Friday, December 22, 2006
One day In 1994, living in Ede, a small town in Holland, I got a visit from my half-sister. She and I had applied for asylum in Holland. I was granted one, she was denied. The fact that I got asylum gave me the opportunity to study. My half- sister could not.
In order for me to be admitted to the institute of higher education I wanted to attend, I needed to pass three courses: language, civics and history. It was in this preparatory history course that I, for the first time, heard of the Holocaust. I was 24 years old; my half-sister was 21.
In those days, the daily news was filled with the Rwandan genocide and ethnic cleansing in the former Yugoslavia. On the day that my half-sister visited me, my head was reeling from what happened to 6 million Jews in Germany, Holland, France and Eastern Europe. I learned that innocent men, women and children were separated from each other. Stars pinned to their shoulders, transported by train to camps, they were gassed for no other reason than for being Jewish. It was the most systematic and cruel attempt in the history of mankind to annihilate a people. I saw pictures of masses of skeletons, even of kids. I heard horrifying accounts of some of the people who had survived the terror of Auschwitz and Sobibor.
I told my half-sister all this and showed her the pictures in my history book. What she said shocked me more than the awful information in my book. With great conviction my half-sister cried: "It's a lie! Jews have a way of blinding people. They were not killed, gassed nor massacred. But I pray to Allah that one day all the Jews in the world will be destroyed." My 21-year-old sister did not say anything new. My shock was partly at her reaction in the light of so much evidence and partly because of the genocides of our own time.
Growing up as a child in Saudi Arabia, I remember my teachers, my mom and our neighbors telling us practically on a daily basis that Jews were evil, the sworn enemies of Muslims who's only goal was to destroy Islam. We were never informed about the Holocaust.
Later in Kenya, as a teenager, when Saudi and other Gulf philanthropy reached us in Africa, I remember that the building of mosques and donations to hospitals and the poor went hand in hand with the cursing of Jews. Jews were said to be responsible for the deaths of babies, epidemics like AIDS, for the cause of wars. They were greedy and would do absolutely anything to kill us Muslims. And if we ever wanted to know peace and stability we would have to destroy them before they would wipe us out. For those of us who were not in a position to take arms against the Jews it was enough for us to cup our hands, raise our eyes heavenward and pray to Allah to destroy them.
Western leaders today who say they are shocked by the conference of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad of Iran denying the Holocaust need to wake up to that reality. For the majority of Muslims in the world the Holocaust is not a major historical event they deny; they simply do not know because they were never informed. Worse, most of us are groomed to wish for a Holocaust of Jews.
I remember the presence of Western philanthropists, nongovernmental organizations and such institutions as the World Bank and International Monetary Fund. Their agents brought those they thought of as needy medicine, condoms, vaccines, building materials — but no information on the Holocaust. Secular and Christian donors and relief organizations did not come with an agenda of hate, but neither with a message of love. This was surely a missed opportunity in the light of the hate- spreading charities from oil-rich Muslim countries.
The total number of Jews in the world today is estimated to be around 15 million, certainly no more than 20 million. In terms of fertility, their growth can be compared to that of the developed world, and in terms of aging too.
On the other hand, the Muslim population is estimated to be 1.2 to 1.5 billion people, and it is not only rapidly growing but also very young. What's striking about Ahmadinejad's conference is the (silent) acquiescence of mainstream Muslims. I cannot help but wonder: Why is there no counter-conference in Riyadh, Cairo, Lahore, Khartoum or Jakarta condemning Ahmadinejad? Why is the Organization of the Islamic Conference silent on this?
Could the answer be as simple as it is horrifying: For generations the leaders of these so-called Muslim countries have been spoon-feeding their populations a constant diet of propaganda similar to the one that generations of Germans (and other Europeans) were fed that Jews are vermin and should be dealt with as such. In Europe, the logical conclusion was the Holocaust. If Ahmadinejad has his way, he will not wait for compliant Muslims ready to act on his wish.
The world needs conferences of love, a promotion of understanding of cultures and antiracist campaigns, but more urgently the world needs to be informed again and again of the Holocaust. Not only in the interest of the Jews who survived the Holocaust and their offspring, but in the interest of humanity in general.
Perhaps the first place to start is to counter the Islamic philanthropy that comes laced with hatred against the Jews. Western and Christian charities in the third world should take it upon themselves to inform Muslims and non- Muslims alike, in the areas where they are active, about the Holocaust.
Thursday, December 21, 2006
Former Foreign Minister director-general Ron Prosor was named Israel's new ambassador to Great Britain...
...The ministry also announced the appointment of Yuval Rotem to Australia, to replace Naftali Tamir.
...Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni made good on her promises to promote diplomats from inside the ministry to top positions, and - in addition to the position in London - replaced political appointments to Tokyo, Manila and Los Angeles with career diplomats.
...Nissim Ben-Sheetrit...was named Israel's new envoy to Japan, and Yaakov Dayan...was named counsel-general in Los Angeles.
Other notable appointments included Ran Curiel... who was named envoy to the European Union; Mark Sofer...ambassador to India; and Amos Nadai...who was appointed to Beijing.
Gabi Levy was named ambassador to Turkey; Zvi Aviner-Vapni to the Philippines; Rafi Shutz to Spain: Aliza Ben Nun to Budapest; Tamar Sam-Esh to Brussels; Oren David to Bucharest, and Yisrael Mei Ami to Kiev.
In addition, Amir Gissin was named the consul general in Toronto.
All of the appointments will now go to the government for its approval, a process that is usually a formality, and the new envoys are expected to take up their posts in the summer.
Irving: Holocaust Denier
The Austrian judge who ruled in favor of the early release of British Holocaust denier David Irving from jail Wednesday is a supporter of Jorg Haider's rightist Austrian Freedom Party, the Austrian news agency APA reported.
Vienna's highest court ruled Wednesday that Irving, who had been imprisoned on charges of denying the Holocaust, will be released and the remaining two years of his three-year sentence will be served on probation.
In February, another Vienna court sentenced Irving to three years imprisonment under a 1992 law which applies to "whoever denies, grossly plays down, approves or tries to excuse the National Socialist genocide or other National Socialist crimes against humanity in a print publication, in broadcast or other media." The law calls for a prison term of up to 10 years.
... In September, Austria's Supreme Court upheld Irving's conviction. Irving has been in custody since his November 2005 arrest on charges that followed two speeches he gave in Austria in 1989, for which he was accused of denying the Nazis' extermination of six million Jews.
...Efraim Zuroff, director of the Simon Wiesenthal Center's office in Israel, said the court's ruling was the "worst possible response to last week's Holocaust denial conference in Teheran and will only encourage those who support these mad ideas."
"It is unfortunate that a week after the highly publicized conclave of Holocaust deniers in Teheran, the Austrian court saw fit to reduce Irving's sentence to probation, since it may send the inaccurate message that Holocaust deniers can spew their lies about history with impunity," Yad Vashem spokeswoman Iris Rosenberg said.
Wednesday, December 20, 2006
...Meet David Kilcullen, a 40-year-old former Australian infantry commander who...is just one member in a small team, led by Hank Crumpton, the state department's counter-terrorism chief, blazing a new trail in the war on terror. That team appears to have a deceptively simple message for the Bush administration: there is no substitute for knowing your enemy.
Knowing your enemy means recognising that the "war on terrorism" is a political label. In strategic terms, the battle needs to be understood as a global counterinsurgency....a jihad that would ultimately deliver "the earth-shattering event, which the West trembles at: the establishment of an Islamic caliphate".
While we seem to understand al-Qa'ida's ultimate goal, its strategy has been less understood. Al-Qa'ida's global insurgency depends on exploiting local grievances within Muslim populations across the globe and recruiting them to the broader jihad cause. And to do that, al-Qa'ida relies on the wonders of modern communications. Understanding your enemy means recognising that they are engaged in a potent information war.
Kilcullen told The Australian by telephone from Washington: "Al-Qa'ida's main effort is being made in an area that we are only beginning to recognise as part of the struggle. It's armed propaganda. "The things that they do are all designed to support an information message. They are using information as a weapon."
The aim of jihadists may be a medieval caliphate. But theirs is a very modern marketing strategy, as they try to integrate motley groups with local grievances into global jihad. Like a Christmas shopping brochure, there is something for every potential jihadist. Beheadings of infidels in Iraq are videotaped, edited for effect and broadcast across media platforms. We see them on YouTube, but on terrorist websites viewers can click on the "Donate" icon to send money to finance infidel deaths. There are fortnightly al-Qa'ida propaganda bulletins (Sawt al-Jihad), magazines for the girl jihadist (al-Khansa), fortnightly online training manuals (al-Battar). Online blogs and password-protected chat rooms are also linking up disparate groups to fight the global insurgency.
The Global Islamic Media Front, a jihadist mouthpiece, has released computer games (Night of Bush Capturing) and, for those who prefer comedy, there's Jihad Candid Camera. But this is no joke. According to the SITE Institute in the US, the Global Islamic Media Front calls on the sons and daughters of Islam to join the information jihad to attack America's "weak point".
And, to date, information has been the West's weakest link. Kilcullen says it is a mistake to see information as soft. In counterinsurgency and other forms of counter-terrorism, it's not soft. He says that some of the most lethal types of activity that you conduct are about getting in at the grassroots level and competing for influence with the enemy. It's not about a media strategy, it's about winning people over by influence. It involves persuasion and dissuasion.
How you do that comes back to knowing your enemy. It is where anthropology meets warfare. Kilcullen, who has a doctorate in political anthropology - his dissertation focused on the Darul Islam conflict - has outlined a "ladder of extremism" that aims to inform our responses to different groups. At the top is the small tier of al-Qa'ida operatives and other leaders of the insurgency who are so committed to the cause that winning them over is not an option. "You've got to destroy them," Kilcullen says in The New Yorker, "but you've got to do it in such a way that you don't create new terrorists."
Down a few rungs are alienated Muslims who join radical groups because they feel disenfranchised by the political process. These people, according to Kilcullen, can be won over to our side by counterinsurgency. He uses the Cold War as an analogy where aggrieved workers were encouraged to join anti-communist trade unions. It was about preventing communist infiltration and providing workers with an alternative, legitimate means to pursue their grievances instead of communist revolutionary warfare.
And further down the ladder is the broader Muslim community who are both potential allies against radical Islam and, again, potential targets of subversion by the enemy. At a private dinner in Sydney a few months ago, Kilcullen said it is wrong to think of Muslims as innately prone to radicalisation. Islam is a secondary factor. Those who are radicalised are drawn into the Islamist web through social networks, deliberately targeted and manipulated by those further up the ladder. Breaking those radical networks and replacing them with alternatives is vital. But that depends on two things. Muslim communities must recognise and own the problem that exists in their communities. And non-Muslims must work with them to build up trusted networks, providing better alternatives to radicalism. It's here, at the grassroots, that the battle of ideas needs to be fought and won.
In The New Yorker, Kilcullen describes the present conflict as a "new Cold War, but it's not monolithic". As he explores in a series of influential articles, it means distinguishing between terrorism, subversion and radicalism, with each strand demanding different responses. Failing to do that only fuels the jihadist cause. He also warns that if the Cold War analogy holds, "then right now we're in, like, 1953". There is a long way to go.
Tuesday, December 19, 2006
Genocide is a process that develops in eight stages that are predictable but not inexorable. At each stage, preventive measures can stop it. The later stages must be preceded by the earlier stages, though earlier stages continue to operate throughout the process.
The eight stages of genocide are:
All cultures have categories to distinguish people into "us and them" by ethnicity, race, religion, or nationality: German and Jew, Hutu and Tutsi. Bipolar societies that lack mixed categories, such as Rwanda and Burundi, are the most likely to have genocide. The main preventive measure at this early stage is to develop universalistic institutions that transcend ethnic or racial divisions, that actively promote tolerance and understanding, and that promote classifications that transcend the divisions. The Catholic church could have played this role in Rwanda, had it not been riven by the same ethnic cleavages as Rwandan society. Promotion of a common language in countries like Tanzania or Cote d'Ivoire has also promoted transcendent national identity. This search for common ground is vital to early prevention of genocide.
We give names or other symbols to the classifications. We name people "Jews" or "Gypsies", or distinguish them by colors or dress; and apply them to members of groups. Classification and symbolization are universally human and do not necessarily result in genocide unless they lead to the next stage, dehumanization. When combined with hatred, symbols may be forced upon unwilling members of pariah groups: the yellow star for Jews under Nazi rule, the blue scarf for people from the Eastern Zone in Khmer Rouge Cambodia. To combat symbolization, hate symbols can be legally forbidden (swastikas) as can hate speech. Group marking like gang clothing or tribal scarring can be outlawed, as well. The problem is that legal limitations will fail if unsupported by popular cultural enforcement. Though Hutu and Tutsi were forbidden words in Burundi until the 1980's, code-words replaced them. If widely supported, however, denial of symbolization can be powerful, as it was in Bulgaria, when many non-Jews chose to wear the yellow star, depriving it of its significance as a Nazi symbol for Jews. According to legend in Denmark, the Nazis did not introduce the yellow star because they knew even the King would wear it.
One group denies the humanity of the other group. Members of it are equated with animals, vermin, insects or diseases. Dehumanization overcomes the normal human revulsion against murder. At this stage, hate propaganda in print and on hate radios is used to vilify the victim group. In combating this dehumanization, incitement to genocide should not be confused with protected speech. Genocidal societies lack constitutional protection for countervailing speech, and should be treated differently than in democracies. Hate radio stations should be shut down, and hate propaganda banned. Hate crimes and atrocities should be promptly punished.
Genocide is always organized, usually by the state, though sometimes informally (Hindu mobs led by local RSS militants) or by terrorist groups. Special army units or militias are often trained and armed. Plans are made for genocidal killings. To combat this stage, membership in these militias should be outlawed. Their leaders should be denied visas for foreign travel. The U.N. should impose arms embargoes on governments and citizens of countries involved in genocidal massacres, and create commissions to investigate violations, as was done in post-genocide Rwanda.
Extremists drive the groups apart. Hate groups broadcast polarizing propaganda. Laws may forbid intermarriage or social interaction. Extremist terrorism targets moderates, intimidating and silencing the center. Prevention may mean security protection for moderate leaders or assistance to human rights groups. Assets of extremists may be seized, and visas for international travel denied to them. Coups d'¢etat by extremists should be opposed by international sanctions.
Victims are identified and separated out because of their ethnic or religious identity. Death lists are drawn up. Members of victim groups are forced to wear identifying symbols. They are often segregated into ghettoes, forced into concentration camps, or confined to a famine-struck region and starved. At this stage, a Genocide Alert must be called. If the political will of the U.S., NATO, and the U.N. Security Council can be mobilized, armed international intervention should be prepared, or heavy assistance to the victim group in preparing for its self-defense. Otherwise, at least humanitarian assistance should be organized by the U.N. and private relief groups for the inevitable tide of refugees.
Extermination begins, and quickly becomes the mass killing legally called "genocide." It is "extermination" to the killers because they do not believe their victims to be fully human. When it is sponsored by the state, the armed forces often work with militias to do the killing. Sometimes the genocide results in revenge killings by groups against each other, creating the downward whirlpool-like cycle of bilateral genocide (as in Burundi). At this stage, only rapid and overwhelming armed intervention can stop genocide. Real safe areas or refugee escape corridors should be established with heavily armed international protection. The U.N. needs a Standing High Readiness Brigade or a permanent rapid reaction force, to intervene quickly when the U.N. Security Council calls it. For larger interventions, a multilateral force authorized by the U.N., led by NATO or a regional military power, should intervene. If the U.N. will not intervene directly, militarily powerful nations should provide the airlift, equipment, and financial means necessary for regional states to intervene with U.N. authorization. It is time to recognize that the law of humanitarian intervention transcends the interests of nation-states.
Denial is the eighth stage that always follows a genocide. It is among the surest indicators of further genocidal massacres. The perpetrators of genocide dig up the mass graves, burn the bodies, try to cover up the evidence and intimidate the witnesses. They deny that they committed any crimes, and often blame what happened on the victims. They block investigations of the crimes, and continue to govern until driven from power by force, when they flee into exile. There they remain with impunity, like Pol Pot or Idi Amin, unless they are captured and a tribunal is established to try them.The best response to denial is punishment by an international tribunal or national courts. There the evidence can be heard, and the perpetrators punished. Tribunals like the Yugoslav, Rwanda, or Sierra Leone Tribunals, an international tribunal to try the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia, and ultimately the International Criminal Court must be created. They may not deter the worst genocidal killers. But with the political will to arrest and prosecute them, some mass murderers may be brought to justice.
© 1998 Gregory H. Stanton
Polite society helped pave the way for Iran's Holocaust conference.
"Not acceptable," says Ban Ki Moon, new Secretary-General of the United Nations. "Repulsive," say the editors of Britain's Guardian newspaper. "An insult . . . to the memory of millions of Jews," says Hillary Rodham Clinton. Global polite society is in an uproar over the Holocaust conference organized this week in Tehran under the auspices of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
Moral denunciation is what reasonable people do--what they must do--when a regime that avows the future extermination of six million Jews in Israel denies the past extermination of six million Jews in Europe. But let's be frank: Global polite society has been blazing its own merry trail toward this occasion for decades.
The Australian Financial Review is not the Journal of Historical Review, the Holocaust-denying "scholarly" vehicle of some of the Tehran conferees. But in 2002 the AFR thought it fit to print the following by Joseph Wakim, at one point the country's multicultural affairs commissioner: "Sharon's war is not a war," he wrote. "Genocide would be a more accurate description." In Ireland Tom McGurk, a columnist in the very mainstream Sunday Business Post, noted that "the scenes at Jenin last week looked uncannily like the attack on the Warsaw Jewish ghetto in 1944." Jose Saramago, Portugal's Nobel Laureate in Literature, observed after a visit to Ramallah that the Israeli incursion into the city "is a crime that may be compared to Auschwitz."
Never mind that the total number of Jews "dealt with" in the Warsaw ghetto, according to Nazi commandant Jürgen Stroop, was 56,065, whereas the number of Palestinians killed in Jenin was no more than 60. Never mind that at the time Mr. Saramago visited Ramallah a total of about 1,500 Palestinians had been killed in the Intifada, whereas Jews were murdered at Auschwitz at a rate of about 2,000 a day. ...
...once a country's policies are deemed Nazi-like, it necessarily follows that its leaders are Nazi-like and--if it's a popularly elected government--so are at least a plurality of its people. " ...
...simply because opposition to Zionism ideologically or Israel politically isn't necessarily anti-Semitic, it doesn't therefore follow that being anti-Zionist or anti-Israel are morally acceptable positions. There are more than six million Israelis who presumably wish to live in a sovereign country called Israel. Are their wishes irrelevant? Are their national rights conditional on their behavior--or rather, perceptions of their behavior--and if so, should such conditionality apply to all countries? It also should be obvious that simply because opposition to Zionism does not automatically make one guilty of anti-Semitism, neither does it automatically acquit one of it.
Such nuances, however, seem to go unnoticed by some of Israel's more elevated critics. Michel Rocard said in 2004 that the creation of the Jewish state was a historic mistake, and that Israel was "an entity that continues to pose a threat to its neighbors until today." Mr. Rocard is the former Prime Minister of France, an "entity" that itself posed a threat to its neighbors for the better part of its history.
Alternatively, Professors Stephen Walt of Harvard and John Mearsheimer of the University of Chicago, whose paper on "The Israel Lobby" is now being turned into a book, have complained that "anyone who criticises Israel's actions or argues that pro-Israel groups have significant influence over US Middle Eastern policy . . . stands a good chance of being labeled an anti-semite." Maybe. But earlier this week, former Klansman David Duke took the opportunity to tell CNN that he does not hate Jews but merely opposes Israel and Israel's influence in U.S. politics. He even cited Messrs. Walt and Mearsheimer in his defense. Would they exonerate him of being an anti-Semite?
In fact, anti-Zionism has become for many anti-Semites a cloak of political convenience. But anti-Zionism has also become an ideological vehicle for an anti-Semitism that increasingly feels no need for disguise. In January 2002, the New Statesman magazine had a cover story on "The Kosher Conspiracy." For art, they had a gold Star of David pointed like a blade at the Union Jack. This wasn't anti-Zionism. It was anti-Zionism matured into unflinching anti-Semitism. And it was featured on the cover of Britain's premiere magazine of "progressive" thought.
The scholar Gregory Stanton has observed that genocides happen in eight stages, beginning with classification, symbolization and dehumanization, and ending in extermination and denial. ... The road to Tehran is a well-traveled one, and among those who denounce it now are some who have already walked some part of it.
Multinationals, not do-gooder charities, bring festive cheer
[A tangential issue of interest to JIW readers, is that the "do-gooder charites" are often amongst the first to jump on other do-gooder, anti-globalisation, anti-USA, anti-Israel, anti-Semitic bandwagons. Apologies to their multitudes of genuinely good-hearted volunteers and donors - SL]
HERE'S a provocative thought for Christmas. Instead of buying your nearest and dearest one of those charity goat-for-Africa cards, it would make far more economic sense to buy them a few shares in a multinational corporation that is going to help boost the African economy. It may be deeply unfashionable to say so, but the much-demonised multinationals do far more for the poor than all the world's charities put together.
Charity workers should not take this personally. They are doing their best in appalling conditions and have saved or improved millions of lives. But however hard they work, and however many goats they provide, there is a limit to what they can do.
The stark reality is that the remarkable alleviation of poverty witnessed in recent years in Asian countries such as India and China has nothing to do with handouts and everything to do with governments embracing the institutions of capitalism. The only way sub-Saharan Africa will be able to feed and clothe its people is if African politicians follow suit, and that is where multinationals, the foot soldiers of the market economy, come in.
The widespread view, even among those who should know better, is that multinationals exploit workers in poor countries by paying them extremely low wages and keeping them in sweatshop conditions, then make a bundle by selling the goods they make at huge profit margins in the West.
A related argument is that multinationals regularly violate the human rights of their poorest workers and perpetuate the disgrace that is child labour. But the truth, as is so often the case, is the opposite.
As Jagdish Bhagwati, the eminent Columbia University economist and author of In Defence of Globalisation, argues, a raft of empirical studies has been conducted in Bangladesh, Mexico, Shanghai, Indonesia, Vietnam and elsewhere, and the findings are straightforward. Far from exploiting the rock-bottom wage rates generally paid in the poorest countries, multinationals tend to pay well above the going rate in the areas in which they are located.
In the case of US multinationals, pay is 40 per cent to 100 per cent above local wages. No wonder locals queue up to get a job whenever a multinational opens its doors in a poor country: wages that may look miserable to us allow their recipients in Burma or Bangladesh to live in relative comfort.
Working conditions in factories owned and operated by multinationals are invariably superior to those of their local competitors. Western firms also know better than to employ child labour, if only to protect themselves from adverse publicity back home. Multinationals help to transfer capital, resources, skills and technical know-how across borders. Workers trained by global companies are invariably more productive than those in local firms, and when the workers move on they take their knowledge with them, helping to spread better working practices, increased productivity and higher living standards.
It is also wrong to believe that multinationals make huge profits from factories in Asia or Latin America. Competition is such that producing manufactured goods to export to the West is a low-margin business. After wages, raw material costs and transport are taken into account, there is little left.
The case of Vietnam is especially instructive. Workers fortunate enough to work for multinationals there enjoy a standard of living that is twice as high as that of the rest of the population.
In a paper debunking the sweatshop myth, Paul Glewwe, a leading development economist, revealed that the average wage-earner in Vietnam earned US23c an hour, but workers in foreign-owned businesses fared far better, making an average of US42c an hour. When Glewwe conducted his work, 15 per cent of Vietnamese were classified as very poor and 37 per cent as poor. But nobody working for multinationals was classified as very poor and only about 8 per cent were poor, proving that working for a foreign company is the best way to escape poverty and deprivation.
Foreign employers drive wealth creation, pushing up everybody's wages.
The presence of multinationals in Vietnam also disproportionately benefits women and the young, two groups that are usually marginalised in poor countries. Two-thirds of workers in foreign-owned businesses in Vietnam are women, and nearly two-thirds are in their 20s, confirming that globalisation is driving social change and female emancipation.
But perhaps the multinational companies' most overlooked benefit is that they bring people from countries across the world closer together. That, at Christmas time, is something those who seek a more peaceful as well as prosperous planet should find especially appealing.
Allister Heath is a political writer for The Spectator in London, from which this is reprinted.
Mossad director Meir Dagan: Syria speeds up arms deliveries to Hizballah while calling for peace talks with Israel
The Mossad chief said Asad is actuated by three motives:
- Consolidating his influence in Lebanon,
- recovering the Golan from Israel and
- ridding himself of international pressure.
The Syrian ruler is maneuvering to show Israel up as an opponent of peace compared with his own momentum.
DEBKAfile’s political sources reported Sunday that the latest spate of Syrian peace chatter is a bid to tilt in favor of Damascus the tussle in Washington over the Baker-Hamilton recommendation to approach Syria and Tehran for help to stabilize Iraq. The White House is opposed to this proposition; US secretary of state Condoleezza Rice has strongly indicated that their price would be too high.
Israeli ministers were divided over the issue at their cabinet session Sunday, Dec. 17.
Wary of playing into Syrian hands, prime minister Ehud Olmert said Israel must not start negotiations with Damascus at a time when US president George W. Bush is insisting that Bashar Asad first stop instigating war. Defense minister, Labor leader Amir Peretz said the price tag is clear – the Golan - but cited the high importance of breaking Syrian ties with the extremist axis. Fellow Laborites urged the importance of taking advantage of Syria’s “peace overtures.”
Commenting on Syrian foreign minister Walid Moallem’s statement to Washington Post columnist David Ignatius - that Syria does not demand the Golan as a precondition for talks, Israeli vice premier Shimon Peres retorted that talk is cheap; the Asad government must first show its good faith by shutting down Palestinian terrorist headquarters in Damascus and suspending its arms deliveries to Hizballah.
Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s adherents apply strong-arm tactics to falsify election results after early gains by his opponents
Only one-tenth of the votes had been counted in Tehran 60 hours after balloting ended because the president’s followers, backed by Revolutionary Guards stormed the central election committee. They stopped the counting several times to force the counters with threats and physical harassment to falsify the results and reverse the president’s opponents’ gains.
The most painful blow has been the victory of his main rival ex-president Hashem Rafsanjani in early results to the powerful Assembly of Experts. Therefore, the results when published later this week may hold surprises.
EXCHANGES of automatic gunfire have continued late into the night in Gaza City today despite armed Palestinian groups, including Hamas and Fatah, earlier agreeing on a ceasefire.
Hamas and Fatah agreed on a ceasefire after a day of violence that claimed three lives following Hamas's rejection of early elections called by president Mahmoud Abbas. Despite the accord, exchanges of gunfire continued late into the night in the Rimal area of Gaza City near Shifa hospital, an AFP journalist reported.
“There is an agreement between all armed Palestinian groups for a ceasefire and to end the violence,” Ibrahim Abu Najja, the head of a high-level committee that includes all the groups, told AFP. The accord was confirmed by Hamas spokesman Ismail Radwan, who told AFP that the ceasefire pact also stipulates that “armed men must stop circulating on the streets”.
....But the ceasefire got of to an inauspicious start, with Fatah boycotting a news conference with Hamas which was called to announce the ceasefire, alleging violations. “There was indeed a ceasefire accord with Hamas, but we refuse to participate in the press conference with them convened to announce it, because in so doing we want to protest against violations to the accord,” said Tawfik Abu Hussa, spokesman for Fatah and Palestinian President Mahmud Abbas. Hussa cited the kidnapping and killing today in Gaza of a colonel - and a member of Fatah - in the national security services. He also pointed to a mortar attack on the presidential offices of Abbas.
Abbas's call for early elections set off fears that the bitter power struggle between Hamas - the Islamist movement that took power in March after a shock election win - and the president's own Fatah faction could ignite a civil war.
...and from DEBKAfile, December 18, 2006, 1:46 PM (GMT+02:00) ...
Young Palestinian boy injured in exchange of fire in central Gaza City Monday after truce announcement
Gunfire continued Monday morning outside Fatah leaders Abbas and Dahlan’s residences.
Sunday night, Hamas gunmen snatched and shot dead the key Fatah intelligence officer Col. Adnan Rahmani in Sejaya. DEBKAfile reports Col. Rahmani was a member of Gaza's Palestinian preventive security agency commanded by Rashid Abu Shbak and Samir Mashrawi, two of Mahmoud Abbas’ and Mohammed Dahlan’s Fatah mainstays in Gaza.
After 3 Palestinians were killed and 20 injured, Generals Muhammed Ibrahim and Haron Shehata, heads of the Egyptian mission in Gaza, sought to impose a truce in Hamas-Fatah violence on Hamas prime minister Ismail Haniya. They warned him that if he demurred, Hamas officials would not be allowed to use Cairo international airport for their travels.
DEBKAfile reports that ... [the ceasefire] is unlikely to hold given the irreconcilable differences between the factions over Abbas' decision to call early Palestinian presidential and parliamentary elections. Hamas is determined to resist fresh elections by force while rejecting talks on a unity government.
The murder of the intelligence colonel Sunday occurred after members of his service swept through six Palestinian ministerial offices smashing computers, furniture, telephones and archives to prepare the way for Abbas to dissolve the Hamas government ahead of an early election.
Sunday also saw large-scale defections of Fatah adherents to Hamas ranks - including groups of al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades terrorists, the Abu Rish Brigades of Khan Younes and all three armed factions organized in the umbrella Popular Resistance Committees. They were lured by a cash infusion from high PLO official Farouk Kadoumi who has changed sides and is working in Damascus with Hamas politburo chief Khaled Meshaal to unseat Mahmoud Abbas.
Earlier Sunday, two Palestinians were killed, at least six injured in violent incidents which included Hamas mortar attacks on Mahmoud Abbas’ Gaza residence, a shooting attack on Hamas foreign minister Mahmoud a-Zahar’s convoy and an RPG, mortar and grenade assault on the presidential guard Force 17 camp at the former Netzarim settlement in S, Gaza.
Monday, December 18, 2006
Carter's top 10 misrepresentations reveal systematic anti-Israel bias and a Manichean view of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict A close reading of Carter's Palestine-Israel book leads to the inescapable conclusion: it's even worse than the critics say.
The book is replete with major errors of fact, all systematically biased against Israel. Carter never makes a single factual error that works in Israel's favor, or against the Palestinians. He offers an abundance of misstatements and distortions that paint Israel black. Some of the most egregious have already been highlighted by others. But Carter's approach to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict is as one-sided as that of the Israel haters.
Though Carter himself is no Israel hater, at times he does an uncanny impersonation of one, serving up a morality tale of Israeli demons and Palestinian angels forced to descend to hell by the depredations of the evil Israelis. Throughout the book Carter unfailingly shows deep sympathy for Palestinian perceptions, while displaying little understanding for Israeli attitudes or needs.
The book suffers from a deep and uncritical pro-Palestinian bias that makes a mockery of Carter's pretensions to fair arbiter and peacemaker. Despite his grotesque misdiagnosis of the conflict, Carter advocates many of the same constructive policies endorsed by moderates on the Zionist left and center in Israel and the American Jewish community.....
.... Carter's book reminds us that people come to pro-peace policy positions from very different places, and sometimes these places are not very sympathetic, even quite unfriendly, to Israel. Many others, after all, come to similar conclusions from of a robust and deeply held commitment to Zionism and to Israel's security and well-being—including many who have devoted their entire lives and careers to Israel. Policies should be judged on their merits, not on guilt by association.
In what follows, I present ten major errors in Carter's book—serious distortions and misrepresentations of fact which add up to a systematic anti-Israel, pro-Palestinian bias and a Manichean view of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. Peacemakers finesse the art of being at once pro-Israel and pro-Palestinian. Carter fails to live up to his self-appointed mission....
[follow the link to the full article to read the 10 criticisms of the Carter book]
....Carter believes that the US must play the role of an honest broker trusted by both parties to the conflict. But Carter's inveterate anti-Israel bias is as unhelpful to Israel's quest for peace and security as the unconditional "pro-Israeli" bias of George W. Bush. Once a great Mideast peacemaker, Jimmy Carter has become a two-bit Palevangelist and propagandist.
Gidon D. Remba is co-author of the forthcoming The Great Rift: Arab-Israeli War and Peace in the New Middle East. His commentary is available here. He served as senior foreign press editor and translator in the Israel Prime Minister's Office during the Egyptian-Israeli peace process from 1977-1978. His essays have appeared in the Chicago Tribune, the Chicago Sun-Times, the New York Times, the Nation, the Jerusalem Report, Ha'aretz, Tikkun, the Forward , the Jewish Journal of Greater Los Angeles, Chicago Jewish News, JUF News, and the Pittsburgh Jewish Chronicle.
IN ... the Palestinian territories, the right of ordinary people to peace and democracy is being ignored by terrorists and warlords fighting for power. The result is chaos.
...what the Middle East needs -- especially the long-suffering people of Iraq and the Palestinian territories ... is the peace and justice that only democracy and the rule of law provide.
Yesterday, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas called for elections, in a desperate search for a circuit-breaker to end fighting that is coming close to civil war between supporters of the Hamas Government and his own Fatah faction.
.... Mr Abbas's solution, to put the power-struggle between his Fatah organisation and the Hamas faction to a vote of the people, is also born of desperation. There is no doubting that Hamas won the Palestinian Authority elections last January fair and square. Voters on the West Bank and in Gaza were sick of Fatah, which had used hatred of Israel as cloak for the corruption and incompetence of its administration.
But by refusing to renounce its hard line against Israel, Hamas ensured an end to Western aid. The Palestinian people, who were always poor, are now reduced to the most desperate poverty while the two factions squabble in the squalor.
...If the Palestinian people are ever to have any hope of a functioning economy and a society where basic services work, they need peace with Israel. And securing both depends on an honest administration which does not use Israel's existence as an excuse for every failing.
Elections at least give ordinary Palestinians a chance to call the factions to account. ....the Palestinian people are caught in the crossfire between Hamas and Fatah. ....Mr Abbas must find a way to force the two major groups to accept that the ballot box, not bullets, decides who rules.
....The Prime Minister is saying that we won't be speaking to Syria soon, so ...is his deputy, Nobel peace prize winner Shimon Peres. Another deputy of Olmert's, Defense Minister Amir Peretz, is in favor of exploring the Syrian offers, and most surprising of all, the head of the opposition, Binyamin Netanyahu, is overtaking the entire government from the left lane and advocating entering negotiations with the Syrians, at least that's what Yediot Ahronont's front page proclaimed in a banner headline.
It's not enough that right and left seemed to have been mixed up in responding to the Syrian challenge, even in a normally monolithic party such as Shas, the ministers can't seem to agree. While Chairman Eli Yishai says that accepting Assad's entreaties will be "legitimizing the terrorist vermin," another of his party's ministers, Yitzhak Cohen, urged Olmert to test the Syrian president's intentions by inviting him to talks in Jerusalem. Olmert also said that Israel "cannot say the opposite" of the US position, but that, also, is far from clear.
All recent signs coming from the Bush Administration indicate that for now, Syria is not a partner. On the other hand, the president has yet to respond to the recommendation in the Iraq Study Group, namely, that Israel immediately re-enter talks with Syria, ultimately leading to a deal which will include withdrawing from the Golan Heights. Meanwhile, until Bush makes up his mind, three US senators, including the man who was almost president, John Kerry, are visiting Damascus, relieving Assad from his diplomatic isolation. The three received some light criticism from the White House press secretary, but, according to Kerry, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice didn't try and dissuade him from making the trip.
What the hell are these crazy Israelis and Americans up to?
....What does Syria want? For the last five months, Bashar Assad has intermittently been threatening war and bearing olive branches. In interviews with western newspapers and networks, he's been inviting Olmert to sit down to the table with him, while in speeches to Arab audiences he's been singing a different tune, broadly hinting at the possibility of a military attack this summer intended to return the Golan Heights to Syrian hands.
Meanwhile, he's been backing up his words with a buildup on the Heights, and then standing down those forces, but moving anti-aircraft missiles back and forth at the same time. This weekend, his foreign minister, Walid Moallem, tried to be even more conciliatory towards Israeli by saying that ceding the Golan isn't a precondition to negotiations.
While all this nice talk is going on, Syria is still a gracious host to all the anti-Israel terrorist organizations and a conduit for replenishing arms to Hizbullah. The military analyst is at his wits' end - where is Assad going?
...The muddle on the Israeli side is understandable to anyone who has been following Israel's convoluted political scene for the last year or so. A discredited and unsure leader is incapable of keeping his ministers in line, especially not the unpopular defense minister who can be relied on to take an opposite position from him on every issue. When the government's so weak and disjointed, an opportunist opposition leader with no responsibilities can use the opportunity to leapfrog over his rivals and get a headline.
Lacking authority of his own to back up his decisions, Olmert has no choice but to use the US position as a fallback, but the situation in Washington is scarcely more stable, and Bush is looking increasingly isolated in the White House, a bit like his friend in Jerusalem.
Now that we've sorted out one side, let's see what we can do with Damascus. Yes, of course, the US and Israel are democracies and no one has to be afraid of being hauled off to the dungeon for contradicting the president. Neither is Assad up for re-election any time soon, but that doesn't make him more secure in his palace.
Just like Olmert and Bush, Assad lacks the credibility to make an unequivocal stand and knows that he has very few allies he can fully rely on. Six and a half years after succeeding his father, Bashar knows that he hardly measures up to his old man. During his time in office, he has lost the exclusive Syrian hold over Lebanon, been forced to play second fiddle to Hassan Nasrallah and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, did not bring Syria any closer to regaining the Golan Heights, and now faces the threat of an international tribunal for the murder of Rafik Al-Hariri. He realizes that the long oppressed Syrian masses are getting restless, and that the elders of the ruling Alawite minority are wondering whether to replace the disappointing heir.
Unsure of his personal future, Assad has little choice but to blow hot and cold, offering peace and preparing for war, gambling with his nation's fortunes - just like the leaders on our side.
PA columnist: Arab leaders initiated departure and made false promises of a speedy return
PMW has documented yet another corroboration in the official Palestinian Authority (PA) paper Al-Hayat Al-Jadida that it was Arab leaders who were responsible for the flight of Arabs from the new State of Israel in 1948.
A backbone of PA ideology, and indeed of anti-Israel propagandists worldwide, is the myth that Israel expelled hundreds of thousands of Arabs from Israel and created the Palestinian "refugee" situation.
However, a regular writer for the official PA paper, Mahmud Al-Habbash, writes in a recent column that in 1948 the Arabs left their homes willingly under the instruction of their own Arab leaders and their false promises of a prompt return. He ... states that the Arabs who left their homes, and became refugees did so believing their leaders’ deceptive promises. He places the blame and the responsibility on the shoulders of the Arab leaders and does not mention any so-called "Israeli expulsion."
Following is this most recent article, as well as earlier statements by Arab "refugees" that have appeared in the PA press, all of which corroborate Israel's historical narrative. The latter two testimonials are significant because they were corroborated by still other more public Palestinians, indicating that the responsibility of the Arab leaders is known in the Palestinian world. One was confirmed by Arab Member of Knesset, Ibraham Sarsur, who was then Head of the Islamic Movement in Israel, and the other by a Palestinian journalist, Fuad Abu Higla, in the official PA daily.
The following are four statements corroborating that Arabs fled Israel under the instruction and the encouragement of Arab leaders:
1. Journalist writing about the events of 1948
Mahmud Al-Habbash, a regular writer in the official PA paper, Al-Hayat Al-Jadida, indicates in his column “The Pulse of Life” that the Arabs left Israel in 1948 only after political Arab leaders persuaded them to do so by promising the Arabs a speedy return to their homes in Palestine:
“…The leaders and the elites promised us at the beginning of the “Catastrophe” [[the establishment of Israel and the creation of refugee problem] in 1948, that the duration of the exile will not be long, and that it will not last more than a few days or months, and afterwards the refugees will return to their homes, which most of them did not leave only until they put their trust in those “Arkuvian” promises made by the leaders and the political elites. Afterwards, days passed, months, years and decades, and the promises were lost with the strain of the succession of events…" [Term "Arkuvian,” is after Arkuv – a figure from Arab tradition - who was known for breaking his promises and for his lies."] ” [Al-Hayat Al-Jadida, December 13, 2006]
2. Woman who fled Israel in 1948
"We heard sounds of explosions and of gunfire at the beginning of the summer in the year of the “Catastrophe” [The establishment of Israel and the expulsion from the land in 1948]. They told us: The Jews attacked our region and it is better to evacuate the village and return, after the battle is over. And indeed there were among us [who fled Israel] those who left a fire burning under the pot, those who left their flock [of sheep] and those who left their money and gold behind, based on the assumption that we would return after a few hours." [Asmaa Jabir Balasimah Um Hasan, Woman who fled Israel, Al-Ayyam, May 16, 2006]
3. Son and grandson of those who fled in 1948
An Arab viewer called Palestinian Authority TV and quoted his father and grandfather, complaining that in 1948 the Arab District Officer ordered all Arabs to leave Palestine or be labeled traitors. In response, Arab MK Ibrahim Sarsur, then Head of the Islamic Movement in Israel, cursed the leaders who ordered Arabs to leave, thus, acknowledging Israel's assertion.Statement of son and grandson of man who fled:
"Mr. Ibrahim [Sarsur]. I address you as a Muslim. My father and grandfather told me that during the "Catastrophe" [establishment of Israel in 1948 and the expulsion from the land], our district officer issued an order that whoever stays in Palestine and in Majdel [near Ashkelon – Southern Israel] is a traitor, he is a traitor."
Response from Ibrahim Sarsur, Head of the Islamic Movement in Israel:
"The one who gave the order forbidding them to stay there bears guilt for this, in this life and the Afterlife throughout history until Resurrection Day." [PA TV April 30, 1999]
4. Article by senior PA journalist
Fuad Abu Higla, then a regular columnist in the official PA daily Al Hayat Al Jadida, wrote an article before an Arab Summit, which criticized the Arab leaders for a series of failures. One of the failures he cited, in the name of a prisoner, was that an earlier generation of Arab leaders "forced" them to leave Israel in 1948, again placing the blame for the flight on the Arab leaders.
"I have received a letter from a prisoner in Acre prison, to the Arab summit: To the [Arab and Muslim] Kings and Presidents, Poverty is killing us, the symptoms are exhausting us and the souls are leaving our body, yet you are still searching for the way to provide aid, like one who is looking for a needle in a haystack or like the armies of your predecessors in the year of 1948, who forced us to leave [Israel], on the pretext of clearing the battlefields of civilians... So what will your summit do now?" [Al-Hayat Al-Jadidah, March 19, 2001]
It is clear from these statements that there is general acknowledgement among Palestinians that Arab leaders bear responsibility for the mass flight of Arabs from Israel in 1948, and were the cause of the "refugee" problem. Furthermore, the fact that this information has been validated by public figures and the media in the Palestinian Authority confirms that this responsibility is well-known – even though, for propaganda purposes, its leaders continue to blame Israel publicly for "the expulsion."