Monday, September 27, 2010

Turkey's Referendum Doesn't Mean Popular Support for a Regime Aligning with Iran

September 27, 2010

It is true that the passage of the referendum in Turkey with 58 percent of the vote can be seen as a victory for the AKP regime. But that point shouldn't be exaggerated. The bad feature of the reforms--in terms of consolidating the Islamist government's power--is to strengthen the regime's control over the courts and to limit further the autonomy of the Turkish army.

At the same time, though, there were many other provisions that the overwhelming majority of Turks wanted, expanding freedoms and civil liberties, reining in the possibility of military coups which those left of center have opposed in the past. Moreover, it was sold as a step toward Turkish entry into the European Union, still a prime goal though something that's never going to happen.

There are many contradictory aspects. The legal changes strengthen women's and privacy rights on paper but the regime has appointed hardly any women to high-ranking posts and has increased wire-tapping. To allow officers expelled from the army for Islamist activities to appeal the decision in court certainly seems to protect individual rights, but in practice it means that Islamists can now infiltrate the armed forces, organize politically, and if thrown out by the still-secular high command get it reversed by a regime-appointed judge.

I would bet that if it weren't for fear of the provisions strengthening the regime--90 percent of Turks would have supported the proposed changes instead of just 58 percent. But that was part of the trick: putting in some key provisions fundamentally transforming the Turkish republic amidst twenty others that mainly referred to historical or abstract issues.

While the Washington Post 
gets it right, asking whether the regime isn't reducing freedom and democracy in Turkey, the New York Times practically drools over the referendum and uncritically supports the regime in a shameful and quite ignorant manner:

"Turkey, already the Muslim Middle East's sturdiest democracy, fortified its freedoms in a referendum on Sunday, with 58 percent of voters approving a package of constitutional amendments meant to end army meddling in civilian politics. That overwhelming 'yes' vote showed that Turks are fed up with ultimatums and coups and want elected politicians fully in charge."

Um, yeah, but  not pro-Iran, Islamist politicians strangling the independent media, packing the court system with its flunky judges, infiltrating the army with radicals, and arresting peaceful dissidents, right?  Why don't you mention that the referendum also tightens the regime's grip on the court system--practically the last independent institution--and other instruments of power to an extent that many Turks find frightening? This is pure propaganda for the Islamist regime rather than a balanced assessment. Not a single criticism of the regime is mentioned, despite its growing power over the mass media, intimidation of critics, mass arrests, and other forms of repression and anti-democratic behavior. 

One day this kind of editorial will be compared to that newspaper's whitewashing of Stalinism in the 1930s and 
1950s. Lenin once boasted that he would get the capitalists to sell him the rope with which to hang them. But even he thought that he would excite only their mercenary attributes while today Islamists often gain heartfelt and enthusiastic praise from their adversaries.

The fact is that the Islamist regime regularly use the praise it receives from U.S. officials, like this recent 
one from the assistant secretary of state and media to argue that it is really moderate; to demoralize its opponents; and continue to get away with its pro-Iran, Syria, Hamas, and Hizballah policy, while taking over more and more Turkish institutions.  In other words, U.S. policy and media coverage isn't just a bystander, it is foolishly assisting in the Islamization of Turkey.

Indeed, the regime is using U.S. support in its bid for re-election and to demonstrate its legitimacy to Turks. Here's how the Islamist President Gül 
put it:

"The best indicator, showing that the same kind of importance is attached [to this relationship] by the US, is the fact that Turkey is the country to which President Barack Obama paid his first overseas trip soon after being elected, and the fact that he described our relations in the best way--as a model partnership,"  

In other words, if Obama gives us a seal of approval, say the pro-Iran, pro-Hamas, pro-Hizballah Islamists who rule Turkey, how can anyone claim that we are on the side of the anti-American terrorists and revolutionary Islamists? The fact that Turkey presently is chairing the UN Security Council adds to the regime's prestige internationally. Yet its support at home is declining.

The referendum, then, did not end the struggle over Turkey's future but merely begins it. The word is that the next elections will be called for around June 2011, though of course this could change. If past experience serves, a perceived victory like the referendum makes the regime more arrogant and accelerates its move toward a more Islamist Turkey. Such an outcome would alienate more voters and make the next election a referendum against the anti-secular, pro-Iran current rulers.

And what will the ruling AKP party do with power? It isn't just, for example, that the regime is pro-Iran but it is publicly, loudly, and outspokenly pro-Iran, daring the United States to do something about it.

So at the very moment that much of the world is tightening sanctions on Iran against its nuclear program, the Turkish regime is 
coming to the rescue. Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan, at a meeting bringing more than one hundred Turkish investors together with Iranian First Vice-President Mohammad Reza Rahimi called for a tripling of Turkey-Iran trade.  Meanwhile, Reuters has done an investigative report about how the Turkish regime is secretly helping Iran's nuclear program.
No problem with the Turkish regime, right?

Wrong. That government is becoming the main government-encouraged violator of the sanctions in the world. Part of the reason is to make money; part is to strengthen the regime's ally in Tehran.

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.

*               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 to You can read and subscribe to his blog at

West Bank pioneers celebrate end of construction freeze

By Sheera Frenkel

EVAVA — (MCT) Thousands of Jewish settlers celebrated the expiration Sunday of a 10-month freeze on new settlement construction in the West Bank.
Palestinians have said they'd abandon the talks if Israel ends its moratorium on the construction of settlements on land in the West Bank that Palestinians say is earmarked for a future independent state.
Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, however, heads a largely right wing, pro-settlement coalition that's threatened to dissolve the parliament if he continues any form of settlement freeze. Netanyahu and Palestinian Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas launched direct peace talks earlier this month at the urging of the White House.
"I think that the chance of achieving a mutually agreed understanding about moratorium is 50-50. I think that the chances of having a peace process is much higher," Ehud Barak, the Israeli defense minister, told the BBC.
Officials close to President Barack Obama said Sunday that they hope the talks could find a way forward.
Dozens of settlers Sunday cheered a cement truck that poured a foundation for a new building in the West Bank settlement of Kiryat Netafim. Settler leaders invited members of the press to film the symbolic step, which they said marked the beginning of "celebrations" to mark the end of the freeze.
Just after five in the evening, thousands of people gathered in the nearby settlement of Revava to hold a ceremony honoring their communities. The ceremony included a countdown to sunset, which Jews believe marks the end of the day, and therefore of the government-imposed moratorium.
"Today it's over, and we will do everything we can to make sure it never happens again," settler leader Dani Dayan told the crowd. "We return with new energy and a new determination to populate this land."
Lawmaker Danny Danon, a member of Netanyahu's Likud Party, organized the rally in Revava Sunday, and said it was time for the government to "remember its love" for the settler movement.
Netanyahu has asked ministers and members of his government to "show restraint and responsibility today and in the future" by not creating a fanfare over the expiration of the freeze.
Officials in Netanyahu's office said he continued meeting with his advisers late into Sunday night to examine compromises that would impose a partial freeze in the larger settlement blocs and limit the expansion of smaller outposts.
Senior Palestinian officials, speaking anonymously, have said they they'd likely consider some sort of compromise, though officially they've said that they'd await the results of the current round of discussions and convene the Palestine Liberation Organization and the Arab League to issue a joint response to any proposed compromise.
Abbas signaled his flexibility in an interview Sunday with the pan-Arab daily al-Hayat, saying he'd immediately withdraw from peace talks if construction resumed.
White House official David Axelrod, told ABC that efforts to find a position that would allow both sides to continue the peace talks are continuing.
"We're very eager to keep these talks going," he said. "We are going to urge and urge and push throughout this day to — to get some kind of resolution."
Throughout the Jewish settlements in the West Bank, however, protests and ceremonies were being prepared to signal public — and unambiguous — support for the settlements.
As settlers released 2,000 blue and white balloons into the air at Revava — symbolizing the 2,000 building permits that were held up because of the freeze — residents promised to "flood" Israel's Housing Ministry with thousands of new building requests.
"The freeze is over," shouted Knesset member Danon to rounds of applause from onlookers. He said he couldn't predict, however, what his party would do.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Israel's Right to Exist on Trial

 Israel faces two  threats to its survival.
The first is a potential nuclear Iran. The second could be just as dangerous: The spreading notion that the world would be a better place without Israel.
Growing Anti-Zionism?
- At the University of California's Irvine campus, Muslim students shouted down Israeli Ambassador to the United States Michael Oren 11 times.
- On Turkey's national television, a prime-time special portrayed Israeli soldiers executing Palestinian women and children in cold blood.
- Former Israel Defense Forces Chief Moshe Y'allon cancelled his trip to Spain fearing he'd be arrested on charges of war crimes.
- In March, dozens of cities held "Israel Apartheid Week," comparing the Jewish nation to the former apartheid state of South Africa.
So what's happening from the U.S. West Coast to the West Bank and around the world?
'Delegitimizing' Israel
When Israel was founded in 1948, its enemies outnumbered and out-gunned tiny Israel on the battlefield. But more than 60 years later, Israel boasts the strongest military in the Middle East.
No longer able to defeat Israel militarily, some say Israel's enemies have shifted to another battlefield -- the worldwide court of public opinion.
It's spreading the notion that Israel is so bad, so racist, and so evil, it no longer has a right to exist. It's an attempt to wipe Israel off the map, not with a nuclear bomb, but with slander and to promulgate the idea of a world without Israel.
Supporters of Israel see a very real and growing threat, a campaign - often coordinated - to delegitimize Israel, to undermine the very existence of the Jewish state.
"No more money for Israel's crimes," shouted one Anti-Israel demonstrator.
"You have an alliance of what many have called the Red/Green Alliance where you have on the one hand the leftists -- political movements both in the United States and in Europe and throughout the western world joining forces very openly with Islamists -- with radical Muslims and even moderate Muslims for that matter, saying that Israel has not a right to exist," Caroline Glick, managing editor of The Jerusalem Post told CBN News.
"My concern is that other people -- liberals, people of good will, people who don't know much about this area -- will fall into this trap and accept and slowly accept the notion that Israel is the new pariah," said Shmuel Ben-Shmuel, director of the World Jewish Affairs in Israel's foreign ministry.
Goldstone Report
Many of Israel's supporters point to latest attempt to delegitimize Israel -- the United Nations-commissioned Goldstone Report. The report accuses Israel of war crimes against civilians during Operation Cast Lead, Israel's campaign to stop Hamas from firing rockets into Israel's southern communities.
Ret. U.S. Army Lt. Gen. Jerry Boykin said he found such charges to be groundless.
"The Israelis were very careful not to target civilian targets - and if they did target a civilian target - to let the occupants there know that they were going to strike," he said. "The Goldstone Report tells just the opposite."
"The Goldstone Report is the son of Muhammed al-Dura," said French citizen Philippe Karsenty.
Al-Dura is the young Palestinian boy who was allegedly killed in 2000 by Israeli soldiers at the start of the Palestinian intifada. For the past decade, he's become the symbol of Israeli brutality.
Yet Karsenty took France 2 Television to court and claimed the footage videotaped by the France 2 photographer was staged. In May 2008, a French court ruled in Karsenty's favor.
Yet, he says the impact of this hoax and the Goldstone Report has been devastating, especially in Europe.
"Even the best friends of Israel, the people who want to support Israel, "Game over." We cannot defend you after we've seen the war crimes. We're even losing Jews in Europe," Karsenty said. 
"We've had people who were Jews and now they're so afraid to be associated with this kind of state, which is for them like a Nazi-like state is what they're seeing in the media," he said. 
Harbinger of Things to Come?
Former Israeli Ambassador to the United Nations Dore Gold says groups like Hamas have a goal in delegitimizing Israel.
"The purpose is to tie the hands of Israel, so that Hamas retains the right of resistance of fighting Israel -- but at the same time Israel has no right of self-defense to respond," he explained.
"The state of Israel can win all the wars in the world, but if they have all the nations against them, the way it's becoming, it's very difficult. It's going to be very, very difficult for the state of Israel to survive and to defend its borders and just to defend its right to exist," Gold added.
While Israel may be the main target of this effort, some warn it may be just the first domino in a long line.
"It should be very worrying, because we have seen that when Israel is delegitimized and assaulted both diplomatically, politically as well as militarily, it is only a precursor of the rest of the free world," said Dan Diker of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs.
This could mean American military officers battling Al Qaeda in Iraq, or the Taliban in Afghanistan might find themselves accused of war crimes if they're responsible for unintended civilian casualties.
As Israel Goes... 
So, how can Israel fight such an effort?
"First of all, we have to point out that these delegitimization efforts against Israel are in fact a strategic threat to our existence," Glick said.
"To call all people of good will to take action," Ben-Shmuel added.
How well Israel fights on this battlefield may well determine its own survival and may also be a bellweather for democracies around the world.
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Tuesday, September 21, 2010

I Am Yoshua!

By Annette Keen

The first time I saw him he was scampering up the huge mound of rubble outside my door that terrified me. It was just another bomb-shattered building blighting the Berlin landscape after the war, but to a five-year old child it was a magic mountain, a monster who slept badly, swaying and groaning, and wafting a stench of rot across the displaced persons’ refugee camp that was my home.
On sunny mornings, a hideous face emerged from the heap of debris. A blob of congealing stucco stuck out like a cankerous nose from between two rounded window frames shaped like eyes. One eye, empty of glass, stared out blindly. But a narrow shard of glass was still trapped across the other socket. It seemed to wake with the morning sun, blinking and winking as it stretched what remained of an iron balcony into a crooked smile that grinned menacingly down on me through its lattice of broken black teeth.
But on this singular morning, up, up this mountain monster a strange and fearless boy rose. He seemed to grow taller as he hoisted himself ever higher, grabbing hold of protruding fragments, finding footing on chunks of rubble, until he stood at the very top. Balanced precariously on outstretched legs, the boy raised his arms to the morning sun, and crowed victoriously, "I am Joshua, Defender of Israel."
I was transfixed. Now that I saw that the mountain was not insurmountable, I too would ascend, not in Joshua's careful climb, but like a spirited gazelle freeing herself from the hunter and all the while yelling up to my pathfinder, "I am Deborah, Champion of Israel."
Suddenly the mountain monster awoke. Gasping and shuddering, it began to crumble beneath my feet. Then all went black until I felt myself half carried, half dragged along by my savior. Blood trickled over my face, drenching the boy's bony shoulder. Joshua was no bigger than I, and we were both crying and clinging to each other. With our tears and blood mingling he made me promise not to die. And I didn't die. I was wounded – sixty years later my forehead still carries the scar – but it was the monster that died. And a special love was born, one that touched and dazzled the entire camp.
Together we lived many adventures and faced down other monsters, but one more stands out in my memory. It was the nightly terror lurking in the communal latrine which serviced the dormitory where we refugee families camped. Just down the hall from the latrine I could hear the scratching and scurrying of rats in the walls, and only when I felt my bladder bursting, would I slide off my cot and seek out my Defender of Israel, sleeping nearby. Joshua would take my hand and lead me to the latrine. There, he would lift me onto the seat, and as I gripped his waist, pressing my cheek against his gurgling stomach, Joshua wielded a broom against the fearsome rats; like Joshua of old, swinging his sword against the marauding Amalekites, attackers of the frail and the innocent.
Joshua and I tore around, wild and free, so enthralled with each other and irrepressibly happy that the memory is indestructible. Whatever else my 85-year old mother has forgotten in her declining years, mention Joshua and Deborah to her, and recognition punches through her mental fog. She'll tell you in Yiddish, "Doss iz given epis tzu zain," (This was something to see), "Der gantza lager autzekh g'shpigelled in zayrer freilechkeit." (The entire camp reflected their joy.)
And so the months passed. The refugee camp was emptying out. Then one autumn day in 1949 Joshua was gone. To Israel with his family, I was told. Soon we too left, for America, sponsored by a distant cousin who had recognized the family name on a Holocaust Survivors list published in a Yiddish newspaper.
And so the years passed. When I think of Joshua, Defender of Israel, my heart still swells with joy. He was my first great love, because he made the world safe for me and safe for love. I picture the skinny little boy grown to manhood with his country, still raging against Amalek, still scaling the mountain monsters, and bringing them down with his ringing, "I am Joshua, Defender of Israel."
And in America, Deborah, Champion of Israel, remembers.
Annette Keen is a freelance writer in upstate New York.

Thanks to Ezra Magazine for this touching article. MFB

Monday, September 6, 2010

Barack Hearts Bibi

Personally, I would be happy to wake up tomorrow morning to learn that some country had dropped the "big one" on Tehran and that that country had joined Hiroshima and Nagasaki in the dustbin of history.
Today on Twitter some miscreant said that, "The U.S., Israel and the U.N. were racist and anti-Muslim".
Since the "tweeter" can write, if Islamists ever should take over his country, he would be one of the first to literally, taste the whip of Islamist control.
One of the problems with the masses of individuals who don't get it, i.e., that the goal of Islam, as enunciated by Mohamed, their "prophet" is to subjugate or convert everyone...or both, isthat they stubbornly refuse to read anything that doesn't support their views.
Barry Rubin is known to be objective and factual, and we are thankful for his expertise.

Barack Hearts Bibi

September 6, 2010

We have entered into a new period of U.S. policy toward Israel for the Obama Administration. Basically, President Barack Obama needs Israel, requires its cooperation, and is eager to get along with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. How long this will last is unclear but it should characterize, barring unforeseen events, at least for the next year.

What is the basis of this new era? When it came to office, the Obama Administration was in radical mode, determined to distance itself from Israel as a key to winning over Arabs and Muslims, assuming that peace could be achieved with sufficient pressure on Israel as the only requirement, and hostile to Israel’s current government.

A measure of reality eventually set in, involving a large number of factors ranging from the lack of Arab cooperation, to Iran’s intransigence, the lack of progress in engaging Syria, and the tasks of dealing with Iraq and Afghanistan. The administration’s head-on charge over demanding a freeze of construction on settlements only produced a one-year-plus delay on Israel-Palestinian negotiations. The Palestinian Authority (PA) was uncooperative. American public opinion was unhappy with the policy toward Israel. 

This is not to say that the situation is simple but by September 2010 things are very different. The Obama Administration is desperate for diplomatic successes, or at least the appearance of having them. What’s happening regarding Iran’s nuclear weapons’ drive cannot be concealed or ignored.

The U.S. government is also is aware of falling public support--including a sharp decline in Jewish backing though pro-Israel forces extend far more widely throughout American society—on the eve of American elections. In addition, it’s clear that Netanyahu’s government isn’t going away and there is no “dovish” alternative that will give Obama everything he wants for little or nothing in exchange.

So now Obama needs Netanyahu. He needs to keep the new peace talks going and looking good. The president also requires that Netanyahu keep things quiet on the Israel-Palestinian front so as—so he thinks—to make it easier to get Arab and Muslim support for other U.S. policies. And since Obama’s orientation is mainly domestic and his world view is horrified by power politics, he wants to avoid international crises generally. Anti-Israel officials in the administration are being ignored.

The truth is—and this is analysis, not a political statement—Netanyahu and his government, including Defense Minister Ehud Barak, have performed brilliantly in facing this challenge. It has met U.S. requests without sacrificing Israeli interests, if nothing else secure in the knowledge that the PA isn’t going to make a deal any way and wanting to focus American attention on the Iranian threat. Whatever the U.S. government says in public it has to realize that the PA, not Israel, is the roadblock to peace. 

This kind of charm diplomacy may be what Netanyahu is best at doing. His 
speech in Washington was a masterpiece, praising Obama and making clear that his goal is a true and stable peace, not merely:

“A brief interlude between two wars…a temporary respite between outbursts of terror. We seek a peace that will end the conflict between us once and for all. We seek a peace that will last for generations.” He called Abbas, “my partner in peace….We recognize that another people share this land with us. And I came here today to find an historic compromise that will enable both peoples to live in peace, security and dignity.”

Netanyahu concluded: “I did not come here to win an argument. I came here to forge a peace. I did not come here to play a blame game where even the winners lose. I came here to achieve a peace that will bring benefits to all. I did not come here to find excuses. I came here to find solutions.” 

He made this approach without illusions: “We left Lebanon, we got terror. We left Gaza, we got terror. We want to ensure that territory we concede will not be turned into a third Iranian sponsored terror enclave aimed at the heart of Israel. That is why a defensible peace requires security arrangements that can withstand the test of time and the many challenges that are sure to confront us.”

Is the PA going to meet even a single one of Israel’s requirements? End of conflict; real security guarantees, demilitarization of a Palestinian state, recognition of Israel as a Jewish state, resettlement of all Palestinian refugees in the state of Palestine? Of course not. Possibly there might be agreement on some minor border changes but even that is unlikely, much less giving even the Jewish Quarter of Jerusalem to Israel or some other parts of eastern or northern Jerusalem areas.

What Israel has to do, though, is to continue to put forward reasonable demands, show itself cooperative and flexible, while letting the months of futile talks roll ever onward. He isn’t threatened by right-wing walk-outs from the coalition, which at any rate will be discouraged by the fact that he isn’t actually giving anything away. At any rate, he controls the Likud; the Labor Party has no alternative; the opposition Kadima has no leadership or program. At some point next year, Netanyahu will call elections and win a resounding mandate. 

Abbas will go along with the charades up to a point but increasingly, as he gives nothing himself, will blame Israel for the lack of progress. Even Marwan Barghouti, leader of Fatah’s West Bank grassroots’ organization, opposes talks publicly and much of the Fatah establishment opposes them privately. Abbas will be itching to walk out and insist that only a unilateral declaration of independence can “solve” the issue. But during this period, at least, that’s the very last thing the Obama Administration wants: a huge crisis, a difficult decision, potential mass violence stirring up the region, a likely diplomatic catastrophe.

All of this doesn’t mean the administration understands the extent to which Iran’s nuclear weapons pose a big and negative strategic shift in the area, the extent of the threat from revolutionary Islamists, how Iraq is at the brink of political anarchy, the futility of the U.S. effort in Afghanistan, the at least temporary loss of Turkey, the capture of Lebanon by the Iran-Syria bloc, and all the other ills of the Middle East. 

But the current U.S. government understands enough about what’s going on to comprehend that it doesn’t want a crisis with Israel as well and that it isn’t going to achieve some dramatic breakthrough to Arab-Israeli peace. As for Obama, no politician desires anything more passionately—other than election—than having someone else making him look good, perhaps especially when he doesn’t deserve it. Consequently, now is the time for a somewhat belated Obama-Netanyahu honeymoon.

*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 to You can read and subscribe to his blog at
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, September 1, 2010

Czech List: Sometimes Even A Conference Can Teach Vivid Political Realities

By Barry Rubin*
August 25, 2010

I'm not a big fan of conferences. There's nothing more repetitive than sitting in a panel where the presentations have interesting titles but are otherwise disappointing. Or listening to a speaker who may be very good but says absolutely nothing you don't know already. 

But sometimes you have fascinating experiences which are not exactly on the agenda. Here are three from a conference I attended in Prague a few years ago, each of which contains its own lessons. Incidentally, nothing about the below was off the record, though the names and some details have been omitted since this is about points, not personalities.

1. The German parliamentarian was well-dressed, angry, and red in the face. He raised his voice in righteous indignation. Why, he complained, were there a number of Israelis at the meeting but no Palestinians. Obviously he thought that he had caught the Czech hosts in some politically incorrect indiscretion. 

After he finished his somewhat insulting remarks and sat down, one of the Czechs stood up and explained very politely that plenty of Palestinians had been invited; all expenses paid, and had accepted but had simply not shown up. That's something I've seen plenty of times.

A Lesson: Why get rewarded for deciding not to succeed? Hamas refuses to act peacefully, and then is rewarded for having committed aggression and been soundly defeated as a result (2008-2009). Same applies for Hizballah (2006). The Palestinian Authority refuses to make peace and then is rewarded for alleged suffering under an occupation it has the power to end when it so wishes.

Recently, a reader made a startling suggestion to me that I think is a brilliant insight. In this day when not only equal opportunity but equal results is supposedly supposed (yes, that double use is deliberate) guaranteed, Israel is being "unfair" at doing so well socially and economically. 

In past decades, the failure of a nation to achieve democracy or prosperity would have been attributed to its own choices. That's a good thing because its people can then realize their mistakes, realize them, and succeed. Today, however, failure is often attributed to being a victim of racism, imperialism, and pure meanness.

Woody Allen allegedly said (it isn't clear that he did) that 99 percent of life is showing up. Yes, indeed. Showing up and performing well. But in the counter-Calvinism of our time, material achievement is a proof of damnation. 

The development theory of the 1950s and 1960s focused on how a country could achieve take-off to progress and prosperity. It is a model followed nowadays by China, South Korea, and some others.

The currently dominant view, at least in intellectual circles and among fashionable dictators and terrorists is the idea that underdevelopment is not a result of history, culture, society, and bad choices but of imperialist exploitation.  Instead of reforming yourself, the object is to wage war and other struggle to get the West to hand over the loot. This leads to violence, social intransigence, political stagnation, and failure. But at least it is a popular, rationalized failure.

2. The pompous American intellectual made a stirring speech about how great things were going in Afghanistan, a country he obviously knew nothing about. He was playing those Washington and academic games in which the lives of distant people are toyed with on the basis of book learning and theories. The fact that this particular fool happened to be conservative didn't change anything in the usual pattern.

My Afghan friend, who had been analyzing his own country for years and seen, as he put it, half his family murdered by the Communists and the other half murdered by the Islamists, could take no more. He stood up and countered with facts and details. His talk was a devastating response. The police in Kabul wouldn't leave their barracks to deal with violence. The war lords were out of control. Despite official optimism, Afghanistan was still Afghanistan and American plans were just illusions. 

A lesson: One would have thought that the arrogant fool would have been forever silenced by the graphic demonstration that he knew nothing and was speaking nonsense. Of course, such people are never influenced by that kind of humiliation. I've heard and read him since saying similar things. These "masters of the universe," to use Tom Wolfe's phrase-historically on the right but nowadays much more common on the left-think about their egos and careers, not the lives being affected by their prattling.

Nevertheless, the experience provided a stirring example of the difference between the real and fantasy worlds, between those who know and those who blow hot air, between those who merely articulate their ideological desires and those who have the courage to speak the truth.

I'm cynical enough to ask: Guess who gets the bigger honors and rewards? But not so pessimistic or craven to stop trying to do what's right. 

3. Its one thing to be a pacifist but quite another to talk like a pacifist while being a high-ranking official at the French Defense Ministry. The well-dressed, debonair, and relatively young man was explaining how nothing was worth fighting for, how conflict had to be avoided at virtually any cost. Naturally, he would object to my summary but it is nonetheless accurate.

I have a friend, though, who loves being provocative in a funny way. In personal life, he is a sweet and considerate person but he loves to play the role of the nasty, arrogant hardliner. You could see in his glittering eyes and slight smile that he saw a big fat target of opportunity.

And so as the French bureaucrat proclaimed that no one should go to war without prior approval of the UN, my friend stood up and pointed out that France had intervened dozens of times in Africa-overthrown governments, put down revolts, backed up oppressive regimes-without any reference to the UN whatsoever.

Up on stage, the French guy was livid, totally losing his temper, rose menacingly, and as I remember it threatened to punch out my friend. The spiritual man of peace had instantly turned into macho man cruising for a bruising. I think someone physically restrained him.

A lesson: When others advise that you have no right of self-defense, are using excessive force, and similar such stuff, note how ferocious they become and totally indifferent to moral or legal considerations when their interests are at stake.

*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 to You can read and subscribe to his blog at

The Chomsky Hoax

The Chomsky Hoax
Exposing the Dishonesty of Noam Chomsky