The Invisible Palestinians
The following is an excerpt from No Way In, a novel written by Richard Fernandez that I just finished last week:
"I think," Alex said softly, "that all revolutions are about faith. In this case it's faith for its own sake, about religion without God. Yes, we are told there could be a paradise on earth. But we're not really convinced and we don't really care for as long as we have some religion and some paradise before us.
"This makes it a moral problem, because the paradise we don't really believe in has to be built with the bricks and mortar of people's lives. What everyone caught up in revolution wants to know is whether faith in Stalin or Mao or Antonio Moran Singson is enough to kill or be killed for? Because it would be really funny, now that we are talking about religion - now that it is clear that's what we are really talking about - to exchange Communism for Christianity and Trotsky for Moses. If you find your arms can't reach the heavens, what is the sense to worshipping a model in mud on the ground?"
"So what do you believe in, Alex?" Justine asked. "In the old ways?"
"In the unchanging ways, in the human condition. What condemns us to freedom is the chance that God might exist. And if salvation is real, then freedom is real too."
"Real freedom," Justine asked, "must include the right to choose slavery or even Hell, though I can't think of a good reason for anyone to choose it. Is that part of freedom?"
"It seems that deciding never to choose again is the one act that is forbidden to us," Alex said. "To do that would be to leave the circle of mankind forever."
It seems to me that this passage gets to the heart of the nature of choice, freedom, slavery and the contradictory condition of man. On the one hand, we quest for greatness, as our eyes gaze up to the heavens and ponder the stars. On the other hand, we strive for security and the easy predictability of plenty. We aspire to the former but are willing to give up much of our ability to be free to dream and do for the certainty of the latter.
Fernandez is the sole author of the Belmont Club, now at Pajamas Media. I've been following his writing for years. He has a unique ability to seamlessly blend strategic issues with human nature. His writing encompasses the whole of the human drama - from literature to poetry to film to history, war and common sense.
No Way In is a story about a middle aged professor named Alex Francisco who never managed to move beyond his work as a revolutionary in the underground movement to overthrow Filipino dictator Ferdinand Marcos in the 1970s. Now, as the action begins, he is thrown back into the world of intrigue, danger and life on the run when he inadvertently stumbles upon a secret about recently stolen presidential elections.
Often I find that writers have difficulty moving from one genre to another. Books by columnists often read like 250 page columns. Columns by novelists often read like something the author might have said better if he had 25,000 words.
But in No Way In, Fernandez succeeded in bringing all his passions, interests and knowledge to bear in a single, coherent, extremely well written and engaging composition. You learn about Philippine political history and about the Islamic threat to the country. You learn about modes of counterinsurgency.
You read about the loves and sacrifices of extraordinary people who hear the call to service and leadership.
Finally, you learn about the challenges of moving on from extraordinary chapters in our lives.
You learn all of this while captivated by a fast moving, thrilling story that transports you from Sydney and Canberra to the Australian Alps, to Manila, to the furthest reaches of the Philippine archipelago.
Since I am unfamiliar with all the terrain Fernandez covers here, as I read, I felt like I too was on an adventure, experiencing these unfamiliar places for the first time. I couldn't help comparing them to landscapes that I know and have travelled through and thinking about how the call to fight for freedom touches people everywhere.
No Way In was so engaging that I ended up taking last Wednesday afternoon off to finish it.
I urge you all to purchase the book. I don't believe you will be disappointed.
The crew at '>Latma is on vacation this week. We'll be back next week with a new show.
So I take this opportunity to present one of my all-time favorite Latma tunes - The Iranian Bomb Song.
It seems to go with the message of my latest column.
Every day, major stories come out of the Middle East. And behind each of these stories are major developments that deserve of our attention and, more often than not, our intense concern. Just this week, major stories have come out of Syria, the Palestinian Authority, Egypt, Turkey, Lebanon, Yemen and Pakistan that are all deeply disconcerting.
In Syria, dictator Bashar Assad's violent repression of the popular revolt against his tyrannical, minority regime has exposed the Syrian leader as a vicious murderer. While there is some room for hope that the Syrian people may successfully overthrow him, given the US's refusal to provide any tangible assistance to the regime opponents, it is hard to see how such a happy future could come about.
For his part, Assad is the beneficiary of a steady stream of support from the Iranian regime. The mullahs and the Iranian Revolutionary Guards will ensure that he never runs out of bullets to kill his people.
As to the Palestinian Authority, this week's Fatah-Hamas coalition negotiations in Cairo revealed the depth and breadth of Hamas's control over the unity government now being formed. Despite massive American pressure, Hamas successfully vetoed Fatah's bid to retain Salam Fayyad as prime minister in the unity government.
Moreover, in the face of significant international pressure, Hamas maintains its refusal to accept the so-called Quartet conditions of recognizing Israel, ending terrorism and agreeing to respect all previous agreements signed between the Palestinians and Israel.
Given Hamas's maintenance of its annihilationist goals toward Israel and Fatah's inability to convince Hamas to accept its minimal demands, it is obvious that Hamas is the stronger force in the Palestinian unity government. It is also clear that this government will not under any circumstances agree to make peace with Israel.
AND YET, in the face of these realities, US President Barack Obama is intensifying his pressure on Israel to agree to the now-powerless Fatah's preconditions for negotiating. Indeed, he has adopted Fatah's preconditions as his own.
Obama is demanding that Israel agree to surrender its right to defensible borders by insisting that Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu accept the pre-1967 boundaries - that is the 1949 armistice lines - as the starting point for future negotiations. Since Obama surely recognizes that a Hamas-controlled Palestinian Authority will not accept Israeli control over anything from the Temple Mount in Jerusalem to the Jordan Valley, he knows that he is requiring that Israel surrender its right to defensible borders before it even begins negotiating.
It is not surprising that the unity talks that crowned Hamas the king of Palestinian politics have taken place in post-Mubarak Egypt. Despite the rosy, post-Mubarak scenarios put forward during the revolution in January by American liberal and neo-conservative intellectuals, post- Mubarak Egypt is shaping up to be a dangerous, frightening place.
With the supposedly liberal Wafd Party merging with the Muslim Brotherhood this week, the Brotherhood took a significant step toward consolidating its rise to political leadership of the country in the elections scheduled for September.
The ruling military junta's decision to arrest Israeli-American Ilan Grapel on trumped-up espionage charges last week is just one more signal that post-Mubarak Egypt is turning its back on Egypt's peace with Israel.
And as The Washington Times reported last week, the US has been reduced to begging the Egyptian military authorities to re-arrest a number of top jihadist terrorists freed from Egyptian prisons in the aftermath of Hosni Mubarak's ouster. Yet, not only have the terrorists not been re-jailed, some of them have formed new political parties and are slated to run in September's elections. Clearly, the US is also being betrayed by the new regime.
If the Muslim Brotherhood controls the next Egyptian government, Egypt will join Lebanon and Turkey as the newest member of the growing club of nations ruled by Islamic radicals. This week, Lebanon's Hezbollah-appointed Prime Minister Najib Mikati finally formed his Hezbollah- controlled government.
Hezbollah has now officially swallowed Lebanon. The regional and indeed global repercussions of the development are simply mind-boggling.
Then there is Turkey. This week, the Turks went to the polls and re-elected Prime Minister Recip Erdogan and his radical Islamic AKP party to lead the country for a third term. In his victory speech, Erdogan signaled his Islamist and neoimperialist ambitions by stating that former Ottoman empire-controlled cities from Sarajevo to Jerusalem, from Damascus to Beirut to Ramallah should all be cheering his victory. Turkish intellectuals like Sinan Ulgen, who heads the Istanbul-based Center for Economics and Foreign Policy Studies, are arguing for a more independent Turkish role within NATO.
Both nuclear-armed Pakistan and Yemen are quickly approaching the day when they will be led by al Qaida or its affiliates. The forced departure of Yemini President Ali Abdullah Saleh two weeks ago after he was wounded in an attack on the Presidential Palace was seen as a major victory for al Qaida. Al Qaida forces continue to attack government installations in Aden and other cities throughout the country.
As for Pakistan, the US's assassination of Osama bin Laden last month exposed the dirty secret of Pakistani military collaboration with al Qaida for all to see. This week's arrest of five Pakistanis accused of acting as informants to the US in its bid to locate the al Qaida chief is further proof - if any was needed - that the $21 billion in military and economic assistance the US has showered on Pakistan since 2002 has bought it precious little in the way of strategic support or partnership from Islamabad. Recent reports indicate increased concern that Pakistan's nuclear arsenal may eventually fall under the control of al Qaida sympathizers.
AMAZINGLY, WHILE all of these developments are alarming, and while all of them have justifiably dominated much of the coverage of the Middle East in recent weeks and months, the fact is that all of them pale in comparison to what is happening in Iran. And this story is receiving only scant and generally superficial attention from the international media and the major governments of the Western world.
Monday, The Wall Street Journal editorialists summarized the major developments on this front. First, last week the UN's International Atomic Energy Agency released previously classified sections of its latest report on Iran. The report says that in the last six months, Tehran enriched 970 kilos of uranium to reactor-grade levels, bringing its publicly known stockpile of low enriched uranium to 4,105 kilos.
Iran also has enriched 56.7 kilos of uranium to the 20% level, from which it is a relatively simple matter to increase enrichment levels to the 90% needed to make a nuclear bomb.
Iran has also installed upgraded centrifuges in its until recently secret enrichment facility at Qom.
Rand Corporation scholar Gregory S. Jones wrote this month that Iran has reached nuclear breakout capacity. In his words, "Iran can now produce a weapons's worth (20 kilograms) of HEU [weapons-grade uranium] any time it wishes. With Iran's current number of operating centrifuges, the batch recycling process would take about two months."
Apparently owing to their certainty that Iran is an unstoppable nuclear power, the Iranian Revolutionary Guards took their guard down in a recent issue of their in-house journal. The magazine published an article describing the day after Iran performs a nuclear test.
And the beat goes on. Yesterday, Iran successfully launched a second spy satellite into space.
The launch indicates that Iran is acquiring greater prowess in developing intercontinental ballistic missile capabilities. Such capabilities along with Iran's nuclear program and global ambitions constitute a clear and present danger to Europe and the US.
Iran's steady progress toward a nuclear arsenal was made all the more frightening in the face of the recent comments by retired Mossad director Meir Dagan. In a shocking breach of protocol and in apparent violation of the law, the man who until a few months ago stood at the helm of Israel's efforts to thwart Iran's nuclear ambitions attempted to take Israel's military option for striking Iran's nuclear installations off the table. In press interviews, Dagan stated that it would be disastrous for Israel to strike Iran's nuclear installations.
Dagan failed to note that it would be far more disastrous to allow Iran to acquire nuclear weapons.
At this point, it is inarguable that the policy of sanctioning Iran favored by the US and Europe has failed to dampen Iran's commitment to developing nuclear weapons. It has also failed to significantly slow Iran's progress towards the atom bomb. Obviously, the only possible way to stop Iran from developing nuclear weapons at this late hour is to attack its nuclear installations.
For years, Israel's governments have taken a back seat to Washington on Iran. From Ariel Sharon to Ehud Olmert to Netanyahu, since Iran's nuclear program was first revealed in 2003, Israel has allowed itself to believe that the US could be trusted to take the greatest threat to Israel's survival off the table.
The belief that the US would lead a military strike against Iran was always based more on blind faith than fact. When, in 2003, George W.
Bush decided to work through the UN Security Council on the issue. despite Russia's open assistance to Iran's nuclear and missile programs and China's growing addiction to Iranian natural gas, it was already apparent that the US was not serious about preventing Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons. And when, in late 2007, the US's National Intelligence Assessment published the demonstrably false claim that Iran abandoned its nuclear weapons program in 2003, it became clear to anyone willing to see that the US had decided not to take any significant action to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons.
This dire state of affairs was reinforced with the inauguration of Obama as US president in 2009.
Obama's sole policy for dealing with the nuclear weapons-seeking and openly genocidal Iranian regime is appeasement. And Obama doesn't seek to appease the mullahs in order to convince them to end their nuclear program.
For Obama, appeasement is an end in and of itself. This is why - even after Iran has spurned all his offers of appeasement and has been caught red-handed repeatedly aiding Iraqi and Afghan forces killing US servicemen, and despite Iran's swift progress toward a nuclear arsenal - Obama refuses to even state openly that he would use force to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons.
What this means is that - as was the case in May 1967, when the combined Arab armies gathered with the express purpose of wiping the Jewish state off the map - today again, Israel is alone at its hour of greatest peril. All of the lesser threats now gathering from Egypt, the Palestinian Authority, Syria, Lebanon and Turkey will become insurmountable if Iran becomes a nuclear power.
As was the case in May 1967, Israel has arrived at a do-or-die moment. And we should all pray for the strength and courage of our leaders, our soldiers and our nation at this time.
Originally published in The Jerusalem Post.
Shimon Schiffer and Nahum Barnea are both senior political commentators for Yediot Aharonot, Israel's largest circulation newspaper. They are both also leftist extremists. In their articles in last Friday's weekend edition of Yediot they demonstrated how their politics dictate their reporting - to the detriment of their readers and to Israeli democracy. They also demonstrated the disastrous consequences of the Left's takeover of predominant institutions in democratic societies.
Schiffer's column centered on the subversive behavior of President Shimon Peres and ran under the headline, "Subversive for Peace."
Schiffer published top secret documents chronicling Peres's long history of abusing his office to subvert Israel's lawful governments and obstruct their policies.
Schiffer's article opened with an account of Peres's current moves to undermine Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu's foreign policy. According to Obama administration officials, during his recent meeting with US President Barack Obama, which preceded Netanyahu's stormy visit last month, Peres and Obama agreed that a future deal between Israel and the Palestinians must be based on the 1967 lines with mutually agreed swaps involving Israeli withdrawals from areas that have been under its sovereignty since 1949. While he acknowledged that Netanyahu completely opposes these parameters and would openly oppose them if Obama adopted them publically, Peres embraced them.
His message to the US leader was clear: Work with me and we'll get Israeli withdrawals.
Work with the elected leader of Israel and you'll get nowhere.
Schiffer then showed that Peres's behavior is nothing new. Using classified documents from 1987 and 1988 when Peres served as foreign minister under then prime minister Yitzhak Shamir, Schiffer reported that during that time, Peres conspired with then Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak to defeat Likud in the 1988 elections. Peres also tried to convince the Reagan administration to disassociate with Shamir and deal only with him. His efforts were honorably rebuffed by then secretary of state George Schultz who reportedly told Peres that he could not ignore the elected leader of Israel.
Schiffer reported that Peres successfully collaborated with Mubarak to undermine Shamir's policy goal of retaining Israel's control over Taba in the post-Camp David implementation talks.
Finally, Schiffer reported that in the summer of 1987, unbeknownst to Shamir, Peres dispatched Avraham Tamir, then Foreign Ministry director general, to Mozambique to meet secretly with PLO leader Yasser Arafat. At the time Israelis were prohibited by law from maintaining any contact whatsoever with PLO members. So not only was Tamir's meeting an act of gross insubordination and subversion. It was a crime.
Peres's arguably treasonous behavior was not the only scandal Schiffer exposed in his article. From the perspective of Israeli democracy - equally scandalous was Schiffer's admitted collusion with Peres's subversive operations.
Specifically, in his discussion of Tamir's illegal meeting with Arafat, Schiffer admitted that Tamir "told me at the time," about the meeting.
What this means is that one of Israel's most powerful reporters knew 24 years ago that the director general of the Foreign Ministry was sent by the foreign minister to conduct an illegal meeting with Israel's sworn enemy behind the back of the prime minister. And he opted not to report the story.
Schiffer decided that Peres's moves to empower Israel's sworn enemies against the expressed wishes of the prime minister and of the general public were more important than the public's right to know what he was doing. And so he hid the information from the public. For 24 years.
Imagine how different subsequent events might have turned out if Schiffer had fulfilled his professional duty and informed the public in 1987 that Peres was engaged in illegal activities whose expressed aim was the overthrow of the elected leader of the country and the empowerment of Israel's worst enemy.
IN COMPARISON to Schiffer's double whammy, Barnea's article on Friday was nothing special. But it was a representative sample of Israel's most esteemed political commentator's consistent moves to distort current events in a manner that adheres to his radical politics.
Barnea opened his essay with a sympathetic depiction of a delegation of five anti-Israel US Congressmen organized by the anti-Israel lobby J Street. Barnea then attacked Netanyahu and his ministers for refusing to meet with the delegation.
From reading his column, you'd never guess that the members of the delegation were among Israel's most outspoken opponents on Capitol Hill. And from reading Barnea, you wouldn't know that J Street is an anti-Israel lobby, which among other things, urged Obama not to veto a UN Security Council resolution condemning Israel for allowing Jews to build on their property in Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria; lobbied Congress not to pass a resolution condemning Palestinian anti-Jewish incitement following the massacre of the Fogel family; and lobbied Congress not to pass sanctions against Iran.
What you would learn from reading Barnea's article is that Israelis shouldn't take heart from the overwhelming support we receive from Congress because the thirty-odd standing ovations Netanyahu received were nothing more than political theater.
The underlying message of Barnea's piece was clear. Israel's supporters in Congress are not really supporters, they're just afraid of angering the all-powerful AIPAC. And obviously, if we have no real friends, then anyone telling us to stand strong is a liar and an enemy and what we really need to do is learn to love J Street and its anti-Israel Congressmen who share Barnea's agenda.
It doesn't matter to Schiffer and Barnea that the majority of the public opposes their views. It doesn't matter that the government's policies more or less loyally represent the positions of the public that democratically elected it. As Schiffer demonstrated by failing for 24 years to report Peres's behavior and as Barnea showed by failing to inform the public about the nature of J Street and its anti-Israel Congressional delegation, radical leftist writers exploit their power to dictate the contours of the public discourse to advance their political agenda. And it doesn't bother them at all that advancing their personal politics involves actively undermining the very mission of a free press - to enable the free flow of information to the public.
THE BEHAVIOR of the likes of Peres, Schiffer and Barnea is not unique to the Israeli Left. It characterizes the behavior of much of the American Jewish Left as well. There, as here, radical activists and ideologues have taken over mainstream institutions and transformed them into mouthpieces for their extremist policies.
Take the local Jewish Community Relations Councils in the US for example.
The JCRCs are supposed to be local umbrella organizations that conduct community events and other activities aimed at advancing the interests, concerns and values of the members of their local Jewish communities. But like the Israeli media, many of the local chapters of the JCRC have been taken over by radical leftists who do not share and indeed seek to undermine the interests, concerns and values of their local Jewish communities.
Last week, Andrea Levin, the executive director and president of the Committee for Accuracy in Middle Eastern Reporting in America (CAMERA), published an article in Boston's Jewish Advocate exposing how Boston's JCRC's leadership unlawfully and secretly brought J Street into the umbrella organization and then, when it was caught, used unethical means to gain approval after the fact for their actions.
As a comprehensive survey of American Jewish views on Israel carried out last month by CAMERA demonstrated conclusively, the vast majority of American Jews oppose all of J Street's positions on Israel and the Middle East.
But just as Israelis are denied their right to an open and objective public discourse due to the radical Left's predominance in the media, so American Jews are denied their right to disown J Street due to the radical leftist American Jews' takeover of key US Jewish umbrella groups and institutions.
Another depressing instance of this pattern just occurred at the Union of Reform Judaism with the nomination -- and election -- of Rabbi Richard Jacobs to serve as its president. Whereas outgoing president Eric Yoffie referred to J Street's anti- Israel positions on Operation Cast Lead as "morally deficient, profoundly out of touch with Jewish sentiment and also appallingly naïve," Jacobs serves on J Street's Rabbinic Cabinet. He also serves on the New Israel Fund's board.
When a group of Reform activists called Jews Against Divisive Leadership (JADL) published ads in Jewish papers signed by a hundred Reform rabbis, their actions met with condemnation by URJ's leadership and even with calls to blacklist the signatories.
The younger generation of radical American Jewish activists on college campuses is following the same course.
Following Yale's decision last week to close its institute for the study of anti- Semitism, recent Yale alumni Matthew Knee wrote a post at the Legal Insurrection blog claiming that Yale's Students for Israel group is dominated by anti- Israel activists.
So too, at Berkeley, Hillel has been penetrated by anti-Israel organizations, which like J Street pretend to be pro- Israel when in fact they promote anti- Israel activities including economic warfare against Israel. The situation at Berkeley is so bad that members of the Hillel-affiliated Kesher Enoshi were key activists in the campaign to divest Berkeley's holdings from Israeli companies.
As the URJ's threat to blacklist JADL members indicates, there is only one effective response to the radicalization of mainstream institutions: the creation of new, actually representative institutions that will compete with and eventually replace those that have been subverted.
In Israel this means creating alternative media organs through the Internet and other outlets to end the radical Left's monopoly on information dissemination and engage in a discourse that reflects reality, engages the majority and upholds the rule of law.
In the US it means establishing new umbrella groups that represent the majority and deny membership to marginal groups that represent next to no one.
In Israel, independent Internet journalist Yoav Yitzhak just announced an initiative to form a new journalists union that will represent reporters and writers who have no voice in the leftist dominated Press Council. Initiatives like Latma, the satirical media criticism website I founded two years ago, have rapidly become major voices in the national discourse. Like people everywhere, when given the opportunity, Israelis seek out information sources that inform rather than indoctrinate and empower rather than demoralize them.
In the US, last October frustrated activists in the Indianapolis Jewish community disenfranchised by the far left agenda of the local JCRC founded JAACI, the Jewish American Affairs Committee of Indiana to serve as a new umbrella organization for the community.
Dedicated mainly to giving voice to the Jewish community's deep concern and support for Israel, JAACI's formation fomented an exodus of local Jewish groups and synagogues from the JCRC. When given an option to participate in a more representative organization, the local Jews grabbed it.
The ability of institutional leaders - whether Jewish professionals or journalists - to ignore their responsibility to serve those they claim to represent is not due primarily to their formidable resources. It is due to our willingness to put up with their behavior. If we want to have institutions that represent and serve us, we have to take the initiative and build them ourselves.
This afternoon Prof. Alvin Rosenfeld from Indiana University sent me a letter he wrote to Yale's President co-signed by dozens of academics from all over the world, expressing their opposition to the university's decision to close YIISA.
In my column on Friday, I mistakenly wrote that YIISA was the only institute in a North American university dedicated to the study of anti-Semitism. As it turns out, there is another one at Indiana University run by Prof. Rosenfeld. I had heard of the center, but was under the impression that it was still in the planning phases. So sorry for the error and congratulations to Indiana University for doing the right thing. I think I'll try to scrape up a copy of "Breaking Away," to celebrate.
Before I give you the letter, I want to call your attention to a deeply depressing blog post by a recent Yale grad named Matthew Knee at Legal Insurrection about the atrocious behavior and politics of the Jewish students at Yale. I read this post on Friday and I still haven't snapped out of the funk it put me into.
Here are a few representative passages but I urge you to read the entire entry:
Those who point out that the PLO condemned a YIISA conference on global anti-Semitism fail to note that the Jewish community at Yale did not come to YIISA's defense in any significant way. While I found many references to the controversy searching the Yale Daily News web site, I found no examples of the organized Yale Jewish community standing up for YIISA.
I recall talking with other Jewish students about YIISA, including some who were directly involved. The complaints I heard were consistent. Yale students consider the study of anti-Semitism of the sort YIISA examined to be a "right wing" pursuit. They complained that YIISA was too focused on Europeans leftists, Israel-haters, and particularly, Muslims.
This was unsurprising considering the far left nature of the Yale Jewish Community. While I was on campus, Yale Friends of Israel (YFI), Yale's allegedly pro-Israel student organization, had so big a tent that one of their leaders told me, at the height of the controversy over "The Israel Lobby," that even Walt and Mearshimer's views should be welcomed as a form of pro-Israel viewpoint. This was met with approval by nearby YFI members.
Now here is the text of the letter with the signatories.
June 12, 2011
President Richard C. Levin
PO BOX 208229
New Haven, CT 06520-8229
Professor Peter Salovey
Warner House, Room 107
1 Hillhouse Avenue
New Haven, CT 06511
Dear President Levin, Dear Provost Salovey:
As scholars who recently participated in a major conference on antisemitism at Indiana University, we were astonished to learn of Yale's decision to eliminate theYale Initiative for the Interdisciplinary Study of Antisemitism (YIISA). Among North American universities, YIISA has been a pioneer in advancing research on contemporary manifestations of antisemitism. It has done much good work. The list of speakers it has hosted is diverse and includes many of the leading scholars in the field. Its publication program, while still young, already boasts several notable titles. The potential for YIISA to build on these attainments and achieve still more in the future is undeniable. What, then, explains Yale's decision to suddenly terminate an institute with such a record?
While we are unfamiliar with the grounds for your decision, the immediate closure of YIISA strikes us as peremptory and unwise. Surely a way can be found to help YIISA continue its impressive record of accomplishments and, at the same time, help it remedy whatever problems your review may have identified.
At a time when antisemitism is once again a social reality of increasing concern, universities would do well to encourage the scholarly work of institutes like YIISA rather than shut them down. We urge you to reconsider your decision and thereby enable Yale University to remain a leader in studying one of the critical problems of contemporary culture. To do otherwise will deprive the scholarly community of an intellectual resource of high energy and proven effectiveness. Especially at this time of resurgent antisemitism, Yale's surprising move to close YIISA sends precisely the wrong message.
Alvin H. Rosenfeld
Professor of English and Jewish Studies
Irving M. Glazer Chair in Jewish Studies
Director, Institute for the Study of Contemporary Antisemitism
Bloomington, IN 47405
Dina R. Spechler
Associate Professor of Political Science
Bloomington, IN 47405
R. Amy Elman
Chair, Political Science
Kalamazoo, MI 49006 US
Professor of Central Eurasian Studies;
Ottoman and Modern Turkish Studies Chair;
Director, Turkish Studies Program;
Bloomington, IN 47405
Political Scientist and author
Research Associate of the Vidal Sassoon International Center for the Study of Antisemitism at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.
Professor Emeritus of German Language & Literature
Publisher, Libra Books
Research Fellow at Alberto Benveniste Center for Sephardic Studies and Culture (Paris)
Jamsheed K. Choksy
Professor of Iranian Studies, Central Eurasian Studies, History, India Studies, International Studies, Islamic Studies
Bloomington, IN 47405
Member, United States National Council on the Humanities
National Endowment for the Humanities
Kenneth L. Marcus
Executive Vice President and Director
The Anti-Semitism Initiative
Institute for Jewish & Community Research
3198 Fulton St., San Francisco, CA 94118
Independent scholar and author
Emeritus E.E. Ericksen Professor of Philosophy, University of Utah
Emeritus Professor in the Faculty of Humanities, University of Sussex
Director, Center for Holocaust and Genocide Studies ,
Associate Professor of French,
University of Minnesota
Professor of Sociology, Political Science, and History
The Ohio State University
Canadian Institute for the Study of Antisemitism (CISA)
SSHRC Postdoctoral Fellow, Department of History
University of Manitoba,
Professor, Borns Jewish Studies Program and the Dept. of Near Eastern Languages and Cultures
Bloomington, IN 47405
Senior Fellow - Foundation for Defense of Democracies
Head, the Kantor Center for the Study of Contemporary European Jewry
Former Head, the Stephen Roth Institute
for the Study of Contemporary Antisemitism and Racism
The Alfred P. Slaner Chair in Anti-Semitism and Racism incumbent
Tel-Aviv University, POB 39040, Ramat-Aviv
Tel-Aviv 69978, Israel
Film & TV Dept.
Tel Aviv University
Jean Axelrad Cahan
Senior Lecturer in Philosophy
Norman and Bernice Harris Center for Judaic Studies
University of Nebraska-Lincoln
Professor, Department of Philosophy
The Hebrew University of Jerusalem
Independent scholar and author
Professor, Political Science
University of Michigan
Ann Arbor, Michigan
Assistant Professor of History
Assistant Professor of Sociology
Lecturer in Hebrew and Jewish Studies
University of California Santa Cruz
Santa Cruz, CA
Anna Sommer Schneider
Institute for the Study of Modern Israel
Emory University, Atlanta
Ph.D. candidate and author
History and Philosophy
University of Oslo
Associate Professor of History and Jewish Studies
Bloomington, IN 47405
New York City
Author of Flight of the Intellectuals and other books
International Institute Education and Research on Antisemitism,
Dr. Szilvia Peremiczky
Director, Hungarian Jewish Museum, Budapest
Senior Lecturer, National Rabbinical Seminary and Jewish Studies University, Budapest
Senior Lecturer, Eötvös Lóránd University of Arts and Sciences, Budapest
This week on the Tribal Update, the television-on-Internet satire program produced by Latma, the Hebrew-language satirical media criticism website I lead we turn our attention to the sad fate of Palestinian eskimos in the context of Naksa/Nakba/Amba/Bla Bla raids on Israel's borders.
We also feature a public service announcement about Israel's vanishing species and plenty of other great stuff.
Here's the program. Enjoy!
And by popular demand we made a separate clip of our closing gag from last week's show relating to the boycott of Israeli goods....for your viewing pleasure.
We'll be taking the week off of programming next week to give the team a much needed break. This will be the first vacation we have taken at Latma for two years! I will be posting some of my favorite material from back episodes to satisfy your Latma craving as much as possible.
Latma is funded through contributions to the Center for Security Policy in Washington. If you would like to support our efforts, you can contribute by clicking here. It takes you to the online contribution page to the Center for Security Policy through Network for Good. To earmark your donation to Latma, please write "Latma" in the box marked "designation."
Last week Yale University announced its decision to close down its institute for the study of anti-Semitism. The move has been widely criticized as politically motivated. For its part, the university claims that the move was the result of purely academic considerations.
While not clear-cut, an analysis of the story lends to the conclusion that politics were in all likelihood the decisive factor in the decision. And the implications of Yale's move for the scholarly inquiry into anti-Semitism are deeply troubling.
The Yale Initiative for the Interdisciplinary Study of Anti-Semitism (YIISA) was founded in 2006. Its purpose was to provide a scholarly approach to the study of contemporary and historical anti- Semitism. It was attached to Yale's Institution of Social and Policy Studies. It was fully funded from private contributions. Yale did not in any way subsidize its activities from the university's budget.
Since its inception, under the peripatetic leadership of its Executive Director Dr. Charles Small, YIISA organized seminars and conferences that brought leading scholars from all over the world to Yale to discuss anti-Semitism in an academic setting. Its conferences and publications produced cutting edge research. These included a groundbreaking statistical study published by Small and Prof. Edward Kaplan from Yale's School of Management that demonstrated a direct correlation between anti-Israel sentiment and anti- Jewish sentiment.
At a large conference last August titled, "Global anti-Semitism: A Crisis of Modernity," among other things, YIISA confronted the genocidal nature of Islamic anti-Semitism. The conference produced more than 800 pages of scholarly research materials on all facets of anti-Semitism, including anti-Semitism in Western academia.
Senior Yale lecturers like Yale's diplomat-in-residence and eminent international security studies scholar Charles Hill, and Yale's Sterling Professor Emeritus of English and Comparative Literature and Holocaust survivor Geoffrey Hartman, served on YIISA's faculty advisory committees and participated in its activities. According to YIISA's website, several dozen Yale professors and lecturers from throughout the university community were associated with YIISA. Their participation in its activities contributed to the institute's comprehensive study of anti-Semitism. As the only center of its kind throughout North America, YIISA's activities were widely covered by the media. Small and other YIISA personnel have been regularly interviewed in the US and global media on subjects related to the world's oldest and most resilient form of bigotry.
In response to my query over the weekend, Yale's Press Secretary Thomas Conroy wrote that the decision to close YIISA was made by a faculty committee during a routine five-year review of the program. The committee "concluded that [YIISA] had not attracted a critical mass of relevant faculty or stimulated sufficient new research."
Yale Prof. Donald Green, who heads the Institution for Social and Policy Studies that housed YIISA, released a statement explaining that YIISA, like all other programs, was evaluated by two set criteria: Its success in publishing articles in top-tier academic journals and its success in attracting a large number of students to its courses. Green claimed that unlike his institute's centers for the study of American Politics, Agrarian Studies, Field Experiments, and its Ethics, Politics and Economics major, YIISA failed to achieve the required success in instruction and publication that would merit an extension of its operations.
On the face of it, these measures of success appear to be reasonable measuring rods of the worthiness of YIISA's continued operation. But upon reflection, the use of these criteria to determine YIISA's academic viability is deeply unfair. These criteria are reasonable for politically neutral or popular subjects like agrarianism or American politics. But sadly today, at Yale and throughout the world, the subject of anti-Semitism is steeped in controversy and an objective analysis of its various aspects is considered politically incorrect. Consequently, a decision to use routine standards of assessment for a non-routine subject is not a fair decision. Indeed, it is reasonable to argue that it is a politically motivated decision.
From several perspectives, YIISA's conference on anti-Semitism last August was a stellar success. The conference, which was held over three days, attracted more than a hundred top tier scholars and policymakers from around the world. It was heavily covered by the American and global media. In its willingness to address head-on the genocidal nature of Islamic anti-Semitism generally and Iranian anti-Semitism in particular, it was a path-breaking event in academia. The same can be said of its willingness to host open discussions of the prevalence and policy implications of Palestinian anti-Semitism.
But as far as campus politics were concerned, YIISA's conference was a failure. Like nearly all university campuses in the US, Yale is dominated by the political Left. YIISA's conference was denounced by the leftist blogosphere which alleged that it was discriminatory against Muslims.
The Left's rage at the conference was further incited by the PLO's decision to condemn the proceedings. In a letter to Yale's President Richard Levin, the PLO representative in Washington, DC Maen Rashid Areikat, demanded that the university disassociate itself from the conference.
Areikat wrote, "It's shocking that a respected institution like Yale would give a platform to these right-wing extremists and their odious views, and it is deeply ironic that a conference on anti-Semitism that is ostensibly intended to combat hatred and discrimination against Semites would demonize Arabs - who are Semites themselves."
Then there is Iran. In January 2010, Iran announced that it was instituting a boycott of 60 institutions. Yale was among them. Although the regime did not explain the reason for the boycott, university officials attributed Tehran's decision to YIISA's activities in spotlighting the regime's role in promoting genocidal anti-Semitism.
Due to the boycott, Yale professors involved in research in Iran were forced to end their activities. These professors reportedly blamed YIISA rather than Iran for the cancellation of their research projects.
Deputy Provost and Political Science Professor Frances Rosenbluth served on the faculty committee that reviewed YIISA's performance and concluded that the university should close the center. In recent years Rosenbluth appointed Judge Richard Goldstone and Iran-regime apologists Flynt and Hillary Mann Leverett to serve as senior fellows at Yale's Jackson Institute for Global Affairs. Last September the Leveretts brought their students to New York to hold a seminar for them with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Unlike the YIISA conference, the move did not stimulate any significant controversy at the university.
Sources involved with YIISA allege a senior university official privately complained that "YIISA's activities harm the Yale Corporation." The clear insinuation was that due to YIISA's activities, Yale has had difficulty raising money from Arab sources.
Politics arguably has also played a role in YIISA's difficulty in publishing articles in top tier academic publications and even in attracting students to its courses. Today the discourse on anti- Semitism has been corrupted by politics. In the current atmosphere, publishing scholarship on topics like Islamic Jew hatred, or anti-Semitism and progressive politics is widely viewed as a career ender. Scholars who are interested in these subjects are therefore likely to opt out of publishing articles or books on them.
By the same token, the toxic nature of the intellectual environment related to anti-Semitism, anti- Zionism and contemporary forms of both arguably renders top tier journals averse to publishing articles on them. So too, in light of the politically correct echo chamber that governs university politics and appointments, it is eminently reasonable to assume that an article about these subjects would be harshly treated in peer-reviews.
In this context it is worth recalling the history of cowardice at Yale in the face of Islamic criticism. In 2009, Yale University Press was slated to publish a book about the 2005 Muhammad cartoon controversy. When the decision was met with furious responses from various Islamic quarters, Yale caved. It decided to censor the cartoons that were the subject of the book from the book itself.
In short, the discriminatory atmosphere that dominates academic discourse on anti-Semitism generally and Islamic anti-Semitism in particular makes it difficult to use the generally objective assessment tool of the number of publications in top-tier journals to judge the academic value of YIISA.
As for student participation, the predominance of political correctness on university campuses acts as a deterrent for students who would otherwise be drawn to courses on the subject. A Yale student who aspires to an academic career will be quick to recognize the study of anti-Semitism - and particularly its contemporary manifestations - is an academic dead end.
There are Jewish organizations that are dedicated to educating university students about anti- Zionism and anti-Semitism in all their varieties.
Foremost among these organizations is Stand With Us, which in its 10 year history has become active on scores of campuses in the US and worldwide. Stand With Us publishes fact sheets and booklets to inform students about the facts regarding Israel and the Middle East that are systematically removed from their course syllabuses.
While significant, the contribution these groups make to the discourse on anti-Semitism is generally limited to the level of student activism. Professors and their politically correct measuring rods for academic worthiness are largely insulated from their efforts.
The inequities in the academic treatment of research and instruction on anti-Semitism make Yale's decision to close YIISA all the more lamentable.
Indeed, in and of themselves they justify a move by Yale and other universities to aggressively promote YIISA's activities and establish similar institutes. If a top-ranking university like Yale had been willing to truly back the academic study of anti-Semitism, it would have empowered students and faculty alike to research and study the subject.
In their responses to inquiries about the decision to close YIISA, Yale spokesmen were quick to say that Yale remains committed to studying anti-Semitism. They pointed to Yale's Hebrew and Jewish studies courses as proof of the university's support for free inquiry on the topic. But their protestations ring as hollow as the message of YIISA's closure is clear. The study of Islamic anti-Semitism is an academic third rail. Do it at Yale and you are done for.
YIISA's closure also sends a clear message to Jewish donors concerned about the anti-Jewish turn that so many top universities are taking. To date, wealthy Jewish donors have operated under the assumption that they can impact the hostile discourse on Jewish issues on campus by providing piecemeal support for specific programs. In the case of YIISA, Jewish donors believed that they had developed a beach head in a hostile campus environment that would bring a dose of reality into the otherwise hallucinogenic discourse on Israel and the Islamic world.
Yale's decision to close YIISA indicates that the piecemeal approach is not effective. One institute cannot impact the virulent faculty hostility to Jewish related issues on campuses like Yale. It also cannot compete with the deep pockets of Arab governments.
YIISA's closure indicates that a new strategy of concentrating Jewish philanthropic resources is required. Supporting a handful of carefully selected universities will probably have a greater longterm impact on the general discourse on issues like contemporary anti-Semitism than spreading smaller amounts of funding across a larger number of institutions.
Originally published in The Jerusalem Post.
One of the dirty secrets about Western trade with enemy states like Iran is that the Western companies trading wtih them may also wittingly or unwittingly serve as espionage assets for their home country or for other Western countries.
Consider the Stuxnet computer virus which reportedly caused great harm to at least one and perhaps multiple nuclear installations in Iran. The virus penetrated the Iranian systems through Siemens industrial control systems. In recent years, Siemens was subject to widespread criticism from US policy makers for its massive trade with Iran. And this criticism was justified. But it is important to admit that if Siemens hadn't been trading with Iran, whomever developed the Stuxnet virus would have had to find another, probably less accessible platform to penetrate Iran's computer systems.
The Stuxnet story shows the problematic flipside of trade embargos against rogue states like Iran. The less access you have to enemy markets, the less ability you have to gather information about enemy targets and the less capacity you have to sabotage enemy targets. The more access you have, the more capacity you can build to infiltrate, gather information and sabotage enemy targets.
The boycott drive against states like Iran uses a legalistic framework to deal with complex military challenges. And since the nail doesn't exactly fit the hole, it stands to reason that the damage sanctions can do to military or intelligence operations may in certain circumstances outweigh the benefit they bring to diplomatic operations.
Since last week's announcement by the State Department that it was sanctioning the Israeli firm Ofer Brothers' Shipping for reportedly violating US law by trading with Iran, there has been a deluge of news reports alleging that the Ofer Brother's ships were used by the Mossad and perhaps the IDF to infiltrate and exfiltrate agents into and out of Iran.
There are number of troubling aspects to the story. First, it strikes me as odd that the announcement about the sanctions was made by the State Department. If I am not mistaken, these decisions and announcements are usually made by the Treasury Department. Why would the State Department have taken the unusual step of announcing the sanctions and take the step against an Israeli shipping company?
Second, it strikes me as odd that former Mossad chief Meir Dagan felt compelled to issue an impassioned defense of the Ofer Brothers Shipping company. Dagan is in the midst of an unprecedented, arguably illegal and certainly unseemly campaign to delegitimize Prime Minister Binyamin Netayahu. It seems strage that in the midst of this offensive Dagan would divert his attention to the Ofer Brothers Shipping woes. He must have been deeply shocked by the US move to do so.
(And yes, eventually I will probably address Dagan's unacceptable abuse of his position to weaken Israel's political leadership and limit its policy options against Iran.)
The third reason this is so shocking is that the timing of the annoucement cannot be viewed as coincidental. The rare State Department announcement came just after Netanyahu wiped the floor with Obama in the Congress and as the Republicans are wisely using Obama's hatred of Israel and his love for anti-American political forces in the region as a campaign issue for 2012. It is hard not to reach the conclusion that the announcement was deliberately released at this juncture to weaken US public support for Israel.
If my hunch is right, and the Obama administration decided to use the sanctions as a means to humilitate Israel, then this represents a stunning blow to the US's credibility as an ally. It is impossible to believe that if the Ofer Brothers subsidiary ships were used for intelligence operations in Iran that the US did not know about it. So if the ships were used by Israeli security agencies then the US knew that exposing the Israeli identity of the ships would make it impossible for Israel to continue using them. And if this is the case, then the US also knew that by exposing the information, it was liable to leave Israeli agents currently in Iran stranded there.
Since Obama came into office, both he and his advisors and Israeli politicians and security service commanders have repeatedly mentioned that intelligence and military cooperation between the two countries has grown steadily. If my sense of what happened with the Ofer Brothers Shipping firm is even partially correct, then Israel should immediately reconsider its willingness to maintain that cooperation. If Obama may use information shared in joint intelligence meetings to harm Israel for political purposes or, for that matter for any purpose, then Israel can no longer share information with the US.
The coverage of recent events in Egypt is further proof that Western elites cannot see the forest for the trees. Over the past week, leading newspapers have devoted relatively in-depth coverage to the Egyptian military authorities' repressive actions in subduing protesters in Tahrir Square in Cairo, particularly during their large protest last Friday.
That is, they have provided in-depth coverage of one spent force repressing another spent force. Neither the military nor the protesters are calling the shots anymore in Egypt, if they ever were. That is the job of the Muslim Brotherhood.
The proximate cause of last Friday's mass demonstration was what the so-called Twitter and Facebook revolutionaries consider the military's slowness to respond to their demand for ousted president Hosni Mubarak's head on a platter. The military responded by announcing that Mubarak and his sons will go on trial for capital crimes on August 3.
Beyond bloodlust, the supposedly liberal young sweethearts of the Western media are demanding a cancellation of the results of the referendum held in March on the sequencing of elections and constitutional reform. Voting in that referendum was widely assessed as the freest vote in Egyptian history. Seventy-seven percent of the public voted to hold parliamentary and presidential elections in September and to appoint members of a constitutional assembly from among the elected members of the next parliament to prepare Egypt's new constitution.
The protesters rightly assert that the early elections will pave the way for the Muslim Brotherhood's takeover of Egypt, since the Brotherhood is the only well-organized political force in Egypt. But then, the liberals said they wanted popular rule.
The Facebook protesters demanded Mubarak's immediate removal from power in January. They would not negotiate Mubarak's offer to use the remainder of his final term to shepherd Egypt towards a quasi-democratic process that might have prevented the Brotherhood from taking over.
In their fantasy world - which they inhabit with Western intellectuals - the fates of nations are determined by the number of "likes" on your facebook page. And so, when they had the power to avert the democratic Islamist takeover of their country in January, they squandered it.
Now, when it is too late, they are trying to win through rioting what they failed to win at the ballot box, thus discrediting their protestations of liberal values.
Their new idea was spelled out last week at an EU-sponsored conference in Cairo. According to the Egyptian media, they hope to convince the military they protest against to stack the deck for the constitutional assembly in a way that prevents the Brotherhood from controlling the proceedings. As Hishan el-Bastawisy, a former appellate judge and presidential hopeful explained, "What we can push for now is that the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces has to put some guarantees of choosing the constituent assembly in the sense that it does not reflect the parliamentary majority."
So much for Egypt's liberal democrats.
AS FOR the military, its actions to date make clear that its commanders do not see themselves as guardians of secular rule in Egypt. Instead, they see themselves as engines for a transition from Mubarak's authoritarian secularism to the Brotherhood's populist Islamism.
Since forcing Mubarak to resign, the military junta has embraced Hamas, the Palestinian branch of the Muslim Brotherhood. They engineered the Palestinian unity government which will pave the way for Hamas's victory in the Palestinian Authority's legislative and presidential elections scheduled for the fall.
Then there is Sinai. Since the revolution, the military has allowed Sinai to become a major base not only for Hamas but for the global jihad. As Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu warned on Monday, Egyptian authorities are not asserting their sovereignty in Sinai and jihadists from Hamas, al-Qaida and other groups are inundating the peninsula.
Last week's move to open Egypt's border with Gaza at the Rafah passage is further proof that the military has made its peace with the Islamic takeover of Egypt. While the likes of The New York Times make light of the significance of the move by pointing to the restrictions that Egypt has placed on Palestinian travel, the fact is that the Egyptians just accepted Hamas's sovereignty over an international border.
Many in the West argue that given Egypt's increasingly dire economic situation, there is no way the military will turn its back on the US and Europe. By all accounts, Egypt is facing economic collapse. By summer's end it will be unable to feed its population due to grain shortages. By November, its foreign reserves will have dried up.
But rather than do everything they can to convince foreign investors and governments that Egypt's market is safe, the military junta is taking steps that destroy the credibility of the Egyptian market. To please both the Mubarak-obsessed protesters at Tahrir Square and the Muslim Brotherhood, the military refuses to reinstate natural gas shipments to Israel.
Not only is Egypt denying itself hundreds of millions of dollars in revenues by cutting off gas shipments to Israel, (and Jordan, Syria and Lebanon). It is destroying its reputation as a credible place to do business. And according to the New York Times, it is also making it impossible for the Obama administration to help the Egyptian economy. The Times' reported this week that the US tied President Barack Obama's pledge of $1 billion in debt forgiveness and $1b. in loan guarantees to the Egyptian authorities asserting sovereignty in northern Sinai. Presumably this means they must renew gas shipments to Israel and fight terror.
The fact that the military would rather facilitate Egypt's economic collapse than take the unpopular step of renewing gas shipments to Israel ought to end any thought that economic interests trump political sentiments. This situation will only get worse when the Muslim Brotherhood takes over Egypt in September.
AND MAKE no mistake. They intend to take over. As they did in the lead up to March's constitutional referendum, the Brotherhood is using its mosques as campaign offices. The message is clear: If you are a good Muslim you will vote for the Muslim Brotherhood.
When Mubarak was overthrown in January, the Brotherhood announced it would only contest 30% of the parliamentary seats. Last month the percentage rose to 50. In all likelihood, in September the Brotherhood will contest and win the majority of the seats in the Egyptian parliament.
When Mubarak was overthrown, the Brotherhood announced it would not run a candidate for president. And when Brotherhood Shura governing council member and Physicians Union leader Abdel Moneim Aboul Fotouh announced last month that he is running for president, the Brotherhood quickly denied that he is the movement's candidate. But there is no reason to believe them.
According to a report Thursday in Egypt's Al- Masry al-Youm's English edition, the Brotherhood is playing to win. They are invoking the strategies of the movement's founder, Hassan al-Banna, for establishing an Islamic state. His strategy had three stages: indoctrination, empowerment and implementation. Al-Masry al-Youm cites Khairat al- Shater, the Brotherhood's "organizational architect," as having recently asserted that the Brotherhood is currently in the second stage and moving steadily towards the third stage.
Now that we understand that they are about to implement their goal of Islamic statehood, we need to ask what it means for Egypt and the region.
On Sunday, Brotherhood Chairman Mohammed Badie gave an interview to Egyptian television that was posted on the Muslim Brotherhood's English website iquwanweb.com. Badie's statements indicated that the Brotherhood will end any thought of democracy in Egypt by taking control over the media. Badie said that the Brotherhood is about to launch a public news channel, "with commitment to the ethics of the society and the rules of the Islamic faith."
He also demanded that state radio and television begin broadcasting recordings of Banna's speeches and sermons. Finally, he complained about the anti-Brotherhood hostility of most private media organs in Egypt.
As for Israel, Badie was asked how a Brotherhood- led Egypt would react if Israel takes military action against Hamas. His response was honest enough. As he put it, "The situation will change in such a case, and the Egyptian people will have their voice heard. Any government in power will have to respect the choice of the people, whatever that is, like in any democracy."
In other words, the peace between Israel and Egypt will die of populist causes.
SO FAR, Israel's responses to these strategically disastrous developments have been muted and insufficient. On Wednesday, the Defense Ministry announced that Israel is speeding up construction of the border fence between Egypt and Israel. The 210-km.-long fence is scheduled to be completed by the end of 2012.
While this is an important move given Gaza's effective fusion into Sinai with the border opening, it does not address the looming threat from Egypt itself. It does not address the fact that with Mubarak's ouster, a previously all-but unthinkable outbreak of hostilities with Egypt has now become eminently thinkable.
Facing the prospect of a Muslim Brotherhoodruled Egypt in September, Israel's government must begin preparing both diplomatically and militarily for a new confrontation with Egypt.
The West's intoxication with the myth of the Arab Spring means that currently, the political winds are siding with Egypt. If Egypt were to start a war with Israel, or simply support Hamas in a war against Israel, at a minimum, Cairo would enjoy the same treatment from Europe and the US that the Hezbollah-dominated Lebanese government and army enjoyed in 2006. To block this possibility, the government must begin educating opinion shapers and political leaders in the West about the nature of the Muslim Brotherhood It must also call for a cut-off of US military aid to Egypt.
Militarily, the government must increase the size of the IDF's Southern Command. The Egyptian armed forces have more than a million men under arms. Egypt's arsenal includes everything from F-16s to Abrams tanks to first-class naval ships to ballistic missiles to sophisticated pontoon bridges for crossing the Suez Canal.
The IDF must expand its draft rolls and increase its force size by at least one division. It must also begin training in desert warfare and develop and purchase appropriate conventional platforms.
With the Iranians now apparently moving from developing nuclear capabilities to developing nuclear warheads, and with the Palestinians escalating their political war and planning their next terror war against Israel, it stands to reason that no one in the government or the IDF wants to consider the strategic implications of Egypt's reversion from peace partner to enemy.
But Israel doesn't get to decide what our neighbors do. We can only take the necessary steps to minimize their ability to harm us.
It's time to get cracking.
Originally published in The Jerusalem Post.
This week on The Tribal Update, the television on internet show brought to you by Latma, the Hebrew-language media satire website I run, we present Palestinian prehistory and the generals' expert opinions. We also tell you how Israel deals with terror collaborators....
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