August 24, 2005

Why Israel Has to Leave Now or Later

Pat Robertson proves himself a foreign policy dumbass twice in one week. First he pops off about assassinating Hugo Chavez. Now he rails against Israelis for doing what must, at some point, be done.

Pat Robertson, one of the leading television evangelists in the US, has sharply criticized the Israeli withdrawal from Gaza and said God will judge those who leave parts of the land of Israel.

Speaking on his daily TV show aired on the Christian Broadcasting Network, Robertson said "the almighty God said he was going to judge the nation which has parted from his land and that he was going to bring judgment upon that nation."

Robertson's comments on the Gaza withdrawal were quoted on the Christian Coalition of America Web site.

Robertson has been a long supporter of the settlement movement and a strong opponent of the disengagement plan. As many other evangelical leaders in the US, Robertson believes that the historic land of Israel should be under Jewish rule.

Israel has four options.

1) Rule the West Bank and Gaza forever while denying Palestinians citizenship and equal rights. Basically, this is the South African apartheid model. The fact that Israel acquired those lands in self-defense in 1967 doesn't change that.

2) Grant citizenship and equal rights to Palestinians. This would make Jews an ethnic minority in Israel only a few years from now. They'll never do it.

3) Forcibly relocate (in other words, ethnically cleanse) Palestinians out of the West Bank and Gaza.

4) Withdraw from the West Bank and Gaza.

A debate over when Israel should withdraw from the West Bank and Gaza is an argument worth having. Perhaps it’s best that Sharon is pulling out of Gaza now. Maybe it would be better if he waited. We won’t really know for certain until we can look back in hindsight and see what happens next.

But if “Israel should be under Jewish rule” forever, as Pat Robertson claims, that means Israel has to choose one of the first three options. None are even remotely viable. Jewish morality and experience rightly forbids options one and three. Hardly anyone on either the Israeli or the Palestinian side has any desire to see option two implemented. That leaves only option four. The West Bank and Gaza will not, cannot, remain under Jewish rule. Israelis leave now or later because they have no other choice.

Posted by Michael J. Totten at 2:48 PM | Permalink | Comments Off

Saudi to Open for Tourism

Saudi Arabia has finally decided to let infidel tourists into the country. The Religious Policeman (a Saudi blogger living in Britain) “interviews” the tourism minister. (Hat tip: Callimachus)

RP: So anyone can fly into Riyadh or Jeddah and just pick up a visa at the airport?

M: Men can, certainly, and married couples, as long as they can prove they’re married, so they’ll need to bring a Marriage Certificate, four copies translated into Arabic and certified by a lawyer. Not a Jewish lawyer, naturally. Women, on the other hand, will need to be sponsored by someone inside Saudi Arabia.

RP: But suppose they don’t know anyone in the country?

M: Well, we can’t help them there, can we? We’re not a Dating Agency.

RP: And what about couples who aren’t married, or gay couples?

M: Well as you know, we behead homosexuals, and stone adulterous or loose women to death, so it’s probably best if we don’t let them in in the first place, otherwise there’ll be no end of paperwork.

Posted by Michael J. Totten at 1:11 PM | Permalink | Comments Off

August 23, 2005

British Muslims Say Good Riddance to Bakri

Several hundred British Muslims tell the hatemongering cleric Omar Bakri (who recently fled accusations of treason) to stay the hell out of Britain forever.

To Omar Bakri Mohammad,

We, British Muslims, urge you not to return to the United Kingdom.

You have caused enough trouble already. Your statements, pronouncements and fatwas are neither supported nor looked kindly upon - except by the British media which seems to have a strange love-affair with you.

You have single-handedly sought to destroy good community relations and have been an obstacle to the progress of British Muslims in becoming integral citizens who live, as stated in the shariah, according to the law of this land.

Our varied vision of Islam in Britain does not include yours. We emphasise mercy, tolerance and diversity while you emphasise hate, violence, hypocrisy and separation from others. If the United Kingdom is as bad as you teach your minions, then you have no reason to live here.

You are a poor example of the Prophetic message (peace and blessings be upon him) and for that alone you should stay out of this country and our lives forever.


The Undersigned

Meanwhile, a paranoid anti-Semitic nutjob who calls Osama bin Laden a “freedom fighter” has been chosen for a Home Office task force to tackle Islamist extremism in Britain. Something tells me (see above) the Home Office can do much better than this.

Posted by Michael J. Totten at 1:26 PM | Permalink | Comments Off

August 22, 2005

Draft of Iraq’s Constitution is Islamist (Updated)

The current draft of Iraq’s constitution doesn’t look good.

The draft also made Islam "a main source" of law in what seemed a compromise between Islamist Shi'ites and secular Kurds.

Secular Kurdish delegates had complained Khalilzad had made concessions to Shi'ite Islamists in allowing for a greater role for Islam in Iraqi law. The text said laws must not be contrary to the "fixed principles of the rules of Islam."

There is no silver lining here, no “bright side” to look on. It’s bad news, period. At least it’s a draft. Iraqis have yet to accept or reject it. (Some Sunni Arabs are also threatening a general uprising over the issue of federalism, so it doesn’t look like the draft of this constitution is going anywhere just yet.)

Here’s the thing about Islamism: to some people it looks great on paper. It’s a real bitch when it’s put into practice. Just ask the Iranians. They know from experience what it’s actually like. The problem in Iran is that Iranians learned this the hard way too late. The Guardian Council holds all the real power. Liberals and moderates are shut out completely and violently.

Iraqis very well may go down the same Islamist road. They might have to learn the hard way what most Iranians already know. What may save them is a mechanism in the Iraqi political system -- free elections outside the control of a self-appointed mullahcracy -- that allows them to throw the Islamists out in future elections.

If the current draft of the constitution passes, it won’t make later reform impossible (constitutions can be amended), but it will make later reform a heck of a lot more difficult and contentious.

U.S. diplomats foolishly conceded ground to the Islamists in order to get a constitution draft out “on time.” Now they need to engage in some damage control and make damn sure Iraqis, unlike Iranians, get a built-in escape hatch.

UPDATE: The line about Islam being “a main source for legislation” in Iraq’s constitution looks better in context than it does all by itself. Below is that context. You can read the entire text of the constitution draft at Newsday.

The political system is republican, parliamentary, democratic and federal.

1. Islam is a main source for legislation.

* a. No law may contradict Islamic standards.

* b. No law may contradict democratic standards.

* c. No law may contradict the essential rights and freedoms mentioned in this constitution.

2. This constitution guarantees the Islamic identity of the Iraqi people and guarantees all religious rights; all persons are free within their ideology and the practice of their ideological practices.

Taken as a whole the constitution looks pretty good. Here are some other sections that stand out.

The State guarantees:

1. Freedom of expression by all means.

2. Freedom of the press, printing, advertising and publishing.

Article 37

Freedom to establish political groups and organizations.


Oil and gas are the property of all the Iraqi people in regions and provinces.


This constitution guarantees the administrative, political, cultural and educational rights of different ethnic groups such as Turkomen, Chaldean, Assyrians and other groups.


No less than 25 percent of Council of Deputies seats go to women.


1. Any organization that follow a racist, terrorist, extremist, sectarian-cleaning ideology or circulates or justifies such beliefs is banned, especially Saddam's Baath Party in Iraq and its symbols under any name. And this should not be part of the political pluralism in Iraq.

2. The government is committed to fighting terrorism in all its forms, and works to protect Iraqi soil from being a center or passage for terrorist activities.

Posted by Michael J. Totten at 10:54 PM | Permalink | Comments Off

The Bosnia of Our Time

I argue in my new Tech Central Station column that Darfur in Sudan is the Bosnia of our time. Hardly anyone wants to talk or think about this - including me, which is why I haven't said much about it until now. It's inescapable, though, so there it is.

Posted by Michael J. Totten at 12:36 AM | Permalink | Comments Off

August 21, 2005


Callimachus comes up with a geographic political metaphor over at Donklephant.

[T]he nation as a whole has drifted right. So [the] old center-right is now more like center-center. Maybe we’re working on a continental drift metaphor here. As the country drifts right, the “anchored” left stays put, and cracks off from the center left. A gap opens and the disconnected fringe becomes an island adrift, a Madagascar, where natural traits exaggerate and exotic species evolve.
I don’t think the country has moved to the right so much as the country has moved on. The world has changed since 1968. People who haven’t changed in the meantime aren’t stranded on the left so much as they are stranded in time.

History always moves on. The country moves left at the same time it moves right. Some conservatives are breaking off from the center-right over Israel/Palestine and are lashing out as we speak.

Our Administration has jumped off the deep end and needs to be kicked out at our earliest opportunity:

U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said on Wednesday that Israel will be expected to carry out further withdrawals that would ultimately lead to an independent Palestinian state, Israeli sources reported.

Rice said that she feels for those settlers being evacuated, but "It cannot be Gaza only."

And to think that we once thought highly of Mrs. Rice. Well, no longer...

Thank you for allowing me to leave the Republican party for good and not feel in the least bit bad about it. The only thing I DO feel bad about is the time and expense I've put into stumping for you in the past. No more. You're dead to me from now on.

I don't consort with swine.

I suppose you could say that crowd is drifting even further to the right. But I think they'd deny it, and I think they'd be right. The country has - correctly, in my opinion - quietly moved to the left on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. That's because the intifada is no longer what it recently was. It has been beaten back, and history is moving on without some people.

UPDATE: Asher Abrams found a more apt comparison than I did, and he found it in Israel.

Posted by Michael J. Totten at 1:32 AM | Permalink | Comments Off

August 20, 2005

Careful What You Wish For

It’s hardly worth arguing with a person who bandies about the term “chickenhawk.” I would like to know, though, how many of those people supported the invasion of Afghanistan from the sidelines. My guess is most of them did – so they’re “chickenhawks,” too. If they aren’t chickenhawks then they’re hopelessly pacifist and out of step with at least 90 percent of Americans.

Anyway, they have something in common with Cindy Sheehan’s booster club. (In large part that’s because they tend to be the same people.) Apparently it hasn’t occurred to them that the results of the supposedly “progressive” idea that only military veterans and families of lost soldiers should decide foreign policy would produce a freakish result that’s way too right-wing for even the most hard-line American right-wingers. Hitchens explains:

What do these people imagine that they are demanding? Would they like a referendum to be held, among the relatives of the fallen in Iraq, to determine the future conduct of the war? I think I can promise them that they would heavily lose such a vote. But what if the right wing were also to demand such a vote and the "absolute moral authority" that supposedly goes with it?

One of three things could then happen. The ultra-right anti-Zionist forces of David Duke and Patrick J. Buchanan, both of whom approvingly speak of Ms. Sheehan's popular groundswell, would still lose the vote. So would the media fools who semi-automatically identify Sheehan and her LaRouche-like drivel with the "left" or "progressive" forces. This would leave us with a random pseudo-majority, made up of veterans and their relatives. Who wants this to be the group that decides? One might as well live in a populist, jingoist banana republic. Never mind the Constitution, or even the War Powers Act. Only victims and martyrs can decide! Get ready to gather under the balcony of a leader who speaks rotundly of such glory.

UPDATE: There's an argument in the comments about whether the "chickenhawk" brigade and their fellow travelers really want to install a veteran's foreign policy junta. Of course they do not. And that's the point. It behooves them to stop arguing as though they did.

They apparently don't see the logic. But I'll bet if right-wing warmongers said civilians ought to stay out of foreign policy arguments because they lacked courage and moral authority, the logical end-point of that position would be a little more clear.

Posted by Michael J. Totten at 2:04 PM | Permalink | Comments Off

August 19, 2005

A Nice Story for a Change

I’ve been to the Middle East three times in the past year, if you count Arab North Africa as a cultural extention of the Middle East. (I do.) Whenever I say I’m heading out, almost everyone I know is startled at what they apparently think is my recklessness, as if the region is a seething cauldron of hatred and violence that never stops. It isn’t. It looks that way from where we sit because of the “If it bleeds, it leads” newsroom mentality. “Arab Shopkeeper was Kind to Stranger Today” is not a headline you will ever read. Of course it’s possible that I’ll be screamed at or shot at in the Middle East at some point, but it hasn’t happened yet. I don’t expect it will.

I’m not at all surprised by what is described in the following article in the Chicago Sun-Times. But it is an unusual and pleasant departure from the usual roundup of explosions and bloodcurdling fanatical bombast.

Dr. Maher Deeb remembers the first time he saw Skokie native Shayna Gould: It was in his operating room 3-1/2 years ago in Israel. And Gould was dead.

A Palestinian gunman had sprayed a crowded Jerusalem bus stop with bullets, and one found its way into Gould's lung. By the time the raven-haired 19-year-old made it to Deeb's hospital, she was deemed dead on arrival, with no pulse and barely any blood circulating in her bullet-torn body.

A team made up largely of Israeli-Arab doctors and nurses raced to bring the Jewish teen back to life. They infused her with blood, while Deeb opened her chest and pumped her heart with his hands.

"The anesthesiologist said, 'Just keep working on her. She's a beautiful girl, and you're going to attend her wedding one day,' " recalled Deeb, chief of thoracic surgery at Shaare Zedek Medical Center in Jerusalem.

Deeb kept working, and Gould was able to thank him in Chicago on Thursday, when they reunited for the first time since Gould left Israel after the 2002 attack.

When Gould walked into the Chicago hotel room and flashed him a smile flanked by deep dimples, Deeb beamed like a proud father.

"Just look at her," Deeb said quietly, as the two reached out to hug…

Deeb and Gould acknowledged that while tensions can run high among Arabs and Jews in Israel, political differences are left at the door of Shaare Zedek hospital.

"In my operating room, there are just two types of people," Deeb said. "Those who save people's lives and those who need saving.

"We have Jewish doctors treating Arab patients all the time," he added. "We might have different political views, but most of us -- Jews, Arabs -- we have the same dream: a peaceful settlement."

UPDATE: Marc C adds in the comments:
There's a lot of examples of Jewish/Arab and even Jewish/Palestinian cooperation that simply never get reported. There's another hospital here called Schneider Children's Hospital that is particularly active in reaching out to Palestinians and providing treatment not available in the occupied territories. Recently, some church group came to Israel on a fact-finding mission, all set to do a hatchet job on Israel's treatment of the Palestinians. After visiting Schneider's, the head of the group said: "Well, you've succeeded in thoroughly confusing us." More people should experience the same confusion.

Posted by Michael J. Totten at 1:48 AM | Permalink | Comments Off

August 18, 2005

The Left’s Terri Schiavo

My views on Cindy Sheehan are posted over at Donklephant.

Posted by Michael J. Totten at 10:43 AM | Permalink | Comments Off
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Winner, The 2008 Weblog Awards, Best Middle East or Africa Blog

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