Monthly Archives: January 2011

Neither a politician nor a pundit be…

See the latest scenes from Egypt following clashes between protesters and police: SkyNews Hey y’all, I just found out why I’ve been so quiet lately. The Big Story this past week has been the turmoil in Egypt. I’ve been inclined to think that, of all the scenarios and warnings put forth, the most worrisome thought has been the potential for a repeat of what happened in Iran of 1978, or Cuba of 1959 for that matter. Barry Rubin does a very thorough job of laying out the dangers, and also a few hopes inherent in the situation.

But having said that, I still feel that there is much more to be seen. Indeed there have been a good many twists and turns in this road, and more may be expected. Some fourth party contacts (can they really be called contacts at that point?) reported over the weekend that the situation on the streets had deteriorated to the point where the main concern is not regime change, but protecting one’s home and immediate family from looting and other personal violence.

So what do I know, or what can I say? I read something in INN this morning that expresses my viewpoint well:

It is the prophet Amos who said that "the wise man would be silent at that time…"

The prophet Amos’ dictum cannot be adhered to by politicians who must supply interviews and project the image that they are controlling events. The  same goes for talking heads and pundits who must demonstrate their predictive abilities…

I’m certainly not a politician, nor yet really a pundit, and certainly not a talking head. So I’m safe, yes?

Well, none of us are really safe, but sometimes we just have to take it, not merely a day at a time, but a moment at a time.

Talk to y’all later. In the meantime, watch with me, will you?


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Who planted the mechanical bull in the Middle East?

797_mechanical_20bull Not that Middle Eastern matters have ever been a smooth ride, but this past couple of weeks have been a tad wilder than usual, in my humble opinion. I’ve been watching from the sidelines since my last post, but I figure by now it should be OK to say something, even if it isn’t something conclusive.

Let’s start with the collapse of the Hariri government in Lebanon a week ago. While Prime Minister Saad Hariri was in Washington, Hezbollah announced that it was pulling out of the Lebanese governing coalition. My initial response was to think, ‘don’t let the screen door hit you on the way out,’ but I knew better than to really take so simplistic view. It’s a shame, though.

nasrallah_ahmedinijad Of course it all has to do with the Shiite terror party’s well founded fears of the results of the Rafiq Hariri assassination investigation, but it is not immediately clear what advantage Hezbollah sees in the move. The best answer I’ve seen so far comes from JCPA: it could very well be that it is not Hezbollah’s idea at all, but Iran’s, and its real purpose is to send Washington (note the timing) a message that Tehran, not Washington or Beirut,  truly calls the shots in Lebanon. That’s not a good thing. A real US president would not tolerate that.

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Iran’s jockeying for the lead in Middle Eastern affairs is bound also to be at the expense of Turkey, as this analysis lays out. Never mind that Turkey is trying hard to shoot itself in the foot without Iran’s help, by making such off the wall statements as ‘Hamas is not a terror organization.’ I heard in another place that Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan was booed out of a soccer stadium over the weekend (thanks Rubinreports). One end goes up, the other end goes down.

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In the meantime, the government of Tunisia has been overthrown in a general revolt. You can read the details in many places, like here, and Iran does not appear to have had anything to do with this one, but the best comment I’ve seen comes from yesterday’s edition of Israel National News. Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu is said to have warned:

The current rebellion, mayhem and ensuing violence in Tunisia serves a warning against rushing into establishing the Palestinian Authority as a new Arab country without proper security guarantees…

He may have a point there, don’t you think?

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And now the government of Israel itself is feeling some significant tremors. Yesterday’s big news was Defense Minister Ehud Barak’s announcement that he is leaving the Labor Party and forming a new party with four other MKs. This by no means brings down Israel’s government in the sense of what is happening in the Arab countries (in spite of what opposition leader Tzipi Livni might say), but it is a significant development. So far it appears that Barak will stay in the government, but it’s not certain at this point, and the fate of what’s left of Labor is even more unsure. The Labor Party has been steadily decreasing in size and influence over the past several years, and this shakeup may turn out to be more of a Richter 4 or 5 than a 6 or 7, but in the understatement of one the remaining Labor MKs, “The situation is truly not simple.”

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And what would a Lineman post be without another Stuxnet update?

Did they or didn’t they? Israel, I mean. Are they the authors of the Stuxnet super virus which has thrown a monkey wrench into Iran’s nuclear program?

We’re getting closer to finding out for sure, according to the New York Times. I’m not so sure I trust the Times. No, let me rephrase that: I’m quite sure that I do not trust the Times, but that doesn’t mean they never report on anything accurately. Whether the Times article is accurate or not is already under question, but I still like to think Israel really does have something to grin about. At any rate, it’s being generally acknowledged that Iran’s efforts at making nukes have been set back at least a few more years, by which time the regime may very well have self-destructed.

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So you tell me—are we going anywhere with all this, or is it just a mechanical bull ride? Talk to y’all later.

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Now, what was I saying about offense / defense?

Both Israel and diaspora Jews have to stop playing defence and go onto the offence. Israel has nothing to be defensive about or for which it needs to apologise. It is the enemies of Israel who are promoting injustice and the denial of international law and human rights. Playing defence intrinsically cedes ground to the enemy.

For years, Israel has been playing a defensive diplomatic game, which suggests inescapably that it has a case to answer. Such diplomatic cringing has badly undermined it and hugely strengthened its enemies, who are taking advantage of such weakness over and over again.

I couple of weeks ago, I posted some lengthy comments by respected author Melanie Phillips. She is one of a growing number of voices who are sounding the alarm for Israel and its defenders to take the initiative against, as she so well puts it, “a total inversion of truth evidence and reason.”

In routine, everyday discourse history is turned on its head; logic is suspended; and an entirely false narrative is now widely accepted as unchallengeable fact. This has led to a kind of dialogue of the demented in which rational discussion is simply not possible…

For the west to suck up to its enemies while bashing its friends like this is the diplomatic version of auto-immune disease. And eventually this disease will kill it…

If you need an example of a false narrative being presented as fact, just look at Hassan Ali’s comment to my post of December 9th. Or this list of perversion after perversion, going back several years (including an incredibly inventive narrative of how the Kotel is not actually the Kotel—thanks RubinReports!). In any event, please do read Phillips’ essay The challenge of public diplomacy vis-a-vis the delegitimisation of Israel.  At first I considered pulling out a few of her more striking points, but there are so many that I’d just end up reposting the entire article. My main point here is to call attention again to the glaring need, and thankfully the beginnings of a willingness to stand up and fight.

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Another fighter whom I’ve often quoted is Caroline Glick. She also gets some hits in on this issue, pointing out that it’s not just words, it’s warfare:

Information warfare is not simply a question of competing narratives, as it is often characterized in the West. Information war is a form of warfare whose aim is to use words, symbols and images to force people to take real action. These actions can involve everything from war to terrorism to surrender…

On May 8, 2001, a group of Palestinians from a village adjacent to the Israeli community of Tekoa in Gush Etzion got their hands on two Jewish children, Koby Mandell and Yosef Ishran, from Tekoa. The two boys were bludgeoned to death with stones. The details of the butchery are unspeakable. The question is, what can make human beings butcher children? How can a person hurt a child the way that their killers hurt them? The answer is Palestinian television.

Glick goes on to outline how PA-TV is used for around the clock incitement, using doctored footage and other methods of deception.

The immediate context of Glick’s Jerusalem Post article is Hezbollah’s very real threat of a shooting war, dependent on the outcome of the Hariri assassination investigation. She uses this to underscore, as she concludes, that:

…information wars are not just about getting out the facts. Like kinetic warfare, they involve power plays, intimidation and the use of subconscious and visceral manipulation.

Israel has recently awoken to one aspect of information warfare. It has recognized the consequences of years of demonization of Israel in Europe and international organizations. But Israel has yet to awaken to the fact that it is a type of warfare and has to be countered with counter-information warfare.

Obviously this doesn’t mean that Israel should begin acting like its enemies. But what it does mean is that Israel must begin using more hard-knuckle techniques to defend itself. It must begin targeting people’s emotions as well has their minds.

For instance, when Israel is confronted by threats of lawsuits for acts of self-defense, it responds with defense attorneys… When Israel is accused of targeting Palestinian civilians, it responds by attaching legal advisers to combat units. What it should be doing instead is providing video footage of Palestinian children being trained as terrorists and exploited as human shields.

War is a dirty business. Information warfare is a dirty form of war. And if we don’t want to lose, we’d better start fighting.

I think we’ll be hearing more of this sort of thing in the near future. At least I hope so.


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Oh thank heaven for 2011!

2010 was a rough one, wasn’t it? Wars and rumors of wars, earthquakes in divers places… but still the end is not yet. Don’t worry, it’s not my intention here to do a year-in-review-and-preview-of-the-new post. If you think about it for a moment, changing one digit on the calendar really doesn’t change anything, does it? The wars and rumors of wars that were going on a few months ago are still going on now; there was another major earthquake in another part of the world yesterday. Things happen; things continue to happen.

One of the major things that happened last year which seems to be still with us is the way the Stuxnet computer super virus appears to have stymied Iran’s nuclear arms program. Every time I think the matter has been finally dealt with, it turns up again. And now Jerusalem Post and others say it was actually the Middle East Story of the Year for 2010. But I said I wasn’t going to do that sort of post. So I won’t. I just thought it was interesting to note.

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Well, OK, even though I don’t intend to indulge, it doesn’t hurt to pay attention to the comments of others who have better credentials than do I. Once again Caroline Glick comes to mind, and she has some cogent remarks to make about what she calls “The wars of 2011.”

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sweet_little_hamas_suicide_boy_via_ICEJ Speaking of credentials, IsraeliGirl sent me another in-depth expert interview, this time with counter terrorism authority Dr. Boaz Ganor of IDC Herzliyah. Dr. Ganor answers some questions I had, such as how Iran’s Shiite terror organization manages to work so well with Sunni Hamas in spite of what would otherwise be fatal differences. An intriguing, if upsetting, perspective also is how suicide bombers constitute what might be called the terrorists’ “’smart bomb’ technology.” Talk about culture shock — there’s nothing in the culture I come from that can easily handle the notion of suicide being smart, but that only shows how much we need to learn about the nasty world existing in some others’ minds. And it is apparently not all about the “70 virgins” either, but it’s even more bizarre (to our way of thinking) than that. Read Dr. Ganor’s explanations here.

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And this morning I received an article from the same source explaining Iran’s (or at least Ahmadinejad’s) vision of a new world order to replace the failed [sic] old orders of communism and capitalism. Apparently the tyrant of Tehran thinks

Iran and its ideological teachings are emerging as the next major alternative to these ideologies…

…and that the new world can get along just fine without either the US or Israel.

His plans for the Arab states also apparently involve their moving away from any semblance of moderation into his loving yet crushing grip. It’s no wonder (and a relief, in a way) that the recent Wikileaks revelations show the Arab regimes to be more wary of Iran than of the US or even of Israel.

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changing_weather You know, I’m a little tempted at this point to say, the more things seem to change, the more they stay the same. But I’m not completely certain how long things will be that way. I’m ninety-nine and forty-four one hundredths percent sure that we will all wake up tomorrow, but beyond that…?

Talk to y’all later, Good Lord willin’ and the crick don’t rise.

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