James Edward Johnson

my thoughts from right to left

Posts Tagged ‘democracy

Some Muslims are not just “moderate” …

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… they are downright righteous. I met such a Muslim Arab man – Bedouin to be specific – on Thursday at Augustana College in Rock Island, Illinois.

Ishmael Khaldi works for the Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs, most recently as Deputy Consul in the San Francisco consulate.  He speaks for the Jewish state of Israel and being a Muslim is no barrier to that fact.

He spoke clearly about the threats to Israelis – all Israelis – emanating from Iran, Hamas, Hezbollah, and the delegitimization campaign against Israel.  Whether it is Iran’s race for nuclear weapons or the Boycott Divest and Sanction movement, these threats are threats to Arabs and Jews and others in Israel and often elsewhere.

I have met few people who have so clearly expressed the case for the Jewish state and the common bond shared among many Israelis – Jew and Arab alike.  Most striking was his explanation of the work that many Bedouins did to help give birth to the Jewish state.  For, while Israel’s independence is often simply described as the cause of war between Jews and Arabs, Khaldi made clear that a sizeable number of Bedouins supported the pre-state Jewish community and the state of Israel.

His was a story not lost on those of us familiar with the long tradition of Druze assistance to the Jewish community.  Once one peels back the simple narratives, one sees the plural multiculturalism that defines Israel as not just a Jewish state, but also as a democratic and liberal one.  Khaldi is just one of many examples of that multicultural liberal reality.

Read more about Ishmael Khaldi and buy his book through his website or on Amazon.


Written by JamesEJ

Saturday, October 23, 2010 at 7:10 pm

Losing Iowa

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The Jewish WeekThe NY Jewish Week ran my piece today on the challenge facing Jews in Iowa over Israel and, to a lesser degree, other Jewish issues. Here’s a taste …

Iowa may be the Achilles’ heel in the fabled power of the Israel lobby. Unfortunately, Jews are losing the state.

Iowa’s first-in-the-nation caucuses give it disproportionate political attention. Any serious presidential candidate must make multiple visits to the state to be viable. The lack of a significant Jewish presence in Iowa presents a problem for Jews in this country.

Most importantly, anti-Israel activists seek legitimacy for their efforts to delegitimize Israel. This legitimacy-seeking activity provoked candidate Barack Obama to say during the 2008 presidential campaign, “Nobody is suffering more than the Palestinian people.” One of the leading anti-Israel activists in Iowa set the trap with a question and Obama stepped into it. The Des Moines Register dutifully reported the story without important context that would have undermined the anti-Israel framing.

Read the rest of Losing Iowa at The NY Jewish Week.

Written by JamesEJ

Wednesday, September 22, 2010 at 12:04 am

Mousavi calls out Ahmadinejad over Israel.

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Mir Hossein Mousavi

Jews and Israelis have long known that the Palestinian Arab issue has been used by dictators to control their populations and unite against an imaginary evil.  Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and other autocrats in the vilayet-i-faqih regime have most heavily utilized this tactic when they have sought to court the Arab street in particular and appeal to Islamists in general.

What has changed, however, is that Mir Hossein Mousavi has begun to expose Ahmadinejad’s manipulation for what it is:

This year, the day was also marked by bitter criticism of Mr. Ahmadinejad’s administration by his opponents. Dissident leader Mir Hossein Mousavi, issued a statement saying the government was using Israel as an excuse to crush its critics.

“The orchestrated violence against the opposition shows that the occupation of Jerusalem and Israel is just an excuse. They consider their real enemy people who are fighting to free our country from oppression,” said Mr. Mousavi’s statement.

via WSJ -Day of Anti-Israel Protest Reveals Iran’s Internal Rift

Language like this is promising.  It demonstrates that Persians, even those who aspire to positions of power, are increasingly willing to see and expose the tactics that entrench a fascistic regime, provoke conflict, ultimately, endanger Persian lives on multiple levels.

Many of the ordinary Persians I know have realized this for a long time.  But, to have a major opposition leader say it demonstrates that the bulk of the people of Iran are ripe for hearing the truth.  It means that the opposition does not need to jump on the bandwagon of bashing Israel, hating Jews, and denying the Holocaust to challenge the leaders of Iran.  That is good for peace and good for the future of a liberal and democratic Iran.

cross-posted at The View From Damavand

Written by JamesEJ

Tuesday, September 7, 2010 at 1:16 am

Israel is the paragon of religious liberty.

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Al Aqsa Mosque

The Al Aqsa Mosque on the Temple Mount (courtesy MathKnight, Hebrew Wikipedia & WikiCommons)

In Jerusalem at the Temple Mount, the holiest site in Judaism, more than a hundred thousand Muslim worshipers convened and listened to a Friday sermon that attacked not only the State of Israel, but also the very prospect of  peace negotiations between Israel and the Palestinian Authority:

Tens of thousands of Muslims poured into the heavily guarded Al-Aqsa Mosque compound in Jerusalem for the last Friday prayers of Ramadan as Palestinians protested against newly re-launched peace talks.

Israeli police put the number of worshippers at 160,000 to 170,000, while Muslim authorities said it exceeded 200,000.

In his Friday sermon Sheikh Yusef Abu Sneineh criticized the re-launch on Thursday of Middle East peace talks in Washington, saying “these negotiations are a joke.”

He went on to accuse Israel of seeking normalization with the Arab and Muslim world while “continuing its colonization” of the occupied West Bank through the building of Jewish settlements.

via The Daily Star – Tens of thousands pray at Al-Aqsa as Hamas calls for more armed ‘resistance’.

When one considers that Saudi Arabia heavily regulates the practice of Islam and that Egypt has a long history of regulating sermons, it makes this kind of liberty, in a place far more threatened by Islamist extremism, all the more impressive.  Even liberal Europe fails to display the degree of religious tolerance that exists in Israel.

And yet, if you listen to the European media or the Arab media, only Israel is the world’s oppressor.  Perhaps rather than condemning Israel, they should seek to emulate Israel.

Written by JamesEJ

Sunday, September 5, 2010 at 12:23 pm

Check yourself.

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Here in Iowa, many of us feel no need to worry about our personal security.  Generally we don’t need to worry, but it is not an excuse to completely let down your guard.

A good friend of mine who works in counter-terrorism recently shared with me two articles that can be useful to ordinary people.  They do not encourage paranoia, but they do call for a person to consciously consider their level of alertness.  Even in Iowa bad things happen.  Most Iowans leave the state from time-to-time and at those times have even more reason to remain alert to potential threats.

The first link is to a resource that will simply get you thinking about what it means to be alert to potential threats:

Regardless of the threat, it is very important to recognize that criminal and terrorist attacks do not materialize out of thin air. In fact, quite the opposite is true. Criminals and terrorists follow a process when planning their actions, and this process has several distinct steps. This process has traditionally been referred to as the “terrorist attack cycle,” but if one looks at the issue thoughtfully, it becomes apparent that the same steps apply to nearly all crimes.

Read more: A Primer on Situational Awareness | STRATFOR

The second link is particularly useful to anyone who is worried about a stalker, but can also be useful to anyone who fears that they are being observed in advance of a criminal act:

It is important to make one fundamental point clear up front. The operational behavior that most commonly exposes a person planning a criminal or terrorist act to scrutiny by the intended target is surveillance. Other portions of the planning process can be conducted elsewhere, especially in the age of the Internet, when so much information is available online. From an operational standpoint, however, there simply is no substitute for having eyes on the potential target.

Read more: Watching for Watchers | STRATFOR

If enough people start thinking about these issues, we will be safer as both individuals and as a community.  If you want to stop terrorism without the heavy hand of government surveillance, you must read these, remain appropriately alert, and encourage your friends to do the same.

Written by JamesEJ

Thursday, July 15, 2010 at 8:14 am

What We Would Learn From Sri Lanka

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Sri Lanka provides a solid example of how to most effectively deal with terrorists.  After decades of facing some of the most brutal terror tactics, Sri Lanka adopted tactics sufficient to quell the terrorists.  Robert Kaplan at The Atlantic gives us the lessons:

Lesson 1:

The insurgents are using human shields? No problem. Just keep killing the innocent bystanders until you get to the fighters themselves.

Lesson 2:

Bad media coverage is hurting morale and giving succor to the enemy? Just kill the journalists.

Lesson 3:

The international community disapproves of your methods and cuts off military aid because of the human rights violations you’ve committed? Again, no problem. Get aid from China.

The international system created largely by western nations has produced these lessons.  While democrats and liberty-minded people would rightly feel shame at learning these lessons, most nations have no problem adopting such Machiavellian approaches.  Indeed, failing to adopt such amoral policies attracts terror and other vicious methods for obtaining political goals.  We need to rethink the system that  encourages terrorism and offers only such fascist responses as effective tools to combat it.

Read more: The Atlantic Online | July 2009 Unbound | To Catch a Tiger | Robert D. Kaplan.

Written by JamesEJ

Tuesday, July 7, 2009 at 2:33 am

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The world is not free

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It is good to remember that much of the world is severely unfree.  Foreign Policy has a good feature on a few of the least free places on earth.  Many Americans, I suspect, could not locate many of these places on the map.  It is too bad because some of them are within the US orbit of influence.  Americans should want our country to be a beacon of light into the dark places of the world.  But, in order to be that beacon, we must know where the darkness reigns.

One disputed territory that shockingly few people know about is Western Sahara, which is under Moroccan occupation:

Western Sahara is the subject of a decades-long dispute between Morocco and the Algerian-backed rebel group, the Polisario Front. Morocco controls local elections, severely restricts freedom of assembly, and denies nomadic Saharans, or Sahrawis, their right to form independent political or nongovernmental organizations. Sahrawi activists face harassment, arbitrary detention, and torture. Moroccan authorities regularly use force when quelling demonstrations and riots in Sahrawi villages.

via The Least Free Places on Earth | Foreign Policy.

The source data is available from Freedom House at this link.

Written by JamesEJ

Friday, July 3, 2009 at 5:59 am

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