Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Missiles Everywhere: and Lebanese civilians will suffer the consequences

From The Weekly Standard, Jun 20, 2016, by Willy Stern:

Hezbollah has a nasty collection of more than 130,000 rockets, missiles, and mortars aimed at Israel. This is a bigger arsenal than all NATO countries (except the United States) combined.

Why, a reasonable person might wonder, does Hezbollah need an offensive arsenal bigger than that of all Western Europe?

“You don't collect 130,000 missiles if you don't intend to use them," says Matthew Levitt, a counterterrorism expert at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. Hezbollah is a well-funded, violently anti-Israel terrorist organization based in Lebanon and a puppet of the Iranian regime.
In Hezbollah's arsenal are about 700 long-range, high-payload rockets and missiles with names like Fateh-110 and Scud D. They are capable of taking down entire buildings in Tel Aviv or Jerusalem, wreaking havoc at Israel's major military bases, killing thousands of Israeli civilians, shutting down the nation's airports and ports, and taking out the electric grid. A

nd that's just in the first week.Former Israel Defense Forces (IDF) major general Yaakov Amidror is talking about the M-600 missile. It's a fairly accurate ballistic missile that weighs more than a Hummer H2 and carries a formidable warhead. The M-600 can also deliver chemical weapons. A single M-600 could wipe out a good chunk of Times Square and maim and kill people four football fields away from the point of impact. Hezbollah has a lot of M-600s.

Amidror, Israel's former national security adviser, is asked what the next war between Israel and Hezbollah will look like. "We are not looking for war," says Amidror. "But suppose Hezbollah launches an advanced missile like the M-600 at the Kirya, the IDF military headquarters in Tel Aviv, or a large apartment complex in Jerusalem. Our defense technology quickly finds the launcher. It is right under a 22-story residential building in Beirut. We can now see in real time the launcher being moved back under the building to reload."

"We have just minutes to act," explains Amidror. "The IDF will have to take out the launcher because the next missile can cause enormous damage in Israel. But to take out the launcher means the 22-story building may fall. We would try to use precision-guided missiles to protect civilians but the target is hard to reach. We will try to warn the residents but the timing is tight. That building will almost certainly be hit. And the images in the international media will almost certainly be awful."
But, asks Amidror, today a senior fellow at the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies, "What alternative do we have?"

No good one, since the building in the scenario described would be a legitimate military target. So say a bevy of international military law experts, including Geoff Corn of the South Texas College of Law in Houston, who has studied IDF targeting policies: "After exhausting all feasible efforts to reduce civilian risk, IDF commanders must resolve the decisive question: Is the potential for civilian harm excessive in comparison to the advantages the attack would provide? When you talk of an M-600 in the hands of an enemy that targets vital military assets or the civilian population—even if that apartment building is full—launching the attack will be necessary to mitigate the threat."
Professor Corn is well aware of what will happen next. "The international community will look at the images and will note that the immediate cause of destruction was Israeli munitions. But—and here is the kicker—both legally and morally, the cause of these tragic consequences will lie solely at the feet of Hezbollah."

Hezbollah cleverly places its arsenal where any Israeli military response—even legal, carefully planned, narrowly targeted, proportionate measures—will lead to huge civilian casualties among Lebanese. Why? Hassan Nasrallah, Hezbollah's cunning leader, sees a win-win situation. He'd like nothing better than for the IDF to kill Lebanese civilians. When these awful images appear on CNN and the front pages of the New York Times, Nasrallah will paint the IDF as baby-killers and worse.

And if the IDF shies away from attacking legitimate military targets in civilian sectors, then Nasrallah achieves both military and strategic advantages, and his fighters can continue to rain deadly rockets down on Israel's civilians, infrastructure, and military installations. Says one IDF officer, "We don't have the luxury of waiting, monitoring, considering." Keep in mind that Hezbollah has a long history of attacking Jewish, Israeli, and Western (including American) targets, both at home and overseas.

This writer spent two-plus weeks embedded with IDF units around the country, meeting with scores of soldiers, from sergeants to generals, from frontline commanders to nerdy intelligence analysts, from patrol boat captains to fighter pilots, from civil defense experts to high-tech air defense geeks. All these military tacticians and strategists were intently focused on preparing for the next war with Hezbollah.
 
Why did the IDF pull back the curtain and provide such access not only to its top brass but also to classified documents, war-gaming exercises, and strategic projections? Because Israel wants the world to know that (1) a war with Hezbollah in Lebanon will be, unavoidably, awful; and (2) the massive collateral damage won't be -Israel's fault. Even more than that, the IDF seems to be pleading to the international community: Do something. Stop Hezbollah. Before it is too late, and they drag the region into a bloody hellhole.
 
The bottom line: Hezbollah does nothing to mitigate civilian risk and everything to exacerbate that risk. The IDF does the opposite.
 
What will a future war look like? Some clues: -Hezb-ollah has amassed not just rockets and missiles. Iran has supplied its favorite terrorist organization with other top-of-the-line weaponry. For military aficionados, these would include the latest guided, tank-piercing Russian-made "Kornet" missiles, SA-17 and SA-22 air defense systems, and even the "Yakhont" class surface-to-ship cruise missiles. Making matters worse for IDF planners, Hezbollah boasts a standing army of more than 10,000 soldiersa figure that could add two or three times that amount of reservists in the event of a war with Israel. In short, since its last major conflict with Israel in 2006, Hezbollah has dramatically increased its combat capabilities and armory. The terrorist organization has leapt from the jayvee team to the major leagues across every fighting platform.

True, Hezbollah is stretched these days from rotating its troops into Syria. But that also means that many Hezbollah soldiers will be battle-tested and tough; some 6,000 to 7,000 of them have been fighting alongside Syrian Army regulars in an effort to prop up Bashar al-Assad, Syria's ruthless dictator and another Iranian favorite (Iran, Syria, and Hezbollah are all led by Shiite Muslims).

Make no mistake: Should hostilities break out, there will be a deadly ground war. Aerial operations simply aren't enough to dismantle and root out Hezbollah's maze of underground launchers, tunnels, and infrastructure that are aimed right over Israel's border.

No matter how brave a face the IDF leadership tries to put on, in the next conflict with Hezbollah, IDF tanks will get blown to bits, aircraft will be shot from the sky, navy patrol boats will be sunk, and the multibillion-dollar Israeli offshore gas rigs in the Mediterranean Sea could end up on the sea floor. Many young IDF soldiers will be coming home in body bags. Nothing would make Nasrallah happier. He is clear in public statements that he'd dearly like to murder every Jew in the world but especially those in Israel. In speeches, he describes Israel as a "cancerous entity" of "ultimate evil" and joyfully calls for its "annihilation."

Deterrence is a big part of Israel's defense strategy; acknowledging these scenarios doesn't sit right with many in IDF's military structure. They don't want to frighten Israel's civilian population. Nor do they want to embolden Israel's enemies. But the IDF is trying really hard to give the world a wake-up call about what's coming down the pike.

Even in a best-case scenario for preventing Israel's civilian casualtiesmeaning a vast majority of Israelis would be able to get into hardened shelters before the first deadly salvo is launched from LebanonIDF planners quietly acknowledge that "as many as hundreds" of Israeli noncombatants might be killed per day in the first week or two of the conflict. If Hezbollah's first missile salvos are launched without warning, the Israeli civilian death count could be 10 times higher. We're talking grandparents and toddlers alike.

Israel's top military brass acknowledges that its high-tech missile-defense system will be "lucky" to shoot down 90 percent of incoming rockets, missiles, and mortars. Hezbollah has the capacity to shoot 1,500 missiles per day. That means 150likely moredeadly projectiles could get through in a day. Israel's Iron Dome, David's Sling, Arrow 3, and other state-of-the-art systems for shooting down incoming rockets and missiles are the best in the world but imperfect. "Even with Israel's technological superiority, it would be a major blunder to underestimate Hezbollah's ability to do serious damage," cautions Amos Harel, the respected military/defense correspondent for the Israeli daily Ha'aretz.

One irony: It's not only those in Tokyo and Chicago and Brussels who have little idea what such a conflict will look like. Many Israelis are fairly clueless (or are well practiced in the Israeli art of trying to live normal lives surrounded by lethal enemies). Residents of Tel Aviv and Jerusalem read about recent wars in newspapers every morning while sipping latte in their favorite café.

Not this time. They will be in bunkers. Possibly for a very long time. IDF major general (reserves) Gershon Hacohen explains, "ATMs won't work. With the electric grid out, how will Israelis get to their 30th-floor apartments without elevators? How will they cook?"

Israel will almost certainly be forced to try to evacuate most citizens in the northern part of the country. Why? Because Hezbollah's arsenal includes about 100,000 short-range rockets aimed at schools, hospitals, and homes. These rocketsincluding Falaks, Katyushas, Fajr-3s, and 122 Gradsmay not be particularly accurate but they're also not in air long enough for the IDF defensive weapons systems to shoot them down. They are lethal.

Imagine if New Jersey shot more than 1,000 deadly rockets over the Hudson River into Manhattan every day. No doubt, those on the Upper West Side would also be a bit peeved. "There is no country in the worldnot Israel, not the U.S., not in Europewho would not go to war to stop a rocket barrage of that nature," explains Nadav Pollak, formerly in an IDF intelligence unit and today a counterterrorism fellow at the Washington Institute.

Small teams of elite Hezbollah commandos will almost certainly be able to slip into Israel and may wreak havoc among Israeli villages in the north. One scenario that has IDF strategists concerned: A Hezbollah team infiltrates into northern Israel via small boat at night, kills every man, woman, and child in a remote village, and then escapes into the darkness. The public relations value to Hezbollah would be enormous. "Anything that creates fear and terror among Israelis is a win for Hezbollah," says an IDF Home Front Command senior official. Another big fear: the kidnapping of IDF soldiers, as has happened before. In fact, it was the kidnapping of two IDF soldiers on a routine patrol along the Lebanese border which triggered the 2006 conflict.

Thumbing its nose at legal and ethical norms for armed conflict, Hezbollah has strategically placed its launchers and other deadly weaponry in homes, schools, hospitals, and densely populated civilian centers throughout Lebanon. This arsenal is supposedly "hidden." Still, the IDF knows where many of these weapons are stored and shared classified maps with me. These maps showed remarkably detailed information indicating that Hezbollah is storing its weaponry in dozens of southern Lebanese villages but also in Beirut proper, where the organization is headquartered in the densely populated suburb of Dahiya.

Amos Yadlin is the executive director of the Institute for National Security Studies at Tel Aviv University. Speaking of the latest air-to-surface guided missiles, the retired IDF major general says matter-of-factly, "JDAMs dropped from F-16s can do a lot of damage." Given Israel's sophisticated, high-tech war-fighting machine, Yadlin says the IDF will have "clear superiority" in any conflict with Hezbollah. Deterrence matters. Yadlin and every IDF officer I spoke to made one point clear: A war with Hezbollah may be ugly, but Israel will win. Decisively.

Military law expert Corn is among those who believe Hezbollah should be called to answer for its unlawful tactics: "Hezbollah should be pressured starting today to avoid locating such vital military assets amongst civilians." Corn fears that "the instinctual condemnation of Israel will only encourage continuation of these illicit tactics."

Corn is correct. Two conclusions are inescapable and well voiced by a world-weary IDF officer: "The next war with Hezbollah is going to be an absolute shitstorm. And we're going to be blamed."

Civilian deaths in Lebanon will be a tragedy by any standard, but they will not be Israel's fault. The primary duty of every nation is to protect its citizens. Israel will do what any country would do if deadly rockets rain down on its cities and military bases: It will respond.

In keeping with its history, the IDF is committed to responding judiciously and well within the accepted laws of armed conflict. But the outcomes will be very different from previous conflicts. Why? Because Hezbollah's fighting force and arsenal are those of a nation-state, but its tactics are those of a terrorist organization.

Tens of thousands of Lebanese civilians will almost certainly die. The international mediamany either reflexively anti-Israel or simply naïvewill have a field day.

The IDF is smart to try to explain its side of the story in advance. At least so says retired U.S. Army major general Mike Jones, coauthor of a detailed report on the IDF's conduct in its latest conflict with Hamas, the other terrorist organization on its border. "Despite what may have been reported on the 2014 war with Hamas in Gaza, we found that the IDF went to extreme lengths in Gaza to avoid civilian casualties," says Jones.

Hezbollah and other radical Islamist groups are trying to delegitimize the laws of armed conflict; this ought to be of concern to all law-abiding nations and militaries. Jones believes that the IDF (and other Western nations) is "absolutely right" to try to get out in front on the strategic messaging issue.

Yes, strategic messaging. The IDF has long operated under the presumption that being in the right was enough to carry the day in the court of public opinion. No more. Anti-Israel propaganda is everywhere. Many politicians, journalists, academics, and policy wonks are eager to denounce Israel regardless of facts or logic.

One IDF officer pointed to another possibility, namely that many reporters and average Joes simply cannot fathom the reality of war: "When one sees civilians killed, it's natural to blame the person who directly caused their death. But in war we need to look beyond. Civilians will die, but who is ultimately morally responsible? Is it the army that is forced to target military targets hidden among civiliansand uses precision weapons and warningsor is it the group that deliberately puts their own civilians in the line of fire?"

The IDF is aware that future conflicts with Hezbollah will be fought on at least two battlegrounds. The first, obviously, will involve guns, tanks, and fighter jets. (Or, as one IDF officer put it, "The mutual exchange of high explosives will be the name of the game.") The second front will encompass the court of public opinion. Israel is wisely opening up its second front early. When the next war occurs, the IDF will endeavor to have both law and morality on its side. Will anybody care?

"Imagine that you are sitting in Georgetown, overlooking the Potomac River, sipping a great beer, waiting for your shrimp order to arrive," says Brigadier General Mickey Edelstein, commander of the IDF National Training Center for Ground Forces. "Then the alarm sounds, and you have maybe 10 to 20 seconds to get into a shelter. If you are slow, you will be killed. The same goes for your wife, your kids. That's why we will take out Hezbollah's legitimate military targets. Lebanese civilians will need to understand that when Hezbollah uses them as military shields, they are in grave danger."

The IDF no longer distinguishes between the sovereign nation of Lebanon and Hezbollah. Here's why: The terrorist group fully controls southern Lebanon, even to the point of limiting the movements of the Lebanese Army and also of the United Nations forces there. As well, Hezbollah holds significant positions in the Lebanese government and parliament. As such, Lebanon's infrastructure will likely be targeted. The IDF may well go after Lebanese bridges, airports, highways, and the electric grid, and IDF officials want Hezbollah to know this. Again, deterrence.

Hezbollah is also preparing, and not just missiles. I spent a morning on patrol with a senior IDF commander on the Lebanese border. We were in easy range of Hezbollah snipers. The soldier was wisely decked out in full combat gear, including helmet, Kevlar vest, and assault rifle. It's dead easy to peer across the border into the tiny Lebanese village of Ayta Ash Shab and see a Hezbollah operative, dressed like a tourist, using a telephoto lens to snap photos to monitor IDF border patrol activities. All was quiet.

One day, this border will not be so quiet. Firas Abi Ali, senior principal analyst on Lebanon for the London-based country risk consultancy IHS, rates likelihood of war between Israel and Hezbollah as "more than 50 percent" in 5 years and "more than 70 percent" within 10. A mitigating factor in the near term is the war in Syria, which keeps many of Hezbollah's best fighters occupied. But IDF planners cannot afford to think in these subtleties. "There's going to be a war with Hezbollah," says Colonel Elan Dickstein, who runs the Northern Command Training Base. "The only question is when."

One of those preparing is Colonel Tzvika Tzoron, commander of the Haifa district in the Home Front Command. He has been charged with the unenviable task of protecting Israeli citizens in the northern part of the country, including those living in villages right on the Lebanese border. "We hope to give them a few days' notice," says Tzoron. "But who knows what will happen?"

Who knows, indeed? "I go to sleep at night worried, and I wake up worried," admits Lt. Col. Ronen Markham, who runs a battalion of navy patrol boats near the Lebanese border. "I worry about what I do know and worry about what I don't. Most of the world doesn't really understand that war is ugly. War is terrible. War is bloody. War brings casualties. Lots of peoplesoldiers and civilianswill die. There is no way around it."

But Israel will try to find ways around it. If the IDF's conduct of war against Hamas in Gaza is any indication, the IDF will go far beyond the requirements of the international laws of armed conflict to try to protect civilian life in Lebanon. They will put their own soldiers and their own civilians at risk, in order to minimize collateral damage to Lebanese citizens. Some of the steps the IDF may take to prevent civilian casualties in Lebanon include dropping leaflets warning of impending operations, using aerial assets to monitor civilian presence, and carefully choosing weaponry whenever feasible.

Several top-notch military attorneys from around the world criticized the IDF for its actions to protect civilians in the 2014 Gaza war. But the criticism is not what you might think: These attorneys believe Israel did too much to protect civilian lives.

"The IDF's warnings certainly go beyond what the law requires, but they also sometimes go beyond what would be operational good sense elsewhere," says Michael Schmitt, chairman of the Stockton Center for the Study for International Law at the U.S. Naval War College. "People are going to start thinking that the U.S. and other Western democracies should follow the same examples in different types of conflict. That's a real risk." Schmitt is the author of a recent comprehensive analysis of the IDF's targeting practices.

But here's the kicker: The IDF will apply the same legal standards in any war with Hezbollah, but with very different outcomes. Why? Because Hezbollah has far more dangerous missiles and operates out of high-rise buildings. Speaking bluntly, a senior IDF officer with an intellectual bent explains, "Bizarre though it may sound, it is lawful for more citizens to die. We will be applying the same legal tests in Lebanon but with far more tragic results."

IDF Air Force lieutenant colonel Nisan Cohen winds back to the scenario of a 22-story building in Beirut with an M-600 launcher in its basement. "Even with our best precision-guided missiles and with our best efforts to avoid civilian casualties," he says, "it's very hard to just hit the basement. It's even harder for us to explain afterwards why civilians were harmed." Cohen knows that the IDF is at a competitive disadvantage in terms of telling its side of the story. Photos of destroyed buildings are dead easy to come by and tug at the emotions, while the IDF often must rely on classified information to explain a specific strike.

"We ask the world not to be fooled by propaganda and by images," says a senior IDF official. "Check the facts. Any reasonable and moral human being will determine that the IDF did the right thing in our targeting decisions. There is just a fundamental disconnect between everyday life and war. If you see a picture of a dead baby, you know that it's bad. You want to blame someone. It's nearly impossible for people to flip that switch and try to understand the legal and factual context of war."

Who gets suckered by the anti-Israel propaganda? Plenty of smart folks. Take, for example, a State Department spokesman who ought to have known better. Asked in July 2014 if the Obama administration believed Israel had done enough to prevent civilian casualties in Gaza, Jen Psaki said: ''We believe that certainly there's more that can be done.'' Really? What exactly? She is not alone. Listen to presidential candidate Bernie Sanders, who told the New York Daily News in April that it was his "recollection" that "over 10,000 innocent people were killed in Gaza." He later was forced to walk back this ridiculous statement.

Military minds, of course, know better. In November 2014, the highest-ranking officer in the U.S. militaryMartin Dempsey, then-chairman of the Joint Chiefssaid that Israel went to "extraordinary lengths" to limit civilian casualties in its recent war in Gaza and that the Pentagon had sent a working team to Israel to glean what lessons could be learned from that IDF operation. Apparently, the State Department and Bernie Sanders didn't get the memo.

Yaakov Amidror recalls an event from his stint as Israel's national security adviser. In the late summer of 2013, United Nations secretary general Ban Ki-moon paid a visit to Jerusalem. Just prior to a planned meeting with Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu, Amidror got an hour alone with Ban and his aide-de-camp. Amidror pulled out his laptop and presented detailed evidence of Hezbollah's deadly arsenal and the fact that it was strategically placed within densely populated civilian centers. "What do you want us to do?" asked Amidror. Ban offered no response and no suggestions. Instead, the U.N. chief continued 15 feet down the plush carpeted hallway from Amidror's office to his meeting with Netanyahu.

Is it any wonder that Israel is frustrated? Nobody, it seems, in times of peace is willing to offer Israel a constructive suggestion on how to deal with an Iranian-funded terrorist organization in possession of a massive arsenal on its northern border. But these same organizations stand front and center to criticize Israel for acting legally and proportionately for protecting its own citizens in wartime.

Thursday, June 09, 2016

Who were the 1948 Arab refugees?

From Israel Hayom, 3 June 2016, by Yoram Ettinger:
                                                                               


Contrary to conventional "wisdom," most Arabs in British Mandate Palestine -- and most of the 320,000 1948 Arab refugees -- were migrant workers and descendants of 1831-1947 Muslim immigrants from across the Arab world. At the time, Britain enticed Arab immigration and blocked Jewish immigration.
 
Thus, between 1880 and 1919, Haifa's Arab population surged from 6,000 to 80,000, mostly due to migrant workers. The eruption of World War II accelerated the demand for Arab manpower by the British Mandate's military and its civilian authorities.
 
Moreover, Arab migrant workers were imported by the Ottoman Empire, and then by the British Mandate, to work on major civilian and military infrastructure projects. Legal and illegal Arab migrants were also attracted by economic growth generated by the Jewish community starting in 1882.
 
According to a 1937 report by the British Peel Commission (featured in the ground-breaking book "Palestine Betrayed" by Professor Efraim Karsh), "during 1922 through 1931, the increase of Arab population in the mixed-towns of Haifa, Jaffa and Jerusalem was 86%, 62% and 37% respectively, while in purely Arab towns such as Nablus and Hebron it was only 7% and a decrease of 2% in Gaza."
 
Irrespective of occasional Arab emigration from British Mandate Palestine -- due to intra-Arab terrorism, which has been an endemic feature in the Middle East -- the substantial wave of Arab immigration between 1831 and 1947 triggered dramatic growth of the Arab populations in Jaffa (17 times), Haifa (12 times) and Ramla (5 times).
 
According to Joan Peters' momentous book "From Time Immemorial": "The 1931 census [documented] at least 23 different languages in use by Muslims plus an additional 28 in use by Christian Arabs -- a total of 51 languages. The non-Jews in Palestine listed as their birthplaces at least 24 different countries."
 
In 1917, the "Arab" population of Jaffa included at least 25 nationalities, mostly Egyptians, but also Syrians, Yemenites, Persians, Afghanis, Indians and Baluchis. The British Palestine Exploration Fund documented a proliferation of Egyptian neighborhoods in the Jaffa area: Abu Kabir, Sumeil, Sheikh Munis, Salame, Fejja, etc. Hundreds of Egyptian families also settled in the inland, in Arara, Kafr Qasim‎, Tayibe and Qalansawe‎.
 
The 1831-1840 conquest of the land of Israel by Egypt's Mohammed Ali was solidified by a flow of Egyptian and Sudanese migrants settling between Gaza in the south, Tulkarem in the center and the Hula Valley in the north. They followed in the footsteps of thousands of Egyptian draft dodgers who fled Egypt before 1831 and settled in Acre.
 
In 1865, the British traveler H.B. Tristram, in "The Land of Israel: A Journal of Travels in Palestine," documented Egyptian migrants in the Beit Shean Valley, Acre, Hadera, Netanya and Jaffa.
According to the August 12, 1934 issue of the Syrian daily La Syrie, "30,000-36,000 Syrian migrants, from the Hauran region, entered Palestine during the last few months alone." The role model of Hamas terrorism, Izzedine al-Qassam, who terrorized Jews in British Mandate Palestine, was Syrian, as was Fawzi al-Qawuqji, the chief Arab terrorist in British Mandate Palestine during the 1930s and 1940s.
 
Libyan migrants settled in Gedera, south of Tel Aviv. Algerian refugees escaped the French conquest of 1830 and settled in Safed alongside Syrians and Jordanian Bedouin in Tiberias. Circassian refugees, fleeing Russian oppression (1878) and Muslims from Bosnia, Turkmenistan, and Yemen (1908) further diversified the Arab demography west of the Jordan River.
 
This unusual Arab/Muslim demographic diversity is evidenced by popular Israeli Arab family names, which are a derivative of their countries of origin: Al-Masri (Egypt), Al-Obeidi (Sudan), Al-Lubnani (Lebanon), Halabi (Syria), Al-Mughrabi (Morocco), Al-Djazair (Algeria), Al-Yamani (Yemen), Al-Afghani (Afghanistan), Al-Hindi (India), Al-Hijazi (Saudi Arabia), Al-Baghdadi (Iraq), Bushnak (Bosnia), Khamis (Bahrain), Turki (Turkey), etc.
 
Aryeh Avneri, a pioneering historian of Arab and Jewish migration, estimated that in 1554 there were 205,000 Muslims, Christians and Jews in Palestine, then 275,000 in 1800 and an unusual surge to 532,000 in 1890, resulting from accelerated Arab immigration.
 
In fact, Mark Twain wrote in 1869: "Of all the lands there are for dismal scenery, Palestine must be the prince. ... The hills are barren. ... The valleys are unsightly deserts. ... Palestine is desolate and unlovely."
 
Thus, contrary to the myth of the 1948 Arab refugees -- aiming to delegitimize Israel -- Arabs have not been in the land of Israel from time immemorial; no Palestinian people was ever robbed of its land; there is no basis for an Arab "claim of return"; and most of the 320,000 Arab refugees -- who were created by the 1948 Arab invasion of Israel and their own collaboration with the invasion -- were recent immigrants and foreign workers (from neighboring Arab countries) in the land of Israel.

Muslim writer decrys biased, baseless anti-Zionism and Judeo-phobia in the Islamic world

From JPost, 6 June 2016, by ADNAN OKTAR, a Turkish Muslim TV commentator who has authored more than 300 books in 73 languages on political, faith-related and scientific topics:

The biased, baseless outlook regarding Zionism in the Islamic world has over time warped into a misplaced phobia of Jewish people.

Demonstration against Israel                                
Demonstrators burn an Israeli flag in front of the Israeli Embassy in Bangkok.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
 
Born of the Westphalian peace of 1648, nationalism spread across the world in earnest with the onset of the French Revolution in 1789 – so much so that the dreams of a nation state shaped international politics for 150 years. It was nationalist enthusiasm which fueled wars of independence. Those who were responsible for these wars burned with the desire to unite those of the same cultural background, the same language and living in the same region under one banner. However among the hundreds of nationalist liberation movements, one is invariably singled out, maligned and placed at the center of sinister conspiracy theories.

Aspiring to reunite and emancipate the Jewish people scattered around the globe under one state, this movement for independence, named after the Mount Zion in Israel, came to be called Zionism. The Jewish people, a diaspora community, banished from everywhere it had sought refuge, determined to establish its own state in its ancestral lands.
 
While every contemporary nationalist movement enjoyed friends and suffered enemies, Zionism faced unique, unbridled hostility from virtually every political current (save, in large part, Protestant Liberalism).

Following suit, non-aligned nations vehemently opposed the reestablishment of Jewish sovereignty in any part of the historic Jewish homeland.
Today, anti-Israelism under the guise of anti-Zionism has become the main expression of anti-Semitism, of enmity to Jews.

An entire nation is targeted, for verbal or physical violence, women, children, elderly, innocent and oppressed alike – simply because of their Jewish nationality, and their demand to be seated at the table of nations with all of their peers.
 
Despite the presence of 22 Arab countries, tied to a single ethnic origin, only the desire of the Jewish people to establish its own sovereign state has been subject to fierce opposition.
Nevertheless, Israel is concurrently a safe haven for millions of persecuted people, those who fled the Nazi genocide, Soviet brutality or violence in many other countries.
Nearly one million Jews, leaving all of their assets behind, were forced to immigrate from Arab countries in the aftermath of the 1948 war.

Yet, Jewishness is not understood in racial or traditional ethnic terms in the State of Israel, unlike its counterparts. It is a country of multiculturalism, one which hosts varying faiths and diverse ethnic backgrounds, in contrast to its Arab neighbor countries. One-fifth of the Israeli population is Arab, while the overall, majority Jewish population is comprised of over 70 cultures speaking 35 languages and dialects. Additionally, Arabic is an official language, alongside Hebrew, in the state of the Jews. The sacred places of all faiths are protected: There are nearly 400 mosques, all safeguarded since the declaration of Independence of the State of Israel.

Despite this fact, Zionism is equated in ever widening circles with a conspiracy to control and exploit the whole world.

Anti-Semitism is the only explanation for this phenomenon, a modern rendition of old, irrational Judeophobic rhetoric. Zionism, despite the well-accepted consensus in the Middle East, is simply the aspiration of the Jewish nation, who have been oppressed, persecuted and suffered greatly throughout history, to live freely and in safety in their ancestral lands. The Jewish people have been a part of these lands for 3,500 years, and were expelled from there long ago by the oppressive hand of the Roman Empire. The emergence of the State of Israel is the realization of this small nation’s dream of a homeland where they can ultimately live in safety and govern themselves.

Many if not most Muslims are unaware of the true meaning of Zionism. When asked about the reasons they oppose it, they define Zionism as “an evil system which aims to destroy the world order” and falsely believe that Zionism is the source of all evil. Moreover, many Muslims are under the illusion that anti-Israelism is piety, and this makes them unjust when it comes to Jews. Therefore, it is crucial to properly define Zionism to the Muslim-Arab public and to put an end to so much senseless Jewish hatred.

Hatred of the State of Israel and Zionism do not comply with the spirit of the Koran.

Murdering innocent Israelis or promoting expulsion of Israelis from their ancestral homeland, as is increasingly common not only in the Arab world but in European leftist circles, is symptomatic of a lack of conscience. The state of Israel may have its faults – which state does not? For its excesses and where it has committed crimes, it should be judged based on the law. Islam has a principle of “individual criminal responsibility” just as we see in international law. An entire state cannot be incriminated or punished without making any discrimination between the innocent and the guilty or the right and the wrong, and irrespective of context. The claim of some Muslims that “they fight against the Jewish people in the name of the Koran” is an act of ignorance and in violation of the Koran since God explicitly grants the Jewish people the right to live in the Holy Land: “Remember when Moses said to his people, ‘My people! Remember God’s blessing to you when He appointed Prophets among you and appointed kings for you, and gave you what He had not given to anyone else in all the worlds. My people! Enter the Holy Land which God has ordained for you. Do not turn back in your tracks and so become transformed into losers’” (Koran 5:20-21).

God informs us in the Koran – this is also promised in the Torah (Deuteronomy 30) – that the Jewish people shall gather and live in these lands in the End Times: “We said to the Children of Israel after that, ‘Dwell in the land and, when the promise of the hereafter comes, We will gather you as a mingled crowd’” (Koran 17:104).

Despite these unambiguous Koranic injunctions, no one in the Middle East seems to support or approve of Zionism.

On the contrary, hostility to Zionism is now assumed, and to buck that trend is to risk one’s life. In truth, Muslims are ordered by the Koran to act fairly and conscientiously, hence should advocate not only for the rights of the Palestinians but also the Jewish people as well.

Muslim intellectuals, religious scholars and politicians should stand out among others not by fueling the existing hatred for the Jewish people but by emphasizing the beauty of coexistence in these Holy Lands. They should explain that advocating for the rights of Palestinians is not tantamount to exhibiting hostility to Jews.

It is an incontestable right for Israelis to have the desire for self-determination, as the Palestinians do. When the Arab-Muslim world recognizes Israel’s right to exist as an independent and sovereign state, this century-long bloodshed will cease.

The greatest benefit here would certainly be shared by the Palestinian people, who suffer due to war and security precautions.

Needless to say, the spirit of peace and brotherhood is an urgent need for the local community. The sporadic warfare has cost a fortune, which could have been used for the welfare of people instead. More important, this useless war has claimed the lives of thousands of young and elderly, civilian and soldiers alike. Once the Arab world decides to acknowledge Israel as a neighbor, it can focus on developing the well-being of the Palestinian people, and of the other Arab peoples doing far less well than the Palestinians, too. The effort and means spent on conflict, destruction and hostility will be transferred to the construction and embellishment of the region; swords made into plowshares, hatred turned to science, art and technology.

The is incumbent on Muslim intellectuals everywhere.

Arab BDS Operatives lament "Normalization"

From Memri, April 10, 2016, Clip No. 5497:



Gaza BDS activist Haidar Eid said that there was resentment among BDS activists toward Palestinian authorities for allowing American peace groups such as One Voice, Seeds of Peace, and the Peace Alliance, to operate in the West Bank and Gaza.

"Allowing such groups to operate in the Gaza Strip destroys the boycott campaign," he said. ... They were speaking on the Lebanese channel Palestine Today TV on April 10, 2016.

...Haidar Eid: "To be honest, I embrace this opportunity to point out that there is resentment among the BDS activists in Palestine, both in the 1948 and the 1967 borders, at all the normalization projects, which are allowed to operate in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip – especially in the West Bank."

...Host: "Are you saying that normalization activities are taking place in Gaza?"

Haidar Eid: "I would not call this 'normalization activities,' but rather, the undoing of the standards of the boycott in the Gaza Strip, by authorizing pro-normalization American organizations, such as One Voice, Seeds of Peace, or the Peace Alliance, which was established after the Geneva Accord, which gave up the Right of Return of the Palestinian refugees... Allowing such organizations to operate in the Gaza Strip destroys the boycott campaign."

...Omar Baghouti: "Unfortunately, the official Arab and even Palestinian normalization is on the rise. We hold the official Palestinian circles primarily responsible for this, because they are the gateway to Arab-Israeli normalization. If official Palestinian normalization had not reached this level, nobody would have dared to host Israeli delegations in Saudi Arabia, sports delegations in Qatar, trade delegations in the UAE, and delegations in Bahrain, Morocco, and so on. Official Arab normalization has reached critical proportions..."

Netanyahu thanks Cuomo for fighting anti-Israel boycotts

From the New York Post, 7 June 2016, by Carl Campanile:

Netanyahu thanks Cuomo for fighting anti-Israel boycotts

Israeli Opera: to destroy a nuclear reactor

From Times of Israel, 4 June 2016:

Thirty-five years after Operation Opera – the Israeli air attack that destroyed Saddam Hussein’s nuclear reactor at Osirak, retired IAF officers and Mossad agents revealed hitherto unknown details of the operation...

In an expose aired on Channel 10, Col. (Ret.) Ze’ev Raz, who led the June 7, 1981 raid, said that Air Force technicians “recognized that flying to Iraq and back” — some 2,000 miles in all — was slightly beyond the range of our jets, so we used all sorts of tricks to extend it.”
The Israeli Air Force could not rely on US flying tanker planes for mid-flight refueling at the time, and Israeli refueling capabilities, then in the making, would not be operational until 1982, by which point intelligence assessments were that the nuclear reactor would go online.
The strike could not be delayed, and therefore innovative methods for making the fuel last were introduced. All eight F-16As made it safely back; even 35 years later, however, the specifics of how they did so were kept secret.
 
The operation was initially called “Ammunition Hill,” but when prime minister Menachem Begin realized that opposition leader Shimon Peres had found out about the operation, he ordered its cancellation — and its continuation under a new name.
 
The Osirak reactor prior to the 1981 Israeli bombing (photo credit: Wikipedia)
The Osirak reactor prior to the 1981 Israeli bombing
(photo credit: Wikipedia)
 
“We later wrote the exact same operational command, but this time with the name ‘Opera’, chosen randomly by the computer,” retired Maj. Gen. David Ivry, the IAF commander at the time, said in the Friday report.
 
Ivry said the first signs that the Iraqis were building a nuclear reactor had been spotted in 1976 or 1977.
 
Gad Shimron, a former Mossad agent, said Israel during those years had inside intelligence on the Iraqis’ efforts to buy equipment abroad and their plans to build a reactor. The initial intelligence goal was to delay the completion of the reactor, and to ascertain whether a completed, online Iraqi reactor would have the technology necessary for the production of plutonium.
 
Saddam Hussein during Iran-Iraqi war in the 1980s. (photo credit: public domain, Wikimedia Commons)
Saddam Hussein during Iran-Iraqi war in the 1980s.
(Public domain, Wikimedia Commons)
 
Shimron said Mossad gathered large amounts of information on the progress of the Osirak reactor’s construction. “You don’t need to be an intelligence expert to understand that if you have a project in Iraq with several dozen foreign experts, then espionage agencies interested in finding out what is going on will try to recruit [them],” Shimron said. “It goes without saying that there was someone on the inside providing information.”
 
Ivry said the Mossad’s work delayed completion of the Iraqi reactor by up to two and a half years.
Israeli Air Force footage taken during the strike on Osirak:
 

 
Shimron recalled that the reactor’s first core, ready for shipping at the small port of La Seyne-sur-Mer in southeastern France, exploded in “mysterious” circumstances and was damaged beyond repair.
 
Ilan Ramon, who went on to become Israel’s first astronaut and who perished in the 2003 Columbia shuttle disaster, was at the time a young, single navigation officer. When the time came to hit Osirak, he was the man tasked with preparing the maps and examining whether the jets the IAF had at the time could make the return trip.
 
The Israeli Air Force F-16A Netz 243 flown by Colonel Ilan Ramon in the Operation Opera bombing of Saddam Hussein's nuclear reactor at Osirak in 1981 (KGyST/Wikipedia)
The Israeli Air Force F-16A Netz 243 flown by Colonel Ilan Ramon in the Operation Opera bombing of Saddam Hussein’s nuclear reactor at Osirak in 1981 (KGyST/Wikipedia)
Ivry said he believed the jets could easily get to Iraq, and could hit the reactor; the problem was returning alive.
 
Arye Naor, Begin’s government secretary, said the prime minister was determined to hit the Iraqi reactor “even if it was the last thing he did as a prime minister.”
 
The assessment, Naor said, was that “one or two jets would not return.”
 
Ahead of the strike, the pilots scheduled to take part in the mission were handed Iraqi currency, in case they became stranded on Iraqi soil and needed to escape.
 
US president Ronald Reagan, left, and Israeli prime minister Menachem Begin, 1981. (photo credit: AP)
US president Ronald Reagan, left, and Israeli prime minister Menachem Begin, in 1981. (AP)
After the operation had been postponed once, Ivry timed it for a Sunday, figuring that the French nuclear experts working at the site would be on their weekly day off. The pilots were instructed to avoid dogfights with Iraq’s Soviet-made MiG jets if there were civilian airliners nearby; the planned route passed not far from the flight paths of Iraqi civilian aircraft.
Ramon, the youngest pilot on the mission, said in an interview soon after returning home: “You know it can end in two ways, it can end with nothing really happening and everyone returning, or it can end with one or more staying there.
 
“We went there as a convoy in the end. So the first one – they see; the second one – they aim; the third one – they zero in; and the fourth one gets shot [by anti-aircraft cannons].”
Ramon was the last pilot in the convoy – the eighth in two quartets of jets.
 
Ilan Ramon, the first Israeli astronaut, stands in front of an F-16 fighter jet. Ramon perished in the disintegration of the Space Shuttle Columbia on February 1, 2003, while re-entering the atmosphere. (file photo; photo credit: Flash90)
File: Ilan Ramon, the first Israeli astronaut, stands in front of an F-16 fighter jet. Ramon perished in the disintegration of the Space Shuttle Columbia on February 1, 2003, while re-entering the atmosphere. (Flash90)
“Everyone knows the last one is the one that risks the most,” Raz said. “It’s like a herd of antelopes being chased by a tiger. The guys made fun of [Ramon], saying he’d be the one who would be intercepted. So he was stressed… He also had no experience [Ramon had never before launched a bomb on a live mission] but he operated very well and he hit his target.”
“He was a fine pilot and a great fighter,” Raz said.
Moshe Melnick, who led a formation of interceptor planes that accompanied the attack jets, said that the pilots had been asked to announce via the communications system after leaving the target that they were safe and sound.
 
“One of them, I think it was Ilan Ramon, was late to announce on the comms and there were long seconds of silence. We were all worried for a moment, but then he made contact,” Melnick recalled.
The bombing of the reactor was condemned by the international community. France, especially, was furious, having invested large sums of money in its construction.
 
Former US vice president Dick Cheney during a visit to Israel in 2008. (file photo credit: Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)
Former US vice president Dick Cheney during a visit to Israel in 2008. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)
But Ivry recalled that in 1991, then-US secretary of state Dick Cheney gave him a black and white aerial photo of the bombed reactor in ruins. Cheney wrote on the photo: “It made our work much easier.” The quiet, non-public gesture was made after the end of the first Gulf War.
 
Begin, in a public statement after the operation was successfully concluded, said: “The decision to bomb the nuclear reactor in Iraq was taken many months ago and there were many obstacles. There were also many considerations, but we finally reached a stage at which we knew that if we failed to act now, it would be too late.”
 

From Times of Israel, 7 June 2016:


Major-General Amos Yadlin (Ret.), one of the eight Israeli air force pilots who conducted the extraordinary June 7, 1981 raid on Saddam Hussein’s nuclear reactor, spoke last week at the 2016 UN Watch Gala Dinner in Geneva, Switzerland.        
This mission was 35 years ago, which is a lot of time. For 10 years, we were forbidden to talk about it — it was top, top, top secret.
 
Then after the first Gulf War, when Saddam Hussein wasn’t that big anymore, we were allowed to start and brief about it, mostly in the air force, and some other places in the Israeli military.
And for 10 years, I was speaking about these sorties. After 10 years, I said enough is enough. And the last 15 years, I basically refused to talk about it. But I cannot resist Alfred. [Ambassador Alfred Moses, Chair of UN Watch.]
 
And since you ask, it is an important mission in the history of Israel, because never before was a nuclear reactor pre-empted to save a nation.
 
There was an attack, even in WWII, on nuclear facilities, but it was not a case of one tactical mission that basically decided the fate of a nation and the history.
 
But as a young fighter pilot — you know today from my sixties, 30-years-old today looks to me very young — a young fighter pilot, you are not interested in history.
 
You’re interested in taking your flying machine, flying 1,000 kilometers, which is beyond what the designer of the airplane thought that it can fly without refueling — we didn’t have refueling capabilities in the early 80s; without GPS; without even a reconnaissance picture of the target; and do all this in time of a war. Iran and Iraq were in a war at the time. So the level of alert and readiness was very, very high.
 
And you come to an area where there are no mountains, a valley between the two rivers, the Euphrates and the Tigris. And you know that you will be discovered and be picked up by the early warning radars. So a very tough mission for a fighter pilot.
 
But every pilot in the squadron was fighting to be in the group of eight and to fly.
 
So it was a professional mission, but I always, between year 10 to year 20 when I spoke about it, I say: the heroes of this mission, this historical mission are not the pilots. The heroes are those who have taken the decision to do it. This is leadership, this is a leadership that takes tough decisions, even if they know what are the risks and consequences.
 
And I was lucky enough in 2007 to be among those decision-makers, and only then I understood myself why it’s so important and so difficult to be the decision-maker, because…
 
Let me end this part of the interview with a small anecdote. In the Israeli air force, the culture is that every second lieutenant can challenge a general or the commander of the squadron or the commander of the wing, the commander of the base.
 
And, among the eight pilots, there was only one pilot who had not participated before in the Yom Kippur War. And he raised his hand in the briefing and asked the air force commander:
“Look, we are going to destroy the nuclear reactor of Iraq, but I think this is very risky. According to all our calculations, four out of eight will not come back. We will destroy the nuclear reactor, but the Iraqis will have more motivation. They have a lot of money from oil, and the French will sell a reactor to whoever gives them a billion dollars. And within two years, there will be a new reactor there. So what are we doing? Is this worthwhile?”
 
Interesting question to the air force commander general. The air force commander general was about to answer it, but there was one general with a higher rank there, the chief of staff, the Ramatkal, Raful Eitan. A farmer from a moshav, I suspect he never graduated high school, but he gave a speech that I will take with me until my last day, on the difference between theory and practice.
 
And he said, “You know, it will not be two years. Because until Saddam Hussein will understand what happened, and he will have to think whether the Israelis will come again, and he already allocated his money, and the French may be hesitating to sell. It will not be two years, it will be five years. And for five years, you can risk your life. Because you volunteered to be a pilot, and that is a mission to do.”
 
Thank God, it’s 35 years, and maybe even more.

Thursday, June 02, 2016

Avigdor Lieberman Is Just What Israel Needs Right Now

From the Forward, 25 May 2016, by Gregg Roman*:


Peaceniks may be up in arms about the appointment of Avigdor Lieberman as Israel’s next minister of defense, but the country’s enemies are worried — and rightly so.

Yes, as the inevitable flurry of articles accompanying his appointment are sure to point out, Lieberman once said that Israel could bomb the Aswan dam in the event of war with Egypt and he also said that captured Palestinian terrorists should be “drowned in the Dead Sea.” But Lieberman, arguably the biggest loudmouth in Israel (he recently called Netanyahu — the man he’s been angling to work for — “a liar, cheater and crook”), is also a reasonable politician.
  
Lieberman’s core beliefs are squarely rooted in principles that most Israelis accept and that make good sense. He has expressed support for the establishment of a Palestinian state alongside Israel as part of a final settlement, but he also maintains , as he put it at the Saban Forum in 2006, that the negotiating process is based on three fundamentally erroneous assumptions: “that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is the main fact of instability in the Middle East, that the conflict is territorial and not ideological, and that the establishment of a Palestinian state based on the 1967 borders will end the conflict.”
  
Although willing to trade land (including the West Bank settlement of Nokdim, where he lives) under certain conditions, Lieberman resents the Obama administration’s relentless pressure for upfront Israeli concessions, noting that two decades and more of concessions to the Palestinians “brought neither results nor solutions.” He is correct that finding more things for Israel to give up, even as the cycle of Palestinian incitement and violence continues, is not the answer.
Having experienced poverty first-hand while growing up in the Soviet Union, Lieberman has spoken eloquently about the need to address the deplorable socioeconomic conditions among Palestinians. This is partly why he has long called for toppling the Hamas regime in Gaza, which Netanyahu, former defense minister Moshe Ya’alon and the rest of Israel’s political and military establishment have come to accept as a manageable problem.

Not everything Lieberman believes is nestled firmly within Israeli public consensus, but even his more extreme ideas are rooted in hard-nosed realism, not ideology or ethnic particularism. His long-standing advocacy of the death penalty for convicted terrorists, for example, is premised on the simple recognition that Palestinian terrorists are today free to murder based on the correct expectation that they will later be released in prisoner exchanges.

Lieberman is also cognizant of the fact that the U.S.-Israel relationship is of the utmost importance. When Israeli minister Naftali Bennett attacked U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry’s attempt to rekindle the peace process, Lieberman quickly fired back, stating , “There can be disagreements among friends, but one [Israel] doesn’t have to attack someone [the U.S]. When the supply of ammunition ran out during Operation Protective Edge, it was the United States that supplied it. The Americans were the ones who gave the money for Iron Dome. The United States was the one that helped us at the United Nations Human Rights Council and they prevent a lot of trouble in the Security Council with vetoes.”
  
Of course, Obama administration officials hoped that Netanyahu would stabilize his coalition by drawing in the center-left, not someone like Lieberman. Just days before the announcement, it was widely expected that Netanyahu would form a coalition with Isaac Herzog’s Zionist Union, which advocates greater accommodation of Palestinian demands.

But the Zionist Union has been paralyzed by internal divisions, with numerous members of this bloc openly opposing Herzog’s coalition talks with Netanyahu, while Lieberman’s MKs are expected to remain loyal. A stable, right-leaning government may have more credibility with the Israeli public than a fragile “national unity” government when it comes to making compromises for peace. After all, it was the “hard-line” Likud leader Menachem Begin who signed the Camp David Accords with Egypt in 1978.

My esteemed colleague David Makovsky worries that Netanyahu is “closing the door” on policies that “could have blunted a string of international initiatives” targeting Israel in the months ahead. This couldn’t be farther from the truth. Lieberman accepts the Middle East Quartet’s conditions for a two-state solution. Most important, he stated ,
“When there is a dispute between the integrity of the nation and the integrity of the land, then integrity of the nation is more important. I support a [peace] agreement…when we insist on security arrangements, this is just to avoid the crazy reality we are in.”

   
The doom-and-gloomers are right that Lieberman’s appointment to the defense ministry will almost certainly be consequential. Word has it that he demanded and received assurances regarding the latitude he will have in office. But Lieberman may just be the man of consequence Israel needs right now.

*Gregg Roman is Director of the Middle East Forum, a research center based in Philadelphia. He is a former party official in Yisrael Beytenu and served as an adviser in the Israeli Ministry of Defense.

Wednesday, June 01, 2016

Turkey’s demographic winter and Erdogan’s duplicity

From the Asia Times, , b ("

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan demanded that Turkish women abandon contraception in a televised address May 30, Reuters reported. “We will multiply our descendants. They talk about population planning, birth control. No Muslim family can have such an approach,” Erdogan said. The Turkish leader has denounced Turkish women for refusing to have more babies on many earlier occasions.

Woman walks with umbrella in snow-covered Ankara
Turkish woman walks with umbrella in snow-covered Ankara

Erdogan has played every side of every issue, alternately courting and rejecting the European Union, claiming the United States as an ally against ISIS while aiding the terrorist army on the sly, succoring Hamas while proposing to rebuild relations with Israel, helping Iran run sanctions while claiming the Gulf States as Sunni allies. Christina Lin catalogued his double-dealings in a May 31 news analysis for this publication.

When he talks about Turkey’s failing demographics, though, Erdogan is speaking from the heart. Turkey’s Kurdish citizens continue to have three or four children while ethnic Turks have fewer than two. By the early 2040s, most of Turkey’s young people will come from Kurdish-speaking homes. The Kurdish-majority Southeast inevitably will break away. Erdogan’s hapless battle against the inevitable motivates the sometimes bewildering twists and turns of Turkish policy.

A review of the recently-released 2015 population data shows that the demographic scissors between Kurds and Turks continues to widen. Despite Erdogan’s exhortations on behalf of Turkish fertility, the baby bust in Turkish-majority provinces continues while Kurds sustain one of the world’s highest birth rates. Even worse, the marriage rate outside of the Kurdish Southeast of the country has collapsed, portending even lower fertility in the future.

According to Turkstat, the official statistics agencies, the Turkish provinces with the lowest fertility rates all cluster in the north and northwest of the country, where women on average have only 1.5 children. The southeastern provinces show fertility rates ranging between 3.2 and 4.2 children per female.

Turkish Fertility, Highest and Lowest Provinces

Even more alarming are Turkey’s marriage statistics as reported by Turkstat. Between 2001 and 2015, the number of marriages in Istanbul, the country’s largest city, fell by more than 30%, and by more than 40% in the capital Ankara. Most of the northern and northwestern provinces report a decline of more than half in the number of marriages. Not only are Turkish women refusing to have children; they are refusing to get married. The plunge in the marriage rate among ethnic Turks makes a further sharp decline in fertility inevitable.

Marriages by Province (% Change 2001-2015)

As I reported in my 2011 book Why Civilizations Die (and Why Islam is Dying, Too), Muslim countries that achieve a high rate of adult literacy jump from infancy to senescence without passing through adulthood.

Like their Iranian, Algerian and Tunisian counterparts, Turkish women reject the constraints of Muslim family life as soon as they obtain a high school education. The shock of sudden passage from traditional society into the modern world has produced the fastest-ever fall in fertility rates in the Muslim world.

Iran, whose fertility rate fell from 7 children per female in 1979 to less than 1.8 today, has the fastest-aging population of any country in the world. Turkey has an average total fertility rate of 2.18, or just at replacement, but the split between ethnic Turks and ethnic Kurds will make Turkey’s present geographic configuration untenable.

The Kurds’ courage and military prowess leave Turkey in a quandary. Any effective action against ISIS enhances the Kurds’ political standing and advances the day when they will have their own state including the northwest of Iraq and the southeast of Turkey,  as well as the southwest corner of Iran and a large swath of northern Syria. But Turkey cannot abandon the NATO alliance, which stands as a guarantor of its territorial integrity. It has no choice but to play both sides, playing the public role of an alliance member while covertly sabotaging the effort to destroy ISIS.

That is the origin of the present refugee crisis.

From the start of the present refugee wave this summer, European security services have blamed Turkey for provoking the migration crisis. Last August the Daily Telegraph showed that Turkey’s electronic visa system allowed instant access to Turkey for migrants from 89 countries, as long as the travelers use Turkey’s national airlines.  Migrants required no proof of identity to obtain a visa, and were subject to virtually on controls on arrival at Istanbul.

Whether Turkey opened its borders to boost the revenues of its national airlines, or planned to employ the migrants as a bargaining chip from the beginning, is unclear. But Turkey’s President Tayyip Recep Erdogan long since worked out that Turkey’s position as a valve in the great migration gives it enormous bargaining power with Bonn. In return for the promise of 6 billion Euros and visa-free travel in Europe for holders of Turkish passports, Erdogan has closed off the border to migrants—which implies that he might have done so a year ago when the migrant wave peaked.
Europe and the Gulf States, meanwhile, have stepped up their lending to the Turkish economy, which has incubated a consumer debt bubble worse than the 2008 subprime problem in the United States, I documented here on April 29. Erdogan’s popular support depends on the free flow of credit, especially in commercial construction and private housing. A financial reckoning would make his position untenable, and the Europeans and Sunni Gulf States are at pains to prop him up.

The West has chosen to give Erdogan all the slack he wants, which leaves the Levant and Mesopotamia are in a state of permanent civil war. May 19 marked the centenary of the Sykes-Picot agreement under which France and Britain carved up the Middle East into spheres of influence, respectively controlling Syria and Iraq. The imperialists who imposed their maps on the Middle East did not have the welfare of the region in mind, but they did accomplish one important thing. They stabilized the region for nearly a century.

In a 2012 essay for Asia Times, I consulted the ghost of Cardinal Richelieu (metaphorically, of course) for an explanation of why Sykes-Picot had worked so well for so long. The Cardinal explained:
“It is a simple exercise in logique. You had two Ba’athist states, one in Iraq and one in Syria. Both were ruled by minorities. The Assad family came from the Alawite minority Syria and oppressed the Sunnis, while Saddam Hussein came from the Sunni minority in Iraq and oppressed the Shi’ites.
“It is a matter of calculation – what today you would call game theory. If you compose a state from antagonistic elements to begin with, the rulers must come from one of the minorities. All the minorities will then feel safe, and the majority knows that there is a limit to how badly a minority can oppress a majority. That is why the Ba’ath Party regimes in Iraq and Syria – tyrannies founded on the same principle – were mirror images of each other.”
“What happens if the majority rules?,” I asked. 
“The moment you introduce majority rule in the tribal world,” the cardinal replied, “you destroy the natural equilibrium of oppression.
That is precisely what the Bush administration did in 2007 by foisting majority (that is, Shi’ite) rule upon Iraq. As Angelo Codevilla explained in these pages, the Sunnis responded by fighting to the death. Their rebellion against the Shi’ite majority was postponed by then-US commander Gen. David Petraeus, who hired them to be the “Sons of Iraq” and the “Sunni Awakening.” Without a permanent US occupation force, Iraq and Syria inevitably devolved into civil war.

Whether the continued oppression of majorities by minorities might have kept Syria and Iraq stable for another century is a matter of pure conjecture. The world of Sykes-Picot is forever gone and cannot be restored.

The only way to end the permanent civil war is on the model of the former Yugoslavia: create ethnic and confessional enclaves where Sunnis, Shi’ites, Christians, Kurds, Druze and others will be safe from those who wish to exterminate them. Devolution is simply the next-to-worst solution, but it is the only one that will reduce the pace of killing. And it would not affect the flow of economic migrants from Pakistan or sub-Saharan Africa. It would be messy, with a lot of population transfers, but it is a lot better than mass extermination.

There is, however, one insuperable obstacle to the creation of such enclaves, and that is Turkey. The first and most viable such enclave would be a Kurdish state.  Turkey is violently opposed to a Kurdish State, which inevitably would carve off a large chunk of its own southeast.

Nonetheless, there has to be a fall guy, just like in the detective novel, and Turkey is the sole candidate for the position.  A humanitarian solution in the region requires putting Turkey in its place. Instead, Washington and Berlin have given President Erdogan the wherewithal to strut and posture for some time to come. And that will keep the region at war indefinitely.

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Sanders' anti-Israel backers spark uproar


Jerusalem fire
James Zogby‏ and Cornel West‏.
(photo credit:ESTHER/BANKINGBUM/WIKIMEDIA COMMONS)

The Democratic Party is facing a possible dilemma as supporters of the two candidates vying for the nomination gear up for a debate on what to do with its Mideast policy.

The Israel issue is threatening to tear the party apart as Bernie Sanders, the Vermont senator who has mounted a considerable presidential campaign that has earned him greater clout within the left-wing camp, has tapped two individuals to a key committee who seek to insert language into the Democratic platform that some see as hostile to Jerusalem.


The Democratic Party platform drafting committee is top heavy with veterans of political battles over Israel - some friendly, some critical, and including at least one major backer of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement.
The Democratic National Committee named the committee on Monday, a day after reports emerged that Sanders, an Independent senator from Vermont running for the Democratic Party’s presidential nomination, wants the platform to elevate the issue of Palestinian rights.

The names signal that the robust debate on Israel that has rattled the party’s relationship with the mainstream pro-Israel community over the past two years will continue through the party convention in Philadelphia in July.

Sanders, the first Jewish candidate to win major party nominating contests, named five of the committee’s members, while Hillary Clinton, the former secretary of state and front-runner in the party’s presidential primaries, named six. The remaining four were named by the DNC’s chairwoman, Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-Fla., among the most prominent Jewish leaders in the party.

Three of the Sanders backers on the committee - Cornel West, a philosopher and social activist; James Zogby, the president of the Arab American Institute, and Rep. Keith Ellison, D-Minn., the first Muslim elected to Congress - are known in part for their criticisms of Israel.

West is a prominent BDS backer and Zogby has spoken forcefully against attempts to marginalize the movement. Ellison has called for greater consideration of Palestinian rights, but also has close ties to his home state Jewish community and says Israel’s security must be taken into account.

The standout appointment is West, a fiery speaker who has called the Gaza Strip “the ‘hood on steroids” and, in 2014, wrote that the crimes of Hamas “pale in the face of the US supported Israeli slaughters of innocent civilians.”

Zogby and Ellison are longtime insiders who have taken leadership roles in the party, so their inclusion is not extraordinary.

Among the six Clinton backers is Wendy Sherman, the former deputy secretary of state who was a lead negotiator in the Iran nuclear talks. Sherman, who has spoken lovingly of her involvement in Jewish life in suburban Maryland, was wounded by the tough criticisms of the deal from Israel’s government and centrist pro-Israel organizations.

“Justice for Palestinians cannot be attained without the lifting of the occupation,” West was quoted as saying by The New York Times on Wednesday.

West has also been quoted as saying that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was a “war criminal” and that “the role of money and lobbies makes it difficult for there to be a candid dialogue” about Israel.


...The drafting committee presents the document to the full platform committee, which votes on it during the convention. Usually there are few objections. In 2012, however, the drafting committee omitted from the draft platform recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. New language including the recognition was passed during the meeting of the full committee, but not without objections and boos.

All four of the Congress members on the drafting committee – Cummings, Lee, Ellison and Rep. Luis Gutierrez, D-Ill., a Clinton appointee – are endorsed by the political action committee affiliated with J Street, the liberal Middle East policy group.