Friday, July 19, 2013

The baseless hatred of the EU towards Israel

From Melanie Phillips, 16 July 2013: 

Consternation in Israel over the EU’s malicious decision to boycott individuals or institutions situated over the ‘Green Line’ between Israel and the disputed territories.

This would presumably include boycotting, for example, the Hebrew University which is just over that line or, even more grotesquely, Jewish residents in Jerusalem’s Old City – where ancient Jewish settlement far predated the arrival of a single Arab, dating as it does since King David who built it as the capital of the kingdom of the Jewish people.
The EU says Israeli settlements beyond the Green Line are illegal under international law. Nothing new there – so do the UN and associated bodies say so.
But they are simply wrong.
International law in general is known to be highly contentious and far from authoritative, since it is anchored in no single jurisdiction and arguably therefore constitutes nothing other than international politics by another name.
In any event, the charge that Jewish residence over the Green Line is illegal
  • first rests on the application to this situation of the wrong treaty; and
  • second, totally ignores the treaties which gave the Jews the right to settle anywhere in these territories.
To take the second point first. The San Remo Treaty of 1920, in which the victors of the First World War parcelled out the remnants of the defeated Ottoman Empire, created a geographical area called Palestine along both sides of the Jordan River.
Article 6 of the Palestine Mandate signed by the League of Nations in 1922 stipulated ‘close Jewish settlement’ on the land west of the Jordan River. The river served as the boundary because that year the UK created a new Arab country, today known as Jordan, by unilaterally bestowing the land east of the river onto the Hashemite dynasty and thus giving some three quarters of Palestine away.
That Mandate treaty obligation to settle the Jews in Palestine from the river to the sea has never been abrogated and endures today. The 1945 UN Charter, Chapter XII, Article 80 explicitly says than nothing within it shall ‘alter in any manner the rights whatsoever of any states or any peoples or the terms of existing international instruments to which Members of the United Nations may respectively be parties’.
Now to the main argument mounted by the ‘illegalisers’. This rests on their claim that the Israeli settlements breach Article 49 of the Geneva Convention. But this article does not apply to the settlements. Written in the shadow of the deportation of European Jews to their deaths in Nazi Europe, it prohibits
‘individual or mass forcible transfers, as well as deportations of protected persons from occupied territory to the territory of the Occupying Power or that of any other country, occupied or not…The Occupying Power shall not deport or transfer parts of its own civilian population into the territory it occupies.’
But none of the Israelis living beyond the Green Line has been transferred or deported, forcibly or not; they all chose voluntarily to live there. (The only force ever used against these residents was in fact when Israel forcibly transferred them from Gaza into Israel in 2005.)
Moreover, the Geneva Convention applies to actions carried out on the territory of a ‘High Contracting Party’ with a sovereign claim to that territory. But the areas in question over the ‘Green Line’ never belonged to any sovereign power. As remains the case to this day they merely constitute no-man’s land, having never been allocated to any ‘High Contracting’ sovereign state.
The only treaty obligations ever made in respect of these areas was in fact to the Jews, who were promised ‘close settlement’ of the land in which they were included.
Furthermore, Israel’s ‘occupation’ of these areas is legal twice over – since it merely gained them in a war of self-defence in 1967, and is thus legally entitled to hold onto them until the belligerents stop waging war upon it. Which they still have not.
As for the ‘Green Line’ itself, this is not a legal border. It has no significance other than where the cease-fire line was drawn in the war of 1948-49 when the Arabs tried to destroy the newly restored State of Israel. Indeed, the Armistice Agreements of 1949 stated that the demarcation lines were ‘not to be construed in any sense’ as political or territorial boundaries’, and were not in any way to prejudice the parties’ claims in ‘the ultimate peaceful settlement of the Palestine problem.’
Which ‘prejudice’ is of course, precisely what the EU is now busily imposing. Indeed, by effectively corralling Israel behind the 1949 armistice line it is forcing it back behind what has been called the ‘Auschwitz border’, since this line leaves Israel militarily indefensible against attack.
This is an act of malevolence. But the fault in large measure surely lies with Israel. For although some may find this incomprehensible, Israel does not make to the world the one case that matters – why Israelis are fully entitled under international law to build their homes in these territories; and exactly how Britain, the EU and the UN have grossly mis-stated and misapplied that international law.
Instead, Israel merely protests that the EU move will inhibit a peace settlement. Which it undoubtedly will. But it will do so principally by upending law, truth and justice – a case Israel never makes in public, thus allowing the irrational hatred of Israel in the west, fed by racist lies and propaganda, to spread its poison unchecked.
The reason it does not properly make this case is partly through the epic dysfunctionality of the Israeli political class (which could fill many volumes). It is partly through Israel’s isolation in the face of the bully-boys of the western diplomatic world. But it is also through Israel’s bleak and despairing judgement that the international community, composed of those who historically and presently were and are driven by obsessive hatred of the Jewish people and which finds expression for that hatred through vehicles such as the UN and EU, will always do the bidding of those who wish to destroy the Jews and is therefore impervious to reason and morality.
News of the EU’s act of existential spite against Israel broke on the fast of Tisha b’Av, when Jews mourn the destruction of the Temple (you know, that Temple, the one that stood in Jerusalem all those centuries ago before any Arabs existed, let alone any Green Line) along with the seemingly never-ending list down through the ages of all those prosecuting their uniquely murderous and baseless hatred of the Jewish people.
Some coincidence. To that list of infamy, the EU can now add its name. For shame.

Expect Samantha Power to continue Obama's disastrous U.N. policy

Wednesday’s confirmation hearing for Samantha Power, President Obama’s pick for U.N. ambassador, should not have been such smooth sailing. Over the past four and a half years the Obama administration’s U.N. policy has lurched from failure to failure and Power has not been a mere passenger along for the ride.
To name but a few disasters, there has not been a binding Security Council sanctions resolution on Iran since June 2010. Despite Washington’s numerous pleas, the Chinese reiterated this week that they were “not in favor of increased new pressure or sanctions against Iran.”
The Palestinians ignored the president’s personal appeal not to use the U.N. to upgrade their status unilaterally. With the U.S. voting against, “Palestine” became a U.N. non-member observer state.
Samantha Power is not a blank slate on Obama U.N. policy or President Obama’s use of the U.N. to intimidate our closest ally.  If confirmed, expect affairs to get worse.
Regardless of American views, U.N. jobs have been repeatedly filled by grossly inappropriate candidates.
- Iran is on the U.N.’s top women’s rights body.
- Both North Korea and Iran have served as President of the U.N. Conference on Disarmament.
- Richard Falk, the antisemitic, Boston-terror apologist, continues to hold the job of the UN’s Israel “investigator.”
- The U.N. has made zero progress in agreeing to a definition of terrorism. The drafting of a comprehensive convention against terrorism is hopelessly deadlocked.
- The U.N. held two more racist anti-racism conferences, “Durban II” in 2009 and “Durban III” in New York on the 10th anniversary of 9/11, over administration objections.
- Every substantive U.S. proposal to reform the Israel-bashing U.N. Human Rights Council was thrown out by the General Assembly in June 2011. The U.S. was outnumbered 154 to 4.
- In Syria, there are now over 100,000 deaths and yet U.N. investigators are waiting outside the country. Humanitarian access to Sudan is still blocked, while the killing in Darfur goes on.
The actual record, notwithstanding, Susan Rice ended her term by appearing before the cameras at U.N. Headquarters on June 25 and reciting a list of Team Obama’s purported achievements. Among other things, Rice claimed that she had saved American taxpayer dollars going to the U.N. and had created new “transparency.”
Actually, in 2010 the Obama administration stopped reporting the total U.S. contributions to the U.N. and has never produced this figure since. Every indication is that the amount has gone up, not down.
So where does Samantha Power fit in this sorry state of affairs? In general, Power will parrot the Obama/Rice mantra that it’s all about issuing in “a new era of engagement to the United Nations.”
In fact, Deputy National Security Advisor for Strategic Communications and Speechwriting, Ben Rhodes informs us that Power has already been hard at work applying the “engagement” agenda. The specifics reveal a troubling record on Israel, a subject which has become a touchstone for her appointment.
Speaking to the Israeli paper Haaretz in June – as part of an evident campaign to repair her pro-Israel credentials – Rhodes said: “Sam had been the point person at the White House on all issues related to Israel at the U.N.”
This is not a plus.
The U.N. Human Rights Council, the U.N.’s top human rights body, might be described as Israel-delegitimization headquarters. But instead of delegitimizing the delegitimizers, Power has urged the president to do just the opposite and lend the prestige of the world’s leading democracy to this human rights sham. Consistent with her advice, the administration joined the Council and remains a member.
An unnamed “senior U.S. official” also told Haaretz: “Power claimed…in discussions with the White House… that joining the Human Rights Council would give the United States better tools to protect Israel from discrimination…” and he continued: “It was manifestly true…We were able to rally Europeans to stand with us against anti-Israel resolutions…creating…a moral majority.”
The claim is manifestly untrue.
At its main annual anti-Israel session this past March, the Council adopted six anti-Israel resolutions and not a single European voted with the U.S. against even one of them.
Rhodes went further in his description of Power’s involvement. “Samantha has been the White House official in contact with our team in the Human Rights Council…She was helping set the policy but was also the person to sign off on the language of the statements the administration and our mission in Geneva issued.”
This is a damning admission. Israel has been refusing to engage with the Council for over a year – which is awkward for an administration claiming that engagement is doing just fine.
So this year in January and June, U.S. statements at the Council publicly encouraged Israel to re-engage. In effect, to return to the back of the bus. The public rebuke in such a hostile environment was wrong and it signals some ugly arm-twisting of Power’s Israeli “friends” behind the scenes.
Rhodes also said that Power was a key player in other Obama-U.N. moves: the U.S. decision to boycott the Durban II conference in 2009, the handling of the Turkish Mavi Marmara flotilla crisis in May 2010, and “stopping” the unilateral Palestinian initiative in the United Nations.
The real record:
  • the administration refused to boycott Durban II until 48 hours before the conference and only after public pressure. The indecision ruined the ability of Israel and Jewish organizations to build a major coalition against the Durban Declaration.
  • On the Turkish flotilla incident, the administration allowed the matter to blossom into a U.N. Security Council presidential statement with almost unheard of speed. Twenty-four hours after the event, the Council issued a statement which eventually subjected the Israeli defense forces to a U.N.-driven investigation – something the U.S. defense establishment would never have accepted. Turkish-Israel relations still suffer from the Turks having been encouraged to believe that they were wronged.
Samantha Power, therefore, is not a blank slate on Obama's U.N. policy or the president’s use of the U.N. to intimidate our closest ally. If confirmed, expect affairs to get worse.

Trigg Laboratories plans to penetrate the Israel market for personal lubricants

...A West Coast manufacturer of personal lubricants says it’s become the first company to have its slippery stuff blessed for use by religious Jews.
Trigg Laboratories announced yesterday that the Rabbinical Council of California had certified 95 percent of its “Wet”-brand products as kosher after an intensive, two-year review.
As part of the process, the company said it submitted its entire 52,000-square-foot plant in Valencia, Calif., to strict “kosherization” procedures.
Approved “Wet” lubes will now be stamped with a “K” to show they meet the standards of Jewish dietary law, known as “kashrut,” which prohibits the consumption of certain animals and requires the ritual slaughter of those deemed edible.
In touting the certification, company founder Michael Trigg lifted a line from an old Hebrew National commercial for its kosher hot dogs.
... “The ‘K’ imprint on our packages says that we maintain the highest standards of purity and answer to a higher authority.”
... Trigg spokesman Dean Draznin said its review included checking the company’s manufacturing methods and suppliers of raw materials. He said the certification ensures that none of Trigg’s products contain ingredients derived from pigs or shellfish, and that any other animals used to create the joy gels were treated humanely.
Draznin also said Trigg sought the certification because it plans to start selling its “Wet” products in Israel, where “its a given that if it’s sold, it needs to meet kosher laws.”
...Rabbi Shmuley Boteach, author of the best-selling book “Kosher Sex,” hailed yesterday’s announcement.
“It’s nice to see that rabbis are not shying away from addressing sexual aid, which will facilitate great excitement in the bedroom,” he said. “People misunderstand Orthodox Jews, in that they believe that they have sex through a sheet with a hole in the middle, that Orthodoxy is profoundly prudish. Nothing can be further from the truth.
“Orthodoxy is profoundly passionate. Orthodox couples have great sex lives, they’re encouraged to. . . . Anyone who portrays Orthodoxy in a different light and . . . believes that Orthodoxy encourages sexual repression really knows nothing about the Jewish religion.”
An Orthodox rabbi who works as a kosher supervisor...said the newly kosher lube should glide off the shelves.
... “I’m sure for some people it’s better to have something that’s kosher than something that isn’t.”

After 70 years, Nazi officer's grandson returns stolen books

From Israel Hayom, 11 July 2013, by Yori Yalon:
In his grandmother's house, Christoph Schlegel finds books stolen from a Jew during the Holocaust • A search leads him to Moshe Hofstadter, the surviving son of the books' owner, in Israel.
Avraham Hofstadter, who was killed in the Holocaust
Photo credit: Courtesy of Yad Vashem
Moshe Hofstadter at Yad Vashem on Wednesday
Photo credit: Lior Mizrahi
Avraham Hofstadter, who was killed in the Holocaust
Photo credit: Courtesy of Yad Vashem

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Iran: A military preemption with no boots on the ground is the solution

Ambassador (ret.) Yoram Ettinger, "Israel Hayom" TV interview, July 16, 2013

The US is Iran's top target. Economic sanctions are not an effective sanction.
A military pre-emption with no boots on the ground is the solution.

The medieval Saudi monarchy is guarding American interests in Egypt

From Spengler, 8 July 2013:
The vicious crosswind ripping through Egyptian politics comes from the great Sunni-Shi’ite civil war now enveloping the Muslim world from the Hindu Kush to the Mediterranean.
It took just two days for the interim government installed last week by Egypt’s military to announce that Saudi Arabia and other Gulf States would provide emergency financing for the bankrupt Egyptian state...

As the World Bulletin website reported July 6:
“The Finance Ministry has intensified its contacts [with Gulf states] to stand on the volume of financial aid announced,” caretaker Finance Minister Fayyad Abdel Moneim told the Anadolu Agency in a phone interview Saturday. Abdel Moneim spoke of contacts with Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), and Kuwait for urgent aid … Defense Minister Abdel Fatah al-Sisi phoned Saudi Kind Abdullah bin Abdel Aziz and UAE President Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed al-Nuhayyan yesterday on the latest developments in Egypt. King Abdullah was the first Arab and foreign leader to congratulate interim president Adly Mansour after his swearing-in ceremony.
Meanwhile, Egypt’s central bank governor, Hisham Ramez, was on a plane to Abu Dhabi July 7 “to drum up badly need financial support”, the Financial Times reported. The Saudis and the UAE had pledged, but not provided, US$8 billion in loans to Egypt, because the Saudi monarchy hates and fears the Muslim Brotherhood as its would-be grave-digger. With the brothers out of power, things might be different. The Saudi Gazette wrote July 6:
Egypt may be able to count on more aid from two other rich Gulf States. Egypt “is in a much better position now to receive aid from Saudi Arabia and the UAE”, said Citigroup regional economist Farouk Soussa. “Both Saudi Arabia and the UAE have promised significant financial aid to Egypt. It is more likely that Egypt will receive it now.”
Media accounts ignored the big picture, and focused instead on the irrelevant figure of Mohamed al-Baradei, the Nobel Peace Prize winner whose appointment as prime minister in the interim government was first announced and then withdrawn on Saturday. It doesn’t matter who sits in the Presidential Palace if the country runs out of bread.
Tiny Qatar had already expended a third of its foreign exchange reserves during the past year in loans to Egypt, which may explain why the eccentric emir was replaced in late June by his son.
Only Saudi Arabia with its $630 billion of cash reserves has the wherewithal to bridge Egypt’s $20 billion a year cash gap. With the country’s energy supplies nearly exhausted and just two months’ supply of imported wheat on hand, the victor in Cairo will be the Saudi party.
I predicted this development in a July 4 post at PJ Media, noting,
The Saudis have another reason to get involved in Egypt, and that is the situation in Syria. Saudi Arabia’s intervention in the Syrian civil war, now guided by Prince Bandar, the new chief of Saudi Intelligence, has a double problem. The KSA wants to prevent Iran from turning Syria into a satrapy and fire base, but fears that the Sunni jihadists to whom it is sending anti-aircraft missiles eventually might turn against the monarchy. The same sort of blowback afflicted the kingdom after the 1980s Afghan war, in the person of Osama bin Laden.
Saudi Arabia and Qatar have been fighting for influence among Syria’s Sunni rebels (as David Ottaway reported earlier this week at National Interest). Cutting off the Muslim Brotherhood at the knees in Egypt will help the KSA limit potential blowback in Syria.”
...The now-humiliated Muslim Brotherhood is a Nazi-inspired totalitarian party carrying a crescent in place of a swastika. If Mohamed Morsi had remained in power, he would have turned Egypt into a North Korea on the Nile, a starvation state in which the ruling party rewards the quiescent with a few more calories.
The head of Egypt’s armed forces, Field Marshal Abdel-Fatah al-Sisi, is not a democrat, but a dedicated Islamist whose wife is said to wear the full niqab body covering, according to Naval Postgraduate School professor Robert Springborg. “Islamic ideology penetrates Sisi’s thinking about political and security matters,” Springborg observes.
The question is not whether Islamism, but whose. Some Saudi commentators claim al-Sisi as their Islamist, for example Asharq al-Awsat columnist Hussein Shobokshi, who wrote July 7, “God has endowed al-Sisi with the Egyptians’ love. In fact, al-Sisi brought a true legitimacy to Egypt, which will open the door to hope after a period of pointlessness, immaturity and distress. Al-Sisi will go down in history and has gained the love of people.” 
The Saudi-funded Salafist (ultra-Islamist) Nour Party in Egypt backed the military coup, probably because it is Saudi-funded, while other Salafists took to the streets with the Muslim Brotherhood to oppose it. Again, none of this matters. The will of a people that cannot feed itself has little weight. Egypt is a banana republic without the bananas.
Whether Egypt slides into chaos or regains temporary stability under the military depends on what happens in the royal palace at Riyadh, not in Tahrir Square. It appears that the Saudis have embraced the military-backed government, whoever it turns out to include. It is conceivable that the Saudis vetoed the ascension of al-Baradei, hilariously described as a “liberal” in the major media. Al-Baradei is a slippery and unprincipled operator who did great damage to Western interests.
As head of the International Atomic Energy Agency until 2009, the Egyptian diplomat repeatedly intervened to distort his own inspectors’ reports about the progress of Iran’s nuclear program. In effect, he acted as an Iranian agent of influence.  [See also Claudia Rosett today on al-Baradei].
The Saudis have more to fear from Iran than anyone else. Iran (as Michael Ledeen observes) is trying to subvert the Saudi regime through the Shi’ite minority in Eastern Province. If Riyadh did not blackball his nomination as prime minister, it should have.
There isn’t going to be a war with Israel, as some commentators have offered.
Israel is at worst a bystander and at best a de facto ally of the Saudis. The Saudi Wahabists hate Israel, to be sure, and would be happy if the Jewish State and all its inhabitants vanished tomorrow. But Israel presents no threat at all to Riyadh, while Iran represents an existential threat.
The Saudis, we know from WikiLeaks, begged the United States to attack Iran, or to let Israel do so.
The Egyptian military has no interest in losing another war with the Jewish state. It may not have enough diesel fuel to drive a division of tanks to the border.
The Saudi regime, to be sure, sponsors any number of extremist malefactors through its network of Wahabist mosques and madrassas. But the present Saudi intervention in Egypt – if I read the signals right – is far more consistent with American strategic interests than the sentimental meanderings of the Barack Obama administration, or the fetishism of parliamentary form that afflicts the Republican establishment.
The Saudi regime is an abomination by American standards, but the monarchy is a rational actor. As Michael Ledeen observed a year ago, “The big oil region in Saudi Arabia is in Shiite country, and the Saudi Shi’ites have little love for the royal family. If the rulers saw us moving against Tehran and Damascus, it would be easier for us to convince them to cut back their support for jihad outside the kingdom.”
The United States has less influence in the region than at any time since World War II, due to gross incompetence of the Obama administration as well as the Republican establishment. The Obama administration as well as Senators John McCain and Lindsey Graham courted the Muslim Brotherhood as a prospective vehicle for Muslim democracy, ignoring the catastrophic failure of the Egyptian economy as well as the totalitarian character of the Brotherhood.
Americans instinctively ask about any problem overseas, “Who are the good guys?” When told that there are no good guys, they go to see a different movie.
There are no good guys in Egypt, except perhaps for the hapless democracy activists who draw on no social constituency and wield no power, and the endangered Coptic Christian minority. There are only forces that coincide with American interests for reasons of their own.
It is a gauge of American foreign policy incompetence that the medieval Saudi monarchy is a better guardian of American interests in Egypt for the time being than the United States itself.

Monday, July 15, 2013

Hezbollah’s suicide bombing tactics come back to haunt it

From Times of Israel, July 13, 2013, by :

Last month IDF chief Benny Gantz said the fringes of Nasrallah’s cloak were on fire; today, the entire robe would seem to be burning                                              

Security forces and civilians stand at the scene of a bombing in the Beir el-Abed, a southern suburb of Beirut, Lebanon, Tuesday, July 9 (photo credit: AP/Ahmed Omar)

The headline of Lebanon’s A-Nahar newspaper on Wednesday said it all: “Following the explosion in Beir el-Abed, does Dahiyeh fear suicide bombers?”
There’s a terrorism irony for you. Hezbollah, the organization that spearheaded the use of suicide bombers in the Middle East in the beginning of the 1980s, now has to cope with a new reality: its Sunni enemies in Syria and Lebanon are using the group’s trademark modus operandi against it.        
Fifty-two people were injured in Tuesday’s blast in the heart of Hezbollah’s home turf, and although the target has yet to be clearly established, injuries and destruction to property aside, the biggest blow was to the militant Shiite group’s sense of security. The group’s senior officials will now have to watch out not only for Israeli intelligence, but also for Sunni extremists wearing suicide vests or driving cars rigged with explosives.
According to A-Nahar, Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah and the group’s upper echelons had anticipated that a car bombing was in the works long before Tuesday’s attack. This was because of Hezbollah’s deep involvement alongside Bashar Assad’s forces, in battles both against Syrian opposition forces and radical Sunnis in Lebanon, like Sheikh Ahmed el-Assir. Extra security precautions were already in force in the streets of Dahiyeh. Yet the man who transported the car to its destination on Tuesday was able to evade the group’s security checkpoints and detonate the blast.
A source close to the group told A-Nahar that Hezbollah anticipates continued suicide attacks against Shiite targets in general and its assets  in particular, following the model of sectarian violence in Iraq. There, Sunni terrorists have carried out a relentless stream of murderous attacks against the Shiite population, to instill perpetual fear.
Hezbollah’s current troubles don’t end with suicide bombers either. Even if the group’s security forces manage to thwart future attacks, Sunni terror groups showed in a recent strike that they are also capable of firing rockets into Dahiyeh.
Hezbollah is also absorbing a high number of fatalities fighting in Syria — “a triple digit figure” as one Israeli defense official put it – and sustaining  thousands of injured, most of whom never make it back to active duty.
Less than a month ago, IDF chief of General Staff Lt. Gen. Benny Gantz remarked that “the fire has reached the fringes of Nasrallah’s cloak.” Now, the whole cloak is burning.
Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah in one of his last public appearances in December, 2011 (photo credit: AP/Bilal Hussein)
Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah in one of his last public appearances in December, 2011 (photo credit: AP/Bilal Hussein)
Meanwhile, Hezbollah’s ally to the east, the embattled Assad, for whom the group chose to risk its position in Lebanon and its men in Syria, has failed to complete the comeback much of the Arab press had led readers to anticipate. After the conquest of Qusair near the Lebanese border, where rebels held sway for more than a year, it appeared Assad’s Hezbollah-bolstered forces were gaining the upper hand and would go on to easily conquer Aleppo. That’s not how things have turned out thus far.
Fighting around Aleppo continues and Assad’s forces control only some 40 percent of Syrian territory, focused on the north-west. In the rest of the country, slowly but surely independent cantons are sprouting. This is particularly the case in the north-east, where there is very little fighting and a semi-autonomous Kurdish entity is putting down roots.
Still, the Syrian opposition is not impressing anybody with its managerial abilities either. Just this week, Ghassan Hitto, who was supposed to put together an alternative to Assad’s government, quit his job amid crippling infighting among Assad’s opponents.
At this rate, the Syrian civil war looks like it may last for years, without clear results and with the country’s institutions steadily crumbling. How will it all end? In Syria’s case, even fools dare not prophesy.
Hezbollah leader sheik Hassan Nasrallah, left, speaks with Syrian President Bashar Assad, center, and Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, right, upon their arrival for a dinner in Damascus, Syria, February 25, 2010 (photo credit: AP/SANA)
Hezbollah leader sheik Hassan Nasrallah, left, speaks with Syrian President Bashar Assad, center, and Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, right, upon their arrival for a dinner in Damascus, Syria, February 25, 2010 (photo credit: AP/SANA)
Despite the instability in Syria and Lebanon, the Hezbollah-Assad coalition is holding. Indeed, the two are becoming interdependent, a much different situation from the one that prevailed in the days of Assad’s father Hafez. The latter didn’t hesitate to use his army against Hezbollah when he thought it threatened Syrian interests in Lebanon.
Today, the ever-tightening alliance can be witnessed both in the Shiite organization’s dispatch of troops to fight in Syria and in the continued transfer of weapons from Syria to Hezbollah in Lebanon.
On Tuesday, a Free Syrian Army spokesman said an attack last week on the Syrian port of Latakia — blamed in some quarters on a resolutely silent Israel — targeted a weapons depot that held Russian-made anti-ship missiles, presumably “Yakhont” missiles. The spokesman stressed that the FSA was not behind the attack.
If so, Latakia was doubtless not the final destination, and the shipment was evidence of the abiding Assad-Nasrallah alliance: Despite all the risks of such arms transfers, the cargo was likely scheduled for delivery to Hezbollah.

Israel and Azerbaijan: Geopolitical Reasons for Stronger Ties

From BESA Center Perspectives Paper No. 208, July 15,2013, by Dr. Anna Geifman*:

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY: Israel and Azerbaijan have developed strong strategic ties. Israel benefits from having a Muslim ally on Iran’s border and Azerbaijan has gained a serious partner in the political, military, and technology spheres. Even so, the countries have much to gain from strengthening their ties even further.
The South Caucasus region is of strategic value for Israel due to its geopolitical position and proximity to Iran. Azerbaijan, a key player in the region, is a Shiite Muslim country which maintains close working relations with the Jewish state. Strained relations between Azerbaijan and Iran are an equally critical factor. Aside from the fact that Israel is dealing with a classic situation of “the enemy of my enemy is my friend,” it benefits from selling the Azeris technical services, technologies, and security systems. Moreover, Israel has always been on the lookout for a moderate Muslim partner, a role previously filled by Turkey. Azerbaijan can fit that role. It is hardly accidental that President Shimon Peres, accompanied by three ministers and representatives of sixty Israeli industrial companies, visited Baku in 2009. Then Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman made a trip to Azerbaijan in April 2012. His counterpart, Azeri Foreign Minister Elmar Mammadyarov, paid a return visit to Israel in April 2013. Presently, the bilateral relationship is good, and there are prospects for even stronger ties between the two countries.

Threats from Iran

Turmoil in the Middle East affects the Caspian Sea region and simultaneously provides opportunities for Israel, whose mutual interest with Azerbaijan is to confront an increasingly radical Islam. Though nominally Muslim, Azerbaijan’s secular regime perceives both Sunni and Shiite fundamentalists as an alarming threat. The Sunni radicals connected to al-Qaeda are willing to cooperate with neighboring Dagestan’s terrorist underground, which is periodically activated in the northern parts of Azerbaijan. An even greater reason for concern is the Shiite radicals; they are a tool for Iran’s Revolutionary Guards and seek radical changes in Azerbaijan to turn it into a pro-Iranian regime. Any contact with Israel therefore cause anxiety in Tehran; for example, the 2009 Peres visit to Baku led to complications between Baku and Teheran and the recalling of the Iranian ambassador “for consultations.”
There is also strong evidence to believe that Iran is intent on undermining domestic stability in Azerbaijan. In October 2011, the leader of pro-Iranian Islamic Party of Azerbaijan Movsum Samadov and several of his comrades were sentenced to 10-12 years in jail for attempting to overthrow the government by terrorist means. In February 2012, dozens of militants were arrested in a rural area near Baku. Iran also persistently threatens its northern neighbor; shortly after Samadov’s arrest, Iranian Chief-of-Staff Maj. Gen. Hassan Firouzabadi promised Azeri President Ilham Aliyev “a grim future.”
It is therefore not surprising that, according to foreign sources, Azerbaijan is a strategic bridgehead of Western and Israeli anti-Iranian military and intelligence efforts. Tehran is nervous about persistent, if officially denied, rumors about Israeli military presence in Azerbaijan as a forward base against Iran. Regardless of the validity of these rumors, Israeli authorities appreciate the importance of cooperation with Azerbaijan, which seeks to hold its own under the Iranian threat. In early 2012 this collaboration yielded valuable results: the prevention of terrorist attacks against Israeli diplomats in Baku.

Threats from Russia

Aside from Iran, Russia is a reason that Baku and Jerusalem should strengthen their strategic partnership. Israel is upset about Russia’s subversive presence in the Middle East, namely its interactions with Iran, acceptance of Hamas, and persistent backing of the Syrian rebels. Azerbaijan is also unhappy with Moscow’s support for Armenia’s position in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. Yet, Israel may be swayed into better relations with Russia due to potential benefits from collaborative ventures in the technological sphere, as well as joint fear of radical Islam; contrary to what may look like a partnership, Russia’s relations with Iran are quite strained.
In 2011, the “Center-2011” maneuvers took place in the Caspian Sea, the largest such exercise since 2002. Some one thousand Russian servicemen and dozens of vessels and boats participated. Despite attempts on the part of some commentators to explain the maneuvers as necessitated by NATO’s presence in Afghanistan and Turkey, it appears that the “alleged enemy” was none other than Iran, or possibly its terror proxy, Hizballah. A similar exercise in the Caspian Sea took place this April. Iran could react aggressively towards Azerbaijan in the event of a Western attack on its nuclear program. For its part, Baku is aware that Moscow is supportive of its secular regime and is friendly towards the Azeri position with regards to the Caspian Sea division.

The Nagorno-Karabakh Issue

There is also the issue of Nagorno-Karabakh, which is a connecting point between Azerbaijan and Israel. For Azerbaijan, Armenia is a bitter enemy with whom there are no serious chances for reconciliation in the foreseeable future, especially after the Armenian defeat of the Azeri military in 1994. As far as Israeli is concerned Armenia is one of Iran’s closest partners; it is also probably a “loophole” for Iran’s acquisition of prohibited weapons and technologies from several former Soviet republics.


Among the hurdles for Israeli-Azeri relations may be the “Turkish issue.” In the past all appeared simple, as Turkey was Azerbaijan’s closest ally and Israel’s strategic partner. In the last few years, however, the situation has become significantly complicated by Turkish Islamization. Israel is presently interested in Azerbaijan’s independence from any Turkish influence.
Israel and Azerbaijan stand to benefit greatly from even stronger ties. From the Israeli point of view there is serious potential for expanding economic ties, if only because Baku sells oil to Israel and is already a client of the Israeli hi-tech and military industries. Israel’s drone planes are presently as much in demand in Azerbaijan as they are elsewhere. Israel also sells its Azeri partner armored troop carriers, multiple rocket launchers, Tavor rifles, and ammunition. However, since neither country has enough friends beyond its borders, it should be clear that each partner may contribute to much-required foreign lobbying for the sake of the other. Azerbaijan could be a positive influence in Turkey, while Israel might prove equally helpful in lobbying for the Azeris in the EU and the US. Though further cooperation between Jerusalem and Baku will depend on geopolitical developments, Israel would do well to capitalize on the opportunity.

*Dr. Anna Geifman is a senior research fellow in the Department of Political Studies at Bar-Ilan University and Professor Emerita at Boston University. Dima Course is a PhD candidate in political studies at Bar-Ilan University.

The mass exodus of Christians from the Muslim world

A mass exodus of Christians is currently underway.  Millions of Christians are being displaced from one end of the Islamic world to the other.
We are reliving the true history of how the Islamic world, much of which prior to the Islamic conquests was almost entirely Christian, came into being.
The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom recently said:
“The flight of Christians out of the region is unprecedented and it’s increasing year by year.”  In our lifetime alone “Christians might disappear altogether from Iraq, Afghanistan, and Egypt.”
Ongoing reports from the Islamic world certainly support this conclusion:  Iraq was the earliest indicator of the fate awaiting Christians once Islamic forces are liberated from the grip of dictators.
In 2003, Iraq’s Christian population was at least one million. Today fewer than 400,000 remain —the result of an anti-Christian campaign that began with the U.S. occupation of Iraq, when countless Christian churches were bombed and countless Christians killed, including by crucifixion and beheading.
The 2010 Baghdad church attack, which saw nearly 60 Christian worshippers slaughtered, is the tip of a decade-long iceberg.
Now, as the U.S. supports the jihad on Syria’s secular president Assad, the same pattern has come to Syria: entire regions and towns where Christians lived for centuries before Islam came into being have now been emptied, as the opposition targets Christians for kidnapping, plundering, and beheadings, all in compliance with mosque calls telling the populace that it’s a “sacred duty” to drive Christians away.
In October 2012 the last Christian in the city of Homs—which had a Christian population of some 80,000 before jihadis came—was murdered.  One teenage Syrian girl said: “We left because they were trying to kill us… because we were Christians….  Those who were our neighbors turned against us. At the end, when we ran away, we went through balconies. We did not even dare go out on the street in front of our house.”
In Egypt, some 100,000 Christian Copts have fled their homeland soon after the “Arab Spring.”  In September 2012, the Sinai’s small Christian community was attacked and evicted by Al Qaeda linked Muslims, Reuters reported. But even before that, the Coptic Orthodox Church lamented the “repeated incidents of displacement of Copts from their homes, whether by force or threat.
Displacements began in Ameriya [62 Christian families evicted], then they stretched to Dahshur [120 Christian families evicted], and today terror and threats have reached the hearts and souls of our Coptic children in Sinai.”
Iraq, Syria, and Egypt are part of the Arab world.  But even in “black” African and “white” European nations with Muslim majorities, Christians are fleeing.
In Mali, after a 2012 Islamic coup, as many as 200,000 Christians fled.  According to reports, “the church in Mali faces being eradicated,” especially in the north “where rebels want to establish an independent Islamist state and drive Christians out… there have been house to house searches for Christians who might be in hiding, churches and other Christian property have been looted or destroyed, and people tortured into revealing any Christian relatives.” At least one pastor was beheaded.
Even in European Bosnia, Christians are leaving en mass “amid mounting discrimination and Islamization.”  Only 440,000 Catholics remain in the Balkan nation, half the prewar figure.
Problems cited are typical:  “while dozens of mosques were built in the Bosnian capital Sarajevo, no building permissions [permits] were given for Christian churches.” “Time is running out as there is a worrisome rise in radicalism,” said one authority, who further added that the people of Bosnia-Herzegovina were “persecuted for centuries” after European powers “failed to support them in their struggle against the Ottoman Empire.”
And so history repeats itself.
One can go on and on:
To anyone following the plight of Christians under Islamic persecution, none of this is surprising.  As I document in my new book, “Crucified Again: Exposing Islam’s New War on Christians,”
all around the Islamic world—in nations that do not share the same race, language, culture, or economics, in nations that share only Islam—Christians are being persecuted into extinction. Such is the true face of extremist Islamic resurgence.

*Raymond Ibrahim is author of the new book "Crucified Again: Exposing Islam’s New War on Christians" (Regnery Publishing 2013). A Middle East and Islam specialist, he is a Shillman Fellow at the David Horowitz Freedom Center and an associate fellow at the Middle East Forum.