Commentary Magazine


Topic: Belgium

The Brussels Shooting and Why Europe Won’t Confront Islamic Jew-Hatred

The revelation that the Belgium police have now made an arrest in relation to the recent shooting at the Jewish museum in Brussels, and more significantly that the suspect is a Muslim radical who spent time fighting in Syria, confirms what many had suspected about that attack; that it was the work of Islamic militancy and the Jew-hatred that constitutes a core aspect of that ideology. When a similar shooting attack took place in 2012 at a Jewish school in Toulouse, much of the media initially attempted to speculate that this was the work of a far-right white supremacist. No doubt the liberal media was holding out for such a result this time too. But in both cases these attacks were the work of home-grown Islamic extremism. These acts may for the moment only concern a very small number of radicalized individuals, yet such individuals emerge from a much wider sub-culture of hate that Europe’s elites not only attempt to ignore, but that is even excused and legitimated by the prevailing narrative in Europe.

The suspect in question has been named as 29-year old French national Mehdi Nemmouche, who spent a year fighting with rebels in Syria. It’s not as if there haven’t been enough warnings about the dangers represented by the phenomenon of large numbers of European Muslims going to fight in Syria, but if European governments have proven incapable of preventing these individuals from making their way to Syria, then one also has to wonder how they were so easily able to slip back into Europe. Still, the case of the Toulouse shooting provides a noteworthy parallel. The gunman in that case, Mohammed Merah, had already spent time in Afghanistan and Pakistan and now it is widely believed that Merah’s sister Souad is also currently in Syria.

It is more than just a little revealing that so many of Europe’s Muslims are drawn to fight for Islamic causes in far off countries in the first place; there are an estimated 600 French Muslims fighting in Syria and almost as many from Britain. It is similarly telling that when these people return they not only continue to engage in acts of violence, but that their violence is directed toward Jews. Of course we shouldn’t ignore the violence against Jews coming from Muslims who haven’t first been radicalized via Syria or elsewhere; on the same day as the shooting in Brussels two French Jews were assaulted in Paris as they were leaving a synagogue. There is hardly space here to rehearse all the recent incidents from Europe of Muslims attacking Jews, but a European Union survey from the fall exposed how in most European countries Muslims were by far the leading group responsible for anti-Semitic incidents, closely followed by individuals identified as being on the far left.  

Read More

The revelation that the Belgium police have now made an arrest in relation to the recent shooting at the Jewish museum in Brussels, and more significantly that the suspect is a Muslim radical who spent time fighting in Syria, confirms what many had suspected about that attack; that it was the work of Islamic militancy and the Jew-hatred that constitutes a core aspect of that ideology. When a similar shooting attack took place in 2012 at a Jewish school in Toulouse, much of the media initially attempted to speculate that this was the work of a far-right white supremacist. No doubt the liberal media was holding out for such a result this time too. But in both cases these attacks were the work of home-grown Islamic extremism. These acts may for the moment only concern a very small number of radicalized individuals, yet such individuals emerge from a much wider sub-culture of hate that Europe’s elites not only attempt to ignore, but that is even excused and legitimated by the prevailing narrative in Europe.

The suspect in question has been named as 29-year old French national Mehdi Nemmouche, who spent a year fighting with rebels in Syria. It’s not as if there haven’t been enough warnings about the dangers represented by the phenomenon of large numbers of European Muslims going to fight in Syria, but if European governments have proven incapable of preventing these individuals from making their way to Syria, then one also has to wonder how they were so easily able to slip back into Europe. Still, the case of the Toulouse shooting provides a noteworthy parallel. The gunman in that case, Mohammed Merah, had already spent time in Afghanistan and Pakistan and now it is widely believed that Merah’s sister Souad is also currently in Syria.

It is more than just a little revealing that so many of Europe’s Muslims are drawn to fight for Islamic causes in far off countries in the first place; there are an estimated 600 French Muslims fighting in Syria and almost as many from Britain. It is similarly telling that when these people return they not only continue to engage in acts of violence, but that their violence is directed toward Jews. Of course we shouldn’t ignore the violence against Jews coming from Muslims who haven’t first been radicalized via Syria or elsewhere; on the same day as the shooting in Brussels two French Jews were assaulted in Paris as they were leaving a synagogue. There is hardly space here to rehearse all the recent incidents from Europe of Muslims attacking Jews, but a European Union survey from the fall exposed how in most European countries Muslims were by far the leading group responsible for anti-Semitic incidents, closely followed by individuals identified as being on the far left.  

Europe’s elites have proven completely incapable of confronting and tackling this worsening phenomenon because they are incapacitated by a worldview that barely even allows them to openly acknowledge the problem. Most types of racism and bigotry in Europe have been swept away not by government legislation but by a culture of political correctness imposed by Europe’s media and cultural institutions that sets such views beyond the pale. Yet because that very doctrine of political correctness holds immigrant communities and particularly Muslims to be a victim group of the highest order, it has become impossible for Europeans to imagine that these people might themselves be the perpetrators of racism and bigotry. The model doesn’t allow for such a notion, especially not when the victims are Jews. Since Europeans perceive Jews as being white, Western, and affluent, that places them on the side of the oppressors and not among the oppressed.

Then there is the Israel factor. As much as critics of Israel like to stress that it’s Zionists and not Jews they take issue with, whenever Jews are attacked, liberals and liberal Europeans inevitably make the Israel connection and in so doing invalidate their own pretense that they view the two as being entirely separate. When Jewish children were mowed down by bullets as they made their way to school in Toulouse and the EU’s Foreign Policy Chief Catherine Ashton was obliged to concoct some words of sympathy, she stunned observers by using this event to note how, “we see what is happening in Gaza.” It seems that for people like Ashton, it is impossible to acknowledge Jewish victimhood without also footnoting Palestinian suffering, as if in some attempt to explain away whatever has just been done to the Jews in question.

European liberals delight in expressing horror and gleeful outrage at the sight of American Evangelical Christianity. They warn against reactionary Christian attitudes on any social issue that arises in their own country and they are always sure to castigate the Catholic Church whenever the opportunity presents itself (Pope Benedict’s visit to London was marred by large and angry protests). But if Europeans were really concerned about ultra-conservative religious extremism then they would act to prevent the proliferation of radical Islam in Europe. Similarly, if they were serious about ending racism then they would crack down on the only form of racism in Europe today that still kills people: Islamic Jew-hatred.

Read Less

Another Anti-Semitic Outrage on the Dark Continent

Yet again, Jews in Europe are grieving. Saturday’s brutal shooting at the Jewish Museum in Brussels was a stark reminder that, for its Jewish communities, Europe is rapidly becoming a dark continent, one where extreme violence lurks behind the constant stream of anti-Zionist and anti-Semitic invective found on extremist websites and mainstream media outlets alike.

Four people were murdered in the museum shooting. Two of them were a couple from Tel Aviv, vacationing in the Belgian capital. The third was a female volunteer at the museum, while the fourth was a 23 year-old museum employee who was hospitalized in critical condition and who died shortly afterwards from his injuries. The assault was eerily reminiscent of the Islamist terror attack in 2012 at a Jewish school in the French city of Toulouse, in which three young children and a rabbi were similarly shot at close range by Mohammed Merah, an individual with dual French and Algerian citizenship who entered the global Islamist terror network following visits to Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Read More

Yet again, Jews in Europe are grieving. Saturday’s brutal shooting at the Jewish Museum in Brussels was a stark reminder that, for its Jewish communities, Europe is rapidly becoming a dark continent, one where extreme violence lurks behind the constant stream of anti-Zionist and anti-Semitic invective found on extremist websites and mainstream media outlets alike.

Four people were murdered in the museum shooting. Two of them were a couple from Tel Aviv, vacationing in the Belgian capital. The third was a female volunteer at the museum, while the fourth was a 23 year-old museum employee who was hospitalized in critical condition and who died shortly afterwards from his injuries. The assault was eerily reminiscent of the Islamist terror attack in 2012 at a Jewish school in the French city of Toulouse, in which three young children and a rabbi were similarly shot at close range by Mohammed Merah, an individual with dual French and Algerian citizenship who entered the global Islamist terror network following visits to Afghanistan and Pakistan.

It just so happens that I am writing these lines from Jerusalem, where I am one of several speakers at a major conference on anti-Semitism organized by the Vidal Sassoon International Center for the Study of Anti-Semitism at the Hebrew University. As the news from Brussels broke on Saturday night, hundreds of Israelis were gathering in cafes and bars to watch the final of the European Cup soccer tournament. In the informal conversations I had with fellow spectators, I encountered anger and disgust, but little surprise–this is Europe we’re talking about, after all. And to its immense credit, the Israeli government’s official response to the attack reflected these public sentiments. “This act of murder is the result of constant incitement against Jews and their state,” declared Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. “Slander and lies against the State of Israel continue to be heard on European soil even as the crimes against humanity and acts of murder being perpetrated in our region are systematically ignored.”

When it comes to spreading fear among Jews, Belgium is, in fact, one of the worst offenders. The the latest annual survey of global anti-Semitic incidents and expressions from Tel Aviv University’s Stephen Roth Institute noted that “the countries in which the situation and sense of vulnerability seem to be the worst were Hungary, France, and Belgium.” Indeed, anyone tempted to think that the Brussels attack was an isolated aberration would do well to consider the depressingly long list of anti-Semitic incidents in Belgium that presaged it.

Last year, an anti-Semitism watchdog group reported a 23 percent increase in antisemitic attacks in 2012 from the previous year (when you remember that many such incidents go unreported, the number is likely to be higher.) As Netanyahu asserted in his response to the museum attack, these physical manifestations of anti-Semitism are enabled by the incitement which underpins them. There was, for example, the Brussels concert of the former Pink Floyd vocalist, and professional Israel-hater, Roger Waters, which featured a pig-shaped balloon emblazoned with a Star of David. A website for the teaching of history run by the Belgian Education Ministry featured a cartoon by the anti-Semitic Brazilian artist, Carlos Latuff, which compared Israel with Nazi Germany through a representation of a dead concentration camp victim alongside a dead Palestinian, their limbs arranged in the shape of a swastika. In February this year, passengers on a Belgian train were informed over the speaker system, “Ladies and gentlemen, we are approaching Auschwitz. All Jews are requested to disembark and take a short shower.” Earlier this month, police in Brussels used water cannon to disperse a mob of anti-Semites who had gathered for an event featuring the anti-Semitic French provocateur, Dieudonné M’bala M’bala, and Laurent Louis, a Belgian parliamentarian who has regularly issued anti-Zionist and anti-Semitic statements. 

It’s often quipped that European governments have a decent record of commemorating dead Jews, as evidenced by the numerous Holocaust memorials across the continent, and a pretty awful record when it comes to protecting live ones. The imperative of guaranteeing freedom of speech necessarily limits any actions that governments can take against anti-Semitic incitement, but that should not prevent European leaders from explicitly recognizing where this poison springs from. It is not enough to say, as did the president of the European Commission, Jose Manuel Barroso, that the Brussels atrocity “was an attack on European values which we cannot tolerate.” Only when Europe’s politicians finally acknowledge that the continent’s culture of Israel-hatred–expressed through boycott campaigns, degrading films and cartoons, frequent analogies between Israel and Nazi Germany or apartheid-era South Africa, and much else besides–is what lies behind this deadly violence, will we finally be able to say that some progress in confronting this social disease has been made.

Read Less

Netanyahu’s European Border Fantasy

While Secretary of State John Kerry’s negotiations between Israel and the Palestinian Authority have often taken on the air of farce, in recent days they appeared to cross over into the realm of the truly bizarre. Over the weekend it was announced that Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu has tasked his cabinet secretary with researching the complex border arrangements that exist between Belgian Baarle-Hertog and Dutch Baarle-Nassau. Naturally, this is not some purely academic exercise concerning the eccentric cartography of the Low Countries. Rather, it seems that Israel’s prime minister is entertaining the disturbing notion that that the Jewish state might seek to emulate these border arrangements as a way of surmounting the problem of what to do about the Jewish communities in the West Bank, if a Palestinian state were to be established.

Belgium and Holland have what has been described as one of the most complex border arrangements in the world. Under these arrangements enclaves of each country sit within the territory of the other, with 24 separate and mostly non-contiguous fragments of land existing as minute islands within the greater territory of the two states. With the Palestinians having made clear that they want to join with the other countries of the region in enjoying the luxury of a Jew-free state, Netanyahu’s earlier suggestion that Israeli civilians would stay behind after an Israeli withdrawal has been rendered null and void. Yet while many were skeptical about whether Netanyahu had ever really been serious about that first proposal, it would seem that he is far more serious about his pledge not to forcibly evacuate any Israelis from their homes. 

Since the Palestinians are insisting that they won’t share a future state with Jews and with Israel’s prime minister saying he won’t make the Jews of the West Bank leave, it seems that the Baarle-Nassau plan has arisen as a farfetched attempt to bridge a clear impasse in negotiations. When President Obama attempts to set up Netanyahu as intransigent in the peace process, as he did in his recent interview in Bloomberg, proposals such as this one demonstrate the fantastical, and indeed ridiculous, lengths that Netanyahu is apparently willing to go to so as to assist Kerry’s plan. One can only imagine what kind of things the Obama administration might be threatening Israel with behind closed doors.

Read More

While Secretary of State John Kerry’s negotiations between Israel and the Palestinian Authority have often taken on the air of farce, in recent days they appeared to cross over into the realm of the truly bizarre. Over the weekend it was announced that Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu has tasked his cabinet secretary with researching the complex border arrangements that exist between Belgian Baarle-Hertog and Dutch Baarle-Nassau. Naturally, this is not some purely academic exercise concerning the eccentric cartography of the Low Countries. Rather, it seems that Israel’s prime minister is entertaining the disturbing notion that that the Jewish state might seek to emulate these border arrangements as a way of surmounting the problem of what to do about the Jewish communities in the West Bank, if a Palestinian state were to be established.

Belgium and Holland have what has been described as one of the most complex border arrangements in the world. Under these arrangements enclaves of each country sit within the territory of the other, with 24 separate and mostly non-contiguous fragments of land existing as minute islands within the greater territory of the two states. With the Palestinians having made clear that they want to join with the other countries of the region in enjoying the luxury of a Jew-free state, Netanyahu’s earlier suggestion that Israeli civilians would stay behind after an Israeli withdrawal has been rendered null and void. Yet while many were skeptical about whether Netanyahu had ever really been serious about that first proposal, it would seem that he is far more serious about his pledge not to forcibly evacuate any Israelis from their homes. 

Since the Palestinians are insisting that they won’t share a future state with Jews and with Israel’s prime minister saying he won’t make the Jews of the West Bank leave, it seems that the Baarle-Nassau plan has arisen as a farfetched attempt to bridge a clear impasse in negotiations. When President Obama attempts to set up Netanyahu as intransigent in the peace process, as he did in his recent interview in Bloomberg, proposals such as this one demonstrate the fantastical, and indeed ridiculous, lengths that Netanyahu is apparently willing to go to so as to assist Kerry’s plan. One can only imagine what kind of things the Obama administration might be threatening Israel with behind closed doors.

After all, Netanyahu is astute enough to know whom he is dealing with when negotiating about the contours of a future Palestinian state. That is why the Israeli government is insisting that Israel maintain defensible borders by holding onto the Jordan Valley. They make this demand precisely because they know that a future Palestinian state would be neither Belgium nor Holland. Indeed, the Dutch-Belgium border has been pretty quiet for several centuries now; the Dutch have not been embroiled in a generations-long conflict to extinguish the Kingdom of Belgium; one doesn’t generally hear statements from Brussels about how they will never recognize the Netherlands as a Dutch state.

That said, even in these two countries, supposedly at the heart of the project for a post-national European federation, neither exactly known for being rocked by fierce inter-ethnic strife, there is still constantly talk of Belgium being partitioned between the Flemish and the Walloons. Brussels might well become the divided capital of two states while Jerusalem remains the united capital of just one. Even for Europeans it turns out national identity cannot be made to vanish so easily.

Yet, where as in sleepy Baarle-Nassau the international border between Holland and Belgium passes between sidewalk cafes, with residents strolling casually between the two states without noticing, can anyone in their right mind imagine that the same jovial atmosphere would be repeated along an Israeli-Palestinian border? It was not so long ago that Palestinians were venturing to Israeli pavement cafes simply for the purpose of blowing them up. Experience should have taught Israel by now that it can vacate the West bank if it so chooses, but that the only prudent thing to do would be to prepare for that territory to become yet another terror state too.

Even if a Palestinian state in the West Bank managed to somehow resist becoming a second Gaza, it is still quite plausible that relations between the two states might often be strained. What then would become of the Jews clinging on in these many isolated and perhaps stranded communities? Think blockaded West Berlin during the Cold War, only instead of half a city, just a small Jewish village perched precariously on a hilltop, surrounded on all sides. Those who could massacre the Fogel family in their sleep, who could jubilantly hold up their blood stained hands to a cheering mob after murdering two IDF reservists in the Ramallah police station they stormed, might find such vulnerable outposts all too tempting.

And under such an arrangement, would there be Palestinian enclaves in Israeli territory? Through land swap deals, might Arab border towns go to the Palestinian side? After the Netanyahu government has insisted it must hold the Jordan Valley, it makes a mockery to talk of the need for defensible borders in one place while proposing such impossible borders elsewhere. The only comfort here is the thought that the Palestinians’ compulsive tendency for fleeing peace agreements means this kind of derangement will likely never come to fruition.       

Read Less

Holocaust Day Isn’t What it Used to Be

Across Europe, Holocaust Memorial Day just isn’t what it used to be. There are still the same sobering gatherings and television broadcasts reflecting on the horrors of a historical event, taking the opportunity to reaffirm the mantra of “Never Again.” Yet, at the same time there is a growing sense of a counter-movement to Holocaust Memorial Day. At times this takes the form of outright displays of Jew-hatred intentionally scheduled to coincide with the commemorations, as if in protest that murdered Jews should be mourned. More subtly there have also been concerted efforts to hijack and manipulate the message of the day.

Most sickening of all were the scenes from France. On the day prior to Holocaust Memorial Day Paris witnessed shocking scenes of open anti-Semitism during anti-government protests which police estimate to have been attended by some 17,000 people. The protest, titled by organizers the Day of Rage, witnessed crowds chanting “Jews out of France” and “The story of the gas chambers is bull****.” At around the same time social media sites were being flooded with pictures of individuals performing the quenelle, the modified Nazi salute, in front of Jewish and Holocaust-related sites. The quenelle was even performed in the Belgium Parliament, shortly before Holocaust Memorial Day, by MP Laurent Louis who also took the opportunity to state that the Holocaust had been setup and financed by Zionists.

Read More

Across Europe, Holocaust Memorial Day just isn’t what it used to be. There are still the same sobering gatherings and television broadcasts reflecting on the horrors of a historical event, taking the opportunity to reaffirm the mantra of “Never Again.” Yet, at the same time there is a growing sense of a counter-movement to Holocaust Memorial Day. At times this takes the form of outright displays of Jew-hatred intentionally scheduled to coincide with the commemorations, as if in protest that murdered Jews should be mourned. More subtly there have also been concerted efforts to hijack and manipulate the message of the day.

Most sickening of all were the scenes from France. On the day prior to Holocaust Memorial Day Paris witnessed shocking scenes of open anti-Semitism during anti-government protests which police estimate to have been attended by some 17,000 people. The protest, titled by organizers the Day of Rage, witnessed crowds chanting “Jews out of France” and “The story of the gas chambers is bull****.” At around the same time social media sites were being flooded with pictures of individuals performing the quenelle, the modified Nazi salute, in front of Jewish and Holocaust-related sites. The quenelle was even performed in the Belgium Parliament, shortly before Holocaust Memorial Day, by MP Laurent Louis who also took the opportunity to state that the Holocaust had been setup and financed by Zionists.

Other efforts to challenge Holocaust Memorial Day have at least attempted to pass themselves off under the seemingly legitimate guise of political correctness. One of the most concerted campaigns has been that of Muslim groups to have Holocaust Memorial Day replaced with Genocide Memorial Day, which uncannily falls just days before Holocaust commemorations. Mehdi Hasan has written about his shame at his own community’s efforts to belittle the Holocaust, highlighting how in past years the Muslim Council of Britain has boycotted the memorial day. This year the Islamic Human Rights Commission has held Genocide Day events in London, Paris, and Amsterdam. But as became apparent at one such previous event organized by the IHRC, the focus was not other genocides, but primarily the crimes of Zionism. During the Q&A it was asserted that the “real” Holocaust had been the wartime bombing of German cities and that Anne Frank had not been murdered, but had merely died of typhus.

Another increasingly popular Holocaust Memorial Day activity is using the day to highlight the cause of the Palestinians and lambast Jews and Israel. Days before commemorations, British MP David Ward was once again doing just that. Last year he accused “the Jews” of not having learned “the lessons of the Holocaust.” This year, speaking in Parliament, Ward asked if we should not use the day to remember “the millions of displaced Palestinians, still denied their right, to return to their homes.” This effort to sublimate the memory of murdered Jews beneath the political cause of the Palestinians was most overtly manifested in 2009 when a Swedish city canceled its Holocaust commemorations, with one organizer explaining, “We have been preoccupied and grief-stricken by the war in Gaza.”

There has also been the bizarre phenomenon of selecting what would seem to be the most unsuitable people for participation in the commemorations. At this year’s Holocaust Memorial Day it was announced that Prime Minister Cameron has established a new Holocaust Commission, but on that commission will sit Labour’s Ed Balls, who was exposed for dressing as a Nazi in his spare time. Meanwhile, London’s 2013 Holocaust Memorial Ceremony, attended by Mayor Boris Johnson and former Chief Rabbi Jonathan Sacks, featured as a speaker Muslim activist Hassan Farooq–a curious choice given that Farooq is on record praising Hitler and calling for the murder and gassing of Jews.

This year, however, the person who perhaps did the most for subtly perverting the meaning and spirit of Holocaust Memorial Day was the EU’s foreign-affairs representative Baroness Ashton. Ashton’s Holocaust Memorial Day statement took the opportunity to condemn racism, to praise those who had protected “their fellow citizens” and to declare that “respect of human rights and diversity lies at the heart of what the European Union stands for.” Yet, Jews and anti-Semitism were not mentioned once. Chilling to see the Jews erased from a statement that supposedly commemorates the event that attempted to erase them altogether.

Perhaps many Europeans have gotten tired of feeling guilty about the Holocaust, being reminded of their own societies’ participation, collaboration, or indifferent inaction to the murder of not just any people, but specifically the Jews. And remembering the Jews of World War Two only serves to remind them of the Jews still around today, and to remind them that they don’t much like these Jews either.  

Read Less

At the UN, NGOs Blame Israel for Plight of Palestinian Women

Today a UN committee looked into whether Israel was complying with the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW). And, of course, human rights groups came out in full force to blame discrimination against Palestinian women on Israel — including the poor quality of girls’ education, domestic violence, and early marriage.

According to an NGO Monitor press release this morning, left-wing human rights groups like Badil, Al Haq, and the Defense for Children International “submitted a statement to the Committee prior to the review, regarding women’s rights in Israel, the West Bank, and Gaza. In addition, Badil prepared a supplement to the original submission. Many of their claims reflect the de-legitimization campaigns involving NGOs.”

Any rational and honest observer can see that it’s absurd to hold Israel accountable for women’s rights violations that are rampant throughout the entire Muslim world — the same violations that can be seen in every country and territory surrounding Israel.

But in addition to faulting Israel for problems that it clearly has little control over, human rights groups ignored even more troubling examples of female mistreatment that are widespread in the Palestinian territories:

The submission omits crucial women’s rights abuses, failing to address domestic violence, rape, sexual assault, or murders termed “honor killings,” which in 1999 comprised more than two-thirds of all murders in Gaza and the West Bank, according to UNICEF. NGO Monitor also notes that WCLAC has received funding from the European Union, the Netherlands, Denmark, France, Spain, Belgium and Ireland, along with other individual European governments.  OxfamNOVIB (Netherlands), George Soros’s Open Society Institute, and DanChurchAid (budgeted by the Danish government) also have provided funding.

“We again see foreign European funding to NGOs contribute to the demonization of Israel in the international arena, instead of addressing real human rights abuses.” Steinberg adds. “In this text, these NGOs place their political agenda ahead of goals to protect women. The submission fails to address the repressive Hamas regime in Gaza, which conducts female genital mutilation, forbids women to walk on the beach alone or smoke in public, and forces female lawyers to wear a hijab in court.  This NGO submission also omits the issues of polygamy and sexual assaults on peace activists that occur in the PA. These critical issues are not addressed because they are outside the NGO narrative that obsessively focuses on demonizing Israel.”

This is just another illustration of how problematic these European-funded NGOs have become in Israel. Of course, the Knesset’s recent creation of an investigatory committee into NGO funding is probably not the best way to deal with the situation — but it’s easy to see why the government was pushed in that direction. Israel simply must do something to combat the false narratives of politicized human rights groups, which are growing more outlandish every the day. But as a democratic country that has an interest in protecting free speech, it really has to be very cautious about how it handles this.

Today a UN committee looked into whether Israel was complying with the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW). And, of course, human rights groups came out in full force to blame discrimination against Palestinian women on Israel — including the poor quality of girls’ education, domestic violence, and early marriage.

According to an NGO Monitor press release this morning, left-wing human rights groups like Badil, Al Haq, and the Defense for Children International “submitted a statement to the Committee prior to the review, regarding women’s rights in Israel, the West Bank, and Gaza. In addition, Badil prepared a supplement to the original submission. Many of their claims reflect the de-legitimization campaigns involving NGOs.”

Any rational and honest observer can see that it’s absurd to hold Israel accountable for women’s rights violations that are rampant throughout the entire Muslim world — the same violations that can be seen in every country and territory surrounding Israel.

But in addition to faulting Israel for problems that it clearly has little control over, human rights groups ignored even more troubling examples of female mistreatment that are widespread in the Palestinian territories:

The submission omits crucial women’s rights abuses, failing to address domestic violence, rape, sexual assault, or murders termed “honor killings,” which in 1999 comprised more than two-thirds of all murders in Gaza and the West Bank, according to UNICEF. NGO Monitor also notes that WCLAC has received funding from the European Union, the Netherlands, Denmark, France, Spain, Belgium and Ireland, along with other individual European governments.  OxfamNOVIB (Netherlands), George Soros’s Open Society Institute, and DanChurchAid (budgeted by the Danish government) also have provided funding.

“We again see foreign European funding to NGOs contribute to the demonization of Israel in the international arena, instead of addressing real human rights abuses.” Steinberg adds. “In this text, these NGOs place their political agenda ahead of goals to protect women. The submission fails to address the repressive Hamas regime in Gaza, which conducts female genital mutilation, forbids women to walk on the beach alone or smoke in public, and forces female lawyers to wear a hijab in court.  This NGO submission also omits the issues of polygamy and sexual assaults on peace activists that occur in the PA. These critical issues are not addressed because they are outside the NGO narrative that obsessively focuses on demonizing Israel.”

This is just another illustration of how problematic these European-funded NGOs have become in Israel. Of course, the Knesset’s recent creation of an investigatory committee into NGO funding is probably not the best way to deal with the situation — but it’s easy to see why the government was pushed in that direction. Israel simply must do something to combat the false narratives of politicized human rights groups, which are growing more outlandish every the day. But as a democratic country that has an interest in protecting free speech, it really has to be very cautious about how it handles this.

Read Less

An Exceptional Life

I admit to being a fan of obituaries, not only those of the most famous or infamous but also of those whose lives were not played out in daily headlines. They are tiny history lessons and morality tales. They are vivid reminders that ordinary people are capable of doing remarkable things, and they prod us to ask: what would I have done?

Today’s Wall Street Journal has a gem. We learn:

Shortly after German troops invaded Belgium in 1940, Gaston Vandermeerssche, a Belgian university student, bicycled 800 miles to the south of France and became a spy.

Mr. Vandermeerssche, who died Nov. 1 at age 89 in Milwaukee, joined the resistance and ferried microfilm documents over the Pyrenees to Spain, where intermediaries sent the information on to London.

Later in the war he helped organize the Dutch underground, which came to comprise hundreds of agents and safe houses. After his network was penetrated by the Germans, he tried to escape, but was arrested near the Spanish border. He spent 24 months being interrogated in prison, but by his own account never broke.

The details of his exploits are eye-popping. (“He became a courier, making weekly trips from Brussels to Toulouse to Barcelona. The last leg involved trudging over snowy passes in the Pyrenees by moonlight. The microfilms he carried bore information collected by members of the underground on shipyards, gun emplacements and the like.”) But it is also the details of his very unextraordinary life — the son of a furniture maker who ended life in the U.S. as an executive of Joseph Schlitz Brewing Co. — that remind us of the innate decency and capacity for greatness that ordinary people possess. Indeed, it was Vandermeerssche’s unexceptionalness that confounded his captors:

Mr. Vandermeerssche was arrested in Perpignan, France, in 1943 with a cache of microfilm stuffed into butter tubs. His German interrogators suspected his role in the Dutch underground, but couldn’t prove it.

“I was so young, the Germans did not believe that this kid was the head of that large network,” he said in the oral history. “And I told them, ‘Are you crazy? I couldn’t have done this.’ ”

Months of brutal interrogation and solitary confinement failed to break Mr. Vandermeerssche’s will. He was betrayed by another member of the underground, and was sentenced to death in a military trial. But he was freed by American troops near the end of the war.

Although shattered by his experiences in prison—he said he couldn’t eat or sleep normally for a decade—Mr. Vandermeerssche resumed his studies, earning a Ph.D. in physics.

You can understand my fondness for obits.

I admit to being a fan of obituaries, not only those of the most famous or infamous but also of those whose lives were not played out in daily headlines. They are tiny history lessons and morality tales. They are vivid reminders that ordinary people are capable of doing remarkable things, and they prod us to ask: what would I have done?

Today’s Wall Street Journal has a gem. We learn:

Shortly after German troops invaded Belgium in 1940, Gaston Vandermeerssche, a Belgian university student, bicycled 800 miles to the south of France and became a spy.

Mr. Vandermeerssche, who died Nov. 1 at age 89 in Milwaukee, joined the resistance and ferried microfilm documents over the Pyrenees to Spain, where intermediaries sent the information on to London.

Later in the war he helped organize the Dutch underground, which came to comprise hundreds of agents and safe houses. After his network was penetrated by the Germans, he tried to escape, but was arrested near the Spanish border. He spent 24 months being interrogated in prison, but by his own account never broke.

The details of his exploits are eye-popping. (“He became a courier, making weekly trips from Brussels to Toulouse to Barcelona. The last leg involved trudging over snowy passes in the Pyrenees by moonlight. The microfilms he carried bore information collected by members of the underground on shipyards, gun emplacements and the like.”) But it is also the details of his very unextraordinary life — the son of a furniture maker who ended life in the U.S. as an executive of Joseph Schlitz Brewing Co. — that remind us of the innate decency and capacity for greatness that ordinary people possess. Indeed, it was Vandermeerssche’s unexceptionalness that confounded his captors:

Mr. Vandermeerssche was arrested in Perpignan, France, in 1943 with a cache of microfilm stuffed into butter tubs. His German interrogators suspected his role in the Dutch underground, but couldn’t prove it.

“I was so young, the Germans did not believe that this kid was the head of that large network,” he said in the oral history. “And I told them, ‘Are you crazy? I couldn’t have done this.’ ”

Months of brutal interrogation and solitary confinement failed to break Mr. Vandermeerssche’s will. He was betrayed by another member of the underground, and was sentenced to death in a military trial. But he was freed by American troops near the end of the war.

Although shattered by his experiences in prison—he said he couldn’t eat or sleep normally for a decade—Mr. Vandermeerssche resumed his studies, earning a Ph.D. in physics.

You can understand my fondness for obits.

Read Less

Still Spying After All These Years

One thing the emerging Russian spy scandal demonstrates is that America really is one heck of a melting pot. Where else would you find neighbors referring to a couple whose names are Michael Zottoli and Patricia Mills as “the Russian parents” because of their Russian accents? Hey, it could happen. If a Russian ends up going by the name Patricia Mills for a legal or logical reason, America is where she’ll do it.

This is all to the good for social harmony, but it does make it easier for Russian agents to hide in plain sight. That’s one lesson from the spy incident. Another is the very basic lesson that the espionage is ongoing. It hasn’t stopped; it isn’t going to. Russia has never ceased being one of the two most espionage-invested nations in the world (the other is China). Significant infiltration by Russian spies has been reported over the past two years by Britain, France, Germany, the Czech Republic, Ukraine, and the Netherlands. The NATO headquarters in Belgium had to remove Russian spies in 2008 and 2009. Japan and Australia have dealt with influxes of Russian spies in the last several years. Smaller-scale incidents have occurred in Canada and India.

But there are two other things we should pay attention to in the break-up of this spy ring. One is that the Russians considered it worthwhile to cultivate agents in interactive occupations that facilitate logistics, and from which access might be gained to individuals with primary knowledge of political and defense topics. People in real estate, travel planning, and opinion journalism fit this role. I see a lot of bloggers today poking fun at this method — and at the conduct of the ring in general — but this is classic, professional intelligence craft. Several of the 11 who have been arrested would more correctly be called agents than spies, but that is really the point: what we are seeing the outlines of is not a single, targeted campaign but a routine modus operandi.

The other aspect of interest is the alleged participation in the Russian ring of El Diario writer Vicky Pelaez and her husband Juan Lazaro. Latin American media are reporting that Pelaez is Peruvian and Lazaro is from Uruguay; Pelaez was reportedly a well-known TV reporter in Peru in the 1980s. She, at least, seems to be a person with a valid history, using the name she was born with. That makes her unusual in this group. It suggests her choice to act as an agent for Russia was prompted by political motivations.

Others have noted the very left-leaning tendency of her positions. She was quoted at length in a recent press release by Fidel Castro; in 2003, she penned an explanation of the putative  “Trotskyist roots of neoconservatism” that sparked furious debate among serious socialists over her invocation of Trotsky’s concept of “permanent revolution.” This is an ideological leftist who knows the theory and lingo.

And when she accepted a spying assignment, she accepted it from Russia. Her arrest certainly doesn’t implicate other left-wing journalists in espionage. But this echo from the Cold War ought to give us pause. Russia is no longer the global standard-bearer of Marxism, but it appears Marxists from elsewhere are still spying for Russia.

One thing the emerging Russian spy scandal demonstrates is that America really is one heck of a melting pot. Where else would you find neighbors referring to a couple whose names are Michael Zottoli and Patricia Mills as “the Russian parents” because of their Russian accents? Hey, it could happen. If a Russian ends up going by the name Patricia Mills for a legal or logical reason, America is where she’ll do it.

This is all to the good for social harmony, but it does make it easier for Russian agents to hide in plain sight. That’s one lesson from the spy incident. Another is the very basic lesson that the espionage is ongoing. It hasn’t stopped; it isn’t going to. Russia has never ceased being one of the two most espionage-invested nations in the world (the other is China). Significant infiltration by Russian spies has been reported over the past two years by Britain, France, Germany, the Czech Republic, Ukraine, and the Netherlands. The NATO headquarters in Belgium had to remove Russian spies in 2008 and 2009. Japan and Australia have dealt with influxes of Russian spies in the last several years. Smaller-scale incidents have occurred in Canada and India.

But there are two other things we should pay attention to in the break-up of this spy ring. One is that the Russians considered it worthwhile to cultivate agents in interactive occupations that facilitate logistics, and from which access might be gained to individuals with primary knowledge of political and defense topics. People in real estate, travel planning, and opinion journalism fit this role. I see a lot of bloggers today poking fun at this method — and at the conduct of the ring in general — but this is classic, professional intelligence craft. Several of the 11 who have been arrested would more correctly be called agents than spies, but that is really the point: what we are seeing the outlines of is not a single, targeted campaign but a routine modus operandi.

The other aspect of interest is the alleged participation in the Russian ring of El Diario writer Vicky Pelaez and her husband Juan Lazaro. Latin American media are reporting that Pelaez is Peruvian and Lazaro is from Uruguay; Pelaez was reportedly a well-known TV reporter in Peru in the 1980s. She, at least, seems to be a person with a valid history, using the name she was born with. That makes her unusual in this group. It suggests her choice to act as an agent for Russia was prompted by political motivations.

Others have noted the very left-leaning tendency of her positions. She was quoted at length in a recent press release by Fidel Castro; in 2003, she penned an explanation of the putative  “Trotskyist roots of neoconservatism” that sparked furious debate among serious socialists over her invocation of Trotsky’s concept of “permanent revolution.” This is an ideological leftist who knows the theory and lingo.

And when she accepted a spying assignment, she accepted it from Russia. Her arrest certainly doesn’t implicate other left-wing journalists in espionage. But this echo from the Cold War ought to give us pause. Russia is no longer the global standard-bearer of Marxism, but it appears Marxists from elsewhere are still spying for Russia.

Read Less

Bibi’s “Note” to Obama

In a must-read and quite delightful column, Bret Stephens pens a Bibi Netanyahu “note” (not really, but it’s a doozy). The heart of it is this explanation for what’s wrong with Obama’s Middle East gambit:

Mr. President: Most Israelis don’t trust you, the way they trusted George W. Bush or [even] Bill Clinton. And let me tell you why that’s a problem.

When my predecessor Arik Sharon pulled out of Gaza, he didn’t do so through negotiations with the Palestinians. Those negotiations fail time and again, in part because the Palestinians figure they can hold out for more, in part because they’re cutting their own deals with Hamas.

So what Sharon did was negotiate with you, the United States. And what he got was a promise, in writing, that the U.S. would not insist on a full withdrawal to the 1967 lines in any final settlement agreement.

My problem is that Hillary disavowed that promise last year, and you did so again by treating a neighborhood in Jerusalem as a “settlement.” So when you pledge your commitment to Israel’s everlasting security, how can we take your word for it, or know that your successor won’t also renege? We don’t want to wind up like Belgium before World War I, relying on phony guarantees of neutrality.

Stephens/”Bibi” has some advice to Obama: start “building some serious trust with Israelis if you mean to give me the political tools to negotiate with the Palestinians.” No, Obama’s not going to drive Bibi from office, but he will, Stephens/”Bibi” argues, cause the Jewish state to  lose faith in the U.S. president where it matters most — on the Iran nuclear threat. (“Hillary gave a fine speech at AIPAC yesterday, but we all know that you’re already planning on containing a nuclear Iran. That’s not acceptable to me.”) Yes, “acceptable” is the word the Obami toss around like confetti, but it is fast becoming meaningless as the Obami’s actions appear utterly divorced from the preferred intention of depriving the Iranians of a nuclear weapon.

This is an argument of reverse linkage. You recall that the Obami were all about linking progress on the Palestinian issue to a successful effort to block the Iranian nuclear program. Yes, it was a non sequitur, but that’s what they said. In reality, the Obami’s Middle East policy is communicating a different message to Israel: you’re going to have to take care of Iran on your own. The U.S. is so enamored of getting along in the Muslim World and so unwilling to draw a line with the mullahs that Israel will/is faced with a choice: do nothing (which is the same as waiting around for the Obami to act) or take military action themselves.

By his recent verbal assault, Obama meant perhaps to paralyze Israel, creating uncertainty as to whether the U.S. would be with Israel if it came down to a military action against Iran. But Israel cannot be paralyzed into inactivity (for reasons amply stated by Alan Dershowitz on the same newspaper page). The result then of all the Obami carrying on is to create a less secure U.S.-Israel relationship and to spur Israel to act unilaterally. Unfortunately, that part isn’t fictional.

In a must-read and quite delightful column, Bret Stephens pens a Bibi Netanyahu “note” (not really, but it’s a doozy). The heart of it is this explanation for what’s wrong with Obama’s Middle East gambit:

Mr. President: Most Israelis don’t trust you, the way they trusted George W. Bush or [even] Bill Clinton. And let me tell you why that’s a problem.

When my predecessor Arik Sharon pulled out of Gaza, he didn’t do so through negotiations with the Palestinians. Those negotiations fail time and again, in part because the Palestinians figure they can hold out for more, in part because they’re cutting their own deals with Hamas.

So what Sharon did was negotiate with you, the United States. And what he got was a promise, in writing, that the U.S. would not insist on a full withdrawal to the 1967 lines in any final settlement agreement.

My problem is that Hillary disavowed that promise last year, and you did so again by treating a neighborhood in Jerusalem as a “settlement.” So when you pledge your commitment to Israel’s everlasting security, how can we take your word for it, or know that your successor won’t also renege? We don’t want to wind up like Belgium before World War I, relying on phony guarantees of neutrality.

Stephens/”Bibi” has some advice to Obama: start “building some serious trust with Israelis if you mean to give me the political tools to negotiate with the Palestinians.” No, Obama’s not going to drive Bibi from office, but he will, Stephens/”Bibi” argues, cause the Jewish state to  lose faith in the U.S. president where it matters most — on the Iran nuclear threat. (“Hillary gave a fine speech at AIPAC yesterday, but we all know that you’re already planning on containing a nuclear Iran. That’s not acceptable to me.”) Yes, “acceptable” is the word the Obami toss around like confetti, but it is fast becoming meaningless as the Obami’s actions appear utterly divorced from the preferred intention of depriving the Iranians of a nuclear weapon.

This is an argument of reverse linkage. You recall that the Obami were all about linking progress on the Palestinian issue to a successful effort to block the Iranian nuclear program. Yes, it was a non sequitur, but that’s what they said. In reality, the Obami’s Middle East policy is communicating a different message to Israel: you’re going to have to take care of Iran on your own. The U.S. is so enamored of getting along in the Muslim World and so unwilling to draw a line with the mullahs that Israel will/is faced with a choice: do nothing (which is the same as waiting around for the Obami to act) or take military action themselves.

By his recent verbal assault, Obama meant perhaps to paralyze Israel, creating uncertainty as to whether the U.S. would be with Israel if it came down to a military action against Iran. But Israel cannot be paralyzed into inactivity (for reasons amply stated by Alan Dershowitz on the same newspaper page). The result then of all the Obami carrying on is to create a less secure U.S.-Israel relationship and to spur Israel to act unilaterally. Unfortunately, that part isn’t fictional.

Read Less

Clintonistas Rub It In

I suppose the Clintonistas are entitled to gloat. They said Obama wasn’t ready for prime time. They tried to argue that “experience” mattered and that “change” was a cotton-candy campaign slogan. But the Democrats didn’t listen. And now Obama is running the party into the ground. So it shouldn’t surprise us that up pops James Carville, Clinton confidant extraordinaire, to rub it in:

Veteran Democratic strategist James Carville said Monday that if President Obama is unable to push a health-care bill through the Congress it will be his Waterloo.

Carville echoed the term used by Republican Sen. Jim Demint, of South Carolina, who last summer made the comparison between the health-care fight and the decisive 1815 battle in modern-day Belgium that broke the French army under Napoleon Bonaparte.

“If the bill loses, it proves Senator DeMint right. It will, I think, by and large, be a lot of the president’s Waterloo, and I think a lot of Democrats realize that,” Carville said, speaking on ABC’s “Good Morning America.”

Nor was he willing to indulge in the Obami spin that the votes are there for the president’s wildly unpopular health-care scheme. Carville, on Nancy Pelosi’s vote-counting, pronounced: “I’m glad to hear that she’s confident. I guess she knows more about where our votes are than anybody else. … But the math is pretty daunting. I don’t think it’s impossible but it’s going to be difficult. This is going to be a real, real fight.” The only thing he didn’t slip in was a mention of that 3 a.m. phone call.

One can speculate that the Clintons are enjoying a bit of an I-told-you-so jag. But in all that glee, Bill and Hillary should recall that they didn’t get HillaryCare through either and that they lost to this guy. But it does suggest that there are those in the Democratic party — call them “realists” — who have figured out that Obama is on the verge of a humiliating defeat. They know that the spin about “getting the votes before bringing the bill to the floor” doesn’t mean that the votes are gettable, only that the bill could very well never come to a vote on the House floor.

If Obama suffers a massive defeat and can’t figure out a fallback plan to disguise the defeat, Hillary Clinton, Evan Bayh, and perhaps a few others may be contemplating how to position themselves, you know, just in case there’s a popular groundswell of Democratic support for a different candidate in 2012. We’re a long way from that, however. First we have to see if Obama and Pelosi know something no one else does, and if not, whether they can come up with an escape plan that doesn’t look like an escape plan. But in the meantime, the Clintonistas sure are having a good time of it.

I suppose the Clintonistas are entitled to gloat. They said Obama wasn’t ready for prime time. They tried to argue that “experience” mattered and that “change” was a cotton-candy campaign slogan. But the Democrats didn’t listen. And now Obama is running the party into the ground. So it shouldn’t surprise us that up pops James Carville, Clinton confidant extraordinaire, to rub it in:

Veteran Democratic strategist James Carville said Monday that if President Obama is unable to push a health-care bill through the Congress it will be his Waterloo.

Carville echoed the term used by Republican Sen. Jim Demint, of South Carolina, who last summer made the comparison between the health-care fight and the decisive 1815 battle in modern-day Belgium that broke the French army under Napoleon Bonaparte.

“If the bill loses, it proves Senator DeMint right. It will, I think, by and large, be a lot of the president’s Waterloo, and I think a lot of Democrats realize that,” Carville said, speaking on ABC’s “Good Morning America.”

Nor was he willing to indulge in the Obami spin that the votes are there for the president’s wildly unpopular health-care scheme. Carville, on Nancy Pelosi’s vote-counting, pronounced: “I’m glad to hear that she’s confident. I guess she knows more about where our votes are than anybody else. … But the math is pretty daunting. I don’t think it’s impossible but it’s going to be difficult. This is going to be a real, real fight.” The only thing he didn’t slip in was a mention of that 3 a.m. phone call.

One can speculate that the Clintons are enjoying a bit of an I-told-you-so jag. But in all that glee, Bill and Hillary should recall that they didn’t get HillaryCare through either and that they lost to this guy. But it does suggest that there are those in the Democratic party — call them “realists” — who have figured out that Obama is on the verge of a humiliating defeat. They know that the spin about “getting the votes before bringing the bill to the floor” doesn’t mean that the votes are gettable, only that the bill could very well never come to a vote on the House floor.

If Obama suffers a massive defeat and can’t figure out a fallback plan to disguise the defeat, Hillary Clinton, Evan Bayh, and perhaps a few others may be contemplating how to position themselves, you know, just in case there’s a popular groundswell of Democratic support for a different candidate in 2012. We’re a long way from that, however. First we have to see if Obama and Pelosi know something no one else does, and if not, whether they can come up with an escape plan that doesn’t look like an escape plan. But in the meantime, the Clintonistas sure are having a good time of it.

Read Less

Europe to Step Up?

For quite a while — for decades, in fact — it has been fashionable to predict the eclipse of American power. What’s changed over the years is the identity of the country that would knock us off the top perch. In the 1930s and for a long time afterward progressive opinion viewed the Soviet Union as the power that would rise to dominance. Then it was Japan. Now it’s China. But another popular claimant for the top spot has also been Europe, especially since European integration has gotten tighter over the course of the last decade. Many pundits expect — and no doubt hope — that the EU will supplant the U.S. as the world’s most influential actor. There are many problems with this analysis but not the least of them is the EU itself, which shows no desire to wield substantial military power and can’t even achieve much policy coherence to make use of the hard and soft power at its disposal.

The latest evidence of this chronic shortcoming is the selection of the EU’s leadership under its new constitution. As the New York Times notes, “The combination of Belgium’s prime minister, Herman Van Rompuy, for the bloc’s presidential post and Catherine Ashton, the European commissioner for trade, who is British, as foreign policy chief leaves the Union without the high-profile leadership for which many had yearned.”

It would have been a very different situation if Tony Blair had been chosen for the top spot and if, say, Carl Bildt, the former Swedish prime minister and foreign minister, had been chosen as the foreign-policy representative. They would have been a high-profile duo who could have maximized European power. So why choose instead two unknowns of little stature or influence? One suspects that the Europeans chose Van Rompuy and Ashton precisely because they are unlikely to threaten national prerogatives over foreign policy. For all their talk of unity and their actions to achieve some in economic policy, European states remain intensely nationalistic when it comes to the core prerogatives of a nation-state, such as defense and foreign policy. They have little desire to subcontract out those responsibilities to bureaucrats in Brussels. As long as that remains the dominant attitude on the continent — and it shows little sign of changing — the nations of the EU will never achieve the aggregate power that, in theory, the size of their population and economy (both larger than those of the U.S.) would entitle them.

For quite a while — for decades, in fact — it has been fashionable to predict the eclipse of American power. What’s changed over the years is the identity of the country that would knock us off the top perch. In the 1930s and for a long time afterward progressive opinion viewed the Soviet Union as the power that would rise to dominance. Then it was Japan. Now it’s China. But another popular claimant for the top spot has also been Europe, especially since European integration has gotten tighter over the course of the last decade. Many pundits expect — and no doubt hope — that the EU will supplant the U.S. as the world’s most influential actor. There are many problems with this analysis but not the least of them is the EU itself, which shows no desire to wield substantial military power and can’t even achieve much policy coherence to make use of the hard and soft power at its disposal.

The latest evidence of this chronic shortcoming is the selection of the EU’s leadership under its new constitution. As the New York Times notes, “The combination of Belgium’s prime minister, Herman Van Rompuy, for the bloc’s presidential post and Catherine Ashton, the European commissioner for trade, who is British, as foreign policy chief leaves the Union without the high-profile leadership for which many had yearned.”

It would have been a very different situation if Tony Blair had been chosen for the top spot and if, say, Carl Bildt, the former Swedish prime minister and foreign minister, had been chosen as the foreign-policy representative. They would have been a high-profile duo who could have maximized European power. So why choose instead two unknowns of little stature or influence? One suspects that the Europeans chose Van Rompuy and Ashton precisely because they are unlikely to threaten national prerogatives over foreign policy. For all their talk of unity and their actions to achieve some in economic policy, European states remain intensely nationalistic when it comes to the core prerogatives of a nation-state, such as defense and foreign policy. They have little desire to subcontract out those responsibilities to bureaucrats in Brussels. As long as that remains the dominant attitude on the continent — and it shows little sign of changing — the nations of the EU will never achieve the aggregate power that, in theory, the size of their population and economy (both larger than those of the U.S.) would entitle them.

Read Less

Bush, NATO, and “Losing Face”

In spite of Vladimir Putin’s wishes, George W. Bush has succeeded in getting NATO’s endorsement for his plan to erect a missile shield in Europe. Quite a remarkable feat for a man who’s led his country into a succession of criminal military disasters. After all, hasn’t Bush done incalculable damage to America’s image abroad?

Not according to NATO. The organization’s leaders will be releasing a statement recognizing “the substantial contribution to the protection of allies . . . to be provided by the U.S.-led system,” according to senior American officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity ahead of the statement’s release. Shocking praise for a nation which has lost so much face internationally.

Putin, sadly, did succeed in getting enough member states to block Georgia’s and Ukraine’s paths toward NATO membership. Bush had this to say:

NATO’s door must remain open to other nations in Europe that share our love for liberty and demonstrate a commitment to reform and seek to strengthen their ties with the trans-Atlantic community . . . We must give other nations seeking membership a full and fair hearing.

Strange words for a unilateralist cowboy bent on bulldozing his way across the globe.

For years, pundits and politicians have been bemoaning America’s loss of global credibility under the leadership of George W. Bush. Who hasn’t heard about all the “rebuilding” of trust that awaits America in the near future. Hillary Clinton’s website proclaims:

The next president’s most urgent task will be to restore America’s standing in the world to promote our interests, ensure our security, and advance our values.

Is it really the restoration of America’s image that should be on Hillary’s mind?

Her website statement goes on:

America is stronger when we lead the world through alliances and build our foreign policy on a strong foundation of bipartisan consensus.

Kind of like what Bush just did in Bucharest.

And of course, as Senator Patrick Leahy said in his endorsement of Barack Obama, “We need a president who can reintroduce America to the world. . . .” But there’s apparently stronger pro-American sentiment to be found in the most skeptical corners of NATO’s Belgium headquarters than in the pulpit of Barack Obama’s Chicago church.

Bush’s greatest foreign policy misjudgment was not one of exclusion and force, but rather inclusion and trust: He thought, a few years back, that the U.S. had a partner in Putin. The damage of that misjudgment, it’s heartening to see, can be somewhat mitigated by America’s standing as a leader among free nations.

In spite of Vladimir Putin’s wishes, George W. Bush has succeeded in getting NATO’s endorsement for his plan to erect a missile shield in Europe. Quite a remarkable feat for a man who’s led his country into a succession of criminal military disasters. After all, hasn’t Bush done incalculable damage to America’s image abroad?

Not according to NATO. The organization’s leaders will be releasing a statement recognizing “the substantial contribution to the protection of allies . . . to be provided by the U.S.-led system,” according to senior American officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity ahead of the statement’s release. Shocking praise for a nation which has lost so much face internationally.

Putin, sadly, did succeed in getting enough member states to block Georgia’s and Ukraine’s paths toward NATO membership. Bush had this to say:

NATO’s door must remain open to other nations in Europe that share our love for liberty and demonstrate a commitment to reform and seek to strengthen their ties with the trans-Atlantic community . . . We must give other nations seeking membership a full and fair hearing.

Strange words for a unilateralist cowboy bent on bulldozing his way across the globe.

For years, pundits and politicians have been bemoaning America’s loss of global credibility under the leadership of George W. Bush. Who hasn’t heard about all the “rebuilding” of trust that awaits America in the near future. Hillary Clinton’s website proclaims:

The next president’s most urgent task will be to restore America’s standing in the world to promote our interests, ensure our security, and advance our values.

Is it really the restoration of America’s image that should be on Hillary’s mind?

Her website statement goes on:

America is stronger when we lead the world through alliances and build our foreign policy on a strong foundation of bipartisan consensus.

Kind of like what Bush just did in Bucharest.

And of course, as Senator Patrick Leahy said in his endorsement of Barack Obama, “We need a president who can reintroduce America to the world. . . .” But there’s apparently stronger pro-American sentiment to be found in the most skeptical corners of NATO’s Belgium headquarters than in the pulpit of Barack Obama’s Chicago church.

Bush’s greatest foreign policy misjudgment was not one of exclusion and force, but rather inclusion and trust: He thought, a few years back, that the U.S. had a partner in Putin. The damage of that misjudgment, it’s heartening to see, can be somewhat mitigated by America’s standing as a leader among free nations.

Read Less

Belgium and Baghdad

This Fareed Zakaria column complaining about the slowness of political progress in Iraq put me to mind of this article I read last week about Belgium.

What’s the connection between a small, stable democracy in Europe and a big, unstable proto-democracy in the Middle East? It may not be obvious at first glance. But it seems that not so far beneath Belgium’s placid surface lurks some major discord. In fact, it has taken Belgian politicians nine months since the last general election to finally settle on a new prime minister. That is largely due to frictions between the Francophone majority and the Fleming minority.

As the Financial Times reports:

These frictions between the country’s regions were at the heart of an embarrassing 192-day political impasse after the election. At the height of the post-poll deadlock, the longest in the country’s history, there were fears that Belgium might even split in two.

If even boring old Belgium finds it hard to reach an amicable accord between differing ethnic groups, imagine how much harder the task is in Iraq, where it’s literally a matter of life or death. Zakaria is right that ethno-sectarian tensions remain a major problem in Iraq, though I think he is wrong to say that the situation has “not improved much.” While he can quibble about the details, there is no doubt that the Iraqi parliament has passed some important reconciliation laws. Even without the passage of a hydrocarbon law, moreover, the central government still manages to share oil revenues with the provinces (though it’s true that government at all levels has problems actually spending its money).

And then there is undeniable fact that some 90,000 men, mainly Sunnis, have joined the Concerned Local Citizens groups to protect their neighborhoods against terrorists. There is no question that tensions linger between these groups and the Shiite-dominated central government. But the situation is still much better than it was a year or two ago when many of the CLC members were actively fighting against the government and its American protectors.

Zakaria is undoubtedly right that even in a best-case scenario, Iraq will require a long-term presence of Americans “in the loop” in order to safeguard the very tenuous progress being made toward a modus vivendi among the competing factions. But that beats the alternative, which is an all-out civil war. The experience of Belgium should make us realize how much patience is required when dealing with deep-rooted tensions and how agonizingly slow political progress can be. That is not, however, an argument for throwing up our hands in despair, as the Democratic presidential candidates seem to be doing.

This Fareed Zakaria column complaining about the slowness of political progress in Iraq put me to mind of this article I read last week about Belgium.

What’s the connection between a small, stable democracy in Europe and a big, unstable proto-democracy in the Middle East? It may not be obvious at first glance. But it seems that not so far beneath Belgium’s placid surface lurks some major discord. In fact, it has taken Belgian politicians nine months since the last general election to finally settle on a new prime minister. That is largely due to frictions between the Francophone majority and the Fleming minority.

As the Financial Times reports:

These frictions between the country’s regions were at the heart of an embarrassing 192-day political impasse after the election. At the height of the post-poll deadlock, the longest in the country’s history, there were fears that Belgium might even split in two.

If even boring old Belgium finds it hard to reach an amicable accord between differing ethnic groups, imagine how much harder the task is in Iraq, where it’s literally a matter of life or death. Zakaria is right that ethno-sectarian tensions remain a major problem in Iraq, though I think he is wrong to say that the situation has “not improved much.” While he can quibble about the details, there is no doubt that the Iraqi parliament has passed some important reconciliation laws. Even without the passage of a hydrocarbon law, moreover, the central government still manages to share oil revenues with the provinces (though it’s true that government at all levels has problems actually spending its money).

And then there is undeniable fact that some 90,000 men, mainly Sunnis, have joined the Concerned Local Citizens groups to protect their neighborhoods against terrorists. There is no question that tensions linger between these groups and the Shiite-dominated central government. But the situation is still much better than it was a year or two ago when many of the CLC members were actively fighting against the government and its American protectors.

Zakaria is undoubtedly right that even in a best-case scenario, Iraq will require a long-term presence of Americans “in the loop” in order to safeguard the very tenuous progress being made toward a modus vivendi among the competing factions. But that beats the alternative, which is an all-out civil war. The experience of Belgium should make us realize how much patience is required when dealing with deep-rooted tensions and how agonizingly slow political progress can be. That is not, however, an argument for throwing up our hands in despair, as the Democratic presidential candidates seem to be doing.

Read Less

Al-Manar Correspondent Arrested

In a series of counterterrorism raids undertaken earlier this week, Moroccan authorities arrested 32 individuals suspected of planning attacks against domestic targets. Among those arrested was Abdelhafid Sriti, a correspondent for Hezbollah’s al-Manar satellite television station.

In light of Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah’s threat of an “open war” on Israel in response to the assassination of Imad Mughniyeh last week, Sriti’s arrest appears significant. Nasrallah’s eulogy at Mughniyeh’s funeral has been interpreted as foreshadowing attacks on Jewish and Israeli interests abroad—Hezbollah doesn’t distinguish between the two—and the Jewish community of Morocco has been the previous target of Islamist terrorists. On May 16, 2003, a Jewish cemetery, Jewish community center, and Jewish-owned Italian restaurant, among other Casablanca targets, were hit in the deadliest series of terrorist attacks in Morocco’s history. Indeed, it is possible that Hezbollah has already begun planning its response to the Mughniyeh assassination, deploying its “media wing” in the immediate service of terror against one of the Muslim world’s most freely accessible—and therefore vulnerable—Jewish communities.

More concretely, however, the apparent involvement of an al-Manar correspondent in a Moroccan terrorist ring should serve as a stark reminder of the international dimension of Hezbollah’s operations. Far from “Lebanonizing”—i.e., increasingly participating in domestic Lebanese politics and thereby moderating, as many “experts” have claimed—Hezbollah has continually developed its relationship with Islamist organizations worldwide for the enhancement of its terrorist capabilities. In this vein, the Moroccan Islamist Badil al-Hadari party has been implicated in planning the attacks, while the Moroccan government has arrested Abdelkader Belliraj—a Moroccan national who lived in Belgium—as the network’s leader. In short, Hezbollah has found good company with militant Islamists well beyond Lebanon’s borders.

Finally, Sriti’s arrest should reinforce the extent to which al-Manar plays a critical role in Hezbollah’s terrorist activities—not only in the satellite transmission of radical Islamist ideology, but in the operational aspects of planning attacks. For this reason, policymakers should closely monitor Morocco’s investigation of Sriti, as this might provide key details regarding al-Manar’s non-media activities.

UPDATE: The AP is now confirming that the arrested Moroccan terrorist ring was targeting local Jews, though bizarrely omits the fact that an al-Manar correspondent was among those arrested.

In a series of counterterrorism raids undertaken earlier this week, Moroccan authorities arrested 32 individuals suspected of planning attacks against domestic targets. Among those arrested was Abdelhafid Sriti, a correspondent for Hezbollah’s al-Manar satellite television station.

In light of Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah’s threat of an “open war” on Israel in response to the assassination of Imad Mughniyeh last week, Sriti’s arrest appears significant. Nasrallah’s eulogy at Mughniyeh’s funeral has been interpreted as foreshadowing attacks on Jewish and Israeli interests abroad—Hezbollah doesn’t distinguish between the two—and the Jewish community of Morocco has been the previous target of Islamist terrorists. On May 16, 2003, a Jewish cemetery, Jewish community center, and Jewish-owned Italian restaurant, among other Casablanca targets, were hit in the deadliest series of terrorist attacks in Morocco’s history. Indeed, it is possible that Hezbollah has already begun planning its response to the Mughniyeh assassination, deploying its “media wing” in the immediate service of terror against one of the Muslim world’s most freely accessible—and therefore vulnerable—Jewish communities.

More concretely, however, the apparent involvement of an al-Manar correspondent in a Moroccan terrorist ring should serve as a stark reminder of the international dimension of Hezbollah’s operations. Far from “Lebanonizing”—i.e., increasingly participating in domestic Lebanese politics and thereby moderating, as many “experts” have claimed—Hezbollah has continually developed its relationship with Islamist organizations worldwide for the enhancement of its terrorist capabilities. In this vein, the Moroccan Islamist Badil al-Hadari party has been implicated in planning the attacks, while the Moroccan government has arrested Abdelkader Belliraj—a Moroccan national who lived in Belgium—as the network’s leader. In short, Hezbollah has found good company with militant Islamists well beyond Lebanon’s borders.

Finally, Sriti’s arrest should reinforce the extent to which al-Manar plays a critical role in Hezbollah’s terrorist activities—not only in the satellite transmission of radical Islamist ideology, but in the operational aspects of planning attacks. For this reason, policymakers should closely monitor Morocco’s investigation of Sriti, as this might provide key details regarding al-Manar’s non-media activities.

UPDATE: The AP is now confirming that the arrested Moroccan terrorist ring was targeting local Jews, though bizarrely omits the fact that an al-Manar correspondent was among those arrested.

Read Less

Britain’s Olympic Kowtow

Chinese Olympic officials said yesterday they supported bans on athletes engaging in political protests. “I hope that the Olympic spirit will be followed and also the relevant IOC regulations will be followed in every regard,” said Sun Weide, spokesman of the Beijing Organizing Committee for the Olympic Games. Sun’s statement came in the midst of an uproar over the attempted gagging of British athletes.

On Saturday, the Mail, the London paper, reported that athletes qualifying for the British Olympic team would be required to sign a contract preventing them from speaking out on “any politically sensitive issues.” Athletes not agreeing to the ban of the British Olympic Association would not be allowed to travel to Beijing. Those who broke the ban while at the Olympics would be shipped home on the next available plane. On Sunday, British Olympic chief Simon Clegg said, in the face of widespread condemnation, that he would review the wording of the contract and agreed that the proposed language “appears to have gone beyond the provision of the Olympic Charter.”

The Olympic Charter forbids demonstrations or propaganda at Olympic sites, but the British ban would have gone further, especially if viewed in the context of China, where most topics are considered “political” and virtually everything is “sensitive.” A British competitor could have found himself on the first flight home for commenting on, for instance, polluted air or tainted food.

Up to now, only Belgium and New Zealand have prohibited political opinions from their Olympic athletes. Clegg’s hasty retreat means that, unlike in 1938 when the British soccer team was forced to give the stiff-armed Nazi salute in Berlin, the British will not, in the words of former sports minister David Mellor, be “sucking up to dictators.”

Chinese dictators, no matter how obsessive or efficient, will be unable to stage a politics-free Games on their own. They will need help in suppressing democracy advocates, Tibetan activists, and Falun Gong adherents, and so far some Western nations seem willing to lend a hand. Unfortunately, it does not appear that we can engage China’s rulers without being compromised by them. At least there is now one reason we can thank the craven and utterly reprehensible British Olympic Association. Simon Clegg and his colleagues show us that sometimes the price of good relations with bad leaders is much too high.

Chinese Olympic officials said yesterday they supported bans on athletes engaging in political protests. “I hope that the Olympic spirit will be followed and also the relevant IOC regulations will be followed in every regard,” said Sun Weide, spokesman of the Beijing Organizing Committee for the Olympic Games. Sun’s statement came in the midst of an uproar over the attempted gagging of British athletes.

On Saturday, the Mail, the London paper, reported that athletes qualifying for the British Olympic team would be required to sign a contract preventing them from speaking out on “any politically sensitive issues.” Athletes not agreeing to the ban of the British Olympic Association would not be allowed to travel to Beijing. Those who broke the ban while at the Olympics would be shipped home on the next available plane. On Sunday, British Olympic chief Simon Clegg said, in the face of widespread condemnation, that he would review the wording of the contract and agreed that the proposed language “appears to have gone beyond the provision of the Olympic Charter.”

The Olympic Charter forbids demonstrations or propaganda at Olympic sites, but the British ban would have gone further, especially if viewed in the context of China, where most topics are considered “political” and virtually everything is “sensitive.” A British competitor could have found himself on the first flight home for commenting on, for instance, polluted air or tainted food.

Up to now, only Belgium and New Zealand have prohibited political opinions from their Olympic athletes. Clegg’s hasty retreat means that, unlike in 1938 when the British soccer team was forced to give the stiff-armed Nazi salute in Berlin, the British will not, in the words of former sports minister David Mellor, be “sucking up to dictators.”

Chinese dictators, no matter how obsessive or efficient, will be unable to stage a politics-free Games on their own. They will need help in suppressing democracy advocates, Tibetan activists, and Falun Gong adherents, and so far some Western nations seem willing to lend a hand. Unfortunately, it does not appear that we can engage China’s rulers without being compromised by them. At least there is now one reason we can thank the craven and utterly reprehensible British Olympic Association. Simon Clegg and his colleagues show us that sometimes the price of good relations with bad leaders is much too high.

Read Less

Caveat Emptor

Are there people out there who take Wikipedia seriously as a source of objective information? There shouldn’t be, but unfortunately there are. In fact, lots of students use it a source of first resort. It’s so popular, that whenever you type almost any subject into Google, the first hit is usually for a Wikipedia entry.

Yet disinformation abounds, often motivated by animus or prejudice. There is, for instance, the by-now famous story of a former assistant to Robert F. Kennedy who was brazenly—and completely without foundation—accused on Wikipedia of complicity in the assassinations of both JFK and RFK. (For this sorry tale, see his article.)

A friend has now called my attention to another bizarre distortion, this one an attempt not to besmirch the character of one man but of an entire country. If you look up the Philippine War (1899-1902) you get this entry. And in the very first paragraph you get this statement: “The U.S. conquest of the Philippines has been described as a genocide, and resulted in the death of 1.4 million Filipinos (out of a total population of seven million).”

I was pretty startled to read this. I have written a whole chapter on the war in my book, The Savage Wars of Peace, and I have never once heard that the U.S. was guilty of genocide. How could it have entirely escaped my attention?

Read More

Are there people out there who take Wikipedia seriously as a source of objective information? There shouldn’t be, but unfortunately there are. In fact, lots of students use it a source of first resort. It’s so popular, that whenever you type almost any subject into Google, the first hit is usually for a Wikipedia entry.

Yet disinformation abounds, often motivated by animus or prejudice. There is, for instance, the by-now famous story of a former assistant to Robert F. Kennedy who was brazenly—and completely without foundation—accused on Wikipedia of complicity in the assassinations of both JFK and RFK. (For this sorry tale, see his article.)

A friend has now called my attention to another bizarre distortion, this one an attempt not to besmirch the character of one man but of an entire country. If you look up the Philippine War (1899-1902) you get this entry. And in the very first paragraph you get this statement: “The U.S. conquest of the Philippines has been described as a genocide, and resulted in the death of 1.4 million Filipinos (out of a total population of seven million).”

I was pretty startled to read this. I have written a whole chapter on the war in my book, The Savage Wars of Peace, and I have never once heard that the U.S. was guilty of genocide. How could it have entirely escaped my attention?

There is, needless to say, not a scintilla of evidence that Presidents McKinley and Roosevelt made any attempt to wipe out the population of the Philippines. There is no doubt that a lot of Filipinos died in the course of the war, but most of those deaths were the result of disease, not American bullets. In my book, I cite the generally accepted casualty totals: 4,234 American dead and, on the other side, 16,000 Filipinos killed in battle and another 200,000 civilians killed mainly by disease and famine. My sources for these estimates are books written by William Thaddeus Sexton, an historian writing in the 1930’s, and two more recent accounts written by Stanley Karnow and Walter LaFeber. Neither Karnow nor LaFeber is exactly an American imperialist; in fact, both are well-known liberals. Yet their casualty counts are seven times lower than those claimed by Wikipedia, and they make no mention of any genocide.

Where does the Wikipedia figure come from? The footnote refers to an online essay, “U.S. Genocide in the Philippines” by E. San Juan Jr., posted on an obscure website. The author is described as follows: “E. San Juan, Jr. was recently Fulbright Professor of American Studies at the Katholieke Universiteit Leuven, Belgium, and visiting professor of literature and cultural studies at National Tsing Hua University in Taiwan, Republic of China.” Not exactly a pedigree that instantly screams out that he has any special expertise on the Philippine War.

In his short essay (1,046 words), E. San Juan Jr. concedes that his claims of genocide and of 1.4 million dead do not come from any mainstream sources. He writes: “Among historians, only Howard Zinn and Gabriel Kolko have dwelt on the ‘genocidal’ character of the catastrophe.” But even these ultra-left-wing “revisionist” historians (who also have no expertise in the Philippine War) have, in his telling, cited no more than 600,000 dead Filipinos.

So whence the figure of 1.4 million? According to Mr. San Juan, “The first Filipino scholar to make a thorough documentation of the carnage is the late Luzviminda Francisco in her contribution to The Philippines: The End of An Illusion (London, 1973).” I confess to never having heard of Ms. Francisco (whose works are cataloged online by neither the Library of Congress nor the New York Public Library), but Amazon does contain a link for one of her books. It’s called Conspiracy for Empire: Big business, corruption, and the politics of imperialism in America, 1876-1907 and it was published in 1985 by something called the Foundation for Nationalist Studies, which doesn’t have a web page (or at least none that I could discover).

I am, to put it mildly, underwhelmed by the historical evidence gathered here to accuse the U.S. of having killed 1.4 million people in an attempted genocide. This is not the kind of finding that would be accepted for a second by any reputable scholar, regardless of political orientation. But it is the kind of pseudo-fact that is all too common on the world’s most schlocky wannabe “encyclopedia.” Caveat emptor.

Read Less

Assuring Assad

Last month, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi led a delegation to Damascus in defiance of the express wishes of President Bush. In response, Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad’s spokesman praised her “courageous position” and expressed the hope that it would inaugurate a dialogue between “the people of the United States” and the Syrian regime, despite President Bush’s efforts to isolate it. Pelosi explained her unusual action by saying that she was trying to “build some confidence” between Americans and the Assad government.

Apparently she has succeeded, after a fashion. Assad, at least, seems to have gained confidence that he can behave as brutally as he wishes without incurring too much international opprobrium. In the month since Pelosi’s visit, he has ratcheted up repression, all but snuffing out the lingering embers of the “Damascus spring” that followed his accession to power seven years ago. Six prominent dissidents were packed off to prison for sentences ranging from three to twelve years, the longest term being given to Kamal Labwani for “communicating with a foreign country,” i.e., the United States. “It’s back to the 1980′s, to the worst days of his father’s rule,” commented the exiled dissident Ammar Abdulhamid.

Read More

Last month, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi led a delegation to Damascus in defiance of the express wishes of President Bush. In response, Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad’s spokesman praised her “courageous position” and expressed the hope that it would inaugurate a dialogue between “the people of the United States” and the Syrian regime, despite President Bush’s efforts to isolate it. Pelosi explained her unusual action by saying that she was trying to “build some confidence” between Americans and the Assad government.

Apparently she has succeeded, after a fashion. Assad, at least, seems to have gained confidence that he can behave as brutally as he wishes without incurring too much international opprobrium. In the month since Pelosi’s visit, he has ratcheted up repression, all but snuffing out the lingering embers of the “Damascus spring” that followed his accession to power seven years ago. Six prominent dissidents were packed off to prison for sentences ranging from three to twelve years, the longest term being given to Kamal Labwani for “communicating with a foreign country,” i.e., the United States. “It’s back to the 1980′s, to the worst days of his father’s rule,” commented the exiled dissident Ammar Abdulhamid.

Pelosi reportedly raised Labwani’s case, specifically, with Syrian authorities during her visit. His crime, after all, consisted solely of talking to Americans, and here she was to promote dialogue. The specially long sentence now slapped on him amounts to a direct rebuff of her appeal, an expression of disdain. So how has she reacted?

Not at all. There is nothing about Labwani’s sentencing, or about any of the other dissidents, on her website. So I put in a call to her press spokesman, Brendan Daly, asking if the Speaker had commented on these events. I received a call back from a deputy of his who assured me that Assad’s actions were in “the opposite direction” from the course she had urged on him when she was there. In view of that, I asked, what was her reaction? She had not addressed it yet, he said, but he promised to get me a statement from her by the end of the next business day. That was ten days ago, and I am still waiting. Meanwhile, she has left the country yet again, this time leading a congressional delegation to Greenland, Germany, and Belgium to discuss global warming. Presumably this will build Assad’s confidence even further.

Read Less

Hamas and the Europeans

Noting that the EU had been accused of being too pro-Israel by Mahmoud Abbas, the president of the Palestinian Authority, I recently wrote that

it seems more and more possible that the recent period of relative quiet with respect to Israel might in itself suffice for Hamas to win a hearing in Europe. If money were to begin flowing again into government coffers in Gaza, the “moderates” can argue, it would strengthen their hold on the PA and make it possible, at long last, for the government to meet the Quartet’s three demands. Hamas would not even have to say this much, only to make the EU believe that this might happen at some point in the future. The EU’s readiness for a diplomatic fire sale is already evident, with France and the UK leading the push to set aside the Quartet’s three burdensome preconditions.

Despite shows of unity with their U.S. partners, the Europeans are doing just that, now that the Palestinian “national unity” government is in place. The foreign minister of Norway traveled to Gaza to confer with Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh of Hamas, after Norway’s government recognized the new executive.
Read More

Noting that the EU had been accused of being too pro-Israel by Mahmoud Abbas, the president of the Palestinian Authority, I recently wrote that

it seems more and more possible that the recent period of relative quiet with respect to Israel might in itself suffice for Hamas to win a hearing in Europe. If money were to begin flowing again into government coffers in Gaza, the “moderates” can argue, it would strengthen their hold on the PA and make it possible, at long last, for the government to meet the Quartet’s three demands. Hamas would not even have to say this much, only to make the EU believe that this might happen at some point in the future. The EU’s readiness for a diplomatic fire sale is already evident, with France and the UK leading the push to set aside the Quartet’s three burdensome preconditions.

Despite shows of unity with their U.S. partners, the Europeans are doing just that, now that the Palestinian “national unity” government is in place. The foreign minister of Norway traveled to Gaza to confer with Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh of Hamas, after Norway’s government recognized the new executive.

Rumor has it that the next Norwegian diplomatic move was a phone call to the EU’s foreign policy czar, Javier Solana, asking EU states to emulate Norway (which is not a member). The EU chose caution instead: it would judge the new government by its deeds, a spokesman said, not only by its words. Belgian Foreign Minister Karel de Gucht, visiting Ramallah last Friday, reiterated this message. But he did so at a joint press conference with the new Palestinian foreign minister, Ziad Abu Amr. And Italy’s undersecretary for foreign affairs, Vittorio Craxi, called Haniyeh “in his personal capacity,” but did not pay an official visit.

Next, it was the turn of Marc Otte, the EU special envoy to the Middle East, who met the new PA finance minister, Salam Fayyad (as did the U.S. consul in Jerusalem). As the International Herald Tribune reports, the Swedish foreign minister is next; the Swiss and Russian ambassadors will also meet Fayyad. Switzerland and France have invited him to visit; the UK announced that it, too, will speak to non-Hamas ministers.

Unlike Norway, the EU still has a few problems talking to the PA while Hamas is part of the government: Hamas, after all, is on the EU terror list. And the Quartet, at least officially, still stands by the Roadmap and the three preconditions that any PA government must meet for the international embargo on aid and dialogue to be ended.

But even Europe’s modest overtures are quite astonishing when one considers how Hamas itself views the new “unity” government: as the group’s leaders have repeatedly emphasized, “resistance” in all its forms will continue. True to form, Hamas followed words with deeds, and proceeded to claim responsibility for the shooting of an Israeli worker only two days after the government was sworn in.

Read Less

Damage Done

Back in June 2006, the front page of the New York Times carried news of a highly secret CIA-Treasury department intelligence program to track al Qaeda financing that drew on data supplied by a European banking consortium based in Belgium known as SWIFT.

President Bush denounced the newspaper’s disclosure of the classified counterterrorism operation as “disgraceful.” Prior to publication, administration officials had strenuously warned the newspaper not to run the story, arguing, among other things, that it would endanger national security by placing the SWIFT consortium under intense pressure to stop sharing information with U.S. intelligence. 

Bill Keller, his paper already under attack for revealing a highly classified NSA terrorist surveillance program the previous December, promptly issued an equally strenuous rebuttal, noting that “if, as the administration says, the [SWIFT] program is legal, highly effective, and well protected against invasion of privacy, the bankers should have little trouble defending it.” Not long after that, Byron Calame, the Times’s ombudsman chimed in, saying that “So far, SWIFT hasn’t publicly indicated any intention to stop cooperating.” 

Calame subsequently had a change of mind about the wisdom of his paper’s actions, and offered a “mea culpa,” declaring that “I don’t think the article should have been published.” Bill Keller, for his part, issued a lacerating reply to what he called Calame’s “revisionist epiphany.”

Today, buried in the back pages of the Times, comes news that the European Central Bank has ordered SWIFT to cease providing banking data to the United States for use in investigations of al Qaeda. “Under European Union rules,” the Times reports, “information on money transfers can be used only for banking purposes and not for other uses, like combating terrorism.”

To read Bill Keller’s initial defense of his paper’s actions, click here (link requires registration).

To find out how long it will take before Bill Keller issues a mea culpa of his own, click here.
 

Back in June 2006, the front page of the New York Times carried news of a highly secret CIA-Treasury department intelligence program to track al Qaeda financing that drew on data supplied by a European banking consortium based in Belgium known as SWIFT.

President Bush denounced the newspaper’s disclosure of the classified counterterrorism operation as “disgraceful.” Prior to publication, administration officials had strenuously warned the newspaper not to run the story, arguing, among other things, that it would endanger national security by placing the SWIFT consortium under intense pressure to stop sharing information with U.S. intelligence. 

Bill Keller, his paper already under attack for revealing a highly classified NSA terrorist surveillance program the previous December, promptly issued an equally strenuous rebuttal, noting that “if, as the administration says, the [SWIFT] program is legal, highly effective, and well protected against invasion of privacy, the bankers should have little trouble defending it.” Not long after that, Byron Calame, the Times’s ombudsman chimed in, saying that “So far, SWIFT hasn’t publicly indicated any intention to stop cooperating.” 

Calame subsequently had a change of mind about the wisdom of his paper’s actions, and offered a “mea culpa,” declaring that “I don’t think the article should have been published.” Bill Keller, for his part, issued a lacerating reply to what he called Calame’s “revisionist epiphany.”

Today, buried in the back pages of the Times, comes news that the European Central Bank has ordered SWIFT to cease providing banking data to the United States for use in investigations of al Qaeda. “Under European Union rules,” the Times reports, “information on money transfers can be used only for banking purposes and not for other uses, like combating terrorism.”

To read Bill Keller’s initial defense of his paper’s actions, click here (link requires registration).

To find out how long it will take before Bill Keller issues a mea culpa of his own, click here.
 

Read Less




Welcome to Commentary Magazine.
We hope you enjoy your visit.
As a visitor to our site, you are allowed 8 free articles this month.
This is your first of 8 free articles.

If you are already a digital subscriber, log in here »

Print subscriber? For free access to the website and iPad, register here »

To subscribe, click here to see our subscription offers »

Please note this is an advertisement skip this ad
Clearly, you have a passion for ideas.
Subscribe today for unlimited digital access to the publication that shapes the minds of the people who shape our world.
Get for just
YOU HAVE READ OF 8 FREE ARTICLES THIS MONTH.
FOR JUST
YOU HAVE READ OF 8 FREE ARTICLES THIS MONTH.
FOR JUST
Welcome to Commentary Magazine.
We hope you enjoy your visit.
As a visitor, you are allowed 8 free articles.
This is your first article.
You have read of 8 free articles this month.
YOU HAVE READ 8 OF 8
FREE ARTICLES THIS MONTH.
for full access to
CommentaryMagazine.com
INCLUDES FULL ACCESS TO:
Digital subscriber?
Print subscriber? Get free access »
Call to subscribe: 1-800-829-6270
You can also subscribe
on your computer at
CommentaryMagazine.com.
LOG IN WITH YOUR
COMMENTARY MAGAZINE ID
Don't have a CommentaryMagazine.com log in?
CREATE A COMMENTARY
LOG IN ID
Enter you email address and password below. A confirmation email will be sent to the email address that you provide.