Wednesday, May 06, 2009
Dr. Mordechai Kedar of Bar-Ilan University defends the Jewishness of Jerusalem, the Jewish capital for over 3000 years. He also defends the right of Israelis to settle in Judea and Samaria, the West Bank. "We were here when your forefathers were drinking wine, burying their daughters alive and worshipping idols" -- this was just one of Bar Ilan University political scientist Dr. Mordechai Kedar's ripostes to questions by an Al Jazeera interviewer ...in an interview that has received rave reviews from Israel-lovers the world over for its forcefulness.
"They did not expect me to take the discussion to history and especially not to religion," Kedar told Israel National News. But discuss religion he did in the above video, reminding his interviewer that Jerusalem was not mentioned even once in the Koran and saying directly in fluent Arabic that "Jerusalem is not on the negotiating table," and that "Jerusalem belongs to the Jews, period."
"This was very aggravating" for the Al-Jazeera interviewer, Kedar explained, "because in the Islamic view, Islam came into the world to replace Judaism and Christianity, not to live side by side with them. And here, all of a sudden, the Jews are coming from exile and building their state again and G-d forbid they also regained Jerusalem." Judaism is thus regaining its meaning, and Islam is challenged by this, the Bar-Ilan professor explained. "The mere existence of the State of Israel and the fact that we are in Jerusalem is some kind of challenge to the legitimacy of Islam in their eyes," Kedar explained.
"This is not pro-Israel public relations," Dr. Kedar told Israel National News. "This is a battle for the Arab heart, which Israel is apparently losing because Israel gave up on the main tool which should have served it, which is an independent Israeli Zionist satellite channel in Arabic." Many Arabs, he said, would consider changing their views if such a channel were available.
Algerian Author Anwar Malek:
The Arabs Have Lost Their Worth, Their Humanity, and Their Culture
Following are excerpts from an interview with Algerian author Anwar Malek, which aired on Al-Jazeera TV on March 3, 2009.
[To view the interview, with English subtitles, follow this link.]
Interviewer: 73% of our viewers believe that the Arabs constitute a great power, and have ability to be influential, and so on.
Anwar Malek: This figure indicates that the Arabs are afflicted with fantasies and obsolete bravado... False, empty bravado, which does no good to anybody. The Arabs invented, or discovered, the zero – but what did they do with it? Some of them sat on it, some put it on their heads, while others wore it around their waists, and began shaking their hips, their bellies, and their breasts, in order to sell to the world the idea that modern Arabs are doing something. Today, the Arabs constitute nothing but thousands of zeros to the left... The Arabs have lost their worth, their humanity, their culture, and everything. There is nothing to suggest that the Arabs can be relied upon to produce anything.
This false bravado is deeply rooted in the Arabs to an unimaginable degree. It is so deeply rooted that the Arabs believe they can go to the moon. If you asked your viewers whether the Arabs would be able to reach the moon by 2015, they would say: "Yes, the Arabs will get to the moon." By Allah, the Arabs will not go more than a few hundred kilometers from their doorsteps. These are empty words.
In all honesty, the Arabs are backward, and are not fit for civilization at all. I am not referring to history. I am talking about the Arabs of today. I'm not talking about the Arabs of the past, in the days of the Islamic conquests. I am talking about the Arabs of today. They have lost their Arab identity, and have begun to export shawarma, falafel, and lupin beans to Europe, and they purport to be bringing something Arab to Europe.
...The Arab rulers are a reflection of the people. The Arab rulers did not come down from Mars or from the sun. They emerged from among the people, and share the same beliefs. If you placed any Arab citizen in power... I challenge any Arab citizen, who may become a ruler, to do anything beyond what the current Arab leaders are doing. There is no difference between the Arab rulers and the Arab peoples. All those who are called "Arabs" are one and the same.
...Interviewer: Look what small resistance movements have achieved, by means of very primitive weapons, in confronting aggressors and enemies. Can you deny this? This completely refutes what you say.
Anwar Malek: What resistance are you talking about? If you are talking about the resistance of Hizbullah – Hizbullah has destroyed Lebanon, in the framework of a Persian conspiracy. I say this point blank. As for the resistance in Palestine – they are defending themselves. They are a group of people defending themselves from attacks from all directions. What did they achieve? Did they defeat or destroy Israel? I consider it a miracle when someone manages to even defend himself. The reality of the Arabs is one of defeat, hitting rock bottom... We are defeated, politically and militarily... and economically, socially, and even psychologically. We have a discourse of conspiracy, and we blame everything on others.
...Interviewer: Take Egypt, for example. What does Egypt – that superpower – have to offer? I ask you, what does Egypt have to offer?
Anwar Malek: Nothing. It is incapable of doing anything. It has nothing but lupin beans – and I say this in complete irony. It is incapable of doing anything. It lives off American aid. Without it, they would starve.
...Egypt is incapable of waging war, strategically and militarily. It is incapable of doing anything.
Interviewer: Didn't Egypt win several wars?
Anwar Malek: No. The 1973 war was not a victory. It was another defeat...No Arab country has won a war in modern times. There has been no victory worthy of mention. All we have are defeats, which we package as victories.
...Look at how the Arabs live in the West. By Allah, they are a bad example. If you hear about thieves – they are always Arabs. Whenever a young man harasses a girl on the streets of London or Paris, he turns out to be an Arab. All the negative moral values are to be found in the Arab individual.
French officials are trying to ban the rabid anti-Zionist and Jew-hating comedian Dieudonne M'Bala M'Bala from fielding candidates in the country’s June regional elections. The comic has been fined at least five times for using terms such as “memorial pornography” when referring to Jews, and he faces a trial this week for inciting hatred against Jews.
Dieudonne’s political partner is Alain Soral, formerly associated with Jean Marie Le Pen’s far-right National Front, which has preached anti-Semitic views and Holocaust denial.
The comedian's political activity has alarmed officials, and Claude Gueant, chief of staff for French President Nicolas Sarkozy, told listeners on two French radio programs that Dieudonne should not be allowed to be active in political campaigns. "Dieudonne is anti-Semitic all the time, it's absolutely odious," Gueant stated. "Public authorities are trying to see where these plans [to curb Dieudonne's party] stand under the law. I'm not sure if we'll be able to ban them."
...Dieudonne, who is 43 years old ...has been involved in European Union elections as a candidate or head of a party since 1997. Among other epithets, he has called Jews a “fraud, which is the worst of all, because [they were] the first.” On a live television show, he dressed himself as a hareidi religious Jew and performed the Hitler salute. He was fined nearly $10,000 three years ago for calling a widely-known Jewish television personality a secret donor of the "child-murdering Israeli army.”
Dieudonne once told a press conference that the Jews in France are a mafia who have "total control over French policy.” He also met with Hizbullah terrorists after the Second Lebanon War.
During one recent performance, with Le Pen in the audience, he invited a Holocaust denier to join him on stage in honor of his 80th birthday. Several weeks earlier, Dieudonne presented the Holocaust denier, academic Robert Faurisson, with a "prize for maladaption and impertinence” that was presented by an assistant dressed in a concentration camp uniform with a yellow star.
[A UN] board of inquiry examined the events in which nine UN installations were damaged during Operation Cast Lead.
UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon will today (Tuesday, 5 May 2009) send to the UN Security Council his response to the summary of the report of the internal board of inquiry, which he previously formed. The board examined the events in which nine UN installations were damaged during Operation Cast Lead.
In his letter, Secretary General Ban Ki-moon emphasizes the close cooperation accorded to the inquiry team by the Israeli authorities, and determines that he has no intention of forming another board of inquiry. The Secretary General adds that his representatives are discussing the implementation of the report's recommendations with the Israeli authorities. In his letter, Secretary General Ban criticizes the firing of Kassam rockets at Israeli towns, and praises the coordination between the Israel Defence Force (IDF) and the UN during Operation Cast Lead. The Secretary General further emphasizes in his letter that the UN board of inquiry is not a judicial body and is not authorized to examine legal issues.
Immediately upon the conclusion of Operation Cast Lead, and unrelated to the UN investigation, Israel carried out independent inquiries into the damage caused to the UN installations. The findings of these inquiries were published two weeks ago, and proved beyond doubt that the IDF did not intentionally fire at the UN installations. Not only have the Hamas terrorists not conducted such inquiries, they have use violence and intimidation against citizens of Gaza as tools to prevent them from presenting the actual truth. In this manner they have deceived the investigators, the UN and public opinion.
The State of Israel rejects the criticism in the board's summary report, and determines that in both spirit and language, the report is tendentious, patently biased, and ignores the facts presented to the committee. The board of inquiry has preferred the claims of Hamas, a murderous terror organization, and by doing so has misled the world.
As noted by the Secretary General in his letter, during the course of its work the board members met with the Israeli team, which cooperated fully and with complete transparency. The Israeli team presented various intelligence materials, including videos, aerial photographs, eye-witness reports and other material. None of this information is reflected in the report.
Israel emphasizes that despite the fact that it was cleared of suspicions of war crimes raised during Operation Cast Lead, the report completely ignores the eight years of attacks against Israel that preceded the decision to initiate the operation, and ignores the difficult circumstances on the ground as dictated by Hamas and its methods of armed operation. As a terror organization, Hamas chose to position the battlefield in congested built-up areas, and in so doing, not only deliberately attacked Israeli civilians, as is determined in the report, but also put the lives of Palestinian civilians at risk and cynically and manipulatively used them as human shields.
The IDF took various precautions to prevent damage to installations and vehicles belonging to the UN and other international organizations. These installations were marked on the operational maps according to information provided by the UN and the other international organizations. Officers and soldiers were briefed accordingly prior to and during the mission. Surprisingly, the report lays no responsibility on the Hamas organization, which placed its installations and dispatched its men to confront the IDF in proximity to the UN installations. It is unfortunate that the authors of the report did not pay the appropriate attention to this pattern of warfare and Hamas responsibility for both the strikes against Israel and the harm to Palestinian civilians.
The report relates to a series of measures implemented by the IDF to warn the Palestinian population during the fighting, aimed at preventing civilian casualties.
Israel views the publication of the report's findings as the end of the internal UN inspection process. The UN is responsible for drawing its own conclusions regarding the means it should implement to contend with the complex reality in which a terror organization operates in proximity to UN installations without differentiation and in a manner that endangers UN activities. We expect clear statements and action from the UN in this regard.
...Seeking Iranian cooperation in dealing with the grave and urgent situation in Afghanistan and Pakistan looks set to form a cornerstone in the US policy of engagement with Teheran.
...The administration's approach rests on a crucial assumption: It is considered that since Iran and the Taliban are mortal enemies on the ideological and theological level, and since in the past, Iranians and Taliban have clashed, there ought to be a common Iranian-US interest in defeating or containing the Sunni extremists.
This, however, is highly questionable. Closer observation would suggest that, theological and historical matters notwithstanding, Iran has a clear stake in maintaining the absence of security - in "Afpak" [Afghanistan and Pakistan] and beyond it.
...Iran operates according to the dictum that America's difficulty is Iran's opportunity. On this basis, in spite of the relations of mutual loathing that pertain between the Shi'ite regime in Teheran and the Sunni, Deobandi extremists of the Taliban, ample evidence points to Iranian covert assistance to the Afghan insurgents engaged in war against NATO forces in the country.
In April 2007, NATO forces intercepted two convoys carrying Iranian arms to the Taliban. A recent French media report noted the existence of three training camps for Taliban fighters in Iran. British forces in Afghanistan last year reported evidence that Iran has been supplying Taliban fighters with similar sophisticated roadside-bomb-making equipment to that given by Teheran to Shi'ite insurgents in southern Iraq. Both Centcom commander Gen. David Petraeus and NATO spokesman James Appathurai recently confirmed reports of Iranian assistance to the Taliban.
The assistance to the Taliban follows the familiar broader pattern of encouragement of instability across the region. Iran is in the business of challenging the US-dominated order in the Middle East. Preventing an American achievement in Afghanistan, and keeping NATO forces bogged down in an endless, bloody slogging match in the country represents a natural expression of this.
This strategy may be seen at work elsewhere. In Iraq, Iran is maintaining its support for Shi'ite insurgents in the Ahl al-Haq (League of the Righteous) organization. These forces suffered severe disruption at the hands of US troops in 2007 and 2008, with many militants taking refuge in Iran. Evidence suggests that their operations are now once again on the increase in Iraq. The Iranians make little effort to conceal their links with the Shi'ite insurgents. Ahl al-Haq militants are armed with Iranian made Fajr-3 missiles and explosive formed projectiles (IEDs) used in roadside bomb attacks.
So while the Iranians will be happy to talk if invited to, the talking will take place simultaneously with continued Iranian assistance to forces engaged in killing US troops in the two conflict zones in which they are currently deployed in the Middle East. Both the talking and the fighting are part of a unified strategy for building Teheran's influence and power.
...This approach to diplomacy reflects the confident self-assertion of a regime that regards itself as the "rising sun" striving toward ascendance across the region.
The US administration thinks that Teheran "should" support regional security and stability. The problem is that the Iranian regime appears to have a different way of calibrating its interests.
In the Iranian approach, support for violence and insurgency brings with it myriad advantages. The Western powers, prevented from attaining their objectives, appear weak and helpless. The enemy, bogged down in conflicts elsewhere, has less time and capital to spend on containing Iranian ambitions...
*Jonathan Spyer is a senior researcher at the Global Research in International Affairs Center, IDC, Herzliya.
...from The Wall Street Journal, MAY 5, 2009, by AMIR TAHERI:
Convinced that the Obama administration is preparing to retreat from the Middle East, Iran's Khomeinist regime is intensifying its goal of regional domination. It has targeted six close allies of the U.S.: Egypt, Lebanon, Bahrain, Morocco, Kuwait and Jordan, all of which are experiencing economic and/or political crises.
Iranian strategists believe that Egypt is heading for a major crisis once President Hosni Mubarak, 81, departs from the political scene. He has failed to impose his eldest son Gamal as successor, while the military-security establishment, which traditionally chooses the president, is divided. Iran's official Islamic News Agency has been conducting a campaign on that theme for months. This has triggered a counter-campaign against Iran by the Egyptian media.
Last month, Egypt announced it had crushed a major Iranian plot and arrested 68 people. According to Egyptian media, four are members of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC), Tehran's principal vehicle for exporting its revolution. Seven were Palestinians linked to the radical Islamist movement Hamas; one was a Lebanese identified as "a political agent from Hezbollah" by the Egyptian Interior Ministry. Hassan Nasrallah, the leader of the Lebanese Hezbollah, claimed these men were shipping arms to Hamas in Gaza.
The arrests reportedly took place last December, during a crackdown against groups trying to convert Egyptians to Shiism. The Egyptian Interior Ministry claims this proselytizing has been going on for years. Thirty years ago, Egyptian Shiites numbered a few hundred. Various estimates put the number now at close to a million, but they are said to practice taqiyah (dissimulation), to hide their new faith.
But in its campaign for regional hegemony, Tehran expects Lebanon as its first prize. Iran is spending massive amounts of cash on June's general election. It supports a coalition led by Hezbollah, and including the Christian ex-general Michel Aoun. Lebanon, now in the column of pro-U.S. countries, would shift to the pro-Iran column.
In Bahrain, Tehran hopes to see its allies sweep to power through mass demonstrations and terrorist operations. Bahrain's ruling clan has arrested scores of pro-Iran militants but appears more vulnerable than ever. King Hamad bin Isa al-Khalifa has contacted Arab heads of states to appeal for "urgent support in the face of naked threats," according to the Bahraini media.
The threats became sensationally public in March. In a speech at Masshad, Iran's principal "holy city," Ali Akbar Nateq-Nuri, a senior aide to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, described Bahrain as "part of Iran." Morocco used the ensuing uproar as an excuse to severe diplomatic relations with Tehran. The rupture came after months of tension during which Moroccan security dismantled a network of pro-Iran militants allegedly plotting violent operations.
Iran-controlled groups have also been uncovered in Kuwait and Jordan. According to Kuwaiti media, more than 1,000 alleged Iranian agents were arrested and shipped back home last winter. According to the Tehran media, Kuwait is believed vulnerable because of chronic parliamentary disputes that have led to governmental paralysis.
As for Jordan, Iranian strategists believe the kingdom, where Palestinians are two-thirds of the population, is a colonial creation and should disappear from the map -- opening the way for a single state covering the whole of Palestine. Iranian Supreme Leader Khamenei and President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad have both described the division of Palestine as "a crime and a tragedy."
Arab states are especially concerned because Tehran has succeeded in transcending sectarian and ideological divides to create a coalition that includes Sunni movements such as Hamas, the Islamic Jihad, sections of the Muslim Brotherhood, and even Marxist-Leninist and other leftist outfits that share Iran's anti-Americanism.
Information published by Egyptian and other Arab intelligence services, and reported in the Egyptian and other Arab media, reveal a sophisticated Iranian strategy operating at various levels.
- The outer circle consists of a number of commercial companies, banks and businesses active in various fields and employing thousands of locals in each targeted country. In Egypt, for example, police have uncovered more than 30 such Iranian "front" companies, according to the pan-Arab daily newspaper Asharq Alawsat. In Syria and Lebanon, the numbers reportedly run into hundreds.
- In the next circle, Iranian-financed charities offer a range of social and medical services and scholarships that governments often fail to provide.
- Another circle consists of "cultural" centers often called Ahl e Beit (People of the House) supervised by the offices of the supreme leader. These centers offer language classes in Persian, English and Arabic, Islamic theology, Koranic commentaries, and traditional philosophy -- alongside courses in information technology, media studies, photography and filmmaking.
- Wherever possible, the fourth circle is represented by branches of Hezbollah operating openly. Where that's not possible, clandestine organizations do the job, either alone or in conjunction with Sunni radical groups.
The Khomeinist public diplomacy network includes a half-dozen satellite television and radio networks in several languages, more than 100 newspapers and magazines, a dozen publishing houses, and thousands of Web sites and blogs controlled by the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps. The network controls thousands of mosques throughout the region where preachers from Iran, or trained by Iranians, disseminate the Khomeinist revolutionary message.
Tehran has also created a vast network of non-Shiite fellow travelers within the region's political and cultural elites. These politicians and intellectuals may be hostile to Khomeinism on ideological grounds -- but they regard it as a powerful ally in a common struggle against the American "Great Satan."
Khomeinist propaganda is trying to portray Iran as a rising "superpower" in the making while the United States is presented as the "sunset" power. The message is simple: The Americans are going, and we are coming.
Tehran plays a patient game. Wherever possible, it is determined to pursue its goals through open political means, including elections. With pro-American and other democratic groups disheartened by the perceived weakness of the Obama administration, Tehran hopes its allies will win all the elections planned for this year in Afghanistan, Iraq, Lebanon and the Palestinian territories.
"There is this perception that the new U.S. administration is not interested in the democratization strategy," a senior Lebanese political leader told me. That perception only grows as President Obama calls for an "exit strategy" from Afghanistan and Iraq. Power abhors a vacuum, which the Islamic Republic of Iran is only too happy to fill.
Monday, May 04, 2009
Thwarting Iran's nuclear program is conditional on progress in peace negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians, according to White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel.
Israeli TV reports said Monday that Emanuel made the comments in a closed-door meeting the previous day with 300 major AIPAC donors.
Last month, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton warned Israel that it risks losing Arab support for combating threats from Iran if it rejects peace negotiations with the Palestinians.
Clinton said Arab nations had conditioned helping Israel counter Iran on Jerusalem's commitment to the peace process.
Meanwhile, in an interview with the Jerusalem Post Sunday, former US House speaker Newt Gingrich blasted the Obama administration for setting itself on a collision course with Israel and endangering the Jewish state. He called US President Barack Obama's program of engagement on Iran a "fantasy," and his Middle East policies "very dangerous for Israel." He summed up Obama's approach as "the clearest adoption of weakness since Jimmy Carter."
President Shimon Peres wants to yield key Christian holy sites to the Vatican, according to an Army Radio report Monday, a proposition which is reportedly opposed by Interior Minister Eli Yishai.
According to the report, the issue ruffled feathers among senior Israeli officials.
The president on Monday continued to pressure the government to give up control of six sites including the Church of the Annunciation in Nazareth, the Coenaculum on Mount Zion and the Gethsemane on the Mount of Olives in Jerusalem, and the Church of the Multiplication on the Kinneret.
"If we were sure that this present to the Christian world would bring millions of Christian pilgrims here, then we would have a good reason to think about it," Tourism Minister Stas Meseznikov was quoted as saying. "But since we're not sure that it will happen, why should we give out gifts?"
The Army Radio report also quoted the president's office as saying that the negotiations had been going on for long enough, and that the time had come to compromise with the Vatican and come to an agreement. [Why has "the time come"? ...what's happened? - SL]
Pope Benedict XVI is scheduled to arrive for a visit to the Holy Land on May 11.
Sunday, May 03, 2009
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman are appointing Michael Oren as Israel's ambassador to the United States, Israel Radio reported Saturday evening.
Oren will replace Ambassador Sallai Meridor in the coming weeks, the report said.
...Oren, author of Six Days of War, is admired by Netanyahu's staff for his expertise on the history of the Arab-Israeli conflict. He has also published numerous articles on Israeli foreign policy.
Currently a professor in the Jewish civilization program at Georgetown University, and a Senior Fellow in the Shalem Center - a Jerusalem think tank, Oren has frequently served as an IDF spokesman dealing with the foreign media during recent military campaigns.
...US Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL), Ranking Republican on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, welcomed the appointment, predicting that Oren would be "an outstanding ambassador for Israel, our strongest democratic partner in this troubled region."
Also from his website:
Michael B. Oren is a Senior Fellow at the Shalem Center, a Jerusalem-based research facility, where he specializes in the diplomatic and military history of the Middle East. He has written extensively for The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and The New Republic, of which he is a contributing editor, and has been interviewed on CNN, Fox, The Charlie Rose Show, The Daily Show, and Today. He is the CBS Middle East expert.
A graduate of Princeton and Columbia, Dr. Oren has received fellowships from the U.S. Departments of State and Defense, and from the British and Canadian governments. He was a Lady Davis Fellow of Hebrew University and a Moshe Dayan Fellow at Tel-Aviv University. In 2006, he was a visiting professor at Harvard and Yale, returning to Yale in 2007. He has testified before Congress on Middle Eastern affairs and briefed the White House.
Dr. Oren is the author of Six Days of War: June 1967 and the Making of the Modern Middle East, published in 2002 by Oxford University Press. The book was a New York Times bestseller, and won the Los Angeles Times’ History Book of the Year prize and the National Jewish Book Award. His most recent book, Power, Faith, and Fantasy: America in the Middle East, 1776 to the Present, was eight weeks on the New York Times bestseller list and won a Council for the Humanities Book Award.
Raised in New Jersey, where he was an activist in Zionist youth movements and a gold medal winning athlete in the Maccabia Games, Michael Oren moved to Israel in the 1970s. He served as an officer in the Israel Defense Forces, in the paratroopers in the first Lebanon War, and as a liaison with the U.S. Sixth Fleet during the Gulf War, and an army spokesman in the second Lebanon War. He acted as a representative of the Prime Minister’s Office to Jewish refuseniks in the Soviet Union, and as an advisor to Israel’s delegation to the United Nations. He was the director of Inter-Religious Affairs in the government of Yitzhak Rabin. Michael Oren lives in Jerusalem with his wife and three children.
...THERE WAS no occupation when the 1921 intifada erupted on May 1. On that hot day the British police permitted a group of Labor-Zionists to hold a May Day parade in then-tiny Tel Aviv, but denied the same privilege to Jewish communists, who rallied anyway in Neveh Shalom, the second-earliest Jewish neighborhood adjacent to Jaffa. The two groups of leftist Jews collided and exchanged a few blows.
But while the Brits energetically chased several communists through Neveh Shalom's winding narrow lanes, they doggedly turned a blind eye to the thousands of Arabs massing in Jaffa, all brandishing clubs, knives, hatchets and metal pipes and hysterically chanting "itbach el-Yahud (slaughter the Jews)."
With no British presence to cool their ardor, rioters began attacking Jewish passersby. The only representatives of the law were members of Jaffa's Arab constabulary. But rather than quell the rampage, they helped turn it into "a full-scale pogrom," according to Izhak Ben-Zvi, who three decades later would become Israel's second president.
In a May 11, 1921 letter of protest to British High Commissioner Sir Herbert Samuel, Ben-Zvi charged that "the Arab policemen themselves led the onslaught on the Jewish Immigrants Hostel in Jaffa's Ajami quarter. They shot Jews with weapons supplied them by the government."
Ben-Zvi continued: "Rather than disperse the rioters, the police encouraged them and distributed firearms to the incited rabble. They ignited the flame of murder, fanned by confidence that the government sides with them and that they can massacre Jews with impunity."
The hostel provided temporary shelter to newcomers who had just come off the boats at Jaffa's primitive port. Dozens roomed there when the mobs tried to burst into the courtyard. After repeated unsuccessful attempts to break down the gate, Jaffa's senior Arab police officer, Tewfik Sa'id Bey, assured the besieged Jews that he had come to restore order and rescue them.
Trapped and unarmed, the relieved immigrants let him in. To their horror he tossed hand grenades and ushered in the screaming throng baying for their blood.
Fourteen Jewish lodgers were hideously butchered and scores wounded.
The gruesome orgy spread quickly, like wildfire. It soon reached the outskirts of nearby Abu Kabir, a settlement of Arab migrants from Egypt. ...
...THE MOBS would have invaded Tel Aviv too had units of the Jewish Legion (formed by Ze'ev Jabotinsky and Yosef Trumpeldor in World War I) not intervened in time. The British lost no time to expel the Legion for preventing more carnage. London soon backed down from its Balfour Declaration undertakings and issued the first of several anti-Jewish white papers that would follow every Arab terror offensive. As is still the case, Arab aggression handsomely pays off.
In his letter Ben-Zvi noted that "the rioters were never disarmed" and that the British "never so much as referred to what happened as 'murder and looting' but as 'regrettable clashes,' which they sought to contain with 'moral persuasion.' Over 20 Jews were arrested to convey the impression that this was no anti-Jewish attack but a chance conflict."
Reminiscent of today's artificially evenhanded prattle about the "cycle of violence?" The more things change the more they stay the same.
It goes against our ingrained wishful thinking to acknowledge that enduring Arab animosity has nothing to do with the desperation which the Jewish state's birth supposedly fomented among so-called Palestinians, with the occupation which supposedly represses them or even with the supposed aspiration to found a Palestinian state which the Jews supposedly foil. In 1921 there were no traces of the above pretexts - so prevalent in the manipulative Arab narrative, so popular among progressive sorts here and almost universally accepted as gospel abroad.
[Jews] were slaughtered - as were other Jews before and after ... for no other reason than being Jewish. Today, exactly 88 years later, this remains an essential underlying truth, unamended by the twists and turns of our survival-against-the-odds saga in this land.
If we mulishly deny that Jew-hatred is the moving force behind hostilities still unleashed against us, we only fool ourselves. We turn ourselves into the dupes of a genocidal enemy's cynical propaganda machine.
Suckers ultimately become easy prey.
Air Force reservists who operate the Arrow and Patriot missile defense systems have recently begun spending one day a week on duty to sharpen their skills, amid fears that in a conflict with Iran, dozens of long-range missiles would be fired at Israel....
The decision to call up operators of the Arrow and Patriot systems was made last year by head of the IAF's Air Defense Division Brig.-Gen. Daniel Milo.
Until then, only pilots were called up for one day of reserve duty a week following their discharge from mandatory service.
"We are working hard to be ready for the Iranian threat," a top IAF officer said. "We are preparing for barrages, split warheads and other surprises and therefore we need to retain a high operational level by everyone, including reservists."
Soldiers from the Air Defense Division who are on study leave are also spending one day a week at the unit. "They come once a week to simulate different scenarios," the officer explained.
The scenarios that are drilled include the firing of large barrages at Israel from different countries at once, and the need for the operator to decide which missile to intercept first and at what stage of its flight.
"There are difficult dilemmas that the operators face when it comes to missile defense," the officer said.
Last month, the IAF held its 17th test of the Arrow 2 interceptor, shooting down a missile mimicking an Iranian Shihab ballistic missile.
Later this year, the IAF will hold an unprecedented and massive exercise with the US military to jointly test three different ballistic missile defense systems, including the Israeli-made Arrow and the American THAAD and Aegis, which will be brought specially to Israel for the exercise.
The high-powered American X-Band radar, deployed in the Negev Desert in late 2008 as a farewell gift from former President George W. Bush, participated in the recent Arrow test and tracked the incoming target.
Military sources said that it was capable of providing "several minutes" of warning from when a missile is launched from Iran and until it is supposed to land in Israel.
Meanwhile, L'Express reported Sunday that IAF fighter jets recently conducted a drill above the Strait of Gibraltar in preparation for a possible attack on Iran's nuclear facilities.
According to the French newspaper, the exercise, held some 3,000 kilometers from Israel, included a mid-air refueling drill.
Israel has fulfilled all its obligations regarding the supply of water to the Palestinians, and has even extensively surpassed the obligatory quantity.
The Israel-Palestinian water policy is based on an interim agreement between the two parties, particularly on Article 40 of Annex III to the agreement, which relates to the question of water and sewage. According to the agreement, 23.6 million cubic meters of water will be allocated to the Palestinians annually. In actual effect, they have access to twice as much water.
Israel has fulfilled all its obligations under the water agreement regarding the supply of additional quantities of water to the Palestinians, and has even extensively surpassed the obligatory quantity.
The Palestinians, on the other hand, have significantly violated their commitments under the water agreement, specifically regarding important issues such as
- illegal drilling (they have drilled over 250 wells without the authorization of the joint water commission) and
- handling of sewage (The Palestinians are not constructing sewage treatment plants, despite their obligation to do so. Rather, they allow the sewage to flow unheeded into streams, polluting both the environment and groundwater).
The authors of the report met with MFA officials, and were briefed on all the factual details. They were also presented with the Israeli position paper on the subject, which contained verifiable facts that contradict all the objections presented in the bank's report.
Significantly, the [World Bank] authors chose to ignore the MFA position, and declined to take the facts presented to them into consideration in the published report. They rely totally on unsubstantiated information supplied by the Palestinian Authority, which raises a serious question mark over the credibility of the report and the intentions of its authors.
Despite that, it is important to note that Israel and the Palestinian Authority have several channels of communication and cooperation regarding water, including bilateral ad-hoc committees and coordinating committees between the water authorities of both parties. These meet at least once a month and solve water-related problems in accordance with understandings and cooperation.
Earlier this year, Cyprus impounded the Iranian-chartered freighter Monchegorsk, a vessel laden with war materiel bound for Syria (and perhaps beyond).
This episode highlights the shortcomings of current UN and European Union sanctions on Iran, and underscores the need for a more systematic approach for dealing with Tehran's efforts to transfer technology and arms to radical allies in the Middle East and elsewhere, even as Washington seeks to engage Iran.
The Monchegorsk and its Cargo
In January, the U.S. Navy stopped Monchegorsk while it was transiting the Red Sea en route to Syria, on the basis of intelligence that the freighter was carrying Iranian arms exports in violation of UN Security Council Resolution 1747. According to UN documents, the Monchegorsk, a Russian-owned, Cypriot-flagged vessel, was chartered by Islamic Republic of Iran Shipping Lines (IRISL). In September 2008, the Treasury Department designated IRISL for its proliferation activities, stating that "Not only does IRISL facilitate the transport of cargo for UN designated proliferators, it also falsifies documents and uses deceptive schemes to shroud its involvement in illicit commerce." ...
Not a New Problem
Problems relating to interdicting destabilizing technology and arms transfers on the high seas, or those proscribed by UN resolutions, are not new. In October 1991, the North Korean freighter Mupo, carrying Scud missiles and related equipment to Syria, returned to North Korea after Egypt denied it transit through the Suez Canal amid concerns that Israel might try to interdict the shipment. The cargo was subsequently delivered to Iran in March 1992 by North Korean freighters Dae Hung Ho and Dae Hung Dan, which were shadowed by U.S. Navy vessels during the transit. (The navy was unable to stop the transfers because they were not illegal under international law.) The shipments are believed to have subsequently been flown to Syria....
Iran Arming U.S. Foes
A number of similar incidents in recent years have involved Iranian efforts to transport military materiel and arms by sea, land, and air to allies and surrogates. During the second Palestinian intifada, Iran helped facilitate arms shipments to Gaza through Hizballah and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine to Gaza (by means of floating waterproof containers) by using two civilian vessels, the Santorini, seized by Israel in May 2001, and the Calypso 2. In December 2001, Iran attempted to deliver fifty tons of weapons to the Palestinian Authority aboard the Karine A, whose shipment was seized by the Israeli Navy in the Red Sea.
During the 2006 Hizballah-Israel war, Israeli intelligence claimed that Iran was resupplying the Shiite movement via Turkey. Such claims gained credibility in May 2007, when a train derailed by PKK terrorists in southeastern Turkey was found to be carrying undeclared Iranian rockets and small arms destined for Syria -- probably for transshipment to Hizballah.
More recently, Iran has emerged as a major arms supplier for Hamas in Gaza, as well as for anti-American governments in South America. In January and February 2009, the Israeli Air Force bombed two vehicle convoys reportedly carrying Iranian arms destined for Hamas fighters in Gaza. (There are also reports that the Israeli Navy sunk an Iranian ship carrying arms for Hamas off the coast of Sudan at this time.) Also in January 2009, Turkish customs officials in the port of Mersin discovered a shipment with equipment capable of producing explosives. The shipment, which originated in Iran, had entered Turkey by truck and was destined for Venezuela.
These recent episodes underscore Iran's growing emergence as a supplier of military materiel, equipment, and arms for radical Islamist and anti-American allies and surrogates in the Middle East and beyond. For that reason, it is increasingly important to establish a comprehensive regime to constrain Iran's ability to transfer military materiel and arms to its allies and surrogates by sea, land, and air, especially if Iran were to market its nuclear technology abroad.
Enhancing Leverage over Tehran
These past incidents indicate that intelligence must be timely and reliable to avoid embarrassing incidents that undermine U.S. credibility. They also highlight the gaps in the available policy tools to deal with Iranian arms transfers to its allies and surrogates. To close these gaps, the United States should work with its allies and the international community to:
• encourage the UN sanctions committee to issue a Security Council communique to the UN General Assembly, emphasizing the obligation of all member states, including Iran and Syria, to fully abide by the UN ban on arms transfers;
• work with the EU to expand its current policy banning the sale or transfer to Iran of "all arms and related material, as well as the provision of related assistance, investment and services" to include a ban on the purchase or transfer from Iran of the same;
• work with UN and EU member states to adopt legislation pertaining to Iranian arms and technology transfers, to enable them to fulfill their UN and EU obligations. Encourage regional organizations in South America and South and East Asia to adopt similar resolutions;
• work with the EU and Turkey (the de facto eastern gateway to Europe) to develop an enhanced customs and border security regime to prevent Iranian arms and technology transfers through Turkey;
• engage the private sector to draw attention to the risk of doing business with IRISL, its subsidiaries, and other banned entities. As the U.S. Treasury noted when it designated IRISL: "Countries and firms, including customers, business partners, and maritime insurers doing business with IRISL, may be unwittingly helping the shipping line facilitate Iran's proliferation activities." Indeed, given Iran's history of deceptive financial and trade activity, extra scrutiny should be given to any ship that has recently paid a call to an Iranian port;
• encourage countries to require ports and/or authorities to collect detailed, accurate, and complete data regarding all cargo being shipped to or through their countries (especially from risk-prone jurisdictions like Iran), to conduct rigorous risk assessments, and to proceed with actual inspections as necessary;
• encourage implementation of the World Customs Organization's (WCO) draft Framework of Standards to Secure and Facilitate Global Trade. The WCO represents 174 Customs administrations across the globe (including Iran) that collectively process approximately 98 percent of world trade. Under the proposed framework, a risk management approach would be implemented for all cargo to identify high-risk shipments at the earliest possible time. Participating members would benefit from enhanced security and efficiency, and could benefit from lower insurance premiums.
Recent events show that even as the Obama administration seeks to engage Tehran, the Islamic Republic has continued to work to undermine U.S. interests and to support anti-American elements around the world, as demonstrated by its ongoing efforts to resupply Hamas, support Hizballah's efforts to destabilize Egypt, and assist Iraqi insurgents. For this reason, the United States needs to better constrain Tehran's ability to arm allies and surrogates hostile to U.S. interests. Doing so would enhance Washington's leverage in possible negotiations with Tehran, contain Iran should such diplomatic efforts fail, and prevent Iran from contributing to the proliferation of nuclear weapons in the Middle East and beyond.
*Matthew Levitt is a senior fellow and director of The Washington Institute's Stein Program on Counterterrorism and Intelligence.
From The Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, Jerusalem Viewpoints series*, No. 571, May-June 2009, by Shimon Shapira and Yair Minzili:
- The publication of Hizbullah's subversive plan against Egypt and the exposure of a Shiite group headed by a Hizbullah activist that planned to act against Egyptian targets diverted attention from the challenge that Hizbullah has made against the very foundations of Lebanese authority.
- On April 3, 2009, Hizbullah published its political platform in advance of elections to the Lebanese parliament scheduled for June 7, 2009. The document calls for the abolition of sectarian politics and for the enactment of a new election law that would alter the equation of sectarian forces in Lebanon.
- In this manner, Hizbullah seeks to destroy the foundations of the sectarian regime in Lebanon agreed upon in the National Pact of 1943 that has been preserved by the Lebanese state ever since. The abolition of the existing political system will advance Hizbullah toward its fundamental goal: the establishment of an Islamic state and a complete Iranian takeover of Lebanon.
- The scholarly analyses that define Hizbullah as a Lebanese national movement are baseless. What Lebanese national interests are served by subversive activity in Egypt? What Lebanese interests seek the transfer of Iranian arms from Sudan and Sinai to Gaza? What national Lebanese ideology seeks to subvert the delicate sectarian structure upon which the modern Lebanese state is predicated?
A Pattern of Hizbullah Subversion
The publication of Hizbullah's subversive plan against Egypt and the exposure of a Shiite group headed by a Hizbullah activist, that planned to act against Egyptian targets under the cover of "logistical assistance" to the Palestinians, diverted attention from the challenge that Hizbullah has made against the very foundations of Lebanese authority.
One can safely assume that Hizbullah activity in Egypt was performed with the full knowledge of Iran. The weapons shipment that departed Iran for Gaza was dispatched with Tehran's blessing. Iran was undoubtedly aware that the Egyptian security authorities could uncover Hizbullah's subversive activity, but believed that the Egyptians would prefer to turn a blind eye and allow the passage of the weapons inventory to Gaza. Even if this was not the case, the Iranians posited military assistance to Hamas as a supreme interest of the Islamic Revolution and were prepared to pay the price of a deterioration in relations between the countries. The attacks by Hassan Nasrallah against Egypt, including a summons to the Egyptian army to overthrow the Mubarak regime during Israel's Gaza operation, would not have been made had Nasrallah not understood that in this fashion he was serving the wishes of his masters in Tehran.
Ever since the disclosures, the mass media in the Arab world and in the West has been preoccupied with the dispute that has erupted between Hizbullah and Egypt, and have almost totally ignored the struggle that Hizbullah has initiated to change the face of the Lebanese regime.
While Britain adopted the questionable decision to open a dialogue with the "political wing" of Hizbullah and in practice recognized Hizbullah as a legitimate movement, it would appear that the artificial distinction drawn by the UK between the political and the military wings of Hizbullah has totally collapsed with the discovery of Hizbullah's subversion in Egypt, which merely compounds what was previously discovered in Morocco. In that Sunni Arab kingdom, the king severed ties with Iran in March 2009, accusing it of supporting Shiite Islamic missionary activity.
Hizbullah's Election Platform: Setting the Stage for an Iranian Takeover of Lebanon
On April 3, 2009, Hizbullah published its political platform in advance of elections to the Lebanese parliament scheduled for June 7, 2009. The document calls for the abolition of sectarian politics and for the enactment of a new election law that would alter the equation of sectarian forces in Lebanon.
The 2009 election platform joins a series of basic documents of the Hizbullah movement: These include the Open Letter (Risala Maftuha) from 1985, the first Hizbullah election platform for parliament from 1992, the Hizbullah political document ratified at the movement's Third Congress in 1993, Hizbullah's election platform for the 2000 parliamentary elections, and its platform for the municipal elections of 2004.
These two components - the unequivocal call to abolish sectarian politics and the enactment of a new election law - were placed at the very beginning of the platform in order to emphasize Hizbullah's priorities. In the electoral platform of 2000, Hizbullah had called for establishing a national body for the abolishment of political sectarianism, but only in the fourth section of the platform. It is assumed that in this manner Hizbullah seeks to advance its aspiration to destroy the foundations of the sectarian regime in Lebanon agreed upon in the National Pact of 1943 that has been preserved by the Lebanese state ever since, amidst repeated crises. The abolition of the existing political system will advance Hizbullah toward its fundamental goal: the establishment of an Islamic state that provides political expression to the Shiite majority and a complete Iranian takeover of Lebanon.
What is missing in the new Hizbullah platform? There is no reference to its militia and weapons, as well as to the call from inside Lebanon to dismantle Hizbullah's military capability and to integrate it into the Lebanese Armed Forces. Hizbullah ignores this aspect and insists on keeping its independent military wing as a "resistance" force against Israel.
However, it is clear that the preservation of Hizbullah's military strength is intended primarily to allow the movement to translate its military power and demographic weight into a fundamental change of the Lebanese political system. In addition to this purpose, and no less important, Hizbullah's military power serves as the cutting edge of Iran on Israel's northern border, enabling the Islamic Republic to employ the military power that it erected in Lebanon to serve its strategic interests.
In recent years, and in the course of the severe political crises that have struck Lebanon since the murder of former Prime Minister Rafik al-Hariri in March 2005, Hizbullah has not concealed its intentions to realize the mission entrusted to it by the Iranian Revolutionary regime. The movement is to seize power in Lebanon and thus create another stable and trustworthy link in the Shiite axis of evil under Iranian leadership. In the Lebanese political realm, Hizbullah has labored to reinforce "the (Shiite) Opposition Camp" by aligning with powerful factions beyond the Shiite community against the Sunni-Shiite coalition headed by Saad al-Hariri. In practice, Hizbullah scored a major success by attracting to its side the Christian Free Patriotic Movement headed by Gen. Michel Aoun, and has strengthened its alliance with extremist Salafist Sunni groups. In a show of force, Hizbullah undertook an unprecedented brutal action when it effectively took over Beirut on May 7, 2008, in response to a government attempt to bring about the dismantling of Hizbullah's independent communications infrastructure within Lebanon.
Hizbullah's call for ending political sectarianism, coupled with the enactment of a new election law, came after this demonstration of power and self-confidence, and constitutes the apogee of its indefatigable efforts to attain power in Lebanon. The formulation of an electoral program in a manner that awards Hizbullah the deceptive image of an authentic Lebanese party operating on the basis of Lebanese interests was calculated to attract maximal representation and perhaps even a majority in parliament. However, its political rivals at home will seek to exploit Hizbullah's recent entanglements in subversion against Egypt in order to expose Hizbullah as a disruptive force operating in the service of Iran and Syria.
Once again, it has been demonstrated that all the scholarly analyses that define Hizbullah as a Lebanese national movement are baseless. What Lebanese national interests are served by subversive activity in Egypt? What Lebanese interests seek the transfer of Iranian arms from Sudan and Sinai to Gaza? What national Lebanese ideology seeks to subvert the delicate sectarian structure upon which the modern Lebanese state is predicated?
The responses to these questions may be found in the framework of relations between Revolutionary Iran and its protégé in Lebanon, and between Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and his loyal and obedient representative Hassan Nasrallah.
The essence of the tie between them is not simply religious, but has far-reaching political implications influencing the range of Hizbullah behavior in the Lebanese arena and beyond, and symbolizes the growing influence of Iran in the Arab world.
*The Jerusalem Viewpoints series is published by the Institute for Contemporary Affairs, founded jointly with the Wechsler Family Foundation.
Running out of Solutions
On an overcast afternoon in early April, unsmiling men with big guns and earpieces patrol the sidewalk in front of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's private residence in the upscale Jerusalem neighborhood of Rehavia. A short walk up the road on Azza Street, Benny Morris sits outside a cafe, radiating despair. "Iran is building atomic weapons at least in part -- maybe in large part -- because it intends to use them. The people there are religious fanatics," he says in a rapid staccato. "Israel is under existential threat, and that is how Israel's military and political leaders must see the situation." In a 2007 essay, Morris, a professor of history at Ben-Gurion University, imagined a "second holocaust": nuclear-tipped Iranian missiles raining down on Haifa and Tel Aviv. "A million or more Israelis ... will die immediately," he predicted.
That is not the sort of language one expects from an icon of the left and an intellectual lodestar for supporters of the Palestinians. But Morris, 60, like much of the Israeli left, has grown ever more cynical about the prospects for a two-state solution and for peace. In his new book, One State, Two States: Resolving the Israel/Palestine Conflict, Morris argues that the Palestinian national movement has never in fact reconciled itself to Israel's existence as a Jewish state. His shift from Oslo Accords optimist to embittered pessimist is emblematic of the disappointment and frustration that has ravaged the Israeli left since the second intifada. "Morris is a one-man microcosm of what many Israeli Jews of the Labor-Zionist strain have undergone in the past decade," says David B. Green, opinion editor at Ha'aretz's English edition. "They recognize that we're not on the verge of peace, that this conflict may not be resolvable, and that they were naive to think that was the case."
Educated at Cambridge University, Morris started his career in the late 1970s as a reporter for the Jerusalem Post, at that time a left-leaning newspaper ...[he] helped shape the intellectual and cultural climate that birthed the Oslo peace process. ...But Morris's optimism was first shattered in 2000 when Yasir Arafat rejected Ehud Barak and Bill Clinton's two-state proposals.
"Not only did they say no, but they launched a terroristic and guerrilla war against both the Israeli occupation of the West Bank and Gaza and Israel itself, suggesting that they are not just after the territories but want to drive the Jews out of Palestine," Morris says.
His dismay was further exacerbated when Israel's unilateral withdrawal from Gaza in 2005 failed to staunch Palestinian violence. "The moment Israel pulled out from a chunk of Arab territory, as the Arabs have always been demanding, it turned into a base for rocket attacks," fumes Morris, who went to jail for three weeks in 1987 for refusing to serve as an army reservist in the occupied territories. Now he believes that Palestinian irredentism is probably never going away.
...This kind of blasphemy has alienated many of his former comrades on the left. Tom Segev, a prominent columnist, has suggested that Morris "flipped out" as a result of the suicide bombings that plagued Israel a few years ago.... [other "leftists" quoted by Foreign Policy are such traitors I refuse to repeat their crap here; you'll have to follow the link to the original article if you're really interested to hear the opinions of Avi Shlaim and Ilan Pappe - SL]
But Morris's opinions are manifest in a very real way in Israeli politics. Consider the election results from February. The Labor party, which dominated Israeli politics until 1977 and has been the traditional home of the Zionist left, came in fourth with a meager 13 seats in the 120-seat Knesset, its worst showing in the history of the state. Meretz, the other "major" left-wing party, garnered a pathetic three seats. This latest outcome is hardly an aberration: The center-right has won every election since Barak was voted out of the prime minister's office in 2001.
And reconciliation with the Palestinians is starting to seem like a dream from a bygone era, even to Morris. "Talk to any Palestinian; they don't know about the Jewish past, and Jewish suffering doesn't interest them," he says. "They believe that Jews have no legitimate right [to] be here. That belief underlines their vision that Palestine must be all Arab and must be regained by them down the road." Morris takes a sip of carrot juice and continues: "The peace camp has been tragically undermined by Arab recalcitrance. When an Israeli politician campaigns on a plan to broker a two-state solution, the Israeli public is no longer interested because they know the other side doesn't want it. So they vote for Netanyahu or someone else who speaks in terms of conflict management rather than solutions."
...But, although Morris remains a committed two-stater, voting for Meretz and Labor, he's not so sure anymore that a two-state solution is realistic: "Jewish Israeli society and Palestinian Arab society are in a different place in terms of history, culture, and values," he says. "You can see this most clearly in Muslim terrorism around the world, and their attitude towards women and intellectuals. Add to that a long history of violence and hatred over the last 100 years, not to mention different languages and a different God. It is inconceivable that a society of Jews and Arabs could function right now as one state in Palestine." Moreover, he doesn't believe that the narrow parcel of land sandwiched between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea can be partitioned along the lines proposed by Ehud Barak and Bill Clinton in 2000. "The West Bank and Gaza are not sufficient for the Palestinian's needs; they need more space to resettle the diaspora of refugees who want to come home." So Morris advocates attaching the West Bank and Gaza to Jordan -- which is today majority Palestinian -- and making that combined entity the Palestinian state. Such an arrangement, he says, has a better chance of defusing the forces of Palestinian militarism and revanchism...
The Iranian government, more than almost any other, censors what citizens can read online, using elaborate technology to block millions of Web sites ...Last July, on popular sites that offer free downloads of various software, an escape hatch appeared. The computer program allowed Iranian Internet users to evade government censorship.
College students discovered the key first, then spread it through e-mail messages and file-sharing. By late autumn more than 400,000 Iranians were surfing the uncensored Web.
Jewish Issues Watchdog readers will be interested to know that we have Iranian readers too. Statistics of our Middle-East readership are as follows:
Saudi Arabia [2%]
United Arab Emirates [2%]
Palestinian Territory [2%]
The software was created not by Iranians, but by Chinese computer experts volunteering for the Falun Gong, a spiritual movement that has beem suppressed by the Chinese government since 1999. They maintain a series of computers in data centers around the world to route Web users’ requests around censors’ firewalls.
The Internet is no longer just an essential channel for commerce, entertainment and information. It has also become a stage for state control — and rebellion against it. Computers are becoming more crucial in global conflicts, not only in spying and military action, but also in determining what information reaches people around the globe.
...The creators of the software seized upon by Iranians are members of the Global Internet Freedom Consortium, based largely in the United States and closely affiliated with Falun Gong. The consortium is one of many small groups developing systems to make it possible for anyone to reach the open Internet. It is the modern equivalent of efforts by organizations like the Voice of America to reach the citizens of closed countries.
Separately, the Tor Project, a nonprofit group of anticensorship activists, freely offers software that can be used to send messages secretly or to reach blocked Web sites. Its software, first developed at the United States Naval Research Laboratories, is now used by more than 300,000 people globally, from the police to criminals, as well as diplomats and spies.
Political scientists at the University of Toronto have built yet another system, called Psiphon, that allows anyone to evade national Internet firewalls using only a Web browser. Sensing a business opportunity, they have created a company to profit by making it possible for media companies to deliver digital content to Web users behind national firewalls.
...the anticensorship efforts [are] a powerful political lever. “What is our leverage toward a country like Iran? Very little,” said Michael Horowitz, a fellow at the Hudson Institute who advises the Global Internet Freedom Consortium. “Suppose we have the capacity to make it possible for the president of the United States at will to communicate with hundreds of thousands of Iranians at no risk or limited risk? It just changes the world.”
The United States government and the Voice of America have financed some circumvention technology efforts. But until now the Falun Gong has devoted the most resources, experts said, erecting a system that allows the largest number of Internet users open, uncensored access.
Each week, Chinese Internet users receive 10 million e-mail messages and 70 million instant messages from the consortium ... these messages offer software to bypass the elaborate government system that blocks access to the Web sites of opposition groups like the Falun Gong.
...The consortium’s circumvention system works this way: Government censorship systems like the Great Firewall can block access to certain Internet Protocol addresses. The equivalent of phone numbers, these addresses are quartets of numbers like 188.8.131.52 that identify a Web site, in this case, google.com. By clicking on a link provided in the consortium’s e-mail message, someone in China or Iran trying to reach a forbidden Web site can download software that connects to a computer abroad that then redirects the request to the site’s forbidden address.
... But government systems hunt for and then shut off such alternative routes using a variety of increasingly sophisticated techniques. So the software keeps changing the Internet address of the remote computer — more than once a second. By the time the censors identify an address, the system has already changed it.
...This year, a broader coalition is organizing to push for more Congressional financing of anti-filtering efforts. Negotiations are under way to bring together dissidents of Vietnam, Iran, the Uighur minority of China, Tibet, Myanmar, Cuba, Cambodia, Laos, as well as the Falun Gong, to lobby Congress for the financing.
Mr. Horowitz argues that $25 million could expand peak usage to as many as 45 million daily Internet users, allowing the systems to reach as many as 10 percent of the Web users in both China and Iran.
Mr. Zhou says his group’s financing is money well spent. “The entire battle over the Internet has boiled down to a battle over resources,” he said. “For every dollar we spend, China has to spend a hundred, maybe hundreds of dollars.”
As for the Falun Gong software, it proved a little too popular among Iranians. By the end of last year the consortium’s computers were overwhelmed. On Jan. 1, the consortium had to do some blocking of its own: It shut down the service for all countries except China.