A Map for the Road Not Taken

Shackled Warrior
Israel and the Global Jihad

by Caroline Glick
Gefen; 427 pages; $29.95

Reviewed by Jonathan Schanzer
Jerusalem Post
June 26, 2008

It is often said that either you are an idealist or a realist. Indeed, these two worldviews almost always clash. But Jerusalem Post deputy managing editor Caroline Glick, an American-Israeli with strong Zionist convictions, somehow embraces both with vigor. This has helped her produce consistently compelling commentary that wastes little time cutting to the very essence of the issues she explores.

Yet, in nearly every dispatch, Glick conveys either a subtle or even strong sense of frustration with her Israeli and Jewish-American audiences that refuse to wake up to the dangers that loom in the Middle East. Her first book, a well-structured compendium of her columns, may sadly serve as a map for the road not taken in the fight against radical Islam.

The seemingly endless Palestinian war against Israel is perhaps the greatest source of frustration for Glick. Several of her most compelling pieces hammer home the fact that the "Palestinian goal today is genocide," and their "central organizing principle is the physical elimination of the Jewish people." This should be obvious to most readers of Middle Eastern affairs. Yet a majority of American Jews and even Israelis continue to hold out hope for peace.

The author soundly rejects the notion that even the sweetest US or Israeli incentives can prod the Palestinians toward peace. She observes that the Palestinian people receive "more aid per capita than any people on earth" but prefer "poverty, violence and war to prosperity." This applies to all Palestinians; while Hamas is typically vilified for its gruesome acts of terror, we cannot forget that Fatah maintains "goals that are incompatible with the continued existence of the State of Israel." In other words, it has become impossible to separate the "general Palestinian population from those involved in terrorism."

She arrives at the sound conclusion that "Palestinian society itself must be transformed before there is to be peaceful coexistence."

Glick sums up Israel's security predicament succinctly: Israel must find the "courage to recognize that security, not peace," is the ultimate goal. Yet, she observes that her country is suffering from a "lack of outrage," and Israelis have "gotten used to being killed." She therefore yearns for Israel to win its security through a show of force on the battlefield.

The poor Israeli performance in the 2006 war against Hizbullah was a source of agitation for the author. Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's military blunder not only weakened Israel's deterrence in the Arab world, but it may have also weakened Israel's Western alliances. Moving forward, she believes that only Israeli military victories will end the growing notion that Israel has become a "strategic liability for the West."

Regarding Iran, Glick could not be any clearer. She notes that Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has started a "countdown to the next Holocaust" and that the "catastrophe that will follow an American collapse into isolationism and appeasement is undeniable." She further warns that the failure to prevent Iran from going nuclear will result in "suffering, destruction and death on an unimaginable scale."

To Glick's chagrin, the international coalition necessary to thwart Iran's nuclear ambitions has been moving at glacial speed. She therefore encourages her readers to support the growing movement led by several states in the US that are divesting their pension funds from companies that do business with Tehran.

But divestment for Glick is not enough. Through the pages of this book, she growls at Ahmadinejad, asserting that the maniacal Iranian leader uses Holocaust denial as a ruse among his county's other dangerous foreign policies, so that appeasing nations can claim to stand against Iran "without actually doing anything to stop Iran from getting nuclear weapons."

Looking beyond Iran, the author understands that the West is now engaged in a "world war" with Islamists, but yet most of us "do not notice it." Glick is unrelenting in her insistence that "we must do everything to destroy them and nothing to give them hope for victory." One key to this victory, she correctly notes, is strategic communication. Unfortunately, she notes, the enemies of the West continue "to define our world for us." Put another way, the "leftist-Islamist front is eroding the free world's sense of justice." This is a battle the West continues to lose.

Notably, the battle is being lost quite badly on America's university campuses. Indeed, "campuses throughout the Western world are known as hotbeds for radicalism" - including Israeli campuses. Glick notes that "educators," such as Columbia University professor Rashid Khalidi, attack those who support Israel as bigoted or virulent. She observes that jihadists are now teaching the next generation in ways that "prevent us from seeing the dangers and defending ourselves."

But, in the battle of ideas, the West is taking its worst drubbing over the war in Iraq. Glick, who was embedded with the US military during the Iraq War, immediately understood the importance of the US-led reconstruction efforts, and the need to properly explain the military operations there. Glick's dispatches from her time in the field with American military men revealed her enduring patriotism for the country she left behind. She lambastes critics for "buying into Hizbullah's psychological warfare in repeating the analogy between Iraq and Vietnam." She notes that if the American public falls prey to the wrong messages, prompting the US to leave too early, the US would lose its standing "as the leader of the free world in the midst of a global war."

While a great many of Glick's observations ring true, the reader may not always walk away from Glick's work nodding in agreement. For example, she asserts that during the 2006 war with Lebanon, the Bush administration supported Hizbullah's claims to Mount Dov (also known as Shaba Farms), or that it sought to "appease Iran." At another point, she claims that Bush has followed a string of US presidents who allow Israel to "beat Arab aggression militarily, but [force] it to lose the war politically."

In a column last July, she warned that the US was pursuing an "alliance with Saudi Arabia with vigor while eschewing and downgrading its alliance with Israel." Castigating Israel's loyal ally - particularly an administration that has been incredibly supportive for eight years - hardly seems like a battle worth fighting.

In the end, however, Glick understands that radical Islam is the enemy. She snarls at the "rotten evil that characterizes the ideology of our enemies" and unabashedly states that defeating this enemy is the "mission of our generation." Indeed, the author seeks to "pave the way for a secure, peaceful and moral future for our people and our world."

The writer, a former US Treasury intelligence analyst, is director of policy for the Jewish Policy Center and author of the forthcoming book Hamas vs Fatah: The Struggle for Palestine (Palgrave, November 2008).


The Deficit of Oil-Rich Gulf Arab States

by Jonathan Schanzer
Summer 2008

The oil-producing countries of the Persian Gulf are experiencing an unprecedented
financial windfall. As the price of oil climbed from $25 per barrel on September 11, 2001, to over $135 per barrel in recent months, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), and Kuwait have been among the biggest winners. From the construction of the $6 billion Abraj al-Bait towers in Saudi Arabia to the Mall of the Emirates in Dubai, complete with an indoor ski slope, Gulfies can't spend their money fast enough.

However, the outlook for this part of the world is not entirely positive. Stock markets are stagnating. Inflation has hammered the region. In some cases, infrastructure is falling apart. Moreover, although the countries of the Gulf Cooperation Council have largely eluded exposure to the U.S. subprime mortgage crisis, it has devalued its $1.8 trillion net foreign assets because 60 percent of them are tied to the plummeting dollar.

Surprisingly, the economies of these countries are relatively free. In other words, fiscal reform does not appear to be the problem. Rather, it is the failure to invest in the education and training of their people that prevents these countries from leveraging their oil wealth windfall into sustainable growth and prosperity.

Saudi Arabia

As of late April, the Saudi stock market (Tadawul, in Arabic) was down 11 percent for 2008, after only a moderate gain in 2007, despite the cash the kingdom generated by selling millions of barrels of oil during its meteoric rise. Indeed, the market crashed in 2006, shedding nearly 50 percent. Since then, failing to gain investor confidence, most Saudi stocks have generated a relatively weak return.

The estimated inflation rate for Saudi Arabia in 2007 was 3 percent to 6.5 percent. This was a 16-year high, but it did not end there. The Saudi Gazette reported in late May that inflation had accelerated to a 27-year high of 10.5 percent.

Arab media reports indicate that Saudi citizens are seething over the escalating prices of essential commodities including rice, milk, fruits, and vegetables. These price hikes have reportedly impacted 40 percent of the population. Yet, the Saudi government refuses to subsidize food staples.

There are other indications that the oil boom has been a bust for everyday Saudis. Reports have surfaced over infrastructure problems. For instance, substandard plumbing systems plague the city of Jeddah, while a shortage in low-income housing reportedly exists throughout the kingdom. Worse still, the cash generated from the sale of oil is not generating jobs. According to the Arabic press, roughly two out of every three Saudi men are unemployed.

United Arab Emirates

If inflation is bad in Saudi Arabia, it has been even worse in the UAE. Indeed, estimated inflation in 2007 was 8 to 11 percent. Food prices reportedly rose 27 percent, and the cost of rent has risen uncontrollably. The ruling emirs have indicated that price ceilings will be implemented on staple goods as a means to prevent further inflation.

Shockingly, the UAE announced that it is planning to import coal to avert blackouts brought on by infrastructure weakness and a development boom.

The UAE is also too dependent upon foreign laborers. The media have identified Dubai, the UAE's wealthiest emirate, as abusive to its foreign workers, the majority of whom are poor villagers from India, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka. When these workers attempt to leave—due to substandard working conditions, poor housing, and a lack of benefits—employers have reportedly confiscated passports and withheld payments.

Although the stock market index for the Abu Dhabi Securities Market and the Dubai Financial Market has been on a steady rise in recent years, the UAE stock markets may be stagnating. More than three years after its launch of the Dubai International Financial Exchange, initial public offerings (IPOs) of companies that were previously public enterprises have struggled to make gains due to a lack of investor confidence.


The Kuwait Stock Exchange (KSE) has gone higher and higher in recent years. In late April 2008, the KSE had already posted a 5 percent gain. These solid gains, coupled with a massive influx of petrodollars, don't tell the whole story, however. Estimated inflation for Kuwait in 2007 was anywhere between 2.6 and 6.6 percent, depending upon the source. The rate of inflation is expected to rise again through 2008.

More worrisome for outside investors, however, is the fact that Kuwaiti crude reserve estimates were recently revised down by half, according to one report. This was only one estimate, but it underscores the potential crisis that awaits Kuwait if and when its government-controlled petroleum industry begins to dry out.

A more immediate problem facing the Kuwaiti economy is corruption. According to reports from insiders, no business gets done without favors—financial or otherwise. If they don't play ball, businessmen are doomed to face an insurmountable bureaucratic malaise.

The British jokingly call the country "Queue Wait" on account of its challenging bureaucracy. This does not only impact individuals seeking to do business in the country. After years of mismanagement, the country desperately needs new utility infrastructure (water, electricity, etc.). The government continues to stumble over itself in providing these necessities to the people.

Finally, the Kuwaiti economy depends upon some 2 million foreign workers to do work that Kuwaitis cannot or will not do. According to the Kuwaiti News Agency, these foreign workers outnumber Kuwaiti citizens by a ratio of 2 to 1. Thus, the future productivity of Kuwait hinges upon the output of an outsized majority of non-citizens who will never be invested in the country's economic success.

Economic Freedom

Interestingly, Saudi Arabia, the UAE, and Kuwait are not lacking in economic freedom. All three countries rank in the middle of the 162 nations surveyed in the Heritage Foundation's 2008 Index of Economic Freedom.

Kuwait, which ranked a respectable 39 out of 162, and a few notches above Israel, received very little criticism for its economic policies. "There are no areas in which Kuwait scores poorly," Heritage reported, "although it is slightly below average in terms of monetary freedom, investment freedom, and financial freedom."

Saudi Arabia ranked 60th in the Heritage survey, tying the world average in economic freedom. According to the report, the Saudis scored "very well in fiscal freedom, labor freedom, and business freedom." However, the kingdom is "weak in investment freedom, financial freedom, and freedom from corruption." Perhaps the most alarming fact about the Saudi economy is that residents are forced to make a 2.5 percent zakat contribution (tithing).

Bringing up the rear was the UAE, which came in at 63 out of 162. The UAE is "weak in business freedom, investment freedom, financial freedom, and property rights," according to the report. "Foreign investment is restricted, and majority Emirati ownership is mandated even in the free zones." Finally, the report notes that the UAE's "financial sector is subject to considerable government interference," and that its judicial system is "dominated by the UAE's rulers."

Thus, while all three countries certainly have been made aware of areas that require improvement in order to reach higher rankings in the index next year, none of these Gulf nations can be accused of stifling free market capitalism in their countries.

Different Deficit

While none of these cash-rich Gulf states are running a financial deficit, all are experiencing shortfalls in other areas. Specifically, they are paying the price for having failed to invest in their human resources. A lack of education and training has left the Gulf plush with petrodollars, but with few indigenous businessmen with the proper training to manage those funds.

According to the Gulf Research Center (GRC), the Gulf states have not yet developed a sophisticated bond market. This has forced many businesses to take on debt in external markets, which translates into lost profits for the state.

The GRC also notes that these countries lack transparency, a reliable system to rate securities, or even a broad spectrum of institutional market participants—the forces that often stabilize prices in other stock markets.

In Saudi Arabia, for example, there is a dearth of analysts to help investors understand the value of publicly traded stocks. "Very few firms are rated," said Mutlaq al-Morished, chief financial officer of Saudi Basic Industries (SABIC). "People do not read… and we lack research analysts. Only one [Saudi] bank has a real team of financial analysts."

The Arab News also notes that Saudi Arabia "lacks enough qualified people to work in insurance companies."

It must also be noted that Saudi Arabia, more than any of the other Gulf states mentioned, excludes half its work force by discouraging women from fully participating in the economy.

The Clock Is Ticking

The West, tired of bleeding petrodollars, is now energized to find the oil-free technology needed to un-tether itself from the Gulf. Further, because countries like Saudi Arabia exclude investment from western financiers, there will be little reason for the West to care about the future of these nations when the need for oil dries up. Thus, the windfall the Gulf is now enjoying will only last so long.

The leaders of these Gulf Arab nations undoubtedly recognize this inevitability. Rather than spending lavishly, they must quickly find ways to turn fleeting oil wealth into long-term investments for their people. Failure to do so will only generate more anger toward the regimes, and perhaps the United States, for which too many of the region's blunders are blamed.

-- Jonathan Schanzer is director of policy for the Jewish Policy Center, editor of inFocus, and author of the forthcoming book, Hamas vs. Fatah: The Struggle for Palestine (Palgrave, Nov. 2008).


Ceasefire Backfire?

by Jonathan Schanzer
Palestinian Rocket Report
June 19, 2008

An Egyptian-brokered, six-month truce between Israel and Hamas took hold this morning. Both sides have voiced their misgivings about the potential for the ceasefire to last. Indeed, just before the calm took hold, 30 rockets were fired from the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip into Israel. Looking forward, there are numerous reasons to believe that this ceasefire will backfire on Israel, or even weaken its advantage over Hamas.

The Jerusalem Post notes that previous declarations of tahdiyeh (Arabic for "period of calm") cast doubt on "the likelihood of this latest truce holding at all." In February 2005, a similar ceasefire was announced, lasting until June 2006. "But the interim was fraught with rocket attacks on Israeli territory." At one point, "dozens of rockets were fired from Gaza into Israel, killing a 22 year-old woman."

But, even if the calm lasts to term, one key question lingers: how can it strengthen Israel's long-term strategic position?

Celebrated historian Michael Oren notes that the ceasefire is providing Hamas with an opportunity to "regroup and rearm." As far back as 2002, Seth Wikas of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy noted that throughout the Oslo years (1993-2000), Hamas offered nine ceasefires to Israel. In many cases, they followed periods of confrontation with the Fatah-backed Palestinian Authority, Hamas' political rival. Wikas notes, in fact, that all Hamas ceasefire offers have come at a time when "Hamas needed a �breather' � a moment to step back and regroup after an organizationally exhausting confrontation with a more powerful foe (Israel or the PA)."

In this case, the siege of Gaza has undoubtedly been a drain on Hamas. By granting a ceasefire, Israel is providing Hamas this much-needed "breather," during which Iran can help train additional fighters and provide Hamas with more advanced weapons in preparation for the next round of conflict with Israel.

The tahdiyeh provides Hamas with other perks, too. Oren observes that the Egyptian-brokered ceasefire "yields Hamas greater benefits than it might have obtained in direct negotiations. In exchange for giving its word to halt rocket attacks and weapons smuggling, Hamas receives the right to monitor the main border crossings into Gaza and to enforce a truce in the West Bank, where Fatah retains formal control."

Thus, the Palestinian Press is proudly touting the ceasefire as a Hamas victory over the "Zionist enemy." Isam Shawar in the Palestinian newspaper Filastin notes that, "Hamas proved that it is impossible to destroy or even weaken... In the end, Israel found that a truce with Hamas is the best and least damaging solution." Ibrahim Ibrash in the Palestinian newspaper al-Ayyam further states that by accepting the truce, "Israel accepts coexistence not with a national unity government of which Hamas is a part, but with a Hamas government and authority exclusively."

As Jonathan Dahoah Halevy explains, the agreement is an "important achievement for Hamas. Hamas will gain the recognition it wants as the legitimate ruler of the Gaza Strip. Despite the fact that the Israeli government has defined Hamas-ruled Gaza as a hostile entity, Israel agreed to the continuation of trade with it, and even recognized the hostile entity's authority to operate the Rafah crossing. Hamas regards that as immensely important and wants to exploit it as a lever to open the door to official relations with Europe, and to have itself removed from the various lists of terrorist organizations."

Among the other disconcerting results of the agreement was the announcement by Robert Serry, the U.N.'s special coordinator for the Middle East peace process, that the truce could create conditions for the deployment of U.N. peacekeepers in the Gaza Strip. The U.N., of course, has a sub-dismal record of protecting Israel, from allowing five Arab nations to invade the Jewish state in 1948 to watching Hizbullah launch more than 10,000 rockets into Israel in 2006.

It must also be noted that the so-called "armed wing" of Hamas, the Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades, noted on their English-language website that they viewed the ceasefire as a means "to promote the option of resistance." A brief survey of the rest of the site reveals that the group is eager to renew its war with Israel.

This comes as no surprise. As Wikas notes, throughout Hamas' string of ceasefires in the 1990s, its leaders "continued to support the goals of the original Hamas charter, i.e., the creation, through religiously sanctioned violence, of an Islamic state" in place of Israel.

Thus, Ephraim Kam, deputy director of the Institute for National Security Studies (INSS), a Tel Aviv University think tank, notes that the truce "will just be a postponement of the unavoidable clash which might take place under even worse conditions, in which Hamas will have more sophisticated weapons and be better trained."

Prime Minister Olmert recently stated that the release of abducted Israel Defense Forces (IDF) soldier Gilad Shalit was one of the key conditions for truce. Indeed, many Israelis believe that recovering Shalit would outweigh all other risks associated with the tahdiyeh. Yet his release was never stipulated, and the Hamas website now has a prominently-positioned posting entitled "Truce Without Shalit." Should this kidnapped soldier not be recovered -- and perhaps even if he is -- the dangers of the tahdiyeh appear to vastly outweigh the benefits.

Jonathan Schanzer, a former Treasury intelligence analyst, is Director of Policy for the Jewish Policy Center, editor of inFOCUS Quarterly, and author of the forthcoming Hamas vs. Fatah: The Struggle for Palestine (Palgrave, November 2008).


The Palestinian Rocket Report

by Jamie Glazov
June 10, 2008

Frontpage Interview's guest today is Jonathan Schanzer, the Director of Policy for the Jewish Policy Center. He is an analyst of Middle East affairs and terrorism, with a decade of experience in the field. Before joining the Jewish Policy Center, he was a counterterrorism analyst for the Office of Intelligence and Analysis at the U.S. Department of the Treasury. Prior to joining the Treasury, he served as a Research Fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, where he authored the book Al-Qaeda's Armies: Middle East Affiliate Groups and the Next Generation of Terror. He also participated in a Washington Institute fact-finding mission in Iraq in 2004. Mr. Schanzer got his start in the policy world as a research fellow at the Middle East Forum, a Philadelphia-based think tank headed by scholar Daniel Pipes.

FP: Jonathan Schanzer, welcome to Frontpage Interview.

Schanzer: Thanks for having me, Jamie.

FP: Tell us about the Jewish Policy Center's new project, Palestinian Rocket Report.

Schanzer: As you know, after Hamas conquered the Gaza Strip in June last year, Palestinian rocket attacks against Israel have increased dramatically.

These are crude rockets that are blindly fired into Israel, with the hope of hitting a civilian target. So far, there have been more than 850 recorded attacks in 2008 alone.

Unfortunately, these attacks get very little attention in the mainstream media. But when Israel responds with an incursion into Gaza, the media is brutally critical.

Palestinian Rocket Report (www.jewishpolicycenter.org/prr), our new initiative at the JPC, is an attempt to provide the media, policymakers, and the general public with background and technical information on the rockets launched against Israel by Palestinian groups in the Gaza Strip. We also detail the damage these attacks have caused in Israeli population centers, both physically and emotionally. Finally, we provide a news feed with important daily updates on attacks from a variety of sources.

FP: So what does it say about Hamas that it launches rocket attacks against Israeli civilians? What does it say about what Hamas is and the wisdom of negotiating with it?

Schanzer: The Hamas rockets are crude. So are the PIJ and al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades rockets, for that matter. It is virtually impossible for these groups to fire at specific targets with any precision. Thus, they fire their rockets in the general direction of Israeli towns and cities with the hope that they hit a school, house, or business. It is difficult for me to believe that a group like Hamas, first known for suicide bombings and now known for firing rockets blindly into civilian population centers, is interested in negotiating peace.

FP: Give us an overview of the steady increase of rocket attacks against Israel's south.

Schanzer: The exact number of rockets fired against Israel since the attacks began in 2001 is hazy. But we can say with certainty that the number of attacks have quite literally skyrocketed.

In 2001, four known rockets were fired on Israeli targets inside the Gaza Strip. The following year, at least 35 rockets were fired, many of which landed inside Israel's green line.

As underground weapons smuggling increased from Egypt, from 2003 through 2005, Palestinian groups fired at least 615 rockets into Israeli airspace.

In 2005, as Hamas and other jihadi groups began to mass produce their crude projectiles, the number of rockets fired jumped to 946. Last year, at least 896 were fired. And as I noted, so far this year some 850 have been recorded.

The uptrend is troubling, to say the least.

FP: What are the capabilities and maximum distance of the rockets?

Schanzer: The Qassam rocket, which is the Hamas rocket, has increased in capability at a steady clip. The first generation had a maximum distance of about 2 miles, with a 17-pound warhead. The newest generation of rockets can now travel up to 12 miles, and has added payload.

The result is that several Israeli population centers are within range of Qassams and the other rockets launched by different jihadi groups in the Gaza Strip. Sderot is the town we often hear about. The city of Ashkelon is now in rocket range, as is the town of Netivot.

The fact that Ashkelon is now a rocket target is very disconcerting. It is a city of about 100,000 people.

FP: Who is primarily carrying out the attacks?

Hamas is best known for these rocket attacks, but other groups are also to blame. The Palestinian Islamic Jihad fires what it calls the Quds rocket. The al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, which is a terrorist group tied to PA President Mahmoud Abbas' Fatah party, has the al-Aqsa and the al-Yasser rockets. The Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine also has a rocket known as the Sumud.

FP: Why is the mainstream media so silent about these attacks?

Schanzer: We have a hard time answering this question. The Israeli press issues daily reports on these rocket attacks, while the New York Times, Washington Post, CNN, NPR and others are largely silent. It appears that headlines are only made when the rockets cause major damage or civilian casualties. When they "merely" make potholes in Israeli streets or strike empty lots, the mainstream media does not seem to think the attacks warrant attention.

FP: What are Israel's legal rights?

Schanzer: Israel has a right to protect its citizens. Until now, Israel has been demonstrating incredible restraint. But, as the rocket capabilities allow jihadi groups to strike deeper into Israeli territory, we should not expect Israel to continue to demonstrate that restraint. In fact, if the rocket attacks continue, it should come as no surprise if Israel launches an incursion into Gaza in an attempt to destroy the rocket infrastructure. This, of course, will draw the big headlines. And I would expect that the predicate for the incursion -- the rocket attacks -- will receive little coverage.

FP: What can the U.S. do to help?

Schanzer: The U.S. is currently helping Israel to develop a short-range intercept system that would destroy the rockets in mid-air shortly after they are launched. If successful, the system could dramatically reduce the number of rockets that land in Israeli territory.

Until then, Israel will need the support of the United States at the U.N., particularly if the Israel Defense Forces determine that a full-scale Gaza incursion is necessary.

FP: Your thoughts on Jimmy Carter recently romancing Hamas?

Schanzer: I'm still shocked that a U.S. former president would go out of his way to meet with the leader of a designated terrorist organization. I am also shocked that Carter chose to go ahead with his meeting, despite pleas from the State Department to cancel it. When Carter met with Khaled Meshal, he signaled that Hamas' strategy of violence works. I have a very hard time understanding Carter's motivations. He has lost all credibility in my view.

FP: In terms of who Carter is and what he has done, I am not sure what there is to be shocked about. I am also not sure what credibility he has ever held in the first place. This romance with Hamas is in complete continuity with who he has always been and what he has always pursued. But this is a discussion for another time and place my friend.

Let's get back to the Palestinian Rocket Report. What do you hope it will help achieve?

Schanzer: It is our hope that Palestinian Rocket Report becomes a resource for anyone seeking to learn more about the daily salvos that terrorize Israel. We hope to be able to influence the public debate, or even shape U.S. policy, if at all possible.

FP: And what should U.S. policy be?

Schanzer: U.S. policy has been on target. Washington supports the isolation of the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip. The U.S. military continues to work with the Israeli military to develop defense systems to destroy rockets before they land in Israel. And our leadership continues to support Israel's right to defend itself. Challenges will arise, however, if Israel determines a need to enter Gaza to destroy the rocket infrastructure. Washington will need to find a balance between the desire for regional calm and Israel's long-term security.

FP: Well, there are some worrying signs that the U.S. is pressuring Israel to negotiate with forces that do not, to say the least, wish Israel well. Let's hope that future U.S. policy does not force Israel into any Oslo Syndrome.

Jonathan Schanzer, thank you for joining us.

Schanzer: Always a pleasure, Jamie.

Jamie Glazov is Frontpage Magazine's managing editor. He holds a Ph.D. in History with a specialty in U.S. and Canadian foreign policy. He edited and wrote the introduction to David Horowitz's Left Illusions. He is also the co-editor (with David Horowitz) of The Hate America Left and the author of Canadian Policy Toward Khrushchev's Soviet Union (McGill-Queens University Press, 2002) and 15 Tips on How to be a Good Leftist. To see his previous symposiums, interviews and articles Click Here. Email him at jglazov@rogers.com.


The Fall Of Noah Feldman

by Jonathan Schanzer
The Jerusalem Post
June 6, 2008

The Fall and Rise of the Islamic State
By Noah Feldman
Princeton University Press
189 pages; $22.95

Determined to prove that Islamic law (Shari'a) is compatible with democracy, Harvard law professor Noah Feldman is still laboring to fit a square peg into a round hole.

Five years ago, I reviewed Feldman's After Jihad: America and the Struggle for Islamic Democracy in The Jerusalem Post and concluded that Feldman, then a professor at New York University, adopted "a 'why not?' approach to Islam and democracy," and that he "ignored certain realities" that made the synthesis of Islam and democracy exceedingly difficult.

In his new book, Feldman, who was the center of controversy last June after writing a New York Times essay that slammed the Orthodox Jewish community, attempts to make a more pointed argument. However, The Fall and Rise of the Islamic State fails to convince the informed reader that Islamic law and democracy are destined for marriage.

Feldman's central premise is that the scholars of early and medieval Islam were guardians of justice. These independent scholars, he argues, kept the all-powerful caliph in line by judiciously ensuring that his decrees were in accordance with Shari'a law. The proper application of Shari'a ensured fair governance. Thus, Feldman claims, resurrecting the scholarly class is needed today.

Feldman stands on shaky ground. Where was the scholar-enforced justice during the reign of Fatimid Caliph al-Hakim in 11th-century Egypt? His peculiarities included a restriction on manufacturing women's shoes; prohibitions against watercress, dates, honey and raisins; a campaign against dogs; and the forbidding of chess.

"The most striking feature of his decrees is, however, their inconsistency," writes noted scholar Hugh Kennedy. "At one time the appearance of the cross in the streets was forbidden as an anti-Christian measure, yet shortly afterwards, all Christians were obliged to wear large crosses, thus making nonsense of the previous decree... At some times he encouraged the spread of Ismaili customs while at others he seems to have permitted Sunni practices which had been banned."

Granted, the role of scholars varied from one caliphate to the next. Hakim's case was among the more extreme. Still, it underscored that under most caliphs, scholars were at the whim of their autocratic rulers. Thus, Feldman ignores the historical fact that true checks and balances, similar to those of modern democracies, have been largely absent throughout Islamic law's evolution.

Feldman admits that the scholars, particularly during the Ottoman period, were "deeply imbedded in the bureaucratic and institutional structure" of the government. Thus, their rulings meant little, since they did not act as a counterbalance to the executive, and because their authority was minimized. But he loses credibility when he implies that the rightful place of the scholars was "undercut by the introduction of a human source of legislation."

The anti-Western/anti-enlightenment tone is striking. Why is Feldman bothered by the notion that human reason would legislate, rather than Shari'a? Feldman bemoans that the Ottoman legislature was able to "replace the scholars as an institutional source of lawmaking." He then seems to sneer at the modern Turkish constitution, which is devoutly secular, and only lightly peppered with Muslim influence. Turkey is the only democracy in a predominantly Muslim country with real checks and balances. Yet Feldman disdainfully complains that the constitution created by Kemal Ataturk "went further than any other... in marginalizing Islam." Ataturk drew inspiration for his reforms from Europe. Yet, it is highly doubtful that Feldman would argue that secular law is wrong for Europe. Why, then, is secular law good for Europe, but bad for the Muslim world?

That Feldman does not hold Turkey as the best attempt to synthesize Islam and democracy is confounding. Over the last century, outside of Turkey, not one truly representative government has sprouted in the Muslim desert of authoritarianism. Only in Iraq and Afghanistan, where American military intervention toppled tyrants, has democracy shown the most remote signs of promise.

Interestingly, Feldman appears to understand the causes and dangers of Islamism. He notes that the "call for the restoration of the Shari'a in contemporary Islamist politics may be seen in substantial part as a response to this constitutional defect" of the executive eclipsing the state. He also notes that most important Islamist figures are not learned scholars, and that Islamists conveniently seek to implement Shari'a and Islamic values "as they define and apply them," or as Sayid Qutb, the Muslim Brotherhood's oracle in the 1960s put it, "the spirit of Islam." Still, Feldman believes that Islamism, even though it is the ideology that powers Hamas, al-Qaida and a host of other deadly terrorist organizations, offers the best hope for marrying Islam with democracy. At this point, Feldman's credibility is irredeemable.

Still, even without Feldman's Islamist apologetics, this short book (which may have been more compelling as a less-repetitive journal article) fails to convince the reader that an Islamic government that "draws upon the best of the old while coming to terms with the new" is feasible.

While melding Islamic law and democracy is a noble undertaking that may yet occur in Iraq and Afghanistan (and perhaps elsewhere), there can be no denying that the Koran provides only a handful of passages (Suras) that even vaguely address governance.

Moreover, some of the laws proscribed in the Shari'a, notably the "Hadd offenses" (also known as Hudud), carry gruesome penalties, reflecting values that would appear to be incompatible with modern conceptions of justice. Indeed, sexual intercourse outside of marriage carries a penalty of stoning to death, while theft is punished with cutting off a hand. While the Judeo-Christian world has rejected similar punishments and religious laws in return for secular law, parts of the Muslim world have not.

Could the Islamic scholars of today help set things straight? Not likely. Even Feldman admits that Saudi scholars "intensively resisted the granting of permission to women to drive cars in Saudi Arabia." This mistreatment of women is decidedly incompatible with democratic values.

Other scholars have endorsed jihadi violence against civilians. Qatar-based Yusuf al-Qardawi ruled that suicide bombing against civilians is permissible. In 2004 he told BBC television, "Allah... has given the weak a weapon the strong do not have, and that is their ability to turn their bodies into bombs as Palestinians do." He later added that suicide bombings "are not in any way included in the framework of prohibited terrorism, even if the victims include some civilians."

The scholars of yore may well have helped to maintain justice in their time. Today's scholars may have a different conception of what justice means. Thus, Feldman appears to have committed an error common among professors of Islamic studies. He has not let go of the past. What held true in centuries past may not hold true today.

Feldman must understand that the proper application of Islamic law is not the answer for the crisis of governance in the Muslim world. Nor is a combination of Islamic law and democracy. The answer lies in tolerance, pluralism and egalitarianism. Once these virtues are upheld and enforced in Muslim states, the exact means through which they are implemented will make little difference.

The writer, a former US Treasury intelligence analyst, is director of policy for the Jewish Policy Center and editor of inFocus Quarterly. He is author of the forthcoming book Hamas vs Fatah: The Struggle for Palestine (Palgrave, November 2008).


Talking Iran
Why the Iran Engagement Debate Matters

by Jonathan Schanzer
Weekly Standard Online
June 5, 2008

The debate continues over the benefits of engaging with the Islamic Republic of Iran, a state that has been dedicated to Islamist terrorism since 1979. The notion of a productive meeting with Iranian leaders is fantasy. However, the debate is important because it reveals how the proponents of engagement fail to understand the realities in Iran.

Among those who advocate engagement with Iran, the prevailing argument is that a meeting with Iran would not necessarily have to include Iran's current president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

Susan Rice, a former assistant secretary of state for African Affairs, insists that a meeting should take place with "the appropriate Iranian leaders." She suggests that Ahmadinejad may be "long gone" before such a meeting ever takes place.

This assumes that Ahmadinejad is the primary problem, and ignores the fact that the last four presidents of Iran have supported the revolutionary goals of the Islamic Republic:

Ali Khameini was president from 1981 to 1989 then succeeded Khomeini as supreme leader. He delivered fiery anti-West sermons before large crowds that famously interrupted him chanting "death to America." As the New York Times notes, "he usually spoke with a rifle in his hand, jabbing its muzzle into the air to make his points as he castigated 'the Great Satan, America.'"

Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, president from 1989 to 1997, a man seen by some as a reformer, was indicted along with the Hezbollah chief Imad Mughniyah by an Argentine judge for the bombing of a Jewish community center that killed 85 people.

Ali Khatami, also hailed as a reformer during his tenure (1997-2005), ran a regime with numerous financial ties to Hezbollah and Hamas, conducted surveillance of U.S. military and diplomatic installations abroad, and developed South America's tri-border area into a terrorist haven.

Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is now under fire for his determination to move forward with Iran's nuclear program, not to mention remarks he made denying the Holocaust and calling for Israel to be wiped from the map. But is he that much worse than his predecessors?

Susan Rice and others who advocate negotiations with Iran ignore the immutable fact that Iranian presidents are chosen by the Iranian political system because of their anti-Western principles. Of course, other engagement advocates argue that America should conduct a dialogue with Iran, but not with its president. Their point is that Ahmadinejad is not the most powerful person in Iran.

This is correct. Ahmadinejad may be the most powerful elected official, but the supreme guide, a position currently held by the aforementioned Ali Khameini, is typically seen as Iran's most powerful person. Another important position is the chairman of the Expediency Council, currently held by the aforementioned Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani.

In 2001, Rafsanjani stated that the Muslim world should use nuclear weapons against the Jewish state. And Khameini calls Israel a "cancerous tumor of a state that should be removed." The notion that one could reason with any of these leaders ignores the reality that the Iranian regime must first reform if we are ever to find suitable interlocutors.

Finally, although meeting with U.S. officials would provide a measure of unearned legitimacy, it is doubtful that Iranian leaders would seek to meet with Americans unless they believed U.S. policies would change for their benefit.

Broadly speaking, Iran wants one of three things: a precipitous withdrawal from Iraq, a draw-down in support for Israel, and/or the cessation of sanctions against Iran, put in place because of Tehran's support to terrorist groups and weapons of mass destruction programs. Do we want Iran's leaders to believe that any of these issues are on the table for negotiation?

The majority of Americans do not wish to end a just war before it is won. Nor do they seek to turn its back on long-standing allies in a strategically important region. Nor, for that matter, would Americans agree to lift sanctions without first receiving important concessions (think Libya's termination of its WMD program in 2003).

Thus, unlike other hair-splitting political debates, the debate over whether there should be direct meetings with Iranian leaders is important. It exposes the flawed arguments of those who insist that dialogue would bear fruit.

Jonathan Schanzer, a former Treasury intelligence analyst, is director of policy for the Jewish Policy Center and editor of inFocus Quarterly. He is author of the forthcoming book Hamas vs Fatah: The Struggle for Palestine (Palgrave, Nov. 2008).

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?