Friday, August 01, 2014

An Ancient Tomb Meets a Modern Horror

The rampage by ISIS extremists in Mosul included destroying Jonah's last resting place.

By Benjamin Blech
July 31, 2014

Mosque of the Prophet Younis

Mosque of the Prophet Younis

The ancient Assyrian city of Nineveh, once the most powerful capital of the ancient world, has special importance for anyone familiar with the Bible. It was the setting for the book of Jonah, a place to which God sent the prophet to warn its inhabitants of impending destruction unless they repented of their evil ways.

Today it is known as Mosul, the second-largest city in Iraq. And last week, almost unnoticed amid the horrific stream of news about violence in the Mideast, a fresh casualty of Islamic extremism was the towering structure that contained the tomb of Jonah. Militants of the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham who blew up the prophet's tomb either didn't know or didn't care that it was Muhammad himself who, in the Quran, described Jonah as "a righteous preacher of the message of God."

It is remarkable that Jonah achieved significant importance in the religious traditions of all three major monotheistic faiths. His biblical book is short, all of four chapters, totaling 48 sentences. In the Christian Bible, it is found in the section called "The Minor Prophets." In the Jewish version, Jonah is lumped in with 11 others in the work known as "The Twelve."

People walk amid the rubble of the destroyed Mosque of The Prophet Younis, or Jonah, in Mosul, Iraq, on July 24Associated Press

And yet, of all the prophets chosen to be emphasized by Michelangelo in his magnificent frescoes in the Sistine Chapel, the largest and most imposing figure is Jonah. First-time visitors to the chapel often gasp at the sight: Jonah seems to be actually dangling his legs out of the wall and over the altar, while his shoulders and head seem to be leaning back through the roof of the Sistine into the open sky beyond.

Michelangelo was not alone in singling out Jonah for prominence. Jewish tradition echoes the same choice. Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, concludes a 10-day period of penitence that begins with Rosh Hashanah. These 10 days are also known as the Days of Awe, each one bringing closer the moment when, without repentance, there is no longer any escape possible from God's heavenly verdict for every individual. As that moment draws near, Jewish tradition requires a recitation of the four chapters of Jonah, which serve as the concluding biblical message of the day and are read in every synagogue around the world.

To understand the reason for the choice of Jonah by Jews is to grasp what must have motivated Michelangelo as well. The Talmudic rabbis felt that the book of Jonah captures the quintessential message for Yom Kippur because it is a story that reminds us that God judges the whole world—not only Jews but also the people of Nineveh as well as the rest of all mankind.

Jonah was the only Jewish prophet sent to preach to the Gentiles. He emphasized the truth that those who follow God have an obligation to help the wicked turn from their evil ways, and that no one can flee from this obligation without suffering the consequences of divine wrath.

That message is at the heart of the most famous element in Jonah's story: When he was called upon by the Almighty to go to the wicked city of Nineveh and to prophesy to its corrupt inhabitants, Jonah first tried to escape from his calling by boarding a ship going in another direction. But he was pursued by God and ended up being swallowed by a giant fish for three days.

From this we learn that no one can hide from God no matter where he or she goes. And yet we may never give up hope that the wicked, no matter how far gone, can be moved to change their behavior. Repentance is always possible. And, most important, repentance is always accepted by God, even at the very last moment before imminent destruction.

Michelangelo surely identified with Jonah because the artist saw himself as also forced into a mission—leaving Florence to paint at the Vatican—that he wanted at all costs to avoid. Jonah cried and prayed to heaven for the liberation of Nineveh's denizens "out of the depths." Michelangelo, who hoped to steer the church from its hedonistic excesses, identified with the prophet whose task seemed impossible and yet prevailed. For Jonah's message was taken to heart by those who heard him—and he thereby saved the people of Nineveh.

How tragic, then, to note that in modern-day Nineveh Jonah's tomb fell victim to people claiming a commitment to the teachings of Islam, yet it was the Prophet Muhammad who once warned, in the collection of Imam Bukhari, that "One should not say that I am better than Jonah."

The desecration of Jonah's final resting place is a blow not only to his memory but more tragically to his message of universal concern for those of all faiths, the message that still remains the only hope for civilized mankind.

Rabbi Blech, a Talmud professor at Yeshiva University in New York, is the co-author, with Roy Doliner, of "The Sistine Secrets: Michelangelo's Forbidden Messages in the Heart of the Vatican" (HarperCollins, 2008).

Clueless in Gaza

By Charles Krauthammer
July 31, 2014
Palestinian Hamas supporters shout slogans against Israel during a protest to support Hamas and against the Israeli attack on the Gaza strip in the west bank city of Nablus, 31 July 2014.  (Alaa Badarneh/EPA)
John Kerry is upset by heavy criticism from Israelis — left, right and center— of his recent cease-fire diplomacy. But that’s only half the story. More significant is the consternation of America’s Arab partners, starting with the president of the Palestinian Authority. Mahmoud Abbas was stunned that Kerry would fly off to Paris to negotiate with Hamas allies Qatar and Turkey in talks that excluded the PA and Egypt.
The talks also undermined Egypt’s cease-fire proposal, which Israel had accepted and Hamas rejected (and would have prevented the vast majority of the casualties on both sides). “Kerry tried through his latest plan to destroy the Egyptian bid,” charged a senior Palestinian official quoted in the Arab daily Asharq Al-Awsat — a peace plan that the PA itself had supported.
It gets worse. Kerry did not just trample an Egyptian initiative. It was backed by the entire Arab League and specifically praised by Saudi Arabia. With the exception of Qatar — more a bank than a country — the Arabs are unanimous in wanting to see Hamas weakened, if not overthrown. The cease-fire-in-place they backed would have denied Hamas any reward for starting this war, while what Kerry brought back from Paris granted practically all of its demands.
Which is what provoked the severe criticism Kerry received at home. When as respected and scrupulously independent a national security expert as David Ignatius calls Kerry’s intervention a blunder, you know this is not partisan carping from the usual suspects. This is general amazement at Kerry’s cluelessness.
Kerry seems oblivious to the strategic reality that Hamas launched its rockets in the hope not of defeating Israel but of ending its intra-Arab isolation (which it brilliantly achieves in the Qatar-Turkey peace proposal). Hamas’s radicalism has alienated nearly all of its Arab neighbors.
●Egypt cut it off — indeed blockaded Gaza — because of Hamas’s support for the Muslim Brotherhood and terrorist attacks on Egyptian soldiers in Sinai.
●Fatah, the main element of the Palestinian Authority, is a bitter enemy, particularly since its Gaza members were terrorized, kneecapped, expelled and/or killed when Hamas seized Gaza in a 2007 coup.
●Hamas is non grata in Syria, where it had been previously headquartered, for supporting the anti-government rebels.
●Hamas is deeply opposed by Jordan, Saudi Arabia and the Gulf states, which see it, correctly, as yet another branch of the Islamist movement that threatens relatively moderate pro-Western Arab states.
Kerry seems not to understand that the Arab League backed the Egyptian cease-fire-in-place, which would have left Hamas weak and isolated, to ensure that Hamas didn’t emerge from this war strengthened and enhanced.
Why didn’t Kerry just stay home and declare unequivocal U.S. support for the Egyptian/Arab League plan? Instead, he flew off to Paris and sent Jerusalem a package of victories for Hamas: lifting the blockade from Egypt, opening the border with Israel, showering millions of foreign cash to pay the salaries of the 43,000 (!) government workers that the near-insolvent Hamas cannot.
Forget about Israeli interests. Forget about Arab interests. The American interest is to endorse and solidify this emerging axis of moderate pro-American partners (Israel, Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and other Gulf states, and the Palestinian Authority) intent on seeing Islamist radicalism blunted and ultimately defanged.
Yet America’s secretary of state doesn’t see it. Speaking of Hamas-run Gaza, Kerry actually said in Paris: “The Palestinians can’t have a cease-fire in which they think the status quo is going to stay.” What must change? Gazans need “goods that can come in and out . . . a life that is free from the current restraints.”
But the only reason for those “restraints,” why goods are unable to go in and out, is that for a decade Hamas has used this commerce to import and develop weapons for making war on Israel.
Remember the complaints that the heartless Israelis were not allowing enough imports of concrete for schools and hospitals? Well, now we know where the concrete went — into an astonishingly vast array of tunnels for infiltrating neighboring Israeli villages and killing civilians. (More than half a million tons, estimates the Israeli military.)
Lifting the blockade would mean a flood of arms, rockets, missile parts and other implements of terror for Hamas. What is an American secretary of state doing asserting that Hamas cannot cease fire unless it gets that?
Moreover, the fire from which Hamas will not cease consists of deliberate rocket attacks on Israeli cities — by definition, a war crime.
Whatever his intent, Kerry legitimized Hamas’s war criminality. Which makes his advocacy of Hamas’s terms not just a strategic blunder — enhancing a U.S.-designated terrorist group just when a wall-to-wall Arab front wants to see it gone — but a moral disgrace.

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Vin Scully will never understand how deeply he's touched us

July 30, 2014

Forget it, there’s nothing you can do. No amount of flattery, no barrels of cookies, no
endless applause can get it done. Give up.

Vin Scully will never understand what he means to you.

He will not appreciate how he seems like part of your family. Like some rich combination of
kindly grandfather, favorite neighbor and best friend

“It’s probably from all the years,” Scully said. “Every time they’ve turned on the radio since 1958,
here I was, jabbering away. After all those years, like an old pair of slippers, it would be strange I
guess not to hear this voice.”

Maybe you think it’s false modesty, that there is just no way on Earth he could not understand
how deeply he seems woven into our lives, that it’s much more than baseball or even being the
soundtrack to our summer.

Yet after all these years – and his announcement Tuesday that he will return in 2015 means next
season will make 66 years of Scully behind the microphone – he truly seems embarrassed by

He walked into a news conference Wednesday, saw the standing room media crowd and became
almost self-conscious. He began by apologizing for receiving another day of attention.

“In all honesty, I don’t ever feel I’ve done anything,” he said. “Somebody will say, 'You’ve done 19
no-hitters and three perfect games.’ And I think I just happened to be there. It’s not something I
can take any pride in. I am humbled, believe me, for being given the honor of working the games
all these years.

“I agree with everyone else. It’s a long time to be working at one job – with no advancement. I
feel blessed.”

The true blessing, of course, has been ours. That we’ve been able to share his insight and stories
and intelligence for all these years. His deft wit has enriched countless warm Los Angeles nights.

His enthusiasm and appreciation for the game after almost seven decades seems undiminished by
time or repetition. Even Tuesday night, moments before the Dodgers would make the
announcement of his return on the stadium video boards, he sat in the press box and felt the
game’s tug.

Atlanta’s speedy B.J. Upton was on third, preparing to tag as a fly went to the cannon-armed
Yasiel Puig in medium center.

“I’m not a mind reader, but I felt exactly like the crowd,” he said. “I inched forward and was
saying to myself, `Oh, this is going to be great.’ I knew the entire ballpark was at that same level.
And it wasn’t disappointing. It was a great throw and a great slide.

“Afterward I sat back and thought, `That’s the way you were the first day you ever started doing
this game.’ You see this play building and it just gets to you. As God is my judge, that play last
night convinced me – as if I had any doubts. I thought, `Here you are. Doing the same thing and
getting the same goose bumps and that thrill of anticipation of seeing a great play.’ ”

Sixty-five years in and he still gets intoxicated by the crowd. Then manages to absorb it, translate
it and share it with his listeners.

He’s 86 years old now, and one sad summer the announcement will be that he’s not coming back
for another year. Maybe next summer, maybe not. Scully says he doesn’t know.

“I’m just not sure about life,” he said. “I’m even having trouble now talking about Opening Day
next year. So to go beyond that, is really beyond me. I don’t know. Day-to-day is the best way.”

When that day does come, maybe the saddest part will be knowing that despite all the love he’s
been showered with, he still will not quite grasp how he touched us on a personal level. You want
to share secrets with Scully, want to hear him talk about anything.

I’ve said repeatedly over the years, he is the most treasured figure in Los Angeles history. Not just
sports figure, the most beloved person ever. It’s impossible to overstate his impact.

Scully scoffs, oblivious to it all. He thinks he’s seen other broadcasters come and go, though the
truth is there has never been anyone like Scully.

“Oh, no, let’s face it, I don’t think people are going to miss me,” he said. “There might be a year
where it seems a little strange not hearing so-and-so. Even the name might slowly disappear. That
doesn’t bother me at all. I don’t think of it that way.

“I saw the Dodgers continue without Red Barber,” he said. “The Yankees roll along without Mel
Allen. I’ve seen the Cardinals go without Jack Buck. I saw the Cubs go without Harry Caray. And
they don’t miss a beat. And I’m not fooling myself, the Dodgers will roll along merrily whether I’m
here or not.”

You’ve failed miserably.

The IRS thinks you’re a terrorist, but Holder still won’t appoint special counsel

July 30, 2014
“TeRrorists” (Yes, spelled like that.)
That’s how former top IRS official Lois Lerner described conservatives on emails sent from her official IRS email account just days after the 2012 election. Corresponding with an unknown person (the name is redacted), she provides her own unique brand of commentary on conservative anguish over the lost presidential election. 
Here is Lois Lerner, on the true threats to our nation:
“So we don’t need to worry about alien terrorists (sic). It’s our own crazies that will take us down.”
And here she is, responding to a comment about the “whacko wing of the GOP”:
“Great. Maybe we are through if there are that many a**holes.”
Let’s not forget, this commentary is coming from the same person who not only ran the IRS exempt-organizations division, she was at the epicenter of the IRS targeting scandal, and once expressed a desire to work for, also known as Organizing for Action.
This latest revelation of Lois Lerner’s startling bias and hatred for conservatives emerged just as I took the stand to testify before the House Judiciary Committee to once again call on Attorney General Eric Holder to appoint a special counsel to investigate IRS misconduct.
The reasons are obvious. First – as Lois Lerner’s emails help demonstrate – the IRS officials not only targeted conservative groups, they demonstrated obvious malice while doing so.
There is not just evidence of criminal acts, but also of a motive to help Barack Obama and defeat the “crazies.”
Next, the Department of Justice may well be involved in the criminal conduct. As I’ve discussed before, just days before the IRS scandal broke, the DOJ was apparently working with Lois Lerner and other leaders at the IRS to “piece together” prosecutions of conservative groups in the absence of any evidence of wrongdoing.
In other words, if the DOJ were to conduct a thorough investigation, it would have to investigate itself.
That is exactly why we are no longer cooperating with a tainted Justice Department. We represent 41 organizations in 22 states in our federallawsuit against the IRS. One group has been waiting for nearly half a decade for a determination on its application.
And that brings us to the final point: The DOJ’s investigation thus far appears to be anything but thorough. In fact, it appears to be a fake investigation just as Lois Lerner’s May 2013 “apology” for targeting conservatives was a fake apology.
Why do I think so? When Republican Rep. Ron DeSantis asked Deputy Attorney General James Cole when the DOJ learned of Lois Lerner’s lost emails, he said this:
I think we learned about it after that from the press accounts that were in the paper following the IRS’ notification to the Congress.
This is astonishing. When the DOJ is serious about an investigation, it will go so far as to raid a workplace to seize computers, files and other evidence. Just ask Gibson Guitars, which was raided by armed federal agents in 2011 because the DOJ suspected that it was selling wood logged in violation of the laws of Madagascar.
So, to recap. The DOJ will launch a raid to keep the wrong kind of wood out of a Gibson guitar, but when it’s investigating a potential conspiracy by officials at the highest levels of government to deprive Americans of their civil rights on a nationwide scale, the DOJ . . . just watches the news?
As I said in my testimony, I’ve had a long relationship with the DOJ, and in the past I’ve even served as faculty for the DOJ, instructing U.S. Attorneys from across the country. And this experience has taught me to know the difference between a vigorous investigation and a politically-motivated sham.
Vigorous investigators seize the evidence.
Sham investigators seize the remote control and watch television.
And while they watch TV, Americans are left to pick up the pieces after a years-long campaign of targeting and intimidation by “public servants” who think conservatives are “crazies” and worse threats to America than foreign terrorists.
Attorney General Eric Holder is left without excuses. He must appoint a special counsel, or few American will have any confidence in the “justice” that comes from his department.
Jay Sekulow is Chief Counsel of the American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ), which focuses on constitutional law. He hosts a daily radio show, "Jay Sekulow Live," which is broadcast on more than 850 stations nationwide as well as Sirius/X satellite radio. Follow him on Twitter @JaySekulow.

The Spy Who Went Into The Cold: Kim Philby, Soviet KGB Super Spy (2013)

'A Spy Among Friends' is an absolutely captivating book about the Kim Philby case

Like Macintyre’s other books, 'A Spy Among Friends' is extensively researched, well-written, and a terrific read.

By Terry Hartle
July 29, 2014

A Spy Among Friends: Kim Philby and the Great Betrayal
The British equivalent to Benedict Arnold is probably Kim Philby. Smart, articulate and charming, Philby rose to a very senior position in MI6 –Britain’s intelligence agency, roughly comparable to the CIA in the United States – and had access to his nation’s most closely guarded secrets during the Cold War. Unfortunately, he gave almost everything he knew to the Soviet Union.
Philby, along with several other “clever, angry and alienated young men” – Donald McLearen, Guy Burgess, Anthony Blunt and, probably, John Carincross – were part of a Soviet spy ring recruited at Cambridge University in the 1930s. Their story, and Philby’s in particular, has fascinated readers interested in spy craft and espionage ever since he was exposed more than 50 years ago. Unfortunately, like so many things connected with Cold War skullduggery, there is much about the Philby case that we do not know because the British and American files remain closed, presumably to cover up the damage done to Western interests and the great embarrassment to the relevant spy agencies.
Ben Macintyre, a writer for the Times of London and the author of several well-received books about intelligence activities during World War II, has written an absolutely captivating book about the Philby case and the milieu in which he operated. Like Macintyre’s other books, A Spy Among Friends is extensively researched, well-written, and a terrific read.
Recommended: How well do you know the world of spying? Take our CIA and NSA quiz.
Philby was a “conventional upper class, public school-educated Englishman” who graduated from Trinity College, Cambridge in 1933, and quickly began to work for the Soviet Union. Because he lived in a society where one’s background and education were deemed sufficient character reference, Philby was accepted into the British intelligence service during World War II without too many questions being asked. This proved to be a big mistake.
Eventually, Philby was simultaneously a Soviet spy and the agent in charge of Britain’s anti-Soviet Intelligence activities. This meant he could tell Moscow what Britain was doing to counter Soviet espionage as well as how Britain was spying on Moscow. For example, he gave the Russians an early alert of undercover operations which allowed them to round up the spies before the operations began. In the case of “Operation Valuable,” an espionage campaign in Albania, MacIntyre concludes that between 100 and 200 Albanian guerillas died because of Philby’s perfidy. Yet despite the huge number of Philby-run actions that failed, his competence and loyalty were never questioned.
Macintyre’s book is not just about Philby; it’s also an extensive commentary on the role of friendship and camaraderie within the small world of international espionage. Two senior spies and close friends, Nicholas Elliott and the CIA’s James Angleton, never suspected Philby until it was too late. But their trust was so total that they gave him plenty of top secret information that Philby would not otherwise have seen and by doing so facilitated his success. Still, it wasn’t just the bad judgment of a few friends that was the problem, it was the whole culture of the British upper class that assumed a man’s background was an adequate basis for complete trust and confidence. Even Eleanor, Philby’s wife in Beirut, never suspected he was a Soviet agent.
Mcintyre writes: “No one likes to admit they have been utterly conned. The truth was simpler, as it almost always is: Philby was spying on everyone and no one was spying on him because he fooled them all.”
Even Philby’s unmasking was bungled. Suspicions first arose when he was First Secretary at the British embassy in Washington, DC in 1951. When his friends and fellow Cambridge spies Donald McClean and Guy Burgess fell under suspicion and fled to Moscow, Philby was summoned to London and extensively interrogated. MI5, the British equivalent of the FBI, was convinced of Philby’s guilt but was unable to prove it. Still, doubts had been sown and Philby resigned from MI6 to avoid being fired. But, in October 1955, he was exonerated on the floor of the House of Commons by Prime Minister Harold McMillian. Several months later, after years of unemployment, Philby became a Middle East correspondent for “The Economist” and “The Observer” and moved to Beirut. He quickly went back to work for the Soviets by passing along confidential information from his unsuspecting friends who worked for MI6 and the CIA.
When the British finally caught on in late 1962, it was left to his old friend Elliott to determine the extent of Philby’s betrayal through a series of interviews at a safe house in Beirut. During the debriefing, Philby suddenly fled to Moscow. Historians have long wondered how Philby could escape during an interrogation but Macintyre concludes it was easy: the British let him walk away. Rather than risk the enormous embarrassment of a public trial in London, the British stopped trailing him and so he hopped on a Russian freighter and left town.
The ambiguity over his disappearance illustrates the many unanswered questions that surround this case. Most of these will only be answered when the relevant records are released, something unlikely to occur anytime soon. Even the statements of the principals are of limited value because, as the author notes, “spies more than most people invent the past to cover up the mistakes.” Macintyre is a careful investigator and he resists the temptation to go beyond the available data. His conclusions seem fully justified – even when they differ from others who have examined the case. Any analysis of the Philby affair will have holes that even a third-rate novelist would avoid. But then, real world is much messier and, at the same time, far more interesting.
Until future historians have the complete records, this book will serve well as the definitive record of this compelling story.

Book Review: 'A Spy Among Friends' by Ben Macintyre

Kim Philby’s deceptions are brought to light in deft and entertaining style

By Andrew Lycett
23 March 2014

Outside a small flat in Beirut in January 1963, the usual Middle Eastern sounds – blaring horns, raised voices and amplified music – rent the air, while inside “one of the most important conversations in the history of the Cold War” (to use author Ben Macintyre’s words) was taking place.
Finally, almost three decades after Kim Philby, product of Westminster School and Cambridge, had been recruited into the Soviet secret service, and had wormed his way into its British equivalent, MI6, to become the most dangerous traitor in British espionage history, he was being confronted by Nicholas Elliott, his friend and former MI6 colleague.
Elliott had been sent to the Lebanese capital to extract a confession, a dozen years after Philby had been identified in parliament as the “third man” in a top-level spy ring, following the defection to Moscow of two of his co-conspirators, Donald Maclean and Guy Burgess. But, despite overwhelming evidence which had forced him to resign, Philby had always protested his innocence and, such was the camaraderie in MI6, associates such as Elliott had believed him. Indeed Elliott had helped him financially and later pulled strings to find him employment as a journalist in Beirut, where, amazingly, he still performed occasional freelance jobs for MI6.
However, following the discovery of further incriminating evidence, even Elliott now realised Philby was guilty. So there was much pent-up emotion involved in this Beirut interview. Yet the proceedings, as Macintyre shows, were conducted with that same mixture of old-school courtesy, bluster and hard drinking that had become the hallmark of the British secret services.
This is the sort of incongruous situation on which Macintyre has built his reputation as an author. His previous books, such as Agent Zigzag and Operation Mincemeat, have emerged from the pack of genre espionage history, largely because of their deft characterisation and humour.
He does not let his readers down here. The Cambridge spy ring was British intelligence’s most damaging and in many ways most puzzling episode: the impregnable fortress of MI6 had been breached by insiders.
The story has been told before, but Macintyre’s ability to unbundle intelligence acronyms is unrivalled. His master-stroke is to set Philby’s story against that of Elliott, to whose papers he had access. It would be easy to portray the latter as a bumbler, a Wodehouse figure with “one elbow cocked for the Martini glass”, as John le Carré, who drew on this wilderness of mirrors in his fiction, puts it in a wry afterword.
But Elliott was more than that. Both he and Philby were recruited into MI6 around the start of the Second World War. Already a Soviet spy, Philby had earned his spurs as a journalist in the Spanish Civil War, so was fast-tracked to head the Spanish department of MI6’s Section V, which attacked foreign intelligence operations.
Elliott, the son of a former headmaster of Eton (his own alma mater), left Cambridge to become honorary attaché to a family friend who was British Minister in the Netherlands. There he was inducted into the secret service and later, when war started, ran Section V’s operations in that country.
As members of the same MI6 branch, the two men worked, played and drank together. Macintyre is revealing about the bonds of class and friendship in these circumstances. After the war, Philby was appointed head of Section IX, which specifically countered communist espionage, a role in which he wreaked his worst, sending anti-communist insurgents to their deaths throughout Eastern Europe. In 1949 he managed to be appointed MI6’s representative to Washington, where he befriendedJames Jesus Angleton of the CIA, who, later, as head of American counter-intelligence, was so discomfited by Philby’s betrayal that he saw spies everywhere. Elliott meanwhile prospered, heading MI6 operations in Switzerland and elsewhere.
Macintyre’s use of a recording of that final Beirut showdown is a coup. He raises the possibility that Elliott connived in allowing Philby to arrange his final escape to Russia.
In the absence of official files, Macintyre admits that he has not written a definitive history. He has, however, thrown a detailed and always entertaining light on the practices and culture of 20th-century British intelligence through the lens of its most ignominious episode.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Israel, Hamas and Obama’s foreign policy

By Caroline B. Glick
July 29, 2014

US President Barack Obama, center, is greeted by President Shimon Peres, left, and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu upon his arrival at Ben Gurion Airport last March. (photo credit: AP/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)

When US President Barack Obama phoned Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu on Sunday night, in the middle of a security cabinet meeting, he ended any remaining doubt regarding his policy toward Israel and Hamas.

Obama called Netanyahu while the premier was conferring with his senior ministers about how to proceed in Gaza. Some ministers counseled that Israel should continue to limit our forces to specific pinpoint operations aimed at destroying the tunnels of death that Hamas has dug throughout Gaza and into Israeli territory.

Others argued that the only way to truly destroy the tunnels, and keep them destroyed, is for Israel to retake control over the Gaza Strip.

No ministers were recommending that Israel end its operations in Gaza completely. The longer our soldiers fight, the more we learn about the vast dimensions of the Hamas’s terror arsenal, and about the Muslim Brotherhood group’s plans and strategy for using it to destabilize, demoralize and ultimately destroy Israeli society.

The IDF’s discovery of Hamas’s Rosh Hashana plot was the last straw for any Israeli leftists still harboring fantasies about picking up our marbles and going home. Hamas’s plan to use its tunnels to send hundreds of terrorists into multiple Israeli border communities simultaneously and carry out a massacre of unprecedented scope, replete with the abduction of hostages to Gaza, was the rude awakening the Left had avoided since it pushed for Israel’s 2005 withdrawal from Gaza.

In other words, in their discussion Sunday night, Netanyahu and his ministers were without illusions about the gravity of the situation and the imperative of winning – however defined.

But then the telephone rang. And Obama told Netanyahu that Israel must lose. He wants an unconditional “humanitarian” cease-fire that will lead to a permanent one.

And he wants it now.

And by the way, the eventual terms of that cease-fire must include opening Hamas-controlled Gaza’s borders with Egypt and Israel and ending Israel’s maritime blockade of the Gaza coast. That is, the cease-fire must allow Hamas to rebuild its arsenal of death and destruction quickly, with US political and financial support.

Until Obama made the call, there was lingering doubt among some Israelis regarding his intentions. Some thought that US Secretary of State John Kerry might have been acting of his own accord last Friday night when he tried to force Israel to accept Hamas’s cease-fire terms.

But then Obama made his phone call. And all doubts were dispelled.

Kerry is just a loyal steward of Obama’s foreign policy.

Obama is siding with Hamas, and its Muslim Brotherhood patrons in Qatar and Turkey, against Israel, and its Sunni Arab supporters – Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Jordan and the United Arab Emirates.

It is Obama who demands that Hamas have open borders so it can resupply, and receive billions of dollars – starting with an immediate cash injection of $47 million from US taxpayers – so it can pay North Korea for more missiles and import building materials to reconstruct its tunnels.

The fact that the US’s current preference for genocidal, Jew-hating jihadists over the only liberal, pro-American, stable US ally in the Middle East is a White House position, rather than that of a rogue Secretary of State was actually exposed even before Obama’s phone call.

Sunday CNN’s Candy Crowley interviewed Deputy National Security Adviser Ben Rhodes. She asked him what the administration thinks Israel can do to prevent civilians from being killed in Gaza beyond what it is already doing. Rhodes replied, “I think you can always do more.”

In other words, Rhodes said that no matter what precautions Israel takes to try to minimize Palestinian civilian deaths in Gaza, the administration will never be satisfied. The White House will never acknowledge that Israel is in the right, or that it is fighting a moral war against a barbaric foe. And since the administration will never be satisfied, Israel can expect to be condemned by various UN bodies, including the Security Council, because no matter what it does to try to earn the support of the administration, it will never receive such support.

The discovery that the Obama administration is entirely in Hamas’s corner hit all of Israel hard. But it hit the Left the hardest. Few on the Right, which recognized Obama’s hostility from the outset of his presidency, were surprised.

As for political leaders, the government cannot risk giving the administration justification for its anti-Israel policies, so senior ministers have all said nothing.

Consequently, the harshest criticisms of the administration’s pro-Hamas position were heard from quarters where rarely a peep of criticism for Obama has been heard.

The Israeli Left went ballistic.

Haaretz, the far-left broadsheet that has seldom taken issue with even the harshest rejections of Israel’s rights, went bananas after its reporter Barak Ravid received the details of Kerry’s cease-fire agreement. As Ravid put it, Kerry’s document, “might as well have been penned by Khaled Mashaal. It was everything Hamas could have hoped for.”

Ravid continued, “What Kerry’s draft spells for the internal Palestinian political arena is even direr: It crowns Hamas and issues Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas with a death warrant.”

And that is really the crux of the issue. The crowd at Haaretz is far more wedded to the PLO and Mahmoud Abbas than it is to the government of Israel. And the administration’s support for Hamas exposed the PLO as an irrelevance.

As the paper’s Amos Harel wrote the next day, Kerry’s pro-Hamas behavior convinced the Egyptians and other actors that the administration is “continuing its secret love affairs with the Muslim Brotherhood in the region.”

The Left understands that the administration’s behavior has destroyed it.

Leftists can no longer say that Israeli territorial withdrawals will win it international support.

They can no longer say that Israel will receive US support if it places the security of Palestinian civilians above the security of its own civilians and military forces.

They can no longer say that the PLO is the answer.

The Israeli Left has been Obama’s ace in the hole since he first ran for office, fresh from the pews in Jeremiah Wright’s anti-Semitic church. They were the grease in the wheels that legitimized the administration’s anti-Israel pressure group J Street. They were the ones who could be counted on to tell the US media and the American Jews that Netanyahu is to blame for Obama’s hostility.

Yet, rather than backtrack, and try to save the Israeli Left, the administration doubled down on Monday, releasing a series of statements condemning the Israeli media’s condemnations of Kerry’s pro-Hamas position.

By Monday afternoon, the administration went so far as to say that by criticizing Kerry, Israel’s media were endangering their country’s alliance with the US.

In other words, through his actions, Obama demonstrated that his “love affairs with the Muslim Brotherhood in the region,” are so central to his foreign policy calculations that he is willing to destroy the Israeli Left in order to strengthen the Brotherhood.

And this leads us to the larger point about Obama’s foreign policy, which his Sunday night telephone call to Netanyahu revealed. As rattled as Israelis are over Obama’s decision to support Hamas against Israel, Netanyahu made clear in his remarks Monday night that Israel has no choice but to keep fighting until we defeat this barbaric enemy.

Netanyahu didn’t mention Obama, but it was obvious that he was respectfully refusing to hand Israel’s head on a platter to Hamas’s friend in the White House.

And while it is hard for Israel to ignore Obama, it is impossible for Americans to ignore him. He runs their foreign policy.

Americans are the ones who need to be most alarmed by what Obama’s actions on behalf of Hamas reveal about the general direction of American Middle East policy under his leadership.

For the past five years, Americans from all quarters have concluded that the manifold failures of Obama’s Middle East policies – from Iraq to Iran, Libya, Afghanistan, Egypt, Syria, Israel, the Palestinian Authority and beyond – owe to a combination of Obama’s personal disinterest in foreign affairs and his presumed preference for withdrawal and isolationism over engagement.

Obama himself has often encouraged this perception with his endless golf games and his talk about fighting “the war at home.”

Obama’s open, public engagement in Hamas’s war against Israel shows that the popular assessment is wrong.

Obama is as involved in the Middle East as all of his immediate predecessors were. He is personally leading US policy on every front. Kerry is not an independent actor.

The problem is that in every war, in every conflict and in every contest of wills that has occurred in the Middle East since Obama took office, he has sided with Iran and the Muslim Brotherhood, against America’s allies.

Under Obama, America has switched sides.