Commentary Magazine


Topic: BBC

Exposing the UN’s Unreliable Data on Gaza Casualties

Okay, it’s official: Even the BBC now admits the UN has been essentially collaborating with a terrorist organization to libel Israel. Of course, the venerable British broadcaster doesn’t say so explicitly; it even assures its readers that UN officials aren’t to blame for the misinformation they’ve been propagating. But it’s hard to reach any other conclusion after reading this analysis of Gaza’s casualty figures by the station’s head of statistics, Anthony Reuben.

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Okay, it’s official: Even the BBC now admits the UN has been essentially collaborating with a terrorist organization to libel Israel. Of course, the venerable British broadcaster doesn’t say so explicitly; it even assures its readers that UN officials aren’t to blame for the misinformation they’ve been propagating. But it’s hard to reach any other conclusion after reading this analysis of Gaza’s casualty figures by the station’s head of statistics, Anthony Reuben.

As Reuben notes, the figures on Palestinian casualties cited by most news organizations come from the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights. As of August 6, this agency was reporting 1,843 Palestinian fatalities, including at least 1,354 civilians; 279 hadn’t yet been identified. Thus civilians ostensibly comprise at least 73 percent of total fatalities, and since the UN excludes unidentified casualties from its calculations, it usually cites an even higher figure–currently 86 percent.

But as Reuben writes, “if the Israeli attacks have been ‘indiscriminate’, as the UN Human Rights Council says, it is hard to work out why they have killed so many more civilian men than women.” Quoting a New York Times analysis, he noted that men aged 20-29, who are the most likely to be combatants, are “also the most overrepresented in the death toll,” comprising 9 percent of Gazans but 34 percent of identified fatalities. In contrast, “women and children under 15, the least likely to be legitimate targets, were the most underrepresented, making up 71 percent of the population and 33 percent of the known-age casualties.”

So Reuben asked the high commissioner’s office how it explains this statistical anomaly. Here’s the mind-boggling response: “Matthias Behnk, from OHCHR, told BBC News that the organisation would not want to speculate about why there had been so many adult male casualties.”

In other words, confronted with a glaring statistical anomaly, the UN opted “not to speculate” about whether this cast doubt on the credibility of its claim that over 80 percent of fatalities were civilians. Instead, it kept right on feeding that number to journalists–most of whom promptly regurgitated it with no questions asked.

The statistical anomaly is compounded by other known facts: Terrorists don’t usually fight in uniform, so they arrive at the morgue in civilian clothing; the Hamas Interior Ministry explicitly ordered Gazans to identify all casualties as “innocent civilians” even if they aren’t; and Hamas has a history of mislabeling militants as civilian casualties: It did so during the 2009 war in Gaza as well, only admitting years later that, just as Israel claimed, most of the dead were militants rather than civilians. All this provides further grounds for suspecting that many male combat-age “civilians” were actually militants, and thus for caution about declaring them civilians. But the UN evinced no such qualms.

Finally, there’s the minor detail that some civilian casualties were caused by Hamas’s own misfired rockets. We know for certain about some such cases; for instance, an Italian journalist confirmed (after leaving Gaza) that one Palestinian rocket killed 10 Palestinians, including eight children, in a park in al-Shati. But there are undoubtedly many more that we don’t yet know about, because according to IDF data, almost a sixth of all Palestinian rockets launched–475 out of 3,137–landed in Gaza rather than Israel. That statistic is highly credible, because the Iron Dome system tracks every rocket’s trajectory to determine whether it needs intercepting, and couldn’t have achieved the success it did if its trajectory tracking system weren’t extremely accurate. And since Gaza has neither Iron Dome nor bomb shelters, Hamas rockets would be far more lethal there than they were in Israel. Yet the UN unhesitatingly blames Israel for all Palestinian casualties.

Reuben insists the UN shouldn’t be blamed for its misleading data, since “their statistics are accompanied by caveats and described as preliminary and subject to revision.” But that’s ridiculous. If the UN had doubts about the data’s veracity, it should have told the media it “would not want to speculate” about the civilian-to-combatant ratio. Instead, it opted to publish wildly exaggerated civilian casualty counts as unqualified fact while declining “to speculate” about the glaring statistical anomalies in its data.

In short, it collaborated wittingly and willingly with Hamas’s strategy to smear Israel by accusing it of massacring civilians. And most of the world’s media unhesitatingly played along.

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BBC Journalists’ Reeducation

“The BBC issues a call to reason,” proclaims Politico’s Dylan Byers, referencing a Telegraph story published over the holiday weekend. The truth, however, is a bit more complicated. The story is about a new BBC policy of sending its journalists to reeducation seminars to learn how to cut balance out of the Beeb’s broadcasts. It’s notable that the trustees at the BBC found any balance to cut. But more important is how general the policy is.

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“The BBC issues a call to reason,” proclaims Politico’s Dylan Byers, referencing a Telegraph story published over the holiday weekend. The truth, however, is a bit more complicated. The story is about a new BBC policy of sending its journalists to reeducation seminars to learn how to cut balance out of the Beeb’s broadcasts. It’s notable that the trustees at the BBC found any balance to cut. But more important is how general the policy is.

Byers’s headline is “Ignore the climate change deniers,” which is how this story has generally been interpreted: as a call to stop featuring those who depart from the consensus on climate science. Byers isn’t wrong to pick up on that, as global warming does seem to be the driving force behind this new policy. But it isn’t limited to that, and whatever one thinks about that particular issue, are journalists really going to cheer a broad new policy to strike dissenting voices from news broadcasts? Here’s the Telegraph:

The BBC Trust on Thursday published a progress report into the corporation’s science coverage which was criticised in 2012 for giving too much air-time to critics who oppose non-contentious issues.

The report found that there was still an ‘over-rigid application of editorial guidelines on impartiality’ which sought to give the ‘other side’ of the argument, even if that viewpoint was widely dismissed.

Some 200 staff have already attended seminars and workshops and more will be invited on courses in the coming months to stop them giving ‘undue attention to marginal opinion.’

“The Trust wishes to emphasise the importance of attempting to establish where the weight of scientific agreement may be found and make that clear to audiences,” wrote the report authors.

The one fair point the BBC report makes is, as quoted by the Telegraph: “Science coverage does not simply lie in reflecting a wide range of views but depends on the varying degree of prominence such views should be given.” But the policy is obviously about more than whether the Earth is round. And it’s easy to see how this can go awry.

First of all, it’s important to embrace the principle that a scientific consensus should still be open to challenge because new information and discoveries are made constantly. As Michael Crichton–no stranger to the science or politics of the issue–said in his famous speech on global warming:

I want to pause here and talk about this notion of consensus, and the rise of what has been called consensus science. I regard consensus science as an extremely pernicious development that ought to be stopped cold in its tracks. Historically, the claim of consensus has been the first refuge of scoundrels; it is a way to avoid debate by claiming that the matter is already settled. Whenever you hear the consensus of scientists agrees on something or other, reach for your wallet, because you’re being had.

Let’s be clear: the work of science has nothing whatever to do with consensus. Consensus is the business of politics. Science, on the contrary, requires only one investigator who happens to be right, which means that he or she has results that are verifiable by reference to the real world. In science consensus is irrelevant. What is relevant is reproducible results. The greatest scientists in history are great precisely because they broke with the consensus.

There is no such thing as consensus science. If it’s consensus, it isn’t science. If it’s science, it isn’t consensus. Period.

Crichton was considered sufficiently threatening to the global warming consensus that he earned a denunciation in congressional testimony from climate fraud Al Gore, who, though a former vice president of the United States, was punching well above his weight on this topic. (I also remember being warned against Crichton’s anti-global warming novel State of Fear–by the bookstore employee ringing up my sale. “It’s right-wing propaganda,” said the cashier, whose opinion I didn’t ask and whose job was supposedly to sell the books in his store.)

But again, the point is not just about global warming. The BBC’s reeducation events are aimed at more than this subject, and it’s pretty easy to see where this general policy is going. The BBC report talks about issues that are supposedly, in the phrasing of the Telegraph story, “non-contentious” and views that are “widely dismissed.” The phrase the BBC report itself uses is “marginal opinion.”

The media personalities of the Western left are notoriously susceptible to epistemic closure. Telling reporters already loath to feature dissenting voices that they should ignore “marginal opinion” and that which is often dismissed by others is a recipe for disaster for news reporting. It’s not so much the directive to tone down opposition voices on one story such as global warming–though that in itself is troublesome–but the broader culture of ignorance that can so easily sprout from employees sent to conferences to learn how to dismiss those with whom they are inclined to disagree.

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It’s Not Just the Church and Penn State

The unfolding scandal about sexual abuse at the BBC can be viewed as yet another blow to the image of the media. The network’s suppression of a story about a longtime show host’s alleged crimes ought to put a fork in the myth of the Beeb being the gold standard for impartiality and integrity. The fact that the BBC killed a story on its “Newsnight” broadcast while at the same time running tributes to the late Jimmy Saville, the man accused of molesting and raping several teenagers will haunt it for a long time to come.

But as much as this story tells us about the BBC, this latest tale of sexual misconduct is not dissimilar from other abuse scandals. Like the pedophilia outrages that rocked the Catholic Church and the Penn State University football team, there is a familiar pattern at work here. Powerful individuals used their positions to exploit young people in their charge while institutions looked the other way and then did what they could to ensure that no one found out. Investigators will, no doubt, discover what officials at the BBC knew about Saville and when they knew it. It is also to be hoped that the “journalistic decision” to spike the story about the investigation will also be fully explored. However, this episode ought to remind us that such crimes are not solely the province of Catholic priests or football coaches but can also be discovered at those institutions run by the supposedly enlightened classes.

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The unfolding scandal about sexual abuse at the BBC can be viewed as yet another blow to the image of the media. The network’s suppression of a story about a longtime show host’s alleged crimes ought to put a fork in the myth of the Beeb being the gold standard for impartiality and integrity. The fact that the BBC killed a story on its “Newsnight” broadcast while at the same time running tributes to the late Jimmy Saville, the man accused of molesting and raping several teenagers will haunt it for a long time to come.

But as much as this story tells us about the BBC, this latest tale of sexual misconduct is not dissimilar from other abuse scandals. Like the pedophilia outrages that rocked the Catholic Church and the Penn State University football team, there is a familiar pattern at work here. Powerful individuals used their positions to exploit young people in their charge while institutions looked the other way and then did what they could to ensure that no one found out. Investigators will, no doubt, discover what officials at the BBC knew about Saville and when they knew it. It is also to be hoped that the “journalistic decision” to spike the story about the investigation will also be fully explored. However, this episode ought to remind us that such crimes are not solely the province of Catholic priests or football coaches but can also be discovered at those institutions run by the supposedly enlightened classes.

Each set of circumstances may be different. But all these cases boil down to predators using their status and authority to rape and molest and institutions that valued their image more than the lives of children. These are odious crimes, but they are not the sole province of any particular group or class. They can be found anywhere. Those who think otherwise are not only deluded. They are enabling those who use the cover of seemingly respected professions to commit similar offenses.

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Islamophobia, This Time at the NYT

Following on from the recent (prideful!) admission of the BBC’s director-general that the network has a double-standard when it comes to religious criticism (Islam is no go, but Christianity is fair game), it seems the New York Times is pursuing the same policy.

Having published an anti-Catholic advertisement by the Wisconsin-based Freedom From Religion Foundation, execs at the Times have opted, at least for the time being, not to publish an anti-Islam ad that mirrors the very same language of the anti-Catholic one:

Why send your children to parochial schools to be indoctrinated into the next generation of obedient donors and voters? Can’t you see how misplaced your loyalty is after two decades of sex scandals involving preying priests, church complicity, collusion and cover-up going all the way to the top…Join those of us who put humanity above dogma.

And compare:

Why put up with an institution that dehumanizes women and non-Muslims … [do] you keep identifying with the ideology that threatens liberty for women and menaces freedom by slaughtering, oppressing and subjugating non-Muslims… Join those of us who put humanity above the vengeful, hateful and violent teachings of Islam’s ‘‘prophet.’’

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Following on from the recent (prideful!) admission of the BBC’s director-general that the network has a double-standard when it comes to religious criticism (Islam is no go, but Christianity is fair game), it seems the New York Times is pursuing the same policy.

Having published an anti-Catholic advertisement by the Wisconsin-based Freedom From Religion Foundation, execs at the Times have opted, at least for the time being, not to publish an anti-Islam ad that mirrors the very same language of the anti-Catholic one:

Why send your children to parochial schools to be indoctrinated into the next generation of obedient donors and voters? Can’t you see how misplaced your loyalty is after two decades of sex scandals involving preying priests, church complicity, collusion and cover-up going all the way to the top…Join those of us who put humanity above dogma.

And compare:

Why put up with an institution that dehumanizes women and non-Muslims … [do] you keep identifying with the ideology that threatens liberty for women and menaces freedom by slaughtering, oppressing and subjugating non-Muslims… Join those of us who put humanity above the vengeful, hateful and violent teachings of Islam’s ‘‘prophet.’’

The Catholic League’s Bill Donohue commented that the double-standard was based on ‘‘either [anti-Catholic] bigotry or fear [of Islamic violence], and they’ve painted themselves into that corner.’’

The Times preferred instead to paint a more patriotic picture: ‘‘the fallout from running this ad now,’’ the newspaper claimed, ‘‘could put U.S. troops and/or civilians in the [Afghan] region in danger.’’

Firstly, this seems to confirm Donohue’s conclusion – that, as with the BBC, the threat of violence (literal Islamophobia) ultimately wins the day. Secondly, the Grey Lady doth protest a little too much: this defense will perhaps fall on deaf ears coming from a newspaper that so willingly published the Wikileaks’ cables, apparently without much concern for how they might imperil ‘‘U.S. troops and/or civilians’’ in Afghanistan and elsewhere.

It’s not clear whether it’s more or less noble that the BBC now readily admits its double standard, whereas the Times prefers not to. Either way, the conclusion is the same: there is a reasonable debate to be had about whether these sorts of ads are appropriate, but, like the BBC, the New York Times cannot have it both ways.

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Islamophobia at the BBC

Earlier this week, the director-general of Britain’s license fee-funded BBC, Mark Thompson, gave an astonishing interview, revealing that the BBC consciously and deliberately treats Muslim themes more sensitively than those pertaining to Christianity. A practicing Catholic, he treats Christianity with less sensitivity because it is ‘‘pretty broad-shouldered.’’ Islam, however, is a different story.

Non-Christian faiths are more aligned with ethnicity, he explained, and race is more sensitive, therefore careful treatment is warranted. Moreover, broadcasters must consider the possibility of ”violent threats” when crafting satire:

‘‘Without question, ‘I complain in the strongest possible terms,’ is different from, ‘I complain in the strongest possible terms and I am loading my AK47 as I write.’ This definitely raises the stakes.’’ Read More

Earlier this week, the director-general of Britain’s license fee-funded BBC, Mark Thompson, gave an astonishing interview, revealing that the BBC consciously and deliberately treats Muslim themes more sensitively than those pertaining to Christianity. A practicing Catholic, he treats Christianity with less sensitivity because it is ‘‘pretty broad-shouldered.’’ Islam, however, is a different story.

Non-Christian faiths are more aligned with ethnicity, he explained, and race is more sensitive, therefore careful treatment is warranted. Moreover, broadcasters must consider the possibility of ”violent threats” when crafting satire:

‘‘Without question, ‘I complain in the strongest possible terms,’ is different from, ‘I complain in the strongest possible terms and I am loading my AK47 as I write.’ This definitely raises the stakes.’’

This much has long been obvious to observers of Western media, but that does little to diminish the odium of the admission, because it proudly elevates hypocrisy and double standard (again, both longstanding features of BBC coverage) to policy. For instance, when the BBC aired “Jerry Springer: The Opera” in 2005, it did so in the face of Christian opposition. In the interview, Thompson was asked whether it would have been aired had it dealt with Islamic themes. He said no.

It is noteworthy that the inexplicable obsession with race in Britain – historically less racked with racial, than with religious, conflict – has now impinged on religious sensitivity. This is, in a sense, unsurprising, for those very conflicts engendered a spirit of religious toleration – toleration which made Christianity so ‘‘broad-shouldered.’’ Toleration, of course, is best pursued reciprocally, but, unlike the Hindu, Sikh, and many decent Muslim immigrants to the UK, the Islamists have yet to learn that. Acquiescing to their demands made at bayonet point is, it seems, to forego the very lessons the British learned centuries ago.

Furthermore, the sensitivity afforded to non-Christian faiths because they are more aligned with ethnicity is obviously unfair, not just to Christianity, but to Judaism also, which, though legally considered in racial terms (anti-Semitism falls under race-relations legislation), is culturally not seen as an ethnicity – a category reserved for more recent immigrants. Today, though, Judaism is aligned rather with a nationality, and the BBC’s remarkably biased and even inaccurate reportage of Israel is no less ‘‘insensitive’’ – indeed it is considerably dangerous to the safety of Jews in Britain and elsewhere. Thompson sees insensitivity toward Islam as ‘‘racism by other means’’ towards Muslims. If so, then its treatment of Israel is ‘‘racism by other means’’ toward Jews. The BBC’s ongoing refusal to release its internal Balen Report, which evaluates its coverage of the Middle East, can only continue to inspire the conclusion that the BBC knows this too.

At the end of the day, the ethnicity rationale is nonsense. This is literal Islamphobia: fear of Islamists, and the ‘‘AK-47s’’ they wield and use. There is a welcome debate to be had about the limits of acceptable religious satire, but the BBC cannot have it both ways. And the lesson the BBC appears to be teaching – a lesson we always knew and apparently is also policy – is that complaints get more credence if they are backed up by force.

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The Difference Between Public and Private Words

Robin Shepherd, Director — International Affairs at the Henry Jackson Society in London, notes that after the Palestinian leadership “accepts what any reasonable person has been able to accept for decades,” the Guardian “slams them as surrender monkeys” — since the paper is “more hardline against Israel than the Palestinian leadership itself”:

But it gets worse. The only conceivable way out of this for the anti-Israel community is to turn this all upside down and argue — as analysts, reporters (anyone they can get their hands on) have been doing on the BBC all day — that what this really shows is the extent of Israeli “intransigence”: the Palestinians offer all these concessions, and still the Israelis say no! …

Tragicomically, it just won’t wash. Privately and morally, senior Palestinians can see that there is nothing illegitimate or even especially problematic about most of the “settlements” (as reasonable observers of the MidEast have been saying for years). This we know from the leaks themselves. But publicly and politically they cannot sell such concessions to their own people. … because they educate their own people in an implacable rejectionism which extends to the “moderate” Palestinian authority glorifying suicide bombers and other terrorists by naming streets and squares after them.

The irony of the “concessions” reflected in the Palestine Papers is that they fell far below the minimum necessary to obtain a Palestinian state, but far beyond what Al Jazeera and Al Guardian would accept once they found out about them.

The Palestinian Authority “conceded” some Jewish areas of Jerusalem could stay Jewish … but not Har Homa, a community with nearly 10,000 people (more than the total number withdrawn from Gaza in 2005). They “conceded” some Jewish communities near the Green Line … but not Ma’ale Adumim, a city with 34,600 people located on strategic high ground right next to Jerusalem and directly connected to it, established 35 years ago. They “conceded” Israel could call itself whatever it wanted, but would not themselves recognize a Jewish state, much less one with defensible borders.

So, once again, as with Camp David in July 2000 and the Clinton Parameters in December 2000, the Palestinians declined an offer of a state on virtually all the West Bank and a capital in Jerusalem – and rejected George W. Bush’s proposal to “turn the private offer [made by Olmert] into a public agreement.” Having failed to educate his public for peace, Abbas knew what the reaction would be if he ever did anything in public other than glorify suicide bombers and name streets and squares after them.

Robin Shepherd, Director — International Affairs at the Henry Jackson Society in London, notes that after the Palestinian leadership “accepts what any reasonable person has been able to accept for decades,” the Guardian “slams them as surrender monkeys” — since the paper is “more hardline against Israel than the Palestinian leadership itself”:

But it gets worse. The only conceivable way out of this for the anti-Israel community is to turn this all upside down and argue — as analysts, reporters (anyone they can get their hands on) have been doing on the BBC all day — that what this really shows is the extent of Israeli “intransigence”: the Palestinians offer all these concessions, and still the Israelis say no! …

Tragicomically, it just won’t wash. Privately and morally, senior Palestinians can see that there is nothing illegitimate or even especially problematic about most of the “settlements” (as reasonable observers of the MidEast have been saying for years). This we know from the leaks themselves. But publicly and politically they cannot sell such concessions to their own people. … because they educate their own people in an implacable rejectionism which extends to the “moderate” Palestinian authority glorifying suicide bombers and other terrorists by naming streets and squares after them.

The irony of the “concessions” reflected in the Palestine Papers is that they fell far below the minimum necessary to obtain a Palestinian state, but far beyond what Al Jazeera and Al Guardian would accept once they found out about them.

The Palestinian Authority “conceded” some Jewish areas of Jerusalem could stay Jewish … but not Har Homa, a community with nearly 10,000 people (more than the total number withdrawn from Gaza in 2005). They “conceded” some Jewish communities near the Green Line … but not Ma’ale Adumim, a city with 34,600 people located on strategic high ground right next to Jerusalem and directly connected to it, established 35 years ago. They “conceded” Israel could call itself whatever it wanted, but would not themselves recognize a Jewish state, much less one with defensible borders.

So, once again, as with Camp David in July 2000 and the Clinton Parameters in December 2000, the Palestinians declined an offer of a state on virtually all the West Bank and a capital in Jerusalem – and rejected George W. Bush’s proposal to “turn the private offer [made by Olmert] into a public agreement.” Having failed to educate his public for peace, Abbas knew what the reaction would be if he ever did anything in public other than glorify suicide bombers and name streets and squares after them.

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BREAKING: In Gaza, Sometimes People Surf a Lot

This update brought to you courtesy of Agence France-Presse, which yesterday published an article and uploaded to YouTube an accompanying video on the startling phenomenon. It’s a good thing they did too, because you might have missed the staggeringly critical geopolitical importance of Gaza surfing when it was covered in 2007 by the Los Angeles Times or in 2009 by Der Spiegel and ABC News or in 2010 by CNN and the Atlantic and the BBC.

In any case, make sure you revisit those pieces before tackling this one, both for deep background and because you wouldn’t want to miss exemplars of hard-nosed journalism like “the surfer paddled out from the shore. Lying on his battered board, he scanned the horizon. The turquoise water glittered in the midday sun … he caught a wave, effortlessly” and “dirt poor and mainly from refugee camps, they find joy riding waves, often on makeshift boards, in the green waters off Gaza’s beaches.” You can also prepare by watching ABC News’s 2009 YouTube video on the subject.

Gaza surfing, it turns out, is a hopelessly multivalenced topic. Sometimes the upshot is that Israel imposes insurmountable hardships on Palestinians. Sometimes the upshot is that Palestinians surmount Israeli hardships. Sometimes it’s both in the same story, with the Palestinians surmounting insurmountable Israeli hardships in the same way that the industrious and booming Gaza economy is perennially crippled by Israeli self-defense measures. But always, per the 700-plus-word BBC treatise on the subject, there is a fundamental lesson to be learned: “Palestinians are people like in any other country.” We love to surf, they love to surf, they’re just like us.

In Gaza, they also bomb Christian bookstores, turn hospitals into ammo dumps, create armies of suicide-bomber women and children, produce movies about how killing enemy Jews is the height of religious worship, hold summer camps to create child soldiers, stage school plays demonizing Israelis, air children’s TV brimming with vulgar and violent bigotry, and fascistically regulate women’s bodies — all the while overwhelmingly supporting Iranian proxies bent on eradicating millions of Jews — but whatever. Gaza is just like Venice Beach, right?

Anyway — obviously — these stories aren’t so much journalism as they are agitprop. They don’t even cover actual issues about Gaza beaches, such as whether Hamas has loosened its “modest” beach dress code, a proxy for Gaza Islamism, or whether critically endangered sea turtles are still getting hacked up by grinning children and their beaming fathers. But why report on women in Islam or Mediterranean keystone species when there are clumsy and pathos-soaked odes to the indefatigable Palestinian spirit to be penned?

This update brought to you courtesy of Agence France-Presse, which yesterday published an article and uploaded to YouTube an accompanying video on the startling phenomenon. It’s a good thing they did too, because you might have missed the staggeringly critical geopolitical importance of Gaza surfing when it was covered in 2007 by the Los Angeles Times or in 2009 by Der Spiegel and ABC News or in 2010 by CNN and the Atlantic and the BBC.

In any case, make sure you revisit those pieces before tackling this one, both for deep background and because you wouldn’t want to miss exemplars of hard-nosed journalism like “the surfer paddled out from the shore. Lying on his battered board, he scanned the horizon. The turquoise water glittered in the midday sun … he caught a wave, effortlessly” and “dirt poor and mainly from refugee camps, they find joy riding waves, often on makeshift boards, in the green waters off Gaza’s beaches.” You can also prepare by watching ABC News’s 2009 YouTube video on the subject.

Gaza surfing, it turns out, is a hopelessly multivalenced topic. Sometimes the upshot is that Israel imposes insurmountable hardships on Palestinians. Sometimes the upshot is that Palestinians surmount Israeli hardships. Sometimes it’s both in the same story, with the Palestinians surmounting insurmountable Israeli hardships in the same way that the industrious and booming Gaza economy is perennially crippled by Israeli self-defense measures. But always, per the 700-plus-word BBC treatise on the subject, there is a fundamental lesson to be learned: “Palestinians are people like in any other country.” We love to surf, they love to surf, they’re just like us.

In Gaza, they also bomb Christian bookstores, turn hospitals into ammo dumps, create armies of suicide-bomber women and children, produce movies about how killing enemy Jews is the height of religious worship, hold summer camps to create child soldiers, stage school plays demonizing Israelis, air children’s TV brimming with vulgar and violent bigotry, and fascistically regulate women’s bodies — all the while overwhelmingly supporting Iranian proxies bent on eradicating millions of Jews — but whatever. Gaza is just like Venice Beach, right?

Anyway — obviously — these stories aren’t so much journalism as they are agitprop. They don’t even cover actual issues about Gaza beaches, such as whether Hamas has loosened its “modest” beach dress code, a proxy for Gaza Islamism, or whether critically endangered sea turtles are still getting hacked up by grinning children and their beaming fathers. But why report on women in Islam or Mediterranean keystone species when there are clumsy and pathos-soaked odes to the indefatigable Palestinian spirit to be penned?

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Students Launch Public Relations Campaign for North Korea

Concerned that North Korea is getting a bad rap, some Brown University alumni have actually started a travel program to give students an eyewitness experience inside the totalitarian state. The project apparently started as a short trip for students, but it has now been expanded into a semester-long study abroad program:

The Pyongyang Project was the brainchild of Matthew Reichel and Nick Young, who were inspired to counteract what they describe as the “one-sided” coverage of North Korea in the international media.

“The US and North Korea don’t have established relations, and talks are indirect at best. And what we believe is that there is a need for a grassroots level of engagement that we haven’t seen yet between citizens,” says Mr Reichel, a 23-year-old Brown University graduate. “We feel that education is the best ice-breaker.”

The pair scheduled meetings with North Korean government officials at consulates in the US and China – and got the go ahead to run a scheme which takes university students and professors from the US, UK, Canada and other nations inside North Korea in a bid to reach out to the nation behind the headlines.

This program has the potential to be a useful educational tool if it actually exposes students to the deplorable conditions that most North Koreans live under. But like most “tourists” of North Korea, the participants of this trip visited only areas of the country handpicked by government propagandists.

The naivety of these students — enrolled at one of the top American universities — is simply astounding. One participant was amazed that he was allowed to wonder freely around a beach and interact with North Koreans — apparently unaware that the visit was probably about as orchestrated as a Hollywood movie set:

“They took us to the beach, we got our swimming trunks on and they basically said, ‘Go have a good time, you can talk to people’,” said Dave Fields, 27, a participant from the US state of Wisconsin.

Another participant gushed over a gymnastics competition she watched, but added that she noticed some “red flags” during her visit. “It definitely felt like there were props around the university. You get the feeling that it is sort of like a time capsule society — hair styles even that are kind of stuck in the 1960s,” she told the BBC.

I’m not sure if the founders of the Pyongyang Project planned to make this a pure propaganda campaign for the North Korean government, or if they’re simply clueless. But there’s no doubt that Pyongyang officials are probably thrilled by the results, judging from the comically fawning “participant reflections” posted on the project’s website. Read More

Concerned that North Korea is getting a bad rap, some Brown University alumni have actually started a travel program to give students an eyewitness experience inside the totalitarian state. The project apparently started as a short trip for students, but it has now been expanded into a semester-long study abroad program:

The Pyongyang Project was the brainchild of Matthew Reichel and Nick Young, who were inspired to counteract what they describe as the “one-sided” coverage of North Korea in the international media.

“The US and North Korea don’t have established relations, and talks are indirect at best. And what we believe is that there is a need for a grassroots level of engagement that we haven’t seen yet between citizens,” says Mr Reichel, a 23-year-old Brown University graduate. “We feel that education is the best ice-breaker.”

The pair scheduled meetings with North Korean government officials at consulates in the US and China – and got the go ahead to run a scheme which takes university students and professors from the US, UK, Canada and other nations inside North Korea in a bid to reach out to the nation behind the headlines.

This program has the potential to be a useful educational tool if it actually exposes students to the deplorable conditions that most North Koreans live under. But like most “tourists” of North Korea, the participants of this trip visited only areas of the country handpicked by government propagandists.

The naivety of these students — enrolled at one of the top American universities — is simply astounding. One participant was amazed that he was allowed to wonder freely around a beach and interact with North Koreans — apparently unaware that the visit was probably about as orchestrated as a Hollywood movie set:

“They took us to the beach, we got our swimming trunks on and they basically said, ‘Go have a good time, you can talk to people’,” said Dave Fields, 27, a participant from the US state of Wisconsin.

Another participant gushed over a gymnastics competition she watched, but added that she noticed some “red flags” during her visit. “It definitely felt like there were props around the university. You get the feeling that it is sort of like a time capsule society — hair styles even that are kind of stuck in the 1960s,” she told the BBC.

I’m not sure if the founders of the Pyongyang Project planned to make this a pure propaganda campaign for the North Korean government, or if they’re simply clueless. But there’s no doubt that Pyongyang officials are probably thrilled by the results, judging from the comically fawning “participant reflections” posted on the project’s website.

“The DMZ was my favorite. Mass Games, local restaurants were wonderful, Mt Myohyang was beautiful, USS Pueblo, Korean War Museum, Metro. All of it was fantastic. I commend the two of you for putting together such an action-packed, well-rounded program,” wrote Amy C., a 2009 Fulbright scholar.

Another participant was apparently honored to have been given a museum tour by the same woman who guided President Kim Il-Sung. “[W]e went to an agricultural museum where both leaders had been to several times, and were guided by the same lady that guided President Kim II Sung; on the very same night when we were back to our hotel, we turned on the TV and the TV was showing President Kim II Sung visiting the exact same museum guided by the lady we just saw in in afternoon. What de ja vu!” wrote Ji G.

And in a ringing endorsement, Neil E., a Bowling Green State University professor, wrote that the “highlights” of his trip were “the kids playing in the street in front of the Children’s Palace, followed by the glitzy, absolutely perfect performance inside, the crowd streaming out of the Kaesong rally interrupted by a fight, the audiences clapping in unison. I would definitely recommend the experience to others — in fact, I already have.”

Well, I suppose we can at least we can be thankful that the unpleasant sight of emaciated North Koreans didn’t get in the way of their thrilling vacation.

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Iraq: Before and After Saddam

The New York Times has a story about Iraq’s parliament’s approving a new government yesterday. With all major political parties and ethnic groups participating for the first time in an Iraqi government, the 325-member parliament approved each of the 34 ministers proposed by Prime Minister Maliki.

There’s no question that the new government is fragile and that the delay in forming a government was frustrating. And the challenges facing Iraq are considerable. “A nation with virtually no democratic track record and a history of sectarian warfare must figure a way to move forward with a government that comprises four major blocs — two Shiite, one Sunni-backed and multi-sectarian, and one Kurdish — each with a different agenda,” according to the Times. But it also points out that against predictions and despite a number of coordinated, deadly attacks that rattled the country, Iraq did not experience an overall rise in violence during the impasse. President Obama called the vote in parliament a “significant moment in Iraq’s history” and “a clear rejection of the efforts by extremists to spur sectarian division.”

Within the story is a quote from Prime Minister Maliki that caught my attention. He told lawmakers he was “very content” — even if he knew that they were not.

“I do not need anybody to sugarcoat me,” Maliki said. “I have not satisfied anybody at all. Everybody is angry with me, and everybody is frustrated with me.”

Such words were unimaginable in Iraq under Saddam Hussein. In 2002, for example, Iraqi officials said the Iraqi president won 100 percent backing in a referendum on whether he should rule for another seven years. There were 11,445,638 eligible voters — and every one of them voted for Saddam. (It’s worth pointing out that Saddam’s performance in 2002 was an improvement on the previous such vote, which gave the Iraqi leader only 99.96 percent support.)

Prime Minister Maliki is no saint and far from a perfect leader, and some people worry that he has authoritarian tendencies or even dictatorial aspirations. But I trust the judgment of Ryan C. Crocker, who was the U.S. ambassador to Iraq from 2007 to 2009 and came to know and respect Maliki. “Maliki’s vision is that the prime minister has to grab every shred of power, or centrifugal forces will kick in and Iraq will become unglued,” said Crocker. “He will try to accrue as much power as he can. But I think Maliki is light years away from being a truly authoritarian or dictatorial figure.”

Iraq unquestionably has a long way to go, and the road to the formation of the new government has been a difficult one. But a fragile democracy is a moral universe away from a totalitarian dictatorship. Read More

The New York Times has a story about Iraq’s parliament’s approving a new government yesterday. With all major political parties and ethnic groups participating for the first time in an Iraqi government, the 325-member parliament approved each of the 34 ministers proposed by Prime Minister Maliki.

There’s no question that the new government is fragile and that the delay in forming a government was frustrating. And the challenges facing Iraq are considerable. “A nation with virtually no democratic track record and a history of sectarian warfare must figure a way to move forward with a government that comprises four major blocs — two Shiite, one Sunni-backed and multi-sectarian, and one Kurdish — each with a different agenda,” according to the Times. But it also points out that against predictions and despite a number of coordinated, deadly attacks that rattled the country, Iraq did not experience an overall rise in violence during the impasse. President Obama called the vote in parliament a “significant moment in Iraq’s history” and “a clear rejection of the efforts by extremists to spur sectarian division.”

Within the story is a quote from Prime Minister Maliki that caught my attention. He told lawmakers he was “very content” — even if he knew that they were not.

“I do not need anybody to sugarcoat me,” Maliki said. “I have not satisfied anybody at all. Everybody is angry with me, and everybody is frustrated with me.”

Such words were unimaginable in Iraq under Saddam Hussein. In 2002, for example, Iraqi officials said the Iraqi president won 100 percent backing in a referendum on whether he should rule for another seven years. There were 11,445,638 eligible voters — and every one of them voted for Saddam. (It’s worth pointing out that Saddam’s performance in 2002 was an improvement on the previous such vote, which gave the Iraqi leader only 99.96 percent support.)

Prime Minister Maliki is no saint and far from a perfect leader, and some people worry that he has authoritarian tendencies or even dictatorial aspirations. But I trust the judgment of Ryan C. Crocker, who was the U.S. ambassador to Iraq from 2007 to 2009 and came to know and respect Maliki. “Maliki’s vision is that the prime minister has to grab every shred of power, or centrifugal forces will kick in and Iraq will become unglued,” said Crocker. “He will try to accrue as much power as he can. But I think Maliki is light years away from being a truly authoritarian or dictatorial figure.”

Iraq unquestionably has a long way to go, and the road to the formation of the new government has been a difficult one. But a fragile democracy is a moral universe away from a totalitarian dictatorship.

With Iraq’s governing achievement in mind, it’s perhaps worth recalling the words of the late Michael Kelly, one of the greatest journalists and columnists of his generation. Mike, who covered the first Gulf war, had been deeply affected by what Iraq under Saddam Hussein had done to the people of Kuwait. He told about the innocent civilians who had been killed, ritualistically humiliated, robbed, beaten, raped, and tortured by Saddam’s forces. “Shattered people were everywhere,” he said. “I watched one torture victim, a big, strong man, being interviewed in the place of his torture by a BBC television crew — weeping and weeping, but absolutely silent, as he told the story.”

Kelly — who died in 2003 while on assignment in Iraq — went on to write this:

Tyranny truly is a horror: an immense, endlessly bloody, endlessly painful, endlessly varied, endless crime against not humanity in the abstract but a lot of humans in the flesh. It is, as Orwell wrote, a jackboot forever stomping on a human face.

I understand why some dislike the idea, and fear the ramifications of, America as liberator. But I do not understand why they do not see that anything is better than life with your face under the boot. And that any rescue of a people under the boot (be they Afghan, Kuwaiti, or Iraqi) is something to be desired. Even if the rescue is less than perfectly realized. Even if the rescuer is a great, overmuscled, bossy, selfish oaf. Or would you, for yourself, choose the boot?

Thanks to the sacrifices and beneficence of America, Iraq is now free from the boot. That may not be everything, but it is quite a lot.

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Stalling for Time the Best Hope for Iran … and Its Apologists

The Islamist extremists running Iran have consistently spurned any attempt to entice them to abandon their nuclear ambitions via Western bribes. Though Barack Obama arrived in Washington in 2009 determined to “engage” with them, they humiliated the president, leaving him no choice but to pursue the weak sanctions that have been imposed on Iran, which have done nothing but further convince the mullahs and their chief front man, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, that the United States is a paper tiger whose warnings can be ignored with impunity. The Iranians know that their smartest strategy is to combine an intransigent refusal to give on their desire for a nuclear weapon with Fabian diplomacy in which they play upon the West’s belief in negotiations with endless delays.

Unfortunately, that Fabian strategy fits perfectly with Secretary of Defense Gates’s continued assurance that Iran is years away from nuclear capability, as well as the administration’s blind faith that the sort of ineffectual sanctions it has been pursuing will ultimately persuade Tehran to behave in a responsible fashion.

But rather than the failure of sanctions serving to persuade the administration that it is time to get tougher with Iran, this is just the moment it has decided to soften its approach. Tony Karon noted with approval in the National that there was been a “Significant though … little noted but potentially profound shift in the U.S. negotiating position. Speaking in a recent BBC interview, the secretary of state Hillary Clinton suggested that the West could accept Iran enriching uranium for peaceful purposes, once it had ‘restored the confidence of the international community’ that its program had no military objective. ‘They can enrich uranium at some future date once they have demonstrated that they can do so in a responsible manner in accordance with international obligations,’ Mrs. Clinton said.”

This is an open invitation to Iran for more stalling and pretense. Moreover, it is an open betrayal of the position the United States — along with France and Israel — took  on Iran. The Bush administration rightly determined that the Iranian regime — a brutal religious dictatorship that has repressed its own people, stolen elections, sponsored terrorism throughout the Middle East, and threatened Israel with extinction — could not be trusted with even a purely civilian nuclear program, since there was no way to prevent it from converting to a more sinister purpose. If Clinton is going to start down the path of approving an Iranian nuclear program of any sort, it is an indication that the administration is not serious about ending this threat. Indeed, it is a signal that Obama and Clinton are willing to appease Ahmadinejad in order to gain his signature on an agreement that will pretend to stop an Iranian nuke but will, in fact, facilitate one.

Of course, for writers like Karon, the real danger is not a nuclear Iran but the possibility that the United States or Israel will move to remove this threat. Thus, Karon applauds the recent statements from Clinton and Gates. His talk of a “diplomatic solution” that “could be years in the making” helps to stifle the calls for action against Iran from sensible Americans that rightly fear the consequences of the mullahs’ gaining possession of a nuclear weapon while giving Ahmadinejad and his confederates all the breathing space they need.

The Islamist extremists running Iran have consistently spurned any attempt to entice them to abandon their nuclear ambitions via Western bribes. Though Barack Obama arrived in Washington in 2009 determined to “engage” with them, they humiliated the president, leaving him no choice but to pursue the weak sanctions that have been imposed on Iran, which have done nothing but further convince the mullahs and their chief front man, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, that the United States is a paper tiger whose warnings can be ignored with impunity. The Iranians know that their smartest strategy is to combine an intransigent refusal to give on their desire for a nuclear weapon with Fabian diplomacy in which they play upon the West’s belief in negotiations with endless delays.

Unfortunately, that Fabian strategy fits perfectly with Secretary of Defense Gates’s continued assurance that Iran is years away from nuclear capability, as well as the administration’s blind faith that the sort of ineffectual sanctions it has been pursuing will ultimately persuade Tehran to behave in a responsible fashion.

But rather than the failure of sanctions serving to persuade the administration that it is time to get tougher with Iran, this is just the moment it has decided to soften its approach. Tony Karon noted with approval in the National that there was been a “Significant though … little noted but potentially profound shift in the U.S. negotiating position. Speaking in a recent BBC interview, the secretary of state Hillary Clinton suggested that the West could accept Iran enriching uranium for peaceful purposes, once it had ‘restored the confidence of the international community’ that its program had no military objective. ‘They can enrich uranium at some future date once they have demonstrated that they can do so in a responsible manner in accordance with international obligations,’ Mrs. Clinton said.”

This is an open invitation to Iran for more stalling and pretense. Moreover, it is an open betrayal of the position the United States — along with France and Israel — took  on Iran. The Bush administration rightly determined that the Iranian regime — a brutal religious dictatorship that has repressed its own people, stolen elections, sponsored terrorism throughout the Middle East, and threatened Israel with extinction — could not be trusted with even a purely civilian nuclear program, since there was no way to prevent it from converting to a more sinister purpose. If Clinton is going to start down the path of approving an Iranian nuclear program of any sort, it is an indication that the administration is not serious about ending this threat. Indeed, it is a signal that Obama and Clinton are willing to appease Ahmadinejad in order to gain his signature on an agreement that will pretend to stop an Iranian nuke but will, in fact, facilitate one.

Of course, for writers like Karon, the real danger is not a nuclear Iran but the possibility that the United States or Israel will move to remove this threat. Thus, Karon applauds the recent statements from Clinton and Gates. His talk of a “diplomatic solution” that “could be years in the making” helps to stifle the calls for action against Iran from sensible Americans that rightly fear the consequences of the mullahs’ gaining possession of a nuclear weapon while giving Ahmadinejad and his confederates all the breathing space they need.

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Scotland Recovers, and Plans to Waste, Oil for Food Kickbacks

A Glasgow-based engineering firm, Weir Group, has been fined 3 million pounds and had 13.9 million pounds of illegal profits confiscated after it admitted paying kickbacks to former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein’s regime. Weir Group, the BBC reports, made payments of 3.1 million pounds to the regime, plus another 1.4 million pounds to “an agent in Iraq” (regrettably not named in the judgment) in order to secure a contract worth approximately 35 million pounds. Weir Group, now under new management, fully acknowledged and apologized for its wrongdoing.

The judgment by Lord Carloway correctly describes the Oil for Food Programme as “bedeviled by corruption,” though his Lordship is charitable in stating that this was recognized “by 2004.” Actually, by 2004, the investigation into the Oil for Food fraud had not begun, and the scale of the corruption — and the extent to which individuals, companies, and UN officials were complicit in it — was certainly not fully established.

The sorry saga prompts a few reflections on Oil for Food and the problems inherent in it. The first is that doing prohibited business with dirty dictators is amazingly profitable: Weir Group made almost 14 million pounds off a contract worth 35 million. Even after making illegal payments amounting to 4.5 million pounds, that leaves about 10 million pounds of profit, about 30 percent of the value of the contact. There are very few legitimate businesses, here or abroad, that can boast that kind of return on “investment.” Other shady businesses will probably find doing deals with regimes under UN sanctions similarly profitable. Read More

A Glasgow-based engineering firm, Weir Group, has been fined 3 million pounds and had 13.9 million pounds of illegal profits confiscated after it admitted paying kickbacks to former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein’s regime. Weir Group, the BBC reports, made payments of 3.1 million pounds to the regime, plus another 1.4 million pounds to “an agent in Iraq” (regrettably not named in the judgment) in order to secure a contract worth approximately 35 million pounds. Weir Group, now under new management, fully acknowledged and apologized for its wrongdoing.

The judgment by Lord Carloway correctly describes the Oil for Food Programme as “bedeviled by corruption,” though his Lordship is charitable in stating that this was recognized “by 2004.” Actually, by 2004, the investigation into the Oil for Food fraud had not begun, and the scale of the corruption — and the extent to which individuals, companies, and UN officials were complicit in it — was certainly not fully established.

The sorry saga prompts a few reflections on Oil for Food and the problems inherent in it. The first is that doing prohibited business with dirty dictators is amazingly profitable: Weir Group made almost 14 million pounds off a contract worth 35 million. Even after making illegal payments amounting to 4.5 million pounds, that leaves about 10 million pounds of profit, about 30 percent of the value of the contact. There are very few legitimate businesses, here or abroad, that can boast that kind of return on “investment.” Other shady businesses will probably find doing deals with regimes under UN sanctions similarly profitable.

The second is that this judgment comes almost seven years after the illegal payments ended, and almost a decade after they began. Lord Carloway justified the imposition of the fine, in part, on the grounds that it would “deter future offenses.” Well, one can hope. But judgments that come so late after the offense are not likely to deter. Furthermore, Lord Carloway had remarkably few similar cases on which to base his decision, so, frankly, the odds of getting away with this sort of kickback scheme must still look pretty good — especially because the corruption of Oil for Food came to light only because the U.S. and its allies overthrew Saddam. One wonders if the conclusive proof of Weir Group’s payments — and they are, of course, only the tip of the iceberg of payments made round the world — will prompt any opponents of the war in Iraq to reflect that, just maybe, Saddam was not so securely “in his box” after all.

And third, there is the question of what will happen to the money recovered by the Scottish government. That may be the most depressing part of the saga. Let’s be clear about this: the illegal profits that Weir Group earned were stolen from the Iraqi people. The money should be returned to them, in full, with the fine included as interest. Instead, Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill has stated that some of the funds will “be put to good use through our successful cashback for communities program” — in other words, spent to fund what the government describes as “diversionary activities for young people.” The remainder — “a significant sum” — will be used to “support the Scottish government’s international development work.”

Fantastic: the fate of these millions of pounds, stolen by a corrupt government and a corrupt firm, will be to fund soccer pitches in Scotland and foreign-aid programs that have already wasted billions. Well, knowing that would certainly put me off paying bribes to Saddam. But maybe it’s an appropriate decision: money born of corruption will flow to an activity that all too frequently promotes it.

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Morning Commentary

Assange arrested in London, but extradition to Sweden “could take months,” reports the BBC. Despite the development, a WikiLeaks spokesman says the site will continue to release cables.

During nuclear talks this week, Iran showed a willingness to further discuss its program with P5+1 officials, reports the Los Angeles Times: “Though Iran’s position was a sign of progress, it was about the minimum the six powers could accept after a 14-month stalemate. Pressed by Washington, the U.N. Security Council tightened economic sanctions against Iran in June. The U.S. and European Union added their own tougher sanctions the following month. The U.S. and its allies have threatened further action if Iran does not commit to serious negotiations.”

Nineteen governments have joined a boycott of the Nobel Peace Prize ceremony that will give the award to jailed Chinese human rights activist Liu Xiaobo, indicating increased pressure from Beijing. Xiaobo is currently serving an 11-year sentence for “subversion.” China’s foreign minister claimed that Nobel officials “are orchestrating an anti-China farce by themselves. …We are not changing because of interference by a few clowns and we will not change our path.”

In the December issue of COMMENTARY (behind our pay wall), Ron Radosh dissected Walter Schneir’s attempt to backtrack from his bid to exonerate Communist spies Julius and Ethel Rosenberg. He now does the same (with co-author Steven Usdin) for another Rosenberg apologist: “Now, so many years later, when the intellectual community largely acknowledges the Rosenbergs’ guilt—a 2008 public confession by former Soviet spy Morton Sobell, who was tried along with the Rosenbergs, made continued denial impossible—[Victor] Navasky has written what is possibly the last-ditch attempt to redeem the Rosenbergs.”

The New York Times claims that a letter from lawmakers indicates “bipartisan” support for Obama’s nuclear strategy. Reality seems to disagree.

Looks like President Obama’s counter-attack against the U.S. Chamber of Conference is paying dividends. Dozens of local chapters of the Chamber have distanced themselves from or quit their associations with the national body due to its support of Republican candidates during the 2010 midterms. “Looking ahead to the 2012 elections, if more local chambers publicly declare their independence, it could undermine the power and credibility of attacks launched from the Washington office,” reports Politico.

Obama cut a deal with Republicans to extend the Bush tax cuts for two years, but has this move alienated his liberal base? New York Times analyst Peter Baker writes: “For President Obama, this is what bipartisanship looks like in the new era: messy, combustible and painful, brought on under the threat of even more unpalatable consequences and yet still deferring the ultimate resolution for another day.”

Assange arrested in London, but extradition to Sweden “could take months,” reports the BBC. Despite the development, a WikiLeaks spokesman says the site will continue to release cables.

During nuclear talks this week, Iran showed a willingness to further discuss its program with P5+1 officials, reports the Los Angeles Times: “Though Iran’s position was a sign of progress, it was about the minimum the six powers could accept after a 14-month stalemate. Pressed by Washington, the U.N. Security Council tightened economic sanctions against Iran in June. The U.S. and European Union added their own tougher sanctions the following month. The U.S. and its allies have threatened further action if Iran does not commit to serious negotiations.”

Nineteen governments have joined a boycott of the Nobel Peace Prize ceremony that will give the award to jailed Chinese human rights activist Liu Xiaobo, indicating increased pressure from Beijing. Xiaobo is currently serving an 11-year sentence for “subversion.” China’s foreign minister claimed that Nobel officials “are orchestrating an anti-China farce by themselves. …We are not changing because of interference by a few clowns and we will not change our path.”

In the December issue of COMMENTARY (behind our pay wall), Ron Radosh dissected Walter Schneir’s attempt to backtrack from his bid to exonerate Communist spies Julius and Ethel Rosenberg. He now does the same (with co-author Steven Usdin) for another Rosenberg apologist: “Now, so many years later, when the intellectual community largely acknowledges the Rosenbergs’ guilt—a 2008 public confession by former Soviet spy Morton Sobell, who was tried along with the Rosenbergs, made continued denial impossible—[Victor] Navasky has written what is possibly the last-ditch attempt to redeem the Rosenbergs.”

The New York Times claims that a letter from lawmakers indicates “bipartisan” support for Obama’s nuclear strategy. Reality seems to disagree.

Looks like President Obama’s counter-attack against the U.S. Chamber of Conference is paying dividends. Dozens of local chapters of the Chamber have distanced themselves from or quit their associations with the national body due to its support of Republican candidates during the 2010 midterms. “Looking ahead to the 2012 elections, if more local chambers publicly declare their independence, it could undermine the power and credibility of attacks launched from the Washington office,” reports Politico.

Obama cut a deal with Republicans to extend the Bush tax cuts for two years, but has this move alienated his liberal base? New York Times analyst Peter Baker writes: “For President Obama, this is what bipartisanship looks like in the new era: messy, combustible and painful, brought on under the threat of even more unpalatable consequences and yet still deferring the ultimate resolution for another day.”

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BBC Report: UK Muslim Schools Teaching Anti-Semitism

An eye-opening report released by the BBC on Monday found that roughly 5,000 students attending 40 Muslim schools and after-school clubs in the UK have been taught the Saudi national curriculum — which includes subjects like chopping off the hands of thieves and the demonization of Jews and gay people.

From the BBC report:

One of the text books asks children to list the “reprehensible” qualities of Jewish people. A text for younger children asks what happens to someone who dies who is not a believer in Islam — the answer given in the text book is “hellfire.”

Another text describes the punishment for gay sex as death and states a difference of opinion about whether it should be carried out by stoning, burning with fire or throwing the person over a cliff.

Considering the growing problem of youth radicalization in the UK, this report is quite disturbing — but it’s certainly no surprise. Three years ago, the BBC revealed that textbooks at the Saudi-funded King Fahad Academy in East London referred to Jewish people as “repugnant” and Christians as “pigs.” The school was initially investigated by British officials, but once the textbooks were removed, no further action was taken.

This new BBC report pretty much confirms that the government has done nothing since that incident to deal with these problems. A 2007 analysis by the Telegraph showed that more than half of the 114 private Muslim schools had not been officially inspected for more than half a decade, and I think it’s fair to assume that this hands-off policy by the government has continued until now.

Even in light of the BBC report, education officials seem pretty blasé about what’s going on in Saudi-backed classrooms. When contacted by the BBC about the problematic curricula, Michael Gove, the education secretary, offered this gem of an understatement:

“To my mind it doesn’t seem to me that this is the sort of material that should be used in English schools,” said Grove.

He said that part-time schools were not required to undergo inspections, but officials were looking into the possibility.

“Ofsted are doing some work in this area, they’ll be reporting to me shortly about how we can ensure that part-time provision is better registered and better inspected in the future.”

Great — but let’s that hope education officials actually start taking this problem seriously.

An eye-opening report released by the BBC on Monday found that roughly 5,000 students attending 40 Muslim schools and after-school clubs in the UK have been taught the Saudi national curriculum — which includes subjects like chopping off the hands of thieves and the demonization of Jews and gay people.

From the BBC report:

One of the text books asks children to list the “reprehensible” qualities of Jewish people. A text for younger children asks what happens to someone who dies who is not a believer in Islam — the answer given in the text book is “hellfire.”

Another text describes the punishment for gay sex as death and states a difference of opinion about whether it should be carried out by stoning, burning with fire or throwing the person over a cliff.

Considering the growing problem of youth radicalization in the UK, this report is quite disturbing — but it’s certainly no surprise. Three years ago, the BBC revealed that textbooks at the Saudi-funded King Fahad Academy in East London referred to Jewish people as “repugnant” and Christians as “pigs.” The school was initially investigated by British officials, but once the textbooks were removed, no further action was taken.

This new BBC report pretty much confirms that the government has done nothing since that incident to deal with these problems. A 2007 analysis by the Telegraph showed that more than half of the 114 private Muslim schools had not been officially inspected for more than half a decade, and I think it’s fair to assume that this hands-off policy by the government has continued until now.

Even in light of the BBC report, education officials seem pretty blasé about what’s going on in Saudi-backed classrooms. When contacted by the BBC about the problematic curricula, Michael Gove, the education secretary, offered this gem of an understatement:

“To my mind it doesn’t seem to me that this is the sort of material that should be used in English schools,” said Grove.

He said that part-time schools were not required to undergo inspections, but officials were looking into the possibility.

“Ofsted are doing some work in this area, they’ll be reporting to me shortly about how we can ensure that part-time provision is better registered and better inspected in the future.”

Great — but let’s that hope education officials actually start taking this problem seriously.

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The Victim in Chief

Friday was a sad day for Western civilization. The day after Mahmoud Ahmadinejad advanced the 9/11 “truther” theory in his speech at the UN, President Obama responded, in an interview with BBC Persia, by calling the remarks “offensive” and “hateful.”  He also called them “outrageous” and “disgusting.” And according to Obama, their outrageous disgustingness and offensive hatefulness were compounded by the circumstances:

It was offensive. It was hateful. And particularly for him to make the statement here in Manhattan, just a little north of Ground Zero, where families lost their loved ones, people of all faiths, all ethnicities who see this as the seminal tragedy of this generation, for him to make a statement like that was inexcusable.

One’s immediate urge is to tell the president to man up, already. We know what Ahmadinejad said was offensive, hateful, and inexcusable. But what does it really mean for Ahmadinejad or Iran that we’re over here, not excusing him for his outrageous and disgusting statements?

Nothing, of course. Which is why the president’s reflexive resort to decrying “hate speech” is not just illuminating about him, it’s bad statecraft. Obama did well to go on and speak to BBC Persia of the significant gap between Ahmadinejad’s conspiracy theories and the sentiments of the Iranian people — but that should have been the first thing out of his mouth, and it should have been couched in terms of Iranians’ sympathy with our ideals rather than their empathy with our plight. In this strategic opportunity to communicate with Iranians, Obama’s adjective-laden lament came off as whining and off-key. It’s not clear how an Iranian audience was supposed to react to his invocation of the modern West’s hate-speech meme.

There were important things to say about our regard for truth and civic transparency and our belief that ordinary Iranians share that regard. The problem with the hate-speech meme is that in prioritizing the offense and the victimhood of a transient moment, it preempts the mood and rhetorical atmosphere needed to foster inspiration. It leaves us resentful and self-absorbed rather than courageous. Others will say — no doubt, rightly — that Obama was tending domestic constituencies with the hate-speech passage. But it could hardly be clearer how unready that practice makes us for representing our ideals and our bona fides to foreign peoples.

In treating most communication as a means of stating how he feels about what someone else has done, Obama is not merely demonstrating his own personality. He is embodying the character and reflexes cultivated today in academia, the traditional media, and in politics. In exactly his present form, he is the ideal of our cultural elite. Sadly, that elite doesn’t know any longer how to speak to Iranians in the tones of liberty, empirical confidence, and moral courage. Its expertise now lies in reducing all questions to matters of hate speech and victimhood.

Friday was a sad day for Western civilization. The day after Mahmoud Ahmadinejad advanced the 9/11 “truther” theory in his speech at the UN, President Obama responded, in an interview with BBC Persia, by calling the remarks “offensive” and “hateful.”  He also called them “outrageous” and “disgusting.” And according to Obama, their outrageous disgustingness and offensive hatefulness were compounded by the circumstances:

It was offensive. It was hateful. And particularly for him to make the statement here in Manhattan, just a little north of Ground Zero, where families lost their loved ones, people of all faiths, all ethnicities who see this as the seminal tragedy of this generation, for him to make a statement like that was inexcusable.

One’s immediate urge is to tell the president to man up, already. We know what Ahmadinejad said was offensive, hateful, and inexcusable. But what does it really mean for Ahmadinejad or Iran that we’re over here, not excusing him for his outrageous and disgusting statements?

Nothing, of course. Which is why the president’s reflexive resort to decrying “hate speech” is not just illuminating about him, it’s bad statecraft. Obama did well to go on and speak to BBC Persia of the significant gap between Ahmadinejad’s conspiracy theories and the sentiments of the Iranian people — but that should have been the first thing out of his mouth, and it should have been couched in terms of Iranians’ sympathy with our ideals rather than their empathy with our plight. In this strategic opportunity to communicate with Iranians, Obama’s adjective-laden lament came off as whining and off-key. It’s not clear how an Iranian audience was supposed to react to his invocation of the modern West’s hate-speech meme.

There were important things to say about our regard for truth and civic transparency and our belief that ordinary Iranians share that regard. The problem with the hate-speech meme is that in prioritizing the offense and the victimhood of a transient moment, it preempts the mood and rhetorical atmosphere needed to foster inspiration. It leaves us resentful and self-absorbed rather than courageous. Others will say — no doubt, rightly — that Obama was tending domestic constituencies with the hate-speech passage. But it could hardly be clearer how unready that practice makes us for representing our ideals and our bona fides to foreign peoples.

In treating most communication as a means of stating how he feels about what someone else has done, Obama is not merely demonstrating his own personality. He is embodying the character and reflexes cultivated today in academia, the traditional media, and in politics. In exactly his present form, he is the ideal of our cultural elite. Sadly, that elite doesn’t know any longer how to speak to Iranians in the tones of liberty, empirical confidence, and moral courage. Its expertise now lies in reducing all questions to matters of hate speech and victimhood.

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Don’t Believe Everything You Read in the Times

It is always dismaying to discover how gullible readers of the New York Times can be. I was interviewed on Sunday night by the BBC regarding a “change of strategy” in Afghanistan. What change is that? Why the change from counterinsurgency to targeted killings. I expressed some incredulity about this supposed shift. Having just returned from Afghanistan, I had heard of no such change of focus. What evidence is there that it’s happening? None that I can find beyond this page-one Times article by Helene Cooper and Mark Landler whose headline claims: “Targeted Killing Is New U.S. Focus in Afghanistan.”

The article claims that the “counterinsurgency strategy has shown little success” — hardly surprising since it has only recently begun to be implemented. “Instead,” the article goes on to assert, “what has turned out to work well is an approach American officials have talked much less about: counterterrorism, military-speak for the targeted killings of insurgents from Al Qaeda and the Taliban. Faced with that reality, and the pressure of a self-imposed deadline to begin withdrawing troops by July 2011, the Obama administration is starting to count more heavily on the strategy of hunting down insurgents. The shift could change the nature of the war and potentially, in the view of some officials, hasten a political settlement with the Taliban. ”

I have no idea what Cooper and Landler mean when they write that “the Obama administration is starting to count more heavily on the strategy of hunting down insurgents.” In fact, Vice President Biden had urged a narrow counterterrorism focus for U.S. efforts in Afghanistan — and he lost the internal administration debate. You don’t need 100,000 U.S. troops in Afghanistan simply to hunt down terrorist leaders. They are there to carry out a comprehensive counterinsurgency strategy that General David Petraeus is now implementing.

As part of that strategy, there has been a shift of more Special Operations forces to Afghanistan and, as a result, more targeted hits on top Taliban leaders. But Petraeus realizes (as did his predecessor Stan McChrystal, a veteran Special Operations commander) what the Times concedes: “Based on the American military experience in Iraq as well as Afghanistan, it is not clear that killing enemy fighters is sufficient by itself to cripple an insurgency.” In fact, it is clear that targeted killings by themselves will not cripple a determined insurgency. That is precisely why it is extremely unlikely that Petraeus will do what the Times reporters claim — shift to a focused counterterrorism strategy.

Informed consumers of the news — especially those in other news organizations who too often take their cues from the Times — should take such supposed “scoops” with a big grain of salt.

It is always dismaying to discover how gullible readers of the New York Times can be. I was interviewed on Sunday night by the BBC regarding a “change of strategy” in Afghanistan. What change is that? Why the change from counterinsurgency to targeted killings. I expressed some incredulity about this supposed shift. Having just returned from Afghanistan, I had heard of no such change of focus. What evidence is there that it’s happening? None that I can find beyond this page-one Times article by Helene Cooper and Mark Landler whose headline claims: “Targeted Killing Is New U.S. Focus in Afghanistan.”

The article claims that the “counterinsurgency strategy has shown little success” — hardly surprising since it has only recently begun to be implemented. “Instead,” the article goes on to assert, “what has turned out to work well is an approach American officials have talked much less about: counterterrorism, military-speak for the targeted killings of insurgents from Al Qaeda and the Taliban. Faced with that reality, and the pressure of a self-imposed deadline to begin withdrawing troops by July 2011, the Obama administration is starting to count more heavily on the strategy of hunting down insurgents. The shift could change the nature of the war and potentially, in the view of some officials, hasten a political settlement with the Taliban. ”

I have no idea what Cooper and Landler mean when they write that “the Obama administration is starting to count more heavily on the strategy of hunting down insurgents.” In fact, Vice President Biden had urged a narrow counterterrorism focus for U.S. efforts in Afghanistan — and he lost the internal administration debate. You don’t need 100,000 U.S. troops in Afghanistan simply to hunt down terrorist leaders. They are there to carry out a comprehensive counterinsurgency strategy that General David Petraeus is now implementing.

As part of that strategy, there has been a shift of more Special Operations forces to Afghanistan and, as a result, more targeted hits on top Taliban leaders. But Petraeus realizes (as did his predecessor Stan McChrystal, a veteran Special Operations commander) what the Times concedes: “Based on the American military experience in Iraq as well as Afghanistan, it is not clear that killing enemy fighters is sufficient by itself to cripple an insurgency.” In fact, it is clear that targeted killings by themselves will not cripple a determined insurgency. That is precisely why it is extremely unlikely that Petraeus will do what the Times reporters claim — shift to a focused counterterrorism strategy.

Informed consumers of the news — especially those in other news organizations who too often take their cues from the Times — should take such supposed “scoops” with a big grain of salt.

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I Bet Iran Doesn’t Think the J Streeters Are “Unhappy Jews”

From the BBC (subscription required), we get this snippet from its international news-monitoring service describing what’s being reported in Iran:

Editorial headlined “Neo-conservative lobbyists along with Israel”: The editorial refers to the formation of a new Israeli lobby in the US — the Emergency Committee for Israel (ECI) — and says that it includes unhappy Jews, who intend to gain an important role in the US practical policy and decision-making system so that they can influence the process of appointing senators, congressmen, governors and other state authorities directly.

This leaves even me almost speechless. Almost.

First, if you’re going to start a pro-Israel group, nothing beats a shout-out from the mullahs. It does cement one’s bona fides as a genuinely pro-Israel group committed to its defense against an existential threat from Iran, no? (Every press guy and gal in town is now groaning as they envision the phone ringing with demands from their boss. “No I can’t get you a condemnation by Ahmadinejad! I have no idea how they managed that!”) Second, I think the ECI folks are pretty happy to be engaged in a battle of ideas, especially after that missive. But there are a lot of American Jews not happy with Obama’s Israel policy. The idea that such people might become engaged in a debate about what it means to be “pro-Israel” and begin to focus on the voting records of candidates (not just their self-descriptions) seems to be making the mullahs very unhappy.

I think the really unhappy Jews these days are the J Streeters, who are being beaten about the ears by a group that’s been around less than two weeks.

From the BBC (subscription required), we get this snippet from its international news-monitoring service describing what’s being reported in Iran:

Editorial headlined “Neo-conservative lobbyists along with Israel”: The editorial refers to the formation of a new Israeli lobby in the US — the Emergency Committee for Israel (ECI) — and says that it includes unhappy Jews, who intend to gain an important role in the US practical policy and decision-making system so that they can influence the process of appointing senators, congressmen, governors and other state authorities directly.

This leaves even me almost speechless. Almost.

First, if you’re going to start a pro-Israel group, nothing beats a shout-out from the mullahs. It does cement one’s bona fides as a genuinely pro-Israel group committed to its defense against an existential threat from Iran, no? (Every press guy and gal in town is now groaning as they envision the phone ringing with demands from their boss. “No I can’t get you a condemnation by Ahmadinejad! I have no idea how they managed that!”) Second, I think the ECI folks are pretty happy to be engaged in a battle of ideas, especially after that missive. But there are a lot of American Jews not happy with Obama’s Israel policy. The idea that such people might become engaged in a debate about what it means to be “pro-Israel” and begin to focus on the voting records of candidates (not just their self-descriptions) seems to be making the mullahs very unhappy.

I think the really unhappy Jews these days are the J Streeters, who are being beaten about the ears by a group that’s been around less than two weeks.

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Bollinger: Big Government News

I thought this headline might be sardonic: “Journalism Needs Government Help; Media budgets have been decimated as the Internet facilitates a communications revolution. More public funding for news-gathering is the answer.” It’s an op-ed from Columbia University professor Lee Bollinger in the Wall Street Journal, so I was hopeful that we’d get a touch of iconoclastic common sense. My hopes were misplaced. And I wonder whether the Journal editors didn’t decide to publish this on their pages just to show how ludicrous liberal statism has become. First, Bollinger’s complains that “journalism” is failing. (Umm, not the Journal, not Fox News — so it’s really only liberal print publications he’s pining over). So the solution is government funding. We learn:

Both the Federal Communications Commission and the Federal Trade Commission are undertaking studies of ways to ensure the steep economic decline faced by newspapers and broadcast news does not deprive Americans of the essential information they need as citizens. One idea under consideration is enhanced public funding for journalism.

In other words, taxpayers will be forced to pay for what they won’t watch or read of their own volition. And the journalistic monstrosity will be a merger of PBS and NPR. The result sounds like something George Orwell would have dreamed  up:

To me a key priority is to strengthen our public broadcasting role in the global arena. In today’s rapidly globalizing and interconnected world, other countries are developing a strong media presence. In addition to the BBC, there is China’s CCTV and Xinhua news, as well as Qatar’s Al Jazeera. The U.S. government’s international broadcasters, like Voice of America and Radio Free Europe, were developed during the Cold War as tools of our anticommunist foreign policy. In a sign of how anachronistic our system is in a digital age, these broadcasters are legally forbidden from airing within the U.S.

This system needs to be revised and its resources consolidated and augmented with those of NPR and PBS to create an American World Service that can compete with the BBC and other global broadcasters.

He insists that these public employees will exercise complete journalistic independence. That’s right. Liberals working for the government will independently make news decisions and report with no hint of bias. But the punchline — or the giveaway, depending on your perspective – is this:

The goal would be an American broadcasting system with full journalistic independence that can provide the news we need. Let’s demonstrate great journalism’s essential role in a free and dynamic society.

What if viewers and readers, um, don’t think they need what Big Government News is serving up? And how do we know what we “need”? Ah, Bollinger and his fellow Ivy Leaguers will tell us. Such is the state of liberal thinking and the mind of an Ivy League president. Yeah, I’m thinking the same thing: people spend money to send their kids to these places?

I thought this headline might be sardonic: “Journalism Needs Government Help; Media budgets have been decimated as the Internet facilitates a communications revolution. More public funding for news-gathering is the answer.” It’s an op-ed from Columbia University professor Lee Bollinger in the Wall Street Journal, so I was hopeful that we’d get a touch of iconoclastic common sense. My hopes were misplaced. And I wonder whether the Journal editors didn’t decide to publish this on their pages just to show how ludicrous liberal statism has become. First, Bollinger’s complains that “journalism” is failing. (Umm, not the Journal, not Fox News — so it’s really only liberal print publications he’s pining over). So the solution is government funding. We learn:

Both the Federal Communications Commission and the Federal Trade Commission are undertaking studies of ways to ensure the steep economic decline faced by newspapers and broadcast news does not deprive Americans of the essential information they need as citizens. One idea under consideration is enhanced public funding for journalism.

In other words, taxpayers will be forced to pay for what they won’t watch or read of their own volition. And the journalistic monstrosity will be a merger of PBS and NPR. The result sounds like something George Orwell would have dreamed  up:

To me a key priority is to strengthen our public broadcasting role in the global arena. In today’s rapidly globalizing and interconnected world, other countries are developing a strong media presence. In addition to the BBC, there is China’s CCTV and Xinhua news, as well as Qatar’s Al Jazeera. The U.S. government’s international broadcasters, like Voice of America and Radio Free Europe, were developed during the Cold War as tools of our anticommunist foreign policy. In a sign of how anachronistic our system is in a digital age, these broadcasters are legally forbidden from airing within the U.S.

This system needs to be revised and its resources consolidated and augmented with those of NPR and PBS to create an American World Service that can compete with the BBC and other global broadcasters.

He insists that these public employees will exercise complete journalistic independence. That’s right. Liberals working for the government will independently make news decisions and report with no hint of bias. But the punchline — or the giveaway, depending on your perspective – is this:

The goal would be an American broadcasting system with full journalistic independence that can provide the news we need. Let’s demonstrate great journalism’s essential role in a free and dynamic society.

What if viewers and readers, um, don’t think they need what Big Government News is serving up? And how do we know what we “need”? Ah, Bollinger and his fellow Ivy Leaguers will tell us. Such is the state of liberal thinking and the mind of an Ivy League president. Yeah, I’m thinking the same thing: people spend money to send their kids to these places?

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Palestinians Freak — No Direct Talks!

This makes it clear just how petrified by the prospect of direct negotiations the Palestinians are:

The Palestinian Authority has added new conditions for resuming direct talks with Israel, presenting new demands that in effect preclude negotiations.

The stipulations stated to the BBC by PA chief negotiator Saeb Erekat reflect a previously stated strategy of waiting “a year or two” for the United Nations to recognize it as a new Arab country instead of trying to reach a compromise agreement with Israel. …

Erekat told the BBC that in order for direct talks to resume, Israel also must accept former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert’s proposal as a starting point. Olmert has said that the PA never replied to his offer, which accepted most of the PA’s demands on Jerusalem but did not satisfy its insistence that Israel allow the immigration of millions of foreign Arabs claiming ancestry in the country.

You almost get the idea that the PA has neither the will nor the ability to make a deal and has been banking on Obama to deliver Israel (or what would be left of it ) on a platter. If Obama had not carried water for the Palestinians for a year and a half, would they take a different position? Maybe. But if you are desperate to conceal that you have no authority to make a deal and no ability to curtail terrorism, you’ll always come up with some excuse to avoid showing up for serious negotiations. Rather than encourage this nonsense with “confidence building” measures, it would be a good idea for Bibi (especially now that Obama is in kiss-and-make-up mode) to end the proximity talks. If the Palestinians decide it’s time to make a deal, I’m sure Bibi will take their call.

This makes it clear just how petrified by the prospect of direct negotiations the Palestinians are:

The Palestinian Authority has added new conditions for resuming direct talks with Israel, presenting new demands that in effect preclude negotiations.

The stipulations stated to the BBC by PA chief negotiator Saeb Erekat reflect a previously stated strategy of waiting “a year or two” for the United Nations to recognize it as a new Arab country instead of trying to reach a compromise agreement with Israel. …

Erekat told the BBC that in order for direct talks to resume, Israel also must accept former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert’s proposal as a starting point. Olmert has said that the PA never replied to his offer, which accepted most of the PA’s demands on Jerusalem but did not satisfy its insistence that Israel allow the immigration of millions of foreign Arabs claiming ancestry in the country.

You almost get the idea that the PA has neither the will nor the ability to make a deal and has been banking on Obama to deliver Israel (or what would be left of it ) on a platter. If Obama had not carried water for the Palestinians for a year and a half, would they take a different position? Maybe. But if you are desperate to conceal that you have no authority to make a deal and no ability to curtail terrorism, you’ll always come up with some excuse to avoid showing up for serious negotiations. Rather than encourage this nonsense with “confidence building” measures, it would be a good idea for Bibi (especially now that Obama is in kiss-and-make-up mode) to end the proximity talks. If the Palestinians decide it’s time to make a deal, I’m sure Bibi will take their call.

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Eons Away from Peace in the Middle East

This report, from the BBC no less (the giveaway is that “terrorist” isn’t used), gives you an idea of how divorced from reality is the “peace process”:

Masked gunmen in the Gaza Strip have set fire to a United Nations-run summer camp for children. This follows a similar attack in May on another UN-run summer camp. Some militants view the UN as a symbol of the West and claim that the summer camps allow boys and girls to mix freely – something that the UN denies. The attackers tied up the guard at the camp in central Gaza before setting fire to chairs, tables, easels and other equipment. The UN says about 25 armed men attacked the beach camp in the middle of Sunday night. … Nobody was hurt, and nobody has claimed responsibility for the attack. But in a similar incident last month a previously unknown Islamist group said its had attacked a UN summer camp in Gaza city. The head in Gaza of the UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) for Palestinian refugees condemned the attack as “cowardly and despicable.”

But Israel is the subject of the ire of the “international community” and is chastised for being too exacting in its list of blockaded goods. Well, when everything is a weapon — rope, matches, etc. — it gets hard to decide what should be excluded.

The most chilling part of the report is this: “Hamas also runs rival summer camps.” One can only imagine what their activities must be like and how many young minds are being corralled into the cult of death. Imagine, too, the mothers who choose to send their children to such places, and who pine for their flesh and blood to be martyred.

Meanwhile, there is this report:

The continued power struggle between Hamas and Fatah has left tens of thousands of Palestinians in the Gaza Strip in the dark following the closure of the area’s main power plant. The power plant, which supplies 25% of electricity to the Gaza Strip, was shut down on Friday night because of a dispute between the rival Palestinian parties over payment for fuel that is needed to keep it running. Hamas and Fatah traded allegations over the power outage, with each party blaming the other for the crisis.

Only by turning a blind eye to these and the hundreds of other indications that Israel’s foes remain dedicated to the Jewish state’s destruction does the Obama team imagine that George Mitchell is going to bring “peace” to Israel and the Palestinians. It is hard to make the case that “peace” in our time will come about by his shuffling between the two sides, one of which has not the authority or the will to make a deal and no means of ensuring that summer camps, schools, and hospitals do not remain targets of those who don’t share the vision of a two-state solution.

This report, from the BBC no less (the giveaway is that “terrorist” isn’t used), gives you an idea of how divorced from reality is the “peace process”:

Masked gunmen in the Gaza Strip have set fire to a United Nations-run summer camp for children. This follows a similar attack in May on another UN-run summer camp. Some militants view the UN as a symbol of the West and claim that the summer camps allow boys and girls to mix freely – something that the UN denies. The attackers tied up the guard at the camp in central Gaza before setting fire to chairs, tables, easels and other equipment. The UN says about 25 armed men attacked the beach camp in the middle of Sunday night. … Nobody was hurt, and nobody has claimed responsibility for the attack. But in a similar incident last month a previously unknown Islamist group said its had attacked a UN summer camp in Gaza city. The head in Gaza of the UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) for Palestinian refugees condemned the attack as “cowardly and despicable.”

But Israel is the subject of the ire of the “international community” and is chastised for being too exacting in its list of blockaded goods. Well, when everything is a weapon — rope, matches, etc. — it gets hard to decide what should be excluded.

The most chilling part of the report is this: “Hamas also runs rival summer camps.” One can only imagine what their activities must be like and how many young minds are being corralled into the cult of death. Imagine, too, the mothers who choose to send their children to such places, and who pine for their flesh and blood to be martyred.

Meanwhile, there is this report:

The continued power struggle between Hamas and Fatah has left tens of thousands of Palestinians in the Gaza Strip in the dark following the closure of the area’s main power plant. The power plant, which supplies 25% of electricity to the Gaza Strip, was shut down on Friday night because of a dispute between the rival Palestinian parties over payment for fuel that is needed to keep it running. Hamas and Fatah traded allegations over the power outage, with each party blaming the other for the crisis.

Only by turning a blind eye to these and the hundreds of other indications that Israel’s foes remain dedicated to the Jewish state’s destruction does the Obama team imagine that George Mitchell is going to bring “peace” to Israel and the Palestinians. It is hard to make the case that “peace” in our time will come about by his shuffling between the two sides, one of which has not the authority or the will to make a deal and no means of ensuring that summer camps, schools, and hospitals do not remain targets of those who don’t share the vision of a two-state solution.

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Re: McChrystal’s Media Woes

Gen. McChrystal’s Rolling Stone interview was damaging and depressing in all sorts of ways that have yet to play out. The story covers a lot more than the military’s frustration with the White House and State Department. The author, Michael Hastings, pans our counterinsurgency (COIN) strategy, makes the case that soldiers are fettered by current rules of engagement, rehashes McChrystal’s involvement in Pat Tillman’s death, and on, and on.

McChrystal exercised extraordinarily bad judgment in granting access and speaking publicly as he did. But if a similar story of military dissatisfaction ran during the Bush administration, the only angle that would have made it through to public debate would have been that even the military brass has had it with the president.

Still, without yet knowing McChrystal’s fate or the impact that the story will have on the future of the war, it’s important to correct the most erroneous propaganda furnished by the great military minds at Rolling Stone. Hastings writes, toward the end of the article, “The very people that COIN seeks to win over – the Afghan people – do not want us there.” Considering that this assertion attempts to undermine the entire strategy of our Afghanistan effort, it’s a particularly egregious fiction to conclude the story on. Moreover, it’s stale. Back in March, Michael O’ Hanlon made quick work of this line in the Washington Post:

Despite downward trends in recent years, Afghans are far more accepting of an international presence in their country than are Iraqis, for example, who typically gave the U.S. presence approval ratings of 15 to 30 percent in the early years of the war in that country. Average U.S. favorability ratings in recent surveys in Afghanistan are around 50 percent, and according to polls from ABC, the BBC and the International Republican Institute, about two-thirds of Afghans recognize that they still need foreign help.

If more Afghans do decide they don’t want us there, it will be because we’ve made it clear we’re not there to finish the job. Broadcasting that dangerous message is made far easier by pieces such as this one in Rolling Stone.

Gen. McChrystal’s Rolling Stone interview was damaging and depressing in all sorts of ways that have yet to play out. The story covers a lot more than the military’s frustration with the White House and State Department. The author, Michael Hastings, pans our counterinsurgency (COIN) strategy, makes the case that soldiers are fettered by current rules of engagement, rehashes McChrystal’s involvement in Pat Tillman’s death, and on, and on.

McChrystal exercised extraordinarily bad judgment in granting access and speaking publicly as he did. But if a similar story of military dissatisfaction ran during the Bush administration, the only angle that would have made it through to public debate would have been that even the military brass has had it with the president.

Still, without yet knowing McChrystal’s fate or the impact that the story will have on the future of the war, it’s important to correct the most erroneous propaganda furnished by the great military minds at Rolling Stone. Hastings writes, toward the end of the article, “The very people that COIN seeks to win over – the Afghan people – do not want us there.” Considering that this assertion attempts to undermine the entire strategy of our Afghanistan effort, it’s a particularly egregious fiction to conclude the story on. Moreover, it’s stale. Back in March, Michael O’ Hanlon made quick work of this line in the Washington Post:

Despite downward trends in recent years, Afghans are far more accepting of an international presence in their country than are Iraqis, for example, who typically gave the U.S. presence approval ratings of 15 to 30 percent in the early years of the war in that country. Average U.S. favorability ratings in recent surveys in Afghanistan are around 50 percent, and according to polls from ABC, the BBC and the International Republican Institute, about two-thirds of Afghans recognize that they still need foreign help.

If more Afghans do decide they don’t want us there, it will be because we’ve made it clear we’re not there to finish the job. Broadcasting that dangerous message is made far easier by pieces such as this one in Rolling Stone.

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