Thursday, March 02, 2006

Australian Security Issues

Australian News reported by the Jewish Community Security Group, 2/3/06 ...

• Former Melbourne taxi driver “Jihad” Jack Thomas has become the first person in Australia to be convicted under new anti-terrorism laws. A Victorian Supreme Court jury found the 32-year-old Muslim convert guilty of intentionally receiving funds ... from al-Qaeda and of possessing a false passport....

• Police have launched a nationwide manhunt for Neo-Nazi, Jack van Tongeren after the 59-year-old skipped bail. It has been seven days since Mr van Tongeren, due to face trial this month on charges of conspiring to firebomb Asian restaurants, went missing. ... Van Tongeren served a twelve year jail sentence for arson attacks on Chinese restaurants in the late 1980’s.

• A White Supremacist website, hosted by an Adelaide based internet firm, has come to national attention with its racist and antisemitic content and the inclusion of a terrorist manual on its site. “White Crusaders of the RaHoWa” (Racial Holy War) is an off shoot of the US based Church of the Creator, a racist movement that worships the white race in place of a traditional deity. The group, believed to consist of a handful of members in Australia, is lead by a man named Colin Campbell.
The terrorist manual advocated attacking ethnic minority groups within Australia, and contained instructions on how to build an explosive device. The website has since been shut down after the South Australian Attorney-General referred the matter to the South Australian police.

• Paroled neo-Nazi murderer Dane Sweetman had the conditions of his parole amended on 24th January to ban him from drinking alcohol after an incident in a Melbourne pub. Sweetman, 36, who was jailed in 1990 for killing David Noble at a party celebrating Hitler’s birthday, allegedly head-butted and bashed a man at the Tote Hotel in Collingwood, after the man enquired about Sweetman’s swastika tattoo. After serving 15 of his 20 year sentence, Sweetman reportedly remains committed to his antisemitic Nazi ideology.

• 20th January: Amer Haddara, one of the suspected Melbourne terror cell members, had his application for bail rejected by the Supreme Court after evidence proffered by Australian Federal Police that Haddara had been sponsored to enter a terrorist training camp. None of the 18 men arrested in Sydney and Melbourne in November 2005 on terrorist related charges have been granted bail.

• Nearly two-hundred kilograms of explosives have been stolen in two separate incidents in the past six-months, in New South Wales and Queensland. Approximately 75 Kilograms of explosives and 135 detonators were stolen from a Coal Mining site near Glenden in Queensland between 29 September and 13 October last year. 100 Kilograms of explosives and 400 detonators were stolen from a quarry at Leeton in Southern NSW on between 3 and 4 February this year.

West Bank terror escalates

From Ynet News 2/3/06 by Efrat Weiss ...

Significant increase in shooting, stabbing, and explosives attacks in West Bank causes IDF to brace for further escalation; 'attempted attacks will be aimed mainly at settlers and security forces,' IDF source says

PA shooting attack near Nebi Elias, a shooting attack in Migdalim in the northern West Bank, a stabbing attack in Gush Etzion Junction, a stabbing attack in Maale Adumim, a myriad of attempts to smuggle explosive belts and knives, shootings, and the throwing of explosive device – in under two weeks terror groups in the territories have managed to significantly increase the number of terrorist attacks, and escalate their activities.

The security forces are aware of 72 warnings of terror attacks in Jerusalem, 12 of them pinpoint alerts. According to the IDF, the situation won't change in the short-term future.

The army is expecting a new wave of attempted terror attacks, especially attacks similar in character as those seen in recent days – and will therefore increase patrols in access roads in Samaria, in the northern West Bank.

"In recent weeks we have seen a rise in terror attacks in Judea and Samaria," an IDF source told Ynet. "We believe attempts at attacks will increase and we will see a new wave of attempted attacks....The attempted attacks will be aimed mainly at settlers and security forces...."

... Residents of the western Negev and communities south of Ashkelon are continuing to suffer from continuous Qassam rocket attacks. ...In recent days, most of the rockets have fallen in an area south of Ashkelon, and the area remains on high alert. Security officials said they believed the rocket fire would continue in the coming hours and into the night....

Civil War in Iraq?

(A laisser-faire) Opinion by Daniel Pipes February 28, 2006 (also published in The Australian 2/3/06)...

The bombing on February 22 of the Askariya shrine in Samarra, Iraq, was a tragedy, but it was not an American or a coalition tragedy.... Iraq's plight is neither a coalition responsibility nor a particular danger to the West.

When Washington and its allies toppled the hideous regime of Saddam Hussein, which endangered the outside world by beginning two wars of expansion, by building a WMD arsenal, and by aspiring to control the trade in oil and gas, they bestowed a historic benefit on Iraqis, a population that had been wantonly oppressed by the Stalinist dictator.

... That six-week victory remains a glory of American foreign policy and of the coalition forces. It also represents a personal achievement for President Bush, who made the key decisions.

But the president decided that this mission was not enough... he committed troops in the pursuit of creating a "free and democratic Iraq." ...inspired by the best of America's idealism.

...but the time has come to acknowledge that the coalition's achievement will be limited to destroying tyranny, not sponsoring its replacement. There is nothing ignoble about this limited achievement, which remains a landmark of international sanitation. It would be especially unfortunate if aiming too high spoils that attainment and thereby renders future interventions less likely. The benefits of eliminating Saddam's rule must not be forgotten in the distress of not creating a successful new Iraq.

Fixing Iraq is neither the coalition's responsibility nor its burden. The damage done by Saddam will take many years to repair. Americans, Britons, and others cannot be tasked with resolving Sunni-Shiite differences, an abiding Iraqi problem that only Iraqis themselves can address.

The eruption of civil war in Iraq would have many implications for the West. It would likely:

  • Invite Syrian and Iranian participation, hastening the possibility of an American confrontation with those two states, with which tensions are already high.
  • Terminate the dream of Iraq serving as a model for other Middle Eastern countries, thus delaying the push toward elections. This will have the effect of keeping Islamists from being legitimated by the popular vote, as Hamas was just a month ago.
  • Reduce coalition casualties in Iraq. As noted by the Philadelphia Inquirer, "Rather than killing American soldiers, the insurgents and foreign fighters are more focused on creating civil strife that could destabilize Iraq's political process and possibly lead to outright ethnic and religious war."
  • Reduce Western casualties outside Iraq. A professor at the U.S. Naval Postgraduate School, Vali Nasr, notes: "Just when it looked as if Muslims across the region were putting aside their differences to unite in protest against the Danish cartoons, the attack showed that Islamic sectarianism remains the greatest challenge to peace." Put differently, when Sunni terrorists target Shiites and vice-versa, non-Muslims are less likely to be hurt.

Civil war in Iraq, in short, would be a humanitarian tragedy but not a strategic one.

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

U.S. asked PA to help Kadima

From Ynet News 1/3/06 by Roee Nahmias ...

According to London-based Arabic-language daily al-Quds al-Arabi, U.S. Envoy Welch asked leader Abbas to postpone formation of Hamas-led government ... until after the March 28 general elections in Israel for fears that the Islamic group’s effective control of Palestinian affairs might weaken Kadima’s showing in the poll.

...Palestinian sources told the newspaper that the Bush administration believes Hamas’ presence at the helm will boost the showing of “the Israeli extreme right” at the polls. Washington is especially concerned that Likud’s victory in the elections will hinder its efforts to revive Palestinian-Israeli peace talks. The source said Washington prefers a Kadima win.

The paper reported that the U.S. government has no immediate agenda to revive long-stalled peace talks and is postponing a more active role in the region till after the elections in Israel....

Al Qaeda’s Gaza Cell issues ultimatum

From DEBKAfile February 28, 2006, 11:20 PM (GMT+02:00) ...

Urgent consultations in European and Arab capitals and Jerusalem are reported by DEBKAfile’s counter-terror sources over the threatened targets published by Al Qaeda’s Gaza cell – the Army of Jihad - dated Feb. 16.

Not only must “non-Muslim foreigners of all nationalities” leave, but “foreign embassies and consulates must be evacuated and their staff leave within one month of this warning.”

Our sources report that the al Qaeda communiqué was urgently translated by foreign embassies in Tel Aviv and transmitted to their governments. They concluded that the document was put together by Abu Musab al-Zarqawi’s subordinates posted in the Gaza Strip and contains a direct threat to unleash Iraq-style terror in the Palestinian territory against the targets listed below.
Therefore, diplomatic, security and international aid staff can expect to be pulled out of the Gaza Strip without delay.

DEBKAfile’s sources stress that the meaning for the Palestinian Authority, Israel and even Hamas, is the launch of an al Qaeda offensive to transform the Gaza Strip into a radical Islamic entity as set out by the statement issued by the Army of Jihad:

“…we address all believers of our people and all those who sacrificed their blood and property to defend Islam and Muslims against the Zionist occupation. Allah ordered us to fight to combat atheism. With Allah’s support we defeated our enemy and obliged Israel to withdraw in humiliation from the Gaza Strip. One thing remaining to be done is to implement Sharia laws.”

These are the targets listed in the al Qaeda statement:

  • Corrupt elements inside and outside the Palestinian Authority:
  • Traders, dealers and salesmen of drugs, wines and cigarettes:
  • Owners of ill-mannered houses and hotels where our sons and girls are degraded and spoiled;
  • Internet coffee shops that allow youth to search licentious and immoral websites;
    Coffee shops where immoral youth gather to smoke… and where meetings between young men and girls take place;
  • Any girl who goes out wearing trousers without a veil to cover her hair;
  • All non-Muslim foreigners of all different nationalities are warned to leave;
  • Collaborators with Israel are warned “we will never relax in targeting them.”
  • All foreign embassies and consulates must be evacuated and their staff leave within one month of this date;
  • All auditoriums holding wedding ceremonies that are “rakish and uninhibited;”
    Policemen who impede us and protect corrupt men;
  • All corrupt leaders, even if they are influential and powerful in the Authority and organizations, are our first target.

Monday, Feb. 27, Israel’s acting prime minister Ehud Olmert said he does not see Hamas as being a strategic security threat to the country. This is seen by DEBKAfile’s political sources as an effort to soothe concerns and divert attention from the menace building up in the Gaza Strip.

EU throws lifeline to Palestinians

From The Australian March 01, 2006 by Abraham Rabinovich, Jerusalem . . .

THE European Union gave the Palestinian Authority a temporary lifeline of $US143million ($194million) yesterday after special Middle East envoy James Wolfensohn warned it was on the verge of collapse.The one-off EU payment, which will tide over the Palestinians until a Hamas government takes over, came in response to a plea from Mr Wolfensohn, who told the EU the authority may need as much as $US360million in new funding to pay the bills for February and March. "Unless a solution is found, we may be facing the financial collapse of the PA within two weeks," he said.

The authority needed $60-80 million just to pay its wages bill for February.
Addressing the quartet of peace mediators - the EU, UN, US and Russia - Mr Wolfensohn said: "I do not need to tell each of you that the failure to pay salaries may have wide-ranging consequences - not only for the Palestinian economy but also for security and stability for both the Palestinians and Israelis."

French Foreign Minister Philippe Douste-Blazy said the decision to provide emergency aid to the Palestinians was intended to prevent "economic chaos".

. . .. Suggestions are being floated about a long-term plan that would see funds channelled directly to humanitarian organisations, bypassing the authority's budget, much of which goes to its security forces. Mr Wolfensohn proposed a meeting of donors next week "to discuss mechanisms we can all countenance without violating any of our own laws and policies". He was referring to Hamas's status as a terrorist organisation in the view of US and EU countries and the law in those countries barring funding to any such organisation.

Palestinian sources told al-Khayat, an Arabic newspaper published in London, that Iran had pledged to give $US250million to the Hamas-led PA if the international community cut back on funding. The promise was reportedly made to Hamas's political leader, Khaled Mashaal, on a visit to Tehran last week. It is not clear if it was a continuing commitment or a one-time pledge. . . .

Clash of Mentality

From MEMRI 2/21/2006 Clip No. 1050 . . .

Arab-American Psychologist Wafa Sultan: There Is No Clash of Civilizations but a Clash between the Mentality of the Middle Ages and That of the 21st Century

Following are excerpts from an interview with Arab-American psychologist Wafa Sultan. The interview was aired on Al-Jazeera TV on February 21, 2006.

Wafa Sultan:

The clash we are witnessing around the world is not a clash of religions, or a clash of civilizations. . .. . It is a clash between civilization and backwardness, between the civilized and the primitive, between barbarity and rationality. It is a clash between freedom and oppression, between democracy and dictatorship. It is a clash between human rights, on the one hand, and the violation of these rights, on other hand. It is a clash between those who treat women like beasts, and those who treat them like human beings. What we see today is not a clash of civilizations. Civilizations do not clash, but compete.

.... The Prophet of Islam said: "I was ordered to fight the people until they believe in Allah and His Messenger." When the Muslims divided the people into Muslims and non-Muslims, and called to fight the others until they believe in what they themselves believe, they started this clash, and began this war.

. . . Only the Muslims defend their beliefs by burning down churches, killing people, and destroying embassies. This path will not yield any results. The Muslims must ask themselves what they can do for humankind, before they demand that humankind respect them.

Monday, February 27, 2006

Hamas victory could push Israeli elections in unknown directions

From Ynet News 26/2/06 by Sever Plocker ...

As the days and weeks pass, the results of the Palestinian elections seep into Israel's election campaign and influence it. We can predict that during the next month this influence will grow. And so Hamas' victory in the Palestinian elections will be a central factor in creating voting patterns in the Israeli elections.

The change can already be seen in the polls. There has been a noteworthy shift from the center to the extremes of the political landscape. The three centrist parties – Labor, Likud and Kadima – are losing support, and fringe parties are gaining strength.

This move to the center, portrayed just several weeks ago as a good sign and the call of the hour for the current election campaign, is quickly losing its magic. The social-economic issue – the vaunted "agenda" that so much has been written about – has been pushed aside, and not because of a supposed link between money and power. It is happening because existential questions about the State of Israel have once again seeped into our consciousness.

Existential questions
It is happening because the basic assumption that has governed our lives here since the beginning of the Oslo process – that we have a painful conflict with our Palestinian neighbors about borders and about Jerusalem, but the basic premise of Israel as a Jewish state and Palestine as a Palestinian state – has now been called totally into question.

The Palestinian people have given power, in democratic elections, to an organization whose clear aim is to establish an Islamic theocracy from the river to the sea in which Jews will be permitted to remain as a second class minority. And so we have regressed, not 14 years, but rather 140.

The Palestinian vote is consistent with similar phenomena happening elsewhere in the Arab world, and the repercussions of which are penetrating every home in Israel, including ones which continue to blare the noise of inane television shows designed to help one forget about the present.

Iran: back in the conflict
Iran, a country that over the last decade removed itself from the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, has returned with a passion, as an oil provider dripping with hate for Israel and as the principle purveyor of anti-Semitism, and as a country driving openly and secretly for atomic weapons.

Iraq is quickly degenerating into class and ethnic warfare that will eventually push American and British troops out in a hasty retreat. In Saudi Arabia, al-Qaeda threatens to strike oil installations.

Israel keeps its distance from this erupting volcano, the first blast of the "war of civilizations."
It is natural in the face of these huge earthquakes for Israeli voters to seek out the statesmen who can represent Israel in the coming years, years that could be the most fateful Israel has ever known.

Tough questions
Complicated basic questions come up and knock on the doors of our collective consciousness. Here's a central one: Must Israel try to achieve a co-existence agreement with Hamas and agree to a long-term ceasefire, or should we seek out an immediate, bloody military conflict with that organization before it takes control of the PA's security establishment?

Israel's large parties are refusing to answer this question, and other similar ones, directly, muttering only non-binding jibberish in both hawkish (Netanyahu will be strong opposite Hamas) and dovish (Peretz will fight terror and beat poverty) directions.

These arrogant spin-masters still hope they can anesthetize the public, but it is not clear that this will be possible, because we are not talking about waking up from a bad dream, but rather waking up inside a bad reality – just like every participant in the "Hamas days" dialogue warned in the Yedioth Ahronoth weekend newspaper yesterday.

The end results, therefore, of the elections due to take place at the end of March, 2006, could be significantly different than the polls taken during the election campaign at the end of January, 2006.

Haniyeh denies that Hamas is prepared to make peace with Israel

From JPost Feb. 26, 2006 By KHALED ABU TOAMEH GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip ...

Palestinian Authority Prime Minister-designate Ismail Haniyeh on Sunday denied that Hamas was prepared to make peace with Israel, saying he had been misquoted by The Washington Post. Haniyeh said his comments had been misunderstood. He said he was not referring to a peace agreement, only a "political truce."

"I didn't talk about recognizing Israel during the interview with the newspaper," Haniyeh told reporters in Gaza City. "I only said that when Israel withdraws to the 1967 borders, including Jerusalem, and releases all the prisoners and detainees, then we would be able to talk about a long-term hudna [truce]."

Haniyeh was quoted by the Post on Saturday as saying Hamas would establish "peace in stages" if Israel would withdraw to its 1967 boundaries. It was the first time Hamas has been quoted as seeking peace with Israel.

Salah Bardawil, a spokesman for Hamas, said his movement has a recording of the interview which clearly shows that Haniyeh did not make the statements that were attributed to him.
"Haniyeh, in response to a question, said that if Israel met all of Hamas's conditons, he would be prepared to consider "peace in stages." According to the spokesman, when the reporter pressed for further clarifications, Haniyeh explained that he was talking about a long-term truce with Israel.

Hamas leader Mahmoud Zahar said his movement would not cave in to pressure to recognize Israel. "Why should we recognize Israel?" he asked. "Has Israel recognized the Palestinian people or the right of return for the refugees?" ....

Envoy Welch promises US support for Abu Mazen despite Hamas rise to power.

From Debkafile, February 25, 2006 ...

Envoy Welch promises US support for Abu Mazen’s leadership and continued humanitarian aid despite Hamas rise to power.
He spoke Saturday in Ramallah after Mahmoud Abbas offers to quit if Hamas declines to recognize Israel. Abbas made the offer in an interview with British ITN TV which is scheduled for broadcast Sunday.

DEBKAfile cites the key passage of the Abu Mazen interview as being the comment urging Israel and the international community to give Hamas time to moderate its attitudes. He said Russia is likely to be influential in persuading Hamas to renounce violence and recognize Israel. Mahmoud Abbas was saying out loud, in advance of a Hamas delegation’s visit to Moscow next week, that the Palestinians are transferring the lead-role in their international relations from Washington to the Russians, who accepted the Hamas election victory unlike the West. Far from resigning, Abu Mazen is the live wire behind this policy reorientation.

Sunday, the US envoy will report to Israeli leaders on Condoleezza Rice’s talks in Cairo and Riyadh and her failure to persuade both Arab governments to cut funds to a Hamas-led government.

Wartime Jewish writer's novel discovered and published

From The Australian February 27, 2006 by Matthew Campbell . . .

An unearthed novel sparks French introspection on the Occupation.

. .."It is the sort of thing that only ever happens once in a publisher's life," said Rubinstein last week, describing the text written in German-occupied France by a Jewish novelist shortly before she was sent to her death at Auschwitz in 1942. Irene Nemirovsky's manuscript, written in tiny letters to save paper, had been kept in a battered suitcase for six decades before being transcribed by her daughter and posted to Rubinstein's office in 2004.

It will be published in Britain this week and if the book's success elsewhere is anything to go by it is certain to be the toast of publisher Chatto & Windus. Suite Francaise, which evokes the heroism, brutality and cowardice of a country under occupation, has been translated into 30 languages and is about to be reissued in paperback in France, where it has sold more than 350,000 copies and won a prestigious literary prize.

It has also fed a national mood of introspection, contributing to a debate on the darkest chapters of French history and focusing on what one reviewer described as the billion-euro question about collaboration with the Nazis. "Placed today in the same conditions as then," wrote the critic, "would we be better, more united, less cowardly, less spontaneously collaborative? Nothing is less certain."

. . .Nemirovsky was 16 when her parents fled the Russian Revolution. She married a rich Russian exile, began writing and by 1929 was hailed as a budding talent. Her friends abandoned her, however, after the German invasion, when Jews were forced to wear the yellow Star of David.

She started work on the epic Suite Francaise, which follows several prosperous and influential families fleeing advancing German troops, graphically evoking the chaotic exodus from Paris.
.. . she succumbed to typhus at the age of 39 after only weeks at Auschwitz.

Just as remarkable is the story of the manuscript's survival, through three years on the run from the Gestapo, several house moves and a flood. French radio presenters have been heard weeping into their microphones while listening to Denise Epstein, the author's 75-year-old daughter, describing her mother's arrest. "When they came for her there were no tears," said Epstein. "It was a silent adieu. She asked me to look after papa. I am sure she knew she was leaving forever."

Epstein, then 13, was left clutching the suitcase containing photographs and papers that her mother had entrusted to her on the day of her arrest. After her father was also marched away to Auschwitz, where he died in the gas chambers, Epstein and Elisabeth, her five-year-old sister, were cared for by a governess who moved them between safe houses.

. . .The suitcase was the sisters' only link with the past but the manuscript in microscopic handwriting looked like a diary and the women could not bear the thought of reading their mother's last words. "In 1975 I opened the manuscript," said Epstein, "but I found it too painful to read and closed it again." A flood in her apartment some years later prompted her to think about safeguarding the documents. Using a magnifying glass, she began to transcribe what she thought was a diary, only to discover that it was a novel.

Seeing the book published, Epstein said she felt relieved of a great weight. "I am sure my mother is happy. I understand now the point of my own survival," she said.

The Sunday Times