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markus klingberg

Marcus Klingberg, Israeli who spied for Russia for decades, was exposed by Boris Krasny

UPDATE: By a strange happenstance of fate, Marcus Klingberg died this morning, almost at the same time I originally posted this.  He was 97 years old.  In the Jewish tradition we say: May his memory be for a blessing and his family comforted by the life of principle he led.

A confidential Israeli source has identified an Israeli double agent originally recruited by the Soviet KGB.  This news comes on the heels of this 2008 Ynet report that connects the double agent to the exposure of the Soviet Union’s most successful spy in Israel, Markus Klingberg.  A few days ago, MK Mickey Rosenthal exposed the name of the double agent, despite the fact that the censor has prohibited this for years.  In response to a question from Yediot about why he did so, he responded:

“I don’t know why the censor decided to prohibit publication, but I did this in order to expose how problematic this prohibition is.”

Klingberg survived the Holocaust survivor by fleeing from Poland to the Soviet Union just before the war broke out.  The rest of his family perished in Treblinka.  He emigrated to Sweden after the war.  There it’s claimed he was recruited by the KGB.  After marrying, he moved to Israel and became a leading microbiologist.  Eventually, he became the deputy director of Israel’s Nes Ziona biological weapons laboratory.  All the while, he provided the Soviets with the results of Israel’s chemical and biological weapons experiments as an agent code-named “Rok.”

In 1983, the Shabak kidnapped him, torturing and interrogating him for ten days.  At the end of that period, he signed a confession.  He was secretly arrested, tried, convicted, receiving a 20-year sentence.  Like Ben Zygier and Mordechai Vanunu, he was placed in solitary confinement for ten years.  Foreign journalists who sought him out were told by Israeli officials that he had had a mental breakdown and was in a European asylum.    Only his wife knew what had really happened, but she was sworn to secrecy.

Much like Zygier, Klingberg was held in prison under a false name and profession.  After suffering several strokes, Amnesty International appealed for his release on humanitarian grounds.  39 Knesset members even appealed for his release.  But the intelligence apparatus objected, saying that “his mind might contain secrets even he might not be aware of.”  As the Guardian put it: how does a detainee defend himself against a charge that he knows things he doesn’t know?  This is the same perverse argument used to punish Mordechai Vanunu and prevent his emigration from Israel.

Israel released him to house arrest in 1998, but forced him to pay for surveillance cameras and guards who monitored his movements.  In doing so, he was forced to sell his apartment.  Finally, in 2003 his sentence was complete and he left to live with his daughter in Paris.

boris krasny israeli double agent

Krasny now: dapper, debonair confidant of oligarchs and KGB spy-Israeli double agent

Klingberg’s attorney, Michael Sfard published the his story, The Last Spy, in Israel and it has been published in a number of foreign languages, but unfortunately not yet in English.  It would make an amazing thriller.

Boris Krasny

Boris Krasny then: Kiev, circa 1971 (A. Diamant)

The double agent is Boris Krasny, now one of Israel’s most successful business lobbyists.  In fact, he was the first and established the entire industry.  He is a favorite of prime ministers, oligarchs and CEOs.  They include Israel’s major defense contractors and all its cellphone companies–some 90 in all.  He’s lobbied for some of the worst, most anti-consumer legislation in the Knesset.  He opposed a bill that would’ve forced Israel’s largest grocery chain to list prices on all products.  He fought a law which would’ve limited bank fees for his client, Bank Hapoalim.

He’s also defended some of Israel’s most corrupt politicians as a political consultant, including Shas’ Aryeh Deri before the latter went to prison.  He’s pals with Sheldon Adelson and Idan Ofer, one of Israel’s richest oligarchs.

And he set his sights even higher.  Proctor & Gamble and Goldman Sachs are among his clients who summon him for meetings around the world.  He lobbied on behalf of Philip Morris in order continue cigarette advertising.  Krasny’s influence is felt in international business circles, one of the few in the Israeli lobbying community to have so many clients and interests around the world.

He’s known Bill Clinton for years.  He loves the good life, smokes $1,000 cigars and orders multi-thousand dollar bottles of wine in the finest restaurants.  Among the assets he exploits along with his personal charm are secrets, cigars and lots of wine.  He’s also not above comparing himself to the “greatest of Russian actors.”  On a 1984 grand tour of the U.S. with other young Israeli political activists, he promised “I’ll get rich yet from politics.”  And so he has.

He got his start in Kiev in the early 1970s, where he was a prominent Jewish activist.  When the Soviet Union opened its doors to Russian Jewish emigration, Krasny was among those released.  But he had already been recruited as a Soviet spy.

The Israeli Shabak extensively interviewed Soviet emigres attempting to detect “plants” like Krasny.  When they interviewed him, he admitted he’d been sent to burrow into the highest levels of Israeli society.  But instead of prosecuting and imprisoning him, they already knew they had another Soviet agent in their midst who they couldn’t find.  So they “turned” him and set him loose as a double agent, whose codename was “Shomroni.” He exploited the trust the Russians placed in him, parlaying this into eventually fingering Klingberg.

In 1977, the Israeli scientist had broken off all contact with his Soviet handlers.  They were mystified and sought to establish contact with him through alternate means.  In the early 1980s, they tasked two former Jewish dissidents Krasny and Shabbtai Kalminovich with reaching out to Klingberg via secret codes left in his Tel Aviv mail box.  Kalminovich attempted and failed to make contact.  He later was imprisoned by the Israelis for his espionage activities.  Though it’s not known precisely what happened between Krasny and Klingberg, somehow the former was able to provide further evidence of Klingberg’s role as a master spy.

When the Soviet Union fell in the early 1990s, Krasny ceased his relationship with his Soviet paymasters (all the funds the Soviets gave him he transferred to the Shabak).

Because of this singular achievement, Israel’s intelligence apparatus has protected his identity until now.  But my source has definitely identified him.  In 2010, I reported the existence of the double agent based on a report published in News1.  We had a blacked out partial image of him, whose uncensored original I failed to find.  Nor did we know his name.

Krasny is also known to be a close friend of Avigdor Lieberman, himself a focus of suspicion regarding his own corrupt business dealings.  In addition, Lieberman is widely suspected within Israeli intelligence circles of being a Russian asset within Israel’s political élite.


Israel Permits Russian Overflight of Israeli Airspace

IDF Gen. (Res.) Amos Gilad revealed in a public talk reported by Israeli media that PM Netanyahu and Russia’s Putin made a secret deal permitting the Russian air force to use Israeli airspace during its attacks on Syrian rebel targets:

Russian war planes sometimes cross into Israeli airspace. As a result of excellent security coördination, which began with a Putin-Netanyahu meeting which established the sector boundaries, the IDF and Russian military agreed to security arrangements which provided, in the event of an incident, both would know what to do and how to prevent an escalation.

In return, Putin has assured Israel that it will not interfere in IAF attacks on Hezbollah targets inside Syria.  Specifically, weapons convoys ferrying Iranian hardware to Lebanon via Syria.

Pre-censored version of Amos Gilad story

Pre-censored version of Amos Gilad story

I posted here about this a few weeks ago:

Israel and Russia appear to have agreed to maintain separate spheres of influence in which they would each hold sway militarily.  It’s somewhat reminiscent of Israel’s sphere of influence in southern Lebanon which was policed by its Christian Arab proxy, South Lebanon Army.

This development represents a further cannibalization of the former Syrian nation-state. Every player (Russia, Hezbollah, Iran, Israel, Turkey, etc.) appears to have their own proxies and territorial enclaves, which has turned Syria into a shell of its former self.

We have seen in this dysfunctional tinderbox how easy it is for decisions taken in a fit of piqué, like shooting down a plane, can turn into a casus belli.

As it has been for decades, the Middle East is a roiling cauldron of conflicting interests, which could easily ignite wider war.  This is yet another reason that the military escalation engineered by the Russians on one side, and western allies like France, Turkey, the U.S., and Turkey (and possibly Britain) on the other, is a recipe for disaster.

As Yossi Melman’s tweet reveals, Israel’s military censor was none too happy with a former general exposing Israel’s ongoing engagement in Syria’s dismemberment. So it bowdlerized the original report. Now, instead of saying Israel permits Russian warplanes use Israeli airspace, Gilad said when we “face Russian planes we know what to do.” Which means precisely nothing.

This is a further example of Israeli citizens deprived of critical information necessary to judge the policies of their own government. Citizens in turn avert their eyes saying these are decisions best left to others who know better. It’s the willing infantilization of the average Israeli.

UPDATE: Sometime after publication of this post, the censor apparently revoked the censorship of Gilad’s report. Guess who reads this blog???


Senior Israeli Police Commander Accused of Sexual Harassment

roni rittman

Maj. Gen. Roni Rittman, Israeli police commander accused of sexual harassment

It’s time to break another Israeli gag order.  The Israeli police, as anyone reading this blog will know, is one of the most corrupt, dysfunctional, violent and racist among western nations (to which Israel enjoys being compared).  Over the past year or so, police commanders have been accused and sacked for taking bribes, one commander under suspicion committed suicide, and numerous ones have been accused and sacked for sexual harassment.  One of those fired commanders responded to the allegations against him by claiming that sexual relationships between superior officers and female subordinates were part of the police culture.  He appears to be correct, at least based on the number of senior officers both accused of indiscretions and sacked because of them.

When such charges are made against officers, the police and accused have a built-in advantage.  Since they enjoy an intimate relationship with the courts, they can secure gag orders preventing publication of the names of alleged perpetrators.  That’s what happened in the case I report tonight.  According to a well-placed source, the officer receiving special protection is Maj. Gen. Roni Rittman, head of Lahav Unit 443.  This department of the national police investigates corruption and is often likened to the FBI.  But it also contains an infamous mistarvim unit which infiltrates Palestinian protests, incites violence by throwing stones, then assaults and arrests Palestinians who join in. Another mistarvim unit associated with the Border Police even infiltrates Palestinian hospitals to assassinate (and in some cases arrest) wanted Palestinians.

roni rittman accused of sexual abuse

Rittman with his wife and loving family.

In addition to the original female officer who filed a complaint against Rittman, two or three others have come forward to confirm the allegations.  They testify that they saw him at a social event pursue the female officer, grab and embrace her and try to kiss her.

Rittman responded to the allegations by saying:

This is invented and nuts.  I have no doubt that I will succeed in refuting all the charges against me.

He further claimed that the accusations were being made to sabotage his chance of being included in a new round of appointments and promotions expected by the new national chief, Roni Alsheikh.

These are the same police tasked with investigating accusations by female victims of sexual assault.  Is it any wonder that the police are so hasty about dismissing such claims, as they did in the case of Israeli TV reporter, Yoav Even, and many others.

This is the same police department to which Roni Alsheikh, former deputy chief of the Shabak, was appointed as the new national chief.  It appears that Alsheikh himself, a devout Orthodox settler with a “Messianic” bent, has his own personal troubles.  His son went into a catering business with several shady characters who absconded with the proceeds of the business and left him holding $100,000 in debts.  Now, the son’s lawyers claim that he is being blackmailed by unnamed figures due to his father’s new position.


Bibi Netanyahu has been blaming U.S. internet companies like Facebook for the current Palestinian uprising.  I’ve taken to calling it the “Facebook Intifada.”  Now there’s a new Silicon Valley target.


Tzipi Hotovely waves Israeli flag to proclaim Israeli intent to rebuilt the Holy Temple.

Today, Israel’s deputy foreign minister, Tzipi Hotovely, who’s devoutly wished to see Israel rebuild the Holy Temple (thereby destroying the Haram al Sharif), announced (in Hebrew, English here) that she’d met with YouTube’s CEO and Google’s director of public policy at its Silicon Valley campus.  During this meeting, according to a Maariv article, Hotovely schooled the executives about the ways in which pro-Palestine propaganda infects the internet and incites impressionable young Palestinian children to knife innocent victims.

What struck me about the article was the conclusion, in which Hotovely says that Google agreed to create a formal mechanism enabling formal coöperation between the foreign ministry and the company regarding the issue of incitement as played out in YouTube’s video content.  In other words, she implied that Google would collaborate with Israel on identifying and removing videos that “incited” violence against Israel.

There are so many problems with Hotovely’s claims, it’s hard to know where to start.  But my major problem is with the issue of censorship.  Has Google agreed to censor videos?  Has it been pressured to remove videos which document violence, whether perpetrated by Israeli security forces or Palestinian protesters?

I sent an e-mail to Susan Wojcicki, YouTube CEO and to Google’s press office asking whether they agree with Hotovely’s characterization of the meeting and what was agreed during it.  We’ll see how or if they respond.

Here is the translation of the Maariv article:

MK Tzipi Hotovely: Terror by Children Arises from Incitement on the Internet

Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotovely met with the CEO of YouTube, Susan Wojcicki and Jennifer [sic] Downs, director of public policy, at Google’s Silicon Valley offices.

Hotovely received a comprehensive review of the company’s apparatus for monitoring videos which incite violence. In the meeting, she raised the problem of incitement on the internet, which drives young children to go out and stab people:

“The daily terror attacks in Israel are the result of youths and children incited, starting with the educational system and proceeding to social networks.  This is a daily war against incitement that cannot be conducted without the collaboration of these social networks.”

At the end of the meeting, it was agreed that Google would strengthen bilateral relations with the Foreign Ministry and build a collaborative work apparatus [in which both parties would] partner to prevent the distribution of this inciting material on the internet.”

facebook intifada

‘Facebook Intifada:’ power of social media to speak truth to power (Paul Kuczynski)

Thanks to Oui for finding the MFA’s press release about the meeting.  He also noted that the MFA didn’t bother to use the correct name of the Google executive who participated in the meeting.  It was Juniper Downs, not “Jennifer.”

Comparing the official account to the one Maariv published shows the reporter was a faithful stenographer, regurgitating information as she was trained to do.  While her entire report recapitulates the press release almost word for word, the last sentence in the Maariv story (italicized above) isn’t in the release at all.  Arutz 7 also includes this italicized sentence, as did Algemeiner, which tells me one thing. The MFA tried to pull a fast one: for the English-speaking audience they released a sanitized version which was probably closer to what actually happened in the meeting.  But for the Israeli, Hebrew-speaking audience they released a statement saying that YouTube essentially capitulated to Israeli pressure and would commence censoring videos viewed as unflattering to Israel.

My guess is that Google’s version will look different, and that Google hosted the meeting because they agree to meet foreign diplomats in order to maintain good relations with foreign users and their governments.  I strongly doubt Google has agreed to any formal arrangement that could lead to restricting video content.  But if they have, it would be very important to know this.

We must not permit this Israeli government to blame anyone but itself for the hatred and violence which it spawns among Palestinians.  Google doesn’t cause murder. Israel does.


Trumping Democracy

I’ve witnessed many presidential elections.  The first one I took a serious interest in was in 1968.  I’ve seen good candidates, I’ve seen bad candidates.  I’ve seen some that were witless like Dan, what’s his name?  I can’t even remember.  The guy who couldn’t spell tomato, or was it potato?  That’s right, Quayle.  But I’ve never seen a GOP primary contest like this one.  To say it marks a new low is so much an understatement that I don’t know how to properly articulate it.  It’s also hard to know what it means.  Political buffoonery is one thing, we’ve had it for as long as we’ve had politics.  But when an entire political party (and we basically only have two that govern, remember?) seems to spontaneously combust in a mix of sulfur and racist fulmination–you start to wonder what it means for the country.

I’m not talking about what happens if one of the buffoons wins.  At this point, I don’t even want to go there (if I don’t have to).  But what does it mean for us that so many Americans are charmed by these asses?

I’ll leave Ben Carson for another day.  Though I can’t help reminding you of this tidbit my son heard on Trevor Noah’s show.  It is from last March and originated at Bloomberg News.  In the interview, he made so many blooper-errors about Palestine, it’s hard to know where to begin.  Rather than dissect them, I’ll leave it whole for you to read it in all it’s ineffable glory:

Carso…was…thinking anew about how Palestinians could establish their own state.

“We need to look at fresh ideas,” said Carson. “I don’t have any problem with the Palestinians having a state, but does it need to be within the confines of Israeli territory? Is that necessary, or can you sort of slip that area down into Egypt? Right below Israel, they have some amount of territory, and it can be adjacent. They can benefit from the many agricultural advances that were made by Israel, because if you fly over that area, you can easily see the demarcation between Egypt and Israel, in terms of one being desert and one being verdant. Technology could transform that area. So why does it need to be in an area where there’s going to be temptation for Hamas to continue firing missiles at relatively close range to Israel?”

donald trump it can't happen hereThey can’t be serious?  Can they, Republicans?  This is presidential timber?  So what I don’t get is do Republicans who’re supporting these bozos care about governing or winning elections?  Or is this solely a protest vote without any consideration for practical impact?  If so, does it mean Republicans are desperate, or so angry that they don’t give a crap about actually winning an election?  They just want to vent?

I could go on and on.  But let’s get to the guy I really want to talk about: Donald Trump.  Yeah, I know too much has been written about him already.  You’re probably tired of him.  But I have a few thoughts that might not have crossed your mind.

Way back in the dark past of American history we had brushes with Nazism.  We had isolationists like Lindbergh who thought Hitler was a pretty nifty fellow.  My father, who was born and raised in a semi-rural area of New York State, remembered the German-American Bund rallying and training in Stony Point (Rockland County, NY), near his family’s home.  We had lunatics like Lincoln Rockwell.  But those aren’t the real dangers now.  There are no Brown Shirts lifting their arms in a Nazi salute.

But we have blowhards whose views aren’t far removed from them.  Is it fair to compare Trump to such an offensive ideology?  I think it is.  Fascism doesn’t spring fully formed from the head of Zeus.  It evolves into something monstrous, but doesn’t start out that way.

It starts with a candidate who argues that all the adherents of one religion must be tallied and marked and surveilled because they represent a danger to the rest of us.  It starts with an African-American heckler at a rally, whose assault the candidate incites.  When the candidate’s followers beat and kick the heckler, it reminds some of us of the days of lynching.  No, there was no rope.  The poor man lying on the floor wasn’t in danger of being killed.  But this is how it starts.  With small incidents of hate.  Then they multiply.  They become more vicious the less the broader public protests.  Till eventually, you have a candidate who maybe, just maybe could deliver a stem-winding Nuremburg-style election speech at a party convention.  Could it happen?

My original motivation for this post came today with the news that Trump “remembers” that “thousands and thousands” of Muslim-Americans celebrated the 9/11 attacks and the destruction of the Twin Towers.  He was, he claims, sitting in his office in Jersey City and he saw it with his own eyes.  Then he says he saw it on TV.  But no one can seem to confirm any of this.  In fact, it never happened.

Ronald Reagan, who had the excuse of Alzheimer’s onset, imagined that he liberated Nazi death camps or landed on an invasion beach during World War II and was confusing his memory with a film script.  In fact, Carl Sagan had some prescient words about this phenomenon that call Donald Trump to mind as well:

It is not hard to imagine serious public dangers emerging out of instances in which political, military, scientific or religious leaders are unable to distinguish fact from vivid fiction.”

But Reagan’s memory lapse is minor compared to Trump’s sheer invention of history.  A man who can invent reality can do virtually anything if enough people believe him.  Isn’t that what led to Hitler?

Hey, I’m a progressive.  So I should love the GOP disintegrating before my eyes.  It almost guarantees a Democratic victory in the next election (though I hate the likely winner of that race, but that’s another story).  But I’m enough of a student of American history to know that there should be at least two viable, credible political parties.  What happens if the GOP collapses into a mush of extremist nostalgia for certainties which never existed?  I don’t know.  But the prospect scares me.  Because it means that too many of my fellow citizens reject the basic values I hold dear about this country.  Without them, we are lost.


Why “Reform” Islam?

With the world-wide fallout over the Paris attacks and ISIS’ bloody role in them, pundits and journalists have been falling all over themselves opining on how we got here.  There has been no end of breast-beating about Islam: what’s wrong with Islam that it produced such monsters?  Can Islam be reformed?  I think the question is entirely wrong.

How many Islamist extremists do we believe there are in the world?  If we include al Qaeda, ISIS, al-Nusra, Boko Haram and similar groups–Peter Bergen, writing at CNN, estimated in 2014 there are between 85,000-100,000.  How many Muslims are there in the world?  1.6-billion.  That works out to .000625%.  It is true, of course, that it is those willing to be the most violent, most extreme, most outrageous who hijack the world’s attention.  They present the most aggressive, most militant, most visible face of the religion.  So they exert impact far out of proportion to their actual numbers.

But we should remember Bergen’s words on this subject:

By historical standards this is hardly a major threat. At the end of the Cold War, Soviet and other Warsaw Pact countries could muster around 6 million men to fight in a war against the West, a number that is some 60 times greater than the total number of militants estimated to be fighting for jihadist organizations today…

The only reasonable conclusion to draw is that the threat posed by jihadist organizations around the globe is quite inconsequential when compared with what the West faced in the past century.

But that hasn’t stopped media outlets like the NY Times from weighing in on the subject.  Here is Tim Arango’s introduction to a broad examination of the question of “how to smash” ISIS:

Talking to a diverse group of experts, officials, religious scholars and former jihadis makes clear there is no consensus on a simple strategy to defeat the Islamic State. But there are some themes — like…pushing a broader reformation of Islam — that a range of people who follow the group say must be part of a solution.

Who is the first “expert” he cites?  A former Islamist recruiter who tells him:

“The statement that this has nothing to do with Islam is disingenuous,” said Maajid Nawaz, a former recruiter for a radical Islamist group who was imprisoned in Egypt from 2001 to 2006.

“We need to have a candid conversation about this and recognize that there is a correlation between scripture and this,”

Nawaz of course offers no proof of this correlation, nor does the reporter.  But even if we concede for argument’s sake that there is some correlation, no matter how tenuous, why do we blame an entire religion?  Why do we blame an entire sacred book when a tiny minority of a religion misinterpret it?  Why do we say the religion is at fault rather than the human beings who betray or distort it?

Baruch Goldstein was a mass murderer who killed 29 Palestinian Muslim worshippers at a religious shrine.  He did this in the name of his twisted form of Judaism (which I prefer to call settler Judaism to distinguish it from normative Judaism).  Did I hear Tim Arango or anyone else wring their hands about the correlation between Torah and mass murder?  Even if I did, should I have?

There is nothing wrong with Torah.  Just because Jews misread their sacred text, must I blame the text itself?

Next Arango turns to a “former colonel” in Russia’s Federal Security Service.  Given the brutal ways in which Russia has addressed its own homegrown Islamic extremism, I’d question an intelligence agent as a credible source on this subject.  But he does suggest that Wahabism and radical Gulf clerics and others inspire much of Sunni radicalism, of which ISIS is at the heart.  Arguably a reasonable idea.  But then our friendly FSS agent adds this zinger:

“A significant part of the Islamic religion is infected with a tumor that is metastasizing.”

Really?  And we’re supposed to accept the word of a Russian spy who knows next to nothing about Islam as a religion, and who sees Islam as his darkest Satanic enemy to be exterminated (generally the Russian solution to such problems)?  This is the sort of “expert” Arango seeks to offer?

Next, Arango offers this unsupported, overly-broad claim (and note the typical call for a “moderate Islam”):

An ultimate defeat of the group cannot happen without a reformation within Islam, experts say, and that necessitates a recognition that interpretations of Islam are at the core of the problem, and an outreach to moderate Muslims.

This is the very next quotation from a Muslim “expert.”  You’d expect it to support his demand for a Muslim reformation.  Does it?  No:

“Where is the panel this morning on the Sunday talk shows where you have Muslim leaders alongside Western leaders to talk about how they’re going to conquer this problem?” she [Princeton Professor Amaney A. Jamal] asked. “Instead, you’ll get panels of Western leaders and public policy intellectuals telling you what they will do about Muslims, talking at Muslims.”

Not a word from the good professor about reforming her religion or the cancer that is supposedly eating away at it from within.

There is one source Arango quotes who may remotely be construed as addressing the issue of a theological debate within Islam between extremists and more normative Muslims.  He says:

“ISIS is the one that is saying, ‘We have something to offer you: a sense of purpose, a sense of fulfillment.’ That is what is missing,” said Imam Mohamed Magid, a spiritual leader in Virginia.

“We need to have a strong religious identity that calls people to action, but action in a way that is constructive, not destructive, and promotes life, not death,” he said.

But if you examine his view closely you will see there is no call to reform Islam.  He does not say there is anything wrong with Islam.  He says that Muslims must more vigorously espouse their more normative religious beliefs.  That seems almost self-evident and hardly as sweeping as calls for a radical transformation of Islam and a rooting out of bad ideas at its heart, which Arango infers, and whose sources explicitly avow.

So there you have it.  A claim that is supposedly supported by four “experts,” only two of whom are Islamic scholars and only one of whom remotely speaks to the claims Aranago has set forth.  But even if Islam did require reformation, who is Tim Arango to tell it to do so?  Or Pamela Geller?  Or Daniel Pipes?  Isn’t that the job of Muslims if it is the job of anyone?

Al Jazeera America’s Mehdi Hassan thoroughly debunked the notion of Muslim reform propagated by non-Muslims motivated by political, rather than purely spiritual or religious motives (h/t to Yasser Abumuailek):

[What we] don’t need are lazy calls for an Islamic reformation from non-Muslims and ex-Muslims, the repetition of which merely illustrates how shallow and simplistic, how ahistorical and even anti-historical, some of the west’s leading commentators are on this issue. It is much easier for them, it seems, to reduce the complex debate over violent extremism to a series of cliches, slogans and soundbites, rather than examining root causes or historical trends; easier still to champion the most extreme and bigoted critics of Islam while ignoring the voices of mainstream Muslim scholars, academics and activists.

Now let’s turn to coverage of Islam in the world media.  It doesn’t generally happen unless there is a bombing or a war.  Even then, it doesn’t cover the subject well.  The amount of drivel that passes for knowledge in social media tells you how much the average person knows about Islam.

I make no claim to be a scholar of Islam.  But I know my own religion and have a general interest in the broader subject.

So let me ask a few questions: when Israeli settlers murder Palestinian babies how many NY Times reporters ask what’s wrong with Judaism?  How many wonder when or how Judaism will reform itself?  How many ask where the “moderate Jews” are?  And even if reporters like Tim Arango did so, why should a Jew listen or care?  It’s the job of Jews to determine what their religion is.  Not outsiders who have their own agendas having little to do with the religion itself.

Another question: when a white supremacist murders nine African-American churchgoers, how many asked what’s wrong with white people in America?  When Burmese Buddhists commit genocide against the Rohingya Muslim minority, how many wail about the sickness at the heart of Buddhism?

The biggest problem I have with the way this issue is presented is that it confuses a political, with a religious issue.  Though Islamist extremists claim their motivation springs from Islam, I think it springs from far more secular motives: greed and power.  They aren’t motivated by religion.  They are thugs and malcontents who thrive on a geopolitical vacuum.  They are like soldiers of fortune, supping on the world’s misery.

ISIS is a political movement.  The problems which permitted ISIS to sweep across wide swaths of Iraq and Syria were not religious in nature.  The Iraqi state was, and still is in shambles.  There is no central government.  What little there is of it is corrupt.  The army barely exists.  When it does, it too is corrupt and dysfunctional.  Into this maelström stepped ISIS, eager to advantage.

Why did ISIS find a foothold in Syria?  Because that country too had become a failed state.  There was a vacuüm into which a ragtag gang of looters, criminals, and killers disguised as devout Sunni Muslims rushed.  Politics and nature abhor vacuums.  When they exist, the worst dregs of humanity are more than happy to fill them.

Is any of this the fault of Islam?  I think not.  So let’s stop the hysteria.  That may not be possible.  But let’s do our best to tone it down.


There is little that surprises me these days regarding the callowness of the media towards the Israeli-Arab conflict.  But the Wall Street Journal has sunk to a new low with its publication today of an op-ed (Islamic State Understands One Thing: Force) by senior Israeli minister and Bayit Yehudi leader, Naftali Bennett.  In his bio at the bottom of the page, it notes he is minister of education and diaspora affairs.  That sounds so neat and tidy.  So professional.

naftali bennett arab killer

Israel’s Captain Kurtz, Arab-killer, during IDF service

What his bio doesn’t say is that he’s an avowed stone-cold Arab-killer, and proud of it.  An Israeli reporter likened him to Captain Kurtz, the hero of Apocalypse Now and Joseph Conrad’s novella.  Both characters are guilty of wholesale murder and genocide of the natives, one in Vietnam and the other in the Congo.

A few months ago Bennett boasted during a cabinet meeting (see below) that he’d killed “many Arabs” during his military service.  And he was proud of it.  In fact, a controversy broke out because journalists revealed that he’d actually botched one of his military operations and caused the deaths of 100 Lebanese refugees and 4 UN soldiers:

“Bennett’s force met with highly effective mortar fire of a Hezbollah unit near Kafr Qana.  It was then that he realized he couldn’t prevail on his own.  He needed a battery of IDF 155mm howitzers [to come to his rescue], which hit a refugee camp and killed 102 civilians.”

A few weeks ago, at the height of the latest Intifada, he was pictured proudly strapping an exposed pistol in his pants while appearing in public.

Yesterday, Israeli-Palestinian Knesset member Haneen Zoabi decried Israel’s banning of the country’s major Muslim organization, the Islamic Movement.  She ridiculed the false claim that this group and ISIS are the same or have the same goals.  She reminded them that IM had never organized or advocated any terror attack.  Instead, she asked the MKs to remember:

There are ministers…here who are proud they killed.   There is an education minister who said: “I, in my time, killed Arabs.”

In his reply, Bennett accused her of “lying,” claiming to correct her by saying he hadn’t said he killed “Arabs” but terrorists, and he added: “it’s unfortunate we didn’t kill more.”  Of course, the notion that there is a distinction in his mind between “Arab” and “terrorist” is ludicrous.  There is no difference.  Besides, this article quotes the precise statement Bennett made in a cabinet meeting in which he used the word “Arab” and not the word “terrorist:”

Bennett: “If you catch terrorists, you have to simply kill them.”

Amidror: “Listen, that’s not legal.”

Bennett: “I’ve killed lots of Arabs in my life – and there’s no problem with that.”

So here we see that it was not Zoabi who was lying, but Bennett himself.  He also added in his reply to Zoabi: “Anyone who raises his hand against the State of Israel must die.”  These aren’t the words of a statesman or even a politician, they are the words of a stone-cold killer.

Among other bon mots in his WSJ article, he argues that the U.S. policy of drone strikes will fail: “Ground troops will be needed.”  I can just imagine Captain “Naftali” Kurtz donning his combat gear once more for another foray into the heart of ISIS-darkness!

“To win, the world needs to go on the offensive.”

Indeed, the same sort of offensive which murdered over 100 innocent Lebanese civilians, who were expendable because there is no difference for Bennett between “Arab” and “terrorist.”  “Offensive,” indeed; but not the military kind.

Then he has the chutzpah, given his record, to add:

“Soldiers may be put in harm’s way, but the number of civilian lives saved will be much higher.”

Not Arab civilians, mind you.  But Israeli civilians.  Bennett doesn’t care how many Arab civilians he killed or the west kills going after ISIS.  There is only one civilian he cares about–the right kind.  The one the color of your skin and mine (if yours is white, that is).

There is a further irony here: among the main military opponents of the Assad regime are ISIS and al-Nusra.  Both are bloodthirsty Islamist killers.  Al-Nusra is affiliated with Al-Qaeda.  ISIS is the latter’s arch-enemy.  Using its typical strategy of creating divisions among its Arab enemies by propping up proxies, Israel has thrown massive amounts of logistical and tactical support to al-Nusra in its fight in the Golan.  So you’ll have to pardon me when I feel sick to my stomach hearing Bennett brag about Israel’s successful strategy of fighting Islamist terror.  In reality, Israel supports Islamist terror too.  But it’s the “right” sort of Islamist terror because it’s Israel’s pal.

Bennett’s not a big fan of democracy either.  When push comes to shove, he’ll take security over individual rights any day:

Liberty, freedom of speech and human rights are pillars of our democracies, but in Israel we balance them with national-security needs. Privacy is occasionally and under certain circumstances invaded

No, actually freedom of speech and human rights are not pillars of Israeli democracy.  When he says they are “balanced” in Israel with national security,  “Shorter Bennett” for that is: they are subsumed by national security.  In effect, there are no rights for any Israeli who comes a-cropper with the security services.  Largely those are Palestinian citizens, but even some Jews have been swallowed in the maw of the national security state.

On a final note, the title’s claim that ISIS understands only one language, force; is a hoary-old racist saying going back decades (Ben Gurion offered a variant here) in the Zionist movement: the only language Arabs understand is force, is the original Hebrew version.  Which shows once again that Bennett makes no distinction between “Arabs” and “terrorists.”

I’ve also noted here before that Bennett’s party proudly opposes gay marriage and includes an MK who brought pigs to his own anti-gay pride march.  But let’s not sweat the small stuff here (not that homophobia is small stuff) when we’re talking about Israeli ministers who support Arab-murder and genocide publishing their bon mots in the WSJ.

Next up in WSJ:

Kim Jong Ill: The Only Language U.S. Terror President Understands is ‘Boom!’

Pamela Geller: Take the Battle to the Friggin’ A-rabs!

Vladimir Putin: I Killed a Chechen Terrorist with My Bare Hands!