The Holy-Land That Needs Hobbes 262

Last September, Mithal al-Alusi, an Iraqi Sunni MP, arrived in Israel to attend an annual counter-terrorism conference. He forcefully cried, “In Israel, there is no occupation; there is liberalism,” to the sound of roaring applause from Israelis and foreign diplomats. Upon his return to Iraq, the National Assembly of Iraq voted to remove his parliamentary immunities and banned him from travelling. He was arrested and threatened with the death penalty. This was not his first visit; in 2004 he made a public visit to Israel. Consequently, five months later, both his sons were murdered. He was sacked from his job at the De-Baathification Commission and was expelled from the Iraqi National Congress.

Al-Alusi recognises that Iraq and Israel share similar challenges, namely the murderous Iranian-funded terrorism that has taken so many lives in both countries. Al-Alusi has lauded Israel as a beacon of hope and liberalism. The Israeli elections on Tuesday were crucially important because it is vital that the future Israeli government seeks to uphold the equality and the civil liberties for all its citizens – Muslim, Christian, Jewish and Druze – that she has attempted to keep implemented since her foundation sixty years ago. She must continue to be the model of a liberal democracy in the despotism-riddled Middle East, despite the very opposite image peddled by the Western Left, the media and the Islamists. It is easy for much of the West to forget that Israel has many Arab politicians, several serving in the cabinet.

The Israeli exit polls show that Kadima, the current ruling party, has won the most seats. But Israel suffers the proportional representation system that is used so widely across Europe; this means that a Kadima politician may not necessarily take the position of Prime Minister. What will happen? And what are the implications for Israel, the region and the world?
Last Tuesday’s election was a year earlier than necessary because the current Prime Minister Olmert resigned after continuous public pressure and police investigations into tales of corruption, and the new leader of Kadima, Tzipi Livni, was unable to form a new coalition.

The Knesset is a unicameral parliament. Its 120 members, known as MKs, are elected to four-year terms in a secret ballot whereat the public will vote for a party and not an individual MK. Seats are allocated in proportion to the number of votes each party receives beyond a threshold of two percent. The 120 seats are apportioned through party-list proportional representation using the d’Hondt method – a widely used system that employs a highest averages method. Once the official results are published, the President of Israel gives the task of forming a majority coalition to an MK whom he believes to have the best chance of succeeding. That MK is then given up to 42 days to negotiate a working coalition with other parties and present his government to the Knesset for a vote of confidence. If the government is approved, the MK then becomes Prime Minister.

The numbers and distribution of Knesset seats in the February elections are as follows: Kadima 28; Likud 27; Yisrael Beitenu 15; Labor 13; Shas 11; United Torah Judaism 5; Hadash 4; United Arab List-Ta’al 4; National Union 4; Meretz 3; Habayit Hayehudi 3; Balad 3.

The politics of Israel is an extraordinary maelstrom of differing ideals, religions and methods. Muslim voters have supported right-wing Zionist parties and religious Jews have voted for Arab parties. In the disorder of the system there is hope and wonderment at the extraordinary examples of different cultures and religions campaigning peacefully and democratically together to sustain hope and achieve peace; a possibility that cannot be found elsewhere in the Middle East.

There are a huge number of different parties that represent all walks of life, but this election showed huge gains for the Right. The Centrist Kadima was a party that sprang out of a squabbling Likud because of disagreement over the disengagement plan from Gaza. Kadima’s win was a surprise to many – especially the pollsters, who had projected Likud to top the results. Kadima’s decision to withdraw from Gaza was highly criticized at the time and now there is little success to show for it – Gaza has become a terrorist state with regular pogroms against its own people and regular attacks against the civilians of Israel. Kadima’s leadership has been weak in times of war, and its dithering in Lebanon is arguably accountable for the deaths of Israeli soldiers. The decision to release Samir Kuntar – a Lebanese terrorist who beat a little blonde four-year-old Jewish girl to death by smashing apart her head with a rock – provoked huge condemnation and dismay from the media and the public. Kadima has been regarded as an ineffectual, weak government – a feeble image that the Israelis have known hostile Arab states to prey upon. Thus Kadima’s decision finally to respond to the constant barrage of rocket fire from Gaza caused some surprise among the government’s detractors. The attempt to destroy Hamas’ weapon caches in December – Operation Cast Lead – may have changed the minds of many Israelis. The operation certainly sapped Likud’s criticism and its accusations of Kadima’s apparent apathy to the vicious attacks by Hamas.

Despite Kadima winning the largest number of seats, it does not have the support from the other large parties and given the current stances of Likud, Yisrael Beitenu and Shas, it is highly unlikely that Tzipi Livni will be able to secure a working coalition. In this case, President Shimon Peres may ask Benjamin Netanyahu of Likud to form a coalition from the Right-wing parties that dominate the election results.
The large gains by the right can be explained by the realisation among Israelis that their doves have been met with rockets and that their concessions have been met with violence. In 2001, the then-Prime Minister Ehud Barak offered the Palestinians all of Gaza and 97% of the West Bank with border compensations to make up for the other 3%. Furthermore, Jerusalem would be a shared capital for both countries. When the Palestinians shot down this offer, so fell the appeal of the Left. Further failures to respond properly to terrorist attacks resulted in more support manifesting for the Right. The South of Israel, especially around towns such as Sderot, which has endured thousands of rockets and mortar attacks, almost entirely voted for the Right. The residents want military action to end the indiscriminate attacks on their town – rockets are fired when school is starting or finishing and the children are out on the streets. Suliman Qadia – a Palestinian from Gaza from where the Israeli intelligence service, Shin Bet, helped him escape, said of Hamas: “Nothing else will work, we just need to go into Gaza, full force, and pound them, erase them completely, until it’s over. That’s the only language they understand and believe me – I know what I’m talking about. After all, I lived with them.”

The Northern Arab town Haifa and Tel-Aviv voted for the Left and Centrists; in the South the persistent attacks and a demand for their end necessitated an almost entirely Right-wing stronghold. In other words, the rockets voted.

Obama’s Presidency is also a cause for concern among Israelis. There is a real fear that he would not act to stop a nuclear-armed Iran. In response to an American President perceived as Left-wing, a more hawkish Prime Minister feels like a necessary choice to many Israeli voters.

The reason Likud could not strongly capitalise on the Left’s decline was the belief that Netanyahu’s previous term as Prime Minister in the late nineties was considered by-and-large a failure – he had made similar profitless concessions to the Palestinians that Kadima has made. Netanyahu has also failed to provide a direction for Israel that differs from Kadima’s. Thus, many Israelis that wished to respond to the Palestinian attacks – not to turn the other cheek but to clench their fists – voted for the further-Right parties, such as Shas or Beitenu.

Among the political parties there is a great deal of squabbling. The main issue that divides them so, is of course the path to peace with the Palestinians. There are those that would appease and there are those that would defend themselves at all cost. What is clear however is that Proportional Representation (PR) is disastrous for Israel. This tiny country is at war, and has been so for the last sixty years. It cannot afford to have chaos in the government at a time when order has never been so important. It can be argued that PR does help to unify the country – every party represents all Israelis regardless and so there is no chance of segregation through politics and race. But what of the small Bedouin tribe who needs representation in Knesset and has no MK to do so? Israel needs strength, equality and democracy, and PR does not sustain these values effectively.

One prospect is certain – whoever becomes Prime Minister will have to use a coalition of Right-wing parties. This would suggest – unless the Iranian elections in June provide a reformist candidate that would halt their nuclear programme – that a future Israeli government will take military action against Iran. Hezbollah’s steadily growing supply of rockets in the South of Lebanon and the large-scale Syrian troop movements to the border with Israel, suggests it is possible that a large conflict may break out across the region, a danger exacerbated by Iran’s increased missile capability and promises of retaliation. When Israel’s security is directly threatened, there is little argument among her political parties. Even the far-left parties supported Israel’s recent defensive campaign against Hamas, and in the face of Iran, there is strong unity. Military action is seen as a last resort but recognized as a very possible outcome.

Furthermore, the build-up on the Right would mean that the destruction of the Jewish West Bank settlements would seem unlikely as a means of concession. The idea of displacing almost half a million Jewish settlers is unthinkable to the Right, especially after the ruinous withdrawal from the Gaza Strip that just brought more attacks and death to Southern Israel.

The truth is that Israel’s future has never been so uncertain. There is much speculation as to from whom and from which parties a coalition will be formed. Some American commentators have suggested Lieberman of Yisrael Beitenu will be given the foreign office portfolio, and there are even rumours that Livni and Netanyahu might share the position of Prime Minister. It is impossible to know or understand what bargaining and comprising is going on by the political parties behind the scenes. And in some ways, the choice of government may not matter. In foreign affairs, the actions of Israel can only be dictated by the hostile states surrounding it. Every government must protect its people, and Israel’s actions – while perhaps varying in strength – will be unchanged no matter what current party is in power. In times of war, Israel does not want an attempt at government, but definite ordered rule – an effective government is needed.

The results of the elections have reacted little to domestic affairs but largely to the changing world. Reasons such as Obama’s Presidency, a Turkish government that is arguably no longer secular, the Iranian elections in June, the undeniable attempts by Hamas to destroy Israel and her people, are all reasons for many Israeli voters to have demanded a stronger, more hawkish government. But uncertain times have bred uncertain results – now Israel must bring order out of the chaos if she wishes to succeed and survive.

Posted under Commentary by on Monday, February 16, 2009

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Criminal Tomatoes 109

Russia is clambering up the global victory stand, knocking other countries out of the way in an effort to reach her place at the top. It is a climb that the country responsible for the death of millions and the misery of billions will refuse to lose. In the last 18 years, the designs for a ‘liberal democracy’ has not been a success per se for Russia; it has been a weary aspiration, full of ideals that Russia’s powerful persons frequently misplace in order to better themselves and their future.

The truth is that Russia has not as yet changed from the cruel autocracy it has always been; it does not look set to do so either. The only apparent difference is the rise of a new elite: the oligarchs.

The question that many ask of this nouveau riche is where did their power and wealth come from? How did they become the phoenix that rose out of the ashes of the broken Soviet state in the 1990s? The most honest explanation is the result of the small reforms pushed through in the 1980s by Gorbachev. These reforms succeeded an embarrassing attempt by the Politburo to reinvigorate Lenin-Marxist economics by clamping down on ‘unearned incomes’. What this quite meant was beyond the understanding of the Soviet security services. One result of this order was the prevention of privately sold vegetables. The militia searched vehicles coming into major cities – searching for, as the newspaper Nezavisimaia Gazeta put it, “Criminal Tomatoes.” Gorbachev was extremely embarrassed by this, and realising the need for reform, changed the law in order to allow small privately owned businesses to exist – these were called the cooperatives.

So finally, as the tyrannical fire of the Communist state was starting to dwindle, the freedom of capitalism was permitted in small doses. This is where the oligarchs enter the stage – one example of whom is the prominent billionaire Mikhail Khodorkovsky. Although his first few businesses, such as a café at the Mendeleev Chemical Institute, were a failure, his fortunes soon changed completely, as did hundreds of other Russians, when they exploited a small loophole in Soviet law. Khodorkovsky took a bunch of temporary workers, called them his labour collective, and claimed subsidies from the Gosplan (the state institution for economic planning). He then took these subsidies, told the banks he had to pay his workers in real money, and was allowed to redeem the subsidies for actual cash, which he immediately turned into dollars, freeing this wealth from the dragging burden of the failing rubles. Hundreds of entrepreneurs exploited this loophole, and the Soviet state, in an effort to save their economy unwittingly gave more and more subsidies to the cooperatives – the result of which simply multiplied the fortunes of these Russians. By the collapse of the Soviet Union, hundreds were fast becoming, or had already become vulgarians with a rosy future – persons who succeeded as the state failed. This success had its integrity challenged however – it was marked with shady loans and sales of banks for fractions of their worth.

Not all oligarchs came to prominence with this relative honesty. Many of the wealthy are petro-oligarchs, men who have made their fortune by buying up the State’s largely untapped reserves of oil. In the 1990s, Yeltsin gave oil, metal and banks to the sycophants of his administration. The other prospering Russians seemed to have simply had the fortune to be in the right place at the right time. Poorer Russians will give each other knowing looks and say, “KGB, or Politburo…” These are often unproved rumours, but who was better placed to cash in on the rise of the most prosperous industries in the world than those who had controlled it not a few years previously?

One example is Vagit Alekperov. He was the Deputy Minister of Fuel and Energy under the USSR, and miraculously managed to acquire a lot of oil assets in the 1990s. He now enjoys a personal wealth of $1.3 billion.  And what of Vladimir Gusinsky? He built a huge media empire, starting this effort in the 1980s, while enjoying a close relationship with Filipp Bobkov, a KGB general who personally supervised Soviet repression of political dissidents, Christians and Jews.

When Putin arrived on the scene in 2000, he told the nouveau riche that he would not carve up the Russian economy but he warned them to keep out of politics. Wealth may not always buy power, but it certainly gives certain ambitions – and some oligarchs could not resist trying their hand. Vladimir Gusinsky and Boris Berezovsky were the first casualties of the oligarchs’ foray into politics, resulting in their exile just a short time later. The brutal retaliation of the Russian state has targeted journalists, political dissidents and the wealthy – men and women who have been threatened, attacked and murdered at home and abroad.

Putin plays a clever game however, and regularly meets with business leaders, in order to inform them that they will be tolerated but that they must not think or act against the state. The Russian newspaper Kommersant reported a meeting in 2007: “The topics under discussion were chosen to show business its place (as was last year’s meeting, devoted to ‘the social responsibility of business before society’).”

The oligarchs are shining trophies of success for Russia, and the state is eager to show them off. Yet that same state is desperate for Russia to not become an overt plutocracy. The occasional fervent repression of rich individuals and removal of their political voice could be the wish of the state for itself to be seen as proletarian. Putin is careful to never display his wealth, but some suspect it to be vast. Anders Åslund wrote in his book, ‘Russia’s Capitalist Revolution’: “Everybody around Putin is completely corrupt, but many think that the president himself is honest. In February 2004, presidential candidate Ivan Rybkin named three men as Putin’s bagmen, including Gennady Timchenko, the co-founder of the Gunvor oil-trading company. After Rybkin made this statement, he vanished from the political stage. In September, the Polish magazine Wprost wrote that Timchenko, a former KGB officer and member of Putin’s dacha cooperative in St. Petersburg, has a net worth of $20 billion. Officially, Timchenko sells the oil of four Russian oil companies, but how are the prices determined to generate such profits? In an interview in Germany’s Die Welt on Nov. 12, Stanislav Belkovsky, the well-connected insider who initiated the Kremlin campaign against Yukos in 2003, made specific claims about Putin’s wealth. He alleged that Putin owned 37 percent of Surgutneftegaz (worth $18 billion), 4.5 percent of Gazprom ($13 billion) and half of Timchenko’s company, Gunvor (possibly $10 billion). If this information is true, Putin’s total personal fortune would amount to no less than $41 billion, placing him among the 10 richest in the world.”

In response to these allegations, at a press conference in February of this year, Putin replied: “This is true. I am the richest person not only in Europe, but also in the world. I collect emotions. And I am rich in that respect that the people of Russia have twice entrusted me with leadership of such a great country as Russia. I consider this to be my biggest fortune. As for the rumors concerning my financial wealth, I have seen some pieces of paper regarding this. This is plain chatter, not worthy discussion, plain bosh. They have picked this in their noses and have smeared this across their pieces of paper. This is how I view this.” This is a very Russian answer.

This state of affairs is reminiscent of feudal Europe. When William I conquered Britain, he rewarded flatterers of his court. Men such as the Earl of Northumbria, who had not fought him, were given large amounts of land. And although the Russian emancipation of the serfs was back in 1861, the Russian people are still very much subservient to the state and the oligarchs, that is, the Tsar and the landowners.

The financial turmoil that has engulfed the World economy has revealed the remnants of the Soviet state that still subsists in Russia. The oligarchs lost a huge amount in the recent stock market crashes, in which shares have fallen by 75% since August. Vladimir Lisin, the steel magnate owner, has lost $11.2 billion since July; Vagit Alekperov, the President and one of the biggest shareholders in Lukoil, has lost $5.13 billion; and Uralkali Dmitry Rybolovlev has stacked up losses of $7.3 billion. Meanwhile, ordinary Russians know very little of their country’s and their oligarchs’ failures. A recent poll found that 57% of Russians believed their country to be flourishing, up from 53% a few months previously. And the state-controlled media have been banned from using words such as, “crisis” and “decline”. Just as Soviet propaganda films purported, Russians are still told how terrible life in the West is. Supposedly desperate Britons are throwing themselves in the Thames; we can no longer afford to bury the dead; and the Queen is pawning her jewellery. Russia tells its people that the Motherland will be the rescuer of Europe. The state affirmed this by giving a large loan to bankrupted Iceland recently, while Western countries refused to help. The media asks Russians to thank the genius and leadership of Vladimir Putin for their country’s stability and strong position during the financial turbulence.

The truth is that oligarchs are simply pawns of the state, at the mercy of the current tolerance of the Kremlin. Putin is preparing to reinstate himself as President – so completing the transition to an authoritarian method of rule – but as the economy worsens, his forbearance from destroying the providence of Russia’s financial elite is looking to lessen fast.

As in Soviet times, it is true in Russia that if one pulls oneself up, out of the misery of the bottom of the pile, then one will risk the painful drop from the top right back to the bottom; albeit from the nocuous control of the state, the lethal prison, forced labour, Siberian exile, or the gun. Ten years ago, life had never looked better for the oligarchs – through both serendipity and dishonesty they looked set to live a comfortable life. Now they find themselves in a collapsed attempt at democracy, in an atmosphere that is breeding wanton ideals of despotism. A recent Russian reality television show has Stalin set to win ‘The Greatest Russian Ever’ award. Stalin – a man responsible for the death of tens of millions of people.

The sensible oligarchs, such as Roman Abramovich, have moved to Europe, partly because of the large number of crimes accused by the Russian state and business partners against them. Abramovich in particular, emerged triumphant from the so-called ‘Aluminum Wars’; he left behind him over 100 gang fighters dead, a fellow oligarch exiled to Siberia and “numerous officials and executives” found murdered.

Russia never became a state with a free economy. Most of the oligarchs made their fortunes in a dying state through cruel and backhanded measures. And just as they rose so spectacularly, they will fall so too – especially as oil prices continue to plummet. They are bizarre figures – successors to the KGB heads and party officials – all of whom enjoy a limited autonomy in their respective areas of control; but they are still, and will always be ultimately at the mercy of the callous Russian state.

Posted under Articles, Commentary by on Saturday, November 22, 2008

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Viewpoint from Britain: the impotent media in the US elections 362

As I write this on the ultimate day of campaigning, the mainstream media has already decided the outcome of the US elections. Obama is everywhere – he is deemed a harbinger of hope and change to not just many Americans, but to a large proportion of the global populace as well. One young Palestinian in the Gaza strip was cold calling American households last week, persuading them to vote for this deity.
It is an old story, especially in the United States, that the media fails to correctly predict the election performance of conservative politicians. It is fair to say that the majority of the American media is fairly liberal; the noticeable exception is Fox News. These left wing media outlets spout ideas and opinions that are often adopted as ideals by society, An important and misleading consequence of the political position of the mainstream news services is the fallacious polls that the same media and the public love to exhibit and evaluate respectively. There is one theory proposed by the political scientist Elisabeth Noelle-Neumann, called the ‘Spiral of Silence’, which is the idea that one is less likely to publicly support an idea that is carried by the minority for fear of isolation and requital from society. As a result, a particular motion is likely to receive less and less public support, thus exposing said idea to fewer and fewer people.
In England, one phenomenon of unexpected success is called the ‘Shy Tory Factor’. This term was coined in the 1990s by British opinion polling companies in response to the 1992 General Election. Despite the Conservative Party trailing 1% behind Labour, the former won the election with a lead of about 7.6%.
This discrepancy can be explained by a number of theories. The first is the fact I just previously mentioned – that the greater representation of the political left by the media gives rise to false hope and perhaps even can provide a dangerous sense of complacency to left wing politicians. The second theory is what I believe to be the narcissistic individual’s public need for society’s deference, an egotistical façade that hides the individual’s private whim – thus exists a covert growth of idiosyncratic sentiments. If a government at the end of its second or third term is unpopular with the mainstream left, then while publicly the virtuous middle class may denounce the ‘failing government’, those same ‘principled’ men and women will rush to vote for them when the polls open – perhaps because of a private admiration or quiet understanding of the abhorrent government’s policies, or perhaps just because of a lack of alternative acceptable politicians standing.
The third possibility for the inconsistency between predictions and realities is a word that has governed the concept of equality in the last hundred years: race. It seems apparent to me that race is a defining factor in the human consciousness, and however much equality is sought, there is a part of each single soul that craves identity. For example, in a completely different context, most Muslims will support a Palestinian state whereas more Jews will support the Jewish Israeli state. The concept of identity is prevalent in the quest for independent opinion, and for this reason Obama has bastions of support among some communities but not others. A recent YouGov poll found that Obama has an 82% lead among black voters, whereas Obama is trailing by 5% among white voters. In some states Obama appears to have almost 97% of the black vote.
Obama has a huge amount of support from the black vote, but this is not enough to win the election alone. Obama’s election team knows this and that is why they have campaigned so heavily amongst the white middle class America. These efforts appear to have worked and the polls are in Obama’s favour. Many newspaper columnists are speaking of Obama’s victory as if there need be no contest at all.
This could be a huge mistake. There is a phenomenon in elections, similar to the ‘Shy Tory Factor’, called the ‘Bradley Factor’. This is named after Tom Bradley, the candidate for the governor of California election. Despite enjoying a position far ahead in the polls, Bradley lost to his Republican rival. It was attributed to white voters privately voting differently from their public declaration to pollsters. This theory is similar to my previously mentioned suggestions for the ‘Shy Tory Factor’. There are many other examples of black politicians experiencing the effect of the Bradley factor: Harold Washington, Jesse Jackson, David Dinkins and Wilson Goode. In fact David Duke, the Nazi sympathizer and KKK member, experienced an inverted Bradley factor when he received a much larger proportion of the votes than polls had shown. The same happens in Britain: the BNP regularly does much better than expected, and no one is ever more surprised than the liberal media.
Juxtaposed against the Bradley factor is a suggested reverse Bradley factor and a concept known as the ‘Fishtown effect’. Douglas Wilder, the first black state governor has suggested that many Republicans will secretly vote for Obama while publicly declaring otherwise. The ‘Fishtown Effect’ however is the suggestion that usually bigoted white voters will vote for a black candidate because of economic concerns; in the present financial climate this theory could have a significant influence on the election.
But is the Bradley factor truly an example of cold, calculated racism? I would suggest that it is not the wish of one race to dismiss another, but rather a quest for identity and fraternalism. The uncertainties and confusion results from the furious denunciations from the media, who vilify individual figures, cultures and ideas. And regardless of the results of Tuesday’s election, sections of the World’s media, from Bangkok to San Francisco, will condemn the discriminatory minds of the American public. From the hoi polloi to the richest mansion dwellers, the inhabitants will be branded racists. If Obama loses the election, the voters will be accused of anachronistic racism; if Obama wins, some will be accused of lacking integrity and letting fear of inequality dictate their vote. Stanford University has worked hard to be ahead of the game. Christian Science Monitor: “Stanford University suggests that racial prejudice is eroding as much as 6 percentage points from Senator Obama’s support. One commentator has even suggested that white racism would be the only explanation for an Obama loss this November.”
And the true villain is actually the media – their shameless selective reporting, their composition of supercilious ideals and their lack of objectivity have irrevocably destroyed the continuation of a nonpartisan candid and free press. Although keen to malign other Democrats and the Republicans, the media has been hesitant to report news and rumours about Obama: from the incongruous gap between the discovery and the media report of the villainy of Reverend Wright’s speeches, to the bizarre association with Bill Ayers, and now the LA Times is overrun with requests that they persistently ignore, to release videotape they possess of Obama with a suspected PLO terrorist named Rashid Khalidi. Why would a very large newspaper not release a sensational news story so pivotal as this?
So do I believe the associations with Obama uncovered by the right and McCain’s camp are as serious as some would paint them? – Not really. I do believe though, that the burnt soul of the unscrupulously bias media is poisoning the democracy of the Western countries. I believe the same media is to blame for the misinformation and intolerance in politics that breeds bountifully during times of wanton ideals. However, I do know there is always independent thought, which leaves the opinionated editors and columnists shouting at deaf ears. And certainly the hurly burly media world can no longer explain a truth or encourage an honest purpose; it is an impotent force, multiplying in presence but with a fading influence; useless in a world of disobedient readers.

Posted under Commentary by Jillian Becker on Monday, November 3, 2008

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Threat to the West unifies 114

As an expansionist Russia flexes its muscles, Hezbollah has strengthened its position with an important ally. Debka:

A Hezbollah mission, which arrived in Moscow Tuesday, Oct. 28, was taken around Russian state of the art anti-tank missile factories, including KBP in the town of Tula southwest of Moscow, DEBKAfile’s exclusive military sources report. The Lebanese visitors were treated to a live fire demonstration of various types of missile. They then ordered 3,000 missiles of different types and returned home Saturday, Nov. 1. (full report here)

Debka also reports that Tehran is footing the bill. These new Russian weapons, combined with Syria’s ground-to-air missiles, means Israel will find the balance of military power dangerously altered. Hezbollah also used Chinese C-130 anti-ship missiles to great effect during the 2006 war. Russia and China have been the most terrifying obstacles to the UN security council’s attempt to deal with Iran.

Posted under Uncategorized by Jillian Becker on Sunday, November 2, 2008

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Alexander Solzhenitsyn Dies 214

The writer and former gulag prisoner Alexander Solzhenitsyn has died at the once unimaginable age of 89.

His most famous books, "One Day In the Life of Ivan Denisovich" and "The Gulag Archipelago" brought the horrors of the Gulag to the attention of the West. They also ended the disgusting insistence of the Left that the Gulags were merely acceptable prisons for criminals.

It is suspected that anywhere from 2 million to 40 million died in the gulags.

There is a comprehensive and interesting obituary here.

Posted under Uncategorized by Jillian Becker on Sunday, August 3, 2008

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They Kuntar Done Worse 315

The moment Samir Kuntar walked into Lebanon as a free man spelt the end of a hard earned 60 years cultivating the image of Israel as a capable, tough and proud state. Samir Kuntar is one of the most despised villains of Israeli society: a vicious murderer, his crimes included the inhuman beating to death of a three year old Israeli girl in front of horrified witnesses. In the eyes of the Arab countries and even among Western Arab communities, Samir Kuntar is the darling of the defenders of Islam – a brave resistance fighter.

My horror at the release of this epitome of evil is not the support for his crimes that is propagated among the Arabs; it is not even shock at the (frankly expected) Western indifference for this monster – instead I am appalled by the virus that goes by the name of appeasement that has risen again to infect the integrity or lack thereof, manifested by the weak politicians and the morally bankrupt Left of the “liberal” West.

One particular historical parallel that can now be applied to the Arab-Israeli conflict by supporters of Israel is the disastrous policy of appeasement practised noticeably by one of its true founders: Neville Chamberlain. Once the understanding of the West and even the byline of slightly cringe-worthy Hollywood films was ‘Never negotiate with terrorism’. Now appeasement and negotiation appears to govern international politics: from the hundreds of incentives made to the Iran by the EU, hoping to curb Iran’s nuclear weapons research, each new offer giving more and more away to the Iranians; to the ‘quiet diplomacy’ pursued by Thabo Mbeki with Mugabe’s Zimbabwe.

The release of Samir Kuntar, four other terrorists and the hundreds of remains of dead Lebanese murderers marks the beginning of the end. Israel, more than any country, should realise that appeasement is a policy that will never work to their advantage. It betrays the teachings of Machiavelli: “…one should never permit a disorder to persist in order to avoid a war, for war is not avoided thereby but merely deferred to one’s own disadvantage.” And it sends chilling reminders of Chamberlain’s efforts to secure peace; or the IRA murderers given their ill-gotten freedom by Blair’s government; the US government’s protection of Arafat in 1982; the attempted appeasement of Saddam Hussein before the 1990 Gulf War; the encouraged promotion of Islamic culture above all others in Western countries by Western governments; the suggestions of British judges for allowing some form of sharia law in Britain – the last hundred years have shown a frightening propensity for the West to fail to learn from its mistakes and to allow the forces of evil a chance to exist and prosper.

So why is Olmert’s government meeting Hezbollah’s demands? Why is it appeasing its enemies? Israel has owed 60 years of remarkable existence to ‘disproportionate’ response and a tough and no-nonsense attitude towards its enemies. Many would argue this is a key reason for her survival. The release of the five terrorists by Israel met one of Hezbollah’s few demands, another being the return of the Sheba farms to Lebanon. Is it that these unforgettable years of terrorism, torture, murder, cruelty unimaginable to civilized society have all just been for the return of a few hundred yards of farm and a child murderer? – the truth of course, is that Hezbollah, like the rest of the Arab world, seeks the destruction of Israel and its people. Olmert seems to have forgotten this. They have reversed the direction of sixty years of policies based on reality and common sense, and are taking an ill-fated chance with the future of their country.

For the despairing results of this cruel act of appeasement we have not even had to wait a few days. Immediately Hamas decided it was no longer going to agree to Israeli terms for the return of Gilad Shalit and was to demand greater returns for the terrorist group. Furthermore, a group of British MPs called for a dialogue with Palestinian terror groups, Hamas included; breaking the policy of no recognition that most Western countries have pursued.

But this author is not completely a pessimist and his writings shall not just be a harbinger of Israel’s complete failure – there is still a chance: Olmert and his coalition must be removed, a strong leader (preferably Netanyahu) must be elected, Kuntar must be assassinated, Hamas must be destroyed, Hezbollah must be removed, Iran’s nuke and missile sites must be obliterated and the supply of armaments to the Gaza Strip and West Bank must be stopped. Tough orders? These are problems all created by appeasement; it is war deferred to Israel’s disadvantage, and now Israel is forced to deal with it.

Posted under Articles, Commentary by Jillian Becker on Sunday, July 27, 2008

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