Saturday, June 27, 2009

The (US) Seventy-first came to Gunskirchen...

This is of personal significance, because my father Israel Lieblich (Yisrael ben Zvy, z"l) was marched to the horrific Gunskirchen forest camp in North Austria from the Gusen II camp, 50km north east, in the last days of the war, probably arriving on 16th, 18th or 24th of April 1945.

The camp was liberated on 4 May 1945 by the 71st Infantry of the US army, including Ken Hoffman, a member of John Mooney's family. The descriptions you will read of the inmates of the camp could be describing my father at that time.

From the family web site of John Mooney, of Brunswick, Maine, USA:

When my maternal grand-mother passed away, I came into possession of a small pamphlet owned by her second husband's (my step-grandfather) brother. His name was Ken Hoffman and he was a member of the 71st infantry during World War II.

I decided to make placing this material on the web a small personal project of mine and this site is the end result. I have reproduced here all the narrative text and all the black and white photos that appeared in the book. You should be warned that this material very accurately reflects the grisly details of the Army's initial arrival at the camp. I was also motivated to produce this site since the pamphlet, while stored for decades in my family's belongings, is still showing signs of age and becoming somewhat tattered.

The book is divided into 4 sections, with personal accounts by separate members of the liberating division....

For further background about the Gunskirchen concentration camp see this section of the Gusen memorial Committee web site.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Hillary Is Wrong About the Settlements

I'm posting this must-read article by ELLIOTT ABRAMS* IN FULL from The Wall Street Journal 26/6/09 [with my own emphasis added]:

The U.S. and Israel reached a clear understanding about natural growth.

Despite fervent denials by Obama administration officials, there were indeed agreements between Israel and the United States regarding the growth of Israeli settlements on the West Bank. As the Obama administration has made the settlements issue a major bone of contention between Israel and the U.S., it is necessary that we review the recent history.

In the spring of 2003, U.S. officials (including me) held wide-ranging discussions with then Prime Minister Ariel Sharon in Jerusalem. The "Roadmap for Peace" between Israel and the Palestinians had been written. President George W. Bush had endorsed Palestinian statehood, but only if the Palestinians eliminated terror. He had broken with Yasser Arafat, but Arafat still ruled in the Palestinian territories. Israel had defeated the intifada, so what was next?

We asked Mr. Sharon about freezing the West Bank settlements. I recall him asking, by way of reply, what did that mean for the settlers? They live there, he said, they serve in elite army units, and they marry. Should he tell them to have no more children, or move?

We discussed some approaches: Could he agree there would be no additional settlements? New construction only inside settlements, without expanding them physically? Could he agree there would be no additional land taken for settlements?

As we talked several principles emerged. The father of the settlements now agreed that limits must be placed on the settlements; more fundamentally, the old foe of the Palestinians could -- under certain conditions -- now agree to Palestinian statehood.

In June 2003, Mr. Sharon stood alongside Mr. Bush, King Abdullah II of Jordan, and Palestinian Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas at Aqaba, Jordan, and endorsed Palestinian statehood publicly: "It is in Israel's interest not to govern the Palestinians but for the Palestinians to govern themselves in their own state. A democratic Palestinian state fully at peace with Israel will promote the long-term security and well-being of Israel as a Jewish state." At the end of that year he announced his intention to pull out of the Gaza Strip.

The U.S. government supported all this, but asked Mr. Sharon for two more things. First, that he remove some West Bank settlements; we wanted Israel to show that removing them was not impossible. Second, we wanted him to pull out of Gaza totally -- including every single settlement and the "Philadelphi Strip" separating Gaza from Egypt, even though holding on to this strip would have prevented the smuggling of weapons to Hamas that was feared and has now come to pass. Mr. Sharon agreed on both counts.

These decisions were political dynamite, as Mr. Sharon had long predicted to us. In May 2004, his Likud Party rejected his plan in a referendum, handing him a resounding political defeat. In June, the Cabinet approved the withdrawal from Gaza, but only after Mr. Sharon fired two ministers and allowed two others to resign. His majority in the Knesset was now shaky.

After completing the Gaza withdrawal in August 2005, he called in November for a dissolution of the Knesset and for early elections. He also said he would leave Likud to form a new centrist party. The political and personal strain was very great. Four weeks later he suffered the first of two strokes that have left him in a coma.

Throughout, the Bush administration gave Mr. Sharon full support for his actions against terror and on final status issues. On April 14, 2004, Mr. Bush handed Mr. Sharon a letter saying that there would be no "right of return" for Palestinian refugees. Instead, the president said, "a solution to the Palestinian refugee issue as part of any final status agreement will need to be found through the establishment of a Palestinian state, and the settling of Palestinian refugees there, rather than in Israel."

On the major settlement blocs, Mr. Bush said, "In light of new realities on the ground, including already existing major Israeli populations centers, it is unrealistic to expect that the outcome of final status negotiations will be a full and complete return to the armistice lines of 1949." Several previous administrations had declared all Israeli settlements beyond the "1967 borders" to be illegal. Here Mr. Bush dropped such language, referring to the 1967 borders -- correctly -- as merely the lines where the fighting stopped in 1949, and saying that in any realistic peace agreement Israel would be able to negotiate keeping those major settlements.

On settlements we also agreed on principles that would permit some continuing growth. Mr. Sharon stated these clearly in a major policy speech in December 2003: "Israel will meet all its obligations with regard to construction in the settlements. There will be no construction beyond the existing construction line, no expropriation of land for construction, no special economic incentives and no construction of new settlements."

Ariel Sharon did not invent those four principles. They emerged from discussions with American officials and were discussed by Messrs. Sharon and Bush at their Aqaba meeting in June 2003.

They were not secret, either. Four days after the president's letter, Mr. Sharon's Chief of Staff Dov Weissglas wrote to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice that "I wish to reconfirm the following understanding, which had been reached between us: 1. Restrictions on settlement growth: within the agreed principles of settlement activities, an effort will be made in the next few days to have a better definition of the construction line of settlements in Judea & Samaria."
Stories in the press also made it clear that there were indeed "agreed principles." On Aug. 21, 2004 the New York Times reported that "the Bush administration . . . now supports construction of new apartments in areas already built up in some settlements, as long as the expansion does not extend outward."

In recent weeks, American officials have denied that any agreement on settlements existed. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton stated on June 17 that "in looking at the history of the Bush administration, there were no informal or oral enforceable agreements. That has been verified by the official record of the administration and by the personnel in the positions of responsibility."

These statements are incorrect. Not only were there agreements, but the prime minister of Israel relied on them in undertaking a wrenching political reorientation -- the dissolution of his government, the removal of every single Israeli citizen, settlement and military position in Gaza, and the removal of four small settlements in the West Bank. This was the first time Israel had ever removed settlements outside the context of a peace treaty, and it was a major step.

It is true that there was no U.S.-Israel "memorandum of understanding," which is presumably what Mrs. Clinton means when she suggests that the "official record of the administration" contains none. But she would do well to consult documents like the Weissglas letter, or the notes of the Aqaba meeting, before suggesting that there was no meeting of the minds.

Mrs. Clinton also said there were no "enforceable" agreements. This is a strange phrase. How exactly would Israel enforce any agreement against an American decision to renege on it? Take it to the International Court in The Hague?

Regardless of what Mrs. Clinton has said, there was a bargained-for exchange. Mr. Sharon was determined to break the deadlock, withdraw from Gaza, remove settlements -- and confront his former allies on Israel's right by abandoning the "Greater Israel" position to endorse Palestinian statehood and limits on settlement growth. He asked for our support and got it, including the agreement that we would not demand a total settlement freeze.

For reasons that remain unclear, the Obama administration has decided to abandon the understandings about settlements reached by the previous administration with the Israeli government. We may be abandoning the deal now, but we cannot rewrite history and make believe it did not exist.

*Mr. Abrams, a senior fellow for Middle Eastern Studies at the Council on Foreign Relations, handled Middle East affairs at the National Security Council from 2001 to 2009.

Iran: Bad Guys are Winners

From JPost 26/6/09:

... Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman an interview published Friday morning.... sharply criticized Obama's approach to the Iranian nuclear debacle.

"This really fanatic extremist regime is still in power, and the young people who are ready to fight and die for change are not getting any real support from the West," he said. "The fact that this regime continues to be an acceptable partner for dialogue is really a bad message. It shows the bad guys are winners."

Iran's Crisis - All Quiet on the Western Front

From GLORIA, June 22, 2009, by Barry Rubin:

The Iranian crisis is being fought out on three fronts.

[1] ... inside Iran itself.
... overall, not much will change within the country. Presumably, there will periodically other such upheavals until the day the regime is overthrown altogether. But how long will that take? None can say.

[2] ... the regional aspect.
Events in Iran will not change minds in the Middle East.

On one side are the radical Islamists. ...Hamas and Hizballah; the Syrian regime, and many in Iraq ...They will go on being radical Islamists ...

The same conclusion, however, will be reached by the anti-Iran Islamists, especially the Muslim Brotherhood, and the much smaller base of al-Qaida. They and their supporters will go on seeking Islamist regimes in their countries, notably Egypt, Jordan, Algeria, and Saudi Arabia. They won't be affected either....

...proving that Iran is repressive will not weaken support for Islamism ...

...The Iranian regime is strong. It fears no one ...defies the West ...rewards its friends and kills its enemies ... And soon it will have nuclear weapons, too. will [Islamists of both varieties] interpret the regime’s no-nonsense, take-no-prisoners, tough-guy approach to internal dissent? ...will they say: Awesome! Are these guys tough, or what? Successful repression, like a successful terrorist attack with maximum civilian casualties, brings admiration, not horror in these circles.

But what about all those in the Middle East who hate Islamism and fear Iran? Well, they already feel that way, don’t they? The Egyptian, Jordanian, Saudi governments, for example, may not be thrilled with the idea of mass street protests against another government, but they aren’t going to dislike Iran more than they already do. They are hardly surprised by that regime’s behavior. And so is the small minority of Arab liberals. No minds or policies changed here either.

Oh, but there is one aspect of the crisis that might affect their thinking:

Wow, those Westerners sure are afraid of criticizing Iran.

[3]And that brings us to the Western front.
Here is the one where change might be most significant.

Will people in western Europe and North America conclude from this that the Iranian regime is mad, bad, and its dangerous if Iran's rulers know how to make nuclear weapons? ...

...Surely, some of this has got to be sinking in, right?

...It isn’t too late to oppose Iran’s ambitions and nuclear weapons’ drive. Are people in democratic states going to wake up about the Iranian regime's threat?

The great danger is that one will be able to say regarding the effect of Iran’s current crisis:

All quiet on the Western front.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Stop Iran or it'll be too late

From The Australian, June 25, 2009, by Emanuele Ottolenghi, executive director of the Transatlantic Institute in Brussels:

WHETHER Iran's turmoil ends up like the Prague Spring or the Velvet Revolution remains to be seen. But when all is said and done, Iran's nuclear program will still be there. If, as one can anticipate, Iran's regime moves in to repress popular dissent and impose its iron fist on its restive population, it will be hard for the international community to engage the rulers of Iran as if nothing happened.

It will be even harder to make the case that Iran's quest for nuclear power can be excused, trusted, understood or explained away. The protests that are violently shaking the foundations of the Islamic Republic mean that if this regime survives, its cruelty will not confine itself to crushing the innocent at home. Iran's actions abroad will be just as bloody. What is to be done then?

Policy-makers in the West may look apprehensively at the scenes of carnage and hope and wish Iran's protesters will have it their way. After all, a successful democratic revolution would most likely bring an end to the nuclear stand-off. ...But we must have a plan B, one that can be implemented if the hopes of young Iranians are drowned in their blood.

Much depends on how we answer a simple question. How soon will it be too late to stop Iran's nuclear program?

Analysts and government officials routinely offer different timelines for an Iranian bomb, but they tend to put Iran's breakout capacity a few years away...

...But testing a nuclear device comes with a price. Iran is a member of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. Crossing the nuclear threshold for a rudimentary nuclear device that Iran may not yet be able to replicate or deliver will be costly and fall short of achieving the strategic goals Iran is pursuing through its nuclear program: the survival of the Islamic Revolution and its rise as the regional hegemon.

Tactically, therefore, Iran may prefer to wait until it has accumulated enough weapons-grade fissile material to build not one but dozens of bombs; until it can build a nuclear device that is small enough to fit into a missile warhead; and until it has perfected its ballistic missile technology to the point where a long-range missile can accurately hit a distant target. That time line is quite long; years, not months.

However, it is not the time line that matters for policy-makers. For long before Iran has accumulated enough fissile material to build an arsenal and enough technological know-how to turn it into deliverable warheads, it will have mastered the technology and cracked the scientific secrets needed to reach that goal. ...The regime is closer to the former than the latter, but once the knowledge is there it will be harder to halt the march to the real thing.

Thus, this time line ...matters more than the actual moment when Iran will break away from the NPT, build several warheads, mount them on missiles and threaten its neighbours. But even this time line is not the one that policy-makers must rely on for their planning. For long before Iran has built its arsenal or acquired the necessary knowledge, it will have shielded dozens of clandestine installations from a possible military strike.

Iran knows that military planners in Israel and the US constantly update their contingency plans for a strike based on fresh intelligence. The more Iran spreads its program, the more it hides it behind an impenetrable shield of defences and fortifications, the harder the job for those in the West tasked with devising a realistic plan of attack. At some point, they will tell the US and Israeli leaders that a military strike to retard or destroy Iran's nuclear program is no longer an option.

From then onward, Iran's run to nuclear capability will be unhindered....

...Tehran will get there long before it can threaten anyone with a deliverable nuclear weapon. Once that happens - months, not years - the game turns to our disadvantage.

As events unfold in Iran, Western leaders must realise that time is fast running out. Now is the time to dramatically increase pressure on Iran. Its brutal repression gives us a cover for enacting extensive sanctions, withdrawing businesses and threatening isolation. This may not help street protests in Iran but it won't hinder them either, and it just may hurt Iran's rulers enough that they could reconsider their calculus.

Australian senior minister Gillard in Israel

From The Australian, June 25, 2009, by Greg Sheridan, Foreign editor:

RIAD Malki, the foreign minister of the Palestinian Authority, would like to see Australian troops posted to the Gaza Strip as peacekeepers. ...At the moment, Malki's proposal is unrealistic. The Palestinian Authority cannot guarantee its own security in Gaza. Egypt, let alone the US or Australia, would be unlikely to commit troops and the Israelis would not accept a restriction on their right to self-defence...

...The fact that the Palestinian foreign minister suggested Australian soldiers reflects the high reputation of our troops. But it also demonstrates that Australia's deep friendship with Israel has not remotely diminished our credibility with the Arab world.

Deputy Prime Minister Julia Gillard and former treasurer Peter Costello are visiting Israel as part of the inaugural Australia Israel Leadership Forum, organised by Melbourne businessman Albert Dadon.

Gillard deserves particular praise for attending the forum, as she was subject to a nasty campaign from the Left to try to intimidate her out of going.

The Left internationally is going through one of its periodic bouts of trying to isolate Israel. This is one of those demented moments where allegedly progressive opinion believes it's the height of creativity to engage the mullah dictatorship in Iran, as it steals elections and pursues nuclear weapons, but wrong to visit a democratic ally such as Israel.

The Rudd government has stood four square against this nonsensical position...

...there is ...a good political dimension to what Gillard is doing. .... The traditional doubt about the Left is that they tend to be anti-American or simply unreliable on national security. Gillard has given a series of speeches and performances that demonstrate she is 100 per cent with Rudd in the mainstream Curtin-Hawke Labor tradition on the US alliance, the deployment of Australian forces overseas and indeed Israel and the Middle East.

...Without any ambiguity, Gillard celebrated Australia's friendship with Israel. She drew attention, with pride, to Australia's long military involvement in the Middle East. She expressed concern at the frustration of democracy in Iran and at Iran's nuclear ambitions.

Gillard got good press in Israel, where she is widely admired for her strong statements as acting prime minister in support of Israel's right to self-defence when it undertook the operation earlier this year in Gaza to stop the relentless launch of thousands of rockets from Gaza on to the civilian population of Israel's southern cities. Gillard's visit is significant in Australia-Israel relations, in the development of Gillard, and in the maturation of Labor's Left more generally (exceptions notwithstanding).

The other star of the evening was Costello. ...Costello gave a more sweeping account of our military involvement in the Middle East. Australians should be more aware of this. Our premier military historian, Jeffrey Grey, has argued that Australia has had a greater strategic military effect in the Middle East than anywhere else.

In the southern Israeli city of Beersheba there is now a magnificent park and statue commemorating the famous charge of the Australian light horse in 1917, which took Beersheba from the Ottoman Turks. This allowed the British to drive through to Jerusalem and led to the British mandate over Palestine and thus the establishment of Israel. On the same day as the Australian action in Beersheba the British government decided in principle to support the establishment of a Jewish state in Israel.

Then in World War II Australian divisions fought magnificently against Axis forces in the Middle East. Some Arab leaders had petitioned Adolf Hitler to include the Middle East's Jews in the Final Solution. The Australian effort was critical in making sure that didn't happen. More recently, in 2003 the Australian special forces were the first allied troops to go into Iraq. Their priority was to locate and destroy Scud missile launchers that Saddam Hussein might use against Israel.

At the political level the relationship between Australia and Israel is splendid. But perversely there is still a bias against Israel in the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, despite the fine work of the embassy in Tel Aviv. Even more perversely, there is a little bit of a similar bias in the Australian Defence Force, which has an operational relationship with a number of the Gulf State Arab nations, and consequently hosts lots of Arab officers at Australian staff colleges and the like, but no similar relationship with the magnificent Israeli Defence Force, with which it should routinely be sharing strategic insights and tactical expertise.

Nonetheless, in Israel this week Australian political leadership has been on display at its bipartisan best, all to the background of a very good Australian cultural festival. You couldn't really ask for more.

Greg Sheridan visited Israel as a participant in the inaugural Australia Israel Leadership Forum.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Stop the Destruction of Nazi Tunnel System “Bergkristall”

This letter from Martha Gammer, a friend in Northern Austria, who is active in The Gusen Memorial Committee, has personal significance, because my father Yisrael ben Zvy z"l was an inmate at the horrific Bergkristall factory:

St. Georgen, June 23rd, 2009

The horrible slave work inside the giant tunnel system shall be forgotten soon: This will be the effect of the now ongoing destruction work at St. Georgen an der Gusen. The mainly jewish slaves of Gusen II Camp were forced to run the 3km distance between the primitive camp and the Bergkritsall underground system daily to do their forced labour work there producing the German famous “ME 262” Messerschmift jet fighter.

Estimated 10 000 died during their work inside the halls. They were shot, beaten do death or strangled when not able to pace with the hard working conditions. After 12 hours work in day or nightshifts they were not even able to rest in a bed, the bunks in Gusen II Camp were overcrowded with four prisoners each.

The Soviet occupation army tried to destroy the giant system by remaining war bombs, but the armed concrete walls resisted and remained for 63 years, except some destructed places. When the local municipality allowed private housebuilding on the hill surface above the Bergkristall system, the situation became dangerous. Ordered by the responsibleadministration of the “war relicts” the Federal Ministry of Interior Affairs and Security had the tunnels repaired near the remeining entrance and fullfilled under the 8 private houses in 2003-2004.

Former prisoners were not allowed toenter the tunnels to commemorate their fellow comrades, but the stabilizing work was presented to the Austrian press in October 2006.

Now there are filling works being done in the northern part of the system,where there are no houses standing on the hill top, there are only fields and meadows. There is no reason for the destruction work that is being done. Stabilizing some points would be okay, but local authoroties would like to use the hill as a future building site,when there is sujch a big demandfor house building near the City of Linz. According to the BIG, the Austrian Federal Building Company, there willremain just 1/7th of the former BergkristallSystem.

The local Gusen Commemoration Committee protested against these destruction measurements and sent letters to the St. Georgen Municipality, to the Federal Ministerium and the Austrian Federal Departement of Cultural Heritage (Bundesdenkmalamt). As it seems there is no chance to stop this destruction work.

Neo-Nazis in Austria may say in a ten years’ time: The underground factory with that slave work to kill the European jewery and the resistant people of many nations on now Austrian territory, that has never been. There are no traces.

We want an international action to save wide parts of this largest monument of Nazi terror in Austria. We want a place of commemoration inside and the possibility for visitors’ groups to enter some parts. Historians should present this slave work in an exposition inside.

If you want to join the protest movement, write letters to the Austrian Federal Ministry of Interior Affairs and Security, Herrengasse 7-11, A- 1010 Wien / Vienna, or inform the international press.

Justice, justice you shall pursue...

From THE JERUSALEM POST, Jun. 22, 2009, by EFRAIM ZUROFF, director of the Israel office of the Simon Wiesenthal Center:

Bringing Sandor Kepiro to trial

This week's visit by Hungarian Prime Minister Gordon Banjai is an excellent opportunity to focus on one of the most important and interesting cases of a Nazi war criminal who can still be brought to justice. I am referring to Dr. Sandor Kepiro, who served as a gendarmerie officer during World War II and was among the key organizers of the mass murder of at least 1,250, but probably as many as 3,000 men, women and children (mostly Jews, but also Serbs and Gypsies) in the Serbian city of Novi Sad on January 23, 1942.

Until now, Israel has done relatively little to press Hungary to prosecute Kepiro, so Banjai's visit might well be the last opportunity of its kind for the government to send a clear-cut message to the Hungarians that their failure to bring Kepiro to justice is incomprehensible and unacceptable.

The Kepiro case has special significance for several reasons. First and foremost is the scope of the massacre in Novi Sad, which was the largest single action of its kind against Jews in Serbia during the Holocaust, and besides the murders carried out by Hungarian troops in Kamenetz-Podolsk, was the worst case of the mass murder of civilians carried out by Hungarian forces during World War II.

Another important point is that if Kepiro is brought to trial in Budapest, he will almost certainly be the first Hungarian Nazi collaborator to be prosecuted since the country became a democracy. Like all the post-communist states of Eastern Europe, Hungary conducted many trials of Nazi collaborators in the immediate aftermath of World War II, but none since the transition to democracy. This would be particularly significant in a country like Hungary, which is only beginning to honestly confront its crimes during the Holocaust, which included mass murder.

THERE ARE ALSO several unique aspects to the Kepiro case which add to its significance. To the best of my knowledge, it is the only case of Holocaust crimes carried out by the forces of a country allied with Nazi Germany, in which the perpetrators were actually prosecuted by their own government in the course of World War II. In December 1943, the 15 officers who organized and carried out the mass murder in Novi Sad were put on trial in Budapest. Not for murder, but rather for violating the code of honor of the Hungarian forces, since the operations they carried out in the Voivodina province had not been approved by their superiors. All of them, including Kepiro, were convicted and sentenced either to death or to lengthy prison terms.

The convicted officers, however, never served their sentences since shortly after the end of the trial and before they could be implemented, Nazi Germany occupied Hungary and pressured the Hungarians to cancel the convictions and the punishments. Thus Kepiro's identity and participation are not in doubt, having already been duly confirmed by a Hungarian court. In fact, Kepiro himself admits his participation in the Novi Sad operation, but simply denies having committed any "war crimes."

In that context, a fascinating aspect of Kepiro's behavior in Novi Sad came to light during his 1944 trial. When Kepiro was briefed on his assignment before the roundups and murder took place, he asked for the orders in writing. Already a lawyer, he apparently immediately recognized their immorality and consequent illegality. His superior responded, however, that orders of this kind were only transmitted verbally, and Kepiro carried them out loyally.

Ironically, this behavior prompted the Hungarian court to reduce his jail sentence, but in theory they should have done the opposite, since Kepiro was, in essence, the worst type of Holocaust perpetrator, an intelligent and educated professional who clearly understood that what he had been told to do was totally reprehensible, yet did it anyway. He was obviously a person who was more concerned about his alibi than about the fate of his innocent victims, and thus someone undeserving of any sympathy.

ON AUGUST 1, it will be three years since I initially notified the Hungarian authorities that Kepiro was alive and living in Budapest. (After the war, he had escaped to Austria and from there to Argentina, where he lived for 48 years.) At that time, the prosecutors assured me that if he had committed war crimes (which obviously was the case), they would immediately implement his original sentence, but six months later I was informed that this was not possible since a Hungarian court had cancelled his conviction.

Instead, prosecutors launched a new investigation against Kepiro, which in theory should have long ago resulted in a trial. But the wheels of justice for a Hungarian Nazi war criminal turn incredibly slowly and without external pressure it appears very doubtful whether Kepiro will ever be punished for his crimes. In the meantime, he is conducting an active legal battle against his prosecution and giving numerous interviews in which he protests his innocence, while admitting his presence in Novi Sad on January 23, 1942.

In these days in which the nationalist extremist Magyar Garda march in the streets of Hungary in black uniforms with symbols reminiscent of the wartime fascist Arrow Cross, and the racist and anti-Semitic Jobbik party garnered 15 percent of the votes in the recent elections for the European Parliament, the fate of an elderly Hungarian Nazi war criminal may not seem particularly pressing. The fact is, however, that precisely by mustering sufficient political will to bring to justice people like Kepiro, the government will be sending an unequivocal and necessary message to Hungarian society and especially to the ultranationalists that the days of Arrow cross terror, anti-Semitism and racism are long gone never to return and that democratic Hungary will not countenance their revival.

Now if only Prime Minister Banjai's hosts in Jerusalem will make sure to deliver the message loud and clear.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Iran: The Internal Balance of Power

From GLORIA, June 18, 2009, by Jonathan Spyer*:

One would need a heart of stone not to be moved by the scenes currently emerging from Iran ...Nevertheless, at such a time, it is particularly important to employ the tools of cool and dispassionate analysis.

It is therefore worth keeping three crucial facts in mind, when considering the events in Iran.

Firstly, in so far as a real struggle for power is currently taking place, it is taking place within the boundaries of the Islamist regime, and not against it.

Secondly, if one were to imagine for a moment the emergence of a real, popular leadership opposed to the regime, and were then to assess its chances of success, the following conclusion would be inescapable: at the present time, the regime possesses both the will and the means to ensure its survival.

Thirdly, no such popular leadership currently exists.

Consider: Mir Hossein Moussavi, the hero of the demonstrators, is a product of the Islamic revolution of 1979 no less than is Mahmoud Ahmedinejad. Moussavi served in the now defunct position of prime minister of Iran in the period 1981-89. In the latter part of that period, in 1987, the Iranian nuclear program was revived. Moussavi is a committed supporter of the Iranian system of governance known as Vilayet a-Faqih (rule of the jurisprudent), and of the severe and brutal repression which this system brings in its wake. He represents the establishment, conservative wing of the regime, as personified by former President Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani.

... both Moussavi and Ahmedinejad, ultimately, are representatives of rival streams within the ruling elite.

Moussavi is no less supportive of the Iranian nuclear drive and of Iranian support for Hizballah and Hamas than is Ahmedinejad. Nor would his election have made any difference to policy in these areas. Khamenei, who holds his (unelected) position for life, makes the decisions on questions of strategy.

...the Islamist regime in Iran, whatever its internal fissures and its many failures possess[es] a large popular constituency ...and ...hold[s] the unquestioned loyalty of those military and security forces sometimes termed the 'deep state'. The more excited western media reports notwithstanding, no evidence has yet emerged from Iran to contradict this picture.

Hence, when it comes to the ultimate test, the regime appears to be equipped with the means to preserve its rule.

...There is no force or party, outside of the various factions within the regime itself, able to capitalize on the current popular anger.

...All these facts taken together point, regrettably, in the direction of a single conclusion. At the present time, the Islamist regime in Iran is almost certainly not in danger.

This article appeared in the Jerusalem Post on the 18/6/2009
* Dr. Jonathan Spyer is a senior research fellow at the Global Research in International Affairs (GLORIA) Center, Herzliya, Israel

Monday, June 22, 2009

Dangerous Experiment

Obama Leaves Israelis Cold

From Rubin Reports, Monday, June 22, 2009, by Barry Rubin:

Ironically, three of President Barack Obama’s ideas his Iran policy, have had more impact on his relationship with Israel.

The first of these is that he held back on condemning the Iranian regime’s stealing an election and repressing its people for fear that this might provoke a patriotic reaction against him. In fact, he has united Israel’s citizens to view him as hostile.

Secondly, he suggested that the United States should not meddle in Iran’s affairs, implying that Iranians knew best what their country needed. This has not stopped the president and members of his administration, however, from telling Israel ...what’s best for its interests.

And finally, Obama’s cultural relativism ...which led him to equate the Iranian regime and opposition has made him equate democratic Israel and a Palestinian movement ....

...A recent public opinion survey by Israel’s most reliable polling company shows that only 6 percent of Jewish Israelis consider the administration to be pro-Israel. Israelis certainly gave Obama a chance. His personal popularity was sky-high at the time of his election and as late as May 17, Israelis viewed Obama’s administration to be pro-Israel rather than pro-Palestinian by a 31 to 14 margin, with 40 percent saying it was neutral.

...Today, however 50 percent view the administration as pro-Palestinian, 36 percent say its policies are neutral, and only 6 percent think it is favorable to Israel.

To show how fully Obama misplayed his hand, the same poll showed that 57 percent are in favor of removing outposts and 52 percent support a freeze on construction in settlements deep within the West Bank. Regarding the “settlement blocs,” that is the close-in, higher-populated settlements that Israel wants to keep in any peace settlement, any freeze was opposed by a 69 to 27 margin.

Here’s what this tells us: If Obama had established himself as more skeptical about Palestinian demands and claims, more truly even-handed in his approach, he could have won strong support within Israel.

The approach could have been to renew what Israelis believe they were promised by his two predecessors: border modifications in any peace treaty with the Palestinians would allow the incorporation into Israel of relatively small areas of high settlement and strategic importance like Maale Adumim and Gush Etzion.

In this context, in exchange for some real concessions from the Palestinian Authority regarding incitement and anti-terrorist efforts, there would have been strong support for the removal of outposts and a freeze on construction in far-flung settlements built amidst Palestinian population concentrations.

But instead the administration used brutal language toward Israel, bossing it around as if it were some American puppet regime while simultaneously pandering to literally every other country on earth.

This administration has now created a big problem for itself without moving one millimeter for peace. Meanwhile, of course, the Palestinian Authority continues to ignore its commitments but instead pleads and demands that the United States give it everything it wants in exchange for no effort on its part.

Six months into an administration which promised rapid progress on what is euphemistically called the peace process, the Obama administration has already reached a dead-end. And as far as dead-ends go, this is only the beginning.

Change in Iran could bring peaceful ties

From Ynet News 22/6/09, by Dudi Cohen:

Prime Minister Netanyahu tells German newspaper he has 'no doubt' Iran's citizens would choose a different government if allowed to vote freely...

Peaceful relations between Israel and Iran would be possible if new leadership took power in Tehran, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in an interview with German newspaper Bild published on Monday.

"There is no conflict between the Iranian people and the people of Israel and under a different regime the friendly relations that prevailed in the past could be restored," Netanyahu told German daily Bild.

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was officially re-elected in a June 12 vote that the opposition has denounced as a fraud, and that has provoked the most violent unrest in Iran since the 1979 Islamic Revolution...

...In an interview with NBC's "Meet the Press" on Sunday, Netanyahu said the world supported Iran's reformists: "I have no doubt everybody in the world is sympathetic to the Iranians' desire for freedom." ...

Netanyahu and Sarkozy: Personal Chemistry versus Political Disagreements

From BESA Center Perspectives Papers No. 82, June 22, 2009, by Dr Tsilla Hershco, research associate specializing in Franco-Israeli relations:

Executive Summary: Netanyahu and Sarkozy resemble each other in their charismatic leadership, their dynamic capitalist approach and their global view of security threats. Yet, during their scheduled meeting in Paris on June 24, 2009, substantial disagreements might surface on issues such as French demands for the freezing of the settlements in Judea and Samaria and the division of Jerusalem. These demands are fervently opposed by Netanyahu. Concurrently, the French, inter alia, criticize Netanyahu for his firm preconditions that the Palestinians 1) recognize Israel as a Jewish state and 2) demilitarize.

On June 24, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and French President Nicolas Sarkozy are scheduled to meet in Paris for the first time since Israeli elections in February 2009. The two charismatic leaders ...have publicly declared their mutual sentiments of friendship and respect, [and] have much in common.

[including support for]
  • dynamic capitalist approach
  • regional cooperation through common economic projects [as] an effective instrument in promoting peace
  • attachment to democratic liberal values
  • stress the threats to democratic regimes emanating from fanatic terror groups and countries
  • attribute importance to enhancing cooperation among such democratic and moderate regimes in order to contain the ongoing fanatic Islamist assault
  • ascribe tremendous significance to international security issues and especially to the challenges of coping with global terror and proliferation of non-conventional arms
  • regard the relations of their countries with the United States as a top priority in confronting the abovementioned threats.

Yet despite the mutual declarations of friendship between the two heads of states, some significant divergences might surface.

  • [on Iran] Sarkozy believes that only dialogue on one hand and international sanctions on the other can stop the Iranian nuclear project. ...[he] opposes any eventual military option, which in his opinion might endanger the entire world. On the contrary, Netanyahu seems more reserved toward the consequences of dialogue and international sanctions and does not exclude the option of preventive military intervention against Iran.
  • freezing of settlements,
  • lifting of security barriers in Judea and Samaria and the opening of border crossings between Israel and the Gaza Strip
  • preconditions for Palestinian recognition of Israel as a Jewish state as well as his demand for the demilitarization of the future Palestinian state were equally criticized by the French
  • Sarkozy insists that East Jerusalem should become the capital of the Palestinian state.
  • the speaker of the French foreign ministry insisted on French support for UN Resolution 194 (December 1948), which implies the right of return for Palestinian refugees.

In conclusion, it seems that Netanyahu's forthcoming visit to the city of lights will probably expose significant political discrepancies between Israeli and French positions. It is doubtful whether the personal chemistry between the two leaders can bridge the gap in their positions, unless they decide to accent their common objectives, interests and values.