Will UN Security Council be fair with Israel?

February 27th, 2015 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

NZ is now on the UN Security Council, and one of the issues before it is a draft resolution regarding Israel and Palestine.

I recently met with Dr Einat Wilf, who is a former Labor MP in the Knesset, a former intelligence officer, McKinsey consultant, and foreign policy advisor to Shimon Peres. She is a regularly published commentator and academic.

Her bio describes her as an atheist and a Zionist so we had a fun discussion over whether Judaism is a religion, a race or a culture. Her view was definitely not a race, and both a culture and a religion. There are quite a large number of “secular” Jews and she said that one definition of being a Jew is a belief in “up to one God” :-)

We covered the normal range of topics such as the impact of the Islamic State, Iran, whether despositic dictators were better for the region than the status quo etc. But also quite a bit on Israel and Palestine.

Wilf is very critical of the draft Security Council resolution, which NZ appears to be supporting. She makes the point:

A Security Council resolution that is balanced, even-handed and has the potential to make a real contribution to peace. In its present form, the proposal is very specific on demands from the Israeli side, while leaving the obligations of the Palestinians and the Arab states up to “fair and agreed solution.”  

 This leaves all the issues crucial to Israel up for negotiation, while whatever concessions Israel could have offered to advance them, have already been predetermined. It further leads to a situation where at the end of the 24-month implementation period, if such a resolution is passed, Israel could be found in material breach of a United Nations Security Council resolution, while no Arab or Palestinian action or refusal to take action can be. There is no specific metric for Palestinian non-compliance, since the draft speaks of their obligations in the most general of terms. 

So the resolution appears balanced on the surface as it appears to have obligations on both sides, but the obligations on the Palestinian side are so general, that it is basically impossible for them to ever be found in breach.

On the question of territory, the draft resolution leaves very little ambiguity.  It calls for a complete Israeli withdrawal to the pre-1967 lines with agreed, mutual swaps and on Jerusalem, it insists on a “shared capital” for both states.

Such specific and unequivocal demands of Israel could have been paired with equally forceful statements renouncing the Palestinian demand for the “return” of the descendants of refugees from the 1948 war — which would effectively turn democratic Israel into an Arab country with a Jewish minority.  But here, the resolution only asks for an “agreed, just, fair, and realistic” solution.

The demands for a right to return would effectively see the wiping out of Israel as we know it. If you want a peace settlement, then that needs to go off the table.

The resolution calls on all parties to refrain from actions “that could undermine the viability of the two state solution on the basis of the parameters defined in this resolution,” but then lists as its only example of such action “settlement activities.”  Settlement activity is the only specific action of any party that is criminalised in this text, whereas the text makes no mention of Palestinian attacks on Israeli civilians, nor of suicide bombings, or racist or genocidal incitement. It never deplores the Arab boycott as illegitimate or unacceptable, and it doesn’t even specifically call for its end as part of a comprehensive peace.

Not much incentives for Israel!

Where it is specific

about Israeli concessions on territory, it is very vague about the “security arrangements” that will come after an Israeli withdrawal. The details are to be worked out in future negotiations, but one detail is already built in: “a full phased withdrawal of Israeli security forces.” Israel’s concerns that the West Bank, which overlook every major Israeli city and town, could become a base for Gaza-style rocket attacks, are not even a consideration.

This means that in a period where nearly every Arab regime has been threatened with an Islamic insurgency, or fallen to one, or just been ripped apart by civil war, Israel is expected to commit ahead of time to a security arrangement with zero Israeli military presence — and where any future military presence will automatically place it in breach of a UNSC resolution.

So why is NZ supporting this resolution?

I believe New Zealand can make a real contribution to peace and to the strength of the United Nations system by insisting that if such a resolution moves forward it will not “pick and choose” between the sides and the issues, but treat all of them equally and in equal measure and detail.

We campaigned on being independent and fair. I hope we live up to that.

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Middle Eastern political relationships in one easy lesson

January 24th, 2015 at 2:31 pm by Lindsay Addie

Last year Slate published this diagram using smilies to show the state of relationships in Middle Eastern politics.

Middle East Friends and enemies

Some of these relationships may have changed in light of more recent events but assuming for a moment that they’re reasonably accurate as shown.

  • Everyone but Iraq have more enemies than friends.
  • ISIS and Al-Quida not surprisingly don’t have any friends.
  • The Palestinian Authority seem for whatever ever reason to have a lot of complex relationships.
  • The Israel – USA relationship is probably a friendly relationship that has got a bit complicated bearing in mind the squabble about Netanyahu being invited to address a joint session of the US Congress by Boehner. The White House have accordingly got their knickers in a knot.
  • Saudia Arabia don’t have an oversupply of friends.

I must add that some countries like Yemen and Jordan haven’t been included.


A former Saudi Commodore on Israel

August 27th, 2014 at 7:00 am by David Farrar

Abdulateef Al-Mulhim is a retired Royal Saudi Navy Commodore. He wrote a couple of years ago in Arab News:

 From the period of 1948 and to this day many confrontations have taken place. Some of them were small clashes and many of them were full-scale battles, but there were no major wars apart from the ones mentioned above. The Arab-Israeli conflict is the most complicated conflict the world ever experienced. On the anniversary of the 1973 War between the Arab and the Israelis, many people in the Arab world are beginning to ask many questions about the past, present and the future with regard to the Arab-Israeli conflict.

The questions now are: What was the real cost of these wars to the Arab world and its people. And the harder question that no Arab national wants to ask is: What was the real cost for not recognizing Israel in 1948 and why didn’t the Arab states spend their assets on education, health care and the infrastructures instead of wars?

The total cost of the conflict is massive.

The Arab world wasted hundreds of billions of dollars and lost tens of thousands of innocent lives fighting Israel, which they considered is their sworn enemy, an enemy whose existence they never recognized. The Arab world has many enemies and Israel should have been at the bottom of the list. The real enemies of the Arab world are corruption, lack of good education, lack of good health care, lack of freedom, lack of respect for the human lives and finally, the Arab world had many dictators who used the Arab-Israeli conflict to suppress their own people. 

These dictators’ atrocities against their own people are far worse than all the full-scale Arab-Israeli wars. 

Israel is a convenient diversion for many rulers in the region.

Many Arabs don’t know that the life expectancy of the Palestinians living in Israel is far longer than many Arab states and they enjoy far better political and social freedom than many of their Arab brothers. Even the Palestinians living under Israeli occupation in the West Bank and Gaza Strip enjoy more political and social rights than some places in the Arab World. Wasn’t one of the judges who sent a former Israeli president to jail is an Israeli-Palestinian? 

The region would do much better if there was peace with Israel.


Hamas encouraging its own citizens to get killed

July 20th, 2014 at 3:00 pm by David Farrar

William Saletan at Slate writes:

Hamas seized control of Gaza seven years ago. Its reign has been disastrous. Unemployment and poverty are around 40 percent. The government is bankrupt. Israel’s control of Gaza’s borders has played a huge role in that. But Hamas has done everything possible to tighten Israel’s grip and delegitimize Palestinian resistance.

And the latest:

The vast majority of the damage in Gaza has been inflicted by Israel. Yet Hamas has contrived to make the carnage worse. It has encouraged Gazans to stand in the way of Israeli missiles. When Israel advised 100,000 Gazans to evacuate an area targeted for invasion, Hamas instructed them to ignorethe warnings. It added: “To all of our people who have evacuated their homes—return to them immediately and do not leave the house.”

Unbelievable. They actually are encouraging their own citizens to try and get killed, so they get propaganda from it.

That’s what Hamas is doing. It’s trading Palestinian blood for political ambitions it foolishly expects to achieve through war. No amount of suffering in Gaza has persuaded it to stop. During the war’s first week, there was vague talk of a cease-fire, with each side reportedly holding out for further demands. Netanyahu declared that “no international pressure will prevent us from operating with full force.” Israel looked like a belligerent bully. On Monday, when Egypt announced acease-fire proposal based on ideas sketched by Abbas, all Hamas had to do was say yes. The proposal entailed no concessions. It was just a break in the bloodshed, followed by talks.

The gist was simple. As of 9 a.m. Tuesday, both sides would stop shooting. Then they’d start talking, through Egypt, about a truce. The discussions would include Hamas’ demands for easing Israeli control of Gaza’s borders. Egypt’s foreign ministry emphasized that the proposal was “aimed at stopping the killing of the Palestinians.”

The Arab League embraced the plan. Abbas issued a statement that “urged all parties to comply with this truce in order to stop the shedding of Palestinian blood.” Israel accepted it and announced that, as of 9 a.m., it had stopped shooting. For six hours, Israel held its fire.

But Hamas kept shooting. Rockets continued to fly from Gaza into Israel—nearly 50 in the next six hours—and Hamas took credit for them.

People need to understand how this makes the chance of there ever being peace minimal. When Israel agrees to a cease-fire, and Hamas fires 50 more rockets off, you’d have to be bonkers to think Israel will then do another ceasefire.

Hamas didn’t just reject the cease-fire. Its spokesmen mocked Israel for agreeing to the plan, calling this acquiescence “indicative of Israel’s weakness.” They “condemned international and regional support for the ceasefire initiative.” They derided Egypt, scoffing that “the Egyptian initiative is an attempt to defeat us” and that “those who ignore the Palestinian resistance should not be dealt with.”

Anyone who equates Hamas and Israel is basically an Israel hater.

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What is ISIS

June 22nd, 2014 at 11:52 am by David Farrar

Prospect Magazine look at what is ISIS:

What is ISIS?

It is a Sunni Muslim militant group operating in Western Iraq and Syria. The name is an acronym, standing for “the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (the Levant).

What does it want?

International recognition as an independent state for the territory it controls, which spans parts of eastern Syria and western Iraq. In this area, it functions as a de facto government, operating schools and courts. It also wants to control more territory. If it can sustain and consolidate its new gains in Iraq, it will control much of the northern part of the country, and reports say it plans to mount an assault on the capital, Baghdad (its advance has been halted just short of the city). It also wants to seize control of rebel-held areas in central Syria and potentially expand into the Lebanon to the West. In both Iraq and Syria, ISIS’s enemies are Shia Muslims.

So it wants to carve a Sunni country of of Iraq, Syria and Lebanon.

Who are its members?

Reports vary, putting the total number of recruits at anything from 3,000-10,000. According to Gareth Stansfield, professor of Middle East politics at the University of Exeter, the group tends to recruit most heavily among Syrian and Iraqi locals, but it does have some foreign fighters, mostly Chechens, Afghans, and Pakistanis, as well as some Europeans. Michael Stephens, Deputy Director, Qatar for the Royal United Services Institute (RUSI), says there could be as many as 300 Britons fighting for ISIS, and a further almost 300 other Europeans. 

Any Kiwis I wonder?

How dangerous is it?

The group is well-resourced. Its new adventure in Iraq has seen it seize military bases in Mosul. In Syria, it controls oil fields, and it may yet gain control of Iraq’s largest oil refinery in the town of Baiji. Stephens says that individual Saudi and Kuwaiti donors are giving money to ISIS, either through European financial institutions or, in some cases, by smuggling suitcases of bills across the border. It is also ruthless: the group has been blamed for a string of assassinations in Syria, including two alleged crucifixions. Most importantly, this particular militant operation is very good at recruiting people to its cause. “This idea of fighting Shia seems to be really mobilising young men to fight in a way that fighting Westerners didn’t,” says Stephens. “They [say] they’re saving Islam from itself. 

That’s fascinating that the are more motivated to fight Shia than the West.


So Iran are now the good guys?

June 14th, 2014 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

Iran has reportedly sent its Revolutionary Guard forces to fight al-Qaeda-inspired militants who are sweeping across Iraq.

The Wall Street Journal and the Times reported that two battalions of the Quds Forces, the elite overseas branch of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard, that have long operated in Iraq, have come to the aid of the Shia-dominated Government.

Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki Government last night remained in paralysis, unable to form a coherent response after militants blitzed and captured entire chunks of the nation’s Sunni heartland this week, including major cities, towns, military and police bases as Iraqi forces melted away or fled.

What’s that old saying – my enemy’s enemy is my friend. So true.

The new reality is the biggest threat to Iraq’s stability since the United States’ withdrawal at the end of 2011, and it has pushed the nation closer to a precipice that would partition it into Sunni, Shia and Kurdish zones.

That may not be the worst outcome – three separate countries. Can the Shia and Sunni sects live together now? Kurds are already autonomous. But actual separate countries could also be destabilising as Turkey would not want a Kurdistan as neigbours.

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Sharon’s plans

January 14th, 2014 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

An interesting article in Haaretz on what Sharon was looking to do:

Ever since Ariel Sharon sank into a coma eight years ago, many have wondered whether he would have taken the peace process with the Palestinians any further after the 2005 withdrawal from Gaza.

A series of cables from the U.S. Embassy in Tel Aviv to the State Department that were leaked to Wikileaks show that in fact, even before the Gaza withdrawal, Sharon was planning his next big diplomatic move. Moreover, leaked Palestinian documents show that after Yasser Arafat’s death in November 2004, and even more so once Mahmoud Abbas was elected Palestinian president the following January, Sharon made efforts to coordinate the Gaza withdrawal with the Palestinian Authority. …

In his summary of that meeting, then-U.S. Ambassador Dan Kurtzer makes it clear that Sharon had no intention of stopping with the Gaza withdrawal, but planned to take far-reaching steps in the West Bank and Jerusalem. Kurtzer noted that Sharon put emphasis on annexing the major settlement blocs, implying he would concede other parts of the West Bank, and that while he would not even discuss dividing Jerusalem, he would consider handing over some Arab neighborhoods, “but not the Temple Mount, Mount of Olives or the City of David.”

We’ll never know what would have happened if Sharon had lived, but I think we would be closer to a peace settlement. However I doubt we would have one, as both parties need to want peace, and while Fatah sort of do, Hamas do not.

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A small but symbolic tweet

September 6th, 2013 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar


This tweet was from the President of the Islamic Republic Republic of Iran.

The Washington Post reports:

The tweet called special attention to Iran’s Jews – there are thought to be perhaps 25,000 living largely in peace – but it’s the reference to “all Jews” that seems especially significant. Given the long-standing enmity between Iran and Israel, and the years of official Iranian rhetoric condemning Israel in often anti-Semitic language, this is quite a shift.

After eight years of fiercely anti-Israeli rhetoric from former president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and his government, which often veered well into anti-Semitism, it’s difficult to separate discussion of Jews in Iranian political discourse from discussion of Israel. That’s obviously not a particularly helpful habit. But the point is that this tweet, purportedly from Iran’s president, seemed to be offering a very small gesture of goodwill at least partially toward Israelis, who can usually expect nothing but hateful rhetoric from Iranian rulers. It’s not exactly a unilateral declaration of peace – tomorrow, Iran will probably still support Hezbollah – but it’s yet another hint of Rouhani’s efforts to dramatically soften Iranian foreign policy and rhetoric.

The former President talked often of wiping out Israel and denied the Holocaust occurred. This one sends Rosh Hashanah greetings to all Jews. It is just symbolic, but a very welcome change of tone.

A spokesperson has tried to deny the account is the President’s, and it may be run by someone on his behalf, but it is thought he approves any messages on it.

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Will this get widely reported?

November 22nd, 2012 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

The Houston Chronicle reports:

Masked gunmen publicly shot dead six suspected collaborators with Israel in a large Gaza City intersection Tuesday, witnesses said. An Associated Press reporter saw a mob surrounding five of the bloodied corpses shortly after the killing.

Some in the crowd stomped and spit on the bodies. A sixth corpse was tied to a motorcycle and dragged through the streets as people screamed, “Spy! Spy!”

No doubt the evidence was carefully considered in a fair trial.

Witnesses said a van stopped in the intersection, and four masked men pushed the six suspected informers out of the vehicle. Salim Mahmoud, 18, said the gunmen ordered the six to lie face down in the street and then shot them dead. Another witness, 13-year-old Mokhmen al-Gazhali, said the informers were killed one by one, as he mimicked the sound of gunfire.

They said only a few people were in the street at first — most Gazans have been staying indoors because of the Israeli airstrikes — but the crowd quickly grew after the killings. Eventually several hundred men pushed and shoved to get a close look at the bodies, lying in a jumble on the ground. One man spit at the corpses, another kicked the head of one of the dead men.

“They should have been killed in a more brutal fashion so others don’t even think about working with the occupation (Israel),” said one of the bystanders, 24-year-old Ashraf Maher.

One body was then tied by a cable to the back of a motorcycle and dragged through the streets. A number of gunmen on motorcycles rode along as the body was pulled past a house of mourning for victims of an Israeli airstrike.

Funnily enough, Hamas brutally murdering Palestinians gets far fewer headlines, than Israel missile strikes killing Palestinians.

UPDATE1: A Hamas official has criticised the killings, or at least criticised “The way these collaborators were killed and the images after their death …”. 

UPDATE2: Egypt has announced a truce between Israel and Hamas. This is a good thing. Now if Hamas could just drop their objective of destroying Israel, then a durable peace for land settlement could be contemplated.

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The power of cartoons

November 21st, 2012 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

From coNZervative.

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Obama on Israel

November 19th, 2012 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

The Washington Post reports:

At the start of a three-day trip to Southeast Asia, President Obama said at a news conference in Bangkok on Sunday that Israel has a right to defend itself.

“There’s no country on Earth would tolerate missiles raining down on its citizens from outside it’s borders. So we are fully supportive of Israel’s right to defend itself from missiles landing on people’s homes and workplaces and potentially killing civilians. And we will continue to support Israel’s right to defend itself.”

It’s funny how weeks and weeks of missile attacks on Israel rarely warrant even a minor news story. It is only when they strike back that the world’s media give it 24/7 coverage!

But, the president added, “we are actively working with all the parties in the region to see if we can end those missiles being fired without further escalation of violence in the region.”

It is sad when people die on either side. I note however that for Hamas their definition of success is killing as many civilians as possible while for Israel, it is killing as few civilians as possible.

No doubt many from the safety of their homes, advocate that Israel should do nothing about rocket attacks on them from Gaza. Maybe they believe that they threaten only a few homes near the border. Well thanks to the Israeli Embassy, here is some perspective.

A peace settlement on 1967 borders is only possible if there is actual peace for land. But when the land already given up is used to launch thousands of rocket attacks on civilians, then it hardly provides much of an incentive to give up even more land.


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Pallywood Returns to Gaza

November 17th, 2012 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

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Syrian PM defects

August 7th, 2012 at 4:51 pm by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

As Aleppo shudders under a barrage of shellfire, the desertion of Syria’s PM marks one of the most high-profile defections from President Bashar al-Assad’s government.

Syria’s prime minister began planning his break from the regime two months ago when Bashar Assad offered him the post and an ultimatum: Take the job or die.

The full scope of Riad Hijab’s carefully executed flight to the rebel side – described by an aide who escaped with him to Jordan – reverberated Monday through Syria’s leadership.

Hijab became the highest-ranking government official to defect, emboldening the opposition and raising fresh questions about the regime’s ability to survive the civil war.

If Assad is eventually toppled, and jailed (or killed), it will send out a very strong signal to Middle East regimes that if your citizens demand democracy, responding by killing them will end badly for you. Qaddafi found this out also.

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The Arab League

January 24th, 2012 at 8:30 am by David Farrar

Reuters reports at Stuff:

Syria has rebuffed an Arab League call for President Bashar al-Assad step down in favour of a unity government as interference in its affairs, underlining its determination to defeat a 10-month-old uprising seeking Assad’s overthrow.

It was not immediately clear whether Syria would accept the League’s decision to keep Arab observers in the country for another month despite their failure to stem bloodshed in which hundreds of people have died since they deployed on December 26.

But any credibility the mission might retain was undermined when Saudi Arabia, a foe of Syria’s closest ally Iran, announced it would withdraw its own monitors because of the Syrian authorities’ failure to cooperate with its mandate. It was unclear if other Gulf states would follow suit. …

Rami Khouri, a Beirut-based commentator, said the unusually bold Arab plan announced at the Arab League’s Cairo headquarters on Sunday was clearly “bad news” for Assad.

“The fact that Arab countries would propose such a clear intervention and essentially order him to step aside and give him a mechanism to do so is quite a dramatic sign of how much credibility and legitimacy he has lost in the region,” he said.

It’s good to see the Arab League putting the pressure on Syria to stop killing its people, and to have elections. It makes it much harder for the regime to say the opposition is a tool of the United States etc.

However it is ironic that you have a league made up of so many countries that themselves do not have democratic elections, pushing for elections in Syria. I guess the difference is their monarchies are  relatively benign, and are not killing their citizens. However even the House of Saud may feel the winds of change one day.

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Hypocrisy alert

March 16th, 2011 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

Reuters reports:

Bahrain has declared a state of emergency following weeks of unrest on the island kingdom, state television announced on Tuesday, saying the measure would come into force immediately and last three months.

An order by the king “authorised the commander of Bahrain’s defence forces to take all necessary measures to protect the safety of the country and its citizens,” said a statement read out on television.

Meanwhile, Iran called the arrival of Saudi troops in Bahrain unacceptable and urged the kingdom to respond to pro-democracy demonstrators peacefully.

For fuck’s sake – I don’t know whether to cry or laugh.

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March 1st, 2011 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

Most analysts think Gaddafi has lost control of so much of Libya, that his downfall or demise is just a matter of time. I hope so.

The death toll is in the thousands, and those lives could have been saved if Gaddafi had done a Muburak. Of course the difference may just be that the Egyptian Army was less willing to kill it own citizens. To be fair most of the Libyan Army has been reluctant also.

A part of me sees some good from his decision to try and supress the pro-democracy movement by arms. Because it looks like he will fail, and will depart office (or life) reviled internationally.

This may prove a useful lesson to other dictatorships in the Middle East, and encourage them to peacefully engage with pro-democracy movements – not try and crush them.

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Which country will be next to go?

February 21st, 2011 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

Will it be Bahrain or Libya?


The importance of moderates

October 6th, 2010 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

Reuters reports:

Jewish settlers on Tuesday gave new copies of the Koran to Palestinians in a West Bank village whose mosque was burnt in an attack blamed by Palestinians on militants in the settler movement.

Several copies of Islam’s holy book were scorched in the arson attack and threats in Hebrew were scrawled on the wall of the mosque of Beit Fajjar early on Monday.

The village sits on the edge of the sprawling Jewish settlement bloc of Gush Etzion.

Suspicion immediately fell on settler militants opposed to a peace deal between Israel and the Palestinians, in which some settlements would be turned over to a Palestinian state.

“This visit is to say that although there are people who oppose peace, he who opposes peace is opposed to God,” said Rabbi Menachem Froman, a well-known peace activist and one of a handful of settlers who went to Beit Fajjar to show solidarity with their Muslim neighbours.

This is a nice story, and something it would be good to see more of. All religions have extremists (some have more than others), but they also have moderates. And when extremists do something in the name of your religion, it helps if others in that religion decry them, or as in this case show in a practical sense your disgust.


Lunch with Daniel Pipes

August 25th, 2010 at 3:27 pm by David Farrar

Just returned from the Wellington Club where myself and around eight journalists had lunch with Daniel Pipes, who has authored more than a dozen books on the Middle East or Islam. The Israeli Ambassador kindly hosted the lunch.

Daniel spoke on five broad topics, and we had a lively Q+A. I’ll go through them, off memory.

Iraq & Afghanistan

Pipes was very pessimistic for both countries, and said that the aim of transforming the countries into modern democratic states has and will fail. Worse, he believes they won’t even achieve the status of “a decent place to live”.

What makes his view of significance, if he was a supporter of the invasions of both countries. So he is saying, that the US has failed and will fail.

I asked whether the US were too ambitious trying to turn Iraq into a post-war Germany or Japan, and whether they would have been better to basically shoot Saddam, and the next ten in the line of succession, tell No 11 that he is now in charge, that he should leave the Kurds alone, and bring in some elections and basically pull out, leaving the infrastructure, the Baath party, the army etc intact.

Pipes basically agreed, and said that has been his long held position – that the US should have found a strongman, who was more palatable than Saddam, and left him in charge. It would not have achieved a secular liberal democracy, but it might achieve the country becoming a semi-decent place to live.

US Policy

Pipes made a strong case that in terms of foreign policy, there is very little difference between Bush and Obama. Obama at one stage had more troops in Iraq and Afghanistan than under Bush. Also Obama has approved 50 attacks from unmanned drones, compared to 38 under the entire Bush presidency.

Obama’s outreach to Islamic states, with his Cairo speech did result in a more favourable impression of the US at the time. But a year later, the views of the US in the Islamic world have shrunk back to what they were under Bush.


Pipes thinks there is no doubt Iran is developing nuclear weapon – and that in fact it is a logical thing for Iran to do, as it makes you a military power, but in a far cheaper fashion than an increase in conventional forces.

He decried both the Bush and Obama strategy on Iran on the basis he has yet to work out what either of them is.

Pipes believes the threat of a nuclear armed Iran, under its current leadership, is so dangerous, that a military strike will be necessary.

I actually pushed back against this, on the basis that most Iranians want to get rid of their President, and an attack on their nuclear facilities is the one thing which will make his popularity soar, and guarantee the hardliners keep control for at least a generation.

Pipes said that he does think that Iran is the one country where the Islamic leadership is under real threat, and if left alone they are likely to be removed from power in the future. However he still regards the danger in the interim of an Islamic Iran with nuclear weapons to be so great, that he still thinks a strike is needed – but accepts the consequences will be a massive increase in terrorism etc.

Israel & Palestine

Pipes is a pessimist on a diplomatic solution. He asserts that you only have diplomatic solutions after the war is over, not as a way to stop a war. Until one side “wins” diplomacy will not work.

His preferred course of action is to try and increase the proportion of Palestinians who accept Israel has a right to exist from 20% to over 50%. He says only when a majority of Palestinians accept they will not succeed with their desire to destroy Israel, will a diplomatic solution have any chance of working.

Islam and Europe

Pipes says the growing Islamic population in Europe is partly due to the indigenous populations not producing enough children to maintain population, and partly the desire of people in Islamic countries to move to places with a better standard of living.

He says that there are three possible paths ahead:

  1. Europe muddles through with peaceful co-existence. He says that he sees no evidence at all that this is the likely scenario.
  2. Over time Europe becomes more “Islamised” with Islam as the dominant religion in Europe, and wide-spread sharia law – even some Islamic states in Europe.
  3. A massive back-lash from the indigenous Europeans, with neo-fascist and even fascist parties gaining support across the Europe.

A vigorous discussion on this topic. Canada was held up as one of the few Western countries which has managed Muslim immigration, which has not been radical Islamists. I suggested that NZ has also been successful at having Muslim immigrants, with almost no radicalisation here.

Pipes suggestion for keeping it that way, is that one should not discriminate against Muslims who wish to migrate here, but that one should absolutely discriminate against Islamists.

He said many people do not get the difference between Islam/Muslims and Islamism/Islamists. He says Islam is a religion like Judaism, Christianity etc. Islamism is a political belief like communism, zionism, fascism.

Was a very interesting 90 minute lunch and discussion, even if somewhat depressing in terms of the outlook for key conflicts, and for Europe. Barry Soper commented that it made him glad to live in New Zealand – for which I have to agree.

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Eve Teasers

June 14th, 2010 at 2:22 am by The Wanderer

Can’t let this slip by without mention.

Seems like Kuwait has reverted to old school justice, the likes of which haven’t been seen in Europe since WWII, and in Kuwait since the 1980’s apparently.

Hat tip: Desert Girl

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No virgins for you!

April 22nd, 2010 at 10:54 pm by The Wanderer

He’s not the first, but his is perhaps the best – Foreign Policy’s article on Tahir ul-Qadri introduces you to the Pakistani Islamic Scholar who has issued a fatwa condemning terrorism as un-Islamic. Not only does he label terrorism as “haram”, or forbidden under Islam, he goes so far as to describe acts of terrorism as acts of disbelief. To put this in context, for a practising muslim, an act of disbelief is pretty much the worst offence he or she can commit against Islam.

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Reaction to rape

April 22nd, 2010 at 7:51 pm by The Wanderer

I came accross a new website here the other day, called Kuwait Exposed , where people can anonymously post their “confessions”. While most of the posts are pretty lame and rather whiny, I was disgusted to read a confession of rape .  I’m inclined to believe it as genuine following the poster’s further comment in response to some of the other comments (where he was stupid enough to use his own name – not that that’ll assist in any legal action, which is highly unlikely to eventuate in any case).

It’s surprisingly easy enough to live in a place like this and let the dichotomy of an expat vs Kuwaiti view on the world pass you by, and many people do, despite experiencing the differences on a daily basis.

What struck me most about this “confession” was the reaction in the comments. This creature says he loves this poor girl, whom he has raped.  He seems to realise on some level that what he has done is wrong, but he still sees her as the future wife and mother of his children.

And many of the commenters seem to as well! For example:

” Telling ur mother idf the best thing to do even taking her with u wen u are going to Apologize, the virginity thing could be fixed only if she have an adult helping her. Then if u truly wanna show her that u love her ask ur mam to call hers and engage her to u !” [sic]

“If you really love her and want to make it up, there is a way you could do it. if I were in your place, I would go and ask for her hand in marriage.”

Some don’t even see a need to confess: “what’s left is between you and God”

The comments about the need/ability to “fix” a loss of virginity have got to stop you in your tracks also.

Compare that to comments from those with Western names.

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The Journey Home

December 3rd, 2009 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

Got to Tel Aviv at 11 pm Saturday night and crashed briefly at a place provided by Yani. Then had to taxi to airport at 3 am. The taxi did not turn up though, so Ebba and I ended up dragging out suitcases down the road onto the main street, where we managed to hail one.

At the airport, went through much much tougher security than I have seen anywhere else in the world. In one sense it was very reassuring that they take security so seriously, meaning you have a safe flight. On the other hand it meant I only hit the lounge 15 minutes before I had to go to the gate. The security process was:

  1. A 5 – 10 minute interrogation by a young female airport official while waiting in the queue for first x-ray. She asked me detailed questions about why I went to Turkey, Egypt, Kuwait, Dubai and Iran. When I said I had a friend working in Kuwait, she asked why was she working there and she didn’t even smile at my response it was because she earns three times what she would in NZ. Also asked me several times if anyone had given me anything to carry for them, as it could be a bomb.
  2. Then went through first x-rays of all luggage.
  3. Then had a total search of my suitcase (presumably based on my suspicious itinerary to date) which took ten minutes
  4. Then passport control. More questions
  5. Then a x-ray of my hand luggage
  6. Then a search with a wand of not just me, and the hand luggage, but also my shoes, my camera, my books etc.

While all the security was a hassle, it did mean at least I could be confident we would have an incident free flight. And Israel, of all countries, does need to be vigilant. If interested, see Wikipedia on El Al security.

Was sad to leave Israel, as it was such a fascinating place. There is a wonderful blend of racial backgrounds. Another country I am definitely going to return to. Very grateful to Davidi and Young Likud for their first class hosting, and to my European friends who made the trip so fun.

Flew to London, which took almost six hours. My ticket conditions meant I had to continue around the world, so could not take the much quicker eastern route back.

I had a standby upgrade request for the 11 hour leg from Heathrow to LA, but the flight was full. Annoying that one had to go through security scan, even in transit. The lounge there was quite nice, and got some work done.

Then landed at LA after 11 hour flight. They no longer allow you to access the Koru Club, if you are Star Alliance Gold, due to security restrictions. Very peeved as really wanted a shower. Then a 13 hour flight to Auckland.

Did get an upgrade to Premium Economy, which was my first time trying that section out. Biggest boon for me was a power supply as I worked on laptop entire flight catching up with emails, writing blog posts (including most of this one) etc.

Having the seats recline back more is useful, but also proved a hassle as the person in front put their seat so far back I could not use my laptop in front of me. But by chance luck was with me as I was in a window seat (despite a standing request for aisle seats). In premium economy they had a foot wide ledge (with storage space beneath them) next to the window. Not only is it great for storing papers and books (and even the laptop so I did not have to get it from overhead after takeoff, but it allowed me to use the area as a work station by balancing the laptop on my arm rest and a cushion propped up on my shoes on the ledge – a real no 8 solution :-)

So my advice for travellers if to go for the window seat if in premium economy (or at least the upstairs section).

Got into Auckland at 7 am Tuesday and stayed overnight.


Went to the famous switching on of the Franklin Road Xmas lights. 99% of the houses on the 1 km long road put up extensive lights and decorations. It’s a wonderful community initiative and the entire road was a party zone. They were even giving away free food.

I attended one of the parties, which was great fun. Damien Christie spent the night introducing me as David Farrier from TV3!

Woke up with a hangover around 10.30 am and almost missed my flight to Wellington.  I blame xxxxxxx.

Is good to be home, but have had wonderful month in a region I have long wanted to visit. And I must be one of a very few people who have done Iran and Israel consecutively in the same trip!

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The Golan Heights

December 2nd, 2009 at 5:42 pm by David Farrar


On the sabbath we had brunch in the Hula Valley in the Golan Heights. We had “local” food pretty much every day, and I have to say it was damn nice. It’s a shame to eat your normal diet, when you are in other countries, but often you end up doing so if staying in hotels. Having a local guide really helps.


That sign is not just for show. The Syrians left a huge number of mines behind, and Israel decided it was better to just fence off some areas than try and detect them all (hazardous to the detectors)


Sweden doubles its defence force capability :-)


One mine field has these cacti in them. I mentioned to the group that I would plant a mine at the bottom of the cactus so that if the mine doesn’t get you, then you’ll still be hit by hundreds of pieces of cacti. One of the others said they hoped never to have to go to war against NZ with that mentality!


A fairly major strategic battle happened on this hill. 20 Israelis died taking the hill against a mortar and very well defended trenches. They Syrian soldiers were very young and inexperienced and eventually fled a superior position. Our host mentioned that the Syrians were very much innocent victims in a conflict not of their choosing.


One of the trenches on the hill


Nearby was Fort Nimrod. Now this has nothing to do with any modern conflict but was established as a Muslim fort in 1300 AD or so. There are extensive ruins to look at, if you make the drive up to it.


More of the fort.


Down to the secret tunnel


Used the zoom lens to snap this little creature on a ledge below the fort. It looks like the little critter is about to jump!


We then went to Mount Bental. On the path at the top, they have entries from a competition to design children’s toys out of former military weapon. I asked if there was also a competition to design weapons out of children’s toys :-)


And another


At the top they have a former bunker a a very nice café. The Hebrew word for in the clouds is Annan and for coffee is Kofi, so the café is called Kofi Annan, a nice play on the former UN Secretary-General.


Again this is regarded as a very strategic hill. You can actually see a Syrian city, and Lebanon is not far away. Contrary to what might assume, there is no border fence.

At one stage we we driving next to the Jordan. In fact we got so close my cellphone told me I was now receiving Vodafone Jordan.


Going down into the bunker.


This is at Qatsrin, and is the remains of a very early Jewish synagogue from 2,000 years ago.


At Janhnun we saw a great audio-visual show on the history of the Golan Heights, beamed onto a replacia model of them. Then afterwards we had a beer tasting of local beers. Yum.


A sunset over the Sea of Galilee. Beautiful.


Finally we visited Hamat-Gader where we saw some animals, had dinner, and dipped into the local thermal pools. Those leaving later on Sunday stayed the night at the Kefar-Ha Nassi Kibbutz.

We had an interesting debate about whether that fence was high enough to stop a determined crocodile.

We also saw a nine metre python.


A photo of the pool area. The main pool was hot enough, but the inside pool was an uncomfortable 43 degrees – maximum time recommended 10 minutes.

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The North of Israel

December 1st, 2009 at 10:43 am by David Farrar

On Friday we went up north. First stop was the Caesarea National Park, which has the ruins of the city set up by King Herod.


The park has lots of ruins, and also a good museum explaining the history of the area.


A group shot by the harbour. It was constructed to be a major port – around 100,000 square metres in size. The constructed a reef by dropping bales of volcanic ash into the sea, which turns them into solid concrete.


We then went to the Aaronsohn House. They were a family who operated as a spy network in WWI for the British against the Turks.

27 year old Sarah Aaronsohn was captured and killed herself after four days of torture, so she would not reveal her colleagues.


Despite being way north of Jerusalem, we ran into a Cabinet Minister. She is with the Labor Party, and I think has the commerce facility. Despite Davidi being with Likud, he is very good friends with the Minister – they were hugging each other when they ran into each other. Israel is a very small place, like NZ.


We then went to the old city of Tsefat (aka Zefat and Safed). On the way we visited a couple of war memorials. At most tourist sites they have a machine which will play an audio recording in Hebrew or English. They were really good to listen to – giving you a five minute history of what happened there.

Tsefat is a very old city, and many Orthodox Jews live there. Almost every second building is a synagogue. It is one of four holy cities, along with Jerusalem, Hebron and Tiberias. We saw the (outside of the) former home of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, who left in 1948.

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