Saturday, January 27, 2007

Land for peace concept failed

From Ynet News, 26/1/07, by Hagai Einav ...

Strategic affairs minister says, ‘Since 1977 we have given up land equal to four times the size of Israel, and the result is that today we have less security’....

Israel must do away with the concept according to which peace can only be achieved by giving up territories, Strategic Affairs Minister Avigdor Lieberman said Friday regarding Syria’s recent peace overtures.

“This concept has failed,” he said during a tour of IDF outposts in northern Israel. “Since 1977 we have given up land equal to four times the size of Israel, and the result is that today we have less security.”

The minister said the fact that Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal and Islamic Jihad are operating from Syria “is proof to all of us that this is a country that does not want peace, but rather acts like a terror state.” ....

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Combating Islamic Terrorism

From an interview with Graeme Leonard, President of the Executive Council of Austalian Jewry (ECAJ) for ICJS Research by Ruth Gilmour, posted Wednesday January 24, 2007 ...

The language of hate by radical Islamists in Australia has increased in recent times or at least has become more obvious. This is exemplified in particular by the widespread publicity given to DVDs containing the ugly views of a young Australian-born youth leader and cleric, Sheik Feiz Muhammad. The Executive Council of Australian Jewry’s (ECAJ) concern is that such rhetoric will inspire equally hateful actions, threatening Australia’s democratic way of life and of course the Australian Jewish community. The inevitable question is how a civilised society should respond.

...Some argue that this is a freedom of speech issue and hence these views should be openly debated rather than suppressed. In this particular instance, the ECAJ responded with public statements, which were widely circulated, expressing its concern. Our line was that extremism is a problem for all Australians, something we firmly believe.

In such a case, however, I believe that countering such emotive, dangerous language with reasoned argument doesn’t go far enough. In the increasingly charged atmosphere of the last decade when violence and terror are increasingly commonplace, there is a great danger that a call to arms will prompt violent action, particularly by the young and the unstable.

As all Australians are under threat, the ECAJ thinks it is up the Australian government to take action. It has the tools at its disposal in the form of the sedition offences contained in the Anti-Terrorism Act (No 2) 2005 (Cth). Sedition is a political crime that punishes certain communications critical of the established order. ...

...In our opinion, however, ultimately the best answer to extremist Islam is moderate Islam. Thus for example the ECAJ supports in principle the Australian Government’s establishment of a National Centre of Excellence for Islamic Studies which will aim to counter extremism by training moderate local imams. This aim is achievable, as long as the Centre’s courses and outcomes are stringently monitored to ensure that radical teachings supporting terrorism and violence are not taught or endorsed.

At the end of the day moderate Islam can only predominate if desired and led by Muslims themselves. The great challenge for Muslim Australians, their leaders in particular, is to demonstrate in word and deed that the advocates of terror increasingly hitting the headlines are as unacceptable to their community as they are to the rest of us. This is a longer term solution and the question remains whether the Islamic community has the will and courage to act. It is up to the rest of us to support them in every possible way in what will be a long and difficult battle.

Katsav must resign

From JPost, Jan. 24, 2007, by ASSOCIATED PRESS ...

Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert on Wednesday called on embattled President Moshe Katsav to resign after the attorney general announced his intention to press criminal charges, including rape, against him.

Addressing the annual security conference in Herzliya, Olmert said that "under these circumstances, there is no doubt in my mind that the president cannot continue to fulfill his position and he must leave the president's residence," Olmert said at the beginning of a policy speech at a security conference.

...and from Ynet News, 24/1/07, by Aviram Zino ....

Livni says President Moshe Katsav must resign, despite his right to the presumption of innocenence, so as not to fight rape charges from the president's office. Internal Security Minister Dichter, Tourism Minister Herzog join Livni's call

Stepping forward as the first government minister to demand his resignation, Foreign Affairs and Justice Minister Tzipi Livni called on President Moshe Katsav to consider what would most befit the institution of the presidency and step down following Attorney General Menachem Mazuz's decision to indict him .

Internal Security Minister Avi Dichter echoed Livni's statements, and called on the president to not only suspend himself temporarily, but to resign.

"The public significance (of the charges) obligates the president to resign and wage his battle outside the president's residence," Dichter concluded.

In a written statement issued Wednesday morning Livni stressed that while from a legal standpoint Katsav is entitled the presumption of innocence, due to the nature and gravity of the accusations against him it would not be fitting for him to fight rape charges from inside the residence of Israel's presidents.

"It is fitting for Katsav to resign," concluded Livni....

Follow this link for the full article, and this link for Ynet News' full coverage of The Katsav Affair

Waiting for the Mahdi

From MEMRI, Special Dispatch Series - No. 1436, January 25, 2007...

Official Iranian Eschatology Outlined in Public Broadcasting Program in Iran

The website of the governmental Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting (IRIB) has posted a lengthy document titled "The World toward Illumination." The document is a transcript of an IRIB series on the imminent arrival of the Mahdi, the Twelfth or Hidden Imam, awaited by Shi'ites as the Messiah. [1]

The program describes in glowing terms the messianic age to be inaugurated by the Mahdi. He is to begin his uprising in Mecca, and then march on Iraq, where he will establish his "seat of world government" in the city of Kufa and subjugate the current world powers. This will be an age of unparalleled happiness; there will be completely new technologies at mankind's disposal, and "corruption, war, and rebellion will no longer exist." Neither will "liberal democratic civilization."

Various days of the year are mentioned as being propitious for the appearance of the Mahdi, though the program says that the precise date cannot be known.

The series also includes... a lengthy polemic against the West, focusing on Evangelical Christians, Zionism, Ronald Reagan, George W. Bush, and Hollywood. It also gives a historical survey of Western thinking, from Saint Augustine to Francis Fukuyama.

Follow this link for excerpts from the transcripts of the World Toward Illumination program from the IRIB website, in the original English [2]


Doron likes this book review by Jeffrey Kopstein* from The Globe and Mail, 20/1/2007 ...

Book: "Uncouth Nation: Why Europe Dislikes America" By Andrei S. Markovits

...After decades of writing scholarly books sympathetic to the European left, U.S. political scientist Andrei Markovits is fed up with the anti-Americanism of Europe's intellectual and political elites. Anti-Americanism, Markovits writes, "is unifying West Europeans more than any other political emotion -- with the exception of hostility to Israel. In today's Western Europe, these two closely related antipathies and resentments are now considered proper etiquette. They are present in polite company and acceptable in the discourse of the political classes."

I think it is safe to say that Markovits is going to lose some of his European friends with this book. Markovits sensibly distinguishes between disapproval of the United States for what it does and dislike of the United States for what it is. The former is not anti-Americanism; the latter is. In practice, however, the line isn't so easy to draw. Some people find fault with the United States no matter what it does. It is bad for intervening militarily to stop a genocide in Kosovo but equally bad for failing to intervene to stop a genocide in Rwanda. It is wrong for promoting free trade and globalization but equally wrong for raising tariffs to protect its industries. It is this damned-if-you-do, damned-if-you-don't approach of Europe's elite critics of the United States that bothers Markovits.

George Bush and the war in Iraq have fuelled anti-Americanism among Europe's masses, but Markovits impressively documents the long history of anti-Americanism among Europe's elites going back to the settlement of the New World. ....from the French naturalist Georges-Louis the German pulp fiction novelist Karl May....philosopher, Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel....Heinrich Heine .... Sigmund Freud .......Britain's Frances Trollope .... Charles Dickens... 19th-century journalist Frédéric Gaillardet..... The list goes on. A broad array of Spaniards, Italians, Russians and even Norwegians (including Nobel Prize-winning novelist and Nazi sympathizer Knut Hamsun) have found the United States distasteful not for anything it did but for what it is and what it stands for.

In a fascinating twist, Markovits highlights the gradual transformation of European anti-Americanism after the Second World War from an ideology of the discredited right to one of the anti-imperialist left. .... It became the source of all of modernity's evils. Longer working hours, "publish or perish" at French universities, the dramatic increase in lawsuits and the prestige of "L.A. Law" lawyers in Great Britain, reality TV (which, in fact, originated in Europe), even the dominance of black over brown squirrels in German parks, are seen as evidence of a pernicious "Americanization."

And then there is the anti-Semitism. In what is surely his most controversial chapter, Markovits draws the connection between European anti-Americanism and anti-Semitism. He maintains that the old and discredited anti-Semitism of the European right has migrated to a new anti-Semitism of the left. In some ways, of course, this should not surprise anyone. Many early socialists -- most famously Karl Marx -- shared the romantic right's prejudice of Jews as embodying everything that was bad about capitalist modernity. Markovits, however, is saying something different and far more volatile: The issue is not capitalism but ethnic identity. The left accepts Jews, but only on the condition that they shed their Jewishness. In a moment at once self-revelatory and accusatory, Markovits writes, "Indeed, the Left always reserved its universalism for the Jews while applying the legitimacy of its identity politics to all other nationalities."

Anti-Zionism and the demonization of Israel have become vehicles for the reintroduction of anti-Semitism into respectable European conversation, especially since the Six Day War in 1967. The syllogisms are simple enough: Israel commits atrocities. Why? Because the United States lets it. Why? Because guess who controls the United States? You got it: the Jews.

What is disturbing for Markovits is that this is not simply the nutty left but his old buddies, the Social Democrats and the Greens. He notes that "all the historical ingredients used to demonize Jews are simply transferred to the state of Israel, which -- in the standard diction of anti-Semitism -- behaves Jew-like by grasping for global power, exhibiting Old Testament-like (pre-Christian) vengefulness. It bamboozles the world, as cunning Jews are wont to do, extorts money from hapless victims who have been fooled into seeing the Jews as victims, exhibits capitalist greed and, of course, indulges in constant brutality toward the weak.

Israel thus becomes a sort of new Jew, a collective Jew among the world's nations." The book offers a great deal of convincing evidence for these assertions, some of it based on survey research, but most of it based on Markovits's deep familiarity with Europe's left-wing scene. Whether it is Jews being beaten up at anti-war demonstrations in Paris in 2003 or respectable left-wing publications in Europe deploying Nazi-like imagery of Israeli leaders with spindly legs and hooked noses, or the repeated superimposition of a swastika on the Star of David (itself now a European symbol for "Israeli aggression"), example after example, from the profound to the trivial, makes for painful reading. "By constantly bringing up the truly warped and ill-willed analogy of the Israelis with the Nazis," Markovits tells us, "Europeans absolve themselves from any remorse and thus experience a sense of liberation."

Uncouth Nation also raises the crucial question of whether it is possible to build a European identity without demonizing the United States. For the most part, European anti-Americanism has been an elite phenomenon. George Bush, however, has made it possible to close the gap between a "separatist" European elite that wants to break away from the tutelage of the United States and the broad masses who still see themselves as part of the "West." It is no accident that Jürgen Habermas, Jacques Derrida and other European intellectuals celebrated the anti-war demonstrations that took place on Feb. 15, 2003, in London, Rome, Paris, Madrid, Helsinki and Athens as the birthday of a united Europe. Although these same intellectuals hailed the now-50-year-old project of European integration as a "post-national" exercise, the temptation to use the traditional tools of nation-building in the service of a new pan-European nationalism -- including demonizing the "other" -- has been irresistible.

... At stake here, however, is much more than mere vanity. The Americans don't really have much else besides that for which they stand. Part of being rich and powerful is to put up with a certain amount of criticism from others. But if we wish to sustain the West into the future, it is probably best if we all construct our political identities based on our highest ideals rather than on our deepest loathing.

*Jeffrey Kopstein is director of the Centre for European, Russian, and Eurasian Studies and professor of political science at the University of Toronto. His book Growing Apart? America and Europe in the 21st Century will appear this year.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Lebanon crippled by violent strike

From The Australian, January 24, 2007 , by Correspondents in Beirut ...

LEBANON'S pro-Syrian opposition paralysed the country last night in a nationwide strike aimed at ousting the Western-backed Government. Protesters fought rival supporters, barricaded roads with blazing tyres and disrupted air traffic in the latest show of force. Police said at least 25 people were wounded, some with bullets, in violent clashes between rival groups in Beirut and other areas, adding to concerns over the stability of a country still bearing the scars of the 1975-1990 civil war.

Lebanese troops and police were out in force for the one-day general strike, which has been denounced by the Government as a "coup attempt" by the Hezbollah-led opposition.

Thick clouds of smoke billowed over the capital and other cities as demonstrators blocked roads by burning tyres and old cars, and spreading sand and rubble. Some protesters even lay in streets to block traffic, while many shops and other businesses were closed and ordinary Lebanese struggled to get to work.

Militants blocked main roads across the country, cutting access to Beirut airport, in an escalation of the protest that has crippled the administration of Prime Minister Fouad Siniora for weeks.
Fifteen people were wounded by gunfire in clashes in northern Lebanon and in the mountains east of the capital, while 10 more were injured as pro- and anti-government rivals fought and hurled stones, police said.

...Telecommunications Minister Marwan Hamadeh, who survived an assassination attempt in 2004 blamed on Syria, denounced the action as an "anti-government coup".

..."This has nothing to do with democracy or freedom. This has been transformed into a coup d'etat. It is a revolt in every sense of the word," said Samir Geagea, head of the Christian Lebanese Forces.

....Former MP Fares Sahed, a main figure in the anti-Syrian camp, also urged government forces to take action against the protests and "not to participate in this blatant coup d'etat". "If the security forces continue to fail to carry out their duty, people will go down and open the roads by themselves," he said....

Terror threats in Australia

From The Australian, January 24, 2007 , by Rebecca Weisser ...

A MAN claiming to represent al-Qa'ida in Australia has left a telephone message at an Arabic Australian newspaper threatening to kill its editor-in-chief and destroy its offices in Sydney and Melbourne. Apparently reading from a script, the Arabic-speaking caller threatened to butcher every Iraqi Kurd and Shi'ite in Australia.

ASIO and NSW police are investigating the message, left for al-Furat editor-in-chief Hussein Khoshnow 10 days ago. The caller claims his "well-structured organisation" will track down the names and addresses of the newspaper's reporters. "We will destroy the newspaper's headquarters in Sydney very soon, God willing," the caller says. "We will destroy the newspaper's headquarters in Melbourne. You will be butchered. Every Iraqi Kurd and
Shi'ite in Australia will be butchered."

...The caller appeared to assume, incorrectly, that Mr Khoshnow was a Shi'ite and said: "You Shi'ites are dogs. You are scum, to be trodden underfoot. From Moqtada al-Sadr to Hassan Nasrallah, all your leaders are dogs and scum. Do not think that the death of Saddam will save you. We will deter you with terrorism here inside Australia. "Has the death of the president, the martyr, the living leader and hero who will never die, Saddam Hussein, a lesson for you? Do you want to savage the Sunnis, you dogs? I say to you, and repeat and reiterate, do not forget that one day we will take revenge, God willing, by liquidating the dog, Moqtada al-Sadr, who visited America and gave up Saddam."

....Mr Khoshnow said he had also been threatened by men claiming to be representatives in Australia of Moqtadr al-Sadr.

Who is Gabi Ashkenazi?

From Ynet ....

(Photo: Shalom Bar Tal)

Man who headed Golani brigade between 1986-1988 expected to be appointed to top post in IDF; Ashkenazi, 53, of Khagour, fought in Yom Kippur War

The frontrunner in the race to replace Lt. Gen. Dan Halutz as the Israel Defense Forces Chief of Staff was born six years after the establishment of the State of Israel, in Khagour in the Sharon area, north of Rosh Ayin.
The man he is set to replace, also calls Khagour home.

....Beyond being renowned for his extensive experience as a ground commander, Ashkenazi is a graduate of both the Tel Aviv Junior Command Preparatory School and the US Marines Training Command School.

The 53-year-old holds a BA in Political Science and is a father of two.
Ashkenazi served most of his military career in the Northern Command but he fought with Southern Command soldiers in his early days.

In 1972, he joined the Golani Brigade and fought in the Yom Kippur war a year later.
He also took part in Entebbe operation and was injured in the Litani operation in Lebanon.

By 1980, he was commanding a Golani battalion and during the first Lebanon war he was the Deputy Commander of the Golani Brigade.

He became popular among combat soldiers during his tenure as Golani commander between 1986 and 1988, after which he served as Northern Command Intelligence Chief.

In the early nineties he was appointed as commander of the northern command armored brigade. From 1992 to 1994 he headed civil the IDF's administration operations in southern Lebanon and worked closely with South Lebanon Army officers.

He then served for four years as the Head of Operations at the General Staff. In the summer of 1998 he was appointed as Northern Command Chief.

....In 2002 he was appointed as Deputy Chief of Staff and resigned two years later when he lost to Maj. Gen. Dan Halutz who was former Prime Minister Ariel Sharon 's choice for chief of staff.

He officially retired from the IDF in May 2005, and was appointed as the Director-General of the Ministry of Defense.

Ashkenazi was not directly involved in the recent war in Lebanon. He earned the reputation of being an experience general, “Mr. Lebanon,” one who knows the area where the IDF fights.

He progressed within the army ranks, and finally served as Defense Minister Amir Peretz’s right hand man, in the position of director-general of the Defense Ministry – where he was much more proficient than his boss.....

...and also from Ynet 23/1/07, by Ron Ben-Yishai...

Ashkenazi's real test - Patience, perseverance pay off, but new army chief now has to deliver

... Ashkenazi holds a clear advantage over the other candidates not only because he was not directly involved in the flawed management of the fighting in Lebanon, but rather, because he already proved that he can plan and command large-scale combat. This is something no other candidate can boast. Another advantage: He already proved that he knows how to restrain himself in the face of frustration and act cooly in any situation.

Ashkenazi displayed those qualities as the northern command chief in 2000. At the time he thought, and even said so to Prime Minister Barak, that declaring a date for a unilateral withdrawal from the South Lebanon Security Zone was a mistake. He even predicted the South Lebanon Army's collapse before the planned date.

However, when his doubts were rejected by the politicians, he led the northern command and other IDF branches into an intensive, detailed, and rapid process of planning and preparation for withdrawal completed months before the target date.

Ashkenazi also made the utmost efforts in a bid to prevent the South Lebanon Army's early collapse and while doing so displayed significant emotional intelligence. Yet once the SLA did collapse and the withdrawal battle had to be managed under difficult circumstances and under fire, the command units in the Security Zone were well prepared and under Ashkenazi's cool guidance departed from Lebanon without sustaining any losses.

Following the Lebanon withdrawal, Ashkenazi was able to redeploy on the border, exactly in accordance with the instructions handed down by Army Chief Mofaz and Prime Minister Barak.

The only stain that tainted his tenure as the northern command chief was the failure that allowed Hizbullah to kidnap three IDF soldiers in the Mount Dov area several months after the withdrawal. However, a commission of inquiry headed by Major General (Res.) Yossi Peled cleared him of direct responsibility for this failure.

Notably, at the time these events were taking place, Ashkenazi maintained his silence. He concentrated on doing and allowed others to talk – even though he had much criticism and disagreed with Barak's decisions and his strategic perceptions.

Even when Sharon decided to pick Dan Halutz over him as chief of staff, Ashkenazi did not publicly express his frustration and also did not head into the private sector. The military and Israel's security were always, and remained, his first love. The patience and perseverance he showed paid off.

Ashkenazi's missions
Now comes the test. The first mission, in order of priority, faced by Ashkenazi is to restore the IDF's, and particularly the ground forces', ability to function effectively in any combat type or scenario. To that end, he will have to annul some of the organizational changes introduced by Halutz.

Ashkenazi will have to ensure the general staff is given back the functions that would allow it to directly-manage combat and to again institutionalize a clear and hierarchical chain of command that enables the chief of staff and deputy army chief to decide, every day, the strategic and tactical combat objectives and earmark resources and forces, while command chiefs and regiment commanders execute the plans.

Ashkenazi will likely also have to make some personnel changes in the general staff in a manner that would improve the overall functioning of the intelligence, logistics, and Navy arms in their role of supporting the ground and air forces.

The second mission in order of priority is the implementation of the work plan prepared by the general staff under the direction of Halutz and Kaplinsky based on the Lebanon War's lessons.

This 2007 work plan is a masterpiece considering the budgetary limitations. If it is implemented properly, it would restore the regular and reserve ground forces' basic combat capabilities under scenarios that have been neglected, while also reviving some forgotten combat values.

The third mission is to prepare the IDF to cope with the Iranian nuclear threat and with a guerilla strategy that makes use of rockets and sophisticated anti-tank and anti-aircraft missiles.

The fourth mission is to convince Israeli politicians, media, and society to allow the IDF to quietly work on fixing itself. Ashkenazi must make it clear to Israeli society that the sensitivity it shows to military casualties leads to mistakes on the battlefield that exact a heavy human toll.

He must make clear to the parents of soldiers, reserve soldiers' groups, and bereaved families that their deep involvement in what goes on in the military and the pressures they exert on commanders damage their sons and friends more than they benefit them.

All of the above constitutes an immense mission. If Ashkenazi delivers, only then would we be able to confidently say that the failure to appoint him as chief of staff about a year and a half ago was a historic injustice done to him, and also to us.

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Bring down Hamas and Iranian Regimes

From Ynet News, 21/1/07, by Yaakov Lappin ...

Opposition leader says Israel should aim to bring down Hamas government, urges Jewish community to promote awareness of Iranian threat

Opposition leader MK Benjamin Netanyahu (Likud) on Sunday told the Herzliya Conference that Israel should aim for the overthrow of the Hamas government, which he described as a part of the axis of radical Islamic forces threatening the country's security.

Only by toppling the Hamas government can Israel and the Palestinians hope to achieve peace and good neighborly relations, Netanyahu added.....

‘Expose Iranian regime’s ugliness’
....Netanyahu said ...that it was time to launch an international campaign "to isolate and delegitimize Iran."

He said that the "extremist regime" in Tehran "is sowing the seeds for its own destruction."

"Iran is vulnerable, it doesn't allow economic growth," said Netanyahu. He cited growing voices within Iran opposing Ahmadinejad's regime.

"Most doors can be closed in the face of Ahmadinejad… The key is the delegitimizing of the regime, with economic and political pressure," Netanyahu said.

"I want to call on the world that didn't stop the Holocaust last time to stop the Holocaust this time," he added.

Comparing modern day Iran to Nazi Germany, Netanyahu said, "In 1937, we didn't have a state. Today, we have a state and can defend ourselves against Iran's anti-Semitism, not only militarily, but also through public opinion. Iran can be stopped."

He also urged the Jewish community to do its share in recruiting international support. “No one will stand behind the Jews if they do not stand up for themselves,” Netanyahu said.

According to Netanyahu, it was a small but significant effort that would expose the Iranian regime in “all its ugliness” and convince people to expel it.

He said that the initiative was already picking up speed, and announced that he would visit the British Parliament next week in order to promote further awareness of the Iranian threat.

'Prepare backup military solution'
Speaking to Ynetnews, Knesset Member Effie Eitam (National Union-National Religious Party) was less shy than Netanyahu when it came to discussing Israel's military options.

"I think its now beyond a shadow of a doubt that Iran is accelerating a project for a nuclear bomb, planned at aimed at the State of Israel, and to bring the whole democratic free world on its knees," he said.

"If we can stop Iran by a focused international effort, everyone will bless that. But parallel to that, Israel must make sure a military solution is clearly prepared, and must be affected if the point of no return is passed, as a last resort."

"Israel is capable of dealing with this problem militarily," Eitam said, adding that the ideal scenario would involve a US-led military coalition. "But if that effort will fail, Israel can, and has to defend itself (alone)."

Raanan Gissin, a senior advisor to former Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, and currently a Strategic Consultant at the Interdisciplinary Center, told Ynetnews he was optimistic over the chances of dealing with the Iranian threat through an international coalition of "potential victims" of Iran's destructive policies.

"Iran is very sensitive over its international stance. A coalition of potential victims who want to stop and isolate Iran can come together," Gissin said. He added that such a coalition could see Israel take the lead of a coalition which included Egypt, Jordan, and the Gulf States, united against the Iranian threat.

Gissin expressed skepticism over reports that Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei was pushing Ahmadinejad to soften the country's nuclear stance, saying it was an "illusion" designed to play for time.

Attila Somfalvi contributed to the report