Wednesday, October 14, 2015

The Reality of Sectarian Conflict. By Walter Russell Mead.

The Reality of Sectarian Conflict. By Walter Russell Mead. The American Interest, October 14, 2015.


Amnesty International has accused Kurdish forces fighting in northeast Syria of war crimes, charging the Kurdish YPG militia of targeting civilians in Hasakah and Raqqa provinces. The human rights watchdog spoke with residents of Syria’s Kurdish-controlled Rojava region and heard consistent tales of forced eviction at gunpoint. One woman’s representative story recalls the destruction of her village in the north of Syria:
They [the YPG] said, “Stay in your homes. We won’t bother you. We have come to liberate you [from Isis]. We just want the names of the people that are wanted.” But then they wouldn’t even let us take our clothes out of the house. They pulled us out of our homes and began burning them. Then they brought the bulldozers.
Ethnic (and religious) cleansing is an inevitable element of identity wars like the ones raging in Syria today. Tens of millions in Europe and Turkey went through the anguish and agony of being driven from their homes—or fleeing in panic from them—over the last 150 years. The only way to stop these terrible cruelties and crimes is to prevent them: to maintain international order and to prevent the state meltdowns that leave ethnic and religious communities in a state of nature. The so-called “international community” and the world’s community organizer-in-chief have failed in that; now the grim consequences are appearing one by one.

Syria and Iraq are becoming Greater Lebanon as their inhabitants turn on one another. The law of the jungle is the only law left when communities are fighting, or believe they are fighting, for their survival. Shi’a against Sunni, Kurd against Arab, perhaps soon Kurd against Turk…once these wars get going, they rarely end quickly. The bitterness and above all the fear—existential fear for the survival of your kind—remain, ready to flare into new rounds of hideous violence.

These are the demons that have been unleashed in the Middle East; it is hard to see now how they can be tamed.

We, the Terrified. By Kevin D. Williamson.

We, the Terrified. By Kevin D. Williamson. National Review Online, October 13, 2015.


Have a little sympathy for the Sanders set.

Following Bernie Sanders around Iowa earlier in the season, I got a pretty good idea of who he is and what he is about: He is a man with a palpable desire to punish, to make them pay, a fellow who read Discipline and Punish back in the 1970s and cheered for the jailers at the Mettray Penal Colony. He calls himself a “democratic socialist,” but we know the kind of socialist he is: Stefan Löfven on the stump, Mao Zedong in his heart. You can see that from a mile away, and his performance on the stage tonight only confirms that. His politics are driven by hatred.

Senator Sanders I get, and I got in a minute, in that anybody who knows a little history knows the type. But the Sandersnistas mystified me. I think I’m starting to understand them.

Outside the Democratic debate tonight, on the Vegas Strip in front of the Wynn (perfect venue for the Democrats’ presidential debate, incidentally, full of daft old decrepit white people in thrall to base fantasies and willfully ignorant of the fact that the numbers are always against them) my personal two-minute survey found the Sanders signs outnumbering the signs for Herself 53 to 19. Most of the people I spoke with were (you will not be surprised) unionized government and health-care workers, but Vegas’s big kahuna, Culinary Union Local 226, was not to be seen. (Culinary historically has no love for Herself, and endorsed the other guy last time around, but hasn’t endorsed yet in this primary.) Sanders already has won the endorsement of National Nurses United, and there was a big nurses-for-Sanders to-do before the debate.

The nurses all told basically the same story: They are doing fine for the moment, with a good union that secures for them good paychecks and good benefits. But they worry that the day after tomorrow something could suddenly change, that their hospitals and clinics will go under or be sold to evil hedge funds and that the terms of their employment will change radically for the worse, that their houses will for some reason be foreclosed on even though they’re current on all their payments, that college tuition will triple between now and the time their kids finish up at UNLV, that something bad is going to happen.

That’s the Sanders voter, and, I think, the Democrat at large: terrified.

It isn’t just them. I was speaking with Sanders supporters almost literally in the shadow of a giant gold tower bearing the name “TRUMP” on the side—it is something of an achievement to create one of the tackiest things in Las Vegas—and the Trumpkins, like the Sandersnistas, are terrified: The big Mexican is gonna come and get them, the scheming Chinaman is gonna take their jobs, the surly Negro is leering at the white women. At both ends of the spectrum, we see terrified—terrified—Americans praying that Big Daddy will provide for them and smite their enemies. With sometime messiah Barack Obama having failed to deliver the goods, they’re turning to Government As God the Father Himself.

Over and over again: Sanders is on our side, Sanders will make them pay. Sanders hates who we hate.

The United States isn’t really a winner-take-all society. Life’s actually pretty easy in the middle here, and nobody is sleeping in the street or going hungry because of economic failure. (Failure of the mental health care system, yes, economic failure, no.) But, as I have been arguing for a while now, not everybody is temperamentally cut out to be a clever, constantly adapting player in the 21st century economy. Those old factory jobs in the 1950s that everybody is so nostalgic about paid crap in real terms and were dreary and soul-crushing. But they were—or they seemed—stable. Those nurses for Bernie are living well. But they’re afraid that their good times will come to a sudden end.

The conservative who can figure out a way to address that without unnecessarily impoverishing the United States (which is what trade restrictions do) or creating new classes of public wards will have a real weapon in his hands. It won’t get these Vegas union drones to pull the “R” lever—they’ll vote as they’re told to vote—but it’s a big country.

Clueless About a Religious War. By Jonathan S. Tobin.

Clueless About a Religious War. By Jonathan S. Tobin. Commentary, October 12, 2015.


After another day of stabbings and other attacks of Israelis by Palestinians is making it harder to pretend that a third intifada has not broken out. As the Times of Israel notes, Palestinians are calling this surge of terrorism the “hibat al-Quds” or the “Jerusalem awakening.” That is significant and not just because it recalls the way Palestinians referred to the second intifada as being about the “al-Aqsa” mosque on the Temple Mount. While the narrative about this latest outbreak of violence from critics of Israel is that it is all about the sins of the “occupation” and Israel denying hope to the Palestinians, what we hearing from them is a very different story. Read any of the accounts of the motivations of the people going into the streets to stab random Jews they encounter or the mobs in the West Bank who are seeking to set off confrontations with Israeli troops, and you don’t hear much about frustration about the peace process. The same applies to clips from Palestinian television that Palestine Media Watch provides. What you do see are accounts of Muslim religious fervor that is drenched in the fever of martyrdom and faith-based hate.

This is significant and not just because most of the popular notion that the violence is caused by the failure of Israel to make enough concessions in negotiations to bring peace. If Palestinians are engaged in an intifada that is, at its core, a religious war rather than a protest movement about Israeli policies or a desire for a Palestinian state, then everything that the Obama administration and even many of Israel’s American supporters think they know about the conflict is just plain wrong.

This is, after all, the same administration that is engaged in a war against Islamist terrorists that it claims has nothing to do with religion. Even though jihadis throughout the Middle East are driven to try to kill Americans and their allies by their faith, the president, and his foreign policy team have been consistent in refusing to admit that there is any conflict with the form of Islam that has produced these enemies.

Part of that stubborn denial of reality is rooted in common sense. The U.S. doesn’t want or need a war against all Muslims. It is only fighting adherents of a variant of Islam that we have come to call Islamism. So differentiating between ordinary peace-loving Muslims in the United States or elsewhere and those who wanted to wage an unending war of annihilation on the West is smart. But pretending that those people that we are fighting have nothing to do with Islam is stupid. They may not represent all Muslims, but backers of ISIS, al-Qaeda, and other terror groups are not a tiny minority in the Middle East. In fact, though the number of active fighters is relatively small, those who sympathize with them make up a significant proportion of the Muslim population. The reason for that is that, although President Obama poses at times as an expert about what is and is not Islam, large numbers of Muslims disagree with his rulings on that question.

This failure to acknowledge reality is a major obstacle to the faltering U.S. efforts to deal with the rise of ISIS and other terror groups. It stands to reason that if you don’t know what you are fighting or why your opponents are so dedicated to your destruction, you’re not likely to defeat them.

The same rule applies to evaluations of the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians and hopes for renewed peace talks.

If the struggle between Jews and Arabs over the same small country were merely about whether it could be split to grant both peoples a share of sovereignty, then the century-long war between them would have ended many decades ago. Though partition plans were offered before World War II and then again prior to Israel achieving independence, the Arab answer was always “no.” Since the 1967 Six Day War in which Israel came into possession of the West Bank and unified Jerusalem, the conventional wisdom was that if only the Jews gave up the “occupied territories,” peace would come. This ignores the fact that the “occupied territories” before June 1967 was Israel itself. Even today, Hamas and most other Palestinian groups, and at times the supposed moderates of Fatah, refer to all of Israel as “occupied.”

What those who keep saying that more concessions from Israel that will give hope to Palestinians don’t understand is that for those who go into the streets to seek martyrdom while killing Jews, the location of a future border between Israel and a state of Palestine is irrelevant. After all, Israel offered the Palestinians independence and statehood in almost all of the West Bank, Gaza, and a share of Jerusalem in 2000, 2001 and 2008. And even Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu offered them the West Bank in 2010.

But if the goal of the Palestinian leadership and the angry mobs with knives, rocks and gasoline bombs in the streets don’t care so much about statehood as they do about destroying Jewish rule in any part of the country, then this conflict is about religion and not land. That’s not a message most Israelis, who would like nothing better than a compromise that would bring them peace, want to hear. But that is the message of the hibat al-Quds that is coming through loud and clear.

The focus on saving the mosques on the Temple Mount from a mythical Jewish threat or the notion that, in the words of PA leader Mahmoud Abbas, “filthy Jewish feet” are present at holy sites in Jerusalem is a clear sign that faith is what is driving Palestinian anger. Unfortunately, that faith is not so much one of peace, as we would like to believe, as it is one that regards a Jewish state, no matter how much land it possesses, as anathema.

Those who blame Israel for what is happening aren’t merely wrong about the nature of the conflict. They are blaming the victims and mistaking jihadist intentions for a desire for peace. Protests about land and negotiations can be met with diplomacy. Religious wars that seek to spill the blood of infidel Jews must be with decisive force, not talk. Those Americans who don’t understand this are part of Israel’s problems, not advocates for a viable solution.

The Consequences of Mayhem. By Jonathan S. Tobin. Commentary, October 13, 2015.


As bad as the situation in Israel seemed yesterday, Tuesday began with even more Palestinian terror that sent shock waves through the country. A pair of terrorists entered a Jerusalem bus and stabbed and shot passengers, killing two and wounding many more until police stopped them. Elsewhere in the city another Jew was killed by a Palestinian terror attack that drove a car onto a crowded sidewalk and then attempted to finish his victims off with a knife. There were also more stabbings in the city of Ra’anana. But while the details of the attacks vary, the dynamic is clear. These are for all intents and purposes suicide attacks that are motivated by religious fervor. The Palestinian Authority leadership’s false charges about Israel — broadcast on their official media — about Israel’s supposed intent to harm the mosques on the Temple Mount has set off a wave of religiously-inspired terror attacks that it can’t control. The question now is what comes next? Will the Palestinians eventually come to their senses and stop the madness? Or will this situation continue to spiral out of control with lives lost? Yet whatever the answers to these questions turn out to be, there is no question which side in the conflict will come out the loser from this disastrous turn of events.

What PA leader Mahmoud Abbas may be about to learn is the same hard lesson his predecessor Yasir Arafat absorbed during the second intifada. While it is clearly in the interests of Abbas interests to keep a lid on the violence lest he lose complete control of the situation, it’s a lot easier to start a holy war than to stop one. Abbas sought to compete with his Hamas rivals by sounding bellicose against Israel and seized on a perennial favorite of Palestinian leaders: inciting hate and fear about Jerusalem. But having convinced ordinary Palestinians that Israel intended to interfere with the Temple Mount mosques or to desecrate them with their “filthy Jewish feet,” Abbas can’t be surprised that many of them are undertaking personal terror attacks on Jews.

What Abbas wanted was to bolster his image among ordinary Palestinians as a tough opponent of the Jews. An ineffectual and corrupt leader of kleptocracy serving the 10th year of the four-year term as president of the PA to which he was once elected, Abbas has little credibility with Arabs or Jews left. Yet even now that he sees the disaster that is unfolding that could threaten his rule, Abbas can’t stop the incitement. He doubled down on it by speaking today of some of the terrorist assailants of Jews as innocent victims who were gunned down by Israeli oppression. Nor has he stopped the talk about the danger to the mosques.

But while this new wave of terror has shocked Israelis and made ordinary life difficult in areas with mixed populations such as Jerusalem, it is the Palestinians who will be the big losers here just as they were during the second intifada. The loss of life and the sense of fear inspired by these horrifying incidents have shaken Israelis. But they know that if their nation could survive the horror of the second intifada, which took the lives of over 1,000 Israelis and far more Palestinians, this episode won’t defeat their country.

On the other hand, the consequences of this mayhem for Palestinians will be terrible. If, as happened during the last intifada, Israel is forced to close the borders with the West Bank in order to stem the violence, it is the already shaky Palestinian economy that will collapse, not Israel’s. As much as doomsayers continue to tell Israelis that they can’t go on with the status quo, Israel has gotten economically stronger in the last generation while the Palestinians, mired in corruption and still refusing to make peace, lag far behind. War, especially the kind of low-level terror that Palestinian society has embraced, will do to them what the second intifada did, and erase years of economic progress while also making cooperation with more prosperous Israel — the key to any hope for their advancement — simply impossible.

Abbas and many of his people may be counting on the usual dynamic of the conflict to work to their advantage abroad and in international forums. The current strife may deepen Israel’s diplomatic isolation. The more Palestinians embrace terrorism, the more likely much of the world will be to condemn all Israeli measures of self-defense. They will likely also buy into the false notion that Palestinians are acting out of hopelessness rather than as part of a religious holy war that is inextricably tied to their century-long struggle against Zionism.

UN resolutions, even those unfairly condemning Israeli self-defense, won’t change the status quo on the Temple Mount that is defended by the Israeli government that already discriminates against Jews. Yet more condemnations of Israel won’t do a thing for the Palestinians. If we are to assume that Palestinians really do want a two-state solution (and based on the PA’s consistent refusal to accept the legitimacy of a Jewish state no matter where its borders are drawn, there is no reason to believe that they do) this new terror surge is exactly the wrong way to go about it. Israelis already were worried that a withdrawal from much of the West Bank (something that every Israeli government has offered to do — including Netanyahu’s — in the last 15 years) would duplicate Ariel Sharon’s disastrous experiment in the pullout from Gaza. But now that Abbas has whipped up the kind of hate that has Palestinians seeking to slaughter Jews they see on the street or on buses, further withdrawals seem utter madness.

By embracing terror, Palestinians have deepened the divide with Israelis while making even left-wingers less likely to trust them. Stern measures intended to prevent more terror attacks will have widespread support from right to left. Nor will many Israelis, even those most likely to want to believe in the idea that Abbas is a man of peace, soon forget the way he stoked hatred and needlessly caused so much loss of life.

If Palestinians want prosperity and peace, they need to drop the hate and start learning to accept Israel as a fact of life that will continue even if they attained statehood. But so long as their quest for sovereignty is bound up with holy war, they’ll get neither. As with past unnecessary conflicts they started, the Palestinians will be the ones who will suffer most from this one.

What Palestinian Terror and ISIS Have in Common. Video. United with Israel, October 13, 2015. YouTube.

Obama Admin Refuses to Condemn Palestinians for Wave of Terror. Washington Free Beacon, October 13, 2015.

Beacon Staff:

The “cycle of violence” returns.

A spokesman for the Obama administration Tuesday refused to identify Palestinians as the perpetrators of a wave of Palestinian terrorist attacks that have left dozens of Israelis dead and wounded in the past weeks.

Associated Press reporter Matt Lee pressed the State Department spokesman to explain why the administration says it delivers the same message to both Israeli and Palestinian leaders when only Palestinians are carrying out terrorist attacks. “Does the United States believe–does the administration believe–that Israel is inciting or not condemning violence?” Lee asked.

Spokesman Mark Toner replied, “I think what we’ve been very clear about saying is that we want to see both sides take affirmative steps.”

“So the U.S. – the administration sees both sides at fault here, is that correct?” Lee asked.

“Both sides need to, as their leaders need to express the fact that both sides need to decrease the tensions that are leading to ongoing incidence of violence. But you know, you’re asking me to assign blame and I don’t think that’s the case,” Toner said.

“Well, I mean, if the secretary is calling up both Abbas and Netanyahu and has the same message for both of them, it would suggest that you think that both of them need to do more to that,” Lee said. “I’m just trying to figure out what is it you would want the Israelis to do more in condemning the violence.”

“For one thing, upholding–for one thing, as I said upholding the status quo in Haram al-Sharif and Temple Mount,” Toner said.

“But has there been suggestion that the status quo is going to be changed?” Lee asked.

Toner then changed the subject. There has been no change in the status quo on the Temple Mount, nor any consideration given by the Israeli government to changing the status quo there. Palestinian leaders have spread the unfounded claim that Jews are threatening the Al Aqsa mosque on the Temple Mount, sparking Palestinian rioting there.

Lee then pressed from a different angle.

“Do you think the Palestinian Authority, President Abbas, needs to do more to combat incitement and condemn violence?” he asked.

Toner replied, “I think that both leaders need to – need to convey that message.”

Toner later called the past month’s wave of unprovoked Palestinian terrorism “the cycle of violence that’s currently taking place.”

Mark Levin Blasts the Jew Hatred in the Obama Administration. Audio. The Right Scoop, October 13, 2015.