Friday, July 09, 2010

Australian Labor debates the Gaza blockade

On 9 June 2010 Peter Jennings, Executive Officer of Union Aid Abroad-APHEDA (Australian People for Health, Education and Development Abroad), the ACTU's overseas aid organization, sent a letter to Australian MP’s about the conflict in Gaza. Excerpts from the letter below appear in italics. The response of Senator David Feeney (ALP) to each point appears within square brackets and in bold font:

We at Union Aid Abroad – APHEDA believe Australia should finally add its voice to those many nations calling for an end to the economic blockade of Gaza.

The siege of Gaza is now entering its fourth year. In the light of the recent killings of nine peace activists taking international aid to the people of Gaza, and given the fact that I am one of the few Australians who have been permitted to enter Gaza this year (I led a trade union delegation to the Middle East in March, and we spent three days in Gaza), I would like to share some reflections concerning the blockade of Gaza.

[Dear Mr Jennings

Thank you for your letter of 9 June concerning the Israeli blockade of Gaza. I’m writing to let you know that I thoroughly disagree with most of your assertions.

When Israel withdrew from Gaza in 2005, agreements were reached between Israel, Egypt and the Palestinian Authority allowing for the import and export of goods by land, through both the Israeli and Egyptian borders. Under this agreement, Israel also agreed to the opening of Gaza’s seaports and airport under international supervision.

In June 2007, however, Hamas seized control of Gaza from the PA in a violent military coup d’etat, and began using that territory as a base to launch rocket attacks against Israel.

The agreement between Israel and the PA was not renewed after it expired in 2008 due to the refusal of Hamas to act in accordance with the agreement.

Hamas is an organisation which is committed to the destruction of Israel by force. Its Charter states:

“Israel will continue to exist until Islam will obliterate it. Hamas believes that the land of Palestine is an Islamic Waqf [holy land] consecrated for future Muslim generations until Judgement Day. There is no solution for the Palestinian question except through Jihad. Initiatives, proposals and international conferences are all a waste of time and vain endeavours.”

Since 2006 some twenty-eight Israelis (and several Palestinians) have been killed by Hamas rocket attacks. Rockets are fired at random at Israeli towns, hitting Sderot, Beersheba, Ashdod and Ashkelon. The rockets are imported in pieces from Syria and Iran, smuggled in by both land and sea. UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon has called the Hamas rocket attacks “appalling and unacceptable,” and a “violation of basic humanitarian law.”

In June 2007 Israel imposed a land and sea blockade in an effort to prevent the importation of rockets and other weapons. Egypt also closed its border with Gaza.

I note that your letter makes no mention of the Egyptian blockade of Gaza.]

The Israeli economic blockade of Gaza is illegal. It contravenes international law, specifically, Article 33 of the Fourth Geneva Convention.

[You assert that the blockade of Gaza is illegal, because it contravenes article 33 of the Fourth Geneva Convention, which prohibits collective punishment. I don’t accept this. The blockade is not collective punishment of the people of Gaza. It is a defensive measure intended to stop Hamas using Gaza as a missile platform from which to attack Israel.

The Convention was written in 1949 and was intended to regulate warfare between nation states. Its authors could not foresee a situation of conflict between a state and a non-state terrorist organisation such as Hamas. Israel is entitled to defend itself against attacks from such organisations, which of course recognise no international law.

If and when the Palestinian Authority re-asserts its internationally recognised authority over Gaza and disarms Hamas, the blockade can be lifted.

The Geneva Convention is not the only relevant piece of international law. The San Remo Manual on International Law Applicable to Armed Conflicts at Sea of 1994 makes it clear that blockades are a legitimate and legal method of warfare. The Manual says that “Merchant vessels believed on reasonable grounds to be breaching a blockade may be captured. Merchant vessels which, after prior warning, clearly resist capture may be attacked.”

The Manual stipulates that: “The declaration or establishment of a blockade is prohibited if:

(a) it has the sole purpose of starving the civilian population or denying it other objects essential for its survival; or

(b) the damage to the civilian population is, or may be expected to be, excessive in relation to the concrete and direct military advantage anticipated from the blockade.”

The Israeli blockade is not a “starvation blockade,” nor is the hardship which the blockade is causing in Gaza disproportionate to the intended purpose of the blockade, which is to save the lives of the civilians, both Israeli and Palestinian, who are being killed as a result of Hamas’ attacks on Israel.]

The Israeli economic blockade of Gaza is inhumane. The blockade is causing immense human suffering for the 1.5 million people living in Gaza, and we know that in cases of deprivation and shortages, it is the women and children who usually suffer the most. The Gazan people have been driven from enjoying a moderate standard of living four years ago to now being amongst the poorest in the Middle East with 70% now living on less than $ US 1 a day, 75% surviving on UN-supplied food aid, and over 80% adult male unemployment. UNRWA statistics show that about one-quarter of the trucks are now permitted to enter Gaza each week compared with the average weekly number permitted to enter prior to June 2007 when the blockade began. UNRWA told us that Gazans were receiving only 80% of their daily food requirements, people were going hungry and there were emerging signs of child malnutrition.

[You assert that the blockade is inhumane. I don’t dispute that the blockade is causing hardship. I do dispute your contention that it is causing “immense human suffering” in Gaza.

Your source for this contention is stated as being UNRWA statistics and the testimony of UNRWA officials. UNRWA was long ago captured by Palestinian and pro-Palestinian activists. It is a bloated, corrupt and inefficient bureaucracy which serves mainly to line the pockets of its officials, to misappropriate international aid funds and channel them to terrorist organisations, and to keep the Palestinian people classed as “refugees” and in a state of dependence, more than sixty years after their ancestors left what is now the state of Israel. I don’t place much value on its assertions.

Fortunately, there are other sources of information about the state of affairs in Gaza. The fact is that Gaza is not totally blockaded. Goods are brought to Israel by sea, then sent into Gaza by land after inspection. Israel continues to supply Gaza with electricity, which Hamas pays for with international aid money (while at the same time firing rockets at the power plant which supplies it!).

In 2009 a total of 7,233 truckloads of goods, containing 115,000 tons of food, over 4,000 tons of medicines and medical equipment, 3.3 million litres of fuel and diesel, 95 truckloads of equipment for water and sewage systems and 3,700 tons of chloride for water purification, passed from Israel into Gaza. The shipment of goods into Gaza is made more difficult by the state of lawlessness there. Trucks are frequently hijacked, and goods are stolen for private sale at higher prices. Hamas insists on controlling the distribution of aid and refuses entry to some aid which it can’t control.

Thousands of people, both Palestinians and foreigners, legally enter and exit Gaza every month. During 2009 more than 10,500 patients from Gaza received medical treatment in Israel. Others included students studying abroad, sporting and cultural groups, and Muslims and Christians going on pilgrimages or to religious events. In addition, over 21,000 foreign staff members and over 400 diplomatic delegations entered Gaza in 2009.

Financially, Gaza is the recipient of huge amounts of international aid money, some of which it diverts to buying arms. Since 2007 monetary transfers to Gaza have totalled over US$5 billion. The Gulf Arab states, Iran and the EU make large donations to Gaza. Recently the Hamas government received US$40 million from the Islamic Development Bank and the Qatar Red Crescent Society to purchase hospital equipment. Further, the PA continues to pay the salaries of Gaza civil servants despite the Hamas seizure of power, and in fact spends half its budget in Gaza.

Recent visitors to Gaza do not share your dire view of conditions there. On June 3, Janine Zacharia wrote in The Washington Post;

“If you walk down Gaza City’s main thoroughfare, grocery stores are stocked wall-to-wall with everything from fresh Israeli yogurt and hummus to Cocoa Puffs. Pharmacies look as well-supplied as a typical Rite Aid in the United States.”

The Palestinian Ma’an News Agency said on February 19 that “Gaza markets are saturated with goods.”

Fuel is cheaper in Gaza than it is in Israel. The prices of cement and steel have dropped sharply this year because so much is being brought in from Egypt.

As you note yourself, the Gaza-Egypt border is de facto open to shipment of all kinds of goods.

Of course it’s not healthy that much of Gaza’s economic life depends on foreign aid rather than on a functioning economy – although Gaza is now again exporting fruit and flowers to Europe with Israeli assistance – and there is no doubt that there is considerable poverty and hardship in Gaza. But this is also to a large extent true of the Palestinian population on the West Bank and in the so-called “refugee” camps in Jordan, Lebanon and Syria.

The root causes of Palestinian dependency and poverty are, firstly, the continuing state of war which exists between Israel and Palestinian terrorist organisations such as Hamas, and, secondly, the vested interest that UNRWA and other agencies opposed to the existence of Israel have in keeping the Palestinians poor, dependent and cooped up in camps as propaganda exhibits for their anti-Israel campaigns.]

The Israeli economic blockade of Gaza is counter-productive. The stated aim of the blockade is to undermine Hamas, but it is having the opposite effect. Goods are smuggled through the tunnels from Rafah, Egypt, and Hamas can now control what comes into Gaza, who gets it, and how much tax they will charge on it. Because of the blockade, Hamas’ power and control over the 1.5 million people of Gaza has increased, not decreased.

The Israeli economic blockade of Gaza is capricious. Although many houses, schools and public buildings were destroyed during the Israeli invasion on December 2008 and January 2009, very little cement is permitted into Gaza to rebuild. Does Israel really believe that the frustrated youth of Gaza will make rockets out of cement? Hair shampoo and conditioner is banned. Some foodstuffs are permitted, but not industrial margarine. Some clothing is permitted, but not textiles, so employment cannot be continued in the clothing factories. Cooking gas is permitted by Israel, but only about 60% of their daily needs.

The Israeli economic blockade of Gaza is unsustainable, according the USA Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, last week. What is Israel’s future plans for the blockade? To continue for another three years? Six years? Twelve years? How much further can the people of Gaza be pushed into poverty, frustration and anger? For Israel’s sake, friendly nations such as Australia need to assist with a circuit-breaker which will enable Israel to move away from this disastrously failed policy without losing face. What does Israel hope to achieve by continuing the blockade indefinitely?

[You assert that the blockade is counter-productive and unsustainable. These are matters of opinion. I agree that the blockade receives much negative publicity and that this fuels anti-Israel sentiment around the world. But that is also true of everything Israel does to defend itself. The West Bank security barrier, for example, has successfully ended the wave of Hamas suicide bombings which killed over 1,000 people (including one Australian), yet it is demonised as an “apartheid fence.”

I recognise Israel’s right to decide for itself what is necessary and sustainable for its own defence.

I would like to see the Gaza blockade ended as soon as possible. I would also like to see a peace settlement based on the creation of a Palestinian state, as soon as possible, in accordance with Labor policy. But neither of these things will be possible as long as organisations such as Hamas, and the states such as Iran and Syria which fund and arm them, continue to refuse to accept the existence of Israel. Even the PA, which officially recognises Israel, continues to insist on the so-called “right of return” for more than 4 million Palestinians to Israel, which would amount in effect to the liquidation of Israel.

I remind you that in 2000 Israeli Labour Prime Minister Ehud Barak and President Clinton offered Yasir Arafat a state taking in 94% of the West Bank plus Gaza, with shared sovereignty over Jerusalem. Arafat rejected this offer. It was repeated by Prime Minister Olmert in 2009, with the added offer of trading Israeli land for the areas in the West Bank now occupied by Israel settlers. PA leader Abbas again rejected the offer. It takes two to conclude peace. I am no particular admirer of the current Israeli administration, but no Israeli government can be expected to give away their country’s essential security interests. Peace requires an acceptance by the Palestinians and the Arab states of the existence of Israel as a Jewish state. Until that occurs the conflict will continue, and the people of Gaza and the West Bank will continue to suffer as a result.]

In recent days, many world leaders have spoken out against the economic blockade of Gaza, and calling on Israel to lift the blockade. These calls come from most of the leaders of Europe, from the UN’s Secretary General, Ban Ki Moon and the USA Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton. Our own Foreign Minister, Stephen Smith, speaking in Parliament on June 1, said only that “there should be an easing of the blockade”.

We believe Israel should not just “ease” the blockade, but should observe the full Oslo Agreement, and allow into Gaza all the requirements of the population of Gaza. This would include not just food and medicines, but also cement for rebuilding (and therefore job creation), oil for re-starting industries and raw material for factories such as textiles.

In recent years, Australia has become a very, very close supporter of Israel, almost always voting with Israel in the United Nations, and rarely offering criticism for the 43 years of military occupation in the West Bank, the many human rights abuses, or the creeping annexation of Palestinian land in East Jerusalem and the West Bank. This close, unquestioning friendship should give us influence with our friend, so please use this influence to demand an end to the harsh and illegal treatment of the 1.5 million men, women and children in Gaza.

We believe it is now time for Australia to finally add our voice to those nations strongly calling for an end to the economic blockade of Gaza.

[Finally, you assert that Australia should be putting pressure on Israel to lift the blockade. I reject this view. Israel has the same right to decide on what measures are needed for its defence and security that Australia has, and I’m sure you would not welcome other countries trying to dictate to us how we provide for our security. Nevertheless, I agree with the recent statement by Foreign Minister Stephen Smith that Israel should consider relaxing the blockade to allow easier shipment of supplies to Gaza. More broadly, Australia should continue its bipartisan policy of recent times – supporting Israel’s right to defend itself, while urging all parties to resume negotiations for a peace settlement based on mutual recognition of Israel and a Palestinian state.

It is a great shame that APHEDA – the international aid agency of the ACTU – should adopt such a highly partisan position in relation to Israel.

I would prefer that APHEDA’s energy was spent assisting in the important task of building and strengthening free trade unions and training workers, rather than in attacking Israeli policy.

I note that Israel has a long and proud tradition of trade unionism and that trade unions there enjoy a strong, respected and productive role in public life.

Perhaps APHEDA could aim to replicate this success in Gaza? In Syria? In Egypt and Saudi Arabia?

Perhaps APHEDA could agitate against the arrest and imprisonment of striking bus drivers in Tehran by the regime in Iran, rather than assisting Iran’s proxies in Gaza in their continuing efforts to de-legitimise and destroy the democratic state of Israel.

Yours sincerely
Senator for Victoria]

Thursday, July 08, 2010

Liberal Democratic Values - not a suicide pact

Following his 5000 word indictment of US Jewish elites in the New York Times Review of Books, The Failure of the American Jewish Establishment , Peter Beinart  appeared at Los Angeles 's Temple Beth Am in an event organized by the Jewish Journal at the end of last month. (Click here for a video recording).

Martin Sherman attended the event and felt compelled to respond – also in 5000 words (see the PDF attachment below)

For anyone with a modicum of knowledge of Israeli society, the lecture was an astonishing display of ignorance and arrogance, during which Beinart displayed unflinching resolve to advance and to defend his liberal-democratic values – down to the last Israeli.

His tirade of distortions, inaccuracies and untruths proved him to be either woefully misinformed or willfully misleading
Before dismissing this criticism as excessively harsh and unsubstantial denigration of the speaker, please examine the analysis of some of Beinarts statements, which potrays only a small sample of how fact and fiction were blatantly blurred and the real and the surreal blithely blended throughout his talk - and his article

In the attachment Prof Sherman deal's with Beinart's pronouncements on the following topics:

· The "Radical Settlers":
· The Eviction of  Palestinians in the Sheikh Jarrah Quarter in East Jerusalem
·  Pikuch Nefesh and Reverence for Life Over Land.
· Double Standards – and Why They Should Not Be Applied
·  Double Standards – and Why They Should Be Applied
· Israel's Right to Defend Itself
·  Blockades and Balance (or Lack Thereof)
· The Ascendancy of Lieberman
· The Sentiments of Israeli Arab – Sincere Affinity or Sinister Aspirations?
· The Nuclear Threat
·  The Real Failure of the American Jewish Establishment

It must be remembered that commitment to liberal democratic values is not a suicide pact.

To expect Israel to conduct itself in a manner totally divorced from the exigencies of its environment and totally detached from the nature of its adversaries and their manifest goals – as reflected both in their declarations and in their deeds –is a position that reflects neither moral merit nor political prudence

It is this that the American Jewish Establishment – including its liberal democratic members - needs to understand and to address accordingly – before great tragedy overtakes the Jewish people again.

Israel, Diaspora Jews not equal partners

From JPost, July 8, 2010, by Isi Leibler:

We have grown accustomed to the ravings of the Jew haters of Zion - the loony left who identify with Hamas and Hizbullah rather than their own people, the post-Zionists who seek to undo the Jewish character of Israel and the bleeding heart liberals who make excuses for the criminality of our neighbors and condemn us for defending ourselves.

But what is more frustrating is an emerging new trend, involving even well-meaning friends of Israel, primarily liberals, who demand that as Jews and "partners" of Israel, they are entitled to partake in determining Israeli security and defense related policies.

The most notorious of these is J Street in the US which shamelessly lobbies its government to pressure Israel to adopt policies contrary to those determined by our democratically elected government. Despite living thousands of miles away and not subject to the consequences of the policies they promote, they have the gall to insist that they are more sensitive to the security needs of the Jewish state than we Israelis. Being "genuinely pro-peace," they purport to be acting in our best interests by exercising "tough love" and urging their president to bludgeon us to toe their line. Their hubris and arrogance is mind-boggling.

Nor are they deterred by the fact that Israelis today are overwhelmingly supportive of the policies adopted by their government. Even Kadima, the principal opposition party, is aware that if it held the reins of government, it would pursue a similar course. In fact, the policies promoted by the "pro-peace" elements reflect the views of only the Israeli fringe exemplified by Meretz which gained only three of 120 seats in the Knesset.

...This is simply outrageous chutzpah.

We all agree that Diaspora Jews have been and remain the most important partner of the Jewish state. No one challenges their right to provide input toward Israeli decisions which impact on the future of the Jewish people. But that principal was always accompanied by a caveat that campaigning against government policies affecting security was absolutely off limits for non-Israelis.

Let us be clear. We are one people. But Diaspora Jews and Israelis are not equal partners.

...if Jewish philanthropists believe that contributing toward worthy causes in Israel makes them eligible to become involved in security related decision-making, they should retain their money.

There is no question that ultimately only Israelis can determine security-related policy. It is we, our children and our grandchildren who will be placing our lives on the line, not Jews in New York, London, Melbourne or Rio.

... Diaspora Jews, including the younger generation who no longer live under the shadow of the Holocaust or memories of the struggle to create a Jewish state, remain overwhelmingly pro-Israel. Surveys show that the dropouts, the new liberals who are alienated from Israel, primarily originate from assimilated and intermarried families and those overwhelmed by the hostile culture and media surrounding them especially on the campus.

Instead of becoming obsessed with an urge to tell us how to run our affairs, Jewish activists should ensure that the new generation of Jews in high school and on the campus are imbued with an understanding of our history and heritage and above all exposed to the Israel narrative which will strengthen their morale and enable them to withstand the external onslaughts. That should be their primary objective, rather than groveling to left liberals who magnify every minor fault in our society while closing their eyes to the horrors that could engulf us if the barbarians at our gates succeed.

A Hatred That Resists Exorcism

 From a review of two important books in The New York Times, 5 July 2010, by EDWARD ROTHSTEIN:

Al-Dustour, Jordan
"The Blood of a Palestinian Child, a Gift for Mother's Day," a 1994 cartoon in a Jordanian newspaper.

Is there anything left to be said about anti-Semitism? By now surely the outline is clear: how hatred of Jews grew out of early Christianity’s attempts to supplant Judaism; how the demonization of Jews in the Middle Ages turned violent; how the hatred was given its name by a 19th-century German journalist; and how it reached cataclysmic fulfillment in the Holocaust.

There are other landmarks: the expulsion of the Jews from England, Spain and Portugal; intermittent massacres in Muslim lands; the construction of European ghettos; the pogroms of Russia and Eastern Europe; the Dreyfus Affair; the Nazification of Europe; Stalin’s purges and show trials.
And then, of course, there are the triumphs that act as a kind of remonstrance: the Enlightenment success of Jews in secular European societies, the myriad opportunities in the United States, the birth of modern Hebrew and, after a half-century of settlement, land purchases and institution building, the creation of Israel, whose founding principles incorporated both democratic and Judaic ideals.

Why then during the last six months have new tomes been published devoted to the hatred of Jews?
Surely this attention is a bit overwrought? Aren’t we in an age that must be “post” all such sentiments — postmodern, post-Auschwitz and post-anti-Semitic? Haven’t many anti-Semitic doctrines (or their consequences) been largely overturned? How many people today would advocate ghettos or extermination? Who still believes that Jews bake Christian children’s blood into matzo? Many countries have forbidden hate speech; hasn’t that enforced a decorous social tact? And while it is difficult to ignore the vulgar hatreds expressed by Muslim protestors or in the newspapers of the Arab world or even among Westerners, aren’t those just frustrated expressions of justifiable political grievances?

Besides, anti-Semitism, we now understand, is a form of racism. Like all forms of group hatred, it is subject to reform and to the modern cure of sensitivity training. We learn about such hatreds in order to exorcise them. It seems every museum exhibition, textbook and children’s story about racism provides a similar moral prescription: tolerance.

...  Mr. Wistrich’s volume presents itself as an encyclopedic history, and is so full of details and citations, it overwhelms. We hear from a 17th-century Viennese preacher (“After Satan Christians have no greater enemies than the Jews”), Karl Marx (“What is the worldly cult of the Jew? Huckstering. What is his worldly god? Money”) and the Hezbollah secretary general, Hassan Nasrallah (“If we searched the entire world for a person more cowardly, despicable, weak and feeble in psyche, mind, ideology and religion, we would not find anyone like the Jew”).

Mr. Wistrich offers less a history, though, than a contemporary indictment with historical background. This makes his book difficult to read. Its approach is one of cumulative examples culminating in jihadists and their apologists. Its rosterlike style can become tedious but the examples are powerfully dispiriting.

“Trials of the Diaspora” has a similar effect, though Mr. Julius is more focused and analytical, dissecting types of enmity, the nature of anti-Semitic myth and its influence on the greatest examples of English literature. From his analysis, we begin to see too just how different anti-Semitism is from other forms of racism.
Racism attaches negative attributes onto people bearing a particular biological heritage. Such characteristics are passed on; they are inherited. The hatred is focused; the perceived threat can be excised. In a way, racism is a materialist or physical passion: the problem and the solution are concrete.

While anti-Semitism has tapped into racial hatreds in modern times, Mr. Julius and Mr. Wistrich highlight its traditional reliance on conspiracy: the hidden plot. Anti-Semitism isn’t just a matter of asserting unpleasant or reprehensible attributes. It sees the Jew as an antinomian threat, overturning all ethical laws. The Jew works in secret, creating invisible alliances, pulling elaborate strings, undermining society’s foundations. This is why the Protocols of the Elders of Zion has found such a fertile international ground. That 19th-century document purports to be the secret minutes of such a plotting ensemble of Jews. It is the counterfeit confirmation of a long-held belief.

Anti-Semitism is a metaphysical passion, not a materialist one. It doesn’t even require a Jewish presence.
One reason anti-Semites have been so obsessed with the issue of finance in the modern world is that money is the circulatory system of capitalist society. It is mysterious, manipulable: the Jew’s perfect instrument. The Jew, first seen as a theological spoiler, becomes a metaphysical and monetary spoiler. The medieval image of the Jew was related to the vampire, Mr. Julius shows; the modern anti-Semitic vision sees the Jew as a guzzler of a society’s lifeblood.

This amplifies virulence as well: the Jew, for the anti-Semite, is not just a danger, but the greatest danger exerting the greatest powers. In current paradoxical parlance, the Jew is, in essence, a Nazi. The Jew does not just devour a Christian child’s blood, but the blood of all innocent children, and more completely, the blood of all innocents.

Is any evidence needed? Appearances are irrelevant; argument is illusion. What use is visible fact when the power of the Jew is in the web woven below the surface? Jewish autonomy is itself evidence of Jewish threat. Moreover, confrontation requires courage. Anti-Semitism never sees itself as a hatred; it views itself as a revelation. An attack on the Jew is never offensive; it is always defensive. This is precisely how the Nazis portrayed it. It is precisely how Islamist ideology does as well, evident, for example, in the principles and founding documents of Hamas and Hezbollah.

In a recent book, “Nazi Propaganda for the Arab World” (Yale), the historian Jeffrey Herf shows how Nazi propagandists literally taught Arab audiences the language of anti-Semitism through popular radio programs in Arabic. Nazi ideology bears many resemblances to that of contemporary Islamic extremism, some the consequence of careful teaching. That teaching is still present in the Arab world, amplified by political leaders and imams, often annexed to denigrations of Jews taken from Islamic sources

The result, Mr. Julius and Mr. Wistrich recognize, has been one of the most historically noxious forms of anti-Semitic mythology, which has also fed into political debates in the West and cannot be overlooked or easily dismissed.

It is easy enough to discern when responsible criticisms of Israel veer into something reprehensible: the structure of anti-Semitic belief is not subtle. There is a wildly exaggerated scale of condemnation, in which extremes of contempt confront a country caricatured as the world’s worst enemy of peace; such attacks (and the use of Nazi analogies) are beyond evidence and beyond pragmatic political debate or protest. Israel’s autonomy — it’s very presence — is the problem.

Mr. Julius writes, “Israel is the only state in the world whose legitimacy is widely denied and whose destruction is publicly advocated and threatened; Israelis are the only citizens of a state whose indiscriminate murder is widely considered justifiable.” ...

PA Chairman Abbas is in favor of war with Israel

From PMW 7 July 2010, by Itamar Marcus and Nan Jacques Zilberdik:

The official Palestinian Authority daily Al-Hayat Al-Jadida reports that PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas supports negotiations with Israel today because it is the only option.

However, the newspaper [Al-Hayat Al-Jadida (Fatah), July 6, 2010] quotes Abbas about the military option:

 "If you [Arab states] want war, and if all of you will fight Israel, we are in favor. But the Palestinians will not fight alone because they don't have the ability to do it."

The PA daily reports that Abbas said this at a meeting with writers and journalists in the home of the Palestinian Ambassador to Jordan...

Islamofascists Rally in Sydney

From: The Australian July 06, 2010, by Melanie Phillips, columnist for Britain's Daily Mail:

WHATEVER its protestations, Hizb ut-Tahrir actively promotes terror and violence...

HIZB ut-Tahrir, which held its controversial rally in Sydney on Sunday,  ... is one of the most manipulative and effective recruitment fronts for the Islamic jihad, particularly among the educated Muslim young.

It is precisely because its spokesmen do not appear to be wild-eyed fanatics but are usually highly intelligent and even intellectual that it is so appealing and therefore so dangerous.

But because it takes such care to conceal its links to terror, governments in Australia and Britain, where it has managed to establish a significant and highly troubling presence, find it difficult to deal with it.

Liberal societies are reluctant to ban any organisation unless it can be proved to be connected to terrorism or violence. Since neither Australia nor Britain says it has found any such links, they allow HT to continue to operate while monitoring its activities. Hence Sunday's meeting in Sydney.

But HT members in other countries have been involved in terrorism, and whatever its protestations to the contrary, the organisation actively promotes and encourages violence.

...In Russia, HT has been banned since 2003, when the leaders of its Moscow cell were arrested in possession of plastic explosives, grenades, TNT and detonators. In August 2005, nine members of HT in Russia were convicted of illegal possession of weapons and incitement to racial and religious hatred.

In August 2002, HT in Denmark reportedly offered the equivalent of pound stg. 25,000 to anyone who killed a prominent Danish Jew, producing a hit list of between 15 and 25 leading members of Denmark's Jewish community. The leader of HT in Denmark, Fadi Ahmad Abdel Latif, was convicted of incitement to racial hatred for distributing a leaflet urging people to "kill them, kill the Jews wherever you find them".

And last year HT was banned in Bangladesh after the government said it feared the organisation posed "a threat to peaceful life".

Not only does HT explicitly promote violence in Israel, Afghanistan and Iraq, but it calls on Muslims everywhere to engage in violent jihad.

HT is dedicated to the creation of a single Islamic state, or caliphate, that "will reach the whole world and the rule of the Muslims will reach as far as the day and night". It believes there is a timeless conflict that governs relations between Muslims and "unbelievers", a conflict it encourages.

...HT makes clear in its literature that peaceful means are not enough to win this conflict and that Muslims are allowed to launch aggressive wars against non-Muslims. Its publications say Islamic religious texts all command Muslims to initiate fighting against disbelievers, "even if they do not initiate [it] against us".

It even justifies the killing of Muslims who do not want to live by these rules. "He who does not rule by Islam and rules by a kufr [non-Muslim] system should either retract or be killed."

It also calls on Muslims to fight Jews everywhere, and engages in vicious anti-Jew invective. Last month, HT in Bangladesh issued a press release to advertise a demonstration about the Gaza flotilla which said: "O Muslim armies! Teach the Jews a lesson after which they will need no further lessons. March forth to fight them, eradicate their entity and purify the earth of their filth."

Its invective radicalises Muslims everywhere to the cause of extremism and jihadi violence.

...Several former HT members in Britain have testified to the extraordinary effectiveness of HT's manipulative mind games on impressionable Muslim youths...

Democratic countries such as Britain and Australia are rightly very reluctant to clamp down on political expression. But the decision that nothing can be done to ban HT's "conveyor belt to terror" is disastrously naive.

Wednesday, July 07, 2010

Obama Says U.S.-Israel Bond Is 'Unbreakable'

From The Wall Street Journal, 7 July 2010, by JARED A. FAVOLE:

WASHINGTON—President Barack Obama, flanked by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the White House, on Tuesday hailed the bond between the U.S. and Israel as "unbreakable" and said the two agreed on concrete steps to begin direct talks on Mideast peace.

The two, speaking with reporters in the Oval Office after meeting for about an hour ...reaffirmed their shared interest, particularly in the area of national security and peace.

Mr. Obama said Mr. Netanyahu was prepared to take "risks" on Mideast peace and praised the prime minister for recently instituting a partial freeze on Jewish construction in disputed territories.

Mr. Netanyahu said the two discussed "concrete" steps they would take in the coming weeks to help move toward direct talks on Mideast peace. Mr. Netanyahu said it was "high-time" for he, Mr. Obama and Palestinian Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas to have direct talks on Mideast peace.

Mr. Obama said he hoped direct talks would begin before the moratorium on Jewish construction ends in September.

Mr. Obama said Palestinians have taken positive steps recently in the area of security but warned the country not to look for "opportunities to embarrass Israel." He added, "I think it's very important that the Palestinians not look for excuses for incitement, that they are not engaging in provocative language."

...Mr. Netanyahu praised Mr. Obama for signing last week a tough set of sanctions against Iran, saying they have "teeth. They bite." He also urged other countries to adopt similar measures.

When Mr. Obama was asked whether it was a mistake for him to distance himself from Israel, he claimed that "the premise of your question was wrong. I entirely disagree with it." He added, "If you look at every public statement I have made over the last year and a half it has been a constant reaffirmation of the special relationship between the United States and Israel."

Netanyahu and Obama "Get Along"

From CBS News, July 6, 2010, by Dan Raviv:

After spending more than an hour in private - plainly aware that it is widely believed that they do not get along and do not trust each other - President Obama and Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin (Bibi) Netanyahu insisted that all is well.

The United States and the Jewish state have shared interests, and they have decided to send out a loud message that they will be working together in major endeavors that top the entire world's agenda.

Mr. Obama, summarizing the talks to a group of reporters in the Oval Office, chose to begin with Gaza. He applauded Netanyahu's government for easing the blockade of the Palestinians there "more quickly and effectively than many had expected."

The next subject mentioned was Iran. The president stressed that the United Nations and the U.S. have now adopted the strongest sanctions ever, aimed at persuading Iran to stop its nuclear program "and to cease the kinds of provocative behavior that have made it a threat to its neighbors and to the international community."

Netanyahu could only be delighted that Iran was stressed even before the president turned to the on-again-off-again negotiations for peace between Israel and the Palestinians. The visitor must have also enjoyed this statement from Mr. Obama: "I believe the Prime Minister wants peace and is willing to take risks for peace."

...Mr. Obama also voiced some of the concerns ...about: the need for Arab countries to support peace negotiations, and a call on the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank to stop anti-Jewish incitement and stop "looking for opportunities to embarrass Israel."

Netanyahu, somewhat surprisingly, mentioned several times that Israel and the U.S. have a lot of clandestine cooperation. Both men spoke of intelligence exchanges, and the Israeli leader seemed to be hinting that the two nations will secretly be working closely together in the coming months. This might be taken as an indication that the CIA, the Mossad, and perhaps other agencies are jointly trying to slow or stop Iran's nuclear program.

Israelis may have felt great relief when Mr. Obama went out of his way to crush a story that several newspapers and media outlets have been highlighting lately: the U.S. letting a U.N. non-proliferation document contain an implicit call on Israel to acknowledge or give up its own nuclear arsenal.

"I reiterated to the Prime Minister there is no change in U.S. policy when it comes to these issues," Mr. Obama said, immediately adding that because Israel is so tiny and surrounded by enemies it "has unique security requirements."

It was in this context, and not with reference to surrendering territories to the Palestinians, that the president declared: "The United States will never ask Israel to take any steps that would undermine its security interests."

...At this fifth meeting in the United States between them as president and prime minister, Netanyahu said "it's time to redress the balance," so he invited the Obamas to visit Israel. Many Israeli political analysts say that could go a long way to shatter the distrust that most Israelis - based on polls - seem to feel toward Mr. Obama, after eight years of being showered with almost unquestioning friendship by George W. Bush.

Though no dates were set for a trip, Mr. Obama immediately offered a strong handshake - as the two men sat in chairs positioned very close to each other - and said with a bright smile: "Look forward to it!"

The veteran U.S. diplomat, who was watching on TV, said: "They are such great actors. Now let's see what they do."

Washington Unplugged: What Did the Obama-Netanyahu Meeting Achieve?

PA Chairman Abbas continues honoring terrorists

From Palestinian Media Watch Bulletin, July 6, 2010, by Itamar Marcus and Nan Jacques Zilberdik:

Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas and the Fatah movement have used the death of the mastermind of the murders of the 11 Israeli athletes during the 1972 Munich Olympics as their latest opportunity to honor and glorify terror, presenting him as a Palestinian hero and role model.

In a condolence telegram quoted in the official PA daily newspaper, Abbas referred to Muhammad Daoud Oudeh, who died Saturday, as "a wonderful brother, companion, tough and stubborn, relentless fighter," and described him as "one of the prominent leaders of the Fatah movement." Abbas also called the family to express his condolences.

On Sept. 5, 1972, eight members of the Palestinian terror organization Black September broke into the athletes' village at the Munich Olympics. They kidnapped and ultimately murdered 11 Israeli athletes and coaches. Oudeh, also known as Abu Daoud, planned the attack. He never expressed remorse for his killings.

Another senior Fatah official, Abbas Zaki, member of the Fatah Central Committee, described the planner of the Munich Olympics hostage taking with the following words: "He started his life as a regular individual and concluded it with giant stature," and referred to "his noble actions and his glorious history."

The pride that PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas and the Fatah movement take in Palestinian terrorists who have killed Israeli civilians is part of a pattern. Palestinian Media Watch has reported that Abbas himself has expressed pride in training Hezbollah terrorists, sent greetings to some of the worst Palestinian terrorists in Israeli prisons and funded a computer center named after Dalal Mughrabi, who led the worst terror attack in Israel's history, in which 37 civilians were killed....

Monday, July 05, 2010

Hezbollah stirs violence against UNFIL in Lebanon

From Reuters Africa, 3 July 2010:

Villagers threw stones at U.N. peacekeepers in southern Lebanon on Saturday, seizing their weapons and wounding their patrol leader...

Tension has increased in recent months between the UNIFIL peacekeepers and residents in Lebanon's south, a stronghold of the militant Hezbollah group.

Some Western diplomats say Hezbollah members have encouraged and taken part in the confrontations...
...U.N. special coordinator for Lebanon Michael Williams told reporters on Thursday there were several incidents in southern Lebanon last week. "Some of these may have been something spontaneous in the street, but some were clearly organised," he said.

[U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon]'s latest report to the U.N. Security Council on the implementation of Security Council resolution 1701, which halted hostilities in the Israeli-Hezbollah war in 2006, said there was reason for "doubt on the motives of those (civilians) involved" in some of the recent confrontations with UNIFIL.

...Resolution 1701 calls for a stop to arms smuggling and bans all unauthorised weapons between the Litani River and the Blue Line, the U.N.-monitored border between Israel and Lebanon.

Israel has criticised UNIFIL for not stopping weapons it says are flowing to Hezbollah guerrillas. The United Nations says that is the responsibility of the Lebanese authorities.

Extradition of Zentai should be granted - Justice demands no less

From a MEDIA RELEASE, 5 July 2010, by the Executive Council of Australian Jewry:

[Commenting on a] Federal Court decision on 2 July 2010 concerning Charles Zentai, The President of the Executive Council of Australian Jewry, Robert Goot, said today:

“The Federal Court’s latest finding that Charles Zentai is not capable of being extradited to Hungary is a sad one for the family of Peter Balazs and those who wish Zentai to face his accusers."

“The violent death of the young boy Peter Balazs in Hungary in 1944  ...constituted not only a war crime but also murder. Most civilized countries, including Australia, do not place a legal time limit on bringing murder charges.”

“Hungary is a democratic country with an independent judiciary."

The Hungarian government’s request to Australia for the extradition of Zentai should be granted to allow the Hungarian investigation into the death of Peter Balazs to be completed and, if Zentai is charged, his guilt or innocence to be determined."

"Justice demands no less.”...

UK jury legalizes anti-Israel crimes

From, Wednesday 30 June 2010, by Bibi van der Zee and Rob Evans:

Five activists who caused £180,000 damage ...were acquitted after they argued they were seeking to prevent Israeli war crimes. ... a jury found them not guilty of conspiring to cause criminal damage ...The five admitted they had broken in and sabotaged [a] factory, but argued they were legally justified in doing so.

They believed that EDO MBM, the firm that owns the factory, was breaking export regulations by manufacturing and selling to the Israelis military equipment which would be used in the occupied territories. They wanted to slow down the manufacture of these components, and impede what they believed were war crimes being committed by Israel against the Palestinians.

...They are the latest group of peace and climate-change activists to successfully use the "lawful excuse" defence – committing an offence to prevent a more serious crime – as a tactic in their campaigns. ...
In his summing up, Judge George Bathurst-Norman suggested to the jury that "you may well think that hell on earth would not be an understatement of what the Gazans suffered in that time".

The judge highlighted the testimony by Caroline Lucas, the Green MP for Brighton Pavilion, that "all democratic paths had been exhausted" before the activists embarked on their action.

Hove crown court heard the activists had broken into the factory in the night. They had video-taped interviews beforehand outlining their intention to cause damage and, in the words of prosecutor Stephen Shay, "smash-up" the factory.

These statements were posted on the Indymedia website shortly after they were arrested...

Sunday, July 04, 2010

Israel should totally close its border with Gaza

BESA Center Perspectives Paper No. 111, June 30, 2010, by Efraim Inbar, professor of political studies at Bar-Ilan University and director of the Begin-Sadat (BESA) Center for Strategic Studies:

The recent decision of the Israeli government to ease its blockade on the Gaza Strip works more in favor of strengthening Hamas rule than it does toward advancing Israeli-Palestinian peace efforts.

The international pressure that led to this move indicates a gross misunderstanding of Israel's right to self-defense as well as a grave misperception as to Israel's responsibilities as a non-occupying power.

It is clear that the international community has succumbed to the anti-Israel propaganda war.

Bowing to misguided international pressure, particularly from the West, the Israeli government, on June 20, 2010, lifted nearly three years of restrictions on civilian goods allowed into the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip. The restrictions had been imposed in reaction to the repeated launching of missiles into Israel's population centers. This decision hardly makes any strategic sense because it helps Hamas, an ally of revolutionary Islamist Iran. Both are anti-Western forces focused on destroying the Jewish state.

Giving Credence to Hamas
The easing of the blockade reflects the success of a Hamas propaganda campaign to depict the situation in Gaza as a humanitarian disaster. While Gaza is not prospering, the standard of living there is generally higher than in Egypt – a little noticed fact. The ability of this Goebbels-type propaganda to entrench a tremendous lie in the consciousness of the international community testifies to the continued vulnerability of naive Westerners to sophisticated psychological warfare and to the complicity of much of the Western press in this enterprise.

The step taken by the Israeli government also significantly helps Hamas strengthen its grip on Gazans, as Hamas controls the distribution of any goods entering its territory. Moreover, even if Hamas allows for a general improvement in the daily lives of all Gazans, this reduces the incentive for regime change, which should be part of the Western goal to give Gazans a better future. Strengthening this radical theological regime in the eastern Mediterranean, which is linked to revolutionary Iran, defies Western rational thinking.
The entrenchment of Hamas rule in Gaza amplifies the schism in Palestinian society and strengthens Hamas' influence in the West Bank-based Palestinian Authority. It is also a slap in the face of President Mahmoud Abbas, the leader of the PA, who demanded the blockade's continuation. Hamas' achievement here further undermines whatever ability, albeit very limited, the Palestinian national movement had to move toward a compromise with the Jewish state.

The international pressure that led to the Israeli decision also indicates a gross misunderstanding of Israel's predicament and its legitimate right of self-defense. Israel totally disengaged from Gaza in 2005, hoping that the Gazans would focus their energy on state-building and achieving prosperity. Gaza could have decided to try to become a Hong Kong or a Singapore. Yet, Hamas turned Gaza into a political entity engaged in waging war on the Jewish state by launching thousands of missiles with the specific intent to harm Israeli civilians. Ironically, Hamas demands that Israel allow a supply of goods into the Strip.

It is legally and morally outrageous to claim that Israel is responsible for the Gazans, who are no longer under Israeli occupation and who have supported in great numbers the rule of Hamas. After the 2005 withdrawal, Israel's responsibilities – stemming from previously being an occupying power – ended.

Since Gaza is an enemy country, it does not deserve any special treatment from Israel beyond the latter's legitimate steps taken in pursuit of self-defense. Israel, like any other sovereign state, has every right to close its border with a belligerent neighbor. Moreover, it has no obligation whatsoever to provide water, electricity, fuel or access to food and/or medical supplies to its forsworn enemies. Why on earth should Israel aid those that want to eradicate its existence?

The bewildering and hypocritical international response to Israel's attempts to prevent war materiel from reaching Gaza, as manifested in the criticism surrounding the "Gaza flotilla" incident, should be of great concern to Jerusalem. Again, we see the successful application of a propaganda war whose objective is to deny Israel its legitimate right of self-defense. This campaign is part of a larger plan designed by the enemies of the West to neutralize the superior capacity of the West, and Israel in particular.

Instead of easing the blockade, the Israeli government should have announced its intention to exercise its sovereign right to close the border with Gaza and to halt the transfer of any goods to its enemy within several months. Israel must make clear to the world that it refuses to accept responsibility for the welfare of Gazan residents, particularly since they are employing violence against the Jewish state.

The period of time leading up to the actual border closure should be used to establish alternative routes of supply via Egypt, which also borders Gaza. Egypt is unlikely to welcome such a development because it prefers to keep the Gaza hot potato in Israel's lap. However, the Egyptians are much more adept at dealing with the Gazans, whom they ruled in the past using Arab methods. The Palestinians in Gaza and elsewhere are not only Israel's problem, but constitute a regional headache. Therefore, responsible Arab actors should take part in addressing this issue.

Iran's persecution of their Bahai community

From BBC, Friday, 2 July 2010, by Kasra Naji:
First there are the images of wooden beams on fire. Then buildings come into view, some without windows and doors, others reduced to rubble.

The shaky mobile phone footage posted on YouTube by Iranian human rights activists shows scenes of destruction filmed secretly from inside a car.

The activists say the footage shows the results of an attack on the properties of Bahai residents in Ivel, a village in northern Iran.

They also say that non-Bahai residents supported the demolitions.

Bahai groups outside Iran have also received eyewitness reports from Ivel.

The witnesses said that several days before the bulldozers moved in, some people in the village signed a petition demanding the expulsion of their Bahai neighbours.

Many Bahais had left already: a number of families had fled previous attacks on Bahai property in Ivel. In 2007, for example, six houses were torched.

However, this time the Bahais left in the village complained to the police in the nearest town, Kiasar.

The police denied that there was a petition against them and refused to provide any protection.

The reports from Ivel residents say that by June 22, almost 50 houses belonging to Bahais had been flattened.

Not recognised
Bahais have lived in the area in Iran's Mazadaran province for more than 100 years, says Diane Alai, the representative of the Bahai community at the UN in Geneva.

Bahai groups warn that life is becoming harder and harder for the 300,000 followers of the religion in Iran.

They say they have noticed an increase in the persecution of Bahais since the election of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

Iranian Nobel Peace Prize winner
It has not been this difficult for Bahais since the early years of the Islamic Revolution in 1979, Bahai representatives say.

The Bahai faith emerged after a split in Shia Islam in the 19th Century. It was founded in Iran - but it has long been banned in its country of origin.

The Bahais consider Bahaullah, born in 1817, to be the latest prophet sent by God.

Followers of the faith have faced discrimination in Iran both before and after the 1979 revolution.

The religion was not recognised by the post-revolutionary constitution, and its followers have limited rights under Iranian laws.

For example, Bahais are banned from working in government offices, and they are not allowed to study at university.

Iranian inheritance laws do not apply to Bahais, and Bahai businessmen are often denied a licence to set up shop.

Bahai cemeteries have also been desecrated.

Jailed leaders
The leadership of Iran's Bahai community - five men and two women - have been in jail for more than two years.

They have have been accused of spying for Israel - a common charge against Bahais, whose international headquarters is in the Israeli port of Haifa.

Ms Ebadi fled Iran after her own life was threatened.

Now human rights activists fear that the discrimination against Bahais is intensifying and that history is repeating itself.

Nearly 300 members of the faith have been executed so far - mostly in the first few years of the revolution.

Some Bahai leaders were executed shortly after the revolution. Others were arrested and have not been heard of until today.

"We call them the years of horror," one Bahai woman told the BBC. She did not want to be identified.

Bahai organisations say that their religion has six million followers across the world.

Their teachings have not gone down well with many mainstream Muslims, who see the Bahai faith as an affront to Islam. Some even call the Bahai blasphemous...