Saturday, June 23, 2012

Dennis Ross proposes population transfer

From JPost, 21 June 2012, by MARTIN SHERMAN:

...The entire edifice of conventional wisdom regarding the Arab-Israel conflict is collapsing. ...The folly of a deal on the Golan with the Assad regime, the absurdity of an agreement with the unelected Fatah regime, the myopia of reliance on the durability of the peace with Egypt are all becoming increasingly obvious. Yet to judge from the public discourse on developments in the Middle East it seems that nothing has changed.

Refusal to recognize realities
As if living in an alternative universe, pundits prattle on about the importance of the preservation the peace agreement with Egypt – which, at best, was no more than a non-belligerence accord – apparently oblivious to the fact that it has become little more than a nostalgic figment of the past, totally discordant with the prevailing mood across the land of the Nile.
As this week’s rocket attacks indicate, Sinai will either become a hotbed of jihadist terror, which even the sturdiest of hi-tech fences with not impede for long, or it will be remilitarized. It might become both. For recent calls from Israel for Egypt to “exercise its sovereignty” to thwart such attacks constitute an invitation for the deployment of additional Egyptian troops in the demilitarized peninsula. Without such deployment Cairo can always claim it is incapable of combatting renegades forces that have taken control of much of the area.
However, given the less than amicable sentiments in Cairo toward Israel, it is in no way improbable that these reinforcements will have neither the resolve nor the inclination to reign in the activities of the anti- Israeli gangs. Or that they will be less than meticulous in preventing their own arms and equipment from falling into jihadist hands – whether via theft or mutually profitable trade.
The failure to control the terrorists will in all likelihood be followed by demands to increase Egyptian military capabilities in Sinai even more. Given the paramount importance ascribed to the dead-letter peace accord, these will doubtless be agreed to by Israel.
Clearly this process will lead to increasing erosion of the demilitarization of Sinai – the principal, arguably the only, benefit Israel derived from the 1979 peace treaty.

No Sinai, no peace, no demilitarization
Accordingly, it is far from implausible that soon Israel will face an openly hostile regime ensconced in Cairo, a significant and potentially belligerent military force deployed in Sinai, and active radical terrorist groups operating against its southern front – from Gaza to Eilat – either aided or unhindered by Egyptian regulars.
It would therefore be no more than self-evident prudence for Israeli strategic planners to adopt as their working assumption that the reality Israel will soon have to confront will be one of Three No’s: No Peace, No Sinai, No Demilitarization. Yet there seems little evidence that such dour realism is driving the agenda of the strategic discourse.
If anything, quite the opposite is true. It appears that the seismic shifts in the region have barely impacted the discussion concerning Israel’s policy options and imperatives.
Apparently impervious to the strategic significance of the tectonic changes that have swept through the region, figures who shape the debate seem welded to the past, clinging to the hopelessly unrealistic notions such as a two-state resolution of the Israel-Palestinian conflict, acceptance of Israel by the Arab world and the reconstitution of the Turco-Israeli alignment.

Dennis Ross [file photo]
Dennis Ross
Photo: Brett Weinstein / Wikimedia Commons (CC)

...Stupid or subversive?
...Dennis Ross’s latest “contribution” at this week’s Presidential Conference in Jerusalem – where he prescribed that Israel should not only undermine its security, but its economy as well, “to restore belief in a two-state solution.”
Predictably, Ross studiously disregarded the fact, once so compellingly conveyed by his host Shimon Peres, that
"if a Palestinian state is established, it will be armed to the teeth. Within it there will be bases of the most extreme terrorist forces, who will be equipped with anti-tank and anti-aircraft shoulder-launched rockets, which will endanger not only random passersby, but also every airplane and helicopter taking off in the skies of Israel and every vehicle traveling along the major traffic routes in the Coastal Plain.”

Ross suggested that the first step Israel should take to demonstrate that it is serious about a Palestinian state in the “West Bank” is to publicly announce that the government will provide financial compensation to settlers who are prepared to leave their homes and to move to “Israel proper.”
Of course Ross, who today serves as a counselor for the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, and was a senior director in Barack Obama’s National Security Council, offered no assurances that what is sweeping through the Arab world would not sweep through “Palestine” or what occurred in Gaza would not occur in Ramallah. Nevertheless, he suggested that the government go ahead and plan not only to bring millions more Israelis within the range of weapons being used today from territory Israel ceded to the Palestinians, but it should take measures that would increase both the demand (and hence the price) of housing in country, and the unemployment. Stupid or subversive?

Validating population resettlement
Of course Ross’s proposal did have one positive element – it validated the notion of financing population relocation to achieve political ends.
For unless he subscribes to blatant double standards, how could he object to applying his suggested methodology to the Palestinians as well? After all, if there is nothing wrong with Israeli government financing voluntary resettlement of Jews to set up what is highly likely to be a failed, unsustainable micromini- state and a haven for Islamist terror, why should there be anything wrong with ...funding voluntary Palestinian resettlement to prevent the establishment of a what is highly likely to be a failed, unsustainable micro-mini state? Indeed, one might think that there are far more compelling reasons to pursue the later course than the former – especially for anyone mindful of the security of Israel and the safety of Israelis.

Dummy or dhimmi?
But Ross’s counsel on Turkey is if anything even more outrageous. Ross said that it was in Jerusalem’s long-term strategic interest to try to patch up the relationship, even at the cost of issuing an apology over the Mavi Marmara incident, as Ankara has demanded.
Quite apart from the fact that if any apology is forthcoming it should be from Ankara to Jerusalem, for allowing its citizens to create the violent confrontation with Israeli forces; quite apart from the fact that it is more than a little offensive to suggest that Israel should have to apologize for its soldiers’ use of deadly force to prevent themselves being disemboweled, the logic behind his suggestion is as impaired as the morality behind it.
Ross waxes delusional, stating: “Turkey and Israel have an enormous common stake in Syria. Is it difficult to make an apology? Yes, I don’t dismiss that. But how does that weigh against wider strategic interests you have in Syria and a region undergoing tremendous upheaval?” He goes on to claim that restoration of the relationship would have an impact on the whole region, and suggests imagining what a sobering affect this type of rapprochement would have on ascendant players such as the Muslim Brotherhood.
What planet does this guy inhabit? Can he really be unaware that Turkey has undergone a fundamental transformation, that it is no longer a Western-oriented secular state but a Islamic-oriented theocratic one, that its relations with Israel are a far more a function of what it has become, than of what Israel does – or doesn’t do.Of course one might well wonder: If there are so many strategic interests in common between Turkey and Israel, why doesn’t Ross suggest that Ankara forgo its childish demand for an apology? Is that his “soft racism” of low expectations showing? Or is it the dhimmi in him that feels the need for submission to the Muslim demands? Or perhaps just the dummy? ...

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

US & Israel developed Flame computer virus to slow Iranian nuclear efforts

From the Washington Post, Wednesday, June 20, 2012, by Ellen Nakashima, Greg Miller and Julie Tate:

The United States and Israel jointly developed a sophisticated computer virus nicknamed Flame that collected intelligence in preparation for cyber-sabotage aimed at slowing Iran’s ability to develop a nuclear weapon, according to Western officials with knowledge of the effort.

The massive piece of malware secretly mapped and monitored Iran’s computer networks, sending back a steady stream of intelligence to prepare for a cyberwarfare campaign, according to the officials.

The effort, involving the National Security Agency, the CIA and Israel’s military, has included the use of destructive software such as the Stuxnet virus to cause malfunctions in Iran’s nuclear-enrichment equipment.

The emerging details about Flame provide new clues to what is thought to be the first sustained campaign of cyber-sabotage against an adversary of the United States.

“This is about preparing the battlefield for another type of covert action,” said one former high-ranking U.S. intelligence official, who added that Flame and Stuxnet were elements of a broader assault that continues today. “Cyber-collection against the Iranian program is way further down the road than this.”

Flame came to light last month after Iran detected a series of cyberattacks on its oil industry. The disruption was directed by Israel in a unilateral operation that apparently caught its American partners off guard, according to several U.S. and Western officials who spoke on the condition of anonymity.

There has been speculation that Washington had a role in developing Flame, but the collaboration on the virus between the United States and Israel has not been previously confirmed. Commercial security researchers reported last week that Flame contained some of the same code as Stuxnet. Experts described the overlap as DNA-like evidence that the two sets of malware were parallel projects run by the same entity.

Spokesmen for the CIA, the NSA and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, as well as the Israeli Embassy in Washington, declined to comment.

The virus is among the most sophisticated and subversive pieces of malware to be exposed to date. Experts said the program was designed to replicate across even highly secure networks, then control everyday computer functions to send secrets back to its creators. The code could activate computer microphones and cameras, log keyboard strokes, take screen shots, extract geolocation data from images, and send and receive commands and data through Bluetooth wireless technology.

Flame was designed to do all this while masquerading as a routine Microsoft software update; it evaded detection for several years by using a sophisticated program to crack an encryption algorithm.

“This is not something that most security researchers have the skills or resources to do,” said Tom Parker, chief technology officer for FusionX, a security firm that specializes in simulating state-sponsored cyberattacks. He said he does not know who was behind the virus. “You’d expect that of only the most advanced cryptomathematicians, such as those working at NSA.”

Conventional plus cyber

Flame was developed at least five years ago as part of a classified effort code-named Olympic Games, according to officials familiar with U.S. cyber-operations and experts who have scrutinized its code. The U.S.-Israeli collaboration was intended to slow Iran’s nuclear program, reduce the pressure for a conventional military attack and extend the timetable for diplomacy and sanctions.

The cyberattacks augmented conventional sabotage efforts by both countries, including inserting flawed centrifuge parts and other components into Iran’s nuclear supply chain.

The best-known cyberweapon let loose on Iran was Stuxnet, a name coined by researchers in the antivirus industry who discovered it two years ago. It infected a specific type of industrial controller at Iran’s uranium-
enrichment plant in Natanz, causing almost 1,000 centrifuges to spin out of control. The damage occurred gradually, over months, and Iranian officials initially thought it was the result of incompetence.

The scale of the espionage and sabotage effort “is proportionate to the problem that’s trying to be resolved,” the former intelligence official said, referring to the Iranian nuclear program. Although Stuxnet and Flame infections can be countered, “it doesn’t mean that other tools aren’t in play or performing effectively,” he said.

To develop these tools, the United States relies on two of its elite spy agencies. The NSA, known mainly for its electronic eavesdropping and code-breaking capabilities, has extensive expertise in developing malicious code that can be aimed at U.S. adversaries, including Iran. The CIA lacks the NSA’s sophistication in building malware but is deeply involved in the cyber-campaign.

The CIA’s Information Operations Center is second only to the agency’s Counterterrorism Center in size. The IOC, as it is known, performs an array of espionage functions, including extracting data from laptops seized in counterterrorism raids. But the center specializes in computer penetrations that require closer contact with the target, such as using spies or unwitting contractors to spread a contagion via a thumb drive.

Both agencies analyze the intelligence obtained through malware such as Flame and have continued to develop new weapons even as recent attacks have been exposed.

Flame’s discovery shows the importance of mapping networks and collecting intelligence on targets as the prelude to an attack, especially in closed computer networks. Officials say gaining and keeping access to a network is 99 percent of the challenge.

“It is far more difficult to penetrate a network, learn about it, reside on it forever and extract information from it without being detected than it is to go in and stomp around inside the network causing damage,” said Michael V. Hayden, a former NSA director and CIA director who left office in 2009. He declined to discuss any operations he was involved with during his time in government.

Years in the making

The effort to delay Iran’s nuclear program using cyber-techniques began in the mid-2000s, during President George W. Bush’s second term. At that point it consisted mainly of gathering intelligence to identify potential targets and create tools to disrupt them. In 2008, the program went operational and shifted from military to CIA control, former officials said.

Despite their collaboration on developing the malicious code, the United States and Israel have not always coordinated their attacks. Israel’s April assaults on Iran’s Oil Ministry and oil-export facilities caused only minor disruptions. The episode led Iran to investigate and ultimately discover Flame.

“The virus penetrated some fields — one of them was the oil sector,” Gholam Reza Jalali, an Iranian military cyber official, told Iranian state radio in May. “Fortunately, we detected and controlled this single incident.”

Some U.S. intelligence officials were dismayed that Israel’s unilateral incursion led to the discovery of the virus, prompting countermeasures.

The disruptions led Iran to ask a Russian security firm and a Hungarian cyber-lab for help, according to U.S. and international officials familiar with the incident.

Last week, researchers with Kaspersky Lab, the Russian security firm, reported their conclusion that Flame — a name they came up with — was created by the same group or groups that built Stuxnet. Kaspersky declined to comment on whether it was approached by Iran.

“We are now 100 percent sure that the Stuxnet and Flame groups worked together,” said Roel Schouwenberg, a Boston-based senior researcher with Kaspersky Lab.

The firm also determined that the Flame malware predates Stuxnet. “It looks like the Flame platform was used as a kickstarter of sorts to get the Stuxnet project going,” Schouwenberg said.

PA Doublespeak

From PMW, 19 June 2012, by Itamar Marcus and Nan Jacques Zilberdik:

The Palestinian Authority Ministry of Information has published a book instructing Palestinians which words to use and calling to replace "...poisoned terms." The book, which is called Terminology in Media, Culture and Politics, includes a chart with the "poisoned terms" to be replaced by Palestinian terms.
This book and the chosen terms are significant as they officially and accurately reflect PA beliefs, policies and ideologies. As Palestinian Media Watch has documented for years, when speaking to its own people the PA adamantly denies Israel's right to exist and glorifies the murder of Israelis and Jews, including civilians, as heroic "resistance." This terminology guide issued by the PA reiterates the official PA positions that foreign governments and the international media often don't understand, deny, or ignore.
PA denies Israel's right to exist - reflected in terminology
The PA does not recognize Israel's right to exist. Accordingly, the introduction to the PA Ministry of Information's book stresses that Palestinians must avoid language that recognizes Israel's existence as "natural." Using the Israeli terminology:
"turns the essence of the Zionist endeavor (i.e., Israeli statehood) from a racist, colonialist endeavor into an endeavor of self-definition and independence for the Jewish People."
Palestinians are encouraged to use terms that indicate that Israel is the result of "a racist, colonialist endeavor," and the book instructs Palestinians never to use the name "Israel" alone but instead to use the term "Israeli colonialism." To use "Israel" by itself is wrong, according to the PA, because it "describes Israel as a natural state."
Killing Israeli civilians is not terror but "resistance"
A second fundamental of PA ideology is to refuse to accept that Palestinian attacks that kill Israelis, including suicide bombings against civilians, are terror. Therefore, the PA has chosen the following terms to replace all references to terror that Israel and the world use:
Israeli term
Palestinian Arab term
(Palestinian) Terror
(Palestinian) Terrorist
Resistance member
Suicide (bombing) operations
Martyrdom-seeking operations
Palestinian violence
Legitimate resistance
Person who was killed
Martyr (Shahid)
Reciprocal violence
Resistance response

The PA refuses to recognize Israel's fight against Palestinian terror as self-defense. Through its terminology, it attempts to delegitimize Israeli security structures and defense measures by replacing the following terms:
Israeli term
Palestinian Arab term
Israeli Minister of Defense
Israeli Minister of War
IDF - Israeli Defense Forces
Israeli occupation forces
Separation fence
Racist separation fence

The PA refuses to refer to Israel's Arab citizens as 'Israeli Arabs' or 'Arab Israelis'. The Ministry of Information writes:
"The alternative term for 'Israeli Arabs' is 'the Palestinian people in the '48 territories.'"
The term "'48 territories" is another Palestinian Authority euphemism intended to deny recognition of Israel and is used to replace all references to land in Israel. The term "'48 territories" is actually a shortened term for the full expression used by the PA: "the Palestinian territories occupied in 1948."
Part of the PA's denial of Israel's right to exist includes its refusal to acknowledge thousands of years of Jewish history and culture in the Land of Israel. The book includes Palestinian expressions that should be used to replace Israeli terminology related to history and tradition:

Israeli term
Palestinian Arab term
Star of David
Six-pointed star
Wailing (Western) Wall
Al-Buraq Wall
Temple Mount
Noble Sanctuary of Jerusalem
The Promised Land
The Land of Palestine
Judea and Samaria (Biblical terms)
The occupied West Bank

This book issued by the PA Ministry of Information is significant because it states and confirms in an official PA document what Palestinian Media Watch has been documenting for years: that the PA terminology that is used by PA leaders and their controlled media is significant and carefully chosen and reflects PA opinions and policy.
The following are more examples from the book published by the PA Ministry of Information that appears on the ministry's website:
Book title: Terminology in Media, Culture and Politics By: Ministry of Information 
"Political, cultural and media terminology has been a fundamental tool in the Arab-Palestinian/ Zionist-Israeli conflict throughout the past century...
[Today,] Israeli and American spreading of [these] poisoned terms continues, with its penetration through the media into broad spheres of world public opinion. Even more dangerous, however, is the penetration of the poisoned terms into Arab and Palestinian public opinion, which is drawn into the trap of using them, without careful examination ...
As the Israeli terminology acts to distort the Palestinian national struggle, it turns the essence of the Zionist endeavor from a racist, colonialist endeavor into an endeavor of self-definition and independence for the Jewish People...
In April 2009, the Ministry of Information held a symposium on the subject of terminology in culture, politics and the media... We have collected [the correct terms] in order to publish them here, so that they can be an important addition to our ongoing struggle, since the beginning of the previous century, to chase away the occupation and the establishment of our independent Palestinian state..."

"Appendix (1) - Political terms related to the Arab-Israeli conflict
First - Israeli colonialism
This term ["Israeli colonialism"] is seen as forbidden and indecent among the Israeli people and state, except for an elite group of scholars and a few 'new historians'... It is surprising that the Arab and Palestinian political and media discourse does not include the term 'colonialism' in describing the State of Israel. Political discourse, both extremist and moderate, describes Israel as a natural state, and does not attach the term 'colonialism' to it."

Other terms in the PA ministry's chart:

Israeli term
Palestinian Arab term
(Israeli) Redeployment
Withdrawal from occupied territory
The Palestinian People
The Palestinian Authority
The Palestinian National Authority
PA autonomous areas
Liberated Palestinian territory
East Jerusalem
Arab Jerusalem
Disputed territory
Occupied territory
Return (of refugees)
Right of return (of refugees)
Palestinian demands
Palestinian rights
Israeli authorities
Israeli occupation authorities
Israeli prisons
Israeli occupation prisons
The Green Line
1967 borders

The book is currently available for reading on the PA Ministry of Information's website
[, accessed June 18, 2012]

The Palestinian population has been using these guidelines, even before they were formalized in the book. One example was a PA TV show that discussed terminology last year that included the following statement by a Palestinian journalist and examples of terms that ought to be used instead of the incorrect terms..

PA TV host: "Let's look at some terms, which most of the journalists err [in using] and use in their reports and articles":

List on the screen, read aloud:

Israeli term
Palestinian Arab term
"Negotiations are the only way"
"Negotiations are one of the ways"
"The Israeli colonialist occupation"
"Nakba" (i.e., "Catastrophe,"
Palestinian term for Israel's establishment)
"Ethnic cleansing"
"Separation fence"
"Racist separation wall"
"[Palestinian] casualties"

[PA TV (Fatah), June 16 and Sept. 8, 2011]

Another example showing the use of these terms by the general population was the interview given by terrorist Ahlam Tamimi that was broadcast on PA TV after she was released in the Gilad Shalit exchange deal between Israel and Hamas. Tamimi chose the target and then led the suicide bomber to the Sbarro pizza shop in Jerusalem in August 2001. 15 people were murdered in the suicide bombing, 8 of them children.

During the interview, Tamimi repeatedly referred to the suicide bomber as a "Martyrdom-seeker" and the suicide bombing as a "Martyrdom-seeking operation" - exactly as the Ministry of Information recommends:  

Ahlam Tamimi: "My mission was just to choose the place and to bring the Martyrdom-seeker (i.e., the suicide bomber). [I made] the general plan of the operation, but carrying it out was entrusted to the Martyrdom-seeker."
Ahlam Tamimi: "I told him to enter the restaurant, eat a meal, and then after 15 minutes carry out the Martyrdom-seeking operation. My job was to realize, for this Martyrdom-seeker, the happy life [i.e., Afterlife of bliss promised to Martyrs] that he wanted."
Interviewer: "Didn't you think about the people who were in the restaurant? The children? The families?"
Ahlam Tamimi: "No."
Interviewer: "Do you know how many children were killed in the restaurant?"
Ahlam Tamimi: "Three children were killed in the operation, I think."
Interviewer: "Eight."
Ahlam Tamimi: "Eight?! (she smiles) Eight."  
[PA TV (Fatah) Oct. 23, 2011]

Likewise, the Palestinian Authority terminology and teaching have always defined Israel as illegitimate and a foreign colonial project, as the ministry recommends. The following are past examples from official PA TV and its daily newspaper:

Political advisor to PA Prime Minister Salam Fayyad, Omar Al-Ghoul:
"Israel is a country that was founded on aggression and colonialism..."
[PA TV (Fatah), April 8, 2011]

"Professor Samih Hamouda, of the political science department at Bir Zeit University, presented an analysis of the research papers written by President Mahmoud Abbas on the subject of Zionist ideology... 'In the President's research, the Zionist movement is not Jewish, nor does it flow from the desires of the Jews themselves. Rather, it is an imperialist colonialist movement which sought to use the Jews and to enlist them to further the western colonialist plans.'"
[Al-Hayat Al-Jadida, July 27, 2010]

"The Zionist state is an unnatural implant, the result of a colonialist settlement project... It was set down as a fact on the ground to serve colonialist purposes..."
[Al-Hayat Al-Jadida, Columnist Adel Abd Al-Rahman, Nov. 4, 2011]

On PA TV history program Witnesses and Testimonies:
Palestinian scholar Khaled Ayed: "The Zionist enterprise in its entirety is essentially a settlement enterprise which began at the end of the 19th century... establishing colonies."
Lebanese scholar Mas'oud Zaher: "The Zionist enterprise is an integral part of the imperialist plan to seize the Arab homeland and other parts of the world."
[PA TV (Fatah), May 19, 2011]

An official Palestinian Authority schoolbook likewise teaches children to identify Israel as an example of colonialism:
"Colonialism: Palestine faced the British occupation after the First World War in 1917, and the Israeli occupation in 1948."
[National Education, sixth grade, p. 16, PA schoolbook currently in use. - accessed June 18, 2012]

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

3 strikes against Gazan terror groups

Airstrike hits terrorists planting explosives on Gaza border; earlier strikes targeted Islamic Jihad operatives.

Smoke rises after an IAF strike in Gaza [file] Photo: REUTERS

The Israel Air Force on early Tuesday morning struck a terrorist cell which was in the process of planting an explosive device near the border with Central Gaza.
The IAF confirmed a direct hit on the terrorist target. This was the third airstrike in twenty four hours.
Only hours before the latest airstrike, terror groups fired two rockets, one at Sderot and one into the Ashkelon Regional Council area. Neither rocket caused casualties or damage.
Previously, on Monday, the IAF struck targets in the Gaza Strip in a series of airstrikes against ...Islamic Jihad operatives engaged in anti-Israel terror activity.
The first airstrike occurred in the early afternoon just hours after the attack from Sinai which killed an Israeli construction worker...[It] targeted a motorbike, killing two Islamic Jihad men who were part of a terror cell responsible for recent shooting attacks along the border.... both were members of Islamic Jihad's Al-Quds Brigades and were on their way to perpetrate an attack against Israel.
The second airstrike took place Monday evening when aircraft bombed a group of Palestinians, who ... were preparing to launch a rocket into Israel in the northern Gaza Strip. Two Palestinians, both believed to be Islamic Jihad operatives, were killed....

Greatest Church Soon To Be Mega Mosque?

From FrontPage Magazine, 8 June 2012, by Raymond Ibrahim:
Though ostensibly dealing with a building, a recent report demonstrates how Turkey’s populace—once deemed the most secular and liberal in the Muslim world—is reverting to its Islamic heritage, complete with animosity for the infidel West and dreams of Islam’s glory days of jihad and conquest.

Thousands of devout Muslims prayed outside Turkey’s historic Hagia Sophia museum on Saturday [May 23] to protest a 1934 law that bars religious services at the former church and mosque. Worshippers shouted, “Break the chains, let Hagia Sophia Mosque open,” and “God is great” [the notorious “Allahu Akbar”] before kneeling in prayer as tourists looked on. Turkey’s secular laws prevent Muslims and Christians from formal worship within the 6th-century monument, the world’s greatest cathedral for almost a millennium before invading Ottomans converted it into a mosque in the 15th century.

In fact, Hagia Sophia—Greek for “Holy Wisdom”—was Christendom’s greatest cathedral. Built in Constantinople, the heart of the Christian empire, it was also a stalwart symbol of defiance against an ever encroaching Islam from the east. After parrying centuries of jihadi thrusts, Constantinople was finally sacked by Ottoman Turks in 1453. Its crosses desecrated and icons defaced, Hagia Sophia—as well as thousands of other churches—was immediately converted into a mosque, the tall minarets of Islam surrounding it in triumph. Then, after the dissolution of the Ottoman Empire, as part of several reforms, Ataturk transformed Hagia Sophia into a “neutral” museum in 1934—a gesture of goodwill to the then triumphant West from a then crestfallen Turkey.
Even though Hagia Sophia is a Christian center under Islamic domination, several Christian authorities are content seeing it remain a museum, including the Ecumenical Patriarchate, spiritual leader of Orthodox Christians: “We want it to remain a museum in line with the Republic of Turkey’s principles. If it were to become a mosque, Christians wouldn’t be able to pray there, and if it became a church it would be chaos.”
True enough; one need only recall how back in 2006, when Pope Benedict was scheduled to visit Hagia Sophia, Muslims were outraged. Then, Turkey’s independent paper Vatan wrote: “The risk is that Benedict will send Turkey’s Muslims and much of the Islamic world into paroxysms of fury if there is any perception that the Pope is trying to re-appropriate a Christian center that fell to Muslims.” Before the Pope’s visit, a gang of Turks stormed and occupied Hagia Sophia, screaming “Allahu Akbar!” and warning “Pope! Don’t make a mistake; don’t wear out our patience.” On the day of the Pope’s visit, another throng of Islamists waved banners saying “Pope get out of Turkey” while chanting Hagia Sophia “is Turkish and will remain Turkish.”
All this is yet another reminder of the Islamic world’s double standards: when Muslims conquer non-Muslim territories, such as Constantinople and its churches—through fire and steel, with all the attendant human suffering and misery—the descendents of those conquered are not to expect any apologies or concessions. However, once the same Muslims who would never concede one inch of Islam’s conquests are on the short end of the stick—Palestinians vis-├á-vis Israel, for example—then they resort to the United Nations and the court of public opinion, demanding justice, restitutions, rights, and so forth. (See this 2006 LA Times Op-Ed for more on this theme.)
Even in the brief Reuter’s report, evidence of such “passive-aggressive” behavior emerges. First, this is not about Muslims wanting to pray; it’s about Muslims wanting to revel in the glory days of Islamic jihad and conquest: Muslims “staged the prayers ahead of celebrations next week marking the 559th anniversary of the Ottoman Sultan Mehmet’s conquest of Byzantine Constantinople. According to Salih Turhan, a spokesman quoted by Reuters, “As the grandchildren of Mehmet the Conqueror, seeking the re-opening Hagia Sophia as a mosque is our legitimate right.”
Sultan Mehmet was the scourge of European Christendom, whose Islamic hordes seized and ravished Constantinople, forcibly turning it Islamic. Openly idolizing him, as many Turks do, is tantamount to their saying “We are proud of our ancestors who killed and stole the lands of Christians.” And yet, despite such militant overtones, Turhan, whose position is echoed by many Turks, still manages to blame the West: “Keeping Hagia Sophia Mosque closed is an insult to our mostly Muslim population of 75 million. It symbolizes our ill-treatment by the West.”
If merely keeping a historically Christian/Western building—that was stolen by Islamic jihad—as a neutral museum is seen as “ill-treatment by the West,” on what basis can Muslims and non-Muslims ever “dialogue”?

Monday, June 18, 2012

Egyptian Jihad Against Israel (Apparently) Begins

From PJ Media, 18 June 2012, by Barry Rubin:
Muslim Brotherhood (Probably) Wins Presidency; Egyptian-Islamist/Hamas Jihad Against Israel (Apparently) Begins

A well-organized, well-equipped group of terrorists has attacked Israel from Egyptian territory Monday morning, possibly the second such Egyptian-assisted assault in a week.
As for the presidential election, the Brotherhood candidate, Muhammad al-Mursi, seems the likely winner. His rival, Ahmad Shafiq, won Cairo by a big margin but it was not enough to overcome al-Mursi’s lead in the countryside. The Muslim Brotherhood and Salafists are claiming victory. Official results will be released on June 21.
Al-Mursi has openly declared his support for Hamas and priority on battling Israel on some level. Those campaigning for him, in his presence, have said that the Brotherhood is seeking a Sharia state in Egypt and a caliphate over the whole Middle East whose capital will be in a conquered Jerusalem. The Salafists–a coalition of many hardline Islamist groups–gave the Brotherhood candidate full support.
An armed squad of two men—said to be Hamas, though this is not confirmed—crossed the border after travelling 30 miles from the Gaza Strip through Egyptian territory. They wore flak jackets, camouflaged uniforms, and carried a large amounts of explosives. Members of their support team remained on the Egyptian side of the border. The two men hid by Israel’s highway 12, near an area called White River Lake.
When two vehicles came by, carrying workers finishing up a security fence to guard against just such attacks, they set off a bomb that had been placed on the roadway and fired a rocket-propelled grenade. Both missed but bullets from a Kalashnikov hit one of the vehicles which flipped over. One Israeli, an ethnic Arab labor contractor, was killed, two or three terrorists have been shot dead.
Within minutes, Israeli soldiers arrived and fired on the terrorists. Their bullets blew up a suicide vest being worn by one of them, killing two of the attackers.
This event follows a report in Haaretz newspaper, attributed to Israeli security officials, that the Muslim Brotherhood had asked Hamas to attack Israel. According to the story, an Egyptian Bedouin unit was given the job of firing a rocket, which landed in open ground in southern Israel. This story was not picked up by other Israeli newspapers, suggesting either that it was wrong or that it had been a security leak which the army had then stopped.
So far this year, 280 rockets have been fired from the Gaza Strip into Israel. This has prompted no international concern or action. The new fence along the Egypt-Israel border is mostly complete but due to difficult terrain the last portion will only be finished late this year.
At any rate, we are now at the beginning of Egypt’s involvement, directly or indirectly, in a new wave of terrorist assault on Israel. If the Muslim Brotherhood takes over Egypt, a likelihood made less probable perhaps by the military’s dissolution of parliament, this offensive will enjoy official support. Even if the army remains in control, the Brotherhood and Salafists will use their considerable assets to back this new insurgency war.
The ultimate scenario would be if Hamas decided to renew a large-scale offensive against Israel from the Gaza Strip using rockets, mortars, and attempted cross-border attacks. Egyptian Islamists would send volunteers and money. The Egyptian army would not be scrupulous in stopping the smuggling of weapons, terrorists, and money across the border. As Egyptian fighters are killed in the Gaza Strip the hysteria in Egypt would escalate.
In such a scenario, the army would also allow Hamas to have military bases and headquarters on Egyptian territory, where Israel could not attack them. Indeed, this is already happening. And the Egypt-Israel border would not be protected from cross-border attacks.
A most serious scenario would be if Egypt itself was dragged (under an army regime) or went willingly (under a Brotherhood one) to war with Israel.
Where is the U.S. government in all of this? It’s insisting that the Egyptian military turn power over to a civilian government which, until last week, would have been a Brotherhood government. Washington is merely a distant observer, and one continuing to insist on Muslim Brotherhood moderation despite that group’s extremist history and actions. The policy choice taken by Obama is to issue statements supporting democracy and to view the Brotherhood as a force that can be coopted and moderated. The mass media generally follows this lead in setting the narrative. A different president would understand that the Islamists are the enemy of America and support the military in trying to limit their power. This distinction matters big-time. It helps determine not only the fate of U.S. interests but also the future of 80 million Egyptians, Israel’s security, and the likelihood of further upheavals and wars in the Middle East.

...and from Reuters, 18 June 2012, by Maayan Lubell:
Seven killed on Israel's Egypt and Gaza borders
JERUSALEM (Reuters) - Militants who crossed into Israel from Egypt's Sinai Desert fired on Israelis building a barrier on the border on Monday, killing one worker, before soldiers shot dead two of the attackers, Israel's military said. Israel later launched air strikes killing four Palestinians in the Gaza Strip, including two militants from the Islamic Jihad group on a motorcycle. Two other militants were killed while trying to fire a rocket, Israel said.
The Sinai attack, launched soon after the Muslim Brotherhood declared victory in Egypt's presidential election, raised Israeli concerns about lawlessness in the area since the fall of president Hosni Mubarak last year.
"We can see a disturbing deterioration in Egypt's control of the Sinai's security," Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak said, commenting on the attack.
"We are waiting for the election results. Whoever wins, we expect him to take responsibility over all of Egypt's international commitments, including the (1979) peace treaty with Israel and security arrangements in the Sinai, and to put an end to these attacks swiftly," he told reporters.
Three gunmen crossed into Israel from the Sinai Desert, the Israeli military said.
"A terrorist squad opened fire and possibly also fired an anti-tank rocket at an area where (Israel) is constructing the border fence," spokesman Yoav Mordechai said.
Soldiers who rushed to the scene killed two of the militants but could not find the third, who may have returned to Egypt, the military said.
A military source said the dead worker was an Arab citizen of Israel. There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the attack, which took place about 30 km (18 miles) from the Gaza Strip.
Israel is building a fence along the frontier to curb an influx of African migrants and boost security, and hopes to complete it by the end of the year. It will run along most of the 266 km (165 miles) from Eilat, on the Red Sea, to the Gaza Strip.
In August last year, militants crossed over the Egyptian border and killed eight Israelis, in the most serious attack in the area since the Egyptian popular uprising.
On Saturday, at least two rockets were fired deep into southern Israel, causing no damage or casualties. It was not clear whether they had been launched from Sinai.
Palestinian militants in the Gaza Strip, ruled by the Islamist group Hamas, have launched rockets at Israel from the coastal territory in the past. Israel says Palestinian militants have also crossed into Sinai to launch similar attacks.
Late on Sunday, Israeli aircraft carried out a series of strikes in the Gaza Strip in response to rocket fire from the enclave. Medical sources in Gaza said seven people were wounded.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Obama's Pressure on Israeli settlements has undermined peace prospects

From JCPA, 17 June 2012, by Steven J. Rosen*:

Summary only. Follow the link to view the study (PDF)

Mahmoud Abbas participated in 18 years of direct negotiations with seven Israeli governments, all without the settlements freeze that he now insists is an absolute precondition to begin even low-level talks.
President Obama's failure to distinguish construction in east Jerusalem from settlement activity in the West Bank put him at odds with the Israeli consensus. No major party in Israel, and no significant part of the Jewish public, is willing to count the Jewish neighborhoods of Jerusalem as "settlements" to be "frozen."
The Sharon government reached an understanding with the Bush administration to ban outward geographic expansion of established settlements, while reserving the right to continue expansion inside the "construction line" of existing houses. Almost all the construction that the Netanyahu administration has allowed is either in Jerusalem or in the settlement blocs, the two categories that Israel had thought were protected by understandings with the Americans.
Israelis were bitterly disappointed by the Obama administration's refusal to acknowledge agreements with a prior U.S. government that the Israelis considered vital and binding. Sharon aide Dov Weissglas said, "If decision-makers in, heaven forbid, that an American pledge is only valid as long as the president in question is in office, nobody will want such pledges."
Stalled peace negotiations in the Obama years cannot be blamed on Netanyahu's policies of accelerating settlement construction. He has in fact slowed it down. What has undermined peace negotiations, rather, is Obama's policy on the settlements - and the unrealistic expectations that policy has nourished.
*Steven J. Rosen is Director of the Washington Project of the Middle East Forum and served for 23 years with AIPAC.

Ugly EU foreign policies

From The Jerusalem Post, June 15, 2012, by Caroline Glick:

With her unbridled hostility towards Israel, the EU's foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton provides us with an abject lesson in what happens when a government places its emotional aspirations above its national interests.
Since the establishment of the State of Israel, many of Israel's elite have aspired to be embraced by Europe. In recent years, nearly every government has voiced the hope of one day seeing Israel join the EU.
To a significant degree, Israel's decision to recognize the PLO in 1993 and negotiate with Yasser Arafat and his deputies was an attempt by Israel's political class to win acceptance from the likes of Ashton and her continental comrades. For years the EU had criticized Israel for refusing to recognize the PLO.
Until 1993, Israel's leaders defied Europe because they could tell the difference between a national interest and an emotional aspiration and preferred the former over the latter. And now, Israel's reward for preferring European love to our national interest and embracing our sworn enemy is Catherine Ashton.
To put it mildly, Ashton is not a friend of Israel. Indeed, she is so ill-disposed against Israel that she seems unable to focus for long on anything other than bashing it. Her obsession was prominently displayed in March when she was unable to give an unqualified condemnation of the massacre of French Jewish children by a French Muslim. Ashton simply had to use her condemnation as yet another opportunity to bash Israel.
Her preoccupation with Israel was again on display on Tuesday. During a boilerplate, vacuous speech about President Bashar Assad's slaughter of his fellow Syrians, apropos of nothing the baroness launched into an unhinged, impassioned, and deeply dishonest frontal assault against Israel.
The woman US President Barack Obama has empowered to lead the West's negotiations with Iran regarding its illicit nuclear weapons program stood at the podium in the European Parliament and threw an anti-Israel temper tantrum.
The same woman who couldn't be bothered to finish her speech about Assad's massacre of children, the same woman who is so excited about her Iranian negotiating partners' body language that she doesn't think it is necessary to give them an ultimatum about ending their quest for a nuclear bomb, seemed to lack a sufficiently harsh vocabulary to express her revulsion with Jewish "settlers."
As she put it, "We are also seriously concerned by recent and increasing incidents of settler violence which we all condemn."
It's not clear what "recent and increasing incidents of settler violence" she was referring to. But in all likelihood, she didn't have a specific incident in mind. She probably just figured that those sneaky Jews are always up to no good.
ASIDE FROM condemning imaginary Israeli crimes more emphatically than real Syrian crimes, Ashton's speech involved a presentation of the EU's policy on Israel and the Palestinians.
That policy is based on three premises: The EU falsely claims that all Israeli communities beyond the 1949 armistice lines are illegal.
It rejects Israel's legal right to assert its authority over Area C - the area of Judea and Samaria that is empty of Palestinian population centers.
And it will only soften its anti-Israel positions if the Palestinians do so first.
Aside from its jaw-dropping animosity towards Israel, what is notable about the EU's position is that it is actually far more hostile to Israel than the Palestinians' position towards Israel as that position was revealed in the agreements that the Palestinians signed with Israel in the past. In those agreements, the Palestinians accepted continued sole Israeli control over Area C. They did not require Israel to end the construction of Jewish communities outside the 1949 armistice lines. The peace process ended when the Palestinians moved closer to the EU's position.
The EU's antipathy towards Israel as personified in Ashton's behavior teaches us two important lessons. First, it is often hard to tell our friends from our foes. Israelis - particularly those born to families that emigrated from Europe - have traditionally viewed Europe as the last word in enlightened democracy and sophistication and style. We wanted to be like them. We wanted to be accepted by them.
Indeed we were so swept away by the thought that they might one day love us back that we adopted policies that were inimical to our national interest and so weakened us tremendously.
It never occurred to us that the fact that Europe insisted that we adopt policies that undercut our national survival meant that the Europeans wished us ill.
They seemed so nice.
The second thing we learn from Ashton's anti-Israel mania is that when we engage in foreign policy, we need to base our judgments about our ability to influence the behavior of our foreign counterparts on a sober-minded assessment of two separate things: our interlocutor's ideology and his interests. In Ashton's case, both parameters make clear that there is no way to win her over to Israel's side. She is ideologically opposed to Israel. And the citizens of Europe are becoming more and more hostile to Israel and to Jews.
These twin parameters for judging foreign leaders and representatives came to mind on Wednesday with the publication of State Comptroller Micha Lindenstrauss's critical report on the government's handling of the Turkish-government supported, pro-Hamas flotilla in May 2010. Perhaps the most remarkable revelation in the report is that up until a week before the flotilla set sail, led by the infamous Mavi Marmara, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu was under the impression that he had reached a deal with Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Netanyahu believed that through third parties, including the US government and then-Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak, he had convinced Erdogan to cancel the flotilla. He had a deal.
The fact that Netanyahu thought he had a deal with Erdogan is startling and unnerving. It means that Netanyahu was willing to ignore the basic facts of Erdogan's nature and the way that Erdogan perceives his interests, in favor of a fiction.
By May 2010 it was abundantly clear that Erdogan was not a friend of Israel. He had been in power for eight years. He had already ended Turkey's strategic alliance with Israel. In 2006, Erdogan was the first major international leader and NATO member to host Hamas terror chief Ismail Haniyeh. His embrace of Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood made clear that he was Israel's enemy. It is a simple fact that you cannot be allied with Israel and with the Muslim Brotherhood at the same time. The same year he allowed Iran to use Turkish territory to transfer weaponry to Hezbollah during the Second Lebanon War.
In 2008, Erdogan openly sided with Hamas against Israel in Operation Cast Lead. In 2009, he called President Shimon Peres a murderer to his face.
By the time the flotilla was organized, Erdogan had used Turkey's position as a NATO member to effectively end the US-led alliance's cooperative relationship with Israel, by refusing to participate in military exercises with Israel.
THE NATURE OF the flotilla organizers was also known in the months ahead of its departure for Gaza. The IHH's ties to al-Qaida had been documented. Netanyahu's staff knew that the IHH was so extreme that the previous Turkish government had barred its operatives from participating in humanitarian relief efforts after the devastating 1999 earthquake. They feared the group would use its relief efforts to radicalize the local population.
In and of itself, the fact that Erdogan was openly supporting IHH's leading role in the flotilla told Israel everything it needed to know about the Turkish leader's intentions. And yet, up until a week before the flotilla set sail, Netanyahu was operating under the impression that he had struck a deal with Erdogan.
It is likely that Netanyahu was led to believe that a deal had been crafted by the Americans.
Obama is not the only American leader that has been seduced into believing that Erdogan and his Islamist AKP Party are trustworthy strategic partners for the US. Many key members of Congress share this delusional view.
According to a senior congressional source, Turkey's success in winning over the US Congress is the result of a massive Turkish lobbying effort. Through two or three front groups, the Turkish government has become one of the most active lobbying bodies in Washington. It brings US lawmakers and their aides on luxury trips to Turkey and hosts glittering, glamorous receptions and parties in Washington on a regular basis. And these efforts have paid off.
Turkey's bellicosity towards Israel as well as Greece and Cyprus has caused it no harm in Washington. Its request to purchase a hundred F-35 Joint Strike Fighters faced little serious opposition. The US continues to bow to its demands to disinvite Israel from international forum after international forum - most recently the upcoming US-hosted counter-terrorism summit in Istanbul.
Certainly Turkey's strategic transformation under Erdogan's leadership from a pro-Western democracy into an anti-Western Islamist police state has dire implications for American national interests. And the Americans would be well-served to look beyond the silken invitations to Turkish formal events at five-star hotels and see what is actually happening in the sole Muslim NATO member-state. But whether the US comes to its senses or not is its business.
Israel had no business buying into the fiction in 2010 that Erdogan could be reasoned with.
True, today no one in Israel operates under that delusion anymore. But the basic phenomenon of our leaders failing to distinguish between what they want to happen and what can happen continues to exist.
Ours is a dangerous world and an even more dangerous neighborhood. Everywhere we look we see cauldrons of radicalism and sophisticated weaponry waiting to explode. The threat environment Israel faces today is unprecedented.
At this time we cannot afford to be seduced by our dreams that things were different than they are. They are what they are.
We do have options in this contest. To maximize those options we need to ground our actions and assessments in clear-headed analyses and judgments of the people we are faced with. Their actions will be determined by their beliefs and their perception of their interests - not by our pretty face.