Saturday, May 17, 2008

Reflections from Australia: Are Anti-Zionism and Antisemitism One and The Same?

From Covenant Magazine, Volume 2, Issue 1 (May 2008 / Nissan 5768), Article 2/9, by Philip Mendes, Senior Lecturer in Social Policy & Community Development, Monash University, Australia, and the author or co-author of six books:

(very brief excerpt only, with my emphasis added - follow this link to the full article online or this one for the Adobe Version):

..historically anti-Zionism and antisemitism were divergent ideas... recent decades anti-Zionism and antisemitism have increasingly converged. Left anti-Zionism today, defined as a rejection of the legitimacy of the State of Israel and a desire to negate the reality of its existence, involves a discriminatory denial of Jewish national claims and nationhood.

In place of the centrality of the State of Israel to contemporary Jewish identity, Left anti-Zionists portray Israel as a mere political construct, and utilize ethnic stereotyping of all Israelis and all Jewish supporters of Israel in order to justify their claims....

Criticisms of Israel per se are not antisemitic, particularly when they involve judgments about real Israeli actions and policies. The worst that can reasonably said about most such judgments is that they may be unbalanced, and reflect a partisan pro-Palestinian view of the conflict.

This does not mean that Jewish concerns about the possible motives of some persistent critics of Israel are completely unfounded. It is also understandable that a historically oppressed group may interpret (from their experiences of persecution) such attacks as reflecting anti-Jewish prejudices, rather than more dispassionate political or ideological agendas....

...Nevertheless, anti-Zionism does become antisemitism when critics of Israel shift the analysis from one of objective reality to subjective fantasy. Instead of depicting Israel as a real state with real people – most of whom are either refugees themselves or the descendants of refugees fleeing oppression – anti-Zionist fundamentalists collectively label all Israeli Jews and their supporters as guilty of colonialism and racism.

And traditional antisemitic prejudices around disproportionate Jewish power, influence and wealth are utilized to justify these stereotypes.

The complex debate about the relative merits of Israeli and Palestinian claims is removed from its real national, cultural and historical context, and instead reduced to a mere political conspiracy in which Jews are constructed as inherently evil and immoral oppressors trampling over the rights of innocent Palestinians.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Obama - false American Idol

From The Australian, by Gerard Baker May 16, 2008:

EVERY decade or so the people who control the way we see the world anoint some American politician the Redeemer of a Troubled Planet..... it's fairly clear now that, with the near-certain nomination by the Democrats of Barack Obama everything is in place for the media to indulge in one of the greatest, orgiastic media fiestas of hero-worship since Elvis Presley.

You will not see a finer example of the genre than the cover story of this week's Newsweek, which was entitled "The O Team". This rhapsodic inside account of Senator Obama's campaign reads a little like a cross between Fr Alban Butler's Life of St Francis and the sort of authorised biography of Kim Jong Il you can pick up in any good bookshop in Pyongyang.

Mr Obama is portrayed throughout as an immanently benevolent figure. Not human really, more a comforting presence, a light source. He is always eager to listen to all sides of an argument, always instilling confidence in the weak-willed, resolutely sticking to his high principles, and tirelessly spurning the low road of electoral politics. I stopped reading after a while but I'm sure by the end he was healing the sick, comforting the dying, restoring sight to the blind and setting prisoners free....

... the Newsweek credo was only the latest and perhaps most shameless phase of the pro-Obama liturgy in the media. Some cable TV channels prostrate themselves nightly before him. ....

...This media narrative is not only an outgrowth of the journalists' natural enthusiasm for a Democrat such as Mr Obama. It is a clever ploy to pre-emptively de-legitimise any Republican critique of the Democratic nominee. It is designed to prevent Mr McCain from asking reasonable questions about Mr Obama's strikingly vacuous political background, or raising doubts about his credentials for the presidency.

The idolatry of Mr Obama is a shame, really. The Illinois senator is indeed, an unusually talented, inspiring and charismatic figure. His very ethnicity offers an exciting departure. But he is not a saint. He is a smart and eloquent man with a personal history that is startlingly shallow set against the scale of the office he seeks to hold. It is not only legitimate, but necessary, to scrutinise his past and infer what it might tell us about his beliefs, in the absence of the normal record of achievement expected in a presidential nominee. If the last 40 years have taught us anything they have surely taught that premature canonisation is an almost certain guarantee of subsequent deep disappointment.

The Times

Israel demands UN strike 'Nakba' from its lexicon

From Ynet News, 15/5/08, by Yitzhak Benhorin:

...Israel is demanding that the UN strike the word 'Nakba' from its lexicon, this after the world body's spokeswoman uttered it, apparently by mistake, in a press briefing she held Thursday night.

'Nakba', or 'catastrophe', [is how Arab propagandists refer] to ... Israel's inception in 1948.

... Ki-moon himself was also surprised by the controversy created by his gesture, as he was not aware that the use of the term was unacceptable to Israel and is a part of the Palestinian propaganda against it.

... The UN said the word had not been used by any of the world body's institutions or officials before, and it is estimated that it was purposely 'planted' by someone into the spokeswoman's text....

Hamastan must go

From » Opinion » Editorials May 15, 2008:

...Fifteen Israelis were wounded Wednesday - four seriously - by a Grad-model rocket that hit a shopping center in Ashkelon just hours after US President George W. Bush arrived to celebrate the state's 60th anniversary. Southern District Police chief Cmdr. Uri Bar-Lev said the rocket, fired from Beit Lahiya, had been made in Iran.

The attack on Ashkelon, a city of 120,000, came two days after 69-year-old Shuli Katz of Moshav Yesha was killed by a Kassam rocket. Her death followed the killing of Jimmy Kedoshim last Friday as he did his weekend gardening in Kibbutz Kfar Aza.

One is hard-pressed to think of another country that would tolerate such a relentless barrage....

THE CURRENT Israeli policy - to absorb damage and casualties, try to strike at rocket launchers and gunmen in Gaza and periodically declare, as Prime Minister Ehud Olmert did on Wednesday, that the assaults are "entirely intolerable"- is no longer viable.....

... Vice Premier Haim Ramon was right when he declared on Thursday: "We have to put an end to the Hamas government." ... Israel's necessary course of action is clear:...a series of escalating steps beginning with the elimination of Hamas's key leaders, and continuing with relentless artillery fire at the sources of rocket launches, while making every effort to minimize civilian casualties.

Ultimately, so long as the danger persists, "putting an end to the Hamas government" may necessitate temporarily retaking some or even all of the Strip.

All this must be accompanied by public diplomacy, stressing that Israel has no long-term interest in occupying Gaza, and that such action in defense of sovereign Israel's citizenry...

...Experience has long since shown that Israeli vulnerability and indecisiveness invite aggression....

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Bush pledges American support for Israel

From Ynet News, 15/5/08, by Associated Press:

US president expected to reiterate American administration's commitment to help Israel in fight against al-Qaeda, Hamas, Hizbullah and Iranian threat in anticipated Knesset speech

US President George W. Bush on Thursday criticized the deadly tactics of extremist groups like al-Qaeda, Hizbullah and Hamas and said he looks toward the day when Muslims "recognize the emptiness of the terrorists' vision and the injustice of their cause."

In a speech prepared for delivery the Knesset, Bush pledged that the United States has an unbreakable bond with Israel: "Some people suggest that if the United States would just break ties with Israel, all our problems in the Middle East would go away" Bush said in his prepared address.

"This is a tired argument that buys into the propaganda of our enemies, and America rejects it utterly. Israel's population may be just over 7 million. But when you confront terror and evil, you are 307 million strong, because America stands with you."

Bush took special aim at Iran and said the United States stands with Israel in opposing moves by Tehran to obtain nuclear weapons.

"Permitting the world's leading sponsor of terror to possess the world's deadliest weapon would be an unforgivable betrayal of future generations," The president said. "For the sake of peace, the world must not allow Iran to have a nuclear weapon."

Is it about borders?

From » Opinion » Editorials » May 14, 2008:

...The Bush administration would like Israel and the Palestinians to agree on a border so that everything else - Jerusalem, settlements, the "occupation," refugees, whatever - can then fall into place. This presupposes that the Palestinians see their conflict with Israel as primarily a border dispute. Would it were so.

A 1921 British Mandate map showed Palestine's borders already divided between a Jewish homeland west of the Jordan (today Israel, the West Bank and Gaza), and an area to the east closed to Jewish settlement (today Jordan).

The Arab response to that map was: This isn't about borders.

In 1937 the Peel Commission offered another set of borders. Transjordan would, of course, remain in Arab hands, and virtually all of what was left west of the Jordan would also be Arab. The Jews would be given land from Tel Aviv running northward along the coastal plain and parts of Galilee.

The Arabs said: It's not about borders.

A third map, proposed by the UN in 1947 as General Assembly Resolution 181 - the Partition Plan - divided Palestine west of the Jordan River (the eastern bank now being Transjordan): The Jews were to be given an indefensible, checkerboard territory, the biggest chunk of which consisted of the then arid Negev. Jerusalem, the epicenter of Jewish longing since 70 CE, would be internationalized; a tiny corridor would connect Israel's truncated parts. To get to Galilee, Jews would have to traverse Arab Palestine.

The Jews took the deal. The Arabs said: It's not about borders.

On May 15, 1948 - 60 years ago today - the Egyptian, Jordanian, Saudi, Syrian and Lebanese armies, along with Palestinian irregulars, sought to throttle the birth of Israel. Their failure to do so created the 1949 Armistice Lines. The West Bank, Gaza, the Golan Heights and east Jerusalem were all in Arab hands. There was no "occupation."

The Jews said: Now, can we live in peace? The Arabs said: It's not about borders.

TODAY, 41 years ago, Egyptian troops moved into the Sinai as Gamal Abdel Nasser declared "total war." The Syrians, for their part, promised "annihilation." Even King Hussein figured the time was ripe to strike. But, instead of destroying Israel, the Arabs lost more territory. The heartland of Jewish civilization, Judea and Samaria, was now in Israel's hands, as was Jerusalem's Temple Mount.

Even so, the Jews said: Let's trade land for peace. In August 1967, Arab leaders assembled in Khartoum gave their reply: No peace. No negotiations. No recognition.

Ten years later, with the election of Menachem Begin, the courageous Anwar Sadat came to the Knesset with a message: "We really and truly welcome you to live among us in peace and security." Egypt and Israel then agreed on a border and signed a peace treaty. The Arabs ostracized Cairo and Sadat was assassinated. The peace never really blossomed, but the border holds.

THEN IN 1993, Yitzhak Rabin took an astonishing strategic risk, turning over parts of the West Bank to a newly-created Palestinian Authority. Hebron, Bethlehem, Ramallah, Nablus, Jenin, Jericho, Tulkarm and Kalkilya all came under full Palestinian jurisdiction. Other territory was placed under the PA's civil control, and the PA took charge of Gaza's Arab population centers.
The sight of green PA license plates became commonplace throughout Israel. Checkpoints were minimized. The international community poured money into the Palestinian areas.

At last, the Palestinians had the parameters of a state-in-waiting - a political horizon. The parties still had tough issues to tackle, but the reality on the ground had dramatically improved.
In 2000, Ehud Barak offered at Camp David his vision of a viable Palestinian state. Yasser Arafat's "counter-offer" was the Aksa intifada, an orgy of suicide bombings nationwide and drive-by shootings in the West Bank that would claim over 1,000 Israeli lives.

Clearly for Arafat, the issue wasn't borders.

For Israelis to now take the idea of a "shelf-agreement" about borders seriously, the Palestinians would have to declare - once and for all - that their dispute with us really is about borders.

And that they accept Israel's right to exist as a Jewish state.

If they do that, the rest will fall into place.

Iran injures 100 Israelis in Askelon, IDF braces for more

from DEBKAfile, May 14, 2008, 11:17 PM (GMT+02:00):

Up to 100 injured by Iran-made rocket which wrecks crowded Ashkelon shopping mall

Jihad Islami and Popular Committees claimed the attack with Hamas' blessing. After examining the rocket shrapnel, police commander Uri Barlev confirmed it was a Grad (Katyhusha) military rocket made in Iran.

Of the 100 people injured in Ashkelon’s bustling mall, four people were seriously hurt including a mother and her four-month old baby. Two women suffered moderate injuries and the others of whom many were children were slightly hurt. Four were dug out of the debris.

The Palestinian rocket crashed without warning into the roof of the three-floor building, fired from the former Israel Dugit site in N. Gaza just when President Bush was winding up a conversation with Israeli prime minister Ehud Olmert. The attack revived fresh demands for a major operation to put a stop to the daily attacks from the Gaza Strip. ...

...Furious complaints were heard in the streets of Ashkelon over the failure of the siren to sound an alert in time for people to take shelter from the rocket attack. Homeland Command officers explained the decision not to activate the siren by the many recent false alarms that kept the population on edge and the wish not to disturb the Bush visit.

Security minister Avi Dichter, trade and industry minister Eli Yishai decide to skip the gala banquet in the US president’s honor and travel to Ashkelon instead. Casualties have mounted recently from the daily Palestinian attacks on Israeli communities outside Gaza. Two people were killed in the last week.

from DEBKAfile May 14, 2008, 11:17 PM (GMT+02:00):

... Israeli army braces for more Palestinian attacks after Ashkelon

Israeli units around Gaza, including the air force, are on the highest alert, DEBKAfile’s military sources report, for Palestinian terror groups to follow up their rocket attack on the Ashkelon shopping mall, which injured 100 civilians, with more aggressive actions. Aside from rocket fire, according to our sources, Hamas is planning to stage mass marches Thursday, May 15, to batter the Gaza-Israel border crossings and fence.

To pre-empt this assault, the Israeli air force plan to drop bombs overnight on Hamas and Jihad Islami installations across the Gaza Strip. The rocket which crashed through the roof of the Ashkelon mall Wednesday is believed by our sources to have carried a message from Tehran to visiting US president George W, Bush that Iran’s arm was long enough to reach an American presence anywhere.

Our military sources also disclose that the Grad rocket was in fact fired by the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine-General Command headed by Ahmed Jibril. A team of this terrorist group reached the Gaza Strip in the last few days via Sinai after attending a special course in the precise targeting of rockets at an installation near Tehran. The team arrived already armed with the Grad manufactured in Iran which hit the Ashkelon mall.

The Ashkelon rocket also carried a warning to prime minister Ehud Olmert that the truce plan Egypt presented to Israel was a take-it-or-leave it ultimatum and not open to negotiation.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Grand Mufti Amin al-Husaini - Nazi collaborator and emulator

This brief excerpt, from GLORIA, by Wolfgang G. Schwanitz May 13, 2008, refers to a critically important piece of history that goes a long way towards explaining the Arab attitude to Jews today. Follow the link to the full article.

Amin al-Husaini, the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem...implemented the German idea of organizing jihad and terror behind enemy lines....Later, he led the resistance against the British mandate authority in Palestine during uprisings in 1929 and in 1936. He fiercely opposed Jewish settlement.

... From 1941 to 1945, he lived for the most part in Berlin as a guest of the German government. The Nazis provided office space, vehicles and money, so that the Mufti and his entire entourage could stay active. In return, the Mufti used his influence in the Middle East on the Nazis' behalf and recruited Muslims for the Nazi war effort. On the airwaves of Nazi Germany's Arab language radio service, he called for a Holy War, a jihad, against the Allies and the Jews.

...Memoirs of the Grand Mufti, edited by Abd al-Karim al-Umar, were published in Damascus in 1999. (See cover photo click here.) In the memoirs, al-Husaini openly discusses his close relationship to SS chief Heinrich Himmler....[and] describes what Himmler said to him in that summer of 1943 about the persecution of the Jews.... Himmler told him that "up to now we have liquidated [abadna] around three million of them" (p. 126 -- to see Arabic excerpt click here).

There is evidence, moreover, that the Grand Mufti knew about the Nazis' plans still earlier. In 1946, Dieter Wisliceny, a close collaborator of Adolf Eichmann in the "Jewish Affairs" division of the Reich Central Security Office, provided a written statement on the Grand Mufti to the Nuremberg Tribunal.

According to Wisliceny, at the beginning of 1942 Eichmann made a detailed presentation to al-Husaini on the "solution of the European Jewish question." ...The Grand Mufti, Wisliceny recalls, was "very impressed." Furthermore, al-Husaini is supposed to have put in a request to Himmler to have Eichmann send one of his assistants to Jerusalem after Germany had won the war. The representative of Eichmann was to serve as the Grand Mufti's personal advisor: i.e. when the Grand Mufti would then set about "solving the Jewish question in the Middle East."

We can infer from other documentation that this was not just a vague idea. A declassified document on Nazi war crimes from the National Archives in Washington indicates that as of mid-1942 a special SS commando unit had plans to liquidate the Jews of Cairo following the capture of the city by German forces. ...

Noble action, likely to fail, shouldn't prevent alternative action

From The Australian, by Dennis Shanahan, Political editor May 14, 2008:

THE Rudd Government is preparing a case to take Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to the International Court of Justice for "inciting genocide" and denying the Jewish Holocaust. Australia is the only nation pursuing Iran's despotic leader, who has threatened to "wipe Israel off the map", through international laws.

...The Labor leader said it was "strongly arguable" that Mr Ahmadinejad's conduct - statements about wiping Israel off the map, questioning whether Zionists were human beings and a conference that he convened on the veracity of the Holocaust - amounted to incitement to genocide, which was criminalised under the 1948 genocide convention.

Attorney-General Robert McClelland, who pushed the campaign against Mr Ahmadinejad when he was Labor's foreign affairs spokesman, confirmed yesterday the Government was seeking legal advice on taking Mr Ahmadinejad to the ICJ. "The Government considers the comments made by Iranian President Ahmadinejad, calling for the destruction of Israel and questioning the existence of the Holocaust, to be repugnant and offensive," Mr McClelland told The Australian yesterday. "The Government is currently taking advice on this matter."

Mr McClelland had argued that taking legal action was better than other alternatives.
"The alternative to not using these international legal mechanisms is considering wholesale invasion of countries, which itself involves, obviously, expense but more relevantly, of course, the potential for significant loss of life," Mr McClelland said....

...When Mr Rudd committed a Labor government to pursuing Mr Ahmadinejad through international laws, the Coalition government labelled the promise a "stunt" that would fail.
Brendan Nelson, then defence minister, said Mr Rudd was raising expectations that "cannot be achieved". The Opposition Leader said the chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court - the body that hears cases against individuals, as opposed to the ICJ, which hears cases against countries - had found it would fail. Individuals of countries that don't recognise the ICC, such as Iran, can be charged if the UN Security Council agrees.

Alexander Downer, then the foreign minister, said Mr Ahmadinejad would have to be taken before the ICC, and only on the agreement of the five permanent members of the Security Council. Mr Downer accused Mr Rudd of knowingly misleading the Australian public and the Jewish community with a "ghastly stunt" that he knew could not be carried out and would only undermine Australia's diplomatic standing....

This action is very commendable, but if the government sees it as an alternative to other very necessary action against Iran, we're in big trouble. See this opinion from an ANALYSIS in The Australian, by Greg Sheridan May 14, 2008:

THE Rudd Government's effort to bring a legal action against Iranian leader Mahmoud Ahmadinejad for incitement to genocide is almost certain to fail. Nonetheless, it is a noble endeavour worthy of every support.

Merely bringing the action, or attempting to, increases the moral and political pressure on the Iranian President. It also should help those people within the Iranian leadership who regard Ahmadinejad as not only extreme but dangerous to Iran's own interests....

...Of course, the Rudd Government's action also displays a profound solidarity with Israel - a solidarity that is just in itself and that will be much appreciated in Jerusalem. It will also, incidentally, have the effect of identifying Canberra as an antagonist of Iran, which is just what it should be while Tehran's leadership is so dangerous and extreme.

However, it is extremely unlikely to succeed as a legal action and contains one small danger. It is unlikely to succeed as a legal action simply because Iran is too powerful a state, and its oil too important to others....

...Moreover, anything which requires UN Security Council approval will be vetoed by China, which protects Iran and numerous other tyrannies from any serious consequences at the UN.

The very small danger involved in taking the legal action is that it must not be seen as a substitute for the main game of denying Iran nuclear weapons, if necessary by punitive economic sanctions.

This is why the Israeli has not taken up the charge of incitement to genocide against Ahmadinejad. Israel's overwhelming priority is the physical safety of its citizens from the threat of Iranian nuclear weapons.

It does not want to invest big diplomatic and political resources into a process that will probably fail, or even if it has some partial success will probably produce only a slap on the wrist for Ahmadinejad.

Israel does not want its priorities confused.

Nonetheless, for the civilised world to tell Iran that its President's statements are indeed uncivilised is a righteous act.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Hizballah prevails in Lebanon

From a DEBKAfile Analysis, May 13, 2008, 1:00 PM (GMT+02:00):

Lebanese army will not step in before Hizballah fights pro-government forces to the finish

...After six days of fighting between government loyalists and Hizballah leave close to a 100 dead and 200 wounded, the Lebanese army’s demand that all combatants lay down their arms will go unheeded until the Shiite terrorists decide they have achieved their goals.

Hizballah is now focusing on the northern Tripoli region and the central mountains east of Beirut [having already grabbed control of the capital, the south and the Bekaa valley - SL] in line with those goals after deciding there is no need at this stage to topple the pro-Western Siniora government:

1. The northern port of Tripoli is important to Hizballah and Syria - both as the largest pro-Syrian Sunni stronghold in Lebanon and as a supply hub for incoming Iranian arms for Tehran’s Shiite proxy. The arms are unloaded from Iran freighters at the Syrian ports of Latakiya and Tartous and trucked to Tripoli.

2. Hizballah has a strategic interest in crushing the Druze militias of the anti-Syrian pro-government Walid Jumblatt, which control the Chouf mountains east of Beirut. Over and above this goal, DEBKAfile’s military sources stress that, after capturing most of Beirut last Saturday, Hizballah has focused on isolating and disarming the Sunni supporters of the Siniora government.

After a series of fierce clashes, Hizballah slapped down an ultimatum for Jumblatt: Pull your militiamen out of their bases and hand over your heavy weapons i.e. cannon, mortars, heavy machine guns, RPG’s and explosives, to the Lebanese army, or face the consequences. Hizballah then brought in heavy artillery, with Syrian help, and set about pounding Druze mountain positions. It is hard to see them holding out for long before Hizballah seizes control of the hills which command the entire Beirut plateau.

After the Druze militias fall, Hizballah may be expected to focus on vanquishing majority leader Saad Hariri’s Sunni forces in Sidon. This would isolate the only armed force left in Lebanon, the Christian Phalangists led by Samir Geagea.

In the face of the Iranian surrogate army’s lightning conquest of Lebanon, US president George W. Bush’s statement in Washington, on the eve of his Middle East trip, that the United States would not let Syria and Iran undermine Lebanon’s sovereignty comes very much after the fact. His offer to help Siniora by strengthening his armed forces is equally belated.

The Lebanese army is by now more an operational arm of Hizballah than an armed force that serves the government.

An angel moves on

From Yahoo News, by MONIKA SCISLOWSKA, Associated Press Writer, Mon May 12:

WARSAW, Poland - Irena Sendler — credited with saving some 2,500 Jewish children from the Nazi Holocaust by smuggling them out of the Warsaw Ghetto, some of them in baskets — died Monday.... She was 98.

Irena Sendler z"l

(Photo by Katarina Stoltz/Reuters, 14/3/08)
...President Lech Kaczynski expressed "great regret" over Sendler's death, calling her "extremely brave" and "an exceptional person." In recent years, Kaczynski had spearheaded a campaign to put Sendler's name forward as a candidate for the Nobel Peace Prize.
Sendler was a 29-year-old social worker with the city's welfare department when Germany invaded Poland in September 1939, launching World War II. Warsaw's Jews were forced into a walled-off ghetto.
Seeking to save the ghetto's children, Sendler masterminded risky rescue operations. Under the pretext of inspecting sanitary conditions during a typhoid outbreak, she and her assistants ventured inside the ghetto — and smuggled out babies and small children in ambulances and in trams, sometimes wrapped up as packages.
Teenagers escaped by joining teams of workers forced to labor outside the ghetto. They were placed in fa

Records show that Sendler's team of about 20 people saved nearly 2,500 children from the Warsaw Ghetto between October 1940 and its final liquidation in April 1943....
"Every child saved with my help and the help of all the wonderful secret messengers, who today are no longer living, is the justification of my existence on this earth, and not a title to glory," Sendler said in 2007 in a letter to the Polish Senate after lawmakers honored her efforts in 2007....
Also see our previous posting on Irena Sendler

Hezbollah 'redrawing' Mideast map

From The Washington Times, 12 May 2008, by Joshua Mitnick:

RAMALLAH, West Bank — Hezbollah's dramatic gains in Lebanon last week are just part of a regional process that began last year in the Gaza Strip and will continue in Jordan and Egypt, a Hamas official in the West Bank told The Washington Times.

Sheik Yazeeb Khader, a Ramallah-based Hamas political activist and editor, said militant groups across the Middle East are gaining power at the expense of U.S.-backed regimes, just as Hamas seized control of the Gaza Strip from forces loyal to U.S.-backed Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.

"What happened in Gaza in 2007 is an achievement; now it is happening in 2008 in Lebanon. It's going to happen in 2009 in Jordan and it's going to happen in 2010 in Egypt," Sheik Khader said in an interview.

"We are seeing a redrawing of the map of the Middle East where the forces of resistance and steadfastness are the ones moving the things on the ground."

His remarks highlight how a growing alliance linking Hamas, Iran and Hezbollah straddles the Shi'ite-Sunni rift.

The notion of new countries falling under Islamist influence reflects a goal of Hamas' parent group, the Muslim Brotherhood, of replacing secular Arab regimes with Islamist governments.
In the same way that Hamas' victory over the Palestinian Authority security forces in Gaza fighting last June profoundly disturbed neighboring Arab states, fighting in Lebanon yesterday and last week has sent shock waves throughout the Middle East and spurred an emergency meeting of the Arab League.

The Arab League is sending Secretary-General Amr Moussa to mediate among the Lebanese government, Hezbollah and Sunni supporters of the government.

Hezbollah Leaves West Beirut After Beating Government Challenge

From, by Daniel Williams, May 11:

Hezbollah...handed sections of Beirut to the Lebanese army after forcing pro-Western Prime Minister Fouad Siniora to abandon efforts to curb its military activities.

Hezbollah and its allied gunmen still remained in side streets in the central Hamra district of downtown Beirut today...

...Siniora placed the implementation of two government decisions in the army's hands: to shut down Hezbollah's electronic surveillance operation at Beirut's international airport and a vast land-line telephone network.

The military...overturned the government's plans. It reinstated the head of airport security fired over the existence of the spy system and left the phone lines under Hezbollah's control.

...Hezbollah forced Siniora to back down over a key issue of contention -- whether the Shiite party ought to be permitted to maintain a separate militia and military structure. Under United Nations Security Council resolution 1559, passed in 2004, all such militias were supposed to be disbanded.

Hezbollah, an ally of Iran and Syria, and Siniora, backed by the U.S., Saudi Arabia, Egypt and other Arab allies, have been locked in a power struggle for 18 months. Hezbollah, which counts the Shiite Amal movement and a Christian party in its bloc, is demanding a veto over government decisions.

...The Hezbollah-led takeover of western Beirut included areas largely populated by Sunni Muslims, key backers of Siniora's Sunni, Christian and Druze coalition. Gunmen torched the offices of Al-Mustaqbal, a newspaper owned by Saad Hariri, a pro- government Sunni leader.

...The army stood by during the takeover....

Swiss-funded terrorism?

From JPost, May 13, 2008:

Several American victims of terrorist attacks in Israel have filed a lawsuit seeking more than $500 million from a Swiss bank, claiming the bank made it possible for Iran to fund the terrorists.

The lawsuit says the bank, Zurich-based UBS AG, provided dollars to Iran in violation of trade sanctions and Iran funneled the money to terrorist groups. "UBS knew full well that the cash dollars it was providing to a state sponsor of terrorism such as Iran would be used to cause and facilitate terrorist attacks by Iranian-sponsored terrorist organizations," the plaintiffs say.
Their lawyer, Nitsana Darshan-Leitner, said in a phone interview from Tel Aviv that the bank is liable "as much as Iran or the terrorists" for the damage caused.

A UBS spokesman in New York, Kris Kagel, said the bank would not comment. In 2004, when UBS was fined $100 million for sending dollars to Iran, Cuba, Libya and Yugoslavia, the bank said "very serious mistakes were made" but did not directly admit to the accusations.

The lawsuit, filed Friday in federal court in Manhattan, lists several suicide bombings and rocket attacks between 1997 and 2001 and attributes them to the militant Hamas and Hezbollah groups...

Iran continues to snipe on Israeli civilians

From The Israel Project 12/5/08:

A 70-year-old woman was killed today (May 12) in Israel’s southern Negev region when a Qassam rocket fired from Gaza by Iran-backed Hamas terrorists hit a house. It was the second civilian death by rockets fired from Gaza since Saturday.

....Hamas and the Hamas-affiliated Palestinian Islamic Jihad terrorist organization, both financed by Iran, claimed responsibility for firing the rocket, which landed deeper into Israeli territory than previous Qassam attacks.

....So far this year, there have been more than 1,950 rockets and mortar shells fired from the Gaza Strip at Israeli civilians in southern Israel. Since June 2004, 15 people have been killed by rockets and mortars and more than 450 have been injured in the attacks.

In addition, thousands of people now suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder in cities, towns and communities within range of the rockets. More than 3,000 residents of Sderot, the town that has borne the brunt of the rocket fire, have fled because of the incessant bombardment.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Lebanon to West: Wake Up Fast!

From GLORIA, by Barry Rubin May 12, 2008 [my own emphasis added - SL]:

While America's secretary of state devotes her time to doomed Israel-Palestinian talks and America goes ga-ga over a candidate whose main foreign policy strategy is to talk to dictators, still another crisis strengthens radical Islamists and endangers Western friends and interests...

...Hizballah seized west Beirut and inflicted a big defeat on the pro-government side.
While Iran and Syria provide guns and strong backing to their friends, the West responds with words backed by nothing. Who can blame Hizballah and Damascus and Tehran for laughing with contempt, believing they are the tide of the future, assuming their "passionate intensity" will inevitably triumph over the weak-willed West?

...What Spain was in 1936; Lebanon is today.

...Why should Lebanese Sunni, Druze, and Christians risk their lives when the West doesn't help them? Every Israeli speaking nonsense about Syria making peace; every American claiming Damascus might split from Tehran; every European preaching appeasement has in fact been engaged in confidence-breaking measures.

...Far too much Western media, intellectual--sometimes political life--reviles Israel. But Israel is no threat to them; other forces are....

... the main victims will be Arabs, mostly Muslims, in Afghanistan, Gaza, Iraq, and Lebanon, killed by the various Jihad groups, or ruled by them where they take power or dominate through intimidation. And second they will be Western interests, which would not fare well in a region dominated by a combination of Islamists and those who feel they have no choice but to appease them.

When Senator and presidential candidate Barack Obama says he will negotiate with Syria and Iran over Iraq's future, he signals every Persian Gulf regime to cut its own deal with Iran. When his stances convince Hamas that he's the guy for them; when Iran and Syria conclude they merely need stand defiant and wait until January 21 for any existing pressure vanishes, the U.S. position in the Middle East is being systematically destroyed.

Note that this does not make Obama the candidate favored by Arabs in general but only by the radicals. Egyptians, Jordanians, Gulf Arabs, and the majorities in Lebanon and Iraq are very worried. This is not just an Israel problem; it is one for all non-extremists in the region. If the dictators and terrorists are smiling, it means everyone else is crying.

... Now is the time for energetic action on Lebanon to wipe that confident sneer off their faces. To contain Iran and Syria, to buck up the Lebanese government side and all those Arabs who, whatever their faults, don't want to live in an Islamist caliphate.

If you want to know what's wrong, consider Obama's May 10 statement on Lebanon. He starts out playing tough, talking about "Hezbollah's power grab in Beirut....This effort to undermine Lebanon's elected government needs to stop, and all those who have influence with Hezbollah must press them to stand down immediately." He calls for supporting the Lebanese government, strengthening the Lebanese army, and to "insist on disarming Hezbollah."

But how to do this? By "working with the international with the international community and the private sector to rebuild Lebanon and get its economy back on its feet."... Part of the mistake here is Obama's assumption that Hizballah (and other radicals) want stability and prosperity. In fact, they want to use instability as blackmail in their pursuit of power. ...

...The statement continues: "We must support the implementation of UN Security Council Resolutions that reinforce Lebanon's sovereignty, especially resolution 1701 banning the provision of arms to Hezbollah, which is violated by Iran and Syria."

Great. But the UN is no substitute for U.S. power. As David Schenker of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy writes, "It is highly unlikely that the UN -- which failed to even prevent the rearming of Hizballah--would agree to more dangerous deployments in Lebanon." America doesn't need a president whose solution is to turn over crises to the UN.

Nor can Obama pass the buck to Lebanon's army. Its commander is Syria's presidential candidate, its soldiers are mostly pro-Hizballah, and the quarter-billion dollars of U.S. aid given since 2006 may well become additional assets for Tehran.

...These are the questions Obama isn't even pretending to try to answer....

...But here's the worst part that few in America but everyone in Lebanon will understand all too well: "It's time to engage in diplomatic efforts to help build a new Lebanese consensus that focuses on electoral reform, an end to the current corrupt patronage system, and the development of the economy that provides for a fair distribution of services, opportunities and employment."

Here, make no mistake, Obama is endorsing the Hizballah program. It wants a new Lebanese consensus based on it having, along with its pro-Syrian allies, 51 percent of the power. ...In effect, Obama without realizing it, is arguing for a Syrian-, Iranian-, and Hizballah-dominated Lebanon. Such talk makes moderate Arabs despair....

....The battle isn't over, which is all the more reason for real--not just verbal--international action. Hizballah has made its point for the moment, that it is the most powerful and to it every knee must bend. Yet without serious political and diplomatic support for Lebanon's government and real costs inflicted on Syria and Iran, the battle will be lost eventually.

For all those in the West who don't like Israel, then at least help the people you pretend to like. Back the Lebanese government with real power and aid, covertly or overtly, those battling the radical forces in Lebanon....

[These were brief excerpts only. Follow the link to the full article.]

1948, Israel, and the Palestinians—The True Story

From Commentary Magazine, May 2008, by Efraim Karsh:

Sixty years after its establishment by an internationally recognized act of self-determination, Israel remains the only state in the world that is subjected to a constant outpouring of the most outlandish conspiracy theories and blood libels; whose policies and actions are obsessively condemned by the international community; and whose right to exist is constantly debated and challenged not only by its Arab enemies but by segments of advanced opinion in the West.

...[The] claim of premeditated dispossession and the consequent creation of the longstanding Palestinian “refugee problem” forms...the central plank in the bill of particulars pressed by Israel’s alleged victims and their Western supporters. It is a charge that has hardly gone undisputed. As early as the mid-1950’s, the eminent American historian J.C. Hurewitz undertook a systematic refutation, and his findings were abundantly confirmed by later generations of scholars and writers. Even Benny Morris, the most influential of Israel’s revisionist “new historians,” and one who went out of his way to establish the case for Israel’s “original sin,” grudgingly stipulated that there was no “design” to displace the Palestinian Arabs.
The recent declassification of millions of documents from the period of the British Mandate (1920-1948) and Israel’s early days, documents untapped by earlier generations of writers and ignored or distorted by the “new historians,” paint a much more definitive picture of the historical record. They reveal that the claim of dispossession is not only completely unfounded but the inverse of the truth. What follows is based on fresh research into these documents, which contain many facts and data hitherto unreported.

Far from being the hapless objects of a predatory Zionist assault, it was Palestinian Arab leaders who from the early 1920’s onward, and very much against the wishes of their own constituents, launched a relentless campaign to obliterate the Jewish national revival. This campaign culminated in the violent attempt to abort the UN resolution of November 29, 1947, which called for the establishment of two states in Palestine. Had these leaders, and their counterparts in the neighboring Arab states, accepted the UN resolution, there would have been no war and no dislocation in the first place.

The simple fact is that the Zionist movement had always been amenable to the existence in the future Jewish state of a substantial Arab minority that would participate on an equal footing “throughout all sectors of the country’s public life.” The words are those of Ze’ev Jabotinsky, the founding father of the branch of Zionism that was the forebear of today’s Likud party. ...If this was the position of the more “militant” faction of the Jewish national movement, mainstream Zionism not only took for granted the full equality of the Arab minority in the future Jewish state but went out of its way to foster Arab-Jewish coexistence.

In January 1919, Chaim Weizmann, then the upcoming leader of the Zionist movement, reached a peace-and-cooperation agreement with the Hashemite emir Faisal ibn Hussein, the effective leader of the nascent pan-Arab movement. From then until the proclamation of the state of Israel on May 14, 1948, Zionist spokesmen held hundreds of meetings with Arab leaders at all levels. These included Abdullah ibn Hussein, Faisal’s elder brother and founder of the emirate of Transjordan (later the kingdom of Jordan), incumbent and former prime ministers in Syria, Lebanon, Egypt, and Iraq, senior advisers of King Abdul Aziz ibn Saud (founder of Saudi Arabia), and Palestinian Arab elites of all hues.

As late as September 15, 1947, two months before the passing of the UN partition resolution, two senior Zionist envoys were still seeking to convince Abdel Rahman Azzam, the Arab League’s secretary-general, that the Palestine conflict “was uselessly absorbing the best energies of the Arab League,” and that both Arabs and Jews would greatly benefit “from active policies of cooperation and development.” Behind this proposition lay an age-old Zionist hope: that the material progress resulting from Jewish settlement of Palestine would ease the path for the local Arab populace to become permanently reconciled, if not positively well disposed, to the project of Jewish national self-determination. As David Ben-Gurion, soon to become Israel’s first prime minister, argued in December 1947:

If the Arab citizen will feel at home in our state, . . . if the state will help him in a truthful and dedicated way to reach the economic, social, and cultural level of the Jewish community, then Arab distrust will accordingly subside and a bridge will be built to a Semitic, Jewish-Arab alliance.

... As the Jews set out to lay the groundwork for their nascent state while simultaneously striving to convince their Arab compatriots that they would be (as Ben-Gurion put it) “equal citizens, equal in everything without any exception,” Palestinian Arab leaders pledged that “should partition be implemented, it will be achieved only over the bodies of the Arabs of Palestine, their sons, and their women.” Qawuqji vowed “to drive all Jews into the sea.” Abdel Qader Husseini stated that “the Palestine problem will only be solved by the sword; all Jews must leave Palestine.”

They and their fellow Arab abetters did their utmost to make these threats come true, with every means at their disposal. ...guerrilla and terror groups wreaked havoc, as much among noncombatants as among Jewish fighting units. Shooting, sniping, ambushes, bombings, which in today’s world would be condemned as war crimes, were daily events in the lives of civilians....

....As for the Palestinian Arab leaders themselves, who had placed their reluctant constituents on a collision course with Zionism in the 1920’s and 1930’s and had now dragged them helpless into a mortal conflict, they hastened to get themselves out of Palestine and to stay out at the most critical moment. Taking a cue from these higher-ups, local leaders similarly rushed en masse through the door. High Commissioner Cunningham summarized what was happening with quintessential British understatement:

You should know that the collapsing Arab morale in Palestine is in some measure due to the increasing tendency of those who should be leading them to leave the country. . . . For instance, in Jaffa the mayor went on four-day leave 12 days ago and has not returned, and half the national committee has left. In Haifa the Arab members of the municipality left some time ago; the two leaders of the Arab Liberation Army left actually during the recent battle. Now the chief Arab magistrate has left. In all parts of the country the effendi class has been evacuating in large numbers over a considerable period and the tempo is increasing.

Arif al-Arif, a prominent Arab politician during the Mandate era and the doyen of Palestinian historians, described the prevailing atmosphere at the time: “Wherever one went throughout the country one heard the same refrain: ‘Where are the leaders who should show us the way? Where is the AHC? Why are its members in Egypt at a time when Palestine, their own country, needs them?’”

Muhammad Nimr al-Khatib, a Palestinian Arab leader during the 1948 war, would sum up the situation in these words: “The Palestinians had neighboring Arab states which opened their borders and doors to the refugees, while the Jews had no alternative but to triumph or to die.”
This is true enough of the Jews, but it elides the reason for the refugees’ flight and radically distorts the quality of their reception elsewhere. If they met with no sympathy from their brethren at home, the reaction throughout the Arab world was, if anything, harsher still. There were repeated calls for the forcible return of the refugees, or at the very least of young men of military age, many of whom had arrived under the (false) pretense of volunteering for the ALA. As the end of the Mandate loomed nearer, the Lebanese government refused entry visas to Palestinian males between eighteen and fifty and ordered all “healthy and fit men” who had already entered the country to register officially or be considered illegal aliens and face the full weight of the law.

The Syrian government took an even more stringent approach, banning from its territory all Palestinian males between sixteen and fifty. In Egypt, a large number of demonstrators marched to the Arab League’s Cairo headquarters and lodged a petition demanding that “every able-bodied Palestinian capable of carrying arms should be forbidden to stay abroad.” Such was the extent of Arab resentment toward the Palestinian refugees that the rector of Cairo’s al-Azhar institution of religious learning, probably the foremost Islamic authority, felt obliged to issue a ruling that made the sheltering of Palestinian Arab refugees a religious duty.

Contempt for the Palestinians only intensified with time. “Fright has struck the Palestinian Arabs and they fled their country,” commented Radio Baghdad on the eve of the pan-Arab invasion of the new-born state of Israel in mid-May. “These are hard words indeed, yet they are true.” Lebanon’s minister of the interior (and future president) Camille Chamoun was more delicate, intoning that “The people of Palestine, in their previous resistance to imperialists and Zionists, proved they were worthy of independence,” but “at this decisive stage of the fighting they have not remained so dignified.”

No wonder, then, that so few among the Palestinian refugees themselves blamed their collapse and dispersal on the Jews. During a fact-finding mission to Gaza in June 1949, Sir John Troutbeck, head of the British Middle East office in Cairo and no friend to Israel or the Jews, was surprised to discover that while the refugees express no bitterness against the Jews (or for that matter against the Americans or ourselves) they speak with the utmost bitterness of the Egyptians and other Arab states. “We know who our enemies are,” they will say, and they are referring to their Arab brothers who, they declare, persuaded them unnecessarily to leave their homes. . . . I even heard it said that many of the refugees would give a welcome to the Israelis if they were to come in and take the district over.

Sixty years after their dispersion, the refugees of 1948 and their descendants remain in the squalid camps where they have been kept by their fellow Arabs for decades, nourished on hate and false hope. Meanwhile, their erstwhile leaders have squandered successive opportunities for statehood.

It is indeed the tragedy of the Palestinians that the two leaders who determined their national development during the 20th century—Hajj Amin Husseini and Yasir Arafat, the latter of whom dominated Palestinian politics since the mid-1960’s to his death in November 2004—were megalomaniacal extremists blinded by anti-Jewish hatred and profoundly obsessed with violence. Had the mufti chosen to lead his people to peace and reconciliation with their Jewish neighbors, as he had promised the British officials who appointed him to his high rank in the early 1920’s, the Palestinians would have had their independent state over a substantial part of Mandate Palestine by 1948, and would have been spared the traumatic experience of dispersion and exile. Had Arafat set the PLO from the start on the path to peace and reconciliation, instead of turning it into one of the most murderous terrorist organizations in modern times, a Palestinian state could have been established in the late 1960’s or the early 1970’s; in 1979 as a corollary to the Egyptian-Israeli peace treaty; by May 1999 as part of the Oslo process; or at the very latest with the Camp David summit of July 2000.

Instead, Arafat transformed the territories placed under his control in the 1990’s into an effective terror state from where he launched an all-out war (the “al-Aqsa intifada”) shortly after being offered an independent Palestinian state in the Gaza Strip and 92 percent of the West Bank, with East Jerusalem as its capital. In the process, he subjected the Palestinian population in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip to a repressive and corrupt regime in the worst tradition of Arab dictatorships and plunged their standard of living to unprecedented depths.

What makes this state of affairs all the more galling is that, far from being unfortunate aberrations, Hajj Amin and Arafat were quintessential representatives of the cynical and self-seeking leaders produced by the Arab political system. Just as the Palestinian leadership during the Mandate had no qualms about inciting its constituents against Zionism and the Jews, while lining its own pockets from the fruits of Jewish entrepreneurship, so PLO officials used the billions of dollars donated by the Arab oil states and, during the Oslo era, by the international community to finance their luxurious style of life while ordinary Palestinians scrambled for a livelihood.

And so it goes. Six decades after the mufti and his henchmen condemned their people to statelessness by rejecting the UN partition resolution, their reckless decisions are being reenacted by the latest generation of Palestinian leaders. This applies not only to Hamas, which in January 2006 replaced the PLO at the helm of the Palestinian Authority (PA), but also to the supposedly moderate Palestinian leadership—from President Mahmoud Abbas to Ahmad Qureia (negotiator of the 1993 Oslo Accords) to Saeb Erekat to prime minister Salam Fayad—which refuses to recognize Israel’s very existence as a Jewish state and insists on the full implementation of the “right of return.”

And so it goes as well with Western anti-Zionists who in the name of justice (no less) call today not for a new and fundamentally different Arab leadership but for the dismantlement of the Jewish state. Only when these dispositions change can Palestinian Arabs realistically look forward to putting their self-inflicted “catastrophe” behind them.

"Dove" wakes up to the truth

From Newsweek, By Benny Morris May 8, 2008:

...During the 1990s, as the Oslo peace process gained momentum, I was cautious­ly optimistic about the prospects for peace. But at the same time I was scouring the just opened archives of the Haganah and the IDF.

Studying the roots of the Arab-Is­raeli conflict—in particular the pronounce­ments and positions of the Palestinian leadership from the 1920s on—left me chilled. Their rejection of any compromise, whether a partition of Palestine between its Jewish and Arab inhabitants or the cre­ation of a binational state with political parity between the two communities, was deep-seated, consensual and consistent.

Haj Amin al-Husseini, the mufti of Jerusalem and leader of the Palestinian na­tional movement during the 1930s and 1940s, insisted throughout on a single Muslim Arab state in all of Palestine. The Palestinian Arab "street" chanted "Idbah al-Yahud" (slaughter the Jews) both during the 1936-1939 revolt against the British and in 1947, when Arab militias launched a campaign to destroy the Yishuv, the Jewish community in Palestine. Husseini led both campaigns.

So when Yasir Arafat rejected Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak's two-state proposals at Camp David in July 2000, and then President Clinton's sweetened offer the follow­ing December, my surprise was not exces­sive. Nor was I astounded by the spectacle of masses of suicide bombers launched, with Arafat's blessing, against Israel's shop­ping malls, buses and restaurants in the second intifada, which erupted in Septem­ber 2000. Each suicide bomber seemed to be a microcosm of what Palestine's Arabs had in mind for Israel as a whole. Arafat's rejectionism and, after his death, the election of Hamas to dominance in the Pales­tinian national movement, persuaded me that no two-state solution was in the offing and that the Palestinians, as a people, were bent, as they had been throughout their history, on "recovering" all of Palestine.

I found that current events had echoes in the historical record, and vice versa. The founding charter of Hamas repeatedly refers to the victory of Saladin over the me­dieval crusader Kingdom of Jerusalem, and compares the crusaders to the Zionists. In researching my new history of the 1948 war, I was struck by the fact that this analo­gy, usually overlooked or ignored by previ­ous historians, suffused the statements and thinking of Palestinian leaders and the leaders of the surrounding Arab states dur­ing the countdown to, and the course of, the war. A few days before Arab armies struck at Jewish forces in Palestine, Abd al-Rahman Azzam, secretary general of the Arab League, told the British minister in Transjordan their aim was to "sweep the Jews into the sea."

If the documents I studied 20 years ago painted Palestinians tragically, as the underdog, this record did the opposite. It has become clear to me that from its start the struggle against the Zionist enterprise wasn't merely a national conflict between two peoples over a piece of territory but also a religious crusade against an infidel usurper. As early as Dec. 2, 1947, four days after the passage of the partition resolution, the scholars of Al Azhar University proclaimed a "worldwide jihad in defense of Arab Palestine" and de­clared that it was the duty of every Muslim to take part.

This history has deepened and reinforced my pessimism, itself bred by the fail­ure of Oslo. Those currently riding high in the region—figures like Hamas's Ismail Haniyeh and Khaled Meshaal, Hizbullah's Hassan Nasrallah and Iran's Mahmoud Ahmadinejad—are true believers who are convinced it is Allah's command and every Muslim's duty to extirpate the "Zionist entity" from the sacred soil of the Middle East....

Condi, George Marshall and Israel


Sixty years ago ...Within hours of the United Nations General Assembly's decision to partition British-ruled Palestine ...Israel declared its independence on May 14, 1948, whereupon seven Arab armies invaded in an unsuccessful attempt to wipe it off the map. ...When it comes to legitimate Israeli security concerns, the State Department still seems clueless 60 years later. appears that Mr. Bush and Miss Rice have decided to ramp up the pressure on Israel to make life-and-death concessions to Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, a man whose serial incompetence got him run out of Gaza by Hamas, and whose own security record is shaky at best. ...

... the real-world security implications seem to be overlooked in the Bush administration's bid to obtain a "peacemaking" legacy for itself.

Sixty years ago this month, Secretary of State George Marshall was mucking up Middle East policy in his own way. On May 12, 13 and 14, 1948, for example, Gen. Marshall and aides waged a last-gasp bureaucratic battle behind the scenes in an unsuccessful effort to dissuade President Truman from recognizing the coming state of Israel. Fast forward to today, and Miss Rice (this time with presidential approval) seems determined to pound a weak Israeli government into a series of untenable security concessions. It's a Foggy Bottom tradition that no one should be proud of.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Who rules in Lebanon?

From by JONATHAN SPYER, senior research fellow at the Global Research in International Affairs Center, IDC Herzliya:

The recent events in Beirut pose a simple, fundamental question: Who rules in Lebanon? The answer proposed by Hizbullah last week is that the government of Fuad Saniora and Saad Hariri is to be permitted to hold the formal reins of administration - on condition that they well understand the inherent limits of their position. Most important, any attempt to interfere with the Iranian-created and Iranian- and Syrian-sponsored military infrastructure in the country will result in a swift, disproportionate and bloody response.

Hizbullah and its backers have made clear that if the choice is between civil war and accepting limitations on the autonomy of their military infrastructure, they will choose the former. At the same time, their actions in Beirut last week made clear that as long as this point is accepted by the March 14 government, they will permit a return to the former stalemate.

Recall the sequence of events: Lebanon has been locked in a standoff between the pro-US March 14 Movement and the pro-Iran and pro-Syria opposition ever since the latter launched a campaign to achieve veto power over government decisions, in the months following the war of 2006.

The Saniora government refused to bow to the opposition's demands. The result has been ongoing political tension punctuated by periodic flare-ups, such as that of January 2007, which have brought the country to the brink of civil war.

The latest tension emerged from a Hizbullah-sponsored series of labor union protests.
But the key event precipitating Hizbullah's military takeover of West Beirut was the decision by the government to act against Hizbullah's independent military infrastructure through two bold moves: First, the government sought to dismiss the security chief at Rafik Hariri International Airport, Wafiq Choukair, who is known to be close to Hizbullah. This move came after prominent March 14 leader and Druse strongman Walid Jumblatt revealed that Hizbullah had installed surveillance cameras at the airport's Runway 17. The runway overlooks the hangars containing private jets, an air force base, and the VIP visitors building. Jumblatt further argued that Iranian flights to Beirut should be stopped, as they could be carrying equipment for Hizbullah, and called for the Iranian ambassador to be expelled.

In a second, related move, the government launched a judicial investigation into the Iranian-built independent telecommunications network maintained by Hizbullah. This network is thought to extend from Beirut across the south of the country, and into the Bekaa.

For Hizbullah, these actions by the government clearly trespassed beyond a red line: namely, the tacit acceptance by the Saniora government that the means by which Hizbullah and its backers conduct their activities in Lebanon are off-limits to the organs of the Lebanese state.
The response was swift and furious. Hizbullah gunmen poured onto the streets of West Beirut and engaged the untrained pro-government Sunnis who sought to oppose them. Eleven people were killed and 30 were wounded in the subsequent fighting, which ended with the surrender or flight of the pro-government elements.

Hizbullah simultaneously carried out a series of acts designed to humiliate the government and to demonstrate its ineffectiveness. Hizbullah men blocked the roads to and from the airport, cutting Lebanon off from the outside world, forced the pro-government Al-Mustaqbal TV station and other pro-government news outlets off the air, and burned the offices of the Al-Mustaqbal newspaper. The headquarters of Saniora and Saad Hariri was besieged. Following this demonstration of strength, Hizbullah expressed its willingness to hand all captured areas over to the Lebanese army.

The message was clear. The events of the past days are an attempt by the pro-Iranian regional alliance to guard the perimeters of its main asset in Lebanon - namely, the well financed and trained Hizbullah military infrastructure. Iran wishes to maintain this structure, but not to seize formal power in Lebanon. Rather, it is an instrument to be activated against Israel, at the appropriate moment. In the meantime, Teheran and Hizbullah are content to leave the Saniora government to continue the administration of Lebanon's internal affairs, on condition it understands its limits.

The first question now is whether the Saniora government is prepared to accept this situation. (The original dispute over the dismissal of Choukair and the closing of the telecommunications network remains unresolved.) The second question is whether, if it is not, March 14 possesses the will and the tools to mount an effective opposition to the Hizbullah state within a state.
Hizbullah's latest action brings the movement closer to openly pitting Lebanon's Shi'ites against its Druse, Christian and Sunni communities. The opposition's Christian component - the Free Patriotic Movement of Gen. Michel Aoun - appears largely an irrelevance in the developing dynamic. Instead, the allies that matter to Hizbullah now are the Shi'ite Amal movement and the small pro-Syrian and Palestinian militias that have mobilized to support the opposition in the past days.

Egypt and Saudi Arabia have expressed support for the Saniora government. The Sunni mufti of Lebanon has harshly condemned Hizbullah's actions. But it appears that Hizbullah feels strong enough to contemplate such a situation, and to dismiss the possibility of the coalition of communities backing the government mounting an effective response. The coming weeks will show if Hizbullah's confidence in this regard was misplaced.

'Lebanon is a Hizbullah state...'

From May 11, 2008 by JPOST.COM STAFF AND AP

"Lebanon must be treated as a Hizbullah state," Vice Premier Haim Ramon said Sunday, as violence in the country spread to the northern city of Tripoli, claiming three lives.

"Everything that happens there is the responsibility of Hizbullah. The country is controlled by this terror organization and its government has become irrelevant," Ramon said at the weekly cabinet meeting. "The notion that there is another government apart from Hizbullah is entirely fictitious..." ....

...The violence that has killed some 40 people in four days was sparked when the US-backed government of Prime Minister Fuad Saniora tried to crack down on Hizbullah last week.
Hizbullah responded by seizing control of many Beirut neighborhoods loyal to the government.
Beirut, which experienced four days of bloody sectarian clashes between Sunnis and Shi'ites, spent a quiet night Sunday. But many of its roads remained blocked, including the one to the airport, however, by the ongoing civil disobedience campaign of the opposition, and heavy fighting broke out between pro and anti-government supporters in northern Lebanon, security officials reported.

...Israel is especially concerned about the situation in Lebanon in light of the Hamas's control of Gaza ... Hamas and Hizbullah, as Iranian proxies, are mutually dependent...

Iran-backed Hizballah offensive closes in on Israeli border

From DEBKAfile, May 10, 2008, 12:05 PM (GMT+02:00):

...Hizballah’s advance on two key Lebanese locations Saturday, May 10 had immediate effect on the strategic balance between the Iran-backed Shiite group and Israel.
  1. Sidon in the south, Lebanon’s second largest city, which provides Hizballah with control of a continuous coastal strip from its southern Beirut district all the way to Tyre.
  2. The second point is on the northern slopes of the Hermon range.

After Hizballah seizes control of this enclave and the Syrian 10th and 14th armored divisions step over the border into Lebanon, the two forces can join to form a strong military line opposite Israel near the Litani River.

Our military sources report that the vanguard of the 10th Division has already moved across to the Lebanese side of the border.

Hizballah’s victory in taking over western and central Beirut therefore has had the effect of adding another link to the pro-Iranian chain encircling Israel. In many ways it is a more damaging setback for Israel’s national security than the Palestinian Hamas' seizure of the Gaza Strip...

... The United Nations, which maintains 15,000 armed peacekeepers in southern Lebanon, backed by marine forces off the shores of Beirut, has no thought of stopping the Iranian-Syrian-backed terrorist militia from capturing the country.

Lebanon surrenders to Hizbullah

From DEBKAfile, May 10, 2008, 11:23 PM (GMT+02:00):

After four days of fierce fighting in which at least 37 people died, the Lebanese army revoked two government measures in obedience to Hizballah demands: the Shiite group’s independent telecommunication network will not be shut down and the pro-Hizballah Brig. Gen Wafiq Shqeir would keep his job as Beirut international airport head of security.

In a broadcast speech, Saturday, May 10, the pro-Western prime minister Fouad Siniora asked the army to defuse the crisis after Hizballah seized control of western Beirut, besieged the government center and attacked pro-government Sunni centers across Lebanon. Government loyalists found no support from Sinora’s powerful backers, the United States, France or even Saudi Arabia and Egypt. The pro-Western government was therefore forced to back down....

...Triumphant, the Hizballah chief Hassan Hasrallah will be a more dangerous enemy than ever....