Saturday, June 14, 2008

Obama's Meaningless Words

From, Wednesday, June 11, 2008, by Michael Medved (Very brief excerpts only. Follow the link to the full article. Also see this posting on the same subject):

The morning after he secured the Democratic nomination, Senator Obama appeared before the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) and made a surprisingly strong statement about the future of Jerusalem.

“Jerusalem will remain the capital of Israel, and it must remain undivided,” he said to thunderous applause. ...Within a week, the Palestinians and various foreign policy commentators denounced the new Obama approach, and the candidate hastily retreated from his prior declaration.

His subsequent equivocation and undeniable confusion on an issue of profound international importance conforms to the candidate’s already well-established pattern of offering rousing words that remain utterly unconnected to substantive policy.

On reflection, even many Friends of Israel who initially applauded Obama’s speech now see two reasons to question his position:
1. He Didn’t Mean It
....On CNN on Thursday (after his Wednesday speech), Senator Obama ...told CNN that he still supported a unified Israeli Jerusalem but suddenly acknowledged that this might prove an unattainable goal. “My belief is that, as a practical matter, it would be very difficult to execute,” he said....

2. He’s Wrong to Think It’s America’s Call.
... The candidate’s glib sound-bite – “Jerusalem will remain the capital of Israel, and it must remain undivided” –presumes that the President of the United States, not the leaders and people of Israel, gets to decide the fate of King David’s city....

... it’s worth noting that the United States almost always tries to influence Israel toward weaker positions, not a stronger ones -- urging endless and painful unilateral concessions, with only meaningless Palestinian promises in return....

The Destructive Pattern
The most disturbing aspect of the Obama bumble regarding Jerusalem involves its exposure of the core weakness of his campaign: the huge gap between compelling style and empty substance, and the enormous distance between inspiring words and any practical policies to achieve his noble goals.

Speaking to ecstatic acolytes at monster rallies, or even addressing 7,000 pro-Israel activists in Washington, the Democratic candidate makes a great impression. But what will he do to implement his commitments?

In his famous “Race Speech” in Philadelphia, he said he could never “disown” Reverend Jeremiah Wright, and then six weeks later he distinctively disowned him.

He praised Trinity United Church of Christ for its warmth and community service – then delivered an expedient resignation because of the guest sermon of another old friend, Michael Pfleger.

He told a CNN debate audience he would agree to face-to-face meetings with the leaders of Iran, North Korea, Cuba and Syria in his first year in office, then explained it might not be the first year, the meetings might not be face-to-face, and maybe it wouldn’t be those leaders.

Most recently, he describes Jerusalem’s “undivided status” as an imperative and then the next day acknowledges “as a practical matter, it would be very difficult to execute.”

The Jewish community (where Gallup shows McCain drawing an unexpectedly strong 35%) has begun to learn about the Illinois Senator’s slippery and deceptive rhetorical habits, and one can only hope that in subsequent weeks the rest of the country will receive the same lessons.

Saudis Pushing U.N. Resolution Denouncing Israel

From the New York Sun, June 13, 2008, by BENNY AVNI, Staff Reporter:

UNITED NATIONS — Amid reports of a widening rift between Saudi Arabia and America, Riyadh's diplomats at the United Nations are pushing for passage of a U.N. Security Council resolution on Israeli settlements, a move that would likely force an American veto, which in turn could alienate American allies in Europe.

When the Saudis initiated a recent meeting with Arab ambassadors and proposed a resolution denouncing an Israeli decision to build hundreds of new housing units in two Jerusalem neighborhoods, some diplomats here raised eyebrows.

...America traditionally has vetoed similar resolutions, saying they do not help such negotiations, [a Western diplomat who spoke on the condition of anonymity] noted. "Maybe the Saudis, who are not council members, want to embarrass the Americans."

...Washington has urged oil-rich countries such as Saudi Arabia to pump more oil to increase supply. But Saudi officials say the weak dollar and Israeli hints of an impending military attack on Iran, not declining production, are to blame for high prices.

The dispute over oil appears to be part of a larger rift between the two countries, with a London-based Arabic-language newspaper, Al-Quds al-Arabi, reporting recently that relations have reached their lowest point in years.

Some Riyadh watchers trace the shift to a National Intelligence Estimate on Iranian nuclear progress, published in December. The report convinced the Saudis that America was not going stop Iran, a Saudi foe, from obtaining a nuclear weapon, the president of the Jerusalem Policy Center for Public Affairs, Dore Gold, said...."They don't want to hear from Condi Rice about diplomatic progress between Abbas and Israel. They want to know what America is doing about Iran."

... "We'll see what they come up with," one European diplomat said. "Our position on the settlements is very clear: We oppose them."

If France, Britain, and other European council members voice their support, the resolution could drive a wedge between those countries and America, which has denounced the Israeli decision but is unlikely to allow the council to interfere with direct talks between the Israelis and the Palestinian Arabs.

America will evaluate any council proposal "on several criteria," an American U.N. ambassador, Alejandro Wolff, said. "Will it contribute to resolving the underlying problem or, conversely, is this designed simply to embarrass, to isolate, to impede, and to obstruct progress?"

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Cockroaches in the NZ woodwork

From an article by MATT CALMAN - The Dominion Post (New Zealand), Thursday, 05 June 2008:

Prime TV billboards axed after complaint

One billboard in Wakefield St, Wellington, and two in Auckland were removed yesterday after going up on Tuesday. The billboards were for Madmen: The Glory Years of Advertising, due out at the end of the month, and bore the slogan:

"Advertising Agency Seeks: Clients. All business considered, even from Jews."

The billboards were removed after a complaint from New Zealand Jewish Council chairman Geoff Levy, who was also angry about a two-page advertisement using the same wording in the latest Time magazine.

Mr Levy said Prime had acted quickly to remove the billboards and if the council received a written apology and a two-page apology in the next Time the matter would be resolved.

However, the damage had already been done and 26,000 copies of Time would remain on waiting-room tables and in houses for months to come, he said.

...Prime spokesman Tony O'Brien said approval for the campaign, which was to mirror "archaic" 1960s' attitudes prevalent in the show, had been given by the marketing department, which had made an error of judgment. All the billboards were immediately removed and an apology would run in the next edition of Time, he said. "We take full responsibility for this and we have totally apologised to the Jewish community. The campaign crossed the line from being provocative to being offensive."

...Adverstising Standards Authority executive director Hilary Souter said they had received a handful of complaints but the quick response of the broadcaster should settle the matter.

For New Zealand, the incident is unremarkable.
As one commentator noted
  • New Zealand Universities have granted PhDs to Holocaust denial theorists,
  • there have been instances of desecration of Jewish graves
  • there was an attck on the Rabbi's car in Auckland
  • anti-Semitic slogans ere spray painted on the Synagogue in Christchurch
  • there were plans for a demonstration outside a Synagogue in Wellington to coincide with a Service there to comemorate those who had died in wars defending Israel
  • there was a stabbing of school children at the Jewish day school in Auckland. The woman in question had a mental illness but even so, her drive for wanting to harm Jews had to have come from somewhere.

...So now an advertising agency taps into this growing undercurrent of anti-Semitism in New Zealand, as a cheap, cynical grab for controversy and publicity.

However, what I find interesting is the tone of the comments posted in response to the article. The slightest whiff of DDT, and it's amazing how many cockroaches crawl out of the woodwork....

For example
  • "...the old saying "All Jewish are cheap and shrewd in business" I believe is quite true.
  • "... The second you call a Jew a name the whole anti-semetic brigade has you called up to HR."
  • "...Stereotypes are generally born out of a reflection of reality....."
  • "... Personally I am just sick of the whole jewish thing..."
  • "...Why keep using the guilt trap on people?..."
  • "...some new state - let's just call it "Jewtopia"...

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Myth busting

From Online Opinion, June 10, 2006, by Bren Carlill, analyst for the Australia/Israel & Jewish Affairs Council:

It’s time to debunk some myths.
  • Israel did not replace or destroy any country.
  • It did not prevent the establishment of a Palestinian state.
  • The Palestinian refugee crisis occurred because of the actions of Palestinian and other Arab fighters.
  • The reason the Arab-Israel conflict persists is not because of Israel, but because of the intransigence of the Palestinian leadership and Arab world.
Israel did not replace or destroy any country. When Israel was established in 1948, there was not, nor had there ever been, a country called Palestine. The United Kingdom took the area from the Ottoman Empire (modern day Turkey) in 1917. The Ottomans, who didn’t call the area Palestine, took it in 1517, from the Mamluks, who were Egyptian. The Mamluks, who didn’t call the area Palestine, had been there since 1267 after taking it from the Mongols. Going back through history, the only locals who ever ran the area as an independent country were Jews.

Local Arabs began calling themselves Palestinian in the 1920s. Until then, they called themselves Syrians. Arab nationalists wanted a country called Syria to be established in the area now incorporating Syria, Lebanon, Israel and the Palestinian Authority. Only when the British and French imposed artificial political borders throughout the Middle East did Arabs, in what had become Palestine, start to identify themselves as Palestinians...

...The local Arab population swelled dramatically in the 50 years before Israel’s establishment. Mandatory Palestine was one of the only places on earth not to be ravaged by the Great Depression. This was due to Jewish investment and immigration. Arabs, mostly from Egypt, moved to Palestine because that’s where the jobs were.

It’s interesting that the Palestinian definition of “who is a Palestinian” is any Arab who was in Palestine on May 14, 1948 (the day Israel was established), or their descendents. You’ll note this definition doesn’t say, “any Arab born in Palestine before 1948”, because this would dramatically reduce the population. ...

Israel did not prevent the establishment of a Palestinian state. After the Peel Commission, the British offered Palestinian Arabs a state in 1937, 11 years before Israel was established. Palestinian Arabs said no. The UN offered Palestinian Arabs a state in 1947, which was again rejected. From 1948-1967, when Jordan and Egypt occupied the West Bank and Gaza Strip, no Palestinian state was established. Significantly, when the Palestine Liberation Organisation was established in 1964, its platform specifically stated its goal was to replace Israel, not establish a Palestinian state in the West Bank or Gaza.

After Israel took the West Bank and Gaza in June 1967, it offered the land back in exchange for peace. The Arab League’s September 1967 Khartoum Declaration said “no peace with Israel, no recognition of Israel, no negotiations with it”.

The Israeli-Palestinian peace agreements of the 1990s were met with an increase, not decrease, in Palestinian terrorism. In 2000 and 2001, when Israel offered Palestinians a state, which included a capital in Jerusalem and 95 per cent of the West Bank, they again said no. At no point have Palestinians produced a counter-offer. They’ve simply said no. Israel cannot be blamed for the lack of a Palestinian state.

The Palestinian refugee crisis occurred because of the actions of Palestinian and other Arab fighters. The refugee issue has two aspects that few talk about.

First, the majority of the refugees fled and were not pushed out. The Palestinian Arab leadership spread rumours of Jewish massacres in order to galvanise support for the cause. The plan backfired. Instead of fighting, many fled well before the war reached them. They locked their front doors and left, expecting to return a couple of weeks later, once the land was free of Jews. Hence the key as the symbol of Palestinian refugees. Most refugees around the world don’t have the time to bother about niceties like locking front doors.

Second, in the years after Israel’s establishment, the Arab world, annoyed they couldn’t massacre Palestine’s Jews, forced out their own countries' Jews. More than 650,000 Jews were thus made refugees because of Israel’s establishment [actually 856,00, based on UN document “Trends and Characteristics of International Migration since 1950 – Refugee Movements and Population Transfers” (UN Department for Economic and Social Affairs, Demographic Study No. 64 ST/ESA/Ser. A/64) - SL]. These Jews have never been able to return home or gain compensation for their losses, estimated at $30 billion in today’s terms.

These Jews were absorbed into the world’s only Jewish country, because to leave refugees suffering needlessly is immoral. The Arab refugees have never been absorbed by any of the world’s 22 Arab countries.

During Israel’s War of Independence, Palestinian fighters wore no uniforms and sheltered in Palestinian villages, with the villages’ support. Thus, the distinction between fighter and civilian was erased. On top of this, the Palestinian leadership had announced its plan to massacre every Jew in Palestine. Yes, Jewish fighters were directly responsible for creating a significant minority of the Palestinian refugees, but this is perfectly understandable. The Jews were fighting to survive, and the Palestinian villagers were engaged in the war to kill the Jews.

It’s worth pointing out that Jewish villages occupied by Arab forces didn’t have quite so nice an option. Most Jewish prisoners of Arab forces weren’t made refugees; they were lined up and shot.

The reason the Arab-Israel conflict persists is not because of Israel, but because of the intransigence of the Palestinian leadership and Arab world. Israel has offered to make peace on dozens of occasions. The original idea, offered in 1937, offered again in 1947 and so on, was to create two states for two people. Israel is still committed to this.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Ahmadinejabberwocky banking

From The Telegraph (UK), by Con Coughlin, 08/06/2008:

The president of Iran has ordered the country's leading banks to transfer billions of dollars of assets from Europe to the [Iranian] Central Bank to prevent them being frozen by international sanctions, according to Western diplomats.

The funds are being moved to Tehran through a secret network of "front" companies set up in Gulf states such as Dubai.

Mahmoud Ahmadinejad ordered the move amid growing concern that Iranian banks would soon be subject to strengthened European Union-level sanctions. But his action has caused friction with Tahmaseb Mazaheri, the governor of the Central Bank. The Iranian press has reported that he may resign over the issue.

This would constitute a serious blow to Mr Ahmadinejad's already battered reputation for economic competence. Mr Mazaheri has only been in the job nine months after he replaced Ibrahim Sheibani, who resigned over the Iranian president's attempts to control the activities of the state's banks....

...Washington, with Britain's support, is pressuring the UN to take firmer action against a number of Iranian banks, while Brussels is considering restrictions of its own over Tehran's refusal to call a halt to its uranium enrichment programme.

According to reports received by Western diplomats, officials at Bank Melli have been ordered by the Iranian government to smuggle assets held in Europe back to Iran. This follows a surprise raid by German financial investigators last month on the Bank Melli in Hamburg.

The bank was ordered to freeze its activities until a thorough examination had been carried out.
EU officials are considering whether to ban the bank from operating in EU member states.
But Western officials fear most of the bank's assets will have been repatriated to Iran before any ban comes into force. They are particularly concerned at the role of Dutch banks in helping to transfer funds back to Tehran via Dubai.

Although there is no suggestion that the Dubai government is involved in the smuggling operation, the Gulf state is known to have close trading ties with Iran and there are an estimated 10,000 Iranian companies based in Dubai, making it difficult for Western officials to detect unusual financial transactions.

EU, U.S. ready for extra Iran sanctions

From Reuters, Mon Jun 9, 2008:

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - The European Union and the United States will warn Iran on Tuesday they are ready to go beyond agreed U.N. sanctions if it shuns demands to suspend sensitive nuclear work, according to a draft summit communique.

The draft...raises the possibility of a crackdown on Iranian banks, the area where Washington has long urged the EU's 27 states to apply more pressure on Tehran.

"We are ready to supplement those (U.N. Security Council) sanctions with additional measures...We will continue to work together ... to take steps to ensure Iranian banks cannot abuse the international banking system to support proliferation and terrorism..."

...The U.N. Security Council passed a third sanctions resolution against Iran in April and Washington has pressed the EU to deny targeted Iranian banks access to the international financial system.

EU diplomats had said in recent weeks the bloc was ready to go beyond the sanctions, pointing to rigorous applications in the past of travel bans and asset freezes on Iranian officials as proof that the bloc can take a tough line.

They say the EU is preparing an asset and funds freeze on Iran's biggest bank, state-owned Bank Melli, but that it first wants to see how Tehran responds to a new offer of incentives by major powers for it to suspend uranium enrichment.

EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana is due to take that offer to Tehran before the end of the month as part of carrot-and-stick diplomacy known as the "dual-track" strategy....

...U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said last month the United States would "aggressively" impose more sanctions on Iran as long as it refused to give up nuclear work.

Israelis and Palestinians Launch Web Start-Up

From The New York Times, by DINA KRAFT, May 29, 2008:

photo by Rina Castelnuovo for The New York Times

The wall that separates the office in Ramallah from its office in the central Israeli town of Modiin.

RAMALLAH, West Bank - Nibbling doughnuts and wrestling with computer code, the workers at, an Internet start-up here, are holding their weekly staff meeting - with colleagues on the other side of the Israeli-Palestinian divide.

They trade ideas through a video hookup that connects the West Bank office with one in Israel in the first joint technology venture of its kind between Israelis and Palestinians.

"Start with the optimistic parts, Mustafa," Gilad Parann-Nissany, an Israeli who is vice president for research and development, jokes with a Palestinian colleague who is giving a progress report. Both conference rooms break into laughter.

The goal of is not as lofty as peace, although its founders and employees do hope to encourage it. Instead wants to give users a free, Web-based virtual computer that lets them access their desktop and files from any computer with an Internet connection., pronounced "ghost," is short for Global Hosted Operating System.

"Ghosts go through walls," said Zvi Schreiber, the company's British-born Israeli chief executive, by way of explanation. A test version of the service is available now, and an official introduction is scheduled for Halloween.

The Palestinian office in Ramallah, with about 35 software developers, is responsible for most of the research and programming. A smaller Israeli team works about 13 miles away in the central Israeli town of Modiin.

The stretch of road separating the offices is broken up by checkpoints, watch towers and a barrier made of chain-link fence and, in some areas, soaring concrete walls, built by Israel with the stated goal of preventing the entry of Palestinian suicide bombers.

Palestinian employees need permits from the Israeli army to enter Israel and attend meetings in Modiin, and Israelis are forbidden by their own government from entering Palestinian cities.

When permits cannot be arranged but meetings in person are necessary, colleagues gather at a rundown coffee shop on a desert road frequented by camels and Bedouin shepherds near Jericho, an area legally open to both sides.

Dr. Schreiber, an entrepreneur who has already built and sold two other start-ups, said he wanted to create after seeing the power of software running on the Web. He said he thought it was time to merge his technological and commercial ambitions with his social ones and create a business with Palestinians.

"I felt the ultimate goal was to offer every human being a computing environment which is free, and which is not tied to any physical hardware but exists on the Web," he said. The idea, he said, was to create a home for all of a user's online files and storage in the form of a virtual PC.

Instead of creating its own Web-based software, the company taps into existing services like Google Docs, Zoho and Flickr and integrates them into a single online computing system. also has a philanthropic component: a foundation that aims to establish community computer centers in Ramallah and in mixed Jewish-Arab towns in Israel. The foundation is headed by Noa Rothman, the granddaughter of Yitzhak Rabin, the Israeli prime minister slain in 1995.

"It's the first time I met Palestinians of my generation face to face," said Ms. Rothman, 31, of her work with She said she was moved by how easily everyone got along. "It shows how on the people-to-people level you can really get things done."

Investors have put $2.5 million into the company so far, a modest amount. Employing Palestinians means the money goes farther; salaries for Palestinian programmers are about a third of what they are in Israel.

But Dr. Schreiber, who initially teamed up with Tareq Maayah, a Palestinian businessman, to start the Ramallah office, insists this is not just another example of outsourcing.

"We are one team, employed by the same company, and everyone has shares in the company," he said.

At's offices in Ramallah, in a stone-faced building with black reflective glass perched on a hill in the city's business district, employees say they feel part of an intensive group effort to create something groundbreaking. Among them are top young Palestinian programmers and engineers, recruited in some cases directly from universities.

The chance to gain experience in creating a product for the international market - a first for the small Palestinian technology community - means politics take a backseat to business, said Yusef Ghandour, a project manager.

"It's good we are learning from the Israeli side now," Mr. Ghandour said. The Israelis, he said, "are open to the external world, and there is lots of venture capital investment in Israel, and now we are bringing that to Palestine."

The departure of educated young people mostly to neighboring Jordan and the Persian Gulf states is a major problem for the Palestinian economy and has been especially damaging to its technology industry. Since the Oslo peace process broke down in 2000, a wave of Israeli-Palestinian business ties have crumbled as well.

Political tensions make it somewhat unpopular for Palestinians to do business with Israelis, said Ala Alaeddin, chairman of the Palestinian Information Technology Association. He said the concept of a technology joint venture across the divide was unheard-of until opened its doors. A handful of Palestinian tech companies handle outsourced work for Israeli companies, but most focus on the local or Middle Eastern market.

"It's much easier to have outsourcing than a partnership," Mr. Alaeddin said. "A joint venture is a long-term commitment, and you need both sides to be really confident that this kind of agreement will work."

Benchmark Capital, a Silicon Valley venture capital firm with offices in Israel, invested $2 million in Michael Eisenberg, a general partner at the firm, said Benchmark was "in the business of risky investments," but that presented entirely new territory.

Recalling his discussions with Dr. Schreiber, Mr. Eisenberg said: "Frankly, when he first told me about it I thought it was ambitious, maybe overly ambitious. But Zvi is a remarkable entrepreneur, and I started to feel he could actually pull this off."

The video hookup runs continuously between the offices. Chatting in the Ramallah conference room, two Palestinian programmers wave hello to Israeli colleagues conferring over a laptop in the Modiin office.

"We are doing something across cultures and across two sides of a tough conflict," Dr. Schreiber said. "I was prepared for the possibility that it might be difficult, but it hasn't been."

President Of Indonesia Restricts Moderate Muslim Sect

From The New York Times, June 10, 2008, by PETER GELLING:

MANIS LOR, Indonesia — President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono signed a decree on Monday ordering members of a minority Muslim sect to stop practicing their form of Islam or face arrest. Members of the sect, known as Ahmadiyah, do not believe that Muhammad was the last prophet, contrary to a central tenet of mainstream Islam. They have been the victims of violent attacks by extremists in recent years.

Mr. Yudhoyono, who is expected to seek re-election next year, has been caught between
  • moderate Muslim and human rights groups that are fighting for pluralism in Indonesia and
  • fundamentalist Muslim organizations that are pressing for the country to adopt Shariah law and become an Islamic state.

About 5,000 members of a group calling itself United for Islam demonstrated Monday outside the presidential palace in Jakarta, demanding that Ahmadiyah be banned. Last week, members of a hard-line group called the Islamic Defenders Front attacked an interfaith rally in support of Ahmadiyah. Dozens of people were wounded.

Although the wording of the decree did not explicitly ban the group, it warned Ahmadiyah members that they were no longer free to practice their religion and strongly encouraged them to “return to mainstream Islam,” according to Bonaventura Nainggolan, a spokesman for the Indonesian attorney general. “The government decree forbids Ahmadiyah from spreading their religion and calls for it to halt all its religious activities,” he said.

Indonesia’s Constitution guarantees freedom of worship, but a national law allows only five official religions: Islam, Roman Catholicism, Protestantism, Hinduism and Buddhism. About 90 percent of Indonesia’s 240 million people are Muslim.

In the small village of Manis Lor in West Java, where thousands of Ahmadiyah members have lived for generations, several mosques and a number of houses were attacked and burned in December, forcing residents to pray in secret.

A ban on Ahmadiyah was issued by local authorities here shortly after the attack and the central mosque was closed. But the authorities said that without an official decree from the central government, they could not prevent Ahmadiyah members from praying inside their homes.
Residents said they were concerned that the government order issued Monday would cause them to face prosecution and additional threats of violence.

Police officers stood outside the closed mosque on Monday and were stationed throughout the village to protect residents from possible attacks from extremist groups. “We are doing nothing wrong,” said Kulman Trisna Prawira, 67, an Ahmadiyah elder. “We are harmless. We are peaceful. We don’t do anything but pray. We will follow the president’s order, but we aren’t going to change our beliefs.”

Mr. Nainggolan, the spokesman for the attorney general, said the decree was based on recommendations from the attorney general, the religious affairs minister and the minister of domestic affairs.

The decision is certain to anger human rights groups and moderate Muslim organizations that work to promote pluralism in Indonesia. A prominent group of human rights lawyers said it planned to challenge the crackdown on Ahmadiyah in court. “The government’s action today, to stop the activity of Ahmadiyah, is clearly against the Constitution,” said Uli Parulian Sihombing, a lawyer who represents minority religious groups. “We will be bringing this to court.”

...and from DhimmiWatch, May 2, 2008:

Ahmadiyah sect closes mosque so as to avoid attacks

Orthodox Muslims consider the Ahmadis heretical. So they're practicing a bit of pre-emptive dhimmitude so as to avoid worse from the Religion of Tolerance.

... by Theresia Sufa for The Jakarta Post:

Members of Ahmadiyah sect voluntarily pulled down the roof to their mosque, An Nur, in Ciaruteun kampung, Bogor regency, on Wednesday.

The police put tape around the mosque to assure no one would enter the area.
An Ahmadiyah member, Nunik, who lives next door, said closing the mosque was the best way to prevent violence.

"It is OK for us not to pray at the mosque. We can still do it at home. The most important thing is that our houses are safe," she said.

A resident in the kampung, Asep Abdul Aziz, said he praised the sect's decision to close their mosque because minor physical attacks had already occurred.

"Some residents threw stones at the mosque a few days earlier. It might get worse if the mosque remains open," he said....

Senegal launches mediation efforts between Hamas, Fatah

From Ynet News, 7/6/08, with contributions from AP and Reuters News agencies:

Representatives of warring Palestinian factions meet with Senegalese president less than week after Hamas said it welcomed Fatah's 'renewed spirit' of dialogue. Meanwhile Hamas claims responsibility for number of terror attacks between 2002-2005

Senegalese President Abdoulaye Wade has begun talks with representatives of Hamas and Fatah, hoping to establish common ground in the Palestinian factions' approach to Israel, Senegalese state media reported on Saturday.

... The leader of Hamas in the Gaza Strip, Ismail Haniyeh, said on Thursday he welcomed what he called a "new spirit" of dialogue in a keynote speech by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas of Fatah.

However, aides to Abbas rejected suggestions the Palestinian president had taken a warmer tone to his Hamas Islamist opponents, and insisted his call for "a national and comprehensive dialogue" with Hamas concerned only implementation of a recent Yemeni diplomatic initiative.
That initiative called for Hamas to give up its hold on Gaza.

Hamas says responsible for murder of 26 Israelis
Hamas has claimed belated responsibility for a string of attacks in Israel carried out several years ago. A Hamas web site lists nine attacks that killed 26 Israelis from 2002 until 2005. Other Palestinian groups claimed responsibility for some of those attacks at the time.

Hamas says it kept quiet about its role until now for security reasons. The web site says all the attackers came from the West Bank. It's not immediately clear whether Hamas really did commit all of those attacks. But the announcement suggests they want to emphasize its role in the West Bank.

Monday, June 09, 2008

Breaking the spell of global fatalism

From Jun 5, 2008, by SAUL SINGER: air of fatalism has arisen around [Iran's] quest for the Bomb. ... that neither sanctions nor perhaps even military action will be sufficient to stop Iran's nuke program.

This rather unthinking consensus is mistaken about the potential effectiveness of tough sanctions, not to mention a military strike on a few key Iranian nuclear facilities, regardless of how many dozens exist. Iran imports 40 percent of its refined oil and, as House Foreign Affairs Committee chairman Howard Berman told AIPAC this week, more than half of Iran's trade is with Europe, Japan and Australia.

Iran is extremely vulnerable to economic sanctions imposed by democratic countries, even if China and Russia do not completely go along. But the greatest failure of imagination does not concern the sanctions that are most often discussed but the refusal to impose seemingly "soft" sanctions that are critical to breaking the spell of global fatalism.

This week President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said, "You should know that the criminal and terrorist Zionist regime which has 60 years of plundering, aggression and crimes in its file has reached the end of its work and will soon disappear off the geographical scene."
A White House spokeswoman responded by saying that such rhetoric would "further isolate the Iranian people," but that "we'll let him go on and be bombastic if he wants and ignore him."

AHMADINEJAD may be a buffoon, but this does not detract one iota from the criminality of his actions. The Genocide Convention stipulates that incitement to genocide - which is what calls to wipe an entire country off the map are - is a "punishable crime." Countries like the US, Israel and Germany are signatories to the Genocide Convention. Why are these governments not seeking Ahmadinejad's indictment?

To some, throwing a piece of paper at a regime that is already shrugging off UN sanctions might seem ridiculous. What they don't realize is that the West possesses something that countries like China and Russia do not - the keys to international legitimacy.

For all its bluster against the West, the Iranian regime is more concerned about true international isolation than it is about economic sanctions or perhaps even military attack. Why, for example, is Ahmadinejad showing up at a meeting of the FAO in Italy? Because he wants to rub the West's nose in the fact that he is still not persona non grata despite his support for terrorism, genocidal incitement and defiance of the entire international community.

In 2000 the EU imposed sanctions, including a break in all diplomatic contacts, with Austria after the election of Joerg Haider. In 2002, 14 out of 15 EU nations imposed a travel ban on Belarus's President Alexander Lukashenko and seven of his ministers because of his country's poor human rights record. The EU currently has a travel ban against Zimbabwe's President Robert Mugabe, though it has a loophole that is allowing him to attend the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) conference in Rome. But Ahmadinejad is not even under such a leaky EU ban.

The White House and Europe are badly mistaken in their strategy of "ignoring" Ahmadinejad's taunts. Every time he threatens the US and Israel and gets away with it he is demonstrating his regime's strength and the West's weakness. That is exactly why he keeps repeating such seemingly reckless statements.

Less than 1% of Europe's trade is with Iran, while 40% of Iran's trade - including difficult-to-replace spare parts for sophisticated (much of it German) equipment - is with Europe. A total trade ban, therefore, would have negligible economic impact on Europe, while imposing a steep price on Iran.

But diplomatic sanctions cost even less - nothing. What is stopping Germany from breaking diplomatic relations with a country that openly denies the Holocaust and is openly calling and preparing for a new one? Australia has already called for prosecuting Iran's leader under the Genocide Convention. Why has Germany, along with all other democracies, not taken such a basic step?

THE JEWISH world and Israel are not helpless here. Two actions are urgent and beg to be taken:

(1) Israel should help organize a coalition of states seeking Ahmadinejad's indictment, breaking or downgrading of diplomatic relations and imposing a total travel ban against Iranian leaders; and

(2) NGOs should organize protests against Germany's Siemens Corporation, which refuses to take even the steps that the Deutschebank has taken to reduce its commerce with Iran.

We do not know what action will in the end be necessary to stop Iran, though there is still hope that it need not be military. What we do know is that the first step is to puncture the sense of inevitability that has surrounded Iran's nuclear program and replace it with the opposite sense that Iran ultimately will be stopped.

It is precisely such "soft" measures, aimed squarely at the regime's international legitimacy, that can demonstrate Western determination rather than resignation and paralysis.

President George W. Bush, given the coming US stint as president of the UN Security Council, is in a pivotal position to launch such measures, including not only enforcement of the Genocide Convention, but the launching of a UN investigation into Iranian support for terrorism and a public White House meeting with prominent Iranian dissidents.

So long as Iran's "bombast" is "ignored," the message sent is clear: The West has been intimidated into letting a two-bit power run roughshod over its most sacred values. The mullahs know that so long as such intimidation continues, they are safe. The significance of such "soft" measures is less in their physical impact than the signal that they send: We will not be intimidated, and we will win.

We are all Jews!

From The Suburban (Canada) 7/5/08, by R. James Woolsey, former Director of Central Intelligence, vice-president of Booz, Allen, Hamilton and co-chair of the Committee on the Present Danger:

...It's not only the other two great Abrahamic religions, Christianity and Islam, that owe a substantial debt to Judaism, it's the world as a whole. The reason is that between three and four millennia ago something happened in the Sinai among a tribe of refugees from Egyptian oppression that introduced the world to the concept of the rule of law - the idea that the law is not the whim of, but rather has its source above, those who rule.

This concept is at the heart of what makes decently- governed societies possible...In the absence of ...the notion that the rule of law somehow derives from a source above the rulers, electoral democracy can degenerate into mob rule and capitalism into theft. ...

...The US does not look back to Rome or France at the height of their power in determining the way to deal with those who today govern the most powerful nation in history. Thankfully, in regard to the powerful being subjected to the rule of law we are...all Jews. Perhaps nothing more distinguishes the free world, with Israel as its frontline family member, from the Islamist fundamentalism that challenges it as its greatest existential threat....

.... I am convinced that it is this veneration of the law - with its status above the ruler - that is at the heart of anti-Semitism.

Jews have almost always been the first target of tyrants, because their beliefs and religious practices, honed by nearly two millennia in Diaspora, clearly declare that in their view the law is above the ruler.... As a consequence they are often the first group that tyrants, secular or theocratic, feel they must suppress or destroy.

We should all reflect upon the historic reality that when anti- Semitism raises its head, the rest of us, unless we are willing to live with a foot on our neck, will be the next targets....

... The law is, after all, above the ruler. At the same time that fidelity to this concept is the greatest irritant to Israel’s enemies,it is precisely that fidelity that will not only sustain the Jewish state but will guarantee that it will survive and thrive as a valued ally in the family of free nations.