Friday, June 16, 2017

Palestinians' Real Tragedy: Failed Leadership - Khaled Abu Toameh




by Khaled Abu Toameh

After the signing of the Oslo Accords and the establishment of the PA more than 20 years ago, Palestinians were hoping to see democracy and freedom of speech. However, the PA has proven to be not much different than most of the Arab dictatorships

  • Under the regimes of the Palestinian Authority (PA) and Hamas, Palestinians are free to criticize Israel and incite against it. But when it comes to criticizing the leaders of the PA and Hamas, the rules of the game are different. Such criticism is considered a "crime" and those responsible often find themselves behind bars or subjected to other forms of punishment.
  • This, of course, is not what the majority of Palestinians were expecting from their leaders. After the signing of the Oslo Accords and the establishment of the PA more than 20 years ago, Palestinians were hoping to see democracy and freedom of speech. However, the PA has proven to be not much different than most of the Arab dictatorships, where democracy and freedom of expression and the media are non-existent.
  • Given the current state of the Palestinians, it is hard to see how they could ever make any progress towards establishing a successful state with law and order and respect for public freedoms and democracy.

The Palestinian Authority (PA) in the West Bank and Hamas in the Gaza Strip may be at war with each other, but the two rival parties seem to be in agreement over one issue: silencing and intimidating their critics. Of course, this does not come as a surprise to those who are familiar with the undemocratic nature of the PA and Hamas.

Under the regimes of the PA and Hamas, Palestinians are free to criticize Israel and incite against it. But when it comes to criticizing the leaders of the PA and Hamas, the rules of the game are different. Such criticism is considered a "crime" and those responsible often find themselves behind bars or subjected to other forms of punishment.

This, of course, is not what the majority of Palestinians were expecting from their leaders. After the signing of the Oslo Accords and the establishment of the PA more than 20 years ago, Palestinians were hoping to see democracy and freedom of speech. However, the PA, first under Yasser Arafat and later under Mahmoud Abbas, has proven to be not much different than most of the Arab dictatorships, where democracy and freedom of expression and the media are non-existent.


The Palestinian Authority, first under Yasser Arafat and later under Mahmoud Abbas, has proven to be not much different than most of the Arab dictatorships, where democracy and freedom of expression and the media are non-existent. (Photo by Abid Katib/Getty Images)

If Palestinians had in the past to deal with only one regime (the PA) that does not honor freedom of expression, in the last 10 years they have fallen victim to another repressive government (Hamas) that rules the Gaza Strip with an iron fist and suppresses any form of freedom of expression and targets anyone who dares to speak out.

The Palestinians in PA's West Bank-controlled territories and Hamas's Gaza Strip can only look at their neighbors in Israel and envy them for the democracy, free media and rule of law. Hardly a day passes without the Palestinians being reminded by both the PA and Hamas that they are still far from achieving their dream of enjoying democracy and freedom of expression. A free media is something that Palestinians can only continue to dream about.

The Palestinian media in the West Bank serves as a mouthpiece for the PA and its leaders. Even privately-owned television and radio stations in the West Bank have long learned that they must toe the line or face punitive measures and feel the heavy hand of the PA security forces. This is why Palestinian media outlets and journalists in the West Bank refrain from reporting about any story that may reflect negatively on Abbas or any of his cronies. In the world of the media, it is called self-censorship.

In the Gaza Strip, the situation is not any better. In fact, it is hard to talk about the existence of a media under Hamas. Hamas and its security forces maintain a tight grip on local media outlets and journalists are subjected to tight restrictions. Criticism of Hamas is almost unheard of and could land those responsible in prison.

In the absence of a free and independent media in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, some writers, journalists and political activists have resorted to social media to air their views and share their grievances with their fellow Palestinians and the outside world. But the PA and Hamas have discovered the power of Facebook and Twitter, and have taken the battle against their critics to these two platforms.

Posting critical or controversial postings on social media is considered a serious offense under the PA and Hamas. The leaders of the PA and Hamas accuse those who dare to criticize them on Facebook of "extending their tongues" and "insulting" representatives of the Palestinians.

In the past few years, dozens of Palestinian journalists, bloggers, academics and political activists have been imprisoned or summoned for interrogation by the PA and Hamas over their Facebook postings. International human rights organizations and advocates of free speech and media around the world prefer to look the other way in the face of these human rights violations by the PA and Hamas. Moreover, "pro-Palestinian" groups and individuals in the West do not seem to care about the sad state of affairs of the Palestinians under the PA and Hamas. The only "wrongdoing" and "evil" they see is on the Israeli side. By ignoring the plight of the suppressed Palestinians, these "pro-Palestinian" activists and groups are actually aiding the PA and Hamas in their efforts to silence the voices of dissent and criticism.

The absence of international criticism allows the PA and Hamas to continue their policy of silencing and intimidating Palestinians who dare to speak out against the lack of freedom of expression and democracy in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

Recently, for example, Hamas arrested two Palestinians in the Gaza Strip who posted critical remarks on Facebook: Abdallah Abu Sharekh and Shukri Abu Oun.

Abu Sharekh, a prominent writer, was arrested shortly after he posted a comment on Facebook criticizing senior Hamas official Salah Bardaweel. "You are ruling the Gaza Strip with an iron fist and fire," Abu Sharekh wrote. "The state of oppression (in the Gaza Strip) is intolerable. You (Hamas) have taken the Gaza Strip back to the Middle Ages."

Abu Sharekh's criticism came in response to the electricity crisis in the Gaza Strip. Thousands of families in the Gaza Strip spend most of the day without electricity as a result of the power struggle between Hamas and the Palestinian Authority. Last month, the PA announced that it would stop paying Israel for the fuel supplied to the power plants in the Gaza Strip. The PA's move is designed to punish Hamas. But Abu Sharekh and other Palestinians in the Gaza Strip hold Hamas responsible for the crisis. They argue that Hamas' corruption, specifically the embezzlement of Qatari funds intended to purchase fuel for the power plants, is the main reason behind the crisis. Abu Sharekh, in his Facebook comment, pointed out that Hamas leaders have installed private generators that supply their homes with electricity even during the power outages.

In an unprecedented and bold move, Abu Sharekh's clan issued a statement condemning Hamas for arresting their son for expressing his opinion:
"We hold Hamas fully responsible for the safety and health of our son and call for an end to the persecution of him and his likes... We reject and condemn any action that constitutes an assault on the right of our sons to express their political views, notwithstanding the excuses."
Abu Oun was arrested for posting similar criticism of Hamas on Facebook. Earlier, Hamas also arrested journalists Nasr Abu Foul, Ahmed Qdeih and Hazem Madi on charges of publishing "fake news" and "spreading rumors." Their real crime: posting critical comments about Hamas on social media. Later, Hamas also arrested political activists Mohammed al-Tuli and Amer Balousheh for the same reason.

Another Palestinian journalist from the Gaza Strip who has fallen victim to Hamas's crackdown on freedom of expression is Fuad Jaradeh, a correspondent with Palestine TV. Hamas security officers arrested Jaradeh after raiding his home in the Tel al-Hawa suburb of Gaza City and confiscating his laptop and mobile phone. His family says he was arrested only because of his critical postings on Facebook against Hamas.

What is funny and sad is that the Palestinian Authority, which has been criticizing Hamas's crackdown on freedom of expression in the Gaza Strip, has long been resorting to similar measures against its critics in the West Bank.

The latest victim of the PA's suppression of public freedoms is Nassar Jaradat, a 23-year-old political activist who was arrested earlier this week for criticizing senior Palestinian official Jibril Rajoub. PA security forces arrested Jaradat after he posted a comment on Facebook in which he criticized Rajoub for acknowledging Jews' right to the Western Wall in Jerusalem. A PA court has since ordered Jaradat, an engineering student, remanded into custody for 15 days on charges of "insulting" a top Palestinian official.

Last year, the PA demonstrated that it does not hesitate to arrest even one of its own if he dares to criticize Palestinian leaders. Osama Mansour, a senior PA security official, was arrested and later fired because he criticized Mahmoud Abbas for attending the funeral of former Israeli President Shimon Peres.

Such arrests have become commonplace under the PA in the West Bank. Almost every week, Palestinians hear of another journalist or blogger or activist who has been arrested or summoned for interrogation by the PA security forces for nothing more than posting remarks critical of the government on social media.

Palestinians were hoping to achieve an independent state of their own. In the end, however, they got two separate states -- one in the West Bank and the second in the Gaza Strip -- as a result of the power struggle between the Palestinian Authority and Hamas. But the real tragedy for the Palestinians is that neither the PA nor Hamas values human rights or public freedoms. The real tragedy of the Palestinians over the past few decades has been failed leadership -- whether it is the secular PLO or the Islamist Hamas.

Given the current state of the Palestinians, it is hard to see how they could ever make any progress towards establishing a successful state with law and order and respect for public freedoms and democracy.

  • Follow Khaled Abu Toameh on Twitter
Khaled Abu Toameh, an award-winning journalist, is based in Jerusalem.

Source: https://www.gatestoneinstitute.org/10526/palestinians-failed-leadership

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Terrorism in Tehran: ISIS Intensifies Its Subversive Activity in the Middle East - Lt. Col. (ret.) Michael Segall




by Lt. Col. (ret.) Michael Segall

In the external sphere, Iran will probably ramp up its activities in Syria, Iraq, Yemen, and elsewhere under the pretext of its war on Islamic State terror, even where there is no real connection to its terror, because doing so will suit the interests of the IRGC

Institute for Contemporary Affairs
Founded jointly with the Wechsler Family Foundation
Vol. 17, No. 13
  • The June 7, 2017, Islamic State attack on the Iranian parliament was the largest terror attack ISIS has perpetrated in the heart of the Iranian capital. It was aimed at civilians and prominent symbols of the regime.
  • The Iranian leadership and senior Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) officials lost no time accusing Saudi Arabia for the attack, claiming that the Saudis had been encouraged by U.S. President Donald Trump’s visit and his efforts to form an anti-Iranian alliance.
  • On the domestic front, the attack will add considerably to the difficulties of President Rouhani. Elected to a second term on May 20, 2017, he dispensed campaign promises of reforms in the domain of individual and citizens’ rights. The security forces will exploit the incident to beef up security measures, particularly, though not only, against Sunni and Kurdish minorities, and will crack down harder on any show of opposition to the Islamic regime by the reformist camp.
  • In the external sphere, Iran will probably ramp up its activities in Syria, Iraq, Yemen, and elsewhere under the pretext of its war on Islamic State terror, even where there is no real connection to its terror, because doing so will suit the interests of the IRGC.
  • In any case, it appears that as the Islamic State continues to lose territory in Syria and Iraq, Iran will increasingly find itself confronting the group both within Iran and along its borders. That, in turn, is likely to further aggravate Iran’s relations with the United States and with the Gulf states, most of all Saudi Arabia.
Terrorist incident in the Iranian Parliament
Terrorist incident in the Iranian Parliament (FARS News)

A Blow to the Symbols of Islamic Rule

The Islamic State claimed responsibility for the coordinated simultaneous terror attacks on Iran’s parliament (Majlis) building and on the tomb of Iran’s first Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Khomeini. The group issued a statement in its media arm, as well as a short video from a camera carried by one of the assailants at the parliament. Indeed, it took responsibility even before the attack on the parliament building had ended. The coordinated attacks killed 13 people and wounded more than 40.

The Islamic State’s Amaq News Agency proclaimed the organization’s first major attack in Iran in several Arabic messages:

Twitter post
Security source to Amaq Agency: Fighters from the Islamic State attacked the Khomeini Shrine and the Iranian parliament building in the center of Tehran.1
This was the largest terror attack that the Islamic State has perpetrated in the heart of the Iranian capital. It was aimed at civilians and prominent symbols of the regime. Organizations affiliated with the Islamic State (jundalhaq) have carried out terror attacks against the Iranian Border Guard and the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), particularly in the mainly Sunni-populated province of Sistan and Baluchistan in southeastern Iran, but so far have not attacked civilians. Over the past year, Arab separatist elements have also carried out attacks in the Khuzestan province of western Iran, which has an Arab majority and numerous oil facilities. 

“Death to America, to Israel, and to Saudi Arabia”

The Iranian leadership and senior IRGC officials lost no time accusing Saudi Arabia of the attack, claiming the Saudis had been encouraged by U.S. President Donald Trump’s visit and his efforts to form an anti-Iranian alliance. IRGC Deputy Commander Hossein Salami issued an explicit threat by promising “to avenge the blood of the martyrs who were killed in the terror attack by striking the terrorists and those who sent them.”2 The IRGC’s deputy intelligence chief accused the United States and Saudi Arabia of “inviting” attacks by mercenaries within Iran.3 In an allusion to a statement by Saudi Crown Prince and Defense Minister Mohammed bin Salman (who said Saudi Arabia would not wait for Iran to take over Yemen and would bring the campaign to Iran), Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif tweeted:
Terror-sponsoring despots threaten to bring the fight to our homeland. Proxies attack what their masters despise most: the seat of democracy.4
In a speech that concluded the Majlis session (which continued during the terror attack), Majlis Chairman Ali Larijani called for a harsh crackdown on terror, and cries were heard in the chamber of “death to America, death to the Saudi regime”5 and “death to Israel.”6

The Islamic State Calls on the Sunnis to Revolt against the Regime

In recent months, the Islamic State’s propaganda mechanism has stepped up its efforts to recruit Iranians with messages in Persian. At the end of March 2017, the group issued a video called “Persia between yesterday and today” in which Iranian militants call on Iran’s Sunni minority to form terror cells and carry out attacks against Shiite forces. Persian-speaking Islamic State militants (not all of them necessarily Iranian) describe the persecution and the executions of Sunnis in Iran and urge them to revolt against the regime, and specifically, among other things, “to burn mosques in Tehran and Isfahan.” The video accuses Iran of hypocrisy in opposing Israel since, whereas the Sunnis in Iran are persecuted, the Jews in Iran live in freedom. It also says Iran practices hypocrisy in its relations with the United States.7 Since then, the organization has issued several more calls in the Persian-language version of its magazine Rumiyah (which means Rome in Arabic). Rumiyah, also published in Arabic, Russian, Indonesian, and French, propounds the Islamic State’s prophecies of expansion and conquest.

Video screenshot
“Persia between Yesterday and Today,” a new message from the Islamic State (Jihadology ISIS video)

Khamenei: Our Involvement in Syria and Iraq Prevents Terror

Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei drew a connection between the terror attack and Iran’s involvement in Syria and Iraq. He said that if Iran had not been actively fighting the Islamic State in those two countries, “in the heart of where the intrigues are plotted, we would have many similar incidents within the country.”8 Khamenei’s words dovetail with Iran’s national security strategy, according to which the country’s borders must be defended from afar – hence its ongoing support for Syria, Hizbullah, and the Palestinian terror organizations, which Iran views as a forward defense line against Israel. The coordinated strikes in Tehran will likely have important repercussions for Iran both domestically and externally. 

More Trouble for Rouhani

On the domestic front, the attack will add considerably to the difficulties of President Rouhani. Elected to a second term on May 20, 2017, he dispensed campaign promises of reforms in the domain of individual and citizens’ rights. The security forces will exploit the incident to beef up security measures, particularly, though not only, against Sunni and Kurdish minorities, and will crack down harder on any show of opposition to the Islamic regime by the reformist camp. Indeed, the Iranian population has not yet paid a real price in blood within Iran for the IRGC’s adventurous policy in different Middle Eastern arenas. (Although large numbers of IRGC and Basij fighters have been killed in Syria and Iraq, the Iranian population in the major cities has not been harmed.) Hence, in the aftermath of the attack in Tehran, criticism of the high price of this ongoing involvement may mount, but probably will be harshly repressed. After the incident, Khamenei already emphasized the need to fight seditionists in Syria, Iraq, or anywhere else.9

An Increase in Foreign Subversion

In the external sphere, Iran will probably ramp up its activities in Syria, Iraq, Yemen, and elsewhere under the pretext of its war on Islamic State terror, even where there is no real connection to its terror, because doing so will suit the interests of the IRGC. The Tehran attack may afford the IRGC an opportunity to boost economic and military assistance to organizations under its patronage and even to dispatch additional Iranian forces to Syria and Iraq ostensibly to conduct the “war on terror.” Furthermore, Iran may expand and intensify its activity against the Kurdish organizations operating against it near the Iraqi border and against the Sunni groups operating near its border with Pakistan. Iran would thereby risk escalating the tensions with Pakistan after some incidents along their common border in recent weeks. The rise in IRGC activity will likely make it still harder for Rouhani to promote his foreign policy goals as frictions with Saudi Arabia and the United States, which also are fighting the Islamic State, are liable to mount. 

The Islamic State’s Next Target?

Since the beginning of the year, the Islamic State appears to have changed its policy on terror attacks against Iran. For its part, Iran has been fighting the Islamic State on several fronts in Iraq and Syria, whether directly or with various Shiite militias as proxies. Iran, however, has been allowed some mitigations because it is also fighting organizations operating against Syrian President Bashar Assad’s regime, groups that the Islamic State is fighting as well. It is also possible that, as the Islamic State loses land in Syria and Iraq, its fighters will make their way eastward toward Iran and Pakistan. Iran may be facing a new and unfamiliar struggle with terror not only on its borders but within its large cities as well. Terror of the Islamic State variety will probably aim for a sympathetic response from Iran’s many ethnic minorities.

The sabotaged Bou-Ali-Sina Petrochemical Complex in Bandar-E Mahshahr, Khuzestan
The sabotaged Bou-Ali-Sina Petrochemical Complex in Bandar-E Mahshahr, Khuzestan

The Sunni organizations (jundalhaq) fighting Iran in the southeastern tri-border area of Pakistan, Iran, and Afghanistan – groups that are inspired by the Islamic State – will probably be encouraged by the double terror attack in Tehran and try to step up their activity. The double attack may also drive separatist organizations and various ethnic elements that are active among Iran’s Arab minority, which is concentrated in Khuzestan, to escalate their attacks on the oil and gas facilities. In July 2016, the organization Suqour al-Ahvaz (Hawks of Ahvaz) took responsibility for an attack on the Bou-Ali-Sina Petrochemical Complex in Bandar-E Mahshahr.  10In any case, it appears that as the Islamic State continues to lose territory, Iran will increasingly find itself confronting the group both within Iran and along its borders. That, in turn, is likely to further aggravate Iran’s relations with the United States and with the Gulf states, most of all Saudi Arabia.

* * *

Notes


Lt. Col. (ret.) Michael Segall, an expert on strategic issues with a focus on Iran, terrorism, and the Middle East, is a senior analyst at the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs and at Alcyon Risk Advisors.

Source: http://jcpa.org/article/terrorism-tehran-isis-intensifies-subversive-activity-middle-east/

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'Unilateral disengagement from Gaza Strip was a mistake' - Mati Tuchfeld




by Mati Tuchfeld

Hat tip: Dr. Jean-Charles Bensoussan

Former GOC Central Command Yair Naveh: If the disengagement proved anything, it is that terrorism has nothing to do with settlements



Then-GOC Central Command Maj. Gen Yair Naveh during the 2005 disengagement from Gaza
|
Photo credit: Miri Tzachi


Mati Tuchfeld

Source: http://www.israelhayom.com/site/newsletter_article.php?id=43139&hp=1

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The social responsibility inferno - Melanie Phillips




by Melanie Phillips

In reacting against the previous excesses of state control, politicians veered wildly into the opposite corner and lost their moral compass along the way. Corners were cut in order to stimulate economic activity and maximise profits.

grenfell-fire

The accounts of the terrible fire that engulfed Grenfell Tower in west London in the early hours of yesterday morning are unbearable. It seems that dozens of people perished, including entire families. The mind can scarcely process the images of trapped residents screaming for help or hurling themselves or their children from the 24-story block of flats in the desperate attempt to escape the burning building which went up like a tinderbox in a matter of minutes. 

The causes of this catastrophe are not yet known. Nor can we yet say who should take responsibility. 

What is obvious, however, is that something was fundamentally wrong with the way the building was constructed or the materials that were used, in breach of the most basic principle of fire-safety that a building’s construction must compartmentalise any fire to prevent it from spreading.

It is also obvious, from what these low-income residents of the block have said, that they repeatedly expressed urgent concerns about the absence of adequate fire-safety precautions but these were ignored or dismissed at every level.

We also know that building, safety and fire regulations were torn up in the 1980s by Margaret Thatcher’s government, a deterioration in standards acceded to or even exacerbated by successive New Labour and Conservative administrations.

In other words, from right to left the political establishment either explicitly or tacitly agreed to let the market rip. In reacting against the previous excesses of state control, politicians veered wildly into the opposite corner and lost their moral compass along the way. Corners were cut in order to stimulate economic activity and maximise profits. The concerns expressed by the poor were contemptuously tossed aside – because the powerless never have a voice.

And then people wonder why Jeremy Corbyn has struck such a chord. 

In my 1996 book All Must Have Prizes (now sadly out of print), I described how the politics of both right and left had colluded in the destruction of a commitment to the common good by elevating the free market in both the economic and social spheres. An edited extract from this chapter, “The no-blame no shame, no pain society”, follows below.

All Must Have Prizes

The No Blame, No Shame, No Pain Society

 
It has been a great mistake to imagine that the Labour and Conservative parties have embodied opposing political philosophies. It is more accurate to say that since 1979, despite the distracting rhetoric of adversarial combat, they have represented but two sides of the same individualistic coin. The left stood for egalitarian individualism in the social sphere, for the doctrine of equality of values and lifestyles; the right stood for libertarian individualism in the economic sphere, for the doctrine that those who could achieve wealth and success should be left alone to do so while those who lost out would have to go to the wall. Neither stood for a culture based on altruism, fuelled by a principled concern for other people. The moral relativism of the left was thus the mirror image of the debased liberalism of the right.

Some time during the 1950s, the political left lost its grasp of the language of moral discourse. As a result of the rise of the individualistic, consumer culture and the collapse of the Church, altruism began to wither away and individuals handed over the duty of responsibility to the state. In 1960, the great ethical socialist thinker R. H. Tawney wrote that the world was in retreat not merely from particular principles but from the very idea that political principles existed. Morality that transcended economic expediency and the belief that the ends didn’t justify the means seemed part of a ‘remote and worn-out creed’. Tawney’s moral stance fell utterly out of fashion. The view that character and choice affected conduct was derided. Individual responsibility was considered of little significance compared to the forces of economic circumstances. So ethical socialism was left vulnerable to Marxism which destroyed it from within and laissez-faire economics which assaulted it from without.

***

Mrs Thatcher came to power in 1979 proclaiming a return to Victorian values. There was little sign, however, that she had any understanding of what Victorian values actually were. The Victorians had achieved the quite extraordinary feat of remoralising a society in danger of fracturing under the double impact of industrialisation and the shattering collapse of religious authority. It had pulled off this achievement by rooting the individual very firmly in society and in a moral ethic which started from the notion of the common good. As Gertrude Himmelfarb has observed, the ‘self’ to the Victorians meant something rather different from its 1980s incarnation. It was rooted in the social norms and approbation of others, and entailed duties and responsibilities as well as rights. By contrast, today’s ‘self’ is narcissistic and does not have to prove itself by reference to any values or people outside itself. For the Victorians, self-help was centred in family and community; among the working classes, this came out as neighbourliness, among the middle classes as philanthropy.

Mrs Thatcher, however, took on the individualist agenda in isolation. In her hands, it became simply a reaction against the corporate state and against any kind of collective activity at all. For her, the individual stood in opposition to society. ‘There is no such thing as society. There are individual men and women, and there are families’, she once famously remarked.(endnote: 4) It was an observation which revealed her confusion between the collectivist organisation of the state and the normal relationships of a coherent culture of shared objectives and endeavour. Her political project was conceived almost entirely around a narrow, utilitarian economic model of human behaviour. 

The result was an atomised creed which lent itself perfectly to political opportunism, populism and consumerism. It was set up explicitly around the pivotal figure of the individual consumer. It thus promoted a culture of individualism that destroyed attachments and lent itself to relativism, by telling everyone they were all equally entitled to make their several demands. There would be no arbitration between them from any fixed position embodying the common good, but it would be left to market forces to determine which of these demands would be the fittest to survive. Choice was elevated to be the sacred principle of this religion of the self. 

It was also a deeply philistine doctrine. It was certainly no respecter of tradition or culture. It was, after all, a revolutionary creed that pinned the blame for Britain’s decline on its institutions. Hostile to privilege and deference and by extension to the associated ethos of noblesse oblige, it was accordingly malevolently disposed to any distinctions between individuals based on the claims of education or professional training, and saw these instead as passports to feather-bedding that needed to be scrapped. It was suspicious of all élites as a conspiracy against the laity. In this, it had much in common with the left which similarly despised British institutions, except where it could control them, as for example in local government. So both left and right formed unholy alliances to level down all such distinctions and bring the élites to heel. 

In medicine, for example, the internal market which transformed health care from a service to a series of rolling business contracts was introduced in the late 1980s with no trials and virtually no professional consultation. And despite the ferocious rhetoric employed to denounce its introduction, the fact was that the managerial left loathed the medical profession and was quietly delighted with a system that transferred the power of hospital consultants to themselves. 

Similarly, the ‘cardboard cities’ that aroused so much indignation among the Conservative government’s opponents were also testimony to this unholy alliance. It was an article of faith among so-called liberals that the disintegrating family was an unchallengeable ‘right’, as was the freedom for paranoid schizophrenics and other mentally ill people to live free of institutional restraint. The Thatcher government, from the other side of the individualist mirror, cut welfare benefits and hospital beds in the interests of reducing the reach of the state. 

The result was teenagers who were fleeing from their fractured families and mentally ill people to whom no hospital could or would offer asylum living on the streets in cardboard boxes. Thus crude populism marched hand in hand with egalitarian ideology. And as the Thatcherite economic and political hegemony became more entrenched in the national arena, so the relativists of the left correspondingly dug themselves in more deeply behind the barricades of family, schools and identity politics in the private domain. 

***

At every opportunity, the government sloughed off responsibility. It set up a vast and burgeoning quangocracy, devolving the administration of government to appointed bodies or to outposts of the civil service. The effect was that lines of command became blurred and it became difficult to hold anyone to account for anything.

Government was in fact constructed on a pyramid of lies. Facts were manipulated as a matter of routine to maintain the fiction that the business ethos which now prevailed in the public service had brought about improvements in public life. All of this contributed to an unparalleled cynicism about public life and a collapse in the authority, not merely of the government of the day but of the entire political class. 

If the style of government promoted a collapse of authority, the substance helped reinforce the culture of rampant individualism. One of the fundamental tenets of the Thatcher/Major government was that individuals should be freed from constraints; they could only flourish if the state was off their backs. Accordingly, deregulation was a key plank of their policies. There was even a Deregulation Minister. There was, however, no acknowledgment that a civilised society can only proceed if there are constraints on behaviour, that regulation is therefore a necessary part of life if a society is to try to avoid harm, and that freedom must be balanced against responsibility.

Libertarian Tories, like the libertarian left, simply couldn’t understand that licence was not synonymous with the authentic liberal values of a free society. The unfettered market cannot produce a civilised culture because it sets citizens against each other for personal gain instead of working together for the common good. It is not underpinned by virtues such as trust, integrity or altruism but is a savage, unprincipled structure in which the weak are junked as trash.

The most obvious illustration of the pernicious effects of this doctrine could be seen in the pockets of social devastation around the country where mass unemployment had laid whole communities waste. There was no public interest in the poverty this caused, nor in the depression and other illness that followed, nor in the erosion of the work ethic, nor in the destruction of one of the primary mechanisms for socialising young men, nor in the creation of that new phenomenon, the unmarriageable male whose prospects were so poor no sensible girl would have him. The damage done by mass and endemic unemployment was incalculable. Yet to the then Chancellor of the Exchequer Norman Lamont, unemployment was ‘a price well worth paying.’ The message from that was that human beings were expendable.

This Tory ideology was a debased form of liberalism. It stemmed from a reading of early liberals such as Adam Smith which had never been applied so narrowly and in such a distorted manner, and certainly not in the heyday of those Victorian values Mrs Thatcher admired so much. Adam Smith, as we saw earlier, believed that self-interest was the motor of the general interest and that the enterprise of individuals, when left free of regulation, was capable of carrying the standard of material well-being to undreamed-of heights. 

But the Tory ideologues wrenched this doctrine out of its surrounding moral context, ignoring both Smith’s observation that individuals had to apply self-restraint to control their selfish impulses and his prophetic fears about what might emerge from such an emphasis on business. ‘These are the disadvantages of a commercial spirit,’ he wrote. ‘The minds of men are contracted and rendered incapable of elevation, education is despised or at least neglected, and heroic spirit is almost utterly extinguished. To remedy these defects would be an object worthy of serious attention.’

Indeed, the defining motif of the Thatcher/Major years, the idea that economic self-interest was the principal motor of human behaviour and that crude materialism was all, was a travesty of Smith’s thinking. As long ago as 1921, R. H. Tawney had sprung to Smith’s defence against the same distortion. ‘No interpretation could be more misleading’, he wrote, than to present Smith and other early liberals as the apostles of selfish materialism. On the contrary, they had been classical exponents of the great traditions of English liberty which dated back to the Middle Ages. The fact was that these classical liberals had been rooted in traditions of moral authority upon which they explicitly depended, and which made their concept of liberty —which had been, after all, a defence against political and economic tyranny — into a noble ideal. 

***

The most corrosive effect the Tories had upon the civic order was the supreme importance they ascribed to business principles, which ceased to be a means to an end and became instead an end in themselves. This meant that values were judged solely by measurable outcomes. If outcomes could not be measured, then there could be no value. So productivity, efficiency and cost- effectiveness became the guiding principles of the age. 

Of course these attributes are important. But other values may matter just as much, if not more; yet these were written out of the script altogether. So those principles that humanise business, such as trust and loyalty, were trampled underfoot in the rush to rationalise, downsize and privatise. A condition of permanent insecurity was now built into the system as employees were sacked or uprooted. 

The rise and rise of managerialism meant a corresponding loss of attachments and the erosion of professionalism. Trust, after all, lies at the heart of the social contract with the professions. Employers used to trust professionals to do their job properly and in return they received benefits such as incremental promotion and job security. That contract was shattered in the interests of flexibility, ‘choice’ and above all the cutting of costs.

The result was the erosion of the concept of public service, that transcendental value which acts as society’s invisible glue and which embodies a civic version of the common good. 

But because it is invisible, it didn’t figure in the brutal utilitarian criteria that measured value and success.


Melanie Phillips

Source: http://www.melaniephillips.com/social-responsibility-inferno/

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Comey's Game - Tadas Klimas




by Tadas Klimas

The jig is up.

It is very strange, but it seems almost everything in recent American political history translates out to the FBI not functioning as it should. While certainly this is because of a type of political correctness, it is proximately caused by the conscious or unconscious bias of its former director, James Comey and his being in denial of that bias.

The criminal investigation of Mrs. Clinton for violation of the espionage statute was sabotaged by Obama’s Justice Department. No subpoenas were issued. (The FBI cannot issue grand jury subpoenas; only the Justice Department can.) This is completely not normal; in such a case the FBI cannot work as it should. 

The non-issuance of subpoenas by the Justice Department cannot have merely happened, as if by some freak of nature. It is an execrable act that fairly can be said to constitute sabotage, and indeed if anything in recent months has constituted obstruction of justice, this is it. Largely, but not solely, because of this, the FBI’s investigation was a sham, unprecedentedly fake, truncated, and weird.

Then-director Comey should have made this public and most certainly should have resigned in protest. Yet because Comey did not, the fact that the investigation was a sham, that it was obstructed, if not in a legal, then in a descriptive sense, and that it was, yes, a fake Potemkin village sort of investigation was not apparent to the American public. Comey used the aura of the FBI to give the opposite impression. Certainly the media could have pointed this out, but it did not. Comey must have known what his actively going along with the program would mean: a fraud upon the public. He even went along with the program, as it were, by calling it a “matter” and not a “criminal investigation,” as directed by Attorney General Lynch.

Was he in active and conscious cahoots with those wishing to traduce our system? Let us be charitable and give him the benefit of the doubt. If not conspiratorially intentional, however, how to describe his actions? They were not lackadaisical. After all, if it had not been for Comey’s strenuous tersigiverations [sic] during and after his infamous press conference outlining the case against Mrs. Clinton, even that truncated and malformed investigation would have resulted in her indictment and conviction. 

A review of other facts and actions of Mr. Comey can shed light upon his motivation. 

For instance, he purportedly and infamously wrote a memo to himself concerning his meeting with President Trump. It is clear that the president did not obstruct justice; Comey admitted to the same. But why was there no memo regarding Obama’s attorney general Lynch’s directive to Comey to call the espionage investigation of Mrs. Clinton a “matter” and not a criminal investigation? And no memo regarding the refusal of the DOJ to issue subpoenas? This evidences an immense asymmetry in his mindset. 

What of the IRS actively and concertedly targeting conservative groups? This is clearly illegal. (One of the impeachment counts against Nixon – Article 2 - was that he had attempted to use the IRS in a similar manner.) The object, let us remember, was to interfere in a presidential election. It is hard to conclude otherwise than that Mr. Comey’s FBI did not investigate this: the victims, it appears, were not even interviewed. In a world in which the FBI functions normally, this cannot occur. 

Consider further that President Trump repeatedly requested Comey to tell the public that he was not the subject of an investigation, inasmuch as that was the plain truth and inasmuch as he was being accused and treated as being under such investigation. Comey did not do so. (See his prepared testimony to the Senate, “March 30 phone call.”) Yet he did go along with Lynch in not making clear to the public that Mrs. Clinton was under a criminal investigation. And his explanation as to why he did not do so is both risible and frightening: it would have, in his words, created a “duty to correct” should there ever be an investigation; but it is also indicative of a person straining to justify the unjustifiable.

There are many more such asymmetries in Mr. Comey’s performance and activities, but these will do. It is hard to do other than to draw the conclusion that he has great sympathy for the left, and an antipathy towards the right. This is untenable for an FBI agent, and completely beyond the pale for an FBI director. Which is why, of course, he is in denial.

It all worked for a time. Mr. Comey’s fevered gavotte of faux-integrity, his energetic denials of his own bias (he should have resigned on multiple occasions) was indeed part of the shield behind which the shenanigans were engaged in. It certainly did concerning the IRS scandal. It worked fairly well, probably, because it was in accord with the wishes of Attorney General Lynch and tolerated, at best, if not encouraged, by President Obama. 

But now the jig is up. 

We need two things. One, we need to have an FBI which is non-politicized. Two, we need to perceive it as such. One more thing would be nice. It would be nice to be spared any further exposure to the wretched spectacle of Mr. Comey’s attempts at justification. Enough. 

Tadas Klimas is a former FBI agent, awarded the National Intelligence Medal of Achievement (NIMA).

Source:  http://www.americanthinker.com/articles/2017/06/comeys_game.html

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Qatar's Comeuppance - Ruthie Blum




by Ruthie Blum

Qatar's extensive ties to terrorism and abetting of financiers to bolster it are well-documented.

  • Qatar's extensive ties to terrorism and abetting of financiers to bolster it are well-documented.
  • Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Egypt and Bahrain issued a statement designating 59 individuals and 12 organizations as having terror ties to Qatar. According to the statement, Doha "announces fighting terrorism on one hand and finances and supports and hosts different terrorist organizations on the other hand," and harbors "terrorist and sectarian groups that aim to destabilize the region, including the Muslim Brotherhood, Daesh [ISIS] and Al Qaeda."
  • Ironically, pressure from this new anti-Iran Muslim bloc in the Middle East has done more to call the world's attention to Qatar's key role in the spread of Islamist terrorism than years of cajoling on the part of previous administrations in Washington to get Doha to live up to its signed commitments.
A mere two weeks after U.S. President Donald Trump delivered his first major foreign policy speech in Riyadh to delegates from dozens Muslim/Arab countries, Bahrain announced on June 5 that it was halting all flights to Qatar for being a sponsor of radical Islamist terrorists. Immediately, Saudi Arabia joined the boycott, as did the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Egypt and Yemen, all of which also shut off access to Al Jazeera, the anti-American, anti-Semitic Qatari television network established in 1996 and operating since then to foment unrest across the Middle East and bolster the terrorist organization the Muslim Brotherhood and its offshoot, Hamas.

The emir of Qatar, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, and other officials in Doha fiercely denied the charge that their government has been backing terrorism, blaming a "fake news" report on the website of the state-controlled Qatar News Agency for the eruption of the Gulf crisis.

The report, which the FBI and other U.S. security agencies believe was the result of a Russian hacking attack, quoted Al Thani calling Iran an "Islamic power," referring to Hamas as "the legitimate representative of the Palestinian people" and saying Qatar's relations with Israel were "good."

Although the report did turn out to be a hoax, Qatar's extensive ties to terrorism and abetting of financiers to bolster it are well-documented. A Foundation for Defense of Democracies (FDD) study, titled "Qatar and Terror Finance: Private Funders of al-Qaeda in Syria," shows that while Doha has pretended for more than a decade to be partnering with the United States to defeat Al Qaeda, the monarchy, in fact, has taken no action whatsoever against the Qatari financiers of the terrorist organization's Syrian branch, the Nusra Front, which continues to plot attacks against the West. One of the reasons that this group eluded U.S. strikes operating in Syria was that it, like America, has been fighting ISIS. Another was that it changed its name to Jabhat Fateh al-Sham (JFS or the Front for the Conquest of Syria), in an effort to distance itself from Al Qaeda. This effort was led by Qatar.

According to the FDD study, the second of a three-part document written by David Andrew Weinberg:
"...[I]ntelligence officials from Qatar and other Gulf states met several times with Nusra's leader [in 2015] to suggest that his group could receive money, arms, and supplies after stepping away from al-Qaeda."
While the first part of the study, released in 2014, revealed "Doha's dismal record" during the reign of Emir Hamad Al Thani (the current monarch's father), this one
"evaluates the publicly available evidence on Qatar's record since then, focusing primarily on individuals sanctioned by the U.S. Treasury Department in 2014 and 2015. All of these sanctions were imposed after Qatar agreed in September 2014, as part of a U.S.-led initiative called the Jeddah Communiqué, to bring terror financiers to justice."
Weinberg concluded that Qatar has done little or nothing to comply. On the contrary, he wrote, "The funders of certain terrorist groups still enjoy legal impunity there. Nusra/JFS appears to be foremost among them."

It is just as unlikely that a single news item was responsible for the banding together of several Arab states to impose a blockade on Qatar as it is implausible that these states, particularly Saudi Arabia -- which itself has backed and spread radical Islamist ideology -- are holding Qatar accountable for its ties to global jihad. Equally simplistic is the view, expressed by Trump on Twitter, that the embargo indicated the seriousness with which the above states took his call to "drive out the terrorists and extremists" from their midst.

"During my recent trip to the Middle East I stated that there can no longer be funding of Radical Ideology. Leaders pointed to Qatar -- look!" Trump tweeted on June 7.
"So good to see the Saudi Arabia visit with the King and 50 countries already paying off. They said they would take a hard line on funding extremism, and all reference was pointing to Qatar. Perhaps this will be the beginning of the end to the horror of terrorism!"
This prompted pundits on both sides of the political spectrum to question whether Trump was simply being reckless in his response, or actually announcing a shift in decades of U.S. policy regarding Qatar, home of the Al Udeid Air Base southwest of Doha. Al Udeid is not only America's largest military base in the Middle East -- with some 10,000 troops, but since 2003, it has served as forward headquarters for CENTCOM (the U.S. Central Command), and has been crucial in America's operations in Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria.

The following day, Trump was accused of backtracking, when he phoned Al Thani and offered to "help the parties resolve their differences, including through a meeting at the White House if necessary."

Jerusalem Post columnist Caroline Glick pointed out that this was not a case of Trump reversing his position, but rather of proposing the most reasonable course of action available:
"With the Pentagon dependent on the Qatari base, and with no clear path for unseating the emir through war or coup without risking a much larger and more dangerous conflict, the only clear option is a negotiated resolution.
"Under the circumstances, the best option for the US to openly work towards is to diminish Qatar's regional profile and financial support for Iran and its terrorist allies and proxies."
Nevertheless, mixed messages appeared to be emerging from the Trump administration. On June 9, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said that the blockade was hindering U.S. operations against ISIS. On the same day, Pentagon spokesman Navy Capt. Jeff Davis asserted that the isolation of Qatar so far has had no negative impact on U.S. operations in and out of Al Udeid. "All of our supplies are getting in just fine," he told reporters. "The Defense Logistics Agency is certainly always looking at contingency plans if they're needed, but for right now they're OK."

On the day that these conflicting claims began to circulate, Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Egypt and Bahrain issued a statement designating 59 individuals and 12 organizations as having terror ties to Qatar. According to the statement, Doha "announces fighting terrorism on one hand and finances and supports and hosts different terrorist organizations on the other hand," and harbors "terrorist and sectarian groups that aim to destabilize the region, including the Muslim Brotherhood, Daesh [ISIS] and Al Qaeda."


Bygone days of unity. The leaders of the Gulf states pose with British PM Theresa May at the Gulf Cooperation Council summit, on December 7, 2016 in Manama, Bahrain. (Photo by Carl Court/Getty Images)

On June 7 -- the day of Trump's phone call and two days before the release of the Saudi statement -- Qatar hired of the law firm of John Ashcroft, former attorney general under President George W. Bush, to help counter terror accusations. This clearly was a calculated move, as Ashcroft had been instrumental in pushing through the post-9/11 "Uniting and Strengthening America by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism Act of 2001," more commonly known as the Patriot Act.

According to the "Scope of Engagement" of the Ashcroft retainer, its "broad purpose," for a "flat fee" of $250,000, is to:
"provid[e] the Client with comprehensive strategic advice, legal counsel, support, and representation related to confirming, educating, assessing and reporting the Client's efforts to combat global terrorism and its support of and compliance with international financial regulations, including compliance with United States Treasury rules and regulations.
...
"The firm understands the urgency of this matter and need to communicate accurate information to both a broad constituency and certain domestic agencies and leaders...will advance, advocate, represent, and protect the Client's interests as necessary, including but not limited to the development of comprehensive legal and government affairs strategy, coordination as necessary and in the interest of the Client, assessment of the pending news and certain nations' claims that adversely impact the Client's reputation and pose serious risk and consequences."
Hiring Ashcroft is not the only indication that Qatar is running scared. Another is its leaders' simultaneous attempt to assuage fears among its populace – reported to have begun "panic-shopping" at supermarkets -- and threaten fellow Gulf Cooperation Council countries that they will suffer severe financial consequences as a result of their boycott.

"If we're going to lose a dollar, they will lose a dollar also," warned Qatari Finance minister Ali Shareef Al Emadi. Emadi added, "Our reserves and investment funds are more than 250 percent of gross domestic product, so I don't think there is any reason that people need to be concerned about what's happening or any speculation on the Qatari riyal."

In spite of Emadi's posturing and Doha's assertion that it is not in cahoots with Iran, Tehran announced that it has begun sending hundreds of tons of food products to Qatar. Oman, too, is transferring goods to Doha. Turkey went a step further, authorizing the dispatch of 3,000-5,000 troops to its military base in Qatar, to assist Al Thani's regime, should it be jeopardized by the Saudi-led initiative and internal power struggles.

This unfolding of events is creating what Middle East expert Jonathan Speyer called a "clear drawing" of the "lines of confrontation between the two central power blocs in the region..."
As Speyer wrote on June 10:
"The shunting aside of little Qatar... is ultimately only a detail in the larger picture. What is more significant is the re-emergence of an overt alliance of Sunni Arab states under US leadership, following the development of military capabilities in relevant areas, and with the stated intention of challenging the Iranian regional advance and Sunni political Islam."
Ironically, pressure from this new anti-Iran Muslim bloc in the Middle East has done more to call the world's attention to Qatar's key role in the spread of Islamist terrorism than years of cajoling on the part of previous administrations in Washington to get Doha to live up to its signed commitments.

Ruthie Blum is a journalist and author of "To Hell in a Handbasket: Carter, Obama and the 'Arab Spring.'"

Source: https://www.gatestoneinstitute.org/10530/qatar-comeuppance

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