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Monday, December 27, 2010

Liatush, Once More

It is such an incredible work of art, I wanted to share it one more time....

Son of Mubarak: Succession Without Success?


By Barry Rubin
December 20, 2010
Some of the more interesting Wikileaks concern the U.S. diplomatic perspective on the succession in Egypt from President Husni Mubarak to his son, Gamal. Let's remember that Egypt is the single most important country in the Arabic-speaking world. Dramatic instability there would be disastrous for U.S. interests. And it might happen.

Even compared to Jordan and Saudi Arabia, Egypt has been remarkably passive in the region's international affairs over the last two decades. It has not acted as one might have expected, by taking the lead in organizing the Arab nationalist opposition to Iran and revolutionary Islamism.

But Mubarak has certainly been aware of the threat. While Jordan's King Abdallah compared Iran to an "octopus" reaching out its tentacles to seize control of the region, Mubarak called it a "cancer." A U.S. State Department cable of April 28, 2009, reports:

"President Mubarak has made it clear that he sees Iran as Egypt's-and the region's - primary strategic threat. His already dangerous neighborhood, he has stressed, has only become more so since the fall of [Iraqi dictator] Saddam [Hussein], who, as nasty as he was, nevertheless stood as a wall against Iran, according to Mubarak. He now sees Tehran's hand moving with ease throughout the region, 'from the Gulf to Morocco,' as he told a recent congressional delegation."

Yet Mubarak also stresses the immediate danger is not so much Iran getting nuclear weapons as it is Tehran's subverting almost everyone else in the Middle East:

"While he will readily admit that the Iranian nuclear program is a strategic and existential threat to Egypt and the region, he sees that threat as relatively 'long term.' What has seized his immediate attention are Iran's non-nuclear destabilizing actions such as support for Hama, media attacks, weapons and illicit funds smuggling, all of which add up in his mind to 'Iranian influence spreading like a cancer from the GCC [Gulf Cooperation Council countries] to Morocco.'"

But President Barack Obama also frightens Mubarak:

"[The Egyptians] are worried that [the United States is] going to strike a 'grand deal' with the Iranians....The prevailing [Egyptian government] view remains a principled rejection of any diplomatic rapprochement."

Sounds like Mubarak's been writing Rubin Reports! Or to put it another way, Mubarak (and the Saudis, Jordanians, and others) are more worried about Tehran than is the United States. Well, they should be! After all, not only are they closer to Iran but they are also dependent on U.S. protection. Nowadays, that's enough to scare anybody.

But the 82-year-old Mubarak won't be around too much longer. The assumption is he will give the presidency to his 46-year-old son, Gamal Mubarak. Yet even now Gamal remains only the head of the ruling party's policy committee and is its assistant chairman. He has not been given any high-ranking governmental responsibility.

In 2011 there will be a presidential election. Will Husni run for reelection again or will he give the spot to his son and retire? If Husni, obviously reluctant to yield power, doesn't make that transition the country will possibly face instability. 

Ambassador Francis J. Ricciardone wrote in a May 14, 2007 memo:

"[Gamal's] power base is his father, and so while he could conceivably be installed prior to Mubarak's death, the task would become far more difficult ...once the pharaoh [Husni] has departed the scene."

Opposing Gamal, say American diplomats, are Defense Minister Mohammed Hussein Tantawi and intelligence chief Omar Suleiman. I can attest from personal experience that Suleiman loathes Gamal. To give you a sense of how deep this runs, one of Suleiman's agents always refers to Gamal as "the boy." The State Department also worries that mid-level officers might some day try to stage a coup.

The most worrisome line in the cables-and remember this for future reference-is the warning that Gamal will be "politically weaker" than his father and thus eager to sound anti-American to build popular support. I was a bit surprised at this point since Gamal is very Westernized and attuned to business. But perhaps this assessment makes sense.

With both Egypt and Jordan run by "princes" who are very lightweight (King Abdallah of Jordan is no King Hussein and one seasoned Western observer recently described him as more British than Arab), the leadership forces on the Arab anti-Iran, anti-Islamist side will be pretty weak.

[By the way, if you are keeping track, only 270 shopping days until Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's birthday. I understand that his friends and colleagues are taking up a collection to get him a nice nearby country or two as a present.]


*               Barry Rubin is director of the Global Research in International Affairs (GLORIA) Center and editor of the Middle East Review of International Affairs (MERIA) Journal. His latest books are The Israel-Arab Reader (seventh edition), with Walter Laqueur (Viking-Penguin); the paperback edition of The Truth About Syria (Palgrave-Macmillan); A Chronological History of Terrorism, with Judy Colp Rubin, (Sharpe); and The Long War for Freedom: The Arab Struggle for Democracy in the Middle East (Wiley). To read and subscribe to MERIA, GLORIA articles, or to order books, go tohttp://www.gloria-center.org You can read and subscribe to his blog athttp://www.rubinreports.blogspot.com.

The Global Research in International Affairs (GLORIA) Center
Interdisciplinary Center (IDC) Herzliya, P.O. Box 167, Herzliya, 46150, Israel
info@gloria-center.org- Phone: 972-9-960-2736 - Fax: 972-9-960-2736
© 2010 All rights reserved | T

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Together We Can Free Jonathan Pollard!


Dear Friends of Israel ,

This is an emergency campaign started because of a unique window of opportunity available to secure Jonathan Pollard's release after Prime Minister Netanyahu confirmed he will publicly ask of the US President to pardon him.
Sign this form to be added as a signatory to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's letter to President Barack Obama requesting the release of Jonathan Pollard. 
To sign the form, click here
Jonathan Pollard has been imprisoned for the past 25 years of a life sentence for sharing information he considered vital to Israel's security. This sentence is comparable to punishments given to spies from enemy states, not allies! It is time for Pollard to come back home to Israel! For more information on Pollard's case, click here.
Prime Minister Netanyahu announced that he will publicly call for the US to release Jonathan Pollard. By signing this form, you are adding your signature to the Prime Minister's letter that will be given to President Barack Obama. 
To sign the form, click here
The list of signatories will be sent to President Obama on December 30th.
Currently, we have 3813 signatories. Let's get tens of thousands! Please forward this email to everyone.


Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Pro-Hamas Placards To Go On Seattle Buses

Since the end of Operation Cast Lead, 216 rockets and 114 mortar shells have been fired into Israel.

Operation cast Lead was the restrained Israeli response to years of being bombed by Palestinians in Gaza.
To suggest otherwise is to be ignorant of, or unconcerned about the response that was forced upon the peaceful Jews of Israel.

A King County Councilman says planned advertisements on Metro buses from a group that is critical of Israel are inappropriate.
Councilman Peter von Reichbauer on Monday wrote to Executive Dow Constantine about his concerns, saying he'd been contacted by people who were worried about the ads from the Seattle Mideast Awareness Campaign.
The advertising on Metro buses would read: "Israeli War Crimes Your Tax Dollars At Work." (UPDATE: Constantine has ordered a review of Metro policy).
"We do not have to reflect long in time to remember that on July 28, 2006 a mad man broke into the Seattle Jewish Federation building shooting six women, one fatally, and now I ask the question why a public transportation system would advertise polarizing political statements," von Reichbauer wrote. "I am a strong advocate of freedom of speech and a strong believer of common sense. And I believe very strongly that dangerous language can create dangerous environments in a society. I believe that this proposed bus advertising needs to be reviewed and reevaluated. For $1,800 on December 27, twelve buses will begin advertising material that can incite a 'breach of public safety, peace and order.'"
In January of this year Naveed Haq was sentenced to life without parole for the Jewish Federation shootings.
Ed Mast, a spokesman for the Seattle Mideast Awareness Campaign, told KING5 that the ads were meant to get people talking about Mideast peace issues, not as an anti-Israel statement.
King County Metro's policy about bus advertising restricts messages about pornography, tobacco and alcohol and images and material that could threaten public safety. Metro officials have said the ads about Israel do not violate Metro's advertising policy.

Councilman: 'Israeli War Crimes' bus ads go too far

I am a strong advocate of freedom of speech and a strong believer of common sense. And I believe very strongly that dangerous language can create dangerous environments in a society. I believe that this proposed bus advertising needs to be reviewed and reevaluated. For $1,800 on December 27, twelve buses will begin advertising material that can incite a 'breach of public safety, peace and order.'

SOURCE: SEATTLE POST INTELLIGENCER

To write and express your opinion on this disgraceful action, paste the following addresses in the Send To portion of your emails.
Thank you,
Michael


KCExec@kingcounty.gov, mike.mcginn@seattle.gov, Bob.Ferguson@kingcounty.gov, Larry.Gossett@kingcounty.gov, Kathy.Lambert@kingcounty.gov, Larry.Phillips@kingcounty.gov, Julia.Patterson@kingcounty.gov, Jane.Hague@kingcounty.gov,Jane.Hague@kingcounty.gov, Pete.vonReichbauer@kingcounty.gov, Reagan.Dunn@kingcounty.gov, sally.bagshaw@seattle.gov,tim.burgess@seattle.gov, sally.clark@seattle.gov, richard.conlin@seattle.gov, jean.godden@seattle.gov, bruce.harrell@seattle.gov, nick.licata@seattle.gov, mike.obrien@seattle.gov, tom.rasmussen@seattle.gov 

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Revenge On The Nazis

December 15, 2010

After WWII, a small group of Holocaust survivors set out to take revenge on Nazis. They tracked down former Nazi soldiers, executed them in the middle of the night, and even allegedly poisoned hundreds of SS officers in American POW camps.

This group was nicknamed "the Avengers." Their true identities were kept secret for decades--and not many people know about their history. Even today, it's difficult to separate hard fact from lore and legend, including what was perhaps their biggest victory: Smuggling a huge shipment of deadly arsenic from Paris to Germany in 1945 and poisoning the bread served to German prisoners of war.

In 2005, a request from the Polish government that Israel extradite one Avenger to stand trial over his activities was ignored. Its members--some of whom also took part in the Warsaw Ghetto uprising--are not apologetic. "I didn't see myself as a murderer, not then and not today," one of the Avengers told CBS News, also in 2005.

The group is the subject of a newly-published thriller, The Final Reckoning by Sam Bourne, and is profiled in a nonfiction book, The Avengers, by Rich Cohen. It's often said that the Oscar-winning film Inglourious Basterds owed the Avengers a debt of gratitude. But if truth is stranger than fiction, then the real-life adventures of the Avengers are far more intriguing than anything our imaginations can conjure.

Happening Now: Largest Prison Strike in History


Georgia Prison Strike

by Donal 12/13/2010 - 8:43 pm   |


I listened to WEAA 88.9 FM tonight, on the walk to the light rail. (I'd rather bike, but they were calling for snow.) After a good discussion on WikiLeaks, Marc Steiner interviewed Bruce Dixon of the Black Agenda Report for a story that has been largely unreported, the Georgia Prison Strike.
In an action which is unprecedented on several levels, black, brown and white inmates of Georgia's notorious state prison system are standing together for a historic one day peaceful strike today, during which they are remaining in their cells, refusing work and other assignments and activities. This is a groundbreaking event not only because inmates are standing up for themselves and their own human rights, but because prisoners are setting an example by reaching across racial boundaries which, in prisons, have historically been used to pit oppressed communities against each other.

The action is taking place today in at least half a dozen of Georgia's more than one hundred state prisons, correctional facilities, work camps, county prisons and other correctional facilities.  We have unconfirmed reports that authorities at Macon State prison have aggressively responded to the strike by sending tactical squads in to rough up and menace inmates.

Steiner, and occasional cohost Anthony McCarthy introduced the story by quoting stats from a blog by Ta-Nehisi Coates, who is called TNC at The Atlantic. TNC wrote that blacks, African-Americans of both sexes, make up 0.6% of the world population, but African-American males represent 8% of the world prison population. If the US released all our black prisoners, we would fall slightly behind China in the number imprisoned.

But why are the Georgia prisoners so worked up, and so unified? They have a list of demands, but Dixon spoke of the increasing costs of staying in touch with family. According to Dixon, it used to be that family could send small amounts of cash directly to inmates with a money order. I can see where cash should be regulated, but now they have to go through something called J-Pay, who take nearly ten percent off the top. Fifteen minutes of phone calls to an inmate through Global Tel-Link can cost $55 per month. The strike is continuing, and Dixon posted a second article at the Black Agenda Report:
It's a fact that Georgia prisons skimp on medical care and nutrition behind the walls, and that in Georgia's prisons recreational facilities are non-existent, and there are no educational programs available beyond GED, with the exception of a single program that trains inmates to be Baptist ministers. Inmates know that upon their release they will have no more education than they did when they went in, and will be legally excluded from Pell Grants and most kinds of educational assistance, they and their families potentially locked into a disadvantaged economic status for life.





Monday, December 13, 2010

Thanks to International Aid, Gaza Is Going To Be A Well-Off Islamist Republic

By Barry Rubin
December 13, 2010

The Gaza Strip is doing really well economically and the Hamas regime seems set to go on forever. It's raking in the aid money but every dollar and every project is shaped to ensure that Hamas remains in power, can return to violence in future and...wreck everything again.

"There are a slew of products here, and beautiful restaurants. Is this the Gaza we have been hearing about?" asked a Sudanese official arriving there, as quoted by the Palestinian news agency Maan. "Where is the siege? I don't see it in Gaza. I wish Sudan's residents could live under the conditions of the Gazan siege."

So far there is not much building going on but just a lot of talk. The ground is being cleared for construction but building materials are lacking. The biggest single project right now is for water treatment under European guidance.

If Hamas were a normal government getting a rebuilding effort going would be great. By normal government I mean even a normal dictatorship. Such a regime would say:

We're raising living standards, we're increasing our popularity. Why should we be so foolish as to go to war against a stronger neighbor and see all of this destroyed again?

But, of course, Hamas is not a normal ruling group. It believes that the Creator of the Universe is on its side and wants it to fight. Hamas revels in martyrdom. It thinks total victory and the killing of all Israeli Jews is achievable. And it knows that the rest of the world won't let it be fully defeated and thrown out of power no matter how many rockets, martyrs, and terrorist groups it sends into Israel.

As a dictatorial regime intending to control everything and stay in power forever, Hamas is locking the Gaza population into its patronage system, a sort of Islamist welfare state, so that people wouldn't dare break with their rulers.

The main projected project: is building 25,000 new housing units in the northern Gaza Strip, just west of Beit Lahiya. Here's how a business magazine explains it:

"The neighborhood...will be named after the residence of the 72 virgins waiting in paradise. The al-Buraq neighborhood, named after the horse Prophet Muhammad rode from Mecca to the al-Aqsa Mosque, will be built on the lands of Gush Katif. The Andalus neighborhood is aimed at reminding the Muslims of their days of glory in Spain."

Let's stop a minute and consider those names and what a reporter wouldn't even notice here:

--72 virgins: To remind everyone growing up there that they, too, can get six dozen virgins if they become a martyr by blowing up Israeli civilians.

--The horse: To remind everyone that their goal in life is to devote themselves to warfare so they, too, can travel to the al-Aqsa mosque and conquer Jerusalem.

--Andalus: To remind everyone of  the one-time (and future?) extent of the Muslim empire which even conquered Spain, and where they also intend to return.

This is a fascinating example of how economic development mixes with political power and indoctrination. Up in Lebanon, Hizballah is doing similar things. But there's more, much more.

Who will get the apartments if they are ever built? First in line are the families of martyrs, prisoners, and wounded fighters. This shows the advantages of fighting for Hamas. The way you get an apartment is not to get a good education and work hard to earn the necessary money but rather to die in battle. I 
predicted all of the following six months ago as the inevitable consequence of a U.S. policy that backs, in effect, Hamas staying in power.

Next on the priority list come young couples who don't have an apartment or a lot to build on. That's nice, but it relates to the theme-which Hamas has voiced often--of maximizing population growth so as to achieve victory through overwhelming numbers, which also provides more fighters

Only in third place come families that lost their homes during the fighting last year, which is the group you'd expect to have the highest priority. All the humanitarian groups that have decried Israel's defensive war against Hamas might take note that Hamas has put the victims last in line for relief. This is a good indication of its thinking and policies.

You can bet, by the way, that Hamas loyalists will get put into line in each of these categories ahead of Fatah supporters. That gives people an incentive to switch sides and to support the regime.

Moreover, only those working for the Hamas government can get a bank loan; families of casualties can get help from Hamas-controlled Islamic charities. The rest can get mortgages only with Islamic associations controlled by Hamas. Anybody involved in opposition activities would probably get turned down. And, of course, the people who do get help must be grateful to Hamas for the roof over their heads.

Finally, the way the project is being laid out looks to me as if it is being set up as a barrier to any future Israeli military operation into the Gaza Strip.

On one hand, it will create a dense network of narrow streets and buildings which can be more easily defended by guerrillas, likely to inflict more casualties on Israel's soldiers.

On the other hand, it would be the architectural equivalent of a human shield, since Israeli forces would have to damage civilian apartments to engage Hamas men firing from them, thus creating a situation which could be falsely portrayed as a war crime.

At any rate, it should be rather impossible to speak about the Gaza Strip as deprived and suffering any more, though I suspect that won't stop a lot of people from doing so. The article explains:

"There is apparently no shortage of money. Generous donations are flowing in from Iran, Islamic associations across the Arab worlds, and governmental elements in Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates, as well as Western elements.

"Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, who has been mercilessly pursuing Hamas in the West Bank, is aiding Gaza with millions of dollars, boasting that 57% of the Palestinian Authority budget is directed at the Strip. Abbas pays the salaries of 70,000 government workers from the post-Hamas era, maintains the health and education systems, and even funds some of Gaza's electricity production expenses."

But Hamas no doubt will use part of the money for paying, training, and arming its soldiers and security men. Unlike the Palestinian Authority, which rules the West Bank, however, Hamas is also putting in a tax system: value-added tax, income tax, tax on gas, and tax on all goods arriving from Israel. Bottom line: Hamas will take its cut of everything coming in and everything going on.

And how is the world responding to this? Well, Middle East peace envoy Tony Blair
 wants the sanctions reduced even further, presumably on the dangerously risky theory that if Hamas gets to be really wealthy and popular it will become moderate rather than better able to promote revolution and terrorism.

It is a good thing that Gazans will have nicer lives materially. But the same process will ensure that they will not have a better life in terms of freedom. With Hamas indoctrinating young people to become terrorists and even suicide bombers many of them will have shorter lives. And since Hamas is just preparing for another war with Israel-or provocations that will eventually lead to war-those apartments might not be there forever either.

*               Barry Rubin is director of the Global Research in International Affairs (GLORIA) Center and editor of the Middle East Review of International Affairs (MERIA) Journal. His latest books are The Israel-Arab Reader (seventh edition), with Walter Laqueur (Viking-Penguin); the paperback edition of The Truth About Syria (Palgrave-Macmillan); A Chronological History of Terrorism, with Judy Colp Rubin, (Sharpe); and The Long War for Freedom: The Arab Struggle for Democracy in the Middle East (Wiley). To read and subscribe to MERIA, GLORIA articles, or to order books, go tohttp://www.gloria-center.org.  You can read and subscribe to his blog athttp://www.rubinreports.blogspot.com.
WeThe Gloria Center depends on your contributions. To make a tax-deductible donation through PayPal or credit card, click the Donate button in the upper-right hand corner of this page. To donate via check, make it out to "American Friends of IDC," with "for GLORIA Center" in the memo line. Mail to: American Friends of IDC, 116 East 16th Street, 11th Floor, New York, NY 10003.  If you would like to make a tax deductible donation from the United Kingdom or Germany please email us for more information here.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Why Did U.S. Peace Process Diplomacy Fail; What Happens Next?

By Barry Rubin
December 11, 2010

I think this lead from Jackson Diehl's Washington Post  article says it all:

"The latest collapse of the Middle East peace process has underlined a reality that the Obama administration has resisted since it took office--that neither the current Israeli government nor the Palestinian Authority shares its passion for moving quickly toward a two-state settlement. And it has left President Obama with a tough choice: quietly shift one of his prized foreign policy priorities to a back burner -- or launch a risky redoubling of U.S. efforts."

Since I've been trying to explain this for about ten years it's gratifying to see others getting the point. It's pretty remarkable that only after two years has the Obama Administration perhaps begun to get the first point: peace is not in the cards. One might also hope that it won't take ten years to understand that the reason for this situation is that the Palestinian Authority doesn't want peace.

Diehl understands that also. While criticizing Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for not offering enough, he adds:

"[Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud] Abbas has resisted negotiating with Netanyahu ever since he took office early last year, saying he doesn't believe the right-wing Israeli leader will ever offer serious peace terms. But Abbas also turned down a far-reaching offer from Netanyahu's predecessor....By now it should be obvious: at age 75, he prefers ruling a quiet West Bank to going down in history as the Palestinian leader who granted final recognition to a Jewish state."

Diehl also says something that should have been obvious for years but one rarely hears in the mainstream debate:

"As I have pointed out before, the settlements are mostly not material to a deal on a Palestinian state, since both sides accept that the majority of them will be annexed to Israel in exchange for land elsewhere. The issue has become an obstacle in large part because of Obama's misguided placement of emphasis on it, which forced Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to embrace a hard line."

Then there's Diehl's second sentence in his lead: What will Obama do? Many people believe that he's so ideologically set on this issue that he's going to do a "risky redoubling."

Here's Diehl's conclusion. If Obama does present

"A U.S. or international plan for Palestinian statehood and try to impose it on both sides. History--including that of the last two years -- suggests that double-or-nothing bet would produce a diplomatic fiasco for Obama and maybe a new war in the Middle East. But given Obama's personal fascination with Middle East diplomacy, there's a reasonable chance he'll try it."

I agree with that argument, both regarding the "diplomatic fiasco" and the "reasonable chance." But this outcome is by no means inevitable. Preoccupied with domestic issues, possibly having learned something from the last two years (if only that he doesn't want to look foolish), fearing another diplomatic fiasco, opposed by Congress, starting to think about reelection in 2012, busy with domestic issues, Obama might well downgrade the issue in practice (even while maintaining rhetoric about high-level involvement.

This is a question that will be resolved in early 2011. We should not assume the answer to the question but wait and see what actually does happen, carefully looking for clues along the way. I promise to do that.

Footnote: Yes, I caught Diehl's reference to the "current" Israeli government not having a passion for peace. It should be noted that the current government also includes the Labor Party, the main party of the left, and that while a different prime minister might try harder--as former Prime Ministers Yitzhak Rabin, Shimon Peres, Ehud Barak, Ariel Sharon, and Ehud Olmert all did--as one can see from their experiences the roadblock still remains PA intransigence
.

*               Barry Rubin is director of the Global Research in International Affairs (GLORIA) Center and editor of the Middle East Review of International Affairs (MERIA) Journal. His latest books are The Israel-Arab Reader (seventh edition), with Walter Laqueur (Viking-Penguin); the paperback edition of The Truth About Syria (Palgrave-Macmillan); A Chronological History of Terrorism, with Judy Colp Rubin, (Sharpe); and The Long War for Freedom: The Arab Struggle for Democracy in the Middle East (Wiley). To read and subscribe to MERIA, GLORIA articles, or to order books, go tohttp://www.gloria-center.org.  You can read and subscribe to his blog athttp://www.rubinreports.blogspot.com.
We depend on your contributions. To make a tax-deductible donation through PayPal or credit card, click the Donate button in the upper-right hand corner of this page. To donate via check, make it out to "American Friends of IDC," with "for GLORIA Center" in the memo line. Mail to: American Friends of IDC, 116 East 16th Street, 11th Floor, New York, NY 10003.  If you would like to make a tax deductible donation from the United Kingdom or Germany please email us for more information here.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Obama Administration Gives Up On Pointless "Freeze" Diplomacy


By Barry Rubin
December 8, 2010

As I predicted here ten days ago, the Obama Administration has now given up attempts to get Israel to agree to a three-month freeze of construction on existing settlements.

Here is the most fascinating sentence in the New York Times' coverage:

"Officials said the administration decided to pull the plug because it concluded that even if Mr. Netanyahu persuaded his cabinet to accept an extension - which he had not yet been able to do - the 90-day negotiating period would not have produced the progress on core issues that the administration originally had hoped for."

Translation: They decided that a three-month freeze wouldn't do any good. In other words, as I've been saying since October, the administration put forward a policy that made no sense, offering big concessions in exchange for getting something worthless.

It is good that the U.S. government has recognized the silliness of what it has been doing the last six months.

Of course, the Times tried to blame Israel exclusively: "Mr. Netanyahu could face renewed pressure from the United States and the Palestinians as the hurdle to resumed talks." As happens so often, the newspaper's writers don't seem to be reading their own words.

After all, the reporter had just pointed out that Netanyahu tried but could not get the plan through his cabinet.  Moreover, the administration messed up its diplomacy to the point that nobody in Israel could tell what it was offering.

And, of course, the Palestinian Authority has been refusing to negotiate with Israel seriously for two solid years. Yet the Times wants to blame Israel or the lack of talks.

At some point early next year the Obama Administration will have to decide whether to put this issue on the back burner or keep knocking its head against a stone wall. And that stone wall isn't Israel, it's the Palestinian Authority which, now that it has recognition from Brazil and potentially from other countries, will be more intransigent than ever.

*               Barry Rubin is director of the Global Research in International Affairs (GLORIA) Center and editor of the Middle East Review of International Affairs (MERIA) Journal. His latest books are The Israel-Arab Reader (seventh edition), with Walter Laqueur (Viking-Penguin); the paperback edition of The Truth About Syria (Palgrave-Macmillan); A Chronological History of Terrorism, with Judy Colp Rubin, (Sharpe); and The Long War for Freedom: The Arab Struggle for Democracy in the Middle East (Wiley). To read and subscribe to MERIA, GLORIA articles, or to order books, go tohttp://www.gloria-center.org.  You can read and subscribe to his blog athttp://www.rubinreports.blogspot.com.


The Gloria Center depends on your contributions. To make a tax-deductible donation through PayPal or credit card, click the Donate button in the upper-right hand corner of this page. To donate via check, make it out to "American Friends of IDC," with "for GLORIA Center" in the memo line. Mail to: American Friends of IDC, 116 East 16th Street, 11th Floor, New York, NY 10003.  If you would like to make a tax deductible donation from the United Kingdom or Germany please email us for more information here.








The Global Research in International Affairs (GLORIA) Center
Interdisciplinary Center (IDC) Herzliya, P.O. Box 167, Herzliya, 46150, Israel
info@gloria-center.org- Phone: 972-9-960-2736 - Fax: 972-9-960-2736
© 

Monday, December 6, 2010

Was Columbus Jewish?

Columbus consulted with Jews, and transported some to the New World.

By Howard Sachar

Jewish folklore has long connected Columbus’s voyage (1492) with the expulsion of the Jews from Spain (also 1492). Since there are few records of Columbus’ personal life, generations of Jews, Italian and Spaniards have speculated and divined over clues to his origins and motivations. While this kind of conjecture is the stuff of myth and legend, there is something valuable to be said about the congruence of the voyage and the departure of the Jews. Although the it signaled the end of the Jewish community in Spain, the expulsion precipitated the formation of a series of new Jewish communities around the world, not the least significant of which were those in Columbus’s New World. Sachar's article, which traces the origins of Jewish settlement in the New World, is reprinted with permission from Farewell Espana: The World of the Sephardim Remembered, published by Alfred A. Knopf.

Was Columbus Jewish?
Jewish filiopietists, as well as several non-Jewish historians, have speculated that the "Admiral of the Ocean Sea" was a Jew. They note that the Spanish name, Colon, was a not uncommon one in Hebrew tradition; that his father was a weaver, one of the few trades open to Jews in his native Genoa; that his mother, Susanna Fonterossa, was the daughter of Jacobo Fonterossa and granddaughter of Abraham Fonterossa [also common Jewish names].


The hypothesizing has been extensive, and Columbus himself doubtless was responsible for much of it. His letters in the Archives [the Archives of the Indies in Seville] drop tantalizing hints: "I am not the first admiral of my family, let them give me whatever name they please; for when all is done, David, that most prudent king, was first a shepherd and afterward chosen King of Jerusalem, and I am a servant of that same Lord who raised him to such a dignity."

In his ship’s log, Columbus makes frequent references to the Hebrew Bible, to Jerusalem to Moses, David, Abraham, Isaac, and Sarah. He computes the age of the world according to the Jewish calendar: ". . . and from the destruction: the Second Temple according to the Jews to the present day, being the year of the birth of Our Lord 1481, are 1413 years…" In his last will and testament, Columbus asks that one-tenth of his income be given to the poor; that a dowry be provided for poor girls “in such a way that they do not notice whence it comes"--a characteristically anonymous technique of Jewish philanthropy.

Jewish Astronomer-navigators and Financiers Supported the Voyage
Today, however, most scholars dismiss the rather poignant effort to judaize Columbus. They prefer to focus on the overwhelming thoroughly documented role of Jews in the great mariner's voyages of discovery. In Lisbon, Columbus knew and consulted Joseph Vecinho, Martin Behaim and other [Jewish, either professing or converso] astronomer-navigators of the royal court. It was Vecinho who presented Columbus with a Castilian translation of Zacuto's tables. [Abraham Zacuto was an openly Jewish professor of astronomy and navigation at the University of Salamanaca. His most important achievement was a table of celestial position that allowed sailors to ascertain their latitudes without recourse to the sun’s meridian. Ed.]  Later, Zacuto himself also met Columbus, and endorsed his pro posed Atlantic expedition….Not the least of those hazards [of the voyage] was the absence of funding. For Columbus, none could be found in Portugal. He moved on to the Spanish court in Andalusia.

There he was received sympathetically by the small group of royal officials, among them…Luis de Santangel. [A converso, Santangel] emerged as particularly vital to Columbus's expedition. Chancellor of ­ King Fernando's household, comptroller-general of Aragon, and an immensely wealthy tax-farmer on his own account, Santangel was in a unique position to exert influence at court. Personally, he favored Columbus’s  Atlantic venture and recommended it to his ruler.

When the king was not forthcoming, Santangel arranged three separate audiences for Columbus with Castile's Queen Isabel. Both men made a strong case. As an additional inducement, Santangel offered to advance 1.4 million maravedis of his own. Finally persuaded, the queen--and her husband--then supplied the rest of the funds. Santangel's crucial intermediary  role would not be forgotten. It was to him that Columbus sent off report of his discovery after returning from his initial Atlantic voyage.

1492: Columbus Sails, Spain Expels Its Jews
In underwriting the expedition, the royal couple depended upon more than Santangel's participation. April 29,1492, the day Columbus received authorization to equip his fleet, was also the day the Edict of Expulsion was publicly announced in several of the larger Spanish cities. The timing was not coincidental. For the Catholic Monarchs, the anticipated revenues of forfeited Jewish property represented a substantial "down payment” on Columbus's venture. Indeed, the two events were linked to the final moments of joint departure. "After the Spanish monarchs had expell ed all the Jews from all their kingdoms and lands," Columbus recorded,” they commissioned me to undertake the voyage to India with a equipped fleet." The scheduled date of sailing, August 2, was also the deadline for Jewish departure. Scores of vessels, with thousands of Jews packed into their holds, congested Palos de la Frontera, the maritime inlet of the Gulf of Cadiz. Here, too, Columbus gathered his fleet ofthree little caravels.

The tumultuous "ethnic cleansing" provided Columbus with more than his funds. At least part of his crew were conversos. Among them were--Alfonso de la Calle, a bursar, who eventually settled in Hispaniola. Ro drigo Sanchez of Segovia, a surgeon, was a relative of Aragon's treasurer, Gabriel Sanchez. Another surgeon, Maestro Bernal of Tortosa, only recently had escaped the clutches of the Inquisition. Luis de Torres was a Jew who had accepted baptism just in time to sign on with Columbus's fleet. As a multilingual "oriental," Torres was regarded as a likely inter preter to the "oriental" potentates of the Indies. Later, he sought government permission to remain on the island of Cuba as royal agent, and his appeal was granted, along with a pension.

Meanwhile, in gratitude for Columbus’s discovery of the Indies, the Catholic monarchs in 1493 authorized the great mariner to set sail again for the New World. To fund the second expedition, however, the royal court pounced on all remaining Jewish wealth--all unsold land and homes and unredeemed certificates, indebtedness; all chattels, precious metals, jewels, gold and silver utensils, even synagogue artifacts. The expropriation would generate 6 million maravedis, four times the amount available for the initial voyage. This time, the Admiral of the Ocean Sea departed in style.

Conversos in New Spain, New Castile, and New Granada
It is a fact of history that Columbus's four voyages achieved only a precarious foothold in the New World. Another half-century of exploration and conquest was required for others to secure Spain's vast empire and to structure the sheer magnitude of terrain into the three manageable viceroyalties of New Spain (Mexico, Central America, the Philippines), New Castile (Peru, all of South America except Brazil and the Guineas) and New Granada (Panama, Colombia, Venezuela, Ecuador).

Colonization in those years took precedence over trade as an imperial objective. To foster that settlement, the Crown offered the inducement of great land encomiendas  (estates) to loyal soldiers and farmers and shared profits for the prospectors, engineers, and overseers of South America's boundless silver mines. Ostensibly, the constraints of limpieza de sangre [purity of blood] excluded New Christians from these ventures, or even from settlement in Spanish America.

Yet conversos aplenty found ways to emigrate to the New World. Spain's notoriously venal bureaucracy was quite prepared to sell permits of exemption. For the right price, ship captains were equally willing to disembark New Christian passengers at secret inlets along the Gulf Mexico south of Veracruz, or on the Honduran coast. [The migration of conversos is important to Jewish history for at least two reasons: 1. Crypto-Jews made up a portion of the converso community. These Jews continued to practice Judaism in secret and often, if the opportunity presented itself, resumed living openly as Jews. 2. Conversos, whether they accepted their new identity as Christians or not, still maintained personal and professional ties with their Jewish families--siblings, cousins, parents, grandparents.]

Indeed, the infiltration of conversos became something of an influx once the Spanish throne assumed its rule over Portugal in 1580…In the early seventeenth century, between three and five thousand Portuguese New Christians may have departed for the New World. They anticipated important commercial inducements overseas, and they were not disappointed.

In New Spain, as many as two thousand conversos settled in Mexico City, Guadalajara, Vera Cruz, Puebla, and Guatemala City. In New Castile, approximately the same number of New Christians resided in Lima, Poto Tucuman, and Cordoba. By the 1630s, hardly a town in the Spanish Empire did not shelter at least a scattering of conversos, some of whom migrated as far as New Mexico and Florida.

Their vocations were no less diverse than in Europe. Among the conve rsos there were numerous artisans--shoemakers, spice-makers, tailors. Others were ranchers. Several New Christians were priests. One was a bishop. There were converso military officers. The mayor of Tecali was New Christian. Yet, as in Europe, most Sephardim gravitated toward commerce. Several became managers of silver mines. Others were gem-  and food-dealers. They played their traditionally decisive role in the im port-export market, including the slave trade. Altogether, New Christians were as prominent in the Americas as in Spain, Portugal, or the Nether lands.


Howard M. Sachar is the author of numerous books, including A History of Israel, A History of the Jews in America, Farewell Espana, Israel and Europe, and A History of Jews in the Modern World. He is also the editor of the 39-volume The Rise of Israel: A Documentary History. He serves as Professor of Modern History at George Washington University.

Was Columbus A Jew?

Destination: The New World

Columbus consulted with Jews, and transported some to the New World.

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  • Jewish folklore has long connected Columbus’s voyage (1492) with the expulsion of the Jews from Spain (also 1492). Since there are few records of Columbus’ personal life, generations of Jews, Italian and Spaniards have speculated and divined over clues to his origins and motivations. While this kind of conjecture is the stuff of myth and legend, there is something valuable to be said about the congruence of the voyage and the departure of the Jews. Although the it signaled the end of the Jewish community in Spain, the expulsion precipitated the formation of a series of new Jewish communities around the world, not the least significant of which were those in Columbus’s New World. Sachar's article, which traces the origins of Jewish settlement in the New World, is reprinted with permission from Farewell Espana: The World of the Sephardim Remembered, published by Alfred A. Knopf.

    Was Columbus Jewish?

    Jewish filiopietists, as well as several non‑Jewish historians, have speculated that the "Admiral of the Ocean Sea" was a Jew. They note that the Spanish name, Colon, was a not uncommon one in Hebrew tradition; that his father was a weaver, one of the few trades open to Jews in his native Genoa; that his mother, Susanna Fonterossa, was the daughter of Jacobo Fonterossa and granddaughter of Abraham Fonterossa [also common Jewish names].
     
    The hypothesizing has been extensive, and Columbus himself doubtless was responsible for much of it. His letters in the Archives [the Archives of the Indies in Seville] drop tantalizing hints: "I am not the first admiral of my family, let them give me whatever name they please; for when all is done, David, that most prudent king, was first a shepherd and afterward chosen King of Jerusalem, and I am a servant of that same Lord who raised him to such a dignity."
    In his ship’s log, Columbus makes frequent references to the Hebrew Bible, to Jerusalem to Moses, David, Abraham, Isaac, and Sarah. He computes the age of the world according to the Jewish calendar: ". . . and from the destruction: the Second Temple according to the Jews to the present day, being the year of the birth of Our Lord 1481, are 1413 years…" In his last will and testament, Columbus asks that one‑tenth of his income be given to the poor; that a dowry be provided for poor girls “in such a way that they do not notice whence it comes"‑-a characteristically anonymous technique of Jewish philanthropy.

    Jewish Astronomer-navigators and Financiers Supported the Voyage

    Today, however, most scholars dismiss the rather poignant effort to judaize Columbus. They prefer to focus on the overwhelming thoroughly documented role of Jews in the great mariner's voyages of discovery. In Lisbon, Columbus knew and consulted Joseph Vecinho, Martin Behaim and other [Jewish, either professing or converso] astronomer‑navigators of the royal court. It was Vecinho who presented Columbus with a Castilian translation of Zacuto's tables. [Abraham Zacuto was an openly Jewish professor of astronomy and navigation at the University of Salamanaca. His most important achievement was a table of celestial position that allowed sailors to ascertain their latitudes without recourse to the sun’s meridian. Ed.]  Later, Zacuto himself also met Columbus, and endorsed his pro posed Atlantic expedition….Not the least of those hazards [of the voyage] was the absence of funding. For Columbus, none could be found in Portugal. He moved on to the Spanish court in Andalusia.
    There he was received sympathetically by the small group of royal officials, among them…Luis de Santangel. [A converso, Santangel] emerged as particularly vital to Columbus's expedition. Chancellor of ­ King Fernando's household, comptroller‑general of Aragon, and an immensely wealthy tax‑farmer on his own account, Santangel was in a unique position to exert influence at court. Personally, he favored Columbus’s  Atlantic venture and recommended it to his ruler.
    When the king was not forthcoming, Santangel arranged three separate audiences for Columbus with Castile's Queen Isabel. Both men made a strong case. As an additional inducement, Santangel offered to advance 1.4 million maravedis of his own. Finally persuaded, the queen‑-and her husband--then supplied the rest of the funds. Santangel's crucial intermediary  role would not be forgotten. It was to him that Columbus sent off report of his discovery after returning from his initial Atlantic voyage.

    1492: Columbus Sails, Spain Expels Its Jews

    In underwriting the expedition, the royal couple depended upon more than Santangel's participation. April 29,1492, the day Columbus received authorization to equip his fleet, was also the day the Edict of Expulsion was publicly announced in several of the larger Spanish cities. The timing was not coincidental. For the Catholic Monarchs, the anticipated revenues of forfeited Jewish property represented a substantial "down payment” on Columbus's venture. Indeed, the two events were linked to the final moments of joint departure. "After the Spanish monarchs had expell ed all the Jews from all their kingdoms and lands," Columbus recorded,” they commissioned me to undertake the voyage to India with a equipped fleet." The scheduled date of sailing, August 2, was also the deadline for Jewish departure. Scores of vessels, with thousands of Jews packed into their holds, congested Palos de la Frontera, the maritime inlet of the Gulf of Cadiz. Here, too, Columbus gathered his fleet ofthree little caravels.
    The tumultuous "ethnic cleansing" provided Columbus with more than his funds. At least part of his crew were conversos. Among them were--Alfonso de la Calle, a bursar, who eventually settled in Hispaniola. Ro drigo Sanchez of Segovia, a surgeon, was a relative of Aragon's treasurer, Gabriel Sanchez. Another surgeon, Maestro Bernal of Tortosa, only recently had escaped the clutches of the Inquisition. Luis de Torres was a Jew who had accepted baptism just in time to sign on with Columbus's fleet. As a multilingual "oriental," Torres was regarded as a likely inter preter to the "oriental" potentates of the Indies. Later, he sought government permission to remain on the island of Cuba as royal agent, and his appeal was granted, along with a pension.
    Meanwhile, in gratitude for Columbus’s discovery of the Indies, the Catholic monarchs in 1493 authorized the great mariner to set sail again for the New World. To fund the second expedition, however, the royal court pounced on all remaining Jewish wealth-‑all unsold land and homes and unredeemed certificates, indebtedness; all chattels, precious metals, jewels, gold and silver utensils, even synagogue artifacts. The expropriation would generate 6 million maravedis, four times the amount available for the initial voyage. This time, the Admiral of the Ocean Sea departed in style.

    Conversos in New Spain, New Castile, and New Granada

    It is a fact of history that Columbus's four voyages achieved only a precarious foothold in the New World. Another half‑century of exploration and conquest was required for others to secure Spain's vast empire and to structure the sheer magnitude of terrain into the three manageable viceroyalties of New Spain (Mexico, Central America, the Philippines), New Castile (Peru, all of South America except Brazil and the Guineas) and New Granada (Panama, Colombia, Venezuela, Ecuador).
    Colonization in those years took precedence over trade as an imperial objective. To foster that settlement, the Crown offered the inducement of great land encomiendas  (estates) to loyal soldiers and farmers and shared profits for the prospectors, engineers, and overseers of South America's boundless silver mines. Ostensibly, the constraints of limpieza de sangre [purity of blood] excluded New Christians from these ventures, or even from settlement in Spanish America.
    Yet conversos aplenty found ways to emigrate to the New World. Spain's notoriously venal bureaucracy was quite prepared to sell permits of exemption. For the right price, ship captains were equally willing to disembark New Christian passengers at secret inlets along the Gulf Mexico south of Veracruz, or on the Honduran coast. [The migration of conversos is important to Jewish history for at least two reasons: 1. Crypto-Jews made up a portion of the converso community. These Jews continued to practice Judaism in secret and often, if the opportunity presented itself, resumed living openly as Jews. 2. Conversos, whether they accepted their new identity as Christians or not, still maintained personal and professional ties with their Jewish families--siblings, cousins, parents, grandparents.]
    Indeed, the infiltration of conversos became something of an influx once the Spanish throne assumed its rule over Portugal in 1580…In the early seventeenth century, between three and five thousand Portuguese New Christians may have departed for the New World. They anticipated important commercial inducements overseas, and they were not disappointed.
    In New Spain, as many as two thousand conversos settled in Mexico City, Guadalajara, Vera Cruz, Puebla, and Guatemala City. In New Castile, approximately the same number of New Christians resided in Lima, Poto Tucuman, and Cordoba. By the 1630s, hardly a town in the Spanish Empire did not shelter at least a scattering of conversos, some of whom migrated as far as New Mexico and Florida.
    Their vocations were no less diverse than in Europe. Among the conve rsos there were numerous artisans‑-shoemakers, spice‑makers, tailors. Others were ranchers. Several New Christians were priests. One was a bishop. There were converso military officers. The mayor of Tecali was New Christian. Yet, as in Europe, most Sephardim gravitated toward commerce. Several became managers of silver mines. Others were gem-  and food‑dealers. They played their traditionally decisive role in the im port‑export market, including the slave trade. Altogether, New Christians were as prominent in the Americas as in Spain, Portugal, or the Nether lands.
    Howard Sachar
    Howard M. Sachar is the author of numerous books, including A History of IsraelA History of the Jews in AmericaFarewell EspanaIsrael and Europe, and A History of Jews in the Modern World. He is also the editor of the 39-volume The Rise of Israel: A Documentary History. He serves as Professor of Modern History at George Washington University.

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