Tuesday, December 30, 2008
RESIDENTS at certain addresses in the Gaza Strip have been receiving unusual phone calls since the Israeli air assault began on Saturday -- a request that they and their families leave their homes as soon as possible for their own safety. More unusual than the recorded message is the Arabic-speaking caller, who identifies himself as being from the Israeli defence forces.
Dipping into their bag of tricks for the updated Gaza telephone numbers, Israel's intelligence services are warning Palestinian civilians in Gaza living close to Hamas facilities that they may be hurt unless they distance themselves from those targets.
In some cases, the warning comes not by telephone but from leaflets dropped from aircraft on selected districts. Such warnings clearly eliminate the element of surprise, butfor Israel it is of cardinal importance to minimise civilian casualties, and not just for humanitarian reasons.
The principal calculation is fear that a stray bomb hitting a school or any collection of innocent civilians could bring down the wrath of the international community on Israel, as has happened more than once in the past, and force it to halt its campaign before it has achieved its objectives.
Israel Radio reported that leaflets had been dropped at the beginning of the operation in the Rafah area near the border with Egypt, warning residents that the tunnels to Egypt through which weapons and civilian products were smuggled would be bombed.
Many of the residents, mostly youths, are employed in the tunnels. Initial reports said two people were killed when the tunnels were bombed.
Gaza is one of the most densely built-up areas in the world, making it extremely difficult to pinpoint targets without collateral damage. Israeli officials say that the small percentage of civilians killed so far is due to precise intelligence regarding the location of Hamas targets and accurate bombing and rocketing.
...Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, meeting with foreign diplomats in Jerusalem yesterday, said she understood the difficulty for them to express understanding for an armed attack.
"But this is the only way to change realities on the ground," she said. This is what is needed to change the situation."
Top officials discuss Gaza op, PM calls for 'iron fist' against Hamas, bans ceasefire talk
Speaking at a meeting with top officials, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert instructed participants to refrain from talking about the possibility of a Gaza ceasefire at this time, while focusing on continuing the offensive against terrorists in Gaza. "We no longer talk about an exit policy, but rather, we are working in order to secure the Gaza operation's objectives," he said. "As long as the fire continues, the Israeli operation will be expanded."
The meeting was attended by Olmert, Defense Minister Ehud Barak, Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, and top security officials, including Army Chief Gabi Ashkenazi, Shin Bet Chief Yuval Diskin, and Mossad Director Meir Dagan. Participants were told that Hamas asked Senegal, the current president of the Islamic Conference, to secure a ceasefire, in a move reflecting the group's difficult condition in the wake of the IDF assault. However, Israeli officials decided to reject the possibility of a ceasefire at this time.
"We need to continue handling Hamas with an iron fist – while handling the civilian population with kid gloves," Olmert said. An intelligence assessment prepared by the security establishment noted that Hamas' leadership, headed by Ismail Haniyeh and Mahmoud al-Zahar, went into hiding and is not functioning at this time.
"They are on the run, and the Hamas regime does not function in any way," one security official said. According to information presented in the meeting, some Gaza residents are overjoyed by the blow sustained by the terrorist group.
Meanwhile, Home Front Command officials expressed their concerns over the lack of discipline among Israelis in the face of rocket attacks. Virtually all Israeli casualties thus far failed to follow the Home Front's safety instructions, one official said. "This is very worrisome," he said. "It could lead to a disaster and a grave moral blow that will undermine the military effort in the Gaza Strip."
After a successful start to Operation Cast Lead, the question now is: What should the next stage be?
That depends on the goal. What do we want to achieve?
If we are to be satisfied with attaining a stable, long-term quiet, a solution regarding Gilad Schalit and the possibility of resolving the smuggling from Egypt to Gaza, then, in my opinion, this can be achieved without a wide-ranging ground operation and within a relatively short time.
For this to happen, the following must be done:
• We must correctly define the enemy. The enemy is ..."the State of Gaza." If we speak about "the Hamas terror organization," then we will be answered internationally: "OK, then fight against that organization, but why do the residents of Gaza have to suffer?"
• We must continue massive attacks from the air and not be put off by the growing numbers of Palestinian civilians who will be hurt or by international pressure. The greater the international pressure.... The more that the various players, including Arab states, want to achieve a cease-fire, the more such a cease-fire will obligate Hamas and the longer it will hold.
• We have to insist that a cease-fire is the maximum that Israel is prepared to agree to - in return for a similar obligation from the other side. After a cease-fire is reached, two issues will remain to be resolved: a prisoner exchange and the opening of the border crossings. If we agree to open the crossings as part of the cease-fire agreement, we will lose a vital bargaining chip towards an acceptable solution for Gilad Schalit. Israel's readiness even now to partially open the border crossings out of "humanitarian concerns" is a mistake. If the humanitarian situation in Gaza is so grave, there's a way to solve that: First, to reach and honor a cease-fire and then to simultaneously discuss all humanitarian issues - shortages in Gaza on the one hand, and the prisoner problem on the other.
• We need to open discussions with Egypt right away on the necessary border arrangements in the Philadelphi Corridor. Israel needs to say that its readiness to agree to the supply of essential materials is conditioned on more effective security arrangements on the Egyptian side of the Gaza-Egypt border.
Attaining a stable cease-fire, and making arrangements for bringing in supplies at the crossing points and an exchange of prisoners, would amount to a modest but sufficient achievement, especially as it can be attained in a relatively short time and at a relatively low cost.
But if we do not consider this to be satisfactory, and want to destroy Hamas's entire military capability, and even to bring down its rule - as several ministers have suggested - then a wide-ranging ground operation that essentially conquers all or most of Gaza is necessary.
This is certainly possible from a military point of view, but involves a higher price and greater risk. The price is mainly in terms of casualties. The risk is increased uncertainty as regards the possibility of attaining the goal without running into further complications, including the escalation of fighting to additional fronts.
The political echelon has the right to conceal from the public, and from the enemy, the true aims of this operation, but it must not avoid discussing them in the appropriate forums and reaching a clear decision. We often highlight the importance of "sticking to your mission," but this is only a partial concept. The complete professional expression is "sticking to your mission to achieve your goals." In other words, it's difficult to succeed in a mission if it's not clear which goals it is intended to serve.
One of the most obvious problems of the Second Lebanon War was the confused definition of its goals, which were exaggerated at the start, changed frequently and were understood differently by various echelons.
It seems as though many of the lessons of the Second Lebanon War are now being successfully implemented. It is highly important that this central lesson, too - clear definition of the goal - is not neglected.
[As events in Gaza unfold, Palestinian Media Watch monitors the incitement and hatred pouring forth on Hamas Television. Below are several dispatches from the front, which tell a much different story than the one reported in the Western media. -- The Editors.]
Hamas Celebrates Targeting Israeli Civilians
Along with today's TV propaganda in which Hamas depicts itself as a victim, Hamas continues to portray itself as the heroic killer of Israelis. A video on Hamas TV this morning blended pictures of Hamas fighters shooting at Israel with pictures of injured Israelis and medical evacuation scenes.
In addition, the visuals include pictures of skulls dripping with blood, captioned: "Let them taste violent death."Other narrations and texts include:
"Send them to Hell! Tear them to pieces!"
"Send them to Hell, Qassam missile!"
Al-Aqsa TV (Hamas), Dec. 28, 2008.
Hamas TV: 180 Killed are from Hamas Armed Forces
Hamas TV acknowledged this morning that the vast majority of those killed are from the Hamas military. A news ticker running repeatedly from 10:00 AM announced:
More than 180 Palestinian policemen were killed including the [Police] Commander, General Tawfik Jaber.In the background Hamas TV is repeatedly broadcasting the same scenes of dozens of bodies of the uniformed Hamas soldiers who were killed in Israel's first attack yesterday when Israel hit the Hamas officer's course graduation ceremony.
Hamas TV, Dec. 28, 2008.
Hamas TV: Ahmadinejad Threatens Israel Over Gaza Events
Hamas TV reported that Iranian President Ahmadinejad threatened Israel in response to Israel's attack on Hamas. The Hamas TV news ticker reported numerous times:
The President of Iran [Ahmadinejad]: These crimes will not change the Zionist entity's condition. Rather, its situation will be even blacker and its fate even worse.Iran's support of the Hamas is not surprising as Hamas is a major supplier of weapons for Hamas and Hamas military units have undergone training in Iran.
Hamas TV, Dec. 28, 2008.
Mahmoud Abbas: Hamas Responsible for Violence
In a news conference today from Cairo, Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas placed the blame for the violence in the Gaza Strip squarely on the shoulders of Hamas. He described how he repeatedly made contact with Hamas and implored them not to break the ceasefire. He lamented that the violence in the Gaza Strip could have been avoided had Hamas not broken the ceasefire. The following is Mahmoud Abbas's statement at a joint press conference with Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmad Abu al-Gheit.
I say in all honesty, we made contact with leaders of the Hamas movement in the Gaza Strip. We spoke with them in all honesty and directly, and after that we spoke with them indirectly, through more than one Arab and non-Arab side... We spoke with them on the telephone and we said to them: We ask of you, don't stop the ceasefire, the ceasefire must continue and not stop, in order to avoid what has happened, and if only we had avoided it.
PA TV Dec. 28, 2008.
...After almost three days of the military operation against Hamas in Gaza, the Israeli government has not made yet clear its final goal or exit strategy.
Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, speaking to the Israeli people stated that "we were compelled to take action in order to halt the aggression against our citizens..[that] the operation in the Gaza Strip is designed, first and foremost, to bring about an improvement in the security reality for the residents of the south of the country…. to restore the quiet and the tranquility." Olmert made it clear to the residents of Gaza that Israel is not acting against them and has no intention of punishing them for the actions of Hamas.
Israel's defense minister Ehud Barak declared the country is engaged in a "war to the bitter end" against Hamas in Gaza and that the operation's goal is to force Hamas to stop its hostile actions directed at Israeli civilians. Barak warned that the offensive in the Gaza Strip would be further expanded and widened as much as required.
Israeli Deputy Chief if Staff, Brig. Gen. Dan Harel said today that "this operation is different from previous ones…We have set a high goal and are hitting not only terrorists and launchers, but also the whole Hamas government and all its wings….After this operation there will not be one Hamas building left standing in Gaza, and we plan to change the rules of the game."
On the third day of the massive air campaign against Hamas' military and civilian infrastructure and its leadership the results seem quite impressive: the surprise attack, the sheer magnitude of the human losses among its security personnel and the destruction of 40 – 50 missile pre-prepared positions have destabilized the organization's command and control system and minimized the first "portion" of rockets ready to retaliate for an Israeli attack.
At this moment it seems that a ground military operation is on the move and practically inevitable, if Israel wants to ensure the attainment of its strategic goals. The question arises again, what kind of ground operation is necessary or feasible in the challenging operational conditions of the Gazan urban environment and the complex regional situation.
The destruction of Hamas' infrastructure and even the successful targeting of its leaders in hiding, will not convince them to give up their goal to achieve a military balance of power and a deterrent capability in the future vis-à-vis Israel, even if they will be compelled to accept a shameful cease-fire. The example of Hizballah, which has tripled and enhanced its military arsenal since the Second Lebanon War of summer 2006, is speaking for itself.
This author's opinion has not changed: in order to achieve its strategic goal, Israel should cut the oxygen pipeline - the tunnels permitting the smuggling of advanced rocket, anti-tank and other advanced weapons - by re-occupying and widening the Philadelphi Road on the Egyptian border.
Following the destruction of most of the arsenal in possession of Hamas during the present campaign, the control of a 1 km wide strip of land on the border will permit the progressive drying of the organization's military capability, which has a direct influence on its ability to control politically Gaza.
The control of the Rafah border passage should progressively return to the Palestinian Authority and the international European team and thus give the PA a foothold for future political comeback to Gaza.
The Israeli government has rightly acted by speaking directly to the Palestinian population in Gaza explaining the reasons of the military operation, and by continuing to provide it with the basic humanitarian needs. This policy should continue and even be expanded.
Some forgotten facts
Hamas is not responsible only for the present violence and destruction.
During the years 1994-96 its suicide bombings derailed the Oslo peace process and in the end changed the positive political mood of the Israeli society towards this process.
During the bloody years of the second intifadah (2000 – 2005), Hamas was responsible, together with the Palestinian Islamic Jihad, for some 70% of the 150 suicide bombings which killed more than 1000 Israeli citizens, the great majority civilians.
During the military coup of June 2007 Hamas has assassinated in cold blood some 150 – 200 Fatah militants, while in the past the PA only arrested Hamas members for short periods of time.
Arab and Muslim protesters' hypocrisy and double standard
Arab and Muslim movements in the Middle East are trying to subvert their regimes and compel them to act politically and diplomatically against Israel and even instigate to open war against the Jewish state.
Here are a series of violent events in the Muslim world in recent days:
- in Mosul, Iraq, a suicide bomber targeted a manifestation of protest condemning Israeli air raids on the Gaza Strip, killing one civilian and wounding 16;
- in Afghanistan, the Taliban claimed responsibility for a weekend suicide car bombing that killed 14 children and two adults;
- in Pakistan a suicide car bomber set off an explosion outside a polling station in northwest Pakistan, killing up to 30 people, including several children.
Where are the massive protests of Arabs and Muslims against these indicriminate killing of Muslims? Where are the Arab and Muslim protests against the Mumbai killings in November of this year? And where are the protests for the genocide in Darfour?
Hassan Nasrallah, the Secretary General of Hizballah, is now pushing Hamas, through his inflamatory speeches, to a brinkmanship strategy of martyrdom, ready to fight to the last Palestinian. He is also threatening the Egyptian government and President and other moderate Arab leaders.
This is the man responsible for the death of some 1000 Lebanese citizens and the destruction of the Dahya neighbourhood in Beirut and the villages in southern Lebanon during the Second Lebaneon War; the man who recoginzed that if he new the results of the kidnapping of the Israeli soldiers he wouldn't start the operation; the leader who solemnely promised never turn the weapons "of the Resistance" against his fellow citizens but is responsible for the killing of several dozen Lebanese during the bloody events in Beirut in May 2008; who two years and a half after the war with Israel is speaking to his followers and the besieged Hamas leaders from his bunker in Beirut!
Hopefully, the moderate responsible leaders in the Middle East and the international community will understand that Hamas in power in Gaza will thwart any peace agreement between Israel and the Palestinians and threaten the rule of the moderates in the West Bank and beyond.
Monday, December 29, 2008
CAIRO (Reuters) - Deadly Israeli raids on Gaza have deepened the divide in the Arab world between Islamists with popular appeal and authoritarian governments widely seen as collaborating with Israel and the United States.
Especially in Egypt the battle lines are clearer than ever, as members of the ruling party give Egypt's own Islamists, allies of the Palestinian movement Hamas, advice along the lines of "If you don't like it in Egypt, you can go to Gaza."
Hussein Megawir, a pro-government Egyptian member of parliament, said in a debate on Gaza on Saturday: "There is an Iranian plan, with Hamas and some of the (Muslim) Brotherhood, to stir up trouble in Palestine and Egypt."
The Muslim Brotherhood, the country's largest opposition group with one fifth of the seats in parliament, is in close alliance with Hamas, which began as a Brotherhood offshoot.
...In public statements on the Israeli raids, the Egyptian government and its Palestinian allies in the Fatah movement have come close to saying that Hamas is mainly to blame for the raids, which in two days have killed more than 270 people.
Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Aboul Gheit said on Saturday that Egypt sent warnings about the possibility of an Israeli offensive and those who ignored the warnings were responsible for the consequences.
In Cairo on Sunday, Palestinian President and Fatah leader Mahmoud Abbas echoed the theme.
"We talked to them (Hamas) and we told them 'please, we ask you, do not end the truce. Let the truce continue and not stop' so that we could have avoided what happened," he said.
Egyptian political commentator Hassan Nafaa, writing in the independent Al Masry Al Yom, said: "Hamas looks like the common enemy of Egypt, Israel and the Palestinian Authority."
... Egypt has repeatedly ignored public pressure to expel the Israeli ambassador ...
...The two Arab camps split along much the same lines as they have for the past few years -- the governments of Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia and the Palestinian Authority on one side, Hamas, Syria, the Lebanese movement Hezbollah and a wide range of Islamists, leftists and Arab nationalists on the other.
Iran, non-Arab and Shi'ite Muslim, lurks on the sidelines as an ally of those who favour resistance to Israel and U.S. plans.
The same alliances took sides on the conflict between Israel and Hezbollah in 2006. Analysts said the Arab conservatives initially hoped that conflict would damage Hezbollah but soon changed tack when the Israeli army failed to deliver a quick victory and Hezbollah proved it could survive.
The Arab League, where the conservative governments are dominant, has already postponed a ministerial meeting to take a common position on the crisis in Gaza and a proposal to hold an Arab summit is meeting some resistance, diplomats said.
Judging by past summits, Arab heads of state are unlikely to fulfil popular aspirations, especially if that would bring them into conflict with Israel and Washington.
Children in Ashkelon crying from shock after Qassam rocket hits near their home.
(Yehuda Peretz for The Israel Project)
From THE JERUSALEM POST Dec. 28, 2008, by Abe Selig:
Warning sirens sounded in Ashdod Sunday morning as two rockets launched from the Gaza Strip landed east of the city.
Over 35 rockets were fired into Israel from the Gaza Strip on Sunday, as two of the projectiles, reported to be Grad-type rockets - landed near Ashdod, some 40 kilometers from Gaza.
While the total number of rockets and mortar shells fired from Gaza was significantly lower than Saturday's barrage of over 60 missiles, the strike near Ashdod marked the farthest point into Israel a Hamas rocket has reached since the terrorist organization began firing them on Israel some eight years ago.
... officials said that while the relatively low number of rockets fired could be a result of the blow suffered by Hamas, it was somewhat more likely that Hamas was attempting to deceive Israel into believing this, and that the group might be poised to unleash severe rocket barrages when the opportunity arose.
In the afternoon, two Grad rockets also hit Ashkelon, lightly wounding two people and causing minor damage. Eight more residents were evacuated to Barzilai Hospital in Ashkelon and treated for shock. In the Eshkol region, one person was lightly wounded when a rocket hit the roof of a building in a kibbutz.
In Ashkelon, the first rocket landed in an open field near the entrance to the city, a mere 300 meters from the Hutzot Mall, while the second rocket, which caused the wounds, landed on a street in Ashkelon's Atikot neighborhood.
As a crowd gathered around the spot where the rocket had fallen, holes from its shrapnel could be seen peppered across the walls of nearby homes. Children ran by, picking up the loose nails and pieces of metal that had been packed into the rocket's hull - a common characteristic of the home-made rockets, which creates an even deadlier payload....
As Hamas and other Iran-backed Palestinian groups in Gaza continue to kill and wound Israeli civilians by launching almost daily attacks, Israel took action Saturday (Dec. 27) to defend its citizens with targeted airstrikes against terrorist leaders and their strongholds. 
Responding to the terrorism, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said in a televised interview to Gaza’s citizens Dec. 25 on the Arabic TV network al-Arabiya “You the citizens of Gaza, you can stop it. I know how much you want to get up in the morning to quiet, to take your children to kindergarten or school, the way we do, the way they want to in Sderot and Netivot…“We want to live as good neighbors with Gaza,” Olmert said.“ We do not want to harm you. We will not allow a humanitarian crisis and that you should suffer from a lack of food or medicines. We do not want to fight the Palestinian people but we will not allow Hamas to strike our children.” 
Despite the ongoing rocket and missile attacks, Israel on Friday (Dec. 26) transferred more than 90 truckloads of vital goods to Gaza residents.  (Click here for a comprehensive list of humanitarian aid delivered during the six-month ceasefire.)
During the past year, Iran-backed terrorist groups in Gaza have fired more than 3,000 rockets, missiles and mortars at Israeli civilians in the southern Negev region, killing four people and wounding more than 270.  Since Israel gave up all of Gaza in 2005 – relinquishing homes, farms, places of business and worship – terrorists have launched more than 6,300 rockets and mortars into Israel from Gaza. The attacks have killed 10 civilians, wounded more than 780 and traumatized thousands of others.  The only remaining Israeli in Gaza is Staff Sgt. Gilad Shalit who was abducted from Israel on June 25, 2006 by Hamas in a bloody cross-border raid in which the terrorists killed two IDF soldiers and wounded four others. 
During a visit five months ago to the southern Israeli city of Sderot, then-candidate and now President-elect Barack Obama defended Israel’s right to protect itself from such attacks: "If somebody was sending rockets into my house where my two daughters sleep at night, I would do everything to stop that, and would expect Israel to do the same thing." 
Speaking about the Iranian nuclear threat, Obama also said during the visit, "A nuclear Iran would pose a grave threat and the world must prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon." 
In addition to firing rockets and mortars, terrorists have smuggled vast amounts of war materiel into Gaza. Israeli Minister for Public Security Avi Dichter said that in July 2008 alone, more than four tons of explosives were smuggled into Gaza via tunnels dug by terrorists under the Egypt-Gaza border. There are 400-600 smuggling tunnels running along Gaza’s Philadelphi Corridor, the strip of land spanning the border between Egypt and Gaza. 
Iran, one of the chief sponsors of Palestinian terrorism, provides approximately $20 million to $30 million to Hamas annually and also trains Hamas operatives in Iran and Syria. 
On Nov. 28, 2008, an Iranian-manufactured standard 120mm mortar was fired by a terrorist group in Gaza and hit an Israel Defense Forces (IDF) base inside Israel, wounding eight soldiers, one of whom had his leg amputated as a result. The use of Iranian-made munitions by Palestinian terrorists is an increasingly common phenomenon in the conflict. 
Internecine Palestinian fighting during the past two years also has dealt a harsh blow to future prospects for peace, with 616 Palestinians killed in factional fighting from the time that Hamas won Palestinian elections in January 2006 through May 2007.  In June 2007, when Hamas seized control of Gaza in a bloody coup against Palestinian Authority President’s Fatah faction, 161 Palestinians were killed and at least 700 wounded. 
Iran, the world’s largest state sponsor of terrorism, gives Hamas $20 million a year, and provided an additional $50 million after Hamas beat Fatah in the 2006 elections.  Iran also provided Hamas members with intensive military training in the weeks and months leading up to the group's takeover of the Gaza Strip. 
In September, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said, “Iran considered supporting the Palestinians its religious and national duty and would stay beside the Palestinian nation 'until the big victory feast which is the collapse of the Zionist regime (Israel).” 
 Harel, Amos, Ravid, Barak, “Palestinians: At least 205 dead, over 200 hurt in IAF Gaza strikes,” Haaretz, Dec. 27, 2008, http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/1050359.html
 Ben David, Calev, Abu Ramadan, Saud, “Israeli Air Raids in Gaza Kill as Many as 200 People,” Bloomberg, Dec. 27, 2008, http://www.bloomberg.com/apps/news?pid=20601087&sid=aj7RvdbJIeDY&refer=home Curiel, Ilana, “Man killed in rocket strike,” YnetNews, Dec. 27, 2008, http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-3644954,00.html; Harel, Amos, Ravid, Barak and Issacharoff, Avi, Haaretz Correspondents and News Agencies, “Army readies for 'limited' Gaza action as 22 mortars hit Negev,” Haaretz, Dec. 26, 2008, http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/1050338.html  “Gaza-Hamas Fact Sheet,” Embassy of Israel, Dec. 22, 2008; "Hamas fires at Israel, threatening hopes of renewed ceasefire," The Telegraph (UK), Dec. 24, 2008, http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/middleeast/israel/3933368/Hamas-fires-at-Israel-threatening-hopes-of-renewed-ceasefire.html  Adayat, Fadi and Harel, Amos, Haaretz Correspondents, and Haaretz Service, “One Israeli killed, 4 hurt as Palestinian rockets hit Negev home,” Haaretz, Dec. 27, 2008, http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/1050399.html  “PM Olmert Interviewed on Al Arabiya,” Prime Minister’s Office, Dec. 25, 2008, http://www.pmo.gov.il/PMOEng/Communication/Spokesman/2008/12/spokeinter251208.htm  Harel, Amos, Ravid, Barak and Issacharoff, Avi, Haaretz Correspondents and News Agencies, “Army readies for 'limited' Gaza action as 22 mortars hit Negev,” Haaretz, Dec. 26, 2008, http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/1050338.html  Data relayed to The Israel Project by IDF Spokesman’s Division, Dec 18, 2008; “Hamas fires at Israel, threatening hopes of renewed ceasefire,” The Telegraph (UK), Dec. 24, 2008, http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/middleeast/israel/3933368/Hamas-fires-at-Israel-threatening-hopes-of-renewed-ceasefire.html; “Rocket barrage from Gaza as Hamas ends six-month calm,” Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs Web site, Dec. 24, 2008, http://www.mfa.gov.il/MFA  Data relayed to The Israel Project by IDF Spokesman’s Division, Dec 18, 2008; Berger, Ronny and Gelkopf, Marc, “The Impact of the Ongoing Traumatic Stress Conditions on Sderot,” Natal, The Israel Trauma Center for Victims of Terror and War in cooperation with Dr. Mina Tzemach, Director, Dachaf Public Opinion Research Institute, Oct. 2007  Harel, Amos; Issacharoff, Avi; Haaretz Service and Reuters, "Two soldiers killed, one missing in raid on IDF post," Haaretz, June 25, 2006, http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/730994.html  Ravid, Barak, "Obama in Sderot: Nuclear Iran would be game-changing," Haaretz, July 23, 2008, http://haaretz.com/hasen/spages/1004747.html  "Obama says nuclear Iran a "grave threat," Reuters, July 23, 2008, http://www.reuters.com/article/politicsNews/idUSL2376765320080723  “Main terrorist attacks carried out at Gaza Strip crossings,” Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs, June 4, 2008, http://www.mfa.gov.il/MFA/Terrorism-+Obstacle+to+Peace/Terror+Groups/Main+terrorist+attacks+carried+out+at+Gaza+Strip+crossings+16-Jan-2005.htm  Data relayed to The Israel Project by the IDF’s Coordinator for Government Activities in the Territories, Dec. 10, 2008  “News of the Israeli-Palestinian Confrontation July 22-29, 2008,” Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center, http://www.terrorism-info.org.il/malam_multimedia/English/eng_n/html/jul_e001.htm; “Hamas has lately regulated the flourishing tunnel industry in the Gaza Strip,” Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center, Oct. 28, 2008, http://www.terrorism-info.org.il/malam_multimedia/English/eng_n/pdf/ct_e009.pdf  Hamas," Council on Foreign Relations Web site, http://www.cfr.org/publication/8968/, retrieved July 7, 2008  “Senior Hamas operative figure tells London Sunday Times’ Gaza Strip correspondent about Iranian and Syria military aid, detailing the training received by hundreds of Hamas terrorist operatives and describing the transmission to Hamas of Iranian technical know-how for the manufacture of rockets and IED,” The Terrorist and Intelligence Information Center at the Israel Intelligence Heritage and Commemoration Center, March 17, 2008, retrieved July 7, 2008, http://www.terrorism-info.org.il/malam_multimedia/English/eng_n/html/hamas_160308e.htm; Colvin, Marie, “Hamas wages Iran’s proxy war on Israel,” The Times, March 9, 2008, http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/world/middle_east/article3512014.ece  “Violation of calm: Rockets strike Sderot, Ashkelon, western Negev,” Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Dec. 17, 2008, http://www.mfa.gov.il/MFA/Terrorism-+Obstacle+to+Peace/Hamas+war+against+Israel/Rockets_strike_Sderot_Ashkelon_western_Negev_16-Nov-2008.htm; Harel, Amos, “Gaza mortar shells injure eight soldiers, one loses leg,” Haaretz, Nov. 29, 2008, http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/1042007.html  “Over 600 Palestinians killed in internal clashes since 2006,” YnetNews, June 6, 2007, http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-3409548,00.html  “Black Pages in the Absence of Justice: Report on Bloody Fighting in the Gaza Strip from 7 to 14 June 2007,” Palestine Centre for Human Rights, October 2007, http://www.pchrgaza.org/files/Reports/English/pdf_spec/Gaza%20Conflict%20-%20Eng%209%20october..pdf  Hamas," Council on Foreign Relations Web site, http://www.cfr.org/publication/8968/, accessed July 2, 2007 Iran pledges $50m Palestinian aid," BBC News, April 16, 2006, http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/middle_east/4914334.stm  Rabinovich, Abraham, "Hamas digs in for war in Gaza," The Australian, March 16, 2007  “Ahmadinejad: Iran will support Hamas until collapse of Israel,” Haaretz, Sept. 13, 2008, http://haaretz.com/hasen/spages/1020630.html  Kalman, Mathew, “Hamas launches TV Bugs Bunny-lookalike who declares 'I will eat the Jews',” The Daily Mail, Feb. 12, 2008, http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-513925/Hamas-launches-TV-Bugs-Bunny-lookalike-declares-I-eat-Jews.html; “Al Aqsa TV,” ADL.org, http://www.adl.org/terrorism/profiles/al_aqsa_tv.asp. Accessed on Dec. 22, 2008
Sunday, December 28, 2008
...A man was killed and three other Israelis sustained light to serious wounds after a rocket hit an apartment building in Netivot...
Hamas' armed wing, the Izz al-Din al-Qassam Brigades claimed responsibility for the deadly attack.
...The IDF Home Front Command is urging residents to remain in secured rooms and bomb shelters.
...At least 20 rockets have been fired toward Israel since Saturday morning.
Just days after the cabinet gave the military final approval to counter ongoing Palestinian rocket fire against communities in the western Negev, the IDF launched a massive operation, striking Hamas installations throughout the Gaza Strip on Saturday.
...According to witnesses, among the dead was Hamas police chief Maj.-Gen. Tawfik Jaber.
...Hamas remained defiant, vowing revenge and calling on all other Palestinian factions to join in the fight.
...Minutes after the first wave of air strikes hit areas in the southern Gaza Strip, Palestinians reported a second wave which targeted installations in the center and the north of the Strip. Channel 2 reported that 60 planes were involved in the attack, and nearly 100 targets were hit.
Hamas's Interior Ministry said that all security compounds in Gaza were destroyed.
Friday, December 19, 2008
While Jews, including a Chabad rabbi and his pregnant wife, were being slaughtered by terrorists in Mumbai, the United Nations was busy preparing more anti-Israel resolutions and using US tax dollars to plan "Durban 2." Will the world tolerate another internationally sanctioned attack on Jews and Israel? Unless something serious is done immediately, it appears that it will.
Indeed, this past year alone the UN General Assembly adopted 14 resolutions specifically criticizing Israel, and seven more expressing support for the Palestinian people vis-à-vis its relations with Israel. All together, the 21 resolutions addressing alleged Israeli violations and obligations stretched to 61 pages of text, compared with only 20 pages for resolutions critical of other countries - including Sudan, Iran, Syria and other nations with massive human rights abuses.
The 2001 UN Durban Review Conference was an eight-day platform for attacks against the State of Israel. At the conference, driven primarily by nongovernmental organizations in close cooperation with Iran and other Islamic regimes, Israel was repeatedly singled out and internationally isolated as the participants equated Zionism with racism and derided Israel's attempts to defend itself as war crimes.
Anti-Semitic cartoons and books such as The Protocols of the Elders of Zion and Hitler's Mein Kampf were circulated. Protesters shouted "Death to the Jews" and accused Israel of committing holocausts. The NGO final declaration accused Israel of apartheid and ethnic cleansings, called for the total isolation of Israel through sanctions and made threats against countries that support Israel.
Durban 1 may have been the largest anti-Semitic and anti-Israel meeting of the 21st century. Now get ready for Round 2.
EIGHT YEARS later, on April 20, the UN will once again convene the Conference against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance, this time at its European headquarters in Geneva. So far, the conference promises to be nothing more than a dangerous reprisal of the 2001 debacle - a broad campaign to demonize Israel while ignoring racist and discriminatory acts by UN members such as Sudan, Iran and China. And since America pays for at least 20 percent of the UN's budget, this will be our tax dollars at work.
Regional conferences show the same lopsided tendency as they set the stage for another UN-backed bashing of Israel. That should come as no surprise given that the Preparatory Committee (PrepCom) is being led by Libya, one of the 20 committee members. Others include Iran, Egypt, Pakistan and Cuba, all of which have an interest in distracting attention from their own human rights records.
Further: At a PrepCom meeting in May 2008, a UN working group released a document expressing "concern about the plight of the Palestinian people under foreign occupation." At the same meeting, the PrepCom accredited the Palestinian Grassroots Anti-Apartheid Wall Campaign for the NGO forum accompanying the conference but rejected the Canadian Council for Israel and Jewish Advocacy.
In late October, the UN Human Rights Council, which facilitates the PrepCom and is hosting the conference - released a draft document containing no fewer than nine paragraphs condemning Israel as guilty of apartheid, accusing it of crimes against humanity and genocide and once again impugning Zionism as racist by referring to a "racially based law of return." The representatives of various Arab and Muslim states already have stated their support for these passages and recommended additional condemnations.
In August, the African Regional Conference issued a declaration mentioning the "plight of the Palestinian people" while ignoring the genocide in Sudan.
Already, a number of Western governments and international organizations including ours are preparing for more of the same. Canada and Israel plan to stay away from the conference altogether; the US vowed not to participate without proof that the conference will not become another internationally sanctioned assault against Jews and Israel. France's President Nicolas Sarkozy said earlier this year that his country will withdraw from the conference unless certain demands are met.
With enough blood spilled, it isn't too late for world powers and leaders of the future to take an affirmative stand - this time in support of Israel's right to live in security and peace.
Monday, December 15, 2008
Millions of Americans believe the Sept. 11 attacks were ...a conspiracy planned and executed by the Bush administration. Why? ...the attacks provided President Bush and his aides the pretext to launch international wars and to enact policies that "led to widespread denials of rights under the pretext of homeland security."
So writes Richard Falk, a professor emeritus of international law at Princeton University -- and also a special representative of the U.N. Human Rights Council, who is charged with investigating Israeli abuses against the Palestinians...
What does this have to do with Israel and the Palestinians? Nothing, really -- except that the U.N. monitors who already view Falk with grave distrust are now throwing up his advocacy of the 9/11 conspiracy theory as further evidence that he is not qualified to serve as an important U.N. envoy. (The Islamic nations chose Falk for the position early this year in large part because he once compared Israel to Nazi Germany.)
Of course, Falk's supporters on the council -- Egypt, Pakistan and other members of the Islamic conference -- are not bothered by any of this. That should be no surprise. If the Bush administration actually perpetrated the Sept. 11 attacks, then the world's distrust of Islam would be largely unfounded.
...last month an organization called UN Watch published an angry press release attacking Falk for publishing an article in a Scottish newspaper, entitled, "9/11, More Than Meets the Eye." In it, Falk does not say flatly that the theories are correct -- just that they warrant further investigation. Still, Hillel Neuer, director of UN Watch, wrote: "The very credibility of the U.N. mission to preserve international peace is at stake."
I talked with Neuer, and with Falk. In any conversation about Falk, Neuer's fundamental concern is on a different plane. The Human Rights Council, he notes, has fired its special representatives for Cuba, Liberia, Uzbekistan -- even Congo. But one state has a permanent monitor not subject to debate or renewal. That is Israel, and Falk holds that position. "He has a very serious mandate," Neuer said. "People who question whether 9/11 happened are not serious people. No one in the United States or the West could be in positions of authority if they engaged in 9/11 conspiracy talk."
...The Human Rights Council is already an embarrassment to the United Nations. Certainly reasonable people can criticize Israel, just as they can find fault with the Palestinians. But the council's pathological obsession with Israel is its defining characteristic, and Falk is its embodiment.
I wouldn't have cared that an academic wrote the foreword several years ago for a book that is the conspiracy advocates' bible. But I do care that the man whose job now is to help the Islamic states pursue their vendetta against Israel also believes that the U.S. government is capable of such unspeakable evil. What does that tell you about his frame of mind for his United Nations job?
Sunday, December 14, 2008
Kadima will choose its Knesset list on Wednesday amid growing anger in the party over Kadima leader Tzipi Livni's failure ...to narrow the gap in the polls between the two parties.
Likud chairman Binyamin Netanyahu succeeded in getting his nemesis, Moshe Feiglin, demoted to the 36th slot on the party's list last Thursday, but there is still a chance he could return to the 20th slot in which he was initially placed, due to appeals filed by former Likud MKs Michael Ratzon and Ehud Yatom, who were demoted along with Feiglin for technical reasons.
Kadima officials had hoped that Kadima would grow in support due to the placement on the Likud list of Feiglin and former Likud rebel MKs. They also hoped that Netanyahu's obsessive behavior against Feiglin would cause him to lose support.
But polls sponsored by three Hebrew dailies found that the Likud had lost no more than two seats and might have even gained a seat. They also found that Labor had gained seats following its primary at Kadima's expense.
The most damaging poll for Livni was Shvakim Panorama's, which was broadcast on Israel Radio Thursday. The poll predicted that Likud would win 34-35 seats, Kadima 20-21 and Labor, which until last week was in single digits, 14-15.
Livni's advisers said there was still plenty of time ahead of the February 10 election. ...But Livni's critics in Kadima said that the more Livni spoke publicly, the more the party would fall in the polls. They pointed to two controversial statements she made Thursday to Tel Aviv high school students that even people close to her in the party admitted made them feel uncomfortable.
Livni told the students regarding kidnapped soldier Gilad Schalit that "we all want Gilad to come home, but there is always the risk of minimum casualties and it isn't always possible to bring everyone home."
Regarding Israeli Arabs she said, "I will also be able to approach the Palestinian residents of Israel, those whom we call Israeli Arabs, and tell them, 'Your national solution lies elsewhere.'"
While some in the party called such statements "undisciplined" for a candidate, her advisers said they were "prime ministerial," because they proved that she was "a different kind of leader who always tells the truth, and always says things as they are, and that's why people trust her."
...Additional anger was expressed at Livni in Kadima by candidates who were hoping for her support but have been disappointed that she has not campaigned on their behalf. Privately, MKs who supported her in the Kadima leadership race said they were upset that their endorsements had not been reciprocated.
Knesset candidates who supported Livni's rival in the leadership race, Transportation Minister Shaul Mofaz, expressed similar anger over the weekend at him for not working on their behalf ahead of the primary. Others were annoyed to find themselves left out of lists of candidates who Mofaz supported in the race that were leaked over the weekend.
Mofaz's list includes ministers Ze'ev Boim and Ruhama Avraham, MKs Ronit Tirosh, Shai Hermesh, Otniel Schneller and David Tal, and activists Yuval Zellner, Avner Barzani, Roni Ben-Hamo, Avi Duen and Akram Hason. Livni's associates denied reports that she was concerned Mofaz would succeed in electing a faction within Kadima that could later split from the party and join Likud.
...Defense Minister and Labor leader Ehud Barak sharply criticized Livni on Saturday for suggesting that it may not be possible to bring Schalit home. ..."I'm not too sure that I understand [Livni's] statement," Barak said. "I have buried many soldiers who were killed and did not return. We have the highest responsibility to return a soldier who is alive and in captivity through all suitable and possible methods, but not at any price.
Even Chief of General Staff Lt.-Gen. Gabi Ashkenazi felt the need to respond to Livni's remarks, declaring that Schalit was on Israel's agenda every day. "Vast resources are being invested in this matter," Ashkenazi said at a meeting with Beduin and Druse leaders for Id al-Adha on Friday. "I am hopeful that we will succeed in returning Gilad home to his family as quickly as possible."
Livni's comments also enraged activists pushing for Schalit's release....
The UK lecturers' union has abandoned attempts to boycott Israeli universities after years of international controversy....
In the face of legal threats, the leadership of the University and College Union has quietly dropped plans to implement a conference motion that instructed members to "consider the moral and political implications of educational links with Israeli institutions, and to discuss the occupation with individuals and institutions concerned, including Israeli colleagues".
The union was asked to "widely disseminate" testimony from Palestinians and union delegations to Palestine. This too was shelved by the national executive at a meeting last month.
The union's director of legal services, Michael Scott, has written to lawyers representing opponents of the motion, refusing to repudiate the motion itself but clarifying what action the union will take to implement it.
Any mention of the proposal to discuss the occupation with Israeli colleagues, or consider the moral implications of links with Israel, has been dropped.
Instead, the union will issue guidance to branches about twinning with universities in Zimbabwe and Burma, as well as Gaza and the West Bank; commissioning an independent report on academic freedom; and ensuring expenditure on the motion is within the budget for international work.
...In 2007, a motion openly calling for a boycott was passed but was subsequently overturned at a special conference - though not before it had caused an international row that opponents claimed damaged the reputation of British academia.
In response to this year's motion, a group of 12 members threatened to sue the union, arguing that it amounted to a boycott in all but name and was illegal discrimination contrary to the UCU's own rules.
Prof Michael Yudkin, the group's spokesman, said today: "It is clear that the union has backed down, but they don't want to say it in so many words. You don't have to be a rocket scientist to see the difference between what was said in May at the congress and what the NEC decided to do. In effect, it means they are dropping the boycott."
In view of the decision by the union's national executive, his group was dropping its legal action but would sue in the event of any fresh attempt to bring in a boycott, said Yudkin, emeritus professor of biochemistry at Oxford.
"We are not talking about freedom of speech but proposals to discriminate unlawfully against a group of individuals," he added. A boycott against Burmese universities in protest at the military regime there would be equally illegal and abhorrent, he argued.
The UCU's general secretary, Sally Hunt, insisted the union's position had not changed... "Because of the constant misreporting of the motions considered by UCU's congress, I feel I have to state that we have passed a motion to provide solidarity with the Palestinians, not to boycott Israel or any other country's academic institutions. Implementation of the motion within the law will now fall to the national executive committee."
Anthony Julius, of solicitors Mishcon de Reya which represents the opponents, responded to the union today saying: "The NEC is not implementing the motion … Just as motion 25 was a boycott motion without the use of the word, so the NEC's 'implementation' is a repudiation of it, without use of that word."
Although efforts to boycott Israel appear to have been curtailed, intense argument will continue among UK academics...
Friday, December 12, 2008
VIENNA, Austria - Australia, Hungary and Lithuania are failing to investigate and prosecute suspected Nazi war criminals largely due to a lack of political will, the Simon Wiesenthal Center said Thursday.
The Nazi-hunting group said the same holds true for Croatia, Estonia, Latvia and Ukraine, adding all countries in question face no legal obstacles in bringing suspects to justice.
The findings were published in the center's annual report, which graded the investigation and prosecution efforts of countries around the world between April 2007 and March 2008.
"In analyzing the results presented in this report, the critical importance of political will in bringing Nazi war criminals to justice is increasingly evident," wrote Efraim Zuroff, the center's chief Nazi hunter.
However, he lauded the success achieved by U.S. prosecution agencies, saying they should serve as a catalyst for governments around the world.
Australia was given the worst possible mark — an "F-2"_ for its continued failure to extradite Nazi collaborator Charles Zentai, an Australian citizen accused of killing a Jewish teenager in Hungary during World War II.
The report said Australia admitted at least several hundred Nazi war criminals and collaborators but has failed to take successful legal action against a single one.
In August, an Australian judge found that Zentai's case and circumstances met the requirements of the Australian Extradition Act and the Extradition Treaty between Australia and the Republic of Hungary. Lawyers for Zentai said at the time they would appeal the ruling....
...serial Holocaust revisionist Fredrick Toben is unrepentant....the Holocaust denier is free once more to loudly declare the views that others find so offensive.
"The Germans never systematically exterminated anyone - it's a lie," he says.... "I refuse to recant."
..Toben, 64, returned to Adelaide last week after his 50-day stay in London's Wandsworth Prison and wasted no time in resuming his Adelaide Institute newsletter...
The former schoolteacher was arrested aboard a plane at Heathrow airport on October 1 en route to Dubai. British police were acting on a European Union arrest warrant, issued in Germany, which accused him of publishing internet material "of an anti-Semitic and/or revisionist nature".
...But Dr Toben's legal team - recruited by former Newcastle beauty queen and outspoken revisionist supporter Michele Renouf - emerged victorious after a British judge ruled the arrest warrant invalid.
...Holocaust denial is not a crime in Britain or Australia.
It was not the first time Germany - his homeland - had pursued Dr Toben. He spent seven months in a Mannheim prison in 1999 for inciting racism.
With international travel off the cards in the near future in case of further arrest, Dr Toben remains in Adelaide awaiting a Federal Court judgment in a civil case against him.
He has pleaded not guilty to 28 charges alleging he breached orders by the Federal Court in 2002 not to publish offensive material on his website. He faces a finding of criminal contempt if found guilty.
Thursday, December 11, 2008
...military is waiting for political echelon to green light operation in Strip ...various plans already presented to cabinet
Eight days before the ceasefire agreement brokered with the militant groups in the Gaza Strip is scheduled to end, and amid non-stop rocket fire, a security source said that "the IDF will execute any operation the political echelon orders."
The source further criticized statements made by various cabinet members, saying there was no need for them to publicly call for a Gaza operation, while they choose to take different stands – sometimes opposite stands – in the practical discussions on the matter.
The IDF presented the National Security Cabinet, which discussed the ongoing rocket fire on Israel Wednesday night, with various plans of action, meant to paralyze the rocket and mortar shell fire emanating form the Strip.
According to the security source, the IDF is ready to launch any of its plans or a combination of them, but for that to happen, the political echelon must make an operational decision.
In a meeting which included Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, Defense Minister Ehud Barak and Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, and in light of the sparring between Barak and Livni, the prime minister urged both to leave the IDF and the defense establishment out of the political debate: "The heads of the defense establishment and the IDF must not be attributed with any political considerations," the Prime Minister's Office said.
National Security Cabinet member Interior Minister Meir Sheetrit, called on the cabinet to halt the discussions on the fortification of the Gaza vicinity communities: "The best defense is a good offense… I want to see fortifications in Gaza, not in Israel," he said.
Shas Chairman Eli Yishai called for "an immediate surgical operation against Hamas' heads and those carrying out terror attacks and firing Qassam rockets and mortar shells on Israel." Yishai also said Israel should opt for a "financial chokehold" on Gaza.
Foreign Minister Livni demanded an immediate Israeli response to the recent rocket fire, saying "fire should be met with fire."
"The situation is unbearable," said her office. "Hamas and other terror groups are firing rockets, we close the (Gaza) crossings but we don't launch a military response, and as a result the fire continues. The IDF has to act. As for the extent of the operation, we have to choose from the options laid out before us."
Behind the financial crisis was a well-practiced mechanism for concealing risk. The risk was there, and it was constantly growing, but it could be disguised, repackaged and renamed, so that in the end it seemed to have disappeared. Much of the debate about foreign policy in the United States is conducted in the same manner: policymakers and pundits, to get what they want, conceal the risks.
In the case of the Middle East, they concealed the risks of bringing Yasser Arafat in from the cold; they concealed the risks of neglecting the growth of Al Qaeda; and they concealed the risks involved in occupying Iraq. It isn't that the risks weren't knownג€”to someone. The intelligence was always there. But if you were clever enough, and determined enough, you could find a way to conceal them.
But concealed risk doesn't go away. It accumulates away from sight, until the moment when it surges back to the surface. It did that after Camp David in 2000, when the "peace process" collapsed in blood; it did that on 9/11, when hijackers shattered the skies over New York in Washington; and it happened in Iraq, when an insurgency kicked us back. This tendency to downplay risk may be an American trait: we have seen it in U.S. markets, and now we see it in U.S. election-year politics. In Middle East policy, its outcome has been a string of very unpleasant surprises.
A case in point is radical Islam. One would think that after the Iranian revolution, the assassination of Anwar Sadat, the terrorism of Hezbollah, the Rushdie affair, the suicide attacks of Hamas and Al Qaeda, the Danish cartoons, and a host of other "surprises," that we would not be inclined to ignore the risks posed by radical Islam. And yet there are batteries of interpreters, analysts and pundits whose principal project is to obscure if not conceal the risks. Here are some of the most widespread variations on the theme:
Worried about Ahmadinejad? Pay him no mind. He doesn't really call the shots in Iran, he's just a figurehead. And anyway, he didn't really say what he's purported to have said, about wiping Israel off the map. What the Iranians really want is to sit down with us and cut a deal. They have a few grievances, some of them are even legitimate, so let's hear them out and invite them to the table, without preconditions. Iran isn't all that dangerous; it's just a small country; and even their own people are tired of the revolution. So pay no attention to Ahmadinejad, and pay no attention to the old slogans of "death to America," because that's not the real Iran.
Worried about the Palestinian Hamas? You've got it wrong. They merely represent another face of Palestinian nationalism. They aren't really Islamists at all: Hamas is basically a protest movement against corruption. Given the right incentives, they can be drawn into the peace process. Sure, they say they will never recognize Israel, but that is what the PLO once said, and didn't they change their tune? Anyway, Hamas controls Gaza, so there can't be a real peace processג€”a settlement of the big issues like Jerusalem, refugees, bordersג€”without bringing them into the tent. So let's sit down and talk to them, figure out what their grievances areג€”no doubt, some of them are legitimate too. And let's get the process back on track.
Troubled by Hezbollah? Don't believe everything they say. They only pretend to be faithful to Iran's ayatollahs, and all their talk about "onwards to Jerusalem" is rhetoric for domestic consumption. What they really want is to earn the Shiites their rightful place in Lebanon, and improve the lot of their aggrieved sect. Engage them, dangle some carrots, give them a place at the table, and see how quickly they transform themselves from an armed militia into a peaceable political party.
And so on. There is a large industry out there, which has as its sole purpose the systematic downplaying of the risks posed by radical Islam. And in the best American tradition, these risks are repackaged as opportunities, under a new name. It could just as easily be called appeasement, but the public associates appeasement with high risk. So let's rename it engagement, which sounds low-risk--- after all, there's no harm in talking, right? And once the risk has been minimized, the possible pay-off is then inflated: if we engage with the Islamists, we will reap the reward in the form of a less tumultuous Middle East. Nuclear plans might be shelved, terror might wane, and peace might prevail.
The engagement package rests upon a key assumption: that these "radical" states, groups, and individuals are motivated by grievances. If only we were able to address or ameliorate those grievances, we could effectively domesticate just about every form of Islamism. Another assumption is that these grievances are finite--- that is, by ameliorating them, they will be diminished.
It is precisely here that advocates of "engagement" are concealing the risk. They do so in two ways. First, they distract us from the deep-down dimension of Islamism--- from the overarching narrative that drives all forms of Islamism. The narrative goes like this: the enemies of Islam--- America, Europe, the Christians, the Jews, Israel--- enjoy much more power than the believing Muslims do. But if we Muslim return to the faith, we can restore to ourselves the vast power we exercised in past, when Islam dominated the world as the West dominates it today. The Islamists believe that through faith--- exemplified by self-sacrifice and self-martyrdom--- they can put history in reverse.
Once this is understood, the second concealment of risk comes into focus. We are told that the demands of Hamas, Hezbollah or Iran are finite. If we give them a concession here, or a foothold there, we will have somehow diminished their demand for more concessions and footholds. But if their purpose is the reversal of history, then our gestures of accommodation, far from enticing them to give up their grand vision, only persuade them to press on. They understand our desire to engage them as a sign of weakness--- an attempt to appease them--- which is itself an enticement for them to push harder against us and our allies. And since they believe in their narrative of an empowered Islam with the fervency of religious conviction, no amount of insistence by us that we will go only so far and no further will stop them.
Our inability to estimate this risk derives in part from our unwillingness to give credence to religious conviction in politics. We are keen to recast Islamists in secular terms--- to see them as political parties, or reform movements, or interest groups. But what if Islamists are none of these things? What if they see themselves as soldiers of God, working his will in the world? How do you deal with someone who believes that a paradise awaits every jihadist "martyr," and that the existence of this paradise is as real and certain to him as the existence of a Sheraton Hotel in Chicago? Or that at any moment, the mahdi, the awaited one, could make a reappearance and usher in the end of days? How do we calculate that risk?
So what are the real risks posed by Islamic extremism? If I were preparing a prospectus for a potential investor in "engagement," or a warning label on possible side effects of "engagement," they would include these warnings:
With regards to Iran. The downside risk is that Iran will prolong "engagement" in such a way as to buy time for its nuclear program--- perhaps just the amount of time it needs to complete it. At the same time, it will use the fact of "engagement" with the United States to chisel away at the weak coalition of Arab states that the United States has cobbled together to contain Iran. If "engagement" is unconditionally offered, Iran will continue its subversive activities in Iraq and Lebanon until it receives some other massive concession. Indeed, it may even accelerate these activities, so as to demand a higher price for their cessation. If the United States stands its ground and "engagement" fails, many in the Middle East will automatically blame the United States, but by then, military options will be even less appealing than they are today.
In regards to Hamas. The downside risk is that "engagement"... will be the nail in the coffin of Mahmoud Abbas, and of any directly negotiated understandings between Israel and the Palestinians. It is true that Israelis and Palestinians aren't capable today of reaching a final status agreement. But the present situation in the West Bank allows for a degree of stability and cooperation. This is because Israel stands as the guarantor against Hamas subversion of the West Bank. "Engagement" with Hamas would weaken that guarantee, signal to Palestinians once again that terrorism pays, and validate and legitimate the anti-Semitic, racist rhetoric that emanates daily from the leaders and preachers of Hamas. It might do all this without bringing Israeli-Palestinian peace even one inch closer.
In regards to Hezbollah. The downside risk is that "engagement" will effectively concede control of Lebanon to an armed militia that constitutes a state within a state. It will undermine America's pretension to champion civil society and pluralism in the most diverse Arab state. It will constitute the final rout of the beleaguered democracy forces within Lebanon, which have been consistently pro-American. It will compound the unfortunate effects of the 2006 summer war, by seeming to acknowledge Hezbollah as the victor. And it might do all this without bringing about the disarming of a single Hezbollah terrorist, or the removal of a single Iranian-supplied missile from Lebanon.
...In the Middle East, the idea that "there's no harm in talking" is entirely incomprehensible. It matters whom you talk to, because you legitimize your interlocutors. Hence the Arab refusal to normalize relations with Israel. Remember the scene that unfolded this past summer, when Bashar Asad scrupulously avoided contact with Ehud Olmert on the same reviewing stand at a Mediterranean summit. An Arab head of state will never directly engage Israel before extracting every concession. Only an American would think of doing this at the outset, and in return for nothing: "unconditional talks" is a purely American concept, incomprehensible in the Middle East. There is harm in talking, if your talking legitimates your enemies, and persuades them and those on the sidelines that you have done so from weakness. For only the weak talk "unconditionally," which is tantamount to accepting the enemy's conditions. It is widely regarded as the prelude to unconditional surrender.
The United States cannot afford to roll the dice again in the Middle East, in the pious hope of winning it all. Chances are slim to nil that the United States is going to talk the Iranians, Hamas or Hezbollah out of their grand plan. Should that surprise us? We "engaged" before, with Yasser Arafat, and we know how that ended. We downplayed radical rhetoric before, with Osama bin Laden, and we know how that ended. We assumed we could talk people out of their passions in Iraq, and we know how that ended.
It is time to question risk-defying policies in the Middle East. The slogans of peace and democracy misled us. Let's not let the new slogan of engagement do the same. The United States is going to have to show the resolve and grit to wear and grind down adversaries, with soft power, hard power and will power. Paradoxically, that is the least risky path--- because if America persists, it will prevail.
Wednesday, December 10, 2008
The barbarism in Mumbai and the economic crisis at home have largely overshadowed an otherwise singular event: the ratification of military and strategic cooperation agreements between Iraq and the United States.
They must not pass unnoted.
They were certainly noted by Iran, which fought fiercely to undermine the agreements. Tehran understood how a formal U.S.-Iraqi alliance endorsed by a broad Iraqi consensus expressed in a freely elected parliament changes the strategic balance in the region.
For the United States, this represents the single most important geopolitical advance in the region since Henry Kissinger turned Egypt from a Soviet client into an American ally. If we don't blow it with too hasty a withdrawal from Iraq, we will have turned a chronically destabilizing enemy state at the epicenter of the Arab Middle East into an ally.
...The only significant opposition bloc was the Sadrists, a mere 30 seats out of 275. The ostensibly pro-Iranian religious Shiite parties resisted Tehran's pressure and championed the agreement. As did the Kurds. The Sunnis put up the greatest fight. But their concern was that America would be withdrawing too soon, leaving them subject to overbearing and perhaps even vengeful Shiite dominance.
The Sunnis, who only a few years ago had boycotted provincial elections, bargained with Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, trying to exploit his personal stake in agreements he himself had negotiated. They did not achieve their maximum objectives. But they did get formal legislative commitments for future consideration of their grievances, from amnesty to further relaxation of the de-Baathification laws.
That any of this democratic give-and-take should be happening in a peaceful parliament just two years after Iraq's descent into sectarian hell is in itself astonishing.
Nor is the setting of a withdrawal date terribly troubling. The deadline is almost entirely symbolic. U.S. troops must be out by Dec. 31, 2011 -- the weekend before the Iowa caucuses, which, because God is merciful, will arrive again only in the very fullness of time. Moreover, that date is not just distant but flexible. By treaty, it can be amended. If conditions on the ground warrant, it will be.
True, the war is not over. As Gen. David Petraeus repeatedly insists, our (belated) successes in Iraq are still fragile. There has already been an uptick in terror bombings, which will undoubtedly continue as what's left of al-Qaeda, the Sadrist militias and the Iranian-controlled "special groups" try to disrupt January's provincial elections.
The more long-term danger is that Iraq's reborn central government becomes too strong and, by military or parliamentary coup, the current democratic arrangements are dismantled by a renewed dictatorship that abrogates the alliance with the United States.
Such disasters are possible. But if our drawdown is conducted with the same acumen as was the surge, not probable. A self-sustaining, democratic and pro-American Iraq is within our reach. It would have two hugely important effects in the region.
First, it would constitute a major defeat for Tehran, the putative winner of the Iraq war, according to the smart set. Iran's client, Moqtada al-Sadr, still hiding in Iran, was visibly marginalized in parliament -- after being militarily humiliated in Basra and Baghdad by the new Iraqi security forces. Moreover, the major religious Shiite parties were the ones that negotiated, promoted and assured passage of the strategic alliance with the United States, against the most determined Iranian opposition.
Second is the regional effect of the new political entity on display in Baghdad -- a flawed yet functioning democratic polity with unprecedented free speech, free elections and freely competing parliamentary factions. For this to happen in the most important Arab country besides Egypt can, over time (over generational time, the time scale of the war on terror), alter the evolution of Arab society. It constitutes our best hope for the kind of fundamental political-cultural change in the Arab sphere that alone will bring about the defeat of Islamic extremism. After all, newly sovereign Iraq is today more engaged in the fight against Arab radicalism than any country on earth, save the United States -- with which, mirabile dictu,it has now thrown in its lot.
Tuesday, December 09, 2008
...MR. BROKAW: .... What are the circumstances under which you would open a dialogue with Iran?
PRES.-ELECT OBAMA: Well, I've said before, I think we need to ratchet up tough but direct diplomacy with Iran, making very clear to them that their development of nuclear weapons would be unacceptable, that their funding of terrorist organizations like Hamas and Hezbollah, their threats against Israel are contrary to everything that we believe in and what the international community should accept, and present a set of carrots and sticks in, in changing their calculus about how they want to operate.
You know, in terms of carrots, I think that we can provide economic incentives that would be helpful to a country that, despite being a net oil producer, is under enormous strain, huge inflation, a lot of unemployment problems there. They could benefit from a more open economy and, and being part of the international economic system.
But we also have to focus on the sticks, and one of the main things that diplomacy can accomplish is to help knit together the kind of coalition with China and India and Russia and other countries that now do business with Iran to agree that, in order for us to change Iran's behavior, we may have to tighten up those sanctions. But we are willing to talk to them directly and give them a clear choice and, and ultimately let them make a determination in terms of whether they want to do this the hard way or, or the easy way.
From UPI.com, Dec. 5, 2008:
Bush vows to deny Iran nuclear weapons
WASHINGTON, Dec. 5 (UPI) -- U.S. President George Bush reiterated Friday his pledge that the United States would not allow Iran to develop a nuclear weapon.
"We have made our bottom-line clear. For the safety of our people and the peace of the world, America will not allow Iran to develop a nuclear weapon," Bush said in remarks prepared for the Saban Forum in Washington.
Bush said he looks forward to "a Middle East where our friends are strengthened and the extremists are discredited, where economies are open and prosperity is widespread, and where all people enjoy the life of liberty ... ."
The president said the United States is urging Mideast nations "to trust their people with greater freedom of speech, worship, and assembly," as well as advancing economic prosperity, quality healthcare, education and women's rights.
The United States has worked to achieve an Israeli-Palestinian peace accord, including the establishment of two democratic states, Palestine and Israel, "living side-by-side in peace and security," Bush said.
Challenges remain in the region, he said, including state-sponsored terror, Iran's nuclear aspiration and oppressive governments.
"Yet the changes of the past eight years herald the beginning of something historic and new," Bush said. "I believe that the day will come when the map of the Middle East shows a peaceful, secure Israel beside a peaceful and democratic Palestine" and independent countries "bound together by ties of diplomacy, tourism, and trade."
...A total of 48,458 out of 99,000 Likud members voted on Monday's primary elections, in all 49.17% of the party's eligible voters cast their ballots.
He is followed by Gilad Erdan , Reuven Rivlin , Benny Begin , Moshe Kahlon , Silvan Shalom , Moshe Yaalon , Yuval Steinitz  and Leah Ness  – who surprised everyone by overtaking Limor Livnat as the Likud's top female candidate.
The next ten consist of Yisrael Katz, Yuli Edelstein, Limor Livnat, Yossi Peled, Haim Katz, Michael Eitan, Dan Meridor, Tzipi Chotobali, Gila Gamliel.
Moshe Feiglin, whose ascent is greatly feared by Netanyahu, reportedly reached the 20th spot....
Monday, December 08, 2008
The Australia/Israel & Jewish Affairs Council [AIJAC] ...was "very disappointed" with the majority report resulting from the Senate Standing Committee on Education, Employment and Workplace Relations Inquiry into Academic Freedom...[which] made no recommendations and essentially denied that there were any substantive problems with respect to academic freedom or political bias on Australian campuses.
"... the Committee split on partisan lines, and essentially achieved nothing... there is certainly evidence of Jewish students at Australian universities experiencing problems with bias or intimidation, and we provided substantive examples of inappropriate behaviour by some lecturers."
... "AIJAC will be taking our concerns about some aspects of campus culture and behaviour directly to Education Minister Julia Gillard. We hope and believe that she will prove less partisan and more farsighted than her Senate colleagues....."
Sunday, December 07, 2008
Ashkelon mayor says he expects Barak to show Hebron-style determination vis-à-vis terrorists
Ashkelon's outgoing Mayor, Roni Mahatzri, said Saturday that the Gaza Strip lull is dead, following rocket attacks on the southern city throughout Shabbat. The mayor said he fails to understand the government's delay in responding to the ongoing rocket fire.
At least 12 rockets and mortar shells were fired at the city in the past 24 hours and landed in open areas. One rocket hit Ashkelon's southern industrial zone but caused no injuries or damages.
"We saw that when the defense minister wishes to show determination and resolve, he knows how to do that," Mahatzri said. "He did it while handling the case of the house in Hebron. I would like to see the same determination when it comes to the rocket fire. The government must realize that the lull no longer exists, and if they fail to understand it now we shall find ourselves facing very heavy barrages and endless attacks."
"The situation cannot go on like this," the mayor said.
'We demand government response'
The past week has seen an escalation in Qassam and mortar attacks on the western Negev, with fire continuing throughout the day. During the weekend the issue was discussed by the four heads of the regional councils in the Gaza vicinity.
The head of the Ashkelon Beach Regional Council, Yair Farjoun, said that he and the other council heads were expecting the government to exact a "price tag" for rocket attacks.
"Over the past few days there has been non-stop Qassam and mortar fire," he said. "This steady drip has become a daily ritual and unfortunately we are not seeing a response. This situation cannot continue. We demand that the government respond."
In past weeks the number of Ashkelon residents appealing for secure rooms in their homes has also increased. The government has not formulated a plan to fund these rooms, and many residents have appealed for benefits from city council if no such plan is forthcoming.
Saturday, December 06, 2008
December 9 marks the 60th anniversary of the Genocide Convention, sometimes referred to as the "Never Again" Convention. Six decades have passed since this new era of genocide prevention was proclaimed in the wake of the Holocaust. On this oft-ignored anniversary, we must acknowledge our abysmal failure in preventing the most destructive threat known to humankind - the crime whose name we should even shudder to mention - genocide.
The enduring lesson of the Holocaust and that of the genocides that followed is that they occurred not simply because of the machinery of death, but because of the state-sanctioned incitement to hatred. As international tribunals have recognized and affirmed, the Holocaust did not begin in the gas chambers; it began with words. These are the chilling facts of history.
Most important, in all other cases of state-sanctioned incitement to genocide - the Holocaust, the Balkans, Rwanda and Darfur - the genocides have already occurred. Only in President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's Iran - the epicenter of such incitement - can we still act so as to prevent a genocide foretold from occurring.
For it is in Ahmadinejad's Iran where one finds the toxic convergence of the advocacy of the most horrific of crimes embedded in the most virulent of hatreds. It is dramatized by the parading in the streets of Teheran of a Shahab-3 missile draped in the words "Israel must be wiped off the map" and underpinned by the words of the Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei that "[t]here is only one solution to the Middle East problem, namely the annihilation and destruction of the Jewish state."
Moreover, Ahmadinejad's Iran has already resorted to incendiary and demonizing language, including epidemiological metaphors reminiscent of Nazi incitement. For example, President Ahmadinejad characterizes Israel as "filthy bacteria," "a stinking corpse" and "a cancerous tumor that needs to be excised," while referring to Jews as "evil incarnate," "blood-thirsty barbarians" and the "defilers of Islam" - the whole as prologue to, and justification for, a Mideast genocide, while at the same time denying the Nazi one.
Indeed, calls by the most senior figures in the Iranian leadership for the destruction of Israel are also frighteningly reminiscent of calls for the Rwandan extermination of Tutsis by the Hutu leadership. The crucial difference is that the Hutus were equipped with machetes, while Iran, in defiance of the world community, continues its pursuit of the most destructive of weaponry: nuclear arms. Alarmingly, Iran has already succeeded in developing a long-range missile delivery system for that purpose, the whole recalling former president Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani's open threat that "even one atomic bomb inside Israel will wipe it off the face of the earth."
The failure to stop past genocides, as in the unspeakable, preventable genocide of Rwanda, caused the then-UN secretary general Kofi Annan to lament in 2004 on the 10th anniversary of the Rwandan genocide: "We must never forget our collective failure to protect at least 800,000 defenseless men, women and children who perished in Rwanda 10 years ago.
"Such crimes cannot be reversed. Such failures cannot be repaired. The dead cannot be brought back to life. So, what can we do?"
AS THE express target of Iran's genocidal incitement - and the country most at risk from Iran's combined nuclear and genocidal menace - Israel must necessarily be engaged in countering Ahmadinejad's genocidal threat. Indeed, any passive acquiescence by Israel would be misinterpreted and could undermine calls upon other states to act.
But while Israel has been at the forefront of both the movement calling for severe sanctions against Iran for its nuclear weapons program - and of those saying the military option cannot be taken off the table - it has been surprisingly reticent in initiating, or supporting others to initiate any of a number of legal remedies mandated by the Genocide Convention.
Admittedly, Israel has often been singled out for differential treatment in the international arena and so often regards international legal remedies with skepticism if not suspicion. However, holding Iran to account in the legal arena is not only the right thing to do; it is a duty. For what is so often ignored is that state parties to the Genocide Convention, including Israel, have not only a right, but an obligation, to enforce the Convention, and in particular to prevent genocide.
The threat of Ahmadinejad's Iran is not merely nuclear; it is genocidal. Let there be no mistake about it: Iran has already committed the crime of incitement prohibited under the Genocide Convention. We must understand that the threat of genocide is not a distraction from the nuclear issue; it is the terrifying and vilifying context in which the nuclear threat operates. It should be the basis for bolstering and enhancing sanctions, as disconnecting the genocidal from the nuclear ambitions of Iran only weakens the case against both.
Instead of relegating debate to the nuclear question - which addresses the means, but not the motivation, of the destructive capacity of Ahmadinejad's Iran - Israel should also be leading the international community in paying heed to the precursors of genocide. As one who was involved as minister of justice in the prosecution of Rwandan incitement, I can state that the aggregate of precursors of incitement in the Iranian case are more threatening than were those in the Rwandan one.
SIMPLY PUT, the Genocide Convention authorizes a panoply of international legal remedies which Israel could invoke or support others in invoking.
Specifically, an application to hold Iran - also a state party - to account should be submitted to the UN Security Council pursuant to Article 8 of the Genocide Convention; an inter-state complaint can be launched against Iran before the International Court of Justice; and UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon should be asked to refer the danger of a genocidal and nuclear Iran to the Security Council as a threat to international peace and security.
Given their genocidal incitement, the cases of President Ahmadinejad and other Iranian leaders can be referred to other UN agencies as well. What is so astonishing is that this criminal incitement by a nuclear weapon-seeking Iran has yet to be addressed by any agency of the UN-thereby nurturing a culture of impunity that itself is driving a culture of hatred. And what is no less disturbing - considering that indifference and inaction are also what made prior genocides possible - is that no state party has invoked any of these mandated initiatives.
The legal remedies to counter state-sanctioned incitement exist, but the leadership has thus far been wanting. This is why I am releasing a petition entitled "The Danger of a Genocidal and Nuclear Iran: The Responsibility to Prevent" - endorsed by legal scholars, genocide experts and even genocide survivors from around the world - that extensively presents the factual and legal case against Ahmadinejad's Iran, and that calls upon the international community, and state parties to the Genocide Convention, to act.
Calling Ahmadinejad's Iran to account - and directly linking its nuclear ambitions to its genocidal incitements - is not simply an option. It is a responsibility - a responsibility to prevent - a responsibility envisaged by the Genocide Convention 60 years ago.
The writer is the former minister of justice and attorney-general of Canada and is a Canadian member of parliament. He is a professor of law (on leave) at McGill University and has written extensively on - and prosecuted for - incitement to genocide.