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Mid-East Backgrounder #11

1.Galloping Anti-Semitism, Washington Post Editorial
2.Israel in the Cross Hairs, Douglas Davis, The Spectator
3.The Osirak Option, Nicholas D. Kristof,The New York Times
4.Moral Jutsification for Going To War, Bishop Pierre W. Whalon,International Herald Tribune
Institute Staff Compilation



Edited by the Staff of the Institute



Galloping Anti-Semitism


Washington Post Editorial


EGYPT’S NEW satellite channel, Dream TV, recently got on the wrong side of President Hosni Mubarak by broadcasting a commentary on the president’s scheming to install his son, Gamal, as his successor. That was indeed daring: After all, Egypt’s leading democracy advocate, Saad Eddin Ibrahim, was imprisoned after he spoke up about it. When a Dream TV talk show subsequently dared to touch on the subject of masturbation, Mr. Mubarak’s censors cracked down. They banned rebroadcast of the show and warned the station against further outrages.


Now all Egypt, and much of the Arab world, is talking about Dream TV’s latest sensation, a 41-part historical drama featuring the “Protocols of the Elders of Zion,” the infamous anti-Semitic forgery used by czarist Russia and Nazi Germany to justify pogroms and genocide. The drama implies that the creation of Israel was part of the supposed Jewish plot to dominate the world that is the theme of the Protocols libel. So how has Mr. Mubarak’s censorious regime reacted this time? Quite differently, it turns out. It is broadcasting the serial on state television during the most popular viewing time of the year, Ramadan evenings, and insisting to all who protest that it couldn’t possibly consider sanctioning what it calls “a work of art.” Even the suggestion that it intervene, huffs Mr. Mubarak’s spokesman, amounts to “intellectual and emotional terrorism.”

All this might be written off as merely the latest instance of Mr. Mubarak’s long-standing political strategy, which aims to prop up his personal dictatorship – and would-be dynasty – by encouraging Egypt’s poor and oppressed population to blame Israel and the West for their misery. Yet Mr. Mubarak’s poisonous tactics are causing increasing harm to American interests in the Middle East. Thanks to satellite television and the Internet, the hate speech of Egypt’s writers and broadcasters – most of them government employees – is spreading around the region; some 20 Arab channels and networks have picked up the “Horseman Without a Horse” series. A recent Gallup poll showed that most residents of the Middle East do not blame Osama bin Laden for the 9/11 attacks, and many believe Jews were responsible – another libel Mr. Mubarak’s media have helped to spread. Thanks in large part to Cairo’s propagandists, fundamental hatred of Jews, as opposed to opposition to Israeli policies, is playing a growing role in mainstream Arab politics.


All this is happening at a time when the Bush administration is saying that the promotion of free speech, religious tolerance and human rights will be at the center of its efforts to transform the Middle East and combat radical Islam. Yet Hosni Mubarak’s Egypt still is receiving $2 billion annually in U.S. subsidies, more than democratic Turkey, Indonesia and Afghanistan combined. Alongside the hate speech, “Horseman Without a Horse” broadcasts the message that the administration has yet to reconcile its policy with its budget. Perhaps Congress can help.



Israel in the Cross Hairs
Those who knock Israel are motivated by malice and ignorance.
Douglas Davis, The Spectator UK


Last week’s unambiguous Republican victory in the US mid-term elections, followed swiftly by the unanimous UN Security Council resolution on Iraq, provided twin peaks in the two-year-old presidency of George W. Bush.

‘It wasn’t a green light; it was a sigh.’

While the first has decisively removed any lingering doubt about the legitimacy of his victory in the 2000 presidential election, the second has — for the moment, at least — silenced his European critics, who delight in vilifying him as a brainless, trigger-happy cowboy in thrall to supposed right-wing extremists in his administration.

Continuing to mock Dubya’s determination to ensure the disarmament of Iraq (read: regime change) has suddenly become a mug’s game in the face of seamless international support — from Russia to China, from deeply agnostic France to Baby Assad’s Syria. But it would be a serious misjudgment to assume that last week’s events have produced a Damascene conversion in Europe (or in Damascus, for that matter).

The success of Mr Bush will not dissipate the virulent anti-Americanism that permeates much of Europe’s political discourse, nor will it drain the poison out of Europe’s hatred of Israel, even though it is widely acknowledged that Israel will probably bear the brunt of the inevitable military engagement.

On the contrary, Israel is perceived by both Left and Right on the political spectrum as bearing both original sin and ultimate responsibility for the current crisis. While Israel’s Prime Minister, Ariel Sharon, is already pointing to the need for the international community to turn its post-Iraq attention to the psychopathic mullahs of nuclear-ambitious Iran, it is Israel that has come most sharply into Europe’s focus.

The argument is as simplistic as it is flawed: American foreign policy, prisoner of the all-powerful Jewish lobby, has been led down a blind alley of political and economic support for Israel, coupled with an abject refusal to compel Israel (ŗ la Iraq) to abide by UN resolutions. It is this grotesque injustice, so the argument goes, that has provoked rage and frustration within the Islamic world; radicalised and catalysed the impoverished Arab ‘street’; fuelled the engine of discontent, and provided the fertile seedbed for international terrorism.

Ergo, Israel, the object of Washington’s support and the Islamic world’s consequent rage, is the real culprit for the spate of Islamic terrorism, from the attacks of 11 September to the Moscow theatre siege, from the bombing of Bali to the now routine suicide bombings that visit the streets of Israel’s own cities.

And for many grassroots Europeans, now expecting imminent assaults on their own soil and feverishly searching for a scapegoat, fear is metastasising into that old European hatred. Jews — Israel incarnate — are once more being lined up in the cross hairs. The recent upsurge in anti-Semitic incidents — verbal and physical assaults, cemetery and synagogue desecrations — is reminiscent of a dark past. As in Weimar Germany, it is the Jews who are once again perceived as the authors of European misfortunes.

This incipient anti-Semitic analysis is not yet being articulated by mainstream European political leaders, but they do little to discourage or dispel the relentless anti-Israel message that is being propagated by much of Europe’s media. Based on many conversations I have had throughout the Continent over recent months, I have no doubt that, individually and collectively, European Jews regard the current climate as cause for profound concern.

High on the agenda of Channel 4 News after last week’s UN vote, for example, was the question, ‘Can we now expect the UN to take similar action against Israel for its flagrant violations of UN resolutions?’ Britain’s hapless UN ambassador, who was instrumental in framing the Iraq resolution, had to draw on all of his diplomatic skills as he floundered, flubbed and fudged an answer.

If the good ambassador had taken the trouble to read UN Resolution 242 — the celebrated ‘land-for-peace’ formula — which was devised by his predecessor, Lord Caradon, he would have been able to execute the steps of this particular diplomatic dance far more elegantly. The answer is surprisingly clear and straightforward.

First, UN Resolution 242 essentially provides a road map for the settlement of the Arab–Israel conflict. On the one hand, it calls on Israel to withdraw from territory conquered in the 1967 Six Day War; on the other, it calls on Arab states to recognise Israel’s right to exist within secure and defensible borders. These two clauses are interlocked. Israel cannot act alone and the UN clearly did not intend that it could, or even should, evacuate territory unilaterally.

Second, the UN ambassador should have known that resolutions affecting Israel fall under ‘Chapter Six’ (in UN bureaucratic-speak). This means that the resolutions, including 242, are non-binding recommendations that suggest avenues for a peaceful solution of the conflict. Resolutions affecting Iraq, however, fall under ‘Chapter Seven’, which gives the Security Council broad powers, including the use of sanctions and military force, to impose its will in order to counter ‘threats to the peace, breaches of the peace, or acts of aggression’.

These two small technicalities do not, however, appear to upset the trendy media agenda, still less impinge on the consciousness of supposedly well-informed interviewers who persist in demanding a timetable for Iraq-style UN ‘action’ against Israel. But then this is a debate where rationality seems to have been suspended and facts become an inconvenient encumbrance.

Nor do much of the media acknowledge the uncomfortable truth that, while the Arab bloc at the UN unanimously rejected Resolution 242 in 1967, Israel not only accepted it but has also since demonstrated — in peace treaties with Egypt and Jordan, as well as in negotiations with Yasser Arafat — that it is, indeed, prepared to make deep territorial concessions in exchange for peace.

That there will be a war to sweep away the regime of Saddam Hussein is not in serious doubt. In spite of the threat of a US-led assault, it is inconceivable that Saddam will simply throw up his hands and, with a nonchalant ‘Fair cop, guv’, open the doors of his chemical, biological and nuclear facilities to the UN inspectors. Such an act of submission is not part of the repertoire of a man who considers himself the heir to Saladin.

It is not known what side-deals were concluded to achieve that unanimous vote on Iraq in the UN Security Council last week, but it is a running certainty that a large slice of the political price for the coming conflict will be paid in Israeli and Jewish currency.


The Osirak Option
Nicholas D. Kristof, The New York Times

With U.N. inspectors headed for Baghdad and the clock running out, those of us who are skeptical about the need to invade Iraq need to confront one of the most cogent arguments against us.

It is a bombed-out building near Baghdad: the Osirak nuclear reactor, which Israeli warplanes destroyed in June 1981. At the time, there was broad agreement among sensible people that such a pre-emptive strike was outrageous.

Even the Reagan administration, normally sympathetic to Israel, chose to "condemn" the attack; France declared it "unacceptable"; Britain denounced it as "a grave breach of international law." A New York Times editorial began: "Israel's sneak attack on a French-built nuclear reactor near Baghdad was an act of inexcusable and short-sighted aggression."

In retrospect, the condemnations were completely wrong. (Looking back at yellowed newspaper databases, I see that one of the few people who got it right at the time was my colleague William Safire.) Thank God that Menachem Begin overrode his own intelligence agency, which worried that the attack would affect the peace process with Egypt, and ordered the reactor destroyed. Otherwise Iraq would have gained nuclear weapons in the 1980's, it might now have a province called Kuwait and a chunk of Iran, and the region might have suffered nuclear devastation.

So pre-emption sometimes works, and even doves tend to favor cross-border intervention to prevent genocide in the Rwandas of the world. All this suggests that an invasion of Iraq may be acceptable in principle. But what does that tell us about whether we should invade Iraq now? Wars should be principled, but that doesn't mean blindly following every principle into battle. Otherwise you end up with conflicts like my favorite, which occurred in 1739 after a British sailor named Robert Jenkins turned up in London waving one of his ears in his hand and declaring that it had been severed by the Spanish. As a result, England launched the War of Jenkins' Ear.

The lesson of Osirak is very limited — that in extreme cases it is justifiable for a country to make a pre-emptive pinpoint strike to prevent an unpredictable enemy from gaining weapons of mass destruction that would be used against it. That's a reasonable approach toward Iraq if Saddam Hussein refuses to cooperate and if we have intelligence about what sites are worth striking. Indeed, it makes sense to target Saddam's own bed — if we can learn where he's spending the night. Ari Fleischer quite properly raised the possibility last month of assassinating Saddam; it's messy, but much less so than an invasion would be.

Contrary to popular belief, American law does not ban assassination, as Kenneth Pollack notes in his superb new book on Iraq, "The Threatening Storm." Rather the ban on assassination exists only in Executive Order 12333, issued by President Ronald Reagan and renewed by presidents since, and thus can easily be nullified.

In any case, a succession of U.S. presidents appear to have attempted to kill foreign leaders (Muammar el-Qaddafi of Libya in 1986, Mohammed Farah Aidid of Somalia in 1993, Saddam himself in 1991), partly on the ground that they were command-and-control elements. Likewise, at least in wartime, international law permits the targeting of enemy rulers even if they are civilians. So the real problem is finding Saddam to kill him.

With weapons inspectors heading for Iraq, the next key date may be Dec. 8, when Baghdad is due to hand over a declaration of all its nuclear, biological and chemical activities. The U.N. resolution makes any lapse in this declaration a "material breach," giving the White House its license to go to war.

Hawks will argue for "zero tolerance," as President Bush put it Wednesday. But one can accept that pre-emption is sometimes necessary yet prefer to rely not on an invasion of Iraq but instead on a less risky combination of containment, pinpoint bombing and assassination. After all, if it's appropriate to carry out pre-emptive strikes on countries that sponsor terrorism and secretly develop nuclear weapons, then we could launch an invasion today — of Pakistan.


A Moral Justification for Going to War
Bishop Pierre W. Whalon, International Herald Tribune

Jean Bethke Elshtain, a prominent American ethicist who is also a devout Christian, argued in an article published Oct. 6 in The Boston Globe that a preventive strike on Iraq is morally justifiable. She acknowledged that she is swimming against the tide, but insisted that current thinking on the question of just-war theory in relation to the Iraqi situation misses the point: "There are times when justice demands the use of force as a response to violence, hatred, and injustice."Is this one of those times? As a bishop I am very concerned that the church be able to speak cogently to the situation, for many of the people who can decide the use of force against Iraq are Episcopalians, not to mention Christians. Moreover, moral questions are never merely the province of Christians. All people, no matter what their religious stance, must choose the good and avoid evil.


The just-war theory has several requirements. First, you need a just cause in order to attack. Is Saddam's evil a good enough cause? Second, the “legitimate authority” must decide the use of force. That authority is not the U.S. government but the United Nations, as President George W. Bush acknowledged in his recent speech there. Third, you need a reasonable chance of succeeding. Fourth, you must seek to avoid killing noncombatants, which means using the right amount of force-what theorists call proportionality.

Elshtain says that a pre-emptive strike is moral because Saddam Hussein is an evil tyrant on the moral level of Stalin, and he has never wavered from his goal to possess atomic, bacteriological and chemical weapons. He has already used chemical weapons on his own people. This is a just cause for war, she argues: the prevention of the use of these so-called ABC weapons of mass destruction.Then there is the actual goal of the war.


Just-war theory does not see regime change as an acceptable cause for attacking. Elshtain acknowledges this but argues that rogue regimes deserve their own destruction. Yet she doesn't say who determines the just cause for taking down a rogue government.Leaks from the Joint Chiefs of Staff indicate that the military is not confident of a reasonable chance of success, which itself is an obvious reason not to attack. Then there is the cost in lives. Remember the image of Saddam caressing a terrified British boy? We know he would use human shields again.

A lot of civilians will die in an attack if there is a house-to-house assault on Baghdad.In thinking through the Iraqi question, the just- war theory tells us that:The attack must be decided by the United Nations and conducted by a multinational force. Unless America can show that the world body has failed to exercise its authority, it may not attack Iraq.The aim of the attack must be clear. That is, Saddam must go, and there must be solid grounds to believe a democratic government can be installed. Otherwise the cost in lives is unacceptable.The use of force must have a reasonable chance of success.

Why assume military action will succeed? The consequences of a defeat would be disastrous.The plan of attack must be able to minimize casualties. This means first some reasonable assurance that Saddam's ABC weapons will not be usable, for he will try to use them immediately, as credible intelligence sources affirm.Now that the president has his war powers, these issues must be foremost in his thinking and those who would advise him. The United Nations must keep pondering these questions. A moral atrocity, as well as a diplomatic and military disaster, looms as a real possibility. Let us leave the atrocities to Saddam Hussein, Osama bin Laden and all who refuse to live as moral beings. Waging war is bad enough.                           



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