Friday, November 03, 2006

This week's Parsha: Lech Lecha

From Breslow's World, Chassidic Pearls, by Rabbi Lazer Brody ...

....Our forefather Avraham's (Abraham) life is a saga of one continuous struggle with never-ending tests of faith. Hashem commands him to leave his homeland and to make the difficult journey to the promised but unknown land of Canaan. Shortly after his arrival in Canaan – the future Land of Israel - Avraham finds himself in the midst of a severe famine. He has no choice but to pack up and search for food and water elsewhere.

The famine is only the fourth in the series of Avraham's ten severe tests of faith (according to Rashi). One might ask, "Why must Hashem test Avraham's faith ten times? Why are the tests so difficult, from persecution and skirting with death in a fiery furnace to the Akeida, when he was asked to ritually sacrifice his only son? Doesn't Hashem know that Avraham's faith is steadfast?

Hashem knows exactly how Avraham will react – with perfect, simple, innocent, and unblemished faith. The tests are not for Hashem's benefit, but for Avraham's benefit.

Rebbe Nachman of Breslov explains (Likutei Moharan I:66.4) that the obstacles that a person encounters in life are designed to enhance that person's desire. For that reason, before a person makes a significant accomplishment ... the person is tested with a series of obstacles. ...[which] fuel the desire to reach the goal. Consequently, the obstacles are the agents that extract a person's very best efforts in making spiritual gain, since the obstacles fuel the desire.

....The Gemara teaches that three things are obtained by trials and tribulations – The Land of Israel, Torah, and the World to Come. The deeds of fathers pave the ways for sons. Since our forefather Avraham had to work so hard to obtain the Holy Covenant with Hashem and the promise of Torah and Eretz Yisroel for his offspring, his desire and yearning were enhanced a thousand-fold.

Hashem showed Avraham that faith and Eretz Yisroel don't come easy. The trials and tribulations only fueled Avraham's desire

...May Hashem give us the burning desire for holiness that will help us overcome all the obstacles that stand in the way of Torah and Eretz Yisroel, amen.

US Jews, reconsider support for left

From Ynet, 3/11/06, by Rabbi Levi Brackman ...

Jews must be constantly on guard to oppose anti-Semitism wherever is rears its ugly head, even in places where we least expect to see it

....Traditionally the terms right and left, used in the political sense, referred to different political philosophies in which the left defended the interests of the working class and the right defended and looked out for the interests of the wealthy and the aristocrats. According to this definition, Judaism is very much a left-wing religion.

However, most agree that this characterization no longer adequately defines the modern-day difference between right and left. The fact is that many who claim to have a right-wing ideology will champion the cause of the minorities and many self-proclaimed left-wingers will trample upon them. In fact, the German Nazis considered themselves socialists and the Soviets held extreme left-wing ideologies but this did not stop the Nazis from killing Jews, gays and gypsies or the Soviets from killing and enslaving their working classes. During the Holocaust, left-wing President Roosevelt himself could have done more to help the plight of European Jews but for political considerations decided not to.

...British Chief Rabbi Sir Jonathan Sacks once made the following important observation: “Anti-Semitism,” he said, “is a virus, and like a virus it mutates, and because it mutates, it gets past our immune systems, which are still on the look-out for last year's virus.” He observed that in the 19th century the religious anti-Judaism of the Middle Ages became racial anti-Semitism and now that the world has become immunised against that strain of anti-Semitism, it has mutated again into anti-Zionism and defines all Jews as Zionists. It seems that many American Jews are still trying to fight the old strain of anti-Semitism that manifests itself in an extreme right-wing ideology of patriotism and nationalism. Although this is undoubtedly still a threat, while our attention was directed elsewhere, a virulent strain developed, which manifested itself in extreme anti-Zionism – an alarmingly high rate of which is found on the left of the political divide.

The evidence for this is aplenty. Just read left-wing blogs (,, etc.) or witness how left-leaning radio stations and media cover stories related to Israel, not to mention the overt anti-Israeli sentiment and covert anti-Jewish feeling that exist in the liberal academic world. With the potential of a nuclear-armed Iran, the threat to Israel and its six million Jews is real. It is therefore more important than ever for American Jews not to support a party whose base seems to have become both anti-Zionist and anti-Semitic.

Ultimately we Jews must be constantly on our guard to oppose anti-Semitism wherever is rears its ugly head, and be prepared and open to recognize it even in places where we least expect to see it.

Backing a bigot

From The Herald Sun, 3/11/06, by ANDREW Bolt ....

...Excuses over. The disgraced mufti of Australia set Muslims a test last month and they failed.

That test couldn't have been easier: make Sheik Taj el-Din al-Hilaly pay for preaching that unveiled women invited rape. Prove that Muslims can't be led by a man who says raped women must be "jailed for life". Prove we have nothing to fear from your faith.

Simple? Yet yesterday 34 Muslim groups signed a petition backing this bigot, while others plan a big rally for Sydney tomorrow, denouncing not Hilaly but the non-Muslims who criticise him.
The results are in: Islam here -- as represented by many of its leaders -- is now a threat.
What's more: our culture of self-hate makes us too weak to properly resist.

...For more than 20 years they said nothing as their most prominent imam, in their biggest mosque, damned Jews as perverts, called suicide bombers heroes, praised terror groups, vilified non-Muslims and hailed the September 11 terror attacks on the United States as "God's work against oppressors". They said nothing as he gave the run of his mosque to a pro-bin Laden youth group and hired one of its translators as his spokesman. For years they let this man, their mufti, represent Islam in this country, whose language he never really bothered to learn in nearly 30 years of living here.

...But we should have known already this was a bigger problem than just Hilaly.
Last year Lebanese Sheik Faiz Mohammed also gave a speech in Sydney, which said raped women had themselves to blame.

And which of the 500 men who heard Hilaly say the same at his sermon complained? Only when it was reported in the English-speaking press did some concede Hilaly had gone too far.
Yet even then supporters sent him vanloads of flowers, and when he returned to his mosque last Friday he was greeted "like a rock star", said one paper, by an adoring crowd of 5000.
And that criticism of him? It faded away. Now the Lebanese Muslim Association isn't so ashamed of him, after all: "We did accept his apology and we want to move on."

The Muslim Women's Association, which first admitted to being "shocked" by Hilaly's sermon, now said he was "very good to all Muslim women". Said founding president Aziz El Saddik: "Those who say bad things about him, they have very bad manners." His sermon on rape was for Muslims only. Not our business.

But we can't afford to believe that any more. They weren't Muslim women, after all, who were raped by a Lebanese gang in Sydney, which called them "sluts" and "Aussie pigs".
It wasn't a Muslim teenager who was pack-raped in Sydney by Pakistani brothers, whose father told the court: "What do (the victims) expect to happen to them? Girls from Pakistan don't go out at night." When Hilaly preaches excuses for such rapes, that concerns us all. Very much.

...The people behind tomorrow's rally say, rather, that our criticism of him has degenerated into just Muslim-bashing. Yesterday's statement by 34 Muslim groups -- most representing Islamic colleges and students, or the Muslims of tomorrow -- says the same, even as it confirms something far more scary. "We believe that the public scrutiny of this matter should have ended with the sheik's apology," it says. "We believe that the Muslim community should be allowed to deal with the ramifications of the incident without interference from people who only wish to promote hostility and incite hatred towards our community. Finally, we consider this matter to be closed."

Closed? In fact, Hilaly has not retracted a word of what he said. If this matter is "closed" then he has won. But what is most frightening is not that he's won, but how. Both this statement and the rally show he's won because even educated Muslims, born right here, think it's better to defend a Muslim bigot than to have him criticised by infidels. I t's the code of the tribe: the worst of us is better than the best of you. It's a closed community speaking -- a paranoid one that sees itself at war even with people whose only worry is that their preacher excuses rapists.

And menace is in the air. What other congregation at prayer needs to be reminded -- as Hilaly reminded those at his mosque last week -- not to punch people on the way out? Which other rally for a religious leader needs to be warned -- as the NSW Police Minister warned this week -- that police would not tolerate any violence? I'm not surprised one of Hilaly's former advisers, Jamal Rifi, warns that if he hangs on as Lakemba's imam he may trigger "racial tensions, much bigger than what we had over the Cronulla riots".

But what are we doing to help Muslims to break from him and leave this cultural ghetto, this encampment, before things get truly ugly? Not enough. For a start, we make too many excuses for the Hilalys, as if they were mere children, or Australia the real villain. Yesterday Suzanne Bassette, national secretary of the Australian Democrats, even said: "I'm willing to stand up with anybody else in this country who happens to agree with Sheik Hilaly's sentiments . . . Unfortunately, how a woman dresses does affect her level of likeliness to be chosen." She said the "real lesson" from this fuss was this "latest opportunity to get angry". The problem wasn't the mufti who wants to jail raped women, but his critics.

Bassette wasn't alone. The Age ran a big cartoon likewise blaming sluttish white girls for putting themselves in danger, and federal Labor's Peter Garrett, the former singer, said Hilaly's comments were terrible, but "at the same time, the levels of violence against Australian women is something happening in the bars, in the clubs, in the bedrooms, in the boardrooms".
Again, we are the truly wicked. Leave Hilaly alone.

How can a culture so sick of itself resist the kind of challenge that Hilaly and his angry supporters represent? How can it inspire young Muslims to side not with him but with us?
I don't know, when we teach the young we are a country of child-stealing, land-raping, Muslim-murdering, Yank-licking, gas-belching vandals. Until that changes, expect the traffic to flow more into Hilaly's ghetto than out of it.

....As I said: Muslims have failed. But so have we all. We now have urgent work to do, if we want to save ourselves from far more strife than we dare yet imagine or say.

UK: Hizbullah sets price for information

From THE JERUSALEM POST, Nov. 3, 2006, by Associated Press ...

Hizbullah is asking "a price" for information about whether two Israeli soldiers kidnapped by the militant group are still alive, Britain's U.N. ambassador said Thursday.

Emyr Jones Parry's comment comes two days after Hizbullah's leader, Sheik Hassan Nasrallah, revealed Tuesday night that "serious negotiations" were taking place over the two Israeli soldiers, whose capture provoked a 34-day war between the group and Israel. "They're asking a price for proof of life," Jones Parry said Thursday. He gave no details on what he meant by "price."

Nasrallah said in an interview on his group's television channel Al-Manar that an unidentified negotiator appointed by U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan had been mediating between Hezbollah and Israeli officials. Nasrallah would not provide details about the negotiations, but said: "We have reached a stage of exchanging ideas, proposals or conditions."

In Jerusalem on Wednesday, government spokeswoman Miri Eisin declined to confirm any indirect talks with Hezbollah, which Israel and the United regard as a terrorist organization.
"We don't comment about anything that has to do with the abducted soldiers," Eisin said. "Israel will do all it takes to get their release without hurting Israel's security."

Thursday, November 02, 2006

The silent pope

From Ynet, 1/11/06, by Noah Klieger ....

...The Vatican is currently preparing to canonize Pope Pius....the same pope who sat in Rome during the Nazi regime and who didn't do a thing to stop the genocide of European Jews by the Germans and their loyal accomplices. This is where he got his dubious title "the silent pope," which has stuck to him ever since.

Those supporting the move argue that he couldn't have done anything to stop Hitler anyway. But he didn't even try. He didn't approach him, he didn't speak out and he didn't express reservations.

It is surprising, therefore, that with regards to euthanasia of the so-called mentally handicapped, physically handicapped, and chronically ill people – which the Germans planned and even began executing - the Catholic church managed to exert its influence. The plan was halted following protest by the pope's representatives in Germany (incidentally, the plan's executioners were later transferred to concentration camps from which they carried out their murderous acts on the Jewish people).

It appears, therefore, that when the pope and his emissaries intervened they did indeed achieve results. It should also be reminded that, similar to other European countries, who spawned many of those who partook in the Jewish extermination (Poland and the Baltic countries, for example), the people there were Christians and a major part of them were Catholics. Namely, they were loyal to the pope. It's somewhat difficult to believe, therefore, that had the "boss" sounded his objection or reservations over the genocide, his words wouldn't have been heeded, especially among the East Europeans, who are the most God fearing people. It is quite likely that significant numbers of murdered Jews would have been saved had Pope Pius spoken out. But the pope kept mum.

Allegiance to the Führer
Those who did speak out served as his emissaries in Germany and Austria, namely the heads of the churches there. They issued a public letter whereby they expressed their allegiance to the Führer.

I don't care if the pontiff, who also happens to be German, would canonize one of his predecessors. This title is insignificant anyway in this day and age. And it is doubtful whether anyone among the hundreds of millions of Catholic followers actually knows who was "sainted" throughout the church' history anyway.

However, canonizing Pope Pius is a terrible insult to history and is deeply offensive to the Jewish people and the memory of six million Jews who perished in the Holocaust. It would be best for Pope Benedict XVI, who has often spoken of the need for brotherhood of man with the Jewish people, to abandon this disturbing plan of his, which is not likely to contribute anything.

IDF deepens hold in north Gaza; IAF fires at gunmen

From THE JERUSALEM POST, Oct. 31, 2006, by Josh Brannon ...

IDF forces deepened its hold in the northern Gaza Strip overnight as Operation 'Autumn Clouds' - aimed at cracking down on the firing of Kassam rockets at southern Israel - entered its second day.

For a Jerusalem Online video of events click here

The IAF fired missiles at a group of over 10 armed Palestinians who gathered at the center of the town of Beit Hanoun just before dawn. Dozens of Palestinian gunmen swarmed to Beit Hanun to engage IDF units that raided the northern Gaza Strip village Tuesday night.
After a day of fierce battles, an IDF soldier and at least 10 gunmen were killed but rockets continued to fall inside the Green Line.

St.-Sgt. Kiril Golenshin, 21, a dog-handler in the crack "Sting" canine unit from Moshav Shekef in the Negev, was killed before dawn when gunmen opened fire on troops as they navigated the narrow alleyways of the village, IDF officials said. Golenshin was shot in the head and was evacuated quickly, but died soon afterwards.

Despite IDF action in Beit Hanun, northern Gaza Kassam rocket squads still managed to fire nine of their crude rockets at communities in the western Negev. Army sources said the missiles were fired four kilometers to the south.

.....Israeli officials suggested the operation, dubbed Operation Autumn Clouds, would last days, and did not represent a widening of the overall campaign in Gaza. The operation, described by the army as the largest strike against Hamas since reentering the Gaza Strip four months ago, began just after midnight when tanks and armored engineering units surrounded the village.
In firefights throughout the day, IDF soldiers killed 10 gunmen and identified hits on at least 60 others, an IDF spokesman in the Southern Command said.....

Tovah Lazaroff and AP contributed to this report.

Open and Shut Case ... still open

Is the case closed? See this from The Australian, "Hilaly matter now closed, Muslims say", November 02, 2006 .....

MUSLIM community groups came together today to call for an end to "overblown" public scrutiny of Sheik Taj al-Din al-Hilaly's comments on sexual attacks. They accused the media and politicians of using the scandal surrounding the mufti to vilify Muslims.

A statement signed by 34 Muslim community groups from across Australia said the furore should have ended after Sheik Hilaly's apology this week for referring to women as "uncovered meat" who provoked sexual attacks. "The Muslim community is always open to frank and robust debate that is free from slander and vilification, but what we have witnessed over the last week is nothing more than hysteria and sensationalism," the statement said.

"We believe that the public scrutiny of this matter should have ended with the sheik's apology. "Instead it is clear that certain sections of the media and political establishment have used this incident as an opportunity to vilify the Australian Muslim community."

The statement, which was not signed by major groups such as the Lebanese Muslim Association or any of the state or national Islamic councils, compared the continued criticism of the sheik to the mainstream responses that Pope Benedict's recent highly controversial description of aspects of Islam as "evil and inhuman".

...".... The verbal attacks of Sheik Hilaly have been disproportionate and unjustifiably prolonged....Finally, we consider this matter to be closed."

Signatories of the statement included the Australian Islamic College, Belmore Islamic Centre, Federation of Australian Muslim Students and Youth, Islamic Friendship Association of Australia and the United Muslim Women Association.

However the Prime Minister doesn't agree. See this from The Australian, 'Take action on sheik soon'November 02, 2006 ...

THE Muslim community must take action soon against Sheik Taj al-Din al-Hilaly, Prime Minister John Howard said today.

...."The failure of the (Islamic) community to resolve this issue is daily doing damage," Mr Howard said. "Unless this matter is resolved, and time is running out to resolve it, there will be left a sadly diminished view of the willingness of the Islamic community to integrate into the broader Australian community."

Mr Howard said he was not concerned by reports supporters of Sheik Hilaly were going to rally outside Sydney's Lakemba mosque on Saturday. He said he did not think that, even if a few thousand turned out at the rally, it would properly reflect the views of the wider Australian Islamic community.

"What he said was unacceptable. It can't be excused, it can't be fobbed off through bad interpretation and misunderstandings and so forth - that is not credible, nobody believes that," Mr Howard said. "The remedy lies in the grip of that community and I just ask them to understand ... that failure to act on this is daily doing damage to the perceptions of the community. "

"I do believe that the great mainstream of the Australian community is seeing this as a test of the bone fides of that community to deal with these issues. "I am afraid if it's not fixed then the rest of the community is going to reach a very negative judgment," he said.

Weakness fosters anti-Semitism

If you don't read anything else today, please read this from Isi Leibler, THE JERUSALEM POST, Oct. 31, 2006 ....

"One almost obscene aspect of this phenomenon is the increasing inclination of assimilated Jews to distance themselves from Israel in the mistaken belief that this may divert the animus directed against them ..... The greatest damage that the current flow of anti-Israeli and anti-Semitic venom can achieve is to undermine the self-confidence of the younger Jewish generation .... The reality is that when Israel is perceived as strong and able to stand up to its foes, anti-Semitism tends to decline. "

One would have hoped that by the 21st century it would be history, but anti-Semitism today has achieved what British Chief Rabbi Jonathan Sacks has described as "global tsunami" proportions. Clearly we are destined to remain "the people that dwelleth alone."

Boosted by the sponsorship of Islamic governments, the world's oldest hatred continues to proliferate and is now once more embedded into the European mindset.

The same Muslims who created a global upheaval calling for the assassination of the publishers of satirical caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad have no qualms about producing and disseminating a rabid Judeophobia that would match the worst Nazi blood libels. Jews are depicted as the perfidious descendants of apes and pigs, as evil beings who sought to poison their prophet, as global disseminators of the AIDS virus, as conspirators who utilize international Zionism as the force to achieve global domination - effectively as the source of all the woes of mankind.

To this day many Muslims remain convinced that Jews were the source of the 9/11 terror attacks.

If this were not enough, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad of Iran, now potentially a nuclear power, has been shamelessly promoting genocide by repeatedly proclaiming his objective of wiping Israel off the map. His recently launched anti-Semitic cartoon competition ridiculing the Holocaust will soon be followed by his hosting of a conference in Teheran promoting Holocaust denial.

The new anti-Semitism which demonizes Jews and Israel alike, has fused itself with the "old" European anti Jewish bigotry which is enhanced by the growing power of Muslim minorities. At least in the 1930s powerful liberal voices were condemning Nazi bigotry. Today many Europeans are in such a state of denial concerning the Islamic threat in their midst that they describe Israel as a greater threat to world peace than rogue states like Iran and North Korea.

Anti-Semitism has even emerged as a unifying element among opposing global political and religious groups. Sunnis and Shi'ites, busily blowing themselves to pieces in Iraq and elsewhere, unite in spewing libels and calling for jihad against Israel and the Jews. For the first time neo-Nazis, Muslims, leftists and even purported human rights activists are marching together against Israel and attacking the Jewish state in their newspapers and Web sites. During the Lebanon war some even paraded under the banner of "We are all Hizbullah."

BIZARRE THOUGH it may be, many Europeans even believed that and hold Israel and Jews responsible for terrorist outrages in their own countries.The question is whether Europeans will prove to have learned anything from the failures of their predecessors in the 1930s, who also fooled themselves into believing that appeasing totalitarian regimes seeking global domination would avoid war.

Regrettably some Europeans are also now starting to mutter that the creation of Israel was a mistake. A number of "enlightened" writers, academics and politicians actually suggest that the "mistake" may even now be rectified and "Cancel Israel" stickers already appear in the UK.
The parallels with Czechoslovakia are ominous.Like the League of Nations, the UN exemplifies the hypocrisy of the appeasers. Their rabidly anti-Israeli postures make mockery of their claim to any kind of even-handedness. Neither retiring UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan nor Javier Solana of the EU had any qualms about paying court to the Iranian president immediately after he had reiterated his commitment to wipe out Israel.

Diaspora Jews, especially those in Europe who endure the onslaught of these brutal anti-Semitic and anti-Israeli campaigns, are becoming increasingly demoralized in the face of increasing violence and vandalism. Many now question whether there is any meaningful long-term future for their children in the societies of their domicile.

One almost obscene aspect of this phenomenon is the increasing inclination of assimilated Jews to distance themselves from Israel in the mistaken belief that this may divert the animus directed against them. In the UK, where a ground-breaking parliamentary inquiry confirmed that a "witch's brew" of anti-Semitism had reached record levels, Melanie Phillips, the hard-hitting columnist and author of Londonistan, condemned the Jewish leadership for its passivity. She alleges that during the "hate fest" against Israel in the course of the Lebanon war, Anglo Jewry maintained its minhag Anglia - behaving like cowards, being "craven and servile" and fearful of rocking the boat.

The greatest damage that the current flow of anti-Israeli and anti-Semitic venom can achieve is to undermine the self-confidence of the younger Jewish generation. If they witness cowardly behavior by their parents, what can one expect from them in the future? If the anti-Semitic discourse incorporating libels and lies about Israel and the Jewish people remains unanswered, we might lose them altogether, by default.

The optimists believe that the outrageous behavior of the Islamist thugs will inevitably rebound against them, and the Europeans will soon wake up to these outrages and cease their groveling. But alas, there is every likelihood that anti-Semitism would even persist after the jihadist threat has been recognized.

FOR THE time being, it is incumbent on us to get our act together and work much closer with Diaspora Jews. The government of Israel must realize that the battle against anti-Semitism impacts directly on us as well as the Diaspora. If the tide is not reversed, our existing relations with other nations will continue to deteriorate.That does not mean that Israel should accept the bizarre advice I once heard an Anglo Jewish peer convey to prime minister Ariel Sharon, advising him: "Whenever you feel inclined to take reprisals against your Arab neighbors, you should take account of the repercussions on us and first consult us." But we should liaise far more closely with Jewish communities and our priority must be to ensure that Diaspora youngsters remain steadfast in their commitment to the Jewish people and Israel.

The reality is that when Israel is perceived as strong and able to stand up to its foes, anti-Semitism tends to decline. Public manifestations of Judeophobia reached their lowest point following the Six Day War. In contrast, the exponential revival of anti-Semitism can be traced back to the Oslo Accords, reaching its climax in the course of the Gaza disengagement and during the Lebanese war, which were perceived by our enemies as manifestations of weakness.
Unlike the 1930s there is an Israel and it is not powerless in the face of anti-Semitism and, together with Jewish communities throughout the world, not least the influential American Jewish community, we can defend ourselves. But we must galvanize to confront the barbarians in the war of ideas with no less determination than our adoption of countermeasures against terrorists seeking to bleed us. The decision is ours.

The writer chairs the Diaspora-Israel Relations Committee of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs and is a veteran international Jewish leader.

US accuses Syria, UK secretly reaches out

From JPost, Nov. 2, 2006 0:07, by TOVAH LAZAROFF AND AP ...

The White House said Tuesday it was concerned by "mounting evidence" that Syria, Iran and Hizbullah were planning to topple the government of Lebanese Prime Minister Fuad Siniora.

White House press secretary Toby Snow warned that such attempts would be viewed as a violation of Lebanon's sovereignty and UN Security Council Resolutions 1559, 1680 and 1701.
He said one motive behind Syria's actions was to prevent the Lebanese government from cooperating with the decision of an international tribunal to try those accused of assassinating former prime minister Rafik Hariri in February 2005. Syria is suspected of involvement in the killing.

"Any such effort to sideline the tribunal will fail, however, for the international community can proceed with establishing it, no matter what happens internally in Lebanon," Snow said.

...and from Ynet News, 11.01.06, 20:50, by Associated Press ....

...In an unusually strong statement, press secretary Tony Snow said any attempt to manufacture demonstrations or use violence or physical threats against Lebanese leaders would be a clear violation of Lebanon's sovereignty and of three UN Security Council resolutions.

....When asked about the statement later by reporters, Snow said: "We're making it clear to everybody in the region that we think it ought to be hands off the Siniora government and let them go about and do their business."

The White House announcement came as Hizbullah threatened street protests to force early elections in Lebanon. Hizbullah is demanding creation of a "National unity" cabinet that would give the Islamic group and their allies veto power over key decisions.

The United States has been concerned about Syrian and Iranian actions in Lebanon for some time.

...meanwhile UK secretly reaches out to Syria, as reported in The Australian, November 02, 2006, by Peter Wilson, Europe correspondent ....

TONY Blair has made a secret attempt to restart the Middle East peace process by sending a top envoy to Damascus to reach out to the Syrian Government after years of frosty relations.

The British and Syrian governments yesterday confirmed the British turnaround, saying the Prime Minister's most senior foreign policy adviser, Sir Nigel Sheinwald, had met President Bashar al-Assad on Monday.

The US has broken off relations with Syria and accused it off fomenting trouble in Iraq and arming Israel's enemies Hezbollah and Hamas. Most European nations have also shunned senior contacts with the Syrians in recent years.

Mr Blair's unannounced initiative came a month after he vowed to devote much of his energy during his remaining months in office pursuing Middle East peace. Any breakthrough would be one of his most important diplomatic legacies.

Despite Washington's public belligerence towards Damascus, US and European diplomats privately agree that it would be a strategic coup to convince Syria to back away from its cosy ties with Iran and adopt a less hardline attitude towards Israel....

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Envoy to Canberra to have term cut short

From Haaretz, 01/11/2006 by Charlotte Hall [emphasis added]....

The Israeli envoy to Australia whose comments about Asians caused a storm there will have his term shortened, Foreign Ministry sources said yesterday. Ambassador Naftali Tamir, who [reportedly] described Australia and Israel as white sisters amid "the yellow race" in an interview with Haaretz, which appeared on October 13, is now on his way back to Canberra following a two-week review process in Jerusalem, where he denied having made the comments attributed to him, Foreign Ministry spokesman Mark Regev said.

... Following the publication of the interview, Tamir was immediately recalled to Israel while en route to Australia to explain his comments. The ministry swiftly condemned the reported remarks as "grave and unacceptable," adding that it would not return to business as usual if its internal review confirmed the ambassador had indeed made the statements. Regev refrained from commenting on whether Tamir's version of events was accepted by his seniors at the ministry, stating only: "The ambassador denied the remarks attributed to him immediately following their publication and he did so through all stages of the internal Foreign Ministry review. He is on his way back and will arrive in Australia tomorrow."

Under usual circumstances, Tamir, who arrived in Canberra in January 2005, would have been expected to remain in post for four years, but his return date is now likely to be sometime in 2007. Tamir's anticipated early departure from his post is aimed at minimizing the damage caused by the affair, say sources close to the ministry. The plan to shorten Tamir's term of office will be made clear to his host governments, a ministry insider added....

....It is still unclear what reception Tamir will face on his return to Canberra. While the Jewish community is likely to rally round the ambassador, the Australian government and particularly the media may be less understanding. Some in Australia's Jewish community fear that Tamir's return will cause further damage, providing ammunition to those who charge that Israel is a racist state and that the Australian government should moderate its overtly pro-Israel stance.

Diplomatic observers have speculated that firing or recalling Tamir without conclusive proof (as the interview was not taped) that he made the comments would leave the ministry open to legal action. "The ministry didn't have much room for maneuver," said one insider....

Note that the publisher of this article, Haaretz, originally reported the Ambassador's statements, which he categorically denies.

No, sheik, sorry isn't good enough

From The Australian, November 01, 2006, by Janet Albrechtsen [emphasis added]...

For too long the West's unreciprocated tolerance has allowed fanatical Muslim leaders such as Taj Din al-Hilali to spawn a new generation of Islamic radicals who reject our values

... Muslim cleric Taj Din al-Hilali thought a few apologies would get him off the hook for claiming that women in short skirts who smile and sway their hips are to blame for unleashing unlawful sexual appetites in men....sorry just won't cut it any more.

But right on cue, the first reaction from Abdul El Ayoubi of the Lebanese Muslim Association was: "We did accept his apology and we want to move on." Whoa. Before we move on, let's figure out precisely why sorry does not work any more. The sheik's apology has the distinct smell of someone being sorry that he was caught. There was no hint of contrition from Hilali in the weeks between his speech and The Australian reporting it. His faint-hearted mea culpa once the media arrived looked more like one of those PR-spun apologies. ...

....Fanatical Muslim leaders have been pandered to by Western leaders who should know better. They have been too frightened to make judgments for fear of incurring a cultural wrath. And Muslim communities living in Western liberal democracies have failed to hold their leaders to account for their extremism. Remember that 500 Muslims listened to the sheik's poisonous remarks at Lakemba mosque last month. Not one person went public to immediately declare them unacceptable. Criticism from some Muslims came only after The Australian reported the speech. But for the media, we would not have flushed out this madness and Hilali would be quietly fomenting more extremism under cover of the mosque.

...Let's focus on the real problem here.....many Muslims support his outpourings of hate. The paralysis of the Lebanese Muslim Association attests to that. And when the sheik returned to Lakemba mosque last Friday, 5000 people turned up to listen and cheer. As Peter Costello remarked about Hilali on Monday: "These kinds of attitudes have actually influenced people ... So you wonder whether a kid like (gang rapist) Bilal Skaf had grown up hearing these kinds of attitudes and you wonder whether kids rioting down at Cronulla have heard these kinds of attitudes."

Those attitudes are found in the most unlikely places. A straw poll by The Sydney Morning Herald of Muslim women in their 20s and 30s - women one might expect to have a more enlightened view - revealed that some supported the view that women must cover up to prevent men from raping them. Little wonder some Muslim boys are growing up to view short-skirted Western women as "asking for it".

Now for the biggest problem of all. Western nations have long taken the view that by setting themselves up as role models of best practice on the tolerance front, tolerance would be forthcoming from other quarters. Specifically, it was thought that those from other cultures who make their home in the West would embrace tolerance as a Western virtue. We also hoped that other less tolerant nations would see the light and follow suit. It's what the Pope calls reciprocity.

That plan is coming unstuck in the clash between modernity and Islam. In Western countries, the tolerance virtue is being used by the likes of Hilali to spout venom. In Britain it has led to what English columnist Melanie Phillips has dubbed Londonistan. A moral vacuum over the worth of Western values effectively handed control of the debate to rabid Muslim leaders. As Marcello Pera wrote in his introduction to the 2006 edition of a book he co-authored with the Pope: "Try saying that Western institutions are better than the institutions in Islamic countries. A warrant will be sworn for your cultural arrest."

The same timidity has infected Europe, now nicknamed Eurabia. Hamas's al-Aqsa television station is planning to beam its ideology of hate against the West into European homes. It's a clever recruitment drive for the Palestinian terrorist group given that these days Western-born terrorists are the ones more likely to be loading up their backpacks with explosives. We think we have a problem with the Western media convincing tweenies to buy lip gloss and low-slung jeans. As The Wall Street Journal reports, in a recent edition of Hamas's online magazine aimed at children, young readers are treated to a cartoon of a smiling child riding a rocket. Let's hope Europe is quick to shut down Hamas's hate TV channel. It took them years to shut down Hezbollah's al-Manar TV.

Every time we take our eye off the ball, the other side scores. This is why the values debate matters. For more than 20 years, the West abandoned that debate. We gave ourselves over to Western self-loathers, cultural relativists and romantic primitivists. We allowed Muslim leaders such as Hilali to use their tolerant host countries to spawn a new generation of Muslims who reject Western values.

The good news is that Western nations are reclaiming the values debate after discovering that tolerating subversion signals Western weakness and encourages more subversion. The bad news is that reclaiming the ground is going to take more than getting rid of one mufti.

UN admits that Syria is smuggling arms to Hizbullah in Lebanon

From THE JERUSALEM POST, Oct. 31, 2006, by tovah lazaroff and hilary leila krieger ....

Israel warned on Tuesday that it might rethink its adherence to the cease-fire resolution that ended Lebanon war this summer, following a United Nations report that Syria was smuggling arms to Hizbullah in Lebanon.

Also see The second Lebanon war: special report

It's the first time since the war that the UN had made such a clear statement with regard to the failure to disarm Hizbullah. The report flies in the face of the commitment Syrian President Bashar Assad made to UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan that Damascus would comply with the arms embargo against Hizbullah and would support UN Security Council Resolution 1701, which calls for it to be disarmed.

"If Lebanon cannot implement its side of the resolution, obviously Israel would be entitled to rethink the implementation of our commitments," Foreign Ministry spokesman Mark Regev told The Jerusalem Post on Tuesday. He said the arms embargo was a critical element of Resolution 1701 and that the smuggling constituted a "core violation." Prime Minister's Office spokeswoman Miri Eisin said: "Until the Syrian-Lebanese border issue is resolved, we will continue to reserve our right to self defense."

While Israel continues to insist it is fulfilling all its obligations under the cease-fire and Resolution 1701, France and the European Union are charging Israel with breaching them by continuing to conduct surveillance flights over Lebanon. "We consider that these overflights constitute a violation of Lebanese sovereignty," a spokesman for the French Foreign Ministry said. On Tuesday, IAF planes flew low over Hizbullah strongholds in south Beirut in the heaviest show of air power over Lebanon since August 14. Regev said the flights were "a response to the failure of the Lebanese side to implement its core commitments. When there are illicit arms transfers and no mechanism to [impede] them, we have cause to monitor such transfers."

...Speaking to the press after the meeting, the UN's envoy for Syria and Lebanon, Terje Roed-Larsen, reported that Syria was smuggling weapons into Lebanon. Representatives of the Lebanese government "have stated publicly and also in conversations with us that there have been arms coming across the border into Lebanon," said Larsen.....

AP contributed to this report.

Lieberman and the "peace process"

From JPost, "Burning Issue #9", 31/10/06 ....

What effect, if any, will the entry of Avigdor Lieberman's Yisrael Beitenu party into the government have on the peace process and the prospects of renewing negotiations with the Palestinians?

Contributions by Daniel Pipes, Jonathan Tobin, Barbara Sofer, Elliot Jager, Calev Ben-David, Michael Freund, MJ Rosenberg, Daniel Doron, Jonathan Rosenblum, Shmuel Katz, Gershon Baskin and Shlomo Avineri....

Calev Ben-David:
.... Lieberman's position in the cabinet, especially in a ministerial role that seems a strictly advisory position on an issue (Iran) in which there is across-the-board consensus, will have no impact whatsoever on an already stalled diplomatic process.

... however questionable some of his policies, give him credit for choosing to focus his own efforts on what is unquestionably Israel's most dire existential threat, the prospect that Mahmoud Ahmadinijad will have his finger on a nuclear trigger.

MJ Rosenberg:
I don't think Lieberman's entry into the government will much affect the peace process. ...

...The main effect of Lieberman's new role will be the damage it does to Israel's image abroad. Here in the US, Israel's core of supporters continues to dwindle with young Jews being the least emotionally committed to Israel. ...

Michael Freund:
The entry of Avigdor Lieberman's Yisrael Beitenu party into the coalition government will have no effect on the peace process for the simple reason that there is no peace process.
Israel is surrounded by enemies who are busy arming for the next round of confrontation - chief among them Hamas. So to speak of a "peace process" at this point is akin to little more than wishful thinking.

What is, however, truly disconcerting about the entry of Mr. Lieberman into the government is the McCarthyism of the Left that it has engendered in its wake, as various figures seek to outdo each other in demeaning and delegitimizing him and his party.

Indeed, people such as outgoing Minister Ophir Pines-Paz of the Labor party have reached new lows of hypocrisy in labeling Lieberman a "racist". After all, Paz-Pines and his comrades were among the most outspoken supporters of expelling people from Gaza last year based solely on their national, ethnic and religious identity. What could possibly be more racist than to say that Jews should not be allowed to live in a certain area because they are Jews?
So for Paz-Pines and others like him to now invoke the "race card" in denouncing Mr. Lieberman is as absurd as it is shameful.

Jonathan Tobin:
Every time anything happens in Israel, Israelis always seem to ask themselves and everyone else who will listen, how will this affect the peace process?

...Israel can veer left or right. Its governments can dedicate themselves to withdrawal or to standing pat but the notion that either stance has much to do with progress towards peace is fallacious. It is the Palestinians, and the Arab world in general, that have the power to decide for peace or war, not the Israelis. The past 13 years since the Oslo debacle have proved this.

No concession or demonstrated expression of goodwill will convince Palestinians to make peace if they believe it violates their sensibilities, as it apparently does. And so long as the political and religious culture of the Palestinians dictates that the existence of Israel, within any borders and under any leadership, is the source of tension, then there will be no real progress toward peace. is hubris for Israelis to imagine that the lack of peace can be blamed on their own behavior or even the composition of their cabinet.

Elliot Jager:
His entry will have no effect. Lieberman or no Lieberman, there is little that can be done to facilitate fruitful negotiations. The mantra happens to be true: There is no Palestinian partner....

Barbara Sofer:
What peace process is that which Lieberman might disturb? With the level of hostility of our enemies, the last on my list of worries is that we can't make peace. This isn't a neighborhood for wimps....

If anything real comes along, none of our politicians is going to miss the opportunity to make peace. The credibility of those dangling so-called peace offerings has to be called into question. I think Lieberman would be an excellent negotiator.

Shlomo Avineri:
Since there are hardly any chances for a meaningful peace process in the foreseeable future, Lieberman's entry into the government will have very little impact on it. But given his authoritarian and strident views, his presence in the government will do enormous harm to the international standing of Israel, embarrass Israel's friends, make many Jews abroad uncomfortable and further alienate Israeli Arabs....

Gershon Baskin:
There is no peace process to speak of. ....Peretz now has an opportunity to move ahead with a peace process and get rid of Lieberman at the same time - it is quite simple - all Peretz needs to do is to implement the decisions of the government and the Talya Sasson report and to dismantle the dozens of illegal outposts. This would send a clear message that the rule of law is above the rule of the settlers, it would push Lieberman out of the government and would begin a process that could help rebuild a partnership with the Palestinians.

Perhaps Leiberman's presence on the government will act as a stimulant to do the right thing.

Daniel Pipes:
Arab-Israeli diplomacy has been effectively moribund since the Barak and Clinton terms simultaneously expired in early 2001...One consistency underlying Ariel Sharon's deeply inconsistent foreign policy was his lack of interest in negotiating with Arabs, an attitude subsequently inherited by the Olmert government.

In brief, there was minimal Israeli inclination to return to the bargaining table even before Yisrael Beitenu joined the governing coalition. Now that Yisrael Beitenu has a say in making Israeli policy, the prospect of negotiations is even more remote.

And a personal anecdote: Just before publishing my article, "Israel's Wayward Prime Ministers" in June 2004, I had a chance to present its thesis to Avigdor Lieberman, that four Israeli prime ministers in a row - Yitzhak Rabin, Benjamin Netanyahu, Ehud Barak, and Ariel Sharon - had deceived the electorate by promising while campaigning to be tough with the Arabs and then, when in office, adopting a unexpectedly concessionary approach. To this, Lieberman replied, "Not me, not when I become prime minister."

Shmuel Katz:
I call our new Deputy Prime Minister 'Loose Cannon Lieberman.' But I don't think his entry into the government will much affect Ehud Olmert's policies ... As for "peace process" - there is no such thing and never was.

I have the sense that Lieberman has not got clear right-wing attitudes. He's certainly not a Jabotinskyite with as clear ideology. I don't think he has the intellectual wherewithal to be convincing at the Cabinet. But the situation may yet change. We shall see.

Shmuel Katz was a leader of the Irgun, a member of the first Knesset and a biographer of Ze'ev Jabotinsky.

Jonathan Rosenblum:
The entrance of Avigdor Lieberman into the government will not make one iota of difference with respect to the peace process with the Palestinians. Indeed the question is based on two flawed premises: (1) that there is a peace process with the Palestinians, if by peace process we mean a process that could actually result in some peace agreement being signed that has some reasonable chance of being adhered to; and (2) that Israeli actions can do much, in the current climate of Palestinian public opinion, to create such a process.

As long as 67% of Palestinians support Hamas' refusal to recognize Israel, and almost equally large majorities support rocket attacks on Israeli cities and suicide bombings directed at Israeli citizens, and an even larger percentage support the kidnapping of Gilad Shalit, there can be no process.

When will the possibility for such a process exist? When Palestinians start spending the unparalleled largesse of the international community on development projects, tearing down refugee camps, etc., rather than on guns and bullets and maintaining 50,000 armed men in their various "security" services - in short, when they show more interest in creating their own state and in their own material advance than they do in destroying Israel.

In the meantime, the only thing the Israeli government - any government, whether with Lieberman or without - is to wait, and continue to act forcefully to prevent Gaza or the West Bank from developing into the next Hizbullahlands.

Daniel Doron:
What peace process? Are we speaking of the Machiavelian importation of a terrorist organization from Tunisia so that it, and its associated gangsters, could have a free hand do the dirty job against Hamas that Israel lacked the stomach to do? Are we referring to the bloody Oslo process as a "peace process"?

Or do we recall that before Oslo we actually had a gradual but very promising, real peace process developing, which our genius politicians destroyed by insisting on a "political solution"?
True, before Oslo we did not have a piece of paper announcing the advent of peace. But we did have hundreds of thousands of Palestinian workers making such a good living in Israel - and many thousand of Israelis securely shopping and eating in Arab towns - that Arab standard of living skyrocketed, the status of women and children greatly improved and there were remarkable advances in every other sphere of Palestinian life.

...In "civilized" Europe it was not peace processing that buried centuries of deadly animosities but economic developments that made them irrelevant. It could happen in a savage Middle East too if we stop relying on troublesome muddleheaded and dangerous politicians (by convincing Europe and the US to stop funding these thieves and murderers, and getting rid of our corrupt lot) and permit instead economic reality to assert itself again.

Lieberman too soft on Iran

From The Jerusalem Post Editorial, 30/10/06 ...

Avigdor Lieberman's return to the cabinet has been met by a chorus of international disapproval. Editorials and news features have critically highlighted his staunch support of the West Bank settlement enterprise, his profound skepticism as to the prospects of negotiated progress with the Palestinians in the foreseeable future, his backing for a death penalty for Knesset members who meet with Hamas and Hizbullah. Writers have highlighted his early years in Moldova and questioned the depth of his commitment to democracy. Comparisons have even been drawn with Mussolini.

Sometimes his positions have been misrepresented, as in articles that emphasize his advocacy of Israel relinquishing control over some of its Arab citizens but fail to point out that his proposal is also to relinquish control of the territory in which they live. His stance on this issue is already complex and controversial; presenting it superficially and inaccurately hardly enables clarity of judgement.

In truth, some of the concerns raised about our latest minister are resonant, indeed. Lieberman has been a shoot-from-the-lip politician, given to a series of utterances that, if translated into policy, would have highly damaging consequences for Israel. In the domestic context, to give just one example, there has been his injured-party talk of the need for greater controls and restrictions on the police force; in the regional context, there have been a litany of instinctive declarations of aggressive intent.

Ironically, however, while there has been much international dismay at the notion of so outspoken and declaredly militaristic a politician being given cabinet responsibility for regional "strategizing" - primarily in the context of Iran's determined drive to a nuclear capability - the Lieberman rejoining the Israeli cabinet of 2006 is speaking very differently from the 2001 model who urged the bombing of Teheran.

Interviewed by The Jerusalem Post last weekend, Lieberman now urged that the Iranian threat be handled discreetly. "We have to wait and see what the European Union, United States, Russia and China do about Iran," he asserted patiently. "We don't need to be on the front line on this issue. We just have to sit and wait." Asked to explain why, while Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has so relentlessly cranked up the rhetoric delegitimizing Israel, he is now so dramatically toning down his utterances, Lieberman said only that "what was right five years ago is not necessarily right today."

...As Iran closes in on a nuclear capability week by week, that "luxury" of taking a back seat while the world does nothing to thwart the program becomes one that Israel can increasingly ill-afford. Israel, it must be stressed, does not seek military intervention in Iran. It has reasonably expected that the international community would internalize the threat posed by Teheran and would rapidly take concerted action short of military force to deter the Iranians.

But in the face of determined international foot-dragging, if not downright apathy, the last thing Israel can allow itself is to "wait and see" what, if anything, the EU, US, Russia and China intend to do. Time is running out, and Israel and others who recognize the threat owe it to themselves and to the rest of the international community to strenuously encourage non-military action before it is too late.

How ironic that new minister Lieberman is now attracting international criticism for past aggressive utterances at the very moment when he has opted for a softly-softly approach to the issue where he should be forcefully highlighting the dangers.

Ambassador's term cut short

From Ynet News, 31/10/06, by Roee Nahmias ...

Term of Israeli ambassador to Australia cut short after racist remarks made during interview with 'Haaretz'. Ambassador referred to Australia and Israel as belonging to 'white race,' not 'yellow' one – Foreign Ministry to issue tender for his position

....The Foreign Ministry confirmed that a tender will be issued in the coming weeks. Tamir began his term in January 2005, the issuing of a tender to find his replacement would effectively cut his original Australian term short.

An immediate inquiry was conducted following the Haaretz publication. A senior official from within the Foreign Ministry said that "the ambassador denied the quotes attributed to him when they were first published by the newspaper. He reiterated his denial at every point during the internal inquiry. The ambassador will return to his post on Wednesday.

In the interview given to Haaretz three weeks ago Tamir stated: "Israel and Australia are like sisters in Asia. We are in Asia without the characteristics of Asians. We don't have yellow skin and slanted eyes. Asia is basically the yellow race. Australia and Israel are not - we are basically the white race."

"Grave and unacceptable," the Ministry of Foreign Affairs condemned the attributed quotes, saying that the ministry "will not pass over this in silence."

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Gaza operation to be expanded soon

From Ynet News, 31/10/06, by Hanan Greenberg ...

Army chief, defense minister okay plans for several operations in different areas in Strip. IDF official explains: 'We can't ignore what's happening in Gaza, we have to act at least until we see internal change there'

Pressure rises: Less than a week after leaving the Khan Younis area following an operation to apprehend wanted suspects and locate tunnels used for the smuggling of weapons, the IDF is planning another, broader operation in the Gaza Strip, to be launched in the coming days.
"We can't hold on to areas in the Strip for an extended period of time, but we must act all the more forcefully against the terror infrastructures," army officials told Ynet, adding that "an expansion of the operation in Gaza is expected soon."

.... IDF Chief of Staff Dan Halutz and Defense Minister Amir Peretz were recently presented with the plans for the new operations and approved them. Peretz, who visited the Gaza Division's southern brigade last week, hinted then that no large-scale operation is in the cards at this point, and that the army will not take control over areas in the Strip, but only perform pinpoint operations.

A senior army official explained the objective of the operations: "The Gaza Strip appears relatively quiet, except for a few Qassam attacks each day, but under the surface the motivation of the terror groups to carry out attacks remained very high. This reinforcement, which is demonstrated by the smuggling of large amounts of arms, isn't very evident now, but may become extremely visible in the future, and this needs to be stopped."

Troubling scenarios The operations are being planned against the backdrop of several troubling scenarios the Southern Command is concerned about, including a terror attack in an Israeli community located close to the Gaza border, to which terrorists will infiltrate through a tunnel.
The official also referred to alarming reports that Hamas in gaining in strength and said that, "We must not ignore what is happening in the Strip… we have to act until we see an internal change there. At the moment, such a change is not in sight."

Data presented by the IDF regarding its achievements in a series of operations since the kidnapping of Gilad Shalit, indicate that some 300 terrorists were killed, hundreds were injured, and dozens of structures, warehouses and terror infrastructure bombarded....

Monday, October 30, 2006

Who Betrayed Lebanon? And Who Watched it Happen?

From The American Thinker, October 26th, 2006, by Dan Gordon ....

In the vision of certain members of the press, Israel is a colonialist mass murderer, and the word terrorist does not exist without quotation marks surrounding it. Israelis are aggressors. Islamist terrorists, be they Palestinians or Iranian backed Hezb’allah, are victims. These media types come to the Middle East with their narrative firmly in place. It is so because they believe it to be so.

....The latest example of this journalistic attitude, but by no means the most egregious, can be seen in an article by one Robert Fisk. He adds a new twist.... “And remember our promise to honor the fledgling Democracy of Lebanon…which brought the retreat of the Syrian Army. Lebanon was then held up to be a future model for the Arab world. But once Hezb’allah crossed the frontier and seized two Israeli soldiers killing three others on July 12th, we stood back and watched the Lebanese suffer.”

At the risk of subjecting Mr. Fisk to ...fact and logic is compelled to place his truly twisted assertion into the historical context of which it is a part.

At the urging of the International Community (both Europe and the United Nations) as well as the government of Lebanon, Israel withdrew from quite literally every centimeter of land it had occupied in almost two decades of fighting with Hezb’allah. In order to provide Israel with guarantees for its security in return for withdrawing from Lebanon, both the United Nations and the government of Lebanon undertook certain obligations in UN Resolution 1559. Paramount amongst those obligations was the disarming of militias, chief amongst them Hezb’allah. In addition the government of Lebanon was to reassert its sovereignty over Southern Lebanon by having its army take up the positions which Israel handed over.

That Israel lived up to its end of the bargain is beyond debate. The United Nations, using GPS tracking mechanisms, reestablished every inch of the International Border. North of it was Lebanon, south of it was Israel. The launching by either side of attacks against each other in violation of that border was a violation of International Law.

On the other hand there also can be no debate about the fact that neither the government of Lebanon nor the United Nations lived up to its commitments. The Lebanese army was never dispatched to Southern Lebanon. Lebanese sovereignty was never established there. The UN took no actions either to help them do so, nor hinder Iran’s terrorist army proxy from occupying Southern Lebanon.

If one wishes to talk about occupied territories, there can be no clearer example of same than Hezb’allah’s occupation of Lebanon between the Litani River and Israel’s border and in the area of Southern Beirut where Hezb’allah established its capital within a capital, within its state within a state. Instead of ordering its army to take over the positions which Israel abandoned, the Lebanese government allowed an Iranian backed militia to transform itself into a terrorist army which built a Siegfried line like array of fortresses in bands three deep stretching all along Israel’s border.

It similarly turned a blind eye as that terrorist army was armed, in contravention of the guarantees both it and the UN had given to Israel, with tens of thousands of offensive rockets and a like number of anti-tank missiles, all of them aimed at Israel. Hezb’allah provided the lame excuse that all this was necessary to protect Lebanon from an Israeli invasion.

Then after six years of planning and preparation for its offensive on July 12th, 2006, Hezb’allah did not “cross the frontier” with Israel, they launched a totally unprovoked attack against a routine patrol clearly inside Israeli territory which offered no threat whatsoever. For a reporter, Mister Fisk ought to get his facts straight. They did not seize two Israeli soldiers and kill two others, they attacked two humvees with anti-tank missiles and automatic weapons, killing eight soldiers and then kidnapping two. They did so, not because they had nothing else to do that morning and thought it might be fun. They did so in order to provoke exactly the invasion which they proclaimed to the Lebanese people they were there to prevent.

What they had hoped for was a massive armored charge across the border to try and retrieve the two kidnapped soldiers. How do we know this to be true? We know it to be true by their actions. They hit one humvee and then lay in wait for the second one which came to rescue their comrades. Then they hit it as well. In other words, they had set an ambush. The ambush however was not restricted in its purpose to simply the two humvees. Again we know this because of Hezb’allah’s actions.

One will remember that it took Israel some weeks to get its reserves in position to be able to enter the fight. When it did so numbers of things were found to be lacking. Things like ammunition, food, and water. That is because Israel was caught with its pants down.

Hezb’allah, on the other hand, was fully prepared, all of its weapons had already been deployed to its forward positions, all of its fighters were already on alert, in position, manning the ambushes for the armored charge which they had hoped to provoke. The IED’s which have taken such a toll on American forces in Iraq, were laced along all the entrance routes into Southern Lebanon. “Tank Hunter” squads were in position and waiting to tear to pieces the expected Israeli armored advance.

This was to be a replay of what the Egyptians had done to the Israeli armor corps in the Sinai Desert in 1973. There, infantrymen equipped with masses of anti-tank weapons decimated entire Israeli armored brigades. In order to ensure this armored charge, Hezb’allah began raining down upon Israel’s northern communities what would be over four thousand rockets falling almost exclusively at Israel’s civilian population. The thinking most assuredly was that given those attacks upon Israel’s civilians, Israel would have to respond with the same kind of armored advance they had launched against PLO terrorists in Lebanon in 1980. Like so many other military planners, Hezb’allah’s leadership was refighting the last war. Aside from that it was, in fact, a good plan.

Unfortunately for Hezb’allah it failed. Israel did not take the bait. Instead of an armored charge, as Hezb’allah had hoped for, Israel responded by taking out bridges hoping to cut off Hezb’allah’s ability to spirit away the kidnapped soldiers. In addition, Israel struck by air at Hezb’allah’s command and control center in Southern Beirut.

Contrary to Mr. Fisk’s convoluted logic, Lebanon did not suffer because “we” betrayed its fledgling Democracy. Lebanon suffered because both Lebanon and the United Nations failed to live up to their obligations under UN Resolution 1559 and allowed Iran’s terrorist army proxy to occupy Southern Lebanon, and from those occupied territories launch an attack that was meant to drag both Israel and Lebanon into a war which neither wanted.

Witnessing what Hezb’allah was doing, in its six years of occupation and preparation for its offensive, Mr. Fisk and his ilk did indeed stand back and wait for both Lebanon and Israel to suffer.

Fisk goes on to state, “Had Bush – indeed Blair – denounced Israel’s claim that it held the Lebanese government responsible for the kidnapping and killing of its soldiers and demanded an immediate cease fire, then the disaster that is destroying Lebanon’s Democracy would not have happened.” Tisk, tisk, Mr. Fisk. Can one imagine a scenario in which one country allows a terrorist army to equip itself with tens of thousands of rockets which it then rains down on a neighboring country, and yet that country does not hold the country from which those rockets were launched accountable? Is there any country in the world which would, in fact, just shine it on? Especially in light of the fact that this same Hezb’allah which killed and kidnapped Israeli soldiers and launched over four thousand rockets against Israel’s civilians, was part of the Lebanese government!

Moreover, Fisk conveniently overlooks the fact that so long as Hezb’allah thought it was wining, it did not want a cease fire. Fisk talks about dead children in Tyre. Unfortunately no one needs to instruct me about the tragedy of the death of one’s child. I know it only too well. And my heart grieves with any parent who has suffered that horrific fate. But then, Fisk incredibly states that those children “Would have been alive if even Blair and Margaret Beckett had demanded a cease fire. But they are dead. And Blair, and Beckett and Bush should have this on their consciences.”

No Fisk, you’ve got it wrong. The same Hezb’allah which pulled children’s bodies from the wreckage of the carnage which they themselves provoked, only to rebury those poor children’s bodies, and dig them up again for the next news crew; the same Hezb’allah which in the most cynical fashion launched, from within the Lebanese civilian population, their attacks against Israel’s civilian population in order to achieve maximum casualties of both, should have it on their consciences. So should their journalist appeasers and apologists, who enabled them and continue to cover up their crimes.

That Fisk is one such appeaser and apologist becomes clear when he almost gleefully states “The Israeli Army were (was) soundly thrashed when they crossed the border to fight the Hezb’allah losing forty men in thirty six hours.” Not that one is keeping score, but simply as a way of illustrating how fast and loose is Fisk with facts, in the first thirty six hours of the war Israel in fact lost 12 soldiers killed and four civilians. When one takes into account that eight of those twelve soldiers were killed in the initial attack, what those figures tell us is that in the first thirty-six hours of the conflict Israel lost as many civilians as soldiers, four of each.

As to Fisk’s assertion that Israel was “soundly thrashed” one is again forced to resort to facts as opposed to the fanciful narrative Fisk has created, in which Hezb’allah is somehow simultaneously the helpless victim and the sound thrasher. So here are the facts: at the end of the conflict all of Hezb’allah’s three-band-deep, Siegfried line-like system of fortresses, bunkers, tunnels and armed caches were destroyed or abandoned or in the control of the Israeli Army. Some six hundred of Hezb’allah’s elite fighters were killed, an unknown number (unknown because Hezb’allah has yet to release the figures) were wounded.

In contrast to this, Israel suffered one hundred and nineteen soldiers killed. That number, while tragic, represents the lightest casualties ever suffered by the Israeli army in major combat in its history. In 1948 in its war of liberation Israel suffered six thousand killed. In the Six Day War, arguably Israel’s greatest victory, the IDF suffered almost seven hundred killed. In the 1973 Yom Kippur War it suffered two thousand seven hundred killed in action.

In the first week alone of the first Lebanon War the IDF had one hundred and seventy six killed. Of the four hundred tanks deployed by the IDF in combat against Hezb’allah, a total of five tanks were destroyed. Hezb’allah on the other hand has been forced to abandon all its strongholds. Its terrorist capital, and infrastructure are in ruins and the positions it once manned are now finally taken up by the Lebanese Army and fifteen thousand man strong United Nations force.

Had those forces been in place on July 11th, as both Lebanon and the United Nations assured Israel after its withdrawal would be the case, none of the children Fisk and I both mourn would have died. None of them. Not one.

“When I sit on my sea front balcony today, I am waiting for the next explosion to come,” writes Fisk. That at least is true; just as Fisk sat on his balcony refusing to cover the story that lead to the tragedy he now bemoans. That story was how Iran’s terrorist army proxy, not Israel, occupied Southern Lebanon, and then used those occupied territories to drag Israel and Lebanon both into its totally preventable war.

Through it all Fisk sits on his sea front balcony writing his next narrative which will no doubt enable, and apologize for, terrorist atrocities yet to come.

Dan Gordon is the writer of such films as The Hurricane, Murder in the First, Wyatt Earp, and The Assignment. He served as a captain in the reserves in the IDF during the recent war.
From The Australian Editorial, October 30, 2006 ...

ONE of the most important questions to arise from the controversy surrounding Sheik Taj Din al-Hilali is a simple one: how did he get here and why was he allowed to stay? The answer, it turns out is Paul Keating and the NSW Labor Right. From the moment Sheik Hilali came to the attention of the authorities, the former treasurer and prime minister has been a very powerful friend to a man with some very bizarre ideas.

The sheik's remarks on women, reported by this newspaper on Thursday, were not unique. The man held up as the spiritual leader of Australia's 300,000 Muslims has a two-decade history of making outrageous and inflammatory speeches attacking women and Jews and endorsing terrorism and suicide bombing. Twenty years ago Sheik Hilali had to apologise after he was quoted as saying, "the two cheapest things in Australia are the flesh of a woman and the meat of a pig". Chris Hurford, immigration minister in the Hawke Labor government, tried to have the cleric deported in 1986 for these remarks and others. What's more, Australia's intelligence services knew that before he left Egypt for Australia, Sheik Hilali had been a member of the Muslim Brotherhood, an extremist organisation largely influenced by the writings of Sayyid Qutb, whose theological justifications of violence have been heavily borrowed by al-Qa'ida and other modern international Islamic terrorist groups.

But none of this appeared to trouble Mr Keating or powerful ALP backbencher Leo McLeay. The two men held the neighbouring seats of Blaxland and Grayndler, both heavily populated with Lebanese Muslims, and went in to bat for the sheik. Neither wanted to risk alienating that community, and they pressured the Immigration Department to ignore the body of evidence revealing Sheik Hilali as poisonous to our healthy body politic. And they were backed by a NSW Labor Party heading into an election in 1988 and looking for votes in western Sydney. Indeed Mr Keating engineered the elevation of Sheik Hilali to the leadership of the Muslim community to ensure Labor would have a leader it could deal with. And when he was acting prime minister while Bob Hawke was away in 1990, Mr Keating personally approved Sheik Hilali's residency. Chris Hurford was moved from his portfolio of immigration, and Bill McKinnon, who headed the department at the time, lost his job. So far Mr Keating has been uncharacteristically silent on his role in helping Sheik Hilali to stay in the country. But this saga is yet another blot on the record on immigration policy of the ALP, which from before the time of Arthur Calwell and the White Australia policy has a sorry history of putting special interests before the national interest.

... Mr Keating and the ALP used divisive multicultural politics for short-term political gain at a cost to the long-term health of the nation. Today Australia is reaping the fruits of that electoral cynicism.

Hizb ut-Tahrir (Party of Liberation) defends RADICAL Islam

From The Australian, October 30, 2006, by Natalie O'Brien ...

A RADICAL Islamic group accused of infiltrating mosques and urging Muslims to rise up against Australian troops serving in Iraq ...Hizb ut-Tahrir (Party of Liberation) [was] seen handing out leaflets outside Sydney's Lakemba mosque, claiming the furore about Sheik Taj Din al-Hilali's comments was the latest effort in the West's "campaign to demonise Islam and intimidate the Muslim community". The group ... blamed the media and politicians for inflaming the situation.

Wassim Doureihi, a Sydney spokesman for Hizb ut-Tahrir, said Muslims must hold fast and continue to expose the reality of Western foreign policy. "Whether it is the question of homegrown terrorism, Muslim integration or the Muslim women's dress code, Islam is consistently being presented as a negative and backward presence in this country and beyond," Mr Doureihi said.

Hizb ut-Tahrir, a hardline political group that is banned in some countries but not in Australia, has been distributing flyers at prayer meetings. One of the group's previous Arabic-English pamphlets blamed the coalition forces in Iraq for creating divisions between the Sunnis and Shi'ites. The group, which claims about 200 members, has been criticised by John Howard and investigated by ASIO, but there was not enough evidence to designate Hizb ut-Tahrir as a terrorist organisation.

Nor have there been grounds to lay charges over its leaflets....Hizb ut-Tahrir's website says the group does not "advocate or engage in violence".

Hilali praises jihadists

From The Australian, October 30, 2006, by Richard Kerbaj [emphasis addded]....

TAJ Din al-Hilali has praised militant jihadists .... in the Palestinian territories, Iraq and Afghanistan. ... Hilali pays tribute to Sayyid Qutb, the ideologue of the Muslim Brotherhood and intellectual mentor of Osama bin Laden and al-Qa'ida. "Jihad of the liberator of Palestine, that's the greatest and cleanest and highest ... jihad which lifts our heads in pride in south Lebanon," Sheik Hilali says in [a] October 17 interview.

.... a neighbouring cleric from Sydney's Bankstown accused Sheik Hilali of supporting military Islamic jihad against the West and called on imams from around the country to band together to force the mufti to step down. Sheik Ibrahim El-Shafie said yesterday Sheik Hilali was a follower of the Egyptian Islamic scholar Qutb, one of the founding fathers of modern jihad, whose teachings are used by al-Qa'ida and Jemaah Islamiah. .... Sheik Shafie told The Australian that since arriving in Australia in 1982, Sheik Hilali had defended Qutb's radical ideology and praised him as a "martyr for Islam" and a "role model". "Hilali has since he got here been defending the ideology of Sayyid Qutb," he said. Sheik Shafie said Sheik Hilali's support of Qutb was effectively "encouraging" his followers to espouse and act on the executed scholar's ideologies. "And as you know, those responsible for the Bali bombing are so-called JI and (follow) the same ideology as Sayyid Qutb, which Hilali is now defending," he said.

...As the Lebanese Muslim Association, which hosts the Lakemba Mosque, was still divided last night about how to handle the Hilali crisis, Sheik Shafie launched a scathing attack on his fellow Sunni cleric. Sheik Shafie said Sheik Hilali was an "extremist" who posed as a moderate for political advantage that ultimately gained him Australian citizenship. "This person is acting like a chameleon," he told The Australian yesterday. ..."He might say we condemn such and such, but then, on the other side, when he is with his followers in the mosque, he'll start ... expressing his anti-Western views."

Sheik Shafie said the nation's imams needed to unite to remove Sheik Hilali as spiritual leader at Lakemba, where he presides over the largest group of Muslim worshippers in Australia.
As John Howard and Kim Beazley called for Muslims to act against Sheik Hilali, Jamal Rifi, from the Australian Muslim Doctors Against Violence, pleaded with the mufti: "Please step down, I urge you to step down. Enough is enough." ....

.....The Islamic Council of Victoria has already demanded that Sheik Hilali stand down.

Lebanese Muslim Association president Tom Zreika said last night that after a meeting over the weekend the body that runs Lakemba Mosque had decided on a plan to handle Sheik Hilali.
"We have put together a plan and hopefully we can get ourselves out of this crisis," he said.
The Australian understands the organisation will not move against the spiritual leader, fearing this would cause unrest among his worshippers, and hopes Sheik Hilali can stay out of the limelight before heading to Mecca in December.

The Australian Federation of Islamic Councils has vowed to abolish the title of mufti - the leader of the nation's Muslims - after new leaders are elected in February.

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Islam's gender crisis

From The Weekend Australian, 28oct06, by Deborah Hope ....

A LEADING Muslim cleric's recent sermon....blaming women for inviting rape through their choice of clothes and make-up, brings to a head in Australia the titanic collision between conservative Islam and modernity. Whether this collision can be reconciled is one of the key issues for the West today. The issue is far bigger than Australian Mufti Sheik Taj Din al-Halali's preoccupation with rapes cases involving Muslim men.

.....The immutable word of God, expressed through the Koran, is that "Men are in charge of women, because Allah hath made the one superior to the other...Good women...are obedient. They guard their unseen parts because God has guarded them. As for those from whom you fear disobedience, admonish them, forsake them in beds apart, and beat them. Then, if they obey you, take no further action against them." (Koran 4: 34).

.....For women reared in the secular West, these sentiments are deeply confronting....When it comes to fundamentalist Islam...a trail of violence against women can be sheeted home to twisted misinterpretations of centuries-old Islamic texts....

The silence of most Western feminists on the issue of Islam-sanctioned violence is one of the most shaming aspects of the present debate..... Hilali's comments demonstrate that as the violence comes closer to home, Western feminists' silence must become harder to maintain. Shock waves reportedly pulsed through Germany last year after the honour killings of eight young Turkish women. The women had reportedly refused the husbands their families had chosen for them or had sought sexual partners outside their religion. The scandal intensified after a school principal, shocked that his Turkish pupils insisted of one of the victims that "the whore got what she deserved", went to the national press.

Last year, Australians had a bitter taste of what shocked Germany when MSK, already serving time for gang-raping girls in Sydney, mounted the defence in a second case that his Muslim upbringing ...led him to believe he had the right to rape girls he considered promiscuous....A NSW Supreme Court judge rejected MSK's defence that his culture made him do it, but his father, a doctor, said after MSK's first conviction in 2003: "What do they expect to happen to them? Girls from Pakistan don't go out at night."

If they do, the results can be fatal. Honour killings in many parts of Pakistan are sanctioned by tribal and customary law. A woman who transgresses this code ... according to the expert evidence, "would be punished by being physically disfigured or killed by her father or brothers to retrieve family honour". Figures presented to Pakistan's Senate two years ago show the extent of violence in that country where 2774 women died in reported honour killings between 1998 and 2003.

Rape is even more common. In one of the most celebrated rape cases in recent years Mukhtaran Mai, a young illiterate peasant woman from the Punjab, was gang-raped in 2002 as punishment for the alleged sexual activity of her 12-year-old brother. Mai's case came to international attention after she took the step of taking her grievance to court. Pakistan's Hudood laws, introduced in 1980, make this nearly impossible. They mean that if a woman is raped a conviction requires four adult male witnesses or the rapist's confession. If sex is held to be consensual, the woman can be prosecuted for adultery and imprisoned or stoned to death. Plans to amend the Hudood laws to make it easier to punish rapists remain stalled in the Islamabad parliament because of opposition from ultra-conservative Islamic parties.

Born in Egypt in 1941, Hilali in the 1960s joined the Muslim Brotherhood, an extreme Islamist political organisation that claims to be non-violent but that has spawned terrorist groups such as al-Qa'ida through breakaway members. The possible influence of Sayyid Qutb, a Muslim Brotherhood member whose 1966 hanging and "strategic martyrdom" was central to the founding of modern Islamism, in fermenting the Australian Mufti's attitude to women cannot be ignored.....

....Despite the hatred of Western women clear in al-Hilali's comments, many scholars argue that Islam is compatible with Western ideologies, says the Australian National University's Amin Saikal, director of the Centre of Arab and Islamic Studies. "You can see a very liberal interpretation of Islam which justifies Western values and is compatible with Western ideologies," Saikal says. This must be the view of innumerable moderate Muslims who have protested against the Mufti's words.