For all their talk of standing by the Palestinians, Arab regimes sure have a funny way of showing it.
I did a bit of research and discovered an interesting, yet largely unknown, little fact: Arab states provide less than 3 percent of the annual budget of UNRWA, the UN agency that assists Palestinian refugees throughout the Middle East.
By contrast, Western countries cover some 95 percent of the organization's finances each year.
Now, if they really truly cared about the fate of their Palestinian brethren, would oil-rich countries like Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Bahrain be so miserly and cheap when it comes to improving their living conditions?
Read below and see for yourself.
UN pressing Arab states for more aid to Palestinian refugees
By Michael Freund
Despite their rhetorical pledges of support for the Palestinians, the Arab states are providing an increasingly smaller amount of aid to the United Nations Relief and Work Agency for Palestinian Refugees (UNRWA), prompting the UN agency to step up efforts to solicit more funds from Arab regimes throughout the region.
At a press conference held Wednesday in Manama, the Bahraini capital, UNRWA representative Peter Ford issued a plea to Arab countries to increase their donations on behalf of Palestinian refugees, asserting that UNRWA is facing "a financial crisis."
Over the past two decades, Ford noted, Arab states have provided a steadily decreasing percentage of UNRWA's funding. In the 1980s, he said, their donations amounted to 8% of the group's annual budget, whereas now, "Arab donors currently contribute less than three percent of UNRWA's overall spending."
"The objective," he said, "is to return to that level of support at a time when the innocent refugees, as always the victims of political problems, are suffering more than ever."
Ford added that while funds from major donor countries have been "regular and steady," the agency is now looking to tap into other sources, in particular the Arab states, in light of growing demand for UNRWA's services among Palestinian refugees.
"The situation for the refugees is ominously deteriorating because of Israeli attitudes and Palestinian in-fighting," he said. "There is an increasing need for funds from several sources, mainly Arab states."
Ford was in Bahrain to meet with government officials in an effort to drum up additional pledges of support. He plans to visit several Gulf Arab states in the near future as well.
According to UNRWA's Web site, the largest pledge received from an Arab country in 2006 was $1.5 million from Kuwait, with Saudi Arabia promising just $1.2 million. By contrast, Sweden pledged more than $41 million, the UK $27 million, and Denmark over $12 million.
Other Arab states were even less generous, with oil-rich Bahrain offering $30,000 and Lebanon a mere $10,000.
The US was the largest supporter of UNRWA's activities, with more than $137 million of the group's budgeted expenditures of $462 million coming from Washington.
As of October 31, the latest date for which figures are available, UNRWA was expecting a funding shortfall in 2006 of $117 million, with total pledges amounting to $345 million.
Nearly all of UNRWA's operations are financed by voluntary contributions from governments and the European Union. In total, Western countries provide more than 95% of the agency's finances.
--- from the February 9 Jerusalem Post
If there is anyone out there who still thinks that Israel's August 2005 withdrawal from Gaza was not a complete and utter failure, they should check out what the head of Israel's Shin Bet security service had to say today.
At a special briefing with the press, Yuval Diskin revealed some statistics that underline quite definitively just how disastrous the pullout has proven to be.
Take, for example, the number of Qassam rockets fired at the Jewish state. In 2005, Diskin noted, Palestinian terrorists launched 401 rockets against Israel. In 2006, by contrast, the number soared to 1,726 – an increase of more than 300%.
Likewise, said Diskin, the terrorists are believed to have smuggled an estimated 6 tons of explosives into Gaza in 2005, whereas in 2006, the quantity reached 28 tons. In addition, they snuck in some 14,000 assault rifles, versus 9,300 in 2005.
Hence, rather than bringing increased security to Israel and its citizens, the Gaza retreat has brought in its wake a sharp rise in Palestinian terror activities.
Indeed, the painful pullout and expulsion of thousands of Jews from their homes has not inspired any deeper Palestinian love for Israel, nor has it reduced the motivation of the terrorists to attack.
This is one case where the numbers, as they say, speak for themselves.
The Arithmetic of Jihad
By Michael Freund
It's time we open our eyes and confront reality. Ever since the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, the media has sought to reassure us that only a tiny minority of Muslims actually support the use of violence against Israel and the West.
It's just a small fringe, a marginal few at best, they tell us, so don't worry about it all too much. One percent or three percent - who cares? Just sit back, enjoy your morning eggs and coffee and have a nice day.
But a look at the numbers tells a very different story. The extent of support for global jihad is frightening in its proportions, and the numbers are anything but insignificant.
Consider, for example, the following statistics regarding support for suicide bombings and other types of terror attacks.
In a poll conducted five months ago, and broadcast on Britain's Channel 4 TV, nearly 25% of British Muslims said the July 7, 2005, terror bombings in London, which killed 52 innocent commuters, were justified. Another 30% said they would prefer to live under strict Islamic Sharia law rather than England's democratic system.
Now, one in four justifying terror may not be a majority, but it certainly isn't a "small fringe" either.
In other countries, the figures are no less unsettling. A survey published in December found that 44% of Nigerian Muslims believe suicide bombing attacks are "often" or "sometimes" acceptable. Only 28% said they were never justified.
According to the annual Pew Global Attitudes Survey, released in July 2006, "roughly one-in-seven Muslims in France, Spain and Great Britain feel that suicide bombings against civilian targets can at least sometimes be justified to defend Islam." The report also found that less than half of Jordan's Muslims believe terror attacks are never justified. In Egypt, only 45% of Muslims say terror is never justified.
STILL THINK only a "tiny minority" are in favor of violence? In Israel, the percentages are even more alarming. After Cpl. Gilad Shalit was abducted by Hamas terrorists last summer, a poll conducted by the Jerusalem Media and Communications Center revealed that 77.2% of Palestinians supported the kidnapping, while 66.8% said they would back additional such attacks.
More than six out of 10 Palestinians also said they were in favor of firing Kassam rockets at Israeli towns and cities.
And lest you think that war fever lay behind the results, consider this: four additional polls published in September, nearly a month after the Lebanese conflict had ended, all found large majorities of Palestinians backing terror attacks against the Jewish state.
Indeed, in various countries around the world, support for Muslim fundamentalist terror groups appears to be widespread.
On the fifth anniversary of the September 11 attacks, a survey conducted by Al-Jazeera asked respondents, "Do you support Osama Bin-Laden?" A whopping 49.9% answered: yes.
And the July 2006 global Pew survey found that among Muslims, a quarter of Jordanians, a third of Indonesians, 38% of Pakistanis and 61% of Nigerians all expressed confidence in the mass murderer who founded al-Qaida.
In Lebanon six months ago, the Beirut Center for Research and Information found that over 80% of the Lebanese population said they supported Hizbullah.
And do I need also to mention that a majority of Palestinians backed Hamas in parliamentary elections last year? Sure, there are also places where support for violent jihad is not as high. As Reuters reported on October 15, just 10 percent of Indonesian Muslims said they backed jihad and supported bomb attacks on the island of Bali aimed at foreign tourists.
But Indonesia is home to more than 200 million Muslims, so while 10 percent may sound like a small number percentage-wise, it is actually quite large in absolute terms. It means there are some 20 million Muslims in Indonesia alone who are willing to say out loud that they support the use of violence and terror against innocent human beings.
Since when is that a "marginal few"? The question of whether a "tiny" or "sizable" minority backs the global jihad is far more than just one of semantics. It goes to the very nature of the struggle that Israel and the West now find ourselves in.
The figures above, taken from a variety of nations, continents and contexts, all point in one very ominous direction. They demonstrate beyond a shadow of a doubt that the global jihadist movement enjoys a wide and broad base of support that extends far beyond just a minuscule number of supporters.
POLITICIANS and journalists might wish to believe, as we all do, that the backers of violent jihad are few and far between, and that they do not represent large numbers of people with like-minded extremist views. But that is simply not the case.
The arithmetic of jihad is quite straight-forward, and it is time we stopped looking the other way and pretending otherwise.
The threat posed by Islamic fundamentalism to Israel and the West can, and must, be met. With determination and a sense of purpose, victory is not out of reach.
But the longer we continue to underestimate the extent of the problem, the more difficult it will be to defeat it.
So let's put aside all that wishful thinking, and roll up our collective sleeves and get to work. Like it or not, the war on terror still faces a long road ahead.
--- from the January 31 Jerusalem Post
The suicide bombing in Eilat yesterday, which killed three Israelis, should raise some serious questions about Egypt's unwillingness, or inability, to combat terror.
Based on their initial investigations, Israeli authorities now say that the Palestinian terrorist who carried out the attack had infiltrated into Israel from the Egyptian-controlled Sinai peninsula.
Last year alone, in 2006, Israel is said to have captured over 100 Palestinian terrorists who tried to sneak in from Sinai. These included suicide bombers, weapons experts and other terrorists plotting to carry out various types of attacks. All this took place right under the nose of the Egyptians.
Moreover, Egypt has allowed Palestinian terrorists a free hand in smuggling weapons, personnel and funds into Gaza, essentially ignoring Israeli protests and pleas.
And in the past 30 months, there have been three Al-Qaeda-linked terror attacks in Sinai aimed at Israeli and foreign tourists – the October 2004 bombings in Taba and Ras Shitan, the July 2005 attack in Sharm el-Sheikh, and the April 2006 bombings in Dahab – which left 120 people killed.
It is hard to say whether these failures signify Egyptian malice or incompetence, or a combination of the two.
But one thing is clear: despite receiving $2 billion in American aid each year, Egypt is hardly doing anything to stop the territory under its control from turning into a base of anti-Israel and anti-Western terror.
And for that alone, Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak should be called to account. Instead of heaping smiles and praise on him, as US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice did during her visit to the region a few weeks ago, it is time for Washington and Jerusalem to turn up the heat on the Egyptian autocrat, and send him a clear and unequivocal message: crack down on the terrorists who are turning Egypt and Sinai into a base of operations.
It was a bloody weekend in Judea, Samaria and Gaza, but you'd never know it from the silence of the left.
For the past few days, a mini civil war has been raging between Fatah and Hamas, two of the Palestinian terror factions vying for power, and the result isn't pretty: 25 Palestinians killed by fellow Palestinians, including at least two children.
The two groups have also been kidnapping each other's members, with over 50 Palestinians abducted in the past 48 hours alone.
Hamas and Fatah loyalists have also been firing mortar rounds at each other's offices, directing gunfire at each other's homes, and planting bombs in an effort to kill their rivals.
Interestingly, this spate of intra-Palestinian violence has been largely ignored by the left, and for good reason. The sight of Palestinians kidnapping, shooting and killing each other does little to advance their goal of establishing a Palestinian state and getting rid of the "territories", so the left would rather look the other way and disregard this entire messy affair.
But hiding one's head in the sand is no way to formulate policy or to run a country. What is taking place now in Gaza and elsewhere just serves to underline once again, in very dramatic fashion, just how dangerous it would be to give the Palestinians a state of their own.
Look – and learn. The left might prefer to remain silent - but that doesn't mean the rest of us have to as well.
Israeli President Moshe Katzav put on quite a performance on national television last night.
Wagging his finger in the air, pounding the table, and shouting at various points throughout his 50-minute harangue, Katzav's appearance was both gripping and detestable as he sought to deflect allegations that he was a serial rapist and sex offender.
For a country that has been inundated of late with allegations of corruption and dishonesty at the highest levels of power, there is something even more disconcerting about the sight of the nation's president accused of such terrible crimes.
Katzav now joins the long list of prominent personalities, ranging from the prime minister himself to the finance minister to a former justice minister, all of whom are suspected of various types of offenses.
We'll leave it to the courts – including those of public opinion – to decide their fates, but the spate of such cases points to a fundamental problem underlying Israel's leadership – namely, a lack of faith in G-d.
Israel is currently ruled by people who look out only for their own narrow self-interest. They are not guided by a sense of historic responsibility, national duty or Zionist commitment, nor are they anchored in an abiding sense of trust in the One Above.
With the Palestinians hurling rockets at our cities, and the Iranians threatening to decimate them, Israel can not afford the "luxury" of having self-centered, and self-interested, people at its helm.
What we need now is a leadership that is guided by faith, and by certainty in the justness of our cause. That, as always, is our surest guarantee of success.
Just Who Exactly is a "Moderate" Arab Leader?
By Michael Freund
US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has come and gone on her latest visit to the Middle East, but about the only thing she left behind was a trail of confusion and bewilderment.
Prior to Rice's arrival, her trip was billed as an effort to bolster "moderate Arab leaders" in the area. On January 9, State Department spokesman Sean McCormack told reporters that one of the secretary's goals would be to "support those forces of moderation in the region."
That sounds reasonable enough. After all, the Middle East could certainly use a healthy dose of restraint.
But after watching Ms. Rice's performance over the past few days, it should now be clear that her idea of what constitutes a "moderate Arab leader" is way off the mark, and this should leave us all deeply concerned about the future.
Standing next to Abbas at a press conference in Ramallah on Sunday, the secretary of state practically gushed with enthusiasm when she said in her opening remarks, "I want everyone to know, particularly the Palestinian people, how much we admire the leadership of President Abbas as a leader of the Palestinian people."
And yet, it was just last Thursday, three days prior to meeting with Rice, that Abbas publicly called upon Palestinians to attack Israel.
SPEAKING at a rally to mark the 42nd anniversary of the founding of Fatah, Abbas told a huge crowd gathered in Ramallah, "With the will and determination of its sons, Fatah will continue. We will not give up our principles and we have said that rifles should be directed against the occupation."
"We have a legitimate right to direct our guns against Israeli occupation," Abbas added.
Is this the kind of "moderation" Rice had in mind?
Indeed, despite Abbas's outrageous call to arms, Rice did not say a word - not a single, solitary word! - about it during her joint press conference with him. She did not see fit to demand a retraction from Abbas of his invitation to violence, nor did she press him to refrain from inciting further bloodshed.
Instead, Rice chose to heap additional praise on Abbas, telling the assembled journalists that "we've made a lot of progress over recent years, in particular because of the hard work of President Abbas."
What progress is she referring to? To the ongoing Palestinian rocket attacks against southern Israel? To the kidnapping of Cpl. Gilad Shalit? Or perhaps to the growing popularity of Hamas and Islamic Jihad among the Palestinian electorate?
To be sure, when one compares Abbas with the "genocide now" crowd over at Hamas, he might appear to be a tad bit less extreme. But the gap between "less extreme" and "moderate" is vast, and the two cannot and should not be confused.
AND THEREIN lies the problem with Rice's misguided compliments to Abbas. By embracing him rather than rebuking him, she encouraged the Palestinian leader to believe that he can openly call for violence against Jews without paying any political price for doing so.
Her actions also sent a dangerous message to Palestinians, who might start to think that America's top diplomat sees nothing wrong with their leader's plea to start using their rifles against the Jewish state.
Rice's confused idea of "moderation" was further on display in Egypt, where she met on Monday with Egyptian autocrat Hosni Mubarak and his foreign minister, Aboul Gheit.
Later, at a press conference with Gheit, Rice again had nothing but praise for her hosts, asserting that, "Egypt is really a partner."
What she neglected to mention, of course, was that Mr. Mubarak rules his domain in the finest tradition of the Pharaohs, suppressing dissent, tossing his political opponents into prison, and fixing the outcome of elections to his liking.
Egypt has also allowed untold quantities of weapons to be smuggled freely into Gaza, into the waiting arms of terrorist groups, and it has refused to crack down on the flow of funds to Hamas and Islamic Jihad.
We are sure to be treated to a continuation of this spectacle in the coming days, as Rice travels to the Gulf to meet with other "moderates" such as the terror-sponsoring Saudis and some of their Israel-boycotting neighbors.
AND THAT should have us all deeply worried, because the issue of just who is a moderate Arab leader is far more than just one of semantics. It goes to the very root of US foreign policy in the region. For by misidentifying or mischaracterizing various Arab leaders as "moderates,"
Rice and others do real harm to the very cause they seek to advance.
Rather than encouraging moderation, they are in fact unwittingly promoting extremism by failing to call to account leaders such as Abbas, Mubarak and others.
And by blurring the definition of true moderation, they have allowed these men to continue to pursue policies that are antithetical to Israel and the West, all while continuing to bask in the undeserved political support they receive from abroad.
The question of "just who exactly is a moderate Arab leader," and whether any really exist, remains open to debate.
But by conferring this title upon despots and dictators, and those who sponsor terror, the US secretary of state is doing far more damage than good.
Here's an item straight out of the Twilight Zone for you:
January 15, 2007
IDF said curbing West Bank raids for duration of Rice visit
By Amos Harel, Haaretz Correspondent
Israel Radio reported Monday that the IDF has ordered curbs on operations in the West Bank during the current visit of United States Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.
"The commander of IDF forces in Judea and Samaria, Brigadier General Yair Golan, has ordered his brigade commanders to arrest Palestinians only in cases of vital necessity," the radio said.
Over the past two days, a divisional commander has refused to authorize a number of initiated operations, it said.
So Israel puts its war on terror on hold, and gives the terrorists a respite, all because Condi Rice is visiting town? What is going on here?
Ostensibly, the "logic" behind this decision is that the government wants to avoid a repeat of what happened earlier this month, when a military operation in Ramallah went awry during a summit meeting between Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Egyptian autocrat Hosni Mubarak.
That would seem to make sense, except for one thing: the terrorists are sure to exploit this "rest stop" to their advantage. They know that Rice's visit, and Israel's meek response, give them a lull they most certainly do not deserve.
And so, once again, we find our decision-makers placing more importance on how Israel looks than on how it acts, with image taking precedence over more fundamental concerns such as safety and security.
Rod Serling would be proud.
The Jerusalem Post, January 10, 2007
Say Goodbye to Europe
By Michael Freund
If you ever wanted to see Paris or Rome before you die, but haven't had a chance to do so, you might want to hurry. Soon enough, most of what we now think of as Western Europe will be transformed into a branch of the Muslim world, which is sure to make it an even less welcoming place for Americans, Israelis and for Jews.
That, at least, is the unpleasant, yet entirely unavoidable conclusion to be drawn from Europe's headlong demographic drive toward oblivion.
Think I'm exaggerating? Consider a few cold hard facts.
According to a recent report by the Rand Corporation, "Across Europe, birth rates are falling and family sizes are shrinking. The total fertility rate is now less than two children per woman in every member nation in the European Union."
Needless to say, demographers consider a birthrate of 2.1 children per family to be the replacement level at which a society's population size remains stable. Barring large-scale immigration, anything less means decline and dissolution.
A research study published last year in the International Journal of Andrology found a similar trend, concluding that, "Fertility rates have fallen and are now below replacement level in all European Union (EU) Member States. In the 20-year period since 1982," it noted, "most EU Member State countries have had total fertility rates continuously below replacement level."
At the bottom of the list are Spain, Italy and Greece, where birthrates hover around just 1.3 per couple, leading some forecasters to suggest, for example, that Italy's population could shrink by one-third by the middle of the century.
Others, such as Germany's 1.37, the UK's 1.74 and Sweden's 1.75, aren't all much better.
The figures are so bad that in many European countries, the total number of deaths each year has actually begun to exceed the number of births.
Indeed, the Council of Europe's 2004 Demographic Yearbook warned that, "for Europe as a whole, more people died in 2003 than were born." In 1990, said the yearbook, "three countries - Germany, Bulgaria and Hungary - had negative natural growth for the first time. By 2002, it was negative in fifteen countries."
LAST YEAR, after the publication of statistics revealing that 30 percent of German women have not had children, Germany's family minister, Ursula von der Leyen, caused a stir when she said that if her nation's birth rate did not turn around, the country would have to "turn out the light." And while Europeans may be busy everywhere but in the bedroom, the Muslim populations in their midst are proving far more expansive.
As columnist Mark Steyn points out in his must-read new book, America Alone, "What's the Muslim population of Rotterdam? Forty percent. What's the most popular baby boy's name in Belgium? Mohammed. In Amsterdam? Mohammed. In Malmo, Sweden? Mohammed."
Last month, the UK Daily Telegraph reported that, "Mohammed, and its most common alternative spelling Muhammad, are now more popular babies' names in England and Wales than George."
This, said the paper, using typically British understatement, "reflects the diverse ethnic mix of the population."
But that "mix," so to speak, is rapidly changing - and not in traditional Europe's favor.
ISLAM, BY all accounts, is the fastest growing religion in Europe, spurred by immigration and high fertility rates. According to projections by the US federal government's National Intelligence Council, the continent's current Muslim population of 20 million will likely double by 2025.
And as Bruce Bawer noted last year in While Europe Slept, "Already, in most of Western Europe, 16 to 20 percent of children are Muslims…within a couple of generations many [European] countries will have Muslim majorities."
Not since September 8, 1683, when the Ottomans were threatening to breach the walls of Vienna, has Islam been so perilously close to seizing control over Western Europe.
The implications of all this are far graver than we can even begin to imagine, and it is not just a matter of choosing new and more hospitable tourist destinations.
An increasingly Islamified Europe will prove ever more hostile to Israel and America, and this trend will only intensify as the Muslim population there continues to grow.
Even if European governments succeed in reversing the curve, which seems highly unlikely, it will be decades before it would begin to be felt. In the meantime, however, Muslim political power on the continent will develop and expand, and European leaders will be hard-pressed to ignore their demands.
This makes it far less likely that Israel and the US can count on Europe - if they ever really could - at times of crisis in the decades ahead. Just pick an issue, from the war on terror to Palestinian statehood, and you'll see what I mean.
For however unbalanced Europe's stance has been until now, it will likely only grow worse in the years to come.
Europe as we know it is a thing of the past, and it is time for Israeli and American decision-makers to take this into account as they plan for the future. The face of Europe is changing rapidly, and with it the continent's social and political make-up.
So if you really want to see the Eiffel Tower up close, you had best not delay. Before you know it, it might just turn into a minaret.
Well, it was just another quiet Friday today in the Israeli town of Sderot.
As of this writing – before noon - only 1 Palestinian rocket has hit the city thus far, while a second one landed in an open field elsewhere in the Negev. I guess the terrorists decided to sleep in late this morning.
The fact of the matter is that for much of the past year, the Palestinian rocket fire has been ongoing, as has the lack of coverage in the Western media.
And this helps to explain, at least in part, the willingness of so many governments to continue backing PA President Mahmoud Abbas, even as he has done nothing to halt attacks against the Jewish state.
With little public awareness, and even less outrage, about the persistent Palestinian assaults against Israel, there is little political price to be paid, it seems, for backing Mr. Abbas.
And so, as Reuters revealed today, Washington has agreed to give Abbas another $86 million to bolster his so-called security forces – the very same armed units that are rife with terrorists and their sympathizers and which permit the attacks on Sderot to continue.
The ostensible reason for doing so is to strengthen Abbas in his power struggle with Hamas, but that is short-sighted thinking to say the least. Backing one bad guy just because he is a little less evil than the other bad guy is hardly a morally compelling, or strategically sophisticated, policy vision.
The result of this approach is quite clear: Mr. Abbas sees that he is rewarded no matter what he does – or doesn't do – so why should he bother to stop attacks on Israel?
And so, once again today, the red glare of the rockets hitting Sderot continues.
Talk about arming your own enemies.
Israel, it was revealed today, has allowed Egypt to transfer an enormous quantity of weapons to Fatah, the Palestinian faction controlled by PA President Abu Mazen.
A total of 2,000 AK-47 assault rifles, 20,000 magazines and two million (!!) bullets were included in the shipment, which is ostensibly aimed at strengthening Fatah in its rivalry with Hamas.
Of course, there is one slight problem with this approach: Fatah has this nasty little habit of turning its weapons on Jews. The very same Palestinian security forces that received the ammunition are the very same Palestinian security forces that engage in terror against the Jewish state.
And so, in a move of astonishing obtuseness, Israel has once again overseen the arming of its foes. Incredibly, according to media reports, the shipment of weapons was actually escorted across the Egypt-Gaza border by Israeli Military Police!!
After 13 years of Palestinian Authority terror, you'd think that our government would have learned by now that giving guns to the enemy is not only short-sighted, but dangerous too.