Good News Among the Bad

September 17, 2015

As the Jewish New Year of 5776 entered, news arrived that offered cause for the gravest concern. In England the British Labor Party had just elected Jeremy Corbyn, a viciously anti- Zionist agitator who has lent moral support to Hamas and Hezbollah, has maintained close associations through the years with antisemites and Holocaust deniers and is unapologetic in his embrace of the local Muslim Imams who call for the destruction and conquest of the West. This is, of course, coupled with the likely admission, in the near future, of hundreds of thousands of Muslim refugees into European cities, which will only exacerbate the tensions in those societies between secular society and its unassimable Muslim minorities, thereafter, inevitably, spurring further attacks on Jews; And of course the Obama Administration has just secured Congressional support for the most catastrophic diplomatic agreement since the 1938 Munich agreement – directly endangering the national security of the State of Israel.

All of us who live in the West must see the tragic trajectory that our foolish leaders have now committed us to – enabling, rather than crippling our enemies; providing them with the means of facilitating our destruction instead of stanching their supply of weaponry and providing diplomatic cover and access to funds which will be used to finance future attacks against us.

How to respond to all this bad news?

With the recognition that at no other time in history have the Jewish people been fortunate enough to possess a State of their own which is equal in military prowess and intelligence gathering to any other such force in the world; that the Israeli economy is booming, despite the country’s continuing diplomatic isolation – and this is because the world wants and needs what it has to offer – technological creativity and know how on a scale that it can find almost nowhere else in the world; that the State of Israel will, within the next few years, become a net exporter of natural gas, controlling, as it does , one of the world’s richest deposits of the energy resource beneath its Mediterranean sands – making the State an extremely vital supplier whose link with the West will be guaranteed and enhanced – particularly in the event that Russia veers further and further into autocracy, territorial expansionism and isolation from Europe. And that the Jews of Europe, understanding that the contagion of antisemitism that doomed them 70 years ago, has not died but instead resurfaced in a new and more virulent strain – will increasingly bring their resources – financial and physical to the State of Israel, adding wealth and sophistication to an already fascinating, polyglot society.

I thought about all this recently after a recent encounter on a trip to Europe.

On a flight to Amsterdam, I sat next to a fellow whose accent I immediately recognized as Australian. We struck up a very friendly conversation that continued for hours, comparing our interests in Australian sports and talking about favorite haunts in Melbourne. I discovered that he was Jewish and was moving to Berlin with his German wife, who was pregnant with his first child. Near the end of the flight he asked me about my final destination and when I told him it was Israel, his expression soured:

” Aw, mate,I could never go to that place. Can’t stand the thought that Jews are practicing apartheid just like the South Africans. ”

When I asked him if he had ever visited Israel to discover if this accusation was true for himself, he said he hadn’t and that he wouldn’t and that his mind is made up and that I would be wasting my breath to try to convince him otherwise.

I was quiet for a while and then I said;

“Mark, you know 75 years ago, Jews who had babies in Berlin – and chose to stay there, were almost certainly signing their childrens’ death warrant. It wouldn’t have mattered to the authorities that you were an anti- Zionist, a non-practicing Jew or that your wife was non-Jewish. The Nazis didn’t care about any of that. They took you if you had the least ounce of Jewish blood in your veins. The Nazis may well be gone but don’t think that you or your children or grandchildren will always be guaranteed to have it as good as you have had it in Australia and America all this time. Thirty years years from now, you, your child and your grandchildren may thank G’d,- even if none of you believe in Him – that there is a state in the world willing to accept you and your descendants because every other country in the world has shut its doors to the plight of the new German Jewish refugees.”

He turned away and we didn’t speak for the rest of the flight. But I realized that I had just confronted the same blinkered, festering self-hatred that I have seen in the writings of Noam Chomsky and Norman Finkelstein – intellectuals and activists who have joined with and given succor to the Jewish peoples’ enemies.

On this Rosh Hashana, let us then remember the miracle of the post-Holocaust, Jewish renaissance around the world; the extraordinary success of the people of Israel in building a flourishing democracy in a sea of hatred and contempt and the assurance that because that state exists, the Jewish people will live on and thrive and that the welfare and security of our grandchildren and great grand children is guaranteed because of it.

Shana Tova – Happy New Year -and may we all be blessed with health, peace, security and prosperity in the coming year.

With the elevation of Mr. Corbyn, the Labour Party is in the hands of the hard left for the first time in decades.
nytimes.com|By STEPHEN CASTLE

Netanyahu Delivers a Warning

March 3, 2015

 


Greece vs Germany: A Tussle to the Death

February 12, 2015

by Avi Davis

Now that Greece has demanded additional reparations from Germany for that country’s WWII crimes on Greek territory, many other countries might well fall in line with their tin cups extended. Soon enough Russia will be demanding reparations from France for Napoleon I’s invasion of 1812 and India might make the same demands of Uzbekistan for Tamerlane’s brutal incursion of the 14th Century.  And lets not forget the Anglo-Saxons who might want some compensation for the 300 years of Norman occupation of  England from 1066 onward.

 

Don’t get me wrong.  The Germans committed heinous acts in Greece 1941-44, occupying that country for four very long years during the Second World War, deporting hundreds of thousands and exacting a terrible price from the Greeks.

But the Germans already paid and the Greeks accepted extensive reparations in the 1950s and 60s. That includes about $54 million to Greece and its citizens, an amount that would be roughly $450 million today when adjusted for inflation. No Greek public figure has made a claim for extra compensation from the Germans since that time and extra reparations have certainly not been a focal point of Greek/German relations in any sense in the intervening years.  But now some Greek politicians claim Germany owes the country more than €160 billion ($181 billion) in reparations.

Why now then? Because the Greeks need leverage to use against the Germans in attempting to restructure ( another word for forgive) their debt so that that they can climb out of the crater their new leftist government is presently digging them and from which there will be no way out except via a rope thrown down by the Germans.

To me this sort of reads like the kid who skips school for the entire semester and then blames his teacher and the school’s bias for his failure in the year’s final exams.

It should not be lost on anyone that three years ago the Germans rescued the Greek economy from certain collapse when Government debt – already at 180% to GDP  – was spiraling so far out of control that it looked like if the drain on Europe was not plugged it would empty the entire European economic experiment into the Aegean.  The Germans came to the rescue but demanded substantial reforms – and thus the imposed austerity measures about which so many Greeks are today complaining and which ushered in the leftist government of the inexperienced Alex Tsirpas.

But so far the Germans are having none of the Greek petulance and seem unlikely to yield on their demand that in order to renew loans due on February 28th the Greek government must absolutely commit to the same austerity measures which essentially brought down the last government.

Greece's new Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras visits a shooting-range site on the outskirts of Athens in January. Members of the Greek Resistance were executed by Nazi occupation forces at the site during World War II.

 

No one , however, should mistake this for a stalemate.  Tsirpas’ government may think that it has the upper hand because skittish EU bureaucrats in Brussels, looking down the long barrel of the rapid devaluation of the Euro, will not allow Greece to simply walk away from the currency – which would be the inevitable result of a massive default on government debt.

However the German central banks – which are the real power behind the Euro – have so far expressed remarkable determination and show no willingness to renegotiate Greek debt with Tsirpas’ envoys.

Which brings us to the issue of the reparations.  They are a clearly transparent and cynical means of building resentment against the Germans, adding fuel to a fire which had already caught ablaze among the Greek public and has enticed them into this present sleep walk over a very steep fiscal cliff.

And here’s what that fiscal cliff looks like:

Greece’s bailout from the eurozone runs out on Feb. 28. At that moment, without an extension, it will lose its last €1.8 billion disbursement from the currency union’s bailout fund, €1.9 billion in profits from Greek government bonds held by the European Central Bank and around €11 billion still sitting in Greece’s bank bailout fund. The fate of a €3.5 billion transfer from the International Monetary Fund is less obvious, since the IMF’s program for Greece runs until the end of 2016. What is clear is that Athens won’t get any money from the fund without an agreed aid deal with the eurozone.

Greek government officials have said that they could run out of money in early March, especially if tax revenues deteriorate further. At that point, the government won’t be able pay things like pensions and public-sector salaries. Crucially, for the eurozone and the IMF, it also won’t be able to repay its creditors, including the fund and the ECB. Between March and August, Greece has to repay €4.7 billion in old IMF loans and €6.6 billion in bonds held by the ECB and national central banks. Those numbers don’t include interest payments to private creditors, the fund and the eurozone along with a few smaller redemptions. They also don’t include €13.4 billion in short term debt, so-called Treasury bills, that Greece needs to roll over by the end of August.

So in order top restructure that debt, the Greeks desperately need time – or else the trains, which rarely run on time anyway, will really stop running altogether.

So what happens now?

Almost certain default. Cut off from rescue funding, Greek banks would suffer dramatic cash outflows as depositors worried about Greece being forced out of the single currency region. Currently, the European Central Bank’s emergency liquidity assistance program, operated by the national central bank, ensures that Greek banks have enough cash to cover depositor outflows. Because depositors know this, there hasn’t been a stampede of funds out of the banks.

Yet.

But without the ECB, the flight of funds would cascade, threatening a Greek banking collapse. Greece would be forced to put up capital controls, limiting withdrawal of funds, and force the banks’ creditors to take losses.

Ernest Hemingway once wrote there are two stages to going bankrupt: “Gradually, then suddenly.” He could just as easily have been referring to the process of being ejected from the eurozone.

Greece’s sudden banruptcy will hurt everyone – even us here in the United States.  But it might be preferable to have a temporary electric shock than a long painful death from a million minor cuts.

Avi Davis is the president of the American Freedom Alliance and  the editor of the Intermediate Zone


Jonathan Sacks: Right on Western Civilization; Wrong on Islam

February 2, 2015

by Avi Davis

Rabbi Jonathan Sacks is almost certainly one of the leading religious figures in the world today.

As the former Chief Rabbi of Great Britain and the Commonwealth, he commands attention -not only for his former illustrious position, but equally for his erudition in Jewish law, his undoubted grasp of the dynamics of the political world and for his vast store of secular knowledge which embraces the disciplines of philosophy, literature, psychology and sociology.

He is beyond question one of the most worldly Jewish leaders to emerge since the polymath Maimonides took up a pen in the 12th Century and he is deeply admired for it.

I have read a number of Rabbi Sacks’ books including To Heal A Fractured WorldThe Dignity of Difference and Science, Religion and the Search for Meaning- all of which have fascinated me with their insights into the modern world and its challenges for both Jews and non-Jews alike.

Most impressive to me has been his understanding that the fate of Israel and the Jewish people is tied inextricably to the fate of western civilization.  In book after book, article after article, he propounds this same point  – our futures are bound together and those who attack Israel and the Jewish people are in fact attacking the very idea of civilization itself.

So I greeted with some anticipation Rabbi Sacks’ essay in the  Wall Street Journal’s Weekend Review titled The Return of Anti Semitism  which sought to address the recrudescence of antisemitism in the 21st century.

As usual I learned a great deal from this essay.   Among Rabbi Sacks’ many insights are that antisemitism is only contingently, even accidentally, about Jews.   Jews die from it, but they are not its only victims.   The elimination throughout the Middle East, sub-Saharan Africa and parts of Asia of hundreds of Christian communities is an incontrovertible extension of  antisemitism.   Thus he can assert: “ The hate that begins with Jews never ends with Jews.”

 

Auschwitz survivor Miroslaw Celka walks out the gate with the sign saying ‘Work makes you free’ after paying tribute to fallen comrades at the ‘death wall’ execution spot in the former Auschwitz concentration camp in Oswiecim, Poland, on the 70th anniversary of the liberation of the Nazi death camp on Jan. 27

Traditional Christian antisemitism, from the time of the Crusades onward objectified the Jews as having “mysteriously yet actively sought the harm of others”.  They were suspected of being actively involved in destroying the foundations of civilization.

Why, then, such a focus on the Jews?  Sacks posits that it always amounts to a peoples’ sense sense of their humiliation.   Societies which have suffered military defeat, widespread plague or the onset of the collapse of self confidence learn to externalize their pain by focusing on an explanation which provides clear and simple answers for it. Thus:

“By turning the question “What did we do wrong?” into “Who did this to us?”, it restores some measure of self-respect and provides a course of action. In psychiatry, the clinical terms for this process are splitting and projection; it allows people to define themselves as victims.”

This of course goes a long way to explaining what happened to the Muslim world after careening into its rapid decline in the 17th Century.

So far, so good.   It is when we reach the end of the essay that  we might find ourselves startled by an awkward conclusion. In pointing out how imbedded hatred destroys civilizations the author makes an impassioned plea for amity:

“Judaism, Christianity and Islam are religions of love, not of hate…… All of us—Jews, Christians and Muslims, brothers and sisters in Abraham’s family—must choose another way.”

The implication in this final paragraph (although not implicit in the essay itself) is that both Judaism and Christianity, in their purest form, exist on the same moral plain as Islam – as if they all profess the same fundamental values.

Is it political correctness which impels Sacks to make such a lachrymose and nonsensical statement?

For surely this thoroughly erudite and omnivorous scholar knows that Islam, from its very founding was not a religion of love or of peace;  that Islam did not acquire its anti- Jewish animus only in recent times but it was implicit in the religion from from its very inception. Muhammed set the example for what was to become a long tradition of Islamic antisemitism.  The oldest extant biography of Mohammed, that by Ibn Ishaq in the 8th Century, is replete with the Prophet’s evident hatred of Jews. He had individual Jews  asssasinated if he felt they had either insulted or disobeyed him;  When Muhammed gave the command to “kill any Jew who falls in to your power,” one of his followers, Ibn Mas’ud, assassinated  Ibn Sunayna, a Jewish merchant.  The Jewish tribe the Banu Qurayza consisting of between 600 and 800 men was exterminated while the Banu’l Nadir were attacked and dispossessed of their wealth.

Besides these specific acts of atrocity perpetrated against Jews in the 1400 years since Muhammed began his ministry, one can see how Jew hatred gained its foundation in the Koran, the hadith and in the sira (the earliest Muslim biographies of Muhammed) to the point where the existence of a virulent antisemitic thread in Muslim scholarship becomes undeniable.

This was conclusively summed up in 1996 by Sheikh Muhammed Sayyid Tantawi who became (and remains) the Grand Imam of Al- Azhar University in Cairo:

” The Quran describes the Jews with their own degenerate set of characteristics ie: killing the prophets of Allah, corrupting his word by putting it in the wrong places, consuming the people’s wealth frivolously , refusal to distance themselves from the evil they do and other characteristics caused by their deep seated lasciviousness….only a minority of the Jews keep their word….all Jews are not the same. The good ones become Muslims. the bad ones do not.”

There could be no more poignant an example of Islamic Jew hatred emanating from the heart of Islamic scholarship today than this.

Isn’t it time then for our religious leaders to take off their rose colored glasses and begin to comment on this world for how it really is?  While Jonathan Sacks has provided us with a very accurate analysis of why antisemitism emerges and how it wreaks damage on the societies where it gains its firmest foothold, it is counterproductive for him to keep pretending that the scourge is a phenomenon that only becomes evident in broken, humiliated civilizations.

Antisemitism should be recognized as dangerously inherent within Islam itself – infecting the societies that revolve around it – and that without a total reformation of the precepts and tenets of Islam it is likely to continue to exist not just as a cancer eating away at the core of the Muslim world but as a contagion which will eventually envelop humanity.

Shying away from this reality and pretending that Islam seeks only peace and exhibits love lends it just more cover for its continued propagation of the oldest of the world’s hatreds and enables it to attract even more adherents to its destructive force.

 

Avi Davis is the president of the American Freedom Alliance and the editor of the Intermediate Zone 

 

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Deaths in Mexico are a Reminder of American Exceptionalism

January 30, 2015

by Avi Davis

 

There are certain stories which offer sharp reminders of how truly fortunate we are to be living in a country with the rule of law as well as a profound respect for human liberty.

On September 26, 2014, 43 male students from the Raúl Isidro Burgos Rural Teachers’ College of Ayotzinapa went missing in  Guerrero State, Mexico. According to official reports, they commandeered several buses and traveled to Iguala that day to hold a protest at a conference led by the mayor’s wife. During the journey local police intercepted them and a confrontation ensued. Details of what happened during and after the clash remain unclear, but the official investigation concluded that once the students were in custody, they were handed over to the local Guerreros Unidos (“United Warriors”) crime syndicate and then slaughtered. Mexican authorities claimed Iguala’s mayor, José Luis Abarca Velázquez, and his wife María de los Ángeles Pineda Villa, masterminded the abduction.

 

Both Abarca and Pineda Villa fled after the incident, but were arrested about a month later in Mexico City. Iguala’s police chief, Felipe Flores Velásquez, remains a fugitive. The events caused social unrest in parts of Guerrero and led to attacks on government buildings, and the resignation of the Governor of Guerrero, Ángel Aguirre Rivero, in the face of statewide protests. The mass kidnapping of the students arguably became the biggest political and public security scandal Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto had faced during his administration. .

On November 7, 2014, the Mexican Attorney General Jesús Murillo Karam gave a press conference in which he announced that several plastic bags containing human remains, possibly those of the missing students, had been found by a river in Cocula, Guerrero. At least 80 suspects have been arrested in the case, of which 44 were police officers. One student was confirmed dead after his remains were identified by the Austria-based University of Innsbruck.

When contemplating this terrifying atrocity one’s mind is drawn back to Mississippi and the night of June 21, 1964 when three American civil rights workers, James Earl Chaney, Andrew Goodman, and Michael Schwerner, were abducted and shot at close range by members of the Mississippi White Knights of the Ku Klux Klan, the Neshoba County Sheriff’s Office and the Police Department located in Philadelphia, Mississippi. The three had been working on the “Freedom Summer” campaign, attempting to register African Americans to vote.

But what happened to those three students was an anomaly in modern American history, rarely ever to be repeated.  It is difficult to imagine a massacre as what I have  just offered above – with police handing whole busloads of students over to gang members in order to eliminate them  –  occurring today in  21st Century America.  Yet sadly we see it occurring every day in Iraq, Syria, Nigeria, Pakistan, the Congo, Sudan and other parts of both Africa and the Middle East.

Yet several centuries ago – during the Thirty Years War – such scenes were not unusual and even expected.  Butchery became a hallmark of European wars and invading armies and militias were given to a blood lust which knew few boundaries.

What distinguishes the West today from those brutal times 600 years ago – and from the countries, such as Mexico, where gang dominion leads so often to summary execution of innocents, is not only the rule of law which is dutifully respected by a majority of American citizens, but an abiding respect for the value of human life.  Reading the stories and seeing the photographs of the executions of students who were only exercising their peaceful constitutional rights to protest, must not only send a chill down the spine of every American but also remind us of our deep fortunate to be living where we are living and at a time in history when such things are not regarded as ” usual ” or in the normally accepted course of events.

 

Avi Davis is the President of the American Freedom Alliance and  the editor of The Intermediate Zone

 

 

 

 

 


In Like Flynn

January 28, 2015

By Avi Davis

The sense that the United  States is not receiving adequate leadership in the war against terrorism is gaining steam from an even more audible group of critics.

On Monday, Michael Flynn, the former head of the Pentagon’s Defense Intelligence Agency slammed the Obama administration as paralyzed and playing defense rather than offense in the fight against Islamic militancy.  He said the administration is unwilling to admit the scope of the problem, naively clinging to the hope that limited counterterrorist intervention will head off the ideological juggernaut of religious militancy.

His calls were echoed by Gen. Jack Keane, the former Vice Chief of the Army who told the Senate Armed Services Committee that al Qaeda’s influence has grown exponentially over the past several years and despite the killing of Osama Bin Laden, the hydra headed movement is threatening American Interests all over the world and not just in the Middle East.

Flynn’s and Keane’s comments reinforce calls by other former Obama administration officials such as former Defense Secretary Robert Gates, and former CIA Director and Defense Secretary Leon Panetta who say that while in office they urged more intervention earlier in the Syrian conflict but met with a deafening silence from the Obama Administration. Repeated demands for a greater commitment in those theaters went unheeded.   No doubt Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel, once his own inevitable memoirs are published, will amplify the criticisms of his two predecessors. It is no secret  in Washington DC that Hagel was dumped because of his strident advocacy of greater American military involvement in Iraq and Syria.

All of which is anathema to this president.  His decision to pull all troops from Iraq – and to leave only a handful in Afghanistan – after years of American sacrifices in both countries to bolster regimes friendly to the United States,  was more than  just the fulfillment of a campaign promise;  it was the practical reflex of an ideology which harbors only contempt for what he sees as  imperialist or internationalist missions and views America  as far too extended. He sees no good national interest advanced by the presence of U.S. troops in any theater of conflict and is viscerally opposed to the kind of nation building and interventionism which became a hallmark of the Bush Administration.

But as the world situation develops it is becoming clearer that the United States  – just like  every other Western nation – can no longer hide from the reality that if the war is not fought on foreign soil it will be fought on our own soil.  The Kouachi brothers in Paris two weeks ago brought back what they had learned about ambush strategy and tactical frontal assault warfare from their training and experience with ISIS in Northern Iraq and executed a technically perfect raid on the Charlie Hebdo offices in central Paris; ISIS inspired plots have been uncovered in Australia, Indonesia,  the U.K. and of course France.

What is patently clear is that the contagion of ISIS is going to bounce back to the United States.   We cannot leave a vacuum in the Middle East and expect it not to be filled by al Qaeda , ISIS and a host of other insurgent forces dedicated to undoing the work of the United States and using the countries in the region as platforms for striking out against the West. We can also not expect ISIS and al Qaeda to fail to export their military successes to the streets and boulevards of our cities and our leaders would be foolish to blindly turn away from this eventuality.

Avi Davis is the President of the American Freedom Alliance and the editor of The Intermediate Zone


Beware of Greeks Returning Gifts

January 27, 2015

 

by Avi Davis

On Monday morning, the Greek people awoke to find themselves confronted by a new reality.

 

 

In a landslide, the anti -austerity party, Syriza, won a decisive victory in national elections, positioning its tough-talking leader, Alex Tsipras, to become the next prime minister.

Appearing before a throng of supporters outside Athens University late Sunday, Mr. Tsipras, 40, declared  the era of austerity over and promised to revive the economy.

He also said his government would not allow Greece’s creditors to strangle the country.

 

Such a victory was hardly unexpected.  Since  Germany and other northern European countries had forced Greece to swallow the bitter pill of austerity in 2011,

the country has groaned under the dramatic cuts in government spending, the loss of public sector jobs ( at one time the public sector made up nearly 45% of the workforce)

and the evaporation of the once booming housing market.  The Greeks could not become accustomed to a situation in which  their future was controlled by other countries

and  there has been increasingly loud rallies calling for an end to the Euro mandated austerity regime.

But Tsipras’ plans to end austerity and grow the economy quickly will immediately encounter some insurmountable hurdles to which  the economists

in his party have not given sufficient attention.

 

For lets be clear about one thing:  Greeks economic pain is not due to the austerity measures forced upon it by the Eurozone.  It came about because of years of profligate

spending, irresponsible budgets, a debt to GDP ratio that was the highest in Europe and a country that failed to produce anything much at all that the rest of the world wanted.

Greece joined the Eurozone in 1999 flush with the expectation that the high valued Euro would bring with it a rush of international investment

which would power the economy into the 21st Century and contribute to widespread prosperity.

 

But in those giddy years, the people of Greece neglected to affirm the one value that they would need to enshrine in order to grasp their new golden egg:

they still needed to work and work hard.

 

That was not to be.  Given to years of lassitude, the Greeks, and most Europeans have no stomach for the kind of effort it takes to sustain a modern economy.

Profligacy, social welfare, neoptism, corruption, an over loaded and under-worked bureaucracy and a vibrant, fairly open black market, has produced a country where people don’t work much, retire young

and take long vacations. Add to this severe institutional problems – such as the fact that a third of the country doesn’t pay tax and a quarter of the economy operates

under the table and you have a recipe for economic catastrophe.

 

The Greek model actually describes the bulk of Europe, where the work ethic has given way to the pleasure ethic and the

lambent idea that government can always be counted on to bail out failed enterprises.  But what happens when the government has no money to bail out anybody

and the source that it must rely on – namely foreign investment, remains skittish and uncertain about the country’s future?  What happens when no one – not the European Union,

not the United States and not China – is prepared to say we believe in your future and we will continue to fund your debt?

That is exactly what  the new prime minister will face in the coming days and weeks when  the EU stands its ground and tells the Greeks that if they

welsh on their commitments then their debt will be called – leading to a pain unlike the people of Greece have ever known before.

 

For the EU, Greece and the austerity regime imposed upon it has represented the plug that has prevented them from hearing that sound of the wealth of Europe

gurgles down the drain and emptying into the Aegean.

Would detaching Greece from the Euro and letting it drift back into the drachma bring great pain to the heart of Europe?  Almost certainly, but it would not be fatal.

Will the Greek revolt against austerity encourage other countries under the same austerity regime – Portugal, Ireland, Spain and Italy – to follow their example and

buck their benefactors?  Almost certainly not.  The difference is that these countries have mature statesmen who have been able to convince

their populations that a  temporary belt tightening and fiscal discipline could lead to a far more prosperous future.

Unfortunately in Greece that kind of leadership has been absent and that absence is now even more pronounced with the ascension of  a new leader who eschews

the kinds of sacrifices the Greeks have needed to make for years

 

In 2011 the European Union – and most particularly its wealthier countries in Germany and France – handed Greece a gift.   Now the Greeks wish to

return that gift with contempt, thinking that the EU has more to lose than they do.  They could not be more mistaken. The Northern European countries

will rather let Greece sink into the Aegean before opening the floodgates to other fragile economies demanding the same accommodation.

 

A titanic tussle is about to take place.  But lets set it in perspective:   In this Olympian wrestle for dominance,

it is the Europeans who hold the Greeks by their vulnerable parts and not the other way around.

 

Avi Davis is the President of the American Freedom Alliance and the editor of The Intermediate Zone

 

.


Beware of Greeks Returning Gifts

January 26, 2015

by Avi Davis

On Monday morning, the Greek people awoke to find themselves confronted by a new reality.

 

 

In a landslide, the anti -austerity party, Syriza, won a decisive victory in national elections, positioning its tough-talking leader, Alex Tsipras, to become the next prime minister.

Appearing before a throng of supporters outside Athens University late Sunday, Mr. Tsipras, 40, declared  the era of austerity over and promised to revive the economy.

He also said his government would not allow Greece’s creditors to strangle the country.

Such a victory was hardly unexpected.  Since  Germany and other northern European countries had forced Greece to swallow the bitter pill of austerity in 2011,

the country has groaned under the dramatic cuts in government spending, the loss of public sector jobs ( at one time the public sector made up nearly 45% of the workforce)

and the evaporation of the once booming housing market.  The Greeks could not become accustomed to a situation in which  their future was controlled by other countries

and  there has been increasingly loud rallies calling for an end to the Euro mandated austerity regime.

But Tsipras’ plans to end austerity and grow the economy quickly will immediately encounter some insurmountable hurdles to which  the economists

in his party have not given sufficient attention.

For lets be clear about one thing:  Greeks economic pain is not due to the austerity measures forced upon it by the Eurozone.  It came about because of years of profligate

spending, irresponsible budgets, a debt to GDP ratio that was the highest in Europe and a country that failed to produce anything much at all that the rest of the world wanted.

Greece joined the Eurozone in 1999  flush with the expectation that the high valued Euro would bring with it a rush of international investment

which would power the economy into the 21st Century and contribute to widespread prosperity.

But in those giddy years, the people of Greece neglected to affirm the one value that they would need to enshrine in order to grasp their new golden egg:

they still needed to work and work hard.

That was not to be.  Given to years of lassitude, the Greeks, and most Europeans have no stomach for the kind of effort it takes to sustain a modern economy.

Profligacy, social welfare, neoptism, corruption and a vibrant, fairly open black market, has produced a country where people don’t work much, retire young

and take long vacations. Add to this severe institutional problems – such as the fact that a third of the country doesn’t pay tax and a quarter of the economy operates

under the table and you have a recipe for economic catastrophe.

Corruption, venality of office, an over loaded and under-worked bureaucracy and the fact that there is no history of accommodation between the political classes

and labor unions at all, have all added to the sense of hopelessness.

 

The Greek model actually describes the bulk of Europe, where the work ethic has given way to the pleasure ethic and the

lambent idea that government can always be counted on to bail out failed enterprises.  But what happens when the government has no money to bail out anybody

and the source that it must rely on – namely foreign investment, remains skittish and uncertain about the country’s future?  What happens when no one – not the European Union,

not the United States and not China – is prepared to say we believe in your future and we will continue to fund your debt?

That is exactly what  the new prime minister will face in the coming days and weeks when  the EU stands its ground and tells the Greeks that if they

welsh on their commitments then their debt will be called – leading to a pain unlike the people of Greece have ever known before.

 

For the EU, Greece and the austerity regime imposed upon it has represented the plug that has prevented them from hearing that flushing sound as the wealth of Europe

gurgles down the drain and empties into the Aegean Sea.

Would detaching Greece from the Euro and letting it drift back into the drachma bring great pain to the heart of Europe?  Almost certainly, but it is not fatal.

Will the Greek revolt  against austerity encourage other countries under the same austerity regime – Portugal, Ireland, Spain and Italy – to follow their example and

buck their benefactors?  Almost certainly not.  The difference is that these countries have mature statesmen who have been able to convince

their populations that a  temporary belt tightening and fiscal discipline could lead to a far more prosperous future.

Unfortunately in Greece that kind of leadership has been absent and that absence is now even more pronounced with the ascension of  anew leader who eschews

the kinds of sacrifices the Greeks have needed to make for years

 

In 2011 The European Union – and most particularly its wealthier countries in Germany and France – handed Greece a gift.   Now the Greeks wish to

return that gift with contempt, thinking that the EU has more to lose than they do.  They could not be more mistaken. The Northern European countries

will let Greece sink into the Aegean rather than open the floodgates to other fragile economies demanding the same accommodation.

 

A titanic  tussle is about to take place.  But lets set in perspective:   In this Olympian wrestle for dominance,

it is the Europeans who hold the Greeks by their vulnerable parts and not the other way around.

 

Avi Davis is the President of the American Freedom Alliance and the editor of The Intermediate Zone


The Saudi Succession and its Impact on U.S. Foreign Policy

January 23, 2015

by Avi Davis

The Saudi Royal Family must be blessing the fact that polygamy has always been practiced so prodigiously in their country.

The ascension to the Saudi throne of Crown Prince Salman bin Abdulaziz al Saud (79), following the death of his 90 -year- old half brother King Abdullah on Friday, marks the fourth time a son of the Abdul Aziz al Saud, founding patriach of the Saud dynasty, has assumed power following the death of a brother.  Indeed, the fecundity of that first monarch, who had, over time, married close to 40 wives, should be noted for yet a fifth half-brother, Prince Muqrin, now stands in line as heir apparent.

Abdullah had been a capable king, steering his oil rich country into a close cooperative relationship with the United States, offering itself as a mainstay of moderate Arab power in the Persian Gulf.  His cooperation as regent for his ailing half brother Fahd during the first and second Gulf Wars were essential to American victories in Iraq and the kingdom has functioned as an oasis of stability in a time of tumultuous revolutions in the region.

That is not to say the Saudis are the most savory of our allies.  The kingdom, despite recent modernization and reforms by Abdullah, is still a despotic autocracy, ruled largely by personal fiat where sharia law enforcement police roam the streets, women are routinely stoned, journalists whipped and free speech severely repressed.  But the United States does not have the luxury of choosing its allies in the Middle East and the Saudis have generally come through on their commitments despite their trenchant resistance to American styled freedoms and deep seated hypocrisy.

But during the years of the first and second Obama Administrations, the strength of the U.S.- Saudi alliance has been shaken as the Saudis saw  a weak U.S. President buckle on his commitment to oust Iranian backed Bashar al Asad in Syria; an unwillingness to shore up a long term ally such as Hosni Mubarak in Egypt and the seeming intent to appease a belligerent and nuclear seeking regime in Iran.  Since 2011, the Saudis have therefore increasingly set their own course in determining how to confront their most pressing security concerns, even reaching a tacit, if diplomatically discreet agreement their avowed enemy – the State of Israel, in the event of that country’s need to launch a preemptive strike on Iranian nuclear facilities.

A new complication now arises with the collapse of the American leaning government of  President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi in Yemen.   The coup of the Houthi, who represent an offshoot of Shiite Islam and are closely aligned with Iran, represents a dynamic shift in the balance of power in the Persian Gulf. For now we can speak of a Shiite archipelago in the Gulf with Iran linking with Yemen in the Arabian Peninsula, Hezbollah in Lebanon, the Asad Alawites in Syria and Hamas in Gaza.   This situation for the Saudis will be completely intolerable as their Sunni government will become an obvious target of  an emboldened Shiite Iran.

Given the geopolitical layout of the present day Middle East, the Obama Administration is looking increasingly flat footed.  The President’s insistence that the P5 +1  negotiations with Iran in Geneva must be allowed to run their course, without the imposition of any further pressure on the Iranians by way of increased sanctions, has infuriated U.S. allies in the region – which includes Israel, Jordan and Saudi Arabia.

The recent decision of the Obama Administration to ignore Benjamin Netanyahu’s visit to the United States in early March only seems to fit an eerie pattern of nonchalance regarding the Iranian threat.  It leaves us with the most incomprehensible of scenarios:  the U.S. paying court to our country’s avowed enemy – a regime which has notoriously financed or else perpetrated the continuous murder of American servicemen and civilians for over 30 years  – while ignoring and snubbing those who are its most reliable supporters in the region.

 

The new king, the frail Prince Salman Ibn Abdulaziz is now presented with a troubling dilemma.  Without the guarantee of U.S. backing the Saudis will almost certainly need to strengthen cooperation with the more moderate Arab regimes in Egypt and Jordan while firming up its  relations with the State of Israel. It make look even further abroad  to China for superpower protection.   This should not exclude a likely decision to begin to construct its own nuclear facilities, leading to an arms race which cannot have a happy ending.   Such developments could leave the United States out in the cold as its policy of engagement with the Iranians falters and then collapses.

The other element which could play a decisive role in determining relations in the region is that of oil. As the price of oil has tumbled below $50 a barrel – and looks likely to go even lower – the Saudis and OPEC have defiantly refused to pull back on their own production levels which has in turn contributed to a world wide oil glut and driven prices down even further.  This has caused  many of the new U.S. shale oil producers to scale down production with an accompanying painful reduction in their profits.

But the Saudis should not be able to have it both ways.  They cannot strangle the U.S. oil producers while demanding U.S. protection from an aggressive Iran.  Here savvy statecraft on the part of the Obama Administration could have played to the U.S.’ advantage – forcing the Saudis to scale back their oil production in exchange for a tougher stance towards the Mullahs. Unfortunately that may beyond the abilities of this Administration and this President whose own linear thinking rarely takes into account the variability in relations between states.

Committed to one course of action, Barack Obama is unlikely to switch gears mid-course.  But that, unfortunately, may portend a crash which could take with it an alliance that successive U.S. administrations over 70 years have fought determinedly to maintain.

Avi Davis is the President of the American Freedom Alliance and the editor of  The Intermediate Zone


Argentina’s Rendezvous With Truth

January 20, 2015

by Avi Davis

The discovery of the body of Argentinian federal prosecutor Alberto Nisman in Buenos Aries on Monday morning brought into confluence two of Argentina’s recurring nightmares: the terrorist bombing of 1994 which destroyed the Jewish Community Center in Buenos Aries and the lawlessness of the 1970s and early 1980s when a military junta governed the country and made its opponents disappear.

Nisman had spent the better part of a decade investigating the destruction of the AMIA building (Argentine Mutual Israelite Association) on July 18, 1994 .  The bombing killed 85 and injured hundreds – most of them Jews.   It was the deadliest urban bombing in Argentinian history and the worst antisemitic atrocity in any country since the end of the Second World War.  

In the time between the bombing and the present day, those behind the attack have not been brought to justice, although it is widely accepted that Hezbollah, financed by Iran, had been integrally involved in its execution.  What is not as well known is the extent of the involvement of the Argentinian police, military and even political leaders in perhaps the bombing but certainly its cover up. Nisman, a dogged investigator, was due  to make substantial revelations, with reams of evidence implicating the government of Isabel Kirchner, her foreign minister  Hector Timmerman and several other leading political figures in a cover up of Iran’s direct involvement in the 1994 atrocity.

The 22 year long investigation into the bombing has become a veritable hornet’s nest of corruption, incompetence, timidity and latent antisemitism.  It has swept up into its net such luminaries as former President Carlos Menem (1989-99), who is being brought to trial, accused of helping to hide the tracks of the local accomplices of the attackers; a federal judge named Juan José Galeano, who had at one time administered the case but on a charge of “irregularities” due to mishandling of the investigation, was impeached and removed from his post; and former investigator Claudio Lifsschitz  – abducted and tortured by men who told him not to investigate Argentina’s  Secret Intelligence Services for their involvement in the plot and cover up.

On the Wednesday before he died, Nisman had filed a criminal complaint against President Isabel Kirscher, Foreign  Minister Hector Timmerman and other political leaders.  He was scheduled to appear before Argentina’s Chamber of Deputies on Wednesday to deliver his evidence, which he had declared, “substantial and irrefutable.”

Nisman’s body was found in the bathroom of his condominium with a hand gun by his side.   A single bullet, fired at point blank range to his temple, was the cause of his death.  This apparent suicide, however, did not leave a suicide note nor was there was any sign of forced entry.

Who would not be deeply suspicious of the fact that a man in his early 50s, on the brink of probably the most important moment in his legal career, would choose to kill himself?  Those who knew Nisman have described him as a man not given to fits of depression or anxiety and extremely confident of the tightness of his case against the government.

He must have also known that his life might be forfeit and that Argentina’s ruling elite would not long allow such a brazen challenge to its integrity.

It is the same ruling elite that in January, 2013  signed a memorandum of understanding with Iran to establish a “truth commission” to investigate the AMIA Bombing.  It was designed to “analyze all the documentation presented to date by the judicial authorities of Argentina and Iran…and to give its vision and issue a report with recommendations about how the case should proceed within the legal and regulatory framework of both parties.”   The Truth Commission was later quashed by Argentina’s Supreme Court as unconstitutional.

This astonishing governmental gambit aroused David Harris from the American Jewish Committee to comment: “the idea of establishing a ‘truth’ commission on the AMIA tragedy that involves the Iranian regime would be like asking Nazi Germany to help establish the facts of Kristallnacht.”

There can be few in Argentina who truly believe that Nisman’s death was a suicide.  Thousands of people thronged the streets of Buenos Aries on Tuesday to demonstrate against the government and to proclaim the obvious – Nisman had been murdered.

The death of the prosecutor must stir to life painful memories for Argentinians of the days of the Dirty War  – a period of state terrorism, commissioned by the ruling junta from 1976 to 1983 during which right-wing death squads hunted down and killed left wing guerrillas, political dissidents and anyone believed to be associated with socialism.  The campaign against los desaparecidos (the disappeared) occurred domestically in Argentina via kidnappings, mass shootings and the casting of citizens from planes to their deaths. Additionally, 12,000 prisoners, many of whom had been convicted extra-judicially, were detained in a network of 340 secret concentration camps located throughout Argentina.

This unhappy history is only a backdrop to a country that has perennially defaulted on its foreign debt, has the streets of its cities riven with crime and for decades has become a haven for former Nazis, exiled dictators, drug smugglers and international crime syndicates.

In other words Argentina is the model of the failed nation state, an example of a polity so riven with corruption and lawlessness that the events of July 18, 1994 seem in hindsight to have been completely predictable.

The search for truth in Argentina for the cause of one of the most tragic days in its history, has not stopped the Israelis from targeting those it already knows to have been behind atrocity. In an interview with the Buenos Aires-based Jewish News Agency in January ,2013, Itzhak Aviran, who was the Israeli ambassador to Argentina from 1993 to 2000, said most of the people behind the AMIA attack were eliminated by Israeli security agents operating abroad.

Unfortunately though, those Argentinians complicit in the bombings and responsible for its cover up remain at large and may in fact still control the reins of power.

One day justice will come to these Argentinian leaders.  But in the meantime lets hope that Argentina’s rendezvous with truth will proceed and the memory of Alberto Nisman will be vindicated by his determined successors who will refuse to be intimidated by the return of a Government mandated campaign of disappearances.

 

Avi Davis is the President of the American Freedom Alliance  and the editor of  The Intermediate Zone

 


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