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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 joyfully declared on Facebook her intent 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 Davis, 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 be] partners to monitor the distribution of this inciting material on the internet.”

My guess is that this is Hotovely’s version of the meeting and that Google’s version will look far different.  My guess is 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 agree 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!


This could just as well be the motto of the United States as one of the cardinal verses in the Torah.  It should be stamped on Bibi Netanyahu’s forehead since he violates this precept virtually every day that he maintains prison camps for African refugees, who he refuses to grant asylum or even an application process.  For those who take the passage to heart, it means be humble, remember the refugee, show kindness and hospitality to the less fortunate.  The Republican presidential candidates apparently don’t read their Bibles.  Or if they do, they’re reading the wrong passages.

holocaust refugees

The statistic refers to a Harvard Crimson poll of the Harvard student body

The GOP is now making hay out of the Paris terror attacks.  Each candidate falls all over himself to be more punitive, more intolerant than the next.  23 governors, including one Democrat, have said they will refuse to accept Syrian refugees within their states.  This, despite the fact that governors have no say in immigration matters and may not expel legal refugees.  That’s the job of the federal government.  But don’t tell the governors that.  It might educate them about the separate powers delegated to the states and federal government.  A little something called the Constitution.

anti semitic cartoons rats

Top panel: Broom sweeps Jewish “rats” under caption “Germany for Germans.” Bottom panel: rats flee to “Democratic nations” whose gate is barred to them.  (Das Kleine Blatt)

Another historical fact worth mentioning: in 1938, 937 European Jews boarded the S.S. St. Louis en route to America where they hoped to find refuge from Hitler’s encroaching hordes.  They waited for months in Cuba and other sites while their supporters sought a safe haven in this country.  At long last, they gave up and sailed back to Europe.  Where 250 of them were swallowed in the Holocaust and exterminated along with 6-million other European Jews.

There is a catastrophe enveloping Syria in which nearly 200,000 civilians have died.  500,000 Syrians have fled toward Europe and any other safe harbor they might find.  These are not terrorists, not ISIS, though most are Muslim.  There is nothing criminal in being either Syrian, a Muslim or a refugee.  Despite what viewers saw on this FoxNews panel which quoted approvingly Winston Churchill’s bit of colonial Islamophobia: “Islam is as dangerous in a man as rabies in a dog.”  It would take FoxNews to dredge up 19th century British religious-cultural imperialism, spoken by the leader who epitomized empire in all its worst forms.

As an antidote: remember Emma Lazarus’ (a former Jewish refugee, herself) immortal words inscribed on the Statue of Liberty?

“Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-toss’d to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

Yet the idea of a mere 10,000 Syrian refugees “flooding” our shores is enough to send the GOP candidates into apoplexy.  I am glad that Democrats like Obama and Sanders are responding in kind.  That they are not caving in to this racist xenophobia.


Israel Outlaws Nation’s Leading Muslim Group

Contemplate this: the Department of Homeland Security announces that henceforth the Nation of Islam, the Westboro Baptist Church, and Zionist Organization of America are outlawed organizations.  They are considered supporters of a terrorist ideology and must completely dissolve their organizations and their programs.  Anyone found to be a member of any of the groups is liable to criminal prosecution.

In response, the groups refuse to accept the decree.  They announce that in order to continue representing the legitimate interests of their followers and co-religionists, they are going underground.  They denounce the decision as a serious violation of the Constitution and call upon the nation to protest it.  The result: dead silence.  Everyone who hasn’t been banned is too cowed to put up much of a fight, though scores of the remaining legal groups know the new policy is unjust and a grave violation of civil liberties.

That scenario sounds pretty far-fetched here in the U.S. (though China currently does precisely this to Tibetan Buddhists and the Falun Gong, and Iran does the same to the Bahai).  But it isn’t far-fetched at all in Israel.  Defense Minister Yaalon, a political ally of Kahanist Moshe Feiglin, took advantage of the terror hysteria sweeping the globe to outlaw the northern branch of the Islamic Movement, Israel’s leading Islamic organization.  Keep in mind that this is the same guy whom the NY Times’ Tom Friedman called “Israel’s very decent defense minister,” in a recent column.  Can you imagine what Friedman’s definition of ‘decent’ is?  Or better yet, what his definition of ‘decency’ is?

raed salah

Israel’s Islamic Movement leader, Sheikh Raed Saleh

Its leader Sheikh Raed Saleh, has just been jailed for the umpteenth time for some offense or another.  Saleh, who successfully fought banning by the UK Tory government, is the equivalent of Malcolm X in the Israeli Palestinian community.

He is a fiery, uncompromising advocate for Muslim unity.  An implacable opponent of Israeli oppression of his co-religionists.  The Movement spearheaded resistance to Israeli encroachment on the Haram al Sharif.  Though it has never advocated violence or been charged with engaging in it, nevertheless the Israeli government blames the group for fomenting all of the Palestinian attacks against Jews over the past two months.

According to the Israeli Jewish narrative, everyone is to blame for anti-Israel terror: ISIS, Hamas, Hezbollah, Iran, Islam–and now the Northern Movement.  Everyone, that is, except Israel.  It is never to blame for the bloodshed and massacres it inflicts.  It is merely a victim, defending itself against terrorist monsters like those who struck in Paris.

Is Saleh and the Northern Movement angry and defiant? Yes.  Is it an implacable foe of injustice against Israeli Muslims?  Yes.  Is its rhetoric intemperate at times? Yes.  But is it a terror group?  Does it commit or advocate violence? Does it advocate overthrowing the State?  No, to all of the above.  In fact, Israel’s Shin Bet chief, Yoram Cohen, rejected the cabinet’s assertions regarding the Movement.  He said explicitly that it does not promote terror and that banning it is a mistake.

Regarding incitement, I dare anyone watching Bibi’s infamous 1995 speech from the Jerusalem balcony, to disagree that it incited the assassination of Yitzhak Rabin (which happened only a few weeks later).  Every Israeli knows this is true.  So I’m willing to see Salah imprisoned when Israel arrests and imprisons Bibi for Rabin’s murder.  I think it’s a fair deal.

I warn the pro-Israel crowd here that you can dredge up misquotes and mistranslation from the Jerusalem Post and MEMRI all you want.  It won’t change the fact that this banning is inherently racist and Islamophobic (no Jewish terror group has been similar banned though there was talk of banning the Jewish fascist group, Lehava).  I have no interest in parsing propaganda tracts alleging Saleh said this or that, which you will all undoubtedly be marshalling to defend this outrageous decision.  So I put you on notice and a short leash.

As I wrote above, this banning is a cynical ploy by the defense minister seeking to kiss-up to his Kahanist settler constituency.  It seeks also to criminalize a large cross-section of Israeli Muslims who are loyal to the NOrthern Movement, which plays a huge role in providing a social safety net among this community.   As NoamR tweeted (“What Yaalon did today in his infinite wisdom, was to take a large, cautious organization which was under a magnifying glass, whose every step was openly reported, and send it underground: a declaration of war”), this decree is not just anti-democratic, it will drive the Movement underground just as the Egyptian junta has driven the Muslim Brotherhood underground.  In Egypt, the result has been a series of bloody bombings and terror attacks by Egyptian Islamists angry at the massacres of the military regime directed against their followers.

This move by Yaalon will drive an even greater wedge between Jews and Muslims within Israel.  It will provoke more violence on both sides, more hatred.  As Noam wrote, it is nothing less than a declaration of war.  Until this time, the most savage violence was between Israeli Jews and Occupied Palestinians.  Henceforth, the action will gradually shift to within Israel itself.  The Palestinians of Israel are a loyal, long-suffering and generally quiescent regarding their second or third-class citizenship.  That may all be changing.  When it does, you will not have just a war between Israel and Palestine.  You will have a civil war within Israel: Israeli Jewish citizens murdering Israeli Palestinian citizens.  In the name of nationalist supremacy.

Israel is a State going to Hell in a handbasket.  It’s worst enemy is itself.  I have never witnessed a train wreck.  But watching this insanity slowly unfold is the closest thing to it.

I have been exploring what sort of organized protest or movement may spring up around this issue.  It is the sort of grave injustice which demands mass protest and the cooperation of disparate groups.  Speaking of which, watch what the Israeli “left” does and says around this issue.  Remember what I wrote above about “silence?”


Meet the New War, Just Like the Old War

The video is my latest interview, tonight, on PressTV speaking of western intervention in the Middle East against ISIS in the aftermath of the Paris terror attack.

In times like these I trot out those wonderful lyrics from The Who’s Won’t Get Fooled Again: “Meet the new boss, just like the old boss.”  In tonight’s case we’re talking about the new war against ISIS that western leaders from King Abdullah to Pres. Obama to Francois Hollande have blithely declared.  One hardline Israeli commentator went so far as to declare “World War III.”  Law professor Thane Rosenbaum blogged this nonsense at the Times of Israel: We are All Israelis Now.  Yossi Melman, a veteran Israeli security correspondent, even offered this Dogs of War headline for his article on the terror attacks: To defeat ISIS West must pay the price soldiers returning in coffins.  It was later softened to: To defeat ISIS, West must be willing to pay the price with soldiers’ lives.

It’s especially painful when, as George Santayana noted long ago, people who should know better refuse to learn the lessons of history.  The west has offered the Middle East no end of pain, blood and sorrow over nearly two centuries of colonial conquest.  Throughout this period, countries have regularly decided that they have an obligation to remake the region in their image, to bring civilization or democracy, to modernize.  There are no end of motivations, all of which sounded good enough to undertake one disastrous project or another in furtherance of some laudable goal or other.

But I especially want to focus on 9/11.  Those attacks by al-Qaeda determined George Bush to launch a never-ending “crusade” (as he once called it in an unfortunate choice of words) against “radical Islam.”  He called it, infamously, the “war on terror.”  That was the war that Barack Obama told us only a few years ago, was being retired from his political lexicon.

Trillions of dollars, thousands of American lives (and hundreds of thousands of Arab lives) later; and after invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan, the region remains much as we found it.  Yes, we rid it of some thoroughly nasty individuals like Saddam and Osama bin Laden, but we inspired the rise of others just as capable as them, who weren’t even a gleam in our eye when we first started this campaign.  We’ve also offered to the region two states which are arguably less stable than they were before we toppled their former leaders.

ISIS: a Golem of Our Making

We are now beginning to hear about the origins of the recent Paris terror attacks.  Claims are made that it commenced with ISIS’ top commander Ali Bakr al-Baghdadi, who directed his operatives in the west to launch multiple “operations” against western nations who had joined in an alliance to attack him.  Who was he in 2001?  Nothing and no one.  But some genius in Saudi Arabia or Turkey who was desperate to counter Bashar al Assad’s massacre of his people in 2011, came up with the brilliant idea of throwing their support behind this Sunni killing machine.  Al-Baghdadi was the result.  Not to mention, where do we think the fundamentalist theology underpinning ISIS originated?  In the mosques and madrassas of Saudi Arabia, the home of Wahabi Islam.

What the west finds is that those who it creates to serve short-term interests can become uncontrollable monsters who take on a life of their own.  Like the medieval Golem, the master creates them in an hour of need.  But then the servant becomes more powerful than his creator, who loses control.  The servant becomes a monster with a will and mind of his own.

That was the Afghan mujahadeen, among them Osama bin Laden, in 1979.  It was Saddam Hussein, whom Don Rumsfeld and Dick Cheney armed during the 1980s Iran-Iraq War.  For Ariel Sharon, it was the Lebanese Phalange who in 1983 murdered 3,000 Lebanese Muslims in Sabra and Chatilla.  Now, it is ISIS.

We create the monster.  Then we try to kill it when it goes on a rampage and turns against us.  Even if we succeed, new monsters arise from the clay we used to create the first one.

There is no doubt that there are good, or at least understandable intentions behind these original projects.  Countries naturally need local allies.  But when you create an ally whose sole goal is to be your hired killer, then it can’t end well for anyone, including yourself.

islamophobic cartoon

Arutz 7 settler-brand Islamophobia

A word now about Israel’s especially pernicious hijacking of the Paris attack.  After 9/11, Bibi secretly rejoiced because he knew this was exactly what was needed to draw the U.S. into Israel’s orbit around questions of radical Islam and counter-terror.  Haaretz capsulated one of his speeches about the attack as “good for Israel.”  And Bibi has milked it for all it’s worth since.

Now, we have Israel’s “brilliant” counter-terror strategists like Defense Minister Bogie Yaalon advising the French to abandon individual rights for the sake of “security.”  Just as Israel has long done of course.  Not to be left out of the radical Islam propaganda sweepstakes, Bibi says that the killers in Paris are no different from “Arab” killers who stalk the West Bank seeking to spill Jewish blood.

My advice: be careful what you wish for.  If you take Israel’s advice you become Israel.  You sacrifice the very values which make you distinct as a nation.  In America, you throw away the Constitution.  In France, you throw away egalite, fraternite and most of all, liberte.  I say, if Israel wants to go down this road, we can’t stop it.  But if it wants to drag the rest of the western world with it–we don’t have to go along.

The vicious Arutz Sheva cartoon I’ve featured here is emblematic of some of this noxious thinking.  In it, an innocent young Israeli chap knocks at the EU’s door offering all manner of beneficial products from Israel for the European market.  But the nasty EU border official waves him off.  While walking towards Europe is the Muslim, whose sole offering to Europe is blood and carnage, who proceeds shiftily toward his target in the distance, Paris.  It’s too bad they neglected to picture the Israeli in uniform, piloting an F-16, and offering Israeli advanced weaponry to the EU cop.  That would’ve been far more realistic in terms of the level of damage and lethality of Israel’s export industry compared to that of Islam.

Many messages here, all disgusting.  One among many is that BDS is a handmaiden of radical Islam.  If you reject Israel you open the door to terror.

I’ve posted this cartoon, despite its deeply offensive imagery, because it’s critical to point out where the overheated rhetoric of Obama and Hollande takes us: it causes massacres and endless bloodshed.  No amount of caveats, explaining that we don’t mean to target all of Islam; or we respect Muslims in general, except for the radicals among them; none of this escapes the fact that this nuance easily becomes lost in the heat of battle.  Commandos are trained to kill, not parse religious beliefs.  If you tell him to attack Islamist radicals, he will make a mistake.  You hope he won’t kill the innocent with the guilty.  But once you unleash the Dogs of War, they may fail to make the distinction.  That’s precisely how you start this vicious cycle all over again.