Monday, July 20, 2015

The Iran Debacle

    From the Daily Alert, prepared for the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, 17 July 2015:

    • Unplanned Results of the Iran Deal - Danielle Pletka
      Right or wrong, the perception of many in the Middle East is that Iran is looking to impose Shiite hegemony wherever possible. Expect the region's Sunni powers to do all they can to push back. In Shia-majority states dominated by Sunnis like Bahrain, or where there are substantial Shia minorities like in Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Yemen, there has always been suspicions that Shiites are fifth columnists for Iran. With those governments convinced that the nuclear deal empowers Iran, Shia life there is going to only get worse.
          Only financial constraints have limited Iran's support for Hizbullah and other proxies like Hamas. With cash washing in, these groups will receive the full benefit of Iranian military advances. In addition, the flow of fighters, weapons and money fueling the devastating conflict in Syria will only worsen.
          Once, a country that hid behind the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) to violate safeguards agreements and work on nuclear weapons faced the certainty of international punishment. Iran is now being pardoned, rehabilitated and allowed to keep its nuclear infrastructure. We can expect other countries - especially those most worried about Iran's rising power - to emulate Iran in using the NPT as cover for advancing their own nuclear weapons programs. The writer is senior vice president of foreign and defense policy studies at the American Enterprise Institute. (Politico)
    • A Deal with Gaping Failures - Yaakov Lappin interviews Dr. Emily Landau
      Dr. Emily Landau, head of the arms control and regional security program at the Institute for National Security Studies in Tel Aviv, is one of Israel's keenest expert observers of the Iranian nuclear program. Landau told the Jerusalem Post she was at a loss to understand Washington's enthusiasm to conclude a deal with such gaping failures in it. The first of those problems, she said, is the deal's built-in sunset clause, making restrictions placed on Iran's nuclear program temporary.
          "This deal was supposed to add very strict verification measures that should have lasted forever." Instead, U.S.-led negotiators have agreed to a sunset clause "without any strategic indication that Iran has backed away from nuclear weapons, like Libya did 10 years ago. Why in the world would they lift restrictions in such conditions?" Only a clear strategic U-turn by the Islamic Republic could justify a sunset clause, Landau stated, "But we don't have that."  (Jerusalem Post)
    • Trusting the Iranians? - Yair Lapid
      When the Iranian Foreign Minister, Mohammad Zarif, goes on Charlie Rose and says, without batting an eyelid, that "Iran never called for Israel's destruction," he knows it's a lie (and so does Charlie). Iran has called for Israel's destruction hundreds of times, at all levels starting from the Supreme Leader Khamenei in recorded conversations, through to General Qasem Soleimani who is charged with the destruction of Israel in the Revolutionary Guards.
          Iran lied about building the enrichment complex in Natanz, lied about the plutonium reactor in Arak, lied constantly to IAEA inspectors about everything, and lied when they told the world that they weren't trying to develop nuclear weapons.
          In my conversations in Washington last month, I said, "Like most Israelis, from the opposition and coalition alike, I think this is a terrible deal which threatens the peace of the world. But even if you disagree, you have to find a way to protect yourselves from the possibility that the Iranians are signing only to get an easing of the sanctions and then use the money which will flow to them to build nuclear weapons behind the world's back."
          After all, they have experience. They built two reactors without anyone noticing (it was the Iranian opposition which told the world about Arak and Natanz), they built second-generation centrifuges without the world suspecting, enriched uranium to a high degree in Fordow without the world knowing, and built missiles which can carry nuclear warheads at Parchin without the world guessing. The writer, chairman of the opposition Yesh Atid party, is a former Israeli finance minister. (Times of Israel)
    • The Iran Agreement Is Worse than the U.S. Deal with North Korea - Bandar Bin Sultan Bin Abdulaziz Al-Saud
      Mr. Obama made his decision on the Iran nuclear deal aware that the national intelligence information and intelligence from U.S. allies in the region predict a worse outcome than in North Korea - and Iran will have access to billions of dollars. This deal will wreak havoc in the Middle East. People in my region now are consolidating their local capabilities and analyses with everyone except our oldest and most powerful ally. The writer was Saudi Arabia's ambassador to the U.S. from 1981 to 2005. (Washington Post)
    • Iran Deal Worse than We Could Have Imagined - Charles Krauthammer
      Who would have imagined we would be giving up the conventional arms and ballistic missile embargoes on Iran? In nuclear negotiations? When asked Wednesday at his news conference why there is nothing in the deal about the American hostages being held by Iran, President Obama explained that this is a separate issue, not part of nuclear talks. Are conventional weapons not a separate issue?
          Congress won't get to vote on the deal until September. But Obama is taking the agreement to the UN Security Council for approval within days. Approval there will cancel all previous UN resolutions outlawing and sanctioning Iran's nuclear activities, dismantling the legal underpinning for the entire international sanctions regime against Iran. Ten years of painstakingly constructed international sanctions will vanish overnight, irretrievably. (Washington Post)
    • Instead of Turning the Screw, the U.S. Relieved the Pressure - Bret Stephens
      Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei is an irascible and violent revolutionary bent on imposing a dark ideology on his people and his neighborhood. If there is evidence of an Iranian trend toward moderation it behooves proponents of a deal to show it.
          Serious sanctions were only imposed on Iran in November 2011. They cut the country's oil exports by half, shut off its banking system from the rest of the world, sent the rial into free fall and caused the inflation rate to soar to 60%. And that was only the first turn of the economic screw: Iran's permitted oil exports could have been cut further; additional sanctions could have been imposed. Instead of turning the screw, Mr. Obama relieved the pressure by signing on to the interim agreement. (Wall Street Journal)
    • We Should Not Let Euphoria about the Iran Nuclear Deal Cloud Our Judgment - Michael Herzog
      While the P5+1 negotiators celebrate the nuclear deal with Iran, in Israel, coalition and opposition are now united in deep concern about its long-term implications. Israel was not a participant in these negotiations, but its national security will be impacted more than anybody else's. After all, Iran combines ideological commitment to Israel's destruction with nuclear ambitions and the ability to project violence through proxies on Israel's borders. It is Israel that is targeted by tens of thousands of rockets supplied by Iran to armed groups on our borders, including Hizbullah, Hamas and Islamic Jihad. Brig.-Gen. (res.) Michael Herzog, a former chief of staff to Israel's minister of defense, is a senior fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. (Guardian-UK)
    • Understanding the Argument for the Iran Deal - John Podhoretz
      At his press conference Wednesday, President Obama's argument boils down to this (these are my words, not his): "We wanted to keep Iran from getting a nuclear weapon. We've done it. And if you say otherwise, you either don't know what you're talking about or you want war."
          The key to understanding the president's argument is his conviction that the Iranians will hold to its terms, and that the methods it lays out to ensure it holds to the terms are sufficient to make them do so even if they want to cheat. Those who oppose the deal do not believe the Iranians will hold to its terms, and do not believe its enforcement mechanisms will prevent them from doing whatever they feel they must.
          There is literally no way to resolve this difference. That's why the president can and will argue that, hey, it's at least worth a try; someone else can bomb them later, and that someone will have more international support if he or she does. (Commentary)
    • Netanyahu's Warnings Apt on Iran Nuclear Deal - Editorial
      Diplomacy is certainly preferable to war. But the stakes - a nuclear armed Iran, with all the danger and destabilization that would imply for the region and the world - are simply too high to accept just any deal, at any price. It is assumed that Iran will, in fact, honor the undertakings it has made. Yet its track record in this regard is not encouraging.
          The bottom line is this: the agreement assumes a desire on Iran's part to become a constructive member of the international community. Yet there is precious little evidence of this, from a regime that continues to destabilize the region and to threaten Israel, and gives every sign of doing so in future - only now with the status of a nuclear threshold state. If the U.S. won't work to contain Iran, you can't blame the locals for taking matters into their own hands. (National Post-Canada)

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Barack Obama’s appalling blunder

From The Australian, 16 July 2015, by Greg Sheridan:

Barack Obama’s nuclear deal with Iran is a wretched capitulation by a weak President whose word means nothing.

So many American red lines are given up in this deal it makes your head spin. They suffered the same fate as Obama’s red lines with Syria. You use chemical weapons and we’ll react, Obama told the Syrians. But he was only joking. Since then America’s adversaries in the Middle East, and all over the world, have become significantly bolder.

The Iranians completely outmanoeuvred and out-negotiated Obama. But this was not hard because as time went on it became increasingly obvious Obama was desperate for a deal.

...There surely cannot be a serious analyst anywhere in the world who thinks it will work.... the cynicism of Obama is sublime. He can announce victory, perhaps pocket a second Nobel Peace Prize, and leave the world to deal with a nuclear armed Iran down the track.

...Despite the nonsensical notion of a sanctions “snapback” if Iran is found to violate the deal, the business of constructing international consensus for effective sanctions is so laborious, painstaking and time-consuming that once sanctions are gone there is very little chance of their ever being imposed again, especially as Iran will deny any violation.

Iran also gets the inestimable benefit of having the whole international community grant complete legitimacy to its vast nuclear establishment. It does not have to destroy or abandon one single nuclear facility. Given its exemplary record of cheating on all nuclear constraints in the past — including constructing secret facilities that were discovered only because of defector testimony — the cover this gives for who knows what activities in the future is immense.

... The inspections regime in this deal is infinitely weaker than that which the Americans previously said was their absolute minimum. There are no surprise inspections and military facilities are altogether off the table. If a regime as sophisticated as Iran’s cannot dodge an inspection regime as loose and ramshackle as that, then North Korea is headed for liberal democracy.

... the allegedly moderate President of Iran, Hasan Rowhani, was marching through the streets of Tehran last Friday at the head of the annual “Death to America! Death to Israel!” parade, in which those two plainly moderate and reassuring slogans were shouted by the crowds.

It is true the Iranians are providing the only really effective fighters (apart from the Kurds) against Islamic State in Iraq. This is because the Iranians are running a vicious Shia versus Sunni war throughout the Middle East and have motivated militias on the basis of sectarian hostility. These militias are themselves typically cruel towards conquered populations, though not on the scale of Islamic State.

But one of the key reasons the Iraqi state is failing so abysmally in its dealings with its Sunni population areas is because Iran has interfered so heavily with the Iraqi government and played the sectarian card so strongly.

Hezbollah is still a proscribed terrorist organisation under Australian law. It has an extravagant record of terrorism, dating back to the murder of hundreds of US servicemen in Lebanon in the 1980s. The main sponsor and director of Hezbollah is Iran. Hamas, the Palestinian group that rules Gaza, is the most extreme of the Palestinian organisations and has a charter filled with extravagant anti-Semitism. Its chief international backer is Iran.

In Syria, Iran always backed Hafez al-Assad. Under North Korean tutelage, Assad made a strong effort to build a clandestine nuclear reactor.

Iran has been up to its eyeballs in nuclear proliferation and missile proliferation efforts throughout the Middle East. In Yemen, Iran backed the Shia rebels who destroyed the government, which was co-operating with the US in fighting Islamic State, al-Qa’ida and related groups.

The enemy of my enemy is not necessarily my friend.

Western politicians typically cannot understand Middle Eastern regimes with theological ­ambitions. This appalling sellout will give us infinite trouble down the road.
From the Washington Post, 14 July 2015, bIsrael’s ambassador to the United States:

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani addresses the nation in a televised speech after a nuclear agreement was announced in Vienna. (Ebrahim Noroozi/Associated Press)
Israel has long been concerned that the “P5+1” powers would negotiate a bad deal with Iran. But the deal announced today in Vienna is breathtaking in its concessions to an Iranian regime that is the foremost sponsor of terror in the world, is on a march of conquest in the Middle East, is responsible for the murder and maiming of thousands of U.S. soldiers, and vows and works to annihilate the one and only Jewish state.

There are four major problems with this deal.

First, it leaves Iran with a vast nuclear infrastructure.
This is not the hoped for “dismantle for dismantle” deal, in which the sanctions regime would be dismantled in exchange for the dismantling of Iran’s nuclear-weapons making capability. Rather, this deal leaves Iran’s nuclear capabilities essentially intact (the conversion of the Arak heavy-water facility being the notable exception). In fact, this deal allows Iran to improve those capabilities by conducting research and development on advanced centrifuges and building intercontinental ballistic missiles, whose sole purpose is to carry nuclear warheads.

To keep Iran’s nuclear weapons ambitions in check over the next decade, the P5+1 countries — the five U.N. Security Council members plus Germany — are relying on intelligence and inspectors. Here, the historical record does not bode well. The United States and Israel have two of the finest intelligence agencies in the world. But it was years before either knew that Iran had secret facilities at Natanz and Fordow .

As for inspections, Iran has been deceiving the International Atomic Energy Agency for years and has consistently refused to come clean about the possible military dimensions of its nuclear program — a commitment that Iran has once again been permitted to dodge before signing this agreement.
Given this history of deception, it is particularly disturbing that the promised “anytime, anywhere” inspections regime has degenerated into what has been aptly described as “sometime, somewhere” inspections.

The second problem with this deal is that the restrictions being placed on Iran’s nuclear program are only temporary, with the most important restrictions expiring in 10 years.

There is no linkage whatsoever between the removal of these restrictions and Iran’s behavior. In 10 years, Iran could be even more aggressive toward its neighbors, sponsor even more terrorism around the globe and work even harder to destroy Israel, and the restrictions on Iran’s nuclear program would still be automatically removed.

A much more dangerous Iran would then legally be allowed to build a massive uranium enrichment program that would place it just weeks away from having the fissile material for an entire nuclear arsenal. As President Obama himself has admitted, the breakout time would then be “almost down to zero.”

That is why this deal does not block Iran’s path to a nuclear bomb. It paves it. By agreeing to temporary restrictions on its nuclear program today, Iran has cleared its path to many nuclear bombs tomorrow. Iran won’t have to sneak into or break into the nuclear club. Under this deal, it could simply decide to walk in.

That leads to the third problem with the deal. Because states throughout our region know that the deal paves Iran’s path to the bomb, a number of them will race to get nuclear weapons of their own.
The most dangerous region on earth would get infinitely more dangerous. Nuclear terrorism and nuclear war would become far more likely. In fact, if someone wanted to eviscerate the global nuclear nonproliferation regime, this deal is definitely a great place to start.

Finally, the deal transfers to the Iranian regime’s coffers $150 billion that is now frozen in foreign bank accounts.
Iran has a $300 billion to $400 billion economy. A $150 billion cash bonanza for the regime is the equivalent of $8 trillion flowing into the U.S. treasury.
Those funds are unlikely to be spent on new cancer research centers in Tehran or on funding a GI bill for returning members of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard. Instead, tens of billions are likely to flow to the Shiite militias in Iraq, the Assad regime in Syria, the Houthis in Yemen, Hezbollah in Lebanon, Palestinian terror groups in Gaza and other Iranian terror proxies in the region.

Billions more will go to strengthening Iran’s global terror network, which it has used to perpetrate terror attacks on five continents in more than 30 cities, from Buenos Aires to Burgas, Bulgaria, to Bangkok.

Rather than force Iran to face the hard choice of guns or butter, this deal will enable it to have more dangerous guns, more lethal rockets, more sophisticated drones and more destructive cybercapabilities. Removing the arms embargo on Iran magnifies this problem by orders of magnitude.

Any one of these problems would be sufficient to make this a bad deal. But all four make this deal a disaster of historic proportions.

Israel has the most to gain if the Iranian nuclear issue is peacefully resolved. But this deal does not resolve the issue. It makes things much worse, increasing the chances of conventional war with Iran and its terror proxies today and dramatically increasing the chances of a nuclear-armed Iran and a nuclearized Middle East tomorrow.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Iranian Murder in Vienna

...the Iranian negotiators pulled out guns and assassinated Abdol-Rahman Ghassemlou, head of the Kurdistan Democratic Party of Iran (KDPI), along with a KDPI representative in Europe and an Iraqi Kurdish mediator.

It’s hard to hide gunshots in the middle of a Vienna apartment building. Austrian police came to the scene, but the Iranian delegation denied any responsibility. After taking statements, the Austrian police released the Iranians — Mohammad Ja’fari Sahraroudi, Iranian Kordestan governor Mostafa Ajoudi, and Amir Bozorgian — so long as they promised to make themselves available for further questioning, as necessary. They immediately returned to Tehran.

Only in subsequent days did questions about the Iranians’ statements arise: There had been no forced entry into the apartment, two of the victims were shot as they sat, and each victim had received a coup de grâce to confirm death. Subsequent forensic evidence confirmed the Austrian anti-terrorism unit’s conclusions that the murders were a hit. The shots were fired from the position of the Iranian delegation and not from the door. Shell casing positions also suggested the Iranian delegation’s complicity.

The Austrian police issued warrants for the three Iranians, but Tehran refused to extradite any of the wanted men; rather, they promoted the team lead. Sahraroudi won his star and became head of the Qods Force intelligence unit. The promotion — as well as the senior level of the Iranian delegation — showed that the assassination was no rogue operation. It was not locally conceived, but rather likely was directed from the top.

The head of the Supreme National Security Council at the time [of those murders], coordinating such activities? ...Hassan Rouhani, the man whom President Barack Obama considers his partner.

That a deal predicated on the trust of Iran will be struck in Vienna, on the 26th anniversary of one of Iran’s — and, specifically, Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei’s and Hassan Rouhani’s — most brazen hit jobs illustrates just how much Iran has triumphed by doubling down on intransigence and terrorism and, in contrast, just how unhinged America’s foreign policy has become.

Iran agreement an historic mistake for the world


יום שלישי כ"ז תמוז תשע"ה
Image result for netanyahu
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu issued the following statement at his meeting with Netherlands Foreign Minister Bert Koenders:

"I will refer later to the details of the agreement, but before that, I would like to say here and now – when you are willing to make an agreement at any cost, this is the result.

From the initial reports we can already conclude that this agreement is an historic mistake for the world.

Far-reaching concessions have been made in all areas that were supposed to prevent Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons capability. In addition, Iran will receive hundreds of billions of dollars with which it can fuel its terror machine and its expansion and aggression throughout the Middle East and across the globe.

One cannot prevent an agreement when the negotiators are willing to make more and more concessions to those who, even during the talks, keep chanting: 'Death to America.'

We knew very well that the desire to sign an agreement was stronger than anything, and therefore we did not commit to preventing an agreement.

We did commit to preventing Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons, and this commitment still stands.

I say to all the leaders in Israel, it is time to put petty politics aside and unite behind this most fateful issue to the future and security of the State of Israel."

Saturday, July 11, 2015

Assad regime is collapsing

From The Australian, 8 July 2015, by Shlomo Ben Ami*:

A series of crucial defeats of the Syrian army has laid to rest any illusions that the government in Damascus is in control of its country. By spreading his forces thinly across Syria, President Bashar al-Assad has drastically reduced his capacity to win decisive battles, and he is now being forced to evacuate wide areas of the country to concentrate his army around Damascus and the Alawite enclave in the northwest.

As it becomes clear that Assad is likely to lose the war, his closest allies — as well as world powers and regional players — are beginning to plan for the end game.
In late May, the leader of Hezbollah, Hassan Nasrallah, gave a speech that spoke volumes about the impact of the Syrian war on his organisation.
“The threat we face is existential...We now have three options: to expand the war and fight far more than we have fought in the last four years, to capitulate and be slaughtered, or to disperse throughout the world, walking humiliated and purposeless from catastrophe to catastrophe.”
More than 3000 Hezbollah fighters have died in Syria, and a further 4000 have been injured. Syrian militants, including Islamic State fighters, have penetrated Lebanon, threatening to rekindle the country’s ethnic war and undermining Hezbollah’s legitimacy as the guarantor of its security. Assad’s fall would deny the organisation its vital logistic hinterland in Syria, making it vulnerable to challenges by insurgent Sunni militias.

Iran, too, is likely to face a reckoning, as its ally in Damascus approaches defeat. The country’s strategic calculations are bound to have been affected by the ascension of Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud to the Saudi throne, a real game changer that has resulted in a shift of alliances among the region’s Sunni powers. Stronger ties among Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Qatar — and the spectacular successes of the latter’s Sunni proxies in Syria — will put pressure on Iran to cut Assad loose or risk being drawn even deeper into the Syrian quagmire.

The regional proxy war between the Iran-backed Assad government and Sunni-backed rebels has largely undermined America’s influence on the course of events in Syria. Sunni fighters have ignored US calls to focus on fighting Islamic State instead of the Assad regime. In fact, the most effective fighting force in the country is Jaish al-Fatah — The Army of Conquest — a collection of Sunni rebel groups, some of which the US considers to be terrorist organisations.

The US is rightly worried that a victory by Jaish al-Fatah and others might empower anti-Western elements in Syria. Drawing from its sad experience in Iraq, the US government fears that Assad’s fall would be quickly followed by the collapse of the Syrian army, leaving the country without a stabilising force. Rather than turning their attention to Islamic State, the fractious victors would most likely turn on one another. As in Libya, the fighting would make the country ungovernable.

Meanwhile, Russia, which considers the naval base of Tartus to be strategically vital, can be counted on to do all it can to prevent a total defeat of the regime. When Secretary of State John Kerry proposed, at a meeting last May, a joint international approach to contain the conflict, Russian President Vladimir Putin was not interested. But the Russian regime is not blind to the realities of the battlefield. Following the loss of the city of Palmyra to Islamic State, families of Russian advisers began to be repatriated. In preparation for a possible future without Assad, the Kremlin is now trying to gain influence in opposition groups.

For now, Assad is doing his best to cling to power. A power-sharing agreement is all but unthinkable, and Syria’s geography is not well suited to an orderly division along sectarian lines. Assad’s war aims have been reduced to avoiding decisive defeat and gaining international legitimacy, in the hope of a favourable political solution. The rise of Islamic State did lend support to the government’s claims that Syria risks being taken over by terrorist groups; nonetheless, the regime is finding itself increasingly isolated.

Assad’s final days are unlikely to be pretty. The tight-knit members of his clan, his political allies, and many members of the Alawite minority will be fighting for their survival. Unless a political solution is somehow found, Syria’s fate will come down to the prophetic words a Sunni frontline fighter from Homs told a German reporter in 2012. “It’s a question of numbers,” he said. “There are 18 million Sunnis against him. Assad must kill them all. Otherwise, we’ll win and kill him and his henchmen.”

*Shlomo Ben-Ami, a former Israeli foreign minister, is vice-president of the Toledo International Centre for Peace.

Monday, July 06, 2015

Israel Should Stop Courting Europe, Turn to Asia

European officials and European civil society often like to think of themselves as the pinnacle of human rights and morality. In reality, Europe has become a moral vacuum and, once again, a breeding ground for casual hate, racism, and anti-Semitism. This has become clear not only through the example of sophisticated elites like former Irish President Mary Robinson, British Labor politician Jeremy Corbyn, or Daniel Bernard, the late French ambassador to the United Kingdom, but also in the increasing European obsession with stable, democratic Israel, while countries surrounding Israel degenerate into anarchy, generate millions of refugees, promote genocide, and incite and sponsor terrorism.

...Israel has long considered itself almost a European country... For too long, however, Israel has if not ignored Asia then put it on the backburner. Sure, there was been sporadic outreach to China, but this was both half-hearted and misguided: When it comes to the Middle East, Beijing is the ultimate realist. Immediate commercial concerns means everything, broader principle mean little if anything.

India—the world’s largest democracy—was largely hostile to the Jewish state for the same reason it was hostile to the United States. Indian nationalist diplomat Vengalil Krishnan Krishna Menon coined the term ‘non-alignment’ in a 1953 United Nations speech, and the following year Jawaharlal Nehru, India’s first prime minister, co-founded the Non-Aligned Movement. In theory, it sought a third path separate from the Cold War rivalry between the Soviet Union and the United States but in practice it was marked by disproportionate hostility to the West.

Non-alignment, a fondness for socialism, and a suffocating bureaucracy hostile both to direct foreign investment and free market enterprises long restrained India’s economic potential. While India still has a way to go, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has sought to bring India’s economy, political culture, and foreign into the 21st century. He recognizes how much India and Israel have in common. They are both democracies in a region where democracies otherwise have not thrived. And Islamist radicals target them both. In the case of both, land disputes — be they have Jerusalem and its environs in Israel’s case, or the Kashmir in India’s — are only an excuse for a far more murderous agenda.

Earlier this year, Modi announced that he would become the first Indian leader to visit Israel. Among tech-savvy Indians, the twitter hashtag #IndiaWithIsrael is trending. Nor does it seem that Modi’s looming visit will be the end-all and be-all of warming ties. As COMMENTARY readers know, the UN Human Rights Council has long been a cesspool of anti-Israel and anti-Semitic bias. 

Consider these statistics of cumulative Council condemnations from its founding in 2006 to the present: Israel has been condemned more than 60 times, yet slave-holding Mauritania, blogger-whipping Saudi Arabia, journalist-repressing Turkey, freedom-extinguishing China, migrant worker-killing Qatar, and expansionist Russia have faced no condemnation. Condemning Israel has become a knee-jerk reaction around the world and, for decades, it has been India’s position as well. But on Friday, July 3, India shocked the Council by abstaining on its condemnation of Israeli actions in last year’s Gaza War. Now an abstention isn’t the same as a vote against, but clearly India-Israel relations are on the upswing, or could be if Israeli leaders are willing to work hard to cultivate them.

But India is not alone. The Australia/Israel & Jewish Affairs Council (AIJAC) has long sought to cultivate ties between Israel and other Southeast Asian countries—Indonesia, Thailand, Singapore, the Philippines, and even Malaysia. The momentum is promising, as have been the results considering the relatively small scale. If Israel made a concerted effort to cultivate these ties, they might find a much more receptive audience than in past years. Not only would this create a strategic buffer, but it might also correct the narrative that all Muslims embrace the radical, anti-peace positions put forward by more rejectionist Arab states and European and American proponents of the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement. After all, Indonesia is the largest Muslim country on earth by population, and India the second largest, even though it is not even majority Muslim.

Such diplomacy need not be an either-or scenario, but just as Washington navel-gazes and forgets that the United States and the targets of our interest are not alone in the sandbox, so, too, do Europeans forget that they are not the world’s moral barometer or the doyens of the elite club with which everyone wants favor. 

Not only is Southeast Asia booming as many of its countries largely abandon ruinous socialist practices and authoritarianism, but many now also face the same Islamist terror threat which Israel has been confronting for decades. There is a convergence of interests; let us hope that Israeli officials stop wasting undue energy on the Sisyphean task of pleasing European officials inclined to dislike them and recognize that such efforts might lead to greater results with a new eastern push.

Friday, July 03, 2015

“From the river to the sea, Israel will be free.”

From JPost, 30 June 2015, by DIANE WEBER BEDERMAN:
Ayelet Shaked, nouvelle ministre de la Justice
Ayelet Shaked, Justice Minister

I met Israel’s newly elected Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked at the offices of the Justice Ministry, a rather nondescript building located in east Jerusalem. I wanted to interview her when I first read about her. She’s a secular Jew and on the Right of the political spectrum. It was written as if this were some anomaly – which made me one, too.

Her views on care for the weakest among us fit in with social justice, too often associated only with the Left. She proposed a bill to assist the 30,000-40,000 people who have so much debt that they will never recover. The bill proposes a onetime wiping of their debt, reminiscent of Jewish law regarding the Shmita year. (For those not familiar with this Jewish term it refers to the seventh year in a seven-year cycle during which land in Israel must lie fallow and debts are canceled). The plan is unique to the Jewish state: the marrying of Jewish law with democracy, something one would not see in any other Western country.

But poverty in Israel will only diminish when Israel no longer has to spend so much on defense of its people and borders. And it isn’t just money. I shared with the minister the sentiment of the grandmothers I had met on this trip – their despondency and exhaustion from all the wars, having watched their husbands, then sons and now their grandsons going off to war.

Shaked brooked no despondency.
“It is not despair. Israel needs to accept that there will be no peace in the near future. The reality is that the Middle East is on fire. It has collapsed. Radical Islam surrounds Israel. But Israel remains a lighthouse of democracy, humanity and the economy in the darkness. In the meantime, Israel must manage the conflict because that is the only option available for now.
In the foreseeable future the status quo is going to remain.”
And then she added, “We must fight without fear and without mercy against our enemies.”
When it comes to defending Israel’s right to exist, Shaked reminds me of a mother bear separated from her cubs. Never get between a mother bear and her babies. It’s not a pretty sight.

Shaked is also cognizant of the problems experienced by Israeli Arabs. I’d spoken to Khaled Abu Toameh, a prominent, well-respected Arab journalist who shared his apprehension about Israeli Arabs who consider themselves loyal citizens of Israel, acknowledge living a better life than Arabs outside Israel, but still feel they’re not being treated equally. He fears if their concerns aren’t met they might pose a threat to the country.

She responded, “Israel is promoting Arab rights, freedoms and education. Naftali Bennett, [the] education minister, is giving more money to Arab local authorities to improve their opportunities because Israel wants all her citizens to do well. They must be able to be part of the working force and the economy. Arab Muslims who do well in Israel hopefully will overcome the call of the extremist groups because they will realize that life is good in Israel for their families.”

She’s also been in touch and works closely with Christian Arab Zionists who are threatened with violence because of their willingness to be part of Israeli society by joining the IDF.

Shaked represents a new generation of Israelis who haven’t experienced one day of peace, one day without all-out war, violent acts of terror on civilians or random rocket fire. While I was in Israel, rockets were fired in Ashkelon and a number of terrorist attacks were thwarted; others were not.

Rarely does a week go by without a report of at least one terrorist attack, one rocket launched. If that’s not enough, this generation of leaders must take on the BDS (Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions) movement and Jew-hating events like Israel Apartheid Week, which began in Canada in 2005.

Shaked, who developed “My Israel” to share the stories of Israel before entering politics in 2006, acknowledged that, “In general, Israel did not put enough energy and money into hasbara [public diplomacy]. Israeli governments did not see it as strategic.”

A new unit in the strategic affairs department to counter the BDS movement will be led by Gilad Erdan, information minister and public security minister, with assistance from Naftali Bennett and Shaked. The ministry is preparing to file lawsuits against activists who call for blacklisting the Jewish state. According to Tazpit News Agency, Erdan will have a budget of approximately $26 million.

She made it quite clear that she will not tolerate “haters.” And she has plenty. She must be doing something right to elicit such hate.

Saeb Erekat has called her “a new form of racist,” an extremist on the warpath.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan once compared her to Adolf Hitler. Photo- shopped images of Shaked as a Nazi have been posted on social media. She’s been attacked for her looks. (Where are the feminists?) She’s tall and slender and yes, beautiful.

She’s also bright and brawny. Borrowing a metaphor from American football – she is a triple threat.

Canadian Yakov Rabkin, an historian at the Université de Montreal, said her appointment “is a reflection of the public mood in Israel, whether we like it or we don’t. She is very anti-Palestinian. She has violent discourse and all that, but in that, she reflects the public mood.”

I hope she reflects the public mood if that mood reflects the desire of all Israelis to stop justifying the right of Israel to exist when that is asked of no other country; if that mood reflects a state that no longer wants to appease the EU, the UN and the US. I hope she reflects the mood of a new, well-earned pride in Zionism.

And I hope that more countries will come to defend Israel as have my country, Canada, and my prime minister, Stephen Harper.

She told me “Israel sees Canada as one of the best allies of Israel, accepting the country without preconditions. That declaration of friendship gives power and strength to Israel. Prime Minister Harper is one of the only non-hypocritical leaders who stood up for our common values.”

There are those who disparage my prime minister’s words because Canada has a small military, and “talk is cheap.” But we are the only country with the moral courage to stand up and unconditionally defend a sister democracy. We will never know how history would have been recorded if Western leaders had spoken up against the Nazis in the early 1930s.

The minister said history will judge her generation by the steps they take now. Will they be able to let go of dreams which are no longer relevant and at the same time create a new appreciation for Israel in the world? 

I think there’s a change in the wind. A new generation of leaders is making their voices heard. For years we have heard the drum-beat call of the Palestinians: “From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free!” From the river to the sea, Palestinians see no place for the Jews. 

I thought I heard a rumbling in the land: “From the river to the sea, Israel will be free.”

Wednesday, July 01, 2015

Iran is no better than ISIS

From Jerusalem Online, 22 June 2015, by Rachel Avraham:

Bahais are routinely persecuted in Iran
Bahais are routinely persecuted in Iran Photo Credit: Reuters/Channel 2

Analysis: The plight of the Bahais in Iran
According to a Bahai human rights activist, 
“What the Iranian regime has been doing with Bahai's is no different from what ISIS is doing in the Middle East. There is no difference at all. People get outraged with ISIS but not with the Islamic Republic of Iran.” 
As the international community comes closer to reaching the deadline for a nuclear deal with Iran, major regional security and human rights issues have been ignored in the negotiations.  

These include but are not limited to 

  • Iran’s ballistic missile program; 
  • their support for Hezbollah, the Houthi rebels in Yemen, 
  • the Shia militias in Iraq, the Assad regime, and Gaza-based terror organizations; 
  • the atrocities their proxies committed in Iraq, Syria, Yemen, Gaza, and Kurdistan; 
  • their cooperation with ISIS in Balochistan; 
  • their policy advocating the destruction of Israel; and 
  • the lack of human rights within the Islamic Republic of Iran itself.  
These issues have all been ignored in order to appease the Iranian regime so they will agree to a nuclear deal that is likely to augment Iranian hegemony in the Middle East rather than tame it.

However, out of all of the atrocities committed by the Iranian regime against their own people, the group that has gotten the least amount of publicity since Rouhani came to power is the persecuted Baha'i faith, whom according to the Islamist regime in Iran don’t even have the right to exist as a faith community.   
According to the Baha'i International Community, since 2005, more than 700 Baha'is have been arrested, at least 49 incidents of arson targeting the Baha'is have been reported, and 42 incidents of vandalism within Baha'i cemeteries occurred. 

As we speak, 117 Baha'is are sitting in Iranian prisons merely because of their religious beliefs.  The list of Baha'i political prisoners includes educators who merely sought to provide Baha'i youth with the opportunity to achieve higher levels of education, an act which is against Iranian law.  Since 2007, the Baha'i International Community documented 580 instances of economic persecution against the Baha'is.  In April and May 2015, the Iranian authorities closed down over 35 Baha'i shops in Rafsanjan, Kerman, Sari, and Hamadan in order to pressure the Baha'is not to celebrate their religious holidays.   A UN official stated that the Iranian governments’ persecution of the Baha'is extends to “all areas of state activity, from family law provisions to schooling, education and security.”   The International Baha'i Community stressed: “The oppression of Iranian Baha'is extends from the cradle to the grave.”

According to Iranian human rights activist Shabnam Assadollahi, “As nuclear talks resume again and get closer to a prolonged deadline, systematic and widespread violations of human rights in Iran are being overshadowed. Human rights abuses accelerated in Iran under Hassan Rouhani’s so called ‘moderate’ presidency and the situation of Bahais'  has even worsened since Rouhani took office where he has never showed efforts to improve the human rights abuses against the Baha'is and to free the imprisoned Baha'i leaders. Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei has even issued a fatwa (a ruling on a point of Islamic law given by a recognized Islamic authority) calling on Iranians to avoid any interactions with members of the Baha’i faith, whom he slandered as a ‘deviant and misleading sect (cult).’”

Assadollahi noted that the persecution of the Baha'is in Iran has been going on for a while, as 200 Baha'is were executed during the first 10 years after the Islamic Revolution while hundreds more were tortured and imprisoned, and tens of thousands of others lost access to jobs, education, and other basic rights on account of their religious beliefs: “The persecution of Baha’is in Iran started from the beginning of Islamic Republic in 1979. Iran's constitution only recognizes the religious legitimacy of Zoroastrianism, Judaism, and Christianity, but not the converts from Islam and Iranians from the Baha’i faith. The Bahai's crime is that they are from a faith that has not been recognized by the Islamist regime of Iran's constitution and that the Baha'is will not change their religion despite the pressure by the Islamist regime.”

“The Islamist regime of Iran's systematic persecution of the Baha’is resulted in widespread religiously motivated hate crimes against them,” Assadollahi stressed.  “Iranians from the Baha’i faith are regularly arrested, imprisoned and even executed for practicing their faith. Baha’i's small business are regularly closed down and seized by Iranian regime officials with one objective: ‘to destroy the community’s economic life.’ Baha’i students are not allowed to register and attend university in Iran, and crimes against the Iranian Baha’is are never punished by the Iranian authorities.”

A Baha'i human rights activist that prefers to remain neutral for their own protection told JerusalemOnline in an exclusive interview: “The plight of the Baha'is has worsened under the Islamist regime. Most of regime leaders now are products of the Hojatieh School of anti-Baha'i doctrine including Mohammad Javed Zarif and many others. The denial of education was started in the past but has become systematic under Hassan Rouhani. Most recently, the closure of Baha'i businesses and shops have intensified. Under Rouhani, preachers have called for expelling of Bahai's from various cities and are like vultures waiting to attack.  Rouhani, Zarif and the entire current regime have not spoken a word about the Baha'i's condition and situation. Khamenei, Iran's supreme leader, has further encouraged attacks on Baha'is by supporters of his regime.”

While the world speaks about the destruction of archeological treasures, churches, and Jonah’s Tomb by ISIS, not many talk about the destruction of Baha'i holy places by the Iranian regime: “Local leaders, fed with lifelong hatred and unfounded biased prejudices, have attacked Baha'i shrines and holy places, destroying them with impunity. When the Baha'is have no rights, what court can they go to?   What recourse do they have in a country that gives them no values? So when you have no value for the life of someone and their property, and you are told their life and property are worthless, you do what your ignorant instructions are: destroy the homes and properties of the infidels.   What the Iranian regime has been doing with Baha'is is no different from what ISIS is doing in the Middle East.  There is no difference at all. People get outraged with ISIS but not with the Islamic Republic of Iran.”

According to the Baha'i human rights activist, Iran draws cartoons mocking Baha'is but protests against the Charlie Hebdo cartoons doing the same for Islam.   They burn Baha'i books, but are outraged if a Quran is burned in the West.   They accuse the Baha'is of being Israeli spies because their spiritual center was moved to Israel due to the persecution the Baha'i faced in Iran and the holiness of the place in their faith, but the Baha'i human rights activist noted that the holiest sites for the Shia Muslims are in Iraq and Saudi Arabia rather than in Iran.    The Baha'i activist noted that Iranian citizens want Muslims living in the West to have equal rights and Iranian newspapers highlight discrimination against Muslims living in the West, but the Iranian regime refuses to grant the Baha'is or any of the other minorities living in Iran including the Sunni Muslims equal rights.

The Baha'i human rights activist was very critical of the upcoming nuclear deal with Iran, stressing that it would give the Iranian regime the ability to further persecute the Baha'is: “Many within the Iranian regime feel that the sanctions are instigated and supported by the Baha'is.   The Baha'is and the Israelis are lumped into one pot when it comes to the hardships faced by the Iranian regime. The regime does not accept their own incompetent management of the country and has cast blame on outside forces such as the Baha'is and Israelis as the scapegoat instead of blaming themselves for the mismanagement of everything in Iran, from the economy to the environment.”

“The removal of sanctions will give the fanatics an excuse to further bring hardships upon the Baha'is as they would feel they have been given free pass to do as they please,” the Baha'i human rights activist stressed.  “They would assume the world is not watching them anymore and are eager to do business with Iran. The lowest on the totem pole in terms of rights and concerns are the helpless Baha'is.”

“The world must let the Iranian regime know that the Baha'is are not forgotten and a magnifying glass is on them when it comes to the affairs and wellbeing of the Baha'is,” the Baha'i human rights activist emphasized.  “The regime feels and is quite confident that once the sanctions are removed, people will be busy with trade and the economy.  Therefore, the Baha'is situation will have no significance or importance for them. Many Iranians seem to be focusing on living and their surrounding family as opposed to their other fellow Iranians. If the focus is off the human rights violations harming the Baha'is, the regime will have a free reign and the immunity to do as they wish.”

Explosive new Claims Conference scandals revealed

From "Candidly Speaking from Jerusalem", 30 June 2015, by Isi Leibler:

It is now almost a decade since I have been urging for drastic reform and change of leadership in the wake of successive scandals relating to the mismanagement of the Claims Conference, the organization entrusted to pursue justice on behalf of the Jewish people for Holocaust victims and survivors.

The lack of oversight enabling senior Claims Conference employees to steal $57 million of restitution funds, the cover-ups, and refusal to accept accountability or enable an independent investigation to review the management were bad enough. There is now informed chatter that the theft of restitution funds significantly exceeds $57 million. It is now believed to have reached the $100 million mark, but the management refuses to disclose the figures to the public or to directors.

On top of this, a new fraud relating to misappropriated funds in Ukraine, also incurred due to lack of adequate oversight, is being investigated. As of now, this also has not been revealed to the public or directors.

If that were not enough, this week, on the eve of the annual board meeting, a dramatic communication – effectively a smoking gun – has been dispatched to Claims Conference directors by its ombudsman, Shmuel Hollander. An extraordinary document, it not only confirms what critics like myself have been saying, but even magnifies the extent of the breaches in governance, lack of transparency, cover-ups, and denial of accountability by the leadership. It confirms that the majority of directors are either unaware of or are ignoring their fiduciary responsibilities and have enabled Conference President Julius Berman and his Executive Vice President, Greg Schneider, to continue operating the organization as though it were their personal fiefdom, failing to prioritize the needs of ailing Holocaust survivors.

Hollander, a highly respected and consummate civil servant, having served as the Israeli government’s Civil Service Commissioner and Secretary of the Government under six prime ministers, not only reaffirms these charges but brings other shocking behavior to light.
He informed the Board of Directors that Berman told him explicitly that his contract as ombudsman would not be renewed because of his critique of the Claims Conference in a July 2013 report, prepared for a select committee, which detailed the mismanagement and lack of adequate financial oversight resulting in the $57 million fraud.

Hollander’s report was commissioned after it emerged that Berman and Schneider had been forewarned in an anonymous letter about the fraud more than 10 years prior to its discovery and that Berman, in his capacity as general counsel, had been charged to investigate the matter, but failed to adequately follow up.

That report stated that the Claims Conference:
Failed in “tailoring its organizational structure to meet the growing range of activities and needs”

  • “Was governed in a manner unacceptable in both public and corporate bodies”
  • Demonstrated “systematic failings and problematic organizational behavior,” and
  • Operated with an “absence of professional control systems ... [that] constituted a key factor in enabling and certainly in facilitating the [$57 million] fraud” which could otherwise “have limited the enormous scope of the fraud.”

His report concluded that the Claims Conference management had failed to address the fraud even when made aware of it. An “enormous hole in the control mechanisms sent out an invitation to the thief” and “even with the writing on the wall, and the organization exposed to warning signs, the matter was not attended to.”

Most worrying, however, was that Hollander found that management failures were not restricted to the multi-million dollar fraud, but should be “reviewed and addressed against a backdrop of systematic failings and problematic organizational behavior,” adding ominously, “only the tip of the iceberg was revealed to us”!....

...These new revelations can no longer leave any room for doubt. They document how Berman and Schneider actively sought to undermine and prevent even internal reviews of the organization and took vindictive punitive steps against Hollander for making adverse findings against them personally.

The time for action to bring an end to this obscene scandal is now or during the forthcoming July annual meeting of the Board of Directors. So long as Berman and Schneider – both of whom have engaged in cover-ups and breached governance on an ongoing basis – remain in office, the organization shall lack any credibility or legitimacy. The ultimate responsibility rests with the board, which has disregarded its fiduciary responsibilities and allowed this scandalous state of affairs to carry on.

If the directors fail to act, they will be exposing not only themselves but the organizations they represent to external scrutiny. Sad as it may be, under such circumstances, perhaps only outside intervention by an external law enforcement body, such as the New York State Attorney General, may save the Claims Conference.

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

UN Human Rights council has become a tool of Hamas’s murderous strategy

Address of Colonel Richard Kemp to the United Nations Human Rights Council  Debate on report of the UNHRC Commission of Inquiry into the 2014 Gaza Conflict Geneva, 29 June 2015 (with the editor's emphasis added):

Mr. President, I fought in combat zones around the world during 30 years’ service in the British Army. I was present as an observer throughout the conflict in Gaza.

Mr.  President, during the 2014 Gaza conflict, Hamas, to its eternal shame, did more to deliberately and systematically inflict death, suffering and destruction on its own civilian population, including its children, than any other terrorist group in history.

Hamas deliberately positioned its fighters and weapons in civilian areas, knowing that Israel would have no choice but to attack these targets, which were a clear and present threat to the lives of Israel’s own civilian population.

While the IDF made efforts, unprecedented in any other army, and exceeding the requirements of the laws of war, to save Palestinian civilian lives, including warning them to leave target zones, Hamas forced them to remain in those areas.

Unable to defeat Israel by military means, Hamas sought to cause large numbers of casualties among their own people in order to bring international condemnation against Israel, especially from the United Nations.

This was the cornerstone of Hamas’s strategy.

It was Hamas’s strategy, not illegal Israeli action, as this report shamefully alleges, without a shred of evidence, that was the reason why over 1,000 civilians died in Gaza.

By denying this truth, and by refusing to admit the manifest reality that the conflict in Gaza was caused by Hamas’s war of aggression against Israel, this report faithfully reiterates Hamas’s own false narrative.

This [UN Human Rights] council has for too long allowed itself to become a tool of Hamas’s murderous strategy. By unjustly condemning Israel, by refusing to condemn Hamas’s repeated and unprovoked aggression, this council has consistently validated and encouraged Hamas’s tactics.

I urge all delegates to this council to reject this report. Failure to do so amounts to support of Hamas terrorism and will result in further rounds of violence in Gaza and Israel. The price for that will be paid in the blood of the people of Gaza and Israel.

Thank you, Mr. President.

Friday, June 26, 2015

Palestinian Arabs Against BDS

From Fikra Forum, 25 June 2015, by Bassem Eid*:

Everyone appears to have an opinion on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. As I learned on a recent trip, South Africans especially display an interest in solving the problem, even more, or so it seems to me, than the Israelis and Palestinians themselves. And others far away point to the South African history of apartheid as a warning to Israel about its occupation or alleged discrimination against Palestinians.

Unfortunately, almost all of those so ostensibly dedicated to finding a solution have their own agendas, and these may not be to the advantage of either Palestinians or Israelis.

A prime case in point is the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement. As a Palestinian dedicated to working for peace and reconciliation between my people and our Israeli neighbors, I do not believe that they are helping our cause. On the contrary, they are just creating more hatred, enmity, and polarization.

Recently I was asked to talk at the University of talk was disrupted by students wearing BDS and other radical T-shirts. They interrupted me and did not allow me to continue speaking, and in the end the event had to be abandoned. As a campaigner for peace and human rights activist, I am used to hostile reactions from those who disagree with my standpoint. However, even in my own country, I have never witnessed the kind of raw hatred and sheer unreasoning aggression that confronted me on this occasion.

There is no connection between the tactics and objectives of the BDS movement and the on-the-ground realities of the Middle East. Israelis continue to come to the West Bank to do business, and most Palestinians continue to buy Israeli goods. Indeed, if you ask Palestinians what they want, they'll tell you they want jobs, secure education and health. And the people who are failing them in this regard are their own leaders: Fatah in the West Bank, and Hamas in Gaza. The focus of Palestinian Authority leaders is on enriching themselves and their families, rather than serving the interests of the Palestinians. They are not a generation of leaders that are able to bring about a viable end to the conflict. Indeed, they are not even interested in uplifting their own people. Unfortunately there is no immediate alternative to Abbas, who finds continuous excuses not to hold elections.

As for Hamas in the Gaza strip, it was they who provoked last year’s destructive war with Israel to gain support among their own people. They then cynically used their own population as human shields during the fighting to generate sympathy for their cause when innocent lives were inevitably lost. As in the past, Hamas will inevitably try to use some of the money it receives from international donors to reconstruct the terror tunnels and replenish its missile arsenal. There is no hope in the near future to solve this mess -- except perhaps among the ordinary people of Gaza, who may compel Hamas to hold its fire against Israel.

For the time being, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is in any case receiving less international attention than before. Rather, the focus at the moment is on the Islamic State (IS). This is indeed a more urgent threat to the region and beyond. It is most dangerous to Muslims themselves as it challenges the authentic message of Islam.

Many Muslims feel let down by their own leaders and want to take revenge on them. The so-called Islamic State provides the worst extremists among them with the pretext to do this.

The Palestinians are tired of the peace process. Both sides have learnt to manage the conflict, rather than solve it. That is why there is only one way to bring about peace between Israelis and Palestinians, and that is for both sides to have sufficient goodwill to negotiate their own peace deal. It cannot be imposed by outside diplomatic or economic pressure.

BDS spokespeople justify calling for boycotts that will result in increased economic hardships for the Palestinians by asserting that Palestinians are willing to suffer such deprivations in order to achieve their freedom. It goes without saying that they themselves live in comfortable circumstances elsewhere in the world and will not suffer any such hardship. It would seem, in fact, that the BDS movement in its determination to oppose Israel is prepared to fight to the last drop of Palestinian blood. As a Palestinian who actually lives in East Jerusalem and hopes to build a better life for his family and his community, this is the kind of “pro-Palestinian activism” we could well do without. For our own sake, we need to reconcile with our Israeli neighbors, not reject and revile them.

*Bassem Eid is a human rights activist, political analyst, and commentator on Palestinian domestic affairs.

Investors defy media's misrepresentation of Israel

The June 15, 2015 issue of the Economist Intelligence Unit praises Israel's economic performance, expecting 
  • a 3.4% growth in 2015 and rising in 2016, 
  • declining unemployment [currently at 5%], 
  • steady inflation (1.3%), 
  • an export surge in 2015, 
  • a narrowing 2015 trade deficit and a 2019 trade surplus, 
  • larger natural gas production/export, 
  • robust private consumption and 
  • expanding current account surplus (3% of GDP in 2014, 5.2% - 2015 and 7.4% -2019).

The London and China-based $3bn private equity fund, XIO, acquired Israel's bio-med company, Lumenis, for $510mn (Globes, June 19, 2015). 

The Chinese investment giant, Fuson Group – which recently acquired Israel's Alma Lazarus for $240mn - is acquiring a controlling interest (52%) in Israel's insurance and investment group, Phoenix, for $470mn (Globes, June 22). 

On June 23, the Economist Intelligence Unit reported that these acquisitions followed in the footsteps of 
  • China's Bright Food acquiring Israel's Tnuva, 
  • the Shanghai International Port Group winning a tender to operate Haifa's new port, 
  • the China Harbor Engineering winning the tender to build Ashdod's new port, and 
  • a joint venture between the China Railway Group and Israel's Solel Boneh winning an $800mn contract to develop the first segment of Tel Aviv's light rail network. 
  • Also, the value of high tech start up financing rounds, involving Chinese investors, tripled to $302mn during 2012-2014 and reached $117mn during the first four month of 2015.

Google's CEO, Eric Schmidt, praised Israel's technological initiative and creativity, stating that the Jewish State is second only to Silicon Valley when it comes to startups (Bloomberg, June 9). Schmidt participated through is private equity fund, Innovation Endeavors, in a $15mn private placement in Israel's Yotpo. He was joined by Bloomberg Capital, Vintage Investment Partners, etc. (Globes, June 24). The US venture capital fund, Formation 8, joined by Samsung's and Qualcomm's VC funds, invested $10mn in Israel's Mantis Vision (Globes, June 5).

Computer Associates
US giant, Computer Associates' (CA) 12th Israeli acquisition: IdmLogic for $20mn (Globes, June 9). British giant, Johnson Matthey Investments acquired Israel's StePac for $27mn (Globes, June 5).

  • Israel's SolarEdge raised $126mn on Wall Street
  • The total raised by Israeli companies during the first quarter of 2015 was $1.5bn, compared to $3.9bn during all of 2014 (Globes, March 30). 
  • The Silicon Valley Khosla Ventures, Bloomberg Capital and NyCa Investment Partners participated in a $40mn round by Israel's FundBox (The Marker, March 30). 
  • KKR's first investment in Israel: leading a $35mn round by Israel's ClickTale, joined by Europe's Amadeus Capital, Goldrock and Viola Credit (Globes, January 29). 
  • Israel's BioLine raised $25mn on NASDAQ (Globes, March 9). 
  • Fidelity Growth Partners led a $20mn round by Israel's AppsFlyer (Globes, January 21).

Cyber Technology
  • Lockheed-Martin, EMC, IBM, Oracle, eBay and Deutsche Telekom (the latter teamed up with Ben Gurion University) operate in the newly established cyber technology park in Beer Sheba, Israel (Wall Street Journal, June 5). 
  • Israel accounted for 10% ($6bn) of global cyber tech sales in 2014. 
  • Eight cyber Israeli companies were acquired for $700mn in 2014. 
  • The number of Israeli cyber companies doubled during the past five years (i24 News, May 26).

Israel and Italy established joint R&D labs, in Israel, in the areas of neurology, solar, outer space, cyber, water treatment and health sciences (Globes, March 3).

Trade with Britain
Britain's Secretary of State for Business and Innovations, Sajid Javid stated: "The past few years have been a golden era for Anglo-Israel business… expecting bilateral trade, currently valued at $6.9bnm to continue growing…. (Algemeiner, June 9, 2015).”

The U.N.’s Gaza Report Is Flawed and Dangerous

From the New York Times, 25 June 2015, by RICHARD KEMP*:

LONDON — As a British officer who had more than his share of fighting in Afghanistan, Iraq and the Balkans, it pains me greatly to see words and actions from the United Nations that can only provoke further violence and loss of life. The United Nations Human Rights Council report on last summer’s conflict in Gaza, prepared by Judge Mary McGowan Davis, and published on Monday, will do just that.

The report starts by attributing responsibility for the conflict to Israel’s “protracted occupation of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip,” as well as the blockade of Gaza. Israel withdrew from Gaza 10 years ago. In 2007 it imposed a selective blockade only in response to attacks by Hamas and the import of munitions and military matériel from Iran. The conflict last summer, which began with a dramatic escalation in rocket attacks targeting Israeli civilians, was a continuation of Hamas’s war of aggression.

In an unusual concession, the report suggests that Hamas may have been guilty of war crimes, but it still legitimizes Hamas’s rocket and tunnel attacks and even sympathizes with the geographical challenges in launching rockets at Israeli civilians: “Gaza’s small size and its population density make it particularly difficult for armed groups always to comply” with the requirement not to launch attacks from civilian areas.

There is no such sympathy for Israel. Judge Davis accuses the Israel Defense Forces of “serious violations of international humanitarian law and international human rights law.” Yet no evidence is put forward to substantiate these accusations. It is as though the drafters of the report believe that any civilian death in war must be illegal.

Referring to cases in which Israeli attacks killed civilians in residential areas, Judge Davis says that in the absence of contrary information available to her commission, there are strong indications that the attacks were disproportionate, and therefore war crimes. But all we get is speculation and the presumption of guilt.

The report is characterized by a lack of understanding of warfare. That is hardly surprising. Judge Davis admitted, when I testified before her in February, that the commission, though investigating a war, had no military expertise. Perhaps that is why no attempt has been made to judge Israeli military operations against the practices of other armies. Without such international benchmarks, the report’s findings are meaningless.

The commission could have listened to Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, chairman of the United States Joint Chiefs of Staff, who said last November that the I.D.F. had taken extraordinary measures to try to limit civilian casualties. Or to a group of 11 senior military officers from seven nations, including the United States, Germany, Spain and Australia, who also investigated the Gaza conflict recently. I was a member of that group, and our report, made available to Judge Davis, said: “None of us is aware of any army that takes such extensive measures as did the I.D.F. last summer to protect the lives of the civilian population.”

The report acknowledges that Israel took steps to warn of imminent attacks but suggests more should have been done to minimize civilian casualties. Yet it offers no opinion about what additional measures Israel could have taken. It even criticizes Israel for using harmless explosive devices — the “knock on the roof” — as a final warning to evacuate targeted buildings, suggesting that it created confusion. No other country uses roof-knocks, a munition developed by Israel as part of a series of I.D.F. warning procedures, including text messages, phone calls and leaflet drops, that are known to have saved many Palestinian lives.

Judge Davis suggests that the I.D.F.’s use of air, tank and artillery fire in populated areas may constitute a war crime and recommends further international legal restrictions on their use. Yet these same systems were used extensively by American and British forces in similar circumstances in Iraq and Afghanistan. They are often vital in saving the lives of our own soldiers, and their curtailment would jeopardize military effectiveness while handing an advantage to our enemies.

The I.D.F. is not perfect. In the heat of battle and under stress its commanders and soldiers undoubtedly made mistakes. Weapons malfunctioned, intelligence was sometimes wrong and, as with all armies, it has some bad soldiers. Unnecessary deaths resulted, and these should be investigated and the individuals brought to trial if criminal culpability is suspected.

The reason so many civilians died in Gaza last summer was not Israeli tactics or policy. It was Hamas’s strategy. Hamas deliberately positioned its fighters and munitions in civilian areas, knowing that Israel would have no choice but to attack them and that civilian casualties would result. Unable to inflict existential harm on Israel by military means, Hamas sought to cause large numbers of casualties among its own people in order to bring international condemnation and unbearable diplomatic pressure against Israel.

Judge Davis’s report is rife with contradictions. She acknowledges that Israeli military precautions saved lives, yet without foundation accuses “decision makers at the highest levels of the government of Israel” of a policy of deliberately killing civilians. Incredibly, she “regrets” that her commission was unable to verify the use of civilian buildings by “Palestinian armed groups,” yet elsewhere acknowledges Hamas’s widespread use of protected locations, including United Nations schools.

Most worrying, Judge Davis claims to be “fully aware of the need for Israel to address its security concerns” while demanding that it “lift, immediately and unconditionally, the blockade on Gaza.” Along with the report’s endorsement of Hamas’s anti-Israel narrative, this dangerous recommendation would undoubtedly lead to further bloodshed in both Israel and Gaza.

*Richard Kemp, a retired British Army colonel, is former Commander of British Forces in Afghanistan.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

US Congress slams BDS in trade legislation

Congressman Peter Roskam (R-IL), who has been instrumental in anti-BDS legislation, issued the following statement on 24 June 2015:
Today, Congressman Peter Roskam (IL-06), co-chair of the House Republican Israel Caucus, released the following statement after House and Senate passage of Trade Promotion Authority (TPA) legislation, which includes bipartisan language Roskam authored to combat the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement against Israel. These provisions, which were originally introduced as Roskam’s H.R. 825, the U.S.-Israel Trade and Commercial Enhancement Act, were unanimously adopted into the House and Senate versions of TPA in April.
“Today, for the first time in nearly four decades, Congress sent legislation to the President’s desk to combat efforts to isolate and delegitimize the State of Israel. The recent wave of boycotts originating in Europe, including French telecom company Orange’s decision this month to sever ties with Israel, demands a robust response from the United States. This is that response. The bipartisan TPA provisions I authored are simple: if you want free trade with the United States, you can’t boycott Israel. After today, discouraging economic warfare against Israel will be central to our free trade negotiations with the European Union. Congress will not be complicit in the marginalization of our ally Israel by watching these attacks from the sidelines. Instead, we have decided to fight back against the BDS movement and ensure the continued strength of the U.S.-Israel relationship.”