Thursday, December 29, 2011


The letters below were published in the Jerusalem Post Magazine section on Dec 9 and Dec 23, 2011, respectively

With regard to "Clinging to Judaism" (Diaspora, 25/11/11) about the remaining "Chueta" or Bnei Anusim of Mallorca, I would like to draw your readers' attention to the new International Institute for the Study of Secret Jews (Anusim) recently founded at Netanya Academic College (NAC). It so happens that the person featured in the "Questionnaire" section of the same issue is Prof. Zvi Arad, President of NAC, who was instrumental in bringing the Institute into existence.

The Institute is based on the Casa Shalom Insititute for Marrano-Anusim Studies which moved from Gan Yavne to NAC this year, and includes an excellent library on this subject collected over nearly 40 years by Gloria Mound and her late husband Leslie. We urge anyone interested in this subject to either visit the library at NAC or to contact us via the Institute's Facebook page.

I would also like to point out that Gloria Mound made a pioneering study of the Bnei Anusim of the Balearic Islands starting in the 1970's. Some of the Bnei Anusim have documentation and can still claim to be Jews and a few have been recognized as such by rabbinic authorities.


Jack Cohen
Board Member
Intl. Inst. for Study of Secret Jews (Anusim)
Netanya Academic College


In relation to the article on WWI German General Erich von Falkenhayn, who supposedly saved the Jewish population of Palestine from being massacred like the Armenians (“The irony of it all”, Dec 9, 2011), I would like to mention his even more amazing successor who was in command of the Turkish Army in Palestine that opposed British Gen. Allenby in WWI, German General Otto Liman von Sanders (1855-1929) who was partly Jewish!

The General's name is rather odd, his original family name was Liman. He was an Anglophile, and so when he was raised to the peerage by the Kaiser, he added the English name "Sanders" to the aristocratic "von". However, he was opposed by many Prussian Generals, who used his Jewish ancestry against him. So the German Chief of Staff in 1913 sent him to Turkey where he was made head of the German military mission to Constantinople to reorganize the army of the Ottoman Empire. In WWI, Liman commanded Turkish forces in the Gallipolli campaign (1915-16). One of the Turkish officers he promoted was Kemal Ataturk, the founder of modern Turkey.

Gen. Allenby outmaneuvered the Turks in Palestine in WWI, he outflanked the Turkish defenders in Gaza by capturing Beersheva in 1917, forcing the Turks to withdraw up the coast. As a result, Gen von Falkenhayn was replaced by von Sanders, who was put in charge of the Turkish forces in 1918, but it was too late. Allenby's forces won the crucial battle of Megiddo in Oct 1918, thus defeating the Turks and capturing all of Palestine. Liman von Sanders was captured in Istanbul and returned to Germany where he retired and wrote his memoirs.

Jack Cohen

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

The secret Jews of Mashad

A conference on the Secret Jews of Mashad entitled "From Darkness to Light " took place at Netanya Academic College on Sunday Dec 25, 2011. It was organized by the "International Institute for the Study of Secret Jews (Anusim)" at the College. Greetings were delivered from Israel’s Fifth President, Izhak Navon, the President of the Netanya Academic College, Prof. Zvi Arad, the Chairman of the Institute, Prof. Michael Corinaldi, and Major General (retd.) Eitan Ben Eliyahu. The speakers were Prof. Aharon Namdar, himself a Mashadi Jew, Prof. David Menashri, Mr. Ori Cohen Aharonov , who showed a movie made in the 1970's about the Mashadi Jews, Dr. Hilda Nissimi, Mr. Ben-zion Yehoshua Raz and Mr. Avi Bezalely. The Heads of the Mashadi communities in Israel, Milan and the USA were also present.

Mashad is a city in the north east of Iran. It is one of the holy cities of the Shia Muslims who dominate Iran. Jews lived in Mashad from way back. On a specific day, March 27, 1849, a rumor circulated that a Jewish woman had desecrated the Mosque by sacrificing a dog there. In Mashad there was a pogrom, about 40 Jews were killed, their shops were attacked and ransacked and the whole community of ca. 4,000 Jews were forcibly converted to Islam. They became known as Jadid al-Islam, or new Muslims.

These Jews continued to live in their ghetto area and maintained a very close community in which they secretly remained practicing Jews, but outwardly they were Muslims. They attended the Mosque, they had Persian names, they bought Halal meat, but fed it to their dogs, they did everything in Farsi, they betrothed their children in marriage at a very early age 5 or 6, in order to prevent them marrying out, but the other Muslims refused to marry them anyway. The parallels with the "marranos" of Spain and the Balearic Islands are uncanny, they were forcibly converted to Christianity, they were called New Christians or conversos, they did not inter-marry, and the Old Christians refused to inter-marry with them. But, the Mashadi Jews were unique because for 150 years they maintained their secret lives as Jews even though they were constantly being checked by the Shia Muslims and even though it was risking death to do so.

Every member of the community from the time they were babies were schooled in how to keep the secret. They lived double lives. Candles were lit on Friday night in cellars, The Synagogue was a hidden room that people entered in small groups and left surreptitiously. Whereas there were forced conversions throughout the Persian Empire, nowhere else (as far as is known) did the whole community successfully retain their Jewish identity, only marry between themselves and produce ketubot in Hebrew to document the generations. Mashadi Jews spread throughout Iran, and in some other places, such as Tehran, they lived openly as Jews, but in Mashad they could not. In other towns and villages they were assimilated into the predominant Shia population. Since there were altogether about 1 million Jews throughout Persia, it is estimated that now about 30% of the Iranian population are descended from Jews. Even Pres. Ahmedinejad is rumored to have Jewish antecedents, his name comes from Ahmed al-jadid.

The subtitle of the conference was "From darkness to light." Secret Jews from Mashad went on the Hajj to Mecca and also they were Kerbalis, going to the Shia Shrine in Kerbala. But, many of them then continued to Jerusalem and many stayed there. The first Mashadi Synagogue was built in the Bukharan Quarter of Jerusalem 100 years ago. Under the Shahs the situation for Jews improved, but after the Iranian revolution in 1979 things deteriorated. Most of the 300,000 Iranian Jews then left for Israel, leaving behind about 20,000.

In Mashad there were other attacks and another pogrom took place in 1946, by which time the whole population of Mashadi Jews left for Israel, the US and Europe. All the Mashadi Jews successfully emigrated, and today there are 16,000 in Israel and an equal number in the US and elsewhere. They consider themselves separate from the other Iranian Jews who were never forcibly converted to Islam, similar to the difference between Sephardim and "marranos". This difference caused them some difficulties, including suspicion by the British in Palestine, even though some of them helped the British in Persia, and difficulty being accepted as Jews in Israel.

Ironically the Mashadi Jews in Israel today are in the process of assimilating into Israeli culture, whereas in the US they have retained their identity through intra-marriage, close community relationships as well as continued use of Farsi. The Mashadi Jews are a unique example of the powerful force of adherence to Judaism against all odds.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Future wars?

Two articles in the Jerusalem Post with provocative titles caught my attention: "War is really going out of style" by Joshua Goldstein and Steven Pinker (reproduced from the New York Times) and "Islamism: the Communism of the 21st century" by Barry Rubin." Now, in principle these two articles have completely different views of what the future holds.

The former avers that war is getting less and less likely, that the mega-wars of the past, WWI and WWII, will never be followed by a sequel called WWIII, that the great powers have not fought each other since the Korean War, that the European powers that used to indulge in wars regularly have not done so for many years, and that the typical wars now are relatively low level local flareups that are over in a few months. By contrast, the latter article makes the supposition that we are in for a long protracted period of warfare, in which the Muslim Brotherhood-dominated North African countries join together with other Sunni elements, Saudi Arabia and various terrorist groups, with possible support from Shia Iran, and declare war on the West, the US, EU and Israel. This is seen as a parallel to the "Cold War" that existed between the West and the Communist dominated countries, including Russia, Eastern Europe, China and others. They can't both be right, so which one is the most likely to be right.

The basis for the concept that the probability of war is diminishing is that the number of people (both combatants and civilians) actually being killed in wars each year has actually diminished according to statistics since WWII. Apparently, even the last Gulf War in 2003 that killed 5,000 US and ca. 100,000 Iraqis, was not enough to reverse the trend, and it is now over. Neither the Afghanistan war, nor the Libyan civil war that finished recently killed enough people to change the trend. Also, the 5,000 or so killed in Syria and the few hundred killed in the past few years in the Israel-Palestine conflict do nothing to alter this trend. One explanation given for the trend is that more countries are now democracies (the former Iron Curtain countries, the former Soviet Union and Yugoslavia) and democracies don't fight wars with each other. Also, the basis for war was that larger land mass resulted in greater economic power, but that isn't true any more with technology replacing food and other natural products as the main source of commerce. Another factor is the general concept of human rights that has taken hold throughout the world and thru the United Nations (however broken that organization might be) that war as a means of settling disputes between countries and peoples is no longer acceptable. That the bombing of cities and tactics such as carpet bombing are strictly out-of-date. However, this article, written from what could be called a liberal humanist point of view, does not even mention Iran. Neither does it mention pure hatred as a cause of war, such as that manifested by Pres. Ahmediejad of Iran against Israel.

Barry Rubin in his article points out that there is no such thing as "moderate" Islamism, that the Muslim Brotherhood is an extreme anti-Western Islamist party from its origins and that there are already ties between these parties throughout N. Africa and indeed into Gaza controlled by Hamas, which is the Palestinian Muslim Brotherhood (PM Haniyeh of Hamas is currently visiting Egypt), and into Syria, where the predominant opposition party to Assad is the Muslim Brotherhood. At the moment they are of course weak, militarily and economically. But, it takes a lot of self-deception for the West to believe that this combination will not in the future threaten Europe and the US. Rubin also does not dwell on Iran, the most likely cause of a proximal war. But, whether or not there is a war over Iran, the whole weight of the resurgent radicalized Muslim world can be expected to challenge the West in the not-too-distant future.

If I were to compare these arguments, I would say that the so-called trend, that the total number of casualties from wars may be decreasing, could quickly be reversed due to the growth of militant Islam. For example, the current war between Kenya and the Somali Al-Shabab and the continuing war in Nigeria between the Government and the Islamist Boko Haram. But the likelihood is that as the technological basis of war increases, wars will result in less casualties and will favor the more technologically developed side. For example, the increasing use of pilotless drones that can give pin-point targeting and other robots will reduce the loss of lives for both the attackers and the defenders. I think that wars will continue to be a feature of human societies, but that technological innovations, rather than other causes, will actually reduce the number of human casualties.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Street people

On Thurs mornings at AACI-Netanya we have had a series of lectures on "Street People," people who have streets named after them in Israel, but whose story is relatively unknown to most people who use their streets. This idea was based on a book with the same name published by Helga Dudman in the 1970s. Here is a summary of the people who were presented and the presenters who each did a great job in researching their subject's history and telling their story.

Meir Dizengoff (1861-1936): First Mayor of Tel Aviv; presented by Jack Cohen and described in a blog on 17/11/2011

Golda Meir (1898-1978): Presented by Yoel Sheridan. Born Golda Mabovich in Russia, lived in Milwaukee, USA, moved to Israel in 1921 and became a kibbutznik, a Labor politician and the Fourth Prime Minister of the State of Israel. She has many streets named after her in Israel.

Shmuel Hanatziv (1870-1963): Presented by Elkan Levy. The Hebrew designation of Herbert Louis Samuel, First Viscount Samuel, British politician and diplomat, and first High Commissioner of the British Mandate in Palestine. The AACI offices are on this street.

Bracha Fuld (1926-46): German-born Holocaust survivor, educated in Britain and became Jewish resistance fighter in Palestine. Promoted to Platoon leader and died in battle fighting the Arabs. Fuld's story was presented memorably by historian Marjorie Glick whom I have asked to write an account to be included as a blog article.

James Grover McDonald (1886-1964): Presented by Jacques Korolnyk (who showed his video) and Leslie Portnoy. McDonald was a US diplomat who tried to help the Jewish cause both before and after WWII. Was appointed first US Ambassador to Israel. A street is named after him in Netanya and our Synagogue, often called "McDonald shool," is on that street.

Nahum Sokolow (1859-1936): Presented by Ray Cannon. Sokolow was second only to Chaim Weizmann in the leadership of the Zionist movement. Sokolow played a key role in obtaining the Balfour Declaration committing the British Government to establishing a Jewish homeland in Palestine. He was a peripatetic journalist and widely respected author.

Leon Pinsker (1821-1891): Presented passionately by Don Silverberg. Pinsker grew up in Odessa and had a Jewish-secular education. He was a physician, author and Zionist pioneer. He famously published "Auto-Emancipation" in 1882 that preceded Herzl's "Altneuland" by 20 years. He founded the Hovevei Zion (Lovers of Zion) movement and organized its first conference in Katovice in 1884. This resulted in ca. 80,000 Jews making aliyah. He greatly influenced the subsequent Zionist movement.

Since this series was popular, we have decided to organize another on "Unknown Heroes in Jewish history", including those figures who made important contributions, who may not have streets named after them, yet deserve our attention and respect.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Hamas joins the PLO

It was announced after much negotiation that Fatah and Hamas have agreed that Hamas will join the PLO. What this means is unclear, although it doesn't amount to much. The PLO is moribund, it was considered the umbrella organization of the Palestinian national movement and contained about a dozen organizations, of which Fatah was the largest. Because Fatah has taken over control of the PA, the PLO has for a dozen years in effect been relegated to a cipher. Now suddenly, because they can't agree to merge, Hamas, that was the enemy of the PLO, has now agreed to join it. This agreement is supposed to heal the schism between Fatah and Hamas, but of course it does no such thing, it simply leaves them separate, but both members of an overall organization, that currently is a shell. As the Hamas FM said yesterday "Anyone who thinks that Hamas has changed its positions and now accepts the PLO's defeatist programs is living in an illusion."

Nevertheless, this agreement has significant implications. It means for Israel that Fatah/PLO have embraced Hamas, that is dedicated to Israel's destruction. Only last week, at the 25th anniversary celebrations of Hamas in Gaza, bloodcurdling speeches were made by Hamas leaders against Israel, including the glorifying of suicide bombers and the threat to destroy Israel and kill all Jews. If this organization is in the PLO and is co-equal with Fatah, Israel can no longer negotiate with Fatah over the fate of a Palestinain State.
It puts into question the whole idea of direct negotiations and a two-state solution, if the Palestinian side is partnered with a terrorist organization dedicated to destroying one of the states, namely Israel.

There is also the element of a "trick" in this maneuver, since the PLO is supposed to have recognized Israel as a State (although not a Jewish State) and if Hamas is under that umbrella they might be able to avoid actually making the commitment that the Quartet requires, without actually saying anything. However, they must also renounce terrorism and accept previous agreements, something that surely Hamas cannot do. So we shall see how they wriggle out of that. But, now is a transition period for Hamas, since their leadership has moved from Damascus (rats leaving a sinking ship) to Cairo, where they expect a more conducive regime. Perhaps this agreement to join the PLO is related to their move.

UNESCO, that now includes "Palestine" among its members even though Palestine is not a recognized state, has been giving funds to support publications of the PA. One of these, a teenage magazine named Zayzafouna, was found to contain anti-Israel articles, one of which glorified Hitler and supported killing of Jews. When this was brought to the attention of UNESCO they stopped the funding for this publication.. But, all the text books of the PA are anti-Israel and extort hatred and violence. They are funded by grants from the EU and its constituent countries, who are aware of this but do nothing about it. As far as they are concerned the PA can teach its children what they like, even while the same countries criticize Israel for its policies. Hamas, of course, glorifies suicide bombers and the killing of Jews (a Muslim precept) in their schools. If Fatah and Hamas unify, neither of them will have to change their textbooks.

Friday, December 23, 2011

EU hypocrisy

Wednesday was the bloodiest day in Syria in 8 months, with an estimated 111 people killed by the Syrian army. Yet Israel's presumed European friends on the Security Council, Britain, Germany, France and Portugal did not condemn Syria, they took this moment to issue a statement condemning Israel. The reasons given were for continuing to build on the West Bank (including Jerusalem) and for the so-called "price tag" attacks on Mosques there. However, they failed to note that building is continuing because the Palestinians have repeatedly refused to enter direct negotiations with Israel and the "price tag" attacks have been carried out by a very small group of right wing extremists, who also attacked an IDF base and who are being arrested by the IDF.

PM Netanyahu had already spoken out forcefully against the attackers and stated that the full force of the law will be used against them and explicitly extended Israeli military law that is in force on the West Bank to these Israeli citizens. Furthermore, not a single person has been hurt or killed in these attacks, while blood is flowing profusely in Syria. What sheer hypocrisy! The EU SC members condemned these attacks as if they were carried out by the Israeli Government and did not even mention that the Israeli Government is strongly against these attacks. It's as if the US were condemned for white supremacist attacks against blacks or the British Government was condemned for the riots in British cities that were burnt down last summer.

Further, the EU statement called upon the two sides, Israel and the PA, to submit proposals of their views for the peaceful resolution of the conflict, without even mentioning the need for direct negotiations, as if the Security Council itself could resolve the conflict. They also ignored all previous UN positions that call for direct negotiations and ignored the current Quartet initiative that also calls for both sides to submit their proposals, but preparatory to direct negotiations. So why are these EU countries now meddling in this situation? Why do these EU countries shy away from resolutions condemning Iran and Syria, the real dangers to world peace, but attack Israel over what are in comparison relatively minor issues? One possible reason is that the EU countries wish to deflect attention from their own dire crisis by projecting attention onto Israel (this is popular) and also that if they need to pass a resolution on Syria they can then say they are being even-handed. On the other hand, it could simply be the result of endemic anti-Semitism. They are also taking this action while Iran is getting closer to obtaining a nuclear weapon, as stated yesterday by US Secty. of Defense Leon Panetta, who said they were about a year away from succeeding.

Israel and the US reacted strongly to this EU initiative in the UN SC. Israel issued a statement criticizing the EU nations for condemning democratic Israel, while taking action against extremists, and for taking in effect the complete Palestinian position. The US also reacted strongly and supported the Israeli position, pointing out that this initiative undermines the Quartet and all current attempts to bring about direct negotiations. Why would these US allies take this unilateral action without at least consulting the US Administration in advance? It makes no real sense, it was a cheap shot! All it does is give the Palestinians more hope that by avoiding direct negotiations they will eventually be given their own state on a platter without having to resolve any outstanding issues with Israel.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Death of a dictator

Over the recent past we have seen the removal of many vicious Arab dictators, Saddam Hussein of Iraq, Hosni Mubarak of Egypt. Zine-Abidine Ben Ali of Tunisia, Muammar Qaddafi of Libya and Abdullah Saleh of Yemen. Now the King of North Korea has died, Kim Jong-il, who inherited the position from his father. Permit me to express my pleasure at this event. Unfortunately, he had announced his successor, his third son Kim Jong-un, and so the monarchy will continue. It seems unlikely that his starved and servile people could do anything against the Stalinist regime that controls them, unlike the uprisings in the Arab countries and elsewhere.

It was announced that Kim Jong-il had died of a heart attack on a train ride, but like anything else from that closed, secretive country, it may not be true. This was announced three days after the event, so anything could have happened. He could have been shot by a dissident, one of millions who have suffered under his regime, or it could be that his successor or the military connived in removing him. He was unpredictable and corrupt. His regime has become like that of the pre-revolutionary Romanovs in Czarist Russia, living in opulence and adoration while the people starved. What is the point of it all if the cycle returns to the status quo ante? If only all such dictators could be removed, in N. Korea, China and Iran.

But, once again we are left with the problem of who will replace them. Democracy is not a single election, nor a general desire for freedom from dictatorial control. It must grow over time, with the development of organizational frameworks, with transparency and minority rights. While the number of countries which are nominally democracies are increasing, who would have believed that Iraq and Egypt would be democracies, their long-term adherence to what for them is a strange and cumbersome system, cannot be assured. In his watershed book, "The End of History" Francis Fukuyama pointed out that democracies do not go to war against each other, simply put the people in a democracy do not choose to fight wars. Given that principle it is of immense importance to Israel and the world that what is a very fragile flegling democratic movement in the Arab world be successful. Only time will tell. But, the people of N. Korea will have a longer wait for this outcome.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Spanish Ambassador's visit

The Spanish Ambassador Don Alvaro Iranzo visited Netanya Academic College with his cultural attaché Mrs. Victoria Ortega on November 29, 2011 in what was an historic and significant visit. Not only was this the 25th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between Spain and Israel, but it represented a renewal of relations between Spain and the Jewish people in a very meaningful way.

The Ambassador was greeted by Prof. Zvi Arad, President of NAC, and Prof. David Altman, VP of NAC. Prof. Arad stated that the culture of the Jewish people was partly created in Spain. He pointed out that the establishment of the new International Institute for the Study of Secret Jews (Anusim) at NAC was a way to strengthen ties with Spain and with the Spanish Government. The recognition of the descendents of the "marranos" (anusim in Hebrew) in democratic Spain is a key to improve communications between the Jews and the Spanish. Prof. Arad pointed out that the NAC is a growing institution and now is surrounded by a new area of east Netanya that contains some 20,000 people. Prof. Altman said that he was very happy to have the Ambassador visit and mentioned how he had met former PM Moratinos in Madrid, whose son after doing some research had determined that they were descendents of marranos themselves. So this subject is very close to the heart of Spain.

In response, the Ambassador spoke at length about his dedication to the cause of improving Spanish-Israeli relations. He agreed that this was an exceptional moment and he was extremely happy to be participating in it. He stated that when he was growing up in Spain he knew nothing about Sepharad and was never taught the history of that time. Apart from learning about the expulsion of 1492, he knew nothing of Maimonides and the whole history of the relationship. Until Spain became a democracy and relations were established 25 years ago he knew nothing of the 5 centuries of oblivion of the Jewish people in Spain. Now he is aware of the Jewish past and is aware how important Sepharad is for the Jewish people.

The Jewish history and contributions to Spain should be a source of pride, how enormous wealth was created and how the short but spectacular Golden Age had elevated Spanish culture. Only after the expulsion of the Jews did Spain go into a slow, long decline that only now Spanish historians and people are beginning to acknowledge. He stated that with the combination of Israeli innovation and Spanish production and marketing great things could be accomplished. But, this would require the involvement of the civil societies in both countries and the provision of funding. Spain had taken a first step in the foundation of Casa Sepharad-Israel to assist in improving relations, but much more needs to be done. In Spain, the blank page of 5 centuries of the secret Jews must be revealed and Sephardic studies must become a major area of Spanish endeavor. In the 1920s there was interest in the presence of Ladino in Turkey and elsewhere, but that interest had been over-shadowed by other events. Spain must become a center of Anusim studies, particularly in relation to Majorca where there are ca. 20,000 "chuetas": who have remained isolated and who must be helped in discovering their roots. Together with NAC, that can become a hub for Anusim studies, Spain must be open to learn more and must benefit from advances in research on this subject, this is a historic task!

Prof. Arad described the plan to establish a new museum on land owned by the College with the cooperation of the Netanya municipality. But, a donor was needed for the building. This could be a possible collaboration with a focus on Spain. It would be an investment in having Israelis go to Spain to see for themselves the heritage of Sepharad. The Ambassador agreed that student exchanges at the secondary school level could be very helpful and in a recent meeting with the Minister Mr Gidon Saar they had discussed this possibility as part of the school curriculum. Prof. Arad mentioned that a similar project was being planned with pupils in Bethlehem and Amman, Jordan with Israel. Such a project could bring a fulfilment of the story of the Jews of Spain.

Prof. Corinaldi, Director of the Institute for Anusim Studies, suggested that Segura, a leader of the Anusim of Majorca should be invited to visit Israel. He had been here before many years ago. But, starting activities in Majorca made sense, the "chuetas" there still suffered social discrimination and are still secret Jews. The Ambassador said that things were improving fast for the better, and he knew this because his wife is from a Majorcan Anusim family. Prof. Corinaldi insisted that now was the time to take action for the salvation of the Chuetas. The Ambassador pointed out that this was a private choice, many do not want to return to Judaism and discrimination is an internal Spanish problem. It was suggested that a joint conference on the chuetas of Majorca be organized at the NAC on September 2012. It was agreed that this should not focus on religion as such.

Gloria Mound, Senior Advisor to the Institute, said she was very pleased to see the Ambassador at NAC and hoped that communication with Casa Sepharad-Israel could be improved, as they had been with Barcelona and Girona. Rabbi Moshe Pinchuk described a program he has developed for foreign diplomats to improve their understanding of Israel.

Prof. Altman summarized that collaboration between the religions, Christianity, Judaism and Islam, as it was during the Golden age in Spain, could be realized again, but only in Spain. Perhaps the EU would be willing to fund such a project. He asked why should Jewish youth only visit the sites of the camps in Eastern Europe and have the "march of living" there, there should be a similar parallel program in Spain, that would be of mutual interest to both Israel and Spain, both from the point of view of education, understanding and tourism.

The Ambassador and his entourage then visited the Leslie (z"l) and Gloria Mound Library focusing on the history of the Secret Jews (Anusim) in the NAC library.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Israeli democracy

There is a lot of fuss right now about discrimination against women in Israel. Our great friend, Secty of State Clinton, even compared the situation of women in Israel to that in Iran. How absurd! If I were to compare Israel with any other western country I'd say that women are much better represented here than in most of the West. For example, the Chair of the Supreme Court is a woman, Dorit Beinisch. There are leading women representatives in the Knesset, the leader of the opposition is a woman, Tzipi Livni, Limor Livnat is a former Education Minister and Anat Wilf is a leading member of the new Independence Party.

What the fuss is mainly about is the segregation of men and women on a very small number of public bus lines that run thru the ultra-Orthodox (Haredi) neighborhood of Mea Shearim. Of the people living there only a small minority of this minority try to enforce segregation on women and try to force them to sit in the back of the bus. Since the buses are public property, that is totally illegal, and if the police are called they must prevent this practice. In fact, for a while these bus lines were stopped becsue of this practrice. What is most disturbing is that some women segregate themselves by going to the back of the bus so that they are not accussed of immodesty. This is sheer nonsese and in fact this situation applies to only a tiny percentage of the female population. But, even then it is wrong in principle, and PM Netanyahu as well as Chief Rabbi Yona Metzger and other leading Rabbis have condemned the practice.

Have no fear, women in Israel will not be discriminated against and rumors that Israeli democracy is in danger from bills that have been presented in the Knesset, but haven't even been passed yet, let alone become law, are grossly over-stated. The Bill to have the Supreme Court judges vetted by the Knesset is not anti-democratic, in fact it is the process used in the US. The Bill to have foreign contributions to certain NGOs limited by law is not US Government. There are currently no anti-democratic bills in force in Israel and neither will there be. Israel is a vibrant and active democracy, as anyone who comes here can see for themselves. Don't let anti-Israel commentators who focus on and twist anything remotely critical of Israel fool you.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Syrian fulcrum

The historic US withdrawal from Iraq will have significant consequences. It was inevitable that the US would withdraw, since that was Obama's policy from the start. But, the consequent power vacuum will tempt some to try to replace the US by bringing down or subverting the Iraqi Government. The US has helped train a large Iraqi army, but although they look impressive there are big questions about their loyalty and fighting capability. Since Iraq has a Shia majority and since the Government is Shia- dominated, there is no real reason why Iran, Iraq's most powerful neighbor, should invade or use military force to take over Iraq. It will have enough influence with the Shia Government to ensure that its wishes are followed. However, there are still Shia extremists, such as the forces of Mohtada Sadr, that might be tempted to try to overthrow the relatively moderate Shia Government, and the Sunni forces, which have been relatively quiescent lately, might try to reestablish the status quo ante, i.e. a Sunni dictatorship or an al Qaeda insurrection.

Aside from these possibilities, the fact is that Iraq under the Shia Government will likely cooperate with Iran. That means that for the first time there will be a continuous Shia arc from Iran thru Iraq and Syria to Hizbollah in Lebanon. This will allow the transfer of arms, materiel and fighters with greater ease than before Saddam was overthrown and the US forces were in Iraq. Such a facilitation of Iran's interests would have a negative effect on the outcome in Syria, possibly prolonging Assad's pro-Iranian regime and bolstering Hizbollah. So this would have very negative consequences for Israel and the West. But, if the Iraqi regime does not allow Iranian arms to flow thru their country, then the Assad regime in Syria might collapse, with negative consequences for Iran, and positive consequences for Israel. Also, the Syrian opposition forces have stated that they will not be allies of Iran. The outcome in Syria is the key to near future consequences in the region.

It is a great shame that so far the UN has failed to take any concerted action on Syria, unlike the former comparable situation in Libya. According to UN estimates the number of people killed in Syria has risen to 5,000, and Russia has just introduced a compromise resolution in the UN Security Council that is currently being discussed. What prompted this change in Russian policy? One can be sure that the Russian Government has reassessed the situation, and with the growth of counter-attacks by the independent Syrian Army made up deserters and the support given by Turkey to the opposition, the Russians have concluded that the survival of Assad is in doubt. Therefore they have softened their position. With the Americans out of Iraq we will now see, with Syria as the fulcrum in the Middle East, which way it will go.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Middle East refugees

Whenever someone hears the phrase "Middle East refugees" they think of the Palestinians, mainly because the Palestinian refugees have been made into an international cause celebre. But, in fact there were more Jewish refugees in the Middle East than Arabs. However, their narrative has been entirely lost and overlooked in the whole context of the Middle East situation. While there have been ca. 150 resolutions of the UN on the Palestinian refugees, there have been none, zero, on the Jewish refugees. Further, the UN agency specially established to perpetuate the Palestinian refugee problem rather help them integrate in Arab countries, UNWRA, has spent ca. 3.5 billion dollars on them in the past 60 years, but nothing has ever been spent on the Jewish refugees. In effect there was an exchange of populations (ca.750,000 Palestinian Arabs for ca. 850,000 Arab Jews) between Israel and the Arab countries.

On Tuesday in the AACI lecture series at Netanya College we heard the story of Linda Menuhin, born Linda Abdul Aziz in Iraq, who was one of nearly a million Jewish refugees from Arab countries who came to Israel in the wake of the establishment of the State. It is important to note that they were refugees who were indigenous to the Middle East, hence their organization named Jimena, Jews Indigenous to the Middle East and North Africa. Jimena has assumed a hasbara role to introduce the symmetrical tale of the exchange of two populations of refugees.

The Jewish refugees were not only ignored by the international community, but also by successive Israeli Governments, who lumped them in as immigrants with the rest of the population, including many Holocaust survivors from the camps of Europe after WWII. They were granted Israeli citizenship and even though they were initially housed in tents in camps, called ma'abarot, that dotted Israel in the early 1950's, they were never registered as refugees. In effect, by integrating them into the Israeli population their story and their rights were neglected and ignored. The value of the property stolen from these refugees by Arab countries (Egypt, Syria, Lebanon, Iraq, Tunisia, Algeria, Libya, Morocco) estimated at 100 billion dollars, far exceeds the value of the property left by Palestinians when they fled Israel during the Israeli War of Independence in 1948.

There is ample documentation of the plight of these Jewish refugees. There is an excellent pamphlet by Martin Gilbert entitled "The Jews of Arab Lands" published in 1976, recently followed by his extensive history "In Ishmael's House, a history of the Jews in Muslim Lands." Although this topic was ignored for many years, several events have recently brought it to the fore, the Knesset recently passed a law requiring the Israeli Government to represent the rights of these refugees in any negotiations with the Arab side. In his latest hasbara video Deputy Israeli FM Danny Ayalon discusses the refugee question and includes the Jews for Arab Lands, Dan Diker Secty. General of the World Jewish Congress, also put the cause of Jews from Arab lands as a priority item on their agenda and the David project released a couple of years ago a video entitled "The Forgotten Refugees," (available on YouTube) which was screened at the lecture.

Linda told us her own moving story. That her ancestors had been in Iraq for 1,000 years before the advent of Islam in the Arab pennisula . How in 1941 with the fall of the Iraqi anti-Semitic Government Nazi style, the mob fomented riots called "the Farhud" in Arabic, meaning "dispossession." Meanwhile the British troops stationed outside Baghdad overlooked the looting and killing. This was a major milestone that pushed out Iraqi Jews from Iraq. How she grew up both in a stable Middle class Jewish home, yet was surrounded by constant fear. Her father became an influential lawyer with many Arab clients, and when after the establishment of Israel the majority of the 130,000 Iraqi Jews left. Her father, a lawyer, was appointed the registrar of their property, so the Iraqi Government had a complete detailed listing of all property confiscated by their decree. Through many ups and downs her father decided to remain and he was discreetly promised a passport by the authorities, as he was adamant not to leave illegally. There was a bloody coup led by the Ba'ath Party in 1968 and things got much worse for the Jews.and their number decreased to ca. 3,500. Linda and her younger brother decided they must leave and so in 1970 they went in disguise to the north dressed as poor Arabs with only small bags. Since Jews were forbidden to travel a distance of more than 80 kms from their home, they sat at the back of buses in order to avoid identification by the guards at checkpoints. They arrived in the Kurdish area where they were met by Pesh Merga, the Kurdish fighters who were armed and trained by Israel and were brought on mules over the border to Iran and from there to Israel. Her mother also escaped with her younger sister, but her father waited until he received his passport. But, then he was the first Jew that was kidnapped to be followed by 21 more who disappeared without a trace.

Ba'ath means "renaissance" in Arabic, and the party was founded in Lebanon by a French-speaking Christian Arab named Michel Aflaq who based it on the National Socialist (Nazi) Party of Germany. The Ba'ath Party took power in a coup in Syria in 1963 and in Iraq in 1968. In effect, both regimes were fascist regimes and were virulently anti-Jewish. The Ba'ath regime of Saddam Hussein lasted until 2004 when he was defeated by the US forces, and that of the Assad family in Syria is currently engaged in a civil war for its survival.

Linda having been Head of the Middle East affairs desk of the Israel Broadcasting Association (IBA) News from 1981-1991 and Foreign Press liason with the Israeli Police from 1995-2000 is a freelance commentator and writer on Arabic and Middle Eastern affairs. In her work she tries to build bridges to Arab-speaking counterparts and has many contacts with Palestinians and Iraqi Arabs. She believes that reconciliation will only be achieved when there is mutual recognition of the suffering of both sides in the Middle East.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Newt's law

Newt Gingrich, the current front runner in the Republican Presidential race, was being interviewed for a Jewish program and was asked his opinion of the Palestinian leadership. He replied succinctly that they are all terrorists and he gave his opinion that the Palestinians are "an invented people." Basically, he argued, they are Arabs and as such have no right to be in the Jewish Holy Land. Although at this time the candidates are falling over themselves to attract Jewish votes, when Newt was criticized for his opinions and called "a racist" by several spokesmen of the PA, at the latest candidate's forum he stuck to his guns.

Actually, in fact, Newt is correct. There is no evidence for a Palestinian people in history separate from other Arabs until ca. 1964. When Abu Rudeineh in response to Newt said that the Palestinians have lived here for thousands of years, he was speaking sheer nonsense and actually lying. The Arabs were in Arabia until after Muhammed formed the Muslim armies and then captured Jerusalem from the Byzantines (Greek Christians) in 637 ce. There is no evidence of any Arab presence in what was then the Holy Land until that date. They subsequently built the Mosques that stand on the Temple Mount, where the Jewish Temple once stood until it was destroyed by the Romans in 70 ce and that was then replaced by a Byzantine Church which the Arabs destroyed. The Jews had an independent kingdom here 2,000 years before the Arabs arrived on the scene and conquered the area.

In the Ottoman Empire the area that is now Israel/Palestine was called Southern Syria and the Arabs living there were indistinguishable from those in neighboring areas. This remained true after the establishment of the State of Israel in 1948. Although the bulk of the fighting against Israel was carried out by the armies of the surrounding Arab states (Egypt, Jordan, Syria, Lebanon, Iraq), there were Palestinian Arab contingents, although there is no evidence that they considered themselves distinct in any way (language, religion, culture) from the others. The Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) was founded originally by the Egyptian secret service of Pres. Nasser in 1964 and Yasir Arafat (born in Cairo, educated at Cairo University) was appointed its head. But, it was only with the defeat of the Arab armies in the "6-Day War" of 1967 that Arafat moved from Cairo to the Gulf area and the PLO adopted an independent course. Still, the so-called Palestinian Arabs are indistinguishable from their fellow Arabs in surrounding areas in all respects. Thus, they are an "invented people."

But, whether or not this is true, the question arises, is this a smart approach. If you want to pretend that there is a "peace process" or a real chance for peace, which is the liberal view, then it's not a good statement. However, what is the point of Israel making more concessions to the PalestinIans in order to entice them back to the negotiating table, if they have no intention of going anyway. In the Middle East of all places, particularly when there are so many unknowns now, it makes no sense for Israel to make any concessions, until the dust settles, if it ever will. What is needed in the ME is a complete re-think of western strategy, it should be "Iran first," take care of Iran and then the other conflicts may fall into place. We need realpolitik, not sentimental illusions. So let Newt be Newt, and if he is the Republican candidate, so be it; then I for one would vote for him any time over Obama.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

EU crisis

What was a Eurozone economic crisis has become a full-fledged EU political crisis, with Britain isolated from the rest of Europe. How did this happen? It's too complex for me to understand or explain, but here goes anyway.

The EU was established by agreement of 12 European nations through the Maastricht Treaty of 1992, which established the EU as a political and economic union (hence there are 12 stars on the EU flag). There were two reasons for this, first the wish to avoid any future wars in Europe that had torn the continent apart and resulted in the deaths of millions of people, so it was important that Germany, France and the UK be an integral part of the EU. The other reason was economic, it made no sense for a truck travelling from say Britain to Italy or Romania to go through so many borders and monetary zones. Removing borders and converting to a single currency, the euro, solved these problems. But, some countries were reluctant to have their currency and their financial decisions under the control of others, so they opted out of part of the subsequent agreements that established the Eurozone. One of these was Britain, so the pound continues to exist as a separate currency, while the Deutschmark, the Franc, the Lira and the Drachma ceased to exist. The EU gradually expanded to 27 members as other Eastern European countries joined, but the Eurozone remained only a part of the EU, namely only 17 countries out of 27. In order to have countries join the Eurozone the economic requirements were made quite liberal and even ignored, so that while national debt was supposed to be less than 10% of GDP, in some cases, such as Greece, this was overlooked.

Since the EU has no cross-national economic organization (except the European Central Bank), it was unable to deal with the crisis that arose when countries such as Ireland, Portugal and then Greece, began to default on their debt payments and could have gone bankrupt. Since they were using the euro, the Eurozone had to bail them out by making ever increasing loans to them. Greece for example received a total loan of ca. 200 billion euros. Part of the mechanism adopted to avoid either a country leaving the Eurozone or defaulting on its debt resulted in the establishment of an EU Emergency Fund, that has now been funded with 500 billion euros, as well as 200 billion euros loaned to the IMF to help further countries from defaulting, such as possibly Spain and Italy.

I would liken this situation to that which existed in the US during the "depression" and the stock market crash of 1929. As a result of the terrible havoc that caused, the US Government expanded the role of the Federal Reserve, that can take independent steps to prevent such huge downward fluctuations in the market, extending over the whole of the USA. This is what the EU needs, but because it is still made up of independent countries, this cannot be done easily. It would require actually establishing a Federal Union of Europe, or a United States of Europe, that most members are not prepared to accept because it would require them to give up too much autonomy.

So the EU members, some of who are of course also Eurozone members, decided that they need to modify the basic agreement of the EU in order to ensure that such potential defaults do not occur again. In order to do this they recommended certain changes to the EU treaty itself, that would include the expansion of the role of the European Central Bank, and tough new budget rules, etc. At the meeting in Brussels in the past few days, this was discussed. But, PM Cameron representing Britain, refused to agree to these changes. He argued that the UK has the largest financial center in Europe and he needs to protect it and the pound, so he excercised his veto over the proposed EU changes. This has angered Pres. Sarkozy of France and Chancellor Merkel of Germany, who are the principal leaders of the EU and the Eurozone.

So now there are many possible courses. The UK could leave the EU altogether. Some argue that there never should have been a separate EU and Eurozone, the two should be synonymous. Also, that the EU cannot exist without a strong financial organization, as if it were a federation, and countries that are not prepared to accept this must not be included. There are also those in Germany who argue that it is not fair that Germany be forced to subsidize the weaker economies of the southern tier of Europe such as Greece, Portugal, Spain and Italy (as if New York, California and Ohio refused to subsidize Mississippi). So will it become the status quo ante with the EU collapsing or will the euro regain its value and shine once again? The results of this political and financial crisis could have enormous consequences.

Friday, December 09, 2011

Obama Administration unreliability

Representatives of the Obama Administration spoke out last week on matters of international importance and in three cases their views sounded very tenuous, bordering on the anti-Semitic and anti-Israel.

The US Ambassador to Belgium, Howard Gutman, a Jew and the son of Holocaust survivors, in a speech at a conference on anti-Semitism, distinguished between "traditional" anti-Semitism and that stemming from the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and said that progress in the peace process "would lead to a huge reduction of this form of labeled ‘anti-Semitism’ in Europe." Now this is precisely what the enemies of Israel have been saying for some time, its not that they are actually anti-Semitic, they really have nothing against Jews per se, but if Israel made concessions to the Palestinians and then made peace then all other problems, including supposed anti-Semitism would be resolved. This is a dangerous and perverted viewpoint that shows to what extent some well-meaning, liberal-minded Jews have accepted this canard, that anti-Semitism is due to Israel's policies and not the bias of the racists.

US Secty of State Hillary Clinton speaking at the Brooking's Institution Saban Forum in Washington, criticized Israel, specifically mentioning Knesset bills limiting funding for NGOs and the exclusion of women in the public sphere, as exemplified by gender separation on buses serving the haredi community and the controversy over women singing in public. While these have been considered relatively minor domestic issues in Israel, Clinton. by comparing the treatment of women in Israel with that in Iran, completely over-stepped the mark and exposed herself once again as an unreliable ally of Israel, who speaks out of both sides of her mouth depending on her audience. She has never publicly voiced her concern over the far more severe mistreatment of women in Saudi Arabia and other Arab countries. This is typical of the Obama Administration, that claims to be a strong ally of Israel but criticizes Israel before the Arab and Muslim world.

Secty of Defense Leon Panetta, also at the Saban Center think tank in Washington, said Israel must repair its relations with regional partners such as Egypt, Jordan and Turkey, thus putting the onus on Israel, and he criticized Israel specifically for the lack of progress in the so-called peace process with the Palestinians. He said in very undiplomatic language that Israel must return to the "damned table," not mentioning that the Palestinian side is stalling and has refused to negotiate, making several pre-conditions including a complete cessation of Israeli building on the West Bank, while PM Netanyahu has called for a return to negotiations numerous times without pre-conditions. This one-sided and unjustified criticism of Israel is typical of the Obama Administration. The fear is that if Obama were to be reelected for a second term, his evident animus towards Israel would once again come to the fore.

Meanwhile the Republican candidates are making the most of this apparent lack of solid Obama Administration support for Israel. Mitt Romney announced at the Republican Jewish Convention that if he is elected President his first foreign visit will be to Israel. Newt Gingrich has commited to recognizing Jerusalem as the capital of Israel in his Adminstration and possibly releasing Jonathan Pollard, and he and other candidates have said that they will cooperate with Israel in making sure that Iran does not develop a nuclear weapon that could threaten Israel, US forces in the Middle East and the Arab allies of the US. Certainly they hope to attract American Jewish voters to their side and away from their traditional Democratic support. How successful the eventual Republican candidate is in this goal could determine the outcome of the next Presidential election.

Thursday, December 08, 2011


On Tuesday we went on a trip (tiyul) with AACI to the IICC. AACI is the Association of Americans and Canadians in Israel our English-speaking club in Netanya and IICC is the Israel Intelligence Heritage and Commemoration Center. I have lived in Israel for 15 years and had never before heard of this organization, that was established in 1985 to commemorate the Israeli heroes who died in the service of the State while carrying out intelligence operations. The IICC was formed by the three arms of Israel's intelligence services the Shin Bet (responsible for internal security), the Mossad (responsible for foreign intelligence gathering and analysis) and Aman the Intelligence Corps of the IDF. More than that, the IICC sits in an obscure location on a small side street, which I used as a short cut going home from work and passed it many times without realizing that it was there. It would indeed require information and intelligence to find it.

It was founded by former intelligence officers to commemorate their fallen colleagues. The memorial consists of a stone maze with the names of the deceased carved on the walls. There is also a small synagogue containing a 120 year old Syrian Torah scroll that was one of over 100 rescued by the Mossad during the rescue of Syrian Jewry, and adjacent is a library containing a file on each individual, that contains official letters as well as material added by family members and friends. It should be emphasized that all this information is now public, although some individuals still cannot be named.

Part of the Center includes the Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center that has a large library on intelligence and terrorism information as well as a tiny museum on terrorism (see . This is a private organization that has ties to the formal State intelligence organizations and produces reports on various topics that contain only publicly available information. For example they produced the Report that was submitted as the official Israeli reaction to the Goldstone Report. We were shown an introductory video on the Center, then a video about one of the successful operations carried out in 1953, soon after the State was founded, in order to rescue Jewish children from Morocco, under the aegis of "Nativ" that was a part of the Mossad given the responsibility to rescue endangered Jews from anywhere in the world.

For this operation the Mossad recruited a young British Jew named David Littman, code-named "Mural," who was living in Switzerland with his wife and child. David was anxious to help Jews who were endangered, partly because as a historian he had studied the Holocaust. He was asked by the Jewish Agency to go to Morocco and see if he could rescue 500 Jewish children, but he was unaware that he had been recruited by the Mossad. He took his family with him and posed as a British Christian under a false identity. He set up an office in Casablanca that was a charity offering free holidays in Switzerland to children under stress. He made contacts with the Swiss and British diplomats and Moroccan authorities. He was accepted as genuine by them and he then signed up children for the holidays, all of whom incidentally were Jewish. The Moroccan authorities granted him mass visas for 100 children at a time, and he successfully rescued 530, some by boat and some by plane. From Switzerland, from a genuine holiday villa, the children were then transported to Israel. Neither the children nor their parents actually knew that Israel was their destination, although many suspected this. After the success of Operation Mural, the Moroccan authorities, maybe partly out of embarrassment and partly out of the realization that they could not prevent the Jews from leaving, allowed ca. 100,000 Jews to be transported by sea via France and Italy to Israel. The parents of the rescued children joined them in Israel. Incidentally LIttman's wife Gisele, who was expelled from Egypt with her parents in 1957, writes under the nom-de-plume of Bat Yeor and authored a famous book entitled "Dhimmi," the Arabic for protected minorities.

After lunch we also heard a lecture by Prof. Yoram Kahati on "Radical Islam", in which he described the modern origins of radical Islam from Hassan al Banna who founded the Muslim Brotherhood in 1928 and Said Kuttub (Sayid Qutb) in Egypt in the 1940's to Yussuf Qaradawi, the Muslim cleric who has justified under Islam much of the current terror used against Israel and the West. He also explained the symbolism that is used by the terrorist groups such as Hizbollah and Hamas in their flags and slogans and described their world-view. Altogether not a pleasant subject but very interesting and informative.

Wednesday, December 07, 2011

Egyptian election results

The results of the Egyptian election are worse than expected. In the preliminary voting not only did the Moslem Brotherhood's Freedom and Justice Party receive ca. 40% of the votes as expected, but the Salafist fundamentalist Islamic party al-Nour received another ca. 25%. Between them they can form an Islamic government and control Egypt. While there are other stages of the election to continue for the upper house of Parliament and for the President, this result has some important consquences.

First, it sidelines all secular and liberal parties which received 13.5% of the vote, and some of them even stupidly boycotted the election, thus weakening their own representation. Second, while the army and the Islamists formed a temporary alliance in order to stop the rioting of the young secularists in Tahrir Square, now the army may switch its allegiance. The first thing that the mullahs did when they took over in Iran was to replace all the army generals and to organize their own militias, the Iranian National Guard and the Basij (militant youth). One of the first things that PM Erdogan did when he was elected in Turkey was to depose all the generals to prevent a coup against his Islamic PK party by the secular army and arrest most of them for plotting against his government, and then he replaced them with his own candidates. Now in Egypt it is likely that one of the first things a new Islamist government will do is to try to replace the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) with their own choices. This could lead to conflict and possibly a civil war. The Government will of course say that it has been democratically elected, which is true, but as in Iran and Gaza, one election is enough for them, and democracy will be immediately stifled. So the secular forces, the young and the urbanites may ally this time with the Army to prevent this takeover.

But, the Muslim Brotherhood and the Salafists have their own differences, in effect they are rivals for largely the same constituency. The MB prefers to govern Egypt and take control by providing social welfare to their constituents. Since Egypt is basically bankrupt and receives most of its income from the US, the MB may be forced by pragmatic choice to tolerate the SCAF and continue to cooperate with the US. They also need income from tourism that is about 12% of their income. On the other hand the Salafists are determined enemies of the US, are against western tourism, consit largely of imams and religious leaders and cater more to the poor than the MB and want to replace Egypt and the other Arab countries with a new Caliphate. This may cause them not to go into a coaltion with the MB and may result in the government coalition being more moderate.

In the near future Hamas, the Palestinian Muslim Brotherhood, will have to make a difficult choice. For the past 7 years, since they won the first and only election held for the Palestine Authority in Gaza, Hamas has ruled Gaza and has been a model for a Muslim Brotherhood mini-state, with one exception, they are allied to Iran, because Iran gives them arms and support. If Hamas wants to ally itself with the MB of Egypt they will have to break their alliance with Syria and Iran. In the media yesterday was a report that senior Hamas operatives are leaving Damascus in droves. But, then today Hamas denied this. However, there is no doubt that they cannot straddle the divide between the exteme Sunni MB and the extreme Shia Iran. They will have to choose and soon.

Monday, December 05, 2011

Reprehensible practices

Under the influence of multi-culturalism many people think that all religions should be tolerated equally and noone should be prevented from carrying out their own religious or cultural practices. Of course, Jews feel that they should be able to continue the ritual slaughter of animals (shechita) as they have for thousands of years and not have this banned because they are told by enlightened liberals that it is animal cruelty. But, beyond such relatively harmless practices there are some that really go beyond the pale, and should be banned and some of them are in fact illegal in Western countries.

For example:
1. Honor killings. An Islamic women's group In the UK have recently estimated that 3,000 women were murdered and/or maimed last year by their own families (husbands, fathers, brothers) for dishonoring their family. The reasons vary, but they include having affairs, flirting with other men, reporting physical or sexual abuse to the authorities, preparing to run away or asking for divorce. In addition, other thousands of women and young girls are transported to Muslim countries, Pakistan, Afghanistan, etc. to be married or sold against their will. Such honor killings and abusive treatment of women are routine in Muslim societies and are sanctioned by Sharia law.

2. Female circumcision, although not required by Sharia Law, this is a practice that has spread from Africa throughout the Muslim world. It is customary for girls at puberty to have their clitoris excised in what is often a barbaric and agonizing ceremony, where the girl is held down by relatives and cruelly treated without any form of sedative of anesthetic. By contrast, male circumcision is relatively minor and does not prevent sexual feelings but is carried out in Islam at puberty (instead of at 8 days after birth as in Judaism). It is estimated that there are millions of women who have had this treatment and yet it is still being practised in Muslim societies (there is a large literature on this).

3. Child brides, are very common in certain Islamic societies and children are married at the ages of 5 upwards to adult men. This is one way for poor people to earn income by selling their young daughters and for men to have more than one wife.

4. Bigamy. It is accepted under Sharia Law that a man may marry as many wives as he can afford, although he is supposed to treat them all equally. However, this is rarely the case, since men usually replace older wives with younger ones, until they run out of money or energy. This is one reason why Muslims oppose western influence, because they are afraid they will lose their control over their women.

5. Persecution of minorities: In Western secular societies it is illegal to persecute or mistreat minorities, but under Sharia Law it is accepted because anyone who is not a Muslim is considered to be an infidel (kaffir). Thus, Jews and Christians are treated as dhimmi, second class citizens, while Hindus and other "pagans" are subject to either conversion to Islam or death. When the Muslims invaded India in the 17th century and beyond they slaughtered unknown numbers of people, mainly Hindus and forcibly converted millions, hence the Muslim nations of Pakistan, Bangladesh, Malaysia and Indonesia. The Sikh religion, in which adherents are required to carry a knife, was formed as a response to this invasion of India and mistreatment by the Muslims.

6. Killing of apostates: Any Muslim who renounces Islam and/or converts to another religion must be murdered according to Sharia Law. Anyone who converts from Islam to Christianity or Judaism in any Muslim country is subject to arrest, torture and murder. Many people who support multiculturalism do not realize that the Muslims they tolerate would kill any of their adherants who might choose to change their belief system. Bahai and other minorities are treated so badly in Iran and elsewhere because they are regarded as heretical. In the West this kind of attitude has been superseded in liberal secular society in which we tolerate and protect freedom of belief.

7. Treatment of women; In strictly Islamic societies, such as Saudi Arabia and Iran, women must be covered (usually all except their eyes) and are not allowed out in public except if accompanied by a male relative, even a young son. They must also have written permission to be out in public if going on a journey that requires travel, such as to another city or abroad. In addition women must not be seen to talk to any male stranger, such an action can result in women being punished and even physically abused. In some societies, such as Pakistan, courts administering Sharia Law can order women or girls to be raped by men of an opposing family or clan in order to satisfy their claims.

All of these practices are considered unacceptable in civilized society. Islamic society and laws must be changed to outlaw these reprehensible practices. However, with the victory of Muslim parties in north African countries, it is expected that Sharia Law will be applied as the law and this represents a regression for otherwise secular societies such as Tunisia, Morocco, Algeria and even Egypt. It is ignorant and totally unacceptable that in a speech yesterday Secty of State Hillary Clinton likened the supposedly worsening situation of women in Israel to that in Iran.

Sunday, December 04, 2011

Mysterious explosions

Once could be an accident, twice could be chance, but three times is a charm. There have been three major explosions recently, two in Iran and one in Lebanon. These are in addition to the targeted killings of several leading Iranian nuclear scientists, whose cars mysteriously blew up. In Iran on Nov 12 a massive explosion at a missile production facility in Boghadam 30 km from Tehran killed 36 members of the Iranian National Guard including the head of the rocket design project, Gen Moghaddam. He was so important that his funeral was a national ceremony attended by Ayatollah Khamenei and PM Ahmedinejad. At first Iran reported the explosion as an accident, then they denied it, and finally they said it wasn't really important.

On Nov 23 in south Lebanon near Tyre, a Hizbollah arms cache exploded killing a number of terrorists. Once again there were reports of the incident and photos of the huge smoke plume, then it was denied, even though the area was cordoned off by Hizbollah guards and no-one was admitted, including the UNIFIL forces that were supposed to prevent Hizbollah having any arms in that area. Finally, on Nov 28 a huge explosion or series of explosions occured in a major nuclear facility near the city of Isfahan causing the whole city to shake. Air reconaissance photos that were released later showed that several buildings in the facility were destroyed beyond repair.

The question is how did these explosions happen and who did it? Arab and Iranian commentators blamed Israel for somehow triggered these explosions, but the question is how could they do this so far within enemy territory. We can rule out actual soldiers, such as paratroopers, getting in and causing the explosions, because they would leave a trace or be captured by the enemy. That leaves two other possibilities, either drones were sent in and fired rockets to set the explosions off, and it is known that now the IDF has drones that can effectively hover silently for hours and are deadly accurate. Or Israel has found a way to cause munitions to explode from a distance. One possible means (and here I am speculating) is the use of some form of radiation that can heat a detonator from a distance. Whatever the mechanism, there is no doubt that the Iranian National Guard and Hizbollah will have to come up with some new form of security since their armaments are clearly now vulnerable whereever they are. Short of an actual war, it is likely that Israel will continue to hamper the progress of Iran towards their goal of developing a nuclear weapon and the means to deliver it. With Israel's incredible intelligence capability, nowhere in Iran or in south Lebanon is now safe.

Friday, December 02, 2011

Thank you North Dakota

You don't often hear about North Dakota, a remote sparsely populated State. But, today a milestone was passed thanks to N. Dakota, the US became a net exporter of oil after more than 60 years. No more dependence on Arab oil! A record finding of oil under N. Dakota estimated at 4 billion barrels, has now begun to be exploited. Production is booming and is only just getting under way using modern techniques including horizontal drilling. Other finds in Montana and Colorado has made the US the country with the largest oil reserves in the world, now above Saudi Arabia and Russia.

This has tremendous implications, first the Arab States can no longer blackmail the US by denying oil in any political situation. Second, the price of oil in the US and around the world should stabilise, thus not adding to the difficulty of the current economic situation. Third, the recent emphasis on non-carbon sources of energy other than fossil fuels, such as solar, wind and tide, will be partially reduced. That is not to say that we don't need non-polluting electric cars, its that the urgency of that need has somewhat abated.

Of course, Europe and Japan are entirely dependent on Middle Eastern oil supplies and the denial of oil to them could trigger a world-wide economic catastrophe. But, now with the US able to partially fill that gap the outcome might not be as bad. For example, if there were a war with Iran over its development of nuclear weapons, and the Straits of Hormuz was blocked by Iran to oil tankers, the effect would not be as catastrophic as it might have been before the US became a net exporter of oil.

Thursday, December 01, 2011

If at first...

All the countries that have been affected by the recent uprisings in the Arab world are now in the process of being taken over by extremist Muslim parties (so-called "moderate" Islamists). In Tunisia, Libya and Morocco the far right has won the elections, and in Egypt the Muslim Brotherhood is expected to win. The "Arab Spring" has turned into a "Muslim Winter." In Egypt the secular and liberal opposition has effectively vanished and the people have voted their preference. In Syria the opposition demonstrations against the Assad regime are led mainly by the Muslim Brotherhood. That leaves Jordan, Saudi Arabia, that is already Wahhabi and the Gulf States that are more western in their approach.

A cursory look would convince anyone that this trend bodes ill for Israel. The Islamist approach is fanatically anti-Israel and anti-Semitic. A few days ago there was a gathering at the al-Zahar University in Cairo, the leading Islamic Institution in the Arab world (!), and there were chants of "kill all the Jews", etc. These people mean business, this is no idle threat. However, this is not to say that the whole of the Muslim Brotherhood in these countries are as bloodthirsty. But, enough of them are to pose a future threat.

When a Government is formed in each of these countries they will have to deal with severe problems, not least of which is the economic disaster. How can the Government afford to feed 88 million people in Egypt, in effect that is impossible. But, they could try as best they can, which will probably take them 20 years, or they can stir up the masses against Israel. But, their military forces are in disarray, they have been used mostly for repressing their own populations, especially in Libya and Syria. They don't have the funds to modernize and currently they present no challenge to the IDF. What is more likely is a wave of Muslim Brotherhood inspired terrorism against Israel. After all, Hamas that engages in terrorism against Israel, is in fact the Palestinian Muslim Brotherhood off-shoot.

We must remember that the last major war fought by the Arab countries against Israel, before the peace treaty with Egypt was signed, was the Yom Kippur War in 1973. Israel fought the pan-Arab armies under Nasser in 1956 and 1967, the Egyptian nationalist forces under Sadat in 1973, and now we have the Muslim Brotherhood finally taking power. The young in Egypt do not remember the past defeats they suffered at the hands of the IDF. No doubt they would like to try again under the auspices of Islam. It may take them some time to get themselves worked up enough, but I predict that if Egypt abrogates the peace treaty with Israel, then there will be the build up to a confrontation again. It may take some years, during which the situation vis-a-vis Iran will perhaps be resolved. But, they feel they have the right and the duty to do this. If at first you don't succeed, try, try again!