Friday, November 27, 2009

Netanyahu, Mitchell & the Settlement Freeze


'It's not enough'


With the patience of a taxi driver at a red light about to turn green, the Palestinian leadership responded to Wednesday's announcement of an Israeli moratorium on new settlement building with: "It's not enough!"

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu's unprecedented moratorium is both substantive and symbolic - the appropriate response to a Palestinian settlement freeze demand that is both emblematic and a red-herring.

THE DISPUTE between Palestinians and Israelis is not about settlements. It hinges on whether the Arabs are willing to recognize the legitimacy of Israel as the state of the Jewish people within any boundaries. Some find it convenient to imagine that the clash between the Zionist and Arab causes has transitioned to a non-zero sum game. That is hardly the dominant view in Israel.

In 1920, the international community gave Britain the responsibility of establishing a national home for the Jewish people in Palestine. But a year later London turned over eastern Palestine to Emir Abdullah and Transjordan was born. The Arab response? "It's not enough."

In 1937, the Peel Commission recommended dividing Palestine into Jewish and Arab states. The Zionists consented. The Arabs... said no.

In 1947, the UN General Assembly voted to partition Palestine into Jewish and Arab states. Again, the Jews agreed. The Arab response was: "It's not enough" and they tried to throttle the newborn Jewish state. Israel survived while the Arabs took the West Bank and Gaza. Did they then form a Palestinian state? Of course not, because these territories alone were "not enough."

In 1967, the Arabs failed to push an Israel living within the 1949 Armistice Lines into the sea and the West Bank came into Israeli possession. Magnanimous in victory, Israel offered peace. The Arab response? "No peace, no recognition, no negotiations."

In 1977, Egypt's Anwar Sadat courageously embarked on the path of peace. Israel withdrew from all territory claimed by Egypt, and Menachem Begin, moreover, offered the Palestinians something they had never enjoyed - autonomy. Israeli forces would have been re-deployed as a prelude to final status negotiations. The Arab response? "It's not enough."

As a result of the 1993 Oslo Accords, the PLO leadership was invited to return from Tunis and set up a Palestinian Authority in the West Bank and Gaza. But a double-dealing Yasser Arafat never genuinely embraced this historic opportunity for reconciliation. Hamas intensified its terror campaign which claimed dozens of Israeli lives (well before the Baruch Goldstein Hebron massacre in February 1994). Ehud Barak twice - at Camp David (July 2000) and at Taba (January 2001) - offered Arafat a Palestinian state accompanied by extraordinary territorial and political concessions. The Arab response? "It's not enough."

When Israel unilaterally pulled its settlers and soldiers out of the Gaza Strip in 2005, the Arabs again said: "It's not enough."

In 2008, Ehud Olmert offered Mahmoud Abbas 93 percent of the West Bank, plus additional territory from Israel proper. Abbas did not even deign to say "It's not enough" - he just walked away.

Then in June of this year Netanyahu, following in the footsteps of his predecessors, unequivocally accepted a demilitarized Palestinian state. The Arab response? "It's not enough."

Generation after generation, decade after decade, Israeli concession after concession, the Palestinians have never missed an opportunity to say, "It's not enough."

SO now the question is what will America do? Special Envoy George Mitchell reacted with sparing approval to Netanyahu's moratorium. "It falls short of a full settlement freeze, but it is more than any Israeli government has done before…" He then diluted this faint praise by coldly reiterating: "America does not accept the legitimacy of continued Israeli settlements."

A slightly more positive reaction came from Secretary of State Clinton who acknowledged that "agreed swaps" should be part of negotiations based on the 1967 lines.

To take additional risks for peace, Israelis must feel secure that the Obama administration wholly backs the 1967-plus formula. Washington needs to cajole Mahmoud Abbas back to the table to bargain in good faith, and it should extract diplomatic gestures from its Arab allies in reciprocity for the premier's concessions.

Otherwise, the discouraging message that comes across to Israelis who want an agreement is that no matter what we do it will always "fall short" with this administration and never be "enough" for the Arabs.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Medicine, ethics and politics


Ministerial malpractice


In 1983, at age 23, Ron Houben was involved in a car accident that left him completely paralyzed and in a coma. The young Belgian had been a martial arts expert and engineering student; now doctors diagnosed his condition as persistent vegetative state. His eyes could move; he had periods of sleep and wakefulness, but he appeared unconscious; unable to reason or respond.

In reality, Houben knew what was happening around him but had no way of signaling he was a sentient being. He could not even blink an eyelid.

His mother's intuition led her to believe that her son was not a hopeless case, and over the years she took him to the United States five times for sophisticated tests.

She eventually connected with Dr. Steven Laureys of Belgium's Coma Science Group, who put Ron through a PET scan that detects energy given off by a radioactive element injected into the patient. The exam, which was not available when Houben was first diagnosed, showed that he probably could think and reason after all, even if he was immobile and uncommunicative.

This stunning discovery, made three years ago, has only now come to light. Laureys came up with a computer-assisted touch screen that allows Houben, now 46, to use the partial mobility he has in one finger of his right hand to type out his thoughts - with the help of an aide.

"I shall never forget the day when they discovered what was truly wrong with me," he wrote afterward. "It was my second birth. I was shouting, but no one could hear me."

Houben now sits in a wheelchair, his body twisted to one side as if in suspended animation, but his eyes are open and he can now "speak" via computer. He wrote that he maintained his sanity by dreaming himself away. "I was only my consciousness and nothing else."

His mother insists he is not depressed, that he is an optimist and that he wants to get the most out of his life.

Laureys claims that "up to 43 percent of patients with disorders of consciousness are erroneously assigned a diagnosis of vegetative state."

Surely, this case will further sensitize medical ethicists, physicians and others involved in the care of similarly situated patients about when to end aggressive intervention and restrict treatment to palliative care alone until nature takes it course.

Medicine is both an art and a science. Physicians deal in probabilities. Sometimes they get it wrong; sometimes miracles happen.

Optimistically, Laureys's work may cause physicians to reevaluate the brain activity of patients who were diagnosed as being in a persistent vegetative state before PET became available. (The technology has long been available in Israel.) It's not apparent whether the failure to correct Houben's diagnosis any earlier can be attributed to medical malpractice.

WHAT'S EVEN worse than doctors getting a diagnosis wrong? Answer: A politician playing doctor.

Here at home, Deputy Health Minister Ya'acov Litzman has drawn a sharp rebuke from the head of the Israel Medical Association (IMA) for personally and repeatedly intervening in the care of a patient at Schneider Children's Medical Center.

Litzman ordered doctors to treat a lower-brain-dead baby with antibiotics. This patient's condition has nothing in common with being in a vegetative state or in a coma.

The standard protocol for lower-brain-dead cases, after evaluation by two physicians and with the approval of director-general of the Health Ministry, is to discontinue the respirator. Under Israeli law, however, the hospital must honor the wishes of the family if it insists that a lower-brain-dead patient continue to receive nourishment and stay on a respirator. But no one has a right to demand the patient receive antibiotics.

The Health portfolio is formally held by the premier. Litzman is a deputy minister because his United Torah Judaism Party is unwilling to assume responsibility for the actions of a Zionist cabinet, though it does consent to exercise governmental power.

The IMA declared that Litzman had "no right to intervene" in this case. We agree. Israel can't afford to have politicians or clergymen micro-managing medical cases any more than it can tolerate having transportation ministers supplant air-traffic controllers at Ben-Gurion Airport.

If Deputy Health Minister Litzman concludes that his fiduciary responsibilities to Israel's citizens cannot be reconciled with his deeply held religious convictions, let him draw the necessary conclusions.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

On the 36th anniversary of David Ben-Gurion's death



Principle & pragmatism


Yesterday, according to the Hebrew calendar, marked David Ben-Gurion's 36th yahrzeit. A founding father of Israel and its first prime minister, he died on December 1, 1973 at 87.

In considering the lessons to be drawn from Ben-Gurion's life, one involves his quest for the right balance between ideology and pragmatism. His admirers argue that Ben-Gurion was wise to jettison ideological consistency in the name of creating and consolidating the Zionist enterprise.

He was a socialist, though Marxist dialectics took a back seat to his Zionist pragmatism: settling the land and promoting aliya. Doggedly single-minded, he acquiesced to majority rule, but was no pluralist. He ruled his party and saw to it that it ruled the Histadrut, the Jewish Agency and the government. Ben-Gurion expected absolute allegiance to the cause in the way that he defined it.

HIS CRITICS on the Zionist Right, followers of the classically liberal ideologue Ze'ev Jabotinsky, denounced Ben-Gurion's willingness, by 1937, to accept an independent Jewish state in a small part of Palestine, when by Divine right, historical association and international treaty the Jews deserved all of Eretz Yisrael. The Jabotinsky people did not understand how Ben-Gurion could cooperate with the British while their White Paper barred the doors of Palestine to Jewish refugees. Nor could they forgive his June 1948 decision to sink the Irgun arms ship Altalena, carrying desperately needed weapons, to hammer home the point that the future state would have one unified command and he would be the commander-in-chief.

He was uncompromising not in his ideology, but in his pragmatism. He insisted on unity, seeing fragmentation as an obstacle to achieving Jewish independence. In a 1944 speech, he declared, "Anyone who questions the ultimate authority of the nation as a whole… undermines its dynamic potential." He personified that ultimate authority.

Ben-Gurion sought Arab assent for Zionism by holding talks with Mussa al-Alami, a pre-state Palestinian leader. He assured the Cambridge-educated Alami that his people would materially benefit by recognizing Jewish rights to Eretz Yisrael and agreeing to live in peace. But when Alami replied that the Arabs would rather see the country remain a wasteland for another 100 years than share it with the Jews, Ben-Gurion concluded that war was inevitable.

He speculated - somewhat optimistically, it turns out - that once the Arabs were decisively defeated and had witnessed the Jews developing the country, they might "possibly acquiesce in a Jewish Eretz Israel."

In the final analysis, Ben-Gurion believed that statecraft was the art of the possible, that ideology was something to be overcome if it stood in the way of pragmatism, that gradualism could deliver the very same outcomes as an all-or-nothing approach.

Where he also did not waver was in his philosophical commitment to the Zionist goal. He was faithful to a Jewish revolution "against destiny, against the unique destiny of a unique people." The Jews, he argued, were distinguished by their refusal - from Hadrian to Hitler - to surrender to historic destiny. For him, the meaning of Zionism was to teach the Jewish people that "non-surrender" was not enough: "We must master our fate; we must take our destiny into our own hands" by creating a state.

OF COURSE, if Ben-Gurion's legacy makes the case for setting aside the ideal for the practical, there is no shortage of contemporary politicians for whom "pragmatism" is nothing but a fig leaf for careerism, sloppy intellectual thinking, or even nefarious motives.

Take the particularly blatant example of Venezuelan dictator Hugo Chavez.

He is supposedly a Christian ("I preach the word of Jesus Christ") and a leftist, but he has pretentiously embraced two Muslim religious reactionaries. His dalliance with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is well-known, but his defense of Ilich Ramirez - aka Carlos the Jackal, a convert to Islam and a believer in the path of Osama bin Laden - is only now getting attention. Chavez's favorite anti-Semitic newspaper, Vea, is lobbying to have Ramirez transferred from France, where he is serving a life term, to Venezuela.

Historians will argue about the legacy of principled leaders who chose pragmatism over ideological consistency. But we do not have to wait for history's judgment to label as "wicked" the demagogue who cobbles together an incoherent platform of Marxism, Jew-hatred, Israel-bashing and populism.

Monday, November 23, 2009

This could be the start of the third intifada...


What price Schalit?

Arab press reports, echoed in Israel, claim that Gilad Schalit's long ordeal in Hamas captivity may be nearing its end, perhaps even this weekend to coincide with Id al-Adha, the Muslim holiday marking the end of the Haj.

There are other hints something is afoot. Shimon Peres was in Cairo yesterday to see President Hosni Mubarak. Guido Westerwelle, the new German foreign minister, is here today to meet Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu. The Germans are acting as brokers between Hamas and Israel. Lastly, perhaps to stabilize conditions pending a prisoner exchange, Hamas said it had reached agreements with the other Gaza terror groups not to attack Israel without coordination.

That news came after Kassams slammed into Sderot on Saturday. But the IAF's retaliation against weapons factories and a smuggling tunnel in Gaza prompted Hamas's own military wing to threaten further attacks. And Islamic Jihad denied it was party to any arrangement in the first place.

Since the conclusion of Operation Cast Lead in January, 270 rockets and mortars have been lobbed at Israel from the Strip.

WHEN IT comes to Schalit, it's hard to know where the spin ends and the news begins. According to the London-based Arabic newspaper Al-Hayat, Israel is poised to free hundreds upon hundreds of Palestinians in exchange for our young soldier.

From the time he was taken in June 2006, Hamas has been holding firm to its demands that it will free Schalit only in exchange for 1,000 of its operatives held by Israel. The present haggling, Arab reports imply, is partly over whether, once at large, the masterminds of the Sbarro, Moment Cafe and Dolphinarium bloodbaths, and of the Netanya Pessah Seder massacre, will be required to seek asylum outside Gaza and the West Bank. Some reports have Israel refusing to release these men or east Jerusalem prisoners sought by Hamas. If true, that probably means no deal.

Plainly, Netanyahu is loath to have his
government approve a lop-sided prisoner exchange that requires setting free some of the most dangerous terrorists Israel has ever encountered. Yet he may be telling himself that any such deal would be the absolutely, positively, honest-to-goodness, very last time Israel capitulates to Hamas or Hizbullah.

Hamas begs to differ. It's already offering a $1 million bounty to any Arab citizen of Israel who abducts another Israeli soldier.

An ill-considered prisoner deal could also bring down Mahmoud Abbas's already tottering Palestinian Authority in the West Bank. That would set the stage for Hamas to fill the political vacuum. As it is, with Hamas breathing down his neck, Abbas is being more obstinate than ever, even hinting that he might pursue popular resistance instead of negotiations. Fatah "redeemer" Marwan Barghouti, incarcerated for orchestrating numerous murders, has put out the word that any future negotiations with Israel ought to be accompanied by terrorism. If Israel yields to Hamas, as an offset, Barghouti could be released to "help Abu Mazen."

TOO BAD Israelis can't look to Egypt to play a constructive role. For the sake of expediency Cairo is ready to disregard the principles set down by the Quartet as a prerequisite for Hamas participation in a Palestinian unity government.

Mubarak's regime is once again turning a blind eye to Palestinian arms smuggling beneath the Philadelphi Corridor which has now reached pre-Operation Cast Lead levels. Mubarak is also doing everything possible to harden Abbas's heart, telling the Egyptian parliament Saturday that Israel alone was to blame for the paralysis in the peace talks.

He insultingly called on Israel to stop "Judaizing" Jerusalem and demanded it reconcile itself to the Arabs' refusal to recognize its right to exist as a Jewish state. With a straight face, Mubarak demanded that Israel end its blockade of the Strip - as if Cairo did not maintain an identical (surface) embargo between the Sinai and Gaza.

AS MUCH as we Israelis ache to see Gilad Schalit home with his family, the emotional blackmail of campaigners who say the country should do "anything" to achieve his release could unleash on our home front the very same sociopathic killers Israel's security forces worked so hard to capture in the first place.

We urge the premier to leave no stone unturned in trying to bring Gilad home, while placing the national interest above all.

Friday, November 20, 2009

How NOT to honor Shabbat & promote Judaism


Shabbes! Shabbes!


Sometimes it seems as if there's an evil mastermind out there determined to make Jewish tradition, observance and ritual seem repellent, retrograde, even ridiculous to as many unaffiliated and secular Jews as possible while making even the traditionally observant cringe with embarrassment.

What better way to heighten alienation from all things Jewish than to rebrand Judaism as the sole province of a scowling ultra-Orthodox minority - and to do so in Jerusalem before the entire world. Last Shabbat, hundreds of "fervently Orthodox Jews" spent the afternoon rioting outside the Intel computer chip fabrication plant in Jerusalem, "desecrating the Sabbath in order to save it."

Hassidim and mitnagdim, comrades-in-arms, scuffled with reporters and cameramen whom they had lured to their demonstration and roughed up a haredi vice-mayor of Jerusalem whose zealousness was called into question.

The next day, Intel discovered that someone had broken into the company's chapel, smashed windows, broken furniture and left prayer books strewn about.

At issue were fears that Intel would induce, not obligate, Jewish employees to work on Shabbat. The company believes that the waiver it has long held to operate on Shabbat remains valid at its Jerusalem factory in Har Hotzvim, a hi-tech compound near an expanding haredi district. Intel says that for both technical and business reasons, the factory's fabrication work must carry on 24/7. The company's computer chips are a major Israeli export.

Clearly, Israel needs Intel more than it needs its benighted opponents.

THE ASSAULT on Intel has been instigated primarily by the virulently anti-Zionist Eda Haredit. This week, comparatively moderate Hassidic, Lithuanian and Sephardic ultra-Orthodox leaders have been negotiating with the company, offering to muzzle their acolytes in return for a verifiable Intel commitment to employ only non-Jews to work the Shabbat shifts.

Even if an agreement can be reached by sundown Friday, the Eda Haredit is still intent on sending its soldiers into the streets after Saturday morning services to howl, "Shabbes, Shabbes!" and seek violent confrontation.

For a living, the Eda Haredit provides kosher certification for vendors, stores, hotels and restaurants. Its imprimatur is ubiquitous - so in a sense, consumers who patronize establishments beholden to the Eda are funding its "Shabbes" activities.

The Intel riots were only the latest acts of intimidation by haredi extremists against the ideal of a Jerusalem that is tolerant, pluralistic, tradition-friendly and Zionist.

It doesn't take much to provoke haredi unrest: rumors of an autopsy; the arrest of an abusive mother - or a murderous father; the opening of a free parking garage; vehicular traffic on a boulevard haredim call their own.

By flamboyantly running amok in Israel's capital, the extremists perpetuate the sense of Jerusalem as unlivable, ungovernable and unreasonable.

WEDNESDAY SAW another manifestation of haredi bullying as "fervently Orthodox Jews" became enraged when a female medical student in the women's section of the Western Wall compound donned a tallit and held a Torah scroll.

Among the ultra-Orthodox, these activities are the preserve of men. Her actions also contravened a court-mediated policy that, for all intents and purposes, has converted the Kotel into an Orthodox shrine. The Wall reverts back to the nation on Holocaust Remembrance Day, Yom Hazikaron and for occasional military ceremonies.

The medical student is a member of Women of the Wall, which meets on Rosh Hodesh at Robinson's Arch, an enclave close to the Western Wall where women's - even egalitarian - services are tolerated. But this time, the Women of the Wall unwisely decided to push the envelope and moved their services to the Kotel's segregated women's section, where their un-Orthodoxy infuriated those who "tremble before God." The rabbi of the Wall, a government employee, denounced the defilement of his turf. So police whisked away the prayer shawl-wearing, Torah scroll-carrying woman before a riot could ensue.

While we sympathize with the desire to make the Western Wall prayer area a spiritually inviting place for all Jews, seeking confrontation with the entrenched Orthodox establishment is an exercise in futility.

Only when the political system is reformed so that religious zealots lose their disproportionate influence can this particular wrong be righted. Of course, when deliverance comes, Zionist decisors of Halacha, animated by the desire to harmonize tradition with the practical needs of running a modern Jewish state, will have taken charge of the spiritual direction of the country.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Abe Foxman is worried. Maybe, just maybe, he's right


Crossing the line


There is a perennial debate among Jewish intellectuals in the United States about whether Jews are more naturally suited to be liberals or conservatives. Norman Podhoretz's latest book Why Are Jews Liberals? laments the fact that so many are; Leon Wieseltier's New York Times book review replies: How could Jews be anything else? Each side musters proof-texts from Jewish sources and history to make its case, though there isn't universal agreement on how to define "liberalism" and "conservatism."

In any event, there is one thing liberals and conservatives agree upon: In the course of Jewish history, Jews have done best in societies characterized by political, social and economic stability, and suffered where opposite tendencies prevailed. So, regardless of political orientation or denominational affiliation, it's plain that upholding the legitimacy of the American political system and preserving its stability is a Jewish interest.

That is why we were struck by "Rage Grows in America: Anti-Government Conspiracies," newly issued by the New York-based Anti-Defamation League. Conservatives would argue that lack of faith in the government is called "democracy in action." The sections of the report that draw our concern, however, spotlight the activities of a minority on the Right who have crossed the line from criticism of President Barack Obama's policies to denying the legitimacy of America's political system itself.

As is often the case, the excesses on the Right were precipitated by bad behavior on the Left. Recall, for example, how MoveOn.org compared George W. Bush to Hitler. Now, it is rightists who are accusing a president of plotting to destroy the American way of life.

Even the comparatively mainstream Rush Limbaugh has flirted with Hitler-Obama analogies. The more volatile Glenn Beck screams that Obama is taking the United States "towards socialism, totalitarianism beyond your wildest imagination."

BUT IT is destabilizing conspiratorialists who trouble us. They say Obama is a closet Muslim, or assert that his Hawaii birth certificate is a forgery so he is constitutionally ineligible to be president.

Among the conspiratorialists are demagogues pushing claims that the Federal Emergency Management Agency is constructing concentration camps, and that a (supposed) "door to door" gun confiscation campaign is a precursor to martial law.

The ADL study draws attention to some lesser known demagogues including Texas-based Alex Jones whose broadcasts and Web sites promote the theory that the 9/11 attacks were an "inside job" by the American government, part of an elaborate plot involving international bankers, the Federal Reserve, the Council on Foreign Relations and the Bilderberg Group to create a New World Order. (Of course, 9/11 conspiracy theories also thrive on the extreme Left and in Arab circles.)

On a recent program, Jones warned that a public health education effort aimed at children to curtail the spread of H1N1 virus was actually a psychological warfare scheme to brainwash them to become informers against their parents. He said the government will use fears surrounding H1N1 to stage a pandemic in order to declare martial law. The H1N1 vaccine, said Jones, is a plot to sterilize the masses. The ADL report also points to some 200 militias across America training for the day when the government turns against its citizenry.

Some will dismiss the report as alarmist or argue that ADL national director Abraham Foxman is pandering to his liberal constituents. We worry, however, that Foxman's claim of "a toxic atmosphere of rage" in America is not hyperbole, but a true assessment of the political system's condition.

REGRETTABLY, there are fresh signs that "toxic rage" exists here in Israel, too, among an increasingly radicalized segment of the settler population. It's manifested by a worrisome breakdown in army discipline among soldiers whose first allegiance is not to the state.

On Monday, several enlisted men from the Nahshon battalion held a political protest on base evidently out of pique that the IDF had dismantled an illegal outpost earlier in the day. The issues at stake transcend partisanship.

Demagogic Knesset members and post-Zionist rabbis who encourage servicemen to disobey their officers, or deny the legitimacy of the political echelon to direct the military are undermining the State of Israel.

Disrespect for legitimate authority, demonization of elected officials and demagoguery are bad for the Jews… even when it takes place in their own state.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Eric Holder's Troubling Decision


A matter of justice


It wasn't Osama bin Laden (OBL) who came up with the idea of using airliners
as ballistic missiles. The scheme had to be sold to him by Khalid Sheikh
Mohammed (KSM).

Born in Pakistan, raised in Kuwait and educated as a mechanical engineer in
America's South, the comparatively secular KSM became fixated on punishing
Washington for its support of Israel, even as OBL was focused on expelling
the infidels from Arabia.

On Friday, US Attorney-General Eric Holder announced that KSM, the brains
behind the 9/11 plot, in US custody since March 2003, would be put on trial
in Manhattan federal court along with his co-conspirators, Ramzi Binalshibh,
Mustafa Ahmad al-Hawsawi, Ali Abd al-Aziz and Walid Bin Attash. All face the
death penalty.

Holder insisted that the decision to forgo a military trial and place the
case before a civilian jury sitting just blocks from Ground Zero was his
decision alone; that President Barack Obama was informed after the fact
because the president, himself a lawyer, did not want to intrude in the
justice system.


BUT AREN'T the 9/11 attacks more a matter of national security than of
criminal justice?

Holder's decision regrettably treats what the conspirators did as a major
crime rather than an act of war.

Moreover, it provides KSM with the opportunity to turn the trial into an
enormous "reality TV" extravaganza, in the words of New York Times columnist
David Brooks.

It gives Islamist terrorists fresh incentives to target New York City.
It risks exposing in open court the methods US intelligence employs to
combat Muslim extremists.

Finally, although Holder insinuated that federal prosecutors have ample
admissible evidence against the plotters, an open, possibly televised trial,
will divert attention from the conspiracy to the fact that KSM ­-- a "ticking
bomb" if ever there was one ­-- was repeatedly tortured.

This will not play well on Al-Jazeera.

In 2008, the US Supreme Court ruled that alien terrorists were
constitutionally sheltered by the same protections US citizens enjoy,
because they were held at Guantanamo, an enclave in Cuba that is under US
jurisdiction. Similarly, they will enjoy the same appellate protections as
Americans.

Sen. Patrick J. Leahy (D-Vermont), chairman of the Judiciary Committee,
said, "By trying them in our federal courts we demonstrate to the world that
the most powerful nation on Earth also trusts its judicial system."

Yet does it not also reinforce a false and dangerous impression that the
shock troops of global jihad are, at the end of the day, mere criminals as
opposed to enemy combatants?

Indeed, in an interview with Jim Lehrer of PBS, Holder referred to the 9/11
attacks, which took over 3,000 American lives, as the "crime of the century"
pledging, "This case will be treated as any other criminal case" and not be
allowed to deteriorate into a "show trial"

But where will 12 New York-area jurors be found who are sufficiently
detached from their environment to assess the evidence and render a judgment
on the law to insure a fair trial?

On the flip side, what if a jury, falling
under the theatrical spell of KSM or his lawyers, repeats the stunning
behavior of the 1995 OJ Simpson jurors and acquits?

It would have been preferable, say many Americans, for the defendants to
have been put before a military commission that could have better protected
both US national interests and the constitutional rights of the accused as
defined by the Supreme Court.

As Brooks, the Times columnist, persuasively argued, 9/11 was not aimed
exclusively at the victims but at the United States. The purpose was to
terrorize the country and force a change in its policies. The attacks were
carried out as propaganda and trying their perpetrators in open court
affords them fresh propaganda opportunities that will be lapped up by
susceptible satellite TV audiences around the world.

Khalid Sheikh Mohammed previously entered a guilty plea before a military
tribunal, but now has reason to delay his martyrdom. He does not see himself
as a bin Laden functionary, but as a major theoretician and consummate
jihadi.

Holder's protestations about a "show trial" notwithstanding, the US Justice
Department ­ with President Obama out of the loop ­ may have inadvertently
handed KSM a world-class stage to rationalize 9/11.

Monday, November 16, 2009

How do you say "chutzpah" in Arabic?


Save UN Security Council Resolution 242


How do you say "chutzpah" in Arabic? Because PLO negotiator Saeb Erekat showed unbelievable gall in telling Army Radio: "We're fed up with your time-wasting. We don't believe that you really want a two-state solution."

Talk about the kettle calling the pot black.

The Palestinian idea of negotiations goes something like this: Agree to our position in its entirety and then we can talk about the modalities of implementation. Lo and behold, this approach has not borne fruit so a frustrated PLO may turn to the UN Security Council to ask it to impose Palestinian demands on Israel.

To give Erekat and Mahmoud Abbas their due, today's Palestinian demands sound positively reasonable compared to those of PLO founder Ahmad Shukeiry, who in the days leading up to the 1967 war - when the West Bank and Gaza were in Arab hands - declared: "The Arab people's decision is unfaltering: to wipe Israel off the face of the map…"

And they're an improvement over what Yasser Arafat, post-Oslo, reportedly told a gathering of Arab diplomats in Europe: "We plan to eliminate... Israel and establish a Palestinian state. We will make life unbearable for Jews by psychological warfare…"

NOW Erekat and Abbas are wasting time and torpedoing a two-state solution with their intransigence.

Successive Israeli governments have offered to recognize a Palestinian state in the West Bank and in Gaza. But Abbas rejected Ehud Olmert's offer of 93 percent of the West Bank, plus additional lands from Israel proper to make up the difference, all of Gaza, and a free passage scheme between the Strip and West Bank. Under Olmert's proposal, Israel would retain its strategic settlement blocs - but all other settlements and outposts on the "Palestine" side of the border would be uprooted.

Ehud Barak made slightly less generous offers to Yasser Arafat at Camp David in July 2000 and at Taba in January 2001.

Barak, like Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu in his June 2009 Bar-Ilan address, asked that Palestine be demilitarized so that it does not again become a launching pad for fedayeen attacks or a base for Iranian aggression - a real worry if Palestine falls to the Islamists.

Israel is also asking that Palestine absorb any "returning" Arab refugees within its territory.

Finally, Israel wants the Arabs to recognize it as the homeland of the Jewish people just as Palestine would be recognized as the homeland of the Palestinian people.

Any fair-minded observer would acknowledge that the Israeli position is not unreasonable, especially given our awful experience after the Gaza disengagement.

As for Jerusalem, the city cannot simply be divided by UN fiat, because north, south, east and west, Jerusalem is an organic whole. It will take tremendous goodwill to come up with a livable compromise.

Today's publication by Yad Izhak Ben-Zvi in cooperation with Al-Quds University of Where Heaven and Earth Meet: Jerusalem's Sacred Esplanade, might have suggested a modicum of helpfulness on the Palestinian side. Unfortunately, that Arab institution is now joining a PLO boycott of Israeli academic institutions.

BACK TO Erekat's chutzpah. The Palestinians created an artificial deadlock by suddenly insisting that they would not negotiate without a settlement freeze. Now Erekat's self-inflicted stalemate supposedly compels him to lobby the UN Security Council to, in effect, junk Resolution 242 - the edifice upon which the entire peacemaking process is constructed - and give its imprimatur to a new Palestinian declaration of independence claiming 100 percent of the West Bank and Gaza (though the Strip is under Hamas suzerainty) plus all of east Jerusalem including the Jewish holy sites. As it happens, Tuesday is the 21st anniversary of the PLO's unilateral declaration of statehood issued in Algiers.

It's clear why Erekat wants to abandon 242. The resolution's masterfully crafted language insists on an exchange of land for peace using the formula - "withdrawal of Israeli armed forces from territories occupied in the recent conflict" - that deliberately does not call for a pullback from all territories.

So rather than bargain in good faith to build a viable accord, Erekat and Abbas are betting on an outside imposed solution. Their way will not bring reconciliation, mutual security and peace, but doom yet another generation of Israelis and Palestinians to more bloodshed.

Would it not be better if the Palestinians returned to the bargaining table and the sooner the better?

Friday, November 13, 2009

More than Homesh is at stake


Samson's pillars


This week, 25 IDF reservists from the Shimshon - Samson - battalion presented their commanders with a petition saying they did not want to be involved in evacuating West Bank settlements or outposts. They wanted the unit to return to its core values rather than hounding wayward settlers who keep coming back to Homesh, one of the settlements in Samaria dismantled during the 2005 disengagement.

The reservists were further incensed about having to confront settlers on Shabbat. But their main complaint was of being "exploited to carry out political policies that have no relation" to Israel's security needs.

The reservists did not say they would refuse orders.

The Shimshon battalion was established in 1997 and initially confronted Palestinian rioters in the Gaza Strip; it now polices Judea and Samaria. By capturing hundreds of wanted Palestinians, Shimshon has done more than any other Central Command unit to secure the West Bank.

The battalion is part of the Kfir Brigade, two of whose soldiers interrupted an IDF ceremony at the Western Wall three weeks ago by holding up a "Don't Evacuate Homesh" sign. For their disobedience, Aryeh Arbus and Ahiyah Ovadya were handed 20-day sentences in a military lockup and expelled from their unit.

The two have nevertheless become poster boys in a campaign to prevent the IDF from serving as an "expulsion force." Indeed, an anonymous American benefactor has supposedly contributed NIS 40,000 to the families of the young martyrs.

IMPROBABLY, the defenders of Homesh can trace their "lineage of dissent" to another group - the 350 reservists who, in March 1978, sent a letter to prime minister Menachem Begin saying his attachment to the Land of Israel and to settlements had become an obstacle to peace.

At its inception, Peace Now received funding not from foreign governments and foundations, but from the Kibbutz Movement and a few wealthy industrialists. Within a month, the grass-roots movement had brought 30,000 demonstrators into the streets of Tel Aviv to put pressure on Begin as he negotiated with Anwar Sadat.

Because it was so showily led by reserve officers, Peace Now broke a taboo about the propriety of manipulating military rank to leverage political outcomes. Within three weeks of the Tel Aviv rally, a group of 37 liberal Jewish Americans signed a petition in support of Peace Now, making page 1 of The New York Times.

Over the years, some who started out with Peace Now began taking extremist positions - for instance, refusing to do army service in the "Occupied Territories."

A RECIPE for national disaster, brewed by the Left, is now percolating on the Right. We're witnessing a parallel "selective refusal." Right-wing soldiers will serve so long as they're not asked to do something that conflicts with their political views.

Left unchecked, this phenomenon could prove fatal to the Third Commonwealth.

For what is at stake is whether a free and independent Jewish people can govern themselves, or are doomed - like our ancestors - to break up into separate kingdoms and be swallowed by our enemies.

The issue is not the wisdom - or lack thereof - of government policies. It is almost beside the point that territorial compromise, in return for genuine peace, is the platform of all the major parties in the country.

It does not matter, for the purposes of this argument, that the Palestinian polity shows no genuine interest in coming to terms with a Jewish state in any boundaries.

It makes no difference that Israeli governments have pursued incoherent and flip-flopping polices on settlements.

What does matter is that the legitimacy of the regime - not any particular government, but of the Zionist idea - is being undercut.

Of course the government is using the army as a political tool. The army is nothing if not a means for the government to exercise its political will. It does so by protecting settlers against the wishes of some, and by dismantling outposts against the wishes of others.

This argument will prove unpersuasive to those whose allegiance is foremost to the land. But it behooves those who appreciate how fortunate our generation is to live in this imperfect, chaotic, frustrating country to maintain Zionist discipline.

To do otherwise, men of Shimshon, is to pull down the temple pillars upon us all.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Fort Hood is part of a strange pattern


Isolated incidents...

[Pictured: John Allen Muhammad]


Today is Veterans Day in the United States. President Barack Obama will be laying a wreath at Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia. The November 11 commemoration is intended to honor those who served in the military, while Memorial Day, observed on the last Monday in May, was originally set aside for remembering America's war dead.

Since al-Qaida launched its war of civilizations on Sept. 11, 2001, America's all-volunteer army in Iraq and Afghanistan has suffered 5,000 dead and over 30,000 wounded.

ARLINGTON is located 5 km. from the Dar al-Hijrah mosque in Falls Church, Virginia. It was there that Nidal Hasan - the Muslim-American physician of Palestinian descent who murdered 13 people and wounded 29 last Thursday at Fort Hood, Texas - crossed paths with Nawaf al-Hamzi and Hani Hanjour, two of the 9/11 hijackers.

Many people came through Dar al-Hijrah, one of the largest mosques in America. Still, it is curious that in 2008 and early 2009 Hasan exchanged e-mails with Anwar al-Awlaki, an American-born former imam at the mosque presently propagating al-Qaida's venom to English-speakers from Yemen. US intelligence picked up these communications, but determined they were part of the doctor's research on post-traumatic stress disorder.

Nor did anyone think it odd that in June 2007, Hasan delivered a PowerPoint presentation - "The Koranic World View As It Relates to Muslims in the US Military" - at what was intended to be a Walter Reed hospital medical seminar. Hasan told residents that Muslims love death more than Westerners love life, concluding with a slide: "Fighting to establish an Islamic state to please God… is condoned by the Islam."

In a Web posting Monday, Awlaki sang Hasan's praises: "He is a man of conscience who could not bear the contradiction of being a Muslim and fighting against his own people. No scholar with a grain of Islamic knowledge can deny the clear cut proofs that Muslims today have the right - rather the duty - to fight against American tyranny."

The FBI has no evidence that Hasan was part of a larger conspiracy. In the fullness of time he may explain why he carried out this massacre. But it hardly requires prophecy to intuit that he opposed the presence of foreign forces in the Middle East and believed Muslims shouldn't be killing Muslims on behalf of infidels.

Hassan and Awlaki are further proof that the war of civilizations is radicalizing American-born Muslims, while immigrants are certainly not immune. Hesham Mohamed killed without compunction at the El Al counter in Los Angeles (2002); Naveed Afzal Haq went on a fatal rampage at the Seattle Jewish Center (2006), and Sulejmen Talovic slaughtered shoppers in a Salt Lake City mall (2007). Yesterday, the US Supreme Court rejected a stay of execution against another US-born Muslim, John Allen Muhammad, "the Beltway sniper," who killed 10 in 2002. "Sniper's motive remains a mystery," said a BBC headline. Perhaps. But such "isolated incidents" reflect a bloody pattern pre-dating the first attack on the World Trade Center in 1993.

IN THIS context it is only mildly reassuring that the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), a mainstream group, has strongly condemned the Fort Hood attack. Such declarations don't inoculate Arab moderates if they continue to champion the policies of terrorist organizations.

CAIR says it has "consistently denounced violence by Hamas, Israel and other groups." Very droll.

In fact, the group's founders are intimately linked to Hamas's "humanitarian" work.

Speaking in Istanbul on Tuesday, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad declared: "Obama … can't collect the support of the illegal murderous Zionist regime and the countries of the region as well. Earning friendship … is not compatible with the Zionist regime's friendship."

He was telling Obama, either ditch Israel or forget about a rapprochement with Iran. He's got a point. No one can have one foot in the Islamist camp while championing liberty, tolerance and coexistence. It really is "either/or."

So Muslim-American leaders need to do some soul-searching about the charities they support, the foreign causes they embrace and the clerics they tolerate.

In the wake of 11/5, President Obama needs to work on parallel tracks - to ensure that blameless individuals are not scapegoated for Hasan's crimes, and to press Muslim moderates to cut all links with those who run charities by day and guns by night.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Thinking about "Jewish Peoplehood"


Holding Jews together


This week's mega-Jewish conference in Washington - the GA - brings together lay leaders and professionals from most of America's alphabet soup of Jewish organizations. They're rubbing shoulders with politicos, networking and strategizing. And they're having several opportunities to participate in forums devoted to Jewish peoplehood.

In a sense, peoplehood leapfrogs the tiresome "Who is a Jew" issue and poses a different set of questions, starting with: What, if anything, holds 21st century Jews together? Is being Jewish a matter of synagogue attendance or theological faith? Is it nationalism, ethnicity, culture?

For the rigorously Orthodox, such questions have little resonance - a Jew is someone who, foremost, meets halachic criteria for being Jewish, and if a convert, leads a strictly Orthodox lifestyle. But for the bulk of the world's 13 million Jews, the subject of what being Jewish means ought to be highly relevant.

It is no less germane in Israel, where the largest Jewish community of 5.5 million is concentrated. A young person can graduate the public school system here, yet be scandalously unfamiliar with the Jewish canon, the basics of Jewish ritual, even how to navigate the standard prayer book. Haredi schools are rich in Jewish literacy, but favor parochialism over peoplehood. Perhaps 20 percent of our students attend Zionist-oriented religious schools that emphasize Judaism along with secular studies and presumably promote peoplehood in some fashion.

IN THEIR paper "A Framework for Strategic Thinking about Jewish Peoplehood," Ezra Kopelowitz and Ari Engelberg write that while the "Jewish people" is an ancient idea, the concept of Jewish "peoplehood" is new.

For some, peoplehood connotes the Jews' shared mission, while for others it can be as vacuous as saving the South American didelphid opossum.

Put another way: The goal of peoplehood should be to foster mutual responsibility, collaboration and continuity. It is inherently not about universalism, though it can spotlight uniquely Jewish approaches to solving problems facing humanity.

Diaspora young people in Western countries today choose whether to be Jewish, whereas their great-grandparents simply were. Likewise, young Israelis have to opt to make being Jewish a meaningful part of their lives rather than an accident of birth and geography.

Embracing Jewish civilization may be one attractive way to keep today's youth, here and abroad, connected to their people. However, such efforts are necessarily hindered because Israel's essentially ultra-Orthodox "church" monopolizes official Judaism in this country while complicating interdenominational relations with Jews abroad.

But is this discussion already coming too late? Historian David Vital, in The Future of the Jews, sees Jewish unity as an obsolete myth, arguing that nothing much holds Jews together anymore. We hope he's wrong.

In his new book, Future Tense, Lord Sacks, Britain's chief rabbi, argues that Judaism is not ethnicity or culture but faith, "and the people who are in a state of denial about this are Jews." Yet Sacks goes on to write that "in calling Judaism a faith, I do not mean to exclude secular Judaism's or interpretations of faith other than my own. In the widest sense, Judaism is the ongoing conversation of the Jewish people with itself, with heaven and with the world."

We'd also like to think the Jewish peoplehood concept could serve as a way of bridging gaps, a sort of work-around to obviate Vital's gloomy assessment of where we are. Peoplehood figures prominently in Sacks's vision of the future; it is a focus of Leonid Nevzlin's philanthropy, of the research conducted by The Jewish People Policy Planning Institute, and, of course, it is high on the agenda at the GA.

PLAINLY, IDENTIFYING what it takes to create a sense of peoplehood is vitally important to the Zionist enterprise. In this regard, we're grateful that birthright has been bringing tens of thousands of Diaspora students to Israel, though most American Jews have never visited.

A connection to Israel also has the potential to stem the rate of "outmarriage" - as would more creative thinking on how to transform demographic hemorrhaging into an opportunity to expand the pool of new Jews.

From a Zionist perspective, peoplehood demands substance and sacrifice. It needs to combine a common historical memory, a sense of shared fate and a feeling of collective destiny.

No less important, peoplehood means appreciating the dialectic between Diaspora and homeland.

Monday, November 09, 2009

Obama & Netanyahu Meet Tonight


Washington chill


Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu is scheduled to be the keynote speaker this morning at the UJC/Jewish Federations of North America 2009 General Assembly.

As Netanyahu made his way to Washington, there were those bent on exacerbating tensions between our premier and President Barack Obama. The Economist, for instance, taunted: "Is Israel too strong for Barack Obama?" illustrating its story with a cartoon depicting Netanyahu driving a bulldozer straight at the American leader.

Much was made of the fact that even as he embarked on his journey Netanyahu still did not have a firm appointment to see the president. One US Jewish leader described Obama as leaving Netanyahu to "twist in the wind."

We do not know if ineptitude in Netanyahu's bureau or political machinations in the White House precipitated this unnecessary storm.

The president's schedule was anyway torn asunder in the aftermath of the terror attack at Fort Hood, Texas. His appearance at the GA was canceled so that he could attend a memorial service in Texas tomorrow.

COMINGS and goings aside, the administration has been fundamentally misreading the situation here on the ground, allowing its own initial poor judgment to be reinforced by unrepresentative voices in Israel and on the margins of the American Jewish community.

Thus the White House insisted on an unconditional settlement freeze everywhere over the Green Line - a demand with which Israel could not possibly comply. This trapped Mahmoud Abbas in an untenable position: he could not resume talks with Israel without appearing "softer" than Obama. When Secretary of State Hillary Clinton tried to reverse out of this dead end, asserting the US remained opposed to all settlement activity, but that a freeze should not be a precondition for resumption of talks, Abbas was left aggrieved.

Now he's bogged down by his own bluster and Obama's miscalculations. The Palestinian leader has called for elections on January 24 though Hamas, which controls Gaza, adamantly refuses. When his empty threat to resign failed to get much of a rise out of anyone, his advisers began talking about dismantling the Palestinian Authority and declaring a virtual Palestinian state - a-la their November 15, 1988, declaration of independence made in Algiers; the one the UN General Assembly "acknowledged" decades ago.

Arab sources, with a little help in Europe, are now engaged in a disinformation campaign claiming Obama is party to a "secret deal" that would see the US recognize a new declaration of Palestinian independence and jettison Security Council Resolutions 242 and 338. In other words, rather than negotiate with Israel, the Palestinians are still fantasizing that Obama will impose a solution and deliver Israel on bended knee.

Another obstacle to peace is the mendacious Goldstone Report, which poisons the political environment. On Friday, only 17 out of 192 countries stood with the Jewish state in the UN General Assembly as it essentially codified robbing Israel of its practical right to self-defense. While the US did not abandon Israel, neither did it offer overwhelming moral support. US Ambassador to the UN Susan Rice did not even attend.

WHICH BRINGS us to the doors of the White House. From Eisenhower to Bush II, past administrations have intermittently cold-shouldered Israel or sought to drive a wedge between the Jewish state and its supporters in the United States. In this regard, the Obama administration is breaking no new ground.

Nevertheless, if Obama buys into the insidious canard, as Thomas Friedman promotes it, that the Palestinian leadership "wants a deal with Israel without any negotiations" while Israel's leadership "wants negotiations with the Palestinians without any deal," he will invariably spend the remainder of his term veering from one dead end to another.

Through a multitude of blunders - failure to dismantle illegal outposts among them - successive Israeli governments have empowered the West Bank Palestinian leadership to frame the current stalemate as resulting from Israel's preference for settlements over peace. In reality, it is persistent Palestinian intransigence combined with the fragmentation of their polity that has made progress impossible.

No one wants peace more than Israel. Most Israelis support a demilitarized Palestine living side-by-side with the Jewish state of Israel - the very vision articulated by Netanyahu in his seminal June 14 Bar-Ilan address.

Rather than giving Netanyahu a cold shoulder, Obama should warmly embrace this viable blueprint for peace.

Friday, November 06, 2009

Yes to Regime Change ...but the people of Iran need outside support

Us, them & Obama

This week marked the 30th anniversary of the 1979 seizure of the American Embassy in Teheran by followers of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini. To celebrate the 444-day-long violation which came to personify the regime's sanctimonious thuggery and disdain for international norms, the mullahs organized yet more "Death to…" mass demonstrations.

Astoundingly, tens of thousands of anti-regime marchers piggy-backed on these rallies in Teheran, Tabriz, Isfahan and Shiraz - not to chant insults at America, but to plead: "Obama, Obama - either you're with them or you're with us."

The "them" is the syndicate dominated by capo di tutti capi Ali Khamenei, Revolutionary Guard sotto capo Mohammad Ali Jafari, and presidential mad-hatter Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

The "us" refers to an amalgamation of individuals and groups who are sick and tired of "Death to…" and want Iran to be a normal country.

PRESIDENT Barack Obama noted the anniversary by saying, "Iran must choose. We have heard for 30 years what the Iranian government is against; the question, now, is what kind of future it is for."

But this is a question the president, who this week marked the anniversary of his own election, cannot reasonably forever ask.

He has made it clear that he "wants to move beyond this past" and seek "a relationship with the Islamic Republic" rooted in "mutual interests and mutual respect."But Khamenei is not swayed. "The American government is a really arrogant power" and he's not "deceived" by Obama's "reconciliatory behavior…"

Khamenei needs America to be his Great Satan as the edifice of his regime slowly crumbles. Even some of the "students" who took over the US embassy are today locked-up as enemies of the state. The dissenters set out to create representative government with an Islamic face. What they got instead is authoritarian government with a stony Islamist facade. The revolution has consumed its makers.

Even the ruling clique has taken to internal bickering. This, in addition to Iran's standard one step forward, two steps backward "negotiating" technique, explains the latest flip-flopping about shipping enriched uranium out of the country.

IN ITS infancy, the mullahtocracy violated the extraterritorial sovereignty of the Israeli and American embassies. Thirty years on, Iran is on the brink of building an atom bomb and perfecting ballistic missiles capable of reaching beyond Europe. The Iranian regime is today the principal cause of instability in the Middle East; its ambitions extend to Latin America and Africa.

The world reacted to the capture by the Israel Navy of the Iranian arms ship Francop Wednesday with its usual attention deficit syndrome; a quick gasp… and then on to the World Series. The vessel was loaded with the equivalent of 20 cargo planes of weaponry and intended for Hizbullah, suzerain of Lebanon, proxy of Teheran. The Francop follows in the wake of the Santorini and the Karine-A. We shudder to think how many other ships have gone undetected.

Iran is now in naked contempt of clause 5 of UN Security Council Resolution 1747 (2007) which forbids it from exporting arms; and of clause 15(a) of Resolution 1701 (2006) which prohibits sending weapons to factions in Lebanon.

Last month, Yemen captured an Iranian ship laden with weapons intended for Shi'ite extremists fighting the country's ruler. It's no secret that Iran has been shipping weapons by sea to the Polisario rebels battling moderate Morocco. But in arming its Hizbullah and Hamas proxies, Iran pulls out all stops - truck convoys through Sudan, trains through Turkey, donkeys, tunnels - whatever it takes.

This week Israelis heard Major-General Amos Yadlin, chief of Military Intelligence, reveal that Iran has provided Hamas with rockets that have a 60-km. range capable of striking Tel Aviv. Hizbullah already has similar weaponry. Barring a "lucky" strike, the only practical use for such rockets is to slaughter Israeli civilians en masse.

WE CLOSE out the week on a glimmer of hope - the certainty that evil regimes don't have to last forever. Next week marks the fall of the Berlin Wall which led to the collapse of the Soviet Empire.

If only Barack Obama could walk in the footsteps of John F. Kennedy (Ich bin ein Berliner) and Ronald Reagan ("Tear down this wall!"), and provide the moral leadership the civilized world needs to help the people of Iran take down this regime.Us, them & Obama
Nov. 6, 2009
, THE JERUSALEM POST

This week marked the 30th anniversary of the 1979 seizure of the American Embassy in Teheran by followers of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini. To celebrate the 444-day-long violation which came to personify the regime's sanctimonious thuggery and disdain for international norms, the mullahs organized yet more "Death to…" mass demonstrations.

Astoundingly, tens of thousands of anti-regime marchers piggy-backed on these rallies in Teheran, Tabriz, Isfahan and Shiraz - not to chant insults at America, but to plead: "Obama, Obama - either you're with them or you're with us."

The "them" is the syndicate dominated by capo di tutti capi Ali Khamenei, Revolutionary Guard sotto capo Mohammad Ali Jafari, and presidential mad-hatter Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

The "us" refers to an amalgamation of individuals and groups who are sick and tired of "Death to…" and want Iran to be a normal country.

PRESIDENT Barack Obama noted the anniversary by saying, "Iran must choose. We have heard for 30 years what the Iranian government is against; the question, now, is what kind of future it is for."

But this is a question the president, who this week marked the anniversary of his own election, cannot reasonably forever ask.

He has made it clear that he "wants to move beyond this past" and seek "a relationship with the Islamic Republic" rooted in "mutual interests and mutual respect."But Khamenei is not swayed. "The American government is a really arrogant power" and he's not "deceived" by Obama's "reconciliatory behavior…"

Khamenei needs America to be his Great Satan as the edifice of his regime slowly crumbles. Even some of the "students" who took over the US embassy are today locked-up as enemies of the state. The dissenters set out to create representative government with an Islamic face. What they got instead is authoritarian government with a stony Islamist facade. The revolution has consumed its makers.

Even the ruling clique has taken to internal bickering. This, in addition to Iran's standard one step forward, two steps backward "negotiating" technique, explains the latest flip-flopping about shipping enriched uranium out of the country.

IN ITS infancy, the mullahtocracy violated the extraterritorial sovereignty of the Israeli and American embassies. Thirty years on, Iran is on the brink of building an atom bomb and perfecting ballistic missiles capable of reaching beyond Europe. The Iranian regime is today the principal cause of instability in the Middle East; its ambitions extend to Latin America and Africa.

The world reacted to the capture by the Israel Navy of the Iranian arms ship Francop Wednesday with its usual attention deficit syndrome; a quick gasp… and then on to the World Series. The vessel was loaded with the equivalent of 20 cargo planes of weaponry and intended for Hizbullah, suzerain of Lebanon, proxy of Teheran. The Francop follows in the wake of the Santorini and the Karine-A. We shudder to think how many other ships have gone undetected.

Iran is now in naked contempt of clause 5 of UN Security Council Resolution 1747 (2007) which forbids it from exporting arms; and of clause 15(a) of Resolution 1701 (2006) which prohibits sending weapons to factions in Lebanon.

Last month, Yemen captured an Iranian ship laden with weapons intended for Shi'ite extremists fighting the country's ruler. It's no secret that Iran has been shipping weapons by sea to the Polisario rebels battling moderate Morocco. But in arming its Hizbullah and Hamas proxies, Iran pulls out all stops - truck convoys through Sudan, trains through Turkey, donkeys, tunnels - whatever it takes.

This week Israelis heard Major-General Amos Yadlin, chief of Military Intelligence, reveal that Iran has provided Hamas with rockets that have a 60-km. range capable of striking Tel Aviv. Hizbullah already has similar weaponry. Barring a "lucky" strike, the only practical use for such rockets is to slaughter Israeli civilians en masse.

WE CLOSE out the week on a glimmer of hope - the certainty that evil regimes don't have to last forever. Next week marks the fall of the Berlin Wall which led to the collapse of the Soviet Empire.

If only Barack Obama could walk in the footsteps of John F. Kennedy (Ich bin ein Berliner) and Ronald Reagan ("Tear down this wall!"), and provide the moral leadership the civilized world needs to help the people of Iran take down this regime.Us, them & Obama
Nov. 6, 2009
, THE JERUSALEM POST

This week marked the 30th anniversary of the 1979 seizure of the American Embassy in Teheran by followers of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini. To celebrate the 444-day-long violation which came to personify the regime's sanctimonious thuggery and disdain for international norms, the mullahs organized yet more "Death to…" mass demonstrations.

Astoundingly, tens of thousands of anti-regime marchers piggy-backed on these rallies in Teheran, Tabriz, Isfahan and Shiraz - not to chant insults at America, but to plead: "Obama, Obama - either you're with them or you're with us."

The "them" is the syndicate dominated by capo di tutti capi Ali Khamenei, Revolutionary Guard sotto capo Mohammad Ali Jafari, and presidential mad-hatter Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

The "us" refers to an amalgamation of individuals and groups who are sick and tired of "Death to…" and want Iran to be a normal country.

PRESIDENT Barack Obama noted the anniversary by saying, "Iran must choose. We have heard for 30 years what the Iranian government is against; the question, now, is what kind of future it is for."

But this is a question the president, who this week marked the anniversary of his own election, cannot reasonably forever ask.

He has made it clear that he "wants to move beyond this past" and seek "a relationship with the Islamic Republic" rooted in "mutual interests and mutual respect."But Khamenei is not swayed. "The American government is a really arrogant power" and he's not "deceived" by Obama's "reconciliatory behavior…"

Khamenei needs America to be his Great Satan as the edifice of his regime slowly crumbles. Even some of the "students" who took over the US embassy are today locked-up as enemies of the state. The dissenters set out to create representative government with an Islamic face. What they got instead is authoritarian government with a stony Islamist facade. The revolution has consumed its makers.

Even the ruling clique has taken to internal bickering. This, in addition to Iran's standard one step forward, two steps backward "negotiating" technique, explains the latest flip-flopping about shipping enriched uranium out of the country.

IN ITS infancy, the mullahtocracy violated the extraterritorial sovereignty of the Israeli and American embassies. Thirty years on, Iran is on the brink of building an atom bomb and perfecting ballistic missiles capable of reaching beyond Europe. The Iranian regime is today the principal cause of instability in the Middle East; its ambitions extend to Latin America and Africa.

The world reacted to the capture by the Israel Navy of the Iranian arms ship Francop Wednesday with its usual attention deficit syndrome; a quick gasp… and then on to the World Series. The vessel was loaded with the equivalent of 20 cargo planes of weaponry and intended for Hizbullah, suzerain of Lebanon, proxy of Teheran. The Francop follows in the wake of the Santorini and the Karine-A. We shudder to think how many other ships have gone undetected.

Iran is now in naked contempt of clause 5 of UN Security Council Resolution 1747 (2007) which forbids it from exporting arms; and of clause 15(a) of Resolution 1701 (2006) which prohibits sending weapons to factions in Lebanon.

Last month, Yemen captured an Iranian ship laden with weapons intended for Shi'ite extremists fighting the country's ruler. It's no secret that Iran has been shipping weapons by sea to the Polisario rebels battling moderate Morocco. But in arming its Hizbullah and Hamas proxies, Iran pulls out all stops - truck convoys through Sudan, trains through Turkey, donkeys, tunnels - whatever it takes.

This week Israelis heard Major-General Amos Yadlin, chief of Military Intelligence, reveal that Iran has provided Hamas with rockets that have a 60-km. range capable of striking Tel Aviv. Hizbullah already has similar weaponry. Barring a "lucky" strike, the only practical use for such rockets is to slaughter Israeli civilians en masse.

WE CLOSE out the week on a glimmer of hope - the certainty that evil regimes don't have to last forever. Next week marks the fall of the Berlin Wall which led to the collapse of the Soviet Empire.

If only Barack Obama could walk in the footsteps of John F. Kennedy (Ich bin ein Berliner) and Ronald Reagan ("Tear down this wall!"), and provide the moral leadership the civilized world needs to help the people of Iran take down this regime.Us, them & Obama
Nov. 6, 2009
, THE JERUSALEM POST

This week marked the 30th anniversary of the 1979 seizure of the American Embassy in Teheran by followers of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini. To celebrate the 444-day-long violation which came to personify the regime's sanctimonious thuggery and disdain for international norms, the mullahs organized yet more "Death to…" mass demonstrations.

Astoundingly, tens of thousands of anti-regime marchers piggy-backed on these rallies in Teheran, Tabriz, Isfahan and Shiraz - not to chant insults at America, but to plead: "Obama, Obama - either you're with them or you're with us."

The "them" is the syndicate dominated by capo di tutti capi Ali Khamenei, Revolutionary Guard sotto capo Mohammad Ali Jafari, and presidential mad-hatter Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

The "us" refers to an amalgamation of individuals and groups who are sick and tired of "Death to…" and want Iran to be a normal country.

PRESIDENT Barack Obama noted the anniversary by saying, "Iran must choose. We have heard for 30 years what the Iranian government is against; the question, now, is what kind of future it is for."

But this is a question the president, who this week marked the anniversary of his own election, cannot reasonably forever ask.

He has made it clear that he "wants to move beyond this past" and seek "a relationship with the Islamic Republic" rooted in "mutual interests and mutual respect."But Khamenei is not swayed. "The American government is a really arrogant power" and he's not "deceived" by Obama's "reconciliatory behavior…"

Khamenei needs America to be his Great Satan as the edifice of his regime slowly crumbles. Even some of the "students" who took over the US embassy are today locked-up as enemies of the state. The dissenters set out to create representative government with an Islamic face. What they got instead is authoritarian government with a stony Islamist facade. The revolution has consumed its makers.

Even the ruling clique has taken to internal bickering. This, in addition to Iran's standard one step forward, two steps backward "negotiating" technique, explains the latest flip-flopping about shipping enriched uranium out of the country.

IN ITS infancy, the mullahtocracy violated the extraterritorial sovereignty of the Israeli and American embassies. Thirty years on, Iran is on the brink of building an atom bomb and perfecting ballistic missiles capable of reaching beyond Europe. The Iranian regime is today the principal cause of instability in the Middle East; its ambitions extend to Latin America and Africa.

The world reacted to the capture by the Israel Navy of the Iranian arms ship Francop Wednesday with its usual attention deficit syndrome; a quick gasp… and then on to the World Series. The vessel was loaded with the equivalent of 20 cargo planes of weaponry and intended for Hizbullah, suzerain of Lebanon, proxy of Teheran. The Francop follows in the wake of the Santorini and the Karine-A. We shudder to think how many other ships have gone undetected.

Iran is now in naked contempt of clause 5 of UN Security Council Resolution 1747 (2007) which forbids it from exporting arms; and of clause 15(a) of Resolution 1701 (2006) which prohibits sending weapons to factions in Lebanon.

Last month, Yemen captured an Iranian ship laden with weapons intended for Shi'ite extremists fighting the country's ruler. It's no secret that Iran has been shipping weapons by sea to the Polisario rebels battling moderate Morocco. But in arming its Hizbullah and Hamas proxies, Iran pulls out all stops - truck convoys through Sudan, trains through Turkey, donkeys, tunnels - whatever it takes.

This week Israelis heard Major-General Amos Yadlin, chief of Military Intelligence, reveal that Iran has provided Hamas with rockets that have a 60-km. range capable of striking Tel Aviv. Hizbullah already has similar weaponry. Barring a "lucky" strike, the only practical use for such rockets is to slaughter Israeli civilians en masse.

WE CLOSE out the week on a glimmer of hope - the certainty that evil regimes don't have to last forever. Next week marks the fall of the Berlin Wall which led to the collapse of the Soviet Empire.

If only Barack Obama could walk in the footsteps of John F. Kennedy (Ich bin ein Berliner) and Ronald Reagan ("Tear down this wall!"), and provide the moral leadership the civilized world needs to help the people of Iran take down this regime.

Thursday, November 05, 2009

DOES ISRAEL NEED THE DEATH PENALTY?

What child killers deserve


The murder of children makes the blood boil. We find ourselves immersed in the grisly details of how Hodaya Kedem Pimstein, Rose Pizem, Ta'ir Rada and now the Oshrenko children were slain. Often the first thought that comes to mind - and President Shimon Peres articulated this on Tuesday - is that anyone who could murder a child is a monster, not a human being.

A second thought, for some, is: If only Israel had capital punishment, child killers would get the punishment they deserve.

As The Jerusalem Post reported Tuesday, four Knesset members have cosponsored legislation to amend clause 300 of the Criminal Code, to establish the death penalty for the murder of children under the age 13. "Human life is sacred, but murderers of children are not humans, but rather predatory animals," said Carmel Shama of Likud, a co-sponsor.

THE BIBLE instructs: "He that smiteth a man, so that he dieth, shall surely be put to death." (Exodus 21:12) Stoning, burning and hanging are biblically prescribed for any number of capital offenses.

But the tendency of rabbinic Judaism has been toward the abolition of the death penalty. This position is captured in the following Mishna (Makkot 1:10): "The Sanhedrin that executes one person in seven years is called 'murderous.' Rabbi Elazar ben Azaria says that this extends to one execution in 70 years. Rabbi Tarfon and Rabbi Akiva say, 'If we had been among the Sanhedrin, no one would ever have been executed.' [But] Rabbi Simon ben Gamliel [who believed capital punishment had a deterrent effect, dissented and] said, 'Such an attitude would increase bloodshed in Israel."

Nowadays, the three main streams of American Judaism, Reform, Conservative and Orthodox, are institutionally unenthusiastic about the death penalty. Here, the Knesset abolished the death penalty in 1954, making it an option only in treason-related offenses. The only person ever executed in Israel was Adolf Eichmann, who was hanged in 1962 after being found guilty of crimes against humanity.

Politically, opposition to capital punishment is not necessarily a liberal versus conservative issue. Philosopher Ayn Rand argued that capital punishment was perfectly moral, but she opposed implementation of the penalty out of concern that in rare instances innocent people could be put to death. "Better to sentence nine actual murderers to life imprisonment, rather than execute one innocent man," she famously wrote.

Indeed, the still ongoing case of Roman Zadorov, who is accused of murdering Ta'ir Rada, raises all sorts of concerns about capital punishment. A DNA test failed to match the suspect to the victim. Key evidence which could have exonerated Zadorov has apparently gone missing. And there are misgivings that his confession may have been coerced. Parenthetically, confession alone is insufficient grounds for capital punishment in Jewish tradition.

For many crimes, the sages of Israel laid stress on compensation, making good the damage done, rather than incarceration. Modern Israel demands compensation - where possible - as well as incarceration.

WE VIEW recent calls for the death penalty as reflecting an understandable frustration. In our day-to-day lives, including on the roads, there is the sense that menace lurks at every turn; we're seeing more and more quality-of-life crimes in the public square. The murder of the Oshrenko children rattles us even further. In these circumstances, it is far easier for politicians to call for the death penalty than to undertake the hard slog of reforming the country's police, criminal justice and penal systems.

The finality of capital punishment guarantees zero recidivism, yet criminologists continue to debate whether it has any deterrent value.

While less cathartic, Knesset members should be seeking genuine solutions to make Israelis more secure:

• Improve police professionalism with better pay and training; fund community-based policing, and encourage an emphasis on forensic work over achieving confessions.

• Institute mechanisms to hold prosecutors and judges professionally accountable for plea-bargains gone wrong.

• Mandate sentencing guidelines to ensure that "life in prison" means just that - with the possibility of parole reserved for exceptional circumstances.

ALBERT CAMUS pointed out that the death penalty has been around practically as long as murder itself - yet crime persists.

As for what to do with child-killers? Lock them up and throw away the key.

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

What to make of the Ya'acov Teitel story

On Jewish terrorists


He acted alone. He might have been mentally unstable. An entire community should not be expected to apologize for, or be put on the defensive over, the behavior of one man.


That is what people said about Husam Taysir Dwayat and Ghassan Abu Tir, the two Jerusalem bulldozer terrorists, and about Alaa Abu Dhein, the perpetrator of the Mercaz Harav massacre.

Leaders of the settlement movement are making a similar-sounding argument about alleged Jewish terrorist Ya'acov Teitel. Yisrael Medad, a veteran settler ideologist, told The Jerusalem Post: "Don't blame the Teitel family, or the 100 families of Shvut Rahel, or the 8,000 residents of Gush Shiloh, or the 300,000 settlers who live in Judea and Samaria for what Teitel is accused of doing."

Indeed so. What distinguishes one terrorist from another? Answer: the reaction of their communities. There's a world of difference between the settler milieu Teitel called home, and the society that spawned Dwayat, Tir and Dhein.

Settler spokesmen - as well as the rank and file, including the ideologically hardline and Orthodox - are not glorifying the crimes Teitel is alleged to have perpetrated. No one is praising the murders of an Arab taxi driver in Jerusalem and an Arab shepherd in Judea, or the maiming of a young Jew for Jesus, or the bombing of an anti-settler academic.

An extremist voice can always be found to imply that the professor provoked his attacker by advocating that tanks be used to uproot the settlements. And there is the odd conspiratorialist claiming that Teitel was framed as a "gift" to the Left on the Rabin assassination anniversary. Others complain that the media is piling on, or that the charges can't possibly be true because Teitel seemed like a nice man.

But no one is justifying the crimes or saying the ends justify the means.

The Shvut Rahel leadership denounced the crimes attributed to Teitel and said it was praying that the charges would prove unfounded. The mainstream settler leaders at the Yesha Council congratulated the security forces for capturing Teitel and called on all Israelis to denounce such acts.

Here is another difference in societal attitudes toward terrorism, as pointed out by Aaron Lerner of Independent Media Review and Analysis: If found guilty, or criminally insane, Teitel will be incarcerated. The Israeli school system won't teach that Ya'acov Teitel is a hero. No one will name a summer camp for him. His family won't be awarded a monthly government stipend in appreciation for his sacrifices.

But this is not enough.

THE BLANKET repudiation by the settlers of the crimes attributed to Teitel is significant for its resonance within the settler community and beyond. Egregiously, one Hebrew tabloid columnist insisted that the suspect's neighbors could not possibly have been ignorant while he planned his crimes. For many years now, television's popular Eretz Nehederet comedy program has parodied American immigrants in the West Bank as gun-toting religious fanatics.

In that kind of climate, there may be an inclination within the settler movement to circle the wagons and resist introspection. But although the settlers' rhetorical response is to be commended, the movement cannot afford to be sanguine. The crisis created by the Teitel arrest should serve as an impetus for a spiritual and political reckoning, especially within ideological settlements such as Shvut Rahel. This same community was also home to Asher Weissgan, who murdered four innocent Palestinians prior to the the Gaza disengagement. He eventually committed suicide in prison.

A not-insignificant minority of religious settlers has broken away from mainstream Zionism; their allegiance is no longer to the state. To the extent that they listen to anyone, it is to renegade rabbis who countenance political violence. Their followers can be seen accosting security personnel and throwing stones at passing Arab motorists.

Behind the scenes, responsible settler leaders are struggling to end such behavior. Now is the time for communal leaders to demarcate anew an indelible red line against violence - whether directed at Arabs or Jews.

Granted, it is exceedingly hard to stop a Baruch Goldstein, a Yigal Amir or an Eden Natan-Zada if they "hear" God's voice telling them to kill a prime minister, policeman, leftist, homosexual, Jew for Jesus, or Arab. But neighbors, rabbis and community workers need to be more attuned to deviant behavior. Tradition teaches, Kol Yisrael arevim zeh lazeh. Troubled souls must not be left to their own devices. And settler leaders - especially rabbis - must advocate opposition to murderous political violence as fervently as they champion the Land of Israel itself.

Monday, November 02, 2009

Yemen's Jews ... the larger message?

Yemen's Jews. The End


History will record that 2,500 years of Jewish life in Yemen is now over. As The Wall Street Journal reported October 31, the US State Department has completed a clandestine operation which brought 60 of the country's remaining Jews to America. The newspaper quoted Yeshiva University's Hayim Tawil, a Yemeni Jewry expert, as issuing the certificate of death: "This is the end of the Jewish Diaspora of Yemen. That's it."

As Israelis and Jews we earnestly appreciate the efforts of the Obama administration on behalf of our Yemeni brethren.

THE RESCUE illuminates an often overlooked aspect of the 60-year-plus Arab-Israel conflict. Whereas the Arab world has purposefully maintained the 700,000 or so Palestinian Arabs made homeless in the course of the 1948 war and their descendants as permanent refugees and political pawns, the State of Israel and world Jewry have worked hard to resettle a roughly equal number of Jewish refugees forced to flee Arab lands.

The behavior of Arab leaders toward their Jewish subjects after the creation of Israel was (with notable exceptions) characterized by scapegoating and marginalization culminating in mass exodus. In 1947, Arab rioters in Aden killed dozens of Jews to protest a two-state solution in Palestine. In 1949 and 1950 the bulk of Yemen's Jews, some 49,000 souls, were airlifted here in "Operation Magic Carpet." The broad Arab refusal to accept the legitimacy of Israel as a sovereign Jewish state is partly attributable to Arab attitudes toward their Jewish minorities.

Coexistence was possible - so long as Jews knew their place.

JEWISH life under Muslim rule was historically neither the utopia Arab propagandists claim nor the purgatory Jewish polemicists assert. As the doyen of Middle East studies Bernard Lewis wrote in The Jews of Islam, the actual state of affairs varied depending on the era, locale, political and economic conditions, the stability of the ruling Islamic regime, and on developments within the Jewish community.

Jews were granted Dhimmi or tolerated status. They paid a special jizya tax to underscore their subordinate position in society. If they missed the point, Islamic tradition allowed for the local Muslim authority to deliver a ceremonial slap on the neck to the Jew upon payment of the levy. Jews were required to wear distinguishing clothes; they were expected to deport themselves deferentially in the presence of Muslims. And unlike everyone else, Jews were not permitted to carry weapons.

On the other hand, Lewis wrote, Jews were not required to convert to Islam, and could enjoy a high degree of acculturation. (They were certainly better off than their coreligionists living under medieval Christendom.)

At any rate, this social contract crumbled in part because the Zionist movement was a direct assault on the Dhimmi principle.

The Yemen experience also reminds us that the Arab world's antagonism to modern values has led it to extended periods of internal instability as well a visceral rejection of Israel for embodying the Western liberal idea.

POLITICAL instability is always "bad for the Jews," and Yemen has long been a volatile mess. The ancestral homeland of Osama bin Laden is burdened by internal strife, poverty and a dysfunctional regime. The north and south (where the oil is) are at odds.

The secular-oriented government of Ali Abdullah Saleh, a Shi'ite, is corrupt and undemocratic. He is battling an insurrection by Shi'ite religious extremists who were once his allies against fanatical Sunnis. Extremist Sunnis, supportive of al-Qaida, are also battling the regime and attacking Western targets.

Yemen has a Sunni majority with a large Shi'ite minority. On top of all this, there are also tribal tensions; the president's tribe dominates the security services.

But the Yemeni masses were able to put some of these differences aside during Operation Cast Lead... and attack the Jews. With few friends, Yemen's president sought to stay in Washington's good graces by trying to protect the besieged remnants of Yemeni Jewry.

AS THE saga of Yemen's Jews now comes to a close, our thoughts are also drawn to Israel's treatment of its Arab minority. Any one of 10 Arab Knesset members could persuasively argue, Jewish Israelis have nothing to be smug about.

Yet if they were fair minded, they might grant that the Jewish state has done a comparatively decent job in bringing its minority citizens into the mainstream.

Sunday, November 01, 2009

The War of Civilizations... Continued

[ This is a belated posting of what I wrote for Friday]

The week in blood


It's been another dreadful week in the war of civilizations. On Sunday, 153 people were killed and more than 500 wounded in back-to-back car bombings in Baghdad. On Tuesday in Kabul, five UN staffers and three Afghans were killed in an attack on a UN guesthouse. And on Wednesday in Pakistan, 100 people - mostly women and children - were killed and 160 wounded in a shopping district bombing in Peshawar. The week also saw 24 American service personnel killed in Afghanistan, making 58 fatalities for the month - the deadliest since 9/11.

This is a war of civilizations in the sense that Muslim extremists with imperial ambitions are engaged in a zero-sum struggle against the values associated with modernity - liberty, enlightenment and tolerance.

For now, the battle is being played out mostly in Muslim-majority lands, though New York, London, Madrid and Israel's cities have also been killing fields. Western elites have tended to deny, downplay or reject outright the systemic nature of the Islamist menace. Under these circumstances, there has been no real will to mobilize Western publics for the sacrifices ahead.

IN THIS context, a policy review by the Obama administration is now under way, aimed at developing a strategy for Afghanistan. The mission is to keep the country from again becoming a staging area for attacks against Western targets.

Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal, who commands the 100,000 US and NATO forces on the ground, is asking for an additional 44,000 troops in order to create a string of Taliban-free zones. But regardless of how many more troops are inserted and how they are deployed, no one suggests the Taliban can be defeated militarily or politically.

This week also saw Washington stunned by news of the poignant resignation of Matthew Hoh, a 36-year-old State Department Foreign Service officer and former Marine captain, out of exasperation over the Afghan war.

"I have lost understanding of and confidence in the strategic purposes of the United States' presence in Afghanistan," he wrote to his superiors. "I have doubts and reservations about our current strategy and planned future strategy, but my resignation is based not upon how we are pursuing this war, but why and to what end."

Hoh continued: "If honest, our stated strategy of securing Afghanistan to prevent al-Qaida resurgence or regrouping would require us to additionally invade and occupy western Pakistan, Somalia, Sudan, Yemen…"

Hoh's well-founded fear is that a troop presence in xenophobic landscapes fuels indigenous support for the Islamists.

While each front in this global war has its own set of historical, ethnic and religious circumstances, any approach that requires permanently holding territory, combined with an open-ended commitment to nation-building, will prove so costly as to sap what little resolve the American and other Western publics have for the fighting.

Arguably Osama bin Laden launched the 9/11 attacks to draw the US into an Afghan quagmire that had chastened the British Empire in the late 1800s and contributed to the collapse of the Soviet Empire in the late 1900s. Then-president George W. Bush wisely avoided falling into that trap, but tragically fell into another: Iraq.

AN ALTERNATIVE approach, workable in many theaters, is to employ advanced technologies, preemptive strikes and overwhelming firepower to make it hard for the enemy to organize attacks against Western targets. Of course, this would mean disregarding the whinging of the UN Human Rights Council's Philip Alston, who this week took the Obama administration to task for its policy of targeted assassinations of terrorist chieftains.

Israelis have demonstrated that it is possible to defend their country with precisely the means Alston finds so distasteful against an enemy that is driven by an unfortunate - some would say perverted - reading of Islam. Like other Islamist groups, both Hamas and Hizbullah have no compunction about launching attacks from behind their civilian populations. Yet contrary to the mendacious assertions of the Goldstone Report, our army has protected us without losing its soul.

IT IS too early to say whether the attack on two members of a California synagogue early Thursday was the work of a Muslim extremist. But Thursday's shootout between FBI agents and the imam of a jihadi sect in Detroit can legitimately be tallied together with the week's litany of mayhem - in a war some deny is taking place.

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