Posts Tagged 'Politics'

Dangers of a Nuclear Armed Iran

As Iran is getting closer and closer to becoming a nuclear armed state, by some estimates having enough material for a single nuclear bomb already, time is very quickly running out on a peaceful resolution to the inevitable crisis that would ensue if Iran reaches its full nuclear ambitions.

There are many reasons why Iran should not be allowed to become a nuclear power.  First, they are the foremost sponsor of organized terrorism in the world.  Iran provides extensive funding to Hezbollah and Hamas.  Hezbollah’s presence in Lebanon prevents that state from being a moderate, democratic friend of the West and pushes it towards Islamic fundamentalism that would have it resemble its neighbor, Syria.

Hezbollah has most likely been involved in the assassinations of multiple moderate members of Lebanon’s government, most recently of Prime Minister Rafik Harir in 2005, and has facilitated their pro-Syrian replacements.  It’s terrorist instigations, kidnapping of soldiers and firing of Katushas at population centers on Israel’s northern border led to the second Israel-Lebanon war in 2006.  In addition to causing the loss of innocent life, the war led to further destabilization of the volatile region.

Iran also provides extensive funding to Hamas, a terrorist organization whose declared goal of Israel’s destruction justifies, in their eyes, the indiscriminate loss of Palestinian and Israeli lives.  Hamas’s take over of Gaza, which involved the torture and murder of members of the rival Fatah, has put it in full control of the territory.  It has used this position to fire thousands of Iranian made missiles at Israeli population centers.

A nuclear armed Iran would mean nuclear armed Hezbollah and Hamas which would push the already explosive turmoil that these groups are sowing to new levels.  This leads us to the second great concern over a nuclear armed Iran.  Iran would not discriminate in nuclear arms sales and organized terrorists like Hezbollah and Hamas would not be the only ones to end up with nuclear weapons.  Smaller, rogue groups that came up with sufficient cash could also purchase nuclear weapons from Iran as they saw fit.  This would put the entire world and not just the regular targets of Hezbollah and Hamas, Israelies and moderate Lebanese, within the scope of Iranian made nuclear weapons.

Third, a nuclear Iran would lead to nuclear proliferation in the Middle East.  Countries across the moderate to extreme spectrum, from Egypt to Saudia Arabia, would feel threatened by a nuclear, omnipotent Iran and would themselves pursue nuclear weapons.  Weather they succeeded or not, the outcome for regional stability would be grim – countries that failed to acquire nuclear weapons would resort to being Iran’s puppet states, countries that succeeded would add to the potential that a nuclear weapon got used.

Conditions are ripe to halt this problem before it spirals completely out of control.  Iran is facing an economic perfect storm with falling oil revenues, spiraling inflation, poverty and high joblessness. The Iranian economy is in dire straits-the Iranian government is trying to drive down its unemployment numbers by counting students and housewives as employed.  These conditions mean that at least a significant fraction of the Iranian population must be fed up with their government’s expenditure on research towards nuclear weapons instead of on local infrastructure – schools and hospitals.  Now is the time to use economic diplomacy and hope that these potential allies on the inside will help prevent war.

There is a flip side to the condition of the Iranian economy.  High unemployment and general unrest make it easier for a totalitarian leader like Ahmadenajad to manipulate the populace into accepting a scapegoat solution – development and use of nuclear weapons.  Thus the same conditions that give us a better opportunity for peaceful, diplomatic action also make the window for such a solution narrower.

So what can we do?  The optimal solution would be a comprehensive, world wide carrots and sticks policy.  These efforts have been stifled by international companies and countries who have refused to seize dealing with Iran.  There are five companies that provide refined petroleum to Iran, Total, Vitol, Trafigura, Reliance Industries and British Petroleum.  These companies are enabling Iran to reach their goals and undermining the difficult economic situation that could prove crucial to a peaceful transition of Iran’s direction.

In addition to the five companies above, Russia and China must be convinced to cease doing business with Iran.  The efforts must succeed in convincing all that they each have more to lose in security than to gain economically by cooperating with Iran.  If these companies and countries come on board, there is a chance that Iran will be  stopped now before they master the fuel cycle and achieve industrial capacity in their efforts to enrich uranium.

It is urgent to work on these issues today because a nuclear Iran will almost certainly result in nuclear weapons in the hands of organized terrorist like Hezbollah and Hamas,   nuclear weapons in the hands of smaller, rogue terror cells that may operate in the Middle East as well as the West, and lead to nuclear proliferation in the already volatile Middle East.  The time to work with America’s allies to solve the Iranian threat – hopefully peacefully – is now.


A letter to the Beeb

I’ve always been unhappy with the anti-Israeli bias in BBC’s coverage of the Israeli/Palestinian conflict.  This bias has not diminished (I did not expect it to) in their coverage of the recent Gaza conflict.  In what I believed would be a request that fell upon deaf ears, I submitted an email requesting them to reconsider this bias.  Commendably, I received a response.  My initial email, the BBC’s response, and my response to the response are included below.  I will update this post with any further correspondence that takes place.

to the BBC on January 7th, 2009:

I would like to appeal to you to avoid anti-Israel bias in your publication. Israel’s response to Hamas’s indiscriminate firing of rockets at Israeli civilians is proportional and necessary. The situation in Israel is dire as neighborhoods of innocent Israelis are being deliberately attacked with rockets as often as dozens of times a day. In 2008 alone, Hamas has fired 3,000 rockets at Israel. A significant fraction of these rockets were fired during the six month long “cease fire”.

Israel withdrew from all of Gaza more than three years ago in hopes of peace and a two-state solution. Now, Israel has an obligation to defend its citizens from the threat of Iran-backed terrorists now just as it did when Iran-backed Hezbollah attached Israel not long ago. Israel is no different from any other sovereign nation that must protect their citizens from those who would kill them.

Hamas’s ties to Iran are unmistakable. Iran’s President has said he wants to wipe Israel off the map.  They are developing nuclear materials in defiance of the world while supporting, training and arming Hamas, Islamic Jihad, Hezbollah and others. Israel and the Palestinians need a lasting peace–which will only come when the Iran-backed terrorists are defeated. Media bias against Israel sways public opinion against it and forces Israel to cut its operations short under international pressure. This in turn enables Hamas to continue its terrorism and results in the loss of Israeli civilian lives. I urge you to avoid biased and one sided reporting (only reporting on Israeli actions and leaving out Hamas’s rocket firing and use of Palestinian civilians as human shields) and to perform thorough fact checking before reporting.  I also urge to avoid unfair, one-sided articles such as this one.  The article reports sitting in a peaceful Sderot cafe.  Are you kidding me?  Sderot has been and is the target of hundreds of Hamas rockets in the past months, where are the BBC stories reporting on the carnage and mayhem that those rockets cause to Sderot civilians?


from the BBC on January 23rd, 2009:

Dear X

Thanks for your e-mail.

Firstly, please accept our apologies for the delay in replying. We know our correspondents appreciate a quick response and we are sorry you have had to wait on this occasion.

I understand that you’ve been disappointed by our coverage of the Gaza conflict. I note your concern over a report from Sderot and that you feel we only report on Israeli actions.

We’ve reported the casualty figures from both sides: the fact is, however, that there have been many more Palestinian deaths than Israeli. We’ve also explained clearly and frequently that Israel sees this conflict as a necessary defensive action because of the rocket attacks it has faced for many years. It is for the audience, not the BBC, to judge whether, in its view, the action is justified.

We’ve reported from Sderot frequently in the past – and our Middle East correspondent Paul Wood did so again on 30 December for both radio and television – this is part of his script:

“People head for the shelters in the town of Sderot. This is the routine now. The Palestinian rockets are crude, but the fear is real. A rocket fell in the building behind me just a couple of minutes ago.”

You can also see Paul Wood’s article on the BBC news website, headlined “Taking cover on Sderot front line.”

We report the facts on the ground impartially. But this isn’t an evenly balanced conflict. The fact is that many more Palestinians than Israelis have died in the fighting.  We cannot ignore this fact but must report on it fully but fairly.

In addition we’ve devoted considerable time to coverage of the causes of the conflict – for example, Israel’s stated need to take action against the Hamas rocket attacks from Gaza. To that end, we have reported in detail both on the rocket attacks and on Israel’s rationale.

Whether the means justify the end is not for the BBC to judge and we would not aim to ‘paint’ anyone as the ‘aggressor’: our role is to report on the causes and the impact of the conflict freely but fairly, providing enough context for the audience to make up its own mind.

I realise that you may continue to feel there is an element of bias in our reporting from Gaza. Therefore, let me assure you I’ve registered your comments on our audience log. This is a daily report of audience feedback that’s circulated to many BBC staff, including members of the BBC Executive Board, channel controllers and other senior managers.

The audience logs are seen as important documents that can help shape decisions about future programming and content.

All feedback we receive, whether positive or negative, is always appreciated.

Thanks again for taking the time to contact us with your views.


to the BBC on February 1st, 2009:

Dear Y,

Thank you for taking the time to reply.

There are a number of problems with reporting just the casualty numbers without the underlying details of the situation and letting readers make their own decisions based on the numbers.

One, while Israel does everything it can to prevent casualties, Hamas does everything it can to maximize them.  Since Hamas has started shelling southern Israel and the western Negev a few years ago, Israel has scrambled to install rocket alert sirens and shelters in all towns within Hamas’s reach.  Hamas on the other hand utilizes their resources not to ensure the safety of its citizens but to rearm itself.  In fact, not only does Hamas not attempt to prevent casualties on its own side, but it attempts to maximize them by the use of human shields and by the launching of rockets from schools, mosques, hospitals and other highly populated areas.  Here is a quote from Nuaf Atar who was captured by the IDF during the conflict, “Hamas had set up rocket launchers and fired rockets into Israel from within school compounds since the operatives knew that the Israel Air Force would not bomb the schools.”  Letting readers come to conclusions based on numbers alone without explaining that Israeli casualties are lower because of the country’s efforts to keep their citizens safe while Hamas’s are higher because of their use of human shields and complete disregard for their own citizens’ lives is misleading.

Two, the numbers alone do not convey the fact that this conflict was instigated completely by Hamas.  After Israel withdrew completely from Gaza in 2005 Hamas has been goading them into a confrontation by firing rockets at Israeli cities.  If it weren’t for this rocket fire there would be no casualties on either side.  Further, Israel had refrained from responding for an unprecedented amount of time in the hopes of avoiding extensive casualties.  If Hamas put down their weapons there would be peace; if Israel put down theirs there would be no more Israel.

Three, the numbers alone do not tell the truth about who Hamas really is.  Hamas is an organization that has humiliated and executed members of the rival Fatah.  It is an organization that shoots their own citizens in the legs if they oppose the use of their land and homes as rocket launch pads.  It is an organization that hijacks UNRWA food supplies and refuses to feed supporters of the rival Fatah.  It is an organization that booby traps their civilians’ houses with explosives in the hopes that Israeli soldiers along with those civilians are killed.

Four, the accuracy of the numbers themselves are disputed.  A recent investigation by the Italian newspaper, Corriere della Sera, concluded that, “no more than 500 or 600 could have been killed in the IDF attacks, and that most were men between 17 and 23 recruited to Hamas’s ranks.”  In 2002 after an Israeli operation in Jenin to combat the second intifada it was originally reported that 1,500 were dead.  In the end it turned out to be only 54 – of whom 45 were militants.  If publications such as the BBC initially report the orders of magnitude higher death toll, how many readers would notice the correction if and when it were published?

I greatly appreciate the time you take to consider and reply to my feedback.

Best Regards,

from the BBC on February 27th, 2009:

Dear X,

Thank you for your e-mail.

We wanted to let you know that we’ve received your further complaint and will respond as soon as possible, however we hope you understand that the time taken to do so can depend on the nature of your complaint and the number of other complaints we’re currently dealing with. We issue public responses to concerns which prompt large numbers of significant complaints and these can be read on our website at:

We would be grateful if you would not reply to this email – in the meantime, we would like to thank you again for contacting us with your concerns and appreciate your patience in awaiting a response.

Thank you for taking the time to contact the BBC.


BBC Complaints

Darkside of Roger Waters

My wife and I had the pleasure of attending the 2008 Coachella music festival last week. Every year we look forward to the beginning of February when the line up for the festival gets posted. When the line up finally did get posted this year, I saw that one of the headliners was “Roger Waters – The Darkside of the Moon”. This was the concert’s way of assuring potential attendees that Roger would not just play his post Floyd songs but would indulge us with what we really wanted to hear.

The show started out with eight or so Floyd songs. The entire audience was in a collective state of awe due to hearing songs that they’ve listened to so much but had never heard performed live. After playing “The Fletcher Memorial Home” Roger played his first non-Floyd song of the set, “Perfect Sense”, which contains the lyrics:

And the Germans killed the Jews
And the Jews killed the Arabs
And Arabs killed the hostages

The first two lines compare the Holocaust to the worldwide treatment of Arabs by Jews. Roger compares the systematic extermination of 6 million Jews for the sole reason of being Jewish to Israel’s attempts to protect its citizens from often hostile neighbors. Further, he uses the common anti-Semitic device of attributing anti-Israel sentiment towards all Jews. Whatever Roger perceives the killing of Arabs by Jews to be, it apparently justifies the Arabs killing the hostages.

One has to ask is this done out of stupidity, naivety, or intentional bigotry? Its hard to imagine that anyone who could have come up with, “We’re just two lost souls swimming in a fish bowl” is stupid, or someone who has traveled the world is naive. The only logical conclusion that one can come to is that Roger is being intentionally anti-semitic. Maybe when he said, “And that one looks Jewish, and that one’s a coon … If I had my way I’d have all of ya shot,” he was expressing his own beliefs and not describing Pink’s hallucination of himself as a dictator as satire of being a popular musician with influence over the impressionable masses.

A few songs later Roger played “Sheep” and augmented the experience by having a two-story sized inflatable pig hover above the audience, which in my estimate consisted of about 30,000 raving fans. The pig displayed the words “Don’t be led to the slaughter” and a cartoon of Uncle Sam wielding two bloody cleavers. The other side read “Fear builds walls.” The underside of the pig simply read “Obama” with a checked ballot box alongside. Roger’s message to Americans is don’t be gullible sheep led to the slaughter by your evil government. Funny to convey such a message by hovering a school bus sized pig over the heads of 30,000 impressionable fans while they sing along with you and waive their arms in approval, much like Pink’s fans in his hallucination. As Maynard once said, “Repeat after me – Think for yourself, question authority, think for yourself, question authority, think for yourself, question authority… and never ever do what others tell you to do.” Thats wisdom, floating an inflatable pig over your audience is cheap.

After a short break, Roger played all of Darkside which was pretty phenominal. The band left the stage and came back a minute later for an encore. The first song they played for the encore was Another Brick in the Wall (Part II, for those keeping score) pretty amazing to hear this live, but once again it was tarnished as the images in the background were of Waters spray painting “tear down the wall” on the wall in Israel between Jerusalem and the West Bank. With regard to the wall Waters has said,

“It’s craziness, it’s a horrific edifice, this thing. I’ve seen pictures of it, I’ve heard a lot about it but without being here you can’t imagine how extraordinarily oppressive it is and how sad it is to see these people coming through these little holes.”

I wonder if Roger has seen, first hand or even in pictures, the torn up, charred remains of a bus and human body parts after a suicide bomber has come from the other side of that wall and blown himself up. The wall is controversial and without a doubt slows down mobility of law abiding citizens, but to present it out of context, without any reference to the terrorism that it attempts to prevent is disingenuous. When the trade offs are between an extra hour to get to work on one hand and random people being blown up on buses on the other, unfortunately the mobility has to be sacrificed and people have to go through these little holes. In my opinion, going through little holes on your way to work is better than being blown up on your way to work. Hopefully, once there is a Palestinian leadership in place that does not explicitly support terrorism (Hamas, Arafat) or implicitly support it by not doing enough to stop it (Abbas) there will be no need for the wall and it can be torn down.

The final piece of Israel bashing came during the second to last song of the show, Bring the Boys Back Home. Towards the end of the song four flags were displayed on the screen behind the band. The first was Israel’s and the last was the U.S.’s. One has to ask, where does Roger want Israel to bring their boys back home from? From the Lebanese border so that Hezbollah can come in and destroy the North of the country? From the Golan Heights so that Syria can come back and at will shoot at the Ein Gev Kibbutzniks as it did prior to 1967? From the Gaza border so that Hamas can come in and kill people without having to shoot Qasams at Sderot and Ashkelon as they are doing now?

The show closed with Comfortably Numb. The overall musical performance, if it could be appreciated independently of the anti-Israeli and anti-semitic sentiment, was absolutely amazing. I however could not separate the two and the three hour extravaganza was ruined for me. At the end I was left wishing that Roger’s lips moved but no one could hear what he was saying.