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Wednesday, July 29, 2009

"Honor Killings" in Gaza and the Palestinian Authority; the Hypocrisy of the Left

There is a new kind of "pilgrimage" to Israel: personages, politicians and students who arrive by boat and plane, seeking a photo op at the weekly demonstration beside the Bil'in fence or attempting to "break the blockade" of Gaza. These leftists from around the globe rub shoulders with "anarchists" from Tel Aviv and even a scattering of Palestinians who lend authenticity to the happenings. With luck, if they can provoke a reaction from the Israeli security forces, they might get a whiff of tear gas, whereupon they can write in their journals "been there, done that", jet home, and recount their heroism to anyone willing to listen.

However, these closet anti-Semites, consumed with their hatred for "Zionism", i.e. Jews, will never tell you about an abomination being perpetrated right under their noses: "honor killings" against Palestinian women.

Yesterday, a particularly horrifying instance of this phenomenon was reported by the Jerusalem Post (http://www.jpost.com/servlet/Satellite?cid=1248277924578&pagename=JPost%2FJPArticle%2FPrinter):

"A Gaza man is being held on suspicion he bludgeoned his daughter with an iron chain, cracking her skull in a particularly brutal family 'honor killing,' two human rights groups said Wednesday, citing police and forensics reports.

The groups' reports said that the assault was triggered by Jawdat Najjar's discovery that his daughter Fadia - a 27-year-old divorced mother of five - owned a cell phone. He suspected she used it to speak to a man outside the family, according to the groups' reports."
The Jerusalem Post further reported that three of the Fadia's brothers were suspected of acting as accomplices and that she was "the 10th victim of a so-called 'honor killing' this year in the Palestinian territories and among Arab communities in Israel, according to rights groups." In the article, Mona Shawa of the Palestinian Center for Human Rights is quoted as saying that in the West Bank and Gaza, "honor killing" assailants serve between six months and three years in prison.

During his Cairo speech, Obama did not address "honor killings", which are perpetrated in Iran, Syria - both of these countries the objects of special diplomatic overtures by the Obama Administration - and throughout the Islamic world. Heaven forbid that Obama should be accused of "meddling".

Why Obama Won't Talk to Israel

Aluf Benn, Editor at Large of the Israeli newspaper Haaretz, the most left-leaning and intellectual of the Israeli dailies, yesterday contributed an op-ed to The New York Times, entitled "Why Won't Obama Talk to Israel?". Benn observes that Obama has visited and spoken with almost every country in the world except Israel. Benn appeals to Obama to speak with Israel directly to allay misgivings.

I agree with Benn. Imagine if Obama had gone from Cairo to Jerusalem to Ramallah. This trip would have established Obama as one of today's preeminent statesmen. But he didn't.

Why won't Obama talk to Israel? Has it anything to do with 20 years of invective from his former pastor and dialogues with radical friends? Or, is there a power behind the throne as it pertains to Middle East diplomacy?

The star of Ray Takeyh, an Iranian-American and senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations who has propounded rapprochement with Iran, may have fallen after Iran rejected U.S. courtship, notwithstanding Obama's silence in the aftermath of Iran's "elections". However, Obama's personal strategy of wooing Middle Eastern tyrannies remains intact: It was reported on Monday that the Obama administration is lifting bans on exporting aviation and IT products to Syria, despite the 2005 UN investigation implicating senior Syrian officials in the assassination of Lebanon's former pro-Western prime minister, Rafiq Hariri. All is forgiven and forgotten.

Make no mistake: the current crisis with Israel was manufactured to order. Freeze settlements? A majority of Israelis oppose the settlements, and former Israeli prime ministers Barak and Olmert offered the territories back to the Palestinians, with an exchange of lands where necessary, to achieve peace. If Obama was serious about halting settlement construction, quiet diplomacy would have been more effective.

Israelis are confused by what is intended by Obama's demand for a freeze of settlement construction. Does it include the Jewish Quarter of the Old City of Jerusalem? In 1948 the Arab Legion captured the Jewish Quarter, site of the Wailing Wall, and destroyed centuries-old synagogues. The area adjoining the Wailing Wall became a slum, and Jews were prevented from worshipping there. Forfeit sovereignty and the right to build in the Jewish Quarter? Both the Israeli right and left cannot concede this.

But back to the question of why Obama will not talk to Israel: Examine the pictures taken during the May 18 Obama-Netanyahu meeting. Observe the icy body language, the frozen smiles, the physical distance. These are two people who do not like one another. Now look at Netanyahu's pictures with Hillary from the same visit. Do you see the difference?

Benn correctly observes: "Six months into his presidency, Israelis find themselves increasingly suspicious of Mr. Obama” and "not even the Israeli left, desperate for a new agenda, has adopted Mr. Obama as its icon." I would only add that in times of crisis, the Israeli left and right, ordinarily at one another's throats, join together to face existential threats. Life goes on in Israel as always, but somewhere in their collective psyche, Israelis are cognizant that they are again facing extinction, this time from Iran, and that they can expect no help from Obama.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Hillary to Run Against Obama in 2012

Obama's first six months in office have fallen short of the mark: Involvement where, as president, he should not have gone (Gates); pusillanimity when outrage was demanded (Iran); no "change" where revision was required (economy and healthcare). Clearly, the American experiment with a radical dressed in moderate's clothes is failing.

The honeymoon with Obama is over, but what about Hillary? Sure, it's early, but there's no evidence she will attain the stature of her esteemed predecessors: George Marshall, Dean Acheson, Henry Kissinger, George Shultz, Madeleine Albright, or Condoleezza Rice. Nor is there any chance she will reach this storied echelon, given that someone in the Obama administration is a student of Sun Tzu: "Keep your friends close and your enemies closer." Try as she might, and she is trying hard, Hillary will never be allowed to shape foreign policy, as evidenced by her inability to convince Obama to remonstrate when the students took to the streets in Tehran.

Does anyone believe Hillary's broken elbow prevented her from accompanying Obama to Moscow? Has anyone forgotten how Bill took Madeleine almost everywhere he went? Certainly Hillary remembers.

My prediction: Hillary, too bright and too hungry, will announce in 2011 her resignation as Secretary of State and reach again for the golden ring.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Entertainment, The New York Times: Comedy Duo of Kristof and Cohen

There have been many famous comedy duos: Laurel and Hardy, Abbott and Costello, Burns and Allen, Jerry Lewis and Dean Martin. The New York Times now provides us with Kristof and Cohen; here, however, it has yet to be determined which of the two is the "straight man" in this fledgling act.

On June 27, in "Questions About Iran? Ask a Witness", New York Times op-ed columnist, Nicholas Kristof, wrote:

I’m delighted to welcome back Roger Cohen, my fellow Times columnist, from Iran. For the last couple of weeks, frankly, I’ve been gnashing my teeth with jealousy, both over Roger’s two-week visa to Iran (which left him there after other reporters had to leave) and over his superb columns and videos.

He has agreed to take your questions about Iran and what it was like there, so fire away.

You can imagine how delighted I was to learn that The Times and Kristof were proffering Cohen, who doesn't speak Farsi and whose recurrent line - "Iran is not totalitarian" - was proven notoriously wrong, as an expert on Iran. Ask a question of Cohen concerning Iran? I would rather ask Borat.

If we thought for a moment that Cohen was finished with Iran after writing about tennis and monkeys, we were wrong: On July 20 he returned to the stage with an encore performance in "Iran's Tragic Joke". My response, which The Times agreed to post:
Cohen writes:

"So the line I take away from the important Friday sermon of Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, the two-time former president who believes that the Islamic Republic’s future lies in compromise rather than endless confrontation, is this one: 'We shouldn’t let our enemies laugh at us because we’ve imprisoned our own people.'"

Rafsanjani opposes imprisoning Iranians? Maybe that’s because he was too busy executing them in the past. Cohen remarkably ignores what his own newspaper recently told us about Rafsanjani:

"After Mr. Rafsanjani became president, perhaps thousands of Iranians were executed, including drug offenders, opposition guerrillas, Communists, Kurds, Bahais, even clerics." (http://topics.nytimes.com...

Roger continues:

"It’s an Islamic Republic and, as Rafsanjani said, 'If the Islamic and Republican sides of the revolution are not preserved, it means that we have forgotten the principles of the revolution.'"

Cohen would have us believe that Rafsanjani is a man of "principles"? Rafsanjani is considered the mastermind of the 1994 bombing of the Jewish community center in Buenos Aires, which left 85 dead and more than 300 wounded, and is the subject of arrest orders issued by the Argentine state prosecutor.

Concerning Hussein Moussavi, Cohen labels him a "reformist" and would have us imagine that "Moussavi, with his impeccable revolutionary credentials, was the very emblem of unthreatening change."

Cohen fails to tell us that as prime minister, Moussavi presided over the execution of thousands of dissidents. Cohen fails to say that Moussavi defended the taking of hostages at the U.S. embassy in Tehran and backed the fatwa against British author Salman Rushdie.

Reporting requires that readers be informed of relevant facts. Opinion, I would like to believe, also requires balance. Be this reporting or opinion, something is tragically missing.

Surprisingly, this was the most highly reader-recommended comment posted by The Times. Apparently The Times' readers have grown tired of Cohen's routine.

Notwithstanding Cohen's flop, Kristof, roaming the wilds of Pakistan, presented us on July 22 with "Terror Creeps Into the Heartland". My response:

Kristof writes:

"If we want to stabilize Pakistan, we should take two steps. First is to cut tariffs on manufactured imports from Pakistan. That would boost the country’s economy, raise employment and create good will. Cutting tariffs is perhaps the most effective step we could take to stabilize this country and fight extremism."

Does Kristof really think that by flooding the U.S. with cheap clothing from Pakistan and destroying whatever is left of the U.S. garment industry, this will do anything to stabilize Pakistan? Does Kristof really believe that the profits resulting from lower tariffs will filter down to the laborers in Pakistani sweatshops, where children work 12-hour days, and raise their willingness to oppose the Taliban?

Don't get me wrong: I'm not conservative or liberal (I'm too busy trying to survive) and receptive to all kinds of humor. In the interest of equal time, I should observe that token conservative, New York Times op-ed writer, Ross Douthat, also tickled my funny bone, when he compared Sarah Palin with Harry Truman in his July 6 solo performance entitled "Palin and Her Enemies".

As William Shakespeare long ago wrote: "With mirth and laughter let old wrinkles come."

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Whose Arm to Twist?

Demonstrators in Tehran are bludgeoned into submission, and Obama remains silent. The tiny Shepherd Hotel in East Jerusalem's Sheikh Jarah neighborhood is considered for 20 apartments where Jews might live, and Israeli Ambassador Oren is summoned to the State Department.

Meanwhile, Rafik Natsheh, a member of the Central Committee of Fatah and a former Speaker of the Palestinian Legislative Council, has just stated in an interview with Al-Quds Al-Arabi that the so-called West-leaning Fatah "doesn't recognize Israel's right to exist and never asked this of others." Natsheh said Palestinians would forever pursue armed struggle against Israel.

When not bowing to Saudi King Abdullah, Obama knows whose arm to twist.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Compugen, Evolving Case Study for Business Schools

I received the following comment to my post, "Compugen, Further Validation of Its DAC Blockers Platform":

"Another great announcement. The challenge with this company will be developing a revenue stream. We have yet to hear of any more advanced collaborations/trials and it will be many years if and until any products make their way into the market. Therefore the market will not treat the stock price that kindly unless the company is sold for the intrinsic value of the platforms. Your thoughts?"

Rather than respond in a few sentences, I prefer to answer in more detail, but with the usual caveats:

• I am not providing advice to buy or sell Compugen shares.
• As noted in a previous post, I own shares in Compugen.
• Notwithstanding my optimism, Compugen is "not yet there".

So, how does Compugen differ from other small biotech companies? Most such companies either internally develop or acquire a few product candidates and quickly gamble on clinical testing with its attendant costs. If these product candidates fail, which most do, and the biotech company is unable to raise additional capital, difficult to come by in today's economic climate, the biotech company goes under.

Compugen has taken a different path:

• It has invested heavily over the past decade in breakthrough discovery platforms, and Big Pharma can't play "catch-up".
• Compugen didn't hurry product candidates into clinical trials and instead seeks to farm its discoveries out to partners pursuant to milestone and royalty agreements.
• Compugen has no debt.
• Gross annual expenses in the foreseeable future should total no more than $7 million.
• Discovery is fueled by a cadre of geniuses capable of doing what entire R&D departments cannot achieve.
• Compugen's discovery capabilities have reached critical mass at a time when Big Pharma's pipelines have gone dry.

Assets that don't appear on Compugen's balance sheet: discovery platforms, patents and early stage therapeutic candidates with blockbuster potential. The combined value of the early stage therapeutic candidates? I would guess in excess of Compugen's current market value, but their true value lies in their validation of the company's predictive science, which Big Pharma can no longer afford to ignore.

A revenue stream? It's worth noting that the Israeli Office of the Chief Scientist has recognized the progress made by Compugen and has awarded the company grants, albeit small, but significant in terms of Compugen's annual budget.

Compugen has also stated that it expects its first toxicity marker agreement in the second half of 2009. Revenues from these agreements will be relatively small, but should be recurrent and also significant in terms of Compugen's annual budget.

Existing agreements with Merck, Merck Serono, Roche, Medarex and Biosite could also yield short-term milestone payments.

However, most important are anticipated strategic agreements with Big Pharma over the coming year. Given Compugen's size and the potential for conflicts of interest, Compugen will most likely only be able to enter into two or three such agreements, possibly covering monoclonal antibody targets and peptide therapeutics. Compugen expects that in exchange for performing R&D pursuant to these agreements, it will receive sufficient funds each year to cover all expenses. Upfronts, milestones and ultimately royalties from an expanding list of product candidates will comprise pure profit.

Will Big Pharma sign strategic agreements with Compugen? Again, given the company's most recent announcements, I believe Compugen's predictive science can only be ignored by Big Pharma at Big Pharma's peril, and as stated in an earlier post, I look forward to Compugen's announcements of future achievements, both scientific and commercial, in the months to come. And yes, I believe that Compugen's development, characterized by conservatism in a field fraught with risk, will be studied by business schools in the years to come.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Compugen, Further Validation of Its DAC Blockers Platform

In an earlier post, "Investing Then and Now, Compugen", I described Compugen's disease associated conformation ("DAC") blockers discovery platform, used to predict peptides that prevent proteins from assuming their disease associated conformations.

Today, Compugen announced further validation of this platform:

"CGEN-25017, a novel peptide antagonist of the Angiopoietin/Tie-2 pathway, has shown positive therapeutic effects in an animal model of retinopathy, a very serious eye condition characterized by over-growth of blood vessels. CGEN-25017, which was initially discovered using Compugen’s DAC Blockers discovery platform, had previously demonstrated significant inhibitory activity in two other models of angiogenesis, an in vitro multi-cellular assay and the widely recognized chorioallantoic membrane (CAM) model.

In the recently completed study utilizing a rodent model of oxygen-induced retinopathy, administration of CGEN-25017 resulted in a dramatic decrease in the extent of pathological neovascularization, outperforming the positive control, soluble Tie-2. These results provide evidence for the potential use of this novel peptide in the treatment of angiogenic ocular diseases, such as diabetic retinopathy, age-related macular degeneration and retinopathy of prematurity. Furthermore, since this animal model is well accepted for assessing anti-angiogenic activity in general, the profound dose-dependent anti-angiogenic potency of CGEN-25017 seen in this and earlier studies indicate potential therapeutic utility for other diseases involving pathological angiogenesis such as cancer and inflammatory conditions, including psoriasis and rheumatoid arthritis.

Professor John S. Penn, from the Department of Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences at the Vanderbilt University School of Medicine, who supervised the study and is a recognized world expert in this field stated, 'The efficacy achieved with CGEN-25017 is a fairly rare finding in this model. Based upon our past experience conducting efficacy trials of this type, CGEN-25017 falls within the top 10% of all test compounds that have passed through our hands. Thus, in my opinion, CGEN-25017 warrants further development and study as a potential therapy for angiogenesis-related diseases.'"

In today's announcement, Dr. Anat Cohen-Dayag states:

"Peptide blockers predicted by this platform have now been validated experimentally in functional assays for 11 out of 12 protein targets selected for screening."

Given the dearth of promising product candidates in Big Pharma's pipelines, this tiny company continues to shine.

Monday, July 20, 2009

The New York Times: Censorship and Apathy to Jewish Sensitivities, Again

My comment submitted online in response to The New York Times' article, "Israel Rejects U.S. Call on East Jerusalem Development", was censored by The Times' "moderators". I again protested to Clark Hoyt, Public Editor of The New York Times, who claimed in an earlier e-mail to me that he advocates "robust debate":

Dear Clark,

I would like to provide you with another real time example of New York Times' censorship of a comment submitted in response to The Times' article, "Israel Rejects U.S. Call on East Jerusalem Development", of today's date:

"Demonstrators in Tehran are bludgeoned into submission, yet Obama remains silent. Obama can't be bothered with genocide in Darfur. But when the tiny Shepherd Hotel in East Jerusalem's Sheikh Jarah neighborhood is designated for housing units, which, heaven forbid, might be inhabited by Jews, Israeli Ambassador Michael Oren is summoned to the State Department.

Never mind that Arab residents of Jerusalem are free to purchase housing anywhere in the city, and hundreds have done so. Where is the perspective of the Obama administration? Dare we ask?"


Abusive? Not on topic?

And once again, where is The Time's sensitivity to anti-Semitism? Is no one at The Times aware of the anti-Semitic connotations pertaining to the title of Maureen Dowd's op-ed, "Pharisees on the Potomac", of today's date? See, for example:

"Because of the New Testament's frequent depictions of Pharisees as self-righteous rule-followers, the word "pharisee" (and its derivatives: "pharisaical", etc.) has changed in meaning and has come into semi-common usage in English to describe a hypocritical and arrogant person who places the letter of the law above its spirit. Jews today (who subscribe to Pharisaic Judaism) typically find this insulting if not anti-Semitic."

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pharisees

Unintended by Ms. Dowd? Probably, but why was the matter not given sufficient thought by those who proofread this op-ed? If there was any question at all, as there should have been, why was the title not amended?

Clark, months ago I was promised answers by your staff, which never came. If you don't care to discuss candidly these topics, i.e. censorship and material that is offensive to The Times' Jewish readership, just let me know.

I later sent a second e-mail to Mr. Hoyt:

Dear Clark,

Further to my comment of yesterday's date, I would like to note the single comment chosen as an "Editors' Selection" among all readers' comments submitted in response to The Times' article, "Israel Rejects U.S. Call on East Jerusalem Development":

"The US needs to have a broader concept of its interests and realize that by continuing to subsidize Israel, it is complicit in what Israel does.

Let Israel exercise its sovereignty, but if, in doing so, Israel acts immorally, short-sightedly and contrary to the interests of the United States, we need to distance ourselves from them. We should have done so long ago.

Cut them off financially and militarily. As a sovereign state, they can find help elsewhere."


Given the tone of this single "Editors' Selection", it is little wonder that my comment was censored.

I kindly request to know the names of The New York Times' "editors" who made this "selection" and who censored my comment.

Once again, I await Clark Hoyt's response with bated breath. A pity that the Times' "wedding pages", the subject of his July 12 column, "Love and Marriage, New York Times Style", apparently are more important than censorship and anti-Semitism.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Obama: Foreign Affairs Hypocrisy or Ineptitude?

Demonstrators in Tehran are bludgeoned into submission, yet Obama remains silent. Obama can't be bothered with genocide in Darfur. But when the tiny Shepherd Hotel in East Jerusalem's Sheikh Jarah neighborhood is considered for 20 housing units, which, heaven forbid, might be inhabited by Jews, Israeli Ambassador Mike Oren is summoned to the State Department.

Never mind that Arab residents of Jerusalem are free to purchase housing anywhere in the city, and hundreds have done so. Where is the perspective of the Obama administration? Dare we ask?

ADL National Director Foxman says:

"I'm glad President Obama reached out to Jewish leaders. It is a good beginning, but there is a lot of work still to be done for full reassurance."

(http://cgis.jpost.com/Blogs/foxman/entry/after_meeting_with_obama_what)

Wake up, Mr. Foxman. Sure, it was flattering to have been invited to the White House, but regardless of where one stands vis-à-vis the settlement issue, there is a way to communicate with allies. What was once an orange light is now glowing red.

Obama refused to "meddle" in Iranian affairs; however, his clumsy involvement in a matter involving a tiny parcel of Jerusalem real estate has immeasurably strengthened Israel's Prime Minister Netanyahu, who knows how and when to say "no", among the Israeli electorate.

It will be interesting to see whether Obama & Co. will now also seek to halt new construction in the Jewish Quarter of the Old City of Jersualem, which was totally reduced to rubble - both homes and synagogues - in 1948 by the Jordanian Arab Legion. Is this also "settlement activity" that needs to be stopped as part and parcel of Obama's inflexible, preordained policy of "tough love"?

[The first two paragraphs of this post, submitted as a reader's comment in response to The New York Times' online article, "Israel Rejects U.S. Call on East Jerusalem Development", of today's date, were "rejected" by The Times' "moderators".]

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Winds of War?

The signposts are there for everyone to see:

After Egypt rolled up a Hezbollah terror ring that had been gathering information concerning Suez Canal traffic, an Israeli Dolphin-class submarine passed down the canal from the Mediterranean to the Red Sea. Egypt initially denied the report; however, two Israeli Sa'ar 5-class vessels have now also been allowed to journey down the canal to the Red Sea. No message intended for Iran?

Hamas forces have been reportedly deployed to prevent rocket fire into southern Israel by other Islamic terrorist organizations. Hamas denies the reports, but calm prevails in southern Israel. Is Hamas "making nice" to Israel, or attempting to preserve quiet as it replenishes its rocket stocks with longer-range Grads and acquires advanced antiaircraft and antitank missiles?

This week there was a huge explosion of Katyusha rockets hidden in a house in the Lebanese village of Hirbet Selm, 20 kilometers north of the Israeli border. Hezbollah barred UNIFIL and the Lebanese army access to the village following the blast, and even UNIFIL acknowledged that the rockets were a "serious violation" of the ceasefire that ended the 2006 Lebanon War. Will the 40,000 rockets amassed by Hezbollah remain idle if hostilities begin with Iran?

The Obama administration linked a total freeze on "settlement activity", including construction in Jerusalem's immediate environs overlooking the city's main entryway, to U.S. opposition to Iranian nuclear development. Netanyahu is not taking issue with Obama and appears amenable to a two-state solution. Does survival in the face of the Iranian menace take precedence over Likud doctrine?

Successful testing of Israel's Iron Dome missile defense system to protect against Kassam and short-range Katyusha rockets has just been announced. Deployment of Iron Dome along the Gaza border and the northern border with Lebanon is planned for 2010.

Never a dull moment as Israel again readies to fight for survival in a potential multi-front war.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

The Middle East's Forgotten Kurds

Although they number 30 million, you will rarely read of persecution against the Kurds in the world's leading English language newspapers: No mention of the "plight of the Kurds", no mention of pogroms against the Kurds, and no mention of efforts to purge the Kurds of their cultural identity.

In Thomas Friedman's op-ed, "Goodbye Iraq, and Good Luck", in The New York Times of today's date, he describes a meeting in Kirkuk that Mike Mullen, Chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, held with provincial leaders - Sunnis, Kurds, Turkmen and Christians. My online comment, which will no doubt be lost in an ocean of vituperation vented at Friedman, focuses on the Kurds:

Friedman tells us that Iraqis "still have not figured out whom they want to be as a country." Friedman also highlights the joke told by the Kurdish representative at the meeting with Mike Mullen.

The Kurds? President Obama did not dare mention them when he gave his June speech on the Middle East in Cairo, which called for a "new beginning", because any such reference would have antagonized Turkey; the Sunni elite in Iraq; Iran, which is the object of overtures by Obama; and Syria, with which the Obama administration is seeking lines of communication.

There are some 30 million Kurds living in Turkey, Iraq, Iran and Syria, and although they have long sought their independence, they have been oppressed and ignored.

In Turkey, where the Kurds comprise 20% of the population, they have been categorized as "Mountain Turks" and "Eastern Turks" to disguise their identity. Over the years, they have been relocated, their language has been banned, they have lived under martial law, and their revolts have been suppressed.

In Iraq, where the Kurds amount to 17% of the population, they have suffered deportation and mass murder. Saddam's "Anfal" campaign against Kurds in 1988 resulted in the destruction of thousands of Kurd villages and the death of almost 100,000 Kurd civilians.

In Iran, where the Kurds total 7% of the population, they have long struggled to maintain their ethnic identity and achieve autonomy. After the Iranian revolution, Ayatollah Khomeini declared a "holy war" against Kurdish rebels. Kurdish human rights activists continue to be murdered and imprisoned.

In Syria, where the Kurds comprise 9% of the population, the Syrian government has at various times banned the use of Kurdî, the Kurdish language, and taken many other actions, including the banning of books written in Kurdî, in order to deprive the Kurds of their ethnic identity.

Peace talks along the lines of Dayton? An interesting idea, but first it will be necessary to acknowledge the identity and aspirations of the Middle East's Kurds.

In 1991 Iraqi troops sought to quell a Kurdish uprising in northern Iraq; however, the U.S. and the U.K. responded with Operation Provide Comfort and Operation Northern Watch, creating a no-fly zone aimed at protecting the Kurds from Saddam's vengeance. In 2003 the Kurds greeted American troops in northern Iraq with jubilation.

Iraq's Kurds have enjoyed some measure of autonomy since 1992 and will be unlikely to accept anything that might compromise that freedom. Should Obama continue to reach out to Iran and Syria, let us hope that such overtures to repressive regimes will not come at the expense of the Kurds.

Monday, July 13, 2009

No Way to Treat Family

President Obama met with 15 U.S. Jewish leaders on Monday to allay concerns over heavy-handed treatment of Israel and informed the leaders of these organizations that Israel would need "to engage in serious self-reflection".

Unbeknownst to Obama, the one thing not lacking among Israelis, who literally labor every day under an existential threat, is "self-reflection".

After his Cairo speech, how difficult would it have been for Obama, playing the role of honest broker, to address Israelis from Jerusalem? Although he would have courteous U.S. Jewish leaders believe that the current tension between the U.S. and Israel amounts to a "family" squabble, his shunning of Israel - a second foreign policy debacle following failure to bring unrest in Iran before the UN Security Council - was not lost on a savvy Israeli electorate. Trust has dissipated. The frigid reception awaiting Obama, Rahm and Axelrod in Israel, should the trio ever visit, will leave them nonplused.

New Example of Oxymoron: "Iranian Diplomat"

Everyone is familiar with the oxymoron, "giant shrimp". Today we are being asked to swallow, but not digest, a new oxymoron, "Iranian diplomat".

Recent news items have cursorily reported the release of five Iranian "diplomats" by U.S forces. The "diplomats", captured in 2007 in northern Iraq, were being held for "aiding" Shiite "militants". The U.S. refused to provide the rationale for their release, and they were treated to a hero's welcome upon their return to Tehran.

Let there be no mistake: these were the same kind of Iranian "diplomats" who undertook the bombing of the Jewish community center in Buenos Aires in 1994, which killed 87 innocent people and wounded more than 100. In Iraq, however, the mission of these particular "diplomats" was different: to train terrorists in the use of explosively formed penetrators ("EFPs"), which have killed and maimed numerous U.S. soldiers traveling in armored vehicles.

Needless to say, the timing of their release is puzzling, inasmuch as it is being credited to Ahmadinejad when the blood on Tehran's streets has yet to dry after post-election unrest. Has the Obama administration, which remained mute during the student protests, tacitly accepted the Ahmadinejad victory?

One can only hope and pray that the U.S. received in return something of concrete and substantial value, in addition to the release of Iranian-American journalist, Roxana Saberi.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

What Happens at The Times Stays at The Times: Hands Off Maureen

Saturday and censored for picking on Maureen. My protest to Clark Hoyt, Public Editor of The New York Times, concerning my "rejected" comment in response to Gail Collins' op-ed, "What Happened in Vegas", of today's date:

Dear Clark,

I would like to provide you with another real time example of New York Times' censorship of a comment submitted in response to Gail Collins' op-ed, "What Happened in Vegas", of today's date.

But first let's look at what is permissible (purportedly "on-topic and not abusive") as determined by The Times. Comment No. 1, approved by The Times' "moderators", states:

Let's not be so hard on these bozos, Gail! After all, Republican and social conservatives are putting the "FUN" back into "DYSFUNCTIONAL"! We cynical Obama supporters are beside ourselves with glee, and are just waiting to hear that a few of the "C Street" boys are closet Muslims! And I am sure that more than a few wear their wives' pantyhose under their flag-patterned boxers! These guys really know how to party!!!

Are we to understand that The Times deems it in the interest of "robust debate" (your words, see: http://jgcaesarea.blogspot.com/2009/06/clark-hoyt-responds-has-new-york-times.html) to allow persons to label Republicans "bozos" and to allege that they are cross dressers?

My horrifying comment that required censorship:

Gail, thanks for the marvelous column. Those lascivious, duplicitous Republicans!

Now how about an expose concerning the recently revealed "foibles" of certain New York Times op-ed writers? Dowd continues to churn out op-eds demeaning Palin; however, I would love to be provided with all the details vis-a-vis Dowd's "inadvertant lifting of language".

My complaint to The Times' Public Editor concerning Cohen's "What Iran's Jews Say" has also gone unanswered, notwithstanding the commitment made many months ago by The Times' Public Editor's staff: "I am looking into this further, and doing some homework right now. I also have Mr. Hoyt looking into it, and I will report our findings to you as soon as they are ready."
http://jgcaesarea.blogspot.com/2009/06/clark-hoyt-responds-has-new-york-times.html

Or does what happen at The Times also stay at The Times?

Once again it is clear that The Times is unwilling to brook criticism.

Sincerely,
Jeffrey

As you can well imagine, I await Clark's response with bated breath.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

M_ and a Slip of the Pen (Part 1)

After three years in a combat unit, my oldest son, M_, finished his required term of duty and returned home. We had seen M_ many times during the short leaves he received over the course of his service, and we had occasionally traveled to visit him at his various bases, yet our joy at having him back was coupled with anxiety: M_ had been at the epicenter of an explosion, but had survived. How would M_ adapt to the freedom of civilian life?

Several days ago, I wrote an e-mail to a friend:

We were concerned when M_ first came home. We worry if I experienced shock . . .

After rereading the e-mail, I noticed that "I" had been substituted for "he". I shook my head in disbelief. Here was subliminal acknowledgement of what I already knew: that you do not emerge from life here unscathed and that I, too, was among the "walking wounded", prone to sudden bursts of anger, impatience and irregular sleep.

* * * * * *

It is almost 30 years ago, and I don't remember all of their names, but I remember the faces of those who shared my tent during basic training. They were a cross section of society, each one from a different town or city, each with his own special personality, predisposed for better or worse to the physical trials and mental challenges that would be hurled at us during the next three months.

Did you ever see Richard Gere's "Officer and a Gentleman"? I sneered when I saw this movie. My basic training was not about shining a belt buckle, and when we ran day and night, it was not in Nikes. I lost the sense of feeling in one toe, and when I removed my boots, one of my Achilles tendons made noises like the rusty hinge of a door.

The boys with whom I shared a tent during that period? I am certain that they have grown heavier and grayer, and I could walk by them in the street today without recognizing them. But at the time, they were at the prime of their lives, without the worries of family and mortgage, dreaming of girlfriends, awaiting their next weekend pass to freedom. There was A_, the farm boy, who showed us the meaning of self-discipline and was clearly headed for officer training. There was V_, the new immigrant, who, despite his smoking habit, could run like the wind. There was D_, who couldn't stop babbling, E_, the philosopher, S_, the most sensitive among us, and R_, a dreamy kid, who, no matter what happened, always smiled.

I remember how R_ took precious time to explain to me how to clean my gun, just seconds before inspection, and how we were both "disciplined" for failing to be ready on time. Yet once again, his smile and optimism never left him.

It was several months later, after I had been sent to another unit, that I again encountered my squad from basic training:

"Did you hear?"

"No, what happened?"

"R_ is dead."

You see, it's a lottery, and if your number comes up, are you willing to pay the price? I am. But was I wrong to impart these values to my oldest, M_, or, is there anything else that matters?

Saturday, July 4, 2009

From Activist to Ostrich: Is There No Middle Ground?

It's early morning, and I have yet to see whether The Times will censor my comment submitted in response to Gail Collins' July 3 op-ed, entitled "Sarah's Straight Talk". After eight years of feast, both Collins and Dowd face a minimum of four years of famine, as they vainly attempt to revive Palin and Cheney from the irrelevant.

What about "straight talk" from Gail? Is a six-month grace period insufficient? Isn't it time to acknowledge that those who voted for "Obama the Activist", an image fostered by the teleprompter magic of Axelrod & Co., have in fact been given "Obama the Ostrich"?

My comment:

"And there is no sign, Purdum reported, that Palin has made any attempt to bone up on the issues so that next time around, she could run as a candidate who actually had some grasp of the intricacies of foreign and domestic policy."

Palin is not "going against the flow" or "swimming against the current". She's "dead in the water", i.e. harmless, destined to be chum for late night television jokes and New York Times op-ed barbs for many years to come. Her blind cave fish grasp of the intricacies of foreign and domestic policy? Who cares?

Forgive me, however, if I ask: Has the president's "grasp of the intricacies" served the U.S. any better vis-a-vis health care reform, gay rights, economic revival and the courageous Iranian students who took to Tehran's streets and were left to their fate by the Obama administration?

From activist to ostrich: Is there no middle ground?

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Roger Wrestles with Reality

In Roger Cohen's July 1 epistle, "Let the Usurpers Writhe", he appears confused and turns to his readers for answers:

Two weeks after Iran's ballot-box putsch, mysteries still envelop it. Why have a pre-election freedom-fest, bring hundreds of journalists to Tehran to witness it, then put on a horror show, throwing them into jail or out of the country?

This time I'm going to help Roger with the answers: Because the Iranian theocracy pulses in a parallel universe, separated by light years from Roger's alternative reality. Because you cannot transplant Western logic into a Middle East body without expecting the body to reject it. Because given Cohen's glowing past reports concerning all things Persian, which almost entirely ignored such minor matters as horrific persecution against the Baha'is, Tehran's masters had every reason to believe that he would continue to sweep these unpleasantries under his Persian carpet.

I'm sorry they spoiled your party, Roger.

With a flourish of his flowery pen, Cohen concludes his most recent op-ed:

The price of Obama's engagement may just have become Ahmadinejad's departure. I think it has. His defenestration is not impossible; it would be forced from within where disaffected clerics and moderates abound; and it would restore an Islamic Republic, recognized by Obama, where both words of the self-description mean something, a land of God and people.

Cohen "thinks" Ahmadinejad is going somewhere? Think again. Obama has adopted a form of isolationism as his new foreign policy, in accordance with his own hard-wired behavioral preference not to take sides, i.e. to vote "present".

A "land of God and people"? Which people? Does Cohen include Iran's Baha'is, homosexuals, Jews, Christians, and Sunni Muslims among those people? Even if Roger's preferred candidate, Moussavi, a monster in his own right, had swept into office, Iran would have remained a godless morass.

Diagnosis: After sniffing the smelling salts of reality administered by Iran's recent "election", Cohen remains delusional.