syria. The US experience in Iraq and in Afghanistan should send out warning signals to the world as to the mess that the US is capable of making.

As ineffectual and autocratic as the Assad regime is in Syria, the alternative would be far worse. While it is true that Syria is harbouring terrorists, the situation has not reached uncontrollable proportions. While the Mehlis Report does lay the blame for Rafik Hariri’s assassination on the intrigues of the Assad regime, it still does not warrant US aided toppling of that regime.

The border between Israel and Syria is relatively quiet. If the US moves in militarily, this situation could easily change with suicide militias, car bomb squads and Al Qaeda terror cells becoming active and chaos would rein supreme. The violence could spill over into Israel and Lebanon. The actions of Hezbollah would be child’s play in comparison. Nothing good could come out of US military action in Syria. If there would be a united, progressive opposition to the Bashar Assad Ba’ath regime, perhaps these opposition groups could be aided by foreign powers to take over and it would be in US interests to play a low key in such a potential operation. The opposition to the Assad regime is composed of extremist Islamist groups whose potential for violence is far greater and its global ramifications for further instability in the Middle East cannot be ruled out. The US does not seem to learn from its past mistakes, she will bumble along leaving US soldiers behind in all the countries that she wishes to police in order to create a western-style democracy which is not part of Middle Eastern lexicon but is seen as a foreign, non-Moslem import.

Economic sanctions, authorized by the UN, would be the best tactic at this stage in the hope to cripple Syria economically thus forcing a positive regime change from within is the best tactic for the moment. Western-style democracy propped up by the US is naivety at its greatest and shows ignorance of the Arab psyche. US paternalism is not a desired commodity in the Middle East.

While there are some Syrian progressive opposition groups living in exile who do pay lip service to democratic change in Syria, there is no way of ascertaining their influence on the Syrian people. It would be premature at this stage to hold high expectations of the progressive Syrian opposition which could be an alternative to the oppressive Ba’ath regime. Perhaps a parallel situation did exist prior to the downfall of Saddam Hussein of Iraq. Today these opposition groups are marginal and it had no influence in the attempt to rebuild Iraq in the post Iraq era.

Saturday, October 22

The Bush-Abbas Summit

The two leaders, President Mahmoud Abbas and President George Bush, have met once again in Washington. As predicted, nothing new has come out of this meeting. The usual discussions are becoming routinely unimpressive with no new strategies or ideas. What does stand out like a sore thumb is an exercise in futility! Nothing ventured – nothing gained. The usual pleasantries, unconstructive platitudes, empty promises as well as sterile pledges to end the violence on the Palestinian side were the order of the day.

President Mahmoud Abbas stood on the podium at the predictable press conference after the summit making empty promises and knowing that he would not do anything to disarm the terror brigades in his midst. The Road Map will remain a moribund plan on the books. What was the intention of the Washington Summit? It never received much press coverage nor was there more than a passing interest in the local Israeli press on the outcome and expectations that were non-existent.

Meanwhile the U.S gave the impression that it had softened its attitude towards Hamas participating in the upcoming Palestinian elections and never raised the issue at all. It is highly unlikely that U.S. pressure would be applied on Mahmoud Abbas to disarm Hamas before it can participate in the elections. What is puzzling is that Bush talks about the Palestinians holding democratic elections so that the ultimate democratic Palestine can arise from it all. This is a contradiction in terms. How could one think of a future democratic Palestine when some of the candidates remain armed members of terror groups and will get in on a terror ticket? This is part and parcel of Bush’s total naivety. The U.S record for installing democracy in the Middle East is poor and ineffectual as can be seen in the mess they created in Iraq. They may even make that mistake once again in their attitude towards Syria with Basher Assad being suspect in the assassination of Hariri of Lebanon. “Iraqi democracy” is total anarchy with various terror groups calling the tune in mass butchering; suicide bombings as well as total chaos. Al Qaeda factions seem to have gained strength in Iraq while under Saddam Hussein they were not a factor at all. When the U.S becomes involved in the Arab world, she makes an unholy mess! U.S. troop withdrawals from Iraq, Afghanistan and in other Moslem countries which she intends to police will not occur for many years to come.

It seems as if Bush accepts what Abbas had said that the disarming of Hamas would create a civil war within the Palestinian camp which would weaken his (Abbas’s) position. The reality is that Abbas is weak anyway and has no desire to weaken his own position further by sowing dissension in the Palestinian camp. In any case, whatever Israel or the US do to support Abbas will really weaken him even further in Palestinian street. What may be called for is discretion in the U.S. and Israeli attitude towards Mahmoud Abbas. This means not being over enthusiastic about supporting him in the upcoming elections. This could amount to non-interference even if it means turning a blind eye to Hamas participation. On the other hand, supporting Hamas’s legitimacy to participate in the Palestinian elections could be a catalyst in Hamas moderating her stance towards terror activity and even abandoning it as a tactic. Many terror organizations in the world became legitimate partners in government. This was the case of the Mau Mau in Kenya in the 1950’s before Jomo Kenyatta in the early 1960’s and Sin Fein under Gerry Adams in Northern Ireland. Even closer to home, there was the Sterne Gang and the Irgun that ceased terror activity against the British when Israel was established.

Wednesday, October 12

The Day of Atonement Farce

Yom Kippur is upon us. For many, it is a time of reflection. The meaning of Yom Kippur is losing its relevance today. Fasting has become a competition or some kind of childish endurance race to see who can last out longer. It has also become the annual bicycle festival as kids flood the streets with their bicycles, many landing up in hospital because of injuries incurred. For many who do reflect on that day, fasting without prayer is meaningless. For the Jewish atheist, it is a frustrating day devoid of any meaning.

Orthodox Judaism, as practiced in Israel, has become the monopoly of the right wing. It is very Eretz Yisrael-conscious and unfortunately does not help towards any form of rapprochement with those in the Arab World who seek peace. The idea of atoning for one's sins,(if one believes in the idea of atonement) means that before one enters the synagogue on Kol Nidrei evening one must ask forgiveness for any wrongs committed against one's neighbour before forgiveness can be requested from God. It is a request for annulment of vows undertaken during the year from the last Yom Kippur to the present.

A question that remains in my mind is whether the forgiveness that one requests is for the wrongs committed towards everybody irrespective of race, color or creed or just those committed against our Jewish fellowmen. I think of the many innocents who suffered under the occupation as well. Who has given this a thought? Who has bothered to ask forgiveness from them?

Apart from that, there does not seem to be any improvement in behavioral patterns of many who purport to be religious and observant once the fast is over. People go back to their normal routines as if nothing was learned from Yom Kippur at all. The arrogance and short temper, so characteristic of many Israelis, remains the same.

What is the purpose of this fast? If one does not believe or is non-observant, the "reason" for fasting is to "identify with the people of Israel". This is the clich̩ often used as an excuse for fasting. When one "identifies with one's people" with what aspect of "one's people" does this entail Рarrogance, ill manners, lack of consideration for one's fellowmen, even crime and last but not least, the eternal paper chase?The return to the faith (choser b'tshuva) has become rampant amongst many criminals.

The idea of Yom Kippur, with its outmoded rituals for many, is farcical and become devoid of all meaning. The idea of being a once-a-year-Jew defies all rationality. If one does not observe Yom Kippur in its spirit rather than its act then there is no point observing it at all. Many people fast while watching videos at home and boast that they "made it".

The oppressiveness of religious coercion and self-righteousness reaches its zenith on Yom Kippur. It has become an empty, boring day with very little substance for many people who find religiosity in Israel a hypocritical exercise in endurance. Driving on that day is taboo and in the case of an emergency, the chance of being stoned by "the observant" cannot be ruled out.

Nothing will change for the better at the close of Yom Kippur from a human relationship point of view. This being the case, why bother to fast?

Sunday, October 9

The Relative Respite from Violence in Gaza

The Jewish New Year (Rosh Hashanah), Day of Atonement (Yom Kippur) and the following festivals as well as the Ramadan fasting period coincide this year. We hope that the respite from violence will continue. Hamas have given some hint of cessation of launching rockets into Shderot. While these signs may be seen with guarded optimism, it may also be a false peace. The Palestinians have shown some indication that they have had enough of Hamas violence and this may be the reason why Hamas has halted its terrorist activities, albeit temporarily. Hamas terrorism against Israel is not bringing Hamas the support that they had hoped in Palestinian street.

It is possible that the infighting amongst the various factions in Gaza could be due to the growing opposition to Hamas violence. However, it could be wishful thinking to expect that this could be the end of Hamas terror. One cannot overlook the possibility of a power struggle between the various factions. The Palestinians are tired of the corruption and bribery in government and Hamas has been exploiting this fact with marked success.

Now the limited success of Hamas with its terror tactics has not served the interests of the Palestinian people and this could begin a trend towards a loss in their popularity building up to the upcoming Palestinian elections. Their terror has resulted in Israeli Army retaliation and the loss of many lives. Israel would be making a grave mistake if it shows open support for Mahmoud Abbas in the upcoming Palestinian Elections. Hamas and their terrorist allies view Mahmoud Abbas as an Israeli and U.S. lackey. Israel should remain on the sidelines and not interfere in the Palestinian internal situation.

There have been no practical signs of disarming the terrorist militias. While Hamas remains armed, it will be very difficult for any outside power, whether it is Israel, or the Quartet to exert pressure on Mahmoud Abbas to disqualify Hamas from participating in the elections. The Palestinians may view this as interference in their internal affairs and it could weaken Mahmoud Abbas even further. There is even talk of arming the Palestinian Security Services for the purpose of restoring law and order as well as disarming the Hamas and allied militias. It remains to be seen whether this tactic will work.

The only way that Hamas could be disarmed is if the Palestinian people rise up en masse and show their opposition to an armed terrorist group taking part in the elections. The disarming of Hamas is an essential first step for them to gain legitimacy. If they become a political organization and cease terror operations then their participation in the elections should be encouraged.

Meanwhile there does seem to be a desire on the Palestinian side to maintain the momentum towards a final settlement. There are meetings between the two sides that are encouraging. As Ze'ev Schiff says, the Palestinians cannot expect the world to invest in their infra structure and improving their economic situation while Hamas and their allies remain armed and engage in terrorist activity.