Tuesday, June 26, 2012

New Islamists Governments and Their Iranian Friends Threaten the World

Ghandi once said "The spirit of democracy is not a mechanical thing to be adjusted by abolition of forms. It requires change of heart. "

The Arab spring, and the subsequent rush to elections across the Arab World is Christmas, and Ramadan all rolled into one for Islamic fundamentalists and their Iranian puppet masters

It took Britain hundreds of years ( and a civil war) to move from dictatorial kings ruling by the grace of G-d, to democracy. Even in enlightened Victorian Britian, when the monarch was a mere figurehead, democracy was marred by rotton boroughs, parliamentary seats being given as gifts by the gentry and mass disenfranchisement. The United States, standard bearer for democratic freedoms was denying black citizens the vote until just a few years ago. Why then does the US and Western states believe that democracy can be introduced in a period of weeks on populations that have never enjoyed any rights? It is just opening the door to abuse and manipulation.

The big bad dictator is gone..lets vote ! Its ridiculous! Democracy is a fundamental mind set, a societal understanding of inalienable rights. It is made up of checks and balances with societies, freedoms of press & of justice systems, and constitutions respected at near biblical levels. When you have chaos and confusion, people will grasp the idea of elections as a panacea to lead them to stability and hope, but elections are not in and of themselves democracy. This policy often leads to one man, one vote, one time. That isn't democracy, that's the hijacking of democracy by anti-democratic forces seeking power, and leads to another generation of dicators. Let us remember that Hitler came to power by manipulating democracy, and in the Arab world today there are forces as evil as the Nazi's doing exactly the same thing. Behind all the Islamist organizations you'll find Iran lurking.

Egypt is a fine example: during Tahrir Square, the Islamists stayed in the background, but they had been working and preparing for years for the opportunity that was about to come their way, quietly receiving Iranian support and putting into place a strong structure from which to launch their campaign for power. Other opposition groups formed as the revolution progressed, but needed time to debate, formulate policy and infrastructure, and communicate ideas to the people. Time was the key, but instead Egypt leaped(or was encouraged by the US?) at the idea of elections and inevitably the only organized party grabbed power. President elect Morsi has tried to sell himself as a western educated moderate, but a moderate what? A moderate Islamic extremist! Thats like being a moderate Nazi! He believes in Dar Islam, where the entire Arab areas of the Middle East can only be under Muslim rule and any other people need to be removed or subjugated. Doesn't bode well for Israel does it??... and by the way, lets not forget that Assad of Syria is Western educated. It means nothing. He has already spoken of ties with Iran after 24 hours. Nobody should be surprised at the direction Egypt is about to take!

When these Islamist forces come to power whether though election or coup, they seek out political and socio economic allies, as any government would. Does anyone believe they will see the USA, whose values they despise, as their 'go to' partner? Is it credible that they'll want to seek peaceful coexistence with Jewish Israel, which stands as a beacon of true democracy, exposing their own systems of government for what they really are? The natural allies of the newly minted post Arab Spring Islamist governments is other like thinking countries and the king of those is Iran, already their friend and benefactor for many years. Iran has built relationships for years with Islamist parties and groups across the Middle East. The relationship is already in place, now it is time for Iran to reap the reward of it's hard work and planning.

Iran needs these new friendly governments urgently, because it faces the fall of Assad in Syria, which long been it's strategic power base in the Arab world (we often forget that Iran is not an Arab country). It was through Syria that Iran based and controlled Hezbollah and Hamas, which led to them gaining power in Lebanon and Gaza. It is therefore vital for Iran to seek new power bases, and what better than Islamist Egypt, Islamist Tunisia, Islamist Libya, and others. Iran has much to offer these like minded as they struggle to consolidate power. We are no longer facing Iranian footholds in the Arab world, but instead a pro-Iranian coalition which includes Egypt, the most powerful Arab state of all. One only has to look at the damage done to the UN and it's mission by the Islamic power block to know what it will mean to give Iran a far bigger voice there!

What can the West do?
What it should not do is appease. What it must not do is watch and wait. What it cannot do is ignore the scale of the Iranian threat as it once ignored the threat of Hitler's Germany. The West must engage these countries, support active opposition, nip anti democratic moves in the bud, It needs to ensure these countries depend on the West economically, but most of all The West, led by the US must deal with Iran. Remove Iran from the picture and the momentum behind the Islamists will be gone. Economic sanctions need to be draconian, support for Iranian opposition groups needs to be a priority, and the military 'option' needs to become a military build up on Iran's border. Saddam Hussein's Iraq was a huge threat to Iran, forcing it to focus it's military energy on their shared border. That threat is gone thanks to the West and Iran's ambitions have expanded. The fall of Iraq was like removing a nose ring from a bull!

The US and The Western world is in denial about the extreme threat Iran, and the new Islamist Arab world represent. They should remember what Israeli PM Netanyahu said on US TV after 9-11 " Today we are all Americans — in grief, as in defiance. ". It isn't just Bibi who sees that connection, so do Israel's enemies. Listen to their threats against Israel, because those threats are against the US, UK and the entire democratic world as well.
Ahmadinejad wasn't just looking at Israel when he said "Iran's warriors are ready and willing to wipe Israel off the map," , he was looking further west as well!

Monday, June 25, 2012

Israel's Social Protests No Longer Represent Me

As a Zionist, and someone immensely proud of Israel's deeply engrained democracy, with all the inherent freedoms of a true democratic society, I was deeply moved by last Summer's social protest movement here in Israel. I felt that it was a movement of the people, representing the breadth of Israeli society, especially the Middle Classes. It represented me & my struggles with getting on the housing ladder; the insanely high price of basic food products, the untenable cost of childcare and much more. I marched through the center of Jerusalem with thousands of other young parents, middle aged families, religous and secular. There was never any sense that there would be violence, and in fact I saw people pick up trash as they marched! As Britain was engulfed by rioting thugs, Israel literally marched to the sound of democratic freedoms. The Israeli consumer discovered unknown muscles, the Israeli Middle class not only found it's voice, but learned to shout.

As this summer's protests begin, I can see that that our voices have been diverted to a new unpleasant agenda that has no bearing on my life or my hopes and aspirations as a middle class Israeli: Radicals such as Dafni Leef have stolen the leadership, the angry anarchists & bored students are the ones turning out and causing trouble and the needs of myself and my peers are being ignored. People like me don't want to be associated with raiding banks, blocking streets and fighting police. We won't attend the marches or listen to Leef and her cohorts use the protests as a launch pad for their own political careers. She wants the protests in Israel to mirror the ridiculous 'Occupy' movement in the US, achieving nothing but notoriety and violence. She isn't even close to the same page as I am. {photo: Dafni Leef arrested last week at protest}

Last Summer the protests were about creating a society where hard work pays off; where wages are commensurate with the cost of living, where parents have the financial ability to work one job and have time for their kids. It was about dialogue & communication and was never about confrontation. If Israel's protest are simply to be 'Occupy Israel', I'm out and so are all my friends and I am really angry about it. We supported the protests last year because we needed to be heard and we still do. How dare Leef steal our voice just as we had learned to use it!

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Obama's Middle East Legacy

It's so easy to blame President Obama for everything bad in the world and it cannot all be laid at his feet: He was in no way to blame for the Japanese nuclear crisis, Greek financial collapse, or recent flooding in The UK...everything else however is open to debate!

The disaster of the outcome of the so called 'Arab Spring' can be laid partially, if not fully, at his feet. The indecision of the Obama administration to grasp the implications of Tahrir Square, or indeed to deal with the genocide in Syria, not to mention his ineffectiveness in dealing with the threat of Iran has damaged America's ability to prosecute its foreign policy far more than any cowboy rhetoric from GW Bush ever did.

When Tahrir Sq began the world saw the indecision of Obama: When Mubarak fell, there were 2 forces at work for the hearts of Egypt's new electorate: Secular and Islamist. Obama had a clear and easy choice of what outcome was in America's best interest, but he dithered letting the cards fall where they would and the result was inevitable: Islamic takeover of mighty Egypt, which may even be completed today after the announcement of presidential election results, but certainly within months. From that disaster we'll see a worsening of relations with Israel as the Islamist's seek out excuses to end the peace with Israel, almost certainly re-militarizing The Sinai, and placing the Southern border of Israel on a war footing for the first time since 1987. Egypt will ally with the other Islamist enemies of both the little Satan (Israel) and the Great Satan (The USA), drawing close with Iran, offering safe haven to Islamic terror groups, and supporting Hamas's efforts to import weapons to kill Israelis.

Obama could and should have foreseen this. I don't have his resources or intelligence information, but looking back over my own tweets, I saw it coming as did thousands of others, if I knew this was going to happen then Obama surely knew. He should have understood that the interests America's strategic safety and indeed the potential for a peaceful future in the Middle East, were going to suffer a toxic blow if Islamists took power in Egypt. He had no reason to 'let the cards fall', when one side in the Egyptian elections were the sworn enemies of The US, but he did nothing. Future presidents will rue his instinctive "don't interfere" policy, which is at the core of his inability to protect American interests and recognize opportunity.

In Syria we have seen a truly evil dictatorship reach new lows of brutality, slaughtering entire cities and plunging Syria to the brink of civil war. When the UN's emasculation made it impossible for them to act, Obama had the chance to lead the world in effecting positive change in Syria, supporting a peoples opposition. Today that opportunity is gone, for when support didn't come from The West, desperate rebel leaders turned to America's enemies for arms. There is a wide belief that Islamist groups and even AlQayida itself are now operating in Syria allied if not in control of the rebels, but true or not, the rebels leaders are unlikely to look to the US and the West with any affection after they succeed in taking the country, which will almost certainly happen soon. Like in Egypt, a post Assad Syria will likely join the other newly minted Islamist Arab states. Nothing good for Israel or The West can come from this.

Had Obama helped topple Assad, there was a strong possibility of creating a moderate secular Syria, no longer aligned with Iran, no longer destabilizing Lebanon & threatening Israel, no longer a haven to terror groups such as Hezbollah. Sadly that moment is passed and the Syria that emerges from this bloodbath is likely to be as opposed to The US and Israel as Assad was, more aggressive toward Israel as the new (probably Islamist) government of this fractured country looks for a nationalistic cause to motivate the people. What better than attacking the hated Zionists?

The Arab Spring once had the potential for creating a slew of moderate Arab states, opposing the march of Islamist extremism. That had to be the goal of the US administration, but instead it has become the victory that Islamists have dreamed about, creating the potential for war, hate and oppression. Pres. Obama's legacy could well be the 21st century equivalent of Neville Chamberlain, the man who had the opportunity to stop Hitler prior to WW2. Instead he relied on appeasement, and fine rhetoric, or in other words, he did nothing.

President Obama famously said "Yes we can", but he perhaps we'd have been better off had he declared "Yes we will!".

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Why The Euro Crisis Has Implications for Israel & Jews Worldwide

Israel, despite some publicly expressed aspirations a few years ago, is not part of The European Union, and therefore not part of the Eurozone (for which we are all very grateful!). The Israeli currency is the Shekel, and is remarkably strong against other currencies, reflecting the vibrant & dynamic nature of the Israeli economy, which is performing extremely well for a tiny country in the midst of a global economic crisis. Few here express more than passing interest and little concern for the Euro Crisis, which threatens the economic stability of not only the 17 Euro countries but the entire 27 states who make up the European Union. Such a massive trading block facing economic disaster has an impact on the entire world economy, and as significant trading partner for Israel, this should obviously be of concern.

However, there are hidden issues of particular concern for Israelis and Jews worldwide: countries across Europe including Ireland, Greece, The UK, Italy, and Spain are putting into place tough (or in the case of Greece draconian) austerity measures. The danger is that as the population of these places face unemployment, & rising cost of living and they start to lose hope, we will see the rise of political extremism. Nobody needs to tell Jews what extremism in Europe can lead to, and we are already seeing blatant antisemitic attacks increasing in these countries and rightist parties gaining voter support. In the UK (by no means the most effected country in the Euro crisis) for example, unemployment amongst school leavers and graduates is at record highs.

There is also the added concern in many countries, because of the large and growing Muslim community, which has it's own brand of extremism and feelings of exclusion. These Islamic fascists will look to exploit the economic and social woes and we can expect more politicized young Muslims, more anger against 'Zionism' and sadly more violence.

Aliyah (Heb. immigration to Israel) from Europe, especially France, has been on the increase in recent years, and the next few months could well see a swelling of numbers from Southern Europe, & France. Waves of aliyah, although unquestionably a good thing, place short-term pressure on the Israeli economy. Israel has experienced social unrest over cost of living issues and recently over African refugees. The economy may be in growth, but the Israeli people feel under pressure from high taxes, and consumer prices.

The Herzl and the other fathers of the modern Zionist movement understood that the Jewish future lay not in Europe, but rather in an independent Jewish State of Israel. They knew that the ingenuity of the Jewish people, that had seen them succeed and contribute immeasurably in Europe, despite being hated & persecuted, would see them succeed in Israel. They have been proven right many times over, and if Israel is to continue it's success amidst Europe's economic demise, it will need once again to rely on it's greatest resource - The Jewish people.

Reducing our dependance on oil through groundbreaking projects like Betterplace Electric cars, becoming net energy producers thru our finds of vast fields of gas in our waters, ending our water crises via water reclamation on a scale never seen before and of course our technical innovations, sought after by the entire world, are our future. Israel has the potential to emerge from this crisis as one of the strongest small economic machines in the world, and as Jews outside of Israel are once again reminded that they are not that welcome in their countries of birth, Israel will continue the zionist dream of the ingathering of the Jewish people.

Pre-pubecent school crossing guards - stupidity or worse?

Here's a shocker: school kids (as young as 11) in Israel are encouraged to volunteer as school crossing guards! If you live in Israel or you have been here when our children come or go from school, you've probably seen these pole wielding groups of 11 year olds at crossings near schools during the morning rush hour 'helping' other children to cross the road, and you're no doubt wondering why I'm bothering to write a blog about it.
"Surely", you might think, "there are more serious issues to rant about? "
Well perhaps, but one of the aspects of Israeli society that I love is the way we care for our kids. Not just our own offspring, but there's a very strong attitude that all the children are all our responsibility. It is for this reason that I feel so strongly about this: Why then, do we let them take on a dangerous responsibility they are just not ready for?

 In principle I think it's wonderful that we teach kids in Israel to take responsibility, but this is a step too far, even for our independent little tykes. We are essentially asking them to attempt to control Israeli drivers, which even the police cannot do!  They step into the roads of a place where most drivers see pedestrians as opportunities for sport and stop signs are at best mere suggestions! Don't even get me started on mirrors, which the average Israeli driver sees as being as useful to cars as appendixes are to humans! It is into this tumultuous flow of honking, distracted aggressive traffic that we ask children to wave stop signs on sticks! The way they do this is also rather interesting: First the look at the oncoming traffic and make the Israeli hand gesture for "wait", then they wave the stop sign on a pole (which on a  windy day can be hard to handle), and stop out onto the crossing, with a level of trust in their fellow human beings to obey that I believe only the very young can have. A few more years on this earth and the same kids would probably look in fear at the road and hand the poles back!

This is the reason other countries use professional staff or parent volunteers for this, and this morning I saw in action why these kids should not be doing it: I was returning home in the morning rush-hour, following a car along a straight road toward my house, which is next to a grade school. I watched the car brake, swerve and speed up, then slow down. It was obvious that the driver was leaning over to the passenger side, (my guess is she was searching in her glove box). I honked, and she focused for about 10 seconds then went back to her distracted behavior. We approached a crossing manned by 6th grade boys. One of the three lads on crossing duty noticed another child wanting to cross (the other 2 were busy 'pole fighting'!). He made 'the gesture', dropped his pole and he and the other child stepped into the road. The driver didn't notice any of this until she glanced up and saw the pole signal. She hit the brakes hard, with squeals of rubber and came to a sudden halt inches from the boy's pole. Other than two very shocked boys, nobody was hurt (Thank G-d) and she then did the Israeli response to these situations: she shouted at the innocent boys!

Ok, at this point I ought to declare that I have a personal beef with this practice: I live on a corner near a boys school where on my day off at 7.30am I am invariably woken by the sounds of these crossing kids screaming at the top of their voices at their partners on the other side of the road. Sometimes the little darlings meet in the center island for some sparring practice with the pole. Last week, one lad decided to sing every Justin Bieber song every recorded at the top of his voice...badly!

So for safety's sake and for my sanity, can we please send these angels back to the classroom and find some adults to risk their lives instead?