Saturday, January 31, 2009

America and the Muslim world

Here are a few more thoughts on Obama's outreach to the Muslim world, which was covered in a recent entry. Columnist Charles Krauthammer takes issue here with President Obama's characterization of U.S. policy as lacking interest in and respect for the Muslim world. As he says:

"In these most recent 20 years - the alleged winter of our disrespect of the Islamic world - America did not just respect Muslims, it bled for them. It engaged in five military campaigns, every one of which involved - and resulted in - the liberation of a Muslim people: Bosnia, Kosovo, Kuwait, Afghanistan and Iraq."

Nor were the 'good old days' all that great: Krauthammer points out that 20-30 years ago is a period that encompasses the takeover of the U.S. embassy in Tehran, the Arab oil embargo, the kidnapping and murder of U.S. diplomats in Sudan, the Marine barracks massacre in Beirut, etc. So why is returning to the pre-Bush world such a great idea?

Obama and many other Americans may not want to admit it, but the United States has been targeted by radical Islam. We can pretend that never happened - but it did, and the folks who hate us aren't going to be satisfied with anything but U.S. defeat.

Friday, January 30, 2009

The fortunes of CAIR and ISNA

The fortunes of the Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR) appear to be taking a nosedive - finally. FBI policy toward CAIR had been murky; on the one hand, it named CAIR as an unindicted co-conspirator in the Holy Land Foundation case (the Holy Land Foundation was convicted last November of funding Hamas). On the other, local FBI offices used CAIR as an important conduit to the 'moderate' Muslim community.

Now, however, it appears that the FBI quietly severed those links last summer until 'certain issues' are addressed by the CAIR national office in Washington, DC. The chairman of the Congressional Anti-Terrorism Caucus and four other Republicans, citing the FBI's policy, has now sent a 'Dear Colleague' letter to all House members urging them 'think twice' before meeting with CAIR.

These governmental difficulties come on top of a recent federal lawsuit filed by a group of Muslims alleging that they had been defrauded in a scam under which CAIR was supposed to help them obtain U.S. citizenship. As CAIR has a record of threatening lawsuits to silence its critics, this looks like poetic justice.

CAIR was not the only unindicted co-conspirator in the Holy Land Foundation case; the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA) shared that honor. Its president, Ingrid Mattson, participated in President Obama's inaugural prayer service. One wonders whether the FBI or anyone else had alerted the White House to ISNA's dubious status. One - at least this one - also wonders why the FBI failed to publicize its change of policy. Was it afraid of how CAIR or the American Muslim community might react?

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Obama and the Muslim world

Fouad Ajami, a well-known Mideast expert, interprets Obama's TV interview on Al-Arabiya as confirming that the United States will return to its long-standing policy of getting along with Mideast dictators. "Where Mr. Bush had seen the connection between the autocratic ways in Muslim lands and the culture of terror that infected the young foot soldiers of radicalism, Mr. Obama seems ready to split the difference with their rulers. His embrace of the 'peace process' is a return to the sterile diplomacy of the Clinton years, with its belief that the terror is rooted in the grievances of the Palestinians."

Ajami acknowledges that Americans are tired of foreign problems and preoccupied with economic difficulties, but he warns: "This war was never a unilateral American war to be called off by an American calendar. The enemy, too, has a vote in how this struggle between American power and radical Islamism plays out in the years to come."

Obama, like most Americans, seems to believe reflexively that if you 'make nice' with someone, that someone will 'make nice' with you. That may often work here at home, but it can wreak havoc in foreign policy. (Just ask Bush about Putin's soul.)

Nor is it useful to assume that others are motivated by the same economic or political interests that we are: Hamas and Hezbollah don't want to cut a deal with Israel, they want to annihilate it and drive all the Jews into the sea. New special envoy George Mitchell is about to learn that there is a world of difference between the Mideast conflict and that of Northern Ireland, where he successfully brokered a peace agreement. Let's hope it doesn't take him too long.

Louis Michel blames Hamas

The EU's chief of humanitarian aid, former Belgian foreign minister Louis Michel, visited Gaza and southern Israel to assess the damage. While there, he said that Hamas bore overwhelming responsibility for the destruction. He also said Hamas was not a legitimate resistance movement since it targeted Israeli civilians. (Thanks to Smooth Stone.)

If Michel's not careful, he could be consigned to the same purgatory where the poor Czech spokesman went who said Israel acted in self-defense. On the other hand, maybe he's safe: he pledged more than $70 million in humanitarian aid to Gaza. A previous post pointed out that much of this money will likely find its way into the pockets of Hamas.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Europe slinks toward dhimmitude

Analyst Caroline Glick reports that last week the Israel Defense Forces ordered all Israeli media outlets to obscure the faces of soldiers and commanders who fought in the Gaza campaign. Why? To keep British citizens from suing them for alleged war crimes.

She links this development to the indictment of Geert Wilders in the Netherlands for his film Fitna, which is highly critical of Islam. That film was to be shown at the UK House of Lords on January 29, but with the threat of mass Muslim riots, the House of Lords announced it was cancelling the event. As she notes, "British Lord Nazir Ahmed called the decision to prevent the thought-provoking, factually accurate film from being shown, 'a victory for the Muslim community.'" Ahmed was made a peer after he supported the death sentence against British author Salman Rushdie.

As Glick writes, "Increasingly, throughout Europe, those who point out the dangers of radical Islam are hounded - first by Muslims - and then by the legal authorities. In contrast, those who seek to intimidate and physically silence them are embraced by the states of Europe as legitimate leaders of their Muslim communities."

This trend is also tied to growing antisemitic attacks. "Incidents of anti-Semitic violence in Europe reached post-Holocaust record highs over the past month ... And in almost all cases of anti-Semitic violence, the Islamic identity of the attackers has been de-emphasized by the media and by politicians, or used as justification for their crimes. In France, for instance, from the way government officials talk it would be reasonable to assume that a dozen Muslim teenagers were provoked to viciously beat a ten-year-old Jewish girl by the IDF's operation against Hamas in Gaza." (Thanks to Jewish World Review.)

By chance, I also read this morning an article by Richard Weitz on EU foreign policy in which he refers to the EU's 'benign neutrality' with regard to the Gaza conflict. I realize that may be how Europeans characterize it, but given the events Glick describes, 'cowardly appeasement' is what comes to mind. One wonders if the Czechs, who have some experience in these matters, recognize it for what it is. They were foolish enough to talk about Israel's right to self-defense, in their new capacity of Presidency of the EU - but they were quickly shut up.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Another view of Prince Harry

Since I've posted all kinds of grim stuff the past few days, here's a lighter note. Dan Freedman objects more to what Prince Harry didn't say than to what he did. Read all about it here, and store away a few handy insults.

GITMO redicivists

Four commanders of Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula recently posted calls to jihad on an Islamist internet site. Of particular interest: two of the four are former Guantanamo detainees. They must have known the New York Times now cares about them! (Thanks to MEMRI.)

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Europe responds to Obama

Many Europeans have responded very positively to President Obama's announcement that he intends to close down the Guantanamo detention center, as well as any other secret CIA-detention centers abroad. They viewed the Guantanamo center as a symbol of American disdain for international law, and argued that its inmates were being detained illegally. President Bush was accused of flouting Geneva Conventiona that govern prisoners of war.

Oddly enough, as John Rosenthal points out, the European Parliament in 2002 passed a resolution supporting Bush's policy. French General Philippe Morillon, speaking in defense of the resolution, wondered if attacks on U.S. policies were not designed 'so that we can, in the name of fine principles and grand sentiments, begin to distance ourselves from the war that Americans are continuing to wage against international terrorism?' His resolution agreed that terrorists, fighting out of uniform and hidden among the civilian population, needed to be treated differently from uniformed soldiers of another country.

In the intervening years, much of Europe has indeed tried to distance itself from the war on terror. It has succeeded - but only rhetorically. In reality, the terrorists have brought their war to Europe.

Guantanamo wasn't, however, the only point of interest for Europeans. Poland and Romania have long been attacked by other European countries for allegedly allowing the CIA to operate secret prisons on their territory; their repeated denials have changed no minds. Now critics are hopeful that the truth of any CIA activities will come to light; we may see in the next few years a spate of lawsuits alleging illegal detentions.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Hate speech in the Netherlands

So just what is unacceptable speech? The Dutch Court of Appeals may be indicting Geert Wilders for attacking Islam, but Justice Minister Ernst Hirsch Ballin has refused the request of the two major political parties in the governing coalition, as well as the opposition Freedom Party, to ban American Muslim preacher Khalid Yasin from entering the country.

Yasin has called for the death penalty for homosexuality, among other things. Ballin says he will be prosecuted too if it turns out that his speeches incite hatred. Guess we'll have to wait to see what happens. (Thanks to Jihad Watch.)

LSE blocks free speech

Yesterday, the London School of Economics banned Douglas Murray, director of the Centre for Social Cohesion, from chairing a debate on Islam hosted by the school. The LSE, according to Melanie Phillips, fears that his views will Islamist violence. "Those views are outspoken opposition to the islamicisation of the west and strong support for Israel. The LSE, where some Jewish students report a poisonous and frightening atmosphere at present, has just seen a week-long anti-Israel protest over Gaza." Just think, the LSE is the middle of London.

For more info on the Centre for Social Cohesion, see two earlier entries: one contains a link to a report they published on free speech for Muslims; the other summarizes their poll about Islamic extremists in UK universities. Like Geert Wilders, Murray and his think tank are a target for Islamists, whose goal is to silence or intimidate them.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Guantanamo releasees

Most of the time you read about people still detained in Guantanamo. Well, here's a New York Times article about Said Ali al-Shihri, a Saudi released from Guantanamo in 2007 who has apparently resurfaced as deputy head of Al Qaeda in Yemen, where he was involved in last fall's attack on the U.S. embassy. Just think: he had said that, if released, he would go back to Riyadh and try to work in his family's furniture store.

The article challenges Pentagon statistics about the number of releasee recidivists (they say it's around 11%). Cynics like me suspect that New York Times was less concerned to inform the public than to provide cover for Obama as he discovers that closing Guantanamo is harder than it sounds. After all, the newspaper could have reported before on the others who returned to active combat against the United States - but that would have looked like justification for Bush's policy.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Obama's cabinet

If you want to read my fulminations about Obama's new cabinet, here they are, on the Political Mavens blog.

Deaths in Gaza

Although the Israeli defense forces stick by their estimates of 1100-1200 people killed during the Gaza conflict, of which more than two-thirds were Hamas members, smaller numbers may be more accurate. The Italian newspaper Corriere Della Sera is apparently citing a Gazan doctor, who estimated total deaths at no more than 500-600, most of them 'youths recruited to Hamas' ranks'.

Given that casualty figures in past Mideast conflicts have been inflated by orders of magnitude (the 'massacre' at Jenin several years ago consisted not of 1500 people, but of 54, of whom 45 were armed men), it's truly astonishing that the media still gets away with spreading fake numbers. (Thanks to Smooth Stone.)

Geert Wilders under judicial attack

Dutch parliamentarian Geert Wilders, an outspoken critic of the Islamicization of his country, has been charged by the Dutch Court of Appeals with criminal 'incitement and hatred and discrimination'.

As Jacob Laksin points out, Wilders' statements are all backed up by the words and actions of Muslims themselves, and his opinion is widely shared in the Netherlands. Those facts, however, don't seem to matter, nor does the right to freedom of conscience - Wilders has only been saying what he thinks. His Muslim opponents have actually been inciting people publicly to hatred, violence and murder.

If you want to support Wilders, you can sign the petition at Jihad Watch which says you will boycott all Dutch goods if Wilders is punished or prosecuted, civilly or criminally, for exercising his freedom of expression. Other entries on that blog have more background info, as does this one on the Middle East Forum blog.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

More on 'moderates'

Previous entries have looked at 'moderate' Muslims who turn out not to be so 'moderate'. In response, Richard Landes points out that the definition of 'moderates' in the Middle East turns out to be a complex tale - one in which Western media have great trouble finding their way.

Landes distinguishes between 'moderates' - those who typically denounce violence as anything but a last resort, are willing to negotiate, and can come to a positive-sum solution - and 'pragmatists' - people who adopt moderate positions only in cases where zero-sum solutions, like war, do not promise a win. While Western societies promote 'moderates' who can engage in self-criticism, traditional, tribal cultures value instead loyalty to the clan.

This pattern is evident in the Mideast, where Israeli 'moderates' are often most critical of their own side, while Palestinians rarely admit to any failings of their own. So how does the Western media cover this? By swallowing whole Palestinian self-justifications and accusations. In the process, they reveal 'such a low set of moral expectations from the Palestinians as to almost constitute a kind of unconscious (racist?) prejudice against the Arabs.' Maybe 'moderation' is a concept that needs closer examination on all sides.

Jon Stewart on Obama

Comedian Jon Stewart, in this video, argues that President Obama in yesterday's inaugural address sounded remarkably like President Bush. Watch it and decide for yourself! At least you'll have a laugh. (Thanks to Libby.)

A medieval scourge

A medieval scourge for a medieval scourge; that's what Jihad Watch reports here. The bubonic plague seems to have broken out in a remote training camp in Algeria run by Al Qaeda in the Land of the Islamic Maghreb, or AQLIM. Al Qaeda senior leadership is apparently concerned that the plague may have passed to other cells and perhaps even to the Taliban in Afghanistan. An estimated 1,000 terrorists were attending the camp; many were reported fleeing to other camps, potentially spreading the disease.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Pastor Rick, Hitler, Lenin, Mao et al

Clemens Heni, a post-doctoral fellow at Yale, writes here (scroll down for the English text) about a sermon preached by Rick Warren in April 2005 in which Warren praised Hitler Youth. In that sermon he also lauded the ability of Lenin and Mao to mobilize large numbers of people. Warren says that a similar mobilization, or revolution, is needed to fill today's sense of spiritual emptiness.

Heni cites a January 15, 2009 entry on the Huffington Post blog by Bruce Wilson that includes this video about the sermon. The sermon was given to a crowd of 30,000 in Anaheim; at the end of it, they all held up signs saying 'Whatever it takes.'

The video contains several audio excerpts from Warren's speech; it is possible that the omitted passages would provide a different, extenuating context. Nevertheless, it's a shock to hear such a prominent pastor praising the ability of the 20th century's worst sociopaths to mobilize the masses - and getting his flock to stand as one and hold up the same sign (that moment is shown in the video).

Hitler, Lenin and Mao were geniuses at filling what was perceived then as a spiritual void; they succeeded in getting many people to abandon their own consciences and murder millions of others. In Hitler's case, anti-Semitism was a core element of his philosophy; for Lenin and Mao, it was 'class enemies.' The burden of proof must be on anyone who thinks he or she can use these techniques for good rather than evil.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Some lessons from Gaza

As the dust settles in Gaza, I offer some 'lessons' that seem to me, at least from this distance, to be valid from the perspective of Hamas:

First: Harvesting children is an absolutely sure-proof way to run a war. Either you train the kids to blow themselves up, use them for protection, or do your best to blow up the children of the opponent. All of these are wins for you. You get attention, sympathy and - most important of all - you get money. If you happen to reside outside Gaza, it's absolutely irresistible.

Second: The 'international community' loves to love someone who hates them. There's no other way to describe the outpouring of assistance for the 'Palestinians', when anyone with any sense knows that the amount that Hamas can syphon off will more than suffice to buy the latest missile technology. Hamas may have lost some leaders and foot soldiers, but this can all be repaired in short order; ask Hezbollah if you don't believe me. If they close the tunnels, well, they're opening the borders, aren't they?

Third: There is absolutely no need to worry about doing in your opponents, even crucifying them, which Hamas said it would do just before the fighting started. You can bump off lots of Palestinians in the general melee, with no indication that the 'international community' will even notice, let alone disapprove of what you're doing. So go at it!

Fourth: You may have to worry about the Israelis from time to time (especially if they know where you live), but they usually give up after a while, so it pays to hang in there.

Another 'moderate' Muslim flames out

Azad Ali, a senior British civil servant considered one of the UK's most prominent 'moderate' Muslims, has been suspended from his post because of virulent messages, including attacks on the UK government, that he posted on a blog. They include:

-- support for the idea that it is an obligation to kill U.S. and British soldiers in Iraq;

-- condemnation of the UK government for its failure to condemn the 'Zionist terrorist' state of Israel;

-- the depiction of moderate British Muslims as 'self-serving vultures, feeding on the dead flesh of the Palestinians.

So who is this guy? According to the Daily Mail,

'As a former chairman of the influential Muslim Safety Forum and the current head of its counter-terrorism work-team, he works with the Home Office, senior police officers and the Security Services trying to combat extremism...

He is also on the board of London CrimeStoppers and sits on the Metropolitan Police's Strategic Stop & Search Committee and Police Use of Firearms Group.

Mr Ali is a member of the Independent Police Complaints Commission's Community Advisory Group and the Home Office's Trust and Confidence Community Panel.'

Ali's 'moderate' facade seems to have collapsed during the Gaza conflict. Nor is he the only questionable moderate; see this earlier entry on Kamal El Helbawy. I guess the good news here is that Ali is so frustrated by the other British Muslims who do not share his views. (Thanks to Jihad Watch.)

Sunday, January 18, 2009

A Muslim enclave in The Netherlands?

That's the proposal made by a Muslim politician Ahmed Marcouch in The Netherlands, as reported by Jihad Watch. He wants a separate suburb of Amsterdam, where 'a flourishing Muslim community can develop with sufficient social capital.' Just think, he's considered a 'moderate'. At least Geert Wilders is promising to challenge this initiative.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

The good times are over

The financial meltdown, the war between Russia and Georgia, and disruptions in natural gas supplies from Russia have left people in Central Europe and the Balkans feeling vulnerable and angry, coming as they do after years of strong economic growth. The result: riots in Lithuania, Latvia and Bulgaria, and considerable anger directed at the national governments.

Meanwhile, the deadlock over natural gas shipments from Russia continues. Germany told Russia that its credibility as a supplier is in jeopardy; Russian prime minister Putin in turn proposed a consortium to deliver the gas. Ukraine interprets that proposal as an attempt to get control over Ukrainian pipelines. The EU is resisting Russian efforts to enlist it against Ukraine, and is more likely to declare a pox on both houses.

With extremely cold weather in Europe, this ain't no fun. It's worst in Bulgaria and elsewhere in the Balkans, but many European countries also have shortfalls in deliveries. There may be one silver lining to the cloud: EU energy forecasts typically assume ever greater dependency on Russia. This crisis may serve as a wake-up call.

Funding Hamas

The international community, headed by the United Nations but including the United States, EU countries and many others, is busy sending very large sums of money to Palestine for humanitarian aid. How much will actually be used for that purpose? Probably much of the money will find its way to Hamas coffers, according to terrorism finance expert Rachel Ehrenfeld.

Even the Israelis have sent cash to Gaza, most recently in December 2008 under pressure from the World Bank, the IMF and Tony Blair, Mideast envoy for the Quartet, which includes the United States, the EU, the UN and Russia. In Ehrenfeld's view: "Clearly, the world community is set on seeing the terrorist group Hamas as legitimate. But demanding that Israel pay its own executioners goes way too far."

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Hamas, Hezbollah and Fatah

Israeli Army prison official turned journalist Jeffrey Goldberg recounts several interviews he conducted with Hamas leaders that highlight the competition between Hamas and Hezbollah, the rivalry and distrust between Hamas and Fatah, and the central importance of virulent Jew-hatred. A sobering read for anyone who thinks Hamas can be persuaded to become a moderate political party. (Thanks to Joe.)

Petition against Durban II

Please sign this petition if you want the United States not/not to participate in Durban II, the UN antisemitic hatefest/conference scheduled for this April. I've reported in previous blogs what is likely to happen here; Canada and Israel have already announced that they will not attend.

If you have any doubt as to whether the UN will lend its auspices to an outpouring of anti-Israel hate, consider the resolution just passed by its Human Rights Council. Harsh condemnation of Israel, not even one mention of Hamas. Of the 47 members of the Council, many of whom are prominent human rights abusers, only Canada voted against. EU member states merely abstained. (The United States is not a member.)

Meanwhile, a recent poll revealed that 44% of Americans blame Hamas for the current conflict, while only 18% blame Israel. I can't help thinking that these perceptions are, at least in part, due to better media coverage in the United States than in Europe. Information from the blogosphere is also a big help.

Thanks to Eye on the UN.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Intifada in the West

Smooth Stone blog contains a link to a compilation of print and video reports of violent protests by Muslims in the West connected to the conflict in Gaza. It includes reports from London, Athens, Paris, Norway, Denmark and Sweden, Toronto, Ft. Lauderdale, and New York. The message is clear: either you punish the Israelis or we riot and punish you.

Please note the demonstrators saying 'kill all the Jews'. If you think 'anti-Zionism' is something separate from 'anti-Semitism,' you're misinformed.

Deficit spending

This entry has nothing to do with foreign policy, but I've included it anyway. In this video, produced by the Center for Freedom and Prosperity Foundation, Dan Mitchell of the Cato Institute demonstrates that deficit spending does not/not end recessions or depressions. Indeed, it makes them worse. He uses simple graphs, his story is direct and persuasive, and I only wish someone would show it to President-elect Obama.

Friday, January 9, 2009

Shame, shame

The United States abstained on a UN Security Council resolution calling for a Mideast ceasefire, without any mention of Hamas, or of Israel's right to self-defense. President Bush and Secretary of State Rice did something truly shameful in their final days in office, as Anne Bayefsky of Eye on the UN reports.

There's plenty of shame for Hamas too: here's a MEMRI video from February 2008 of one of their leaders bragging that Palestinian women and children are eager to serve as human shields and to kill themselves for the cause.

More on UNRWA

Claudia Rosette, a journalist who has specialized in UN affairs, has put together this devastating critique of UNRWA, the UN relief agency that runs the Palestinian refugee camps (last mentioned here). Some highlights from her article:

-- the Palestinian refugee population cared for by UNRWA has swelled from the original 900,000 in 1950 to more than 4.6 million;

-- UNRWA employs more than 24,000 people. That's more than any other UN agency. UNHCR, the UN refugee agency responsible for more than 11 million refugees in all the other countries of the world, has 6,300 staffers. More than 99% of UNRWA staff are local Palestinians.

-- With UNRWA headquarters in Gaza, guess which side it tends to favor in the Mideast conflict?

-- The United States, at $148 million, was the top donor to UNRWA last year.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

The goals of Hamas

Watch this MEMRI video of Hamas spokesmen setting out their goals prior to the start of the Gaza conflict. Some of these goals are:

-- Conquer Rome, the 'Crusader capital', turning it into an advance post for further conquests in Europe;

-- Annihilate America and Israel; kill all the Americans and all the Jews;

-- Take over the world.

How anyone can still think that Hamas is only fighting a 'resistance' battle with Israel is beyond me.

Hamas may dazzle Islamists, and the Western left and media, but it's striking that no other Arab or Muslim forces have come to their aid. Hezbollah doesn't appear to thirst for battle, and Iranian top leader Ayatollah Khamenei banned the departure of 70,000 potential Iranian 'martyrs' for Gaza. (Perhaps he fears that 70,000 suicide bombers would give Israel a more than adequate pretext to attack Iranian nuclear facilities.) Khamenei said Iran will provide help in some other form - money and weapons to rebuild after the current conflict is over?

EU will investigate gas pipeline

Well, my previous entry seems to have shamed EU officials into agreeing to monitor natural gas shipments from Russia into Europe via Ukraine...or maybe that's my megalomania peeking through. Seriously, with gas deliveries to many EU member states interrupted, Russia has now gotten the EU to focus on this problem. Whether this is really how a supplier should treat a major customer is of course another issue.

Fly American

Flying with Americans is, I submit, one of the safest things to do. On a flight landing yesterday in Los Angeles, one passenger tried to open the exit door, shouting that he would blow himself up if anyone tried to stop him. So a half a dozen passengers, including a guitarist (hardly a Special Forces type), attacked him, pinned him down, and held him until the plane landed and the authorities took him away (there was no bomb).

Those are the kind of fellow passengers I'd like to have on board.


I haven't seen the new Tom Cruise film Valkyrie, but the intensive previews have made me skeptical. Here, for anyone interested, John Rosenthal exposes the bogus history depicted in the movie.

The movie apparently portrays the 1944 plotters against Hitler as opposing the concentration camps and the murder of the Jews. In fact, some of them were personally implicated in those policies. Even those who were not, such as the plot leader, Cruise's Claus von Stauffenberg, believed in the racial superiority of Germans and said so publicly.

Instead, the plotters saw that Germany was going to lose the war, and they wanted to avoid the unconditional surrender and foreign occupation of Germany. Nor did they want any Germans (presumably, including themselves) to be tried by foreign or international courts for war crimes.

I can't speak to the film's entertainment value, but its historical value appears to be very, very slight.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

US should stop funding UNRWA

Why is it that the U.S. government continues to fund the UNRWA, the UN agency in charge of Palestinian refugees? For some reason, this question is rarely raised. Instead, everyone assumes that the Palestinian refugee problem is an intractable one that only Israelis can solve. That view, however, excludes several important facts:

-- Everywhere else in the world the main UN refugee agency, UNHCR, accepts refugees into camps, takes care of them, and then helps them find a permanent place to live. That place may be back home; it may be in the country housing the camp; or it may be in a third country. But people don't just live indefinitely as refugees - except for Palestinians. The United States is an important contributor to UNHCR.

-- Other refugees whose plight dates back to the period during and after World War II were resettled, most of them decades ago. That includes 12 million Germans forced out of eastern Europe; millions of Indians and Pakistanis; and the 800,000 or so Jews forced out of Middle Eastern and North African countries (a number slightly higher than the original 750,000 Palestinian refugees). The bottom line for most of these people: you were thrown out but you have to put it behind you. While that may sound cruel and unjust, the reality is that virtually all of those former refugees and their descendants are now leading reasonable lives - while the third generation of Palestinians is still awaiting 'justice.'

-- UNRWA is notorious for sheltering Hamas. The IDF charges that Hamas was shooting at them from the school which was hit, and that most of the deaths that occurred were due to booby-trap bombs set off by the Israeli return fire. (See Melanie Phillips' column here.) Nor is this in any way unusual; if you go to the IDF's YouTube site you can see a film of mortars being fired from a UN school in Gaza in October 2007. Nor are these all just casual encounters; last spring the headmaster of a UN school turned out to be a Hamas rocket-maker.

So, back to my original question: why are U.S. taxpayers funding UNRWA?

Violence against civilians

Michael Medved has written an excellent piece about how we decide which conflicts are important and which are not. He notes that the Sri Lankan authorities just achieved an important victory in a long-running civil war (in which non-Muslim rebels began the current use of suicide bombing), yet virtually no one noticed. Ditto for the war in the Congo which last week claimed several times more civilian victims than did the Israeli-Hamas conflict.

Medved is convinced that the Mideast conflict receives the attention it does (1) because Jews are involved; and (2) the United States supports Israel. In his view, the United States does not make enemies by supporting Israel; rather, Israel has become an enemy because of its close association with the United States. He sees the Mideast conflict as an important front in the struggle against what he calls Islamo-Nazi terror, but argues that it should be kept in perspective.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Violence against European Jews

The Associated Press reports an increase in violence against European Jews that is apparently linked to the conflict in Gaza. Incidents occurred in Denmark, Sweden, France, the United Kingdom and Belgium, with the most serious in Toulouse, France, where a burning car rammed into the gates of a synagogue. Fortunately, there were no injuries. The article doesn't say who the assailants were.

The next time someone tells you that anti-Zionism is completely different and separate from anti-Semitism, please take that assertion with a grain of salt.

Iran's strategy

Iran is well-known as the power behind both Hezbollah and Hamas. During the 2006 war it helped Hezbollah, leaving analysts to wonder what will it do for Hamas, particularly if the Israelis inflict real damage on that organization. Commentators Caroline Glick and Walid Phares suggest several possible Iranian strategies.

Glick argues that Iran, which incited the current conflict, may leave Hamas to its fate. Why? Either because the Iranian regime is too weak, due to low energy prices and internal dissent, to risk another expensive foreign war, or because it has already derived as much benefit as it needs from Hamas.

The second alternative is buttressed by a bipartisan French parliamentary report, derived from open sources, that argues that Iran will pass the line of no return in developing nuclear weapons this year. In that case, allowing Hamas to divert Israel and the United States is sufficient - there is no need for Hamas to win. (Thanks to Jewish World Review.)

Phares speculates that Iran may have hoped to rally public support against Israel now, in order to make it harder for Israel to attack Iranian nuclear facilities. As an added benefit, if Israel bogs down in Gaza, President-elect Obama will have to start his Mideast policy on the defensive.

Monday, January 5, 2009

Need a laugh?

Times are grim (and I post a lot of grim entries), but if you want a laugh, here's a 'must read': the Wall Street Journal's Matthew Kaminski interview of London mayor Boris Johnson. Johnson, among other remarks, describes UK prime minister Gordon Brown as a 'great big quivering gelatinous invertebrate jelly of indecision.' If only our politicians were permitted to crack jokes!

Dubious ties

For those who worry that donations to Bill Clinton's foundation may influence decisions made by Secretary of State-designate Hillary Clinton, here's a good example of the problem, provided by Rachel Ehrenfeld.

The Iranian Alavi Foundation contributed between $25,000 and $50,000 to the William J. Clinton Foundation last December 19. That was the same day the Alavi Foundation was indicted on a charge of obstruction of justice by the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, in a case connected to the Iranian Bank Melli Iran. Two days earlier, the U.S. government had designated Alavi's partner, the Assa Corp., as a terrorist entity. The Bank Melli Iran was so designated in October 2007.

If I were Bill Clinton's adviser, I'd urge him to return the money immediately.

The clash of civilizations

Commentator Mark Steyn argues that the West will never understand what is motivating Hamas or the current Iranian regime unless it acknowledges that many others are not motivated primarily by the desire for better economic or educational opportunities.

Steyn doesn't believe that these civilizational differences are immutable. But he does think that, unless the West is willing to stand up and defend its culture at least as fiercely as the Saudis and Iranians defend theirs, we won't prevail.

As usual, Steyn works factual nuggets into his piece: did you know that, in its 2007 struggle with Hamas, Fatah seized 1,000 Qassam rockets being stored at the Islamic University in Gaza, along with seven Iranian military trainers? Or that as a 'multicultural balance' to the Queen's Christmas message, British Channel 4 featured an alternative Yuletide address by Iranian President Ahmedinejad?

The EU takes on the pirates

The EU military mission Atalanta is now battling pirates in the Gulf of Aden. According to news reports, a French frigate stopped pirates from seizing Croatian and Panamanian vessels. Other EU forces scared pirates away from a Greek oil tanker. (Thanks to

To interfere or not to interfere

The EU has dispatched an official mission to the Mideast in hopes of brokering a ceasefire between Israel and Hamas and sending humanitarian aid to Gaza (French President Nicholas Sarkozy is going on his own separate mission, but that's another story).

At the same time, the European Commission (a major EU institution) declined Russia's request to send EU monitors to investigate the source of shortfalls in Russian gas shipments through Ukraine to Europe. The Russians say the Ukrainians are to blame; the Ukrainians say it's the Russians. The Commission spokesman said the EU had no plans to get involved in what it regarded as a bilateral dispute. (Thanks to

Does anybody else notice the disconnect? Why isn't the Mideast problem a 'bilateral dispute' that the EU will wisely avoid? Perhaps the truth is that, much as the Europeans malign Israel, they know the Israelis practice restraint and respond to Western imprecations. No particular evidence the Russians would do the same - and they're important energy suppliers.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Fighting over gas

The dispute between Russia and Ukraine over gas shipments has once again reduced gas supplies to EU countries. Ukraine for years benefited from the artificially low prices for natural gas shipments from Russia that it inherited from Soviet times. Russian attempts to raise these prices have been stymied more than once by the fact that the same pipeline carries gas on into Europe - and that Ukraine could and did syphon off gas from those shipments.

Russia and Ukraine assured the EU that the latest dispute would not disturb the onward shipments. Unsurprisingly (at least to me), that assurance turns out not to be accurate. RFE/RL reports supply shortfalls to a number of EU member states. Russia and Ukraine, naturally, are engaged in mutual recriminations as to who caused these shortfalls.

Meanwhile, the Russian gas firm Gazprom, the largest natural gas company in the world and the owner of the pipeline to Ukraine, asked for help last November. Its share prices have plunged, due to declining energy prices and to the war in the Caucasus, which dealt a body blow to confidence in the Russian economy.

Amending the Koran - not

French philosopher and public figure Bernard-Henri Levy was put on a list of prominent European Jews targeted for assassination after he called for amending the Koran, or at least interpreting it a more enlightened fashion, as Jews and Christians have done with regard to their holy books.

The assassination plan was thwarted when the group leader of the radical Islamic group behind it was arrested last February in Morocco. (Thanks to Jihad Watch.)

Predator takes out Al Qaeda leadership

Here, thanks to Jeff, is an article from the British newspaper The Times, that describes the success the United States has had in using its Predator and Reaper drones to identify, target and kill Al Qaeda leaders in Pakistan. Among this 'senior management' have been several terrorists specialized in attacks in Europe.

Friday, January 2, 2009

Dershowitz weighs in

Alan Dershowitz, in an eloquent article on December 31 on the Mideast hostilities, attacks the "United Nations and European Union response, which equates the willful murder of civilians [by Hamas] with [Israel's] legitimate self-defense pursuant to Article 51 of the United Nation Charter." (Thanks to Libby.)

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Civilian casualties

In the midst of the media storm about Palestinian civilians killed by Israelis, here's an interesting story from Iran, courtesy of Palestinian Media Watch. An Iranian reformist newspaper carried a report criticizing Hamas for hiding its forces in nurseries and hospitals. The Iranian Culture Ministry has sinced closed down the newspaper.

Hamas says openly that it targets Israeli citizens. Since they also deliberately risk the lives of Palestinian civilians, including children, at least you can't accuse them of bias.