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Britain Beware
By Micah Halpern

Tuesday May 31, 2005


SHHHH. All we have to do is listen.

Listen to what they are saying and we will know what our enemies are thinking. We will know what they are planning. Regrettably, listening is an art form too many mainstream leaders of today are neglecting.

True, sometimes there is misinformation out there, deliberately spread misinformation. The Zarqawi rumors swilling through the mill, the internet, the airwaves and diplomatic corridors last week were just that, deliberate misinformation. But if you listened carefully, like I did, you can differentiate the truth from the disinformation. Just listen. And pay attention.

Hamas is a murderous Palestinian based terrorist organization. They are also one of our best sources as to what is happening inside the Palestinian Authority. They do not sugarcoat their words, they have no need to sugarcoat their message. Hamas just tells it like it is.

Four months ago, for example, when I heard a Hamas leader say that Palestinian Authority officials were pressuring this pseudo-political terrorist organization and other Palestinian politicos to postpone elections, I knew there was real substance in the remarks. And you know what, voila, Palestinian elections will indeed be postponed.

Hamas leaders seldom have reason to cater their message to meet Western images of leadership and democracy. Hamas has one purpose for democratic changes. It is a tool they manipulate in order to gain power for their cause. How do I know? How can I say that? I listen to what they say.

And the messages I have been hearing from Hamas leaders over the past few weeks are particularly worrisome.

Hamas is now threatening the British Empire, they have words of warning for England.

Read the following sermon delivered by a leading Hamas Imam, Sheik Ibrahim
Muderas. This sermon, like many of his other sermons, was broadcast on Palestinian-controlled TV. The translation of the sermon comes from World Net Daily and can be trusted for content and accuracy.

"We take this opportunity to hold Britain accountable and say there is revenge we can never forget. We cannot forgo the revenge we want to exact from Britain. We hold Britain responsible for what happened in Palestine. Britain is the cause, 'til this very minute, of every drop of blood dripping into this land."

"I say to you: You must look at our situation with an outlook of confidence in Allah's victory! If you help Allah (spread Islam), Allah will bring you victory. We once ruled the world and the day will come when, by God, we will rule the entire world. The day will come when we will rule the United States, the day will come when we will rule Britain, we will rule the whole world (and all will live in peace and comfort under our rule) except the Jews."

Listen to what this man, this Hamas religious leader, this Imam is saying.
Put aside the rhetoric about controlling the world and the rhetoric about ruling the United States. Those lines are commonplace in almost every sermon dealing with the theme of revenge. Call it wishful thinking. The reality is that while these Moslems certainly do pray for the downfall of the United States, they do not have the infrastructure to successfully design a serious attack at this time.

When it comes to Britain, however, the situation changes. In altering his normal anti-Western canard Imam Sheikh Ibrahim Muderas is telling us that, indeed, they do have the infrastructure necessary to exact punishment in England. He goes so far as to explain the why's and stops just short of the how's the who's and the when's.

Now listen to me. This sermon signals an enormous challenge not just for Britain, but for the West. Until now, only Israel was dead center in the crosshairs of Hamas terror. Now, England might be there as well.

I am not an alarmist and this is definitely not idle speculation. This is not "chatter" as intel analysts like to call it. Intelligence operations must infiltrate to stop what is certainly a planned terrorist strike by Hamas. These are no longer the words of an Imam chosen to stir up his crowd of listeners. This is a not so veiled threat, a statement of intention.

This is a warning we should heed.

1 Step Forward 1 Back
By Micah Halpern

Monday May 30, 2005

I've Been Thinking:

One step forward and at least one step back.

The Palestinian Authority announced the suspension of the execution of 24 Palestinians.
Their crime? The 24 were convicted of spying for Israel.
It is mind boggling when you think about it. These people were spying on the country they are negotiating with in order to sign a peace treaty.
At least now, they won't be executed. That's a big step.

On the other hand, an aide to Yassir Abed Rabbo, one of the architects of a naive peace initiative between Palestinians and Israelis called the Geneva Plan, was executed.
Samir al Rantisi, who worked on the Geneva Plan alongside Abed Rabbo was assassinated in cold blood outside his home. He was probably killed by Islamic extremists who reject peace.

Why al Rantisi, why not Abed Rabbo? Abed Rabbo is too well protected. They attacked the weakest link. Sad. And a big step back for the Palestinians.

Little Steps Forward
By Micah Halpern

Sunday May 29, 2005

I've Been Thinking:

The 6 Arab countries that compose the Gulf Cooperation Council just concluded their meeting in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.

The Council came to some very interesting and important decisions.
Interesting because the West can learn what these countries are thinking.
Important because the West must translate what was said into what was meant.

They said: that they call on Arab countries to fight terror
They mean: that terror does not include Palestinians killing Israelis

They said: that they are in favor of continued Iraqi democratization
They mean: that this does not mean they want democracy in their own countries

They said: they call for renewed peace talks between Palestinians and Israelis to establish a Palestinian State
They mean: they want total withdrawal to pre '67 borders

This is still a big step forward for the 6 Arab countries of the Gulf Cooperation Council.

It's Simple - Fight Terror
By Micah Halpern

Saturday May 28, 2005

I've Been Thinking:

The Road Map is a pretty simple document.
The preamble states that terror must stop in order for the parties to move ahead.

According to both the Palestinian and Israeli press, President Bush promised PA leader Abu Mazen that the US would pressure Israeli prime minister Sharon on the settlements in the West Bank --- IF --- the PA clamps down on terror.
IF the PA meets its security commitments under the road map ---- THEN --- the US will pressure Israel.

I am a little disappointed in President Bush.
What's with the IF word?
What is this idea of placing pressure on Israel to entice Abbas to start fighting terror?
Why does Abbas need to be enticed to fulfill his part of The Roadmap?
Everyone concerned has already signed on to The Roadmap.

It really is simple. There is no need for game playing, not even word games.
Expect the Palestinian Authority to fight terror.
Demand it.

Abbas & Bush: Disingenuous Obfuscation
By Micah Halpern

Friday May 27, 2005

I've Been Thinkng:

That press conference at the White House yesterday with Abbas and Bush was, well, funny.

I have watched President George W. Bush mispronounce "contiguous" about 20 times over the years.

I wonder if he knows how to pronounce disingenuous?
What about Abbas, think he can pronounce disingenuous?
They both sure know how to act it.

That's really what made the press conference funny. The public display of mutual respect and affection, when truly, neither leader believes nor trusts the other.

Bush needs to give Abbas support because Abbas has mouthed the words of democracy.
Abbas needs to be a friend to Bush in order to receive the money and support the PA is so dependent on.

We witnessed a display of disingenuous obfuscation.
Now go pronounce that.

Palestinian Housing in Gaza
By Micah Halpern

Thursday May 26,2005

I've Been Thinking:

PA Minister of Housing and Public Works Mohamad Shtayyeh just announced that if Israel does not demolish the houses of the settlers in Gaza - the Palestinian Authority will.

The Palestinians claim the reason to destroy the houses of the Israeli settlers is to make space for the high-rise apartment buildings they will build in their place. They will destroy the houses in order to make better use of the space in the very densely populated Gaza Strip.

True. Gaza is very densely populated. But that's because most of it is just desolate sand, the very same sand the Israeli settlements were built on.

I have always wondered why the PA has never built housing in Gaza. The only new Palestinian housing I have seen is for the elite and political and business leaders. There is no housing for the poor who still live in dusty, sandy refugee camps.

It seems the Palestinians are better at destroying than at building.

Think Like A Terrorist
By Micah Halpern

Wednesday May 25, 2005

I've Been Thinking:

We are thinking like a Veritable Victim when we should be thinking like a Murdering Monster.

Here's the problem:
The word is out that Zarqawi may be injured, or may be healthy, certainly on the loose.
How does the Defense Department react?
By saying that the rumor was perpetrated "so that we will loosen our guard."

This isn't about us, the US, the West.
It's about them, the terrorists waiting and planning to perpetrate attacks.

Thinking like a victim will not lead us to the terrorists.
It will not help us understand the terrorists.

Thinking like a terrorist is the only way to get the terrorists.

By Micah Halpern

Tuesday May 24, 2005


There was one significant holdout. Only one 24 hour all news network. Otherwise,...

Every paper, every news outlet, to publish THOSE photos, the ones of Saddam in his undies, had an explanation for doing so. Some published the photos before the general outcry of violation of privacy. Some published them after, in order to explain exactly what the violation of privacy was all about. Bottom line is that people - American people, British people, like to gawk. And everyone needs a good snicker once in a while.

Even the Arabic press went with THOSE photos. It was available for every Muslim, every Arab with access to a newspaper or a television. And then that same media proceeded to ridicule the United States for allowing the pictures to be taken. Their bottom line is that these photos, courtesy of the United States, embarrassed the entire Arab world. Truth is, they're right.

Who did not run with the photos? On which airwaves could THOSE pictures not be seen? On Al Jazeerah TV.

Why? The popular 24 hour Arabic news network said, simply, that Saddam Hussein in underwear is not newsworthy. The end.

Is it possible that Al Jazeerah did not want to slather more mud on the face of the United States? Highly unlikely. After all, Al Jazeerah is the network that has no compunction about displaying beheaded Westerners, sparing no gory, gruesome detail. The only reason that practice has stopped and that the network now shows only before and after clips rather than entire beheadings is because of the professional criticism leveled upon them by other news agencies.

Al Jazeerah reaches between 40 and 80 million viewers at any given moment. That is an enormous viewership. Al Jazeerah is powerful. Al Jazeerah shapes the opinions of many people in the Arab world. And I can't figure out why they decided not to run with the picture. Not newsworthy isn't good enough. Al Jazeerah thrives on turning stories around making them worthy for Al Jazeerah news audiences.

I spent two days watching, observing and getting to know two different Al Jazeerah crews this past month. One day was spent at the Jewish settlements of Gaza. The other day was spent in Samaria at the four settlements scheduled to be dismantled together with the Gaza withdrawal. I took the opportunity to speak to these Al Jazeerah representatives about their perceptions of America.

I asked one team, a correspondent and producer, why they thought the US president and leadership were so upset by the Al Jazeerah network. To my mind, they just did not understand the big issues. Both the correspondent and the producer, the people who shape and influence the stories their viewers see, felt the problem was one of control, censorship and power. They thought that the United States was upset by Al Jazeerah because the US did not have the power to control their content. Slant, truth, standards and expectations were issues the Al Jazeerah people could not even discuss let alone identify.

The journalists I spoke to, and we spoke at length, paralleled the criticism of Al Jazeerah leveled at them by the United States to the criticism they receive by the Arab dictatorships that also have great difficulty with their network.

In the Arab world, Al Jazeerah is one of a very few media outlets free to discover and cover what is really happening in the great world. Other stations are under the thumbnail of all-powerful dictators. Al Jazeerah serves an essential democratic role in the Arab-speaking world. It is an important voice against the totalitarian system that governs their local competitors. It grieved me to realize that, at least the people I met, did not recognize any substantive critique of the content.

There is no doubt that on the big Arab issues Al Jazeerah is very effective at chipping away at autocratic rulers. And that alone makes them a valuable resource for Western news watchers and decision makers. But when it comes to anything else, like the United States in the Middle East and certainly like the Palestinian and Israeli story, they function as propagandists selling a story, not as journalists covering it.

That is the real reason for America's frustration. Al Jazeerah just does not hold the professional standard. Al Jazeerah does not have a slight bias. Al Jazeerah gives one-sided coverage. Al Jazeerah refuses to show the other side at all.

Al Jazeera may not always cover the news the way we like it to be covered. And they may not always cover the news the way Arab dictators want it to be covered. But as long as we are aware of their self-imposed limitations, they are the best the Arab world has to offer. And for our needs, that makes Al Jazeerah newsworthy.

US & UK Talk to Hamas
By Micah Halpern

Monday May 23, 2005

I've Been Thinking:

Hamas made an announcement today. They have been in contact with and talking to US and UK authorities.

This might come as a surprise. Hamas is a terrorist organization and the US and UK do not negotiate with terrorists organizations. Or at least that is the common perception.

The truth is that both the US and the UK are quietly trying to get Hamas to move into politics and at the same time, to put down their weapons.
Hamas should "pick up the pen and lay down the the rifle."
The only way to achieve this double goal is through low level negotiations.

Low level negotiations often provide high stake returns.
Good Luck!

Iraqi & Israeli Ministers Meet
By Micah Halpern

Sunday May 22, 2005

I've Been Thinking:

Today, Iraq's Foreign Minister met with Israel's Minister of Infrastructure.
They met in Jordan.

This is a huge step.
Iraq and Israel. Diplomatic relations. Dialogue. Protected by Jordan, a country that has a peace treaty with Israel.
This is the New Middle East.

Something's wrong with this picture, isn't it?
They met "secretly." Neither I nor you should know about this meet.
But now we both know. How? Why?
Because it was leaked by the Israeli Minister of Infrastructure.
The leak might nip the entire process well before it has a chance to develop.

This has happened before. This minister is notorious for leaking. So much so that he got a tongue lashing from Condi Rice, then national security advisor, who could not understand why everything they discussed in secret was promptly delivered to the Israeli press within minutes of their meeting.

This minister is after glory. He loves his own PR.
And that is exactly why I am not printing his name.

Watch Syria
By Micah Halpern

Saturday May 21, 2005

I've Been Thinking:

Things are heating up in Syria.

President Bashar Asaad's uncle Rifaat is returning to Syria after years of exile.

Rifaat, 68, is the brother of Hafez. He was exiled in 1984 as the result of a failed coup against his brother. Rifaat returned in 1992 after the death of their mother and was permitted, by Hafez, to remain in Syria. But in 2000, when Bashar took over his father's presidential position Rifaat returned to exile.

What has Rifaat been up to? He has been running an alternative Syrian Arabic News Agency out of Europe, called ANN. He has a following and a voice.

No one knows what will happen now.
What we do know is that the return of Rifaat is a major challenge to the rule and power of Bashar Assad.
There is no democracy in Syria so Rifaat's very presence is a threat. It is a message for reforms and change.
Will Rifaat's voice be heard? I doubt it. But the future of Rifaat will send a message to the people of Syria. Will he be assassinated? Exiled? Even allowed in the front gate?

Keep your eye on Syria.

Saddam in his Underwear
By Micah Halpern

Friday May 20, 2005

I've Been Thinking:

US diplomats are among the many people up in arms that the British popular daily, The Sun published pictures of Saddam Hussein in his white underwear briefs.

The fear is that a picture of this sort may seem disrespectful and humiliating to the Butcher of Baghdad and by extension to Muslims world over.
I assume these savvy diplomats are remembering the backlash over the now famous photo of Saddam's capture coming out of the spider hole or the photo of his beard being shaved or his mouth wide open as a US doctor examined him.

We should be clear.
The reason the Muslim world is upset is because Saddam was captured by the Americans.
Muslims have problems fully understanding that a non-Muslim country like the United States is so strong.

There is no doubt that publishing a picture of anyone in underwear is disrespectful. But these same people would think that the picture of Saddam washing his own socks is also disrespectful.

Personally, I was impressed that Saddam looked so fit and trim.
In other parts of the world, however, a thin leader is the very symbol of weakness.

PA Protocols of Zion
By Micah Halpern

Thursday May 19, 2005

I've Been Thinking:

Finally. The Palestinian Authority has begun taking steps towards accomplishing one of the easiest of all points in the Roadmap. Working to end incitement.

Yesterday, after great pressure from the Anti Defamation League The Protocols of the Elders of Zion was removed from the official PA website.

Taking something off the web site is as simple as snapping your fingers. An email. A phone call. A quick click. At most, a few seconds.

Why has it taken so long?
Because the PA is not interested in stopping incitement.
Why am I so happy?
Because it shows how easy it really would be, if they cared about it, for the PA to cease stimulating incitement.

I am not naive.
I am the first to acknowledge that it will take years, even generations, to undo the inducement to incite.
Once it is off official sites, out of the schools, turned taboo, no longer mainstream, then, maybe there is a chance.

Piling on Newsweek
By Micah Halpern

Wednesday May 18, 2005

I've Been Thinking:

I call it piling on.

That is what is happening in this Newsweek fiasco.
Everyone who has any gripe with the media is just piling on.
It is simply in poor taste.

Most people in politics, and that includes the White House and Secretary of State, have a love/hate relationship with the press. Now they have the opportunity to lash out.

It is wrong and it is sad. More importantly, it shows a lack of knowledge of the real situation in the Muslim world by people who are trusted to know and understand. Newsweek made a mistake, now that mistake has been transformed into an excuse.

There are almost daily riots in the Muslim world precipitated by correct, completely factual reports and stories.
Anyone who follows the Muslim world can list a slew of violent protests brought on by anything from fashion fads to sexuality to perceptions of the US president as a modern day Christian Crusader.
This story was by no means the cause of unrest or of worsening attitudes toward the US.

No excuse is needed to riot against the US.

Newsweek Hype
By Micah Halpern

Tuesday May 17, 2005

I've Been Thinking:

The most important lesson to be learned from the Newsweek scandal is not in journalism, it is in international relations.

Certainly, Newsweek was irresponsible for publishing a line attributed to a source that was untrue.
But we must understand that the loss of innocent lives and placing US troops in danger was more than merely an unfortunate byproduct of this misinformation.

The central issue in this whole tempest is the popular attitude of Muslim countries toward the United States.
The Newsweek story was an excuse, a tool to stir anti-US emotions and draw people to massive demonstrations on the street.

Radio news, newspapers and sermons in mosques regularly harangue locals to take to the streets and teach the godless Americans a lesson about respect.
The people on the streets of Afghanistan had never heard of Newsweek.
Blaming this latest bout of anti-US expression on the magazine was a lucky break for a previously orchestrated pattern of behavior, a pretext, a sham.

These few words were just an easy way to stoke the flames of anti-American feelings. Feelings that already existed.

By Micah Halpern

Monday May 16, 2005


There was another recruitment rally in Iran. The Basij Militia signed up another 200 suicide bombers. Half of them were women.

I am fascinated by the phenomenon. This was the third gathering of its kind since December. Each rally has successfully enlisted about 200 Iranian recruits. Two hundred men and women who volunteer to become human bombers.

This is how it happened. The Basji Militia rally was a rally like any other motivational rally, with one bizarre switch. There was a stage and speakers and slogans and posters and of course, organizers. Only it took place in a cemetery.

The participants met in the Be hesht-e-Zahra cemetery. They listened to inspirational speakers. They were persuaded of the importance of the shahid and of the divine nature of this spectacular task. They were told that they would achieve the ultimate Moslem goal in heaven by dying in the fight against the infidel enemy non-believer. They were persuaded. They believed.

The spokesman, Mouhamad Ali Samadi, explained that the new recruit/bombers had three targets:
"martyrdom attacks against the occupation of Palestine
assassinating the apostate
and attack against occupiers of holy places."

For those who need a translation from the translated English into more clearly understood English the targets are, in order:
The State of Israel
the author Salman Rushdie
and the United States of America.

The crowd responded with "Allah Akbar" and "Death to America."

Why am I fascinated? 200 Iranians volunteering to kill innocent Israelis and Americans is not new and it isn’t headline news. I am fascinated because this recruitment phenomenon gives us a clear glimpse into the mind of the Islamic Iranian. I am fascinated by a culture that can string together, with equal venom, Israel, Salman Rushdie and the United States. I am fascinated because this rally, the Basji Militia rally, symbolizes the Islamist, circa 2005.

The Islamist, circa 2005 always speaks in terms of extremes. Hyperbole. The Iranians, a country replete with extremists, has mastered the art of the extreme. There is never any moderation to be found in their language or in their imagery, especially vis a vis the outside world.

When all language is extreme several things happen.

First, the players themselves lose track of reality and of any realistic understanding of the normal happenings around them. Just look at what was offered to those recruits rallying in the Be hesht-e-Zahra cemetery. Martyrdom, Jihad, Death. That is what they signed onto in Iran, the country that is officially called the Revolutionary Islamic Republic of Iran.

Next, observers have a difficult time differentiating between real threats and those filled with bluster and wind. What is real and what is imagined? Yes, Iran hates the West and Iran hates Israel and Iran hates the United States and Iran hates Salman Rushdie. But there is little real threat and little real risk because there is little Iran can really do to hurt any of them from her own turf other than to hurt US forces in Iraq, which is very close to Iranian home turf.

But what happens if that foaming at the mouth turns into fact. If Iran continues to develop a nuclear program the situation changes. Then threats become real and then Iran can really strike out at the West at the United States and at Israel.

Isolation is what keeps Iran in check. And, for now at least, that's what keeps those 200 people right where they are. In a local cemetery in Iran.

Iran's Nukes & Russia
By Micah Halpern

Sunday May 15 2005

I've Been Thinking:

Iran's rapid nuclear development is a reality that is deeply troubling.
Even more troubling is Russia's support of Iran's nuclear development.

There is no doubt why Iran wants to develop their weapons.
But why does Russia want to help Iran achieve this great plateau?
Because Russia is deliberately sending mixed messages.

The Russian attitude, their support and contribution to the Iranian nuclear program - despite all international pressure brought upon them - is indicative of Russia's attitude toward world diplomacy.

The Russians are cooperating in the battle against terror, but only as it concerns Russia and Chechnya and impacts upon other internal Russian issues.
On the global level, like arming the single greatest sponsor of terror in the world, Russia ignores international pressure and persists in assisting Iran to become an even greater threat to the world.

We are witness to classic Russian diplomacy.
Continued relationships with both sides as if the other does not even exist.
In the end, it will all blow up in Russia's face.

PA Mercenaries in Iraq
By Micah Halpern

Saturday May 14, 2005

I've Been Thinking:

Iraqi police recently arrested 4 Palestinians responsible for deadly attacks in Baghdad.

This should not surprise anyone.

Given the experience, the motivation and the targets in Iraq, Palestinian terrorists would be the perfect mercenaries. They easily make their way through Jordan and into Iraq.

These terrorists are more than mercenaries. Yes, the Palestinians certainly are paid to carry out their dastardly deeds, but they don't murder for the money. They do it because of the goal they so admire. They are ousting the West from the Middle East.

These Palestinian terrorists in Iraq are certainly Sunni Islamic extremists.
They are committed to murdering everyone who collaborates with the US. Targets in Iraq satisfy multiple dimensions of their wacky raison d'etre.

PA Not Satisfied with Pullout
By Micah Halpern

Friday May 13, 2005

I've Been Thinking:

Mohamoud Dahlan told a business leaders lunch the other day that Israel's pullout of all Israeli residents from the West Bank will not be the end of the occupation in the West Bank.
Mohamoud Dahlan now serves as the Palestinian liaison for the redeployment.
Mohamoud Dhalan is a respected voice in the Palestinian and Arab world.

In order for the occupation to be ended, according to Dahlan, Israel must also:
Allow PA control over entrance and exits at border crossings
Allow for sea access
Allow for a State of Palestine international airport
Create a road connecting the airport to the West Bank that does not go through Israel.

Dahlan backed up his comment saying that Prime Minister Abbas never believed that an Israeli pullout from the West Bank was the end of the Gaza occupation either.

These are ridiculous addendums. Israel will be out. The Palestinians need to always blame someone else and deflect responsibility.

Lucky People
By Micah Halpern

Thursday May 12, 2005

I've Been Thinking:

Israel's National Insurance Institute with the Hebrew University has come out with a study about incidents of terror.

Call it strange coincidence, call it freaky, here are some of their results:
113 Israelis have experienced 2 terror attacks in the past 5 years.
17 of the attacks these people experienced were within a 2 month period.
70 of the attacks were within a 2 year period.

There are nearly 7 million citizens of Israel.
113 of them have been multiple terror victims.

Is the glass half empty or is it half full?
Either these people have very bad luck, or very good luck for having twice survived incidents of terror.
Perhaps, these are people who regularly frequent places that are targets for the terrorists.
Perhaps ... they live in a dangerous place.

PA Mourns Israel's Creation
By Micah Halpern

Wednesday May 11, 2005

I've Been Thinking:

The Palestinian Authority has announced that on Sunday May 15 they will mourn Israel's creation with the wailing of a nationwide siren and a minute of silence.

The idea is not unique.
Israel has just such memorials for the Holocaust and for those who fell in Israel's wars.

So what is my beef?

The Palestinians call Israel's creation Nakba, catastrophe.
The PA is showing it cards and real intentions.
The creation of the State of Israel in 1948 is their catastrophe.
Palestinian culture, society, politics and diplomacy has been consumed by Israel's very existence since 1948.

There is no real answer to the conflict short of the destruction of Israel.

Victory in Sports, Not Political Victory
By Micah Halpern

Tuesday May 10, 2005


Rome had their gladiators. England had their fox hunts. And last week, Israelis had their basketball. It was Maccabi Tel Aviv versus the other guys, Spain's Tau Victoria, for the European World Cup. And Maccabi won.

But you know what, it wouldn't have made a difference. Israel was in the finals for the Eurocup. The win was the icing on the cake, the diversion from the raw realities of everyday life.

Israel is a news junkie country. Israelis are glued to their TV and radio news stations day after day, hour by hour. This week, they changed the dial. They stayed glued, but to sports stations.

That's a big deal.

Every now and then, Israelis give up on their addiction for news and turn their attentions in another direction, to sports. It happened last year and again this year. Maccabi Tel Aviv, the greatest team in Israeli basketball history has won the European Cup two years in a row. Back to back championships will put anyone on the athletic map and Israelis know that.

Some might call it a silly little game. Extremely tall men bouncing and throwing a ball into a hoop. Trying to throw your ball in more often than your opponent. But the Eurocup is more than that.

It might be a game, but for Israelis it was also a distraction, a relief from the tensions and problems of everyday life. Not just the terror. The redeployment. The internal tensions and debates. The unanswered question: will giving land to the Palestinians bring peace. This year's Eurocup was the type of therapeutic digression needed by a society so tightly wound that political debates sometimes actually result in fisticuffs.

And then there's something else, something far more important, something too often overlooked in the euphoria of victory. Winning the Eurocup gives Israel credibility in the world and specifically in Europe. In their own eyes Israelis are now equals on the field of sports and in the political arena. But only in their own eyes.

When Israelis won their first Eurocup in 1977 the actually used the expression "we are on the map." Israel, they thought, had finally become "a somebody." They won again in 1981 and again in 2001. More power, more prestige to them. Maccabi Tel Aviv turned Israelis into real contenders in European basketball. The wins of 2004 and 2005 reinforce that status.

But here's the problem. Just because you are successful at sports, even ecstatically victorious, it does not mean you are accepted off the field. The sports arena plays by one set of rules, the corridors of power and politics play by another. Acceptance does not replace tolerance. Congratulations do not beget respect.

I hope that Israel continues to win many more Eurocups. It's good for the national soul. But that's all it is. Israelis, don't let yourselves be fooled.

Go team go.

Shame, Shame, Shame
By Micah Halpern

Monday May 9, 2005

I've Been Thinking:

This has been a horrific few days in Iraq.
We don't even know how many victims of terror there were.
We can't even get an accurate tally of the victims, the dead and the injured.

That's not good.
It's not good that there has been needless loss of life.
It's worse that these victims are faceless, nameless, numberless.
And why? Probably because they are all local Iraqis.

We have become so inured to the kind of terror that explodes almost daily in Iraq that unless it touches us directly, as Westerners and as Americans, we can pretend it did not happen.

Shame on us.
The loss of human life should never be diminished.

By Micah Halpern

Sunday May 8, 2005

I've Been Thinking:

Rami Malach was just brutally executed by fellow villagers. It happened in the Palestinian Arab village of Ilar, near Tul Karm in the West Bank.

The executioners were members of Islamic Jihad. Malach was described as the leader of a cell of collaborators.
The executioners say they are protecting themselves from the Israelis who are searching for them and executing them.
The executioners say that Israel is the terrorist, not them.

Here is the difference.
The Israelis are searching for terrorists who have murdered innocent people.
In this case, the Islamic Jihad of Ilar is the group responsible for the Stage Club terror attack in Tel Aviv that murdered 4 and wounded 50.

The Islamic Jihad is trying to protect themselves from Israel's surgical retaliation, not the other way around.

There is no parallel!

Syria's Not Out Yet
By Micah Halpern

Saturday May 7, 2005

I've Been Thinking:

Lebanon. It's still out of control.

The UN Security Council told Syria that while there has been much progress toward removing their forces from Lebanon, the job is still incomplete.
This week a group of UN inspectors approached a Syrian base. They were shot at and retreated.

Part of the deal is that Syria leave Lebanon and that they also disarm the militias they control. That part about militias was added in order to allow for democratic structures to grow in Lebanon without threats of violence.

Numerous militias reign in Lebanon.
All are under Syrian sponsorship and control.
Hizbullah is the most famous militia and they control Southern Lebanon.
The PFLP-GC, The Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine - General Command, under the leadership of Ahmed Jabril, controls the entire eastern Bekka Valley and has been there for 23 years.

Lebanon is wild and lawless because of the militias.
Syria is the only party that can exercise control over the lawlessness because they give them money and weapons.
But Syria just doesn't seem interested.

Israel's Qualitative Edge
By Micah Halpern

Friday May 6, 2005

I've Been Thinking:

Sometimes I cannot figure out how the United States decides to give support and military assistance.

For example:
This week The United Arab Emirates received 80 F-16 "Block 60" fighter jets from the US. They paid $6.4 billion for the machinery. The deal dates back to the spring of 2000.
There was no US sponsored announcement of the delivery, but it was covered in the local UAE paper.

The "Block 60" is an entirely new generation of fighter plane.
The "Block 60" is far superior to the "Block 50" that Israel has.
The "Block 60" has superior computer and radar tracking systems.
The "Block 60" can track multiple targets.

This is the first time in history that Israel's military qualitative edge has been challenged by United States supplies.
Never before has any Arab state had military capability that was newer or superior to Israel's.

The US rationale was that the UAE argued that they needed to defend themselves from threats like those from Iraq's Saddam Hussein.
Abu Dhabi is safer today.

I hope the result of this new US policy will be a safe region.

Inept NY Bombers
By Micah Halpern

Thursday May 5, 2005

I've Been Thinking:

There were 2 minor near simultaneous explosions outside the British Consulate in New York today.
Nothing to get excited about.

These were amateur bombs prepared by bombers.
The bombs were hardly bombs and the delivery was even less impressive. The bombers were inept and thankfully so. It is clear that these were not professional terrorists. Had they been trained in terror, or had they read the al Qaeda handbook they would have put together a more sophisticated explosive.

So why even bother writing about bombs that pose no serious threat?
Because there is an important lesson to be learned here.

The terrorists laid the bombs in the very space that was there to act as protection against bombs and explosive trucks.
The planter is the very place that bomb squads put bombs to limit the impact and danger of explosion.

This was not a serious threat nor was it a serious attack.
But it gives us good reason to rethink and re-evaluate the effectiveness of our most popular and elemental security precautions.

First Disarm Hamas
By Micah Halpern

Wednesday May 4, 2005

I've Been Thinking:

Hamas, the terrorist organization, wants to run in the Palestinian national election for parliament.

Palestinian Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas has no problem with that.
Abbas wants Hamas "inside" in order to try to co-opt them and force them into the mainstream political spectrum of Palestinian politics.
Abbas has announced the implementation of referenda to determine final status issues. He hopes the referendum will isolate the extremists and relieves Abbas of responsibility for these decisions.

Here is the problem.
Hamas has yet to renounce terror and violence.
Hamas refuses to give up their arms.

Both President Bush and Prime Minister Sharon have stated repeatedly that democracy cannot work hand in hand with armed militias.
Democracy and armed militias are diametric opposites.
How can the continued use of weapons and violence and terror be justified by not only Hamas but also by Abbas?

Hamas has yet to adopt the principle of coexistence and living side by side with Israelis.
Abbas has yet to figure out if he intends to take a stand against Hamas and, if so, how to physically disarm them.
This is a problem, a big problem.

By Micah Halpern

Tuesday May 3, 2005


The Turkish prime minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, just wound up a visit to Israel. Erdogan is a Muslim, he represents an Islamist party, his wife covers every single strand of hair under a traditional Muslim headdress. Erdogan is the Islamic leader of a democratic country.

It is highly unusual, even historic, for a man with Erdogan's standing and background to come on an official visit to the State of Israel. True, Israel and Turkey have had a steadily developing relationship for some years now. But the relationship has developed much less steadily since Recep Tayyip Erdogan stepped into his position as prime minister.

This visit was essential for both countries. The visit was productive in many ways. The visit set the tone for other concerned countries, Arab countries and for the United States. This visit was not without tension.

It is the diplomatic norm for all official visitors to Israel to pay their respects at Yad Vashem, Israel's National Holocaust Museum. Erdogan paid his visit, but did not pay his respects. In a rejection of the diplomatic norm the Turkish prime minister did not don a skullcap for the recitation of the prayer for the Six Million, customarily chanted in the Memorial Hall. Wearing the skullcap is diplomatic protocol. German chancellors wear it. Polish presidents wear it. African leaders wear it. Even communists wear it. Recep Tayyip Erdogan did not. It was a major diplomatic faux pas. Israel was upset. Diplomatic protocol was snubbed.

Visiting Yas Vashem, however, was not the purpose of Erdogan's visit to Israel.

The Turkish prime minister has been very public in his critique of Israel. He has been especially critical of Israel vis a vis the peace process with the Palestinians. And yet, during the visit, he underscored the importance of the relationship between Israel and Turkey.

And then he went further. Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan volunteered to serve as mediator between Israel and the Palestinians. It was certainly a very nice offer and one the prime minister truly believed would be well received. But it will never come to pass.

It should be apparent to any observer that neither Israel nor the United States will ever allow an Islamist prime minister from Turkey to mediate this process. For Israel, Turkey is a Muslim nation with whom diplomatic relations are on a seesaw. When it comes to matters of peace and mediation, Turkey is not to be trusted.

The United States would never even let the Turks enter the negotiating room. Turkey is the country that refused to allow US planes to take off or use their air space during the Gulf War. Allowing Turkey to serve as mediator in the Israeli Palestinian peace process, with the eyes of the world upon them, would be giving the grand prize to an undeserving nation.

The Palestinians would love for Turkey to intercede. For the Palestinians, it would be a perfect situation. Turkey is a Muslim country. More importantly, Turkey is not the United States of America.

Offering to mediate between Israel and the Palestinians, however, was not the purpose of Erdogan's visit to Israel.

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan came to Israel to buy arms and trade information.

Israel has been developing a large and significant arms trade in the world at large. Turkey has been an important part of that development. Israel and Turkey are linked in one other, crucial way. They share a battlefield against terror and that fight has become an important and dynamic dimension in the relationship between these two Middle Eastern countries.

Turkey is a breeding ground for terror. Turkey, like Israel, has been victim to several horrific acts of terror. During the third week of November 2003 there were four devastating near simultaneous attacks in Turkey against two synagogues, the British Consulate and a branch of HSBC Bank. Turkey needs to learn more about techniques for fighting terror. Israel needs more intel. Turkey has access to terror intel. Israel has the techniques for properly using that intel. In fact, these two countries have agreed to set up a "red phone hot line" concerning terror.

Turkey and Israel. Definitely not a match made in heaven. Certainly a relationship based on mutual need.

The Real Story with Lebanon
By Micah Halpern

Monday May 2, 2005

I've Been Thinking:

How can I convince you that Syria has not yet pulled out of Lebanon, that Syria still has important objectives to achieve in Lebanon?

Yes, Syria has removed its army and dismantled its main intelligence headquarters in downtown Beirut.
But, Syrian intelligence has over the years insinuated itself into every dimension of the very infrastructure of Lebanon.

See if this is convincing enough: Most of Lebanon's military officers are paid supplementary salaries by Syria. Fact. Undeniable fact.

Here's more: Hizbullah is seen by the Lebanese as a Syrian militia.
There are actually discussions in the Syrian high command as to the structure of Hizbullah. Syria not only armed and trained Hizbullah, they still have operational input.
And get this: Syria does not trust Hizbullah, so the Syrians have a very well developed network of spies within the terrorist organization.

I couldn't make this stuff up.

Osama bin Laden Dead?
By Micah Halpern

Sunday May 1, 2005

I've Been Thinking:

An Arabic language website, one that claims to be a voice of Al Qaeda, has announced that Osama bin Laden is dead.

The announcement created a flurry of responses in the Arab press.
Most of the comments said no way, no way could bin Laden be dead.
They said that if it were true, there would have been an outpouring of sympathy and very public expressions of mourning acclaiming his great accomplishments.

Osam bin Laden is probably is not dead.

What bin Laden probably is doing, however, is examining the power of a campaign of disinformation. And that’s important.
Bin Laden needs to know how will it help or hurt his cause if he is presumed dead.
Bin Laden needs to know if his messages get to the right places and people and if it is possible to confuse the masses while keeping his trusted inner circle in the know.

If this truly was a disinformation campaign, then he learned a lot.
He learned that this time there was virtually no real reaction.
He learned that next time he will have to be much more convincing.

And certainly, there will be a next time.

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