Posted by Joshua on Tuesday, December 8th, 2009
US Ambassador: The word is that the name of a candidate for Ambassador to Damascus has been sent up to the White House. No one seems to be willing to say who it is, but there is some gossip that suggests Jacob Walles, the former Consul in Jerusalem, may be named to the post.
Peace Talks: Israeli and Syrian diplomatic announcements about their respective readiness to discuss peace have all the hallmarks of cynical maneuvering rather than the sincere desire to make peace. Israel wants Syria to engage in direct talks with no promise of return of the Golan. Syria wants Israel to resume talks where Clinton and P.M. Barak left off in 2000, otherwise there can be only indirect talks. Netanyahu won’t give up the Golan and Syria will not accept less than the whole Golan. There is really not much to talk about under the circumstances but neither side wants to be blamed for refusing to negotiate.
Explosion: Phil Sands does it again — real reporting. He does some hard journalism to argue that an exploding tire – not terrorism – just as Syrian authorities reported, was the most likely source of the deaths on a Syrian bus last week.
When it comes to reporting on Syria, foreign journalists and analysts somehow feel at liberty to speculate with no restraint. I remember how David Shenker suggested that Syria had bombed itself when a small extremist cell tried to attack the US Embassy in 2006. Others suggested that Syria killed Mughniya to please the US or that it staged the extremist shoot out at an abandoned UN site in Mezzeh in 2004 because it wanted to look as if it suffered from extremism to garner world sympathy. It is funny that most of these pundits make fun of Arabs when they resort to conspiracy theories to explain Western behavior, but cannot see their own absurdity when they resort to the same device to explain Arab behavior. Some will argue that Syria brings this skepticism on itself because it refuses to allow journalists to operate within Syria freely. Phil has called an auto engineer to explore the likelihood that an exploding tire could set off a bus fire and do the sort of damage we saw in the case of the Syrian bus explosion of last week.
In Syria, the dust settles, the story holds
Phil Sands, Foreign Correspondent
December 07. 2009, The National
The wreckage of an Iranian pilgrims’ bus after an explosion last week on the outskirts of Damascus. Phil Sands for The National
DAMASCUS // If you read, watched or heard any of the recent news reports out of Syria, you probably know that Sunni extremists set off a bus bomb in the Shiite neighbourhood of Saida Zeynab on Thursday, killing at least three people and raising fears of rising sectarian tension.
The Syrian authorities denied the explosion was a bomb, but ironically explained the fatalities had been caused by an “overinflated tyre”. The various news reports naturally mentioned this denial, but did so in a way that made it clear nothing of the sort could have been true.
Photographs of the damaged coach, the windows smashed, its side torn and blackened from fire, emphasised the point this was not the result of an accidentally popped tyre.
The only problem with all of these accounts is that there may not have been a bomb after all. The explosion, in fact, could well have been caused by an overinflated tyre.
“It’s well known within the industry for people to be killed from over inflating tyres,” explained a senior engineer at a leading tyre manufacturer in the UK.
He spoke on condition of anonymity because his company, a global brand that makes tyres for cars, lorries and aircraft, did not want its name associated with a fatal incident it had not been involved in.
The engineer, who said he had heard of the Damascus explosion, stressed it was impossible to know with certainty what had taken place without visiting the site. But, he said, tyre explosions could be extremely powerful.
“Coach or lorry tyres are not like those on cars,” the engineer said. “They have plies inside them, metal reinforcement that lets them keep their shape. And you put a lot of pressure in these tyres, say 90 pounds per square inch, that’s three times more than a car, it’s a lot of pressure.
“If you put too much air in, or if the tyre is old and weak and not properly maintained, it can explode, and those metal plies are probably going to go flying.”
Eyewitnesses to the explosion reported hearing a bomb go off, something the engineer thought could well have been a tyre. “A lorry tyre bursting at 120 PSI [pound-force per square inch] or something makes a hell of a bang; it sounds like a bomb,” he said.
Thursday’s blast left parts of the bus badly damaged, its windscreen smashed and engine burned. A van some 15 metres away had a piece of shrapnel-like debris punched through its window and there were three confirmed deaths.
However, while significant, the scale of destruction did not measure up to that caused by the car bombings so common in neighbouring Iraq; those bombs sometimes throw heavy engine blocks 30 to 50 metres, blow craters into concrete roads or demolish the walls of surrounding buildings. Windows in the immediate vicinity get broken.
When the Syrian security forces finally allowed journalists onto the blast site in Saida Zeynab, it was clear there was no crater. A taxi parked alongside the coach, on the same side as the explosion, had some of its windows smashed, but not all of them. There was even some unbroken glass in the immediately adjacent tyre workshop.
And the coach itself, while damaged, was far from torn to pieces. Most of the bodywork was intact, the engine and chassis appeared to be in place, even the seats above the site of the explosion, while misshapen, were still there.
Fire damage was significant but, in light of the British tyre engineer’s comments, it seems possible that flying metal debris could, for example, have punctured the fuel tank or fuel lines resulting in a blaze….
A growing number of media outlets and commentators rushed to speculate that this must be a sectarian conflict. There was talk of “destruction”, “these militants” – as if the bombing had been confirmed – and even a wild suggestion Syrians felt themselves about to be enveloped in “carnage”.
Syria’s public relations machine did little to tamp down the hysteria. Their spokespeople briefly mentioned an overinflated tyre, offered no extra details and summarily dismissed any further questions.
One critical point the speculative stories failed to address was just why the Syrian authorities would claim a bombing had been an accident. Syria repeatedly justifies its harsh suppression of all internal dissent on the grounds of a domestic threat from violent Islamic extremists. A bomb would fit that narrative perfectly, whereas a blown tyre does not.
Thursday’s explosion might well have been a militant attack, as was widely implied. But, utterly implausible as it may at first sound, there are reasons to believe the Damascus bomb of December 3 may not have been a bomb at all….. Under those circumstances, the claim that the explosion came from a burst tyre does not sound so ridiculous as it undoubtedly does at first glance.
Haaretz: ‘Syria drops demand for Israeli pledge to quit Golan Heights’
2009-12-07, Haaretz, By Barak Ravid
The Syrian government is no longer demanding an Israeli commitment to withdraw …
ERDOGAN SAYS ISRAELI GOVERNMENT CONFUSED ON FOREIGN RELATIONS
Syria Steps, an on-line newspaper, (article copied below) reports that a small opinion poll carried out among Syrian economics students at universities in Damascus, Aleppo, and Latakia demonstrates that”
42% of students want a government job for the security. 33% want to work for a bank or insurance company.
12% chose as their first choice of employment a company run by Rami Makhlouf because of its superior salary and benefits. Interestingly, of those who said they preferred to work for a Makhlouf company, almost none came from Aleppo at 2% of the total. Damascenes made up 52% and Latakians 40% of the students who wanted to work for a Makhlouf company.
What are the possible explanations for this Aleppine disregard for Makhlouf?
- Most obvious is that Aleppo has its own economy and Makhlouf companies do not enter onto the Aleppine college student radar so much. Makhlouf companies are headquartered in Damascus so Damasacenes talk about them and are aware of them. In Latakia, the high concentration of Alawites may be important to public awareness of the Makhlouf companies. They feel connected to them, unlike the Aleppines, for whom they are not important.
Other industrialists with high recognition for whom Syrians students wanted to work are Muhammad Hamsho (Apple Computer) in Damascus, Ghassan Karim in Aleppo, and Wahib Mar’ai (iron and steel) in Latakia.
Most respondents explained that they despaired of getting a job on graduation but allowed as how it was nice to dream about it.
أين يرغب طلاب الاقتصاد والتجارة العمل بعد التخرج
الدولة أولاً ثم المصارف والتأمين ..ومخلوف وحمشو موجودان في الحلم بقوة
أين تحب أن تعمل بعد تخرجك من كلية الاقتصاد والتجارة، سؤال توجهنا به إلى 200 طالب يدرسون في السنة الأخيرة في كليات الاقتصاد والتجارة في كل من جامعات دمشق وحلب واللاذقية حيث طلبنا من كل طالب أن يدرج ثلاث أماكن يحب العمل فيها مع تبيان سبب واحد فقط لهذا الخيار وبنتيجة قراءة نتائج الاستبيان تبين لنا مايلي:
42% من العينة وضعوا في المرتبة الأولى الوظيفة الحكومية والسبب الأكثر ذكراً لهذا الخيار كان لأنّها الأكثر أماناً وضماناً..
في حين وضع 33% من أفراد العينة المصارف وشركات التأمين في المرتبة الأولى.. بسبب الراتب والموقع الاجتماعي.
وقال 12% من العينة أنّهم يأملوا العمل في إحدى شركات رامي مخلوف كخيار أول والسبب بحسب رأيهم يعود إلى الراتب الجيّد والمزايا الّتي يحصل عليها الموظف في شركات مخلوف.
واللافت أن أكثر الذين رغبوا بالعمل عند مخلوف..كانوا في دمشق بنسبة 52% و 40% في اللاذقية و 2% في حلب .
وتوزعت النسبة الباقية ضمن قائمة الرغبة الأولى وهي 13% بين العمل لدى شركات محمد حمشو وخاصة في دمشق وغسان كريم في حلب ومجموعة الزين ووهيب مرعي في اللاذقية.
وفي الخيار الثاني..تفوقت المصارف وشركات التأمين فاختار نحو 62% من العينة المصارف وشركات التأمين كرغبة ثانية.. وجاء العمل في شركات رامي مخلوف ومحمد حمشو ليحققا نسبة 11% والباقي توزع بين العمل الحكومي وشركات الخليوي والشركات السياحية العقارية .
وفي الخيار الثالث..جاء رامي مخلوف بالمرتبة الأولى بـ 32% وقد لاحظنا أن الكثير ممن أجابوا كان يقصدون برامي مخلوف سيرياتل وإن كان البعض كان أشار بوضوح إلى شام القابضة وشركات أخرى تتبع لرامي مخلوف وتنوعت باقي الخيارات في الخيارالثالث…ما بين العمل الحكومي والمصارف والتأمين وشركات الخليوي وإقامة عمل خاص والسفر وهذا الأخير لوحظ أنه لم يكن هناك تركيز عليه بسبب الأزمة المالية ووجود شركات في سورية يوازي ما هو موجود في الخارج.
وفي كل الأحوال.. فإنّ الملاحظة المشتركة في كافة أفراد العينة كان في أهمية الحصول على فرصة عمل أينما كانت فهذا أفضل من البطالة برأي الكثير منهم.. وإن كان خيارنا للعينة من كلية الاقتصاد والتجارة إنما هو محاولة إظهار أنّ هذا الفرع هو من أكثر الفروع طلباً بسبب الانفتاح الاقتصادي الّذي تشهده سورية ودخول الكثير من الشركات الّتي يبدو خريجو الاقتصاد والتجارة أحد مصادرها الأساسية لتأمين العمالة التي نحتاجها.
بقي أن نقول أن معظم أفراد العينة عبروا في إجاباتهم عن فقدانهم الأمل بالحصول على وظيفة بعد التخرج ولكن لا مانع من الحلم أحياناً.
BBC Via FLC (Thanks)
…. Instead, when he visited Turkey in April he found a country that under the leadership of Mr Erdogan and his Islamist-inspired AK party has seen a rise in anti-Western rhetoric and “nationalism imbued with Islamism”, according to Soner Cagaptay, director of the Turkish Research programme at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy.
Although Turks have a much more favourable view of Mr Obama than they did of President George W Bush, only 14% of Turks have a positive view of the US – the lowest rating among 25 countries polled by the Pew Research Center this spring….
Last week, Turkey’s Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu rejected criticism of his country’s improving ties with countries like Iran. He told the BBC that his country was attempting to have “zero-problem” with its neighbours.
This approach has allowed Turkey to rise as a considerable regional power and, until recently, this gave Ankara the ability to mediate between West and East, and between countries like Israel and Syria…. As it grows closer to countries like Syria, it is alienating Israel, and while it defends Iran’s nuclear program, it raises alarm bells in Washington.
Mr Obama is likely to be firm in expressing displeasure about the exclusion of Israel from the military exercise or his worry about the rise of anti-Western sentiments in Turkey. But he may also seek to explore whether Washington can still reap any benefits from Turkey’s improving ties with some of Washington’s foes and its ability to talk to them, in particular Iran.
But the US wants Turkey to use its ties with Tehran to deliver tough messages, not just sign gas and trade deals, which Mr Erdogan did when he visited Iran last month….. So in public, the US administration insists it is not worried about the developing trends in Turkey…..
But speaking at a conference last year, before becoming an Obama administration official, Mr Gordon said that while Turkey was still a stable partner, “current trends augur that it could just as easily become a more nationalist country that resents its rejection from the EU and isolates itself from the West”.
He concluded by advising the next administration, of which he was soon to become part, that it “should make sure that Turkey stays on the right path, because it would be sad to discuss four years from now why we lost a valued ally”.
Since that conference, the situation has only deteriorated, so it is most likely that Mr Gordon is still concerned with making sure that Turkey “stays on the right path”.”
SSNP News: Contributed by Nour
In a largely attended ceremony commemorating the 77th year since the founding of the Syrian Social Nationalist Party, President of the Party, Dr. Ali Haidar, declared in a policy speech the inception of the Social Nationalist state across the Syrian homeland, with Jerusalem as its capital. President Haidar further clarified “not East Jerusalem, not West Jerusalem, but Jerusalem, all of Jerusalem, is our capital and every grain of soil from Jerusalem is to us the holiest of holies. He further stated that “we did not raise the slogan of “Jerusalem the capital of our Syria” in order to outbid anyone from the children of our nation in our love of this city, but to respond to the suggestion of the enemy in making Jerusalem the eternal capital of “Israel.” Jerusalem, just like all other Palestinian cities, will never be anything but Syrian in its origin, its inclination, and its fate.”
President Dr. Ali Haidar presented a plan for the realization of the Social Nationalist state, divided into three main parts. First, the rise of the national state with its capital Jerusalem. Second, the formation of a state civil law and the organization of national life. And third, the organization of the national economy on the basis of production. Each of those parts is followed by a series of subparts in what is a deliberate, organized plan of action to achieve what is “the highest goal of transforming the Syrian Social Nationalist state from a reality in our living sentiments to a living reality on its own.”
With respect to Sham (Syrian Arab Republic), President Dr. Ali Haidar stated that Sham has been successful in breaking its international isolation, and in “building good and promising political economic relations with Turkey, with our hope that it is not at the expense of our national rights [meaning the surrender of Cilicia and Alexandretta].” He further stated that Sham’s success in its foreign policy “should not be at the expense of its internal files which are in need of being addressed” and they include “the Shami economy” as well as “the need for the modernization and development of many of its laws, which will fortify its internal front in order to confront its external dangers.” President Dr. Ali Haidar also called on Sham to support and embrace all “resistances” in the nation, and to transform them into “a single all-encompassing resistance, and to regard resistance as a culture, a course, and a way of life, which is the more profitable strategic choice and which !
has proven its success in the preservation of our national rights.”
Why Discuss writes:
Jamil Sayyed is now suing in the Syrian courts the false witnesses (5 of them of Syrian nationality) in relation to the Hariri affair. His request for proper justice after 4 years of illegal detainement have been rejected by the TSL and the Lebanese justice system. The Syrian tribunal will request several high profile Lebanese personalities, ex ministers etc… as well and Detlev Mehlis to present themselves to this tribunal to be heard.
Sayyed : La justice syrienne convoque Hamadé, Khachan, Rizk, Sabeh, Rifi, Hammoud et d’autres…
Le Tribunal spécial pour le Liban lui a fermé ses portes pour cause d’incompétence à juger les faux témoins et la justice libanaise refuse de donner suite à ses plaintes répétées : qu’à cela ne tienne, l’ancien directeur général de la Sûreté générale, Jamil Sayyed, s’adresse à la justice syrienne et obtient, au moins à cette étape du parcours, gain de cause. Dans un timing qui ne peut pas être innocent à la veille de la visite prévue du Premier ministre Saad Hariri à Damas et alors que le procureur général du TSL, Daniel Bellemare, est encore au Liban, le général Sayyed a annoncé hier que la justice syrienne a émis des mandats d’arrêt contre « les faux témoins et leurs complices » portant la nationalité syrienne et elle a délivré des commissions rogatoires pour entendre « leurs nombreux complices présumés libanais et étrangers, dont le député Marwan Hamadé, le conseiller en information du Premier ministre Hani Hammoud, le directeur !
général des FSI Achraf Rifi, le procureur général Saïd Mirza et d’autres politiciens et journalistes ».
Si la plupart des personnes citées dans la nouvelle publiée par le bureau d’informations du général Sayyed ont refusé de la commenter, le député Marwan Hamadé qui se trouve à Rambouillet a déclaré à L’Orient-Le Jour qu’il se « félicite de l’intégrité de la justice syrienne connue pour son respect des droits de l’homme notamment à l’égard de ses propres citoyens et surtout de ses intellectuels ». Reprenant une expression libanaise, il a ajouté dans une boutade : « C’est comme si les victimes sont satisfaites, mais le tueur, lui, ne l’est pas. » Prié de commenter le timing de cette nouvelle à la veille de la visite annoncée de Saad Hariri à Damas, Hamadé a déclaré : « Il s’agit d’un complot contre cette visite et contre le gouvernement d’union nationale. »
Dans les détails de l’information, les avocats de Sayyed en Syrie lui ont annoncé que le magistrat syrien chargé de statuer sur la plainte qu’il a déposée contre les faux témoins et leurs complices, dans l’affaire de l’assassinat du Premier ministre Rafic Hariri, a émis des mandats d’arrêt contre l’ancien vice-président syrien Abdel-Halim Khaddam et contre Mohammad Zouhair Siddiq. Le juge syrien a aussi délivré des commissions rogatoires pour informer les personnes de nationalité libanaise et autres, dont le nom figure dans la plainte, de la nécessité de se présenter devant la justice syrienne pour être entendues.
La liste des Libanais
Toujours selon le général Sayyed, ces commissions rogatoires ont été communiquées à la justice libanaise au cours de la semaine dernière. Elles comportent les noms des anciens ministres Marwan Hamadé, Hassan Sabeh et Charles Rizk et l’ancien député Élias Atallah. Les noms des magistrats Saïd Mirza, Sakr Sakr et Élias Eid figurent aussi sur la liste aux côtés de ceux du général Achraf Rifi, de Wissam Hassan, Samir Chéhadé, Houssam Tannoukhi et Khaled Hammoud. De même, les journalistes Farès Kachan, Hani Hammoud, Hassan Sabra et d’autres sont aussi convoqués devant la justice syrienne, en plus de l’ancien chef des SR Johnny Abdo, du jounaliste koweïtien Ahmad Jarallah, propriétaire du quotidien as-Siassa, et de l’ancien président de la commission d’enquête internationale Detlev Mehlis et son adjoint Gerhard Lehmann. Le journaliste syrien résidant au Liban, Nohad al-Ghadri, et les faux témoins syiens installés au Liban, Akram Chakib Mrad et Ibrahim!
Michel Jarjoura (ce dernier a été interdit de quitter le territoire libanais sur décision personnelle du juge Mirza, contrairement à la loi, selon le bureau d’informations du général Sayyed) font aussi l’objet de commissions rogatoires, ainsi que le « faux témoin » israélien d’origine palestinienne, Abdel Basset Bani Aoudeh, installé en Suède.
Le général Sayyed a précisé que sa plainte devant la justice syrienne est « personnelle et pénale ». Elle n’est donc pas politique et l’État syrien n’y participe pas, tout comme il n’a, pour l’instant, porté plainte contre aucune des personnes dont le nom figure dans les mandats d’arrêt ou dans les commissions rogatoires. Le général Sayyed a ajouté que l’État syrien aurait pu le faire après le scandale des faux témoins Mohammad Zouhair Siddiq et Houssam Houssam. Il a insisté sur le fait qu’il ne s’agit donc pas d’un procès syrien. Il est intenté par un citoyen libanais (lui-même) devant la justice syrienne, compétente du fait que cinq des personnes accusées ont la nationalité de ce pays. Sayyed a rappelé qu’il a tenté de porter cette plainte devant le TSL mais celui-ci s’est déclaré incompétent pour juger les faux témoins. Il a même fait appel à la justice libanaise qui a refusé de réagir. Il n’a donc plus eu d’autre choix que de s’adresser!
la justice syrienne. Sayyed a répété que cette plainte n’a aucune portée politique et il a ajouté qu’il est prêt à la transférer de Syrie au TSL au cas où celui-ci change d’avis au sujet de ses compétences. Il a enfin précisé qu’il peut retirer sa plainte si les personnes en question décident d’assumer leurs responsabilités au sujet de sa détention illégale et de la fabrication de faux témoins…
Interrogé par la chaîne LBC, le ministère des Affaires étrangères a nié avoir reçu les commissions rogatoires. Le ministère de la Justice a lui aussi affirmé n’avoir rien reçu, « à moins, ont précisé les sources du ministère, que les commissions rogatoires soient directement transmises au parquet. Ce qui serait une erreur de procédure, toujours d’après le ministère. De son côté, le procureur général près la Cour de cassation, Saïd Mirza, a refusé de démentir ou de confirmer la nouvelle, se contentant de déclarer à la LBC qu’il consultera son courrier aujourd’hui même…
Jamil Seyyed is now suing in the Syrian Justice the false witnesses (5 of them of syrian nationality) in relation to the Hariri affair. His request for proper justice after 4 years of unjustified detainement have been rejected by the TSL and the Lebanese justice system. The Syrian tribunal will request several high profile lebanese personalities, ex ministers etc… as well and Detlev Mehlis to present themselves to this tribunal to be heard.
Netanyahu: Israel ready for Syria talks
December 7, 2009, JERUSALEM (JTA)
Israel is ready for direct negotiations with Syria, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said. Netanyahu on Monday told the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee that he recently informed French President Nicolas Sarkozy of Israel’s desire to enter into new negotiations without preconditions, such as the Syrian demand before sitting down to talks that any negotiations end in a return to 1967 lines.
The prime minister also said that he told Sarkozy that he would prefer that France take over the mediator’s role from Turkey.
Netanyahu also discussed the threat to Israel from Lebanon to the north.
“If in the past we considered Hezbollah as a sideline militia, today Hezbollah is the real Lebanese army,” he reportedly said. “Hezbollah has replaced the Lebanese army as a significant force; it is arming and organizing as a real army. The Lebanese government and Hezbollah are becoming interwoven in each other – and they will suffer the consequences of any violation against Israel.”
“… He was prepared to accept most of Hizbullah’s conditions. When Hariri found himself immersed in personal quarrels with Aoun, he resolved them by making additional concessions. And he began hinting that he might be prepared to put aside his hostility with Syria. Hariri considers Syria responsible for the murder of his father, Rafik Hariri. Still, he indicated that he might be willing to open a new page between the two countries.
Thus it appears that the March 14 camp’s June 2009 electoral victory was only partial and short-term, one clash in a long battle far from finished, a battle over the path Lebanon takes and the future of the country……
… As a matter of fact, between the end of the 2006 war and the fall of 2009 Hizbullah almost tripled the number of missiles at its disposal. In November 2009, it was estimated that the organization possessed 40,000-50,000 missiles of the type it had used against northern Israel during the 2006 war……
It may be assumed that the new government formed in Lebanon is based upon a balance of fear between Hizbullah and its opponents, especially Hariri and the Sunni community he heads. It may also be assumed that a tense calm will continue to prevail along the Israeli-Lebanese border in the absence of either side having any interest in disturbing the quiet…..
The present moment may be merely an intermission between two episodes in the struggle within Lebanon, and in the conflict between Israel and Hizbullah. Either or both fronts could explode at any time.”
“An Nahar Sources: The US administration is trying to embarrass Lebanon by setting impossible conditions before granting $100 million in military aid. One of the conditions is disarming Hezbollah.”
American Jews eye Obama’s ‘anti-Israel’ appointees
By Natasha Mozgovaya, 04/12/2009
Every appointee to the American government must endure a thorough background check by the American Jewish community.
In the case of Obama’s government in particular, every criticism against Israel made by a potential government appointee has become a catalyst for debate about whether appointing “another leftist” offers proof that Obama does not truly support Israel.
A few months ago, boisterous protests by the American Jewish community helped foil the appointment of Chaz Freeman to chair the National Intelligence Council, citing his “anti-Israel leaning.”
The next attempt to appoint an intelligence aide, in this case, former Republican senator Chuck Hagel, also resulted in vast criticism over his not having a pro-Israel record.
American Zionists are urging Obama to cancel Hagel’s appointment because of what they call a long and problematic record of hostility toward Israel.
The president of the Zionist Organization of America, Morton A. Klein, described Hagel’s nomination as such: “Any American who is concerned about Iran’s drive to obtain nuclear weapons, maintaining the Israeli-U.S. relationship and supporting Israel in its legitimate fight to protect her citizens from terrorism should oppose this appointment.”
Republican Jews have also protested Hagel’s appointment, citing an incident in 2004 when Hagel refused to sign a letter calling on then-president George Bush to speak about Iran’s nuclear program at the G8 summit that year.
In August of 2006, Hagel refused to sign a letter requesting the UN declare Hezbollah a terrorist organization.
In a speech at the conference of self-declared “pro-peace, pro-Israel” lobby J Street, Hagel spoke about his views on the issue of Israel and the Middle East.
“The United States’ support for Israel need not be – nor should it be – an either-or proposition that dictates our relationships with our Arab allies and friends. The U.S. has a long and special relationship with Israel, but it must not come at the expense of our Arab relationships,” Hagel said.
The latest round of heated debate has been over the nomination of Hannah Rosenthal to head the Office to Monitor and Combat Anti-Semitism in the Obama administration.
Rosenthal, who is the daughter of a Holocaust survivor, served as a Health Department regional director under the Clinton administration, and held positions in different left-leaning Jewish organizations.
Between 2000 and 2005, Rosenthal was the head of the Jewish Council for Public Affairs; she was also the executive director of the Chicago Foundation for Women. In recent years, she has served on the advisory board of the J Street lobby.
The president of Americans for Peace Now lauded Obama’s appointment of Rosenthal. Even Anti-Defamation League chairman Abraham Foxman came out in support of Rosenthal’s appointment.
“This appointment signals the continued seriousness of America?s resolve to fight anti-Semitism,” Foxman said in a statement.
Shortly after the announcement of Rosenthal’s nomination, conservative Jewish web sites began to attack her, some of them declaring that Obama appointed an anti-Israeli to fight anti-Semitism.
Rumors brewed that she had accused Israel of systemically strengthening anti-Semitism. Bloggers argued that her appointment would cause Jews and Israelis to cast doubt on Obama and his relationship with Israel.
In one of her articles, Rosenthal criticized conservative voices in the Jewish community who she accused of taking over the discourse regarding the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
“It’s a scary time, with people losing the ability to differentiate between a Jew, any Jew, and what’s going on in Israel,” Rosenthal said.
In an interview with the new online Jewish magazine, Tablet, Rosenthal said that she loves Israel.
“I have lived in Israel. I go back and visit every chance I can. I consider it part of my heart. And because I love it so much, I want to see it safe and secure and free and democratic and living safely,” Rosenthal said
Here is a synopsis from a comment by Stephen Walt on this issue:
“These are fine sentiments, but isn’t it odd that she has to defend her qualifications for a position in the U.S. government by saying how much she “loves” a foreign country? For an American official in her position, what matters is that she loves America, and that she believes anti-semitism is a hateful philosophy that should be opposed vigorously. Whether she loves Israel or France or Thailand or Namibia, etc., is irrelevant. (And yes, it’s entirely possible to loathe anti-Semitism and not love Israel).
But the real lesson of all these episodes is the effect of this litmus test on the foreign policy community more broadly. Groups in the lobby target public servants like Freeman, Hagel, and Rosenthal because they want to make sure that no one with even a mildly independent view on Middle East affairs gets appointed. By making an example of them, they seek to discourage independent-minded people from expressing their views openly, lest doing so derail their own career prospects later on. And it works. Even if the lobby doesn’t manage to block every single appointment, they can make any administration think twice about a potentially “controversial” choice and use the threat to stifle open discourse among virtually all members of the mainstream foreign policy community (and certainly anyone who aspires to public service in Washington).
The result, of course, is the U.S. Middle East policy (and U.S. foreign policy more generally) is reserved for those who are either steadfastly devoted to the “special relationship” or who have been intimidated into silence. The result? U.S. policy remains in the hands of the same set of “experts” whose policies for the past seventeen years (or more) have been a steady recipe for failure. If a few more Americans read Ha’aretz, they might start to figure this out.”
Mr. Whitaker is a 130 years late. Abdul Rahman Al-Kawakibi‘s conclusions in his book “Nature of Despotism” is sadly as true today as it was 130 years ago. To quote him: “The greatest disaster is our loss of freedom . . . freedom to speak out and publish, freedom to carry out scientific research”
A good paper on his work and its echoes in today’s Arab world here:
“More than a century before it was showered by outsiders with mantras about “freedom agendas” and “good governance,” the Arab world had a figure for whom these concepts represented imperatives for stanching the decline of the Arab-Muslim realm and restoring its position in the world. Arabs seeking a homegrown blueprint for human, political, social, and civil rights need not search very far. Al-Kawākibī offered a strategy for reform that rested on a penetrating analysis of tyranny and its ramifications for polity and society. A lifelong advocate of freedom of expression and freedom of association, al-Kawākibī’s commitment to the principles of liberty and justice was as unflinching as it was unequivocal”