Sunday, November 15, 2015

France Must Offer Land for Peace

France Must Offer Land for Peace

By Steven Plaut

This may also be viewed where Steven Plaut originally posted it, on his Zionist Conspiracy blog.

In the aftermath of the series of protests in Paris against occupation by activists and militants, who have grievances, we bring you the French plan for peace, based on France's Mideast policies.  It is the only way to solve the problem of ISIS activism in Paris.

First, we all agree that territory must not be annexed by force. Therefore, we can also agree that Germany has a moral right to demand the return of Alsace-Lorraine, for the French aggression in 1945 and its consequent occupation must not be rewarded. "A full withdrawal for full peace" should operate here. Further, France must agree to the return and rehabilitation of all ethnic Germans expelled from Alsace-Lorraine after World Wars I and II, as well as all those they define as their descendents.

But this, of course, is just the first step toward a solution, as no aggression can be rewarded—and France has much other stolen territory to return. It took Corsica from Genoa, Nice and Savoy from Piedmont; as the successor state, Italy must get back all these lands. By similar token, territories grabbed from the Habsburgs go back to Austria, including Franche-Comté, Artois, and historic Burgundy. The Roussillon area (along the Pyrenées) must be returned to Spain, its rightful owner. And Normandy, Anjou, Aquitaine, and Gascony must be returned to their rightful owners, the British royal family.

Not even this not enough for the sake of peace. Brittany and Languedoc must be granted autonomy at once, recognizing the Breton and Occitan Liberation organizations as their legal rulers. This leaves the French government in control over the Île de France (the area around Paris).

That, however, still does not solve the problem of the Holy City of Paris, sacred to artists, gourmets, and adulterers. The Corsicans obviously have a historic claim to the Tomb of the Emperor Napoleon, their famed son, as well as the Invalides complex and beyond. For the sake of peace, is it not too much to ask that Paris be the capital for two peoples? The French authorities must agree to prevent French Parisians from even entering the sacred tomb area, lest this upset the Corsicans. Let the Eiffel Tower be converted into a mosque.

The Saint Chapelle and the Church of Notre Dame of course will be internationalized, under joint Vatican-art historical auspices. Indeed, the French should consider it a compliment of the highest order that so many people see Paris as an international city.

The French have nothing to complain of. They will enjoy the benefits of peace and retain control of the Champs Elysées.

Actually, come to think of it, even the Champs Elysées may be too much. Recalling the French position that Jerusalem is not the capital of Israel, perhaps the true French capital is not Paris at all, but Vichy.

The Dueling Narratives of the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict

This is a letter submitted to The New York Times by Arthur Toporovsky in response to an article by Jodi Rudoren entitled "The Dueling Narratives of the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict."

The old story of the blind men and the elephant serves to show us how, by focusing only on a certain part of a whole, each person can walk away from something with a completely different perception of what they have encountered.  However, while witnesses to the events may be prone to bias due to their nationality or other factors, that does not change the fact that there is potentially an objective reality to be had.  If we consider "The story of Shorouq" we might ask, "which pieces of evidence are verifiable?".  Where are the videos of her veils and cloak being torn at?  Can the Israeli police show the Facebook message? These are the "proof" that any critical thinker might ask for.  If nothing else, the fact that she did actually stab someone and was shot by that very person does mean something.  Of course, if one is predisposed to disbelieve anything that an Israeli says, doubt then becomes almost impossible to overcome.

Sadly, Ms. Rudoren's retelling of the shooting of Bassel Sidar at the Damascus Gate is full of questionable statements.  While the picture published by the Israeli police shows what is known as a "butterfly knife," which is often seen in martial arts films, she describes it as a pocketknife of the "kind Boyscouts use."  Of course this picture is not provided for the readers of the article.  She also quotes "many people" who insist that he was not carrying a knife, and that if there is one then the Israelis must have "planted it."  Ironically, this also occurred on live television as Ayman Moyhelin, of MSNBC, started broadcasting immediately after the shooting, and as the video that his crew had recorded played onscreen, assured the audience that he had seen that the Arab's hands had been empty.  At that moment, the anchorman, Jose Diaz-Balart interrupted Mr. Moyhelin to point out that the video he was broadcasting clearly showed that the Arab had items in both hands, and that the item in his right hand was clearly consistent with reports of a knife.  Mr. Moyhelin immediately and ineffectually tried to repackage his statement, but it was clear that he had been caught in a lie.

People under President Mahmoud Abbas have acknowledged that he knew that 13 year old Ahmad Manasra was not dead when he accused Israel of "executing him" and have tried to insist that the supposed mis-statement was due to a grammatical error.  Of course, they do not even attempt to address Saeb Erakat's statement that the video shows the boy being beaten by "settlers" while the police stand by.  It is worth noting that the very video that shows the boy on the ground, and which records a man's voice harassing him, also shows him getting up off the ground. Still, why should the obvious truth stand in the way of using a good visual image to promote more anti-Israel sentiment? Why shouldn't Ahmad be portrayed as an innocent victim?  Even though Prime Minister Netanyahu's assertion that Haj Amin al Husseini, the Mufti of Jerusalem, was the primary force who prevented Nazi Germany from allowing the Jews to emigrate and inspired the genocide is incorrect, it is certainly more debatable than Pres. Abbas' or Mr. Erakat's comments.  Husseini did intervene to prevent Jewish emigration on multiple occasions, and letters show that he did specifically insist that the Jewish people in question be kept in areas where they would be killed.  Husseini personally witnessed the operating procedures of the death camps and was responsible for raising several divisions of Bosnian Muslim SS soldiers, who were responsible for killing 90% of Bosnia's Jewish community. While Husseini was not the "architect" of the genocide, he was far from a bystander, and surely has substantial blood on his hands.  By comparison, anyone looking at the video of Ahmad Manasra can see that he is not dead, nor was he being beaten by anyone, despite the accusations by Pres. Abbas and Mr. Erakat.

Ms. Rudoren reports that Hanan Ashrawi has twice "raised the possibility" that the Israelis were planting knives, but also that she has no proof at all.  One has to wonder, shouldn't the group eye-witness testimony reported at the Damascus Gate incident by Ms. Rudoren be proof?  Then again, one has to consider the shooting of Muhammad al Khasbeh, where multiple Arab eye-witnesses eagerly reported that he had been trying to climb the wall so as to get to the Al Aqsa Mosque for prayers.  Ironically, it was pro-Arab B'Tselem which obtained and released a video that clearly showed Mr. al Khasbeh hurling a rock into a windshield and then running away. One also has to consider events from Gaza, confirmed by Arab human rights group Al Mezan, where the Arabs consistently denied any casualty's combatant status, as they had been encouraged to do by Hamas.  This pattern of making accusations without evidence or basis is hardly something new.

It is fascinating that in an attempt to demonstrate parity between the two sides we once again see an article in which evidence of Arab dishonesty is matched, for the most part, by Arab accusations of Israeli dishonesty that "must" be happening.  Even when both sides have been shown wrong, such as with the video of Mr. al Khasbeh, it is only the Israeli statement, that he was shot as he was an immediate danger, that is publicly refuted, while the Arab statement, that he was totally innocent, is not mentioned at all.  In this case, the predominant evidence is that the Palestinian Arabs are lying, and there is no logical reason to try to depict both sides as being exactly the same.  The Arab insistence that any Arab who suddenly stabs an Israeli standing nearby is "resisting" instead of "attacking and that every Jewish man, woman or child is a valid target is surely a big part of this, but that is not something that the Western media wants to discuss.  Perhaps it needs to be.

Monday, November 9, 2015

No, There Won’t Be Another Krystallnacht, Not In Israel

No, There Won’t Be Another Krystallnacht, Not In Israel

By Rabbi Ervin Birnbaum

This message was sent by Rabbi Birnbaum to the Shearim mailing list. Shearim is the award-winning Russian outreach program Rabbi Birnbaum started in Netanya a quarter century ago. To learn more about Shearim, check the ESRA Magazine article, "She’arim Netanya Celebrates," which may be found at If you wish to make a contribution to Shearim, use the contact information at the end of that article.

Dear Friends,

Today is November 9, the anniversary of the night in 1938 when there were “spontaneous” outbreaks throughout Germany.

The violence was aimed against 300 Synagogues, all Jewish homes and property, and Jewish persons of whom 70,000 were sent to concentration camps and 36 killed. So much glass was broken in the process of fury, that the night was given an appropriate name, “Krystallnacht” (the Night of the Broken Glass). The violence was allegedly justified because of the murder of the third secretary of the German Embassy Ernst Von Rath in Paris by a Jewish lad Hershel Grynspan.

Proper historic perspective does not allow us to accept the excuse of Von Rath’s death as the reason for this first manifestation of unbridled violence against the Jews by the Nazis. We recall that in February 1936 a Jewish youth killed the Nazi Gauleiter of Switzerland, Willhelm Gustloff, without repercussions at the time. We are also cognizant of the fact that there were many anti- Jewish acts in Nazi Germany prior to Krystallnacht, such as the Nuremberg Laws of 1935, the economic boycotts of 1933 the book-burnings of the same year, and more. Therefore the reason for having reached this new stage of unprecedented physical violence needs to be traced to newly developed circumstances by November 1938.

Indeed, in July 1938 – in the wake of Austria’s Anschluss by Nazi Germany and the consequent utter public humiliation of the Jews of Vienna – 32 nations met in Evian, France, for the specific purpose of alleviating the plight of the Jews. Nine days they deliberated on the fate of the Jews. The Nazis voiced their readiness to permit the emigration of Jews at $200 per head. Only the Dominican Republic showed readiness to help. The others wiggled out of any obligation. Canada wanted only agricultural workers.

The Swiss delegate declared that “Switzerland has as little use for these Jews as has Germany”. The United States would not go beyond its annual German immigration quota of 25,900, with each immigrant requiring a police permit of good behavior, obviously unavailable to Jews. And so on. It became clear – as a result of this fatal conference intended to help the Jews – that the Jews are unwanted the world over.

Evian turned out to be a triumph to Germany. The world chose to live complacently and not pay attention to manifestations of Inhumanity. Hitler received a green light to move forward relentlessly toward a “Judenrein” Nazi empire, and eventually a “Judenrein” world. The unwillingness of the nations to rise in protest, or go beyond the clicking of tongues paved the road for the murder of Six Million Jews. Actually, instead of lifting a hand to help the helpless Jews, the civilized nations of the world In their silent acquiescence joined hands with Hitler in accomplishing his satanic goal.

Today we see a virtual repeat of the civilized world’s behavior in 1938. Israel is the one-and-only Jewish State. It is accused and condemned by the United Nations, by the European States and the other cultured and not-so-cultured nations for every step it takes to defend itself from the bestial attacks of adversaries whose main purpose is to erase it from the face of the globe. We are not asking for another Evian. We saw what happened to us when we lived among the nations and allowed our fate to be deliberated and determined by them. No, thank you. We do not want a repeat of the recent past still within human memory.

We blame not so much the Palestinians, and not so much the Arabs for their cruel distortion of history, as we blame first and most of all the cultured and civilized nations for not making the slightest effort to distinguish gross lies from evident truths, and historic justice from fanatic madness. One wonders which is more incredible – the degeneration of the mad “Al Akza defenders” or the depraved disinterest of the civilized and cultured world?

No, there won’t be another Krystallnacht, not in Israel. Even though we seem to stand today, as we did in 1938, against a substantial part of a barbaric civilized world, even though we are repeatedly seared and wounded, we are invincible. We may be exposed to storms and floods, but the sun of Israel shall not set anymore.

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

The Case is Clear: Moral People Must Stand With Israel

The following was written after reading an article about Roger Waters participating in the annual anti-Israel program at the First Congregational Church of Old Lyme which is sometimes referred to as the "Tree of Hatred Conference." It was submitted to The Day of New London and is being revised after receiving feedback from the editors. If a later version is accepted for publication, that will also be posted here, but since any version acceptable to The Day is likely to be far weaker, this is still being posted.

The Case is Clear: Moral People Must Stand With Israel

By Alan H. Stein

Reading the article, "Taking a stand after Pink Floyd," about Roger Waters participation in the anti-Israel hate-fest at the First Congregational Church of Old Lyme, misleadingly entitled the "Tree of Life conference," reconfirmed something most people already know: many celebrities are not very intelligent.

On Sunday night, when I came back after playing tennis, ironically at the same time the "Tree of Life conference" was starting in Old Lyme (because my tennis game was in Israel and there's a seven hour time difference), my wife said I'd better call my cousins in Beersheva to check that they were all okay. She had seen on the news that there had been yet another Arab terror attack, one of the bloodiest yet in the current wave, this one at the central bus station in Beersheva. Fortunately for us, our relatives were safe; unfortunately, other families weren't as lucky.

In Israel, it was just another routine day, with dozens of attempted terror attacks.

Israelis have given up on peace, at least for the foreseeable future. They've tried, again and again, and have paid a heavy price. In 2000 and again in 2001, they offered the Palestinian Arabs 95 percent of the disputed territories - territory to which they have historical, legal and moral claims which exceed those of the Palestinian Arabs - only to be met with Yasser Arafat's terror offensive. In 2005, they gave away Gaza, only to be hit with tens of thousands of rockets. In 2008, they trumped their 2000 proposal, offering Mahmoud Abbas the equivalent of all the disputed territory, only to have him walk away from negotiations. For all practical purposes, he's never returned.

On the other hand, Abbas, almost universally but falsely labeled "moderate," has blatantly violated virtually all his commitments under the very Oslo accords to which he owes his office, in which he's now serving his eleventh year of his four year term. He has repeatedly lied, to his own people and to the world. A week ago he went on television and, among other blatant lies, knowingly and inflamingly falsely accused Israel of "executing" an "innocent" Arab boy despite the documented fact that "innocent" boy was very alive and well, being treated in an Israeli hospital after being hit by a car after he had taken a knife and attacked several Israelis, including a young boy, with a knife.

The current upsurge in terrorism should be called the "Mahmoud Abbas Terror Offensive," since it was ignited by Abbas' incendiary and false accusations that Israel was changing the status quo on the Temple Mount.

The Temple Mount happens to be, by a large margin, the holiest site on earth for Jews. For Muslims, it's a distant third, leagues behind Mecca and Medinah. Yet, since recovering the Old City, including the Temple Mount, from Jordanian occupation after being attacked in 1967, Israel has given tremendous preferential treatment to Arabs and Muslims. Except when it's forced to curtail access during terror offensives, Israel gives virtually free, 24/7 access to the Temple Mount to Muslims. In sharp contrast, Jews - and Christians - are restricted to a few hours a day, a few days a week, through a single gate. Last year, only 12,000 Jews managed to visit the Temple Mount, in sharp contrast to the approximately 4,000,000 Muslims who freely visited.

That comparison bears repeating: four million Muslims, twelve thousand Jews. That's more than three hundred times as many Muslims as Jews.

Incredibly, Israel also prohibits Jews from praying on the Temple Mount. It does not even allow Jews to bring prayer books to the Temple Mount, for fear of offending Muslims.

Although Israel is very successful at preventing Jews from bringing prayer books, indeed any religious objects, to the Temple Mount, it has not been very successful at preventing Arabs from bringing rocks, firebombs and other weapons into Al Aksa Mosque, effectively turning that holy mosque into a weapons arsenal.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, disparagingly described as "right-wing" even more often than Mahmoud Abbas is called "moderate," has repeatedly assured everyone he will maintain that status quo, one which so gravely discriminates against his own people.

None of that kept the "moderate" Mahmoud Abbas from accusing Israel of trying to change that status quo, scream that he would not allow Jews to desecrate their holiest site with their "filthy feet," and proclaim "we bless every drop of blood
that has been spilled for Jerusalem."

For Abbas, Arabs throwing firebombs from Al Aksa Mosque is perfectly holy, but Jews coming near with their "filthy feet" is desecration.

Every drop of blood that has been spilled over the last month is on the head of Abbas.

Although there are some complicated aspects of the Arab-Israeli conflict and the sub-conflict between the Palestinian Arabs and Israelis, and neither side is completely blameless, at its core it's very simple: while Israelis yearn for peace and have demonstrated their eagerness by making enormous, painful, one-sided concessions and offering even greater ones, the Palestinian Arabs are clearly still unwilling to countenance the existence of the world's only Jewish state on any terms.

For those who love peace, value human rights and all the other values America and other liberal, Western democracies cherish, the moral imperative is clear: they must stand with that tiny state of Israel, the one state in the Middle East that not only shares their values but is the world's frontline state in defence of those values.

How ironic that, at the same hour that yet another fanatical Arab terrorist was trying to massacre Israelis at a bus station, on a day when dozens of other terror attacks were thankfully thwarted, at a time when moral people have no choice but to stand with Israel, Roger Waters and the others at the "Tree of Life conference" were gleefully working to boycott that beleaguered democracy.

One thing is clear: no good can come from such celebrations of hatred.

Alan H. Stein, Ph.D., is a former resident of Waterbury, Connecticut who now splits his time between Natick, Massachusetts and Netanya, Israel. He is professor emeritus at the University of Connecticut, former president of the Jewish Federation of Waterbury, president emeritus of PRIMER-Connecticut and the founder of PRIMER-Massachusetts and PRIMER-Israel.

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Iran Treaty Analogy

This reached PRIMER by a circuitous route. Author unknown.

Let’s say you have a religious fanatic living on your block. He periodically threatens to kill you and your family. He also threatens some of your neighbors, especially your Jewish friends next door. In fact, he threatens to wipe them off the map.

Now, you and your neighbors desire to live in peace. So you ban together and sit down with your fanatic neighbor, to negotiate a circumstance where you can all live in peace. You reach an agreement where the fanatic gets a bunch of cash up front and a machine gun but no bullets. In fact, he is prohibited from having bullets for 15 years. Now you don’t trust him because he’s been known to cheat in the past so you say “we trust you but we will verify.” To which he says I will monitor myself to insure I don’t get any bullets.

You agree.

Satisfied with the agreement you go to bed that night … do you sleep?

Nope, didn’t think so. Neither would I.

Think about it!!!!!

Monday, September 7, 2015

Mr. Obama, Try These Arguments for Your Iran Deal

A friend asked me to analyze the column by that name written by Nicholas Kristoff. It seemed a shame to just send my analysis to her, so here it is, with some closing advice to the president about how he should try to undo the damage caused when he failed to use the leverage Congress gave him in the past.

This analysis includes quotes from Kristoff's column followed by analyses.

It would be a catastrophe for American influence in the world if Congress killed the Iranian nuclear deal.

Congress has rejected or sent back for renegotiation over 200 treaties, including over 80 multilateral treaties, without any serious consequences for American influence in the world. There's no basis for asserting it would be any different for this one. European leaders have privately told Malcolm Hoenlein they were very unhappy with the deal, acquiesced only because of immense pressure from us, and would not be unhappy if Congress rejected the deal and there was an opportunity to try to get a better one. It might be a catastrophe for Obama's prestige, but not for American influence.

Constituent calls to congressional offices are overwhelmingly against the deal, and with Senator Chuck Schumer defying the White House by opposing it, the opposition is more bipartisan than the support is. That's tragic, for killing the deal would infuriate many allies, isolate America rather than Iran and ultimately increase the risk of ayatollahs with nuclear weapons.

See above. There's no basis for these assertions, while there's plenty of evidence that the deal increases the probability Iran will get nuclear weapons.

The great majority of arms experts support the deal, some enthusiastically, some grudgingly. They recognize shortcomings, but on balance, as 29 of America's leading nuclear scientists and arms experts wrote in an open letter last week, it has "much more stringent constraints than any previously negotiated nonproliferation framework."

None of which have worked. And the holes in the agreement make it inaccurate to refer to the constraints as "stringent."

Likewise, three dozen retired American generals and admirals released a joint letter declaring the deal "the most effective means currently available to prevent Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons."

After which about 190 retired American generals and admirals released a joint letter asserting the opposite and the number who have expressed agreement is now over 200.

Iran would go from maybe a few months from a bomb to a year away. The agreement doesn't solve the underlying problem, but it may buy us 15 years.

Maybe. Maybe not. Probably not. Iran only goes from a few months to a year if it adheres to the agreement. With entire nuclear infrastructure intact, just not using some of it for a while, if Iran decides to make its final sprint and reactivates the mothballed centrifuges, it will be no further from breakout than today, perhaps even closer since it will be improving its infrastructure. Indeed, we're committed to helping Iran improve its nuclear infrastructure.

Yes, it would be nice if Iran gave up all its enriched uranium. But isn't it better that it give up 98 percent of its stockpile than that it give up none?

It's not giving it up. It's diluting it and will be able to re-enrich it when it decides that's in its interests.

Everyone knows Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel opposes the deal, but not everyone realizes other Israelis with far more security expertise support it. Ami Ayalon, former head of Israel's Shin Bet security service, describes it as "the best possible alternative." And Efraim Halevy, former head of the Mossad, says, "What is the point of canceling an agreement that distances Iran from the bomb."

It's obviously absurd to call this horrible deal "the best possible alternative." They don't give reasons for their opinions. On the other side, the leaders of all the mainstream parties, including those in opposition, are unanimous in their opposition to the agreement. One would expect Herzog, Livni and Lapid to take the position opposite to that of Netanyahu, but they're standing firmly with him in opposition to the agreement even as they criticize him for not being effective enough in his opposition.

Second, it's true that Iran may try to cheat, but it's easier to catch and stop the cheating with the deal than without.

It may be marginally easier to catch cheating, but not by much. Iran's leaders aren't idiots. so they'll almost certainly not bother to seriously cheat at their declared sites (from experience with their cheating on the interim deal, they know Obama won't call them on their cheating unless he has no choice), cheat at the undeclared non-military sites in ways it's confident it can hide the evidence in 24 days, and do its serious cheating at its military sites to which it's been very clear it will never allow outside access.

At this point, having abandoned the sanctions, we're not going to be able to stop their cheating, with or without the deal.

That 1994 agreement was indeed flawed, and North Korea violated it. But even so, in the eight years the agreement was in place, North Korea made zero nuclear weapons, according to American intelligence estimates. After the deal collapsed in 2002, the Bush administration turned to a policy of confrontation, and North Korea then made perhaps nine nuclear weapons.

The deal collapsed when the CIA discovered North Korea was secretly enriching uranium for weapons.

Third, if all goes south, or if Iran is stalling us and after 15 years races to a weapon, we retain the option of a military strike.

Against a much stronger Iran and a nuclear infrastructure we've actually helped them secure against attack.

To me, this deal is ugly and flawed - and infinitely better than the alternatives. The criticisms of the deal strike me as reasonable, but the alternatives that the critics propose seem unreasonable and incoherent.

Proponents keep repeating that as a mantra, but it's just his opinion. There have been many reasonable alternatives put forth.

So President Obama should hit the restart button. He should acknowledge that the deal has shortcomings but also emphasize that it must be judged not by a referendum on its terms but rather as a choice: deal or no deal.

The first assertion is right. But it's not a choice between deal or no deal; it's a choice between this deal or trying to get a decent deal. One rule in bargaining is that if you're not willing to walk away from a deal, you're going to get taken. Congress would be doing Obama a tremendous favor if it rejected the deal; it would be giving him the chance to bargain effectively. Unfortunately, it's impossible to expect him to accept the gift.

He can also take steps to reassure doubters. We could boost funding for the International Atomic Energy Agency to make oversight more effective. We could do more to speak up for human rights in Iran and to counter Iranian meddling in the region, especially in Syria.

He should do all that, but it won't provide much reassurance. I'll explain what Obama should do after the next comment.

Gen. Brent Scowcroft, the patriarch of Republican security experts, tells me that he supports the Iran deal in part because it exemplifies American leadership on a crucial global issue.

Neither party has a monopoly on leaders making insupportable arguments. This deal is the antithesis of what American leadership should be.

I agree, and for Congress to kill it will not just set back American leadership, it will also increase the odds that Iran gets the bomb.

There he goes again.

Advice for President Obama:

Okay, here's what President Obama should really do and still can if he decides the safety of the world is more important than saving face:

He should secretly work with the remaining undecided Senators to make sure the filibuster doesn't succeed.

After he vetoes the resolution rejecting the deal, he should quietly work with the Congressional leadership to secretly orchestrate announcements by enough legislators that the bellicose behavior of Iran, including the chants of "Death to America," and the revelations about the secret side deals have led them to reconsider and they will vote to override Obama's veto. He should thus secretly ensure that Congress does override his veto.

He should then go back to the P5+1 and essentially tell them, "Look, guys, I thought I could pull it off, but Congress just will not go along with a deal that ends the sanctions so quickly, has so many potential problems with verification and doesn't automatically snap back all the sanctions if we catch Iran cheating, not to mention while Khamenei keeps shouting 'Death to America' and still holds Americans hostage. I don't have any choice. America is a democratic country. We've got to go back, start over and get to a deal that will actually work."

Saturday, August 29, 2015

Robert Satloff’s 10 Questions to President Obama about the Iran Deal

Robert Satloff’s 10 Questions to President Obama about the Iran Deal:

1. You have argued that the Iran deal enhances Israel’s security and those of our Arab Gulf allies. At the same time, your administration has offered the Gulf states a huge security package by way of compensation and you have expressed frustration that the government of Israel has not yet entered into discussions with you to discuss ways to bolster its security. But isn’t this a paradox? If the Iran deal bolsters their security, shouldn’t their security needs be going down, not up?

2. It is surely legitimate for you to argue that the Iran deal enhances U.S. security but it certainly seems odd for you to claim to understand Israel’s security needs more than its democratically elected leaders. Are there other democracies whose leaders you believe don’t recognize their own best security interests or is Israel unique in this regard?

3. Constructive, respected, well-informed observers, like your former [National Security Council] Iran policy advisor Dennis Ross, have urged you to propose transferring to Israel the “mountain-busting” Massive Ordnance Penetrator as a way to boost Israel’s independent deterrence against Iran. But you have not done so. Instead, in your letter to Congressman [Jerrold] Nadler, you highlighted your administration’s plan to send Israel a much less capable weapon. Why are you reluctant to send Israel the best item we have in our inventory to address this profound threat?

4. You have said that the Iran nuclear agreement provides a peaceful, diplomatic resolution to the threat of nuclear proliferation in the Middle East. Would you agree, therefore, that the pursuit of an independent nuclear option by another Middle East country—say, Saudi Arabia—would be clear evidence that the Iran deal had failed?

5. In your letter to Congressman Nadler, you refused to spell out the penalties Iran would suffer for violations of the agreement, saying that “telegraphing in advance to Iran the expected response for any potential infractions would be counterproductive, potentially lessening the deterrent effect.” On the surface, this is difficult to understand—after all, as a constitutional law professor, you can appreciate that having clarity in terms of penalties for lawbreaking is a basic element of our legal system. If you aren’t willing to publicly spell out this approach to penalties, can you guarantee that the United States and its European partners have already agreed, in writing, on precisely what actions they will collectively take in response to different types of infractions? Will you share these details with at least the leaders of the relevant committees in Congress? Or is the real reason you aren’t willing to “telegraph” these penalties in advance [is] because we and the Europeans can’t agree on them?

6. In your letter to Congressman Nadler, you also said you “reserved the right to deploy new sanctions to address continuing concerns.” Can you spell out what sort of new sanctions you have in mind? Specifically, wouldn’t it make sense for you to ask Congress to articulate new sanctions now that would come into effect if our intelligence agencies reported that Iran was using its sanctions-relief windfall to transfer large sums (or expensive weapons systems) to its allies and terrorist proxies?

7. You have argued that the global sanctions regime falls apart if Congress rejects the Iran deal. But the key variable here is not Europe, China or some other foreign country—it’s the United States. Specifically, the sanctions regime only collapses if the U.S. stops enforcing the sanctions with the same vigor it has enforced them [with] in recent years, and instead goes back to the policy of the Clinton and Bush administrations, which refused to enforce ILSA [Iran and Libya Sanctions Act] despite overwhelming votes for that law in Congress. In the event of a “no” vote, can you promise that your administration will expend the same effort and resources to enforce U.S. sanctions laws against Iran as has been the case the last few years? And if that’s the case, what’s your explanation for how or why sanctions will collapse?

8. The supreme leader clearly wants the benefits of the deal—both in terms of sanctions relief and the international validation it brings for Iran’s nuclear program. Yet you seem to bend over backwards to be wary of saying things that might upset him. (Given the supreme leader’s continued hostility toward America, this is a characteristic that he doesn’t seem to share.) Specifically, in your letter to Congressman Nadler, why did you resort once again to the “all options are on the table” formulation in the event Iran dashes toward a bomb? Since a “dash” implies Iran would be hell-bent toward achieving its goal, why not state bluntly that we would use force to stop them? If they are dashing, haven’t they already violated the core commitment in the Iran agreement not to pursue a weapon? If they are dashing, the threat of renewed sanctions surely isn’t an effective deterrent. Wouldn’t candor produce more deterrence than subtlety?

9. In your American University speech, you said the Iran agreement produced a “permanent” solution to the threat of the Iranian nuclear bomb. But just a few months ago, you told an NPR interviewer that Iran’s breakout time toward a bomb “would have shrunk almost down to zero” when restrictions on centrifuges and enrichment expire in after 10-15 years. Can both statements really be true?

10. In your final debate with Mitt Romney in October 2012, just before you came before American voters for the final time, moderator Bob Schieffer asked you specifically what sort of Iran deal you would accept. Your response was: “The deal we’ll accept is that they end their nuclear program.” Notwithstanding the significant achievements of the Iran agreement, it clearly falls short of “ending their nuclear program.” Moreover, you and your spokespeople regularly disparage as warmongers those who advocate what you once called for. Why did your own position in 2012 become warmongering by 2015?

To read Jeffrey Goldberg’s article in The Atlantic referencing these questions, click here.  

Thursday, August 27, 2015

No, Mr. President, Iran is not the Soviet Union

No, Mr. President, Iran is not the Soviet Union

By Prof. Jay Bergman

Connecticut Jewish Ledger, August 26, 2015

At his press conference on July 14 defending the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action agreement (JCPOA) with Iran, President Obama made the obvious and indisputable point that "deals" in international affairs are made between adversaries, not allies. Implicit in what he said is that, despite their divergent interests, adversaries sign such deals to advance an interest they share - in the case of the JCPOA, a commitment to peace.

To prove his point, the president cited the arms control agreements between the United States and the Soviet Union during the Cold War. But any analogy between these agreements and the JCPOA cannot withstand even the most cursory examination.

The agreements the United States signed with the Soviets during the Cold War - the two SALT Treaties in 1972 and 1979, the Vladivostok Accord in 1974, and the INF Treaty in 1987 - were bilateral. They involved two countries, not seven, as does the JCPOA (the five permanent members of the UN Security Council plus Germany plus Iran). As a result, the United States could respond in whatever way it wished in the event these agreements were violated, which they were. In the case of the JCPOA, because it is a multilateral agreement, responding unilaterally is more difficult politically, and less likely to have the intended effect.

No less important in assessing the president's analogy is that the Soviet leaders during the Cold War were not like the mullahs in Iran today. They wanted to live. The mullahs, while perhaps not actively seeking to die, are aware of the advantages of doing so, which include gaining access to the 72 virgins the Koran and the Hadith promise Muslims upon arrival in Jannah, the Muslim equivalent of Heaven. In addition, nuclear war carries with it the likelihood of collective martyrdom, to which the Shiite Muslims in Iran, in particular, aspire. In light of this, the statement in 2001 by then Iranian president Rafsanjani that destroying Israel would be worth losing the lives of millions of Iranians in any Israeli nuclear counter-attack is readily comprehensible.

Whatever their monstrous crimes, the Soviets had no such eschatological vision animating their actual policies. While Soviet generals such as Marshal A. M. Sokolovskii, chief of the General Staff of the Soviet Armed Forces during World War II and minister of defense in the late 1940s, seriously contemplated nuclear war with the United States, they did so not because they wished to die in fulfillment of an ideological imperative, but because they believed the Soviet Union could fight and win such a war: the Soviet population was still predominantly rural, and thus sufficiently dispersed to survive even multiple nuclear strikes by the United States. Similarly, several in the civilian leadership prior to Khrushchev, notably Beria, Malenkov (until 1954), and Stalin himself, thought that somehow only capitalist countries could be destroyed by nuclear weapons. However ridiculous, this caused them to believe that in a nuclear war the Soviet Union would not only survive but emerge victorious from it.

This is very different from seeking nuclear war so that millions will die.

It is essential to remember that the eschatological vision the Iranians embrace does not allow for the peaceful-coexistence Soviet leaders from Khrushchev onward declared to be their policy towards the United States and the West. To be sure, "peaceful co-existence" was not always peaceful. While precluding direct military confrontation between the superpowers, it allowed their proxies, such as Israel and its Arab enemies, to fight one another periodically. Nor was it meant to be permanent, or to signify a change in how the Soviets viewed the course of history. Capitalist countries, including the United States, were destined to collapse.

But for the Iranians, peaceful coexistence, even with the limits the Soviets placed on it, is a theological impossibility. While the mullahs may be capable of using nuclear weapons the way the Soviets used them during the Cold War, namely for the political benefits that accrued from threatening non-nuclear countries with total destruction, their apocalyptic theology would seem to require them, at some point, to attack their enemies with nuclear weapons. The fact that Israel possesses nuclear weapons, and that Sunni Muslim regimes, in their fear of Iran, will soon acquire them, may actually make the Iranians more likely, rather than less likely, to do this.

In short, the paradoxical logic of nuclear deterrence - the concept of MAD, or Mutually Assured Destruction - that kept the nuclear peace for the duration of the Cold War is sadly inapplicable to the Middle East today and for the foreseeable future.

In seeking public support for the JCPOA, President Obama would do well not to invoke misleading historical analogies that demonstrate his ignorance of history. The agreement with Iran must be considered on its own terms, both as a means of serving American interests and of protecting the American people, and for its likely effects on America's allies and America's enemies in the Middle East and elsewhere.

At the same time, one can fairly wonder why an American President so deficient in his knowledge and understanding of history should be given the benefit of the doubt in his predictions of the future.

Jay Bergman is Professor of History at Central Connecticut State University and the author of Meeting the Demands of Reason: The Life and Thought of Andrei Sakharov (Cornell University Press, 2009).

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

The Latest SLANT on the Iran Deal

Thank you to Nate Salant, who wrote the following analysis and gave permission for it to be posted here.


Much has been made about J.J. Goldberg's recent article "The Game-Changing Report that Bibi Fears," since it was printed in THE FORWARD (August 21, 2015), which claims that all sorts of current and former intelligence and military staff disagree with the Israeli Prime Minister vis-a-vis the Iran agreement.
Goldberg, an editor at THE FORWARD (which was once the leading Jewish newspaper in the USA, but is now a left-leaning shell of its former self), has been running a barrage of articles aimed at persuading Jews that many Israelis oppose Netanyahu's position.
Martin Kramer has come up with an amazing response to Goldberg, and I'm reproducing parts of it:
1) A real expert, Emily Landau (at the Institute for National Security Studies in Tel Aviv) has already taken Goldberg to the woodshed about the retired professionals (Goldberg has a weird predilection for calling them “spooks”). Landau, without naming the names of these “experts,” points out that Iranian politics and nuclear issues are well beyond the expertise of most of them. Not everyone with a pension and an opinion is equal. And most of those who think that Israel should back off a fight over the deal still think it’s a bad one. They just argue that it’s inevitable anyway, so why provoke Barack Obama? This isn’t support for the deal, it’s resigned acquiescence. (The military correspondent of The Times of Israel did a parallel debunking, after the White House began to tweet similar claims.)
2) Yes, the intelligence assessment is that Iran won’t be able to build a bomb under the terms of the agreement. (That is, if Iran doesn’t cheat—the assessment says the mechanisms for inspection are flawed.) Iran might even show short-term restraint over support for terror, to consolidate its gains from sanctions relief. But the estimate also holds that when the agreement expires, Iran will be only weeks away from a nuclear breakout. In the meantime, Iran gains undeserved legitimacy from the deal, which provokes Arab states to stock up on conventional weapons and accelerate their own nuclear programs. Some of these programs could be militarized over time. The bottom line of the assessment, as reported in the press, is that the risks of the deal outweigh the opportunities. (This formula appears in more than one press report. Goldberg omits it.)
3) The reason that this “game-changing” assessment isn’t turning the world upside-down is simple. It isn’t “game-changing.” Goldberg’s headline announces that it’s the report “That Bibi Fears,” for “defying the gag order.” But I doubt that Netanyahu experienced even a moment’s discomfort upon hearing it, and it hasn’t been “game-changing” or even especially noteworthy in Israel. Leave it to Goldberg to cherry-pick a few bullet points from the assessment and inflate the whole thing into some sort of insurgency. He’s counting on readers of the Forward not to know any better.
4) Yossi Melman, Israel’s best-regarded intelligence correspondent (and no admirer of Benjamin Netanyahu), has written this in response to Amir Oren, and it could just as well be taken for a reply to Goldberg:
There is almost no expert or researcher, junior or senior, serving in military intelligence, the Mossad, the general staff or the different branches of the IDF, the National Security Council, or the Ministry of Intelligence Affairs, who thinks that the agreement reached between the powers and Iran is positive. The grades they give to the agreement range from “awful” to “not good” to “bearable” to “we can live with it.” But there is no enchantment with the agreement, even if it has some positive clauses…. There is also almost total consensus that it was possible to achieve a better agreement…. In this respect, there is a convergence of opinion, with different emphases, among the political echelon led by the prime minister, the intelligence community, and retired senior officials, that a different agreement would have been preferable to the one that was signed.
Melman has heard criticism of Netanyahu’s tactics vis-à-vis Obama, but that’s already politics. On the agreement itself, according to Melman, the views cover a narrow range, and are close to unanimous.

THERE IS A LOT MORE IN THAT ARTICLE BY KRAMER, AND YOU SHOULD READ IT - and pass it on to those who are using the Goldberg piece to lobby for the agreement.

Monday, August 24, 2015

Responding to "Some senators wrongly support 'warmongering' Israel"

The following was sent to the executive editor of the New Haven Register after that newspaper published a letter that should never have despoiled the pages of a responsible newspaper.

Dear Mr. Brackenbury:

Having recently had a letter published in the New Haven Register, I am not writing a letter for publication in response to the letter from George Veronis, "Some senators wrongly support 'warmongering' Israel," published Friday. However, I found the letter disgraceful, disgusting, offensive and libelous to the point. It crossed lines which should have prevented it from being published in any respectable newspaper.

I do not write that lightly. Let me explain.

It libels unnamed senators by questioning their patriotism, claiming they are putting the interests of another country above America.

It subtly uses anti-Semitic stereotypes as well as possibly libeling other senators in accusing them of "succumbing to the financial support of the pro-Israel lobby."

It doubles down on both disgraceful accusations in its closing sentence.

It is also both offensive and factually incorrect in referring to Israel as "a warmongering country that has done nothing to reach a peaceful settlement."

Israel made enormous concessions, including the return of the Sinai and giving up valuable oil fields it had developed, to reach a peace settlement with Egypt. Israel also made significant territorial concessions in the Arava to reach a peace settlement with Jordan. It has also undeniably made enormous, irreversible and unreciprocated concessions to the Palestinian Arabs in its effort to reach peace and has offered additional enormous concessions, but has repeatedly been rebuffed.

Hence, the assertion that Israel "has done nothing to reach a peaceful settlement" is undeniably factually false.

Any of the above libels and factual errors should have been enough to disqualify Veronis' letter from publication, or at least elicited an editor's comment disassociating the New Haven Register from the factual errors and libels.

The reference to Israel as a "warmongering country" could be considered opinion, although certainly offensive. Indeed, while as a patriotic American I am offended by what Veronis wrote about some unnamed senators, as an Israeli citizen I am offended by the vicious adjective he applies to Israel.

Many of my Israeli friends have wistfully recalled the days when the treaty with Egypt was signed and their hopes at the start of the now failed Oslo process, when they hoped their children would never have to serve in the army they way they had. Some of them now have grandchildren being drafted and they feel hopeless and powerless. They may differ about what policies Israel should try to reach peace and how much they would be willing to give up to reach peace, but they all want peace and nobody wants war. Unlike parents in Gaza, they don't send their young children to summer camp to learn how to become jihadists and suicide bombers.

As an American, I look at the JCPOA at best slightly delaying Iran's acquisition of nuclear weapons, but enabling them to have a more robust program when they cross that line, with its provisions lifting the embargo on ballistic missiles helping them develop their ability to send nuclear warheads to the east coast on the ICBMs they are developing. From purely American self-interest, I look at the JCPOA as a disaster, taking a difficult situation and making it worse.

As an Israeli, I also look at the JCPOA's strengthening Iran economically, especially the signing bonus, giving it more resources to transfer to it terror proxies. My home in Netanya is already within range of an estimated 100,000 missiles Iran has transferred to Hezbollah in Lebanon, as well as many of the tens of thousands of missiles Iran has helped provide Hamas, Islamic Jihad and other terror groups in Gaza. Thanks to the JCPOA, my home will be in the sights of even more missiles. The last thing I want is to see those missiles launched at my home, as they certainly will if there is any war with Iran. Israelis overwhelmingly oppose the JCPOA because they don't want war are strongly believe the JCPOA makes war more likely.

This is why I find the reference to Israel as being "a warmongering country" offensive, although I recognize it's not necessarily irresponsible to publish offensive letters. However, I do believe it's irresponsible to publish letters libeling United States Senators and even subtly using anti-Semitic stereotypes and, in so doing, either deliberately or inadvertantly, subliminally appealing to anti-Semitism in readers.


Alan Stein, Ph.D.

Founder, PRIMER-Massachusetts and PRIMER-Israel
President Emeritus, PRIMER-Connecticut
Promoting Responsibility In Middle East Reporting