Follow by Email

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Dissed by Karzai, Obama Seeks to Kiss and Make Up

On Monday there was an eye-opening article in The New York Times, written by Dexter Filkins and Mark Landler and entitled "Afghan Leader Is Seen to Flout Influence of U.S.", which discloses Afghan President Karzai's utter contempt for Obama:

"This month, with President Hamid Karzai looking ahead to a visit to the White House, he received a terse note from aides to President Obama: Your invitation has been revoked. The reason, according to American officials, was Mr. Karzai’s announcement that he was emasculating an independent panel that had discovered widespread fraud in Mr. Karzai’s re-election last year.

Incensed, Mr. Karzai extended an invitation of his own — to Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the Iranian president, who flew to Kabul and delivered a fiery anti-American speech inside Afghanistan’s presidential palace. 'Karzai was enraged,' said an Afghan with knowledge of the events, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the delicacy of the issue. 'He invited Ahmadinejad to spite the Americans.'

The dispute was smoothed over only this week, when Mr. Obama flew to Kabul for a surprise dinner with Mr. Karzai. White House officials emphasized that the most important purpose of Mr. Obama’s trip to Afghanistan was to visit American troops there.

. . . .

Mr. Karzai recently told lunch guests at the presidential palace that he believes the Americans are in Afghanistan because they want to dominate his country and the region, and that they pose an obstacle to striking a peace deal with the Taliban. During the recent American-dominated military offensive in the town of Marja — the largest of the war — Mr. Karzai stood mostly in the shadows."

http://www.nytimes.com/2010/03/30/world/asia/30karzai.html

White House officials emphasized that the most important purpose of Mr. Obama’s trip to Afghanistan was to visit American troops there? Tell me more sweet lies.

Obama knows that Afghanistan has become his war after foolishly deciding to escalate the conflict, and he has no choice other than to bend to Karzai's will.

Karzai, albeit a tin-pot dictator, sees Obama for what he is: a one-term president, incapable of confronting Ahmadinejad, who is a dangerous neighbor destined to be around longer than Obama.

Obama wouldn't dine with Netanyahu, a loyal ally, following an Obama administration manufactured crisis, yet here we have the panic stricken U.S. president begging Karzai to come back to the fold over a banquet at the presidential palace in Kabul. This is more humiliating than Obama bowing to King Abullah of Saudi Arabia.

Yesterday, in his NYT op-ed, "Lo, the Mideast Moves", Roger ("Iran is not totalitarian") Cohen would have us believe that Obama is a latter-day John F. Kennedy. A John F. Kennedy? Obama is a clueless featherweight, who is bankrupting the U.S. ethically and financially while wasting precious American lives in an ill-fated escapade.

Will the ADL Take The New York Times to Task for Roger Cohen's "Lo, the Mideast Moves"?

In his op-ed yesterday, "Lo, the Mideast Moves", Roger Cohen compared Netanyahu with Khrushchev, who threatened the U.S. with nuclear devastation during the Cuban Missile Crisis, and made Obama out to be a latter-day John F. Kennedy. All this occurred on Passover. How obscene, how disgraceful.

Roger Cohen, who suggests in his op-ed that he is not a self-loathing Jew, of course is incapable of perceiving anything amiss in these comparisions, which amount to fodder for anti-Semites. But what about you, Andrew Rosenthal? As editorial page editor of The Times, is this acceptable to you?

Rosenthal knows that after Cohen's "What Iran's Jews Say" (see:
http://jgcaesarea.blogspot.com/2009/06/was-roger-cohens-what-irans-jews-say-in_17.html), I was promised an answer from the public editor of The Times whether Cohen had adhered to the newspaper's ethical guidelines. That answer was never received.

It being Passover yesterday, I have yet to hear back from the ADL. Is the ADL willing to confront The New York Times?

"If I am not for myself, who will be for me?"

Monday, March 29, 2010

Roger Cohen's "Lo, the Mideast Moves" or "How Low Can The Times Go"?

Do you remember the 1962 Chubby Checker hit song, "Limbo Rock", which asks "How low can you go?" It's now 2010, and I would like to know, how low can the New York Times go? Today, Passover, The Times published a Roger Cohen op-ed entitled "Lo, the Mideast Moves", which compares Netanyahu with Khrushchev, the Soviet dictator who threatened to destroy the U.S. during the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis. My online response, if The Times deigns to post it (yesterday I was a New York Times "Highlight", but let's see if The Time's "moderators" today decide to "protect the quarterback"):

Do you remember the Cuban Missile Crisis? Cohen begins his op-ed by comparing Netanyahu with Khrushchev, a man who threatened to rain nuclear hell down upon the U.S.

You can oppose Israeli settlement activity (as I do), but how does one possibly compare America's former archenemy, the Soviet Union, with Israel, which votes together with the U.S. in the U.N. more often than any other country in the world?

Cohen claims that Obama is demonstrating his newly found toughness by beating up on Israel. A pity Obama can't show his gumption by discussing human rights with China, or by advocating on behalf of women in Saudi Arabia. A pity Obama cannot hold his own with Putin and protect the interests of U.S. allies Poland and the Czech Republic.

Do you remember how Obama, as a presidential candidate, promised to "recognize the Armenian Genocide"? In the face of Turkish opposition, Obama has forgotten his pledge.

Do you remember how Obama promised throughout the presidential campaign that he "would never take a military option off the table" regarding the threat of a nuclear Iran? Not only has Obama proven unable to enforce any of the deadlines that he has set for Iran, his inability to take the case of Iran's dissidents before the U.N. has ensured that Iran will indeed go nuclear.

Cohen's motivations? I can't even guess what goes on in his head. The man who spent the better part of 2009 telling us that "Iran is not totalitarian", who does not speak Farsi, who - unbeknownst to New York Times readers - conducted interviews in Iran with an Iranian government appointed translator, is again obsessing about Israel. I can't remember the last time Cohen visited Israel, and I find it peculiar that Cohen ordinarily writes op-eds about the countries he is visiting, but denies Israel this "privilege".

Bottom line: You can dislike Netanyahu and you can oppose Israeli settlements, but there is no comparing Netanyahu with Khrushchev. I am shocked that The New York Times would agree to publish this loathsome notion on Passover or any other day.

I sent Andrew Rosenthal, with whom I have corresponded in the past, an e-mail asking how The Times could publish on Passover this op-ed, which amounts to fodder for anti-Semites. Rosenthal has not replied.

Query: Will the ADL, which states on the home page of its website "This Passover you can count on ADL to defend the rights and freedoms of the Jewish people", take action?

[After complaining to various departments at The New York Times, I received an e-mail from their Web Editor stating, "I'll forward this to the editors."]

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Pope Benedict, Leadership and Silence

Yesterday, Maureen Dowd of The New York Times took the position in her op-ed "A Nope for Pope" that Pope Benedict should go home to Bavaria for his silence regarding child molestation by priests. I agree with Dowd; however, I object to the "holier than thou" attitude of someone who remained silent in the face of depraved abuse, e.g., "honor killings", of Saudi women. Although Dowd is not the pope, she had the power, owing to her position at The Times, to make a difference. She also chose to remain silent.

Today, Ross Douthat of The New York Times , in an op-ed entitled "A Time for Contrition", pontificates on the issue of Benedict and child molestation from the other side of the spectrum. My online response, if The Times deigns to post it (The Times' "moderators", who have repeatedly demonstrated that they are anything but "moderate", refused to post my prior comment to Dowd's op-ed, but as is often said, miracles do happen):

Silence in the face of child molestation is not a matter for mere contrition. There is nothing more wicked and depraved than the sexual abuse of helpless children, and there should be no room for silence regarding this issue.

Also, in December Benedict approved a decree recognizing the "heroic virtues" of Pope Pius XII, moving Pius one step closer to sainthood. Notwithstanding the opposition of Catholic scholars from around the world who have implored Benedict to delay the sainthood of Pius, Benedict seems intent upon canonizing a pope who remained silent during the Holocaust.

Douthat writes "Popes do not resign." Not true: Pope Gregory XII resigned to end the Western Schism, and Pope Celestine V decreed it permissible for a pope to resign and did so.

Benedict, for the benefit of his flock, should call it quits.

Sorry, Ross, there is no room for contrition here. Contrition be damned! Leaders do not remain silent in the face of child abuse. Benedict must go.

A Nope for Pope? How About a Clean Maureen?

In an op-ed in today's New York Times entitled "A Nope for Pope", Maureen Dowd holds Pope Benedict's feet to the fire for ignoring the horrifying sexual abuse of young boys by Catholic priests. My online response, if The Times deigns to post it:

A Nope for Pope? How about a Clean Maureen?

Dowd complains that the pope turned a deaf ear to the horrifying molestation of some 200 deaf boys.

Are you really any better, Maureen? You traveled to Saudi Arabia and ignored countless "honor killings" perpetrated against Saudi women and dared not lift your pen to describe recent instances where Saudi women were gang raped and then sentenced to prison and lashes.

Sorry, Maureen, but this is rank hypocrisy on your part.

Dowd would send Benedict home to Bavaria. I agree, and I think Maureen should also be shipped home for her willingness to turn a blind eye to Saudi barbarities.

[As might be expected, my online comment was censored by The New York Times.]

Saturday, March 27, 2010

A Revolutionary Bionic Retina that Promises to Restore Vision to the Blind

In a world gone mad, I take solace in my work, which brings me in touch with leading biotech and medical device companies. For several hours each day I am transported away from the hatred and stupidity which fills the newspapers and am able to admire the genius of others, whose work brings light where there is darkness. Currently, one of the companies with which I am privileged to work is a small Israeli medical device company named Nano Retina, whose corporate mission is to restore sight to the blind.

Try to comprehend the significance of Nano Retina's undertaking: In the U.S. some 50,000 people go blind annually. In addition, there are currently 3.6 million Americans aged 40 and older who are legally blind. Imagine what the possible restoration of vision means to these people.

Nano Retina is developing a tiny bionic retina, incorporating nano-size components, which is designed to restore sight to those suffering from retinal degenerative diseases. Its 30-minute implant procedure requires local anesthesia, a small incision and “gluing” of the device to the damaged retina. Return of sight is anticipated to be instantaneous and will enable persons who have undergone the procedure to watch TV and identify faces.

The bionic retina will replace the damaged photoreceptor in the eye and transform naturally received light into an electrical signal that stimulates the neurons, which send pictures to the brain. The bionic retina works with the natural functionalities of the eye, including pupil dilation and eyeball movement.

The remarkable energy source for the system? A rechargeable, battery-powered mini laser, situated on a pair of eyeglasses, powers the implant wirelessly.

During the coming year, Nano Retina plans to create a “nano” prototype validating its first generation product, based on the existing “electrical” prototype used to demonstrate proof of concept. Thereafter, the company plans to conduct preclinical and clinical trials, the latter beginning in 2012.

Ask persons around the globe what comes to mind when they think of Israel, and more often than not, they will tell you "war and religious strife". Unfortunately, they are unaware of the medical miracles occurring in this tiny country, which has become an island of innovation and high tech. It is truly a pity that so many people, blind with hatred (something the bionic retina cannot remedy), are incapable of perceiving Israel's true promise.

The New York Times Continues to Function as Obama's Attack Dog

On Wednesday Jackson Diehl of the Washington Post wrote an opinion piece, entitled "Obama and Netanyahu: pointless poison", which described the results of Obama's confrontation with Netanyahu in straightforward, uncomplimentary terms:

"Meanwhile, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has adopted Obama’s original demand as his own: He’s saying he won’t begin even the indirect, 'proximity' talks he previously agreed to until Israel accepts the Clinton terms on Jerusalem. How could he do otherwise? The Palestinian leader cannot be less pro-Palestinian than the White House. But Abbas cannot climb down from his position so easily -- which means that, for the second time in a year, the Middle East peace process has been stalled by a U.S.-engineered deadlock.

. . . .

Finally, Obama has added more poison to a U.S.-Israeli relationship that already was at its lowest point in two decades. Tuesday night the White House refused to allow non-official photographers record the president’s meeting with Netanyahu; no statement was issued afterward. Netanyahu is being treated as if he were an unsavory Third World dictator, needed for strategic reasons but conspicuously held at arms length.

. . . .

U.S. pressure on Netanyahu will be needed if the peace process ever reaches the point where the genuinely contentious issues, like Palestinian refugees or the exact territorial tradeoffs, are on the table. But instead of waiting for that moment and pushing Netanyahu on a point where he might be vulnerable to domestic challenge, Obama picked a fight over something that virtually all Israelis agree on, and before serious discussions have even begun.

. . . .

A new administration can be excused for making such a mistake in the treacherous and complex theater of Middle East diplomacy. That’s why Obama was given a pass by many when he made exactly the same mistake last year. The second time around, the president doesn’t look naive. He appears ideological -- and vindictive."

http://voices.washingtonpost.com/postpartisan/2010/03/obama_and_netanyahu_pointless.html?hpid=opinionsbox1

As might be expected, The New York Times today came to the rescue of Obama in an editorial entitled "Mr. Obama and Israel":

"After taking office last year, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel privately told many Americans and Europeans that he was committed to and capable of peacemaking, despite the hard-line positions that he had used to get elected for a second time. Trust me, he told them. We were skeptical when we first heard that, and we’re even more skeptical now.

All this week, the Obama administration had hoped Mr. Netanyahu would give it something to work with, a way to resolve the poisonous contretemps over Jerusalem and to finally restart Israeli-Palestinian peace talks. It would have been a relief if they had succeeded. Serious negotiations on a two-state solution are in all their interests. And the challenges the United States and Israel face — especially Iran’s nuclear program — are too great for the leaders not to have a close working relationship.

. . . .

President Obama made pursuing a peace deal a priority and has been understandably furious at Israel’s response. He correctly sees the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as a factor in wider regional instability.

Mr. Netanyahu’s government provoked the controversy two weeks ago when it disclosed plans for 1,600 new housing units in an ultra-orthodox neighborhood in East Jerusalem just as Vice President Joseph Biden Jr. was on a fence-mending visit and Israeli-Palestinian “proximity talks” were to begin.

. . . .

The disputes with Israel have made Mr. Obama look weak and have given Palestinians and Arab leaders an excuse to walk away from the proximity talks (in which Mr. Obama’s Middle East envoy, George Mitchell, would shuttle between Jerusalem and Ramallah) that Washington nurtured."

http://www.nytimes.com//2010/03/27/opinion/27sat1.html

The Times editorial board does not bother to observe:

- that Netanyahu is ready to engage in immediate, face-to-face negotiations with the Palestinians;

- that Netanyahu supports a two-state solution;

- that Netanyahu declared a moratorium on West Bank construction;

- that Obama has backed away from every deadline he has set for Iran, and this indecisiveness has nothing whatsoever to do with Israel;

- that dozens of Middle East wars, past and present, have not involved Israel in any way and have claimed an exponentially larger number of lives than all of the combined wars involving Israel;

- that it was the Jerusalem municipal council, not Netanyahu's government, which disclosed plans for the 1,600 housing units, and Netanyahu apologized both privately and publicly to Biden for the announcement.

The Times editorial board would have us believe that Israel is making Obama appear weak and that Obama's appeasement of Iran, Syria, North Korea, Burma and China has nothing whatsoever to do with this perception. Almost as an afterthought, the Times editorial board notes that Obama "must also press Palestinians and Arab leaders just as forcefully." What does this mean? That while Obama beats up on an ally and demands concessions, he should also consider trying to convince the Palestinians to sit at the same table with the Israelis in order to talk peace?

But if all this isn't enough, examine the map that accompanies the Times editorial, which identifies Hadassah Hospital on Mount Scopus, which was built before the establishment of the State of Israel and falls within Israel's "Green Line" (1949 armistice line) borders, as an "Israeli settlement":

http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2010/03/23/world/middleeast/jerusalem-map.html

This time, The New York Times has truly outdone itself.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

From Iran with Love: Neda's Fiancé Visits Israel

On Monday Iranian journalist Caspian Makan, the fiancé of Neda Agha Soltan, whose murder during a demonstration in Teheran on June 20 rocked the world, met on Monday with Israeli President Peres. Makan, who fled Iran via Turkey after serving time in Tehran's Evin Prison, came to Israel as a "peace ambassador".

According to the Jerusalem Post:

"Neda was an enlightened person, a freedom fighter, to whom nothing was more important than freedom. She loved humanity with all her soul, Makan told Peres.

. . . .

After she was murdered, she became a global symbol of freedom. Her courage and determination led to a closing of ranks among the Iranian people and hopefully, said Makam, would produce the results of which Soltan had dreamed.

. . . .

Peres told Makam that he understood how difficult it was for him to carry the burden of grief. He assured Makam that he would find friends and a very warm reception in Israel, and added that he appreciated the fact that Makam had given him the opportunity to personally convey his condolences over the tragedy and to express his hopes for Iran’s future.

Makam replied that he had been impressed by what he had already seen in Israel. It was in his a view a country that respected its citizens and allowed them total freedom – a situation that contrasted radically with that of Iran.

Before leaving, Makam said that he had come to Israel on behalf of his people as an ambassador of the peace camp. He had no doubt that Neda’s soul felt the warmth and the sensitivity of the reception he had been accorded in Israel."

http://www.jpost.com/Israel/Article.aspx?id=171614

It is remarkable that this story did not receive greater coverage throughout the world.

There is no historic basis for hostility between Iran and Israel. As I have frequently noted, the current animus between Israel and the Islamic Republic of Iran is an orchestrated sideshow involving a power struggle between Sunni and Shiite Islam.

But let's ignore the macro and concentrate on the micro: Makam's visit to Israel was a powerful personal message of peace of the kind needed to bring sanity to the region.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Robert Wright's "Against 'Pro-Israel'"

See below my open letter to Robert Wright, whose online commentary entitled "Against 'Pro-Israel'" appears in the online edition of The New York Times today:

Dear Mr. Wright,

In your "Online Commentary" entitled "Against 'Pro-Israel'" in The New York Times, you write:

It has been reported that, notwithstanding accounts in Israel’s media, Biden did not, in fact, complain to Netanyahu in private about the threat of Israel’s policies to American troops. Perhaps predictably, the journalist who first reported this is the Atlantic’s Jeffrey Goldberg, who has been described by one New York Times columnist as Netanyahu’s “faithful stenographer.”

Without even opening your link, all know that the New York Times columnist to whom you refer is Roger Cohen.

I live in Israel, and I am intimately acquainted with the facts on the ground. I oppose expansion by Israel of the West Bank settlements, but do not oppose Israeli construction in the Jewish Quarter of the Old City of Jerusalem.

Your swipe at Jeffrey Goldberg, using Roger Cohen as a reference, is far worse than unfortunate:

- Roger Cohen spent months attempting to inculcate the view among Times readers that "Iran is not totalitarian".
- Roger Cohen wrote an op-ed ("What Iran's Jews Say") portraying the life of Iran's Jewish minority as happy and contented. Cohen failed to note at any time during the course of his Iran series that he does not speak Farsi and that his interviews were conducted via a government appointed translator. I complained to the Times and was promised an answer whether Cohen's op-ed violated New York Times journalistic standards, but ultimately never received an answer. See: http://jgcaesarea.blogspot.com/2009/06/was-roger-cohens-what-irans-jews-say-in_17.html
- Roger Cohen in his extended and ongoing series of op-eds concerning Iran never met with Iran's Baha'is and wrote only one sentence in passing about their horrifying oppression and persecution. See: http://jgcaesarea.blogspot.com/2009/06/is-obama-sacrificing-bahais-in-pursuit.html
- Roger Cohen ignored Iran's persecution of its Kurdish minority. See: http://jgcaesarea.blogspot.com/search/label/Kurds
- Roger Cohen ignored how Iran stones to death alleged "adulterers" with their children watching.
- Roger Cohen ignored how Iran hangs homosexuals.
- Roger Cohen ignored Iran's support of genocide in Darfur.
- Roger Cohen ignored Iranian sponsored terrorist bombings against Jews as far away as Argentina.
- Roger Cohen ignored the torture and murder by Iran of "unfriendly" journalists.
- Roger Cohen ignored "honor killings" perpetrated against Iranian women.

If you are interested, I can continue this list.

In short, your reference to Roger Cohen, who over the course of many months bolstered the image of a monstrous totalitarian state, in an attempt to deprecate Jeffrey Goldberg is inappropriate to say the least.

Best regards,
Jeffrey


[Robert Wright is a senior fellow at the New America Foundation. It is worth noting that Flynt Leverett also works for the New America Foundation: Director, Iran Initiative, Senior Research Fellow, American Strategy Program and Director, Geopolitics of Energy Initiative. Re Leverett, see: http://jgcaesarea.blogspot.com/search/label/Leverett]

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Hillary to Address AIPAC for 43 Minutes

Hillary Clinton is not easily insulted. After Bill's bodily fluids were found on Monica's blue dress, Hillary took it all in stride: forgive and forget, business as usual, let's work together to give me my well-deserved turn in the White House. Jerusalem, however, is another matter. The announcement by the Jerusalem planning commission of the theoretical future construction of 1,600 apartments in a Jewish neighborhood in East Jerusalem, which will remain part of Israel as part of any two-state settlement agreement, had Hillary blind with rage, as Benjamin Netanyahu learned during a 43-minute harangue from the U.S. Secretary of State.

Hillary is proud of this display of "toughness" and has also made it known to all who are willing to listen that the U.S. is interested in seeing regime change involving the Israeli government, as evidenced by this incoherent dialogue with the BBC's Kim Ghattas:

Ghattas: You took a risk in escalating the tone with Israel last week, I understand the relationship is solid but the Israelis could have said we never promised restraint on settlements in east Jerusalem - is the risk paying off?

Clinton: I think we're going to see the resumption of the negotiation track and that means that it is paying off because that's our goal. Let's get the parties into a discussion, let's [get] the principle issues on the table and let's begin to explore ways that we can resolve the differences.

Ghattas: Is the pressure on the Israeli prime minister meant to be a moment of clarity, either he delivers on his commitment to peace, or his right wing coalition falls?

Clinton: We're not taking any position and we have no particular stake in who the Israelis choose to govern them. They're a democracy and they make that choice. I think that different parts of govern make action or statements that are not in the best interest of the government as a whole and I think what the Prime Minister has said repeatedly is that his government and he personally are committed to pursuing these negotiations and he just has to make sure that he brings in everyone else, that's his responsibility it's not something that the United states can or is interested in doing.

http://www.politico.com/blogs/laurarozen/0310/Clinton_Escalation_paying_off_.html?showall

"We're going to see the resumption of the negotiation track"? Excuse me, Madame Secretary, but all that we have seen since your outburst is a renewal of Palestinian rioting, a renewal of rocket fire from Gaza, and a square named after a Palestinian terrorist who murdered 38 Israelis, including 13 children, as well as one American photographer. We don't see any evidence of a resumption of talks - the Palestinians are not willing to sit in the same room with the Israelis - and the United States has made a point of not criticizing any of the recent Palestinian outrages.

Obama stated in the past that Hillary Clinton's foreign policy experience amounted to little more than drinking tea with ambassadors while she was first lady. This was one of those rare instances where Obama, sans teleprompter, spoke the truth, but this did not prevent him from appointing Hillary Secretary of State and allowing all to reap the benefit of her ignorance and narcissism.

I hope it will be possible to hear a pin drop when she concludes her speech to AIPAC.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Jerusalem: An Open Letter to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu

Dear Prime Minister Netanyahu,

We're neighbors, and in the past we've exchanged greetings.

I'm not a member of the Likud party, and I don't think I ever voted for the Likud, owing to my middle-of-the-road leanings. Which is not to say that other members of my household haven't voted for you: As is commonly said, where there are two Jews, there are three opinions.

I would like to say a few personal words to you about the Ramat Shlomo crisis - or "non-crisis" as it is now being called - with the United States. It has me enraged.

I don't think Ramat Shlomo is a "non-crisis", given the orchestrated demonization of Israel resulting from and facilitated by this matter. It is indeed a full-blown crisis, albeit a manufactured to order crisis: After you apologized in private and in public to Vice President Biden, the matter seemed to have subsided until someone in the Obama administration decided to stir it up for political leverage.

The Obama administration made a calculated decision that the announcement by the Jerusalem planning commission of the theoretical future construction of 1,600 apartments in a Jewish neighborhood in East Jerusalem, which will remain part of Israel as part of any two-state settlement agreement, should be used to extract negotiating concessions from your government. Regarding Israel’s construction policy in East Jerusalem, Israel's ambassador to the U.S., Michael Oren, wrote in an op-ed, entitled "For Israel and America, a Disagreement, Not a Crisis", in today's New York Times:

That policy is not Mr. Netanyahu’s alone but was also that of former Prime Ministers Ehud Barak, Yitzhak Rabin, Shimon Peres and Golda Meir — in fact of every Israeli government going back to the city’s reunification in 1967. Consistently, Israel has held that Jerusalem should remain its undivided capital and that both Jews and Arabs have the right to build anywhere in the city.

http://www.nytimes.com/2010/03/18/opinion/18oren.html

Mike Oren, with whom I served in the army and whom I admire, would also characterize Ramat Shlomo as a "disagreement", i.e. a non-crisis. A mere disagreement? Note the following language in an article entitled "Israel Seeks to Mend Rift With the U.S." from The New York Times:

The United States was still waiting for a response from Israel to a number of demands made by Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton in a telephone call last Friday, including a halt to new building projects in East Jerusalem and other acts that could be deemed provocative in the delicate atmosphere surrounding the peace talks.

http://www.nytimes.com/2010/03/18/world/middleeast/18mideast.html?hp

Without a favorable response, you are being denied permission to meet with Hillary or Vice President Biden next week in the United States. Peace talks? There are no peace talks. As reported by Jeffrey Goldberg of The Atlantic, Obama has made it known to all that he does not like you, that he doesn't think you're bright, and that he is seeking Israeli regime change. See: http://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2010/03/what-obama-is-actually-trying-to-do-in-israel/37548/

Obama will obviously squeeze Israel for all its worth without requiring anything from the Palestinian Authority. Concerning the demands being made solely of Israel, I cannot say it better than Rabbi Stuart Weinblatt:

"Why was Abbas’ refusal to accept the US request and Israeli offer for direct negotiations not an 'insult and affront' to the United States and the Vice President?

Why was Assad’s meeting with Ahmadinejad the day after the US announced that we were sending an ambassador to Syria ignored by the State Department and not deemed to be an 'insult and affront' to the United States?

Why is Palestinian Authority incitement of rioters in Jerusalem and elsewhere not condemned by this administration and not an 'insult and affront' to the United States and the Vice President?

Why is the naming of the main public square in Ramallah by Abbas in honor of Fatah terrorist Dalal Mughrabi, murderer of 38 Israelis - 13 of them little kids not an impediment to the peace process and not an insult and affront to the US and Israel????

Not to mention – why does this administration insist on viewing construction in a vacant piece of land, adjacent to existing housing seen as thwarting the two state solution?"

http://weeklystandard.com/blogs/friends-do-not-treat-friends-manner

Obama now is also claiming that Ramat Shlomo is a non-crisis and professing his friendship:

“'Israel’s one of our closes allies,' [Obama] told Fox News. 'The Israeli people have a special bond and it’s not going to go away.'

However, the US president said that the new housing units 'weren't helpful' in carving out a peace between Israelis and Palestinians.

The expansion of Ramat Shlomo was a poor choice for Israel, Obama said, but added that, 'friends are going to disagree sometimes.'

'What we've said is we need both sides to take steps to make sure that we can rebuild trust,' he said. 'What we need right now is both sides to recognize that it is in their interests to move this peace process forward.'"

http://www.jpost.com/Israel/Article.aspx?id=171252

Well, I've got news for you: Obama is no "friend" of Israel. Friends engage in discussion without preconditions. Friends attempt to iron out their differences without inciting others to riot. Friends do not engage in blackmail.

Obama will not agree to allow you to meet next week with Hillary or Vice President Biden in the U.S. if you do not make the concessions that they are demanding? No disaster. Let Obama continue with his policy of undermining friends while appeasing enemies, i.e. the Obama Doctrine. Israel's friendship with the United States, premised upon common underpinnings of democracy and freedom, will remain intact.

Yours sincerely,
Jeffrey

[Three rockets have been fired into Israel from Gaza over the past 24 hours. The last qassam rocket killed a Thai agricultural worker. Obama stands responsible for legitimizing this renewed violence; the blood is on his hands.]

Netanyahu and Biden Talk Again, But the Damage Has Already Been Done

As reported by Haaretz, Netanyahu and Biden spoke yesterday in order to bring some sense of normalcy back to the relationship between Israel and the U.S.:

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and U.S. Vice President Joe Biden spoke on the phone Tuesday night in a bid to ease tensions between the U.S. and Israel over a plan to construct 1,600 new housing units in East Jerusalem.

The New York Times also said that the American administration had confirmed the conversation. The Prime Minister's Bureau did not elaborate on the details of the conversation, which lasted until 2 A.M. Netanyahu's advisers Yitzhak Molcho and Ron Dermer, along with Israeli envoy to the U.S. Michael Oren, were also present.

http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/1157020.html

Ambassador Mike Oren is also now claiming he never said that the U.S./Israel relationship had hit a 35-year nadir. Regardless of what Mike did or did not say, the U.S./Israel relationship will recover. What will not recover, however, is whatever was left of the international dignity and prestige of the Obama administration.

Too many commentators have now noted that Obama is tough on friends and easy on enemies, i.e. what I refer to as the "Obama Doctrine". Jeffrey Goldberg of The Atlantic is even saying, based on discussions with White House insiders, that the purpose of this manufactured crisis was to bring about regime change in Israel (http://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2010/03/what-obama-is-actually-trying-to-do-in-israel/37548/), something Obama did not dare attempt in Iran for fear of being accused of meddling, but something Obama was willing to do to harm allies in Honduras.

Who in the Obama administration took the lead role in blowing this crisis over 1,600 theoretical apartments out of all proportion? No one is willing to take the blame. It is interesting to observe that there have been no direct conversations between Obama and Netanyahu intended to straighten out this mess.

Meanwhile, it will be interesting to observe the reception that Hillary receives when she addresses a plenary session at the AIPAC Policy Conference next week.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Take the Middle East IQ Test: Are You Smarter Than Obama?

So you think you know a lot about the Middle East? Okay, today you're going to match wits with the patented, JG Caesarea, Middle East IQ Test in order to determine if you're smarter than President Obama. Ready for the first question? Here it comes:

What was the most significant event that transpired last week in the Middle East?

By any chance, was your initial thought: The announcement by the Jerusalem district planning commission to approve the construction of 1,600 housing units in the Ramat Shlomo neighborhood of East Jerusalem during U.S. Vice President Biden's visit to Israel? Sorry, but it's already a non-event, notwithstanding Ambassador Mike Oren's characterization of the occurrence as the biggest U.S./Israel crisis in the past 35 years. Had it not been for: 1) Netanyahu's failure to nip the problem in the bud (he obviously didn't take Leadership 101, see: http://jgcaesarea.blogspot.com/search/label/leadership) and, 2) the decision of the boys from Chicago to milk this "crisis" for all it's worth in order to ring concessions from the Israelis, this non-event would have been yesterday's news. PR man Axelrod, however, sees Ramat Shlomo as an opportunity to squeeze the Israelis into being more amenable to Palestinian demands, but what Axelrod and friends still don't understand is that no matter what Israel is willing to concede, the graft-ridden Palestinian Authority is not ready to acknowledge Israel's right to exist.

What else happened last week? On Saturday night, Walid Jumblatt, Lebanese Druze leader and head of the Progressive Socialist party, issued a formal apology to Syrian President Bashar Assad for past criticism of Bashar. Walid Jumblatt, whose father, Druze leader Kamal Jumblatt, was murdered by the Syrians in 1977 upon orders of Bashar's father, Hafez al-Assad, and who for many years had been allied with Western-leaning politicians in Lebanon, is now suing for peace with the tyrannical Syrian regime:

"One of Syria’s harshest critics in Lebanon in the past, Progressive Socialist Party (PSP) leader MP Walid Jumblatt said Saturday his criticism of Syrian President Bashar Assad was 'improper' as he called for a new page in relations between the two countries.

Jumblatt’s harshest verbal attack against Assad came on February 14, 2007, in a speech marking former Premier Rafik Hariri’s assassination, calling the Syrian leader a 'snake' and a 'tyrant' and demanding revenge against him.

'These comments were improper, unfamiliar and unsuited to political ethics,' Jumblatt said in a live interview with Al-Jazeera satellite channel late Saturday.

. . . .

Jumblatt was a major figure of the March 14 alliance that led massive street protests to demand the withdrawal of Syrian troops from Lebanon following Hariri’s assassination.

The Syrians pulled their army out of Lebanon in April 2005 ending nearly three decades of domination of their smaller neighbor. After the 2005 break with Damascus, Jumblatt became a staunch critic of Syria in Lebanon, calling for the overthrow of Assad’s regime and blaming Syria for the 1977 killing of his father."

http://www.dailystar.com.lb/article.asp?edition_id=1&categ_id=2&article_id=112734

Jumblatt's overtures to Syria come on the heels of the December 2009 visit to Syria of Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri, whose father, former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, was assassinated in 2005 upon orders of Syrian President Bashar Assad. Following Obama's recent overtures to Damascus by way of appointment of a new ambassador to Syria, a post left vacant for five years following Rafik Hariri's assassination, both Saad Hariri and pragmatist Jumblatt now feel they have no choice other than to bow to a monster no longer to be kept in check by the U.S.

So what was the most significant piece of Middle East news last week? Yes, you're right, Jumblatt's apology to Assad, and indeed, you know more about the Middle East than Obama. What? I cheated and handed you the answer? I have news for you (something else that Obama and friends have yet to discover): As you should now know from the above, no one plays fair in the Middle East.

More patented, JG Caesarea, Middle East IQ Test questions to follow in the future.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Maureen Dowd Ignores "Honor Killings" in Saudi Arabia

Saudi Arabia and Iran are engaged in a bloody, largely unreported war in the northwest Saada province of Yemen. Needless to say, this protracted conflagration went unmentioned by Maureen Dowd in her ongoing series of op-eds concerning Saudi Arabia. Few realize that enmity between Sunni and Shiite Muslims has cost an exponentially larger number of lives than all of the combined Israeli/Arab conflicts.

However, notwithstanding their ongoing battle in Yemen, Saudi Arabia and Iran share one thing in common: oppression of women and "honor killings". How remarkable that both Roger Cohen, during his protracted series of op-eds concerning Iran, and Maureen Dowd, during her current series on Saudi Arabia, both saw fit to ignore the practice of "honor killings" in their host countries.

In an op-ed in today's New York Times entitled "Driving Miss Saudi" (http://www.nytimes.com/2010/03/14/opinion/14dowd.html?hp), Dowd, according to The Times, observes how "Young women in Riyadh try to balance Islam and modernity as the stunted desert kingdom makes progress in 'Saudi Time'", but doesn't dare breathe a word concerning the horrifying practice of "honor killings". My online response, if posted by The Times:

Maureen Dowd is out of Saudi Arabia, but still writing pap, protective of her Saudi hosts. Reading this op-ed, one is made to believe that Saudi oppression of women amounts to little more than a dress code. The reality is quite different. According to a recent item appearing in Arabian Business:

"A Saudi women's group on Friday blamed the country's religious police in the 'honour' killing of two sisters shot dead by their own brother after they were arrested for mixing with unrelated men.

The Society for Defending Women's Rights in Saudi Arabia said the religious police had placed the sisters' lives in danger when they arrested them and then placed them in a Riyadh women's shelter.

The two women, identified as Reem, 21, and Nouf, 19, were murdered after they left the shelter on July 5.

The brother shot them in the presence of their father who, according to newspaper reports, quickly forgave the son for defending the family's honour."

How could Maureen Dowd write about discrimination against Saudi women without mentioning even once the practice of "honor killing"? Ms. Dowd, time to stop the charade! Shame on you!

I asked Andrew Rosenthal, with whom I have corresponded in the past, to be provided with the opportunity to rebut Dowd, but thus far Mr. Rosenthal has ignored my request.

Jerusalem and the Obama Doctrine: Appease Your Enemies, Undermine Your Friends

I was appalled by Israeli Interior Minister Eli Yishai's announcement regarding the intention to build 1,600 new apartments in the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Ramat Shlomo. The timing of the announcement, which caused Netanyahu great embarrassment during the visit of U.S. Vice President Joe Biden to Israel, was labeled by Yishai a "technical matter", and Yishai claimed that he had no intention of insulting the U.S. The apartments in Ramat Shlomo, however, are intended for ultra-Orthodox Jews, i.e. Yishai's Shas Party constituency, and there was nothing accidental about the timing of this announcement. I despise Shas, whose leadership has been associated with no small number of scandals in the past, and even Yishai should know better than to anger Israel's principal ally.

Yishai's announcement blindsided Netanyahu and placed him in a bind: The Israeli government’s ban on Jewish building on the West Bank does not apply to East Jerusalem, where, for example, the Jewish Quarter of the Old City and the Wailing Wall, Judaism's holiest site, are located, and any forthright condemnation of Yishai by Netanyahu would also have jeopardized Netanyahu's standing with his right wing constituency. The undertakings provided by Netanyahu concerning a moratorium on construction also in East Jerusalem had, of political necessity, been tacit. What to do? Netanyahu personally apologized to Biden, explained to Biden that construction of these apartments was not imminent, and coordinated with the U.S. vice president a public apology.

For Obama, however, Netanyahu's apologies were not enough. Obama gave explicit instructions to Hillary to call Netanyahu to express his personal outrage. As reported by The New York Times:

"In a tense, 43-minute phone call on Friday morning, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton told Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that Israel’s plan for new housing units for Jews in East Jerusalem sent a 'deeply negative signal' about Israeli-American relations, and not just because it spoiled a visit by Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr."

http://www.nytimes.com/2010/03/13/world/middleeast/13diplo.html?hp

Observe what is reported first by The Times: The phone call lasted 43 minutes. Are we to understand that someone stood beside Hillary with a stopwatch in order to time the conversation? For whose benefit is this extraneous information intended? Obviously, it is meant for consumption by the Muslim Middle East, which Obama is still intent on appeasing. Obama, notwithstanding his failed overtures to Syria and Iran, still does not understand that his would-be friends respond to strength, not weakness, and this public castigation of a longstanding ally, guilty of a misdemeanor, will only serve to harden the intransigence of the Palestinian Authority and might even spark renewed violence - of the kind we saw yesterday.

But more to the point, Iran continues its pursuit of nuclear weapons unimpeded by Obama, millions are dying in the Congo, and Obama's most pressing foreign policy concern is the announcement of the construction of 1,600 apartments at some unknown future date within an existing Jewish community of Jerusalem. This is what will prevent a peace agreement between Israel and the Palestinian Authority, which has yet to recognize the legitimacy of Israel within any borders whatsoever?

Five thousand more Jews in East Jerusalem in several more years, should it ever happen? What a horror story! Can you imagine the scandal if Israel were officially to deny Israeli Arabs the right to live in Jewish neighborhoods. It is indeed peculiar - or not so peculiar - how Israel, of all Middle Eastern countries, is branded "apartheid".

Sure, I support a two-state solution, a return to the 1967 boundaries with land swaps as necessary, and a moratorium involving West Bank construction, but does this mean that the Palestinian state must be without Jews, i.e. Judenfrei? Ultimately, when the Palestinian state comes into being, we will all need to learn to live together harmoniously in close proximity.

Wouldn't it be a wonderful surprise if only once Obama could find the courage to challenge the human rights records of China, Burma, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Syria or North Korea? Instead, his administration is intent upon undermining the relationships of the U.S. with such longstanding friends as Poland, the Czech Republic, Honduras, Japan and Israel.

Meanwhile, not surprisingly, the EU's head of foreign policy, the hideous Baroness Catherine Ashton, has chosen this opportunity to declare that improved trade relations between Israel and the EU are contingent upon Israel making immediate peace with the Palestinians. There was no concomitant demand from Ashton that the Palestinians recognize Israel's right to exist.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Afghanistan: You Can't Buy Love

In an op-ed in today's New York Times entitled "Getting Obama Right" (http://www.nytimes.com/2010/03/12/opinion/12brooks.html?ref=opinion), David Brooks writes:

"To the consternation of many on the left, Obama has continued about 80 percent of the policies of the second Bush term. Obama conducted a long review of the Afghan policy and was genuinely moved by the evidence. He has emerged as a liberal hawk, pursuing victory in Iraq and adopting an Afghan surge that has already utterly transformed the momentum in that war. The Taliban is now in retreat and its leaders are being assassinated or captured at a steady rate."

Anyone reading the Brooks' op-ed would be led to understand that Obama is succeeding in his Afghan war. Remember Robert Duvall in Apocalypse Now?: "It smells like . . . victory." (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bPXVGQnJm0w). At least so it seems to Brooks viewing the world from a New York high-rise.

Meanwhile, however, from Afghanistan a different picture emerges. Alissa J. Rubin, also writing today for The Times from Jalalabad, informs us in an item entitled "Afghan Tribal Rivalries Bedevil a U.S. Plan":

"Six weeks ago, elders of the Shinwari tribe, which dominates a large area in southeastern Afghanistan, pledged that they would set aside internal differences to focus on fighting the Taliban. This week, that commitment seemed less important as two Shinwari subtribes took up arms to fight each other over an ancient land dispute, leaving at least 13 people dead, according to local officials.

. . . .

In return for the tribe’s pledge [to fight the Taliban], the Americans are offering cash-for-work programs to employ large numbers of young people from the tribe as well as small-scale development projects, according to Maj. T. J. Taylor, a public affairs officer.

The one initial worry was that the Taliban might try to drive a wedge between different factions within the tribe, which includes about 400,000 people. The land dispute may have done that work for the insurgents.

. . . .

'We promised to work with the government to fight the Taliban,' said Hajji Gul Nazar, an elder from the Mohmand branch of the Shinwari tribe. He added, 'Well, the government officials should have taken care of this argument among us before the shooting started.' 'We are the same tribe, and we are not happy killing each other,' he said. 'The provincial police chief and the governor should have taken care of this issue.'

. . . .

Elders from the Khogyani, another local tribe, met with 100 elders from each of the feuding subtribes to participate in a peace shura to defuse tensions.

'I don’t think the shura will work,' said Hajji Gul Nazar, a Mohmand elder who was not able to attend the shura. 'The Alisher have lost people and have so many wounded, and lots of their tents were burned by our people, and motorcycles were burned, and cars. They must be waiting to take revenge on us.'”

http://www.nytimes.com/2010/03/12/world/asia/12afghan.html?hp

So now the U.S. has taken to buying the loyalty of Afghan tribesmen. The U.S. also sought to recruit the Degar (Montagnard) of the Central Highlands of Vietnam, but the tactic changed nothing. You can't eliminate tribalism overnight and buy love and loyalty; tribalism has its own own agenda.

Does the U.S. intend to continue to pay Afghans to undertake menial jobs after American troops withdraw in just over a year? How long can the U.S. maintain their loyalty? Any decision by Afghans to lay down their lives in the fight against the Taliban must stem from a higher motivation than money.

By the way, the "shura" mentioned in Ms. Rubin's article? Much akin to the ancient tribal dispute resolution system known as "sulha" (from the Arabic word for "peace making"), which predates Mohammed, and which is practiced throughout the Muslim Middle East. Both the shura and the sulha are intended to provide a mechanism to terminate feuds, taking into account local notions of honor and shame.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

You Read The Da Vinci Code? Now Watch the Compugen Code

You like to go to the movies? I do, too, and some of those that I have enjoyed fall within a genre of treasure hunt films, including Romancing the Stone, National Treasure and The Da Vinci Code, just to name a few.

The Da Vinci Code? If you read the book or saw the movie based upon the novel, you will recall how Robert Langdon, a professor of religious symbology, deciphers a series of puzzles and anagrams, solves a murder, eludes would-be killers, possibly finds love, and discovers that the "Grail" is buried beneath the pyramid of the Louvre, all within the course of days. The Da Vinci Code is of course fictional. I would suggest that there is a real-life treasure hunt being pursued for almost a decade, involving the deciphering of billion-year old riddles, which can be watched as it systematically unfolds: how life "works" on the molecular level.

When did the real treasure hunt begin? Perhaps you remember many years ago the excitement surrounding the discovery of a single gene and the scientific value attributed to its occurrence. But now consider the value of the discovery of a single gene today, without knowing the proteins and peptides it can generate and without any clue how to modulate its activity. The mystery of life is far more complex than anyone imagined some 20 years ago, and almost all the corporations who initially joined in this treasure hunt have long since abandoned the pursuit.

Given my love for movies, I believe an analogy to the situation existing when the treasure hunt began can be drawn to the "tutsi fruitsi ice cream" scene of The Marx Brothers' A Day at the Races (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9LBIsDBC848). Watch as Chico sells Groucho the code, ZVBXRPL, for the winner of the next horse race. Groucho soon discovers that without the Code Book, which Chico then sells him, he cannot decipher the code. However, understanding the Code Book, requires – at a price – the Master Code Book, which requires the Breeders' Guide, which requires the Jockeys Manual, which ultimately leads, at great expense and much frustration, to a losing horse.

Unlike other companies that joined and then abandoned the chase, Compugen has persisted in its pursuit of this elusive quarry, discovering on the way that there are no shortcuts and that each of the interlocking pieces of the puzzle is as intricate as the next. Examples of the pieces of the puzzle: correlated mutations, intramolecular segment interactions, large scale genetic variation, pseudogenes, protein folding, cleavage sites, viral piracy and antisense. The code is not binary, i.e. the basis of life is not found in a series of "0s" and "1s", as in computer science. Rather, four nucleic acids – adenine ("A"), cytosine ("C"), guanine ("G") and thymine ("T") - provide the building blocks for all our DNA blueprints, which encode our RNA, which translate into proteins, many of which cleave into peptides. Similar, however, to computer science which was spawned by man, the language of life is also mathematics.

Compugen's treasure hunt began with a better understanding of alternative splicing. Whereas once it was thought that for every gene there is one protein, Compugen correctly predicted that a little known phenomenon known as alternative splicing, whereby one gene gives rise to more than one protein, was far more prevalent than commonly thought. Ultimately, Compugen would discover that this phenomenon occurs in more than 80% of all human genes. But this was hardly enough to provide an understanding of life at the molecular level, which requires the integration of additional biological phenomena, resulting from billions of years of mutation and evolution.

Further evidence of Compugen's progress? Pseudogenes, ancient relatives of known functional genes, have lost their protein-coding ability and were tossed into the category of "junk DNA". In 2006 Compugen announced that its predictive methodology had been shown to use pseudogene sequences as blueprints for new gene variants and, thus, novel transcripts and proteins, resulting in new therapeutic candidates.

But the discoveries involving pseudogenes were still only the beginning. Peptide therapeutics, among the hottest fields of drug discovery today, were facilitated by new technologies for their synthesis. However, peptides, which are protein fragments, cannot be predicted without knowing protein cleavage sites. Compugen mapped both the human proteome and peptidome, and created new discovery platforms, e.g., the GPCR peptide ligand discovery platform (2007), providing access to a host of new peptide therapeutic candidates which can be discovered on demand.

The DAC Blockers platform (2008)? Proteins fold and sometimes assume disease associated conformations. Compugen, as the result of its evolutionary knowledge involving the loci of mutations, is able to predict peptides, which can bind with the protein at the appropriate location and prevent the folding of the protein.

The ultimate objective of Compugen's treasure hunt? That's obvious: You. I'm not referring to the blue eyes or blood type that you inherited from your parents. Rather, I am asking why you don't tolerate penicillin, or why you suffer from IBD? Why are you aging faster or slower than your peer group? Are you destined to become ill with lung cancer even if you don't smoke? More to the point, why are you different from every human being that ever lived, and how might it be possible to intervene to ensure you a healthier, happier life with a new crop of diagnostics and therapeutics premised upon rational scientific prediction?

The Compugen Code? A small group of the world's top scientists, including persons who spent many collective years in the Israeli army breaking secret codes, are now busy deciphering the secrets of life. This is a project infinitely more complicated than the plot of The Da Vinci Code, nevertheless significant progress has been made, as evidenced by cutting edge discovery platforms and promising therapeutic and diagnostic candidates used to validate these platforms. No one is dying in the chase after life's secrets, and there is no crazy albino monk hot on the trail of Compugen's scientists, but take the time to read their story and watch for the discoveries as they are periodically reported. Chances are you will find this real-life thriller even more fascinating than that of Dan Brown.

If you follow the Compugen Code, you are not going to discover the burial site of Mary Magdalene. On the other hand, you just might be able to learn the secrets of a code extending back billions of years and perhaps touch, depending upon your theological orientation and outlook, something divine.

[As noted in prior blog entries, I am a Compugen shareholder, this blog entry is not a recommendation to buy or sell Compugen shares, and in mid-September 2009 I began work as a part-time external consultant to Compugen. The opinions expressed herein are mine and are based on publicly available information. This blog entry has not been authorized or approved by Compugen.]

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Is Axelrod Nearing a Meltdown? The Interview that Should Never Have Been Given

If you haven't already done so, read "Message Maven Finds Fingers Pointing at Him", by Mark Leibovich of The New York Times (http://www.nytimes.com/2010/03/07/us/politics/07axelrod.html?pagewanted=1&hp). Now let's dissect Leibovich's disturbing portrayal of Obama's closest aide:

- disheveled ("tie crooked", "mustard-stained sleeves);
- exhausted ["eyes droopy and looking more burdened than usual", "sleep deprivation (five fitful hours a night)", “'I think he’s getting close to a burnout kind of thing'”];
- overweight and eating compulsively ["his weight (20 pounds heavier than at the start of the presidential campaign)", "tearing into a five-inch corned beef sandwich on rye with a Flintstone-size turkey drumstick waiting on deck"];
- distanced from a troubled family ["separation from family (most back home in Chicago)", "his daughter’s long struggle with epilepsy, his father’s suicide and his wife’s bout with breast cancer"];
- miserable in his environment (“Typical Washington junk we have to deal with”, "has come to loathe what he calls 'the palace intrigue pathology of Washington'”, “'I know I’m not cut out for this town'”);
- intensely sensitive to criticism ("The president is deft at blocking out such noise [something I cannot do]"), "No one has taken the perceived failings of the administration more personally or shown the strain as plainly as Mr. Axelrod");
- infatuated with Obama (“'I love the guy,' he said, and in the space of five minutes, repeated the sentiment twice", "'He is very, very loyal, sometimes to a fault'”, "a swooning loyalist", "a ‘Moonie’”, “the guy who walks in front of the president with rose petals”);
- mired in a self-destructive mindset (“It’s just something you can’t do forever, or it will kill you”).

David Axelrod is plainly neither happy nor healthy, and we are witnessing a tragedy in the making, both personal and national.

A personal tragedy? Throughout the Leibovich article, we hear of failed messaging, with Axelrod cavalierly responding that he does "not give a flying fuck about what the peanut gallery thinks.” Axelrod obviously does, however, give a "flying fuck", yet this would-be tough guy needs to understand that he is not to blame for the Obama administration's failures. No one questions Axelrod's sincerity, but at issue now is performance, something, unlike messaging, which he cannot impact.

This is no longer a campaign. This is time to put up or shut up. Nothing has been accomplished - economy, health care or foreign relations - and it is fast becoming evident that nothing significant will be accomplished before the campaign for a second term begins. "Change" went out the window; it has proven illusory and false.

Axelrod was the messenger, and there is no need to shoot the messenger, or for the messenger to hold himself accountable. Axelrod is not to blame for anything beyond scripting the Obama campaign. The presidential liner, lacking navigation, is now adrift and headed for the bottom - by many accounts, second mate Rahm Emanuel is already running for the life rafts. Axelrod can now only look after the interests of his own family, and for failing to do so, he truly will be answerable.

A United States tragedy? This is Obama's closest adviser. He has no business exposing his weaknesses to the press. His sister should never have been allowed to comment on his obsession with the president. At stake is the viability of and respect commanded by the United States presidency. Obama is already perceived throughout the world as indecisive and incapable of leading. You don't like Washington, David Axelrod? You're right, it's cold, cruel, unforgiving and not meant for everyone. It's also no place for presidential aides who cannot maintain their physical and emotional demeanor. As long as you choose to remain Obama's number one aide, no self-pity, please. Do your job, maintain the dignity of the presidency, or get out now.

Armenian Genocide: Another Obama Flip-Flop

On Thursday, the Foreign Affairs Committee of the House of Representatives recommended that the United States recognize the 1915 killings of Armenians in Ottoman Turkey as genocide. In response, Turkey's ambassador to the United States flew home for "consultations".

The Obama administration strenuously opposed the committee's recommendation and is now doing all in its power to prevent a full House vote. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton told reporters on Friday:

"The Obama administration strongly opposes the resolution that was passed by only one vote in the House committee, and we'll work very hard to make sure it does not go to the House floor."

http://www.cnn.com/2010/POLITICS/03/06/us.turkey.genocide.debate/index.html?hpt=T2

However, none of this squares with Obama's unambiguous campaign promises. See, for example, Obama's statement on "The Importance of US-Armenian Relations," Jan. 19, 2008:

"I also share with Armenian Americans – so many of whom are descended from genocide survivors - a principled commitment to commemorating and ending genocide. That starts with acknowledging the tragic instances of genocide in world history. As a U.S. Senator, I have stood with the Armenian American community in calling for Turkey's acknowledgement of the Armenian Genocide. Two years ago, I criticized the Secretary of State for the firing of U.S. Ambassador to Armenia, John Evans, after he properly used the term "genocide" to describe Turkey's slaughter of thousands of Armenians starting in 1915. I shared with Secretary Rice my firmly held conviction that the Armenian Genocide is not an allegation, a personal opinion, or a point of view, but rather a widely documented fact supported by an overwhelming body of historical evidence. The facts are undeniable. An official policy that calls on diplomats to distort the historical facts is an untenable policy. As a senator, I strongly support passage of the Armenian Genocide Resolution (H.Res.106 and S.Res.106), and as President I will recognize the Armenian Genocide."

http://middleeast.about.com/od/turkey/qt/me090318b.htm

The murder of one and a half million Armenians must be recognized at long last as genocide, but Obama now lacks the courage to honor his commitment.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Maureen Dowd in Riyadh: Deliberately Ignoring an Inconvenient War

When I thought The New York Times could not descend any lower into the depths of journalistic hell after sending Roger Cohen to report from Iran using the services of a translator appointed by the Islamic Republic, I was mistaken. Maureen Dowd has now reached a new nadir for The Times in Saudi Arabia.

In an op-ed entitled "Arabia: Inshallah, Obama" in today's Times, Dowd, who does not speak Arabic ("Inshallah"? How cute!), regales us with the thoughts of the Saudi royal family with no critical analysis. My online response, if The Times deigns to post it:

Child brides in Saudi Arabia? No need for Maureen to comment. Women imprisoned and whipped for being gang raped? Not a word from Dowd. Death sentences handed out for "witchcraft"? Why should Maureen worry. Prison and lashes for "practicing magic"? Maureen doesn't care. Prison and lashes for showing "sex toys" on Lebanese television? Why bother with this. Limbs severed for alleged theft? No need to inquire. Beheading for "apostasy"? We mustn't ask the prince about this minor unpleasantry.

But worst of all, we are told at the head of the "readers' comments" page that in Dowd's op-ed, "The Saudi foreign minister, Prince Saud al-Faisal, laments the need for less talk and more peace in the region."

Isn't it peculiar that Maureen does not even breathe a word about the war raging on the Saudi border with Yemen between Yemeni Shiites backed by Iran and the Saudi army and air force? Although 175,000 people in Yemen's northwest Saada province are refugees as a result of the fighting between Shiite rebels and the Yemeni and Saudi armies, Maureen entirely ignores the conflagration as if it never existed.

Are we to understand that the function of New York Times op-ed writers is to report uncritically the views of the Saudi royal family? Shame on Maureen Dowd!

Maureen Dowd was not fired by The Times for plagiarism; however, in my humble opinion, her current frolic in Saudi Arabia has taken The Times to rock bottom. Will The Times do anything to rein in the queen of their op-ed page? Not a chance.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Roger Cohen: Obama Requires Viagra to Handle Iran

In a tedious op-ed in today's online New York Times entitled "Iran in Its Intricacy", Roger Cohen limply opines that the U.S. must avoid military confrontation and patiently seek a diplomatic solution to the current crisis involving Tehran's efforts to build nuclear weaponry. My reponse, if The Times deigns to post it:

Roger Cohen, who in the past insisted that "Iran is not totalitarian", now concludes: "It is time for the United States to help Iran’s emergence from isolation . . . through firmness allied to creative diplomacy and sustained involvement."

"Creative diplomacy and sustained involvement"? Sorry, Roger, but I don't have a clue what you're talking about, although it did require "sustained involvement" to make it through your op-ed. My guess is that your elusive verbiage would elicit chuckles from the persons being tortured to death in Evin Prison in Tehran.

"Firmness", however, I do understand, as does Ahmadinejad, and regarding firmness, please consider the following chain of events:

“I would never take a military option off the table.”
Barack Obama on Iran, throughout the 2008 presidential campaign.

"We are not taking any option off the table at all.”
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, January 2009 Senate confirmation hearing, responding to a question concerning the Iran military option.

"What we are going to be working on over the next several weeks is developing a significant regime of sanctions that will indicate to [Iran] how isolated they are from the international community as a whole."
Barack Obama, Press Conference, February 9, 2010

"Obviously, we don't want Iran to become a nuclear weapons power, but we are not planning anything other than going for sanctions."
Hillary Clinton, Al-Arabiya television, Wednesday, February 17, 2010.

"We are moving expeditiously and thoroughly in the Security Council, I can't give you an exact date, but I would assume some time in the next several months."
Hillary Clinton on her plane to Buenos Aires, responding to the question when the U.S. might seek sanctions against Iran, March 2, 2010.

Firmness? The Obama administration is obviously in need of Viagra.

Thanks for the advice, Roger. You've been so right in the past.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Child Brides Also in Saudi Arabia

I don't know about the rest of you, but I am still seething at Maureen Dowd following her op-ed of yesterday's date, "Loosey Goosey Saudi". How dare Dowd praise the Saudi royal family for its "efforts" on behalf of women! If you have not already done so, read yesterday's blog entry, "Shame on Maureen Dowd!" (http://jgcaesarea.blogspot.com/2010/03/shame-on-maureen-dowd.html). Unfortunately, Dowd, who in 2009 "inadvertantly" plagiarized a blogger, knows no shame.

Today, Nicholas Kristof, in an op-ed entitled "Divorced Before Puberty" in today's New York Times, delicately ("Yemen is one of my favorite countries") addresses the practice of child brides in Yemen. My response, if The Times chooses to post it:

Nicholas, this abuse of little girls does not only occur in Yemen. Child brides are also common in Saudi Arabia.

Yesterday, Maureen Dowd in an op-ed entitled "Loosey Goosey Saudi" praised Saudi Arabia for improving the rights of women. Dowd ignored the following recent report from the BBC (http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/8493402.stm):

"A 12-year-old girl in Saudi Arabia has withdrawn her request for a divorce from her 80-year-old husband.

The girl, from Qaseem province east of Riyadh, was married last September in return for a dowry of $22,600 (£14,174) paid to her father.

She and her mother had asked a court to annul the marriage on the grounds the girl had been raped.

But now the girl has withdrawn her petition, saying she wants to respect her father's wishes.

'I agree to the marriage. I have no objection. This is in filial respect to my father and obedience to his wish,' she was quoted as telling the court by the Okaz newspaper.

The girl's situation was made public in January when a journalist from the Al-Riyadh newspaper encountered the girl, and she begged the reporter to save her."

I was horrified by Dowd's op-ed, which also ignored "honor killings" of Saudi women. Nicholas, could you please urgently discuss these horrifying practices with Dowd when she returns from Saudi Arabia?

Will Kristof confront Dowd, who in the past has ignored my e-mails? Don't hold your breath.

Shame on Maureen Dowd!

In an op-ed in today's New York Times entitled "Loosey Goosey Saudi", Maureen Dowd claims that Saudi Arabia is upgrading the rights of women in the desert kingdom. My online response in The Times:

"But after spending 10 days here, I can confirm that, at their own galactically glacial pace, they are chipping away at gender apartheid and cultural repression."

Why does Maureen's declaration after 10 days in Saudi Arabia sound so similar to Roger Cohen's recent attestations that "Iran is not totalitarian"?

Perhaps Maureen would not be so blithe if she were to review the case, reported by the Saudi Gazette (http://www.saudigazette.com.sa/index.cfm?contentID=2009020828735&method=home.regcon), of a young woman who was gang-raped and consequently awarded one year in prison plus 100 lashes:

"A 23-year-old unmarried woman was awarded one-year prison term and 100 lashes for committing adultery and trying to abort the resultant fetus.

The District Court in Jeddah pronounced the verdict on Saturday after the girl confessed that she had a forced sexual intercourse with a man who had offered her a ride. The man, the girl confessed, took her to a rest house, east of Jeddah, where he and four of friends assaulted her all night long.

The girl claimed that she became pregnant soon after and went to King Fahd Hospital for Armed Forces in an attempt to carry out an abortion. She was eight weeks’ pregnant then, the hospital confirmed."

Maureen Dowd, you should be ashamed of yourself.

Another recent example illustrating the plight of Saudi women:

"A Saudi women's group on Friday blamed the country's religious police in the 'honour' killing of two sisters shot dead by their own brother after they were arrested for mixing with unrelated men.

The Society for Defending Women's Rights in Saudi Arabia said the religious police had placed the sisters' lives in danger when they arrested them and then placed them in a Riyadh women's shelter.

The two women, identified as Reem, 21, and Nouf, 19, were murdered after they left the shelter on July 5.

The brother shot them in the presence of their father who, according to newspaper reports, quickly forgave the son for defending the family's honour."

http://www.arabianbusiness.com/561608-saudi-religious-police-blamed-in-honour-killing-of-sisters

"Loosey Goosey Saudi"? Disgusting!

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Dubai: Israelis No Longer Allowed; Terrorists Still Welcome

Dubai's police chief, Lt. Gen. Dahi Khalfan Tamim, continues to dribble tidbits of drivel out to the international press. Yesterday, he declared that following the killing of Hamas operative Mahmoud al-Mabhouh in Dubai, Israelis, even those with foreign passports, would no longer be welcome in his country:

"'We will not allow those who hold Israeli passports into the UAE no matter what other passport they have,' Tamim said.

He did not explain what procedures would be used to identify the Israeli visitors, except that the police will 'develop skills' to recognize Israelis by 'physical features and the way they speak.'

. . .

'Mossad shouldn't come to us. We haven't done anything to Israel. This is an insult to us, to Britain, to Australia, to Germany and to New Zealand and it's shameful,' Tamim told reporters in Dubai, a member of the United Arab Emirates."

http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/1153053.html

Tamim failed to provide reporters with details of the passport used by Mabhouh to enter Dubai, and apparently Dubai will continue to host visiting terrorists, murderers and weapons smugglers.

Needless to say, I am curious to learn of the methodology to be used by Dubai's police to identify "physical features" of Israelis. Perhaps they intend to make use of studies undertaken by Josef Mengele some 65 years ago.

Meanwhile, British and Australian investigators are arriving in Israel to question dual nationals whose names allegedly appeared in forged passports used by the persons who assassinated Mabhouh. You see, in today's world we become "insulted" when terrorists are extinguished from up close without "collateral damage". Instead, the civilized world prefers impersonal killing via drones, notwithstanding the deaths of innocent persons standing in close proximity to the target, provided these deaths do not exceed predetermined ratios and accepted norms.