Archive for July, 2008

U.S. to explore upgrades for Israel’s missile defense capabilities

July 29, 2008

Comment: I blogged on this topic earlier, noting that ballistics expert Dr. Nathan Farber’s appeal to bring the Phalanx interceptor system and other systems to the Western Negev received far too little attention — while Israel awaits the slow completion of Iron Dome. This would help Israel take a more defensive posture in the short term while giving the country more breathing space to contemplate a long term political solution. By no means do I believe the advent of any weapons system could solve this problem, of course. Now it appears Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak has come around, making the acquisition of these systems a key issue in his current U.S. visit, largely to the credit of Dr. Nathan Farber and Ha’aretz for pushing the story. Kudos. (I did my part, but let’s face it nobody reads my blog)

(Haaretz) — “[Israeli Defense Minister] Barak is considering purchasing or borrowing several Phalanx automated cannons from the United States. The cannons intercept incoming mortar shells and short-range rockets, and would be used to defend Sderot and other Negev towns from rocket fire from the Gaza Strip.

The defense minister was expected to ask Gates and Admiral Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, to appraise the Phalanx’s performance.

That assessment will be used to help the government decide whether to bring the anti-missile system to Israel.

The new development comes after a series of articles in Haaretz, in which Dr. Natan Farber – an expert in ballistic missiles from the Technion – expressed his support for the project.

However, several Defense Ministry officials said the Phalanx system is not effective enough, and argue that Israel should focus on developing the Iron Dome defense system, which will not be ready before 2011…” Click for full article

‘Muslim Brotherhood Goes on Facebook’

July 29, 2008

Comment: Making it one step easier for the Mubarak regime to identify and arrest members of the Muslim Brotherhood… if they can figure out how to use Facebook.

“The Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt has launched a discussion forum on Facebook, the popular social networking website. A group of young Muslims decided to put the Muslim Brotherhood on Facebook after they received the go-ahead to do so from the Brotherhood’s second-in-command, Muhammad Habib. The creators of the project decided to call themselves an “electronic student cell of the Muslim Brotherhood” and their aim to to push for the return of an Islamic Caliphate [a Muslim state]…” Click for full article

On Samir Quntar’s homecoming and Lebanese/Arab Culture

July 22, 2008

[Being Civilized]

Comment: Those familiar with the field of Middle Eastern Studies know the culture debate (i.e. blaming all the ills of Arab/Muslim society on culture, rather than on hard political, economic factors etc.) is nothing new. French scholar Maxime Rodinson referred to the tendency of ‘Orientalists’ (or scholars of the Orient, which has now become a dirty word) to attribute all actions of Muslims to their religion as Theologocentrism. Mahmood Mamdani of Colombia University has a good survey of the culture debate in his Foreign Affairs piece Wither Political Islam?, in which he sides against the culturists.

While it’s clear that culture cannot account for all of these ills, let’s face it, the ‘victory’ rallies for Samir Quntar in Beirut and elsewhere in Lebanon — given what he did — epitomize a deep sickness in Arab culture and society. In what other region would the populace consider ‘victory’ as involving a war that results in 1,200 deaths and many more maimings, a ruined country and $5 billion in economic damages, all for the perceived humiliation of Israel and the successful return, among other lesser prisoners, of this unsavory character, Quntar? What kind of inferiority complex must there be for that to constitute ‘victory’?

To be fair, as the below Jerusalem Post article points out, not all Lebanese are in fact happy about Quntar’s release — not because he killed a baby — but because many of them who are opponents of Hizbullah worry about the domestic implications of another Hizbullah victory.

(Jerusalem Post) — “(Eyal) Zisser said the response in Lebanon was completely different from one that would have been seen in Israel due to cultural differences. Israel wouldn’t use the return of soldiers for political gain, and the celebration in Israel would have been about “the return of the individual,” and not victory, he said. “This is something you can only find in primitive societies,” said Zisser.

So why is there a need to celebrate the return of a terrorist known to have killed a child? “When you have an ideology that Zionism is the epitome of evil, when you dehumanize your enemy, you can justify anything,” said Litvak. “He didn’t kill a child. He killed a Zionist.”

Moshe Maoz, a professor of Islamic and Middle Eastern studies at Hebrew University, said the need to defeat Israel was deeply entrenched in the Arab culture.

“Anything they can recover from the feeling of humiliation [following past losses against Israel] is welcome,” Maoz said… Click for full article

‘Attacking Iran Could Backfire Badly’

July 22, 2008

[Shipping Lanes in the Strait of Hormuz]

Comment: The Iranian problem: Damned if you do, damned if you don’t

“But Moshe Ma’oz an Israeli Professor Emeritus of Islamic and Middle Eastern Studies at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem… told The Middle East Times that any attack on Iran would be an “absolute disaster.”

“I doubt very much that Iran will attack first. All the Iranians need to do is close the Gulf of Hormuz and thereby threaten the West’s supply of oil if they want to flex their muscles. They will not strike first but if attacked their ability to retaliate on a significant scale is worrying,” explained Ma’oz…” Click for full article

‘Qatar, Playing All Sides, Is a Nonstop Mediator’

July 9, 2008

Qatar’s Hamad bin Jassim bin Jaber Al Thani in Lebanon for crisis talks

(The New York Times) — “In the past month, after Qatari diplomats brokered a landmark peace deal for Lebanon in talks here, this tiny emirate on the Persian Gulf has enjoyed a brief moment of giddy celebrity. Editorialists praised the Qatari emir as a modern-day Metternich. Huge billboards went up on the road to the Beirut airport, proclaiming, “We all say: Thank you Qatar.” An ice cream shop in downtown Beirut put out a sign offering a Doha Agreement Cone. But the Qataris did not linger over their diplomatic triumph. They were too busy trying to solve every other conflict in the Middle East…” Click for full article