The Weekend Web

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The Weekend Web

Showdown in Lebanon and Israel’s reaction to Obama’s speech. Plus, is Gordon Brown finished?

Lebanese voters took to the polls today in parliamentary elections that may tilt the balance of power into the hands of Iran’s terrorist proxy, Hezbollah. “If Hezbollah and its allies were to win a majority of seats, it would illustrate Tehran’s expanding influence in the heart of the Arab world—a troubling prospect for Israel and many Arab regimes,” the Wall Street Journal wrote yesterday. It would also be deeply troubling for the United States, which, since 2006, has provided more than $1 billion in aid to Lebanon in order to prop up its weak, pro-Western government.

Iran, meanwhile, has been propping up Hezbollah and its allies with huge amounts of cash in the lead-up to today’s election. No one knows exactly how much, Amir Taheri wrote in the Wall Street Journal on Friday.

Observers of the Lebanese scene tell me hundreds of millions of election-related dollars are sloshing through the economy. While rival regional powers such as Saudi Arabia are involved, a former Lebanese army officer, speaking on condition of anonymity, says the Khomeinist regime in Tehran has emerged as the “big spender,” supplying its various agents, clients and allies with “more money than they could use.”

If Hezbollah comes out on top in today’s high-stakes showdown, it would undoubtedly signal a change in U.S. policy toward Lebanon, abc News writes here.

According to Taheri, it would also clear the way for an Iranian naval base next door to Israel. “With its clients in control of Lebanon,” Taheri writes, “Iran would build a naval presence in the Mediterranean for the first time since the seventh century. Experts from the Revolutionary Guards have visited the port of Beirut and prepared plans for a visit by an Iranian flotilla before the end of the summer.”

Check back with for more on this developing story.

Israelis Worried

“No you can’t” chanted around 200 demonstrators outside the American Embassy in Jerusalem last Wednesday as they protested against U.S. President Barack Obama’s demands that Israel freeze its settlements. The right-wing Jewish National Front also began an anti-Obama poster campaign last week. One poster displays the U.S. president in an Arabic headdress and labels him a “Jew-hater” and “Anti-Semitic.” Another shows him shaking hands with the Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad with a mushroom cloud exploding in the background.

It is not just the right wing and settlers in Israel that are worried about Obama’s dramatic turn against the Jewish nation. After he reiterated his demand for a settlement freeze in his Cairo speech on Thursday, mainstream commentators are beginning to voice concern as well.

On Friday, Charles Krauthammer explained exactly what Obama’s demands will mean for Israel:

No “natural growth” means strangling to death the thriving towns close to the 1949 armistice line, many of them suburbs of Jerusalem, that every negotiation over the past decade has envisioned Israel retaining. It means no increase in population. Which means no babies. Or if you have babies, no housing for them—not even within the existing town boundaries. Which means for every child born, someone has to move out. No community can survive like that. The obvious objective is to undermine and destroy these towns—even before negotiations.

Krauthammer also noted how ridiculous it is to link the settlement issue to the failure of the peace process:

It’s farcical to suggest that the peace process is moribund because a teacher in the Jewish Quarter of Jerusalem is making an addition to her house to accommodate new grandchildren—when Gaza is run by Hamas terrorists dedicated to permanent war with Israel and when Mahmoud Abbas, having turned down every one of Ehud Olmert’s peace offers, brazenly declares that he is in a waiting mode—waiting for Hamas to become moderate and for Israel to cave—before he’ll do anything to advance peace.

On May 29, Jackson Deihl in the Washington Post pointed out how counterproductive Washington’s anti-Israel strategy will be. Mr. Obama, he wrote, “has revived a long-dormant Palestinian fantasy: that the United States will simply force Israel to make critical concessions, whether or not its democratic government agrees, while Arabs passively watch and applaud.” President of the Palestinian Authority Mahmoud Abbas now has no incentive to do anything. The way he sees it, rather than cracking down on terrorism and corruption, all the Palestinians need to do is sit tight and wait for America to force Israel to give in.

Then came the Cairo speech. Summing up the Israeli press’s reaction to the speech, the bbc writes (emphasis mine throughout):

Commentators in Israeli papers interpreted U.S. President Barack Obama’s address to the Muslim world as marking a clear shift in ties between the U.S. and Israel, and possibly the end of a special relationship.One writer called on the Israeli government to adapt to the new winds blowing from Washington or face a storm, while several said the U.S. president had given the government notice that it would now have to honor commitments made towards reaching peace with the Palestinians.At least one interpreted this as meaning that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu would have to reshape his cabinet.

Several Israeli writers were also concerned by the fact that he linked establishment of the State of Israel, not with Israel’s three-millennia-long history in the area, but with the Holocaust. Efraim Zuroff wrote in the Jerusalem Post:

Thus, according to Obama, Americans recognize that “the aspiration for a Jewish homeland is rooted in a tragic history that cannot be denied,” an obvious reference not to the destruction of the second temple and the exile of the Jewish people from its historic homeland, but rather to the Shoa.Besides being historically inaccurate, this false connection strengthens one of the strongest canards of anti-Israel propaganda in the Muslim world; that Europeans guilty of Holocaust crimes established a Jewish state in Palestine at the expense of the local Arab residents to atone for their World War ii atrocities.By ignoring three thousand years of Jewish history, by neglecting to even mention the unbreakable link, started long before the advent of Islam, between the Jewish people and Eretz Yisrael, Obama totally failed to deliver what should have been one of his most important messages to the Arab world.

Another major concern for many Israelis was this comparison Obama made:

Six million Jews were killed—more than the entire Jewish population of Israel today. … On the other hand, it is also undeniable that the Palestinian people—Muslims and Christians—have suffered in pursuit of a homeland.

“On the other hand?” asks Jerusalem Post columnist Herb Keinon. “As if there is room for comparison between the Holocaust, brought upon the Jews due to no fault of their own, and the suffering of the Palestinians, for which a cogent argument could be made that the Palestinians bear a good share of the responsibility.”

Keinon also pointed to the comparison Obama made between the Palestinians’ plight and the U.S. civil rights movement. “The comparison is facile,” he writes. “The civil rights movement fought for integration and equal rights for black Americans. The movement was not fighting to destroy white America. The same cannot be said of the Palestinian movement in its relation to Israel.”

All this is building toward a major break between the U.S. and Israel. Daniel Pipes points out that the Israeli government is strong enough that it is unlikely that it will cave in to America’s demands. Instead, it will go looking for new allies. For more information on where this split with America is leading, see our article “Band of Brothers.”

What Are We Thinking?

Created by AM General—who later sold the name and distribution rights to General Motors—the Hummer is a civilian version of the Humvee, “the world’s most advanced multipurpose and biggest selling military vehicle of its class,” as the Washington Times points out. Last week GM sold its Hummer line, including its technologies and factories, to Communist China.

Selling what is at heart a military vehicle to the Chinese is not a smart decision, argued Peter Leitner in the Washington Times on Friday.

The civilian Hummer still has enough off-road agility, maneuverability, ruggedness and hauling capacity to qualify as a military vehicle virtually anywhere on Earth. Selling the production lines to China will, no doubt, quickly result in mass production of less luxurious versions and their sale throughout the world to the most repugnant and repressive regimes, rogue militias, terrorist entities and governments hostile to U.S. interests.Since most of these entities now rely upon Toyota 4×4 pickup trucks for their military mobility and raiding parties, they will quickly upgrade to the Hummer, which can readily be equipped with pedestal or ring mounts for machine guns, cannons, mortars or rockets.

Don’t expect Hummer production facilities to remain in the U.S. for much longer, says Leitner. “In the case of another GM/Delco spin-off sold to Chinese interests through an American frontman, the Anderson, Ind., Magnequench saw the Chinese clone its manufacturing processes and move all production to China—forever hijacking scores of U.S. jobs as well as a critical military technology—rare-earth magnets.”

Perhaps the most unsettling aspect of Hummer’s sale to the Chinese is that it is the American government, which now owns the majority of GM, that is flogging Hummer to the Chinese. As Lietner put it, “Desperate, financially strapped companies often engage in shortsighted and dishonest transactions that place our nation at risk while executives lie through their teeth in an attempt to brush off national security concerns.”

Medvedev Bashes Dollar Again

At an economic forum on Friday, Russian President Dmitri Medvedev said that American financial policy had made the dollar an undesirable reserve currency for central banks and could be setting the world up for a second crisis. The New York Times reports:

Given the weaknesses in the American economy, Mr. Medvedev said, relying on the dollar as extensively as is the case today could mean building a post-crisis financial system on legs of clay. …”The artificial and monopolar support of a monopoly on key segments of the world economy became the fundamental cause of the crisis,” Mr. Medvedev said in a keynote address to the St. Petersburg Economic Forum …. Mr. Medvedev suggested that Russia would like to see more substantive change—including an end to such an oversize role for the dollar.

Yet, as the Times notes, Russia’s central bank still keeps about 50 percent of its reserves in dollars.

Medvedev also outlined a plan to create a new reserve currency that would be outside any one single country, based upon “special drawing rights” at the International Monetary Fund.

Brown Takes a Beating

Britain’s ruling Labor Party and prime minister were both pummeled last week. In local elections held across parts of the country Thursday, Labor didn’t win in any county. It no longer controls a single county council in the country. The Conservative Party won 29 councils, the Liberal Democrats won one.

The Labor Party came in third place in terms of the number of council seats it won. The Conservative Party won 1,330 seats, the Liberal Democrats 439 and Labor 159.

This comes at the same time that Prime Minister Gordon Brown is taking a beating from his own party. So far, five cabinet ministers and three non-cabinet ministers have resigned, most of them timing their resignation to cause the most possible damage to the prime minister and calling for his resignation.

Lord Falconer of Thoroton, the former lord chancellor, added his voice to the growing chorus of politicians calling for Mr. Brown’s resignation over the weekend as he called for an “urgent debate” on the future of the prime minister.

According to analysis by the Sunday Times, the local election results show that if a general election were to be held right away, the Conservative Party would win with a majority of 34 members of Parliament. The Conservative Party is much more euroskeptic than Labor. A Conservative victory could lead to Britain’s withdrawal from the European Union.

Elsewhere on the Web

“You’d see this guy on a street corner and you’d say, ‘He could barely rub two nickels together,’” said special agent Rodney Benson to the Washington Times. “Never mind he’s here directly taking orders from [drug lords] in Mexico.” Benson was referring to Angel Haro-Perez, an ordinary-looking man living in a middle-class suburb in Atlanta. Perez was arrested recently and is reported to be the Atlanta head of the Gulf Cartel, one of Mexico’s largest drug-trafficking organizations. Perez is just one example of the Mexican drug lords hidden in America in plain sight, reported the Times today.

Last week, Robert Morley wrote on about how scientists easily dupe themselves into believing that evidence tells them what they want to believe. A survey reported in the Times Online last week confirms this. One in seven scientists said they had seen colleagues invent data. Forty-six percent said they had seen other scientists engage in “questionable practices” such as presenting data selectively or changing their conclusions because of pressure from funding sources.

Russia now teaches that Poland started World War ii. “Everyone who studies the history of World War ii without prejudice knows that the war started because Poland refused to satisfy German claims,” claimed an article published on the Russian Defense Ministry’s website. This rewriting of history helps justify Russia’s increasing aggression toward Eastern Europe. For more information, see our article “Russia’s Attack Signals Dangerous New Era.”

As further testimony to the collapse of British society, this Sunday Times article paints a horrific picture of youth crime in Britain.

Scottish children can no longer make Father’s Day cards in schools. Local councils adopted the policy so as not to embarrass pupils who live with a single mother or two women. Mother’s Day cards are still permitted.