Archive for the ‘Middle East’ Category

>Hamas would kill more if they could

>The intellectual minnows on the left who bleat on about Israel’s ‘disproportionate’ response to Hamas lobbing thousands of rockets into its territory in the hope of killing as many Jews as they can miss an important point.

Hamas would kill more if they could.

Thousands more.

The fact that most of the Hamas rockets do little damage is described by many on the left as nothing more than an annoyance, an inconvenience to be stoically borne by Israel.

In making the statement they demonstrate their understanding that Israel is ‘better than that’; a society that has higher standards than their opponents and therefore should show restraint.

How do we know that Hamas would kill more if they could?

Because they have a long history of suicide bombing attacks inside Israel that resulted in scores of dead Israelis – mostly young people in nightclubs and people on public transport – and always with the goal of inflicting as much death as possible.

There’s a reason why Israel built the Israel-Gaza Strip and Israel-West Bank barriers.

I commented on the idiotic issue of proportionality yesterday but, in fact, for Israel to be truly proportionate they would need to:

  • Fire thousands of randomly targeted rockets into Gaza
  • Send in suicide bombers to blow up as many Gazans as they can
  • Use women and children as human shields against incoming rockets
  • Fire their weapons from schools and hospitals
  • Store ammunition in people’s houses
  • Use ambulances to transport troops
  • Employ a bunch of people to stage photos and fake videos for the world’s press
  • Talk about a two state solution while doing everything they can to avoid ever having to implement one
  • Siphon off hundreds of millions of dollars in donor aid to private bank accounts
  • Spend the rest on weapons

Hamas, and their soulmates on the left in the West, truly are pieces of human excrement.

Let’s hope that Israel has the determination to flush them into the sea.

(Nothing Follows)

Categories: Middle East, Politics

>Gazans seem to live pretty well for being poor, starving and occupied

January 7, 2009 2 comments

>The question is partly rhetorical but why is it that when the facts are so clearly against them the mainstream media continues to not only allow their networks to be used as vehicles for anti-Israeli propaganda but also blatantly promotes that propaganda themselves?

Why do they still allow their guests and analysts to talk about the so-called ‘occupied territories’ when those territories have not been ‘occupied’ since 2005?

Why do they continue with the myth that the people of Gaza are no better off than starving Ethiopians?

Check this short video out to see how dire things are for Gazans.

The issue of proportionality is another staple of media talking heads’ ‘analysis’.

Isn’t it shocking that big, bad Israel has such a powerful defence force and ability to inflict destruction with its arsenal?

Critics point to the 14:1 ratio of Palestinians killed to Israelis killed, as if that somehow is relevant.

What do they want Israel to do to be proportionate?

Throw stones?

Take the guidance systems off their missiles so they end up landing in random places?

Proportionality has an accepted definition under the Geneva Conventions and is summarised as not using any more force than necessary in order to achieve your military objectives.

i.e. If Israel wanted to take out a rocket manufacturing facility in Gaza then it’s not allowed to carpet bomb, or nuke, the whole place. It’s only allowed to use such force as is necessary to destroy the factory.

If you’re sitting at home one night, are disturbed by a loud banging on the door and look out to see a madman with an axe trying to break in then should you grab your axe or your gun?

Using the gun is disproportionate but it achieves your objective of stopping the threat.

Such is the situation facing Israel.

The media is keen to promote the views of nearly anyone who accuses Israel of war crimes but doesn’t apply that same standard to Hamas or Hezbollah.

Placing military facilities among civilian populations is a war crime.

Using schools and hospitals to launch rockets is a war crime.

Transporting troops in ambulances is a war crime.

That the United Nations tolerates Hamas using its schools and ambulances for military purposes shows clearly which side that organisation supports.

No surprise there, though.

(Nothing Follows)

Categories: Middle East

>Iran opposes peace talks in Middle East

May 24, 2008 1 comment

>Here’s something that has been widely unreported by the mainstream media – Israel and Syria are in peace talks.

Whether anything comes from the talks, which are being held in Turkey, is the big question. Syria wants the Golan Heights back, which it lost in the 1967 war, and Israel doesn’t want to give the territory away, as it provides Syria and its proxies, Hamas and Hezbollah, greater ability to attack Israel.

Iran is not pleased with the talks.

Think about that for a bit.

Why would any nation oppose peace talks between two nations?

Does Code Pink support the talks I wonder rhetorically?

Iran has promised Hamas new rockets and more funds, an expression of the Islamic Republic’s displeasure with recent news of renewed Israeli-Syrian peace talks, the London-based newspaper, Asharq Alawsat reported on Sunday.

According to the report, Syria-based Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal, who held a press conference in Teheran with Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki Saturday, expressed his concern over statements issued simultaneously by Jerusalem, Damascus and Ankara last Wednesday in which a renewal of talks between Syria and Israel under Turkish mediation was declared.

Mashaal reportedly told his Iranian hosts that despite commitments he was given by Damascus that peace with Israel would not come at the expense of Syria’s ties with Iran, Hizbullah and Hamas, he was still aware of the fact that Syria would have to make some concessions.

He emphasized that he understood that Syria could not sign a peace agreement with Israel, exchange ambassadors, end the state of war and make the Golan Heights demilitarized and at the same time continue to allow Iran to use its territory to transfer weapons to Hizbullah, train Hamas and Islamic Jihad terrorists and help in the financing of those groups.

An Iranian source told the paper that in light of Mashaal’s fears, Iranian regime officials promised the head of Hamas’s political bureau that Iran would continue supporting Hamas financially, materially and morally, even if Syria would turn its back on the organization for the sake of an agreement with Israel.

According to the source, the Iranians had even elaborated what that support would be: Newer, upgraded rockets and an increase in the budget allotted to Hamas to $150 million in the second half of 2008.

A source in the office of Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said Mashaal was promised that Iran would supply every support his organization might need, be it weapons, finance, or military training.

Iran’s defense minister also expressed confidence on Sunday that negotiations would not hamper the strong alliance between Teheran and Damascus, the Iranian FARS news agency reported.

Labeling Syria a strategic ally of Iran, Defense Minister Mustafa Mohammed Nejad called on “Islamic states to strengthen their relations in order to defend themselves against the dangers which threaten the region.”

I wonder whether Syria is looking to regain some semblance of respectability after being kicked out of Lebanon (though Hezbollah is gaining in strength there now) and suffering the embarrassment of Israel knocking out its North Korean built nuclear plant.

Certainly, Israel would not be negotiating with Syria “without preconditions”, as those on the left seem so willing to do in the West.

I also wonder what Lee Bollinger and his crew of appeasers at Columbia University think of their Persian Poster Child opposing peace.

(Nothing Follows)

Categories: Israel, Middle East

>How can a Turk have a better clue about freedom than many in the West?

>One of my favourite columnists, Mustafa Akyol from the Turkish Daily News, has a piece about freedom that can only be written by a non-Westerner.

Her Majesty is the head of a monarchy which has been much more free and democratic than almost all republics in the world

The first time I went abroad, I was 16, and my destination was Britain. My parents had sent me to spend a summer in London, so that I could improve my English and “see the world.” Staying at a warm family house in Richmond, and touring the whole city almost everyday, I had cultivated a beginner’s admiration for Her Majesty’s country. Actually, at first sight, there were few oddities. I could never understand, for example, why their washbasins had two separate taps, through which you either freeze or burn. But the plus side was dominant.

One thing that was particularly curious was the political system of the United Kingdom. It was, as its name made obvious, a monarchy. And it was, undeniably, a very free and enlightened society. Yet my textbooks have always told me that Turkey became “free and enlightened” when we dethroned our own monarch. So, what was the secret of the British?

Freedom and tradition:

As I grew older, and studied more, I realized that what made Britain so different from Turkey was a set of values and ideas that the British believed, but the founders of Turkey ignored. The latter, of course, had their own set of values and ideas, and, interestingly, they were derived mostly from another European power: France. Both the Young Turks and the Kemalists, who have dominated the Turkish political system since the early 20th century to date, were deeply influenced by the French Enlightenment and its deification of human reason. While despising tradition and religion, they have thought that society needs to be reconstructed by “rational” elites. While the British believed in “change within tradition,” the French opted for “change in spite of tradition.” That’s why the British kept their monarchy. The French used the guillotine to get rid of it.

In one of his important works, “The Constitution of Liberty,” one of the great social philosophers of the 20th century, Friedrich A. Hayek, underlined this crucial difference between the “British tradition” and the French Enlightenment. “The political conclusions of the two schools derive from different conceptions of how society works,” Hayek noted. And he added: “British philosophers laid the foundations of a profound and essentially valid theory, while the rationalist school was simply and completely wrong.”

Actually by their fruits we might know them. From the French tradition there arose the authoritarian and assimilationist nation-state, which often found itself at war with its own people. It was no accident that the “Liberté” of the French Revolution was only valid for those who believed in the principles of the new regime. For the British, though, freedom was the gift of God that no man could alienate. The founding fathers of the United States borrowed this idea and formulated one of the most eloquent defenses of freedom: “All men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

The United States was founded as a republic, but it was much more on the British tradition than the French Enlightenment that would form the bases of most other modern republics. Indeed, the French model swept through the world and influenced many nations, including the Turks.

“The sweeping success of the political doctrines that stem from the French tradition,” argues Hayek, “is probably due to their great appeal to human pride and ambition.” Here was a story telling that once you get rid of all traditional beliefs, you will be thrilled, because you, as a human, have an omnipotent reason which is enough to master all fields and solve all problems. You believe you can plan the economy; hence comes the drive for socialism. You believe you can plan the culture; hence comes the passion for cultural revolution.

Yet all such efforts to reshape the society by a group of authoritarian elites not just failed, but also led to horrible disasters. Stalin’s or Mao’s bloody experiments are the most obvious ones, but other nations, including France itself, also suffered from the war between the revolutionary elites and the traditional masses. The former always believed in the need for using sticks to “modernize” the latter. The latter always disliked these self-appointed guardians and resisted the changes they imposed.

Britain and Islam:

Thank God, the “British tradition” stood firm in the face of this authoritarian tide. Today the United Kingdom, and all the Anglo-Saxon countries that have been blessed by its tradition of liberalism, pluralism, and tolerance, presents the best form of modernity to the nations of the world. Especially at a time when the confrontation between radical modernism and radical Islam shakes the globe, the British tradition offers pious Muslims the hope that they will be welcomed, not deplored, by the West for how they worship and live.

There are indeed so many examples of British acceptance of traditional Islam. Women in headscarves, who are second-class citizens in Turkey, are all free and equal in the U.K. Besides attending any school they want, they can even be teachers or members of the police force. The British government is also very respectful to Islamic observance. Last year, Queen Elizabeth II had ordered the opening of a small prayer room in her palace for the few Muslim employees. (The radical Islamists in Britain, who denounce the very country that gives them all such freedoms, must be out of their minds.)

All this background makes me very willing to welcome Her Majesty, who is on an official trip to Turkey these days. I will be carefully listening to her remarks, but even her very presence on the face of the Earth tells a lot. She is the head of a monarchy which has been much more free and democratic than almost all republics in the world. Her Kingdom, in other words, is a testimony to the fact that what really matters for a nation is the moral values it holds, not the “revolutionary principles” it buys.

(Nothing Follows)

Categories: Culture, Middle East

>Israel 1948 – what really happened

>The recent declassification of documents relating to the British Mandate in Palestine for the period 1920 to 1948 provides a new ability to understand what was going on in the region and the origins of today’s ongoing Israel-Arab conflict.

Efraim Karsh is head of Mediterranean Studies at King’s College, University of London, and the author most recently of Islamic Imperialism: A History. His article demonstrating what really happened in 1948 – as has always been the correct reading of the matter before revisionist historians like Benny Morris and Ilan Pappe arrived on the scene – is mandatory reading for those who want to understand why there are a million ‘Palestinians’ in Gaza and the West Bank. Ilan Pappe is a communist whose accuracy has been shown to be shoddy even by left wingers like Benny Morris. I wonder whether Morris will revise his position in light of the newly available information?

Sixty years after its establishment by an internationally recognized act of self-determination, Israel remains the only state in the world that is subjected to a constant outpouring of the most outlandish conspiracy theories and blood libels; whose policies and actions are obsessively condemned by the international community; and whose right to exist is constantly debated and challenged not only by its Arab enemies but by segments of advanced opinion in the West.

During the past decade or so, the actual elimination of the Jewish state has become a cause célèbre among many of these educated Westerners. The “one-state solution,” as it is called, is a euphemistic formula proposing the replacement of Israel by a state, theoretically comprising the whole of historic Palestine, in which Jews will be reduced to the status of a permanent minority. Only this, it is said, can expiate the “original sin” of Israel’s founding, an act built (in the words of one critic) “on the ruins of Arab Palestine” and achieved through the deliberate and aggressive dispossession of its native population.

This claim of premeditated dispossession and the consequent creation of the longstanding Palestinian “refugee problem” forms, indeed, the central plank in the bill of particulars pressed by Israel’s alleged victims and their Western supporters. It is a charge that has hardly gone undisputed. As early as the mid-1950’s, the eminent American historian J.C. Hurewitz undertook a systematic refutation, and his findings were abundantly confirmed by later generations of scholars and writers. Even Benny Morris, the most influential of Israel’s revisionist “new historians,” and one who went out of his way to establish the case for Israel’s “original sin,” grudgingly stipulated that there was no “design” to displace the Palestinian Arabs.

The recent declassification of millions of documents from the period of the British Mandate (1920-1948) and Israel’s early days, documents untapped by earlier generations of writers and ignored or distorted by the “new historians,” paint a much more definitive picture of the historical record. They reveal that the claim of dispossession is not only completely unfounded but the inverse of the truth. What follows is based on fresh research into these documents, which contain many facts and data hitherto unreported.

Read the whole thing.

(Nothing Follows)

Categories: Israel, Middle East

>Turkey and its Islamic enemies

April 24, 2008 1 comment

>What’s interesting about the opinion pages of the Turkish Daily News is that they can freely give their opinion and criticise the government without the fear of coming to physical harm.

the always interesting Mustafa Akyol in which he reveals to those unaware of the country that Turkey is a robust nation with opposing views with a strong desire to maintain its secular government structure.

WASHINGTON – Every country has its own towering figures of intellect, and as a nation torn between several conflicting political philosophies, Turkey has quite many of them. There are prominent liberals, conservatives, socialist, or nationalists. Even the official ideology, i.e., Kemalism, has distinguished supporters, and quite a few of those figures would be as erudite and sophisticated as the eminent law professor, the 79-year-old Mümtaz Soysal.

Prof. Soysal’s life is a real success story. Born in Zonguldak, a small town on the Black Sea coast, he studied law first in Ankara and then in high up Western universities such as London School of Economics, Berkeley and Princeton. In 1961, he became one of the architects of the then new constitution, which was prepared under the auspices of the generals who had launched a military coup a year ago. In the ‘90s, he joined politics on the center-left Social Democratic People’s Party’s ticket, and, for a brief period in 1994, he served as foreign minister. Over the years, he emerged as one of the leading defenders of what some call “left-wing Kemalism” and came to the fore by his resistance to privatization of state companies and other steps that center-right governments have taken to liberalize the Turkish economy. Currently Prof. Soysal is the leader of the Independent Republican Party, whose big issue is to promote a “fully independent” Turkey, which will move on with the original Kemalist project without being distracted by the global forces of economy and politics.

Notes from a Jacobin heart:

I had the privilege of speaking at the same panel with Prof. Soysal a week ago at the Brookings Institution in the U.S. capital, and thus had the chance to get a grasp of his “Jacobin heart,” as he called it. It was interesting and revealing.

Jacobins were, of course, the leading and the most radical party of the French Revolution. Yet more recently their name has become a household term in Turkey in order to define the political cadres and intellectuals who believe in authoritarian ways to “modernize” the nation. It is actually the conservatives or the liberals who call these autocrats “Jacobin,” while they prefer to define themselves as “Kemalist” or “Atatürkist.” Prof. Soysal was, however, apparently unreserved about the imported term.

The crust of his argument was that the Turkish Republic had an “enemy” from the very beginning, and thus a “war” was inevitable. He was also quite frank about the identity of this enemy: The religion of Islam, which “has insisted on its claim to influence this world, as well as the next.” Had Islam undergone a “reform,” Prof. Soysal added, there would not be any problem. It would be a religion with only spiritual claims, and thus would not interfere with the works of the Republic.

The insistence of Turkey’s conservative Muslims to assert their faith in “this world” was, according to Mümtaz Soysal, the root of the problem – and the Republic had all the right to fight against this “enemy.” The headscarf, a symbol of religious observance, was the most visible symbol of this religion-that-defies-limits, and Turkey’s incumbent Justice and Development Party (AKP), by trying to set the headscarf free in the public square, had gone too far. “It is only natural that the Republic will protect itself from threats,” Prof. Soysal confidently reminded. “If AKP is a threat, it will be closed down.”

A war with the people?:

Another way of putting Prof. Soysal’s argument is that the threat to the Turkish Republic is about a half of the Turkish people. That is roughly the political support that the AKP has. Moreover, if we recall the public polls which show that about 80 percent of society believes that headscarves should be free in universities, the “enemies” of the Republic will amount to four out of every five citizens – most of whom are, ironically enough, taxpayers who finance this interesting political system.

Here lies the fundamental dilemma of the Turkish Republic. On one hand, it calls itself “democratic,” which implies a rule by the people. On the other hand, it is at war with its own people. That’s why the Ankara establishment has actually no sympathy for real democracy, and it would hardly approach it if international dynamics did not force it to do so.

All this might sound a bit odd to foreigners, but it is quite reasonable and justified for Turkish Jacobins. “This is a war that will go on for a very long time,” Prof. Soysal noted at Brookings. “And it is a healthy war.”

I tend to disagree. I rather think that the war between the Turkish Republic and its “internal enemies” – the citizens who doubt the official ideology – has been disastrous enough. It has traumatized many lives and has set us back as a nation. We really need to give peace a chance.

To be able to do that, our Jacobins should reconsider their doctrine, especially with regards to religion. Their demand, that Islam should stop “influencing this world,” is actually ridiculous. Almost all religions, especially the Abrahamic ones, aim at influencing this world, and there is nothing wrong about that. The crucial question is the way this influence will be exercised. By trying to establish a religious tyranny that will impose its truths on people? Or by acting as a civil force that will promote its truths in society by democratic means? The former leads to theocracy, which is a horrible form of dictatorship. But the latter leads to the formation of a dynamic and open society, in which all creeds and worldviews can exist and compete.

The invisible reform:

Alexis de Tocqueville, a remarkable French thinker that our French-inspired and French wannabe Jacobins hardly know about, once brilliantly explained this constructive role of religion in his masterpiece, “Democracy in America.” Interestingly the democracy in Turkey is following a somewhat similar route, because Turkey’s Islamic communities are growingly in demand of not an Islamic state, but a secular one which, unlike ours, respects religious freedom. They are, not too surprisingly, also in favor of the European Union process.

In other words, Prof. Soysal and his comrades are wrong to expect a formal “reform” which will detach Islam from “this world.” A reform as a social process is already taking place in Turkey, as its devout Muslims integrate into modernity without abandoning their values and practices. “The headscarf catwalk,” is not a token of “the way back to the Middle Ages,” as our secularists suspect. Quite the contrary, it is a sign of a way forward.

Unfortunately the official grand narrative of the Turkish Republic seems to be too rigid to accept that. That’s why even its most brilliant and erudite representatives, such as Prof. Soysal, reject to consider a different point of view. And that’s why the Republic’s war with its own people regrettably goes on.

(Nothing Follows)

Categories: Middle East

>Arab liberals on the situation in Iraq

>From MEMRI comes an article quoting a number of Arab liberals on the situation in Iraq.

It’s ironic that Western liberals – and especially the Democratic Party – disagree with their Middle Eastern ideological counterparts.

In the days preceding the fifth anniversary of Operation Iraqi Freedom, on April 9, 2008, the Arab liberal e-journal Elaph published a number of articles and interviews with leading Arab liberals on the Iraq war and its aftermath.

The following are excerpts:

Iraqi Journalist ‘Abd Al-Jabbar Al-‘Atabi: Despite It All, April 9 is a National Holiday

In an April 9, 2008 article in Elaph, Iraqi journalist ‘Abd Al-Jabbar Al-‘Atabi wrote: “Here is Baghdad, still smelling the odor of smoke, hearing the sounds of fright, seeing the tongues of flame, and tasting the bitterness of violence. And nonetheless, with our fingers we feel the face of hope – with the voices of the birds who have not left the city and still chirp and grow in number; with the winds that carry the pollen of the palm trees to the orchards to produce fresh dates; with the glimmer of the predawn, whose appearance gladdens the city’s residents and moves their spirit to rebuild and renew what has been destroyed…

“Yesterday – one day before the anniversary of April 9 [2003] – I spent the early morning hours devoting all my attention to what has been and what will be. I jumped up, eager to visit the places, to walk in the streets and on the sidewalks, allowing my gaze to take in what it may. Oddly enough, as I was doing so I found myself reciting a poem by Nazar Qabbani from 1962:

“Baghdad, oh rhythm of anklets and adornments,
“Oh store of lights and fragrances,
“Do not do me wrong, as you see the rebab in my hand.
“The desire is greater than my hand and my rebab.
“Before the sweet meeting you were my beloved,
“And my beloved you will remain after I leave.”

“I walked in the public street and observed the faces of the people I passed by – those sprawled on the sidewalks, selling goods, those who make their livelihood in the souks and the parking lots, and the beggars. I imagined them five years ago. I might not see a great change in their appearance, but there was something written in their facial features that showed that these people have their freedom to deal with things. As one of them said to me, no one comes and scatters their wares, or chases them away, or demands bribes. They come when they will and leave when they will.

“At the start of my journey I stopped by the newspaper seller to ask how he was after five years of change. He said: I will sum up what you ask in a few words. Despite everything that happened and is happening, I feel pride in the fact that the years of dictatorship are gone. There were no worse years than those, when we were afraid of our own shadows and our own children. I won’t claim that the situation now is ideal, but compared to the past, it is much better, without any comparison… Despite the sorrows I find in our present situation, I feel relieved. In the days [of the dictatorship] I didn’t feel optimistic. Now, I am optimistic about what is to come. What is happening now is passing; while it has gone on long, it will end – it could end in the twinkle of an eye.

“The residents of Baghdad, who recall the days from before April 9, 2003 and up to today – 1,727 days and nights, one after the other, together with all that has befallen and befalls their city – profess nothing but fidelity to it, even though it is engulfed in dangers. They reject those who say ‘Baghdad fell,’ and will answer you sternly if you say this, saying ‘it was the regime that fell’…

“I called a friend who lives in Sadr City and asked him how things were under the traffic ban in force now for a week. He said: I feel love, and then laughed, and continued: There are some things I fear, but I do not fear the coming days. People [here] are in a lamentable state and are afraid of evils that may befall them, but they are not despondent. They are awaiting a change for the better.

“Five years of Baghdad’s new life have passed… and there has been much talk of Baghdad. This is because it is not a city like other cities; it is exceptional, as is everything in it…

“You see that people, despite their proud grief, are talking about hope, and optimism, and the happiness to come. Despite the confusion, the anarchy, and the unconceivable occurrences, you hear the words: the breakthrough is at hand. They speak of the democracy that they had misunderstood, and they emphasize that these five years have taught them a lot and enriched their experience. They have come to know the true from the false and to distinguish between the good and the evil. You hear people saying: April 9 is a national holiday, despite the imported terrorism, or that concocted by the former regime, that came in its wake.”

Egyptian Journalist Ashraf Radi: “Progress, Liberty, and Democracy Demand a Price”

Liberal Egyptian journalist and Reuters correspondent in Cairo Ashraf Radi told Elaph: “No one in the Arab world wrote a single word about [Saddam’s] tyrannical crimes, for which he was brought down, whereas the [Arab] pens unceasingly criticize the Iraqi governments that came afterwards… I find no answer to those who willfully ignore the causes behind the violence and the bloody conflicts in Iraq today other than that progress, liberty, and democracy demand a price, and this price must be paid by the current generations, so that the coming generations will not have to pay double.

“There is no doubt but that Operation Iraqi Freedom has many enemies, both within Iraq and in the neighboring countries… There is no future for Iraq without democracy. Those who sacrificed, and continue to sacrifice, are worthy of liberty, and they will never accept any prize less than this…”

Palestinian Liberal Ahmad Abu Matar: Iraq Needs to Learn from Germany and Japan, Which Were Also Under American Occupation

The prominent Palestinian liberal Ahmad Abu Matar, who resides in Oslo, said: “There are some who completely turn a blind eye to the crimes of the Saddam regime, which included the killing, torturing, and ‘disappearance’ of hundreds of thousands of Iraqis, of all ethnicities and sects. These people focus on the period after the fall of the regime and place all of the responsibility for the killing and destruction on the American occupation. And there are others who focus exclusively on the crimes of the former regime, skipping over what has gone on in the last five years, as though Iraq has become an oasis of security, liberty, and democracy superior even to Plato’s ideal republic…

“I think that the international coalition forces, under the leadership of the U.S., did a great and important service to the Iraqi people, with all its ethnicities and sects, by bringing down the criminal dictatorial regime. After that, the U.N. declared Iraq an occupied country, and the Iraqi issue, in all its dimensions, became an international one.

“How should the Iraqis deal with this new situation? The objective answer to this question must draw on similar experiences from recent history. Two countries, Japan and Germany, were also placed under American occupation. How did these two countries deal with the new situation, which was entirely analogous with the situation in Iraq? They both considered the occupation an opportunity to reorder their own affairs [and get rid of] all the negative sides and errors that invited this occupation – from rewriting the school curricula in Japan to putting an end to Nazi ideology and practice in Germany. And look how far Germany and Japan have come.

“The ball is now in the Iraqis’ court…”

Khudayr Taher: An Apology to the Valiant American Soldier

In an April 8, 2008 article titled “Apology to the Valiant American Soldier,” Iraqi liberal Khudayr Taher bemoaned the ill treatment the U.S. army received from those it liberated:

“We forsook you and betrayed you – we, whose history is an expression of massacres, conflagrations, and ruin. We killed you, and we killed our dream and aspiration of reaching the sun, the moon, and the stars – [we killed our dream] of availing ourselves of the opportunity to live as true humans, thanks to your presence.

“My dear, brave American soldier, you noble individual who traversed land and sea in order to write the story of Iraqi freedom for the first time in its modern history – you believed, in accordance with logic, self-evident truths, and rational thought, that a people who had been subjected to repression, starvation, and killing would dance for joy, and would thank Allah who sent you to them as a liberating angel. [You believed that] they would strew flowers and break out in songs of joy that would smash the chains of slavery, ignominy, and humiliation.

“Not even a writer of surrealistic [literature] or [theater of] the absurd would have imagined that the Iraqi people would revolt against their liberator and would rush ardently back to a new bondage of a different kind – that of the religious cleric, the tribal sheikh, and the gang leader. It was unthinkable that the people would go against logic, rational thought, and self-evident truths, in a mad rush towards the abyss and total ruin.

“My beloved, brave American soldier, we apologize to you, and we are saddened at our wretched and miserable selves. Since we are a people that slaughters itself, and kills one another, cutting off heads, what can you expect from us other than ingratitude, perfidy, and stabbing you in the back for the benefit of Iranian and Syrian intelligence and Al-Qaeda?…”

Shaker Al-Nabulsi: The War Has Come To Be One Between Liberalism and Fundamentalism

The Jordanian author and researcher Shaker Al-Nabulsi, one of the leading thinkers of the Arab liberal movement, told Elaph: “Despite all the colossal efforts of the Arabs and others to abort and destroy the new ‘Baghdad 2003’ and to strangle the festival of liberty and democracy that was born on the morning of April 9, 2003; and despite the [efforts of] the Arab and Western media to pin all of the crimes committed in Iraq, from the dawn of that day up to now, on the occupation forces that invaded Iraq – none of that can erase the obvious truth.

“The new ‘Baghdad 2003’ has transformed the war between [the Iraq of] the Saddam Hussein era and America into a war between liberalism and fundamentalism, between modernity and reaction, between dictatorship and democracy…

“It is inevitable that every country and every people, after liberation, pass through a stage of corruption, thievery, and lack of security; but this stage will be the womb that begets the stage of modernity, creation, and the new liberal thought. The best examples of this are Japan, [South] Korea, Germany, and Eastern Europe.”

In an earlier article in Elaph, Shaker Al-Nabulsi wrote about the salutary effects that the removal of the Saddam regime has had on the progress of liberalism in the Arab world on the whole:

“This reckoning should have appeared a year or two ago, so that we liberals could see whether we had lost or gained in the past few years, which have been a critical juncture in the path of Arab liberalism.

“There is no doubt but that our senses and perceptions, and the readers’ responses that are published or that we receive by mail, tell us that we are gaining ground, even if the pace of this advance is very slow and not perceptible on a day-to-day basis.

“We are like blossoming flowers whose blossoming is imperceptible. Yet they do blossom – and the evidence is that with the advent of spring they were just buds…

“The best evidence of the advance of Arab liberalism in the past five years is the fact that so many liberal writers have appeared on the stage of the Arab media and have expressed their views on various Arab issues and problems. This is one of the many kindnesses that the new ‘Baghdad 2003’ has bestowed on us.

“This shows that as time passes Arab liberalism is gaining for itself more and more writers and intellectuals…

“[More] evidence for the advance of Arab liberalism over the past five years is the great number of liberal websites that host the writings of liberal authors, and the huge number of reader responses to these articles. None of this existed in the years before ‘Baghdad 2003’.

“True, these numbers cannot compare with the quantity of fundamentalist websites. But we should understand that what is important is not the quantity, but the scope of influence. Most of the fundamentalist websites repeat themselves incessantly, and reiterate the words of dead people and moldy books, whereas the liberal websites try to present something new every day. They are a mirror that reflects reality in all its details and problems.

“Liberal discourse is not an arousing ballad that excites the emotions and intoxicates; and it is not a populist discourse that gratifies the impulses of the masses, rubbing their wounds with [the balsam of] a jealous and deep-seated narcissism. It is [a discourse] addressed first and foremost to a discerning elite, as it is the discerning elite that makes history…

“Nonetheless, the liberal political, religious, cultural, and social discourse has won great and abundant [support] among the masses. Liberal discourse did not come to them; they came to it, despite the fact that the liberals constantly emphasize that they are not singers at a nightclub, dancers at a wedding, or pulpit preachers who enflame the emotions, the instincts, and narcissistic wounds.

“[More] evidence of the advance of Arab liberalism in the past five years is the appearance of many liberals – men and women – in the Arabian desert and the Arab Gulf region. Those who think that this part of the Arab world is the exclusive staging ground of fundamentalists are in error. [In fact,] it may be that the liberals of this region of the Arab world are the most ardent, courageous, and audacious of them all. Anyone who reads the Gulf press today sees that 90% of it has liberal leanings. It and its writers – and they are the majority – proclaim the need for self-criticism, the filtering of tradition, respect for human rights, gender equality, and the freedom to differ…”

Categories: Iraq, Middle East

>Despatches from Lebanon – Part 4

>Here’s the final part of my friend Steve’s writings from Lebanon, where he has been for the last 6 weeks doing some work for the World Bank.

It is has been a few weeks since the last instalment and this one is likely to be the epilogue as week six in sunny down town Beirut comes to a close, plus I have my bags half packed. Today I went for yet another long walk in Beirut. It is small city about the size of Geelong with more universities than the East coast of the USA. They seem to be everywhere not much larger than an ABC child minding centre. Everything is here but on a miniature scale. The concept of the Bonsai is alive and well.

Shopping here is interesting when you begin to understand the tariffs and economics a few things come into focus. The price of a bottle of whisky is about $US6 and a tub of ice cream is about $US9. It is times like these that you realise that giving up high calorie food is probably a good idea. Soft drinks are also cheap so a scotch and coke is a very cheap way of entering a mind altered state. Perhaps decadence is scotch and coke spider.

One of the reasons for continuing the newsletter is that I have been informed that someone is making money by selling subscriptions to my half witted monologue. I have just received my royalty contract but no cheque, and the fine print states that payment will be made in food stamps redeemable in Darfur at a synagogue between the summer equinox and the Eastern Orthodox Easter. That gives me more time as the Eastern orthodox Jesus is luckier than the Roman one as he gets to live a bit longer. Since few outside the chosen ones have failed to adopt the Julian calendar for everything the timing of life’s most important events have taken a new turn The only problem with the contract is that it doesn’t state jurisdiction. I think that others have been benefiting from my work this is a change from my usual modes operandi.

I recently had the wonderful opportunity to get across to Cyprus to see John. John a wonderful chap who has had a lot of experience in the medical world and its imposing infrastructure is helping the local Cypriots to build and insurance system that will help them manage the cost of providing medical services to those eternally diseased people that are trapped in healthy bodies and also the occasional unwell one.

Cyprus is a beautiful country. An island paradise with the benefit of hills for the socially autistic who don’t like city folk where one can indulge in great sceneries from hill tops and fantastic foods that can only be described as natural by Americans. Cyprus is one of the great natural wonders of modern history. A country that has had Christianity at it’s core with the advent of Turkish Islam thrown in like a Molotov cocktail. The end result is that the Greek side is affluent like the USA with Mexico as a bordering second cousin. The Turks are somewhat immune to progress. It is absolutely unbelievable that the EU moves forward like a Serbian donkey towards the emancipation of Kosovo. I just love progress.

Walking down Ledra street with John and seeing the artificial border created in the early 70s has an eerie feel of making a Lego block city with unnatural divides. On the other side there is the no man’s land like a 1950s sci fi movie with the aliens that look like us but they aren’t us. The slowly decaying buildings harbouring the scourge of land mines to separate people who were once part of a single community. At time like this one really appreciates the knowledge and guidance of our political leaders.

In Lebanon one can walk down the street and the only landmines are dog turds. There are police on every corner. What I love about Lebanon is the array of weapons that are displayed by the local police. This is where AK 47 meets M16. There is no uniformity. Here one thinks of the possibilities. The French are somewhat ubiquitous. A hospital around the corner sports the name of Hotel Dieu de France. My limited knowledge of French is somewhat picqued when I saw this. Their closeness to God only tortures the Italians. The French who have succeeded in capitalising on the victory of their allies since the Russians kicked their arses don’t seem to have any weapons being used by the local military anywhere in the world except where the Concorde fell over. This is probably not a good thing because apart from great pastries the French do wonderful things with diesel engines. Peugeot is a testament to that. So French guns should be good apart from their advertising ( never used, only dropped once) one should not confuse engineering with implementation. My little experience with UN forces reminds me of the Italians. These characters have the unique ability to make a uniform not a uniform. Simply consider getting your mother to resew your cams to get them to look like cams by Armani, this is the average Italian posted to the UN. Add to that designer Beretta shotguns(no ammo) and you have your average Italian on foreign service. I am thankful that they are part of NATO and not ANZUS. A good thing about the local Lebanese is that you can see that that they aren’t French or Italian. If they are going to fight they want to win.

Back to dog turds. Today I saw a few and one had a shoe print right in the middle. My knowledge of forensics is limited but I could feel the expletives of the owner of the shoe as I walked past. These dastardly devices were designed to maim rather than kill. The victim always tends to live and like a Stephen King experience I felt the power of pain as I walked past. I could feel the anguish of the victim the pain the soiled shoe, the heart rendering cry, followed by the scrapping of shoe against concrete and brick. But to no avail, The smell was still there. The squishing feeling that was not peat moss. Today is Sunday I am on the Christian side of Beirut. This when church bells resound. Most days I awake to the crowing of the mosque at 4.47am. A pleasant sound when announced at 9 am the church bells are not confronting. The local Christian that was maimed by the dog turd still lingers as I can feel their pain just by walking past. The imprint reminds me. The freshness makes me recoil. This only happened recently. Today. The turd is still soft without any crust, the brown is uniform with only a hint of oxidisation. Perhaps just before I got there. I am so grateful this is not Cyprus where the landmines don’t discriminate between Turks and Greeks. But the pain of the victim does not see the irony.

John was arrested here as a young man and as a recently graduated doctor in the 70s as he took photos of the border region. That was at a time when he had more hair and less concerns about the political views of others. The nice thing about him is that nothing has changed (except the hair) but that has its own appeal.

After a start at Larnaca when he picked me up at dawn we drove to Nicosia. Not a long way in Columbus terms but an hour’s drive along a very civilised highway punctuated by speed camera wielding policemen holding down the next victim of revenue and raising personal behaviour to new levels. I only saw one victim per offence. These police have a long way to go before they can realise their true potential. It reminds me of my short time in Serbia. Watching TV there gives one a particular insight into the culture and accepted norms.

The ad starts out with a Serbian policeman with a speed camera pulling over a new Audi and the speed measured is below the limit but he hails the car over regardless. The policeman is a little surprised that the driver is a Serb but he continues with his inspection of the car etc. On inspecting the licence he can only comment that it is a little faded. Apparently this is the cue for offering a bribe, no real offence but the bench mark has been set and hence a price can be agreed.

Before long the policeman finds out that the Serb owns a house in Austria and is heading towards his house in Belgrade. The new Audi A4 is looking at the policeman like a new Platinum Amex card with underwriting from a number of property developments. Things are looking good for the cop with a bad day. After making allusions about the state of the licence he finally comes to the climax of his ask. He needs cash. The driver just laughs and says nema problema – how much? The amount is agreed and he offers a credit card. The policeman is dismayed and demands cash.

This travelling Serb is also dismayed and is perturbed over the need for cash.

Things are quickly resolved when the travelling Serb says that he is successful because of credit. His house in Austria and Serbia are all purchased on credit as well as the new Audi. He then asks why the policemen needs cash.

The policeman then concedes that he needs cash because he wants to buy his own intersection so he can privatise it. So he can collect the revenue. The next scene it one of the British banks offering their credit card services.

I can only say that the NSW government has set the standard and the Cypriots should seek financial advice from Macquarie Bank. It will help them evolve so much more quickly than Darwin would have imagined.

Am sure that John, as a Greek from a far away place, can see the Homer esq irony. I am not sure that I do, I am still stuck between the concept of a tragedy and a farce, maybe that is simply my lack of understanding of the joys of a classical education. All that aside Cyprus is beautiful. Without doubt it is up there as a place where one would park their bones. It has a raw beauty that has not been sullied by progress yet is as modern as any city in today’s world. A combination of history and modern conveniences, I can see why many people are flocking to Cyprus as their end destination. Hopefully when I get old it will be one of the places that I will consider. If not Alzheimer’s has already set in. Or the English Lager louts have beaten me to my resting place.

The joys of the Cyprus were only heightened when I crossed over the country with John and Anne to meet his first cousin on his mother’s side and we had lunch with her. It is a lovely little town about 50 km out of Nicosia in a village called Paleochoria. At first we explored the history when we inadvertently walked into a museum and had the benefit of getting about 300 years of history nearly first hand. The previous 400 years before that was a bit sketchy. Again I am hit with the bewilderment of how recent Australian history really is.

John’s cousin is one of the loveliest people one could ever meet. She lives in the house that John’s mother was born in, and I suspect that even then it was a long way from being new. A grandmother of unredoubtable qualities who had accepted me as John’s friend and shared a wonderful lunch of local foods. John as the only Greek linguist amongst us held fort and translated as we went. She told John that she still sneaks off into the fields to work and grow her own produce, still one of her favourite pastimes. It causes her children much angst who want to provide for her and spare her the messy details. It is times like this that one realises that we are a long way from having the answers. Her little house of which she uses about one quarter is an eclectic mix of something that the Romans built but has the conveniences of a gas stove and an electric refrigerator. She is very happy – something that most people I know still aspire to.

From here we drove to Agros. This is John’s father’s ancestral home. A long way in local terms. But really only two stops on the Sydney rail system. That too can be as wide as the cultural divide that tries to append Auburn to Bankstown.

Here another pit stop to the joys of coffee and wonderful people. Here meeting John’s uncle. A man once an accountant, who retired before I reached puberty gave us an account of what has been happening locally. By this I mean all of Cyprus. John has other relatives here and just the pot pourri of people coming out of the woodwork gives everything here such a rich tapestry. It is times like this that one realises that being just a tourist the best you can achieve is to glance off the environment like a passing meteor. When you have the benefit of being invited into the lives of the locals and sharing their environment it is such a privilege that it is so hard to describe in words of language. Ones knowledge of a place that is foreign soon becomes very less foreign. John thank you.

From here we travelled to Lemisos. A city that has far too many English and the odd Russian. A coastal resort that is just first class. A fantastic beach, and a history punctuated with buildings from many eras. The depth of history is something that it hard to grasp being from a country where history could be within ones own lifetime, let alone centuries of intrigue and conflict. Perhaps this is one of my own limitations.

At this point one of the obvious things that I forgot to mention was that they drive on the left hand side of the road. A simple relief for drunk drivers from Australia. Today that wasn’t a problem for me as John was very caring and drove the whole way. If he had issues we could always call on Anne to help out. The locals still brew their own stuff. This is something I will support regardless of the views of the Belgian based CWA types who would seek to disrupt the natural balances in the greater world. The EU is a great concept but it has its limitations.

The weekend came to a close as they finally found Larnaca and disgorged me on the tarmac of life. I found my way to the departure lounge only to find that the plane was delayed and I had to wait pre departure in the entrance foyer. A 4 hour wait to check in. When you are 190 cm in a land of Lilliputians there is a particular joy in sleeping where you want. I picked the seats right next to the police outpost. These diminutive chaps at first took umbrage that I slept on their couch. When they approached me I explained in my best Bankstown English that I wasn’t a Turk and they should bugger off. This did not work as they used the power of an unloaded AK 47 to explain to me that I should sleep elsewhere. All was resolved shortly after when I pointed out that they should use loaded weapons before entering such a dialogue and I wasn’t a Turk. We became best of mates when they asked about emigrating to Australia. I said it is just like Cyprus , a little bigger and they send boat people off to wonderful tropical islands for a holiday before the change of government. After that they can just turn up get a Medicare card and have a go at those others who aren’t pulling their weight.

At this point I should get back to Lebanon. One of the most telling parts is how people drive. I am now very used to people parking on corners. And a the few who double park on corners. There are no rules as to how one parks. One of my first impressions of Beirut was how unorthodox was the parking convention. I was appalled at first and if I had put pen to paper, finger to keyboard, or something more delicious, it would have been to lament on this point. Today it is of no consequence. I am so used to the way people park, drive etc. That I am not tickled by the simple peculiarities. I must admit the one thing that I still have an issue with is highway driving.

A recent rip down south. Yes very close to where Jesus was born. This is something that the average Catholic should take note. The Vatican is a long way from Bethlehem. And so is Jerusalem. A lot of people just like me fail to realise that Jesus was born just down the road from here. Not where the Pope currently chooses to reside. About an hour and a half away. You need to add a road blocks and check points. So it could be a significant time delay. Apparently there are a few at the check points still looking for the three wise men. I think that they will be waiting a little longer than expected. Perhaps this is why most people take a little longer to get through.

Back to the tenet of the main theme. Driving along the highways of Lebanon I was curious about why so many cars were driving in reverse. Not just reverse but faster than Starsky and Hutch would ever dare. Here we have Batleb but he is very limited, a stolen WRX and a bridge somewhere in Bankstown. But these drivers are reversing at speeds in excess of 80k careening towards law abiding citizens just going about their business on the right side of the road. After a short while I realised that this is very acceptable. If you miss your turn off you don’t drive to the next one . You slam it into reverse hit the accelerator and go as fast as reverse will take you. This is akin to driving in first gear with your eyes closed, but very fast.

Today I witnessed my first driving accident. Next the Beirut river. Another story all by itself. Here a hapless local driving a 90’s model BMW somehow changed lanes and slammed into a parked car. For a minute I thought I was in Lakemba. He was changing lanes and somehow miss judged his line. Then right in front of me he did a hard right so he wouldn’t miss the parked car. I just love it. Then everyone disgorges from the car. It is hard to believe that you can fit seven juvenile males with matching eyebrows into one car. The amazing thing is that they have matching eyes. A kind of swivelling thing two beads in unison under one brow. They were about to run away realising that the car was unarmed. This was somewhat thwarted by many locals appearing instantly on hearing the collision and they appeared like the throng from I am legend. Albeit the head banging was limited to a sustainable bash. The culprits had to wait until the apparent owner could be found. I did not wait to record the outcome. Perhaps yet again I have missed the salient parts of evolution.

The other thing about Lebanon is that it is still physically divided along religious grounds. The east side is very Christian. To the point that neon crosses adorn some intersections and in the pictures you will see many little JC figurines. I just love how we move with the times. There is one picture with JC not at all uncommon, sporting a light in front. This one is clearly a modern movement. Instead of the usual candle there is a plastic light. That in itself is not unusual. Until you see that the label on the new light that says MADE IN ITALY with a matching barcode. There is this eerie feeling that comes with talking to Italians who believe that JC grew up playing soccer under the leaning tower of Pizza

Moving on. Lebanon does not have an aged care problem . This is mainly due to the fact that smoking is mandatory for males over the age of 9 and females over the age of 11. Add to this the driving skills, aged care is not an industry that foreigners should invest in here for some time to come. I think that most of the locals will be very healthy until they suddenly expire. Great from an infrastructure management point of view.

More recently I spent a few days in Cairo. This is a wonderful city were traffic chaos takes on new dimensions. Here I realised my own cultural limitations. I as one who took a very scientific view of life suddenly realised that reincarnation was possible.

The taxis here tend towards the bizarre. A short while after arriving in Cairo and being told that I needed a visa after standing in queue for at least a pyramid long I saw yet another irony. Every Renault 12 ever built is a Taxi in Cairo. These bastions of French engineering that have died in every other corner of the globe are here. Yet here they have been reincarnated as taxis sporting the black and white of sheriff cruisers from the mid west. These little bonsai versions of automobiles are yet another exaggeration of French dominance. I just wish that the French stick the few things that they are good at. The drivers in Cairo are unshaven locals who have forsaken their Stetson hats and real cruisers for hash cigarettes and aging French automobiles. A glum look of the forlorn looking for the next ride. The Nile is still there and so are the pyramids. The rest of the current locals are still seeking some sort of assimilation with their geographical past.

This leads me to my dear friend Alzo. A charming man and military colleague. I have always had a great affection for him, from the time we were first thrust together in the usual military way of this is your lot so deal with it, to the realisation that I could learn a lot from this man. Luckily I took the option of learning from him and to this day I am very grateful that I took heed of his knowledge and experience. In the military days he taught me well and my life was very much the better because of it. It is sad that at the time I did not have the maturity or experience to thank him. Perhaps as we get older he will forgive me for my short comings. I am still very grateful for his guidance.

Today he at 60 years of age and is sporting child number 5. Young Judi has just drawn her first breath. She will should be very grateful that she has chosen Alzo as her father. There are a few wives associated with his dilemmas but this should impede young Judi’s benefit of life.

His new wife, of local Egyptian extraction and younger than his first born is doing her best. He epitomises how life should be run. Never give up and never he has stopped reproducing. I am sure that on reading this Alzo will adjust my interpretation and I will receive a revised program and new training material, but until then why let the truth get in the way of a good story. Alzo my deepest affections are with you and if we have to hide in another country – so be it.

It is now that I realise that I don’t have the skill to extract all of the crap that enters my mind in my travels. Seeing so many things like the trash in parts of Cairo where the term desert flowers is lost. The outrageous rubbish piles that are being mined by locals as a natural resource to me seem like an environmental travesty. The more I see the less I feel that I am competent to judge. So my friends enjoy the day but don’t take my views too seriously, because between myself and my good friend Johnny Walker perception may be the real reality.

To finish off for now I realise that I have sadly missed the great muse of my time here in Lebanon. Andrew who has recently departed for Kosovo because he saw upturned UN vehicles in flames somewhere in Kosovo courtesy of CNN proclaimed that Beirut is very boring and he must be off. No bombings, no explosions, things that were promised by all concerned on his reappearance but did not eventuate. Here am I still in Beirut only to comforted but the story of a shooting on the corner near the hotel. Andrew is really a modern day Che Guevara. A fallen medical doctor although he did practice in a few countries, albeit even successfully. Che could not claim such achievements. Andrew has even greater attributes. He is a man that has a great turn of phrase. In simple terms his description of passing events has the ruminations of Dickensian proportions with a Shakespearian barb. A simple line that leaves one with a colourful mental mosaic and few words. For the simplicity of his description of complex events I will be eternally grateful.

Looking for excitement the story somewhat fizzles. A woman standing on the corner outside the pharmacy suddenly experienced severe chest pain and difficulty in breathing. She was rushed off to hospital. Not a great feat as it was only 200 metres away. Hospitals like universities seem to be everywhere. Great education, great opportunity, experience, lets leave that alone.

On arrival at the hospital she was examined and the doctor and he noticed a small incision below her collar bone. Her breathing was laboured and she had all of the presentation of a Floridain woman suffering from the vapours. The xray revealed foreign material in the gut region. This also revealed some serious damage to her heart and lungs. Her heart fascia was torn and her lung was punctured. Somehow she was still alive. Financially she was going to cost the system. After the open heart surgery and general surgery to repair the lungs and liver it was revealed that she was struck by a stray bullet from the March 12 party celebrations. This was apparently the celebratory machine gun firing into the air by supporters of Nasrallah the local Hizbollah leader in parliament. Nasrallah apparently was giving a speech to which some of the locals felt he needed to be supported. How little I know confronts me at times like this.

To finish up I go back to the little line in the newspaper. On his speech there were fireworks and small arms fire into the air. The police have asked the citizens to refrain from the use of celebratory grenades during such political speeches.

How limited we are in Canberra.

My dear friends I hope this finds you well and safe. The world is simpler than anyone can begin to realise.

(Nothing Follows)

Categories: Middle East

>Turkey’s Islamic revolution by stealth

April 3, 2008 2 comments

>The Turkish Daily News is certainly an interesting place to find opinions of people living in the world’s most modern Muslim country. Its status as a secular country is a source of pride to its inhabitants who jealously guard the freedoms that come from the separation of mosque and state.

Readers may be aware that there have been some political rumblings within the country with the rise of fundamentalist elements in the government. Fortunately for Turkey, its courts are prepared to take action against those who are working against the country’s secular constitution.

From Burak Bekdil comes Democratic jihad

I would bet that in the unwanted event of an ‘unpopular coup’ the ‘nation’s will’ would probably show up in the form of 70 percent support for that coup if in two years’ time a coup constitution is put to referendum

Necmettin Erbakan, former prime minister, the guru of political Islam in Turkey, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s one-time heroic mentor and the man with a prison sentence for siphoning off his party’s money, once said that the Islamic revolution in Turkey would crop up sooner or later “with or without blood.” His young and talented apprentice, Mr. Erdoğan, took the wiser option, “without blood,” the day he deserted his master’s academy.These days the deserter is facing the same judicial threat his master faced several times during his long political career. Can this be explained by a “simple twist of fate?” Not really. Half a dozen times is too big a number for “coincidence.” The fact is, Mssrs Erbakan and Erdoğan are politicians with the same goals but different means to reach these goals.

No, not shariah:

What are these common goals? Shariah? No, both Mr. Erbakan and Mr. Erdoğan would only be viewed as “infidels” by genuine pro-Shariah fanatics. Their ideological color is too “light green” for the “shiny green” Shariah camp. For one thing, it would be terribly unfair to fabricate a connection between the ideological wars of Mr. Erbakan and Mr. Erdoğan and violence. Neither the master nor the former apprentice is a Jihadist. They merely wish to Islamize their country “without resorting to violence” and preferably by all possible democratic means which is fine. So where, really, is the problem?Are they really crashing into a despotic wall each time they make progress with their end goal because their secular opponents are too despotic? Maybe. If so, why are their secular opponents so incurably despotic when it comes to the “Islamization” of Turkey? Why can they not tolerate a “perfectly democratic will of the nation?” Why are they so badly allergic to any degree of socio-political Islamization? Is it because these visible and invisible men hate their country, hate Islam, hate anything with a religious connotation, hate anything that goes beyond the Kemalist dogma? Can they be secret enemies of the country they say they love? Or are they just a bunch of disillusioned elites whose percentage in what makes “our great nation” is exponentially diminishing? Are they traitors?

Unfortunately, a realistic answer to any of those questions does not exist. Even worse, opposite answers do exist, depending on the ideology of the person who might volunteer to answer them. Worst, the answer to each of the question is either a “yes” or a “no,” again, depending on the chosen ideology. Too bad, everyone is being forced into a “yes” or “no” none of which is probably the right answer. At the opposite camp of this dangerous polarization, different questions can be asked, but the answers would probably be the same: a “yes” or a “no.” Who are Mr. Erdoğan and his men? Islamists? Former Islamists? Islamists with a hidden agenda? Mild Islamists? Muslim democrats? Neo-libertarians? Liberal Muslims? Champions of democracy and free speech? Champions of democracy and free speech only when democracy and free speech would suit their ideology? Jihadists? Disguised Jihadists? “Without blood” Jihadists? A bizarre –but pragmatic—bunch of pro-western and at the same time pro-Islam politicians? Koranic dogmatists? Part-time Koranic dogmatists? Traitors? Again, anyone can give his/her choice of answers to those questions. Too bad, again, we would either get a “yes” or a “no” depending on the dogmatic belief of the person who answers.Probably no one in either camp is a traitor. Probably not all secular Turks are Islam-hating despots. Probably not all pious Muslims in Mr Erdoğan’s entourage are Jihadists, disguised or otherwise. Probably some in the secular camp are more liberal than their opponents; and vice versa. There are probably fake, part-time liberals in both camps. There are probably fascists in both camps too.

There are probably Kemalist dogmatists like there are Koranic dogmatists. There are probably Kemalist hypocrites like there are Koranic hypocrites. All that, however, does not change the fact that there is a war between the ones who want to “Islamize” Turkey through overt and covert means and the ones who want to block this goal through overt and covert means. The chosen weaponry in this war changes from time to time, ranging from democracy to judiciary and, as a last resort, to tanks on the streets of Ankara which, in practice, means the “nation’s democratic choice” is not always a perfect shield. Of course, the “nation’s will” is a powerful ammunition for its possessor. But not sufficient to win the war, especially when the other camp possesses the ultimate weaponry. This brings us to the dangerous concept of the “nation’s will.” I have previously cited numerous examples to illustrate that “nation’s will” cannot always guarantee democracy or good governance.

A deadlock situation:

I would bet, by the way, that in the unwanted event of an “unpopular coup” the “nation’s will” would probably show up in the form of 70 percent support for that coup if in two years’ time a coup constitution is put to referendum (the “nation” had given a 92 percent seal of approval to the 1980 coup and its constitution). That is one good reason why Mr. Erdoğan wisely refrains from putting to national vote issues like, say, a permanent invasion of northern Iraq, relations with the United States or the execution of Abdullah Öcalan. This is a deadlock situation. Mr. Erdoğan and his men will no doubt use all possible democratic means to advance their political agenda which clearly is an Islamization of Turkey. Similarly, the opponents of that political agenda will use every tactic to block it, democratic or otherwise. Too sad, this, like the war in the Southeast, is a war with no winners. Battles can be won or lost, but this is a losing war for all.

(Nothing Follows)

Categories: Middle East

>Female Syrian Minister bags Australia for supporting Israel

>Truth, as we all know, is not something that Middle Eastern nations have a particular affinity for. In this morally repugnant opinion piece published in Asharq Alawsat, Syrian Minister for Expatriates gets stuck into Australia – the world’s most fair-minded nation – for committing genocide while at the same time supporting that most evil of nations, Israel.

Her bio reads: Dr. Bouthaina Shaaban is Minister of Expatriates in Syria, and writer and professor at Damascus University since 1985. Before assuming her current ministerial position, Dr. Shaaban was Director of the Press Office at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Syria. She received her Ph.D. in English Literature from Warwick University in England in 1982, and joined the Ministry of Foreign Affairs as an advisor in 1988. Since then, she has represented Syria as a spokeswomen on an international level. In 2005 Dr. Shaaban was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize, and in the same year, was presented with “the Most Distinguished Woman in a Governmental Position” award by the Arab League. Dr. Shaaban has published four books, and contributed to numerous others.

No doubt the Left will applaud her for her ‘courage’ and ‘speaking the truth’. Why anyone thinks that a government hack from a socialist dictatorship speaks with anything other than a well-trained, well-used forked tongue is beyond my ken.

Only few weeks after the apology of Kevin Rudd, the newly elected Prime Minister of Australia, to the Aborigines, the indigenous inhabitants of Australia, he was party to a motion in Parliament describing Israel as a “robust democracy” and a “custodian of freedom” in a region abounding in autocracies and theocracies!

Opposition Liberal party leader Brendan Nelson said that in a region “characterized more by theocracies and autocracies, Israel is the custodian of the most powerful of human emotions – that is hopeful belief in the freedom of man, freedom of speech, freedom of religion and freedom of assembly “.

And both Rudd and Nelson are absolutely correct. Israel is the Middle East’s only democracy. Arab Israeli citizens have the highest standard of living in the entire Arab world and unlike in the rest of the Arab world – they can vote – with the result that a number of Arabs sit in Israel’s parliament, the Knesset. Israel’s deputy-President is an Arab Israeli.

Here’s a pop quiz for you:

In which Middle Eastern country can a Muslim parliamentarian loudly denounce his country, call for its military defeat and then leave parliament without needing bodyguards, go home and not fear being arrested?

A) Syria;
B) Saudi Arabia;
C) Libya; or
D) Israel.

Tick, tock, tick, tock…thinking time is really not required, is it?

All this was expressed in the aftermath of Israeli Killing of over 130 Palestinians in Gaza, 39 of them were children, and 12 women and the rest were young men in their twenties aspiring to live in peace and dignity on their own land. The question that came to mind upon reading the disappointing news of the motion in the Australian Parliament was whether Kevin Rudd and his colleagues want to wait for 200 years to apologize from the Palestinians as they apologized from the aborigines, but only when it becomes too late and almost of no value to a people and culture who have been almost completely destroyed. If the world expressed its absolute shame of the way the “stolen generations” were treated in Australia, it should be more ashamed of the “slaughtered generation” in Palestine that is being collectively punished and ethnically cleansed in the most abhorrent racist policies adopted by any state in the world, including the past apartheid regime in South African.

Leaving aside the fact that there is no such thing as the Stolen Generations, and never has been, what culture is being destroyed in Palestine? It’s a non-place; there’s never been any such country. It’s never had a language, or money, or art, or philosophy, or trade, or government…or culture. Apologising to the so-called ‘slaughtered generation’ carries as much validity and honesty as the Stolen Generation apology did.

To Kevin Rudd and Brendan Nelson, I would like to say that Gaza is not on the moon; it is only a few miles from Jerusalem and you may easily visit or send a camera and a journalist to take you pictures of what is happening to the Palestinians at the hands of the Israelis, and to see for yourselves, what kind of “custodian of freedom” you are supporting! A million and a half Palestinians are imprisoned in a big jail called Gaza, after they have been transferred from Southern Palestine. The small West bank has over 400 check points and a tall apartheid wall that prevents children from going to schools and farmers from reaching their lands, and in the case of Qalqilia, prevents the sun from reaching windows of houses. Palestinians in Gaza are killed by Israeli missiles, tanks and fire, whether they are men tending their cattle or women making their bread at home, or children playing football, or simply attending schools.

In fact, you cannot send journalists with cameras in to see for yourself what is happening. As has been well documented, if Hamas or Fatah don’t like what you’re reporting then you get a warning to leave and never return with the threat to life and limb being obvious. It’s certainly accurate to say that the population of Gaza has been imprisoned but who actually imprisoned them? Israel? No. The rest of the Arab world imprisons them and uses them for Palestine-As-Cause propaganda. Why does Egypt have a security wall along the border between the Sinai Desert and the Gaza Strip? To keep Egyptians from getting in? Hardly. It’s to keep Palestinians from getting out. Why do so many Arab nations forbid migrants from Palestine and not accept Palestinian refugees – including Dr Shaaban’s own country of Syria? And to claim that cattle herders and school children and women making bread are the targets of Israel – while at the same time saying nothing about Hamas’ own Katuysha rocket attacks that are deliberately aimed at civilian targets – rivals anything Goebbels could come up with.

It is these immoral, illegal, and inhuman crimes perpetrated by Israeli forces against the Palestinians on a daily basis that prompted Iian Pappe, the Israeli historian from Haifa university (who was later virtually expelled, and he is now a professor at Exeter University, England) to say “I don’t think there is one moral person in the world that supports what Israel stands for” (Yedioth Ahranot, March 16, 2008).

Ilan Pappé is an Israeli Communist. He was expelled for supporting Hamas and promoting boycotts against Israeli universities. As the old saying goes, you can judge a man by who his enemies are. It works with his friends, as well. From his Wikipedia article:

Pappé’s works have been praised by many other historians, academics and writers, such as Walid Khalidi, Richard Falk, Ella Shohat and John Pilger. According to John Pilger: “Ilan Pappe is Israel’s bravest, most principled, most incisive historian.”

When John Pilger is on your side you know you’re waaaaaaay left.
Critiquing Pappé’s 2004 book, A History of Modern Palestine: One Land, Two Peoples, historian Benny Morris wrote in the New Republic: ‘Unfortunately much of what Pappe tries to sell his readers is complete fabrication. […] This book is awash with errors of a quantity and a quality that are not found in serious historiography. […] The multiplicity of mistakes on each page is a product of both Pappe’s historical methodology and his political proclivities[.] […] For those enamored with subjectivity and in thrall to historical relativism, a fact is not a fact and accuracy is unattainable’.

Benny Morris is an Israeli historian who supports the Palestinian cause and he’s basically calling Pappe a liar.

Back to the article:

I am sure whether the Australian Parliament that lauded Israel and congratulated it on its 60th anniversary is aware that the president of the Palestinian Parliament Aziz al Douek and 15 of his colleagues who were democratically elected in elections that was described by ex-president Carter as the most democratic and transparent, that they are imprisoned and tortured in Israeli jails for the last two years, and no Parliament in the world has put forward a motion for their release or threatened to boycott their jailors (the Israelis) if they do not release them.

She has her numbers wrong. Of the 132 elected officials, fully 26 of them are ‘detained in Israel’ on charges of being associated with Hama’ or Fatah’s terrorist wings. Most are from Hamas – a proscribed terrorist organisation in most Western nations.

This moral support that is given to the racist, criminal policies of Israel against the Arabs is, partly, morally responsible for the crimes perpetrated. The balance of military power is by far in Israel’s favor, and the only hope for the Palestinians is to have the moral and political support of peoples of the world who gave us all hope when they kept mounting pressure on the ex-apartheid regime of South Africa till they brought it to an end.

So, she prefers to provide moral support to the terrorists and murders who have perpetuated the conflict long past a time when it was clear Israel would do what it had to in order to achieve peace, which goes all the way back to the early 80s. Furthermore, to describe Israel as an apartheid regime when, as I mentioned, people with Arab backgrounds do so well there is absurd.

The very same effort is badly needed today to free the Palestinian people from the last occupation in the twenty first century. Let’s again listen to the best expert on Palestinian-Israeli affairs, Professor Iian Pappe: “I believe that things would change only if Israel receives a strong message that as long as occupation continues it would not be a legitimate member of the international community, and that until then its academics, doctors and authors would not be welcome. A similar boycott was imposed on South Africa. It took 21 years, but it eventually led to the end of Apartheid.” (Yedioth Ahranot, March 16, 2008). Much sooner than 21 years, the Australian people will be ashamed of the motion passed by the Australian parliament.

Australians will certainly be ashamed of the Apology to the Stolen Generations when it causes the destruction of that culture in years to come. We will never be ashamed of standing up for free and democratic nations, especially when they come under such sustained attack as Israel has from dictatorships that back terrorist organisations, assassinate Lebanon’s political leaders willy-nilly and have appalling human rights records of their own such as Syria.

(Nothing Follows)

Categories: Australia, Middle East