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Archive for the ‘Politics’ Category

​Mental Disorders and Islam

Posted by Zamir Ben Etzioni on August 12, 2016

Most people in the civilized world must have noticed that individuals who convert to Islam, and the ‘Muslims by birth’ who suddenly turn religious, develop new tendencies, such as:

* They turn against culture and life beauties, such as music, paintings, cinema and other arts.

* They adopt a serious life style, with less humor, jokes, laughs and other manifestation of happiness.

* They avoid life pleasures such as dining out in good restaurants (because they serve wine).

* They change their appearance to the worse; men develop what others see as scary looks that would fit criminal ( unusual clothes, bushy beards..etc)

* Women turn against their feminine instincts and do everything possible to conceal their beauty.

* Women voluntarily cover up completely, even in the hottest weather (and claim they feel perfectly fine despite all that smelly sweat). They also claim it was their choice (but we know it was the fear from Allah that forced them to do so)

* Women voluntarily seek to be oppressed, some may even arrange for their husbands to marry more wives.

* They become unsocial, especially with non-Muslims (for example on Christmas).

* Turn to violence.

* They preach hate and incite to murder.

* Become difficult to live with at home and in the society.

* Become difficult to work with.

* Turn against their societies with vengeance.

* Start to glorify crime and immoral practices by giving it religious labels, such as jihad and jihad marriages (aka prostitution).

* Believe in myths and act accordingly; they buy and drink urine and zamzam water for healing in preference to conventional medicine, until it is too late .

* They become less productive in the society as they spend more time practicing their demanding religion.

* They practice their rituals even if that involves subjecting others to inconvenience or risk, like when they block the streets to perform their prayers, or piloting a plane when fasting. They lie, sometimes without realizing, and insist that fasting doesn’t cause them any harm (as if their bodies have unique physiology).

* They denounce the law, all laws, in favor of the Islamic law, which puts them on a collision course against the land law wherever they exist.

* They become liars for the sake of spreading the big lie of Islam; just consider the thousands of youtube videos with plane lies in both title and contents.

* Join other like-minded Muslims to practice murder (labelled jihad).

* Develop sick and evil minds that get satisfaction through subjecting their victims to outrageous and monstrous methods of torture to the death, which they record on video to produce humanly unbearable scenes as a means of torturing the society.

* Once in control of their societies, they force them to adopt their psychopathic behavior, by forcing civilians to participate in their evil practices.

* Practice child abuse. They deprive children from the happiness of childhood by denying them ordinary toys and games. They force children to learn parts of the Quran by heart even though they don’t speak Arabic. They order children to pray and beat them if they don’t. They force young girls to cover up. They approve of child marriage and may force young girls to it.

The above is not meant to be a complete inventory; the list can still go on and on.

The above list is both frightening and alarming because it is real. There are no exaggerations here. Any objective observer can see it all with crystal clear clarity. Any of the above symptoms, on its own, can be an indication of a mental health disorder that calls for psychiatric evaluation and intervention. Western societies would do anything to eradicate any disease that causes only a few of the above symptoms. Similarly, they would ban any foods or drinks if found to give rise to them. Yet the same societies protect Islam and nurture it, allowing the above symptoms to persist and spread. I know it is a horrible thing to say, but this painful fact highlights how low the civilized world have reached. This is a reality that has been denied for so long because with denial nothing needs to be done, and Muslims won’t be offended.

Islam works like a deadly virus that affects the nervous system and controls the brain cells. Like other viruses, it may remain dormant for years, lurking around in the body waiting for the right conditions to launch its attack. The unlucky people develop the full blown disease early, while others may live long lives without ever progressing beyond the carrier stage. All those who believe in Mohammed and Islam are carriers, and potential victims, of the Islamic ‘virus’. It is important for the civilized world to understand how lethal Islam can be. It is easy to deal with the problem once there is a will to do it, and few changes to the law may be all that is required. However, if left for a longer time, even civil wars may not sort it out. You only need to look at the Middle East to see the future of Europe.

The fact that most Muslims do not actually develop the full Islamic disease is not an assurance to the rest of the society, because those people already harbor the ‘virus’ in their minds and things can get nasty any time. There is no shortage of cases where the perpetrators of terrorism were described to have been “perfectly nice people” in the past.

Muslims use terrorism to kill non muslims and will produce more and more children. ”Opposing it effectively means providing a competing vision of life and society that is also appealing, and that will lead to more happiness, freedom and prosperity than Islam can possibly provide. That’s the real “peace process”- Islamic followers kill and intimidate the persons wwho have genuine queries abou islam. The real peace in those countries where Islamic followers are absent or are less. See how muslims are flooding europe, America, India etc in the garb of refugees. If there is peace in muslim countries then they will go to muslim countries. Isn,t that obvious. I think if you have iota of rational thinking then you will see through the arguments

put above and realise that islam is an evil ideology which fools people.


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Why Are Arabs So Far Behind Everyone Else?

Posted by Zamir Ben Etzioni on July 4, 2016

In the Arab world, we’ve never experienced the horrors South Korea underwent during the Korean War. We’ve never known the harsh disruption of life that took place in China. The exploitation of India by colonial powers was on a much larger scale than anything we’ve seen. And we cannot claim to suffer, like the Mexicans, from the malaise of living next door to an international giant. Many in Mexico are entitled to envy us for our geographical location. A Mexican writer once declared, “How sad are you Mexico, so far from God and so close to the United States.” Countries that live next door to China, Russia or Germany have a reason to complain, not us.

The question has changed over the years. The circumstances have shifted so that parallels are no longer exact and many comparisons are deceptive. You cannot blame the civil war in Somalia on foreign interference alone. You cannot use foreign interference, or even occupation, to justify the deep rift in Palestinian ranks. There can be only one reason for the failure of Hamas and Fatah to close their ranks, and that is political irresponsibility.

Perhaps political sociologists should start looking into this question of “political responsibility” for it seems to be undermining change, progress, reform and democracy. For years, Arab political elites have taken upon themselves the political mantle of gaining independence from imperialist powers. They fought political and military wars against foreign colonialists and paid a heavy price in the process. In the end, we gained our independence. Then the elites, as well as Arab nations, didn’t know what to do with it. We didn’t know what to do with our hard-won ndependence.

 Indeed, some get up in arms whenever they hear that backwardness is due to the lack of democracy, as if the whole purpose of such a diagnosis is to take away their power and priveleges.

Many other countries experienced a similar sense of bewilderment, but eventually their elites were able to call a spade a spade and admit that things had gone wrong.In Southeast Asia, the moment of truth came right after the end of the Vietnam War and the US withdrawal. From that point on, the Asian tigers came onto the scene and the rest is history. In China, the turning point was the Communist Party’s convention in 1978. In India, the defining moment came about in 1992. In Mexico, Brazil, Argentina and elsewhere, there was a point where things turned around — where nations and their leaders knew that deterioration could not be allowed to go on. Other nations came to the realisation that the perils of civil war and famine were all too real, but not us.In the Arab world, there is no lack of evidence that we have come to our moment of truth. The situation in Somalia is unbearable and Sudan is heading in the same direction — Yemen too, and Iraq. Tensions are palpable in Lebanon and Algeria, and we all know about Palestine. The thing to learn is that “stable” countries don’t remain this way forever. When you look below the surface, the signs of malaise are unmistakable. Everyone can see them except for Arab elites, and I am not just talking about rulers. I am talking about the civilian bureaucracy, the military establishment, and the culture and media agencies. None seems aware of how bad things are. Some even claim that we exaggerate negative signs for our own purposes. Indeed, some get up in arms whenever they hear that backwardness is due to the lack of democracy, as if the whole purpose of such a diagnosis is to take away their power and privileges. They think that everything is a power game, for this is how things usually are inArab countries. Take, for example, Mauritania, where one army general gave up his seat to let a civilian president take over. Then another general ousted the elected president with the full support of the “elected” legislative assembly. Then the second general was confirmed in office by “free” elections and international observers found nothing fishy in any of that.

The question is hard and there are no easy answers. We can discuss it forever and reach no satisfactory conclusion. At one point, however, we have to start learning from others. At some point, our elites, which are brave and smart, have put two and two together and get four. Until then, we’ll do the best we can.

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Stand With Israel

Posted by Zamir Ben Etzioni on July 3, 2016

Check out @SussexFriends’s Tweet:

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What kind of ‘support’ is this?

Posted by Zamir Ben Etzioni on August 5, 2012


The Jewish Chronicle
Much anguish has been expended over Jews who detest Israel so virulently they are in the forefront of the delegitimisation campaign. Such people were devastatingly satirised by Howard Jacobson as “as a Jew” Jews, who parade their identity solely to demonise Israel. There is, however, another group which is having a devastating impact on the cause of bringing truth and reason to bear on the Arab war against Israel. These are the “as an Israel supporter” Jews, who are creating even more confusion and damage.
These are, to all intents and purposes, supporters of Israel. They visit frequently, often have homes there and may even be significant philanthropic donors to the country.
Yet they can never bring themselves to speak about it except in the most bitter terms, and appear to see in it only the bad.
They dwell upon the racism of Israeli Jews towards African immigrants, or the Bedouin. “As an Israel supporter” they obsess about the Charedim who spit on girls in the street. For sure, racist violence towards immigrants, harsh treatment of the Bedouin or the attacks on women are disgusting and shameful. But why do these Jews exaggerate their importance, never acknowledging the complexity of the situation and creating the false impression that all Israelis or Charedim are racist, intolerant, violent bigots?
Why do they never express horror at the ill-treatment by Palestinians of Palestinian women, or the violence by Hamas against the people of Gaza, or the ethnic cleansing of Palestinian Christians by Muslims? Why do they not obsess about Arab attacks on Jews?
They parrot Arab propaganda. “As an Israel supporter”, they say it is the settlers and Netanyahu’s intransigence that are preventing peace. They wail about the checkpoints, the humiliation of Palestinians, the shuttered Arab shops without ever acknowledging the sole reason for that hardship is that the Palestinians never cease attempting to murder Israelis.
If the “as an Israel supporter” Jews had their way and Israel departed the disputed territories tomorrow, they would fall into the hands of Hamas or worse. How do they imagine Israel would then defend itself against bombs and rockets down the road?
Do they care? Indeed, do they support any Israeli military defence against attack? Because we never ever hear that from them.
Of course, with Abbas and co now stating regularly they will never accept Israel as a Jewish state, the fiction that the Palestinians will ever agree to a two-state solution becomes ever more absurd.
So now, the “as an Israel supporter” Jews are moving the goalposts. Maybe, they murmur, one state is the answer. Maybe Israel should cease to be a Jewish state at all. Otherwise it might turn into apartheid South Africa. Or Iran. Or Syria. “As an Israel supporter”, you understand, they say this.
You hear such talk round the dinner tables of north-west London or in the pews of certain synagogues. It’s behind the recent controversies over statements by certain individuals in leadership positions in the community. So just what is the Israel they support?A fantasy land where the Palestinians yearn only to live peacefully alongside the Jews, where no-one wants to rule over anyone else, where Islam is a religion of purest peace, where the Charedim are jailed en masse, where Jews never have to get their hands dirty and where there is no prejudice or extremism of any kind. And if only it wasn’t for Bibi, that’s what we could have.
Has there ever been another people in the history of this planet who are capable of quite such self-destructive stupidity?

Posted by Michael Blackburn, Sr on Sunday, August 05, 2012


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Bubbe Elizabeth the Second

Posted by Zamir Ben Etzioni on August 3, 2012

When did the Queen of England, star of the Olympic opening ceremony, become a Jewish grandmother?


Queen Elizabeth II speaks during the Opening Ceremony of the London 2012 Olympic Games on July 27, 2012. (Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)

Most 86-year-old women, whatever their ethnic persuasion, do not arrive at important events via helicopter parachute, escorted by a hot piece like Daniel Craig; many of them can’t even stand up in the shower anymore. But everything else, from the ongepotchket peach lace dress to the passive-aggressive “oy, mein back” shuffle to the seats to that face, seemingly caught constantly in mid-kvetch, saying “For this you made me come out in the middle of the night, sitting outside in the rain like a dog?” Not a trace of her former impersonal friendliness, of smiling Gentile stoicism, remained. At the Olympic opening ceremony, somewhere in between the coal miners performing a Dickensian rendition of the “Stool Boom” number from Waiting for Guffman and the interpretive dance salute to the National Health Service, Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth the Second, became the whole world’s bitchy Jewish bubbe. I half expected her to take an ancient sucking candy from that famous purse of hers and unwrap it loudly during the moment of silence “for everyone” that the IOC creepily rammed into the ceremony at the last minute.

Was she like this all along? The question of any stray Jewish heritage within the British Royal Family has been explored mainly by the British Israelite movement—for the most part a cheerful and benign group of loonies who since the time of Queen Victoria have held that the Ten Lost Tribes somehow found their way to the sceptered isles, where they became the progenitors of the British people, making the Windsors direct-line descendants of King David—and the usual bunch of anti-Semitic Internet crazies who believe that everyone in a position of power today is somehow a secret Rothschild taking part in a crypto-Zionist Judeo-Bolshevist conspiracy to control the world.

Whether it’s the Jewish question of her own family, or indeed, in any other capacity, the queen’s personal views on the Chosen People are, as on all other matters, a mystery. The princess royal “regrets to say that she has never been to Israel”—as it was written to me in the letter I received from her male secretary (early feminist click moment, there) when I wrote to her for a school project at my Jewish Day School in approximately 1988 in a manner so politely chagrined I was ashamed I had asked. Prince Philip has been to the Jewish state, albeit in an unofficial capacity, when his mother Princess Andrew of Greece and Denmark was honored as one of the Righteous of Nations, and of all the many, many, many groups, ethnic or otherwise, upon which he has aired, shall we say, impolitic remarks over his equally numerous years in the public eye, Jews have, almost shockingly, not been among them.

On the other hand, well, let’s just say it’s not missing any fingers. Prince Harry’s youthful swastika-wearing may have been a genuinely innocent, and well-atoned-for, joke gone wrong, but the Duke and Duchess of Windsor’s habitual Heil Hitler’s certainly were not. And even the cuddly Queen Mother, the Lots O’ Huggin’ Bear of the British aristocracy, had, typically of her time and class, plenty of not-so-nice things to say about the Jews behind closed doors. More recently, the late Princess Margaret became so discombobulated at a dinner party by comedian and U.K. national treasure Stephen Fry’s admission of matrilineal descent that she allegedly started screaming: “He’s a Jew! He’s a Jew!” to the assembled guests. Although, to be fair, the issue was a touchy subject for Margaret; the most memorable note of several her vengeful ex-husband Lord Snowdon apparently left around the house for her to find in the waning days of their marriage read: “You look like a Jewish manicurist and I hate you.”

It’s an observation not totally out of left field. When you look at pictures of the aged Princess Margaret, sans tiara and imperial sash, she does look not unlike your mother’s cousin Frieda who started doing nails after her divorce from that schmuck with the dry cleaner. Similarly, if there’s a more classic example of the archetypal nebbish than the young Prince Charles, I have yet to see him. Of course, one could argue that rather than Jewish, they just look German, perhaps lending some credence to Kafka’s famous assertion that these two groups are far more inextricably linked than either is entirely comfortable with, but that’s a whole rabbit-hole of head-measuring pseudo-science I don’t even want to get into.

The point is the queen, and her increasing forays into Judaic grumpiness of late: the shpilkes at the opening ceremony, the hissy fit with Annie Leibowitz, the open disapproval for the “creepiness” of the headless mannequin wearing Kate Middleton’s wedding dress that someone put right in the middle of her living room. Has she been hanging out with Camilla’s friend Joan Rivers lately? Or is she just really, really old? Which itself begs the question: Do Jews act like old people or do old people all act like Jews? Are we just born without the self-censoring part of the brain that takes other people eight decades and/or a massive stroke to attain, or is there something in the pool water at the indoor aquatic aerobics classes? Which came first, the suffering or the refusal to do it in silence?

As for Her Madge, if at the closing ceremony she starts complaining about the angle of the chair back and would it kill them to get her a cold glass of water, but not too cold, because oy, it bothers her dentures, I guess we’ll see if the Bubbification of the Sovereign is complete. In the meantime, pass the sucking candy and G-d save the Queen.



Rachel Shukert, a Tablet Magazine columnist on pop culture, is the author of the memoirs Have You No Shame? and Everything Is Going to be Great. Her Twitter feed is @rachelshukert.

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Update: Afghan teenager brutally maimed by her Taliban-sympathizing husband

Posted by Zamir Ben Etzioni on July 30, 2012

Aisha on the cover of Time

Aisha on the cover of Time (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


 Nearly a year after we first reported the story of Bibi Aisha, a young Afghan teenager brutally maimed by her Taliban-sympathizing husband and his family, she’s been relocated to the U.S. and become a media phenomenon. But as Gayle Tzemach Lemmon reports, her story does not yet have a happy ending.
In a wood-paneled office in a sprawling ranch home tucked away in a pastoral equestrian community, a young woman with shiny shoulder-length hair held back by a single barrette hunts for Pashto-language songs on YouTube.
She is Bibi Aisha, the young woman whose image ignited a heated political debate when her maimed face graced the cover of Time magazine this summer under the headline “What Happens if We Leave Afghanistan.” Her story, first reported in The Daily Beast last December, later appeared on World News with Diane Sawyer, which documented her trip to the U.S. for reconstructive surgery to replace the nose and ears her husband and his family severed as punishment for daring to flee after years of abuse. Since then, Bibi Aisha’s case has captivated international news audiences, who now are awaiting photos of the new nose the young woman came to the U.S. to receive.
Bibi Aisha attends a gala at the SLS Hotel on Oct. 8, 2010 in Beverly Hills, California. (Photo: Arun Nevader / Getty Images)
Until now the media has largely portrayed Bibi Aisha’s story as a tragic story with a made-for-TV ending about a young woman’s journey to the United States for a second chance at a new face and a fresh start. The reality is that rebuilding a life, particularly one marked by harsh years of abuse, is far more difficult and complicated than headlines permit. So far doctors who have evaluated Bibi Aisha say that she is not yet emotionally ready for the endurance test of reconstructive surgery, as she continues to suffer from seizure-like incidents in which she recedes deep into herself, pulling at her hair and appearing to flash back to her past. In the past 3 1/2 months, she has been in and out of local hospitals and shuttled among host families, with staff and volunteers from the Grossman Burn Foundation, which sponsored her trip to the U.S., fighting to figure out the best way forward for the troubled young woman.
In a culture that revels in happy endings, Bibi Aisha’s story is a lesson in the understanding, patience, and determination real life often requires, and the depth of psychological wounds caused by years of severe abuse that not even the world’s best plastic surgeons can easily fix.
For those who have helped to care for Aisha during the last few months, it has been a wild ride. The high-profile patient they brought from Afghanistan needed far more than simply a set of surgeries, they quickly realized. Aisha has endured prolonged beatings and deprivation for much of her life. The maiming that severed her nose and ears was only the most extreme abuse at the hands of a husband and in-laws to whom her father had given her as a girl to settle a criminal dispute between the families. Her mother died when Aisha was only a child.
Landing in Los Angeles, with its shimmering kaleidoscope of sun, glitz, and gridlocked traffic, is often a shock even for Americans from other parts of the country. For a girl from a rural and remote part of southern Afghanistan who had never been to school, or even lived with running indoor water and constant power until a year ago, the transition was more than daunting.
 “She made great strides during the nine months she spent in the shelter,” says Esther Hyneman of Women for Afghan Women, noting that WfAW resisted pressure for months to send her from Kabul to the United States immediately for surgery. Those strides were obvious to those who visited with Aisha in Afghanistan. When she first arrived in the shelter, where I met her last November, she was a bewildered young woman whose piercing cries startled the other shelter residents. By the time we spoke this summer, she was a poised young woman who spoke clearly and eloquently about her desire to rebuild her life. “We did not send her until we thought she would be OK. With hindsight, perhaps we should have given her more time,” says Hyneman. “I am not sure there was a way to predict that.”
Yet while Aisha has struggled emotionally, she has shown remarkable agility in adapting to the country now hosting her. The young woman who never set foot in a formal classroom has quickly taken to the Internet and the joys of YouTube, and even has begun to teach herself English using an online program designed for American schoolchildren. She is a deft text-messager and an avid cellphone user. And she has blossomed as a jewelry designer, a skill she says she first learned in prison in Kandahar, following her escape from her husband, and later honed in more formal training at the Kabul Women for Afghan Women shelter. Grossman staff and volunteers have provided Aisha with beads from the local Michael’s craft store, and she has created a collection of elegant beaded necklaces and bracelets, some translucent, some pearl, and some in vibrant hues. A number of women who have met Bibi Aisha and wanted to help have found customers for her creations.
None of this progress, however, means that Aisha is yet ready for surgery, according to doctors. They say that she eventually will be emotionally strong enough for the reconstructive operations required to rebuild her nose and ears, but they want to be certain she is more comfortable in her surroundings and better able to handle her emotions before beginning a series of painful and temporarily disfiguring operations over a three- to four-month time frame.
In the meantime, she has the remarkably real-looking and painstakingly crafted prosthetic nose created by Dr. Stefan Knauss, which she wore at the October gala for the Grossman Burn Foundation, where she stood on a red carpet before a throng of flashing cameras and met such notables as former first lady Laura Bush and California first lady Maria Shriver. Aisha applies the prosthetic herself with a glue-dipped Q-tip, though she often finds it uncomfortable to wear for long periods of time.
Grossman Burn Foundation staff and volunteers have sought to provide emotional care and a sense of close-knit community for Aisha amid all the unpredictability, even hosting her very first birthday party, cake and Afghan music included. Often they have been at a loss to know exactly what help she needed and in what order to offer it. What is certain, though, is that this young woman whose case has now drawn attention from around the globe has touched them deeply.
“A couple of times she has made me cry,” says Pari Moayer, a school nurse with bright eyes and a kind and soothing demeanor. Moayer, who once treated injured soldiers on the front lines of the Iran-Iraq War, formed a close bond with the young woman, visiting Aisha nearly every day and later making room for her at her own house for several weeks. She remembers in particular one night around <:time hour=”22″ minute=”0″>10 p.m., when Aisha told her she was hungry. Bringing in a plate of freshly cooked soft scrambled eggs, Moayer said she nearly choked up when the young woman spent several minutes thanking her profusely for the meal, a maternal gesture about which Moayer had thought little. “She told me no one had ever cooked for her like that since her mother died,” she says. “You can make someone’s life change and make them so happy with the little, little things that you can offer them.”
It is the young woman’s resilience that has left the most lasting impression.
“Aisha has just had, from what I have learned, a life of extreme abuse since her mother died,” says Rebecca Grossman of the Grossman Burn Foundation, who worked with Women for Afghan Women to arrange Aisha’s arrival in the Unites States. “She has been treated so badly and been so abused, and that is why it is amazing that she is as playful and joyful as she is.”
Grossman, whose husband, Dr. Peter Grossman, plans to perform the surgery, says she has learned a great deal from her experience helping Bibi Aisha and Zubaida, another young woman from Afghanistan whose burn injuries required years of operations in the United States. The reality is, intervening is often far more complicated than it sounds.
“It is so difficult and so challenging to bring people from other parts of the world to America,” says Grossman, sitting in her living room surrounded by her children’s toys. Many times the patients the Grossman Burn Foundation brings to Los Angeles for treatment find it difficult to function in their native villages and cities after the disjointed experience of life amid the attention, amenities, and luxuries of modern life in Los Angeles. The story of one young boy whose case came to Grossman from a U.S. serviceman serving in Afghanistan’s Farah province haunts her in particular. After months of living with a host family in the U.S. while undergoing surgery to recover from a harrowing injury that left his ears and neck connected, the young boy returned to his family, where he struggled to learn to live once more in hardship and poverty. Today, having managed a number of cases in which the Grossman Burn Foundation has hosted men and women from economically devastated Asian and African countries, she thinks the resources dedicated to individual cases might be better devoted to supporting doctors in their native countries so that the arduous cultural transitions might be avoided.
Regardless of the challenges, Aisha, for her part, remains determined to get the surgery and to create a new life for herself, one in which she makes her own decisions. Women for Afghan Women has now brought the young woman to the East Coast, where it hopes she will find the solace and stability she needs to prepare her for the path ahead and surgery down the road. They will hire teachers to help her learn English and other skills. And she will continue her jewelry-making. To cover her expenses, Women for Afghan Women has set up a trust fund, as it cannot use any current grant money on Bibi Aisha’s behalf.
“Our hopes are that she will find comfort here and that that comfort will allow her to make progress on many levels, intellectually, socially, and emotionally,” says Hyneman, who stresses that no media access to the young woman will be permitted so that she can spend more time getting situated and dealing with her emotional injuries. “She has very strong, native intelligence, and it is wonderful that that intelligence is intact. So we think she has a lot of potential, but she is damaged, and how much the damage will interfere with that potential for development is not yet known. The best thing we can do is keep an open mind, remember to be flexible, remember to listen to her, to see where she is and to not think that we have all the answers for her. We don’t.”
Like Grossman and Moayer, Hyneman says she has learned a great deal in the time she has known this exceptional young woman whose case has sparked so much emotion in so many people.
“I have learned to be suspicious of my own expectations,” says Hyneman. “I have learned that we have the best intentions and great hopes for people in this situation, and we do the best we can, but we have to realize that we don’t have control. They have to go ahead at their own pace. That is a very difficult thing to learn.”
Gayle Tzemach Lemmon is deputy director of the Women and Foreign Policy Program at the Council on Foreign Relations. She has spent the last five years reporting on women entrepreneurs in conflict and post-conflict regions, including Afghanistan, Rwanda and Bosnia. Her upcoming book, The Dressmaker of Khair Khana, will be published by HarperCollins in March 2011.

Thanks to The Daily Beast For this article, MFBsr

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Will the Rebels Win Syria’s Civil War and What That Means

Posted by Zamir Ben Etzioni on July 28, 2012

By Barry Rubin          












 The tide seems to be turning in Syria. While the civil war is far from over, the regime is clearly weakening; the rebels are expanding their operations and effectiveness. There have also been more high-level defections. What does this mean and why is this happening?

There are three main factors that are making a rebel victory seem more likely.

First, Saudi Arabia and Qatar, with Turkey’s facilitation and U.S. coordination, are sending arms to the opposition.

Second, the regime has been rushing the same trusted units around the country to put down upsurges. After many months of battle, these forces are getting tired and stretched thin.

Third, President Bashar al-Assad really has nothing to offer the opposition. He won’t leave and he can’t share power. His strategy of brutal suppression and large-scale killing can neither make the opposition surrender nor wipe it out. Even if he kills civilians and demonstrators, the rebel military forces can pull back to attack another day.

Even though the fighting may go on for months, then, it is time to start assessing what outcomes might look like. Here are some suggestions:

–Ethnic massacres? While there have been reports of such actions—the regime killing Sunni Muslims; the opposition killing Alawites and Christians—what we’ve seen already might be nothing compared to what is to come. Such murders might take place during the civil war or after it ends.

–An Alawite fortress? Assad has built up his defenses in northwest Syria where most of the Alawites live to make a last stand or to try to hold out. How would such a final phase in the war go and could Assad keep the rebels from taking this stronghold?

–Obama Administration bragging rights? We’ve already had leaks about U.S. covert involvement in the anti-Assad effort. If the rebels seem to be winning or do in fact win the war before November, the White House will claim Syria as proof of its tough, triumphant foreign policy. (The elections in Libya, in which reportedly the Islamists were held off by a U.S.-backed government, will be cited as another example of success.)

–But at great risk. What if the Obama Administration increasingly claims credit for regime change in Syria and then has to take blame for massacres or an Islamist takeover?

–The Kurdish factor. Syria’s Kurds have essentially walled off their northeast section of the country. Their armed militia, helped by their compatriots in Iraq, can hold out against all but the most concerted force. The Kurds generally view the regime as repressive Arab nationalists while they see the opposition as Islamists and Arab nationalists. Would a new regime in Damascus make a deal with them for autonomy, or would it be tempted to try to conquer the area? If so, how would the opposition’s Western backers react to such an assault?

–And then there’s the biggest question of all: Who among the opposition forces would take power? Syria is quite different from such relatively homogeneous countries as Egypt and Tunisia. Let’s just list the different groupings:

Alawites now rule and in general support the regime. The treatment of the Alawites—who pretend to be Shia Muslims but really aren’t Muslims at all—would be a key indicator for a new regime. Would it seek conciliation or would it massacre large numbers of them? Unless Assad can hold out in the northwest, the Alawites will have little role in a post-Assad Syria.

Christians also generally support the regime because they fear Islamists taking power. Will they face massacres and flee the country or will the new regime work to accommodate them?

Alawites and Christians together number more than one-fourth of the country’s population.

The Kurds have been discussed above. Their goal is autonomy, one that a new central government could meet but will it want to grant them such status?

The Druze, who live in the southwest of the country, have not played a major role in the rebellion. They tend to accommodate themselves to the status quo. Will they organize communally and seek some autonomy? The Druze strategy is of special interest to Israel since they live closer to the Golan Heights and, indeed, Israel rules a Druze population there most of whose members identify as Syrians. Would a new regime’s treatment of the Druze make the Golan Heights’ residents more rebellious against Israel or more eager to remain under Israeli rule? Israel’s military intelligence commander has already warned of the danger of jihadists infiltrating into the border area, though one might add that Israel already has strong defenses in place there that would stop any cross-border attacks, a contrast of course with the Sinai.

And finally there are the Sunni Muslim Arabs who comprise about 60 percent of the population. As a group they would be the new rulers. But they are very much divided among themselves. On one hand there are the Islamists, both Muslim Brotherhood and Salafists; on the other hand there are urban moderates who are more proportionately numerous and politically astute than their Egyptian counterparts. Who will get the upper hand?

Yet even that is an incomplete inventory. In addition, there are many rural Sunni Arabs who could be described as traditionalists, who want a socially conservative state but could swing in either direction politically.

Last and certainly not least are the military officers who deserted Assad’s army and now run much of the opposition Free Syrian Army (FSA). They can be described as both technocrats and as Arab nationalists in varying degrees. Would they impose themselves on a new government?

The exile groups, including the U.S. backed Syrian National Council (SNC) seem to have little influence and prestige within the country. Would the Obama Administration and others try to force this Brotherhood-dominated group onto those who did the fighting?

At some point, one side or the other will win and at this time that winning side seems to be the opposition. It will establish a new central government in Damascus. That government will have to complete the conquest of the Alawite region and to decide on whether to grant some autonomy to the Kurds. A huge problem is whether it can, or wants to, prevent ethnic massacres. And of course there will be the question of who, and which political philosophy, will rule. I do not think Syria is going to fall apart. Everybody pretty much has a vested interest in the survival of the state as a whole, just as happened with Iraq.

As you can see there are many questions and unknowns about Syria’s future. These apply regardless of the timing of any rebel victory, and they are going to be major factors affecting the Middle East over the coming decades.

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Two Zionists walk into an elevator

Posted by Zamir Ben Etzioni on May 18, 2012

an Elevator Pitch is, according to one definition:

 a very concise presentation of an idea covering all of its critical aspects, and delivered within a few seconds (the approximate duration of an elevator ride).

A fascinating debate about the role of Israel, Judaism and elevator pitches, has been taking place online of late.

It all started two weeks ago, during the much-discussed debate between Daniel Gordis and Peter Beinart, when the two were apparently asked the following question:

Both of you have written about the tragedy of young American Jews who have no connection to Judaism and the fate of the Jewish State. So let’s say you were stuck in an elevator with one of the people from that demographic and you had two minutes to sell them about why they should re-engage with Jewishness and Zionism and the Jewish people. What would you say?

Putting aside the ridiculous, oft-repeated concept of a put-you-to-sleep-two-minute elevator pitch (you can get to the top of the CN Tower in 58 seconds; pitches should last 30 seconds max). The question, put in other words, was how do you answer, “Why be Jewish,” briefly? Going back to our original definition, they were asked how to concisely present, “Why be Jewish (and by extension, care about the Jewish people and state)?” covering all of its critical aspects in two minutes.

Gordis and Beinart dodged the question. They simply chose to hear a different question altogether. In their ears, the moderator was not asking for an answer to “why be Jewish?” He was asking, “Can ‘why be Jewish?’ be summarized in a few words or thoughts?” Gordis said no. He wouldn’t engage in this conversation at all:

There are certain conversations that don’t deserve two minutes; they deserve years of upbringing… Let’s spend months and years studying together and then we’ll begin to talk.

Surprising. But what I found even more surprising was that Beinart, the self-appointed representative of young American Jews, agreed. They both essentially answered no to the question they had heard (not that which was asked). Such a noble and complicated idea cannot be summarized, and we should resist attempts to water Judaism or Zionism down.

Leonard Fein takes them both to task in The Forward:

No, there’s no way to summarize the whole Torah in the time available. But there is plenty of time to suggest a course just down the street for would-be converts, or to list with pride some of the extraordinary accomplishments of the Jews and to suggest that there may be a connection between the Torah of the Jews and the ways of the Jews and then to invite the rude skeptic for a leisurely coffee… ‘No,’ I’d say, ‘I’m not going to go the ‘on one foot route,’ which is insulting. But neither am I going to tell you that because you were failed as a child, you’re lost forever.

LA Jewish Journal writer David Suissa chimes in:

Are Gordis and Beinart being too dismissive? Fein thinks so, and I very much agree with him. The sad state of Jewish education today is even more reason why Judaism can’t afford to be too dismissive or pessimistic. As Fein says, our approach should be that it’s never too late to try to light a Jewish spark.

Fein and Suissa are right, of course. The question was, “What is your elevator pitch?” Not, “Can an elevator pitch be formulated?” To have a discussion over whether complex and noble ideas (and ideals) can be watered down to sound bites is archaic. Consider the times we live in, when complex entities such as countries engage in branding, when presidential candidates can “water down” their agenda to one or two words (Change and Hope were much more than that, of course), and when technology significantly decreases the attention span of today’s students. In such times, we can’t afford not to speak about Judaism and Israel in two minutes.

Additionally, one could also argue that pitches, slogans, symbols and short, snappy stories are nothing new. Consider “A Land without a people for a people without a land,” Herzl’s “If you Will it, and the Tanach (supposedly divine revelation watered down into a collection of simple motifs, symbols and catchy narratives). Symbolism is the secret to Christianity’s victory over Paganism (and to a lesser degree, Islam and Judaism’s success too), and, in the end, what is nationalism if not a nation coming together around one common, simple narrative, a land and a symbol. Herzl wrote in 1895 to Baron Hirsch that flags are the only thing people will die for en masse.

What does Israel mean to you? How do you tell a brief story and make your Zionism relevant to other students on campus? What is your elevator pitch?

These are some of the questions we posed on a recent Shabbaton to The David Project Israel Fellows, an impressive group of students ending Masa Israel Journey gap-year programs in Israel and heading back to American college campuses.

Nobody had an answer, but we challenged them to start thinking in these terms; to develop a brief articulation of this entire world of meaning. Not because it will answer all of the questions other students have on campus. On the contrary; it will hopefully lead to more questions, to a follow up conversation over a cup of coffee.

So what would a pitch look like? Why care about Israel?

Here’s one attempt at an elevator pitch:

Were Israel just a state, the high cost it exacts might not be justified. But Israel is not just a state. It breathed life into the Jewish people at precisely the moment when the Jews might have given up. It gives possibility and meaning to a Jewish future. It enables the Jews to reenter the stage of history.

And another:

But comfortable Zionism has become a moral abdication. Let’s hope that (young American) students, in solidarity with their (liberal Israeli) counterparts, can foster an uncomfortable Zionism, a Zionism angry at what Israel risks becoming, and in love with what it still could be. Let’s hope they care enough to try.

Breathing life into the Jewish people? Uncomfortable Zionism? These are catch phrases, sound bites, parts of a 30-second elevator pitch on Zionism.

These are not my words, of course, but those of Daniel Gordis and Peter Beinart in Saving Israel and The Failure of the American Jewish Establishment, respectively. These don’t provide the full answers, but are just enough of a pitch to cover main ideas and lead to followup conversations and engagement.

Now, was that so hard?

May 17, 2012, 6:04 pm 3
Ari Applbaum is Director of Israel Operations for The David Project, a non-profit that positively shapes campus opinion on Israel, and has been with the organization since 2007… [More]. Ari manages all aspects of the organization’s work in Israel such as overseeing operations and budget, a staff of three, strategic partnerships with other organizations and all educational programming. He also lectures to thousands of Americans visiting the Jewish state each year.From 2008 to 2010, Ari served as a Middle East Analyst for The David Project. Based out of Boston, MA, Ari travelled extensively throughout the U.S. and Canada to educate and inspire effective supporters of Israel. He spoke to thousands of adults and students and lectured at hundreds of venus, including Ivy League universities such as Harvard and prestigious conferences such as AIPAC’s Saban Leadership conference. While in Boston, Ari also served as marketing and communications manager for the organization. In this role, Ari was responsible for the organization’s overall media, public relations and marketing activities.Prior to The David Project, Ari served as Senior Account Executive at the Israel branch of Ruder Finn, one of the world’s largest marketing and communications consultancies. There he specialized in strategic planning, media and analyst relations, marketing material development, market research, and branding. Ari provided these services to non-profit organizations, global telecommunications and technology companies (including several Fortune 100 companies), Israeli start-ups and financial institutions.As a student activist, Ari was sent numerous times by the MFA, The Jewish Agency for Israel, and other organizations to represent Israel in the U.S., Sweden, Denmark, Belgium, and The Netherlands.Ari holds a Master of the Arts degree in Security and Diplomacy from Tel Aviv University and a Bachelor of the Arts degree in Communication & Journalism and Islam & Middle-East Studies from Hebrew University. Ari is currently working on his first book, a compilation of inspirational Zionist quotes. He is married to Na’ama; Their twin sons Yuval and Roni were born in Boston but are eighth-generation Jerusalemites. [Less]

Posted in Israel, Politics, Yehudim | Tagged: , , | 5 Comments »

1967 All Over Again?

Posted by Zamir Ben Etzioni on May 13, 2012

Israel’s new coalition echoes the unity government that came together on the eve of the Six Day War



Top: Levi Eshkol and Moshe Dayan touring the West Bank in September 1967. Bottom: Benjamin Netanyahu and Shaul Mofaz during a joint press conference at the Knesset in Jerusalem on May 8, 2012. (Top Israel National Photo Collection; bottom Gali Tibbon/AFP/Getty Images)

One thing’s certain: Tuesday’s sudden and dramatic expansion of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s coalition government—he now has the support of 94 Knesset members in the 120-seat house—considerably strengthens Netanyahu’s mandate to take what commentators insist on calling “historic steps.” But it is unclear whether the cooption of Shaul Mofaz and his Kadima faction makes an Israeli preemptive strike against Iran’s nuclear facilities more likely or more remote.
We’ve been here before. Likud’s political coup carries echoes of another fateful moment: the establishment of a national unity government on June 1, 1967, the eve of the Six Day War, when Israel felt threatened by a burgeoning, militant Arab coalition headed by Egypt’s President Gamal Abdel Nasser. Back then, a left-wing government, led by Labor Prime Minister Levi Eshkol, was joined under popular pressure by right-wing parties (Menachem Begin’s Herut and Moshe Dayan’s Rafi) to present a united front mere days before Israel, on June 5, launched its devastating preemptive strike against Egypt.
Eshkol and Dayan could not have been more different. The prime minister was soft-spoken, with a wry sense of humor and European manners. Dayan, on the other hand, was brash, bold, and outspoken. One could only imagine how Eshkol felt when he had to abandon the ministry of defense—following Ben-Gurion’s precedent, the prime minister also claimed for himself what was clearly the Cabinet’s most important portfolio—forced by intense public pressure to hand it over to his polar opposite. But Eshkol made the difficult call for the sake of national security.
Today Israel faces the threat of a nuclear Iran—and the prospect of attacking Iranian nuclear facilities without a green light from Washington. But Mofaz is no Dayan.
The Iranian-born politician is known as “Mr. Zigzag”—the Israeli equivalent of flip-flopper. A former IDF paratroop commander and chief of general staff, back in the early 2000s Mofaz was a Likud stalwart (and defense minister). But he bolted the party, which he had called his “home,” in 2005 for Kadima when he realized he wouldn’t become the head of Likud. Six weeks ago, he was elected by Kadima’s rank and file as the new leader of the party, replacing Tzipi Livni, who had inherited Kadima leadership with the fall of then-Prime Minister Ehud Olmert in 2009.
Just days ago, Mofaz vowed not to join Netanyahu’s “crumbling” government and had publicly called the prime minister “a liar” in whom he had no trust. During the past months, he has been a public and staunch opponent of bombing Iran anytime soon, arguing that the nuclear problem must be resolved by the international community through sanctions and diplomacy. In any case, he argued, there was still substantial time before the military option had to be considered.
And yet now, Mofaz will join Netanyahu and Defense Minister Ehud Barak in a three-man kitchen Cabinet or the fuller eight-man “Inner Cabinet,” where the call of whether or not to launch a military strike against Iran will be decided. Both Netanyahu and Barak are on record as pessimists when it comes to the possibility that sanctions or diplomacy will stop Tehran’s march toward nuclear weapons. Both have made it clear that Israel will have to rely on its armed forces to resolve the problem, whether or not Washington gives Jerusalem a green light.
Thinking in Jerusalem is currently focused on the period between July, when a further round of sanctions against Iran will kick in, and the American presidential elections in November. Netanyahu and Barak believe that President Obama will find it very difficult to punish Israel for attacking Iran’s nuclear facilities just before the elections, since Obama will need the help of Jewish donors and voters, and other supporters of Israel, to win. On the other hand, an Israeli strike after the November elections will incur Obama’s wrath—and, some fear, could translate into sanctions against Israel.
No one knows whether Netanyahu elicited from Mofaz a secret promise to support, or at least a vow not to block, a strike against Iran as the price of his entry into the government, where he will serve as a minister without portfolio. But clearly Netanyahu—recently under attack from a number of senior defense figures, including Yuval Diskin, the former head of Shin Bet and ex-Mossad head Meir Dagan, both of whom oppose attacking Iran at present; and, more mutedly, by current IDF chief of general staff Benny Gantz, who said he doesn’t believe Iran will “go the extra mile” and build a bomb—was clearly happy to have Mofaz on board. With the backing of 94 MKs, Netanyahu will present a far more solid antagonist for Obama or any other external or internal doubting Thomases in the coming months.
Mofaz was eager to join the government. The day before striking the deal, the Cabinet had voted for early general elections, to be held on Sept. 4. Opinion polls had predicted that Netanyahu would triumph and emerge as the only politician able to form a new government. Meanwhile, Kadima was predicted to win fewer than 10 seats, which would have relegated Mofaz to political oblivion. (Currently, Kadima has 28 seats, won by Livni in the 2009 elections.) The opinion polls predicted that the lost Kadima seats would have been divided between Labor, with its current leader Shelly Yachimovich replacing Mofaz as leader of the opposition, and Yair Lapid, a popular journalist and son of former center-right politician Tommy Lapid. At least in the short term, Lapid and Yachimovich are the losers in the Netanyahu-Mofaz coup.
Mofaz and Netanyahu—who was not eager to hold general elections because a recent Supreme Court ruling demanded that the government remove an illegal West Bank settlement by July, which would have embroiled the prime minister in bitter controversy with his right-wing allies—have clearly come out the winners. But the Israeli public, too, may well have gained a genuinely unified government, which is why instant opinion polls suggested that the bulk of Israelis supports the Kadima-Likud alliance.
The public opposed early elections as a waste of money that would have delivered no real change. According to the official coalition deal signed between Mofaz and Netanyahu, the new government will promote legislation that will force the ultra-Orthodox community to, at long last, send its sons to do military or other national service and join the labor market (until now, they have basically lived off state subsidies, paid for by the taxes of the largely secular middle and working classes). Getting the ultra-Orthodox to serve in the army and work has been a basic demand of most Israelis, left and right, for decades.
Netanyahu and Mofaz have also agreed to radically change the Israeli political system, which is based on proportional representation. The system has tended to give small, mainly religious parties too much power and the ability to extort political concessions and financial subsidies from the coalitions in which they almost inevitably participate. (Yet most Israeli political commentators have suggested that Netanyahu will balk at implementing such reform, fearing that next time around, the religious parties will take revenge by preferring Labor or a centrist party to the Likud as their potential coalition partners.)
Lastly, Mofaz and Netanyahu agreed to make concessions to last year’s street protesters, who demanded increased government subsidies in education, housing, and other services. Whether the new coalition will indeed deliver is yet to be seen.
Most Israelis are now thinking about their summer vacations in Europe or their unpaid bills (or both). Not Netanyahu. Last week, Netanyahu buried his 102-year-old father, Benzion Netanyahu, a historian of the Spanish Inquisition and, in the 1930s, a vociferous publicist and prophet warning against the impending Holocaust. In interviews in recent years, the elder Netanyahu loudly decried the Iranian nuclear project as a threat to Israel’s very existence. His son, who has in the past three years repeatedly compared Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to Hitler, clearly sees neutralizing the Iranian threat as his historic duty and future legacy. He may well have given his father his word on this.
In 1967, the Eshkol-Dayan coalition was a prelude to war. Was adding Mofaz—and 27 other Kadima members of Knesset—part of Netanyahu’s strategy to carry out a risky mission against a similarly brutal enemy? Stay tuned.

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Dozens hurt as Christian march attacked in Cairo

Posted by Zamir Ben Etzioni on November 18, 2011

Hundreds of Coptic Christians marching in Cairo on Thursday came under attack by assailants throwing stones and bottles and 25 people were lightly injured in subsequent clashes, a security official said.
They were marching to demand justice for the Christian victims of a clash with soldiers in October that left at least 25 people dead, most of them Christians.
The official said the Copts were attacked in the northern Shoubra neighbourhood with stones and bottles, and that some among them responded in kind.
He said supporters of an Islamist candidate for upcoming parliamentary election joined in the attack on the Copts.
An AFP correspondent on the scene said hundreds of riot police were deployed to the area and that the clashes had eventually subsided.
Copts, who make up roughly 10 percent of Egypt’s 80 million people, complain of discrimination in the Muslim-majority country.
There has been a spike in sectarian clashes since a popular uprising ousted president Hosni Mubarak in February.
The deadliest took place on October 9, when thousands of Christians protesting an attack on a church clashed with soldiers.
Witnesses said the soldiers fired on the demonstrators and ran them over with military vehicles, which the military denies.
The military said a number its soldiers were killed in the clash.


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