The Common Thread

Here are some headlines from the International News Section of The Jerusalem Post on Sunday: “Death toll from twin Somalia suicide car bombs rises to 45“; “ISIS claims it’s behind southern Yemen attacks that kill, wound dozens“; “More than 20 Dead in latest Afghan violence“; “Rescuers: we can’t keep up with air strikes battering Syria’s Ghouta.”  What is the common thread between all these violent conflicts, as well as others in Egypt, Libya and elsewhere, the only answer is Islam.  To those who claim, like Pres. Obama and previous US Presidents claimed, that “Islam is a peaceful religion,” I say “phooey.”

Of course, there are individual local causes in each case, but basically they are subsumed under the common thread of Islam.  Islam is a violent religion, and it has been since Mohammed led an army from Mecca and forced Medina to capitulate (the hijrah in 622 ce).  Then he conquered the whole of Arabia, which included massacring tribes or towns that would not capitulate to him, many of whom were Jewish.  Then after his death in 632 ce his followers quickly expanded their conquests to Damascus (634),  Baghdad (636), Jerusalem (639) and Cairo (641).  Then a war of succession started between his followers, the Caliphs, and those who believed that a direct descendant of Mohammed should be their leader.  These were the Shia and they were defeated at the battle of  Karbala, now in Iraq, in 680 ce.

But, apart from the cause of religion, there were of course other factors involved:

  1. Tribalism:  Tribes fought each other in all parts of the world, in Europe (French, Germans, Czechs, Poles, Hungarians, Romanians, Russians, Croats, Serbs, etc.), in North America (Apache, Pawnee, Cheyenne, Comanche, etc.), China, (Han and many others), so the Arabs were intent on expanding their tribal control; they introduced Arabic wherever they conquered and eventually the peoples they conquered, Copts, Greeks, Jews, Persians, Berbers, etc. came to think of themselves ethnically as Arabs.
  2. Imperialism: There were always clashes between Empires that had imperial designs, such as the Arab, Turkish, Persian, Russian, German, British, French and so on.  Those who call Israel an “imperial state” really don’t know their history.
  3. Political: With the advent of Fascism, Nazism and Communism, the Arab world had its own flirtation with these ideologies.  At one point the Arab world was very pro-Nazi, there was a pro-Nazi regime in Iraq, and the officer’s corps that carried out the revolution in Egypt under Pres. Nasser were very anti-British and pro-German.  Later, Egypt and other Arab countries were closely allied to the Soviet Union.

But, in the final analysis, it is the concept of jihad, the violent struggle of Islam to conquer the world, that is at the base of such persistent violence throughout the Muslim world.  The comprehensive study by Andrew Bostom entitled “Jihad: Islamic holy war and the fate of non-Muslims,” clearly demonstrates that jihad is never a “spiritual” struggle as is claimed by pro-Islamists, but always a violent one.  The Sunni Arabs regard the Shia as heretics, worse than infidels, since infidels don’t know better.  This schism, parallel to the Catholic=Protestant split in Christianity that was violent for hundreds of years, has not yet run its course.




Ghouta is the Syrian region east of the capital Damascus.  Damascus is obviously controlled by the forces of the regime of Pres. Assad, while Ghouta is a rebel stronghold just east of the city.  As such it is a major embarrassment to the regime.  Just as with Aleppo that was a  rebel outpost for several years, the regime forces surrounded it and bombarded it into submission with extensive loss of Syrian civilian lives.  Now the aerial and ground bombardment of Ghouta has resulted in ca. 500 deaths in the past few days mainly from the bombing by Syrian and Russian air force planes.  The humanitarian situation in Ghouta, where 10 hospitals have been hit, has been described by UN representatives as “appalling.”

The UN Security Council is meeting to try to bring about a cease-fire in Ghouta to allow basic humanitarian supplies to reach the ca. 400,000 people trapped there.  But, the Russians are holding up agreement on a draft resolution.  This is highly hypocritical since they say they want to avoid civilian casualties while at the same time bombing the population to hell.  To all the good liberals out there I say this is what happens when you trust a country like Russia with a leader like Putin. All these casualties must be laid at the feet of former Pres. Obama.

He drew a red line in Syria when it came to the use of chemical weapons, but then be backed down and allowed Russia/Putin to come in and resolve the problem.  But, give them an inch and they take a mile.  Putin not only sent his forces in to protect his military bases, but he started to support his ally Assad, who up to then was losing.  From that point Assad has gone from controlling ca. 25% of Syria now to ca. 60%.  This results from the defeat of the Islamic State as well as the democratic opposition supported by the US.  The Russians make no distinction between them, and the US is definitely on the back-foot in Syria, with no real option of getting rid of Assad, which was one of Obama’s main aims, and the Russians are very much on the offensive.

Whatever happens at the UNSC, Russia will delay any vote until their side has taken as much territory and killed as many people as they want to.  Then in the final analysis, although some lives will be saved, the position of Assad and the Russians will be enhanced, and that of the US and its allies will deteriorate.  This will also leave the way open for the Iranians to expand their role in Syria.  But the outcome will depend on what Israel will do and how far the Russians will tolerate that.  The future of Israel could well depend on the result of Obama’s mistake of leadership in the first place.

Gun Reform

President Trump’s and the NRA’s idea of arming teachers seems like a good idea at first glance. But, it will only last until the first teacher loses patience with a recalcitrant pupil or is threatened by one and shoots him.  Suppose a female teacher is surrounded by three threatening teenage boys and she whips out her revolver and blasts them.  Or suppose a teacher carries or hides a gun and a pupil steals it and then uses it.
Having armed guards outside the school is no use either, as shown by the recent incident in Florida where a police officer stood on guard outside the school while the shooter was murdering 17 school kids inside.  Having an alarm system will also be too late.
The only sensible precaution is to bar all teenagers, all felons and all those with mental conditions from being able to buy guns, period.  This will not stop other supposedly normal and sensible people from buying guns.  But, it will also not stop such school shootings either, because in a country with more than one gun per person it is always easy for kids to borrow or steal their father’s or uncle’s weapon.  But, lets at least make it more difficult for them by banning automatic weapons altogether, whose only real function is to kill people.
I recently watched the movie “The Hitman’s Bodyguard” and was appalled at the way in which men are shot as if they are worthless dummies.  OK, I know this is meant to be some kind of satire, yet seeing this, as many young people do, must desensitize them to violence and killing with firearms.  Similarly with the series “John Wick” and many, many other movies.  Hollywood has developed a cult of killing that unfortunately caters to young people’s idea of entertainment.
But, I am not against the second amendment to the US Constitution and the ability of righteous citizens to bear arms:  I also watched the movie “The Death of Stalin.”  Whether the actions depicted are highly accurate or not, we know that Stalin collapsed in his dacha in 1953, but his Comrades were too scared to call a doctor.  Lavrenty Beria, who was the head of the secret police (NKVD, later the KGB), tortured and murdered people for a living.   He was also a notorious pederast, abducting and raping young girls with impunity.  Then he would have them shot or shipped to the Gulag with their parents, to avoid any incriminating evidence.
The people who ran the Soviet Union were distinguished only by their loyalty to Comrade Stalin and their proclivity to murder.  It was estimated by Robert Conquest, the famous historian of the Soviet Union, from census statistics, that were originally secret, that during its 70 years in power, the Soviets murdered ca. 80 million people. In order to avoid being killed themselves and to stop the voracious random terror, Stalin’s cronies, the rest of the Central Committee led by Comrade Khruschev and supported by the Red Army under Gen Zhukov, arrested Beria at gunpoint and summarily executed him.  This is what can happen when only the Government has arms and the citizens are disarmed.

Filling the gaps

I had a cold, with running nose, cough and sore throat, for 4 days.  Tues was the first day I went to “work” (the university).  The temporary hiatus gave me a chance to think.  I decided that I would not write a blog just for the sake of it, and decided to have a rest.

I thought of writing something more personal than the usual political insights that I  send regarding Israel in the Middle East.  I have been attending a weekly group meeting for primary carers of people afflicted with both mental and physical illnesses.  This lasted for 15 sessions.  I also attended a similar group meeting in Netanya for several years.  My wife, of course, has Alzheimer’s Disease, and I found these meetings very helpful in coping with the problem and with my own feelings and reactions.  Of course, these meetings are confidential, so I won’t reveal anything about anyone else who attended.

I would just like to say that the wonderful social worker who led our group here asked us to draw several pictures of what we felt about our situation and our feelings. Some of the things I drew were quite revealing.  First, I drew what I envisaged as my problem, that I represented as a pile of stones/bricks with me looking on helplessly.  Then how we envisaged our situation, I was standing before the stones now built into a high impassable wall.  Finally, what we thought of the future, and I drew myself standing before a huge black hole, uncertain and afraid of the future.  Not very encouraging.  But, it was good to try to grapple with the situation, and also hearing the predicaments of the other participants meant that you do not feel so alone.  I was struck by the serious commitment of the other members of the group to their loved ones and I must say that engendered much hope.


Abbas at the UNSC

Pres. Abbas of the PA appeared on Tuesday at the UN Security Council to complain about Pres. Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.  Apart from the fact that he is “tilting at windmills,” he was very insulting to the US envoy Nikki Haley, telling her to “shut up,” not usual diplomatic language.  Also, he reiterated that the PA will not cooperate with the US in any negotiations, and he requested an international conference to resolve the Israel-Palestine issue.  Good luck with that.  Abbas also made the ludicrous claim that the Palestinian Arabs are the descendants of the Canaanites, a Biblical people, whereas any fool knows the Arabs came from Arabia and conquered the area only in 679 ce.

The Palestinians are in denial, they don’t want to recognise reality, not only of Israel’s existence, but also Israel’s right to be in Jerusalem, let alone it being in fact Israel’s capital.  They are also unfortunate since their plight has been the central facet of Arab politics and culture until quite recently.  For many years, certainly until 1979 when Egypt signed a peace treaty with Israel, the Arab countries put all their efforts, might and capital into the fight with Israel.  It was the crux of Arab being and culture.

But, then along came the so-called Arab Spring, that not only swept away many Arab dictators, but also unleashed an unprecedented wave of internecine conflict, including civil wars in Iraq, Syria, Libya and Yemen.  Whereas once Syria was the leader of the so-called “resistance front” to Israel, now it is a complete mess, its Army decimated by fighting various opponents of the regime.

There are commentaries bemoaning the fact that Israel may have to fight a war on several fronts, with Hamas in Gaza, Hezbollah in Lebanon and the Iranians in Syria.  But, it can be argued that Israel is in a much better strategic situation vis-a-vis its enemies than it was in the past.  Instead of being surrounded by hostile and effective armies, now there is only Iran and its proxies.  Only Iran constitutes a powerful enemy, and in fact while it has been trying to establish a base in Syria from which to attack Israel, Israel is making sure that does not happen.

Iran is some miles away from Israel, and It would be suicidal for Israel to sit back and allow Iran to gather its forces in Syria.  When Iran recently threatened to “flatten Tel Aviv” that was no idle boast.  They mean to do it.  Not because they want to capture Jerusalem for themselves, but because they want to be seen as the inheritors of the Muslim cause.  That is what Ayatollah Khomeini envisaged when he initiated the Shi’te revolution in 1979.  He wanted to take over where Egypt left off.  PM Netanyahu warned the Iranians not to underestimate Israel’s resolve.  Israel is well prepared should it come to that.



Poland’s Problem

I agree with the Polish Government that the concentration camps for Jews in Poland were German camps.  The main reason was that the Poles themselves were incapable of organizing Jewish murder on an industrial scale.  The Poles were essentially cowards, attacking and massacring defenseless Jews, often their neighbors, individually and in groups. Recently I edited a book based on a narrative by Eddie Bielawski entitled “Invisible Jews: Surviving the Holocaust in Poland,” whose family of ten people survived for 3 years (1941-4) in hiding.  They were resourceful and brave.
He wrote “We were in a totally hostile environment.  No-one could be trusted.  There were Poles who would kill us, would steal all that we had, or turn us over to the Germans for a reward and to see us dead….there was the occasional Pole who showed human feelings towards us, who fed us and risked his life and that of his family.  But, they were few and far between.”  I think this sums up the true situation regarding the Poles and the Holocaust quite accurately.
Now there is a resurgence of anti-Semitism in Poland, as elsewhere in Europe.  So for example, a Norwegian MP has nominated the BDS movement in Europe for the Nobel Peace Prize.  If ever there was an organization that is not peaceful and does not deserve any prize, let alone a peace prize, it is the BDS organization.  It was founded by a Palestinian politician named Omar Barghouti who is dedicated to Israel’s destruction.  BDS is allied to Hamas and its only aim is not simply to boycott, sanction and divest from Israel, but to destroy Israel by all means, including the use of violence and terrorism, and this is clear in their literature and their actions.
The Polish PM Morawiecki said in a speech at the Munich Security conference, justifying the current law outlawing certain statements about Poland being responsible for the Holocaust, that there were “Polish perpetrators of the Holocaust, just like there were Jewish perpetrators.”  PM Netanyahu who is also attending said “The Polish Prime Minister’s remarks here in Munich are outrageous. There is a problem here of an inability to understand history and a lack of sensitivity to the tragedy of our people. I intend to speak with him forthwith.​​” 

Prime Minister Indicted?

The media in Israel is full of the news that the police have recommended to indict PM Netanyahu on bribery charges in two cases.  Note that these recommendations are not binding.  State Attorney General Mandelblit can ignore them, consider them and/or act on them as he sees fit.   The PM in his statement in response to the police recommendations emphasized this.  After more than a year of investigations the police decision is merely a recommendation, no more.

But, it is certainly embarrassing to Netanyahu that this is their decision.  He would certainly have preferred that they simply drop the cases.  However, sufficient evidence was discovered to proceed.  In Case 1000, also called “the gifts affair,” Netanyahu is accused of accepting bribes totalling ca. NIS 1 million in the form of cigars, jewellery and other luxury goods, from two businessmen, Arnon Milchan and Australian billionaire James Packer.  In exchange Netanyahu is accused of carrying out several actions to promote the business interests of these men.  One includes assisting Milchan to extend his visa to the US.

The other instance, Case 2000, involves alleged actions by Netanyahu to aid publisher Arnon Mozes that would have helped his newspaper Yediot Aharonot (latest news), against his main competitor Israel Hayom (Israel today), that supports Netanyahu.  Supposedly in exchange for better treatment in his newspaper, Netanyahu is supposed to have supported a bill to restrict the circulation of Israel Hayom, that is owned by his friend US billionaire Sheldon Adelson.  Netanyahu adamantly denies this charge.  In Case 3000, the so-called “submarine affair” Netanyahu was found not to be directly involved in any bribery.

Since these police recommendations do not have the force of law, actually nothing has happened yet to change the situation.  If Mandelblit does decide there is enough evidence to indict him then things will change significantly.  However, Netanyahu is correct when he points out that during his term in office there have been 15 recommendations brought against him by the police and none have resulted in any indictments.  Netanyahu concludes that the police are “out to get him” but on the other hand, attempts to indict the elected leaders are a feature of some democracies.  Look at what is happening against Pres. Trump in the US over the so-called “Russian collusion” affair, that seems to have not a shred of real evidence.  As far as I am concerned, let Netanyahu enjoy his cigars and whisky, as long as he keeps Israel safe, strong and prosperous.