Friday, April 13, 2012

The Three Myths that Distort Every Discussion of Israel and the Middle East

Springtime in Israel ...
FRIDAY, APRIL 13, 2012


“It is a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.” –William Shakespeare, “Macbeth”

By Barry Rubin

Whatever side you are, or aren’t, on and whether you never think about these issues or are an impassioned activist, there are three fundamental issues about Israel, its enemies, and the Middle East that tie the narrative into knots.

Each of these wrong ideas, of course, has a basis in fact. Yet no matter how counterintuitive you find the following points questioning that conventional wisdom they are nonetheless accurate. You can’t understand events without grasping them.  
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1.      1,  Israel’s existence is jeopardized.

There is no question that Israel’s existence is challenged or threatened by various forces but what’s essential is that these forces cannot succeed.  Every day, after 65 years of failure they are further from that goal. Israel becomes stronger on all levels. The economic and strategic gaps are getting wider, not narrower, for reasons much related to points two and three, below.

What is important is the country’s internal social and strategic strength, not what’s written about it in the Western media or said on Western campuses, for example.. Arab armies have repeatedly been defeated; terrorists repeatedly blocked; Israel has grown stronger and time is, indeed, on its side.

This should not lead to complacency—a mistake most clearly seen in the 1973 war and to some extent in the 2006 one--but to calm confidence.  This does exist in Israel but not so much in sectors o the Diaspora Jewish communities, which themselves face higher threats to their existence either physically or due to assimilation, the attraction of leftist political ideology, and loss of direction.

Despite the sound and fury, much of the criticism and threats remain toothless. For instance, while the UN, European countries, and the European Union have wasted a lot of their time spouting nonsense about Israel it has amounted to little in material terms. The same is true of others.

Another key concept is that the extent of anti-Israel obsession in the public sphere is misleading. Dozens of countries, causes, and groups are vilified all the time, yet of them all none compares to Israel and its supporters in their ability to respond. It is the strength of the resistance that often increases the apparent volume of controversy.
Finally, the use of the Israel issue to fuel hysteria by dictatorships, radical Arab nationalists, and Islamists actually undermines the Arabic-speaking world, making it weaker and thus, ironically, less able to combat Israel.  

Iran's drive for deliverable nuclear weapons--which it doesn't yet have--is worthy of discussion but this threat is quite manageable by Israel, both through offensive and defensive measures as well as given the fact that Iran's eagerness to nuke Israel and commit suicide has been greatly exaggerated. .  

2.     2.  The concerted international campaign by various groups in the West against Israel damages it and helps the Palestinians

Again, this should be obviously true but it is quite the opposite.  To date, despite all the noise, Israeli interests—including businesses—have suffered little damage. On the contrary, the attacks encourage support, including increased buying of Israeli products and energetic loyalty by Israel’s supporters abroad.

But all of these endless demonstrations, teach-ins, books, articles, documentaries, boycott, disinvestment, and sanction labors do absolutely zero to help the Palestinians. On one level, they do nothing politically to advance their cause in a real sense. On another level, they contribute nothing to their welfare.

Moreover, by convincing the Palestinian leadership that they can eliminate Israel completely, that Western support is swinging toward them, and that they don’t need to change their own policies or strategies, all of this behavior leads them charging down a dead-end street. The end result is the battering of their heads against a stone wall.

Imagine—as the activists in these movements have never done once!—that all of this energy went into buying Palestinian products, donating to improve Palestinian schools and hospitals, resettling refugees and providing them with productive jobs and housing. That would be truly pro-Palestinian. And even if the intention was to use this progress as a base for destroying Israel some day it would be more effective than what they are doing now.

And so all of this energy is wasted effort and this hatred produces no result.

Of course, since most of the Palestinian leadership in the West Bank and Gaza Strip has been engaged in stealing aid money and funneling it into their private bank accounts, admittedly these activists don’t have a very good role model to follow. And since the leadership’s goal is to keep its people poor and living in refugee camps in order to use them as revolutionary fodder and an object of sympathy these activists don’t have much incentive to do real good.  

3.      3.  Israel is the main cause of instability in the Middle East.

On one level, of course, the Arab-Israeli conflict has been a basis for instability that has often been exaggerated. People ignorant of all the other issues in the region have only heard of that one controversy. Beyond that, though, consider what would be different if Israel didn’t exist.

Implicitly, this is thought by most Arabs and Muslims to be the basis for a united utopian society stretching from Morocco through Afghanistan. But that’s precisely the point. What kind of society would that be? Who—what leader, country, and ideology, would lead it? Who gets to be the caliph?
In other words, if Israel didn’t exist than the level of internal conflict and bloodshed would be even higher. There would be nothing—including the territorial separation that Israel provides—to stop these leaders, movements, countries, and ideologies from being at each other’s throats. Tremendous wars between countries would spill oceans of blood. Decades’-long Sunni-Shia conflicts would enflame the lands. Endless internal strife would bring civil wars that would dwarf what we’ve seen in Lebanon, Syria, and Iraq.

Even with Israel, instability of this kind is bad enough, though it is far less noticed than it would be otherwise.  The same applies, by the way, to the Arab-Israeli conflict whose end—which will not come anytime soon—would have the same effect.

One final point: because much of the thought and political action on the Middle East is in the wrong direction, running against the realities, the main effect is to confuse those watching and engaging in them. Yet, disregarding all of this noise, what actually exists marches forward. Or to use an Arab proverb, the dogs bark; the caravan moves on.

Barry Rubin is director of the Global Research in International Affairs (GLORIA) Center and editor of the Middle East Review of International Affairs (MERIA) Journal. His book, Israel: An Introduction, has just been published by Yale University Press. Other recent books include The Israel-Arab Reader (seventh edition), The Long War for Freedom: The Arab Struggle for Democracy in the Middle East (Wiley), and The Truth About Syria (Palgrave-Macmillan). The website of the GLORIA Center  and of his blog, Rubin Reports. His original articles are published at PJMedia.

A different version of this article is published in the Jerusalem Post. I own the copyright and ask you to read and link to my version here.

NASA Abdalati’s Response To 50 Esteemed Professionals Is Managerial Negligence – An Embarrassment

NASA chief scientist Waleed Abdalati has issued a response to the letter of protest from 50 former esteemed scientists, engineers and astronauts. Unfortunately, his response only adds to NASA’s embarrassment.
Abdalati’s dismissal without due-process investigation is premature and reckless. (Photo: Wikipedia)
Normally when a professional organisation gets a high level complaint from such a number of esteemed members, the first step is confirm and to look into it seriously. Something like: “Thanks - we’ve received your complaint; we’ll look into it and get back to you”.
Apparently the chief of NASA no longer bothers taking the precaution of following up and investigating high-gravity issues from within. He just dismisses them off the bat. Not only is this inappropriate, but it is also reckless managerial behavior.
Abdalati has failed to exercise due diligence in the face of a serious matter.
Here’s NASA’s “us-against-them” response:
NASA sponsors research into many areas of cutting-edge scientific inquiry, including the relationship between carbon dioxide and climate. As an agency, NASA does not draw conclusions and issue ‘claims’ about research findings. We support open scientific inquiry and discussion.
“Our Earth science programs provide many unique space-based observations and research capabilities to the scientific community to inform investigations into climate change, and many NASA scientists are actively involved in these investigations, bringing their expertise to bear on the interpretation of this information.
We encourage our scientists to subject these results and interpretations to scrutiny by the scientific community through the peer-review process. After these studies have met the appropriate standards of scientific peer-review, we strongly encourage scientists to communicate these results to the public.
If the authors of this letter disagree with specific scientific conclusions made public by NASA scientists, we encourage them to join the debate in the scientific literature or public forums rather than restrict any discourse.”
Sheesh – no wonder the Challenger blew up! Have they not learned anything?
Instead of sweeping serious issues under the carpet, how about contacting those with the grievance and looking into it to see if there is something behind it? Did you even bother to call them?
Did NASA tell Morton Thiokol engineers to take the peer-review route in 1986?! Who are they kidding?
NASA’s knee-jerk dismissal of the letter of complaint is dubious, and reveals an organisation that is no longer functioning correctly. Its off-hand decision to dismiss the letter is amateur, unprofessional and stunningly negligent. Here, unwillingness to investigate is cover-up.
Abdalati’s handling of this matter is a scandal, and is on par with a CEO ignoring a letter from 50 women managers bringing up sexual harassment issues.
Moreover, open scientific discourse begins by looking into claims of serious deficiencies, and not ignoring or suppressing them.

Fox News Hires Supporter of Jeremiah Wright and Derrick Bell

April 11, 2012


Wright, who was Obama’s pastor for 20 years and baptized Obama’s children, became a major controversial figure during the 2008 presidential campaign when it became known that he blamed the 9/11 terrorist attacks on American foreign policy and claimed the U.S. manufactured the AIDS virus to kill black people.
The link on the Santita Jackson page, which promotes matters of personal interest to Ms. Jackson and other things she likes to do, directs people to Wright’s officialhome page.
But her taste for racial and divisive politics has taken on added significance in view of a blog post from 2010, in which Jackson praised New York University law professor Derrick Bell, who has recently become known as “Obama’s Beloved Law Professor” at because of videos showing the President embracing him. J. Christian Adams, a former Justice Department lawyerwrote, “Both Obama and Bell demanded that Harvard hire professors on the basis of race. Obama and other students rallied to Bell’s side after Bell quit teaching in an attempt to force Harvard to implement race-based hiring policies.”
He added, “The Obama-Bell connection is the latest in a pattern of Barack Obama’s associations with individuals who promoted a racially divisive America.”
Santita Jackson praised Bell’s decision to leave Harvard in the context of criticizing Obama’s decision to appoint white feminist Elena Kagan to the U.S. Supreme Court. Kagan’s hires “while serving as law dean at the Harvard Law School have served to give me pause,” she said, noting the reported failure to hire one single African-American, Latino or Native American. “NYU Law Professor Derrick Bell left the Harvard Law School in 1992 over this very issue,” Jackson noted.
Equally significant, Jackson’s bio describes her as a founding contributor to The Grio, a website dedicated to black news and opinion owned by MSNBC and which is produced in cooperation with NBC News. She lists The Grio as being among her other activities and links to a description of the site.
Hence, Fox News is sharing personnel with a rival network, another indication of the channel’s move to the left.
It is apparent that the left-wing attacks on Fox News, many of them directed through the Soros-funded Media Matters group, have taken their toll.
Conservative reactions to the Fox News hiring of Jackson have been blistering. At The Blaze, a website published by Glenn Beck, who was fired from the channel after representatives of George Soros objected to his scrutiny of the billionaire, oneperson commented, “Seriously Fox what are you thinking? You are going to push away the base of viewers that have kept you at number 1...Why mess with something that was working? Good luck though to jj daughter. I am not attacking her I am attacking the leadership at Fox for alienating the viewership over and over again with their PC garbage…”
“JJ” is a reference to her father Jesse Jackson, who has run for the Democratic Party presidential nomination and is a prominent supporter of President Obama. On the rival MSNBC network, Jackson recently suggested that criticism of Obama’s performance in office has been racist. Obama is “under some venomous attack,” he said. “I mean, the captain of the ship is an African-American who has taken us out of an economic crisis on an upward swing, but there are those who are willing to sink the ship just to destroy the captain.”
Another reader comment on The Blaze said of the Fox News decision to hire Jackson’s daughter: “Ever since the News Corps scandal, Fox has begun a rapid slide to the left. They are BECOMING the corrupt lame-stream-media they used to rail against!”
It is not known if Fox News understood that Santita Jackson, in addition to being the daughter of left-wing activist and Democratic Party politician Jesse Jackson, has been promoting Jeremiah Wright or Derrick Bell. Fox News host Sean Hannity frequently talks about how he used his program during the 2008 campaign to expose Wright and his influence over Obama.
It was later revealed that Wright, at a September 17, 2009, anniversary celebration of Monthly Review, a Marxist publication, had praised Marxism and discussed his ties to communists in El Salvador and Nicaragua and the Libyan government. He called America “land of the greed and home of the slave.”
Santita Jackson’s “interest” in Wright, a form of expressing support for the controversial minister, can only add to concerns that Fox News is moving to the left so fast it is not checking out its left-wing contributors. Her praise for Bell is equally dismaying.
More than two years ago, Fox News hired—and then fired—Marc Lamont Hill as a paid commentator, after AIM revealed that he had an easily documentable record in support of cop-killers.
Santita Jackson comes from Chicago, which is Obama’s home base, and hosted a radio show on Chicago’s WVON, which just happens to carry a show by the notorious Al Sharpton. Next to Sharpton, who hosts a TV program on MSNBC, her father may be the most vocal race baiter and agitator in the nation. Sharpton promoted the Tawana Brawley hoax, in which a black woman falsely claimed being raped by white men.
Sharpton and Jackson have both been quick to jump on the Trayvon Martin shooting, in order to promote the idea that America is a racist nation in which blacks are profiled, shot and killed for no reason. However, facts emerging in this controversial case demonstrate that the shooter, George Zimmerman, a Hispanic, may have shot and killed Martin in self-defense, after a violent confrontation, and that Martin, a black teenager, had been in trouble at his school and suspended. Investigations into the case continue, although the use of lethal force in self-defense is permitted under Florida’s “Stand Your Ground” law.
Although she is going to work for Fox News Channel as a paid contributor, Santita Jackson has never said anything on the public record that is complimentary to the cable channel. Hence, the hiring looks like a sop to the critics of the cable channel. 
Even more embarrassing for Fox News, her Facebook page identifies liberals Anderson Cooper and Roland Martin of CNN as being her favorite media personalities. She and Martin are long-time friends. 
One other reader comment at The Blaze was that if Fox News keeps moving left, it will start resembling CNN.
In an AIM blog post, “Fox Veers Left, Hires Jesse Jackson’s Daughter,” Don Irvine noted that “Jackson will join a growing legion of left-wingers at Fox that includes Jehmu Greene and Sally Kohn. Greene is the former president of the Women’s Media Center, which was founded by Jane Fonda, Robin Morgan and Gloria Steinem, and Kohn is a former senior strategist for the Soros-funded Center for Community Change.”
Irvine added, “Fox’s moves to beef up its liberal lineup continue to confound conservatives who see no need for the top-rated cable news network to give liberals even more of a voice than they currently have. They already have MSNBC and CNN, along with the rest of the mainstream media. If this hiring trend continues, Fox runs the risk of alienating its conservative audience to the point that they will look elsewhere for their news, and eventually end Fox’s long run as the top cable news network.”
Although her left-wing political views are nothing new, and only add to what Greene and Kohn already provide on various Fox News programs, there is no doubt that Santita Jackson has a fascinating personal story. She lost more than 200 pounds after gastric bypass weight-loss surgery. She is also said to be a dynamic singer. She sang at President Clinton’s second presidential inauguration and attended Obama’s inauguration.
But her political views, of course, are what are getting attention since her hiring by Fox News.
In addition to being a fan of the anti-American Rev. Wright, her Facebook page lists the radical demagogic Catholic Priest Father Michael Pfleger as one of her favorite interests. Pfleger, who has known Barack Obama since his days as a community organizer in Chicago, called on Christian churges on March 25 to put a hoodie on their altar as "a sign of solidarity" with Trayvon Martin, the black teenager who wore a sweatshirt with a hood before his confrontation with Zimmerman.
During the 2008 presidential campaign, Pfleger was hailed as “a friend” of Wright’s Trinity United Church of Christ and declared in remarks from the pulpit that Hillary Clinton thought she was “entitled” to the Democratic presidential nomination because she was white.
Interestingly, Santita Jackson lists the law firm of Tamara N. Holder as being among other “activities and interests” on her Facebook page. Holder, who is also a paid Fox News contributor, says in her biography that she “works closely with Rev. Jesse L. Jackson, Sr. in crafting and executing public policy initiatives, together with programs to increase opportunities for minorities and the economically disadvantaged.”
“Tamara single-handedly founded a pro bono legal clinic at Rev. Jesse L. Jackson’s Rainbow PUSH Coalition,” one of her other websites declares. A criminal attorney in Chicago, her law firm “has successfully defended the most serious of felony cases, from murder to possession of drugs and guns.”
Tamara Holder identifies herself on her Twitter page as a lobbyist and “government consultant” but does not disclose who she is lobbying or consulting for.
Not surprisingly, one article discloses that she has been a frequent guest on the radio, including on such programs as “The Al Sharpton Show” and “The Santita Jackson Show.”
The Santita Jackson show has now moved from radio to TV, courtesy of the Fox News Channel. Is her father next in line for a show on the “conservative” channel?
FamilySecurityMatters.orgContributing Editor Cliff Kincaid is the Director of the AIM Center for Investigative Journalism, and can be contacted