Tuesday, September 29, 2020

From Ian:

Mordechai Kedar: Do Arab States Really Support the Palestinians?
On a political level, the Palestinians have managed to arouse the hatred of many of their Arab brethren. In 1990, Arafat supported Saddam Hussein’s Iraqi invasion of Kuwait. In revenge, Kuwait, once it was freed of the Iraqi conquest, expelled some 400,000 Palestinians, most of whom had been living in the emirate for decades, leaving them destitute overnight. This led to an economic crisis for their families in the West Bank and Gaza, who had been receiving regular stipends from their relatives in Kuwait.

Today, Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad are supported by Iran, a country abhorred by many Arabs who remember that airplane hijackings and the ensuing blackmail were invented by the Palestinian Arabs. It was they who hijacked an El Al plane to Algiers in 1968, 52 years ago, beginning a period of travail still being endured by the entire world.

Despite the 1989 Taif agreement, which ended the civil war in Lebanon and was supposed to lead to the disarmament and dissolution of all the Lebanese militias, Syria allowed Hezbollah to keep its arms and develop its military power unrestrainedly. The repeated excuse was that the weapons were meant to “liberate Palestine” and would not be aimed at the Lebanese. To anyone with a modicum of brains, it was clear that the Palestine story was a fig leaf covering the sad truth that the weapons were going to be aimed at Hezbollah’s Syrian and Lebanese enemies. “Palestine” was simply an excuse for the Shiite takeover of Lebanon.

Worst of all is the Palestinian demand that Arab states refrain from any relations with Israel until the Palestinian problem is solved to the satisfaction of the PLO and Hamas leaders. A good portion of the Arab world cannot find any commonalities that could unite the PLO and Hamas. As they watched the two sides’ endless squabbles ruin any chances of progress regarding Israel, they gave up on the belief that an internal Palestinian reconciliation can be achieved.

To sum up the situation, the Arab world — that part of it that sees Israel as the only hope in dealing with Iran — does not appreciate the expectation that it must mortgage its future and its very existence to the internal fighting between the PLO and Hamas. And let us not forget that Egypt and Jordan have signed peace agreements with Israel, moved outside the circle of war for the “liberation of Palestine,” and forsaken their Palestinian Arab “brothers,” leaving them to deal with the problem on their own.

Much of the Arab and Muslim world is convinced that the “Palestinians” do not in fact want a state of their own. After all, if that state were established, the world would cease its steady donations of enormous sums. There would be no more “refugees,” and Palestinian Arabs would have to work just like everyone else. How can they, when they are addicted to handouts that come with no strings attached?

One can say with assurance that 70 years after the creation of the “Palestinian problem,” the Arab world has realized that no solution will satisfy those who have turned “refugee-ism” into a profession. The “Palestinian problem” has become an emotional and financial scam that only serves to enrich the corrupt leaders of Ramallah and Gaza.
Trump lands third Nobel Peace Prize nomination: 'Producing peace in the world in a way in which none of his predecessors did'
President Trump locked down his third Nobel Peace Prize nomination after a group of Australian professors nominated him based on his “Trump Doctrine."

"He went ahead and negotiated against all advice, but he did it with common sense. He negotiated directly with the Arab states concerned and Israel and brought them together," Australian law professor David Flint told Sky News Australia, lauding the president for his “Trump Doctrine” foreign policies.

“What he has done with the Trump Doctrine is that he has decided that he would no longer have America involved in endless wars, wars which achieve nothing but the killing of thousands of young Americans,” Flint added.

Hundreds of diplomats and government officials gathered at the White House earlier this month to witness leaders from the UAE, Israel, and Bahrain sign the "Abraham Accords," which normalized diplomatic relations between the nations.

Trump has already been nominated twice for the 2021 Nobel Peace Prize, including by a Norwegian member of Parliament for the Middle East peace deal and by a member of the Swedish Parliament for normalizing relations between Serbia and Kosovo.

Law professors and members of Parliament can nominate a person for the esteemed prize. Flint joined three other Australian legal scholars in nominating the president on the basis of his “Trump Doctrine.”
Honest Reporting: Reuters Ignores Palestinian Rejectionism and Violence as Cause of Conflict
The article’s description of “a failed peace summit in the United States” and the “Palestinians signalled they would accept nothing less than a viable state in what is now Israeli-occupied territory with its capital in East Jerusalem” is terribly misleading and omits critical background.

The “failed peace summit” refers to the Camp David Summit. Any true reporting of those meetings between Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak and Palestinian Authority Chairman Yasser Arafat cannot suggest that the Palestinians were not offered “a viable state” as this article implies. During that summit, Israel offered the Palestinians 73% of the West Bank and 100% of the Gaza Strip with a plan to eventually transfer control of 91% of the West Bank, with an elevated highway and railroad to connect the two territories. The Palestinians would also receive the equivalent of one percent of the West Bank by taking control of the Halutza Sand region next to the Gaza Strip.

Regarding Jerusalem, Israel offered to make East Jerusalem the capital of the Palestinian state and proposed giving the Palestinians “custodianship” over the Temple Mount and “administration” over the Muslim and Christian Quarters of the Old City and all Islamic and Christian holy sites. They would be allowed to raise the Palestinian flag in all these locations. Israel also agreed to allow for 100,000 Palestinian refugees to move into Israel proper with an international fund worth $30 billion which Israel would contribute to, would register claims of property lost by Palestinian refugees and provide appropriate compensation.

White House aides who were present at Camp David II were surprised at how far Barak was willing to go and felt that his offer met most of what the Palestinians were asking for.

The Reuters article, simply referencing a “failed summit,” neglects to blame Arafat for rejecting an offer for close to 100% of what he demanded. Writing that the Palestinians were holding out for a “viable state” implies that no such offer was made. And that is false.

The article’s first reference to the as a “five-year intifada in which more than 1,000 Israelis and 3,000 Palestinians were killed” similarly misleads by implying his was a war between two sides in which more Palestinians than Israelis were killed. ” Nothing could be further from the truth.

Only much, much later in the article, historian Benny Morris is quoted explaining that during the Second Intifada, “over 1,000 Israelis were killed by bombers, snipers, in restaurants and so on.”

During the five-year Second Intifada, Palestinian terrorists blew themselves up in pizza parlors, busses, and other public areas in Israel, murdering over 1,000 and injuring over 8,000. Those injuries included Israelis whose limbs were blown off and whose bodies were filled with shrapnel from explosives filled with nuts, bolts, and nails..

Don’t count on Joe Biden being a Clinton-era pro-Israel Democrat
This leads us to the question of who would be Biden’s policy advisers on the Middle East, and the answer apparently is a mix of supporters of Senator Bernie Sanders and former Obama advisers—neither of whom bode well for Israel. While they may not be making the final decisions on policies, such as whether to call Judea and Samaria “occupied territory,” or to leverage—or even perhaps discontinue—U.S. aid to Israel, their fingerprints will be evident in many aspects of the U.S.-Israel relationship, and they will set its tone on a daily basis.

Another way of looking at the how the U.S.-Israel relationship would look under a Biden administration is by observing the evolution of the Democratic Party platform on the issue. While, by itself, the 2020 platform might not seem overly ominous towards Israel, the trend of Democratic platforms, as I have presented in my new book, Broken Values, puts the current one in an entirely different perspective.

In the book, I highlight how previous Democratic Party platforms had either referred to Israel as an ally or spoke of the United States having a “special relationship” with it. Such language was prominent in Democratic platforms spanning 30 years, until it was taken out in 2012. The statement that the U.S. had an unshakeable commitment to Israel’s security, inserted in 2012, was removed in the 2016 platform. The 2020 platform goes further, and also removes any mention of a strategic relationship.

Conversely, on the Palestinian issue, while previous platforms had discussed the need to reach a two-state solution as a security interest of Israel’s, in the 2020 platform, Palestinians are considered to have an independent right to a state, equal to Israel’s right, and that this right is not in any way linked to their attitudes or actions.

The 2020 platform also puts Israel and the Palestinians on equal footing when condemning incitement and terror, as if to imply that both sides are equally involved in these activities.

Opposition to BDS, which had already been watered down in the 2016 platform, has now been rendered meaningless. In the latter, there was concrete opposition to the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement—albeit only in places where it was deemed as delegitimizing Israel—in the former, opposition to BDS has been reduced to a statement in ambiguous language about not supporting any anti-BDS legislation.

No mention is made of Iran’s continued threats to destroy Israel and pursuit of that goal.

Finally, while previous platforms had a section devoted to Israel—or at least Israel was discussed at the beginning of the Middle East section—in the 2016 and 2020 platforms, Israel is at the end of that section, coming after mention of other issues, such as Syria and repairing Gulf alliances.

Even if Biden is still the Clinton-era Democrat who strongly supports Israel, he will be surrounded by a party apparatus that bears no resemblance to that of the 1990s. Just as he has evolved and drifted leftward with the party on other issues, there is no reason to think that on Israel he will be any different.
ADL Silent on Joe Biden Comparing Trump to Nazi Propaganda Minister Joseph Goebbels
The Anti-Defamation League has failed to denounce former Vice President Joe Biden for comparing President Donald Trump to Nazi propaganda minister Joseph Goebbels — though it has criticized politicians for such comparisons in the past.

On Saturday, Biden compared Trump to Goebbels in an interview with MSNBC. “He’s sort of like Goebbels,” Biden told Stephannie Ruhle. “You say the lie long enough, keep repeating it, repeating it, repeating it, it becomes common knowledge.”

The comparison was shocking enough to draw the attention of the New York Times, which noted that Biden has compared Trump to Goebbels once before, in a statement last fall backing the president’s impeachment for the first time.

Goebbels, as the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum notes, was a radical antisemite and one of Adolf Hitler’s closest aides. He whipped up anti-Jewish hatred among the German people and is among those directly responsible for the Holocaust:

Israeli Professor Knows UAE from Close Up
Prof. Ron Robin, currently president of the University of Haifa, knows the UAE from close up; he resided there to help recruit faculty for New York University's Abu Dhabi campus over a decade ago.

"The people who I dealt with understood I was Israeli. I didn't hide it because people would have assumed I had something to hide. Their immediate reaction was surprise and afterwards immense curiosity."

He describes Emiratis as different from the Arabs in Israel's neighboring countries. "They are religious, but the Islam of Abu Dhabi is a lot more moderate than the Islam we know of Saudi Arabia or even our region."

Emiratis support the Palestinians, but they are far more concerned with domestic issues and economic development.
At UN General Assembly, UAE reiterates ‘firm demand’ for Palestinian state
The foreign minister of the United Arab Emirates on Tuesday reiterated his country’s “firm demand” for the establishment of a Palestinian state based on the pre-1967 border lines, with East Jerusalem as its capital.

Addressing the United Nations General Assembly, UAE Foreign Minister Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan took credit for halting Israel’s plan to annex parts of the West Bank by agreeing to normalize relations with the Jewish state. He expressed the hope that the “historic peace accord” with Jerusalem would lead to the resumption of Israeli-Palestinian peace talks.

“The call for the establishment of an independent Palestinian state on the borders of 1967 with East Jerusalem as its capital, in line with the relevant international resolutions and the Arab and international consensus will remain a firm demand,” Al Nahyan said in a pre-recorded statement screened to UN delegates.

“My country has made persistent efforts using all available diplomatic channels to affirm our total rejection of the annexation of Palestinian territory, and we have warned of its impact on all parties and on the security of the region.”
In Zoom meeting with local Jews, UAE minister hails ‘wisdom of Shabbat’
Adressing the local Jewish community, a senior United Arab Emirates official on Friday hailed the “wisdom of Shabbat” and said she recognized many similarities between Judaism and Islam.

In her 10-minute speech, sprinkled with Hebrew words, to the community’s weekly virtual pre-Shabbat meeting, UAE Minister of State for Youth Affairs Shamma Al Mazrui praised various concepts of the Jewish religion, such as the virtue of repentance and introspection during the High Holy Days. She also referred to the recent normalization agreement between the UAE and Israel, expressing hope that it would usher in a new era of “radical tolerance and radical love in our region and the world.”

Al Mazrui, 27, started her speech by noting that she first learned about Shabbat — or Shabbos, as she called it, using Ashkenazi pronunciation — during her time as a student in New York. She recalled seeing her friends practice their rituals “as pathways to peace, completeness and wholeness.”

Her Jewish friends made resting on the seventh day “seem as logical as it is spiritual, and it modeled the basic human quest for peace and how we are more alike than different,” she added. “It reminded me personally of the saying of the Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, who said faith wears out in the heart just as our clothes wear out, so ask Allah to renew faith in our hearts.”

Al Mazrui was born in Abu Dhabi and studied economics at the city’s branch of New York University. She also spent one semester on NYU’s main campus in southern Manhattan and later obtained a master’s degree in public policy from the University of Oxford. In February 2016 — then aged 22 — Al Mazrui became the youngest government minister in the world.

On Tuesday, in a blog post for The Times of Israel, Al Mazrui called for “radical tolerance and radical love,” which she said could stem from her country’s accord with the Jewish state.
A peace paradox: Sidelined Palestinians may finally have their leverage
It isn’t a threat, but a barter. The old strategy of Israeli isolation no longer carries weight in broader Arab calculations. Fatah can either join the radical Sunni camp alongside Hamas — or play its one powerful card for all it’s worth, before it expires. Powerlessness can be an effective source of influence in the hands of a leadership that knows how to wield it. The Palestinians now have a potent boon to offer at the negotiating table: the final liberation of the Arab world from the shackles of their cause.

It’s scarcely possible to imagine what a Palestinian normalization offer would look like. No Palestinian leadership has ever arisen that has proven able to conceive or implement such a stratagem. The point here isn’t to advocate for or against it, only to notice the strange new path opened up by the abandonment by some Gulf states of the traditional understanding of what the Palestinian cause demanded of them.

Nor is this an argument that such a move would necessarily succeed. Whether such a move comes to be seen as capitulation to Israel or as the snatching of a strategic victory from the jaws of defeat depends in large part on what the Palestinians actually demand, on the contours of the final map and on the concessions extracted from Israel while a real and credible regional peace is dangled as a carrot over the proceedings. Even if there were a Palestinian leadership capable of forcing such a choice on Israel, would Israeli politics be able to offer enough to ensure a Palestinian “victory” at the negotiating table? It goes without saying that the Ankara-led axis, with Hamas at the vanguard, would do everything in its power to spoil the party.

In the end, Turkey won’t liberate Palestine. It will use Palestine in its relentless contest against Riyadh and Tehran. The Palestinians will be pawns in that fight, and a frustrated, embittered Fatah will have made them so, just as Hamas has transformed Gaza into a platform for the bloody political theatrics of other regional powers.

The Palestinian cause was once a symbol. For the conservative Sunni axis it has shrunk to a policy problem. Symbols resonate, but policy problems are more urgent — and more soluble.

Here is one of history’s stranger ironies. The very support the Palestinians could not get from the Arab world through their suffering they may be able to obtain from their marginalization. For the first time in a long time, the Palestinians have something tangible and desirable and deliverable to bring to the negotiating table.

The fact that Abbas’s emissaries are now shuttling between Ankara and Doha, however, suggests the current Palestinian leader would rather switch sides in the great intra-Muslim contest than acknowledge the opportunity. If so, the Palestinians, as always, will suffer for it.
Temple Coins introduces limited edition Abraham Accord medallion
Temple Coins has minted a commemorative medallion in honor of the signing of the Abraham Accord between the United Arab Emirates and Israel, the coin maker announced in a statement.

The coin, designed by numismatic artist Aharon Shavo, shows the Israeli and UAE flags prominently displayed on the front, flying over the silhouette of Jerusalem's Old City conjoined with the Abu Dhabi skylines.

Engraved below the skyline are the words "Abraham Accord," written in Arabic, Hebrew and English.

The biblical founder of Judaism is referred to as Abraham in the Christian faith, as Avraham in Hebrew and as Ibrahim in Arabic.

The minter believes no better person "symbolizes the potential for unity among all these three great faiths."

The medal's front design also features an eagle holding an olive branch and arrows accompanied by the Seal of the President of the United States to mark the American representation in solidifying the accord.
Kuwait’s head of state Sheikh Sabah dies at age 91
Kuwait’s emir Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmad Al-Sabah, regarded as the architect of the nation’s modern foreign policy, died on Tuesday at the age of 91, according to the royal court.

“With great sadness and sorrow, we mourn… the death of Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmad al-Jaber Al-Sabah, Emir of the State of Kuwait,” said Sheikh Ali Jarrah Al-Sabah, the minister in charge of royal affairs, in a televised statement.

State television had cut its regular programming and switched to a broadcast of Koranic recital before the announcement.

The emir had been receiving hospital treatment in the United States since July, after undergoing surgery in Kuwait City.

No details have been disclosed on the nature of the emir’s illness or treatment, and the palace did not say where he died.

The emir, who has ruled the oil-rich Gulf state since 2006, had his appendix removed in 2002, two years after having a pacemaker fitted. In 2007, he underwent urinary tract surgery in the US.
Seriously ill virus patients top 800, number once cited as max for hospitals
Israel on Tuesday passed the threshold of 800 serious coronavirus patients — the point that has in the past been cited as a red line beyond which the healthcare system won’t be able to adequately treat everyone.

A document published by the Health Ministry showed that there were 811 serious COVID-19 patients as of Tuesday afternoon, a figure that included 239 who were classified as being in critical condition, 206 of them on ventilators.

It said another 298 were in moderate condition, and 477 were hospitalized with mild symptoms. The total number of hospitalized COVID-19 patients stood at 1,593.

A report in August by experts at the Weizmann Institute of Science predicted that hospitals would only be able to handle up to 800 serious patients.

In July, Prof. Ran Balicer of Clalit, Israel’s largest health maintenance organization (HMO), told the Ynet news site that due to manpower constraints, “a reality of 800 to 900 serious coronavirus patients treated at any given time by the Israeli health system is a workload under which the system cannot function for long.”

However, the Haaretz daily last week quoted an unnamed senior health official as putting the number at around 1,200 or 1,300 serious patients.
Israeli Health Minister: Lockdown Will Not Be Lifted ‘Unequivocally’ After October 10
Israel Health Minister Yuli Edelstein said on Tuesday morning that individuals and businesses should expect the country’s current lockdown to be extended past its current expiration date of October 10.

While speaking with Israeli public broadcaster Kan, Edelstein made it clear that Israel’s second national lockdown, said to be much more prohibitive than the first in March and April, would be lifted gradually over an extended period of time.

“The closure will not be lifted — unequivocally. There is no scenario that in 10 days we will lift everything and say, ‘everything is over, everything is fine,’” Edelstein told the Hebrew-language outlet.

Meanwhile, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Tuesday morning that the government was preparing the country’s health system to accommodate some 1,500 seriously ill coronavirus patients in the coming days.

The premier added that a lockdown exit strategy was also being devised to prevent the country from relapsing into another national quarantine.
Israel surpasses US in number of coronavirus deaths per day, per capita
The coronavirus lockdown will last at least a month in some form, the government has made clear.

The goal will be to reduce infection in line with the World Health Organization’s recommendation of having 3% to 5% of tests being positive. Currently, around 13% to 15% of people who are screened in Israel are testing positive for the virus.

On Tuesday morning, Health Minister Yuli Edelstein told KAN News that “the closure will not be lifted – unequivocally. There is no scenario that in 10 days we will lift everything and say, ‘everything is over, everything is fine.'”

Edelstein said that the exit from the current lockdown will be done gradually, not like the first time, so as to better transition to living alongside the novel virus.

At the same time, Defense Minister Benny Gantz admitted that Israel had failed in its handling of the virus and would turn it around now.

“We were caught unprepared," Gantz said during a speech at the state memorial service for victims of the Yom Kippur War. “We did not respond properly - but this time, we will also win."
Eugene Kontorovich: Prayers vs protests: constitutional issues in Israelis coronavirus response and the role of the AG
I am interviewed on I24 News about imposing coronovarius restrictions on prayer and protests.

PMW: How one editing typo opened the floodgates of PA demonization It took nothing more than a typo in an interview with US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman in the Israeli daily Israel Hayom, to open the floodgates of PA demonization.
It took nothing more than a typo in an interview with US Ambassador to Israel David ‎Friedman in the Israeli daily Israel Hayom, to open the floodgates of PA demonization.

According to two writers in the official PA daily, Ambassador Friedman
is “the embodiment of human sin”
is “like the devil who chose sin as a path”
sent “open and explicit (uncoded) [parentheses in source] messages to his agents in the region to execute the plan to assassinate the elected president of the Palestinian people”
is “working together with his administration to bring a convicted criminal [Muhammad Dahlan] who is wanted by Interpol, who was expelled and dismissed from the framework of the greatest Palestinian national struggle (i.e., Fatah) due to his treason and crimes, and to appoint him… instead of [PA] President Mahmoud Abbas”
gave “the sign to assassinate President Mahmoud Abbas”
[Official PA daily Al-Hayat Al-Jadida, Sept. 20, 2020]

committed “the greatest crime… when he called to bring down the legal ‎president of the State of Palestine”
is “inciting to murder and assassination"
[Official PA daily Al-Hayat Al-Jadida, Sept. 22, 2020]

Initially, the interview (published close to midnight Sept. 16, 2020) in the Israeli daily ran a typo in Ambassador Friedman’s response to a question about ‎whether the US is considering appointing former Fatah leader ‎Muhammad Dahlan, who lives in the UAE, as the next Palestinian leader. The ‎corrected article (Sept. 17, 2020) reads:

“Friedman replied: ‘We're not thinking about it, we have no desire to engineer the Palestinian leadership.”
However, the “not” in Friedman’s answer was accidentally left out of the first edition of the article and it read as follows:
“Friedman replied: ‘We're thinking about it, we have no desire to engineer the Palestinian leadership.”
Defying Macron, Hezbollah says it will continue to fight Israel
Lebanon’s Hezbollah terror group on Monday rejected criticism from French President Emmanuel Macron on Monday after he panned its political machinations. And it vowed to remain committed to fighting Israel, as the country is paralyzed by its worst economic and financial crisis in decades.

Macron on Sunday accused Lebanon’s political leaders of “collective betrayal” and choosing “to favor their partisan and individual interests to the general detriment of the country,” after the resignation of Lebanon’s prime minister-designate Mustapha Adib over the weekend.

Adib’s resignation was a blow to Macron’s efforts to break a dangerous stalemate in the crisis-hit country. Macron assailed the Hezbollah group and the entire Lebanese political class Sunday, and warned of a new civil war if they can’t set aside personal and religious interests to unlock international aid and save Lebanon from economic collapse.

Lebanon’s two main Shiite parties, Hezbollah and ally Amal, led by Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri, had insisted on retaining the Finance Ministry in the new government and on naming all the Shiite cabinet ministers. Adib rejected those conditions and stepped down.

Macron reserved his toughest words for Hezbollah, demanding that it clarify whether it’s a democratic political force, anti-Israel militia or a tool of Iran — but also criticized Lebanese political leaders from all camps.

“The failure is theirs. I won’t take it on myself. I did the maximum I could,” he said.

Saudi Arabia arrests 10 members of ‘terror cell’ with alleged ties to Iran
Saudi Arabia said Monday its security forces uncovered a “terrorist cell” with alleged ties to Iran’s Revolutionary Guard and have detained 10 people in connection.

A statement issued by the Presidency of State Security, which is overseen by the king and crown prince, said three of those detained had received training in Iran by the paramilitary group in October 2017 on manufacturing explosives.

The cell was broken up by security forces on September 23, with weapons such as sniper rifles and pistols confiscated at two locations, the security agency said.

The security body did not provide much further detail or evidence regarding the alleged cell, like which Saudi cities they were arrested in. The statement said the identities of those detained have not been revealed because an investigation is still ongoing.

Sunni-led Saudi Arabia and Shiite-ruled Iran are longtime rivals, though tensions have steadily increased in recent years between the powerhouse Persian Gulf countries, particularly since the Trump administration began reimposing sanctions on Iran that effectively block it from selling its oil internationally.

Saudi Arabia has blamed Iran of being behind attacks on Saudi oil targets last year, including a missile and drone strike on Aramco’s largest crude oil processing plant in the eastern part of the kingdom.

Yemeni rebel Houthis claimed responsibility for that attack and Iran has denied involvement. A UN probe concluded the missiles were of Iranian origin.
The ‘Nevertheless’ Club and the World
For the past few years hosting the Islamic Republic’s Foreign Minister, Mohammed Javad Zarif, has developed into an annual ritual of the New York based Council on Foreign Relations (CFR). This year, however, CFR’s invitation to Zarif raised a storm of protest beyond the bubble in which American foreign policy junkies play games, indulge in fantasies, and address their principal task which is fund-raising.

What triggered the storm was the alleged murder in a Tehran prison of Navid Afkari, a popular wrestling champion and a pro-democracy protester. The killing sent shock waves throughout Iran, including even among some elements of the Khomeinist establishment.

The CFR received many emails and telephone calls demanding that, as a show of sympathy with Iranians, Zarif be disinvited.

The CFR, however, refused to do so. Its director Richard Haas, a former State Department official, published this tweet: “Like many others I condemn the execution of Navid Afkari. I also hold the view that human rights constitute an important dimension of US foreign policy. Nevertheless, I believe that CFR is correct to meet with Iran’s foreign minister.”

The tweet contains interesting indicators to how Haas tries to dodge the issue. He presents Afkari’s killing as a judicial “execution”, enabling Zarif to say “well, you have executions in some states of the US as well.” Yet, Tehran authorities themselves speak of “qissas” (retribution) while Afkari’s lawyers insist that neither he nor they were informed that there would be an execution. Next, Haas tries to soften Zarif’s image by presenting him as Foreign Minister of “Iran” rather than of the Islamic Republic.

But the most interesting part of Haas’s tweet is “nevertheless” because it puts Afkari’s tragic end and CFR’s supposed regard for human rights on the same level as the importance of offering a platform to a Khomeinist propagandist. The excuse is “nevertheless, we have to hear the other side”.

To be sure, the CFR didn’t invent the “nevertheless” club whose members are morally incapable, in Aristotle’s term “akates”, of understanding that it is wrong to assume equivalence between an ethically sound position and its sophistic negation.

We have lots of ideas, but we need more resources to be even more effective. Please donate today to help get the message out and to help defend Israel.


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