Sunday, January 31, 2010

Israeli doctors in Haiti

Here's a link to the blog of Yael Bar-Tur, an Israeli living in Los Angeles who joined her military unit in Haiti, containing first-person anecdotes about her experiences with the Israeli field hospital.

Among other things, she notes how quickly Arab and European media moved to deny Israel's contribution. As she describes it:

"Every night in Haiti I would go on youtube, click "Israel Haiti" and follow the stories of the reporters who came to visit the hospital. As time went by, these two words brought up horrible and saddening videos, mostly accusing Israel of organ harvesting, trying to steal Haitian children, exploiting Haiti for PR and so on...These where not just coming from your average left wing or right wing psychos, but from respectable papers in Arab countries and Europe."

I used to believe such stories were simply the kind hateful stuff you always find at the political margins of society. But it's going mainstream now. (Thanks to Rachel.)

Friday, January 29, 2010

Jews leaving Malmo

According to this report, Jews are leaving Malmo, the third largest city in Sweden, because of threats and harrassment. About 700 hundred Jews currently reside there. Last year, there were 79 crimes against Jewish residents, a doubling of the 2008 level; in addition, some observers believe that other crimes go unreported. Jewish cemeteries and synagogues have repeatedly been defaced with anti-Semitic graffiti, and a chapel at a Jewish burial site was firebombed in January 2009.

A local Swedish politician blames local right-wing extremists; a Jewish community leader notes that much more hate speech emanates from the far left. In addition, he says, a 'very small segment' of the burgeoning Muslim community contributes to antisemitism. Indeed, two years ago, foreigners made up around 40% of the population of Malmo. (Thanks to Daily Alert.)

Self-promotion time

Here's my book review in City Journal of two books: A God Who Hates: The Courageous Woman Who Inflamed the Muslim World Speaks Out Against the Evils of Islam, by Wafa Sultan and Cruel and Usual Punishment: The Terrifying Global Implications of Islamic Law, by Nonie Darwish. They both argue that repression, cruelty, and fear are central to Islam.
I highly recommend both.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Sanctions, what sanctions?

The foreign ministers of the EU have announced that they will not support sanctions against Iran unless the UN Security Council (which includes China and Russia) does so as well. This is exactly the position I've been expected them to take. A couple of observations:

-- This confirms the futility of the Obama administration's multilateral approach to Iran, since the Chinese have said quite clearly that they do not support sanctions.

-- When even the German weekly magazine Der Spiegel finally discovers that Iran may be pursuing nuclear weapons, do not for a moment expect the Europeans to let that interfere with their booming trade with Iran. Indeed, Goli Ameri has it right: "The continued focus on Russia and China's intransigence is allowing Europe to stay under the radar." To be precise: "In 2008 the EU was—in its own words—the "first trade partner of Iran," with imports and exports totalling €25.4 billion ($36.4 billion) followed by China, Japan, and South Korea."

Mind you, with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton saying that we should find sanctions that only hurt the Iranian elite, I don't think the United States has much of a policy either. I realize no one wants to consult the Bush record, but in 2000-2001 then Secretary Powell spent a lot of time trying to get agreement on 'smart sanctions' against Iraq. He failed.

I just want to know if Vice President Joe Biden's warning is still operative. He said we would shoot down any Israeli planes flying over Iraq to attack Iran's nuclear facilities.

Is anyone out there ashamed?

Monday, January 25, 2010

European meddling

Last week, British businessman David Martin Abrahams met with senior Hamas official Abdel Aziz Dwaik as part of a mission to "facilitate dialogue between Hamas and the international community." His visit raised a storm of controversy on two points: first, he announced that Hamas was prepared to accept the existence of the state of Israel, a statement that Hamas leaders hurried to deny; and second, Palestinian Authority officials warned that such meetings would only legitimize Hamas, a terrorist organization.

Now Israel has barred Belgian development aid minister Charles Michel from visiting the Gaza Strip because he was likely to have a political meeting with Hamas as well. This was not just an idle suspicion; as EUobserver reports:

"Despite the stated EU stance towards Hamas, it is an open secret that European member state officials maintain links with the Gaza administration.

Last year, Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak said that Germany was working with Hamas towards the release of Gilad Shalit, the Israeli soldier held prisoner by the Islamic group, while a Hamas spokesman told EUobserver that it holds meetings on a weekly basis with different diplomatic contacts from France, Spain, Germany, Italy, the UK and Luxembourg."

Israel and the Palestinian Authority may well wonder, with friends like these, who needs enemies?

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Tariq Ramadan allowed in

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton last week signed papers allowing Islamic leader Tariq Ramadan to reapply to enter the United States. He had been denied a visa in 2004 when he sought to take up a position on the faculty of Notre Dame University.

The State Department spokesman explained that: "Both the president and the secretary of state have made it clear that the U.S. government is pursuing a new relationship with Muslim communities based on mutual interest and mutual respect."

Now, what's curious about this is that the visa denial was originally explained as a "prudential revocation" based on regulations that bar terrorists and their associates as well those who incite others to violence. Reportedly Ramadan was linked to Djamel Beghal, 36, one of six persons to be tried of attempting a terrorist attack against the U.S. embassy in Paris.

Notre Dame has since filled its position with somebody else, so we'll have to wait and see what Ramadan does. But it's curious timing: Clinton is making nice to Ramadan in the midst of the firestorm over State's failure to revoke the visa of undie bomber Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab.

Geert Wilders on trial

Here's the speech that Dutch parliamentarian Geert Wilders gave on January 20 at a pre-trial hearing before the Amsterdam District Court. Wilders is charged with having "intentionally offended a group of people, i.e. Muslims, based on their religion," as well as having incited to hatred and discrimination.

His argument: that people should have the freedom to criticize Islam as well as the freedom to call for the destruction of the West. As he points out: "I am being prosecuted for my political convictions. The freedom of speech is on the verge of collapsing. If a politician is not allowed to criticise an ideology anymore, this means that we are lost, and it will lead to the end of our freedom." His trial opens on February 3.

Wilders is particularly famous for his short film Fitna, released in March 2008, which juxtaposed certain passages from the Koran and vicious speeches by Muslim clerics with the violent and terrorist acts they inspired. His political party is now one of the two largest in the Netherlands, despite the fact that he lives under constant death threats. If the court finds against him, it will be condemning the 30% of the Dutch electorate that agrees with him.

Stopping terror at home

According to this article by Adam Brodsky, there are essentially no known cases in which American Muslim groups have helped U.S. authorities stop terrorist plots: "I know of no investigations" in which Muslims have been helpful, Rep. Peter King (R-LI), the ranking member of the House Homeland Security Committee, tells me. He says law-enforcement and counterterror officials invariably tell him Muslim cooperation doesn't exist. Sometimes agents say they're met with hostility."

Given that many prominent U.S. Muslim organizations are connected to the Muslim Brotherhood, their lack of cooperation isn't surprising. But it is chilling. Even more chilling is the lack of cooperation by Muslims who don't belong to such organizations.

Friday, January 22, 2010

You choose

Here, thanks to Daily Alert and MEMRI, are two very different perspectives about how Muslims should treat Jews.

-- An Egyptian cleric, in a TV sermon on January 29, called on his flock to destroy the Jews: "The Jews are our enemies. Allah will annihilate them at our hands. This is something we know for certain."

-- Syria's chief religious leader, or mufti, called on Muslims to protect Judaism. At least, that is what he reportedly told a visiting delegation of American academics. Jews had once lived in Syria peacefully and were treated fairly, he explained; his grandfather had a Jewish partner.

So which one is more representative? Actually, I think both are; the mufti is saying what people typically say to gullible Westerners; the Egyptian is speaking directly to his flock. However, if peace breaks out tomorrow between Israel and Syria, I'm perfectly happy to be wrong on this one.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

The dangers of foreign aid

Here are two articles that highlight the difficulties and dangers associated with foreign aid for the two countries of highest current interest, Afghanistan and Haiti.

In Afghanistan, the US Agency for International Development (USAID) has ignored its own procedures to throw money at the UN agency in charge of development projects there. Result: maybe $10-20 out of every $100 in aid actually make it to the announced destination; meanwhile, AID and the UN agency are the subjects of numerous reports on malfeasance.

As for Haiti, the Wall Street Journal's Bret Stephens argues that the worst thing we could do would be to provide more aid for reconstruction, once the humanitarian emergency is past. Haiti has received massive assistance for years, creating a culture of dependency and a corrupt and useless government. Any new aid 'surges' would only perpetuate those problems and make them even worse.

Clint Eastwood and antisemitism

Rachel sent me this clip from "White Hunter Black Heart," a 1990 movie directed by and starring Clint Eastwood, that appears to give Eastwood's views on antisemitism. As usual, they are unvarnished.

Great Satan and Little Satan

That's what the Islamists call the United States (Great Satan) and Israel (Little Satan), to emphasize in part the similarities between the two. And, indeed, the response to the Haiti earthquake suggests they may have a point: Israel has quickly deployed a sophisticated field hospital there, apparently better than any U.S. capabilities available there. Give me the Satans any day of the week! (Thanks to Shoshana, whom I don't know, but who sent me the link.)

Monday, January 18, 2010

So much for moderate Palestinians

Barry Rubin reports here on a recent incident that gives an alarming insight into what's going on in Palestinian society these days:

"Siding with Hamas, [Yousef Al-Qaradawi], an Egyptian who lives in Qatar, gave a sermon urging Muslims to stone—in other words kill as a heretic—Palestinian Authority (PA) leader (often referred to as "president") Mahmoud Abbas. Angered by this statement, PA officials ordered West Bank imams to denounce Qaradawi for this action. One of those who did so was Raed al-Mahdawi of Ramallah who took a traditional conservative Muslim position, asking Qaradawi to apologize to Abbas and adding, 'Muslim scholars should not use the podiums at their disposal to incite against any ruler or offend the feelings of any people.'

But those who followed PA instructions were interrupted and forced to stop by angry worshippers; congregations walked out or chased the clerics out of the mosques altogether. In response, PA police beat up and arrested those protesting."

Qaradawi is considered the foremost Islamic cleric in the world today - and many think he is 'moderate.' He's about as 'moderate' as the angry West Bank worshippers.

Sunday, January 17, 2010


Anjem Choudary, who heads the UK Muslim extremist group Islam4UK that was banned as of December 14, says he will simply replace it with another group, Democracy is Dead. Islam4UK was itself the reincarnation of an earlier group, Al Muhajiroun, which was also banned.

Choudary promises bloodshed if the UK authorities crack down on him, saying Britain will become like Bosnia. One thing is sure; if the authorities don't crack down on him, more violence is what they'll have - organized and orchestrated by Choudary. (Thanks to Jihad Watch.)

Another attack

Two Arabic-speaking men poured gasoline over Rayhana, an Algerian actress and playwright, and tried to set her afire outside a theater in Paris. Presumably they were unhappy with her play, which focuses on the treatment of women in Algeria. She nevertheless appeared on stage that night. French police are treating the attack as an act of terrorism. (Thanks to Jihad Watch.)

Defending Muslim women is a dangerous pastime, as Norwegian Hege Storhaug well knows. The first step to fix this is for society to support those who do speak out. In Rayhana's case, the French Minister of Culture and the Secretary for Urban Affairs have done so, as well as a Muslim association, Foi et Pratique (Faith and Practice) and the French Society of Dramatic Authors and Composers.

The next step is to for the authorities to take the problem seriously. Again, the French appear to be doing so, as they have classified this as a terrorist act.

The third step is to arrest and punish the perpetrators - I wonder if the French could deport them, as they do imams who preach violence?

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Fort Hood terrorist

It is a relief to have an administration official admit that the Fort Hood shooting was an act of terrorism; it is also refreshing to hear the military admit that somehow Major Hasan shouldn't have been promoted and allowed to pursue a jihadist path. Jihad Watch is very skeptical that the military really will address the problem; I am less so.

First, the military, once it understands it has a problem, moves more quickly to fix it than do other bureaucracies (like the State Department). The brass may still be in denial, but I cannot believe that the average officer or soldier doesn't understand that something has to change. Second, I saw Defense Secretary Bob Gates' face and demeanor at the press conference discussing it. He's mad - and he's not just going to forget it. And he's the boss.

Gates has a long and distinguished public service record and can work for either party. I take his reaction seriously because he is likely to mean what he says and to follow through on it.

So, enjoy this rare ray of optimism in my otherwise downbeat blog!

Thursday, January 14, 2010

More on Islamophobia

CNS News has some interesting statistics on hate crimes in the United States. Turns out the fears peddled by organizations like CAIR (the Council on American-Islamic Relations) of an anti-Muslim backlash and spike in in hate crimes are not backed up by data.

Quite the reverse: there have been no/no reported attacks since the Fort Hood shooting and the attempted destruction of Flight 253. Instead, "[i]n 2008, a whopping 67% of religiously motivated attacks were against Jews, while just 7% targeted Muslims — even though the Jewish and Muslim populations are comparable in size. Even Christians, at 9%, account for a higher share of victims."

So please, all my dedicated and wonderful readers: next time someone accuses Americans of being Islamophobes, push back! The facts are on your side.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

What censorship looks like

Clemens Heni (disclaimer: friend of mine) was asked to join the board of a new Journal for the Study of Antisemitism (JSA). He did, and their first issue contained an article of his criticizing the way the Berlin Center for Research on Antisemitism equated antisemitism with 'Islamophobia,' a supposed trend which any number of studies have demonstrated is a red herring.

According to Clemens, the editors received what they characterized as mafia-like threats. As a result, they dismissed him from the board. Daniel Pipes, who was also a board member, submitted his resignation in response to their decision (here are excerpts from his letter).

If you think the dispute about the importance and nature of 'Islamophobia' is a tempest in an academic teapot, think again. If the alleged trend has a solid basis in reality, why the need for threats? And why the need for censorship? Why not encourage a robust debate - and in the process raise the profile of a new publication?

Other views of security

Barry Rubin suggests that the best way to improve airport security is to train a small cadre of people to identify people for secondary screening - a variety of the 'outer ring' security described in my previous entry.

As he points out, upgrading TSA personnel to perform sensitive screening would be very expensive, given the number of flights and the number of people to be screened. But "a relatively small number of agents at each airport (including selected at-risk airports abroad) who survey passengers and make some choices for secondary screening ... wouldn't be a panacea but might improve the overall protection."

Moreover, Rubin argues that the real security threat is from homegrown terrorists, like the Fort Hood shooter. It's local law enforcement officials who need to learn more about identifying suspicious behavior, since they're more likely to be the ones actually involved.

Both he and former UN ambassador John Bolton view the huge Washington bureaucracy that deals with security as part of the problem, not part of the solution. Bolton is certainly right that the 'group think' engendered by such arrangements produces garbage, not useful intelligence.

UK to ban Islamist group

The British government plans to ban an Islamist group, Islam4UK, starting on January 14. The decision will allow the government to arrest people who meet in the group's name and to seize its assets. The action came in response to public outrage after the group organized a protest march through Wootton Bassett, a town known for honoring British soldiers killed in Afghanistan.

Omar Bakri Mohammed claims that the ban could push group members toward violence. Referred to as the 'spiritual leader' of Islam4UK, he is a thug who now resides in Lebanon after being deported from the UK in 2005.

Islam4UK will likely be reincarnated under a new name; it is itself the reincarnation of Al-Muhajiroun, a group linked to several terror suspects and that allegedly recruited British Muslims to fight in Afghanistan and Chechnya. But at least the British government is responding to public opinion. (Thanks to CNS News.)

Friday, January 8, 2010

A treat for you

Here, thanks to Rachel, is a video of a surprise performance of opera arias at the central market in Valencia, Italy. You'll be completely charmed if you watch it - that's all I'll say!

Thursday, January 7, 2010

The 'Israelification' of airports

Here, thanks to Jeff, is a description of how the Israelis do airport security. They perform multiple checks, all based on looking at the person rather than his or her things. I've included it just so you can know, as you pull off your shoes and stuff them in a plastic bin at airport security, that "the goal at Ben-Gurion is to move fliers from the parking lot to the airport lounge in a maximum of 25 minutes."

And it gets worse. According to the article, the Israelis have a coordinated intelligence gathering operation that generates "a constantly evolving series of threat analyses and vulnerability studies," while neither Canada nor the United States does anything like it.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Just venting

Like everyone else, I've been listening to the details about Undie-Bomber Abdulmutallab as they emerge from various sources. Here's what I know:

-- He was refused a British visa on immigration grounds. He said he wanted to study at a fictitious school. This is very odd, since he'd studied in the UK before - surely he could have put together a more convincing story.

-- His father turned him in. I can well believe that lots of fake denunciations are received by US authorities (in fact, that was my first reaction to the story), but in this case the father was surely known personally to someone at the embassy, given his status. And indeed, the embassy reported what he said, so someone there must have believed him.

-- Again, I can understand the requirement for information from more than one source before a visa is denied. But if there isn't a procedure that requires secondary screening and a personal interview for cases that don't meet the bar for visa denial, then there should be one.

-- Abdulmutallab paid for his ticket in cash and boarded without luggage. Both those factors should have triggered an alarm, quite apart from anything the father had reported.

So who's guilty? Looks to me like the problem arose from a combination of factors, so it may be hard to affix blame. But a report of a White House meeting in which agencies 'took reponsibility' for their functions is true hogwash. If they weren't 'responsible,' then what were they doing in the meeting?

I always felt one of former President Bush's biggest failings was excessive loyalty to his subordinates, some of whom he protected way too long. President Obama has already shown that he knows how to throw people under the bus. He needs to do so again, if for no other reason than to focus the attention of the rest of his team.

(Note: I deleted a paragraph saying that the father didn't know about the trip to Yemen.)

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Women's rights in Norway

Author Bruce Bawer recounts here the saga of Hege Storhaug, an outspoken defender of the rights of immigrant Muslim women in her native Norway. She was beaten unconscious in her home on January 1, 2007, three years to the day before an assassin tried to kill Kurt Westergaard, the Danish cartoonist who drew the Mohammed-in-a-bomb-turban cartoon.

In Westergaard's case, the assailant was a Somali suspected of links to Al Qaeda. Storhaug believes her attackers may have been far leftists who make common cause with the Islamists. Certainly, the media hate frenzy against her has created an environment that inspires such acts.

You can argue about whether these incidents mark the coming of Eurabia (a Europe dominated by Islam) but you can't argue that, in Europe, thugs increasingly call the shots.

The price of 'virtue'

Several weeks ago, former Israeli foreign minister Tsipi Livni cancelled a trip to the UK because a warrant had been issued for her arrest. Now a delegation of Israeli military officers has cancelled its trip because UK authorities cannot guarantee that they would not also face arrest for alleged war crimes during last year's Gaza conflict.

The UK government has promised to fix this problem; the Muslim Council of Britain's General Secretary, Mohammad Abdul Bari, is doing his best to keep them from doing so. As he puts it: “You appear to be committing the government to the path of selective compliance with the enforcement of international law. This is surely not in the best interests of our country as it will add a further dimension to the double standards that our government is seen to have in relation to the politics of the Middle East."

Note that (1) these arrest warrants are political, pure and simple; (2) none of them are for Palestinians, not even those accused of war crimes by other Palestinians. Not only is 'selective compliance' an utter joke, but the whole concept of 'universal jurisdiction,' whereby a court anywhere can sue anybody for anything, is not justice but chaos.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Undie bomber in UK

Ever wonder just what Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab was doing as a student in London? Well, Ruth Dudley Edwards offers a partial description which shows just how easy the universities make it for Islamists to radicalize students like him. As she points out:

"It's not that universities haven't had enough warnings. Sheikh Musa Admani, an imam at London Metropolitan University, pleaded with both the Home Office and academic leaders to supervise and control Islamic societies. He spoke eloquently of vulnerable, friendless first-year students, confused about the conflict between Islam and hedonistic secular values, who are natural prey for Islamist evangelists offering companionship, brotherly love and a clear sense of identity."

She goes on to analyze the poisonous soup of left-wing ideology, Islamism, antisemitism and hatred of the British, Americans and Israelis that prevails at many UK universities, some of whom are dependent on funding from Iran and Saudi Arabia. Once you've read it, check out what Campus Watch has to say about American universities. You'll find we're headed in the same direction. (Thanks to Jihad Watch.)

Change in Iran

Unfortunately, I agree with Jonathan Spyer, who notes that the Iranian dissidents, while growing in number and passion, still lack leadership or clear goals.

On the other hand, Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmedinejad and his allies, backed by the Revolutionary Guards and the Basiji, want Iran - and the outside world - to go down a much more radical path. Unlike the corrupt and decadent elites in Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union, these guys won't go quietly.

So, no, I don't believe that a popular revolt will unseat Ahmedinejad and usher in a millenium of peaceful cooperation this year. Unfortunately.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

What a year 2009 was

I know you think I only post grim tidings, but Dave Barry's take on 2009 should tickle your funny bone. Be sure to read it all, and don't forget to keep an eye out for Somali pirates!

Friday, January 1, 2010

U.S. policy and the 'war on terror'

As usual, Charles Krauthammer says it best. Here's his take on what's wrong with administration policy on the no-longer-acknowledged 'war on terror.' It's not just that Napolitano thinks the system is working, or that Obama refuses to use the word 'jihadist;' it's the consequences of that mindset:

"The logic is perverse. If we find Abdulmutallab in an al-Qaeda training camp in Yemen, where he is merely preparing for a terror attack, we snuff him out with a Predator -- no judge, no jury, no qualms. But if we catch him in the United States in the very act of mass murder, he instantly acquires protection not just from execution by drone but even from interrogation."

As Krauthammer says, "Obama may have declared the war over. Unfortunately al-Qaeda has not. Which gives new meaning to the term 'asymmetric warfare.'"