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By Micah Halpern

Sunday January 31, 2005


Iraq and the Palestinian Authority have much in common. There is a strong parallel to be drawn between the two.

Both societies just had historic elections.

Both societies are at a crossroads.

Both societies have leaders who are courting the West and populations that are mixed in their opinion of the West.

Both societies have within them a strong and vibrant terrorist element that is perceived by many as being the only path towards salvation.
And that, the embrace of terror, terrorism and terrorists as a normal function of everyday life, is the greatest parallel between Iraqi and Palestinian societies.

Terrorists defend the honor of their society.
And now both in Iraq and in the Palestinian Authority they will battle with the newly elected powers for the hearts and minds of "their" people.

Terror cannot be put down by the masses simply by saying "no."
In Iraq on Sunday, the masses shouted "no" to the terrorists. In the Palestinian Authority, Palestinians went to the polls and elected Abbas, as their way of shouting "no."

Terrorists and those who believe in democratic principles are now, willingly or unwillingly, intentionally or not, about to begin a long debate over the principles that will guide their societies to the future.

Terrorists have taken their campaign beyond the battlefield and are running a grassroots campaign.
We saw it happen last week when Hamas scored a huge victory in the Gaza elections. They are using slogans like "search from within" and "do not wander to the West or the outside world to find solutions" in order to convince the masses that Islam, not democracy, is the answer.
This is precisely what we will see happening in Iraq.

Terrorists will take their campaign to the streets.
They will broadcast it on the internet, on radio, on TV and print in on placards.

Terrorists in Iraq will argue that everything the West brings is bad.
They will say that they are trying to preserve a strong, honorable Iraq for Iraqis, for other Muslims and for Arabs. They will play the US card, calling the United States the most powerful force of corruption on earth. They will say that corruption of that magnitude can only be bad. They will point to the sex, the promiscuity, the movies, the superficiality, the lack of religion as evidence of Western evil.

Terrorists will argue that the traditional role of women, the role of traditional family and the role of religion will be destroyed if democracy and Westernization is allowed to continue.

Terrorists in Iraq will use the Palestinian model and the experience of Hamas in the Palestinian Authority and Hezbullah in Lebanon to boost their claims.

Now the forces of liberty and liberalization must begin the real fight.
Like the terrorists, they, too, must begin a serious campaign educating and enlightening the people and the street about the greatness and strengths of freedom.

Now the forces of liberty and liberalization must show that voting is just one small element of democracy.
They must prove that responsibility and accountability are essential, that security and safety are accessible realities.

Now the forces of liberty and liberalization and democracy must empower the people.
They need to demonstrate that democratic power fuels the creativity that fosters dreams and that can provide for future growth and productivity and freedoms.

Iraqi and Palestinian liberal leaders must prove that they not only make promises but that they can make good on their promises. They must do it now. And we, the Western world, must help.

Iraqis and the Palestinians now must stand shoulder to shoulder and assume the awesome responsibility of participating in a democracy. Otherwise it might just slip away.

Iraqis Don't Cower in Fear
By Micah Halpern

Sunday January 30, 2005

I've Been Thinking:

The Iraqi elections are over. The turnout was high.

Iraqis came out to vote despite the threats. Local Iraqi's understand the facts on the ground better than our talking heads and analysts looking out proverbial windows on this side of the world.

Iraqis have lived under physical threats for decades and this particular threat did not throw them. In the Iraqi mind the fear of being "punished" for their vote was worthwhile. They convinced themselves that the risk was minimal, that the terrorists would not be able to find them. And they were right.

Masses are always more powerful than the few when they stand up.
The opposite of standing up in defiance is cowering in fear.
And that's when another Saddamesque figure is invited back to power.

President Bush understands more now than he did before. By saying: "Terrorist violence will not end with the election" the president took a significant step forward.

Palestinian Infighting Foreshadows Iraq
By Micah Halpern

Saturday January 29, 2005

I've Been Thinking:

Today there was fighting in Gaza.
The fighting came fresh out of an election. It was between rival Palestinian terrorist groups Hamas and Fatah. Hamas just trounced maintstream Fatah in this week's election.

The fighting started during a Hamas rally/victory march through an area known to be nearly totally inhabited by Fatah supporters. Local guns went blasting in response to the Hamas taunts of: "You chose secularism. You should have chose Islam."

Between the guns, knives and clubs, Fatah supporters wounded over 20 Palestinians.

This is just the begining.
Internal conflicts will rule until replaced by true safety and security.

The Palestinian street is an exact parallel with Iraq.
Elections are not the end they are just a tiny first step.
True progress will only happen when there is safety on the streets.
What is true in Gaza will be true in Baghdad as of tomorrow.

Hamas - the Winner
By Micah Halpern

Friday January 28, 2005

I've Been Thinking:

Elections just took place in Gaza. 10 cities went to the polls.

Palestinians elected Hamas in 8 of their 10 elections. Of the 118 seats up for grabs, Hamas trumped Fatah, Abbas' party. Hamas won 75 seats, Fatah won only 39.

Hamas spokesman Muhri a Masri called it the "choice of Jihad and resistance." "We consider this a victory as the victory of the Palestinian people."

This is a gargantuan move in Palestinian terms. Palestinians embracing Hamas. Gaza was always known to support more radical perspectives while at the same time embracing Hamas. 2/3 of the votes went to an outright terror organization. Conventional wisdom always held that the Palestinians were a moderate people. This may be a foreshadowing of troubling political times.

Abbas has a big job ahead. He must isolate the extremists and convince the masses of the value of moderation and coexistence.

This election shows that Gaza, at least, wants to continue the terror against Israel and the West.

They're All Wrong About Iraq
By Micah Halpern

Thursday January 27, 2005

I've Been Thinking:

The elections in Iraq are on Sunday and every analyst has it totally wrong.

Everyone is saying how the elections will change things.
That shows just how little they know about terror and the Middle East.

Terrorists have declared war on democracy.
They are attacking the election process because it is an easy target.
It is their favorite target for now.

After the elections the terrorists will continue to strike.
They will just change their orientation.

The terrorists will only lose their power when the Iraqi masses rise up against them. Until then they will attack all symbols of the West and of collaboration, including Shiite symbols. The Shiites are the archenemy of the Sunni terrorists. To the terrorists the Shiites represent both a different Islamic approach and a different approach to the US.

The all important street must be turned against terror.
Only then will there be peace and democracy in Iraq.

Condi Rice and the MidEast
By Micah Halpern

Wednesday January 26, 2005

I've Been Thinking:

Now that Condi Rice has been confirmed by the Senate, it is time to make a few predictions.

I predict that the new Secretary of State:
* will need almost no learning curve and be up and running Foggy Bottom asap
* will perpetuate the zero tolerance attitude from the leaders of the Middle East so that the Bush policy against terror continues as if uninterrupted
* will be greeted by one of two scenarios vis a vis the Middle East
- less likely: people will tow the US line not only because Rice is so well prepared and demanding, but out of fear and respect generated after the Iraq invasion
- most likely: that leaders and politicians in the Middle East will do to her what they have done to so many other Western diplomats, befuddle them with the status quo, with local and religious issues and with doubletalk making it almost impossible to accomplish the larger US agenda

That means that Arab leaders on the ground, especially those who were hoping for 4-6 months of unsupervised American policy will have to rethink their own approach to US initiatives.

Condi Rice knows the players and understands their games.
She has a reputation.

Beat Terror with Education
By Micah Halpern

Tuesday January 25, 2005

I've Been Thinking:

The capture of Abu Omar al-Kurdi, aka, Sami Mohammed Ali Said al-Jaaf, a top assistant of the notorious terrorist Zarkawi, the leader of al Qaeda in Iraq, is just a small, albeit important, step in bringing order to Iraq.

No doubt that killing and capturing terrorists is very important in bringing safety and security and democracy to Iraq. And the coalition should be proud of this success.

But influencing the masses is our real goal, and we must never lose sight of that--Zarkawi and the other terrorists never do. The Coalition's main objective should be to make certain that the masses feel safe and secure.

Take away the terrorist's tools of fear!
A military campaign to find terrorists is one step.
An educational campaign to empower the people to reject the terrorists, their goals and objectives is another and that must be developed and implemented.

Education must be added to the list of priorities, it is an essential component of the fight against terror. Without education, terror will continue to gain momentum. It will receive popular support and refuge, even local sponsorship and local recruits.

If you take away local support you destroy the terrorist's ability to function well.
Right now, the terrorists are fighting for the hearts of local Iraqis.
Right now, they seem to be winning that fight.

Interconnection & Communication
By Micah Halpern

Monday January 24, 2005


Everything is interconnected. That is an essential component of the concept of randomness in theoretical physics. By no coincidence, it is also an essential component of the region known as the Middle East.

What appears to be random is not. And only when one understands the interconnectedness of ideas and concepts, the interplay between people and peoples and the interweaving of actions, can one begin to piece together the greater picture that is the Middle East.

What it is that motivates the players in the Middle East to action? Why?

Of course, sometimes these interconnections are fabricate...but that only better proves my point. The interconnectedness is such a significant dimension of the Middle East, that even the illusions of links are well believed inside and outside the region. That the Mossad and CIA were responsible for 9-11 is a classic example of the myth.

Look at what happened this week. The Israelis sent a message to the Americans asking them to please intercede on behalf of the Palestinians, to help the newly elected Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas. Again, I repeat, Israelis asking Americans to aid the Palestinians. Incredible? No, just interconnected - and self interested.

The idea the Israelis are floating is for the United States to exert pressure on Syria and on Iran to rein in the Middle East terrorists. Iran and Syria have a general desire to create instability in the Middle East region, specifically by attacking Israel. They readily sponsor the terrorist work of Hezbullah and Hamas and even Islamic Jihad. Why is Israel asking the US to get involved? So that Abbas has a chance of succeeding in his presidency.

It is the concept that is very important here. Iran and Syria sponsor terror organizations. The objective of those organizations is to destabilize the entire area. So destabilizing means terror, but it also means weakening the powers that be, including the now potentially powerful President Abbas.

Israel wants Abbas to succeed. It is an elementary equation. A successful Abbas means a more peaceful Israel. It also means that Abbas will, eventually, after initial help from "true friends", be strong and more likely capable of taking charge and controlling the terrorists from there on. The United States, too, sees that as in its own best interests.

If, however, the terrorists continue to be in control and to get their funding and urging from Syria and Iran then Abbas will be crippled and the situation will disintegrate. More terror. No peace. A totally destabilized region.

We have already seen what happens when the status quo settles in and becomes the norm in the Middle East - regular, routine, terror attacks against Israelis. And that is a terrible situation for all parties, not just Israel. It means the ousting of the new president. It means that Abbas, and whatever democratic values entered Palestinian society with his election, would fall. Abbas would not be able to tolerate the pressure placed on him internationally to control his people, i.e., the terrorists and be forced to step down, or, he would be ousted locally, either by the electorate or by assassination.

Now we get to the crux of the matter. How can the United States exert pressure on Syria and Iran, these two rouge nations?

Isn't the US, after all, in open conflict with Syria and Iran about nuclear issues and about sponsoring terrorism in Iraq? Yes, but. But there is still significant and important interchange that takes place between almost all nations. It's called back channel diplomacy. It goes on all the time. And some of the time, it works.

The United States has options. The best option is - the quiet approach. The US can play the subtle, diplomatic angle. They would activate mid-level channels and try to influence Syria and Iran behind closed doors. This is one of the most effective methods of international pressure. It is also one of the only effective and important by-products of the United Nations. Through the UN, US diplomats (and all diplomats) can easily send messages even to archenemies, they can have secret conversations on issues about which they are absolutely diametrically opposed, ideas can be conveyed and even debated indirectly and sometimes, even directly.

One way or another, Iran and Syria will get the message. The question remains whether they will agree to go along with the "suggestion". The question facing Syria and Iraq is this: Is the region better off in their eyes if the Palestinians get on their feet? The United States, the Palestinians and the Israelis are all in agreement on this one. Iran and Syria might think otherwise.

We'll see. Whatever they choose to do, we'll know. Remember, it's all interconnected.

Id al Adha, A Lull in Violence
By Micah Halpern

Sunday January 23, 2005

I've Been Thinking:

There has been a lull in Palestinian violence against Israelis during the past few days.

Some attribute it to the actions of the new prime minister, Mahmoud Abbas.

This may indeed be true but there is another important factor to consider.

Today ends the four-day Muslim holiday Id al Adha that translates into English as the festival of the sacrifice. It is sometimes called the festival and sometimes called the festival of the sheep.

There are only two ids or festivals on this religious level in Islam, the other is id al fitr and it marks the end of the month long Ramadan fast.

Id al Adha takes place on the 10th day of the last and 12th Muslim month, dhu'l hijja. It commemorates the binding of Ishmael, who, according to the Koran was brought by Abraham as a sacrifice to God or Allah and was spared at the last minute when a sheep appeared and was offered instead. It also marks the time of the pilgrimage, the haj.

To commemorate Id al Adha Muslims make pilgrimage to Mecca and world over, they offer sacrifices and eat sheep, divided between family, friends and the needy.

If the lull in violence continues, we will know that credit belongs to the strong arm of justice rather than the far reach of religion.

Terror Analysis: Better Late than Never
By Micah Halpern

Saturday January 22, 2005

I've Been Thinking:

Authorities are looking for a Moroccan, Amer Azizi, a major player in the simultaneous Madrid train bombings that murdered nearly 200 people on the eve of the Spanish election.

They now believe that Azizi met with two of the 9/11 bombers, specifically Mohamed Atta.

Well good morning. Even if they did not have direct evidence "authorities" should have been thinking about this. Counter terror analysis is not like preparing a trial. You do not need irrefutable evidence. You need to predict the future and find the loose links and make the connections that the terrorists are making.

Thankfully, the people who need to know are now starting to understand the nature of these networks, that they are very loosely connected and search out one another for support and assistance.

Better late than never, but they should have figured it out a long time ago.

Chinese Terrorists
By Micah Halpern

Friday January 21, 2005

I've Been Thinking:

Why is anyone surprised that potential terrorists are coming into the United States over the Mexican border? It is the easiest illegal way to get into the country.

We spend too much time thinking about airports. Terrorists are resourceful, so too must we be - in our thinking and in our preventive actions.

There is a certain irony that the smugglers of illegal workers, immigrants and contraband are the essential contacts needed to keep our country safe. Smugglers are the gate keepers, they are the people who keep tabs on who is coming in and out of the country.

As the smuggler sees it, there is a hierarchy of evil. Terrorists are far higher up the food chain than lowly smugglers. And terrorists clearly stand out among the normal clientele crossing the border.

The Chinese terrorists give smugglers a bad name. That is exactly why the smuggler set up a meeting with US Federal authorities, he didn't show --- but still, he threw the pictures and names of the Chinese over the border fence.

Recently an Arab man, an illegal immigrant, who also came across the Mexican border was arrested in Sand Diego. He held a California license to be a gas truck driver and his job was to bring gas to the port. He was arrested as part of a ring plotting a terror attack against the port.

Sometimes, we just get lucky.

Kids and Guns
By Micah Halpern

Thursday January 20,2005

I've Been Thinking:

In Jenin today Israeli soldiers killed a child. His name was Salahdin abu Muhsen. It was a grave error. The boy had a toy gun.

This incident points to some very troubling and important issues that we must not be afraid to raise and discuss.

Palestinian children are sometimes outfitted with real guns and real bombs. They are encouraged to play games that use toy guns to re-create scenarios that are not at all innocent. They are not imitating cops and robbers or king of the mountain, those innocuous games we grew up on. Palestinian children often play a game called "Shahid", martyr, hero. It's sad, it dismays, it's true.

That Israeli soldiers made this mistake is truly tragic, but somehow, inevitable. It is tragic and inevitable because Palestinian children carry real guns often enough that any gun is assumed to be real by Israeli soldiers, no matter how young the hand that carries it. And it's tragic that Palestinian children often play games where they want to become suicide terrorists fighting the Israelis.

Palestinian kids do not dream of a happy successful future, they dream of murdering innocent Israelis and even being killed themselves in order to become the shahid/martyr/hero.

Kidnapping Mistakes
By Micah Halpern

Wednesday January 19,2005

I've Been Thinking:

The release of Iraqi Catholic Archbishop Georges Casmousa was no accident.

Official comments suggesting that the terrorists mistook Casmoussa for someone else are just spin, actually, they are pure BALONEY!

When the Archbishop of Mousal was kidnapped and thrown into the trunk of a car the terrorists knew exactly what they were doing.
But international and local pressure was too great for them to handle so they claimed mistaken identity and gave him up even without making a demand.
The captors miscalculated.
Then everyone said "oops."

Local Catholics and other religious leaders are personally petrified about what might happen to them. So, of course, they are going to agree that it was a case of mistaken identity. The terrorists made a public relations blunder so great that even the extreme Sunni and Shiites who are virulently anti-Catholic were repulsed when an Archbishop was kidnapped. They would have taken less heat had they just blown him up with a car bomb.

There are lessons to be learned:
* The people making operational decisions for the terrorists are not always aware of their ramifications.
* What is said after the fact is not necessarily what really happened.
* No one is safe, regardless of the position they hold, because the terrorists are less predictable than we think.

The Moment of Truth
By Micah Halpern

Tuesday January 18, 2005


Now is the moment of truth for the Palestinians.

It is a truth that can be actualized only by one man, Mahmoud Abbas, aka Abu Mazen, the new president of the Palestinian Authority.

Abu Mazen must decide if he will confront the terrorists within his midst. If he does, he will succeed in forging a new society for the Palestinian people, a society that puts justice and security as priority, a society that has a safe future for all members as the number one agenda item.

If Abu Mazen does nothing, or worse, if he chooses to try to negotiate with the terrorists, he will bring an end to any hope for a Palestinian State in the near future. By not cracking down he will seal the status quo.

The decision would be a "no brainer" for any Western thinker or Western leader. But for Abu Mazen the next few days will be the most difficult he has ever faced. And now, the world waits. We wait to see if he has what it takes, call it moxie, call it guts, call it fortitude, call it vision. We wait.

It is, in fact, a true dilemma for Abu Mazen. First, he must deal with popular support for the terrorists. If he clamps down on the terrorists he is seen as a collaborator by the masses, by the people on his street. He is seen as collaborating with Israel and the United States and until they are proved otherwise, for the street, that is as good as signing his death certificate. He runs the risk of losing popular support and being shamed by being called names in public. Hamas and Jihad have tremendous popular support. They can and definitely will make his life and leadership very difficult. They are a power to contend with. But they are also a power that, we must believe, can be sidelined from within - if Abu Mazen really wants it to happen, he can overcome their popular support and replace it with his own.

Then, he must deal with the actual acts, deeds, aggressive actions of the terrorists. In order to carve a new society and move ahead so that this new Palestine will receive more than promises, he personally must successfully stop the missile attacks. He and he alone has the power. Abu Mazen must stop them by force. He must send his secret police and then his uniformed police to arrest the people sending rockets against Israel. It's the only way.

The reality has begun to sink in.

Abu Mazen has started to say the right things and do the right things. He has just formed a new security division, 500 to 700 men strong. Their task is to stop the rocket launchers and they are supposed to be stationed in two areas in Gaza. It's a good start, but only a beginning.

The leadership power of the Arab world is behind him. Abu Mazen has received the support of almost every Arab and Muslim leader, as well as the support of Western leaders. They have each, in their own way, explained how very important it is to clamp down on the terrorists. They will support him, but Abu Mazen must be the man of action.

The problem will be in the short run. Making the decision. Following through. Taking the local heat. If he can handle the first few steps Abu Mazen will succeed in changing what happens on the ground and in the minds of his people. He will win the street.

This is what Abu Mazen must do:
** He must announce firmly that he is against the attacks against Israel.
That it is wrong to kill innocent people.
That regardless of history this must end now.

** He must explain to his people that a government's responsibility is to maintain security and safety.
People cannot freely promenade around with guns and rockets and shoot them just because they themselves think it justified.

** He must order his police to arrest all those connected to the launching of Kassam missiles.
The factories that make them must be destroyed.
The organizers must be arrested.
The funders must be placed on trial for killing innocent Israelis.

** He must make crack down on all people and leaders who preach terror and murder as a solution to the Palestinian problem.
The schools and mosques that teach and preach murder and terror must be shut down.
Institutions that preach harmony and coexistence must be opened and effectively staffed.

A new tone must be set.

Israel can no longer be the excuse.

Kidnap Christians, Why?
By Micah Halpern

Monday January 17, 2005

I've been thinking:

Today, in the northern Iraqi city of Mosul, Catholic Archbishop Georges Casmoussa was thrown into the trunk of a car and kidnapped by terrorists.

There are about 650,000 Christians in Iraq. They compose only 3 percent of the 25 million people there, but they are an influential and successful minority that always got along with everyone.

This kidnapping is not an isolated attack against Christians in Iraq.
In fact, it is only the latest among a slew of attacks on Christians. In August, for example, 4 churches were simultaneously bombed - 12 people were killed, 61 were wounded and 15,000 Christians fled Iraq.

Why are the terrorists targeting Catholics?

Because of the symbolic value of attacking psduedo outsiders.
Christians are different. Christians are independent. Christians align themselves with Rome which is seen as the damned West. Because the objective of the terrorists is to divide Iraq into smaller and smaller sub-sects.

These Iraqi terrorists will easily murder - Muslims, Sunnis and Shiites, and Christians. Their goal is to divide and conquer.

Abu Mazen - A Fools Game
By Micah Halpern

Sunday January 16, 2005

I've Been Thinking:

It really is a fools game.

The US and the Israelis want the new Palestinian leadership to clamp down on the terrorists.
The new Palestinian leader, Abu Mazen, wants to come to a negotiated settlement with the terrorist organizations creating a ceasefire.

Abu Mazen fears a civil war -- Palestinian fighting Palestinian.
What he does not understand is that for Arafat infighting was his goal and glory - he relished the infighting, keeping Palestinians at one another's throat. Discord was his style.

Abu Mazen needs to create order and safety.
He knows that he's not Arafat, he doesn't have the power, charisma or cachet - he must in some way crack down or the terrorists will run wild over his society and his power will be totally diminished.

Abu Mazen believes that he will save face with everyone especially the violent terrorists by conducting negotiations - but he is mistaken.
Instead, he will be seen by everyone as weak and perceived as lacking the power and position to clamp down later.

Abu Mazen will self destruct due to his inability, paralysis, foolhardy myopia, to act promptly.
Now's when it counts. Later is too late.

It's Arafat All Over
By Micah Halpern

January 15, 2005

I've Been Thinking:

It's Arafat all over again.

In a Washington Post piece an Israeli official is quoted saying: "to the best of our knowledge" the PA Preventive Security Service had input into the deadly attack that claimed 6 innocent Israelis at Karni Junction on Thursday January 13.

What is the Preventive Security Service? It's right up there with Abu Mazen.
So, yes, they, along with the Al Aksa Brigades, which is connected to Fatah, are responsible for the terror.

But how did the attack happen? Think. In order for the attackers to blow open the door with a 250 lb. bomb, and then rush thru a barrier separating the Israel and Palestinian sides with their guns blasting, they first had to pass several layers of Palestinian security. Were guns blazing then? It seems the terrorists were ushered thru and right up to their target with forged passes.

And now? Now the new Prime Minister, Ahmed Qureira, says in a Reuters interview that it is wrong for Sharon to postpone talks with the PA.
"This is a wrong decision and shows that Israel is trying to find any excuse to disrupt any serious effort that leads to reviving the peace process and to achieving calm."

Abu Mazen then blames the Israelis.
"There are parties on both the Palestinian and Israeli sides who want to obstruct attempts to restart peace moves and achieve calm. So it is wrong to seize any opportunity to justify taking that path."
He calls it an opportunity. I call it a terror attack.

This is a play right out of Arafat's book.
Act One: pseudo sponsor the terror.
Act Two: turn the other way.
Finale: blame Israel for the terror and for cracking down.

Lessons for Abbas
By Micah Halpern

Friday January 14, 2005

I've Been Thinking:

The recent terror attack at Karni junction in Gaza was meant to teach a lesson to newly elected Palestinian Prime Minister Abbas. It's obvious.

The attack took place in the area dedicated to transferring Palestinian agriculture to Israeli markets.

What a shame. A shame because of the senseless loss of life. A shame because this attack struck out at an important symbol. Karni was/is a symbol of productivity for the Palestinians, from there their produce goes out to the markets for sale.

The terrorists want it to be clear to Abbas and the Palestinians that they control the tension - not the politicians. The attack was a joint venture between Hamas, the Popular Resistance Committees and Al Aksa Brigade. The Brigade is supposed to a Fatah organization, headed by Abbas.

Now it is time for the new political leadership to teach a lesson.
Abbas must clamp down and appoint people who will listen to him.
Otherwise, these terrorist factions will take charge of the entire society.

Voting out of Iraq
By Micah Halpern

Thursday January 13, 2005

I've Been Thinking:

Iraq is now registering voters.

From January 17-23 Iraqis around the world can register and then vote in January's elections. Any former Iraqi can vote as long as he or she has an Iraqi document. A birth certificate, passport, ID card University certificate property ownership. Even the son of any Iraqi citizen is eligible to vote.

Is this wise? I do not think so.
If the fear is low Sunni voter turnout so be it. But do not draft outside forces and people to influence internal elections.

The people who should be voting in Iraq are the citizens who live there. Those citizens must assume the roles and responsibilities for the future of their country.

Otherwise the wrong people will be influencing Iraq's first free democratic post Saddam election.

The entire idea is ludicrous. Using the election criteria all 180,000 Iraqi Jews who were exiled from Iraq and fled to Israel now qualify. Today together with their descendants they probably number over a million people. They should not be determining what happens in Iraq's elections.

It is a crazy idea!

Rajoub Resigns
By Micah Halpern

Wednesday January 12, 2005

I've Been Thinking:

Yesterday's resignation by Jabril Raboub is extremely significant.

He was the national security advisor in the PA, formerly the head of security in the West Bank under Arafat. I have met him several times.

This resignation sends out a message:
- Rajoub lost his power struggle to Muhamed Dahlan, Abass' preferred Gaza strong man.
- We might be looking at a serious shake up of PA security forces. If Rajoub is out, so too might be many other security heads, forcing middle level leaders to be brought under a single security umbrella.

The downside is --- this part of the world likes a strong man. He lends stability. He knocks heads. He provides order. His reputation precedes him. He is feared. A new person, an outsider or a mid level person, will not be able to achieve those ends easily. Certainly, not immediately.

And in this part of the world, order rules.

Pressure Abbas
By Micah Halpern

Tuesday January 11, 2005

I've Been Thinking:

I knew that the Bush White House would invite Abu Mazzen over as soon as he was elected. Literally, the invitation was extended the very next day.

The sentence structure may be awkward, but the wording was frank and the sentiment probably sincere. While speaking to reporters in the Oval Office the president put it this way:
"I look forward to welcoming him here to Washington if he chooses to come here."

But pressure must be placed on both Bush and Abbas before an actual visit commences.

Before Abbas comes we must hear him denounce the terrorists who lifted him high on their shoulders and paraded proudly through the throngs. That behavior was unacceptable - even for him and certainly for every other world leader.

There should be no double standard for the new Palestinian leader. He doesn't deserve it. Neither do we.

Democracy is Not Magic
By Micah Halpern

Monday January 10,2005

I've Been Thinking:

For me, the glass (or in this case nargilla) is always half full. And so, it should not come as a surprise that I am relatively optimistic about life for the Palestinians after this, their first democratically held, election.

But negativism swirls all around and it seems to come from Palestinians and Israelis alike. Analysts are saying that very little change will happen after the elections. The fact is, they're right, virtually nothing will change. The difference between my thinking and most other analysts, is that for me, slow change to no change is an optimistic outlook. Why will it not drastically change? Because it's not supposed to. Not yet, not immediately. Not right after the election.

Democracy is not magic! Democracy is not mystical!

That is exactly the point. This election was more about democracy than it was about choosing a new president. It was about introducing democracy into the lives of a people for whom it is a foreign and difficult to understand concept.

Democracy is not ethereal. Democracy is supposed to help on the grass roots level, it is not pie in the sky. First things first. People must be able to go to work, to make a living, to go to school, to begin the process of building a future.

As time progresses, the big issues can begin to be worked out. And working things out is what democracy is about.

Democracy is about individual freedom. After individual freedoms are achieved then the group can find its way. Only after people feel secure and safe. After their daily lives are fulfilled and personal dreams are achieved can the larger dreams of a people be realized. That's where and when democracy can begin to happen.

I am not certain that newly-elected President Abu Mazen has what is needed to bring the Palestinians to a peace deal with Israel. But I don't discount him either. That is why I am optimistic.

Bringing about a settlement will be a huge task, we all know that. There is no doubt that trashing one is much easier than signing one. And we know that Arafat was a "great practitioner of rejection."

In the final countdown stages of the election, Abu Mazen was the master of mixed messages-condoning terror and celebrating its perpetrators. For the West and for Israel, the most interesting and problematic development of the Palestinians election was the new president's embrace of terrorists. But that was a non-issue for the Palestinians. The Palestinian press, however, made large note of each and every time Abu Mazen made a statement against violence.

And yet, it seems that despite the mixed messages Palestinians and Western world leaders heard Abu Mazen's calls for ending corruption and violence. Palestinians know that whatever happens now, Abu Mazen has told them that he is against violence. He has gone on the record and can clamp down and call on his overwhelming majority as a mandate.

In a vote of foreign confidence, the money has started to pour in. The US has upped their donation to $200 million this year. The EU will probably put up $500 million. Saudi Arabia has promised a few hundred million dollars. Add it up. It's a few days after the elections and Palestinians have a billion dollars more than they had last week.

But that money will come with a price. Everyone, even the French and the Germans whom Abu Mazen considers friends will want to see change. They will need to see Palestinians standing up against corruption and terror and moving towards peace.

The French Foreign Minister, Michel Barnier, was quoted in the daily Le Parisien saying that Abu Mazen's first responsibility "will be to reorganize the services of the Palestinian Authority as Yasser Arafat promised to do, in order to increase security guarantees for the Palestinians as well as for Israel."

Gerhard Schroeder, the Chancellor of Germany wrote in a telegram to Abu Mazzen: "I trust that the Palestinian people will follow the path you have chosen of renouncing violence and carrying out comprehensive reforms."

If he doesn't, these congratulatory messages from new colleagues turn into fighting words.

Will he use this victory and this money to clean up one of the biggest cleptocracies of history? Will Abu Mazen use his new power to force Palestinian police to protect their environment from internal threats of terrorists rather than sheltering terrorists?

I am hopeful. I am hopeful because unlike during Arafat's tenure, there was finally a real election for the Palestinian people. And soon, there will be another one.

That's democracy.

PA Elections
By Micah Halpern

Sunday January 9, 2005

I've Been Thinking:

It is officially over.

Palestinians have elected a president in a fair and free election.
The rewards are gushing in. The Bush Administration has just upped the aid to the PA by $200 million. The EU will be next I'm told with $500 million.

This election is a great new historical development in the annals of Palestinian history. But still, there were some things that worried me.

Certain voting procedures were changed in the middle of the day.
- The polls remained opened for 2 additional hours.
- Palestinians could vote anywhere, all they needed was an ID, they need not have even been registered.
- Not to mention the shooting at the Office of Voter Supervision in Ramallah.

One cannot change the rules during the game.
There was a low turnout and keeping the polls open was a manipulation.
An abuse of power.

I cautiously await the analysis of the International Observers. The spokesman for Jimmy Carter already said that there was no problem.
Why? Because Israelis let Palestinians get out to vote.

So what really happened? We'll see over the next few days.

Mistakes Happen
By Micah Halpern

Saturday January 8, 2005

I've Been Thinking:

A US F-16 made a deadly mistake today. It dropped a 500lb. bomb on a house south of Mosul, Iraq killing 5-14 innocent people. Any unnecessary death in any war is unfortunate, sad and we must strive to prevent it.

But mistakes happen.

Another enormous mistake would be to change tactics and become "gun-shy" for fear of making other mistakes. The only way to fight these terrorists is to find them.

Remember, the target was hit, bull's eye, and totally destroyed. Only the wrong place was targeted. Accept responsibility. Investigate. Find fault. Punish the people who made the error. Move on.

Over the past week at least 100 Iraqis were killed by local terrorists. The US must launch a serious counterattack and launch it soon if there is any hope for elections on January 30.

Democracy is Not Magic
By Micah Halpern

Friday January 7,2005

I've Been Thinking:

I have been hearing some very pessimistic evaluations about life for the Palestinians after the election.

The negativism has come from Palestinians and Israelis alike.
They are saying that very little change will happen after the elections.
They're right, virtually nothing will change. But it's not supposed to. Not right after. Democracy is not magic.

That is exactly the point. This election is about democracy, about introducing democracy into the lives of a people for whom it is a foreign and difficult to understand concept.
Democracy is supposed to help on the grass roots level, it is not pie in the sky it is not mystical. Democracy is not ethereal. People must first be able to go to work, to make a living, to go to school, to begin the process of building a future.

Then as time progresses, the big issues can begin to be worked out.

Democracy is about individual freedom. After individual freedoms are achieved then the group can find its way. Only after people feel secure and safe. After their daily lives are fulfilled and personal dreams achieved can the larger dreams of a people be realized.

It would be useful for Iraqis to begin to think the same way.

Shame on you Arab League
By Micah Halpern

Thursday January 6, 2005

I've Been Thinking:

There was an AP release yesterday that quoted the Arab League as "condemning terrorist attacks in Iraq."

The statement was released on the day when the bodies of 18 Shiite Muslims were found executed after being missing for several months. The 18 had been on a bus applying for work at a US Army base when their bus was stopped and they were kidnapped. Now their fate has become known.

We have a problem.
The problem is that the statement does not mention attacks on US forces or US civilians.

The Arab league probably does not consider killing American military in Iraq terror. I would agree. After all, members of the US armed forces are fair game in a war. They are armed and trained and know they are targets.

But what about civilians, like contractors, the press and all others out there?
The Arab League statement did not mention them at all.

It should not matter if you are a Muslim or Christian to term it terror.
It should not matter if you are a local or a foreign visitor to term it terror.
Killing all civilians is terror, and it should be condemned.

Shame on you Arab League.

Twisted Logic
By Micah Halpern

Wednesday January 5, 2005

I've Been Thinking:

Palestinian Arab Muslim terrorists attacked the Erez checkpoint, the spot that separates Israel and the Gaza Strip. The attack was an enormous success.

Why? No Israeli injuries. No civilian Arab/ Palestinian injuries.
Three Palestinians soldiers injured and taken to an Israeli hospital.

Timing and location were what counted in this attack:
The terrorists chose Erez because Palestinian Arab Muslim pilgrims are using that specific checkpoint to make their Haj to Mecca.

Israelis loosened restrictions at the checkpoint specifically to allow 4500 religious pilgrims to fulfill their life long dream and participate in the Haj. They loosened restrictions despite the fact that the crossing has been the site of 16 terror strikes since September of 2002, some of them deadly attacks.

Who were the intended victims of the attack?
Palestinians. The terrorists wanted to hurt fellow Muslims. The Israelis are insulated and protected there. The terrorists want to blame Israel.

The logic works like this:
Because of the Israeli checkpoint, Muslims on their way to the Haj would be killed.

What twisted logic. What a shame

The New Arafat
By Micah Halpern

Tuesday January 4, 2005

I've Been Thinking:

The comments of PA Presidential candidate Mahmoud Abbas are more and more reminiscent of the Arafat era.

His words to thousands of Palestinians at a funeral highlight the problem.
He called Israel "the Zionist enemy."
For decades, the Arab world and Arafat in particular refused to call Israel by name.
For years Arafat referred to Israel as --- the "Zionist entity', "the Zionist occupier" and "the Zionist enemy."

Abbas' need to speak to the masses in order to secure voter support and steal it from the more radical elements is understandable. But there is a limit and what we are hearing now getting too extreme.

A leader's job is to educate the people, not stoop to their level.
Abbas is wallowing in the lowest of all levels.
Hate mongering.

By Micah Halpern

Monday January 3, 2005


We now know that it has all been a lie. We've been duped. More precisely, we've duped ourselves. We've searched for greater meaning when there is no greater meaning. We've reached for ethical actions when ethics are not involved. We've tried to soothe our own consciences, when our own consciences have nothing to do with it. It's not about us. It's about them.

We are the victims. They are the suicide bombers.

Evidence of the lie struck hard. Here it is. The suicide bomber who blew himself up in the US mess tent at Frontward Camp in Iraq was a 20-year old medical student from Saudi Arabia. Not a kid. Not economically starved. Not an Iraqi.

Too often we have tried to explain away the reasons for terror. Analysts and apologists alike have attempted to explain how acts of terror are educationally, socially and/or economically based. If they only had food, they would not kill. If they had jobs they would have no need to blow themselves to smithereens. If there were hope they would not become mass murderers. If they had hope...

Well, the reality proves these arguments false. This incident in Iraq is just the most recent example of the absurdity of our own Western justifications for acts so perverse and so far from anything we could ever imagine doing to ourselves or to others. In our need to quickly and cleanly explain why suicide bombers do what they do we found it necessary to conjure up easy provocations for unspeakable acts. But by doing so, we miss the greater point.

In using Western thinking and morality to explain the reasoning behind suicide bombings (we can never hope to understand and we must not, cannot, ever justify, so we settle for an explanation) we miss the essential lesson the bombers are forcing literally in our faces. And we show a total misunderstanding of the enemy.

When a young woman blows herself up in downtown Jerusalem killing and maiming innocents, it is essential understand "why" she would stoop to such inhuman behavior.

When we find out that she is trained as an EMT (an emergency medical technician), charged with the responsibility of saving lives not murdering them, her action and our search for "why" take on new meaning.

When a young woman goes into a cafe on a Sabbath morning in Haifa and blows herself up, murdering children, parents and grandparents, three generations of a single family, the tragedy is enormous.

When we discover that she is a law student, committed to upholding the law we must try to seek deeper understanding of her actions.

When a bus coming from the Western Wall blows up in Jerusalem strewing bodies and spattering body parts over streets and onto buildings we are horrified.

When it turns out that the bomber is not only a teacher but the holder of a master's degree, that he is not only in his 30's but also the father of two young children we are mystified and we search for significance beyond the lack of hope. This was a man whose job it was to instill the hope for a future to his students and to build a future for his children.

When an early morning bus carrying laughing children to school and weary adults to work explodes in Jerusalem families are destroyed and the news makes headlines.

When we discover that the bomber was a graduate student in religious philosophy at a university in the West Bank we must stretch beyond the big lie to understand the motivations of the bombers.

The list goes on.

Education, status, wealth, socio-economic class, profession, family, they have almost nothing to do with the reasons for why a suicide bomber attacks. It's not about hope and it's not about despair.

Suicide bombers think that by murdering innocent civilians they will strike at the heart of their enemy and win the end game.
Suicide bombers are convinced that by committing suicide along with the murders they will become martyrs for their cause.
Suicide bombers believe that Allah wishes them to achieve a greater and loftier goal and that the deaths of these people is an essential step towards attaining that goal.
That's why suicide bombers attack.

And that goes a long way in explaining why so many innocent Muslims are also targets. Because in the warped, crazy, religiously-morphed minds of the murderers there is an understanding that innocent lives are a small price to pay for their own salvation.

In committing the act of suicide bombing, the terrorist is fulfilling his own destiny and achieving Allah's will. We, the victims, are incidental.

Abu Mazen's Feet to the Coals
By Micah Halpern

Sunday, January 2, 2005

I've Been Thinking:

Why are people surprised by the actions of Mahmoud Abbas, aka Abu Mazen? He is, after all, the leading candidate for president in the Palestinian Authority.

In order to garner a significant majority he must:
Articulate harsh anti-Israel messages and present himself as the strong leader.
Be seen in the Arab world as capable of keeping the West and Israel at bay. Keep the others on their toes the way Arafat did so adroitly for decades.

The problem now is: Who is the real Abu Mazen?
His current public embrace of al Aksa and Hamas terrorists and his statements claiming that he will not crack down on them is frightening. Saying that he does not see Hamas as "terrorists" but rather as "fighters against the occupation" is a scary justification for the murder of innocents.
These are chilling reminders of the days of Arafat.

Does he deserve an invite to the White House after his almost certain election?
Not unless he takes a stand against terror and recants his support.
His feet, the real Abu Mazen's feet, must be held to the coals like every other leader.
He cannot give lip-service to the US and then publicly embrace the terrorists.

By Micah Halpern

Saturday January 1, 2005

I've Been Thinking:

Something is out there, and it's not ET.

Since Christmas, there have been 5 reported incidents of lasers locking on to commercial airlines.

This is particularly worrisome.

Laser is an acronym for Light Amplification by Stimulated Energy Radiation. A laser is a beam of high-energy coherent light. We often only think of it as visible light but it can also be infrared or ultra violet light. It has tremendous power and energy.

My point is that 5 examples of laser beams tracking civilian aircraft means that some group out there (not individual) wants to know how the laser works and whether it can interrupt a pilot. All 5 cases were reported by pilots disturbed by the beams and one even suffered an eye injury. The cases were spread across the US.

Whoever and whatever is responsible, this laser locking must be stopped. Then we need to figure out the how and the why. It's imperative.

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