Saturday, August 25, 2007

Circumcision bans leave parents in dark

From The Australian, August 25, 2007, by Clara Pirani, Medical reporter:

PARENTS deciding whether to have their sons circumcised are struggling to find unbiased advice, as state governments begin to restrict access to the controversial procedure.

Infant male circumcision will be banned in public hospitals in Victoria from next month, except in cases where there is a medical need. NSW, Western Australia and Tasmania have already restricted circumcisions in public hospitals and South Australia is considering a similar move. The changes come as the Royal Australasian College of Physicians is reviewing its policy on circumcision, which currently states there is no medical evidence to support the procedure.

"There is a big anti-circumcision campaign out there run by lunatic-fringe organisations and unfortunately they've infiltrated the medical profession," said Brian Morris, professor of molecular medical sciences at the University of Sydney. "As a South Australian, I'm very concerned that South Australia might follow the stupidity of Victoria, NSW and WA. It's an absolutely appalling policy, designed to save a few dollars, I suspect."

Circumcisions were once performed routinely in most Western countries. However, in the 1980s, parents began to question the practice and now only about 10 per cent of boys in Australia are circumcised.

The RACP says the circumcision rate fell when parents began to worry that it may cause surgical complications, while others believed that removal of the foreskin might lead to less sensitivity in the tip of the penis, reducing sexual pleasure.

"There is no evidence to support the circumcision of infant males and boys," said the RACP's director of policy and communication, Garry Disher.

Professor Morris, however, said circumcision significantly reduced the risk of urinary tract infections and sexually transmitted disease. "Between 2 and 5 per cent of uncircumcised boys will develop urinary tract infections, compared to only 0.1 to 0.2 per cent in boys who are circumcised," he said.

In March, the World Health Organisation announced that three trials in Africa showed circumcision reduced a man's risk of developing HIV by 60 per cent.

However, Andrew Grulich, head of the HIV prevention program at the National Centre in HIV Epidemiology and Clinical Research, said circumcision might not have the same impact in Australia. "In Australia, HIV is mostly a disease in homosexual men and most homosexual men are infected by the anus or rectum and not from the penis or foreskin," he said.

Friday, August 24, 2007

UN capers: Iran joins Libyan-led anti-racism committee

From Ynet News, 23/8/07, by Yaakov Lappin ...

Islamic Republic selected by UN for 'leading position' to plan anti-racism conference

Despite its numerous calls for Israel's destruction, and repeated denials of the Holocaust, Iran has been selected by the United Nations for a leading position in a committee that will plan the 2009 UN World Conference against Racism.

The planning committee, which will meet for the first time in Geneva on August 27, will be made up of an inner circle of 20 UN member-states, to be headed by Libya.

The decision to include Iran in the committee has been slammed by UN watchdogs. "As a UN spokesperson against racism, Iran will invert totally the message and mission of the United Nations," Anne Bayefsky, senior editor of the New York-based Eye on the UN, said in a press release.

"Iran is now poised to wrap itself in a UN flag as a lead agent of the next global conference against racism, Durban II," she added, referring to the 2001 UN conference on racism held in Durban, South Africa, which saw unprecedented levels of anti-Zionist rhetoric and calls for Israel's destruction.

Speaking to Ynetnews, Bayefsky said that "the leading exponents of anti-Semitism, whether directed at Jews individually or the Jewish people and its state generally, continue to be provided a global platform at the UN. This is but one example of a broader phenomenon."

"Eye on the UN has found that in 2006 the UN system as a whole directed the most condemnations for human rights abuses against specific states - first towards Israel and fourth towards the United States. Iran was lower down on the list of UN human rights concerns," Bayefsky said, adding: "And yet the US taxpayer continues to pay a quarter of the bill for activities which demonize Americans and Israelis on a global scale."...

'UN body hijacked again'
Bayefsky explained that the structure of the UN's Human Rights Council has effectively been taken over by the countries of the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC), allowing Iran and Libya access to key roles....

Reacting to the statements of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, Hillel Neuer, Executive Director of the Geneva-Based UN Watch organization, said that the UN had failed to explain how Iran had ended up on the planning council.... The United Nations’ government and diplomats do not think the way regular people think. They treat every country equally ...contrary to the UN charter, which says members who act contrary to the charter's principles of supporting peace should be expelled.....

'Israel's options limited'
Asked what his advice would be for Israel on how to deal with the conference, Neuer said: "There is a limited amount of options for Israel. The analogy is to the UN General Assembly, where the numbers speak for themselves, and there is not much Israel can do to prevent certain resolutions."
"The key thing is to work on Western states like Canada and the Europeans. Israel has to be vigilant, has to closely monitor diplomatic developments, and needs to engage with its Western friends and to make sure that the Europeans stand firm and refuse to appease the extremists," Neuer added.
According to Bayefsky, "Israel needs to point continually to the dangerous role played by the UN in undermining the welfare of the Jewish state and its people. The veil of legitimacy of the organization as a leader in human rights protection must be lifted."

US, Israeli Holocaust Institutes Get Nazi Records from Germany

From Deutsche Welle, 22.08.2007 ...

Custodians of a vast German archive dealing with Nazi concentration camps have transferred copies of millions of files to museums in Israel and the US, providing Holocaust survivors with a record of their persecution.

The transfer took place on Monday in line with an agreement to open up the archive managed by the International Tracing Service (ITS) in the German town of Bad Arolsen, which maintains the world's most extensive archive regarding Nazi concentration camps.

"These documents reflect the most despicable operations of the Nazi era and constitute an essential part of our archive," ITS director Reto Meister said in a statement Tuesday.The ITS, an arm of the International Committee of the Red Cross, helps survivors of the camps to claim pensions and compensation and assists families who want to know where their loved ones suffered.

"Above all, the victims of the Holocaust, their families and researchers stand to benefit from this development," Meister said. "After a long political process, we can now give researchers and the public access to the files."The ITS had withheld the papers from researchers until the 11-member, international commission governing the archives agreed in May to sidestep legal barriers and allow wider access in a move Jakob Kellenberger, the president of the ICRC, called "a first step" to providing broader access to the documents.The change will allow historians to view the collections in Bad Arolsen as well as the US Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington and the Yad Vashem Martyrs' and Heroes' Remembrance Authority in Jerusalem."This first transfer is the beginning of a major undertaking," Sara J. Bloomfield, director of the Washington museum, said in a statement Tuesday. "Our goal is to help survivors."

The two institutions received some 12 million digitized documents, about one-third of the Bad Arolsen archive. The rest of the files, most of which are written by hand and sometimes in an old German script, are scheduled to be digitized and delivered by early 2009.

All of the data will be made available to researchers and the public after all 11 ITS member states ratify the legal change. Italy, France and Greece have yet to ratify the agreement, while the United States led pressure to open the sealed archives to families and others before the last Holocaust survivors die.The data was transferred under embargo to allow officials to begin processing the files and making technical preparations for the archive's formal opening, Meister said."The material received last night is complex and vast, taken from a number of camps, which is organized in complicated and varying ways," Avner Shalev, Chairman of Yad Vashem, said in a statement Tuesday. "We expect it will take a lot of resources to sift through the material and catalog it."The documents, kept in six buildings at Bad Arolsen, a remote town in hills north of Frankfurt, are only a part of the world's scattered stock of personal data on Nazi victims. Prisoner-of-war data is kept separately by the Central Tracing Agency in Geneva, Switzerland.

Thursday, August 23, 2007


From The Globe (Canada), August 22, 2007, by MARK MACKINNON ...

Growing Muslim movement offers alternative to Hamas

KFAR AQAB, WEST BANK -- The bearded young Muslims strode in silence until we reached the threshold of a nondescript mosque in this middle-class town on the edge of Ramallah. "Now we'll see if we can convert you," he said with a sudden smile. He laughed, but it wasn't entirely a joke. There's nothing a member of Hizb ut-Tahrir takes more seriously than trying to convert others to their particular brand of Islam. The party's goal is the establishment of a worldwide Caliphate, a global Islamic empire. We're all welcome to join the umma, or Islamic nation, and become its subjects.

Founded in 1953, Hizb ut-Tahrir has for decades troubled governments from the United Kingdom to Uzbekistan with its calls for peaceful Islamic revolution and the establishment of strict sharia law. But it wasn't well known outside of intelligence circles until now.
In recent weeks, a newly assertive Hizb ut-Tahrir has been showing its strength across the Muslim world, most impressively by drawing 100,000 people to a soccer stadium in Indonesia earlier this month. They noisily called for a return to the time of the caliphs, a line of centuries of Islamic rulers that ended with the collapse of the Ottoman Empire more than 80 years ago.

Now the rapidly growing movement has been emerging from the shadows in the Palestinian territories as well, capitalizing on public unhappiness with the recent bloodshed between the mainstream Hamas and Fatah movements that has split the Palestinian cause in two. A recent rally in the West Bank drew a crowd estimated in the tens of thousands. Days later, the centre of Ramallah is still covered in dark red posters praising "The Caliphate: The Coming Force," and Palestinians are flocking to mosques to hear preachers with an angry message.

"Why are we watching infidels prosper in this world and not stopping them?" Sheik Abu Abdullah, a young-looking man sporting a black turban and a neat black beard, asked a silent crowd of 50 people gathered at the al-Faruq mosque in Kfar Aqab last night. The audience, all men, most middle-class professionals, sat in silence as a battery of ceiling fans sliced through the humid night air. "Muslims in China, Indonesia, Pakistan and everywhere in their thousands are asking for God's government through the Caliphate. They demand the return of God's rule on Earth," the preacher continued. He acknowledged the road to a global Islamic empire would be a long one, but told the worshippers to "please be optimistic."

The scene at al-Faruq mosque was one that's now repeated nightly at mosques all around the West Bank and Gaza Strip. Hizb ut-Tahrir even offers such post-prayer "lessons" at Jerusalem's iconic al-Aqsa mosque, one of the holiest sites in Islam. The message they're selling is one that resonates with Palestinians who feel betrayed by both the secular, corrupt Fatah movement of Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas and the often senseless violence perpetrated by Hamas, which recently seized military control of the Gaza Strip.

"Our numbers have increased and most importantly, the ones who are coming are the younger generation," Sheik Abdullah, who works as a health-care administrator during the day, said after the mosque had largely emptied. "People have tried other political parties and are fed up with them." But Hizb ut-Tahrir won't try to capitalize on its new popularity in the next Palestinian elections. It teaches members that there should be no democracy, because democratic systems are a tool of Islam's chief enemy, the United States.

Nor does Hizb ut-Tahrir see value in Hamas's policy of using violence against Israel. Sending poorly armed Palestinians to fight the Israeli army is "fruitless," Sheik Abdullah said. The Jewish state and its occupation of Palestinian lands will be dealt with later by the combined armies of Islam. "The solution is not to send 10,000 people from Gaza into Israel or to remove some military checkpoints," said Abu Abed, a 36-year-old physics teacher and senior Hizb ut-Tahrir member who attended last night's lesson.

"Even if a Palestinian state was established under the best conditions, what kind of country would it be? A country like Yemen or Jordan?" he continued, listing off two Arab regimes with repressive, secular, governments that Hizb ut-Tahrir wants to overthrow.

The movement also shrugs off Hamas's recent takeover of the Gaza Strip, charging that Hamas is not Islamic enough because it pursues the goal of a Palestinian state instead of a borderless caliphate. Other fundamentalists who seized power, such as Afghanistan's deposed Taliban, are also dismissed as not having gone far enough.

....While Hizb ut-Tahrir professes non-violence, many experts believe that it serves at least as a "conveyor belt" for groups including al-Qaeda, radicalizing young Muslims who are later recruited by more violent groups. Its members have been subjected to severe repression by nervous regimes in Russia, Central Asia and the Mideast.

The movement is banned in most Arab countries, but operates with relative freedom in the Palestinian territories. ...

Hizb ut-Tahrir at a glance

Its name means Party of Liberation, and it was started in Jerusalem in 1953 by a Palestinian cleric and judge dissatisfied with the Muslim Brotherhood.
Aims It wants to unite the Islamic countries and eventually the entire world in a single Islamic state - known as a caliphate - governed according to the laws of God, as set out in the Koran, rather than by the laws of man.

Its first step toward achieving this is to educate Muslims about its philosophies and goals. The second is for adherents to spread these views among others, especially members of government, the military and other power centres. The final step is to cause secular governments to crumble because loyalties will then lie solely with Islam - not nationalities, politics or ethnicities.
Beliefs It doesn't support violent methods, but calls for the end of Israel and the withdrawal of all Western interests in the Middle East. It totally opposes democracy, saying that it is incompatible with its goals because it means voting for parties that do not subscribe to sharia law.

There have been efforts to ban it in Britain and Australia, but it remains legal there and in Canada and the United States. It is banned in Germany, Russia, many of the former Soviet republics and most of the less liberal Arab countries.

Source: New York Times, Global Security, BBC

Neo-Nazi revival in Eastern Germany

From The Australian, August 22, 2007 by Roger Boyes, Berlin ....

LOCALS in a small east German township stood by as a drunken mob of about 50 youths howling neo-Nazi slogans hunted down eight terrified Indian tourists. The attack in Mugeln, near Leipzig, was the latest in a series of violent assaults on foreigners in eastern Germany that is beginning to alarm the Government in Berlin.

The inhabitants of Mugeln were celebrating their traditional Old Town street festival on Saturday night when a horde of German youths started to pick a fight with the visiting Indians.
After pushing and shoving them, the youths chased them out of a beer tent and pursued them through the narrow streets of the town centre. The young Indian men took refuge in a pizzeria and tried to barricade the doors with tables. By the time police arrived, the Germans had smashed their way into the pizzeria. The eight Indians were treated in hospital but have been released.

... witnesses say the mob was shouting slogans such as "Long live the national resistance!" and "Get out of Germany!".

....Saturday was a red letter day for neo-Nazis in Germany, marking the anniversary of the 1987 death of Rudolf Hess, Hitler's deputy in the Nazi party.

.....A survey of 14 to 25-year-olds carried out by the Forsa opinion poll institute found that one out of two youths in eastern Germany believed that national socialism had "its good sides".
Because of the strong grassroots presence of the NPD in Saxony -- Mugeln is close to the main Saxon cities of Leipzig and Dresden -- and in Mecklenburg-Pommerania, funding is often made available for youth centres for the far-Right.....In Wismar, an ancient port in eastern Germany, there are now not only neo-Nazi youth centres but also retail outlets where sympathisers can buy CDs with racist music and neo-Nazi paraphernalia.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

The road to nowhere

From THE JERUSALEM POST, Aug. 21, 2007, by YOSEF LAPID ....

....There is no point to the talks [between Olmert and Abbas] because ultimately they lead nowhere, being an exercise in futility that will never culminate in an agreement. The relationship between Israel and the Palestinians in Judea and Samaria will carry on without the benefit of a formal agreement, as they have until now.

The die was cast when Israel withdrew from Gush Katif. It was a historic step, a sacrifice that shook Israeli society.

The Palestinians' response was not long in coming: They stepped up the Kassam fire and elected Hamas, establishing a regime that does not recognize Israel's right to exist and is unwilling to concede its armed struggle until Israel is completely defeated.

THE ISRAELI public has learned its lesson. It has learned that every Israeli concession boomerangs against us, that the Palestinians prefer suffering and war to prosperity and peace, that there is no one to talk to and nothing that can be trusted: not Oslo, Camp David, Madrid or the withdrawal from Gush Katif. The Israeli peace camp has imploded ....

Abbas cannot give up the "right of return" or a single inch of land beyond the 1967 borders because if he does, he will not survive. And Olmert, even if he wanted to, could not close an deal with him because of two ironclad principles: Israel cannot make concession to the Palestinians in Judea and Samaria because Hamas could take over Ramallah at any moment, just as it did in Gaza.

Abbas would be removed from power, Ismail Haniyeh would be declared the president of Free Palestine, women would be ordered to veil their faces, men to grow beards, and , cutting off Israel's air connection with the world. the Kassam rockets - and eventually Katyusha rockets too - would land not only on Sderot but on Netanya and Kfar Saba. And on Ben-Gurion airport. This is a scenario neither Olmert nor Ehud Barak (who has already said so explicitly) can afford.

THE SECOND principle that precludes the possibility of a permanent settlement is that there is no government in Israel, nor will there be one in the foreseeable future, capable of evacuating a quarter of a million, or 100,000, or even 50,000 settlers. Some of them might agree to leave for the sake of peace and others in return for compensation; but the hard core of the settlers, which numbers tens of thousands of religious and secular people, will neither move nor give in, even at the price of civil war.

Hebron is not Gush Katif. For Gush Katif, they weep; for Hebron, they will fight. Last week we all saw how hundreds of police and thousands of soldiers were needed to evacuate just a handful of settlers from a couple of homes. Who would be able to evacuate all the settlers from all the homes, and how could it be done? No government could promise to do so - and if it did, it would never be able to keep that promise....

Hamas Escalates Terrorism, to Save Themselves

From Debkafile, August 22, 2007, 9:22 AM (GMT+02:00) [emphasis added - SL] ...

In the first half of the week, at least 16 Palestinians were killed by Israel military responses to the waves of Palestinian missile and mortar fire buffeting the population living around Gaza. Hamas, Jihad Islami, Fatah-Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, Popular Committees and al Qaeda-linked Salafi groups are all shooting missiles and mortars at Israeli communities around the clock – two dozen in the last 24 hours. An empty nursery school and factory were badly damaged in Sderot. The IDF has brought into action new surveillance instruments and short-range high-precision surface rockets.

Tuesday night, Aug. 21, one Hamas terrorist was killed, and several injured as they crept up to the border fence. During the day, 9 Palestinians were killed, including two children standing by a launcher near Beit Hanoun in northern Gaza, who were mistaken for a missile team.

Palestinian organizations are now fielding their Qassam missile and mortar teams day and night. Marksmen armed with sniper rifles fitted with night-vision equipment are shooting at IDF border positions, armored patrols and civilian traffic within range of the border. Israeli farmers have been ordered by the military to work their fields only up to one kilometer short of the border.

Yet Israeli forces are not permitted to execute their plan to carve out a 1.5-2 km buffer strip inside the Gaza Strip to keep Palestinian assailants at bay, although prime minister Ehud Olmert and defense minister Ehud Barak have promised that the Israel military will not pull its punches against the enemy.

A senior officer in command of the sector complained that without this buffer, Palestinians hold the initiative of when, where and on what scale to wage war. “We are only allowed to shoot when they are near the border fence. It is therefore inevitable that the Palestinians will intensify their attacks, extend their range and start building up casualties on our side.”

Military commanders told DEBKAfile Tuesday night that there is nothing to deter the Palestinians from bringing out their advanced anti-tank rockets and extended-range Qassam surface missiles against the towns of Ashkelon and Netivot, as well as the cluster of military facilities guarding the Israel-Gazan border. They also believe that not all the tunnels running under the fence from Gaza into Israel have been found and the Palestinians intend to use them for surprise attacks.

DEBKAfile’s Palestinian sources explain that local Hamas extremists have intensified their order to break out of the military, economic and financial blockade clamped down on their rule by the US, Israel, Egypt and the Europeans. This stranglehold prevents Hamas from exercising government and its rule is in danger. To save themselves, Hamas’ military chiefs are driving their war with Israel to extremes. They hope for enough civilian deaths to force outside intervention for a ceasefire in hostilities. Then, Hamas can make its acceptance contingent on the reopening of the Israel-Gaza and Egyptian border crossings under their control.

Wishful thinking

From THE JERUSALEM POST Editor's Notes: Aug. 17, 2007, by David Horovitz [my own emphasis added - SL]....

....The sadly proven fact that should have long since been internalized is that Mahmoud Abbas has neither fought the terrorism that has blighted our day-to-day life here, nor even been moved to stave off his own political demise by reforming the governance his rotten Fatah apparatus offers his disillusioned people. His Prime Minister Salaam Fayad, the new great white Palestinian hope of the world diplomatic community, meanwhile, is paying the salaries of the very Hamas politicians who seek his humiliation and ouster, and even funding some of Hamas's murderous gunmen, albeit apparently because of some nefarious machinations in the PA's computer room.

Rewarding all this failure with an attempt at substantive diplomacy smacks of desperation - by the Bush administration, by the Quartet, and by Israel's government. It smacks of wishful thinking, of the pursuit of false ideas. And it won't work, because it can't work.

No diplomatic framework can succeed so long as the killers who seek its collapse are free to detonate bombs, gun down civilians and fire off rocket barrages at the first hint of real progress. That's why the only process that can possibly succeed is one that places the countering of terrorism, and the attempt to marginalize it, as the first crucial step.

Funding and arming and embracing Abbas's hollow Palestinian Authority without demanding the tackling of terrorism is a veritable disincentive to reform. It prevents Abbas from so much as telling his own people that terrorism must be rooted out as a precondition for progress. And consequently it is a recipe for disaster.

Far from guaranteeing good results, the good intentions of Bush, Rice, Blair and Olmert, pursued via this track, are guaranteed to fail.....

....Competent leadership would measure the practicalities of dealing with the extremists against the possibilities for marginalizing them, assess the prospects for genuine reform of the PA, listen to advocates and opponents, heed its own warning bells, and marshal its own wisdom and understanding to formulate the most effective path forward. What we have instead, domestically and chivvying from the outside, are wishful thinkers. But wishful thinking won't make Hamas go away.

Islam's unholy alliance

From The Australian, August 22, 2007 , by Cameron Stewart and Richard Kerbaj ...

....The global divide between Islam's two main groups, Sunnis and Shi'ites, has not become a flashpoint in Australia's Muslim community. On the contrary, as was revealed by The Australian, the nation's Shi'ite and Sunni leaders have formed a united front against Israel, declaring their support for the Iranian-backed terrorist network Hezbollah.

Yesterday Muslim leaders from both sects attacked the Howard Government and the Opposition for meeting a controversial US-based Muslim thinker, Wafa Sultan, who considers the prophet Mohammed evil and who says there is no difference between moderate and radical Islam.

....The unholy alliance of Shi'ites and Sunnis follows comments by Australia's top Shi'ite spiritual leader Kamal Mousselmani in The Australian in which he labelled Israel a terrorist state and expressed his allegiance to Hezbollah militants. Trad says his sect largely supported Sheikh Mousselmani's comments. "Sunnis outside of Lebanon, they still have a great deal of respect for Hezbollah," he says.

Trad is not alone in his thinking. Last year during an anti-war rally in Melbourne, Australia's new mufti, Fehmi Naji el-Imam, called Hezbollah militants freedom fighters.

It remains to be seen how permanent this new-found unity is between Australia's 270,000-strong Sunni community and the much smaller 30,000 Shi'ite population. The tensions that erupted in Auburn in 2005 suggest it is, at best, an uneasy peace between the two sects that is being watched by ASIO. "The ongoing violence in Iraq continues to have an impact on the Middle East community in Australia," ASIO wrote in its most recent annual report. "During 2005, in the lead-up to elections in Iraq, tensions increased between members of the Sunni and Shia communities in Sydney, particularly in the Auburn area."

State and federal police are also keeping a close eye on relations between the two sects. Victorian police recently visited the Victorian town of Shepparton, which has a large Iraqi community, and met leaders from both sects.....

....The most common bond between Australia's Sunnis and Shi'ites is proving to be their shared dislike of Israel.... "There are some Sunni Muslims who are opposed to Israel and so they are willing to put the ideological differences aside because Hezbollah (is) seen to be 'standing up' to the Israelis and doing what, in their view, Arab and Muslim armies and governments have been unable or unwilling to do...." .... last July, several moderate Australian Muslim leaders who had backed John Howard on the war against al-Qa'ida called on the Prime Minister to rethink Australia's branding of Hezbollah as a terrorist organisation.

Ameer Ali, the then head of the Government's Muslim advisory body, said Hezbollah was wrongly classified as a terrorist group because, unlike al-Qa'ida, it was "not creating violence at random" but merely protecting the state of Lebanon. Howard was unmoved. "Rethink our proscription of it as a terrorist organisation? No chance, full stop. No chance at all," Howard said.

.... Another bond between Sunnis and Shi'ites in Australia is their widely held belief that the Australian Government is persecuting Muslims in general and that the tough new terror laws are aimed at people of Islamic faith. This perception of a common enemy so close to home is further helping to unite these traditional Muslim rivals.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Health system not ready for next war

From Ynet News, 21/8/07, by Amnon Meranda ...

"Israel's health system is not ready for the next war," Chairman of the Knesset's State Control Committee MK Zevulun Orlev said Monday at a special meeting following the state comptroller's recent report on the handling of Israel's home front during the Second Lebanon War.

The committee members addressed the problem of fortification of hospitals and Rafi Beyar, director of Rambam Medical Center in Haifa, claimed that the government was "shirking its national responsibility to ensure the safety of the residents of the north by not transferring funds for fortifying the hospital."

Beyar later told Ynet that "the government has not transferred even one agora for the fortification. We are being thrown to the donors". State Comptroller Micha Lindenstrauss' report which was released in July stated that except for the Ziv Medical Center in Safed and the Western Galilee Hospital in Nahariya, no other medical institution in northern Israel was fortified, despite the matter being addressed in previous reports.

The comptroller stated that fortifying hospitals should become top priority, along with the medical teams who were forced to drive to and from the hospitals during the war. The report also stated that the process of evacuating injured to hospitals should be supervised so as not to create overcrowding in the emergency and operating rooms.

As for Magen David Adom's performance, Lindenstrauss revealed that some 200 ambulances stationed in the north lacked protective equipment against chemical warfare and pointed out that the emergency services did not have sufficient funds for emergencies.

Israel’s Armed Forces Undermanned, Under-equipped for War

From a DEBKAfile Military Report and Analysis, August 21, 2007....

Since the beginning of the week, Israel’s top military commanders have been poring over the situation of the Israeli Defense Forces in a workshop called by Ehud Barak who took over as defense minister two months ago. Some of their most alarming findings were presented by Barak at his first news conference in Tel Aviv Monday, Aug. 21 in advance of the ministry’s presentation of its budget requirements.

Not all of the findings were news after disastrous deficiencies were brought to light in the ill-managed 2006 Lebanon War against Hizballah. But the negligence was now frankly traced to 1994 and 13 years of budget slashes by one government after another, including the one headed by the defense minister himself. They have left Israel’s armed forces deprived of the three security capabilities which Barak deems essential to Israel’s survival in a hostile environment: deterrence, early warning and victory.

To restore these capabilities, Barak outlined a program, the highlights of which are to reconstitute two disbanded reservist divisions, improve tank armor to withstand armor-piercing missiles and effective, active interception measures to protect the population against enemy rocket fire.

DEBKAfile’s analysts note that, for the present, the IDF offers early warning - but not deterrence; the burning drive to prevail over the enemy was seen wanting in the Lebanon War and missing in dealing with the plague of missile and mortar attacks from Gaza, the daily fare of the neighboring Israeli population.

Senior officers told our sources: “The IDF is not only short of funds to meet its objectives, but also lacks sufficient manpower. It would take at least 10 years to rebuild and retrain the armed forces. The question is: what do we do in the meantime?”

According to DEBKAfile’s sources in Jerusalem, prime minister Ehud Olmert refuses to approve funding for two additional armored reservist divisions, for accelerating the development of the Iron Dome system against short-range missiles and rockets, for fitting Israeli tanks with an extra layer of armor against anti-tank missiles, and for manufacturing the new Nimrod armored personnel carriers that would make the infantry much more maneuverable in the terrain where combat is foreseen.

The new defense minister is also calling for a long IDF operational arm which can strike deep inside hostile territory in such places as Iran, Syria, Lebanon and, if necessary, beyond. DEBKAfile’s military analysts report that the continuing budget deficiencies which hobble Israel’s military at large, also deny it the air power, missiles, submarines and specialist training for such long-range capabilities.

The under-training of special operations units was starkly conspicuous in the Lebanon war, in particular the Baalbek raid. Military experts agree that if Barak wants to achieve a swift victory against Syria in the event of war, IDF forces must be able to move very fast and take the battle across the lines deep into hostile territory so as to seize the initiative from Syrian commando forces. They may find they are also up against Iranian Revolutionary Guards flown in to back up the Syrians.

The manpower for such missions is in short supply at present.
DEBKAfile’s military sources point to four factors which need to be taken into account in the immediate future:

1. The rapid arming of the Iranian, Syrian and Hizballah armed forces financed by war budgets estimated as threefold or four times that allocated the IDF.

2. The danger of a simultaneous war flare-up on three of Israel’s borders. The IDF is better prepared for a multi-front conflict than it was a year ago, but the population remains defenseless against possible rocket attacks.

3. Israel’s policy-makers have not kept up with the rapid development of weapons technologies in the world, which is drawing on experience in the Iraq War and other conflicts. Hizballah, too, has made great strides forward. The fact is that interceptor systems for short-range missiles, such as the Iron Dome which Israel has tardily decided to develop, have been proved ineffective for protecting a civilian population. The American and Japanese armies have dropped it and gone back to tactical mobile high-energy laser weapons for countering rockets, artillery shells and mortars. Israel’s military industries began to pioneer this type of weapon a decade ago, but were forced to abandon their work by, yes, loss of government funding.

4. The long neglect of Israel’s military capabilities must be attributed largely to unrealistic fixations at the top of Israeli governments on peace prospects with the Palestinians and Syria and their failure to factor in Iran’s creeping domination over the military and diplomatic strategies of its allies and protégés. Even now, Israel’s leaders are blinding themselves to the fact that Tehran’s undivided focus on annihilating the Jewish state governs the policies of three of its neighbors, Syria, Hizballah and the Palestinians.

Barak’s stress on deterrence, early warning and victory is timely and right but unworkable so long as the heads of Israeli government and society refuse to rearrange their priorities. Soldiers will not be inclined to fight to win in a climate of concessions to active hostile forces, budget cuts and indifference to their needs....

Al Qaeda's Travel Agent

From The Wall Street Journal, BY JOSEPH LIEBERMAN, Independent Democratic senator from Connecticut, Monday, August 20, 2007...

Damascus International Airport is a hub for terrorists.

The United States is at last making significant progress against al Qaeda in Iraq--but the road to victory now requires cutting off al Qaeda's road to Iraq through Damascus.

...defeating al Qaeda in Iraq requires not only that we continue pressing the offensive against its leadership and infrastructure inside the country. We must also aggressively target its links to "global" al Qaeda and close off the routes its foreign fighters are using to get into Iraq.

Recently declassified American intelligence reveals just how much al Qaeda in Iraq is dependent for its survival on the support it receives from the broader, global al Qaeda network, and how most of that support flows into Iraq through one country--Syria. Al Qaeda in Iraq is sustained by a transnational network of facilitators and human smugglers, who replenish its supply of suicide bombers--approximately 60 to 80 Islamist extremists, recruited every month from across the Middle East, North Africa and Europe, and sent to meet their al Qaeda handlers in Syria, from where they are taken to Iraq to blow themselves up to kill countless others.

.....That is why we now must focus on disrupting this flow of suicide bombers--and that means focusing on Syria, through which up to 80% of the Iraq-bound extremists transit.....and the overwhelming majority does so, according to U.S. intelligence estimates, by flying into Damascus International Airport, making the airport the central hub of al Qaeda travel in the Middle East....

....It is therefore time to demand that the Syrian regime stop playing travel agent for al Qaeda in Iraq. When Congress reconvenes next month, we should set aside whatever differences divide us on Iraq and send a clear and unambiguous message to the Syrian regime, as we did last month to the Iranian regime, that the transit of al Qaeda suicide bombers through Syria on their way to Iraq is completely unacceptable, and it must stop.

....Responsible air carriers should be asked to stop flights into Damascus International, as long as it remains the main terminal of international terror. Despite its use by al Qaeda and Hezbollah terrorists, the airport continues to be serviced by many major non-U.S. carriers, including Alitalia, Air France, and British Airways.....

....Simply put, for the U.S. and our Iraqi allies, defeating al Qaeda in Iraq means locking shut Syria's "Open Door" policy to terrorists.....

Monday, August 20, 2007

Israeli Cabinet to end Jewish Agency monopoly over immigration

From Haaretz, 20/8/07, by Anshel Pfeffer ....

The cabinet is scheduled to vote on a NIS 19 million allocation in the 2008 state budget for two independent immigration organizations. The resolution is expected to pass, essentially ending the Jewish Agency's monopoly over immigration to Israel.

The resolution would allocate funding to Nefesh B'Nefesh and AMI, which support Jewish immigration from North America, Britain and France......... The resolution would also enable the organizations to receive funds not only for their absorption activities within Israel but also for their emissaries stationed abroad.

Officials in Diaspora Jewish organizations view the resolution as a "ringing slap" in the face of the Jewish Agency, and a recognition of the fact that in the past several years it has failed to bring significant numbers of olim from prosperous countries....

Anti-Semitic bashing in Melbourne

From The Australian, August 20, 2007, by Natasha Robinson ...

MELBOURNE'S Jewish community has been rocked by an anti-Semitic attack in which a teenager was bashed with a baseball bat and a restaurant diner punched in the face.

Police are investigating the series of violent incidents, which occurred shortly after midnight on Saturday night in Balaclava, in Melbourne's Jewish heartland. A 17-year-old boy, an Orthodox Jew, was bashed with a baseball bat by three men who also smashed cars parked outside a Jewish restaurant.

The attack started when three men approached a group of Jewish men who were standing outside a restaurant on Carlisle Street in Balaclava. When the Jewish men went inside the restaurant, Mr Glicks, the men followed, punched a diner in the face and smashed windows.

The Jewish group B'nai B'rith said yesterday the attackers also vandalised cars parked outside the restaurant. Police were called, but the attackers had fled by the time they arrived.

However, about half an hour later, the men returned, this time with baseball bats. Teenager Alon Tam told The Australian he was walking along the street when he heard his friends shouting "Run, run, they're coming". Two men armed with baseball bats then started hitting him.

"They each came up to me with a baseball bat and came from both sides, bashing me, and told me that I'm a Jew and I deserve to die," Mr Tam said. He said he was hit on the chest and arms but managed to escape major injury. He was treated at the scene, but did not need to attend hospital.

Police were again called following the assault. Helicopters scoured the area looking for the attackers, but the men were not found.

Jewish groups yesterday condemned the attack, which they said was particularly concerning given that it occurred within a few hundred metres of an attack on Jewish man Menachem Vorchheimer, who was set upon by a group of young footballers in the same suburb in October last year.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Restitution of Holocaust-Era Assets: Promises and Reality

(Brief exerpts only) from a paper by Sidney Zabludoff***, published March 2007 in the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs "Jewish Political Studies Review" 19:1-2 (Spring 2007). [Follow this link to see the full paper) ...

Less than 20 percent of the value of Jewish assets stolen by the Nazis and their collaborators has been restored. At least $115-$175 billion (2005 prices) remains unreturned despite numerous clear and explicit international agreements and country promises made during World War II and immediately thereafter. Even the highly publicized resurgence of restitution efforts since the mid-1990s resulted in the return of only 3 percent of Holocaust property. A key reason for these meager results during both periods was the failure to make a unique, comprehensive, and timely effort to deal adequately with an event unequaled in the annals of modern history-the extermination of more than two-thirds of continental European Jewry and the confiscation of nearly all of its assets.

There was a marked divergence between the promises and the reality of returning Jewish assets stolen by the Nazi regime and its collaborators during the Holocaust era. Two key time periods in this regard are the postwar era and the mid-1990s to the present, when there was a resurgence of interest in asset restitution. Certain lessons have emerged from the cumulative experience.

Excluded from the present discussion are other legitimate claims of Holocaust victims such as Nazi-inflicted damage to life, health, and income. These relate to pensions and onetime payments, such as for slave labor.

Estimated Value of Pre-Holocaust Looted Jewish Assets is possible to provide a reasonable estimate that can be used as a framework for understanding the issue in terms of what was lost and what has been restored.
In late-1930s prices, the value of Jewish assets amounted to $10-$15 billion.....In today's prices (2005) the value of these Jewish assets would be some $143-$215 billion.....

How Restitution Fared until the Mid-1990s
The Promises and Pledges
Efforts to restore property taken by the Nazis and their collaborators began well before the end of hostilities......Throughout the war, the Allies constantly stated that a major aim was to ensure the return of property stolen, confiscated, or taken under duress.....

.....Soon after regaining their independence, all occupied countries put in place restitution regulations. ....

The Reality
At most, 15 percent of Jewish assets confiscated from 1934 to 1945 were returned after the war to their owners, their heirs, and Jewish organizations representing heirless claimants. Within Western Europe, the percentage restored for each country roughly ranged from 10 to 60 percent. In Eastern Europe, restitution was negligible. This meant the value of unrestored assets by the mid-1990s amounted to $120-$180 billion at 2005 prices....

....In November 1992, the World Jewish Restitution Organization was formed to handle the return of Jewish property in postcommunist Eastern Europe. It grew out of an alliance between major Jewish international bodies (representing the Diaspora) and the state of Israel, and was aimed at recovering communal property and private assets.

....Restitution faced many complications because assets were hard to find and difficult to value while confiscation had taken many paths. A major problem was that most property owners had died in the Holocaust along with their close heirs. Many of the remaining heirs lacked knowledge of the assets or possessed none of the paperwork needed to prove ownership. Among the many other impediments were:
● Many Jews were forced to sell their businesses, homes, and possessions at far less than prevailing market values because of Aryanization and loss of income.
● Property was extracted indirectly via heavy taxes solely on Jews.
● Movables were very difficult to trace. Furniture and other household items were disbursed widely. The bulk was sold or auctioned throughout Europe or ended up in the homes of numerous Nazi officials. A considerable share was simply stolen by Nazi collaborators or greedy neighbors in the occupied territories.
● Stocks, bonds, and other financial instruments often were traded many times and thus were dispersed throughout global markets. To make matters more difficult, much of this financial paper was in the form of bearer instruments, which do not indicate the name of the owner.
● The Soviets confiscated from the Reichsbank in Berlin large amounts of bonds and securities that the Nazis had not sold via Switzerland and other neutral countries during the war. These assets were an important part of the prewar financial portfolio of European Jews.
● Placing a value on the lost property was extremely intricate. The prices of bonds and stocks followed an erratic course as a result of the 1930s depression and the war. Much of the real estate was heavily damaged. Many once-prosperous companies were now defunct or a slim shell of their prewar proportions. Moreover, determining a fair amount to compensate for lost earnings on assets, especially financial holdings, was a highly contentious task.
● In some countries, the looted property was sold or auctioned off cheaply by the Nazis and their collaborators and the receipts placed in a fund. Those running the fund often charged excessive fees for the task. After the war, the amounts remaining in these funds thus were relatively small, leaving little for cash-strapped governments to return.

....During the mid-1990s, the concern for completing the restitution task resurfaced with considerable intensity. It was triggered by questions related to the duplicity of Swiss banks in failing to return Holocaust survivors' or their heirs' bank deposits made before World War II. It then erupted from a confluence of events. The coming of age of the "third" generation after the Holocaust led to a renewed discussion about how countries and their citizens had reacted to the plight of Jews....

....The enhanced interest was aggressively impelled by politicians, lawyers, and Jewish groups, mainly in the United States. U.S. congressional hearings were held. State banking and insurance regulators (mainly in New York and California) threatened to halt bank mergers involving European banks and not allow insurance companies to do business in their state unless restitution was adequately addressed. Jewish organizations operating in the United States, especially the World Jewish Congress, were highly effective in making politicians and regulators aware of the restitution issue and in publicizing historical information obtained from the U.S. National Archives.....

....European governments and companies were forced to take action.....When it came to returning or paying for stolen assets, however, the negotiations with European countries and businesses were long and arduous. From the mid-1990s to 2006, only some $3.4 billion was pledged to restore unpaid assets directly to survivors or their heirs or as humanitarian funds ....In addition to these pledges, about half a billion dollars was paid via a few high-profile individual art and real estate legal cases, bringing the total to nearly $4 billion.

Despite the considerable public awareness and U.S. pressure, only about 3 percent of the unpaid Holocaust assets was restored during the ten years since 1995. As a result, more than 80 percent remains unpaid, an amount equal to $115-$175 billion in 2005 prices. Moreover, progress in meeting the pledges was painfully slow. By the end of 2005, only about half of the $3.4 billion pledged was disbursed....

....After 2002, efforts to resolve the remaining restitution issues quickly faded. Most significant was the reduced U.S. political clout, which had been the mainstay of the endeavor. No additional noteworthy congressional hearings were held, efforts by U.S. state regulators diminished sharply, and there were unfavorable court cases. Public interest meanwhile receded along with an appreciable drop in press articles. .....

....West European governments and their public had little or no incentive to muster the political will needed to restore or compensate for the vast amounts of Jewish property never returned. This largely reflected the view that the issue had been resolved decades ago. There was also no significant number of Jewish voters.....

* * * SIDNEY ZABLUDOFF is an economist who worked for the White House, CIA, and Treasury Department for more than thirty years. Upon retirement in 1995, he focused on issues related to the restitution of Jewish assets stolen during the Holocaust era. He has published numerous detailed studies on the issue and was the principal analyst for Jewish participants involved in insurance claims.

Hamas TV's child star says she's ready for martyrdom

From the Santa Barbara News, by Dion Nissenbaum, August 14, 2007 ....

GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip - Saraa Barhoum picked at the buttons on her pink bellbottom jeans as she twisted on a chair inside the bustling new Hamas television headquarters. The afternoon light bounced off the sparkly outlines of butterflies on her frilly top, and a colorful hijab framed her 11-year-old face.

Saraa wants to be a doctor. If she can't, the young star of Hamas television's best-known children's show said, she'd be proud to become a martyr. Saraa says little Jewish girls should be forced from their homes in Israel so that Palestinians can return to their land.

With the show's producer helpfully offering written tips during an interview, Saraa didn't get into how she hopes to die for her cause, be it suicide bombing, fighting the Israeli military or some other way. She carefully sidestepped any suggestion that she's subtly calling for the destruction of Israel....

....Saraa is the sweet face of ''Tomorrow's Pioneers,'' a weekly, hour-long Hamas television children's show best known for bringing the world a militant Mickey Mouse look-alike and then having him killed off by an Israeli interrogator. With her jarring mix of innocent charm and militant rhetoric, Saraa is at the center of the militant Islamist group's increasingly sophisticated campaign to become the dominant force in Palestinian politics.

....Since it went on the air last year in the Gaza Strip, the Hamas-funded al-Aqsa television has gained momentum and expanded its audience to include the West Bank. Taking a lead from Hezbollah's al-Manar television station in Beirut, Hamas is using al-Aqsa to promote its agenda and challenge its rivals, in this case Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and his fractured Fatah allies....

....''Tomorrow's Pioneers'' sparked an international furor in April when it began featuring Farfour, the Mickey Mouse look-alike who sounded more like Iran's firebrand President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad than a Disney character.

...The Israeli government and activists who monitor Palestinian programming accused Hamas of poisoning the minds of young children with the show. After two months, Farfour was beaten to death on the show by an Israeli interrogator. Nahoul, a larger-than-life bee, is now carrying his message. ''A lot of people in Palestine have died as martyrs, and lots of Palestinians hope to be martyrs,'' Saraa said of Farfour's demise. ''This is one of the ends.''

Asked if she hoped one day to be a martyr, Saraa instinctively nodded her head. ''Of course,'' Saraa said. ''It's something to be proud of. Every Palestinian citizen hopes to be a martyr.''
Saraa helps deliver similar messages to Palestinian children from a Hamas TV set filled with colorful numbers and pictures of kittens. During the show, Saraa fields calls from Palestinian children who warble songs about Islam, liberating Jerusalem and finding answers in the barrel of a machine gun.

... Saraa is the true face of Hamas, an extremist group that's using an innocent front to conceal its real agenda.

...On the show, Saraa offers moral lessons to viewers and urges them to do what they can to fight Israeli occupation. After some prodding in an interview, Saraa offered a personal message for Israeli girls her age. ''They have to leave,'' she said. ''This is our country. They kicked us out and stole our happiness. This is a natural result.''......


Follow the links below to see exerpts from the Hamas TV show ''Tomorrow's Pioneers,'' featuring Saraa Barhoum and Farfour:

Farfour's first shows with Saraa

Farfour is killed by Israeli interrogator

Farfour is replaced by Nahoul the bee

Iranian Guard financial holdings extensive

From The Washington Times, August 16, 2007 By David R. Sands ....

Iran's Revolutionary Guard Corps, which faces the prospect of severe U.S. financial sanctions as a "terrorist organization," represents a tempting target given its multibillion-dollar commercial empire ranging from oil fields to honeybee farms.

Bush administration officials yesterday insisted that no decision had been made on the terrorist designation, but acknowledged privately that the move to sanction Iran's Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) was under active consideration and, if approved, could be announced by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice within the month.

....The U.S. terrorist designation would freeze any U.S. assets of the IRGC, but financial analysts say its greater practical effect would be to discourage companies and banks from other nations from working with the corps' various subsidiaries.

....The IRGC, formed specifically to preserve the Islamic republic after the ouster of Shah Mohammed Reza Pahlavi in the 1979 revolution, has long been a player in the Iranian economy. The force, which is separate from Iran's regular military services, is authorized by the constitution to own and develop commercial enterprises in peacetime. But the IRGC's financial scope has expanded dramatically with the election of Islamic hard-liner Mahmoud Ahmadinejad as president in 2005.

According to a survey by the Brussels-based International Crisis Group, the IRGC's engineering arm, known as the Ghorb Khatam, won a string of major contracts from the Ahmadinejad government, including a $1.2 billion deal to build part of the Tehran subway, a $1.3 billion oil pipeline contract, and a no-bid $2.09 billion commission to develop parts of the vast South Pars natural gas field.

Brig. Gen. Abdolreza Abed, the Ghorb chief who is also IRGC deputy commander, said in a rare June 2006 interview in a state-owned Iranian newspaper that the total worth of the company's 1,200 projects prior to the big new deals was about $3.5 billion. U.S. officials say such profits matter because it is IRGC's foreign military arm, known as the Quds Force, that is suspected of providing funds, training and equipment to anti-U.S. forces in Iraq, Afghanistan, Lebanon and the Palestinian territories.

The Paris-based National Council of Resistance of Iran, an exile group that staunchly opposes the Tehran regime, yesterday produced its own inventory of IRGC commercial enterprises. The council is the political arm of a group officially designated a terrorist organization by the State Department, but its past exposes of Iran's secret nuclear and other military operations have proved credible. Among the IRGC's properties: firms and investments in construction, finance, movie production, poultry farming, honeybee farms, import licensing and real estate. "On several occasions, the IRGC has taken over huge pieces of land in posh areas of major cities, Tehran in particular, and [has used force] to suppress the other government agencies that had claims to these lands," the council said.

Al Qaeda Dislocates US Security Plan by Genocidal Massacre

From a DEBKAfile Exclusive Report, August 17, 2007 [my own emphasis added - SL]...

Yazidi victims of al Qaeda in Iraq

This time, Al Qaeda in Iraq selected a tiny, isolated, unprotected community of some 150,000 Yazidi Kurds, persecuted by Sunni and Shiite Muslims alike, as the victims of its barbarity. Tuesday, Aug. 14, within minutes, three oil tankers driven by suicide bombers had murdered at least 500 people, injured more than 1,000 and transformed an ancient indigenous Iraqi sect into a humanitarian problem.

While rescuers were still digging bodies out of the rubble of their destroyed homes in Qataniya and Adnaniya near Mosul, tens of thousands snatched their remaining belongings and streamed to the Syrian border.

Exchanges among al Qaeda’s adherents in Iraq 4, picked up by DEBKAfile’s special monitors, disclosed method behind the savagery. The jihadists had made an example of the Yazidis of Mt. Sinjar, holding them up as the first complete community they had succeeded in driving out of Iraq. They even urged harassing the refugees to speed the removal of every last Yazidi Kurd from Iraq.

Al Qaeda timed its brutal attack for maximum disruption of the latest American operations in the framework of the US-Iraqi overall Phantom Strike offensive to secure Iraq against insurgents and terrorists....

....To defeat the US-led security campaign, al Qaeda appears to have opted for meting out death and destruction among large groups of civilians, aimed at forcing them out of their homes and causing hundreds of thousands of displaced people to wander hither and thither in search of safety, strangling communications and generating mayhem across the country. Blocked roads are intended to snarl the US offensives and compel the troops to turn to the immediate task of locating the deadly fuel trucks hurtling down the highways before they explode and inflict carnage.

DEBKAfile’s counter-terror sources report that al Qaeda employed two revealing methods of operation this week:

1. Singled out as a soft targeted for the suicide bombers at the wheels of oil trucks was an isolated sect living in a remote community, which was easily accessible and unprotected by American or Iraqi forces or local security resources. The Yazidis live in communities of 5,000 to 20,000 which are clearly defined by religion and ethnic, tribal and clan kinship.

2. It looks as though Qaeda is bent on reusing its method of attack against the Yazidis for additional sections of the population – in particular the highly inflammable oil trucks driven by suicide bombers.

....The war in Iraq is thus raging on two planes.

On one, coalition and Iraqi forces are launching offensive after offensive to scotch the al Qaeda-Sunni insurgent threat to Iraq’s security; on the second, al Qaeda is seeking to drive masses of terrified civilians out of their homes in chaotic flight.....