Friday, April 30, 2010

More on women and earthquakes

I see now that I was far too flippant about the Iranian cleric's charge that provocatively dressed women cause earthquakes. A young female scientist in Indiana took a more serious approach and performed an experiment on April 26 to test his thesis. Thousands of women, whom she organized via the internet, dressed 'immodestly' that day. She then compared earthquake activity for April 26 to the average since February 5.

No, I won't tell you the results - you have to click on the above link and find out for yourselves! (Thanks to Clemens.)

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Hezbollah and rockets

Peace in the Middle East reminds me of a receding galaxy. US Defense Secretary Robert Gates says that Hezbollah now has more rockets than do most governments. The US government is apparently still not confirming that some are Scud missiles transferred to Hezbollah by Syria.

What to do about this? Apparently, nothing much. Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak says the Israelis won't go to war over this - yet. Robert Ford, the new U.S. ambassador designate to Syria, is awaiting full Senate confirmation. If he's confirmed, the Syrians will interpret that as a sign of tacit U.S. acceptance of their support to Hezbollah.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Leaving Islam

Pamela Geller and Robert Spencer have quite a tale to tell: they contracted with Miami-Dade Transit to put ads on buses offering help to those who want to leave Islam. Traditionally, leaving Islam - apostasy - merits the death penalty. Only by threatening to sue Dade-Transit were they able to run the ads, which had been opposed by the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR).

And this, folks, is the land of freedom of speech and freedom of religion. Time indeed to wake up!

(Thanks to Jihad Watch.)

Keeping track of all those women

If you think your life is complicated, take a moment to empathize with Algerian-born Lies Hebbadj. He got in trouble with the French authorities after one of his wives was stopped for driving with a niqab.

The authorities became exercised when they discovered that Hebbadj apparently has four wives and 12 children, all of them on welfare. He then said he only had one wife; the rest were only his mistresses. Now it's a question of verifying the status of the marriage to a French woman that got him his French passport. If that marriage is invalid, he may be deported. (Thanks to Jihad Watch.)

What's quaint about this story is that polygamy is illegal in France. The same arrangement - receiving welfare benefits for polygamous marriages - is completely OK in the United Kingdom.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

European antisemitism

In response to an email exchange with Sydney and Pauline, here's some background on antisemitic incidents in Europe. Earlier this month, the Stephen Roth Institute at the University of Tel Aviv stated that such incidents are definitely on the rise. According to its report for 2009:

"Anti-Semitism has peaks, mostly following Israel's actions. The number of attacks usually drops after the peak, but we have seen a steady increase because the level of anti-Semitism rarely drops back to what it had been prior to the peak."

How can this happen? "The intensity and the nature of the wave that began in January 2009 testified to pre-planned mobilization among radicals from the left and among Muslim immigrant communities, resulting in a well-coordinated onslaught which employed clear antisemitic motifs in order to de-legitimize the State of Israel and the Jewish people as a single entity."

Well you may ask why I'm quoting an Israeli report and not a European one. The EU has been putting out reports on antisemitism since 2004 but is plagued by the paucity of solid, comparable data. (Remember, this is the organization which can regulate the curve of a banana.)

Monday, April 19, 2010

Feminine power

Sometimes you hear something you really like. For me, it was the pronouncement by an Iranian cleric that attractive women cause earthquakes. I mean, would you rather dress with care in hopes that some attractive man will notice you - or would you like to be a Goddess?

Marco Polo

Here, from the Middle East Forum, is an article by Raymond Ibrahim noting that much of what Marco Polo and other medieval travellers wrote about Islam would be denounced today as "Islamophobic."

Polo describes the Saracens as particularly good at excusing any crime, up to and including murder, provided the victim was not a Muslim. He also notes that a Shia Assassin leader preferred to recruit boys aged 12-20; Ibrahim compares this with Osama Bin Laden's preference for 15-25 years old for jihadis and suicide bombers.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

One for the tea parties

OK, OK, I don't usually do this, but I am a Tea Partier, and just couldn't resist posting this video (thanks to Bob). Also, anyone interested in the Contract from America can find info on it here.

As for whether I appreciate the sneer that President Obama directed toward the Tea Party movement, or former President Clinton's suggestion that Tea Partiers are soon-to-be Timothy McVeighs - well, you can figure that out for yourselves.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Universally just

Baltasar Garzon, the Spanish investigating magistrate who tried to extradite former Chilean President Augusto Pinochet in the late 1990s, has himself been indicted by a Spanish court. The charge: that he ignored a 1977 amnesty by investigating the cases of people who were executed or who disappeared during the Spanish Civil War and subsequent Franco regime. If convicted, he could be barred for up to 20 years.

So is this good or bad? According to the New York Times, it's dreadful. The charges are being brought, unfairly, by Garzon's far-right opponents. According to the Wall Street Journal, the Spanish, who last year restricted the extent of their law on universal jurisdiction, are doing the right thing. "Whether it's legal for the Spanish judge to to re-fight Spain's 70-year-old civil war will be settled by Spaniards, in Spain, according to Spanish law. Which sounds right to us."

Many countries have closed painful episodes by means of amnesties rather than allowing individual trials. In most cases, such trials would of necessity be highly selective and easily politicized. (If you're interested, here's an excellent article on universal jurisdiction by law professor Eric Posner.)

When outsiders intervene, as Garzon did in many other cases besides that of Pinochet, it's even more of a reach to believe that justice will be served. So, yes, I come down on the side of the Wall Street Journal - which should surprise nobody! What is surprising is that I'm apparently on the same side as Obama: a year ago, his administration refused to respond when Garzon indicted six Bush administration officials for their legal findings regarding torture.

The mood in Gaza

The British weekly Economist reports that the mood in Gaza sobered up after last year's conflict, when residents realized that (1) more Gazans than Israelis have died from missile attacks, due to premature explosions and (2) when the Israelis attack, the Hamas leaders tend to decamp, leaving the Palestinian civilians they have used as human shields in the firing line.

The Economist seems to suggest that the growing disillusionment will cause Hamas to moderate its policies. I dunno about that; Hamas is busy right now executing Palestinians it accuses of collaborating with Israel. Hamas leaders may have become more cautious, given the accuracy of Israeli strikes against them, but it's hard to imagine them changing their stripes. (Thanks to Daily Alert.)

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Thinking outside the box

Here are two views about the U.S.-Israel relationship that caught my eye:

-- Avigdor Haselkorn argues that U.S. military deployments in the Middle East have worked to Israel's detriment, as they have failed to constrain Israel's most dangerous enemies: Iran, Syria, Hamas and Hezbollah. He also says that U.S. Central Command now worries that any Israeli 'provocation' will endanger U.S. troops in Iran and Afghanistan.

Such sentiments were attributed recently to General David Petraeus, the CentCom commander. He has since said his comments, to the effect that the unresolved status of the Palestinians was a complicating factor and that many in the Mideast perceived the U.S. as partial to Israel, were misconstrued and misquoted.

-- Daniel Pipes argues that it's actually better for Israel when relations with Washington are frosty. "Strong U.S.-Israel ties induce irreversible Israeli mistakes. Poor U.S.-Israel ties abort this process."

That said, he is clearly concerned about the poisonous atmosphere in Washington. So are 76 Senators who have written a letter to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton "implicitly rebuking the Obama Administration for its confrontational stance toward Israel." Some 333 members of the House of Representatives already sent a similar letter.

So what do I think? I think that the ties between Israel and the United States are strong and enduring precisely because they are not/not based on ethnicity, but on common interests and values. But the United States shouldn't indulge in policies that won't work - like pursuing the mirage of a 'peace process,' or refusing to address the Iranian threat. We don't just hurt our allies, we hurt ourselves.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Putting things in context

As you listen to news reports about how the United States is working multilaterally to impose sanctions on Iran (although the sanctions must be absolutely toothless to win the support of Russia and China), here's an article by Barry Rubin that explains the danger a nuclear Iran will pose to its neighbors. And, no, this danger will not be averted by providing Israel missile defense systems.

Rubin's prognosis: "Iran's bomb will change the strategic balance, inspire revolutionary Islamist movements, lead Arab and Western states toward appeasement, and thus shift power in the region decisively toward Tehran."

In my opinion, the big non-proliferation summit in Washington this week is completely beside the point. We have a president who believes that the United States should play a more modest role in world politics. Looks like that's about to happen - and it won't be pretty.

A Polish tragedy

On April 10 a plane carrying Polish president Lech Kaczynski and almost 100 others, many of them senior Polish government and political figures, crashed in heavy fog near Smolensk airport. The delegation was travelling to a ceremony to honor the Polish officers and intellectuals who perished in 1941 in the Katyn forest at the hands of the Soviets.

It would hard to think of a more appalling event; Poland is devastated. As you can see from the video report accompanying this article, the Poles are reacting with tremendous dignity as well as grief.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Whose side are they on?

The British Telegraph describes here the actual workings of a charity, Muslim Aid, that was recently praised by Prince Charles and UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown. Lots and lots of money funneled to Hamas, despite the fact Hamas is listed by the EU as a terrorist organization. Moreover, Muslim Aid received at least 830,000 British pounds in public subsidies last year (more than $1 million).

So what do you think: are the Prince, the Prime Minister and many other government officials extremely naive, or do they actually support Muslim Aid's mission - but are too cowardly to admit it in public?

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Wanna bet?

I suspect that the interactions of the Obama administration (from Obama on down) with Israeli President Benyamin Netanyahu were similar to those with Afghan President Hamid Karzai. Obama called both on the carpet in a very public fashion. In private, he probably told they had no choice but to knuckle under and do what he wanted. (And to wear them down, he threw in an unpleasant phone call from Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.)

And I suspect both felt about the same about their treatment. Karzai, however, is much less firmly linked to the United States and American policy than is Netanyahu. At least, that's how I explain this passage from an piece in the Los Angeles Times: "Over the weekend, Karzai reportedly told Afghan lawmakers that he would consider joining the Taliban if the United States continued to undermine him."

Someone needs to tell Obama that he can't treat our allies the same way he treats Republicans, tea partiers, and other domestic irritants. Foreigners have options.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

In the name of airline security

Here's a new idea for keeping airplanes safe from terrorists: hidden microphones in the cabin which, combined with other technology, alert the cockpit to anyone acting suspiciously. Bye-bye private conversations in a plane!

Before, one could automatically blame such a concept on former President Bush. But not only has he retired from the scene, but it is the EU funding the research, which is being conducted at the UK's Reading University. Ah, life is so complicated!

Who done it?

Things in the Mideast are not always as they seem, and here are two fine specimens that make my point:

-- Journalist Khaled Abu Toameh recounts a protest by outraged female Palestinian prisoners in Israeli prisons. What has angered them? False depictions in a Turkish TV drama series airing on some Arab stations. The program shows IDF soldiers raping a Palestinian prisoner who is subsequently killed by her family to preserve their honor.

The problem is, according to the real prisoners, that no such treatment occurs in Israeli prisons. Nor, they say, would the family kill the woman if a rape did occur. The series aimed to defame the Israelis, but the women say it hurts them instead: "We see this [drama] as an attempt to defame the image of Palestinian female prisoners and as a public insult to the Palestinian people."

-- A 15-year-old boy whom Gaza authorities said was murdered by the Israeli military turns up alive, if somewhat worse for the wear. He was captured by the Egyptians as he tried to escape reported inter-Palestinian violence via one of the tunnels under the Egyptian-Gazan border. The boy said he and others like him were tortured in prison for several days before being released.

The Egyptians and Palestinians should thank heavens every day for the Israelis. Who else could they hide behind? One wonders if the Turks won't soon see things the same way. (Thanks to Daily Alert.)

Friday, April 2, 2010

Successful foreign policy

There often is less difference than one might think between the foreign policies of successive U.S. administrations. This time, though, may be the exception.

Former President George W. Bush, quite possibly the most reviled person on the planet, was constantly accused of destroying America's image in the world and ruining our relations with other governments (as well as their publics).

President Obama, who was widely expected - including by himself - to reverse this negative trend, has chosen to do so by slighting traditional friends while wooing traditional adversaries. Columnist Charles Krauthammer provides a scorecard of those slighted to date: the United Kingdom, India, Poland, the Czech Republic, and Honduras. He doesn't mention Israel, but I guess that one is so obvious it needs no repetition.

Presumably Obama either thinks that the United States will become popular in those countries by stiffing their governments, or he expects improved ties with adversaries like Iran, Syria, Venezuela, and Islamist terrorist organizations like Hamas to more than make up the difference.

The historians will have plenty of grist for their mills.

Correction - no, modification!

Patrick took issue with yesterday's airy dismissal of Russian allegations of Georgian involvement in the recent suicide bombings in Moscow and elsewhere. He argues that the Georgians have dabbled in Islamist terrorism directed at Russia in the past, and may be doing so again. Unfortunately, he has a point.

Since I'm never wrong, it's time to invoke the Prussian rules of order. For those who don't know them, they're very simple:

(1) the boss is always right.
(2) when the boss is wrong, rule no. 1 goes into effect.

Since I'm the boss of this blog, the rules apply to me!

Will the real Hamas please stand up

An Israeli research group has reportedly concluded that Hamas used children as human shields and set up command centers and rocket launch pads in or near over 100 mosques and hospitals during the Gaza conflict last year. (Thanks to Daily Alert.)

Today the Wall Street Journal reported that "[s]everal high-profile former U.S. officials, with close ties to the Obama administration, met with leaders of ... Hamas in recent months ..." As Hamas deputy foreign minister Ahmed Yussuf put it, "This administration is different from the previous administration ... We believe Hamas' message is reaching its destination."

Who thinks that Hamas' use of human shields, including children, came up during those discussions?

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Black widows

Here's an update on the female suicide bombers who exploded themselves in two Moscow subway stations. Although the head of the Kremlin Security Council accused the Georgian government of instigating the attacks, it's unlikely many people believe that tale. More likely are the following nuggets:

-- one woman may have been mentally retarded - and, indeed, it wouldn't be the first time that such a person was exploited this way.

-- the women are most likely from Chechnya, although that has not yet been confirmed.

-- they may have belonged to a group of some 30 women aged 18-25 who were trained at a terrorist school in Turkey. Nine were previously accounted for, which by my count leaves 19 still at large.

-- the intelligence folks knew an attack was coming, because they were checking women entering the metro. Unfortunately, they didn't find the bombers.

Female suicide bombers are statistically more successful than males (eg, they kill more people), because they arouse fewer suspicions. In Iraq, where they've also been used, it's pretty clear that many are coerced. While many Chechen women may have abundant grounds for seeking revenge, I remain skeptical that they really want to get it this way.

Ban the Burqa

As the French mull over banning the burqa (full Islamic covering for women, with only the eyes showing), the Belgians are already making up their minds. The Interior Affairs Committee of the Belgian parliament voted unanimously to prohibit the wearing of burqas in public, as a security measure.

"We cannot allow someone to claim the right to look at others without being seen," said the legislator who proposed the bill. He added that he was not targeting the classic headscarf worn by many Muslim women. The measure will be taken up by the Belgian House of Representatives in late April. Expect legal challenges! (Thanks to Jihad Watch.)

No, I haven't vanished

I'm still here, just lazy. Although I did have an entry yesterday on the American Thinker blog. I speculated that the United States may lose its ability to act as an intermediary between the Palestinians and Israel if the Israelis decide we are no longer trustworthy.

The deterioration in trust is a very bad thing, but abandoning efforts at peace negotiations wouldn't be - they haven't worked for 40 years, and there's no reason to think they would now. Might as well save the air travel!