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Sunday, June 27, 2010

Thomas Friedman's "War, Timeout, War, Time ...": Horsefeathers!

In an op-ed entitled "War, Timeout, War, Time ..." in today's New York Times (http://www.nytimes.com/2010/06/27/opinion/27friedman.html?hp), Thomas Friedman claims:

• suicide-bombings and rockets from Gaza and Lebanon "seem like a distant memory" to Israel, which has never been more prosperous;

• Israel has won its last three wars using what Friedman calls “Hama Rules”, which he defines as "no rules at all";

• the brutality of Israeli tactics employed against Hezbollah and Hamas have resulted in U.N. investigations into alleged war crimes.

Friedman concludes, "the risks to Israel’s legitimacy of another war in Gaza, Lebanon or the West Bank — in which Israel could be forced to kill even more civilians to squash rocket attacks launched from schoolyards by fighters who wear no uniforms — will be staggering."

Let's get down to brass tacks.

Israel has never been more prosperous? Perhaps from Friedman's perspective, when he stays at the fanciest Jerusalem and Tel Aviv hotels, all appears glorious and sanguine. But consider the following statistics:

"Of the 2.1 million households in Israel, one of every four Israelis –1.6 million people – lives below the poverty line. Close to half of them are working in full or part-time jobs and are still unable to provide the basics for their families. This Passover, charity organizations say they saw a 40 percent increase in the number of people asking for help. In Jerusalem nearly 1,000 people a day come to four soup kitchens at which hot meals are served.

• One-third of Israeli children, some 777,400 in number, live in poverty-stricken families, according to the National Insurance Institute (February 2009). Israel ranks among Western countries with the greatest percentage of poor children.
• The number of working families under the poverty line continues to rise, from 45.7 percent in 2007 to 66.4 percent in 2008.
• In 2005, the poverty line for a single person was about $445 per month; for a family of five, it was $1,337. A minimum-wage earner in Israel brings in approximately $883 per month; taxes can reduce that number almost to the poverty line.
• Over 70 percent of the minimum wage earners in Israel are women.
• 75 percent of poor families cannot afford medicine and 70 percent are dependant on food donations.
• 80 percent of Israelis living on support provided by aid groups are below the hunger line."

http://www.jewishfederations.org/page.aspx?id=203418

Suicide-bombings and rockets from Gaza and Lebanon seem like a distant memory to Israel? Friedman forgets to mention the Scud missiles from Iraq that fell on Haifa and Tel Aviv in 1991; this is something my family and I, then living in Tel Aviv, will never forget. But more to the point, I can tell you that a day does not pass when I do not dwell on the horrors of recent wars, as does my oldest son. Are we different from other Israelis? Absolutely not. Everyone in this country has lost one or more relatives or dear friends in a war or terrorist outrage, and there are countless Israelis suffering from post traumatic stress syndrome.

Israel has won its wars using “Hama Rules”, i.e. "no rules at all"? Here, as someone who observed these wars from up-close, I must try very hard to refrain from profanity when answering Friedman. In a nutshell, compare civilian casualties during Operation Cast Lead with civilian casualties in America's wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. As stated by Colonel Richard Kemp to the U.N. Human Rights Council on October 16, 2009:

"I am the former commander of the British forces in Afghanistan. I served with NATO and the United Nations; commanded troops in Northern Ireland, Bosnia and Macedonia; and participated in the Gulf War. I spent considerable time in Iraq since the 2003 invasion, and worked on international terrorism for the UK Government’s Joint Intelligence Committee.

Mr. President, based on my knowledge and experience, I can say this: During Operation Cast Lead, the Israeli Defence Forces did more to safeguard the rights of civilians in a combat zone than any other army in the history of warfare.

Israel did so while facing an enemy that deliberately positioned its military capability behind the human shield of the civilian population.

* * * *

The truth is that the IDF took extraordinary measures to give Gaza civilians notice of targeted areas, dropping over 2 million leaflets, and making over 100,000 phone calls. Many missions that could have taken out Hamas military capability were aborted to prevent civilian casualties. During the conflict, the IDF allowed huge amounts of humanitarian aid into Gaza. To deliver aid virtually into your enemy's hands is, to the military tactician, normally quite unthinkable. But the IDF took on those risks.

Despite all of this, of course innocent civilians were killed. War is chaos and full of mistakes. There have been mistakes by the British, American and other forces in Afghanistan and in Iraq, many of which can be put down to human error. But mistakes are not war crimes.

More than anything, the civilian casualties were a consequence of Hamas’ way of fighting. Hamas deliberately tried to sacrifice their own civilians.

Mr. President, Israel had no choice apart from defending its people, to stop Hamas from attacking them with rockets.

And I say this again: the IDF did more to safeguard the rights of civilians in a combat zone than any other army in the history of warfare."

Israeli tactics employed against Hezbollah and Hamas have resulted in U.N. investigations leading to delegitimization of Israel? Again, reread Colonel Kemp's statement to the U.N. Human Rights Council. Also consider:

• What did the U.N. do when five million people died in the Congo over recent years? Nothing.

• What did the U.N. do when millions more died in Darfur? Nothing.

• What has the U.N. done with respect to the 400,000 Uzbek refugees from rioting in Kyrgyzstan? Nothing.

• What has the U.N. done with respect to the 200,000 refugees from fighting between Saudi forces and Yemenite rebels? Nothing.

On the other hand, when nine Turks, seeking "martyrdom" and belonging to an organization linked to al-Qaeda, die while attacking Israeli soldiers with pistols, knives and clubs, then it is time for the U.N., Obama and The New York Times to demand international investigations.

There will always be anti-Semitism, and no matter what Israel does or does not do, it will not achieve international "legitimacy" during our lifetimes. Given, however, the choice between committing suicide in order to achieve some vestige of "legitimacy" and survival, please forgive me if I choose survival.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Obama Blunders, Turkey Miscalculates, and Hamas Again Fires Rockets Into Israel

On Thursday, nine rockets and mortar shells fired from Gaza slammed into southern Israel. Not surprisingly, the matter went unnoticed by the international press, and there were no calls for investigations from Obama, Erdogan or Ban Ki-moon. Why the renewed outburst of terror? What does any of this have to do with Obama and Turkey?

Obama's diplomatic outreach to the Muslim world has failed, and he and his staff know it. Visits to Egypt and Turkey together with Obama's New Year's ("Nowruz") messages to Iran yielded no tangible gains. Quite the contrary: his outreach signaled weakness to Turkey and Iran (remember, this is the Middle East), and Ahmadinejad and Erdogan felt free to pursue their respective agendas.

However, unbeknownst to Erdogan, the tide has turned in Washington. Obama did not expect Congress to balk at the destruction of the American alliance with Israel, which has the fervid support of millions of Christians throughout the United States. Obama also did not take into account the plummet in his popularity from a mishandled economy, the Gulf oil spill and the war in Afghanistan. With midterm elections four months away and many Democrats struggling to hold onto their House and Senate seats, it was indeed time for "change". Netanyahu is due back at the White House on July 6, and this time I am told Obama will not show him out through the back door in the middle of the night.

Erdogan, however, ignored all the signals coming from Washington, and in cooperation with a "charitable" organization linked to al-Qaeda, he co-sponsored the Gaza Flotilla, knowing full well that the goods in the ships' holds were unneeded and that many of the travelers were seeking martyrdom.

At first, the Gaza Flotilla seemed to have accomplished its objective: babies were named "Erdogan" in Gaza, and new "aid" flotillas were planned from Lebanon, Iran and Europe. His head spinning from his new stellar status on the Arab street, Erdogan took what appeared to be the next logical step to promote self and Turkish regional aggrandizement: opposition in the U.N. to U.S. sponsored sanctions against Iran.

But reality has begun to set in for Erdogan. As reported by Desmond Butler of AP, Turkey is now being hammered by the U.S.:

"The United States is warning Turkey that it is alienating U.S. supporters and needs to demonstrate its commitment to partnership with the West.

The remarks by Philip Gordon, the Obama administration's top diplomat on European affairs, were a rare admonishment of a crucial NATO ally.

'We think Turkey remains committed to NATO, Europe and the United States, but that needs to be demonstrated,' Gordon told The Associated Press in an interview this week. 'There are people asking questions about it in a way that is new, and that in itself is a bad thing that makes it harder for the United States to support some of the things that Turkey would like to see us support.'

Gordon cited Turkey's vote against a U.S.-backed United Nations Security Council resolution on new sanctions against Iran and noted Turkish rhetoric after Israel's deadly assault on a Gaza-bound flotilla last month. The Security Council vote came shortly after Turkey and Brazil, to Washington's annoyance, had brokered a nuclear fuel-swap deal with Iran as an effort to delay or avoid new sanctions."
http://www.google.com/hostednews/ap/article/ALeqM5infX83Qg20idVFtW3FcluMFJNncgD9GIR8780

And as acknowledged by İlhan Tanir in an opinion published by Turkey's Hurriyet Daily News and Economic Review:

"Did the AKP sincerely believe that it could push Washington to take a position against Israel, dump it if necessary and support the Turkish position all the way? It appeared throughout the recent weeks that Ankara indeed believed that, through building its own '9-11' rhetoric to convince the Obama administration.

It can be safely argued then, that whoever is in the charge of reading Washington on the side of the AKP government, read Washington upside down, and picked up the mistaken insights.

* * * *

Ankara cannot afford to misread Washington any longer."
http://hurriyetdailynews.com/n.php?n=ankaras-washington-misreading-2010-06-25

Although it took some time, Turkey now understands the gravity of its misstep, and a meeting scheduled for July between Hezbollah leader Nasrallah and Erdogan has been canceled.

And that's not all: Following successful talks between Tony Blair and Netanyahu (see: http://jgcaesarea.blogspot.com/2010/06/netanyahu-takes-wind-out-of-sails-of.html), pressure was brought to bear upon Lebanon's Saad Hariri, and the "Women's" flotilla out of Tripoli remains stuck in port.

So what seemed like an enormous PR coup for Hamas has already been forgotten by a world consumed with the World Cup. Israeli readiness to permit luxury consumer goods into Gaza through the Erez crossing is only apt to destroy Gaza's tunnel industy via Egypt and eliminate Hamas tax revenues imposed upon these goods.

Why then the renewed rocket fire and mortar shells on Thursday? With the flotilla gambit now dead in the water, Hamas is reverting to what it knows best: terror aimed at Israeli civilians.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Gail Collin's "General McChrystal's Twitters": A Travesty of a Travesty

Anyone who has read this blog knows that I have long opposed U.S. involvement in Afghanistan, yet I find myself disturbed by Gail Collin's New York Times op-ed, "General McChrystal's Twitters", which seems to make light of the dismissal of Stanley McChrystal.

Say what you will about General McChrystal, but here was a soldier instructed by Obama to perform a Herculean task: stabilize with a skeleton fighting force over 650,000 square miles of foreboding territory, harboring a hostile population of almost 30 million warring tribesmen, in a year and a half. No, it couldn't be done, it still can't be done, and it is horrifying that in recent days the total number of U.S. fatalities in this country went over the 1,000 mark.

Faced with the article in Rolling Stone, Obama was required to make a no-win decision: No matter how he opted, he would not come out smelling like roses. But having already noted my opposition to the Afghanistan War, I still think Obama chose incorrectly.

How many persons who will read or comment upon Gail Collins's op-ed actually took the trouble to read all of the Rolling Stone article? I still find myself asking what were the "horrifying" things said by McChrystal.

How many persons who will read or comment upon Gail Collins's op-ed have ever toted an automatic rifle and sat in silent ambush in the middle of the night, hungry, cold, exhausted and eaten raw by mosquitoes and ants? Question to those who have served in combat units and watched their comrades killed or maimed: Do you ever recall voicing "displeasure" with those who sent you on your mission, but don't have the slightest notion of your physical and mental suffering? I do.

Sure, there are different expectations from generals, but McChrystal is a commanding officer who made a point of going out with his soldiers on their most hazardous missions. If I were in the field, this is an officer I would want beside and over me.

Sure, McChrystal may have insulted Biden, and his staff voiced nasty utterances about certain Obama administration officials, but at the risk of sounding trite, war is not a pretty thing and does not elicit verbal niceties. Perhaps this was indeed an instance where Obama could have brought Biden and McChrystal together to air out their differences.

Has Obama proven himself tough to his Republican opponents by firing McChrystal? I don't think so.

I would prefer to see Obama demonstrate his courage by removing U.S. forces immediately from Afghanistan and shouldering the blame for this fiasco upon himself - where it now squarely belongs.

[I posted the content of this blog entry in response to David Brook's Friday, June 24 op-ed, "The Culture of Exposure" (http://www.nytimes.com/2010/06/25/opinion/25brooks.html). I would only further observe in McChrystal's defense that he was asked by Obama to prosecute an ugly losing war, while Obama permitted senior administration officials freely to question its goals and legitimacy. Was it fair to allow these administration officials to undercut openly McChrystal's thankless mission and not to expect any expression of anger, offense or resentment from the general and his staff? These are not saints; they are soldiers. Obama is the commander in chief, and he made a decision, albeit the wrong one. In fairness to the U.S. armed forces sent by Obama to Afghanistan, was it not his responsibility also to demand that Biden, et al, refrain from public expressions of skepticism? Although highly educated, Obama was never schooled in management or leadership, and we are witnessing the results.]

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Thomas Friedman's "What's Second Prize?"

In an editorial entitled "What's Second Prize" in today's New York Times, Thomas Friedman takes the position that Obama should never have escalated the Afghanistan War. Mr. Friedman writes:

"The three questions he needed to ask about Afghanistan were almost childlike in their simplicity. Yet Obama either failed to ask them or went ahead, nevertheless, because he was afraid he would have been called a wimp by Republicans if he hadn’t."

http://www.nytimes.com/2010/06/23/opinion/23friedman.html

Now consider the following from a New York Times editorial, "Mr. Obama's Task", dated November 18, 2009:

"Mr. Obama was right to conduct a sober, systematic review of his options."

http://www.nytimes.com/2009/11/19/opinion/19thu1.html?_r=1

Also consider the opinion of a New York Times editorial, "The Afghanistan Speech", dated December 1, 2009:

"In his speech Tuesday night, President Obama showed considerable political courage by addressing that pessimism and despair head-on. He explained why the United States cannot walk away from the war and outlined an ambitious and high-risk strategy for driving back the Taliban and bolstering the Afghan government so American troops can eventually go home."

http://www.nytimes.com/2009/12/02/opinion/02wed1.html

In short, Obama's catastrophic decision to escalate the U.S. presence in Afghanistan was not hurried (quite the opposite), and it was not because he was afraid of being called a wimp by Republicans (he had the backing of the editorial board of The New York Times, which is anything but Republican).

The reasons for Obama's tragic error lie elsewhere, and it will be for future historians to analyze the makings of this tragic mistake.

Meanwhile, it can only be hoped that the president can conjure the courage to acknowledge his mistake and remove U.S. forces from this quagmire as quickly as possible. Regrettably, courage is a commodity that has been lacking at the White House, and decisions from the Obama administration never come quickly.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Netanyahu Takes the Wind Out of the Sails of Future Flotillas: The End of Gaza's Tunnel Economy

Seemingly overnight, Netanyahu has scored a coup. Quick agreement has been reached with Quartet envoy Tony Blair (note the happy body language in Blair's pictures with Netanyahu), and restrictions on the overland import of civilian goods into Gaza via Israel are being lifted. As reported by the Jerusalem Post:

"Blair, according to diplomatic sources, was instrumental in drawing up the steps Israel took to reverse the restrictions on civilian goods into Gaza; each word in the security cabinet decision was vetted by him, and – by extension – had the approval of the Quartet he represents: the US, EU, Russia and the UN.

'Three days ago, Israel announced its intention to liberalize its Gaza policy,' Blair said. 'We have now agreed principles of implementation.'

'Let me state right at the outset that Israel has the complete right to protect its security and to keep arms out of Gaza.'


* * * *

Netanyahu said in private conversations Sunday evening that the significance of the decision was it meant there would not longer be a civilian closure on Gaza, but there would be a security blockade.

'And it will get tighter,' he said of the security blockade.

'We have taken away from Hamas the ability to blame Israel for harming the civilian population, and have received international legitimacy for continuing the security blockade of Hamas.'"

http://www.jpost.com/Israel/Article.aspx?id=178968

In a nutshell:

• Netanyahu has just taken the wind out of the sails of future Gaza flotillas organized by Turkey, Iran and the extreme Left.
• Netanyahu has the Quartet's backing for the security blockade of Hamas.
• The Gazan tunnel economy, which has funded Hamas, will likely implode.
• The Turkish flotilla has Europe silently questioning the moderation of Erdogan, and unbeknowst to many, the Turkish Foreign Ministry has been quietly seeking to contain the damage.
• Erdogan has undermined Iranian inroads into the Arab Middle East, and although the two former empires, i.e. Ottoman and Persian, may at present appear to be living in harmony, the stage is now set for a future confrontation between Erdogan and Ahmadinejad.

Rahm Emanuel to Quit the White House: Does Hillary Follow?

As reported by the Telegraph, Rahm Emanuel will be leaving the White House later this year. Although the article mentions "burn out" and concerns over "losing touch with his young family", it goes on to say:

"It is well known in Washington that arguments have developed between pragmatic Mr Emanuel, a veteran in Congress where he was known for driving through compromises, and the idealistic inner circle who followed Mr Obama to the White House."

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/northamerica/7837686/Rahm-Emanuel-expected-to-quit-White-House.html

This would undoubtedly make Hillary's departure from the administration that much more inconvenient for Obama, and we are now better able to understand the balloon that was floated in the Sally Quinn column in the Washington Post, suggesting that she will replace Biden as vice president (http://jgcaesarea.blogspot.com/2010/06/hillary-clinton-as-obamas-vice.html).

After being demeaned for a year and a half, Hillary now has Obama by the short hairs.

Turkey's Ongoing War with the Kurds

Turkey is again fighting the Kurds, and Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan is pleased to draw the attention of the Turkish street away from this debacle and have it focus on Israel instead. But make no mistake: Turkey is killing Kurdish civilians in Iraq, as reported today by AP:

"A local official says Turkish air raids in Iraq's Kurdish north have killed a teenage girl — the first reported civilian death from shelling that began last week.

Turkish warplanes often bomb suspected Turkish Kurdish rebel positions in the self-rule mountainous region. But the areas are sparsely populated and many have fled the villages being targeted.

Karmang Ezzat, mayor of the Soran border town, said Sunday that the girl's mother and 3-year-old brother also were wounded in the previous night's attack.

He says the planes pounded seven villages in Irbil province in a raid that started at 8:30 p.m. and lasted about 90 minutes."

http://www.google.com/hostednews/ap/article/ALeqM5h9VhSca_oZldvbO-XktR7l7Sa_PgD9GET0I01

Turkey is also losing troops in this war. In the past two days, 12 Turkish soldiers died, 43 have been killed since March, and Erdogan is threatening that Kurdish rebels will "drown in their own blood" (http://www.hurriyetdailynews.com/n.php?n=turkish-pm-erdogan-says-pkk-will-drown-in-blood-after-attacks-2010-06-20).

Query: Why are Obama and UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon not demanding an international inquiry, given that this fighting over the years has cost the lives of some 30,000 ethnic Kurds?

Tens of thousands of dead Kurds seeking autonomy? Hundreds of thousands of Uzbek refugees? Let's face it: If it doesn't involve Israel and those "despicable" Jews, Obama, Ban Ki-moon and the Left couldn't care less.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

"Turkey’s Gain Is Iran’s Loss" or Is It Turkey's Turn to Destabilize the Globe?

In an op-ed in today's New York Times, Elliot Hen-Tov, a Princeton doctoral candidate, and Bernard Haykel, a Princeton professor of Near Eastern studies, conclude:

"With Turkey capturing the hearts, minds and wallets of Arabs, Iran will increasingly find it harder to carry out its agenda of destabilizing the region and the globe. For Americans, it may be hard to see the blessings in a rift with a longtime ally. But even if Turkey’s interests no longer fully align with ours, there is much to be gained from a Westernized, prosperous and democratic nation becoming the standard-bearer of the Islamic world."

http://www.nytimes.com/2010/06/19/opinion/19haykel.html?hp

Several questions:

"Westernized"?

Consider the following item reported earlier this year in The Guardian:

"Turkish police have recovered the body of a 16-year-old girl they say was buried alive by relatives in an 'honour' killing carried out as punishment for talking to boys.

The girl, who has been identified only by the initials MM, was found in a sitting position with her hands tied, in a two-metre hole dug under a chicken pen outside her home in Kahta, in the south-eastern province of Adiyaman.

* * * *

A postmortem examination revealed large amounts of soil in her lungs and stomach, indicating that she had been alive and conscious while being buried. Her body showed no signs of bruising.

* * * *

Official figures have indicated that more than 200 such killings take place each year, accounting for around half of all murders in Turkey."

http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2010/feb/04/girl-buried-alive-turkey

"Prosperous"?

The authors of this op-ed ignore the various devastating Turkish bank crises. As indicated in a Today's Zaman column entitled "Turkish experience with banking crises resolution" by Murat Yulek:

"Following the 2001 banking crises, the Savings Deposit Insurance Fund (TMSF) acquired 20 private banks together with their liabilities. These liabilities totaled $32 billion, of which $26 billion was made up of deposits. Simultaneously, two large state banks -- Ziraat and Halk -- had to be recapitalized following the accumulation of large policy losses over the preceding years.
Turkey’s resolution experience

* * * *

The banking resolution process of 2001-2004 cost Turkish taxpayers $27.1 billion. Equivalent to 9.6 percent of Turkey's average gross domestic product (GDP) during that period, this figure does not include the significant cost of recapitalization of the two state banks, Ziraat and Halk. It also does not include the Treasury's cost of financing."
http://www.todayszaman.com/tz-web/yazarDetay.do?haberno=149978

Anyone familiar with the Turkish banking sector knows that we have not seen the last such crisis, which will hit unexpectedly as an earthquake.

"Democratic"?

Consider the following from an item written by Jen Alic for ISA Intel:

"In a game that Turkey’s ruling AKP party seems rather adept at playing, the ‘democracy’ buzzword is being used in an attempt to push through constitutional changes that will give the government more control over courts that aren’t towing the party line."

http://www.isaintel.com/?p=343

Although Turkey might certainly be preferable to Iran and more susceptible to Western pressure and incentives, a consortium of the two countries is less than palatable.

Hillary Clinton as Obama's Vice Presidential Candidate in 2012?

Only a year and a half away from first primaries in 2012, and Obama is already facing a nightmare. He has demonstrated that he can campaign, but can't govern:

- Oil continues to spill into the gulf with no end in sight.
- There is no meaningful improvement in the economy.
- U.S. casualties continue to mount in Afghanistan.
- There have been no foreign relations achievements; his "landmark" overtures to the world's most tyrannical regimes have all been snubbed.
- ObamaCare was pushed through Congress despite the opposition of a majority of Americans.
- His Gallup Job Approval ratings continue to decline (http://www.gallup.com/poll/113980/gallup-daily-obama-job-approval.aspx

What to do?

In a June 18 Washington Post column entitled "Hillary Clinton should be Obama's vice president", Sally Quinn attempts to make the case for Clinton:

"It makes sense for the Democrats, actually. Clinton has done an incredible job as secretary of state. First of all, she has worked harder than anyone should ever be expected to. She has managed to do the impossible: She is the ambassador of the United States to the world, maintaining her credibility while playing the bad guy to President Obama's good guy, such as with North Korea, Iran and Israel, and still looking good. She has been a true team player. If Clinton is dissatisfied with her role, you would never know it. She has been loyal and supportive to the president and has maintained a good relationship with him and with others in the White House. If she is being left out of the policymaking, or being sent on trips to keep her out of town, she has not shown it. She is cheerful, thoughtful, serious and diligent. There are no horror stories about her coming out of the State Department. Most notable, though, is that Bill Clinton has not been the problem that so many anticipated. He has been supportive of her and of Obama, and he has stayed out of the limelight and been discreet about his own life."

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/06/17/AR2010061703463.html

Bovine stercus? Much akin to Obama, Hillary has achieved absolutely nothing over the past year and a half, and Ms. Quinn's plaudits ring empty. On the other hand, unlike Obama, she has not been given the opportunity to achieve anything.

Will Hillary continue to grin icily and bear it, in the hope of running for president at age 69? Or will she call it quits as Secretary of State within the next six months and make a move against a floundering Obama?

My opinion: Obama is headed to be a one-term president, and it will better suit her interests to detach herself from someone destined for something other than greatness, so as to weigh a bid in 2012 and be positioned to run for president in 2016 at the age of 65.

Of greater interest to me is the Quinn column: Who floated this silly balloon? Is Axelrod hitting the panic button?

Friday, June 18, 2010

Chaos in Kyrgyzstan: Where Is Turkey?

Rioting, refugees, rape and murder in Kyrgyzstan, yet where is Turkey? An estimated 400,000 Uzbeks have fled their homes in the wake of the rioting in Kyrgyzstan, which has a total population of some 5.5 million; however, there is no sign whatsovever of the IHH trucking in tons of aid and bringing millions in cash to persons truly in need of assistance.

Sure, the Turkish Red Crescent sent several cargo planes of aid, and a "special representative" was sent to visit the country and meet with Turkish businessmen there, but he has already left the country. The Turkish newspaper Today's Zaman today reported on Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu's discussions with deputies in the Turkish Parliament on Wednesday concerning Turkey's posture with respect to the violence in Kyrgyzstan:

"Noting that they fastidiously work to remain neutral in regional conflicts, the foreign minister said said they attach importance to a solution to such conflicts in Central Asia."

http://www.todayszaman.com/tz-web/news-213445-turkey-spearheads-international-aid-to-strife-torn-kyrgyzstan.html

"Fastidiously neutral in regional conflicts"? Yeah, right, as we are now witnessing in Gaza.

So why is Turkey so indifferent to the loss of life (but not the loss of Turkish business) in Kyrgyzstan? Again the answer lies in the op-ed entitled "Why is Palestine ‘a second Cyprus’ for Turks?", written by Burak Bekdil for the Turkish newspaper Hürriyet (http://www.hurriyetdailynews.com/n.php?n=why-is-palestine-8216a-second-cyprus8217-for-turks-2010-06-03), which states in relevant part:

"Subconsciously (and sadly) the Muslim-Turkish thinking tolerates it if Muslims kill Muslims; does not tolerate it but does not turn the world upside down when Christians kill Muslims; pragmatically ignores it when too-powerful Christians kill Muslims; but is programmed to turn the world upside down when Jews kill Muslims."

In a nutshell, when Sunni Kyrgyz kill Sunni Uzbeks in Turkey's Central Asian backyard, Ankara does not care. Nor does the rest of the world.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Thomas Friedman's "Letter from Istanbul"

In an op-ed in yesterday's New York Times entitled "Letter from Istanbul" (http://www.nytimes.com/2010/06/16/opinion/16friedman.html?ref=thomaslfriedman), Tom Friedman observed that Erdogan's Turkey is abandoning the West and instead befriending Iran:

"There is nothing wrong with criticizing Israel’s human rights abuses in the territories. Israel’s failure to apply its creativity to solving the Palestinian problem is another dangerous vacuum. But it is very troubling when Erdogan decries Israelis as killers and, at the same time, warmly receives in Ankara Sudan’s president, Omar Hassan al-Bashir, who has been indicted by the International Criminal Court on charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity for his role in the bloodshed in Darfur, and while politely hosting Iran’s president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, whose government killed and jailed thousands of Iranians demanding that their votes be counted. Erdogan defended his reception of Bashir by saying: 'It’s not possible for a Muslim to commit genocide.'”

For Friedman, this is a remarkable reversal of the opinion he expressed in his op-ed, "When Friends Fall Out" (http://www.nytimes.com/2010/06/02/opinion/02friedman.html?ref=thomaslfriedman), published only two weeks earlier.

Friedman heeded the wake up call: Turkey is no longer a friend of Israel. For that matter, Turkey is no longer a friend of the United States, as evidenced by its UN vote against sanctions to be imposed upon Iran. Moreover, as I observed in my prior blog entry, Turkey threatens to set the entire region afire.

What to do? Although Obama continues to behave as if nothing at all has happened, the U.S. Congress has grown alarmed by Turkey's conduct, and there is renewed talk concerning the need for Turkey to acknowledge Armenian genocide, but this is hardly enough.

Tourism contributed some $18 billion to Turkey's GDP in 2009. Until Turkey decides to stop flirting with international terrorists, it is time for each of us to remove Turkey from our list of vacation destinations. If a boycott of Turkey as a vacation destination is announced, I am certain that Erdogan will think twice whether it is in his best interests to continue to play with matches.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

The Middle East Triangle and How Obama Is Unwittingly Laying the Groundwork for the Next Mideast War

"The Middle East Triangle?" you ask. "What in blazes is that?"

Answer: It's nothing like the Bermuda Triangle, although Israel must navigate it every day. Rather, it is a triangle consisting of three Muslim axes of power in the Middle East, bitterly jealous of one another, whose fortunes and relative strength continuously wax and wane.

What Are the Three Axes?

Axis No. 1: Turkey. Sunni (with a significant Shiite minority), 73 million people, member of NATO, and all that is left of a once proud Ottoman Empire. The Turks, with their roots in Central Asia, took Baghdad from the Persians in 1535, conquered much of Arab North Africa, and reached the gates of Vienna in 1683, before falling into decline. Although its democracy and secularism were once safeguarded by its military, the governing Islamist-rooted AK Party appears to be challenging the army. Turkey maintains an uneasy relationship with neighboring Syria and is known for its oppression of its large Kurdish minority, which has sought autonomy.

Axis No. 2: Iran. Shiite, 74 million people, and home to ancient kingdoms and empires dating back thousands of years. The Arabs conquered the Sassanids in the Seventh Century and converted the empire to Islam. Persia was reunified as an independent state in 1501 by the Safavid dynasty, which made Shiite Islam the religion of their state. With the overthrow of the Shah in 1979, Iran became an "Islamic Republic", which soon found itself enmeshed in a prolonged bloody war with neighboring Iraq and is currently waging a proxy war with Saudi Arabia in Yemen. The Islamic Republic of Iran is infamous for its horrific discrimination against Baha'is, Kurds and Sunni tribes in its southeastern region.

Axis No. 3: Egypt/Saudi Arabia. Two proud Sunni Arab nations, one the site of Islam's birthplace, the other a cradle of ancient civilization, whose combined population today exceeds 110 million persons. During the 7th and early 8th centuries, they were the heart of the Islamic Empire, the largest empire the world had yet seen. Although Egyptian poverty is to be contrasted with Saudi oil wealth and the two countries once opposed one another in the North Yemen Civil War from 1962 to 1970, these countries are currently united by a common fear of "heretical" Shiite Iranian aspirations in the region. For the time being, both of these tyrannical regimes remain among America's shrinking number of Mideast allies.

How Does Israel Survive?

Israel, home to only seven million people, survives by maintaining shadowy alliances with one or another of these Middle East power axes. For many years, Israel befriended Iran's Shah. After the revolution in Iran, Israel developed a close relationship with Turkey. In recent years, given Turkey's movement away from secularism, Israel has formed a tacit alliance against the Iranian threat with Egypt/Saudi Arabia (note the recent leak concerning the air corridor granted to Israel by Saudi Arabia to attack Iranian nuclear facilities and Egypt's imposition of a porous blockade upon Hamas, which is supported by Iran).

How Is Obama Leading the Region to War?

Although one of Obama's first diplomatic moves was to garner Muslim support by traveling to Egypt and Turkey, his policy of appeasing enemies, e.g., Syria and Iran, while degrading historic alliances, e.g., with Israel, has branded him a weakling in the Muslim world. Having half-heartedly escalated a losing war in Afghanistan and after being snubbed by Syria and Iran, Obama has created a power vacuum in the region which must be filled, and the three former empires are jockeying for dominion.

Turkey's supremely narcissistic Erdogan has forged an alliance with Iran's Supreme Leader Khamenei (note Turkey's recent opposition to UN sanctions against Iran) and has sought to elevate his standing among the Arab masses by sponsoring the Gaza flotilla. Meanwhile, Iran seeks to expand its influence in the Arab world by waging war against Israel via its proxies, Hamas and Hezbollah, and clandestinely plotting the sabotage of Western shipping in the Suez Canal. Concerned by Iran's quest for nuclear weapons which has gone unchecked by an irresolute Obama, Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Jordan are nervously considering the implementation of their own atomic programs.

"Speak softly and carry a big stick"? This is a lesson in diplomacy never learned by Obama. The implicit threat of force to forestall violence is alien to Obama, and regrettably, the Middle East is headed for conflict as the three axes of Islamic power in the region prepare to lock horns in a war that will see unprecedented death and destruction and necessarily entangle Israel.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

"A Decade Later, Genetic Map Yields Few New Cures": I Disagree

In a June 12, 2010 New York Times article entitled "A Decade Later, Genetic Map Yields Few New Cures" by Nicholas Wade (http://www.nytimes.com/2010/06/13/health/research/13genome.html?hp), we are told that "the primary goal of the $3 billion Human Genome Project — to ferret out the genetic roots of common diseases like cancer and Alzheimer’s and then generate treatments — remains largely elusive." Mr. Wade further writes:

"The pharmaceutical industry has spent billions of dollars to reap genomic secrets and is starting to bring several genome-guided drugs to market. While drug companies continue to pour huge amounts of money into genome research, it has become clear that the genetics of most diseases are more complex than anticipated and that it will take many more years before new treatments may be able to transform medicine.

'Genomics is a way to do science, not medicine,' said Harold Varmus, president of the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York, who in July will become the director of the National Cancer Institute."

I disagree. Although the Human Genome Project in and of itself hasn't yet provided revolutionary therapeutics, and the genetics of most diseases are indeed more complex than originally anticipated, apparently not taken into account is the decade-long work of a small Israeli biotech company named Compugen, which has established itself as the world leader in predictive biology.

Mapping the human genome was no small feat, but it provided the equivalent of a basic alphabet, hardly enough in and of itself to begin redacting the complex manuscripts of disease, but nevertheless a beginning.

Example: It is well known that the manner in which certain proteins fold or interact with other proteins gives rise to specific diseases; however, a map of the human genome does not provide the ability to prevent proteins from folding into disease associated conformations or from binding to one another and inducing intracellular events which cause disease. Additional years of fundamental research were necessary to bridge this gap, and tiny Compugen appears to have paid its dues.

Compugen realized early on that there could be no shortcuts, and it initiated a pioneering study of alternative splicing, which helped provide a map of the human transcriptome. The human transcriptome in turn yielded the human proteome (the map of human proteins), which in turn provided the human peptidome (the map of human peptides, i.e. protein fragments), which could not have been achieved without first discovering the correct cleavage sites of proteins.

Can drug discovery be premised upon theoretical predictive discovery? Building on both theoretical success and failure as validated in the laboratory, Compugen has until now created 12 discovery platforms. Inaccuracy at any stage in the process would have rendered these platforms useless. However, evidence of their viability came already in 2007 when Compugen's GPCR peptide ligand discovery platform was put to the test. As disclosed by Compugen:

"GPCRs are membrane protein receptors that are involved in signal transduction of numerous physiologic processes. GPCRs are by far the largest family of known drug targets. There are approximately 370 GPCRs relevant for drug discovery and development and at least 40% of drugs in the market are thought to act on GPCRs. It is estimated that at least 40 novel endogenous GPCR peptide ligands have yet to be discovered, and there are ample precedents that indicate the high value associated with GPCR peptide ligands. In particular, GPCR peptide ligands have a high probability of being developed into new drugs.

* * * *

Applying a machine-learning related technology to our peptidome resulted in a collection of novel peptides likely to activate GPCRs. Thirty three peptides, all novel, were synthesized and screened in a functional assay against a panel of 152 GPCRs. Eight peptides were shown to activate six different GPCRs in a concentration-dependent manner, including some for which there are no known endogenous ligands."

http://www.cgen.com/Content.aspx?Page=gpcr_ligands

Had Compugen's maps of the transcriptome, proteome and peptidome proven false, the GPCR Peptide Ligand Discovery Platform would have crashed and burned. Instead, the results met with resounding praise from the scientific community (see, e.g., http://omicsomics.blogspot.com/2007/03/eight-ligands-leaping.html).

But the GPCR Peptide Ligand Discovery Platform was only the beginning. More recently, for example, Compugen revealed a discovery platform to predict cell penetrating peptides for drug delivery, which, according to Compugen, can create "new therapeutic opportunities for many indications" (http://www.cgen.com/Content.aspx?Page=Intracellular_Drug_Delivery).

Compugen has also disclosed two additional discovery platforms, its Protein-Protein Interaction Blockers (PPI Blockers) Discovery Platform for the prediction of peptides to block disease associated protein-protein interactions (http://www.cgen.com/Content.aspx?Page=press_releases&NewsId=478), and its Blockers of Disease-Associated Conformation (DAC Blockers) Platform for the identification of peptides that block proteins from adopting their disease-associated conformations (http://www.cgen.com/Content.aspx?Page=press_releases&NewsId=274). Without knowledge of the genome, transcriptome and proteome, facilitating a map of the peptidome, together with a detailed study of evolutionary mutation, these discovery platforms would not have been possible.

And with the preliminary use of Compugen's discovery platforms, primarily designed to validate the platforms, have come new therapeutic candidates for diseases desperately requiring new medicines, e.g., pulmonary fibrosis, multiple sclerosis, inflammatory bowel disease.

This is not to say that all of Compugen's candidates will succeed (the majority will not) or that they will reach the market anytime soon. However, Compugen is responsible for a revolution in drug discovery, which is constantly improving upon itself, resulting in an ever expanding inventory of new drug candidates and providing hope where Big Pharma has hit the wall. I have no doubt that predictive biology will prove itself indispensable to future drug discovery and the basis for treating heretofore "incurable" diseases in the years ahead.

[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.]

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Bob Herbert's "The Courage to Leave"

In an op-ed entitled "The Courage to Leave" in today's New York Times, Bob Herbert correctly makes the case that the U.S. should withdraw its troops from Afghanistan. Mr. Herbert concludes:

"In announcing, during a speech at West Point in December, that 30,000 additional troops would be sent to Afghanistan, President Obama said: 'As your commander in chief, I owe you a mission that is clearly defined and worthy of your service.'

That clearly defined mission never materialized.

Ultimately, the public is at fault for this catastrophe in Afghanistan, where more than 1,000 G.I.’s have now lost their lives. If we don’t have the courage as a people to fight and share in the sacrifices when our nation is at war, if we’re unwilling to seriously think about the war and hold our leaders accountable for the way it is conducted, if we’re not even willing to pay for it, then we should at least have the courage to pull our valiant forces out of it."

http://www.nytimes.com/2010/06/12/opinion/12herbert.html?hp

But what about the responsibility of The New York Times for this mistake? The Times has obsequiously provided blind support for all of Obama's international missteps. A December 1, 2009 Times editorial stated:

"In his speech Tuesday night, President Obama showed considerable political courage by addressing that pessimism and despair head-on. He explained why the United States cannot walk away from the war and outlined an ambitious and high-risk strategy for driving back the Taliban and bolstering the Afghan government so American troops can eventually go home."

http://www.nytimes.com/2009/12/02/opinion/02wed1.html?_r=1

Sadly, as noted by Mr. Herbert, seven American soldiers died in Afghanistan on Monday (should this also be the basis for a U.N. investigation?), and American combat deaths in Afghanistan now exceed 1,000, as Karzai seeks accommodation with the Taliban (http://www.nytimes.com/2010/06/12/world/asia/12karzai.html?hp).

Enough.

[In an editorial dated June 13, 2010 entitled "Taking Stock in Afghanistan", the New York Times editorial board concludes: "Mr. Karzai is going to have to drop his illusions and commit to the fight" (http://www.nytimes.com/2010/06/14/opinion/14mon1.html?hp). The New York Times editorial board still has expectations of Karzai? Who is being delusional here?]

Open Letter to the New York Times Public Editor: Cohen Vilifies Israel's Russian Jews

Below is an e-mail that I sent today to the Office of the Public Editor of The New York Times:

You suggested that I write to you directly when issues arise concerning material published by the Times. Yesterday, in an op-ed entitled "Modern Folly, Ancient Wisdom" (http://www.nytimes.com/2010/06/11/opinion/11iht-edcohen.html?hp), Roger Cohen wrote:

"Several factors have nudged [Israel] rightward: religious-settler extremism; obliviousness to the Palestinian plight now concealed behind walls; Russian-imported strands of Arab-baiting intolerance."

As I observed in a comment "rejected" by the Times's moderators, absent from Cohen's laundry list are suicide bombings that have claimed the lives of some 1,000 Israeli civilians; more than 10,000 mortar rockets, missiles and mortar shells fired at civilian targets by Hamas in recent years; and some 40,000 missiles, including highly accurate M-600s, sent to Hezbollah by Iran and Syria subsequent to 2006 and aimed at Israel's cities. Moreover, my "rejected" comment observed that notwithstanding Cohen's claim that the "real threat [Israel] faces today is not one of destruction but of de-legitimization," Israel today is facing an existential threat from precision missiles capable of hitting anywhere in the country.

I have no problem with the "rejection" of my comment, given the explanation that the Times is free to post or not post whatever it pleases.

However, I do have a problem when Cohen vilifies in his op-ed a million Jewish immigrants who came to Israel from the former Soviet Union. These immigrants have contributed mightily to Israel's culture and science and have also quickly integrated themselves into Israel's democratic political system; they have representation in all of Israel's major political parties.

Although Cohen appears to have issues with Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, by what right does he denigrate an entire group of persons consisting of a million people with diverse political views?

When do the slurs stop? More to the point, does such unsubstantiated abuse deserve the attention of the Public Editor?

Best regards,
Jeffrey

Let's see how he responds.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Roger Cohen's "Modern Folly, Ancient Wisdom"

After a comment that I recently submitted in response to a Maureen Dowd op-ed was not posted by the NYT's "moderators" (see: http://jgcaesarea.blogspot.com/2010/06/new-york-times-removes-anti-semitic.html and http://jgcaesarea.blogspot.com/2010/06/maureen-dowds-their-dangerous-swagger.html), I was told by a senior editor of the Times that although he would have posted this comment, it "reads to me more like an insult than anything else," and further stated:

"By the way, I deeply resent your casual use of the word censored. If we do not post a comment we are not committing censorship. A newspaper chooses every day what to print and what not to print. It is not censorship by any definition I have ever seen. We do not pretend or intend to publish every comment we get on any article we get on every article we publish.

* * * *

But I return to my earlier point, which is that we have never said that we were giving our readers unrestricted access to our website. Quite the contrary."

My response in relevant part:

"Obviously, if the policy of the Times is to pick and choose freely according to the whim of your 'moderators', I agree: this is not censorship. If you state that comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, yet your 'moderators' do not abide by this policy and are prone - at least from what I have seen - to reject dissenting opinion, I believe this is indeed a form of censorship, but I have no problem calling this 'rejection'."

"Censorship" or "rejection"? Honestly, I couldn't care less. However, whereas the senior editor "resented" my use of the word "censor", I am deeply offended by the ongoing posting of anti-Semitic comments, purportedly "moderated", in response to New York Times editorials, op-eds and articles (see: http://jgcaesarea.blogspot.com/2010/06/if-you-were-revolted-by-helen-thomas.html ).

Moreover, I am distressed by that fact that the Times editorial pages have completely ignored the recent outburst of anti-Semitism from Helen Thomas. Although the pundits of the Times are quick to jump on anything of this kind directly at other minorities, for whatever reason there has been a deafening silence from the Times concerning Thomas.

In an op-ed in today's online Times entitled "Modern Folly, Ancient Wisdom" (http://www.nytimes.com/2010/06/11/opinion/11iht-edcohen.html?hp), Roger Cohen takes the position that the real threat Israel faces today is not destruction but de-legitimization. My comment in response to Cohen's op-ed, if the Times "moderators" deign to post it:

Cohen writes, "Several factors have nudged the country rightward: religious-settler extremism; obliviousness to the Palestinian plight now concealed behind walls; Russian-imported strands of Arab-baiting intolerance." Absent from Cohen's list are suicide bombings that have claimed the lives of some 1,000 Israeli civilians; more than 10,000 mortar rockets, missiles and mortar shells fired at civilian targets by Hamas in recent years; and some 40,000 missiles, including highly accurate M-600s, sent to Hezbollah by Iran and Syria subsequent to 2006 and aimed at Israel's cities.

Cohen further states, "What Israel in turn must realize — before it is too late — is that the real threat it faces today is not one of destruction but of de-legitimization." Here, Cohen again ignores the missile threat from Hezbollah, Hamas, Syria and Iran, posing an existential threat to Israel greater than that which existed in 1967 or 1973, and the calls for Israel's elimination by Iran and its proxies, Hezbollah and Hamas.

Will Israel ever be "legitimate" in the eyes of the world, even within the 1967 borders, as offered by Israeli prime ministers Barak and Olmert? Probably not. As recently observed by Burak Bekdil in an article entitled "Why is Palestine ‘a second Cyprus’ for Turks?" in the Turkish newspaper Hürriyet, Turks did not protest the deaths of 300,000 Muslims in Darfur and did not care when Chinese police were using disproportionate force against their ethnic kin, the Uighurs. Mr. Burak further asked: "How many Turks protested when there was civil war in Algeria? How many volunteered for humanitarian aid missions for Sudan? Why were the protests too thin during the Serbian atrocities against Muslim Bosnians? What makes nine Gaza martyrs more sacred than all the other martyrs?" He concluded: "Subconsciously (and sadly) the Muslim-Turkish thinking tolerates it if Muslims kill Muslims; does not tolerate it but does not turn the world upside down when Christians kill Muslims; pragmatically ignores it when too-powerful Christians kill Muslims; but is programmed to turn the world upside down when Jews kill Muslims."

In the U.S., Helen Thomas recently declared that Israel's Jews should go "home" to Germany and Poland. (She did not suggest that they go "home" to Morocco, Egypt, Iran, Iraq, Libya and Yemen, from where a majority of Israel's Jews were forcefully evicted without their belongings.) But notwithstanding the headlines generated by this outburst of blind hatred, why was this not also addressed by Cohen's op-ed of today's date? Why has it been studiously ignored by Friedman, Krugman, Rich and Brooks? If the reemergence of anti-Semitism throughout the world cannot be forthrightly addressed on the editorial page of The New York Times, I have doubts whether Israel in whatever shape or form can ever realize "legitimization" in the eyes of a hateful world.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

New York Times Public Editor's Office: No Institutional Anti-Semitism at the Moderation Desk

Within the flurry of e-mails relating to the decision of The New York Times to remove the anti-Semitic comment, no. 24, posted in response to Robert Mackey's "Lede" article, "Israelis Explain, and Mock, Flotilla Crisis" (http://thelede.blogs.nytimes.com/2010/06/04/israelis-explain-and-mock-flotilla-clash/), the Public Editor's Office wrote to me:

"While I hope you continue to bring these to my attention, I also hope that you can see that there is certainly no institutional anti-Semitism at The Times moderation desk. I have seen truly inappropriate and hateful comments among the many rejected comments in The Times's system. And I have seen countless comments in fervent support of Israel approved alongside those critical and harsh against the actions of the government. The Times tries to keep an open and civil dialogue amidst its various comments and I think it does a good job overall."

"Institutional anti-Semitism"? A comment stating, "Israel lies all the time, and as I understand it lies are not considered sinful by the Orthodox if they serve to advance the cause of the chosen people," should never have been approved by the Times moderators, and there is nothing "borderline" about the decision, as the Public Editor's Office suggested to me in an earlier e-mail.

My response to the Public Editor's Office in relevant part:

"The Times moderators in the recent past consistently posted rabid expressions of anti-Semitism (see: http://jgcaesarea.blogspot.com/2009/06/open-letter-no-2-to-clark-hoyt-public.html). . . . I have never seen such expressions of hatred in online NYT comments directed against any other minority."

Are the Times moderators anti-Semitic? I cannot possibly form an opinion, inasmuch as I have never spoken or corresponded with any of them, and presumably we are talking about a group of people with different thoughts and opinions. One thing, however, is certain: They have shown themselves willing to take liberties with Jewish sensitivities that I have never witnessed with respect to any other minority, and this is a frightening trend, which although not unique to the Times, is certainly a sign of the times.

The New York Times Removes the Anti-Semitic Comment

After a bit of correspondence, the Times removed the anti-Semitic comment, no. 24, posted in response to Robert Mackey's "Lede" article, "Israelis Explain, and Mock, Flotilla Crisis" (http://thelede.blogs.nytimes.com/2010/06/04/israelis-explain-and-mock-flotilla-clash/).

It is my hope that the Times "moderators" will demonstrate a bit more sensitivity in the future before posting such hatred.

I was also told that my comment in response to Dowd's op-ed should have been posted; however, one senior editor of the Times claimed that "Maureen has denounced the barbaric policies in Saudi Arabia against women more than once, including on an earlier trip to that country as I recall," and stated that my rejected comment read "more like an insult than anything else." My response to that senior editor in relevant part:

Re Ms. Dowd's most recent series of op-eds concerning Saudi Arabia, I read all of them and do not recall a single instance where she denounced their "barbaric policies". Although there was castigation of Israel, she did not once mention the practice of "honor" killings in Saudi Arabia. She never described how women who are gang raped are sentenced to prison and lashings. She never mentioned the problem of "child brides" in this country.

I recall reading her op-ed, "Driving Miss Saudi", where she observed how "Young women in Riyadh try to balance Islam and modernity as the stunted desert kingdom makes progress in 'Saudi Time'", but didn't dare breathe a word concerning any of the above obscenities. Reading this op-ed, one was made to believe that Saudi oppression of women amounted to little more than a dress code. In fact, in her op-ed "Loosey Goosey Saudi" she stated: "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." Does this sound to you like a denunciation of "barbaric policies"?

Be assured: I'm adamant about advancing women's rights throughout the world and denouncing sexual abuses of any kind, and the ongoing horrific abuses of women in Saudi Arabia also demand forthright condemnation.

Moreover, it should be observed that Ms. Dowd never once described how death sentences are handed out for "witchcraft", why persons go to jail and are whipped for "practicing magic", why limbs are severed for alleged theft, and why persons guilty of "apostasy" are beheaded.

Lastly, in her op-ed entitled "Arabia: Inshallah, Obama", she uncritically informed readers that the Saudi foreign minister laments the need for less talk and more peace in the region. She never breathed 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, notwithstanding the fact that some 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.

You still think my comment was intended as an insult? It wasn't. It was a cry for much lacking honesty and an end to the abominations being perpetrated against women in Saudi Arabia.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Maureen Dowd's "Their Dangerous Swagger": Her Dangerous Hypocrisy

In an op-ed in today's New York Times entitled "Their Dangerous Swagger" (http://www.nytimes.com/2010/06/09/opinion/09dowd.html), Maureen Dowd describes the disturbing sexist conduct of certain boys from a private school in the suburbs of Washington and concludes:

"Young men everywhere must be taught, beyond platitudes, that young women are not prey."

I wholeheartedly agree with Ms. Dowd, but as I noted in a comment that I submitted early this morning to the Times, if this is indeed the case:

"why was Ms. Dowd incapable of censuring 'honor' killings and the lashing and imprisonment of women who have been gang raped in Saudi Arabia during her recent visit to the kingdom?"

My comment has already been rejected by the Times "moderators".

Abusive? Not on point? I sent an e-mail to the Times editorial page editor, Andrew Rosenthal (this clearly falls within his responsibility - see Mr. Rosenthal's e-mail in my prior blog entry) and asked how can it be:

"that Times moderators are willing to tolerate what the public editors office says 'can be read as anti-Semitic', but are not willing to tolerate reasoned criticism?"

Let's see if there is a response.

If You Were Revolted by Helen Thomas, Have a Look at The New York Times

If you were revolted by the vile utterances of Helen Thomas, who resigned yesterday, have a look at the following chain of events involving The New York Times. As those who are familiar with this blog know, in the past I took the Times to task for posting rabidly anti-Semitic comments, approved by the Times "moderators", in response to their editorial content, and in fact, certain comments were ultimately, albeit belatedly, removed (http://jgcaesarea.blogspot.com/2009/06/open-letter-no-2-to-clark-hoyt-public.html). The problem, however, persists.

In response to Robert Mackey's New York Times "Lede" article, "Israelis Explain, and Mock, Flotilla Crisis" (http://thelede.blogs.nytimes.com/2010/06/04/israelis-explain-and-mock-flotilla-clash/), the following comment, no. 24 written by "farmboy", was posted by the Times moderators and states in relevant part:

"Israel lies all the time, and as I understand it lies are not considered sinful by the Orthodox if they serve to advance the cause of the chosen people."

Outraged by the comment, which is anti-Semitic and inflammatory in the extreme - bear in mind that Senator Joe Lieberman is also an Orthodox Jew - and given Mackey's claim in his own comment to the column that "if a comment seems to add little to the thread, or is inflammatory, attacks other readers, the author or The Times, it will not be posted," I sent my own comment:

"Is it your contention that comment no. 24 from 'farmboy' is not racist, vulgar and inflammatory?"

Needless to say, my comment was censored.

Undeterred, I sent an e-mail to Andrew Rosenthal, editorial page editor of the Times, requesting his response. Mr. Rosenthal did not get back to me.

And when Mr. Rosenthal didn't respond, I sent an e-mail to the public editor of the Times, requesting his feedback. Lo and behold, yesterday I received the following reply from a member of the public editor's staff:

"Thank you for writing. It's good to hear from you again. Since you send these over the weekend, let's give Mr. Rosenthal a couple of more days to respond.

Mr. Mackey does not moderate the comments on his blog - the Website staff does.

In my view, since this comment addresses Israel and not Jewish people, I think I would have approved it, though I would have thought about it for awhile. I am loath to approve comments that say someone lied. But, I take this as criticism, of the government of Israel, and that, in my mind is fair game. But, I can see how it can be read as Anti-Semitic and as a slight against Jewish people themselves, so I would have taken care with it.

I hope this helps."

In effect, the public editors office is saying that it would err on the side of anti-Semitism. My answer:

"[T]he comment . . . says that "lies are not considered sinful by the Orthodox [i.e. Orthodox Jews - there is no "Orthodox" Israel or "Orthodox" Israeli government] if they serve to advance the cause of the chosen people [i.e. the Jews]."

As I understand it, your position is that it is acceptable for 'moderated' comments in the Times to label all Orthodox Jews as ready to lie if such lies advance their own interests. Please correct me if I am wrong. Tell me: Would it be acceptable to say that all Catholics are ready to lie if such lies advance the interests of the Pope? Not a chance!

This is vulgar, anti-Semitic, abusive and inflammatory in the extreme, and if this is deemed to fall within the realm of the norms of The New York Times, it deserves to be disseminated to all of your readership so as to enable them to decide whether they should be subscribing to or placing advertisements in the Times.

I await your earliest possible response."

And then I heard back from Andrew Rosenthal:
"I have not gotten involved in this exchange because it involves a newsroom feature, The Lede, and is therefore beyond the range of my responsibility."

I am now waiting to learn from the public editor as to who is "responsible" for posting anti-Semitic comments at the Times, but meanwhile I am also distraught by Andrew Rosenthal's decision to ignore this problem by stating that it is someone else's responsibility. If the issue involved slurs against African Americans, would he also take the position that it is someone else's job?

I wish Mr. Rosenthal would consider what his father, former executive editor of the Times, once wrote:

"After the Nazis' slaughter of Jews was fully exposed at war's end, Iphigene Ochs Sulzberger, the influential daughter, wife and mother of Times publishers, changed her mind about the need for a Jewish state and helped her husband, Arthur Hays Sulzberger, accept the idea of Israel and befriend its leaders. Later, led by their son, Arthur Ochs Sulzberger, and their grandson Arthur Sulzberger Jr., The Times shed its sensitivity about its Jewish roots, allowed Jews to ascend to the editor's chair and warmly supported Israel in many editorials.

And to this day the failure of America's media to fasten upon Hitler's mad atrocities stirs the conscience of succeeding generations of reporters and editors. It has made them acutely alert to ethnic barbarities in far-off places like Uganda, Rwanda, Bosnia and Kosovo. It leaves them obviously resolved that in the face of genocide, journalism shall not have failed in vain."

http://www.nytimes.com/2001/11/14/news/150th-anniversary-1851-2001-turning-away-from-the-holocaust.html?pagewanted=3

When the Times states that comments are "moderated", yet permits anti-Semitism, it thereby informs its readership that anti-Semitism is not abusive and falls within accepted norms.

The employees of the Times are not nearing their 90th birthdays and cannot plead "senility" in their defense. Regrettably, it appears that the Times not only lacks sensitivity to Jews, but has now made them "fair game" on its once respected pages.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Guess Who Is Also Worried by Erdogan? The Palestinian Authority

Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan, a person suffering from extreme bouts of narcissism, is currently basking in the attention being showered upon him in the wake of the Gaza flotilla. And not to be outdone by Turkey, Iran's Khamenei and Ahmadinejad, who are the primary suppliers of armaments to Hamas, are now also planning to send "aid" by sea.

Who is worried by this attempt to glorify Hamas and facilitate free shipment of goods, including missiles, into the Gaza Strip? The Palestinian Authority. As reported today by Khaled Abu Toameh for the Jerusalem Post:

"The Palestinian Authority is concerned about Turkey’s increased support for Hamas, a PA official in Ramallah said on Monday.

The official said that the PA leadership was “unhappy” with Turkey’s policy toward Hamas, especially with regard to pressure to lift the blockade on the Gaza Strip unconditionally.

'Turkey’s policy is emboldening Hamas and undermining the Palestinian Authority,' the official told The Jerusalem Post.

'Of course we want to see the blockade lifted, but Hamas must also end its coup in the Gaza Strip and accept an Egyptian proposal for achieving reconciliation with Fatah.'

* * * *

The PA is also concerned the reopening of the Rafah border crossing to Sinai would enable Hamas to tighten its grip on the Strip.

'We wish to remind the Turkish and Egyptian governments that the border crossing was controlled by the Palestinian Authority before Hamas launched its coup in 2007,” the official added. “If the Rafah border crossing is going to be reopened, that should be done in coordination with us and not with Hamas.'

Azzam al-Ahmed, a top Fatah official in the West Bank, was quoted over the weekend as saying that he was opposed to the lifting of the blockade on the Gaza Strip until Hamas agreed to end the dispute with his faction.

Ahmed stressed that there was no humanitarian crisis in the Gaza Strip because the PA government was sending aid through Israeli border crossings."

* * * *

PA President Mahmoud Abbas, who visited Istanbul on Monday, was said to have relayed to Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan his concern over the rapprochement between Turkey and Hamas, the official revealed."

http://www.jpost.com/MiddleEast/Article.aspx?id=177779

Even more worrisome is the seeming indifference of the Obama administration to these developments. At issue is the erosion of the coalition of pro-American Arab nations with a resultant heightened risk of war. The Obama administration is not doing anything to rein in Erdogan, while it allows Ahmadinejad to pursue his nuclear program. As a consequence, U.S. credibility in the Arab world, which has no love for Turks or Persians, is at an all-time low.

Yet another instance of Obama fiddling while the world burns.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Helen Thomas and "Everybody Hates the Jews"

There has been a stir of late over a satirical music video, “We Con the World” (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TDQ1O7tBEV8), which suggests that among the "peace activists" aboard the Gaza flotilla there were persons linked to Hamas and al-Qaeda, as was indeed the case as we are slowly learning from the Israel Defense Forces (http://www.haaretz.com/news/diplomacy-defense/idf-five-gaza-flotilla-activists-linked-to-hamas-al-qaida-1.294546).

But rather than focus attention on this new satirical musical video, I would like to take you back some 40 years to a musical ditty, "National Brotherhood Week", written by Tom Lehrer, which even today maintains its relevance. Have a listen (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aIlJ8ZCs4jY), and pay close attention to one stanza in particular:

Oh, the Protestants hate the Catholics,
And the Catholics hate the Protestants,
And the Hindus hate the Muslims,
And everybody hates the Jews.

Indeed, nothing has changed since 1967, when Lehrer recorded this tune.

I wish I could say that I am shocked by the repugnant anti-Semitic utterances of Helen Thomas, who stated that Israelis should leave Israel and return to Poland and Germany (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RQcQdWBqt14), but Thomas is not the only highly visible journalist harboring these views.

I wish I could say that I am shocked by the failure of Obama to repudiate this horrific utterance by a member of the White House Press Corps, but then Obama remained silent for 20 years while Reverend Wright let loose similar obscenities.

I wish I could say that I am shocked by the ongoing failure of The New York Times to to take Thomas to task on its editorial page, but then why should we expect anything different from the Times, which posts "moderated" anti-Semitic comments in response to its editorial content (see: http://jgcaesarea.blogspot.com/2009/06/open-letter-no-2-to-clark-hoyt-public.html and more recently http://jgcaesarea.blogspot.com/2010/06/anti-semitism-again-in-lede-at-new-york.html).

Is there a glimmer of hope or sanity? Yes, and surprisingly it comes from an op-ed entitled "Why is Palestine ‘a second Cyprus’ for Turks?", written by Burak Bekdil for the Turkish newspaper Hürriyet (http://www.hurriyetdailynews.com/n.php?n=why-is-palestine-8216a-second-cyprus8217-for-turks-2010-06-03). The op-ed states in relevant part:

"Istanbul’s new governor, Hüseyin Avni Mutlu, has said, “He is perfectly confident every Turkish Jew was as safe as Muslims” and that “we are certain no Turkish Jew feels threatened.”

I have an idea! Should the esteemed governor agree, we can put his “confidence” to a little test.

I suggest having the governor disguise himself perfectly as an Orthodox Jew and let him have a solo stroll on İstiklal Avenue. If he can manage to safely reach halfway on İstiklal, I’ll confess I know nothing “about my own people.”

If I am right, the government will have to find a new governor for Istanbul. If that’ too cruel, I could suggest the governor tour around Taksim in a civilian car bearing the Star of David, like millions around Turkey do with the Palestinian flag. If we go for the car experiment rather than the stroll at least the governor can have enough time to speed away.

But why do the Turks have the “Palestine fetish” even though most of them can’t point the Palestinian territories out on a map? Why did they not raise a finger when, for instance, the mullahs killed dissident Iranian Muslims? Why did the Turks not raise a finger when non-Muslim occupying forces killed a million Iraqi Muslims? Why did we not hear one single Turkish voice protesting the deaths of 300,000 Muslims in Darfur? Where were all these Turkish protestors when Israel was bombing Lebanon or when the Chinese police were using disproportionate force against their ethnic kin, the Uighurs?

How many Turks protested when there was civil war in Algeria? How many volunteered for humanitarian aid missions for Sudan? Why were the protests too thin during the Serbian atrocities against Muslim Bosnians? What makes nine Gaza martyrs more sacred than all the other martyrs?

* * * *

Subconsciously (and sadly) the Muslim-Turkish thinking tolerates it if Muslims kill Muslims; does not tolerate it but does not turn the world upside down when Christians kill Muslims; pragmatically ignores it when too-powerful Christians kill Muslims; but is programmed to turn the world upside down when Jews kill Muslims."

According to some reports, Turkey's extremely narcissistic prime minister Erdogan is now considering the possibility of accompanying a new Gaza flotilla, and not to be outdone, Iran's supreme leader Khamenei is offering to send the naval wing of the Revolutionary Guard to safeguard the next shipment of aid to Gaza.

We must wait and see if either Turkey or Iran, unhindered by Obama, succeeds in igniting the next Middle East war.

[Note the seeming inconsistency in the Hürriyet op-ed, which says that Turks only care if Jews kills Muslims, but observes Turkish apathy "when Israel was bombing Lebanon". I understand this to mean that Turks, who are Sunnis, are indifferent to the death of "heretic" Shiite Muslims.]

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Thomas Friedman's "The Ballgame and the Sideshow": Both Right and Wrong

In an op-ed in today's New York Times entitled "The Ballgame and the Sideshow" (http://www.nytimes.com/2010/06/06/opinion/06friedman.html?hp), Thomas Friedman concludes:

"Palestinians building real institutions from the ground up and getting Israel to cede to them real authority — is the ballgame. Make it work across the West Bank and find a way to transfer it to Gaza (how about reopening the Israel-Gaza border and letting the new Palestinian N.S.F. control the passages to Israel?) and a two-state solution is possible. Let it fail, and we’ll have endless conflict. Everything else is just a sideshow."

"Everything else is just a sideshow"? Not by a long shot.

Not when there is a dangerously narcissistic, out of control, Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan, empowered by Obama, willing to sacrifice lives in order to establish his place as the Middle East's preeminent power broker.

Not when Iran is hell-bent on achieving a nuclear weapons capability and Obama has demonstrated to the world that he is impotent to stop Ahmadinejad.

But did you notice that while the Turks were busy demonstrating in Istanbul in the thousands, the West Bank remained quiet? Why? Because the Palestinians living in the West Bank value their 8% GDP growth and freedom of movement and are scared to death that Hamas will again raise its ugly head in Hebron, Bethlehem, Ramallah, Jericho, Jenin, Nablus, Qalqilyah and Tulkarm.

Sure there was the obligatory demonstration in Bil'in with the participation of activist pilgrims from overseas. However, hosting of these activists has become something of a cottage industry, and Bil'in's villagers could hardly go without producing the weekly show. (Long gone are the activists painted blue to conjure images of the innocent natives from "Avatar", and instead we were presented with a wonderfully constructed stage prop modeled after one of the Gaza flotilla's ships.)

Friedman correctly notes the dramatic reduction in the number of West Bank checkpoints. But that's not the entire story. Of far greater importance is the ease with which the overwhelming majority of Palestinians can pass through these checkpoints, which underlies the 8% GDP growth of the Palestinian Authority.

Abbas and Fayyad are treading a delicate line, which requires periodic theatrical denunciations of Israel following, for example, the Gaza flotilla PR show, but the bottom line is that they are the primary beneficiaries of Israel's efforts to control Hamas radicalism. Abbas and Fayyad must continue playing the game; however, imbued with realism, they know the boundaries of the playing field and where their self-interests lie.

Peace is possible with Abbas and Fayyad, if not torpedoed by Erdogan and his new found friend, Ahmadinejad, and if Obama does not cut the legs out from under Israel. Abbas and Fayyad cannot permit themselves to make demands upon Israel any smaller than those being made by a naive American president.

The Gaza Flotilla: Finally Some Much Needed Balance from the Washington Post

Yesterday, Charles Krauthammer in a "must read" op-ed entitled "Those troublesome Jews" took the world to task for its hypocrisy (http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/06/03/AR2010060304287.html?nav%3Dhcmodule&sub=AR).

Today, in an editorial entitled "Turkey's Erdogan bears responsibility in flotilla fiasco", WAPO explains how Erdogan is fueling tensions in the Middle East (http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/06/04/AR2010060404806.html).

Apparently, there are still light and reason in some corners of the globe.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Anti-Semitism Again in "The Lede" at The New York Times: An Open Letter to Andrew Rosenthal

Dear Andrew,

You will recall our past correspondence concerning the posting of anti-Semitic online comments by The New York Times. You even personally examined the examples that I provided to you and removed many of the offending posts.

In case you haven't noticed, anti-Semitism is back "big time" at the Times. Even more ludicrous is Robert Mackey's attempt to justify the "moderation" process of the Times, which tolerates this racism.

In response to his "Lede" article, "Israelis Explain, and Mock, Flotilla Crisis" (http://thelede.blogs.nytimes.com/2010/06/04/israelis-explain-and-mock-flotilla-clash/), Robert Mackey, the author of and person responsible for the column, writes in response to reader's comment no. 19:

"The Web site is behind on explaining the comments policy fully, but there are many other reasons besides being off-topic or abusive that comments are not approved and published. The main one is simply repeating points already made by other readers, but in general the discussion is moderated and if a comment seems to add little to the thread, or is inflammatory, attacks other readers, the author or The Times, it will not be posted. I also tend not to post too many comments that contain factual errors or seem to me to be based on misreadings of the blog posts."

If a comment is inflammatory it will not be posted by Robert Mackey, who appears to take "credit" for "moderating" the comments in response to his column? Andy, have a look at comment no. 24 written by "farmboy", which states in relevant part:

"Israel lies all the time, and as I understand it lies are not considered sinful by the Orthodox if they serve to advance the cause of the chosen people."

Does Mackey wish to claim that this comment is not anti-Semitic and inflammatory in the extreme? I sent the following comment in response thereto, which states in its entirety:

"Mr. Mackey, you state: "in general the discussion is moderated and if a comment seems to add little to the thread, or is inflammatory, attacks other readers, the author or The Times, it will not be posted."

Is it your contention that comment no. 24 from 'farmboy' is not racist, vulgar and inflammatory?"

Needless to say, my comment was censored by the person "moderating" these comments. Query: Was Mackey responsible for the posting of farmboy's comment and the censorship of my comment?

Equally absurd is Mackey's contention, "I tend not to post too many comments that contain factual errors". Get a load of comment no. 53 by Zach, which states in relevant part:

"Israel doesn't much care for justice, but it does know how to win, as it's been doing so since 1917."

I will let you decide whether this comment is "inflammatory"; however, as is known to all, Israel became a state only in 1948.

Robert Mackey declares after comment no. 15:

"As a reporter and former fact-checker with no reason to side with either the Israelis or the Palestinians, I am simply trying to get some sense of what did happen based on very limited scraps of evidence at hand."

If Mackey is indeed responsible for the "moderation" of comments in response to his column as he himself suggests, I question his claim that he has "no reason to side with either the Israelis of the Palestinians" and further ask whether he should continue to be allowed to "moderate" comments in response to his column, given the flagrant anti-Semitism expressed in comment no. 24.

I welcome your feedback.

Best,
Jeffrey

The Gaza Flotilla: The Little Picture, the Big Picture, the Bigger Picture

With the passage of time, we are better able to understand the events relating to Israel's interception this week of the Gaza "aid" flotilla. All of the facts have not been made public, and I am not in a position to second-guess the powers that be as to why this information is being withheld. Nevertheless, even on the basis of that which has been made publicly available, conclusions can be reached.

The Little Picture:

The Gaza Flotilla was the misbegotten fruit of an unholy alliance between The Free Gaza Movement and İnsane Yardım Vakfı ("IHH"), a Turkish organization which, like most terrorist fronts, provides actual social welfare assistance, but which also has been linked to the funding of Hamas and al-Qaeda.

According to U.S. State Department spokesman Phillip Crowley, the U.S. knows IHH representatives have met with senior Hamas officials in Turkey, Syria and Gaza over the past three years, but the U.S. cannot validate its ties to al-Qaeda. On the other hand, according to Jean-Louis Bruguiere, France's former top anti-terrorism judge, IHH was linked to a 1999 al-Qaeda plot to bomb Los Angeles International Airport (http://www.google.com/hostednews/ap/article/ALeqM5iYybp27J-O2cobEG7eh2c-q3ORHAD9G3D4QO0). It is also claimed that a 1997 raid on IHH's headquarters in Istanbul by Turkish police resulted in the discovery of weapons, explosives, bomb-making instructions and records of phone calls to an al-Qaeda safe house in Italy.

Regarding the Gaza flotilla itself, we know:

• The goods being purportedly shipped to "starving" Gazans were meager in quantity and quality, included used clothing and medications older than their expiration dates, and were hastily and improperly packed for transport.
• Hamas has thus far refused to accept the goods, which were transferred to trucks in Ashdod and taken to the Gazan border.
• Among the Turks recruited by IHH for the cruise, many noted their desire to die as "shaheeds", i.e. martyrs, prior to embarkation.
• The IHH recruits came prepared with gas masks, night vision equipment, Kevlar vests, knives and slingshots.
• During the confrontation with Israeli troops, the IHH "peace activists" fired at the Israeli soldiers who boarded the Mavi Marmara using pistols taken from the soldiers; however, shell casings, gun-sights and cartridges from other weapons were also found on the ship.
• The ship's captain acknowledged that the guns fired by the IHH were thrown overboard when the Israeli soldiers gained control of the vessel, i.e. the IHH recruits had been instructed beforehand regarding necessary safeguards to perpetuate their image as "peace activists".

The Big Picture:

The Gaza flotilla set sail with the blessing of Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan, a man with a swelling ego, desirous of becoming the Middle East's preeminent power broker. His personal involvement in this enterprise is best illustrated by the meticulously planned demonstrations in Istanbul following the confrontation.

Despite Obama's visit to Turkey at the beginning of his presidency, we are now witnessing Erdogan's willingness and desire to spawn turmoil, as also evidenced by Turkey's efforts to facilitate Iran's pursuit of its nuclear weapons program.

Erdogan is serving his own narcissistic needs, and Turkey has ceased to be an ally of the U.S.

The Bigger Picture:

War is coming to the Middle East. Hezbollah continues to stockpile missiles and rockets in preparation for the upcoming battle with Israel, and Iran is seeking ways to better equip its proxy, Hamas, in the south of Israel. The Gaza flotilla was intended as a provocation meant to test Israel's mettle and to pave the way for future shipments of advanced armaments.

The Gaza flotilla was a PR gambit that created a no-win situation for Israel, given that no matter how it responded to this "humanitarian" shipment of goods to Gazans, it could only emerge as sullied in the eyes of a hostile world. Israel's leadership believed that by sending soldiers with paintball guns, they could paint a picture of restraint, but they were mistaken: Regardless of what Israel does, it will not succeed in winning crowd approval.

In the next war, Israel's center will be exposed to precise missile fire. It can only be hoped that its leadership will not be induced by a hypocritical world to lower its guard and also allow Hamas easy access to Iran's armories, which will only result in heightened civilian casualties when fighting ultimately erupts.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Gaza Blockade: Common Sense from Joe Biden

As might be expected, the Obama administration responded in knee-jerk fashion to the events involving the Gaza flotilla:

“'There is no question that we need a new approach to Gaza,' said one official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the policy shift is still in the early stages. He was reflecting a broadly held view in the upper reaches of the administration."

http://www.nytimes.com/2010/06/03/world/middleeast/03policy.html?hp

Joe Biden, as is his wont, took a different view of the matter:

In an interview with Charlie Rose, Biden pointed out that Israel had given pro-Palestinian activists the option of unloading their cargo at the Ashdod port, and offered to bring it to the Gaza Strip on their behalf.

"They've said, 'Here you go. You're in the Mediterranean. This ship -- if you divert slightly north you can unload it and we'll get the stuff into Gaza,'", he said. "So what's the big deal here? What's the big deal of insisting it go straight to Gaza? Well, it's legitimate for Israel to say, 'I don't know what's on that ship. These guys are dropping… 3,000 rockets on my people.'"

"Look, you can argue whether Israel should have dropped people onto that ship or not -- but the truth of the matter is, Israel has a right to know -- they're at war with Hamas -- has a right to know whether or not arms are being smuggled in."

During the interview, Biden also blamed Hamas for the crisis that has wracked the coastal territory and for the ongoing state of conflict with Israel.

http://www.haaretz.com/news/diplomacy-defense/biden-israel-right-to-stop-gaza-flotilla-from-breaking-blockade-1.293833

What a breath of fresh air after listening to the inane responses of European ministers, who couldn't care less what armaments are brought by Hamas from Iran into the Gaza Strip.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

The Gaza Flotilla: The New York Times Calls for an "Impartial International Investigation"

In an editorial entitled "Israel and the Blockade" (http://www.nytimes.com/2010/06/02/opinion/02wed1.html?hp), The New York Times proffers the opinion that the Gaza flotilla confrontation requires an "immediate and objective international investigation".

The Times editorial board is quick to opine, notwithstanding the fact that it has no knowledge concerning the identities of all the flotilla "activists" (some 50 are tied to global jihad organizations) and that it is unaware of all items found on board the ships (let's see what the Israeli government is willing to disclose).

Eliminate the blockade? And who will take responsibility when Iran supplies Hamas with M-600 missiles capable of hitting any target in Israel, i.e. the same missiles which Iran is currently supplying to Hezbollah.

The Hamas charter calls for the murder of all Jews and rejects any peaceful solution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Over the past eight years Hamas has fired more than 10,000 missiles, rockets and mortars at Israeli civilian targets, as the world stood by indifferently. If the blockade should be lifted, Hamas would be entirely free to receive advanced weaponry from Iran. Query: Would the Times so sanguinely allow Cuba to receive such weaponry if it had hit Miami with rockets over the course of almost a decade and had proclaimed its intention to eliminate the whole of the U.S. by way of jihad?

I question whether the person who wrote this opinion piece ever spent time in the Israeli town of Sderot, which for many years has been the target of Hamas rockets, particularly during the hours when its children are en route to school.

An "impartial international investigation"? This sounds like an oxymoron, but by all means: Let's investigate the deaths of nine persons who came armed with knives, clubs and Kevlar vests, intent on a confrontation with the Israeli military. Peculiar, however, that the Times is not calling for an "impartial international investigation" of a recent U.S. drone attack that killed 23 truly innocent civilians in Afghanistan. Strange, also, how the Times ignores Turkey's horrifying abuse of its Kurdish minority – some 15 million people – who are desperately seeking independence. Shouldn't there also be an "impartial international investigation" of the plight of the Kurds, who continue to be tortured and murdered, who suffer economic and educational discrimination, and who are even prevented by Turkey from using their own language?

International "aid" organizations are free to ship food and medicine into Gaza via the Israeli port of Ashdod (notably, Egypt, which also borders Gaza, is neither offering nor being asked to provide port services to unload such goods en route to Gaza). Unfortunately, the shipment of food and medicine is not the goal of most such highly politicized bodies, which rely on "benign" benefactors such as Saudi Arabia for their budgets, and which are desperately seeking confrontation with Israel, even at the cost of human lives.