December 2007 Archives

Always helpful

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Oh, brother ...

A Jerusalem square will be symbolically dedicated to Jonathan Pollard ahead of President Bush's visit to Israel.

Mina Fenton, a Jerusalem city councilwoman, announced this week that the capital's Paris Square will be symbolically renamed "Pollard Square" in a ceremony on Jan. 7, two days before George W. Bush begins his first visit as U.S. president to Israel and the Palestinian Authority.

The move is meant to help lobby Bush to pardon Pollard, a former U.S. Navy analyst who is serving a life prison sentence for spying for Israel. Bush leaves office in 2009.

Because it's always helpful to remind the President of the United States (and the rest of the American public) that a certain sector of Israeli nutjobs lionizes a man who exploited a position of trust in order to steal and pass on classified information to our friend and ally, Israel.

What are these people smoking?

Retrospective

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It must be the end of the year, putting me in a retrospective mood. (And, fair warning, I've dug up some stuff going back to the 1930s that I'm hoping to get up soon.) This one goes back to February, 2005, and my original "Is it Peace Yet?" post, which sounds so suspiciously like something that could have been written last month (if you replace Ariel Sharon with Ehud Olmert and Sharm-e-Sheikh with Annapolis) that I just had to reproduce part of it here.

Is it peace yet?

What do you think?
Israeli and Palestinian Authority representatives are meeting Saturday night to patch up differences regarding the release of Palestinian prisoners from Israeli jails ahead of Tuesday's Israel-PA summit in Sharm e-Sheikh, Egypt.

Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's top aide, Dov Weisglass, who is heading the meeting, is expected to arrive in Cairo on Sunday to finalize arrangements for the summit.

PA officials warned that without the release of thousands of prisoners, the summit would not succeed. "If Israeli intransigence on this issue continues, the summit will fail," said Minister of Communications Azzam al- Ahmed. "If the prisoners aren't released, we will return to the cycle of violence."
That sounds a lot more like a threat than a prediction.

Yes, indeed. Although now, almost three years later, we've become pretty much numb to that refrain. If the prisoners aren't released, we will return to the cycle of violence. And if they are released, we will return to the cycle of violence anyway, meanwhile demanding the release of yet more prisoners. So it goes.

No, really

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You just can't make this stuff up. I mean ... can you?

Nearly two thousand Palestinian pilgrims returning from Mecca were stranded in the Red Sea on Saturday after refusing to sign an agreement with Egyptian authorities to re-enter the Gaza Strip through the Kerem Shalom Crossing.

Among the pilgrims were senior Hamas operatives, several of whom are wanted by Israel, Israel Radio reported. Fearing arrest once they arrived at the Israeli-controlled Kerem Shalom Crossing, the Hamas members insisted on returning to Gaza via Rafah Crossing, which is not under Israel's control.

The pilgrims had sailed to the port city of Nuweiba on the Sinai Peninsula from Jordan's Aqaba Port but the Egyptians were stopping them from disembarking.

Hamas said there were a total of 1,900 pilgrims who had been waiting since Friday in the Red Sea.

The Palestinians were refusing to accept food or medicines until they received permission to use Rafah and some even threatened to set the ferries on fire.

Hmmm. They're threatening violence if they don't get their way? How novel!

Israel filed a complaint with Cairo after Egypt allowed the Palestinians to pass through Rafah on their way to Mecca and after Defense Minister Ehud Barak's recent visit to Egypt, Israeli officials said the Egyptians agreed to have the pilgrims use Kerem Shalom Crossing on there way back to Gaza.

IDF intelligence estimates released on December 5 indicated that up to a couple of dozen Hamas terrorists were among the so-called pilgrims Egypt allowed out of the Gaza Strip. In recent years, hundreds of Hamas terrorists have traveled abroad to Iran and Lebanon for military training, and officials said it was possible that these terrorists would do the same.

The IDF also fears that if the pilgrims are allowed to return to Gaza through Rafah they might smuggle millions of dollars to Hamas.

Senior Palestinian officials dismissed Israel's concerns, saying the Egyptians could search the pilgrims for smuggled cash.

Yeah, sure they could. And they probably would so they could take a little for themselves before letting the rest through. See, that losing control of the Rafah Crossing thing continues to have really nasty implications for Israel's security. Who could've guessed?

"Israelis raise trivial issues and complicate things to cover up criticism over continued construction of settlements," said Mohammed Sobeih, the Arab League's undersecretary general.

The standoff angered Hamas, who said Egypt has a responsibility to bring the pilgrims back to Gaza as quickly as possible.

Some 5,000 people waving Palestinian and Hamas flags gathered on the Gaza side of the border with Egypt on Saturday and demanded the pilgrims be allowed to enter.

Egyptian riot police are on the scene. With a machine gun. I wonder how this one will turn out?

Endings and beginnings

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So the end of this secular year corresponds with the beginning of a new book in the annual cycle of the Torah. Shemot. Exodus. And a parasha (by the same name) that's full of apparently strange and mysterious passages. The more to ponder, study and learn.

Shabbat Shalom.

Campaign promises

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Puttering around in my archives yesterday, I came across a pointer to this item, posted at IMRA back in January, 2003.

Monday, January 6, 2003
Labor Campaign manager Vilnai: I disagree with Mitzna on policy
Aaron Lerner Date: 6 January 2002

Matan Vilnai, who is serving as the Labor Party's campaign manager, stunned Channel 2 Election Magazine host Gabi Gazit this afternoon when he declared that he disagreed with Mitzna on policy and that the Labor Party. Vilnai went on to say that Labor has yet to formally accept Mitzna's program ofunilateral withdrawal from the Gaza Strip to be followed by unilateral withdrawal from the West Bank if a withdrawal can't be negotiated with the Palestinians.

Vilnai noted he opposed Mitzna's program and expected the Labor Party to decide on this matter later. Vilnai added that he hoped his position would be accepted by the Party.

A startled Gazit pointed out to Vilnai that elections are being held in a few weeks.

The issue came up when Jerusalem Mayor Ehud Olmert (Likud) who was also appearing on the program warned that if Mitzna wins the elections he would unilaterally withdraw, thereby creating a situation that instead of fighting terror at the source in Palestinian cities, Israel would find itself defending itself from the Green Line.

Just three weeks later, Ariel Sharon, with Olmert at his side, handily lead the Likud to victory in those elections over the Labor party under Mitzna. One of the key factors credited for Sharon's success was his adamant rejection of Mitzna's "unilateral withdrawal" plan. But by November, 2003, Olmert was already floating the "disengagement" agenda and in December Sharon officially signed on himself.

Stranger than fiction but more or less par for the course. And something to keep in mind during this season of presidential campaign rhetoric. George Herbert Walker Bush asked us to read his lips but raised taxes anyway. His son repeatedly promised that one of his first acts as president would be to move the American embassy in Israel to Jerusalem. We know how that turned out.

Caveat emptor.

However you cut it

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I've been struggling with what to say about the Bhutto assassination all day. Whatever justifiable ambivalence people may have about her, I haven't been able to escape the feeling that this is, on so many levels, a very, very bad thing.

Rich Lowry pretty much nails it.

Because what we always feared has happened -- an assassin has killed a strategically significant target. Bhutto's martyrdom will understandably obscure her misrule the first two times she was prime minister. But on her return, she was a frank voice against Islamism, and no one can deny her this: She was very brave.


Update: Two other widely divergent views representing two different agendas, here (Mansoor Ijaz) and here (Ralph Peters). They do help to round out a very complex picture.

Misquotes

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Last week (or was it the week before?) presidential candidate Mike Huckabee published his much maligned foreign policy statement in Foreign Affairs magazine. In it, he attributed this quote to the 4th century Chinese military strategist, Sun-Tsu:

"Keep your friends close and your enemies closer."

Embarrassingly, SeeDubya at Junkyard Blog pointed out that the quote, while sometimes erroneously attributed to Sun-Tsu, actually appears to have originated (rather more recently) with Michael Corleone. When the quote is (mis-)attributed to an actual source, it's always cited as Sun-Tsu's treatise "The Art of War," the full text of which appears to be posted on line here. The, um, quote isn't there. Check your local movie listings.

A few days later, in response to a question about Huckabee's Christmas ad, presidential candidate Ron Paul responded:

"It reminds me of what Sinclair Lewis once said. He says, 'when fascism comes to this country, it will be wrapped in the flag, carrying a cross.'

Now there are questions being raised as to whether this quote was misattributed as well. A number of people, including the president of The Sinclair Lewis Society, are skeptical about its origins. These folks are more than skeptical, and do a passable job of looking for the real source. Paul, of course, continues to claim he got it right. When the quote is (mis-)attributed to an actual source, it's usually cited as Sinclair's novel "It Can't Happen Here." Well, the full text of that novel appears to be posted on line here. The, um, quote isn't there (and as for the rest of the website ... you're on your own).

It will be interesting to see if either of these candidates manages to come up with a backstop, or if they even need to. Will the media just let these faux pas slip away into oblivion? And can we look forward to more misquotes by the other presidential candidates?

Fact-checking. It's the new black.

Historical analogies

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Browsing through the links at Real Clear Politics last night, I found this riveting essay at Commentary. Entitled "Who Owns the Vietnam War?," it's a must-read for anyone who's perplexed about the discontinuity between the MSM reporting of world events, on the one hand, and, well, reality on the other. And for those of us who lived through the Vietnam War era but were partaking heavily of the Kool-Aid at the time, it's disconcerting. No one likes to be played for a fool, much less with such devastating consequences.

In this essay, Arthur Herman discusses (and debunks) the various myths that the liberal left and their media accomplices have successfully transmuted into "facts," both in claiming the victory and ownership of their view of the Vietnam War and in superimposing that view on every international conflict the U.S. has been involved in ever since. In the process, he provides disturbing insight into the process of the brainwashing of the American public and the politicians who supposedly "lead" us, how it's worked in the past and is most likely working still today.

Historical analogies are never entirely accurate. They may not even be useful. But it remains true that our present and future actions are always based, to some extent, on our evaluation of past experience. Generals are often accused of fighting the last war. This is something that, when it comes to Vietnam, liberals and leftists have been doing for more than three decades, by refusing to confront (in words Peter Marin once flung in the face of American authorities) “their own culpability” and “their own capacity for error and excess.” Whatever the differences or similarities between Vietnam and Iraq, or between Vietnam and our global war with Islamic radicalism, the real analogy between then and now may lie in this tenacious refusal of self-examination by the liberal Left—especially when the facts utterly contravene its reflexive indictment of the motives, purposes, and actions of the American government.

I remember, when I first starting learning some of the things that Herman writes about here, feeling completely stunned. Everything I thought I knew was wrong. It was a long and sometimes painful recovery, but it taught me to actually "question authority," regardless of the source, rather than just play at it. This essay brings together so much that I've never seen quite so clearly laid out in one place before. Highly recommended.

'Tis up

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Haveil Havalim #146 is up at Soccer Dad's. As always, lots of good stuff.

And you shall write

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[Yariv] Oppenheimer [secretary-general of the Peace Now movement] chastised the military for the incident. "Instead of preventing provocation, the soldiers, led by the rabbi, decided to take part in the event and assist the settlers. They acted against military regulations and took part in a political provocation that was unlawfully carried out.

"IDF soldiers are stationed in the city in order to maintain security and not to take part in controversial political acts," Oppenheimer wrote.

Peace Now issued a statement calling for Rabbi Peretz and the soldiers who participated in the ceremony to stand trial.

Knesset members also weighed in on the contentious move. MK Ran Cohen (Meretz) said that "this is a thuggish act vis-à-vis Palestinians who have not been able to live their lives for years. Even worse than that, this time it was not only done under IDF auspices but by soldiers who were engaging in severe political provocation."

MK Avshalom Vilan (Meretz) called on Chief of Staff, Lt.-Gen. Gabi Ashkenazi to convene a discussion on the matter and deal with the perpetrators "to the fullest extent of the law."

"A uniformed rabbi who participates in an act with lawbreakers disgraces the IDF and should be punished," said Vilan.

What horrible, humiliating, "thuggish" crime did Rabbi Eliyahu Peretz (a captain in the IDF) and his soldiers commit to bring such unholy wrath of the Israeli left down upon themselves? They hung a mezuzah at the entrance of the marketplace in Hebron. Yes. Hung. A. Mezuzah.

As Dave at Israelly Cool points out, all of the heat on this ... incident ... has come from the Peace Now people and their idiotic allies. Not a peep from the Arab community of Hebron or of anywhere else, for that matter (but wait...).

V'ahav'ta eit Adonai Elohekha b'khol l'vav'kha uv'khol naf'sh'kha uv'khol m'odekha.

And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.

[ ... ]

Ukh'tav'tam al m'zuzot beitekha uvish'arekha.

And you shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.

The "disgrace" is on Peace Now and Meretz.

Shabbat Shalom.

On intelligence

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Or lack thereof. Three pieces on the NIE I've noticed over the past week (more or less) have struck me in one way or another. They're far from upbeat, but since I can't think of anything more optimistic to expound upon right now, I'll share:

Victor David Hanson's "Three-Letter Menace"

David Horovitz's "Bushwhacked"

Dennis Ross' "The Can't-Win Kids"

Read 'em and weep.

Shabbat Shalom.

What's it all about?

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What is Hanukah? Asked and answered by Reuven Hammer in the JPost.

But wait. What about this answer? (It's all about politics.) Or this one? How about the green interpretation?

Here's the San Francisco version (and this is a news site ... why?)

Heh. Chanukah according to our enemies. (It's all about arrogance.)

Muslim Clerics Light Hanukkah candles? Well, ok. All good.

HAPPY HANUKKAH !!

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Hanukka fun with Legos

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Nice.

(From left) Eric Floyd, Rabbi Howard Hersch, Joan Hersch and Ben James celebrate the completion of a 13-feet-by-6-inch menorah made of Legos at Congregation Brothers of Israel in Newtown [Pennsylvania]. About 180 people helped build the menorah, composed of 60,000 Lego pieces provided by architect Stephen Schwartz, who travels to different congregations to set up the temporary exhibits -- topping it off, of course, by lighting the candles.

Shabbat Shalom.

Heavenly Jerusalem

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Rabbi Berel Wein reflects on our intrinsic ties to the holy city.

The Talmud asks: "Why are the hot springs baths of Tiberias not located in Jerusalem?" Why are the great and tasty fruits of the Ginossar area not grown in Jerusalem?"

The Talmud responds: "So that no one should ascend to Jerusalem for the sweet fruits or for the hot baths. Rather, one ascends to Jerusalem for the sake of Jerusalem itself."

JERUSALEM is its own attraction. It does not rely upon natural wonders, outstanding weather or unusual surroundings for its attraction. It is holy, mysterious, the soul of Jewish history and longing. The rabbis taught us that there is a heavenly Jerusalem perched over the earthly Jerusalem. In order to truly appreciate the earthly Jerusalem one must also be able to glimpse the heavenly Jerusalem as well.

To see Jerusalem as a piece of real estate, a place on the map, is not to see it at all, let alone appreciate its role in Judaism and Jewish life and thought. The driving force behind Zionism, even its most secular format, was the hunger of the Jewish people for Jerusalem. Jerusalem was the emotional battery that charged all of the movement of the return to Zion by Jews in the 19th and 20th centuries. The earthly Jerusalem with all of its wonders and problems, greatness and shortcomings, is a product of seeing the heavenly Jerusalem with eyes of tears and hope.

[ ... ]

There has never been a Jewish power in our history that contemplated willingly ceding Jerusalem or any part of it to others, especially to sworn enemies who denigrate our faith and question our right to exist. It is the complete disregard, whether out of ignorance or ideology, of the heavenly Jerusalem that brings one to compromise the very existence of the earthly Jerusalem, a Jerusalem that we should feel so blessed and appreciative to control.

Yes, there's more.

Happy Chanuka... ()

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Sorry. No ASCII chanukia this year. I thought it was time for a break.

If this is a terrible disappointment (yeah, right), here are the links to last year's first light and second light.

Getting it exactly right

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In "Accept Israel as the Jewish State?," Dr. Daniel Pipes sums up the crystal clear problem with the "peace process" that has emerged from the Annapolis side show, and he even gives PM Ehud Olmert kudos for bringing it into the light of day.

Surprisingly, something useful has emerged from the combination of the misconceived Annapolis meeting and a weak Israeli prime minister, Ehud ("Peace is achieved through concessions") Olmert. Breaking with his predecessors, Olmert has boldly demanded that his Palestinian bargaining partners accept Israel's permanent existence as a Jewish state, thereby evoking a revealing response.

Unless the Palestinians recognize Israel as "a Jewish state," Olmert announced on November 11, the Annapolis-related talks would not proceed. "I do not intend to compromise in any way over the issue of the Jewish state. This will be a condition for our recognition of a Palestinian state."

He confirmed these points a day later, describing the "recognition of Israel as a state for the Jewish people" as the "launching point for all negotiations. We won't have an argument with anyone in the world over the fact that Israel is a state of the Jewish people." The Palestinian leadership, he noted, must "want to make peace with Israel as a Jewish state."

Raising this topic has the virtue of finally focusing attention on what is the central topic in the Arab-Israeli conflict – Zionism, the Jewish nationalist movement, a topic that typically gets ignored in the hubbub of negotiations. Since nearly the birth of the state, these have focused on the intricacies of such subsidiary issues as borders, troop placements, armaments and arms control, sanctities, natural resources, residential rights, diplomatic representation, and foreign relations.

The Palestinian leadership responded quickly and unequivocally to Olmert's demand: ...

In a word, no. Absolutely, positively not. Never. For the details and his conclusions, see Dr. Pipes' article.

Revolving door

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A modicum of justice...
The Jerusalem District Court on Monday [12/3/07] sentenced the killer of former tourism minister and war hero Rehavam Ze'evi (nicknamed Gandhi) to life plus 100 years in prison.

Hamdi Qur'an, 33, a member of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), was convicted of killing Ze'evi six years ago. He was apprehended by security forces in March 2006, after international inspectors left the Jericho prison where he was held.

Qur'an, from the West Bank village of Al-Bireh, admitted last August that he was the one who pulled the trigger, killing the leader of the staunchly right-wing Moledet party.

He was also convicted of five other terror offenses, for which he received the additional 100 years in prison.

And that should be the end of the story. He should rot. But, no ...

Upon leaving the courthouse, Qur'an's mother said she hoped for a deal between Israel and the Palestinians that would bring peace and the release of her son.

She has every reason to hope. Qur'an, after all, was only exercising his right to resist occupation when he murdered Ze'evi in cold blood.

In its sentencing, the court wrote that "the murder of a government minister is not just the murder of a person but also an attack on the state and its sovereignty."

The court also said that Qura'n never expressed remorse for his actions and that he even said he would commit such an offense again if needed.

During the trial, Qur'an said: "I am being tried for using my right to defend myself against the Israeli occupation, the same right you use to kill us Palestinians," adding, "I accuse you of crimes against all of humanity."

Which is why our "moderate" "peace partners" in the Palestinian Authority feel perfectly justified in demanding the release of criminals like Qur'an as part of any deal. Here's an interview that IMRA's Dr. Aaron Lerner conducted just last week with Saleh Nazal, Director of the PA Minister's Office - Ministry of Detainees and Ex-Detainees Affairs:

IMRA: I wanted to understand the Palestinians position demanding the release of all Palestinian prisoners by the time of the signing of an agreement. Would this also apply to Palestinians arrested for activities they carried out after Annapolis - during the negotiation period until the signing.

Would those people also, by the Palestinian view, have to be released by the time of the signing or would they have a different status?

Nazal: You are talking about people detained for resistance operations that take place during the negotiations between Abu Mazen and Mr. Olmert - right?

IMRA: Yes.

Nazal: It is the position of the Ministry that all prisoners should be released during this process. They are engaged in resistance against the Israeli occupation - not against the peace process.

We want all the prisoners to be released because the reason that they wereretained was resistance to the occupation.

IMRA: So that is to say that people detained for activities they carry out between Annapolis and the signing of an agreement should also qualify for release at the time of an agreement.

Nazal: As I told you before. This is resistance against the occupation. Not resistance against the negotiations.

The Israeli forces are arresting people, building settlements, building barriers. You are looking only now at one party and not looking at the other one.

The Israeli forces are arresting criminals, building communities and protecting civilians from terrorist attacks. The palestinian arabs are murdering and maiming scores of Israelis. Criminals can be released and barriers can be removed. And, as we have seen to our sorrow, communities can even be dismantled. But the dead cannot be brought back to life. What compensation for past (and future) atrocities against our people can the palestinian arabs possibly offer in any imaginable peace agreement? And yet, for their part, they demand that everything be set back to the way it was before they launched the wars seeking Israel's destruction. This is indeed chutzpah.

Note: Almost 40 years ago, another young palestinian arab extremist similarly justified his assassination of a US Senator and former cabinet member due to the latter's support for Israel and perceived complicity in Israel's "occupation" of the disputed territories exactly one year earlier. Sirhan Sirhan is still sitting in prison, having been denied parole for the 13th time in March, 2006.

Did you know???

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Since Teddy Bears have been in the news this past week, I thought I'd pass this on to others who might be wondering ... who exactly is "Teddy" and why is no one offended that toy bears are named after him?

The teddy bear is a stuffed toy bear. It is an enduring, traditional form of stuffed animal, often serving the purpose of comforting children. In recent times, some teddy bears have become expensive collector's items. Teddy bear collectors are known as arctophiles from the Greek words 'arcto' (bear) and 'philos' (lover).

The name Teddy Bear comes from one of President Theodore Roosevelt's hunting trips to Mississippi. There were several other hunters competing, and most of them had already shot something. A few friends of Roosevelt who were hunting with hounds treed an American Black Bear after a long and exhausting chase and suggested Roosevelt shoot it. He refused to shoot it himself, deeming this un-sportsmanlike, but instructed that the treed bear be killed to put it out of its misery, and it became the topic of a political cartoon. A Brooklyn store owner, Morris Michtom, saw the drawing of Roosevelt and the bear cub and was inspired to create a new toy. He created a little stuffed bear cub and put it in his shop window with a sign that read "Teddy's bear." The toys were an immediate success and Michtom founded the Ideal Novelty and Toy Co., which still exists today.

Thank you, Wikipedia (where you can see the cartoon).

The week that was

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Last week was pretty tightly packed with news and analysis thereof, and Soccer Dad has assembled a prodigious Haveil Havalim for our reading and linking benefit.

HH #143: now up.

CAIR steps up -- sort of

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FWIW.

This most recent episode can be used as a learning opportunity for people of all faiths who wish to promote mutual understanding. It can also be viewed as a “teaching moment” for Muslims who want to emulate the Prophet through the example of their good character and dignified behavior.

As the Quran states: “It may well be that God will bring about love (and friendship) between you and those with whom you are now at odds.” (60:7)

This week’s unfortunate incident in the Sudan points to the need for an increased level of dialogue between ordinary people in the Muslim world and the West.

The complaint brought against Gillian Gibbons was an inappropriate use of Sudan’s legal system to deal with what was in essence a disagreement between parents and a teacher. Ms. Gibbons should never have been charged. She should be released immediately.

Putting the best spin on it and promoting their agenda, as always. But at least Ibrahim Hooper said what needed to be said on the subject of Ms. Gibbons' prosecution.

What he didn't do, and apparently is incapable of doing, is condemn the behavior of those who sentenced her and the mobs in the street who are calling for her execution in the name of Islam. Make a note.

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