The Weekend Web


The Weekend Web

The Swiss cheese state and the death toll that keeps decreasing; plus, was Obama a Muslim? And guess who believes Ehud Olmert is a “strong leader”?

As reported two days ago, President Bush’s Thursday morning exchange with Benjamin Netanyahu indicates that Washington is at least preparing for the possibility of working with an Israeli government that opposes the Annapolis diplomatic process. But within hours of his meeting with Netanyahu, the president revealed his strong preference for Ehud Olmert to remain Israel’s prime minister.

At a dinner hosted by Olmert on Thursday night, President Bush referred to Israel’s prime minister as a “strong leader” and urged Olmert’s coalition partners to take care of him “so he will stay in power.” This, of course, is the same Ehud Olmert who in June 2005 said, “We are tired of fighting, we are tired of being courageous, we are tired of winning, we are tired of defeating our enemies.”

Prior to being elected prime minister in March 2006, Olmert campaigned on a promise to remove tens of thousands of Jews from settlements in Judea and Samaria. After his victory, Olmert assured Palestinian leaders, “We are ready to compromise, to give up parts of the beloved land of Israel … and evacuate, under great pain, Jews living there, in order to create the conditions that will enable you to fulfill your dream and live alongside us” (bbc News, March 29, 2006).

Mr. Olmert presented his plan for West Bank withdrawal to President Bush at the White House in May 2006. At a press conference on May 23, the president expressed concern about creating a state for a people who reject Israel’s right to exist. “The only thing that worries me about the plan,” Bush said, “is that Hamas has said they want to destroy Israel. And the reason that worries me is, how can you have two states side by side in peace if one of the partners does not recognize the other state’s right to exist? It’s illogical for somebody to say, I’m for a state side by side with another state, and yet I don’t want the state to exist. And so we spent time talking about Hamas, and I assured the prime minister that our position is steady and strong, that Hamas must change.”

Since that press conference, Gaza has turned into Hamastan and the Bush administration has inexplicably pressured a worn-out, “we’re tired of fighting” Olmert government to make more concessions to an intrinsically corrupt Fatah wing that represents only half of what would be a future Palestinian state.

Now, it appears, President Bush is more concerned about Benjamin Netanyahu returning to power than he is about the state of Israel existing side-by-side with a state that denies Israel’s right to exist and foments terrorist acts against Jews.

Divided in the City of David

We have been reporting recently about the significant role ancient ruins might play in the current political dialogue regarding the Middle East peace process. Benjamin Netanyahu, as we noted on Friday, presented President Bush with a 2,000-year-old coin bearing a Hebrew inscription, revealing the depth of Jewish roots in the region around Jerusalem.

One of our readers alerted us to a story that appeared in the South China Morning Post on January 3 (subscription only). In recent years, the article explains, a right-wing settler group known as Elad has transformed the City of David into one of Jerusalem’s most popular tourist attractions—drawing 350,000 visitors a year, most of them Israelis.

The location of the archaeological park is what makes it so controversial. It’s imbedded in the low-income Arab neighborhood of Silwan—in the annexed half of Jerusalem that Israel captured in 1967. Silwan has about 40,000 Arab residents. Since 1991, according to Elad spokesman Doron Spielman, about 300 Jews have moved into the neighborhood, most of them proudly flying Israeli flags, behind heavily fortified property lines.

Within the archaeological park, there are numerous ongoing excavations, both above ground and below—the best-known being King David’s palace, discovered in 2005. The scmp article points out how some “dovish Israeli archaeologists” either disagree with the conclusions of their peers who are excavating the City of David or take exception with the strong emphasis tour guides place on the Jewish history being uncovered at the park.

Notice how the article related these developments with the present political discourse in the lead-up to President Bush’s Middle East trip:

The question of to whom Jerusalem belongs is one of the thorniest issues on the agenda of the Israeli-Palestinian negotiations that resumed last month as a follow-up to the Middle East peace conference in the U.S. in November.U.S. President George W. Bush hopes to encourage both sides to overcome their differences during a visit to the region next week. The talks have thus far been foundering amid Palestinian protests against Israeli plans to build hundreds of new housing units at Har Homa, a settlement inside occupied territory Israel annexed as it expanded the borders of Jerusalem after its victory in the 1967 war. Israel, for its part, has voiced worry about Mr. Abbas’ ability to meet security obligations. …Israeli public opinion is divided over relinquishing territory in Jerusalem. Settler groups are dead set against such a withdrawal, and the dovish archaeologists maintain that the tours of the City of David enable Elad to spread an anti-compromise message. “They see the tours as a way of drafting thousands of people on their behalf,” Tel Aviv University archaeologist Rafi Greenberg said. Mr. Spielman denied this, saying any guide who discussed politics would be dismissed.

Jewish housing in Silwan hasn’t attracted the same level of attention as other settlement proposals, like at Har Homa. But as the article points out, some Silwan residents are not happy about what is going on:

Abed Shalodi, a Silwan resident who helps the alternative archaeologists conduct their tours, views Elad as an threat. “They want to take over all the land here. We can’t live with them because they don’t want us here. They want the land without the people.”Mr Spielman said it was not “realistic” to expect the area to become completely Jewish. “Our goal is that it should be as strongly Jewish or Jewish-identified as possible,” he said.Palestinian fears of Israeli intentions are not entirely baseless. In 2005, Jerusalem municipal engineer Uri Shetreet announced plans to demolish an entire section of Silwan—88 homes—to make room for an archaeological park. Amid an international uproar, Jerusalem mayor Uri Lupolianski distanced himself from the plans.

The article concludes by quoting a dovish archaeologist who said, “Archaeology should not be a political tool.” Dr. Yoni Mizrachi, who wonders aloud if King David was anything more than a mythical figure, offers this tidbit of convoluted self-hatred:

If I find a synagogue or a mosque or a church [and] it tells me about the past of a place … that doesn’t mean that one person has more rights in a place because the find belongs to his culture. The past also belongs to those who live here now. Even if they found the palace of David, it doesn’t mean that what existed 3,000 years ago needs to be resumed today.

He should apply that same “logic” on both sides. If it’s wrong for Jewish settlers to lay claim to the region by raising the ruins of their historical legacy, where does that leave Islamic scholars who inexplicably deny that those ruins even exist, or work behind-the-scenes to destroy them in some cases, all while holding the position that the Jewish nation is illegitimate and should be obliterated?

Iran to Destroy Tomb of Cyrus?

This must be a new low for anti-Semites. As if desecrating the ancient Hebrew culture is not enough, Iranian mullahs are now looking into the possibility of crushing the tomb of their own Persian King Cyrus just because he was friendly to Jews. Cyrus, who ruled the Persian Empire more than a thousand years before the beginning of Islam as a religion, released a remnant of captive Jews during the sixth century b.c. and allowed them to return to Jerusalem to build the Second Temple. According to a report by Omedia,

The Iranian government is in the final stages of constructing a dam in the country’s south that will submerge the archaeological sites of Pasargad and Persopolis—the ancient capital of the Persian Empire. The site, which is considered exceptional in terms of its archaeological wealth and historical importance, houses the tomb of the Persian King Cyrus.

Arutz Sheva, in Israel, reports on the story here.

The Truth About the Mughrabi Bridge

According to the Jordan Times, Jordanian experts will take part in a unesco-sponsored meeting in Jerusalem today “to discuss the issue of Israeli excavations in the city and a proposed bridge linking the Mughrabi Pathway to the Western Wall in Al Aqsa Mosque compound.”

The excavation of the Magrahbi gate was halted early last year after Arab nations voiced fears that the Israeli archaeological team was getting too close to the sacred Al Aqsa mosque. In actual fact, the excavation work was part of a renovation of the walkway leading up to the gate itself, some distance from the actual mosque. The Jordanian newspaper reports about last year’s dispute over the bridge construction this way:

In February last year, the Israeli antiquities authority started demolition of historic sites near the Western Wall of the holy sites compound. The plan is to build a permanent bridge/walkway for Jewish settlers to access the Jewish Wailing Wall ….

Here again, in actual fact, last year’s archaeological excavation was conducted in accordance with unesco’s international standards and was part of a salvage dig necessary in order to construct a safer, more solid walkway up to the gate for entrance onto the Temple Mount. It had nothing to do with accessing the Wailing Wall.

The truth of the matter is this: The Israel Antiquities Authority (iaa) was prepared to trample over remains that are important to Jews in order to rebuild a bridge for Arabs (and tourists) to have easier and safer access to the Muslim holy sites. But once the Western media latched on to the Arab propaganda that the Jews were “destroying the Al Aqsa Mosque,” the iaa immediately halted the project.

Pakistan: Power to the People!

Signs of destabilization in nuclear-armed, Islamist-packed Pakistan continue to emerge. Today’s Sunday Times has this article about growing anger in Pakistan toward the one institution in the country that has enjoyed popular support for decades: the military.

Feelings are running so high that officers have been advised not to venture into the bazaar in uniform for fear of reprisals.”The interests of the people of Pakistan are now totally at odds with those of the army,” said Asma Jahangir, the head of Pakistan’s Human Rights Commission ….

What put this institution in the doghouse? The reasons this Times piece discusses all revolve around one person: Benazir Bhutto.

Aside from the provocative accusations that the military or intelligence services played a part in her assassination, it seems Bhutto’s injection into the political situation—thanks in large part to the U.S. State Department—did much to increase the Pakistani people’s appetite for having democratic representation. The military is increasingly viewed not for what it is—the nation’s only real insurance against the most dangerous forms of radicalism—but as an obstacle to freedom. The Times reports that even the military generals themselves are now arguing that “if the country is to stay together, power must go back into the hands of the politicians, however corrupt or inept.”

That makes plenty of sense. Let’s heal the divisions with corrupt, inept leaders.

This reasoning—which, by the way, has become conventional wisdom in American politics and the press—is dangerously wrong. So wrong, in fact, that it would be worth tracing its pedigree. It is almost surely the Islamists themselves—who in many other nations have proven their savvy in creating propaganda that convinces liberals of the righteousness of their violent cause—most vociferously promoting the virtues of democracy in Pakistan.

If—or when—the “freedom agenda” takes hold in this country, it will mark the world lurching notably closer to nuclear Armageddon.

Was Obama a Muslim?

Daniel Pipes takes up the provocative question of whether Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama was at one time a Muslim. After weighing the evidence he concludes,

Obama was an irregularly practicing Muslim who rarely or occasionally prayed with his step-father in a mosque. … [H]e for some years had a reasonably Muslim upbringing under the auspices of his Indonesian step-father.

The ramifications of this revelation are important. Pipes documents one of them:

[I]f Obama once was a Muslim, he is now what Islamic law calls a murtadd (apostate), an ex-Muslim converted to another religion who must be executed. Were he elected president of the United States, this status, clearly, would have large potential implications for his relationship with the Muslim world.

U.S.-Egyptian Relations

Tensions between Egypt and America are escalating because of U.S.-Israeli criticism over Egyptian management of the border with Gaza. Stratfor summarized the situation like this on Friday:

Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Abul Gheit dismissed Jan. 11 any plans for a permanent U.S. presence on the Egypt-Gaza border, and said it was too early to talk about deploying nato and Arab forces in the West Bank. Gheit’s comments follow a stream of Israeli and U.S. accusations against Egypt for not doing enough to curb smuggling along the border via tunnels. Egypt is fiercely resisting any outside interference in Gaza security and is unwilling to shoulder the security burden of Gaza while Israel works to divorce itself further from the territory. As Cairo wakes up to its traditional role in the region, Israel and the United States will need to adjust in dealing with a much more assertive Egypt in the months ahead.

Later in the piece, in an analysis that must be very disturbing to U.S. and Israeli officials, Stratfor comments on Egypt’s relationship with Hamas and Iran:

Despite its hostilities toward the Muslim Brotherhood, the Mubarak regime has friendly relations with Hamas and has been the unofficial spokesperson for the organization in its negotiations with Israel. If a U.S. or multinational force takes over or interferes in Egyptian border security in Gaza to isolate Hamas further, Cairo runs the risk of harming its relationship with Hamas. Cairo needs to protect this relationship—not only to manage its own Islamist threat, but also to retain its influence over Gaza and its position as the chief mediator in the dispute. …Egypt lacks the oil resources of the Gulf Arab states to make it a major economic power in the region. Instead, Cairo relies on its long-standing clout among the Arab states to project influence and to balance against Saudi Arabia, which has been the most active of the Arab states lately in countering Iran’s rise. The Egyptians appear to have woken up to this shifting regional balance and are starting to become more assertive again. For this reason, Egypt has steadily warmed up to the Iranians in recent months, taking the lead among the Arab states in seriously normalizing relations with Tehran.

Economic Outlook for 2008 Worsens, Bernanke Says

Federal Reserve chief Ben Bernanke says he is more afraid about a slowing economy than a falling dollar and inflation—suggesting that he will again slash interest rates even though the dollar has plummeted. On Thursday, Bernanke said the Fed was prepared to “take substantive additional action as needed to support growth and to provide adequate insurance against downside risks.” According to bbc,

The U.S. is facing the twin threats of how to tackle a slowing housing market and lower consumer spending while at the same time addressing inflation as oil and food prices rise.With banks having to write off billions of dollars of investments linked to sub-prime debt—loans taken out by people with bad or little credit histories—this has made them reluctant to lend, limiting the availability of credit, Mr Bernanke explained.He added that the financial situation “remains fragile, and many markets remain impaired,” saying that much uncertainty remained about the exposure of major banks to the credit crisis.

In other gloomy economic news, the Center for Economic and Policy Research predicts that the “current rate of house price decline will destroy $2.2 trillion of wealth this year.” Now unable to borrow against their homes, consumers are turning to credit cards in record numbers, which has caused a surge in credit card debt.

On Wall Street, the stock market dropped for the third straight week as recession speculation continues to build.

Greed Trumps Patriotism

In today’sWashington Times, William Hawkins explains how America’s international economic policy is more influenced by Wall Street than patriotism. In essence, capitalism and greed trump patriotism and national security.

Today, U.S. international economic policy is dominated by Wall Street through the Treasury Department. Henry Paulson, the Treasury secretary, was ceo of Goldman Sachs, which describes itself as a “global investment banking and securities firm.” …Consider Mr. Paulson’s behavior at the recent Strategic Economic Dialogue (sed) in Beijing. He assured his hosts nothing would be done to slow China’s expansion. His only apparent concern was that his pals on Wall Street get a piece of the action.He said in his opening statement, “The United States welcomes the rise of a stable and prosperous China,” but left out the third adjective “peaceful” found in most U.S. documents. This omission was very telling, as the reference to “peaceful” is meant to convey Washington’s concern that Beijing will translate its economic gains into military power aimed at U.S. security interests. China, of course, is already doing this. Mr. Paulson also denounced “economic nationalism” in both the United States and China.Mr. Paulson has used the sed to smooth over disputes with China, not to settle them—and to block action by Congress.

Wall Streets dependence on China as an economic partner undercuts both the ability and the credibility of the American government as it negotiates with the Chinese on economic issues, and China is not afraid to exploit this weakness:

As U.S. banks struggle to survive their subprime mortgage blunders, China is seizing the opportunity to buy into them. Morgan Stanley sold a $5 billion piece of itself to China Investment Corp., an arm of China’s government, after taking a $9.4 billion hit on mortgage-related investments. Bear Stearns agreed to a $1 billion cross-investment from China’s government-controlled Citic Securities Co.

Politically Motivated Death Tolls

An influential report released three weeks before the 2006 elections in America—and subsequently embraced by the media—claiming that the number of casualties in Iraq since the U.S.-led invasion had exceeded 650,000 was nothing more than hogwash concocted by a consort of wealthy and influential liberals seeking the demise of a Republican president.

You can read the grim details about the Lancet study at length in this report by reporters Neil Munro and Carl Cannon. But the Wall Street Journal summed it up nicely last week:

It turns out the Lancet study was funded by anti-Bush partisans and conducted by antiwar activists posing as objective researchers. … While the media were quick to hype the original Lancet report—within a week of its release it had been featured on 25 news shows and in 188 newspaper and magazine articles—something tells us this debunking won’t get the same play.”The Lancet death toll was more than 10 times what had been estimated by the U.S. and Iraqi governments, and even by human rights groups. …What the National Journal adds is that the Lancet study was funded by billionaire George Soros’s Open Society Institute. Mr. Soros is a famous critic of the Iraq campaign and well-known partisan, having spent tens of millions trying to defeat Mr. Bush in 2004.But “Soros is not the only person associated with the Lancet study who had one eye on the data and the other on the U.S. political calendar,” write Messrs. Munro and Cannon. Two co-authors, Gilbert Burnham and Les Roberts of Johns Hopkins University, told the reporters that they opposed the war from the outset and sent their report to the Lancet on the condition that it be published before the election.

The Lancet report is merely a link in a long chain of lies concocted by radical liberals and advanced by their mules in the left-wing media. Read this article from Gerald Flurry last Monday, showing how it was pacifist liberal dogma and a leftist media that made World War ii inevitable. The Journal concluded,

In other words, the Lancet study could hardly be more unreliable. Yet it was trumpeted by the political left because it fit a narrative that they wanted to believe. And it wasn’t challenged by much of the press because it told them what they wanted to hear. The truth was irrelevant.

Elsewhere on the Web

Iran continues to string the rest of the world along in its on-again, off-again cooperation over its nuclear program. Read more here.

In what amounts to a regime change, Taiwan’s pro-China Nationalist Party gained a parliamentary majority in yesterday’s elections. Read about it here.

In what appears to be an exception to the rule, the Justice Department has finally won a conviction against leaders of an Islamic charity that supported militants and terrorists overseas.

Britain’s title as “the sick man of Europe” is being confirmed: 3 million Britons have been hit by the winter vomiting bug, and another 200,000 are falling each week.

Victor Davis Hanson offers this refreshing little essay decrying the press’s hyperventilation over every move in the presidential campaign, overinterpreting the tiniest development as being indicative of the Big Trend.

And Finally …

During his visit to Israel last week President Bush got creative when explaining his vision for peace in the Middle East. The future Palestinian state should be whole, he explained, not riddled with pockets of Israeli settlements. “Swiss cheese isn’t going to work when it comes to the outline of a state,” he said.

Ironically, should the international community gets its way, that is essentially what Israel will be reduced to after the “peace” process—a Swiss cheese state.