Monday, October 20, 2014

Hezbollah is facing a formidable Sunni threat.

From JPost, 18 Oct 2014, by JONATHAN SPYER:

As the Syrian civil war spills over Lebanon’s border, Hezbollah finds itself facing a formidable Sunni threat.

Hezbollah is under pressure as the consequences of its ongoing intervention in Syria have come back to bite the terrorist organization.

There are increasing indications that the sectarian war raging in Iraq and Syria is now moving irrevocably into Lebanon.

The Shi’ite group is currently seeking to shore up its legitimacy by reminding its constituents, and other Lebanese citizens, of the role that gains it the most domestic sympathy – resistance against Israel. It is likely the strike [against Israel] at Mount Dov last week was part of this effort.

It is also, in its propaganda, somewhat oddly trying to assert that Israel and the Sunni jihadis of the Nusra Front and Islamic State are allies.

All this activity comes as the Nusra Front is demonstrating its ability to hit at Hezbollah across the border with increasing impunity.

Attacks by Sunnis in Lebanon are not new, and similar incidents have taken place throughout the Syrian civil war.

The longstanding tension in the Tripoli area between the mainly Alawi, pro-regime inhabitants of the Jebel Mohsen neighborhood and the mainly Sunni, pro-rebel Bab al-Tabbaneh neighborhood is continuing.

Hezbollah, in cooperation with the Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF), managed to stem a bombing campaign by the Sunnis in the Shi’ites’ heartland of southern Beirut in the middle of 2013.

And tensions between Hezbollah supporters and the local Salafi leader Sheikh Ahmed al-Assir in June 2013 ended in pitched battles and the destruction of Assir’s local power.

The current tension, however, differs from previous episodes.

It does not involve Hezbollah fighting much weaker local Sunni forces. This time, the movement is clashing directly with Syrian Sunnis.

The current phase began with the seizure of the Lebanese border town of Arsal in August by members of both the Nusra Front and Islamic State. They left with a number of captured Lebanese soldiers, some of whom have since been executed.

The LAF then tried to crack down on local support for the jihadis in Arsal, carrying out a large raid on the town in September, arresting hundreds accused of being Nusra Front members or for supporting the movement.

More importantly, most of the individuals in the crackdown were not Lebanese Sunnis but rather members of the 1.5 million Syrian Sunni refugees, now in Lebanon.

The Nusra Front then struck back hard in an operation whose stated goal was to “avenge Syrian refugees whose tents were burned” during the crackdown on Arsal.

Hundreds of fighters of the organization attacked from across the Syrian border, forming a line from Baalbek up to Arsal itself.

The attack wasn’t directed against the LAF, but against Hezbollah’s positions.

The attackers were eventually defeated (or the battle was intended to be a hit-and-run attack, depending on who one chooses to believe). But the jihadis fought a two-hour pitched battle with Hezbollah fighters near the village of Britel.

The Nusra Front overran a Hezbollah position, killing at least 11 of the movement’s fighters.

The Sunnis filmed the attack, as well as its aftermath. The jihadis can be seen moving backwards through the Hezbollah position, removing equipment, nonchalantly ignoring the corpses of dead defenders.

The Britel battle represents an eruption into Lebanon of a wider campaign, in which Hezbollah and other pro-Assad forces have been desperately trying to clear out the Sunni jihadis from the Qalamun mountain range along the border and seal the line between Syria and Lebanon.

The Nusra Front and its allies are trying to establish a connecting route between Arsal and al-Zabadani, west of Damascus, long held by the rebels.

The fight for Qalamun has turned into a grinding affair for Hezbollah, costing the lives of many of its fighters, while it never quite seems to end. The Britel losses indicate the failure of the pro-Iranian bloc’s efforts to finish this fight, and show that the direction of events, for now, at least, are in the Nusra Front’s favor.

But the wider implications and challenges of the intensification of cross-border Sunni activity are political.

As its casualties in the seemingly unending Syrian war continue to mount, Hezbollah needs to redouble efforts to explain to its constituency why this sacrifice makes sense and how it fits into the movement’s more familiar justifications for its existence.

Hence the increase in public statements by top officials, including leader Hassan Nasrallah.

Nasrallah paid a rare visit to Bekaa this week. In his speech, he sought to link the fight with the Sunni jihadis to Hezbollah’s war with Israel.

“Victory will be the ally of the mujahideens in their fight against takfiri [apostate Muslims] and terrorist groups, the same way it was their ally in the confrontation against the Israeli enemy,” Nasrallah said.

Interestingly, the Hezbollah leader didn’t stress the military campaign in Bekaa, but rather boasted of the attack in the Mount Dov area, which he said showed “the resistance, which is always vigilant, will protect any attempt to attack Lebanon or its people.”

Pro-Hezbollah publicists, meanwhile, are seeking to color in this picture with claims that Israel and the Nusra Front have reached an understanding with one another and are cooperating against Hezbollah, as Jean Aziz, a columnist at the pro-Hezbollah al-Akhbar wrote in a recent article.

These statements and claims notwithstanding, the main concern for Hezbollah and its supporters is the effect that the Nusra Front’s offensive into Lebanon is having on the delicate balance between the Sunnis and Shi’ites in the country.

Since the internal political and military conflict in 2008, with the humiliation of the mainly Sunni March 14 Alliance by Hezbollah and its associates, it looked like the Lebanese Sunnis were finished.

The Shi’ites, because of their political and demographic strength, achieved a clear dominance. The underlying concern of recent events is that this balance may be shifting.

There are 1.5 million new Sunnis in the country. For a country with a population of less than five million, this is a major shift.

A number of articles in the Lebanese media this week have reflected the widespread sympathy felt among many Sunnis for the Nusra Front, which is widely felt in both Lebanon and Syria to be less extreme and more local in its orientation than Islamic State.

It is noteworthy that the Nusra Front mentioned the desire to avenge an affront against the refugees as the main goal of its Bekaa offensive.

All these topics point to a possibly emergent, new strategic challenge for Hezbollah – namely the emergence of a new, powerful, Sunni Islamist opponent, one possessing some popular legitimacy, considerable military ability and a capacity to operate across borders.

Hezbollah appears to be aware of this threat and is currently attempting to formulate its response to it. This is a new and emerging front in the sectarian war that has already consumed Syria and Iraq. It remains to be seen if the Shi’ite Islamists of Lebanon will succeed in resisting the challenge from their Sunni opponents.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

"Recognising" a culture of hate and death

From Arutz Sheva, 18 Oct 2014,  by Mark Silverberg:

In a spectacular display of ignorance, moral illiteracy and malice, the Swedish parliament voted in favor of unilaterally recognizing a Palestinian state in early October.

Then, on October 13th, a group of backbench British MPs succeeded in obtaining a symbolic, non-binding vote in the British House of Commons to the effect “that the Government should recognize the state of Palestine alongside the state of Israel as a contribution towards supporting a negotiated two-state solution”.

Similar parliamentary votes on Palestinian statehood are expected shortly in Ireland, Spain, Denmark, France and Finland.

These votes disregard the realities of the conflict. If the Palestinians would:
● recognize Israel as the nation state of the Jewish people (which would mean acknowledgment of the character and permanence of Israel, and is thus rejected outright);
● accept demilitarization of Gaza and the 'West Bank';
● change their culture of hatred by amending their founding documents that proclaim their intention to annihilate Israel;
● forego their unconditional and non-negotiable position on their absolute “right of return” to Israel;
● cease incitement against Jews and Israelis in their schools, newspapers, mosques, media, summer camps, TV programming and educational system;
● cease portraying Palestine on their maps as including the State of Israel;
● cease their acts of murderous violence across Israel; cease justifying violence against Israelis as a legitimate form of political action;
● cease naming tournaments, marketplaces and streets after Palestinian “martyrs" whose claim to fame is that they murdered Jewish "occupiers" of Palestine (meaning Israelis);
● cease firing thousands of rockets into Israeli population centers;
● cease building terrorist tunnels into Israel for the sole purpose of kidnapping and murdering Israeli civilians;
● cease referring to Jews as “the descendants of apes and pigs”;
● cease providing payments to the families of suicide bombers;
● cease embracing as ‘heroes’ released Palestinian terrorists who murdered Israelis;
● cease attempting to bring war crimes charges against Israeli officers and officials at the International Criminal Court;
● cease insisting that the UN Security Council impose a deadline for Israeli withdrawal from the 'West Bank';
● cease playing the victim on the international stage and begin taking responsibility for their own failures, and cease promoting the apartheid, racist idea that any future Palestinian state will be “Jew-free” (as Mahmoud Abbas said in 2010), ........

then recognition of a Palestinian state based on a two-state solution would become feasible.

At this moment in time and for the foreseeable future, however, there is no serious evidence that the Palestinian leadership (be it Fatah or Hamas or both) want a state of their own that will live in peace with Israel as a Jewish state which rests on land they consider to be a sacred part of the Islamic ummah. In fact, there is ample evidence that they will treat anything they get as a staging ground for further attacks on Israel until it has been annihilated or subjugated to Islamic rule.

Despite the fact that the British resolution was non-binding and may have been motivated more for internal political purposes (conflicts between the British Labor Party and the governing Conservative Party), formal recognition of a Palestinian state (should it ever come to pass) would be a disaster for many reasons:

1. The Palestinians, despite numerous historical opportunities, have consistently refused to accept a Palestinian state (unless it includes the state of Israel). That is, their negotiation stance is contingent not on compromise but on struggle until victory.

2. The Palestinians have never been able to set up the infrastructure of a responsible state that would include transparent governance, a fair judicial system and a competent administration. Anything short of this would be a recipe for another failed Arab state.

3. The Oslo treaty is quite clear that resolution of borders and other issues must come through direct negotiations between the parties. Unilaterally declaring a state (as the British and Swedes have done) effectively undermines the treaty that committed both sides to a negotiated settlement between the two parties. That is, imposing Palestinian demands upon Israel using European or American pressure effectively destroys the Oslo treaty and undermines the peace process. In honor-shame Islamic cultures such as that of Palestinian society, if a foe (Israel) is forced to make concessions, it is seen as a sign of weakness and encourages further demands for further concessions.

4. It is a certainty that any Palestinian state so created will become a militant jihadist state controlled initially by Hamas and, later, quite possibly by ISIS. As the 2007 Hamas coup in Gaza showed, and as polls continue to show in the wake of Operation Defensive Edge, Hamas would end Fatah control over the 'West Bank' within months. This is what the Swedish and British parliaments have in fact endorsed in the name of “peace”.

5. With 48 Muslim majority states in the world (including 22 Arab states) - most of them failed states, none of them true Western-style democracies, and most of them belligerent - why on earth would the Europeans want to establish yet another guaranteed failed state? Given the current Palestinian leadership, establishing a formal state with all the rights that come with statehood (the right to govern, diplomatic immunity, a standing army, defined borders, an air command, sovereign control over land, territorial waters and air space, the right to collect taxes, and the capacity to enter into treaties with other states and to join specialized UN agencies such as the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), the Law of the Sea Treaty, and the International Criminal Court) would be madness.

More importantly, this new “state” would be ruled half by a terrorist group (Hamas) and half by an unelected administrative entity (Fatah) whose last election occurred years ago. The government of each half considers the government of the other half illegitimate - and both are correct.             

6. Forgetting the fact that the Palestinians have been offered a state on numerous occasions over the past 70 years, there are plenty of other ethnic and religious peoples who have a far greater claim to statehood in the world - peoples who maintain their own language, their own religion, and in many respects, their own history - peoples that include the Kurds, Tibetans, Tamils and Chechens. To favor formal statehood to a group that shares the same language and religion as 22 other Arab states sets a dangerous precedent.

7. As ISIS expands its murderous Islamic juggernaut across Iraq and Syria and threatens Lebanon, Jordan, Libya, Saudi Arabia and eventually Israel, Europe and the U.S., Western recognition of another failed state (Palestine) would represent a major victory for radical Islamist forces in the Levant to establish a new base of operations in Palestine that would allow them to use state status, rights and diplomatic immunity to further their global Islamic crusade

8. Israel is the West’s only truly reliable ally in the Middle East. Establishing a jihadist, genocidal Islamic enemy with full state powers on her borders would not only sow the seeds of a new war with a jihadist-controlled Palestine, but would guarantee the collapse of other moderate Arab nations with whom Israel is currently allied in its war against the jihadists.

None of those speaking for the creation of a Palestinian state appear to have taken any of these critical issues into account. The countries who voted (and will vote) for a Palestinian state have done nothing to advance the cause of peace in the Middle East. They have only sown the seeds of further war. The responsibility for the escalation in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict rests with the Palestinians who continue to turn their backs on peace.

Palestinian national identity is predicated on winning a zero-sum struggle with Zionism, not on a vision of a state of their own. Rather than take the many opportunities offered to them to build a future for their children, they have refused to relinquish their embrace of a culture of hate and death.

Consequently, eminently sensible proposals regarding borders, Jewish communities in the 'West Bank' and even Jerusalem are rendered irrelevant. What Britain, Sweden, France and the other European countries refuse to recognize is that no peace is possible until Palestinian society makes the compromise it has been unwilling to do for nearly a century – to share the land.

When will John Kerry leave us in peace?

From Times of Israel, 17 Oct 2014:

US Secretary of State John Kerry speaks during an Eid reception to mark the end of the annual Hajj pilgrimage on October 16, 2014, at the State Department in Washington, DC (photo credit: State Department/Flickr)
US Secretary of State John Kerry speaks during an Eid reception to mark the end of the annual Hajj pilgrimage on October 16, 2014, at the State Department in Washington, DC (photo credit: State Department/Flickr)

WASHINGTON — US Secretary of State John Kerry on Thursday called for a resumption of the Israel-Palestinian peace process, saying the talks were vital in the fight against extremism. 

“It is imperative that we find a way to get back to the negotiations,” Kerry said at a State Department ceremony marking the Muslim festival of Eid al-Adha.

...He said the unresolved Israel-Palestinian conflict was fueling recruitment for the Islamic State jihadist group.

“There wasn’t a leader I met with in the region who didn’t raise with me spontaneously the need to try to get peace between Israel and the Palestinians, because it was a cause of recruitment and of street anger and agitation,” Kerry said.
“People need to understand the connection of that. And it has something to do with humiliation and denial and absence of dignity,..”..

From Times of Israel, 17 Oct 2014:

...Writing on Facebook, [Economy Minister Naftali] Bennett, who heads the nationalist Jewish Home party, a major coalition member, linked to an article about Kerry’s remarks, commenting in Hebrew that 
“Even when a British Muslim beheads a British Christian, someone will always blame the Jew.”

Gilad Erdan on July 8, 2013. (photo credit: Flash 90)
Gilad Erdan on July 8, 2013. (photo credit: Flash 90)

Likud minister Erdan, thought to be Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s pick to become Interior Minister, also blasted Kerry on Facebook, asking sarcastically whether anybody truly believes Islamic State fighters would put down their arms if Israeli-Palestinian talks were restarted.

“I actually respect Kerry and his efforts, but every time he breaks new records of showing a lack of understanding of our region and the essence of the conflict in the Middle East I have trouble respecting what he says...” 
Jewish Home MK Ayelet Shaked also expressed dismay over the statement.

This is not the first time Kerry has been criticized by members of Israel’s ruling coalition.
In January, Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon was quoted calling Kerry “inexplicably obsessive” and “messianic” in his efforts to coax the two sides into a peace agreement. Ya’alon said Kerry has “nothing to teach me about the conflict with the Palestinians.

“All that can ‘save us’ is for John Kerry to win a Nobel Prize and leave us in peace,” Israeli daily Yedioth Ahronoth quoted him saying at the time....

England's Vote for Hamas: An unforgiveable act of mega-spinelessness

From American Spectator, 17 Oct 2014, by Hal GP Colebatch*:

I am half-English, half-Australian...

I have been prouder than I can easily say of England’s past. I saw, close up and with horror, the corruption of many of its institutions under Tony Blair while living there in 1998-99. I arrived just in time for the surreal madness of Princess Diana’s funeral. My book, Blair’s Britain, was one of the first to try to expose a strange, dream-like malaise, of which Blair’s “cool Britannia” was near the essence. Blair’s Britain was chosen by the London Spectator as a book of the year and quickly sold out though for some reason was not reprinted.

...The recent vote, 274-12 by British MPs to recognize the Hamas regime ... (with 450 or so spineless abstentions, including that of its mega-spineless Prime Minister)...is a cause not only for disgust, but for unutterable shame. ... this is treason to everything that is fine and noble in the spirit of England.

Make no mistake: for at least some of the movers of the resolution it was not about the rights of the Palestinians: it was about Jew-hatred. Consider the statement of Richard Ottoway, chair of the foreign affairs select committee, that despite having been “a friend of Israel long before I became a Tory,” its recent policies had “outraged me more than anything else in my political life’” Not much pretense there that the vote was prompted by hopes that it would somehow contribute (Who knows how?) to a peaceful,  two-state solution. No suggestion that by its rocket-attacks on cities Hamas had forced Israel to retaliate.

And then there were the degenerates of ISIS and the televised beheadings of the innocent and the machine-gunning of helpless prisoners, forced to dig there own graves. The girls carried off in hundreds to sexual slavery. Yes, I know Hamas and ISIS are not exactly the same, but they are connected, and the beheadings and machine-gunnings are a pretty clear sign of what Israel could expect if the Islamic fanatics and perverts somehow gained the upper hand. This is not a matter of esoteric knowledge but of obvious and well-known fact, such as it would seem unnecessary even to state. 

This is one of those times in history when, as Chesterton said, evil is not done furtively in dark corners or by moonlight but glorifying itself in the full light of the noonday sun. Don’t hold your breath waiting for Hamas to dissociate itself from ISIS, let alone do anything to help resist it..

The British Union of University Students, incidentally, has also just passed a resolution not to condemn ISIS, lest this be taken for Islamophobia. This is the action of people not merely mistaken but somehow biologically deficient, like apologists for, or deniers of, the Holocaust.

Hamas has shown its savage ruthlessness by its general use of its own people as human shields. Its charter calls for the extermination of the Jews and it has never shown interest in a peace treaty.

This, like ISIS, is sheer evil, undisguised, like Nazism or Stalinism, the inveterate foe of what Churchill, at the time of the Battle of Britain, called “Christian civilization.“ Israel knows, to quote Kipling:
We asked no more than leave
To reap where we had sown,
Through good and ill to cleave
To our own flag and throne …
The terror, threats, and dread
In market, hearth, and field --
We know, when all is said,
We perish if we yield.
As for the rest of us, and for the gentlemen of the House of Commons in particular, there are the words of another poet, the great Australian James McAuley, written at the time of the Soviet butchery of Hungary in 1956: (I quote from memory):
 “Suddenly upon the horizon rears up this great staring mask of blood and lies, and the question: ‘What are you going to do about ME.’” 
At this moment England’s Parliamentary democracy stinks.

Perhaps the one potentially good thing to have come out of this disgusting business is that it has shown Israel and its many English friends in and outside Parliament, how deeply the anti-Semitic (or whatever you wish to call them ) tentacles have penetrated into public life, and highlighted the need for a really determined pushback.

There is, at this particular time, only one other thing to do. And it is not to pass resolutions that aid Hamas in its objective of the total destruction of Israel.

In World War II about 80 Members of the British Parliament died fighting Nazism. No other legislative body had such a brave record. Is it beyond hope that those men’s honor may be reclaimed?

About the Author
*Hal G.P. Colebatch, a lawyer and author, has lectured in International Law and International Relations at Notre Dame University and Edith Cowan University in Western Australia and worked on the staff of two Australian Federal Ministers.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Deranged Europeans

From Spengler, 14 Oct 2014:

Coming soon after Sweden’s recognition of a non-existent state of Palestine, the British Parliament’s 274-to-12 resolution to recognize “Palestine” flags a sea-change in European sentiment towards Israel. France is thinking of following suit. The European Community bureaucracy, meanwhile, has readied sanctions against Israel.

One remonstrates in vain. The Gaza War should have taught the world that Israel cannot cede territory to Mahmoud Abbas, now in the 10th year of a 4-year term. Hamas has the support of 55% of West Bank Palestinians vs. just 38% for Abbas, and Hamas openly brags that it could destroy Israel more easily from firing positions in the West Bank. Only the Israeli military keeps Abbas in power; without the Israelis Hamas would displace Abbas in the West Bank as easily as it did in Gaza; and a Hamas government in the West Bank would make war on Israel, with horrifying consequences.

To propose immediate Palestinian statehood under these circumstances is psychotic, to call the matter by its right name. The Europeans, along with the United Nations and the Obama administration on most working days, refuse to take reality into account. When someone tells you that Martians are transmitting radio waves into his brain, or that Elvis Presley really is the pope rather than an Argentine Jesuit, one doesn’t enquire into the merits of the argument. Rather, one considers the cause of the insanity.

The Europeans hate Israel with the passion of derangement. Why? Well, one might argue that the Europeans always have hated Jews; they were sorry they hated Jews for a while after the Holocaust, but they have gotten over that and hate us again. Some analysts used to cite Arab commercial influence in European capitals, but today Egypt and implicitly Saudi Arabia are closer to Jerusalem’s point of view than Ramallah’s. Large Muslim populations in Europe constitute a pressure group for anti-Israel policies, but that does not explain the utter incapacity of the European elite to absorb the most elementary facts of the situation.

Europe’s derangement has deeper roots. Post-nationalist Europeans, to be sure, distrust and despise all forms of nationalism. But Israeli nationalism does not offend Europe merely because it is one more kind of nationalism. From its founding, Europe has been haunted by the idea of Israel. Its first states emerged as an attempt to appropriate the election of Israel....

.... Europe’s nationalisms were not simply an expansion of tribal impulses, but a nationalism refined and shaped by Christianity into a ghastly caricature of Israel’s Chosenness. In turn, each European country asserted its status as God’s new people: France under Richelieu during the 17th century, England under the Tudors, Russia (“The Third Rome”) from the time of Ivan the Terrible, and ultimately the Germans, who substituted the concept of “master race” for the Chosen People.

The flowering of Jewish national life in Israel makes the Europeans crazy. It is not simply envy: it is a terrible reminder of the vanity of European national aspirations over the centuries, of the continent’s ultimate failure as a civilization. Just as the Europeans (most emphatically the Scandinavians) would prefer to dissolve into the post-national stew of European identity, they demand that Israel do the same. Never mind that Israel lacks the option to do so, and would be destroyed were it to try, for reasons that should be obvious to any casual consumer of news media.

Europeans cannot live with their past. They cannot live with their present, and do not plan to have a future, for they do not bear enough children to forestall demographic ruin at the hundred-year horizon. 

With its high fertility, national spirit, religiosity and unabashed national self-assertion, Israel reminds the Europeans of everything that they are not. Much worse: it reminds them of what they once desired to become. The idea of Israel as well as the fact of Israel are equally intolerable to them.

It remains to be seen whether Germany–the one European country that has made a vigorous effort to come to grips with its dreadful past–will allow anti-Israel sentiment to turn into diplomatic isolation. One hopes that Angela Merkel, Germany’s talented and well-intentioned chancellor, will stand in the way of this. Europe may not be quite a lost cause for Israel, but it is at grave risk of becoming one.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Turkey strikes Kurds ... not ISIS...

From VOA14 Oct, by Dorian Jones:

Hakkari province, Turkey

Turkish aircraft pounded Kurdish rebel bases in Turkey on Tuesday for the first time since a peace process began almost two years ago. The attacks follow major unrest across Turkey's predominantly Kurdish southeast over what Kurds see as Ankara's inaction while the Syrian Kurdish city of Kobani is under siege by the Islamic State militant group.   
  
The air attacks against the Kurdistan Workers Party, the PKK, are reported to have occurred in Hakkari province on Iraq’s border.

...The air strikes follow last week’s violent protests by Kurds throughout Turkey over the government’s refusal to allow military assistance for Syrian Kurds under siege by the Islamic State in the city of Kobani on Turkey’s border.

At least 35 people were killed in riots last week when members of Turkey's 15 million-strong Kurdish minority rose up in anger at the government for refusing to help defend the Syrian border town of Kobani from an assault by Islamic State militants.

International relations expert Soli Ozel of Istanbul’s Kadir Has University says the Turkish air strikes are part of a wider power struggle between Ankara and Turkey’s Kurdish movement.

"That was the response, to a certain extent, to last week’s riots. That corresponds to what the prime minister said today [Tuesday] --  that they will respond disproportionately to vandalism, to terrorist activities and violence and all that," said Ozel. "And that they in their minds make a distinction, between the peace process which they believe is not defunct and those who try to force Turkey’s hand, by threat or use of violence."

Since March 2013, the PKK has largely observed a cease-fire with the Turkish state as part of a peace process with the Turkish government. The process seeks to end a three decade conflict by the PKK for greater Kurdish minority rights.

But PKK military leaders based in neighboring Iraqi Kurdistan have linked the fate of the peace process to the fate of Kobani.

Kadri Gursel, an expert on the conflict and diplomatic columnist for the Turkish newspaper Milliyet,  warns that Kurdish anger over Kobani is part of a wider disillusionment with the peace process.

"For more than two years nothing," said Gursel. "No concrete step has been taken by the government to advance the so-called peace and solution process. And also there is this Kobani and Rojava situation. There is anger - a growing anger among Kurds."

Observers point out that anger among Turkey’s large Kurdish minority is also growing over reports Ankara is refusing to allow the delivery through its territory of a shipment of arms from Iraqi Kurds to Kurds besieged in Kobani. Syrian fighters have repeatedly said they are in urgent need of military supplies.

There are growing calls internationally for Turkey to open its border to allow military supplies of Kobani. But, Ankara accuses the Syrian Kurds of being terrorists linked to the PKK and has ruled out any delivery of military supplies.

Analyst Ozel warns the government is paying an increasingly high diplomatic price for its stance.

"[They are] pretty isolated but it's also a country that the world system cannot afford to isolate totally," said Ozel. "It's obviously putting itself in a position where it does not have too many friends."

But Ankara’s stance appears to be hardening along with air strikes against the PKK.  Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan called for similar action to be taken against both the Islamic State group and the Syrian Kurdish fighters, claiming both are terrorist organizations and that Turkey has no interest in the fate of Kobani.  
Political observers warn that is likely to only further alienate Turkey's Western allies as well as its large Kurdish minority. 

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

"My family's story in 1948 - fleeing Jaffa, building a future in Israel."

From YouTube, 1 Oct 2014:



George Deek, Israel's vice ambassador to Norway, giving a lecture in the House of Literature in Oslo,  27 September 2014.

Some excerpts:

...According to the U.N. 711 thousand Palestinians were displaced, we’ve heard that before – some fled and some forcefully expelled.
At the same time, because of the establishment of Israel, 800 thousand Jews were intimidated into leaving the Arab world, leaving mostly empty of Jews.
As we’ve heard before, atrocities from both sides were not uncommon.

But it seems that this conflict was not the only one during the 19th and 20th century that lead to expulsion and transfer.


  • From 1821 to 1922, 5 million Muslims were expelled from Europe, mostly to Turkey.
  • In the 90’s Yoguslavia broke apart, leading to 100,000 people dead and about 3 million displaced.
  • From 1919 to 1949, during the Visla operation between Poland and Ukraine, 150,000 people died, and 1.5 million were displaced.
  • Following World War II and the Potsdam convention, between 12-17 million Germans were displaced.
  • When India and Pakistan were established, about 15 million people were transferred.
  • This trend also exists in the Middle East, For example the displacement of 1.1 million Kurds by the Ottomans,
  • 2.2 million Christians who were expelled from Iraq,
  • And as we speak today, Yazidis, Bahai, Kurds, Christians and even Muslims are being killed and expelled in a rate of 1,000 people per month, following the rise of Radical Islam.

The chances of any of those groups to return to their homes, is almost non-existent.
So why is it then,
Why is it that the tragedies of the Serbs, the European Muslims, the Polish refugees or the Iraqi Christians are not commemorated?

How come the displacement of the Jews from the Arab world was completely forgotten, while the tragedy of the Palestinians, the Nakba, is still alive in today’s politics?

It seems to me to be so, because the Nakba has been transformed from a humanitarian disaster to a political offensive.

The commemoration of the Nakba is no longer about remembering what happened, but about resenting the mere existence of the state of Israel.

It is demonstrated most clearly in the date chosen to commemorate it:
The Nakba day is not April 9th – the day of the Deir Yassin massacre,
Or July 13th – the day of the expulsion from Lod.
The Nakba day was set on May 15th – the day after Israel proclaimed its independence.
By that the Palestinian leadership declared that the disaster of the Nakba is not the expulsion, the abandoned villages or the exile – the Nakba in their eyes in the creation of Israel.

They are saddened less by the humanitarian catastrophe that befell on Palestinians, and more by the revival of the Jewish state.

In other words: they do not mourn the fact that my cousins are Jordanians, they mourn the fact that I am an Israeli.


By doing so, The Palestinians have become slaves to the past, held captive by the chains of resentment, prisoners in the world of frustration and hate...

...If the Palestinians wish to redeem the past, they need to first focus on securing a future, on building a world as it should be, as our children deserve it to be.

And the first step in that direction, without a doubt, is to end the shameful treatment of the Palestinian refugees.

In the Arab world, the Palestinian refugees – including their children, their grandchildren and even their great-grandchildren – are still not settled, aggressively discriminated against, and in most cases denied citizenship and basic human rights.

Why is it, that my relatives in Canada are Canadian citizens, while my relatives in Syria, Lebanon or the gulf countries – who were born there and know no other home – are still considered refugees?
Clearly, the treatment of the Palestinians in the Arab countries is the greatest oppression they experience anywhere.

And the collaborators in this crime are no other than the international community and the United Nations.

Rather than doing its job and help the refugees build a life, the international community is feeding the narrative of the victimhood.

While there is one U.N. agency in charge of all refugees in the world – the UNHCR, another agency was established to deal only with the Palestinian ones – UNRWA.

This is no coincidence – while the goal of the UNHCR is to help refugees establish a new home, establish a future and end their status as refugees, the goal of UNRWA is opposite: to preserve their status as refugees, and prevent them from being able to start new lives.

The International community cannot seriously expect the refugee problem to be solved, when it is collaborating with the Arab world in treating the refugees’ as political pawns, denying them the basic rights they deserve.

Wherever the Palestinian refugees were granted equal rights – they prospered and contributed to their society – In South America, in the U.S., and even in Israel.

In fact, Israel was one of the few countries that automatically gave full citizenship and equality for all Palestinians in it after ‘48.

And we see the results: despite all the challenges, the Arab citizens of Israel built a future.
Israeli Arabs are the most educated Arabs in the world, with the best living standards and opportunities in the region.
Arabs serve as judges in the Supreme Court;
Some of the best doctors in Israel are Arabs, working in almost every hospital in the country;
There are 13 Arab members of parliament who enjoy the right to criticize the government – a right that they exhaust to the fullest – protected by the freedom of speech;
Arabs win popular reality shows;
And you can even find Arab diplomats – and one of them is standing in front of you.

Today, when I walk the streets of Jaffa, I see the old buildings and the old port,
But I also see children going to school and university; I see flourishing businesses; and I see a vibrant culture.
In short, despite the fact that we still have a long road ahead of us as a minority, we have a future in Israel.

...rather than reviving the successful approach of tolerance, Arab youth are being taught to hate Jews, using anti-Semitic rhetoric from medieval Europe, mixed with Islamic radicalism.

And once again, what started as hostility towards Jews has become hostility towards anyone who is different.

Just last week more than 60,000 Kurds fled from Syria towards Turkey, afraid of being slaughtered.
On the same day, 15 Palestinians from Gaza drowned in the sea trying to escape the claws of Hamas;
Bahai and Yazidis are at risk.

And on top of it all, the ethnic cleansing of Christians in the Middle East is the biggest crime against humanity in the 21st century. In just two decades Christians like me have been reduced from 20% of the population of the Middle East to a mere 4% today.

And when we see that the main victims of Islamist violence are Muslims, it is getting clear to everyone –
At the end of the day, hate destroys the hater.
So friends,
If we wish to succeed in protecting our right to be different, if we want to have a future in that region, I believe we should stand together – Jews, Muslims and Christians:

We will fight for the right of Christians everywhere to live their faith without fear, with the same passion with which we will fight for the right of Jews to live without fear.

We will fight against Islamophobia, but we need our Muslims partners to join the fight against Christianophobia and Judeophobia.

...I fail to see a debate questioning the wisdom of the destructive leadership of the Mufti of Jerusalem Hajj Amin al-Hussaini; or the unnecessary war launched by the Arab league in 1948, or any of the wars against Israel, in the years that followed until today;
And I fail to see self-criticism in the Palestinian mainstream today about the use of terrorism, the launching of the second intifada, or the rejection of at least two Israeli offers in the last 15 years to end the conflict.

Self-reflection is not a weakness; it is a sign of strength.
It brings forth our ability to overcome fear and face reality.
It demands us to look sincerely into our decisions, and take responsibility for it.

Only the Arabs themselves can change their reality.
By stopping the leaning on conspiracy theories and the blaming of outside powers – America, the Jews, the West or whoever – for all the problems;
By learning from past mistakes,
And by making wiser decisions in the future...

...We cannot change the past.
But we can secure a future for our next generations, if we want to mend the past some day;
We can help the Palestinian refugees have a normal life;
We can be sincere about our past, and learn from our mistakes;
And we can unite – Muslims, Jews and Christians – to protect our right to be different, and by that preserve our humanity;

Indeed we can’t change the past,
But if we do all that, we will change the future...

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Arab rejectionist "lawfare" wins another symbolic battle in Europe

From JPost, 13 Oct 2014:

Britain’s House of Commons voted in favor of recognizing a Palestinian state late Monday in a move that will not alter the government's stance on the issue, but that carries symbolic value for Palestinians in their pursuit of statehood.

Lawmakers in Britain's lower house of parliament voted by 274 to 12 [and 354 abstentions] to pass a non-binding motion stating: 
"That this House believes that the Government should recognize the state of Palestine alongside the state of Israel as a contribution to securing a negotiated two-state solution."
Britain does not classify "Palestine" as a state, but says it could do so at any time if it believed it would help peace efforts between the Palestinians and Israel. Government ministers were told to abstain and the non-binding vote will not force Britain to recognise a Palestinian state.


The British Parliament votes to recognize a Palestinian state (screen capture)
The British Parliament votes to recognize a Palestinian state (screen capture by Times of Israel)

Nearly 50 MPs [of the 650 members of the House] were in the chamber to hear pro-Palestinian Labor Backbencher Grahame Morris open the four hour debate which he said was a chance for the UK to atone for its historic mistakes...

He and party colleagues knew in advance that with the unprecedented backing of the Labor party – as traditionally the political parties do not tell MPs which way to vote in what is supposed to be backbench business – his motion calling for the British Government to recognise a Palestinian State would be passed, probably by a substantial majority.

Several senior pro-Israel Labor party MPs including a number of members of the shadow cabinet – angered by the decision of party leader Ed Miliband and Shadow Foreign Secretary Douglas Alexander to order Labor backbenchers to back the Morris motion by issuing a ‘three line whip’ - were understood to be ready to defy the instruction and abstain on the vote which was due at 10 p.m. UK time, midnight in Israel.

Former Labor Foreign Secretary Jack Straw successfully moved a manuscript amendment which stated that recognition of a state should be agreed as a ‘contribution’ towards a two state solution. He said if Israel had its way and recognition should be delayed until an agreement is reached between Israel and the Palestinians, that - in effect - would amount to giving Israel a veto over Palestinian statehood.

The Palestinians, he reminded the Commons had no say or veto over the establishment of the State of Israel.

A counter argument was put forward by another former Foreign Secretary the Conservative Party’s Malcolm Rifkind who told MPs that it was not possible to recognize a state which has no boundaries, no army, nor a government. The Palestinians he said, currently have two administrations and simply did not qualify for ‘recognition’.

Also he noted wryly, Britain did not recognize the State of Israel until 1950 when its borders and government and been well established.

An amendment which had been proposed on an all party basis by members of the Conservative and Labor Friends of Israel and which would have made recognition conditional on the successful conclusion of a two state solution negotiation, was not selected by the Commons Speaker John Bercow.

As a result MPs were instead faced with a choice of voting for recognition “as a contribution” towards peace or voting against. Many Conservative MPs - who along with the Government Ministers were given a ‘free vote’ by their party managers – stayed away – in effect abstaining. 
  
A leading supporter of Israel Guto Bebb summed the political choice he faced in an article in Monday’s Daily Telegraph, pointing out that regardless of the vote, the British Government’s position would not change and international opinion would not be swayed by a few squabbling MPs on Britain’s opposition benches.

He suggested that he and his Conservative colleagues should stay away from the vote whilst the Labor Party “turns the Commons chamber into its own policy forum”. And with it being the first day back from a recess, many MPs appeared to have taken a similar decision rendering the voting figures relatively meaningless.

That argument however was countered by Jack Straw, who made clear the symbolism of the vote regardless of how it was achieved was far more important and the message to all beyond the UK would be very clear.

Both the government Middle East Minister Tobias Ellwood and the Labor Shadow spokesman Ian Lucas were due to address MPs during the debate, with the Minister expected to say that the UK wanted to see the establishment of a viable Palestinian state living side by side with Israel.

But he was due to tell MPs that only through a negotiated process and an end to the occupation could Palestinian statehood become a reality. As far as the current government was concerned they would choose when it was the most appropriate time to grant recognition and that would be when they considered it would best provide for a full peace.

The vote therefore was expected to give the Palestinian lobby both in the UK and further afield a feeling of historic victory but being symbolic and non binding, as Grahame Morris noted, it would not change the facts on the ground.

...David Cameron ...will – in all probability just ignore last night’s vote as he has done on the three other occasions backbench votes have resulted in defeats for his government’s policies.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Another "Massacre" Myth debunked

From Mosaic, 6 July 2014, by Efraim Karsh:

How a confusing urban battle between two sides was transformed into a one-sided massacre of helpless victims
The Uses of Lydda
Lydda and the Church of St. George, taken between 1900 and 1920. From the G. Eric and Edith Matson Photograph Collection, Library of Congress.
InWhat Happened at Lydda,” Martin Kramer has performed a signal service by putting to rest the canard of an Israeli massacre of Palestinian Arab civilians in that city in July 1948. 

The charge has been most recently circulated by Ari Shavit in his best-selling My Promised Land. But Lydda is hardly the only instance of such allegations at the time of the founding of the Jewish state—or, for that matter, long afterward. 

As Kramer suggests at the outset of his investigation, 
“time and again over the decades, Israeli soldiers have stood accused of just such wanton killing when in fact they were doing what every soldier is trained to do: fire on an armed enemy, especially when that enemy is firing at him.”
Indeed. In late 1947, a violent Arab attempt was made to prevent the creation of a Jewish state in line with November’s UN partition resolution. No sooner had the Haganah rebuffed it than it was accused of scores of nonexistent massacres. The same happened in the run-up to the establishment of the state in May 1948 and the ensuing war launched by the Arab nations to destroy it. The fall of the city of Haifa in April 1948 gave rise to totally false claims of a large-scale slaughter that circulated throughout the Middle East and reached Western capitals. Similarly false rumors were spread after the fall of Tiberias (April 18), during the battle of Safed (in early May), and in Jaffa, where in late April the mayor fabricated a massacre of “hundreds of Arab men and women.” Accounts of a massacre at Deir Yasin (April 9), where some 100 people died, were especially lurid, featuring supposed hammer-and-sickle tattoos on the arms of Jewish fighters and fictitious charges of havoc and rape.
In later years, Palestinians and supporters of the Palestinian cause have even invented retroactive atrocities, unknown to anyone at the time of their supposed occurrence. A notable instance is the “Tantura massacre” of May 1948, an event glaringly absent from contemporary Palestinian Arab historiography of the war. And this is not to mention more recent trumped-up allegations of atrocities committed by Israel in, most notoriously, Jenin (2002) and Gaza (2009).
It is into this crowded field that the prominent Israeli journalist Ari Shavit has stepped. “In 30 minutes, at high noon, more than 200 civilians are killed,” Shavit writes dramatically; “Zionism carries out a massacre in the city of Lydda.” But as Kramer conclusively shows, it is likelier that there was no massacre: only casualties of war, killed or wounded in the fierce fighting between the small Israeli force in the city and the numerically superior force of local Arab fighters supplemented by Transjordanian troops and armored vehicles.
In its broad contours, the story of the conquest of Lydda, followed by the exodus of most of the city’s residents, was a matter of public knowledge shortly after the July 1948 events about which Shavit writes; in subsequent decades, Israeli historians filled in the remaining gaps. But then, beginning in the late 1980s, revisionist Israeli “New Historians” successfully transformed what the New York Times had described at the time as “heavy casualties,” incurred in the course of “considerable [Arab] resistance,” into a massacre of hapless victims.
Since Lydda (together with the simultaneously captured twin town of Ramleh) also constitutes the only case in the war where a substantial urban population was displaced by Israeli forces, the massacre trope won a position of pivotal importance in the larger Arab claim: namely, that there was a premeditated and systematic plan to dispossess and expel the Palestinian Arabs. Shavit has picked up this latter misrepresentation as well, writing that “the conquest of Lydda and the expulsion of Lydda” were “an inevitable phase of the Zionist revolution” (emphasis added).
If, however, there was anything inevitable about the expulsion of Lydda, the cause lay not in Zionism but in the actions of Palestinian Arab leaders and their counterparts in neighboring Arab states. Had these notables accepted the UN partition resolution calling for the establishment of two states in Palestine, there would have been no war and no dislocation in the first place. As for Lydda itself, no exodus was foreseen in Israeli military plans for the city’s capture or was reflected in the initial phase of its occupation. Quite the contrary: the Israeli commander assured local dignitaries that the city’s inhabitants would be allowed to stay if they so wished. In line with that promise, the occupying Israeli force also requested a competent administrator and other personnel to run the affairs of the civilian population.
All this was rendered irrelevant when the city’s notables and residents, rather than abiding by their surrender agreement with the IDF, attempted to dislodge the Israelis by force. The IDF, its tenuous grip on Lydda starkly exposed, thereupon decided to “encourage” the population’s departure to Arab-controlled areas a few miles to the east, so as not to leave behind a potential hotbed of armed resistance. In an area where Jordan’s Arab Legion was counterattacking in strength, it was essential to prevent any disruption of ongoing war operations.
As it happens, this spontaneous response by the IDF to a string of unexpected developments on the ground was uncharacteristic of general Israeli conduct. Then and throughout the war, inhabitants of other Arab localities who had peacefully surrendered to Israeli forces were allowed to remain in place. In this respect, Lydda was an one of the very few exceptions that proved the rule, not—as Shavit argues—the rule itself.
Those few exceptions, moreover, accounted for but a small fraction of the total exodus. Vastly more Palestinians were driven from their homes by their own leaders and/or by Arab military forces than by the Israeli army. In fact, no contemporary sources describe the collapse and dispersal of Palestinian society as, in Shavit’s words, “an inevitable phase of the Zionist revolution.” Here, from June 1949, is the (somewhat surprised) report of a senior British official from a fact-finding mission among Arab war refugees in Gaza:
While [the refugees] express no bitterness against the Jews (or for that matter against the Americans or ourselves), they speak with the utmost bitterness of the Egyptians and other Arab states. “We know who our enemies are,” they will say, and they are referring to their Arab brothers who, they declare, persuaded them unnecessarily to leave their homes.
Martin Kramer is to be congratulated for helping to reclaim these historical truths, distorted by decades of propaganda and revisionist history. In disposing of the Lydda “massacre” canard, he has also exposed the disingenuous and shoddy scholarship underlying the ongoing endeavor to rewrite Israel’s history.

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Foreign attack damages Iranian research into detonating nuclear warheads

From Times of Israel, 9 Oct 2014:

An unnamed foreign country was responsible for the blast at Iran’s secretive Parchin facility on Monday, a Kuwaiti news site claimed Thursday, quoting unnamed Washington-based European diplomats. 

The report by Kuwait’s Al Rai also claimed Western intelligence agencies believe that Iran has been conducting tests at the facility, aimed at loading nuclear warheads onto ballistic missiles.

It was the Monday strike, the report further said, that prompted Iran to order Hezbollah to target an Israeli army patrol on the Israeli side of the Israel-Lebanon border the next day, in which two soldiers were injured.

There was no independent confirmation of the report, which was also cited on Israel’s Channel 2 news.

The blast, which is said to have killed at least two people, caused substantive damage to 12 buildings at the heart of the site, Channel 2 said Thursday.

According to satellite images taken after the blast, Israeli researcher Ronen Solomon told the TV channel, the affected buildings were bunkers where work was being carried out on triggers to detonate nuclear devices.

The reports emerged just as the latest UN effort to probe suspicions that Iran is working to attain nuclear weapons ended on a downbeat note, with diplomats saying that Tehran refused entry to Iran to a US nuclear expert on the UN’s investigating team.

The diplomats also said Thursday that the trip this week didn’t succeed in advancing a decade of UN efforts to investigate suspicions that Tehran worked on such weapons.

Tehran has denied IAEA inspectors access to Parchin since 2005.

Reza Najafi, Iran’s envoy to the IAEA, confirmed that an International Atomic Energy Agency staff member was refused a visa. Najafi didn’t identify the person, but told Iran’s Fars news agency that he had a “particular nationality.”

The IAEA’s inquiry is formally separate from US-led talks with Iran focused on long-term caps on Tehran’s atomic programs in exchange for an end to nuclear-related sanctions, which resume next week in Vienna.

But Washington says a successful investigation by IAEA must be part of any final deal. That is unlikely by Nov. 24 — the target date for such an agreement.

Two diplomats from IAEA member nations said the US expert first applied for a visa eight months ago and had been turned down several times since.

Iran says it doesn’t want nuclear arms and never worked toward them. But the IAEA says it has collected about 1,000 pages of information that point to attempts to develop such weapons.

Several meetings have resulted in little progress since Iran and the IAEA agreed late last year on a new effort to try and clear up the allegations.

The agency said Thursday that Iran presented no new proposals at the latest talks with IAEA experts. An IAEA statement gave no date for a new meeting.

On Wednesday, an exiled Iranian opposition group accused Tehran of secretly moving a key nuclear research hierarchy to avoid international inspections.

The dissident group said the Tehran-based Organization of Defensive Innovation and Research (SPND) was “the nerve center of the militarization of the Iranian nuclear program,” which has been responsible for “the design and manufacture of the atomic bomb.”

“The transfer of the SPND was completed in July,” said the Paris-based National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI), which has made significant revelations about Iran’s nuclear program in the past.
“Managers and key services were relocated to secret locations, while some administrative officials were left in place to deceive IAEA inspectors,” said dissident leader Afchine Alavi.
The SPND was targeted in August by a new round of US sanctions against companies and individuals seen as providing support to illicit Iranian nuclear activities.

The brains behind the SPND, Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, sought for years by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), is being “hidden by the regime”, the NCRI said in a report.
“This game of hide-and-seek with the IAEA proves that the regime has no intention of abandoning the military aspect of its program and that it does not want to be transparent.”

Following Monday’s mysterious blast at Parchin, east of Tehran, satellite imagery obtained Wednesday by Israel’s Channel 2 and Israel Defense magazine claimed to show extensive damage at the site.

Images of the facility taken Tuesday, a day after the explosion, showed that several buildings at the location sustained heavy damage and some even collapsed, Channel 2 reported.

The photos “clearly show damage consistent with an attack against bunkers in a central locality within the military research complex at the Parchin military compound,” Israel Defense wrote.

The images were taken by the French satellite Pleiades the morning following the blast.

From the IDF, 8 Oct 2014:
24 hours after the reports from Iran regarding a mysterious explosion at the military compound in Parchin, evidence has been received that refutes the denials of the Iranian government.

Satellite images of the Parchin area, to the east of Tehran, prove: the explosion reported by the Iranian media had, indeed, occurred inside the military compound in Parchin, where, according to western intelligence agencies, trials are being conducted on nuclear missile fuzes. Satellite images obtained by Israel Defense and analyzed by specialist Ronen Solomon clearly show damage consistent with an attack against bunkers in a central locality within the military research complex at the Parchin military compound.


The locality in question is situated at the center of the compound, adjacent to another installation where, according to intelligence sources, the trials being conducted involve controlled detonation of fuzes intended to serve as triggers for nuclear devices. The locality consists of a sizable testing center and what appears to be an area with bunker-shaped structures. "Before and after" images indicate that a complete section of structures was simply eliminated by an unexplained explosion.

The explosion wiped several testing units off the face of the earth while inflicting collateral damage on adjacent buildings, with traces of fire clearly visible in a section located in a sparsely afforested area. 
The images, taken by the French satellite Pleiades at a 0.5 meter resolution on the day following the reports at 07:30 AM, also show vehicles – probably fire trucks.
Iran’s state news agency IRNA reported Monday that the explosion occurred at a defense ministry plant east of Tehran for the production of explosives.

The Defense Industries Organisation, quoted by IRNA, said a fire broke out at the plant on Sunday night but it gave no further details.

The BBC, citing a report from the semi-official Iranian Students News Agency (ISNA), reported on Monday that the incident happened in an “explosive materials production unit” at the site south-east of the capital Tehran.

According to ISNA, the blast was so powerful it shattered windows up to 12 kilometers away and the glare from the explosion lit up the night sky.

Several arms facilities and military bases are located east of the Iranian capital, including Parchin.

The base lies at the center of allegations of past Iranian research into sophisticated explosives that can be used to detonate a nuclear warhead.

In August Iran reiterated that it will not allow IAEA inspectors to visit the site.

Friday, October 10, 2014

Turkey on the fence

From Christian Science Monitor, 7 Oct 2014, by Alexander Christie-Miller:

Bursa, Turkey — The future of the Syrian town of Kobane hung in the balance Tuesday as the Islamic State’s three-week assault on the Kurdish-held enclave appeared to enter its endgame.

Its last hope likely hinges on Ankara, whose armed forces remain poised on the border only hundreds of yards from the battle, resisting mounting pressure from Turkey’s own Kurdish minority to assist Kobane's defenders.

Despite a range of strategic and ideological factors inclining Ankara against direct intervention, increasingly angry protests both in Turkey and abroad are creating mounting pressure for it to act.

“Kobane is about to fall,” acknowledged President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in an interview with Turkish television as he toured a refugee camp in southern Turkey early Tuesday.

Turkish involvement in its fate, however, would only come as part of an allied strategy to address the broader problem of Syria’s festering civil war, Mr. Erdogan insisted.

“We need a no-fly zone, safe havens, and to train and equip the moderate opposition in Syria,” he added.

Another of Ankara’s demands in return for playing a more active role against IS is a more direct strategy against the regime of President Bashar al-Assad, whom Turkish leaders regard as the ultimate author of the country’s unrest.

For Western powers focused solely on the threat posed by IS, and deeply wary of becoming embroiled in the conflict in Syria, such concessions remain a faint prospect.

Meanwhile, any unilateral action against IS involving Turkish troops in Syria could leave the country badly exposed if it was not done without explicit NATO backing, says Hugh Pope, International Crisis Group’s deputy program director for Europe and the Central Asia.

“Turkey has to be extremely careful. If it engages in something that could be seen as an unprovoked attack then NATO’s response could be very ambivalent.”

In recent weeks, Turkish and international media have reported on the presence of a substantial Islamic State recruiting network in Turkey, also raising the fear of possible blowback.

Turkey attracts 35 million visitors a year, including many Westerners, with tourism accounting for 10 per cent of the economy, raising concerns that Islamic State terrorist attacks could cripple the sector.

Equally, Turkey remains as wary of the Kurdish-nationalist militias defending the besieged town as it is of IS itself.

The Democratic Union Party (PYD), an armed organization that has run northeastern Syria’s Kurdish populated region as an autonomous enclave since the Assad regime withdrew in 2012, has close links to the PKK, the Kurdish rebel group that has fought a 30-year-long insurgency for greater Kurdish autonomy in Turkey and is regarded by Ankara as a terrorist group.

“Turkey is more than happy that the semi-autonomy declared by Syria’s Kurds is being demolished by the so-called Islamic State,” says Cengiz Aktar, a political scientist at Istanbul’s Suleyman Sah University.
Earlier this week, intelligence officials in Ankara were visited by the PYD’s leader, Salih Muslim. But they told him that Turkish assistance would only come in return for the PYD abandoning all demands of autonomy, and ending its alleged ties with the Assad regime.

However as anger boiled among Turkey’s 15 million Kurds, the cost of inaction also appeared to be rising.

On Monday night and into Tuesday, Kurdish demonstrators hurled Molotov cocktails and set up barricades during protests in Istanbul, Ankara, and cities across the Kurdish populated southeast Monday night and into Tuesday.

In the Kurdish majority town of Varto, police shot and killed a 25-year-old man after reportedly using live ammunition against demonstrators.

For the past 18 months Turkey has been engaged in delicate peace talks with the PKK, whose years of insurrection against the Turkish state have cost 40,000 lives and left the country’s southeast economically devastated.

Last week, the PKK’s imprisoned leader and point man in the talks, Abdullah Ocalan, warned that peace talks would be over if Kobane fell and a massacre of its population were allowed to take place.

A growing number of observers fear that regardless of Turkey’s current ambivalence, it may sooner or later have to face the Islamic State head on.
“If Kobane falls then the next target for ISIS will be Turkey,” says Nazmi Gur, a parliamentarian for the pro-Kurdish People’s Democratic Party.

Thursday, October 09, 2014

Einsatzgruppen murderers identified to German Authorities

From JC.com, 7 October 2014, by Efraim Zuroff:

The focus of war crimes prosecutions has turned to the acts of the Einsatzgruppen, mobile Nazi death squads such as this in one in Ukraine in 1941
The focus of war crimes prosecutions has turned to the acts of the Einsatzgruppen, mobile Nazi death squads such as this in one in Ukraine in 1941

... the Simon Wiesenthal Center has submitted the names of 80 of the youngest men and women who served in the infamous Einsatzgruppen to the German authorities 

...The only reason there is any hope for successful results in these cases, is because of a fundamental change in Germany's policy on the prosecution of Nazi war criminals...

For almost 50 years before Sobibor death camp guard Ivan Demjanjuk went on trial in 2009, a Nazi war criminal could only be convicted in Germany if the prosecution could prove that he or she had committed a specific crime against a specific victim. It was a scenario that became harder and harder as time went by and the number of potential witnesses got smaller and smaller.

In the case against Demjanjuk, however, the prosecution argued that based on service alone, which was proven by documents in the absence of survivors who could identify him, the SS armed guard should be convicted for at least accessory to murder.

Death camp guard John Demjanjuk was convicted by a German court
Death camp guard John Demjanjuk was convicted by a German court

When the court in Munich found Demjanjuk guilty of that crime in May 2011, it established the principle that anyone who served in Sobibor, or any of the other death camps whose primary purpose was the mass murder of Jews, could be convicted, even if there was no evidence that they had committed premeditated murder against an identifiable victim.

This landmark decision created a totally different legal landscape in Germany as far as Holocaust perpetrators were concerned, and not only with death-camp guards. ... the new policy should also apply to those who served in the Einsatzgruppen - the mobile death squads ...[Kurt Schrimm, the director of Germany's Central Office for the Clarification of Nazi Crimes, has confirmed that this has] been adopted by the German judicial authorities.

...In the meantime, the change in German policy has already yielded significant practical results as far as death-camp guards are concerned. During the past year, Kurt Schrimm has announced that his office has located 37 men and women who served in the Auschwitz-Birkenau death camp, as well as an additional 17 who served in Majdanek.

And although it is obvious that not all of these suspects will be brought to trial, since old age and illness are likely to reduce their number, these efforts are worthy and deserve full support. The new approach reflects a much more accurate picture of the reality of those death factories than the previous policy which severely limited the number of perpetrators who could be punished.

In one respect, however, no tangible results have yet been achieved. To date, the German authorities have yet to announce any cases of those who served in the mobile killing squads, which is the reason that I decided to provide the information in the centre's archives on Einsatzgruppen members to the German prosecutors.

It turns out that we possessed the names of close to half of the men and women who served in the Einsatzgruppen (1,293 of approximately 2,950), and in most of the cases (1,069) the data included their date of birth.

The information enabled us to find the individuals most likely to be alive, in this case those 80 persons born in 1920 or later, the youngest of whom were born in 1924.

Due to the stringency of German laws on personal data, we were unable to determine which of the people are alive and their current whereabouts, but this is information which is readily accessible to German officials.

In this context, it is extremely important to note the critical role played by the mobile killing units in the implementation of the Final Solution. The units in question (Einsatzgruppen A, B, C, and D) were the ones who began the systematic annihilation of European Jewry following the Nazi invasion of the Soviet Union on June 22, 1941, as they followed the Wehrmacht into eastern Poland, Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, Ukraine and Belarus.

In the course of the years 1941-1943, they murdered well over a million Jews and numerous other innocent civilans categorised as "enemies of the Reich."

For a variety of reasons, this aspect of the Holocaust is far less known than the atrocities which took place in the death camps, and in the concentration camps in Germany, which were liberated by the Western Allies. Future trials of these perpetrators will have an important educational dimension.

Also of importance, will be the fact that these trials will expose the role played in these murders by local, East European collaborators. In countries like the Baltics and the Ukraine, there are currently systematic efforts currently being made to falsify the historical record to hide or severely minimise the role of local killers.

At this point, Germany is doing more than any other country to bring Nazi war criminals to justice. Let us hope that the final effort will be successful and that a maximum number of perpetrators will be held accountable for their crimes.

A pathetic attempt to whitewash Herberts Cukurs: a heartless Latvian mass murderer

From i24, 7 Oct 2014, by Efraim Zuroff*:


A new play in Latvia portrays Herberts Cukurs as a national hero - not the cruel killer that he was
This coming Saturday night, October 11, a new musical premieres in the Latvian port city of Liepaja ... the play is a brazen attempt to rehabilitate the image of one of the most notorious mass murderers of Jews in the Baltics during the Holocaust.
Herberts Cukurs, member of the infamous Latvian Arajs Commando unit, in 1937 - executed by the Mossad in 1965
The subject of the play is Herberts Cukurs, the deputy commander of the infamous Arajs Kommando, which played a leading role in the mass annihilation of the Jews in Riga and throughout the country in the year following the Nazi invasion of Latvia, and later was an active participant in the killing of Jews in Belarus (most notably from the Minsk Ghetto). 

Although Cukurs' role in the atrocities was well-known, like many Baltic Nazi war criminals he was able to escape justice by fleeing overseas, in his case to Brazil. Once discovered there, the Soviets asked for his extradition to face war crimes charges, but the Brazilians refused, claiming that they would only send him back to the country in which he committed his crimes. Latvia, however, no longer existed. 

The resulting legal limbo which prevented Cukurs' prosecution and punishment, and an impending possible statute of limitations on the cases of Nazi war criminals in Germany, prompted an uncharacteristic response from Israel, which sent a team of Mossad operatives to execute him. Ironically, it was this act of retribution, which took place in Montevideo in 1965, which paved the way for recent attempts by Cukurs' family and Latvian ultra-nationalists to whitewash his crimes.
This campaign began several years ago with the issuing of envelopes carrying Cukurs' likeness, an exhibition entitled "Herberts Cukurs: The Presumption of Innocence," and a documentary film which sought to promote his innocence. To understand it one must be aware of Cukurs' status as a Latvian national hero during the thirties. 

He earned his fame as a bold aviator, who built several airplanes of his own design, and flew solo to exotic destinations in Africa (Gambia) and the Far East (Tokyo). He even flew to Palestine and later lectured in Riga to Jewish audiences. 
It is this fame, paired with the fact that Cukurs had never been convicted in a court of law for his Holocaust crimes, which forms the basis for the campaign to restore him to national glory in Latvia. Along with the current efforts to rewrite the narrative of World War II and the Holocaust in the Baltics, it aims to minimize the highly significant role of local collaborators in the murders, and focus more attention on Baltic victimhood under the Communists.
The most powerful arguments against these attempts to restore a mass murderer like Cukurs to the status of a national hero are the numerous testimonies of Jewish survivors, many which were recorded shortly after the end of the war, but in this respect Cukurs' pre-war fame worked against him. Unlike the large majority of the other Latvian Nazi collaborators, Cukurs was well-known, and hence easily identifiable by quite a few of his erstwhile victims.

...Rafael Shub related in a testimony I found in the Yad Vashem Archives, that on July 2, 1941, Cukurs had burned to death eight Jews in the new [Jewish] cemetery in Riga, even identifying his victims - synagogue sexton Feldheim, his wife and four children, and Cantor Mintz and his wife.
Another survivor, Abraham Shapiro, who was interned at the Arajs Kommando headquarters at Valdamaras St. 19, testified that Cukurs had personally murdered two Jews, who failed to follow his orders, and later witnessed Cukurs and other Latvian officers sexually molest and torture a young Jewish girl, while Shapiro was ordered to play the piano. 

The most damning evidence came from Max Tukacier, who told members of the Legal Department of the Central Committee of Liberated Jews in Germany in 1948 that Cukurs had beaten and executed men, women, and children who could not keep pace when the Jews of Riga were force-marched to be murdered at Rumbula Forest outside the city, in the mass executions of November 30 and December 8, 1941. 

He He also recalled how the famous aviator had ordered an elderly Jew to rape a twenty year old Jewess in front of a crowd of Latvian police and prisoners at Arajs headquarters and when he failed to do so, ordered him to kiss the girl all over her naked body again and again. About 10-15 of the male and female prisoners who could not bear the sight of this humiliation were beaten to death by Cukurs.


The execution of Cukurs - 1


The execution of Cukurs - 2

Needless to say, such testimonies will not be part of the musical, which begins its run this Saturday night. A YouTube trailer for the play, featuring the noted Latvian singer Juris Miller, has elicited enthusiastic responses, but apparently no protests. In today's Latvia, for far too many Latvians, it is Cukurs who earns their sympathy, while his Jewish victims are forgotten, or even worse, erased from the historical record.
*Efraim Zuroff is the chief Nazi-hunter of the Simon Wiesenthal Center and director of its Israel Office. His most recent book is "Operation Last Chance; One Man's Quest to Bring Nazi Criminals to Justice." His website is: www.operationlastchance.org and he can be followed on Twitter @EZuroff