Commentary Magazine


Topic: EUR

Iranian-Funded Press TV’s British Bank Accounts Frozen

Press TV, the international news organization and propaganda arm of the Iranian government, has had its British bank account frozen, the Times of London reported today.

The frozen account is thought to contain more than $140,000 (100,000 euros), and National Westminster Bank is expected to close it shortly.

And while National Westminster Bank said the move was a “private commercial decision over which the Government has no control,” there has been speculation by both critics and supporters of the news station that politics may have played a part in the decision.

Lauren Booth — the Israel-bashing sister-in-law of Tony Blair — has written a barely legible opinion column for Al Jazeera, blaming the freeze on Zionism, the Blair machine, and American imperialism (errors in the original):

“The freezing of Press TV Ltd business account by Nat West Bank, is a politically motivated act,” wrote Booth. “The bank accounts of those companies who bring uncomfortable truths into the public domain, can now be closed as part of a political agenda, eliciting from the USA. Supported by the Nat West and Her Majesty’s Government.”

Booth compared it to a similar incident in 2007, when National Westminster Bank shuttered the account of a Hamas-linked Palestinian “charity” called Interpal. The bank said it closed the account under pressure from the U.S. legal system.

And it’s possible that similar concerns could have prompted the bank to freeze Press TV’s account as well. Legally, the Iranian-government-funded news organization may be subject to Iranian sanctions.

“[I]t is not surprising that an international bank like Nat West has frozen the accounts of a propaganda station, funded entirely by the Islamic Republic of Iran, which is increasingly subject to international financial and trade sanctions in the European Union and the United States,” wrote Alan A. at the conservative blog Harry’s Place.

Whatever the reason for the freeze, hopefully it’ll lead to some more government scrutiny for Press TV. The fake news station not only devotes itself to publishing constant anti-American and anti-Israel propaganda; it’s also issued news reports denying the Holocaust and claiming that the Mossad helped commit the 9/11 attacks. At the very least, the government should require the station to provide a content warning informing viewers that it’s funded entirely by the Iranian government.

Press TV, the international news organization and propaganda arm of the Iranian government, has had its British bank account frozen, the Times of London reported today.

The frozen account is thought to contain more than $140,000 (100,000 euros), and National Westminster Bank is expected to close it shortly.

And while National Westminster Bank said the move was a “private commercial decision over which the Government has no control,” there has been speculation by both critics and supporters of the news station that politics may have played a part in the decision.

Lauren Booth — the Israel-bashing sister-in-law of Tony Blair — has written a barely legible opinion column for Al Jazeera, blaming the freeze on Zionism, the Blair machine, and American imperialism (errors in the original):

“The freezing of Press TV Ltd business account by Nat West Bank, is a politically motivated act,” wrote Booth. “The bank accounts of those companies who bring uncomfortable truths into the public domain, can now be closed as part of a political agenda, eliciting from the USA. Supported by the Nat West and Her Majesty’s Government.”

Booth compared it to a similar incident in 2007, when National Westminster Bank shuttered the account of a Hamas-linked Palestinian “charity” called Interpal. The bank said it closed the account under pressure from the U.S. legal system.

And it’s possible that similar concerns could have prompted the bank to freeze Press TV’s account as well. Legally, the Iranian-government-funded news organization may be subject to Iranian sanctions.

“[I]t is not surprising that an international bank like Nat West has frozen the accounts of a propaganda station, funded entirely by the Islamic Republic of Iran, which is increasingly subject to international financial and trade sanctions in the European Union and the United States,” wrote Alan A. at the conservative blog Harry’s Place.

Whatever the reason for the freeze, hopefully it’ll lead to some more government scrutiny for Press TV. The fake news station not only devotes itself to publishing constant anti-American and anti-Israel propaganda; it’s also issued news reports denying the Holocaust and claiming that the Mossad helped commit the 9/11 attacks. At the very least, the government should require the station to provide a content warning informing viewers that it’s funded entirely by the Iranian government.

Read Less

The Beginning of the End of Swiss ‘Active Neutrality’?

Since the introduction of global sanctions against Iran last year, encompassing 33 countries, Switzerland has defied the West, including the Obama administration and the EU, by touting its “active neutrality” position, whatever that means.

Today, however, the Swiss government relented and announced that it will fall into line with EU sanctions targeting Iran’s energy sector.

WikiLeaks cables have documented the tensions between the U.S. government and the Swiss government over the latter’s overly cordial relations with Iran. Yet WikiLeaks did not ambush any of the seasoned observers of Swiss-U.S. and Swiss-Israeli relations. The Swiss Foreign Ministry has gone to great lengths to maximize their gas and other economic deals with the mullah regime. One need only recall Micheline Calmy-Rey, the Swiss foreign minister who in 2008 enthusiastically embraced Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in Tehran.

The purpose of her Tehran visit was to sign off on the estimated 18-22 billion euro EGL gas deal with the National Iranian Gas Export Company (NIGEC). The gas revenues from the deal with NIGEC, whose parent company, National Iranian Gas Company, was placed on Britain’s Proliferation Concerns List in February 2009, would end up funding Iran’s nuclear-weapons program as well as its wholly owned subsidiaries, Hamas and Hezbollah.

EGL is a Swiss state-owned gas giant, and the Bush administration and Israel protested vehemently and publicly against the deal back in 2008. WikiLeaks simply reiterated the U.S. anger that was already out there. Israel summoned the new Swiss ambassador at the time to bitterly complain about the Swiss jeopardizing the security of the Mideast region.

Calmy-Rey, a leader of the Social Democratic Party, has a troubling record on Iran. In 2006, while meeting with an Iranian delegation on the nuclear crisis, she proposed seminars on different perspectives of the Holocaust. That helps to explain why Roger Köppel, the owner and editor-in-chief of the Swiss weekly Die Weltwoche, wrote a Wall Street Journal Europe piece entitled, “Somebody Stop Calmy-Rey.”

Roger Köppel neatly captured the alliance of the loony Swiss left and fanatical Iranian Holocaust deniers. “One must understand the enormity of this: Ms. Calmy-Rey suggested a debate in Switzerland with Iranian Holocaust deniers on whether the murder of 6 million Jews actually happened. Fortunately, nothing came of this idea. It would not only have been outrageous, but also illegal, since genocide denial is a crime in Switzerland.”

While the statement that Switzerland’s “active neutrality” on the Iranian nuclear threat is welcome, the true test of its intentions will be the termination of the EGL-Iran gas deal.

Since the introduction of global sanctions against Iran last year, encompassing 33 countries, Switzerland has defied the West, including the Obama administration and the EU, by touting its “active neutrality” position, whatever that means.

Today, however, the Swiss government relented and announced that it will fall into line with EU sanctions targeting Iran’s energy sector.

WikiLeaks cables have documented the tensions between the U.S. government and the Swiss government over the latter’s overly cordial relations with Iran. Yet WikiLeaks did not ambush any of the seasoned observers of Swiss-U.S. and Swiss-Israeli relations. The Swiss Foreign Ministry has gone to great lengths to maximize their gas and other economic deals with the mullah regime. One need only recall Micheline Calmy-Rey, the Swiss foreign minister who in 2008 enthusiastically embraced Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in Tehran.

The purpose of her Tehran visit was to sign off on the estimated 18-22 billion euro EGL gas deal with the National Iranian Gas Export Company (NIGEC). The gas revenues from the deal with NIGEC, whose parent company, National Iranian Gas Company, was placed on Britain’s Proliferation Concerns List in February 2009, would end up funding Iran’s nuclear-weapons program as well as its wholly owned subsidiaries, Hamas and Hezbollah.

EGL is a Swiss state-owned gas giant, and the Bush administration and Israel protested vehemently and publicly against the deal back in 2008. WikiLeaks simply reiterated the U.S. anger that was already out there. Israel summoned the new Swiss ambassador at the time to bitterly complain about the Swiss jeopardizing the security of the Mideast region.

Calmy-Rey, a leader of the Social Democratic Party, has a troubling record on Iran. In 2006, while meeting with an Iranian delegation on the nuclear crisis, she proposed seminars on different perspectives of the Holocaust. That helps to explain why Roger Köppel, the owner and editor-in-chief of the Swiss weekly Die Weltwoche, wrote a Wall Street Journal Europe piece entitled, “Somebody Stop Calmy-Rey.”

Roger Köppel neatly captured the alliance of the loony Swiss left and fanatical Iranian Holocaust deniers. “One must understand the enormity of this: Ms. Calmy-Rey suggested a debate in Switzerland with Iranian Holocaust deniers on whether the murder of 6 million Jews actually happened. Fortunately, nothing came of this idea. It would not only have been outrageous, but also illegal, since genocide denial is a crime in Switzerland.”

While the statement that Switzerland’s “active neutrality” on the Iranian nuclear threat is welcome, the true test of its intentions will be the termination of the EGL-Iran gas deal.

Read Less

The Berlin-Rome-Tehran Axis

One of those dirty secrets that broad swaths of European media and politicians avoid like the plague is the ways in which European countries are propping up Tehran’s regime and its proxies Hamas and Hezbollah via their pro-Iranian trade policies. Last year, Italy and Germany turned out to be Europe’s major economic respirators for Iran’s stagnating economic system, with an overall joint business volume of 10 billion euros.

Last summer, the EU signed off on watered-down economic sanctions targeting Iran. Nevertheless, the EU did awaken from its slumber and banned the delivery of crucial energy technology to the Islamic Republic. Whereas the more robust U.S. sanctions prohibit the acquisition of Iranian gas and crude oil, European countries are permitted to consume vast amounts of the stuff. Iran’s lifeline is the sale of its crude oil, and Italy has an Iranian oil addiction, with imports mushrooming by 90 percent in 2010.

Traditionally, Germany has  been Europe’s No. 1 trade partner with Iran. During the second Bush administration, U.S. diplomats urged German engineering firms and banks to end their flourishing deals with Iran. Bush had some striking successes, such as major German financial institutions like Deutsche Bank shutting down their Iranian operations. Bush twisted arms in Germany.

President Obama is limping on both legs in trying to convince Chancellor Angela Merkel to shut down Iranian banks in Germany. Last summer, he called Merkel to persuade her to pull the plug on the Hamburg-based European-Iranian trade bank, an entity that was sanctioned by the U.S. Treasury Department because of its involvement in Iran’s illicit nuclear-proliferation and ballistic-missile program. Merkel simply snubbed Obama.

Despite Merkel’s promises to the Israeli Knesset in 2008 and to the U.S. Congress in 2009 that Israel’s security is “non-negotiable“ and that Iran’s nuclear-weapons program must be stopped, business as usual takes priority over the so-called German-Israeli special relationship and defending Western and global security.

It seems that the time is ripe for President Obama and Secretary of State Clinton to flex their diplomatic muscles and publicly urge Rome and Berlin to implement unilateral sanctions against Iran, as Chancellor Merkel and Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi are a making a mockery of President Obama’s multilateral effort to isolate the Islamic Republic.

One of those dirty secrets that broad swaths of European media and politicians avoid like the plague is the ways in which European countries are propping up Tehran’s regime and its proxies Hamas and Hezbollah via their pro-Iranian trade policies. Last year, Italy and Germany turned out to be Europe’s major economic respirators for Iran’s stagnating economic system, with an overall joint business volume of 10 billion euros.

Last summer, the EU signed off on watered-down economic sanctions targeting Iran. Nevertheless, the EU did awaken from its slumber and banned the delivery of crucial energy technology to the Islamic Republic. Whereas the more robust U.S. sanctions prohibit the acquisition of Iranian gas and crude oil, European countries are permitted to consume vast amounts of the stuff. Iran’s lifeline is the sale of its crude oil, and Italy has an Iranian oil addiction, with imports mushrooming by 90 percent in 2010.

Traditionally, Germany has  been Europe’s No. 1 trade partner with Iran. During the second Bush administration, U.S. diplomats urged German engineering firms and banks to end their flourishing deals with Iran. Bush had some striking successes, such as major German financial institutions like Deutsche Bank shutting down their Iranian operations. Bush twisted arms in Germany.

President Obama is limping on both legs in trying to convince Chancellor Angela Merkel to shut down Iranian banks in Germany. Last summer, he called Merkel to persuade her to pull the plug on the Hamburg-based European-Iranian trade bank, an entity that was sanctioned by the U.S. Treasury Department because of its involvement in Iran’s illicit nuclear-proliferation and ballistic-missile program. Merkel simply snubbed Obama.

Despite Merkel’s promises to the Israeli Knesset in 2008 and to the U.S. Congress in 2009 that Israel’s security is “non-negotiable“ and that Iran’s nuclear-weapons program must be stopped, business as usual takes priority over the so-called German-Israeli special relationship and defending Western and global security.

It seems that the time is ripe for President Obama and Secretary of State Clinton to flex their diplomatic muscles and publicly urge Rome and Berlin to implement unilateral sanctions against Iran, as Chancellor Merkel and Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi are a making a mockery of President Obama’s multilateral effort to isolate the Islamic Republic.

Read Less

Iranian Woman Not Stoned for Alleged Adultery

Iran’s pariah regime said today that it plans to drop the death-by-stoning penalty against Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani, a woman who was sentenced to death for alleged adultery. All this means is that the global anti-stoning human rights campaign to influence a change in the behavior of the mullah regime has forced Iran’s rulers to temporarily backpedal from their medieval practices in the case of Ms. Ashtiani.

According to the New York Times, “Apparently contradicting previous court documents, Zahra Elahian, head of the Majles Human Rights Committee, said that the stoning sentence against the woman, Sakineh Mohammadi-Ashtiani, had never been confirmed.“

Given Iran’s deceptive behavior with respect to its illicit nuclear weapons program, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad might be flirting with a cooling-off period in order to reimpose the stoning penalty at a later stage. The trial proceeding against Ms. Ashtiani was nothing short of a sham. She now faces a 10-year incarceration period.

The Islamic Republic of Iran remains vulnerable to human rights sanctions. President Barack Obama was wishy-washy and aloof about human rights when Iran’s regime viciously cracked down on its civilian population during the fraudulent 2009 Iran election.

Last September, however, the Obama administration imposed mild human rights sanctions against eight top-level Iranian government officials for inflicting unlawful detention, torture, rape, and violent beatings on Iranians who protested the doctored 2009 election results.

While the European Union claims to have cornered the market on advancing human rights, there is an eerie silence and passivity emanating from the EU about sanctioning Iran for human rights violations. The EU remains Iran’s second-largest trading partner after China. Italy and Germany have a combined €10 billion trade relationship with the Islamic Republic.

The tragic case of Ms. Ashtiani shows that if the Western democracies decide to fill its human rights rhetoric with meaning and content, they can influence a change in Iran’s incorrigibly reactionary domestic policies.

Iran’s pariah regime said today that it plans to drop the death-by-stoning penalty against Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani, a woman who was sentenced to death for alleged adultery. All this means is that the global anti-stoning human rights campaign to influence a change in the behavior of the mullah regime has forced Iran’s rulers to temporarily backpedal from their medieval practices in the case of Ms. Ashtiani.

According to the New York Times, “Apparently contradicting previous court documents, Zahra Elahian, head of the Majles Human Rights Committee, said that the stoning sentence against the woman, Sakineh Mohammadi-Ashtiani, had never been confirmed.“

Given Iran’s deceptive behavior with respect to its illicit nuclear weapons program, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad might be flirting with a cooling-off period in order to reimpose the stoning penalty at a later stage. The trial proceeding against Ms. Ashtiani was nothing short of a sham. She now faces a 10-year incarceration period.

The Islamic Republic of Iran remains vulnerable to human rights sanctions. President Barack Obama was wishy-washy and aloof about human rights when Iran’s regime viciously cracked down on its civilian population during the fraudulent 2009 Iran election.

Last September, however, the Obama administration imposed mild human rights sanctions against eight top-level Iranian government officials for inflicting unlawful detention, torture, rape, and violent beatings on Iranians who protested the doctored 2009 election results.

While the European Union claims to have cornered the market on advancing human rights, there is an eerie silence and passivity emanating from the EU about sanctioning Iran for human rights violations. The EU remains Iran’s second-largest trading partner after China. Italy and Germany have a combined €10 billion trade relationship with the Islamic Republic.

The tragic case of Ms. Ashtiani shows that if the Western democracies decide to fill its human rights rhetoric with meaning and content, they can influence a change in Iran’s incorrigibly reactionary domestic policies.

Read Less

Group Defies Dutch Government, Continues to Fund Anti-Israel Website

A government-funded Netherlands organization has rejected requests from the Dutch foreign minister to stop supporting financially the Electronic Intifada. The Interchurch Organization for Development Cooperation (ICCO), which receives about 90 percent of its budget from the Dutch government, said it will continue to steer money to the anti-Israel online publication, in a potential violation of Dutch law:

Dutch Foreign Minister Uri Rosenthal last week told a Netherlands interchurch group, the ICCO, that its funding of Palestinian website Electronic Intifada, which it said has published calls to promote Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) of Israel, contradicts official Dutch government policy.

Rosenthal urged the ICCO to remedy the situation, saying that continuing such activities could endanger the group’s government funding. ICCO receives some 75 million Euros from the Dutch government. “There’s nothing wrong with holding critical views, but going directly against government policy is something else,” Rosenthal said.

Promoting Anti-Semitism is illegal in the Netherlands, and the Dutch foreign minister has suggested that by funding the Electronic Intifada, the ICCO may be in violation of this policy. But the group remained defiant in a press release last Friday, saying that it did not see a reason to cut off funding for the website, praising the anti-Israel boycott and divestment movement:

Thursday the 13th of January ICCO discussed its funding of the website The Electronic Intifada with Dutch Minister of Foreign Affairs Uri Rosenthal. It was a tough and straightforward discussion, but ICCO sees no reason to change its policy. International law is the main guideline for ICCO’s work.

According the Minister, the site offers a platform for the call for boycott of Israel. Supporting this website is therefore, in the Minister’s view, diametrically opposed to Dutch foreign policy. ICCO disagrees with the Minister on this.

Since 2005, more than 170 Palestinian and some Israeli organisations have called for boycott, divestment and sanctions against Israeli policy. The purpose is for Israel to comply with International law and respect human rights. This pressure is justified as the Israeli occupation of the Palestinian territories continue. It is a peaceful and legal way to push for an end to the Israeli occupation of the Palestinian territories and to achieve a peaceful and just solution. …

It is a good custom in the Netherlands for civil organisations to make their own decisions. ICCO therefore doesn’t see reason to change its policy.

As I wrote in November, the Electronic Intifada is one of the major promoters of Israel-demonization propaganda on the Internet. The publication is founded and run by vicious anti-Israel demagogue Ali Abunimah, and its articles often cross the line of legitimate criticism of the Jewish state into the swamp of anti-Semitism. Its writers promote a one-state solution, accuse the Israeli government of “ethnically cleansing” the Palestinian people, and use Nazi and apartheid epithets to describe Israel.

It’s a pretty brazen move for the ICCO to release such a strong public statement flouting the foreign minister’s request, especially when the group receives nearly all its budget from the Dutch government.

But will there be any consequences? I’d like to hope so, but judging by the ICCO’s cavalier attitude, I’m going to guess no.

A government-funded Netherlands organization has rejected requests from the Dutch foreign minister to stop supporting financially the Electronic Intifada. The Interchurch Organization for Development Cooperation (ICCO), which receives about 90 percent of its budget from the Dutch government, said it will continue to steer money to the anti-Israel online publication, in a potential violation of Dutch law:

Dutch Foreign Minister Uri Rosenthal last week told a Netherlands interchurch group, the ICCO, that its funding of Palestinian website Electronic Intifada, which it said has published calls to promote Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) of Israel, contradicts official Dutch government policy.

Rosenthal urged the ICCO to remedy the situation, saying that continuing such activities could endanger the group’s government funding. ICCO receives some 75 million Euros from the Dutch government. “There’s nothing wrong with holding critical views, but going directly against government policy is something else,” Rosenthal said.

Promoting Anti-Semitism is illegal in the Netherlands, and the Dutch foreign minister has suggested that by funding the Electronic Intifada, the ICCO may be in violation of this policy. But the group remained defiant in a press release last Friday, saying that it did not see a reason to cut off funding for the website, praising the anti-Israel boycott and divestment movement:

Thursday the 13th of January ICCO discussed its funding of the website The Electronic Intifada with Dutch Minister of Foreign Affairs Uri Rosenthal. It was a tough and straightforward discussion, but ICCO sees no reason to change its policy. International law is the main guideline for ICCO’s work.

According the Minister, the site offers a platform for the call for boycott of Israel. Supporting this website is therefore, in the Minister’s view, diametrically opposed to Dutch foreign policy. ICCO disagrees with the Minister on this.

Since 2005, more than 170 Palestinian and some Israeli organisations have called for boycott, divestment and sanctions against Israeli policy. The purpose is for Israel to comply with International law and respect human rights. This pressure is justified as the Israeli occupation of the Palestinian territories continue. It is a peaceful and legal way to push for an end to the Israeli occupation of the Palestinian territories and to achieve a peaceful and just solution. …

It is a good custom in the Netherlands for civil organisations to make their own decisions. ICCO therefore doesn’t see reason to change its policy.

As I wrote in November, the Electronic Intifada is one of the major promoters of Israel-demonization propaganda on the Internet. The publication is founded and run by vicious anti-Israel demagogue Ali Abunimah, and its articles often cross the line of legitimate criticism of the Jewish state into the swamp of anti-Semitism. Its writers promote a one-state solution, accuse the Israeli government of “ethnically cleansing” the Palestinian people, and use Nazi and apartheid epithets to describe Israel.

It’s a pretty brazen move for the ICCO to release such a strong public statement flouting the foreign minister’s request, especially when the group receives nearly all its budget from the Dutch government.

But will there be any consequences? I’d like to hope so, but judging by the ICCO’s cavalier attitude, I’m going to guess no.

Read Less

Anti-Israel Website Indirectly Funded by Dutch Government

The next time you come across an Electronic Intifada article alleging some devious Israeli plot to annex Palestinian olive groves, direct your eye-rolls toward The Hague. According to the Jerusalem Post, the Dutch government may have been unwittingly helping to finance the radical anti-Israel website for years.

The Post reported Friday that the Electronic Intifada is funded by the Interchurch Organization for Development Cooperation, which is apparently being subsidized quite heavily by the Dutch government and the European Union:

The Dutch government has been funding the Interchurch Organization for Development Cooperation, a Dutch aid organization that finances the Electronic Intifada website that, NGO Monitor told The Jerusalem Post on Thursday, is anti-Semitic and frequently compares Israeli policies with those of the Nazi regime.

NGO Monitor’s exposure of Dutch government funding for the Interchurch Organization for Development Cooperation (ICCO) prompted Dutch Foreign Minister Uri Rosenthal to say on Thursday, “I will look into the matter personally. If it appears that the government subsidized NGO ICCO does fund Electronic Intifada, it will have a serious problem with me.”

The Post reports that the Dutch government provided €124 million to the ICCO in 2008, which the NGO Monitor says makes up 90 percent of the group’s budget. The European Union reportedly contributed another 6 percent.

The Electronic Intifada is one of the most prominent peddlers of anti-Israel demagoguery on the English-speaking Web. Founded and run by Ali Abunimah, its articles promote a one-state solution, accuse Israel of “ethnic cleansing,” and regularly compare the Jewish state to Nazi Germany. Abunimah has also published the personal information of IDF soldiers, including home addresses.

Anti-Semitism is punishable by law in the Netherlands, and the Dutch foreign ministry said that the public prosecutor will look into whether the ICCO’s financing of the Electronic Intifada constitutes the promotion of anti-Semitism.

Random musing: If even the Dutch government thinks the Electronic Intifada is toxic, what does that say about the New York Times, which has published Abunimah’s columns and quoted him in news articles as an objective expert on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict?

The next time you come across an Electronic Intifada article alleging some devious Israeli plot to annex Palestinian olive groves, direct your eye-rolls toward The Hague. According to the Jerusalem Post, the Dutch government may have been unwittingly helping to finance the radical anti-Israel website for years.

The Post reported Friday that the Electronic Intifada is funded by the Interchurch Organization for Development Cooperation, which is apparently being subsidized quite heavily by the Dutch government and the European Union:

The Dutch government has been funding the Interchurch Organization for Development Cooperation, a Dutch aid organization that finances the Electronic Intifada website that, NGO Monitor told The Jerusalem Post on Thursday, is anti-Semitic and frequently compares Israeli policies with those of the Nazi regime.

NGO Monitor’s exposure of Dutch government funding for the Interchurch Organization for Development Cooperation (ICCO) prompted Dutch Foreign Minister Uri Rosenthal to say on Thursday, “I will look into the matter personally. If it appears that the government subsidized NGO ICCO does fund Electronic Intifada, it will have a serious problem with me.”

The Post reports that the Dutch government provided €124 million to the ICCO in 2008, which the NGO Monitor says makes up 90 percent of the group’s budget. The European Union reportedly contributed another 6 percent.

The Electronic Intifada is one of the most prominent peddlers of anti-Israel demagoguery on the English-speaking Web. Founded and run by Ali Abunimah, its articles promote a one-state solution, accuse Israel of “ethnic cleansing,” and regularly compare the Jewish state to Nazi Germany. Abunimah has also published the personal information of IDF soldiers, including home addresses.

Anti-Semitism is punishable by law in the Netherlands, and the Dutch foreign ministry said that the public prosecutor will look into whether the ICCO’s financing of the Electronic Intifada constitutes the promotion of anti-Semitism.

Random musing: If even the Dutch government thinks the Electronic Intifada is toxic, what does that say about the New York Times, which has published Abunimah’s columns and quoted him in news articles as an objective expert on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict?

Read Less

The End of the Welfare-State Model?

Stuart Varney of Fox Business News said Thursday on Fox News Special Report that what we are witnessing with the debt crisis in Greece and the swoon of the markets over the last week and a half is the end of the welfare-state model of governance. I think he’s right.

Markets are notorious for sometimes being oblivious to developments in the economy that, in retrospect, seem obvious — and then, suddenly, waking up and acting. The American economy began to slow down in the spring of 1929, for instance, but Wall Street — usually ahead of the economy — paid no attention and soared over the summer to heights unseen before. Then, on the day after Labor Day, for a trivial reason, the market panicked in the last hour of trading, and the mood turned instantly from “the sky’s the limit” to “every man for himself.” Six weeks later, the great crash of 1929 happened.

For years, democratic governments have been promising citizens ever-increasing benefits in the future to win votes in the present. What they haven’t been doing is arranging to pay for them. Instead, they have used phony bookkeeping to make things look under control. New York City did this in the 60s and 70s until one day the banks said they weren’t rolling over the city’s paper anymore. Now, Greece has suffered the same fate. It lied to the EU to get in and has been cooking the books to hide the gathering fiscal disaster ever since. The market has now made it clear that it thinks Greek bonds are for wallpaper, not investing. With more than 10 billion euros in bonds coming due on May 19, Greece had no choice but to accept draconian cuts in its benefits and strict accountability in the future to be bailed out by its euro-zone partners. They, of course, fear the collapse of the euro as a currency and a spreading contagion to larger countries that have also been doing what Greece has done for so long.

Europe would need $60 trillion in the bank, earning government-borrowing-rate interest, to fund its future welfare benefits. Needless to say, no country has four times its GDP in the bank.

In short, the market has suddenly become aware that the emperor known as the welfare state is, financially speaking, buck naked. The cost of insuring against bank default in Europe, according to Bloomberg, is now more than it was when Lehman Brothers collapsed. Other rates are nowhere near those levels, but it would not take much to set off a global panic. Markets have been down all week, and the Dow was down today by 1.34 percent, down 7 percent since Monday.

Great Britain and the United States, insulated from the crisis in Europe because they do not use the euro, have big financial promises they can’t pay for, either. President Obama, of course, wants to make more promises.

If Greece stands up to its unions and its outraged bureaucrats and reforms its ways, I suspect the current crisis will pass. But unless the rest of the democratic world reforms its ways — and soon — then, as Bette Davis famously said in All About Eve: “Fasten your seat belts. It’s going to be a bumpy night.”

Stuart Varney of Fox Business News said Thursday on Fox News Special Report that what we are witnessing with the debt crisis in Greece and the swoon of the markets over the last week and a half is the end of the welfare-state model of governance. I think he’s right.

Markets are notorious for sometimes being oblivious to developments in the economy that, in retrospect, seem obvious — and then, suddenly, waking up and acting. The American economy began to slow down in the spring of 1929, for instance, but Wall Street — usually ahead of the economy — paid no attention and soared over the summer to heights unseen before. Then, on the day after Labor Day, for a trivial reason, the market panicked in the last hour of trading, and the mood turned instantly from “the sky’s the limit” to “every man for himself.” Six weeks later, the great crash of 1929 happened.

For years, democratic governments have been promising citizens ever-increasing benefits in the future to win votes in the present. What they haven’t been doing is arranging to pay for them. Instead, they have used phony bookkeeping to make things look under control. New York City did this in the 60s and 70s until one day the banks said they weren’t rolling over the city’s paper anymore. Now, Greece has suffered the same fate. It lied to the EU to get in and has been cooking the books to hide the gathering fiscal disaster ever since. The market has now made it clear that it thinks Greek bonds are for wallpaper, not investing. With more than 10 billion euros in bonds coming due on May 19, Greece had no choice but to accept draconian cuts in its benefits and strict accountability in the future to be bailed out by its euro-zone partners. They, of course, fear the collapse of the euro as a currency and a spreading contagion to larger countries that have also been doing what Greece has done for so long.

Europe would need $60 trillion in the bank, earning government-borrowing-rate interest, to fund its future welfare benefits. Needless to say, no country has four times its GDP in the bank.

In short, the market has suddenly become aware that the emperor known as the welfare state is, financially speaking, buck naked. The cost of insuring against bank default in Europe, according to Bloomberg, is now more than it was when Lehman Brothers collapsed. Other rates are nowhere near those levels, but it would not take much to set off a global panic. Markets have been down all week, and the Dow was down today by 1.34 percent, down 7 percent since Monday.

Great Britain and the United States, insulated from the crisis in Europe because they do not use the euro, have big financial promises they can’t pay for, either. President Obama, of course, wants to make more promises.

If Greece stands up to its unions and its outraged bureaucrats and reforms its ways, I suspect the current crisis will pass. But unless the rest of the democratic world reforms its ways — and soon — then, as Bette Davis famously said in All About Eve: “Fasten your seat belts. It’s going to be a bumpy night.”

Read Less

The French Emissions Debacle

The French constitutional council may have blocked the president’s carbon tax for the wrong reasons late last night, but the message France unintentionally relayed about emissions-curbing taxes is still worth noting, especially as the United States may consider similar ones.

In an eleventh-hour decision, the court ruled the 17-euros charge for each ton of carbon emissions violated “the principle of tax equality” because it excluded 93 percent of industrial emissions.

Notably, exemptions would have been extended to the core of French industry, including power plants, steel factories, airlines, and public transportation. These very industries helped the great Charles de Gaulle restore France as a functional world power. They also helped him mitigate the appeal of communism. So crucial have these industries been to French standing that it is no wonder they were completely or partially excluded from the planned emissions tax.

The council’s decision is even more notable considering just who Sarkozy’s taxes would have hit: the average French citizen. The most taxed items would have been gasoline and heating fuel. To allay what certainly would have been inevitable popular angst, Nicolas Sarkozy intended to offer tax reductions or “green cheques” to low-income families.

Now, members of Sarkozy’s party have put themselves in an awkward position as they rework the proposal for mid-January. If they pursue the same measures but with more equal application, they will burden essential industries; and if they don’t harangue industry, their emissions efforts will be feebler — especially embarrassing in the context of France’s pre-Copenhagen posturing.

But de Gaulle would caution Sarkozy and his followers that a weakened industrial sector means a weakened France. And as the United States considers similar measures, lawmakers should remember that principle doesn’t apply to France alone.

The French constitutional council may have blocked the president’s carbon tax for the wrong reasons late last night, but the message France unintentionally relayed about emissions-curbing taxes is still worth noting, especially as the United States may consider similar ones.

In an eleventh-hour decision, the court ruled the 17-euros charge for each ton of carbon emissions violated “the principle of tax equality” because it excluded 93 percent of industrial emissions.

Notably, exemptions would have been extended to the core of French industry, including power plants, steel factories, airlines, and public transportation. These very industries helped the great Charles de Gaulle restore France as a functional world power. They also helped him mitigate the appeal of communism. So crucial have these industries been to French standing that it is no wonder they were completely or partially excluded from the planned emissions tax.

The council’s decision is even more notable considering just who Sarkozy’s taxes would have hit: the average French citizen. The most taxed items would have been gasoline and heating fuel. To allay what certainly would have been inevitable popular angst, Nicolas Sarkozy intended to offer tax reductions or “green cheques” to low-income families.

Now, members of Sarkozy’s party have put themselves in an awkward position as they rework the proposal for mid-January. If they pursue the same measures but with more equal application, they will burden essential industries; and if they don’t harangue industry, their emissions efforts will be feebler — especially embarrassing in the context of France’s pre-Copenhagen posturing.

But de Gaulle would caution Sarkozy and his followers that a weakened industrial sector means a weakened France. And as the United States considers similar measures, lawmakers should remember that principle doesn’t apply to France alone.

Read Less

Money for Nothing

The news came last week that the United States would commence the transfer of some $150 million to the Palestinian Authority. This week, the European Commission announced that it, too, was turning on the cash spigot and releasing an astonishing €300 million — about $473 million.

Perhaps someone has a mischievous sense of humor. Today Haaretz reports that the American military officials responsible for monitoring compliance with the Road Map have made it known — you’re sitting down, aren’t you? — that the PA hasn’t really attempted to do anything about Palestinian terrorism:

[T]he Americans are concerned that the PA does not engage in the full spectrum of counterterrorism activities, including arrests, interrogation and trial, as it would if it were trying to eradicate the armed wings of Islamic terrorist organizations. Instead, it makes do with trying to “contain” terror — to prevent specific attacks, and to keep Hamas from growing strong enough to threaten Fatah’s rule in the West Bank.

The PA security services do occasionally arrest members of Islamic organizations, but they do not then follow up with the other steps in the “chain of prevention”: interrogations, arrests of additional operatives, indictments and trials. Trials generally take place only if the PA is under external pressure…And when they do take place, they are generally hasty affairs.

Well, maybe the influx of over half a billion dollars in foreign aid will help the PA finally get its security operation into better shape. I kid, I kid.

The news came last week that the United States would commence the transfer of some $150 million to the Palestinian Authority. This week, the European Commission announced that it, too, was turning on the cash spigot and releasing an astonishing €300 million — about $473 million.

Perhaps someone has a mischievous sense of humor. Today Haaretz reports that the American military officials responsible for monitoring compliance with the Road Map have made it known — you’re sitting down, aren’t you? — that the PA hasn’t really attempted to do anything about Palestinian terrorism:

[T]he Americans are concerned that the PA does not engage in the full spectrum of counterterrorism activities, including arrests, interrogation and trial, as it would if it were trying to eradicate the armed wings of Islamic terrorist organizations. Instead, it makes do with trying to “contain” terror — to prevent specific attacks, and to keep Hamas from growing strong enough to threaten Fatah’s rule in the West Bank.

The PA security services do occasionally arrest members of Islamic organizations, but they do not then follow up with the other steps in the “chain of prevention”: interrogations, arrests of additional operatives, indictments and trials. Trials generally take place only if the PA is under external pressure…And when they do take place, they are generally hasty affairs.

Well, maybe the influx of over half a billion dollars in foreign aid will help the PA finally get its security operation into better shape. I kid, I kid.

Read Less

Austria’s Iran Connection

Next month will mark the 70th anniversary of the Aunschluss, in which Nazi troops marched into Austria and formally dissolved the state, merging it into Hitler’s nascent empire. Some time, then, for Austria to be propping up one of the most dangerous regimes on earth: Iran. According to a piece by Simone Dinah Hartmann appearing in the Jerusalem Post, Austria is one of the few Western countries engaged in massive investment in the Ayatollahs’ regime, most notably a 22 billion Euro natural gas deal signed last Spring.

The state-owned OVD company that signed the deal has a long history of unpleasant dealings: In 1968, just months after the Prague Spring, it signed the first Western gas deal with the Soviet Union; in the 1980s it worked closely with Libya; and in 2003 it was the last Western fuel company to pull out of Sudan. The OVD deal, like other deepening business ties between Austria and Iran, apparently have the hearty backing of all the major factions in parliament — including the ruling Social-Democrat party, which one might think would be concerned about Iran’s record on human rights.

This is a timely test for the new Europe, an opportunity for the more seriously anti-Iranian governments in France and Germany to show their influence on European affairs, and a scary reminder of how much can be forgotten.

Next month will mark the 70th anniversary of the Aunschluss, in which Nazi troops marched into Austria and formally dissolved the state, merging it into Hitler’s nascent empire. Some time, then, for Austria to be propping up one of the most dangerous regimes on earth: Iran. According to a piece by Simone Dinah Hartmann appearing in the Jerusalem Post, Austria is one of the few Western countries engaged in massive investment in the Ayatollahs’ regime, most notably a 22 billion Euro natural gas deal signed last Spring.

The state-owned OVD company that signed the deal has a long history of unpleasant dealings: In 1968, just months after the Prague Spring, it signed the first Western gas deal with the Soviet Union; in the 1980s it worked closely with Libya; and in 2003 it was the last Western fuel company to pull out of Sudan. The OVD deal, like other deepening business ties between Austria and Iran, apparently have the hearty backing of all the major factions in parliament — including the ruling Social-Democrat party, which one might think would be concerned about Iran’s record on human rights.

This is a timely test for the new Europe, an opportunity for the more seriously anti-Iranian governments in France and Germany to show their influence on European affairs, and a scary reminder of how much can be forgotten.

Read Less

Mixed Message

A Dutch nonprofit, send.a.message, is now offering a service whereby, for the low, low fee of 30 euros, a group of Palestinians will spraypaint whatever message you like (provided it’s not “obscene, offensive and extremist”) on their side of the security wall. Besides the generally exploitative nature of this project (the company’s website makes a point of how much economic damage the wall has done, which means, logically, that the Palestinian employees are bargaining for wages under constraint, right?) there’s a fair amount of, uh, paternalism involved. In their FAQ, the organization answers those worried about whether their haute bourgeois whimsy might put people in danger thusly:

Is it dangerous to spray on the Wall?

The ‘wallwriters’ in Palestine know the local circumstances well. Also realize: the situation on West Bank (within the Wall, where we work) is a lot more stable than in far away Gaza. However, ‘our’ Palestinians will never risk their lives to get your text on the Wall. Be sure of that.

“Our” Palestinians. You have to love the quotes around the word our. That’s right, Europe: now you can wash away three centuries of imperialism with irony-quotes! Sweet. Also, how ominous does this sound:

Where does the money go?

Part of your money stays in Holland, to cover the (minimal) costs of setting up and running ‘Sendamessage’. The bulk of the money will go to the Palestinian NGO’s (independent foundations) doing the work. They will fund small social, cultural and educational projects with the money earned (from buying bicycles to fixing the roof).

Will they buy weapons?

No, we work with organisations that are legal in Palestine and are allowed to work-also by the Israeli government. People we work with were found thanks to the network of ICCO, a large Dutch Christian NGO. The money overthere will be spent on small social, cultural and educational projects.

That fills me with confidence. Especially since

An independent board oversees and checks the activities of this registered charity Foundation, from Amsterdam, Holland. All financial matters are checked by an independent, registered financial controller.

Valentine’s day is about a month away. Place your orders now and get “our” Palestinians crackin’!

A Dutch nonprofit, send.a.message, is now offering a service whereby, for the low, low fee of 30 euros, a group of Palestinians will spraypaint whatever message you like (provided it’s not “obscene, offensive and extremist”) on their side of the security wall. Besides the generally exploitative nature of this project (the company’s website makes a point of how much economic damage the wall has done, which means, logically, that the Palestinian employees are bargaining for wages under constraint, right?) there’s a fair amount of, uh, paternalism involved. In their FAQ, the organization answers those worried about whether their haute bourgeois whimsy might put people in danger thusly:

Is it dangerous to spray on the Wall?

The ‘wallwriters’ in Palestine know the local circumstances well. Also realize: the situation on West Bank (within the Wall, where we work) is a lot more stable than in far away Gaza. However, ‘our’ Palestinians will never risk their lives to get your text on the Wall. Be sure of that.

“Our” Palestinians. You have to love the quotes around the word our. That’s right, Europe: now you can wash away three centuries of imperialism with irony-quotes! Sweet. Also, how ominous does this sound:

Where does the money go?

Part of your money stays in Holland, to cover the (minimal) costs of setting up and running ‘Sendamessage’. The bulk of the money will go to the Palestinian NGO’s (independent foundations) doing the work. They will fund small social, cultural and educational projects with the money earned (from buying bicycles to fixing the roof).

Will they buy weapons?

No, we work with organisations that are legal in Palestine and are allowed to work-also by the Israeli government. People we work with were found thanks to the network of ICCO, a large Dutch Christian NGO. The money overthere will be spent on small social, cultural and educational projects.

That fills me with confidence. Especially since

An independent board oversees and checks the activities of this registered charity Foundation, from Amsterdam, Holland. All financial matters are checked by an independent, registered financial controller.

Valentine’s day is about a month away. Place your orders now and get “our” Palestinians crackin’!

Read Less

Effete Europeans in Beijing

Today, European Union Trade Commissioner Peter Mandelson delivered a stinging rebuke to Beijing. “During the summer some Chinese officials pointed out that less than 1 percent of China’s exports to Europe had alleged health risks,” Mandelson noted in a speech in the Chinese capital. “But Europe imports half a billion euros worth of goods from China every day—so even 1 percent is not acceptable.” The trade commissioner then told Beijing that “consumer safety is a zero-compromise issue.” Vice Premier Wu Yi, China’s so-called Iron Lady, was angry as she spoke to reporters afterwards. “I am extremely dissatisfied,” she said.

Her boss, President Hu Jintao, was also reported to be a bit peeved today. He got rough treatment from French President Nicolas Sarkozy, who lectured the autocrat to his face in public. Sarkozy covered, among other things, the value of China’s currency, intellectual property, and human rights. The Chinese undoubtedly are bewildered by today’s events—they have not seen Euros act like this since Tiananmen.

Mandelson’s address and Sarkozy’s criticism come on the eve of the 10th China-European Union summit. Despite the fact that Beijing just placed large orders with Airbus and France’s Areva, observers say that the discussions this week in the Chinese capital will be tense. “For Europe, the ‘China honeymoon’ is over,” writes David Shambaugh of George Washington University.

We may think that Europeans are effete and spineless, but when was the last time someone from the Bush administration publicly told the Chinese off in their own capital? American officials like to speak about working cooperatively with China to solve “concerns,” while the Europeans are venting frustrations after years of useless dialogue. The welcomed departures of Jacques Chirac and Gerhard Schroeder mark a change of mood in the heart of the EU. Perhaps President Bush should now take his cue from the new version of Old Europe.

Today, European Union Trade Commissioner Peter Mandelson delivered a stinging rebuke to Beijing. “During the summer some Chinese officials pointed out that less than 1 percent of China’s exports to Europe had alleged health risks,” Mandelson noted in a speech in the Chinese capital. “But Europe imports half a billion euros worth of goods from China every day—so even 1 percent is not acceptable.” The trade commissioner then told Beijing that “consumer safety is a zero-compromise issue.” Vice Premier Wu Yi, China’s so-called Iron Lady, was angry as she spoke to reporters afterwards. “I am extremely dissatisfied,” she said.

Her boss, President Hu Jintao, was also reported to be a bit peeved today. He got rough treatment from French President Nicolas Sarkozy, who lectured the autocrat to his face in public. Sarkozy covered, among other things, the value of China’s currency, intellectual property, and human rights. The Chinese undoubtedly are bewildered by today’s events—they have not seen Euros act like this since Tiananmen.

Mandelson’s address and Sarkozy’s criticism come on the eve of the 10th China-European Union summit. Despite the fact that Beijing just placed large orders with Airbus and France’s Areva, observers say that the discussions this week in the Chinese capital will be tense. “For Europe, the ‘China honeymoon’ is over,” writes David Shambaugh of George Washington University.

We may think that Europeans are effete and spineless, but when was the last time someone from the Bush administration publicly told the Chinese off in their own capital? American officials like to speak about working cooperatively with China to solve “concerns,” while the Europeans are venting frustrations after years of useless dialogue. The welcomed departures of Jacques Chirac and Gerhard Schroeder mark a change of mood in the heart of the EU. Perhaps President Bush should now take his cue from the new version of Old Europe.

Read Less

Germany Takes a Bullet

According to a recent report, beefing up sanctions against Iran will cost the German taxpayer dearly: new sanctions will force the German government to pay significant sums (projected at 2 billion euros) to cover the losses incurred by German business. Germany is the biggest EU exporter of goods to Iran. Hundreds of German companies have subsidiaries and offices in Iran; many more attend annual industrial fairs, looking for lucrative deals. And while German companies are not at the forefront of the oil business in Iran, German technology provides Iran with the type of industrial machinery—including drilling and refining technology—that a modern economy needs to develop.

Indeed, all protestations to the contrary, if European companies—Germany, first and foremost—were to pull out of Iran and deny Iranian customers their products, it is highly doubtful that Chinese, Indian, or Russian companies could fill the void. Quantity is less important than quality when one looks at EU-Iran trade. Sure, if European oil companies pulled out of such giant projects as the South Pars oil fields, then Russian, Chinese, and Indian companies might line up to replace them. But, those who suggest that the main reason not to expand sanctions is that they are ineffective unless these other non-Western giants also support them forget that those countries’ industries cannot compete with Western technology. (At least not yet. Otherwise, why would the Iranians be so keen to buy “made in Europe?”)

Germany and its government must be praised for their newly found resolve to pay a steep price to pressure Iran. For the U.S., the choice between profit and principle was never there—its 27-year government-sanctioned embargo of Iran means that there are virtually no American economic and commercial interests to suffer from sanctions fallout. For Europeans, it is a different story. Their choice is real—and they have been roundly criticized for preferring profit over principle. Now it’s crunch time. Bravo to Angela Merkel then, for recognizing that a financial loss is easier to come to terms with (even at that exorbitant projected cost of 2 billion euros) than a nuclear Iran. And let’s hope that Merkel’s resolve—alongside that of the British and French governments, already committed to tougher sanctions—will sway those European leaders who still think that, nukes aside, with Iran it should be business as usual.

According to a recent report, beefing up sanctions against Iran will cost the German taxpayer dearly: new sanctions will force the German government to pay significant sums (projected at 2 billion euros) to cover the losses incurred by German business. Germany is the biggest EU exporter of goods to Iran. Hundreds of German companies have subsidiaries and offices in Iran; many more attend annual industrial fairs, looking for lucrative deals. And while German companies are not at the forefront of the oil business in Iran, German technology provides Iran with the type of industrial machinery—including drilling and refining technology—that a modern economy needs to develop.

Indeed, all protestations to the contrary, if European companies—Germany, first and foremost—were to pull out of Iran and deny Iranian customers their products, it is highly doubtful that Chinese, Indian, or Russian companies could fill the void. Quantity is less important than quality when one looks at EU-Iran trade. Sure, if European oil companies pulled out of such giant projects as the South Pars oil fields, then Russian, Chinese, and Indian companies might line up to replace them. But, those who suggest that the main reason not to expand sanctions is that they are ineffective unless these other non-Western giants also support them forget that those countries’ industries cannot compete with Western technology. (At least not yet. Otherwise, why would the Iranians be so keen to buy “made in Europe?”)

Germany and its government must be praised for their newly found resolve to pay a steep price to pressure Iran. For the U.S., the choice between profit and principle was never there—its 27-year government-sanctioned embargo of Iran means that there are virtually no American economic and commercial interests to suffer from sanctions fallout. For Europeans, it is a different story. Their choice is real—and they have been roundly criticized for preferring profit over principle. Now it’s crunch time. Bravo to Angela Merkel then, for recognizing that a financial loss is easier to come to terms with (even at that exorbitant projected cost of 2 billion euros) than a nuclear Iran. And let’s hope that Merkel’s resolve—alongside that of the British and French governments, already committed to tougher sanctions—will sway those European leaders who still think that, nukes aside, with Iran it should be business as usual.

Read Less

Bring Back Sarah

The legacy of France’s Nazi occupation is manifold and enduring. In culture, nowhere is it more central and blatant than in the very name of a major public performance space in the heart of Paris, the Théâtre de la Ville, facing the famed Châtelet theatre. Operating on an annual budget of 13 million euros, of which around 11 million come from the municipal government, the Théâtre de la Ville attracts 220,000 audience members to evenings of music, dance, and theatre. Originally called “Théâtre Lyrique” and later “Théâtre des Nations,” the theatre was then renamed “Théâtre Sarah Bernhardt,” after the fiery, majestic actress who starred there, beginning in 1899. Bernhardt (1844-1923), who was partly Jewish, was admired for her artistic daring, despite being castigated in French anti-Semitic books like Les Femmes d’Israël (1898) for being “neither more nor less than a Jewess and nothing but a Jewess.” When the Germans arrived in 1940, the “Théâtre Sarah Bernhardt” was renamed the “Théâtre des Nations” and later, “Théâtre de la Ville.”

From 1945 to this day, no French politician has dared to advocate returning the theater’s name to its former dedicatee, “la divine Sarah.” The reasons for this are complex and peculiarly French, as may be gathered from the well-documented study from Yale University Press, Sarah Bernhardt: The Art of High Drama by Carol Ockman and Kenneth E. Silver, which accompanied a multifaceted 2006 exhibit at New York’s Jewish Museum. These are only two instances of the ever-burgeoning interest in Sarah’s captivating mystique and legend—everywhere except in her native Paris.

Read More

The legacy of France’s Nazi occupation is manifold and enduring. In culture, nowhere is it more central and blatant than in the very name of a major public performance space in the heart of Paris, the Théâtre de la Ville, facing the famed Châtelet theatre. Operating on an annual budget of 13 million euros, of which around 11 million come from the municipal government, the Théâtre de la Ville attracts 220,000 audience members to evenings of music, dance, and theatre. Originally called “Théâtre Lyrique” and later “Théâtre des Nations,” the theatre was then renamed “Théâtre Sarah Bernhardt,” after the fiery, majestic actress who starred there, beginning in 1899. Bernhardt (1844-1923), who was partly Jewish, was admired for her artistic daring, despite being castigated in French anti-Semitic books like Les Femmes d’Israël (1898) for being “neither more nor less than a Jewess and nothing but a Jewess.” When the Germans arrived in 1940, the “Théâtre Sarah Bernhardt” was renamed the “Théâtre des Nations” and later, “Théâtre de la Ville.”

From 1945 to this day, no French politician has dared to advocate returning the theater’s name to its former dedicatee, “la divine Sarah.” The reasons for this are complex and peculiarly French, as may be gathered from the well-documented study from Yale University Press, Sarah Bernhardt: The Art of High Drama by Carol Ockman and Kenneth E. Silver, which accompanied a multifaceted 2006 exhibit at New York’s Jewish Museum. These are only two instances of the ever-burgeoning interest in Sarah’s captivating mystique and legend—everywhere except in her native Paris.

Born Marie Henriette Bernardt to a Jewish courtesan, Sarah was an international phenomenon during her lifetime, touring America nine times in roles from Racine’s Phèdre to Hamlet (in French). Her dauntless tours, which extended to Cairo, Tahiti, and Istanbul, were not halted after doctors amputated her leg at age 70. Sarah fearlessly performed patriotic plays at the front for World War I soldiers. Her funeral in 1923 featured a vast outpouring of public emotion, especially when her coffin passed before the “Théâtre Sarah Bernhardt.” A few short years later, she was a non-person in France, much the way Mendelssohn was treated in Germany by the Nazis, with the exception that after World War II, the Germans re-embraced Mendelssohn, whereas Sarah is still left out in the cold.

Postwar Paris, eager to forget its recent history, was looking forward artistically, not to the surviving legacy of Bernhardt, which amounted to some stagy silent films and a few trembly-voiced recordings from her old age. It is to be hoped that this ignorant attitude will soon change. Two months ago, a future new director was named for the Théâtre de la Ville. Emmanuel Demarcy-Mota, a young Parisian director, will take over the reins in June 2008. A lively character and amateur race-car driver who is Portuguese on his mother’s side, Demarcy-Mota should shake things up at the Théâtre de la Ville. His first act should be to return the theater to its former name, the “Théâtre Sarah Bernhardt.”

Read Less

All the Fault of the Neocons

Arche de Zoé, a rickety French NGO thrown together to rescue 10,000 Darfur orphans (see the original press release here), has capsized in Chad. As of this writing, six activists of the NGO, four Chadian collaborators, three members of a Spanish flight crew, and one Belgian pilot are detained in a maximum security prison in N’jamena, accused of kidnapping 103 children. The wild ambitions of volunteer fireman Eric Breteau and his companion Emilie Lelouch came down to a sordid humanitarian swindle with international ramifications. Though an ocean of incriminating evidence testifies to their criminal methods, loyal supporters and high-minded analysts throw the would-be do-gooders life jackets marked “good intentions,” while Socialist opponents tongue-lash the Sarkozy government, and far-out geopolitical experts blame it on American neocons.

How’s that? According to Jean-Philippe Remy of Le Monde and Antoine Glaser, director of La Lettre du Continent, a bi-monthly journal on Africa, over-sensitive idealists were pushed to excess by made-in-the-U.S.A. “Save Darfur” propaganda. Remy and Glaser believe that such propaganda misrepresents a conflict between the Sudanese government and armed rebels, a conflict that is overheated by various oil interests in Sudan and Chad. Two hundred thousand victims does not a genocide make. Besides, says Glaser, it’s winding down. French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner, of Doctors without Borders fame, is accused of infecting the Sarkozy government with Save Darfur hysteria.

Others claim the government knew enough to stop Breteau before he touched the hair of one child’s head. Furthermore, Socialist leader François Hollande sputters that Sarkozy is leaving the unfortunate humanitarians in the clutches of an unspeakable (African) jurisdiction instead of bringing them back to be judged (more clemently) in France. Hollande and his ilk are furious at Nicolas Sarkozy for flying to Chad last Sunday to bring back the journalists and the four airline stewardesses, conditionally liberated as per his request relayed to the court by Chad’s President Idriss Déby.

Read More

Arche de Zoé, a rickety French NGO thrown together to rescue 10,000 Darfur orphans (see the original press release here), has capsized in Chad. As of this writing, six activists of the NGO, four Chadian collaborators, three members of a Spanish flight crew, and one Belgian pilot are detained in a maximum security prison in N’jamena, accused of kidnapping 103 children. The wild ambitions of volunteer fireman Eric Breteau and his companion Emilie Lelouch came down to a sordid humanitarian swindle with international ramifications. Though an ocean of incriminating evidence testifies to their criminal methods, loyal supporters and high-minded analysts throw the would-be do-gooders life jackets marked “good intentions,” while Socialist opponents tongue-lash the Sarkozy government, and far-out geopolitical experts blame it on American neocons.

How’s that? According to Jean-Philippe Remy of Le Monde and Antoine Glaser, director of La Lettre du Continent, a bi-monthly journal on Africa, over-sensitive idealists were pushed to excess by made-in-the-U.S.A. “Save Darfur” propaganda. Remy and Glaser believe that such propaganda misrepresents a conflict between the Sudanese government and armed rebels, a conflict that is overheated by various oil interests in Sudan and Chad. Two hundred thousand victims does not a genocide make. Besides, says Glaser, it’s winding down. French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner, of Doctors without Borders fame, is accused of infecting the Sarkozy government with Save Darfur hysteria.

Others claim the government knew enough to stop Breteau before he touched the hair of one child’s head. Furthermore, Socialist leader François Hollande sputters that Sarkozy is leaving the unfortunate humanitarians in the clutches of an unspeakable (African) jurisdiction instead of bringing them back to be judged (more clemently) in France. Hollande and his ilk are furious at Nicolas Sarkozy for flying to Chad last Sunday to bring back the journalists and the four airline stewardesses, conditionally liberated as per his request relayed to the court by Chad’s President Idriss Déby.

And so it goes, down the line of an inverted ethical system by which the closer you get to the actual misdeed the lighter the responsibility. The journalists slipped out through the free press escape hatch, though their relations with the operation were not always clear. Marie-Agnès Peleran was on “humanitarian leave of absence” from France 3 television, and was a candidate for hosting a refugee child. Jean-Daniel Guillou, of the Synchro X photo agency, openly declared his sympathy for the Zoé six, who are “idealists, not criminals.” Marc Garmirian, of the Capa Agency, filmed the operation, including the planned middle of the night evacuation, without blowing any whistles.

Garmirian’s film is an eloquent testimony to the evil doings of the humanitarian kidnappers. The footage edited while he was imprisoned and screened while he was on his way back to Paris documents the inhumane folie à deux of Breteau and Lelouch that engulfed French do-gooders and exploited, employed, or bribed Chadian accomplices. Over a hundred children, caught in the middle, served as human shields for a humanitarian delusion.

Yes, the Darfur orphans plucked from the jaws of death were in fact healthy Chadian children, most of them between four and five years old. They were disguised with fake bandages, bloodstains, and IV’s (shades of al-Dura) for the stealthy “medical evacuation” that almost took place via a chartered Girjet plane with its (Spanish) crew of seven waiting on a primitive airstrip in the bush near the city of Abéché, where Arche de Zoé, disguised as “Children Rescue,” had set up an outpost. The convoy was stopped at the eleventh hour. The artificial orphans are still stranded in Abéché.

Those who credit Breteau and his accomplices with misguided good intentions think they were swindled by Chadian intermediaries. A more plausible explanation, based on verifiable concrete facts, is that Breteau was caught in his own contradictions. Some 350 families were convinced to contribute 2400 euros (that would make a total of 840,000 euros) for the privilege of hosting—and eventually adopting—the refugee children. Stumped by the impossibility of approaching Darfur refugee camps, he had to keep his word to the French families…and, perhaps, lie to himself.

President Sarkozy has vowed to return to Chad and bring back the remaining French prisoners, “no matter what they’ve done.” But Chadian officials promise to give the kidnappers a taste of their famous prisons. Policemen thrash angry demonstrators to keep them from attacking the prisoners as they are transferred from the jail to the courthouse. A clash of civilizations, as it were.

Read Less

Squeezing Iran

EU foreign policy czar Javier Solana is in Rome today to meet with Said Jalili, the new Iranian nuclear negotiator, and to bid farewell to Jalili’s predecessor, Ali Larijani. It is doubtful that Solana will enjoy the same quality of conversation with Jalili that he experienced with Larijani, whose profound knowledge of Western philosophy made him a valued companion for Solana, according to Brussels rumors. Jalili is expected to deliver his messages more bluntly than Larijani, and that might be a good thing. Larijani had fooled his European interlocutors into believing he was a moderate, inciting his European counterparts to budge while he held his ground. Jalili might not be as sophisticated.

But it is equally doubtful that Iran’s abrupt change of negotiator will induce Europe to shift its posture on the means to curb Iran’s nuclear program. As Italy’s weekly L’espresso reports in a lengthy and detailed piece on sanctions and their effectiveness, Iran still very much gets what it wants. Europeans are keen to circumvent sanctions and have not adopted the necessary practical measures to ensure that the sanctions regime works.

Last year’s bilateral trade volume for Italy and Iran exceeded five billion euros, making Italy the second biggest European trading partner of Iran, after Germany. L’espresso reveals that the Italian office in charge of trade inspections—a branch of the Ministry for Foreign Trade under Minister Emma Bonino—contains only twelve functionaries and four technicians. By comparison, its German equivalent, in charge of export control, has 200 people on its payroll. In practice, this means thousands of contracts annually and larger financial operations on a huge scale. The paucity of human resources invested in monitoring these activities means that almost no effective regulation of them exists. The scope for violations of all kinds is broad.

Whether Europeans will agree to a broader sanctions’ regime in weeks to come remains to be seen. It is clear, though, that what will matter ultimately is Europe’s willingness to give teeth to these measures. Without coupling UN resolutions with the practical means of putting the squeeze on Iran—like, say closely examining the huge business it does every year with Italy, or cutting off or restricting that business—even the toughest sanctions will fail.

EU foreign policy czar Javier Solana is in Rome today to meet with Said Jalili, the new Iranian nuclear negotiator, and to bid farewell to Jalili’s predecessor, Ali Larijani. It is doubtful that Solana will enjoy the same quality of conversation with Jalili that he experienced with Larijani, whose profound knowledge of Western philosophy made him a valued companion for Solana, according to Brussels rumors. Jalili is expected to deliver his messages more bluntly than Larijani, and that might be a good thing. Larijani had fooled his European interlocutors into believing he was a moderate, inciting his European counterparts to budge while he held his ground. Jalili might not be as sophisticated.

But it is equally doubtful that Iran’s abrupt change of negotiator will induce Europe to shift its posture on the means to curb Iran’s nuclear program. As Italy’s weekly L’espresso reports in a lengthy and detailed piece on sanctions and their effectiveness, Iran still very much gets what it wants. Europeans are keen to circumvent sanctions and have not adopted the necessary practical measures to ensure that the sanctions regime works.

Last year’s bilateral trade volume for Italy and Iran exceeded five billion euros, making Italy the second biggest European trading partner of Iran, after Germany. L’espresso reveals that the Italian office in charge of trade inspections—a branch of the Ministry for Foreign Trade under Minister Emma Bonino—contains only twelve functionaries and four technicians. By comparison, its German equivalent, in charge of export control, has 200 people on its payroll. In practice, this means thousands of contracts annually and larger financial operations on a huge scale. The paucity of human resources invested in monitoring these activities means that almost no effective regulation of them exists. The scope for violations of all kinds is broad.

Whether Europeans will agree to a broader sanctions’ regime in weeks to come remains to be seen. It is clear, though, that what will matter ultimately is Europe’s willingness to give teeth to these measures. Without coupling UN resolutions with the practical means of putting the squeeze on Iran—like, say closely examining the huge business it does every year with Italy, or cutting off or restricting that business—even the toughest sanctions will fail.

Read Less

Paris Art Woes

An old saying in Europe goes that British people “take their pleasures sadly”; an update might add that the French take theirs violently. On the night of October 6, known locally as the “Nuit Blanche” (Sleepless Night) Festival, during which musical and artistic events are presented all night long, five vandals broke into the Musée d’Orsay (Paris’s treasure trove of 19th century art) and punched a four-inch hole in an 1874 canvas by the Impressionist Claude Monet, Le Pont d’Argenteuil. Security cameras captured images of five visibly drunk Parisian teenagers forcing open a door to the museum just before midnight. After smoking cigarettes and urinating on the museum’s floor, they were scared away by the rather belated sound of an alarm. Patrick Bloche, a deputy in France’s National Assembly, reasonably inquired whether the embattled Minister of Culture Christine Albanel intends to wait until a four-inch tear is also made in the Mona Lisa, before having the locks on national museums double-checked.

The damage to the Monet painting (showing idyllic boats on the Seine River in a happier time) is less dramatic than a near-tragic episode during Paris’s “Nuit Blanche” in 2002, when the city’s openly gay mayor, Bertrand Delanoë, was stabbed in the abdomen in the City Hall in the early hours of the morning. The assailant, who almost killed the mayor, claimed to be a “devout Muslim” who “does not like politicians and in particular does not like homosexuals.”

Read More

An old saying in Europe goes that British people “take their pleasures sadly”; an update might add that the French take theirs violently. On the night of October 6, known locally as the “Nuit Blanche” (Sleepless Night) Festival, during which musical and artistic events are presented all night long, five vandals broke into the Musée d’Orsay (Paris’s treasure trove of 19th century art) and punched a four-inch hole in an 1874 canvas by the Impressionist Claude Monet, Le Pont d’Argenteuil. Security cameras captured images of five visibly drunk Parisian teenagers forcing open a door to the museum just before midnight. After smoking cigarettes and urinating on the museum’s floor, they were scared away by the rather belated sound of an alarm. Patrick Bloche, a deputy in France’s National Assembly, reasonably inquired whether the embattled Minister of Culture Christine Albanel intends to wait until a four-inch tear is also made in the Mona Lisa, before having the locks on national museums double-checked.

The damage to the Monet painting (showing idyllic boats on the Seine River in a happier time) is less dramatic than a near-tragic episode during Paris’s “Nuit Blanche” in 2002, when the city’s openly gay mayor, Bertrand Delanoë, was stabbed in the abdomen in the City Hall in the early hours of the morning. The assailant, who almost killed the mayor, claimed to be a “devout Muslim” who “does not like politicians and in particular does not like homosexuals.”

Even when such Parisian denizens of the night are not doing their worst, one wonders whether the level of urban violence in today’s Paris is really conducive to institutionalized all-night hilarity. Even in plain daylight, the French cannot be trusted with their cultural treasures. On November 16, a verdict will be handed down in the much-publicized trial of Rindy Sam, a Frenchwoman who identifies herself as an artist. Last July, Ms. Sam kissed a painting by American modernist Cy Twombly, which resides in a special collection at Avignon’s Museum of Contemporary Art. Ms. Sam smeared the white canvas with lipstick. Since her oral tribute, museum technicians have been unable to remove the lipstick stain from the canvas, previously valued at $2.8 million. Ms. Sam has explained that all she did was offer a kiss as a “gesture of love.” The museum and the collector who retains ownership of the painting are not endeared, demanding compensation to the tune of over 30,000 and 2 million euros respectively. Additionally, a prosecutor wants to fine Ms. Sam 4,500 euros for her action. Only Twombly himself, who lives in Lexington, Virginia and Italy, has kept his compensation demand to the scale of a state fair kissing booth, asking for just a single euro as “symbolic” reparation.

Since its arts collections are the mainspring of France’s tourism-based economy, and one of the main reasons why foreign visitors bother to put up with Parisian nastiness, it behooves the country to act vigorously to prevent these kinds of absurdities.

Read Less

Fascism Old and New

As the jury and contestants entered the second round of Stuttgart’s triennial classical song competition last week, organized by the Internationale Hugo Wolf Akademie, idealistic young singers and pianists performed lieder by Robert Schumann and Wolf, often alluding optimistically to a better world. A brief break offered time for a stroll through one of Stuttgart’s parks, where high school girls jogged dispiritedly, sidestepping piles of horse dung. I walked to the Hegel-Haus, the birthplace of the philosopher G. W. F. Hegel. On display in the charmingly spare little house were letters from Hegel’s friends, stressing the importance of freedom: “Vive la liberté” writes one, while another quotes Klopstock, an 18th century German poet who cheered the American Revolution.

Read More

As the jury and contestants entered the second round of Stuttgart’s triennial classical song competition last week, organized by the Internationale Hugo Wolf Akademie, idealistic young singers and pianists performed lieder by Robert Schumann and Wolf, often alluding optimistically to a better world. A brief break offered time for a stroll through one of Stuttgart’s parks, where high school girls jogged dispiritedly, sidestepping piles of horse dung. I walked to the Hegel-Haus, the birthplace of the philosopher G. W. F. Hegel. On display in the charmingly spare little house were letters from Hegel’s friends, stressing the importance of freedom: “Vive la liberté” writes one, while another quotes Klopstock, an 18th century German poet who cheered the American Revolution.

Such echoes of the so-called German Idealism movement are all the more timely as the current talk of the town is about Cardinal Joachim Meisner, Archbishop of Cologne, who on September 14th made a speech at the opening of a new art museum in which he stated: “Wherever culture is separated from the worship of God, cult atrophies into ritualism and art becomes degenerate.” The word “degenerate” inevitably hearkens back to Nazi-era jargon, as local newspapers were quick to point out; the Nazi’s notorious 1937 Munich “Degenerate Art” exhibit was intended to ridicule modernist paintings. Meisner’s statement was followed by a backlash of articles defending the Cardinal from “Meisner-Bashing” by the so-called “word-police” This vehement support was to be expected, since Meisner controls a vast empire of real estate and church-owned media, stoked by the highest annual donation rate in Germany, estimated at around 680 million euros per annum. In 2005, Meisner asserted that women who have an abortion are comparable to mass killers like Hitler and Stalin. Stephan Kramer, General Secretary of the Central Council of Jews in Germany, noted that Meisner repeatedly “misuses language as a taboo-breaker. If that sets an example, we should not be surprised if Nazi beliefs become respectable again.”

Meanwhile, in between sessions of idealistic song, equal concern is devoted to the Swiss national elections scheduled for October 21, where the front-runner is a billionaire named Christoph Blocher, Switzerland’s current Justice Minister. Blocher’s campaign, featuring a poster of a black sheep kicked off the Swiss flag by three white sheep under the caption: “For More Security,” has been called fascist, racist, and perhaps worst of all, “un-Swiss.” Blocher’s wealth has also bought him a TV program during which servile interviewers, likened to East German broadcasters in the old Communist days, ask him adoring questions. While Europe ponders these reminders of oppression old and new, it is particularly useful to focus on the optimistic message of an international gathering like the Wolf Akademie’s lieder contest, where the sheep are dismissed only if they hit wrong notes, not if the color of their wool offends.

Read Less

By Hook or by Crooke

The release of Alan Johnston, the BBC Gaza correspondent held hostage for four months, is the biggest propaganda coup that Hamas has achieved so far. Predictable demands for “engagement with” (i.e., recognition of) Hamas as a reward for obtaining Johnston’s freedom from his kidnappers, the Army of Islam, were made on the BBC by Alastair Crooke.

Who is he? He seems to surface every time Islamist organizations need a Western spokesman to lend respectability to their cause. Crooke was an MI6 intelligence officer for some 30 years, specializing in the Middle East. After leaving the security service, he landed a series of international jobs: as a staff member of the Mitchell committee on the intifada convened after the Israeli-Palestinian summit at Sharm al Sheikh in 2000; then as “security adviser” to Javier Solana, the European Union’s High Representative and de-facto foreign minister. Crooke was assigned to the EU’s Middle East envoy Miguel Moratinos in 2002, but was recalled by the British Foreign Office in 2003 after he held a series of secret meetings with Hamas, Islamic Jihad, and other terrorists. At one of these, Crooke told the then-leader of Hamas, Sheikh Yassin: “The main problem is the Israeli occupation.” Crooke went on to say that “I hate that word [terrorism]” when applied to Hamas, whose suicide bombers were then slaughtering Israeli civilians. Crooke was already working hard to legitimize Hamas as “freedom fighters” while speaking on behalf of the EU.

Read More

The release of Alan Johnston, the BBC Gaza correspondent held hostage for four months, is the biggest propaganda coup that Hamas has achieved so far. Predictable demands for “engagement with” (i.e., recognition of) Hamas as a reward for obtaining Johnston’s freedom from his kidnappers, the Army of Islam, were made on the BBC by Alastair Crooke.

Who is he? He seems to surface every time Islamist organizations need a Western spokesman to lend respectability to their cause. Crooke was an MI6 intelligence officer for some 30 years, specializing in the Middle East. After leaving the security service, he landed a series of international jobs: as a staff member of the Mitchell committee on the intifada convened after the Israeli-Palestinian summit at Sharm al Sheikh in 2000; then as “security adviser” to Javier Solana, the European Union’s High Representative and de-facto foreign minister. Crooke was assigned to the EU’s Middle East envoy Miguel Moratinos in 2002, but was recalled by the British Foreign Office in 2003 after he held a series of secret meetings with Hamas, Islamic Jihad, and other terrorists. At one of these, Crooke told the then-leader of Hamas, Sheikh Yassin: “The main problem is the Israeli occupation.” Crooke went on to say that “I hate that word [terrorism]” when applied to Hamas, whose suicide bombers were then slaughtering Israeli civilians. Crooke was already working hard to legitimize Hamas as “freedom fighters” while speaking on behalf of the EU.

In 2004, together with Mark Perry, Crooke set up Conflicts Forum, a lobbying group with branches in London, Beirut, and Washington. Though it claims to “connect the West and the Muslim world,” by the latter it means radical Islamists. Conflicts Forum’s stated aim is “to engage and listen to Islamists, while challenging Western misconceptions and misrepresentations of the region’s leading agents of change.” It brings together the Arabists who have always dominated the Foreign Office and security services, and serves as a vehicle to put pressure on Western governments to appease Islamists, from the Muslim Brotherhood to Hizballah. The Conflicts Forum website boasts of a recent 500,000 euro grant from the E.U. under its Partnership for Peace program “for a project to help develop more inclusive and legitimate approaches to transforming the Middle East conflict.” (This sounds like a euphemism for pressure to legalize Hamas.)

Crooke makes “the case for Hamas” in the lead article of the current issue of the London Review of Books. Throughout the piece, Crooke speaks of Hamas as “moderate” and praises its “effective and corruption-free” record in government. He warns that Islamists everywhere are becoming impatient with the democratic route to power. He describes a conference in Beirut last April that debated “whether moderate Islamist groups such as Hamas and Hizballah will manage to retain their influence over this process of radicalization.” Meanwhile, Hizballah, Syria, and Iran are “actively preparing for conflict” with Israel and the West. All the blame for this conflict, and the radicalization that feeds it, needless to say, lies with America, Europe, and Israel.

Finally, Crooke has a chilling warning to Israel: unless it gives Hamas-led Palestine what it wants, not only will more Israeli Arabs be drawn into terrorism, but Israel will confront Islamist governments in Egypt and Jordan, too. “Conflict with Iran, were it to occur, might finish up by sweeping away many of the region’s landmarks.” (Is this an implied threat of a second Holocaust?)

However one reads Crooke’s remarks, he and they are deeply sinister. On the BBC, he claimed that Hamas had already met the three “benchmarks” stipulated by the U.S. and EU as necessary for recognition. Unusually, the BBC then gave the right of reply to an Israeli spokesman, Mark Regev. The Australian-born Regev made short work of Crooke’s mendacious claims, pointing out that for Hamas to state that it accepts Israel’s existence “as a fact” means no more than accepting AIDS, say, as a fact. Regev also reminded listeners that while Israelis were pleased by Alan Johnston’s release, their own hostage, Gilad Shalit, has been held in Gaza for much longer.

On the back of the Alan Johnston affair, we should expect a new attempt to persuade the EU to resume financing Hamas, and we should anticipate finding Alastair Crooke, a T.E. Lawrence wannabe, in the forefront of it.

Read Less

The Land of the Eunuchs

In Thursday morning’s Guardian, Timothy Garton Ash appealed for European solidarity with Britain in the face of the Iranian seizure of fifteen British naval personnel. “Fourteen European men and one European woman have been held at an undisclosed location for nearly a week, interrogated, denied consular access, but shown on Iranian television, with one of them making a staged ‘confession,’ clearly under duress. So if Europe is as it claims to be, what’s it going to do about it? Where’s the solidarity? Where’s the action?” asks Garton Ash.

He notes that “the EU is by far Iran’s biggest trading partner. More than 40 percent of its imports come from, and more than a quarter of its exports go to, the EU. Remarkably, this trade has grown strongly in the last years of looming crisis.” This commerce is not purely in the private sector but is sustained by European government subsidies. “The total government underwriting commitment in 2005 was €5.8bn, more than for Russia or China,” Garton Ash reports.

Garton Ash asks whether “Britain’s European friends—and Germany, France, and Italy in particular—might be prevailed upon to convey to Iran, perhaps privately in the first instance, the possibility that such export credit guarantees would be temporarily suspended until the kidnapped Europeans are freed.”

Read More

In Thursday morning’s Guardian, Timothy Garton Ash appealed for European solidarity with Britain in the face of the Iranian seizure of fifteen British naval personnel. “Fourteen European men and one European woman have been held at an undisclosed location for nearly a week, interrogated, denied consular access, but shown on Iranian television, with one of them making a staged ‘confession,’ clearly under duress. So if Europe is as it claims to be, what’s it going to do about it? Where’s the solidarity? Where’s the action?” asks Garton Ash.

He notes that “the EU is by far Iran’s biggest trading partner. More than 40 percent of its imports come from, and more than a quarter of its exports go to, the EU. Remarkably, this trade has grown strongly in the last years of looming crisis.” This commerce is not purely in the private sector but is sustained by European government subsidies. “The total government underwriting commitment in 2005 was €5.8bn, more than for Russia or China,” Garton Ash reports.

Garton Ash asks whether “Britain’s European friends—and Germany, France, and Italy in particular—might be prevailed upon to convey to Iran, perhaps privately in the first instance, the possibility that such export credit guarantees would be temporarily suspended until the kidnapped Europeans are freed.”

When I read this, I took pen in hand to point out the insipidness of Garton Ash’s remedy: that the words to Iran would be spoken “privately,” that they would only allude to a “possibility” of suspending credits “temporarily.” Presumably, then, when the fifteen were freed, Europe would resume subsidizing the Iranian economy while Iran went on building its nuclear bomb. In short, I thought Garton Ash rather namby-pamby.

Until, that is, I read the replies to his column posted on the Guardian’s blog. Then I saw that by contemporary European standards—or at least the standards of that part of Europe represented by the left-leaning Guardian—Garton Ash might as well be the second coming of Winston Churchill. Scores of comments are posted. Out of a randomly chosen 25, I counted one who grudgingly supported Garton Ash’s position, two who called for stronger action against Iran and 22 (i.e., 88 percent) who denounced him as a jingoist, imperialist, war-mongering puppet of Uncle Sam.

Here is a sample (not including any whose comments or screen names suggested that they might be Iranian or Middle Eastern):

“Timothy Garton Ash [is] a pompous tub-thumping twat who gets his meal-tickets from the Americans these days. . . . It ill behooves pundits like Mr. Garton Ash to bang the table about who can detain whom, when the ‘Alliance of the Willing’ is illegally holding 450+ detainees in Guantanamo Bay.”

“If the prisoners confessed to being in Iranian waters, they probably were.”

“Britain is now no better than Stalinist Russia, with regard to certain media in so far as taking the government line.”

“We have the hullabaloo about supposed mistreatment, possibe torture, etc. Complete propagandistic bullshit. Once again, no proof at all.”

“A simple apology to the Iranians (i.e., sorry fifteen sailors got lost by a kilometer) would have diffused this crisis completely in a single instant.”

It is said that in the land of the blind, the one-eyed is king. Mutatis mutandis, in the land of the eunuchs.

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.