Thursday, August 30, 2007

Hizbullah committed war crimes

From JPost, Aug 29, 2007, byJPOST.COM STAFF

The New York-based Human Rights Watch (HRW) group is set to publish a report on Thursday condemning Hizbullah for human rights infringements committed during the Second Lebanon War.

The HRW report focuses on the extent "Hizbullah targeted or indiscriminately fired its rockets toward civilians and civilian objects" during the war, according to a statement by the group.

The report states that on many occasions missiles were fired at sites that were far removed from any legitimate military targets, adding that statements on the part of Hizbullah leaders to the effect that they would attack Israeli towns and cities left no doubt as to their intention to perpetrate war crimes.

Israel Radio reported that HRW called upon Hizbullah to put an end to its attacks on civilians, and demanded that Syria, Lebanon and Iran prevent munitions shipments to the organization.
HRW announced that on September 6 it planned to release another report documenting Israeli attacks that killed Lebanese civilians.

The report aroused harsh responses in Lebanon, and Crowne Plaza Beirut, the hotel in which the group was to present the report Thursday, called off a planned press conference.....

"The issue of Jerusalem is once again on the table..."

From JPost, Aug 30, 2007 By KHALED ABU TOAMEH:
[my emphasis added - SL]

Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas has appointed a special adviser on Jerusalem affairs, PA officials in Ramallah said Wednesday, indicating that Israel and the PA are now readying to grapple in earnest with the issue of the city's status.

The officials told The Jerusalem Post the decision was taken ahead of November's US-sponsored Middle East peace conference, where Israel and the Palestinians are expected to focus on "fundamental" issues like Jerusalem, the borders of the future Palestinian state and the problem of the Palestinian refugees.

"The issue of Jerusalem is once again on the table," said one [PA] official. "That's why we need someone to be responsible for the Jerusalem portfolio and to prepare for the negotiations with Israel."

The Prime Minister's Office had no response to the report.

The new adviser is Adnan Husseini, the former director-general of the Waqf department in Jerusalem. Husseini served in the Waqf job for more than a decade before he was replaced earlier this year by Azzam al-Khatib. Husseini belongs to one of Jerusalem's oldest and most important families. His late cousin, Faisal Husseini, was for many years the top PLO leader in the city until his sudden death in 2001.

The new adviser told the Post one of his first tasks would be to try to persuade Israel to reopen Palestinian institutions in the city that were closed down by Israel over the past seven years.
One of these institutions, Orient House, served as the unofficial headquarters of the PLO in Jerusalem. Orient House enjoyed the status of an unofficial diplomatic mission - a fact that angered many in Israel, especially as some foreign ministers insisted on holding talks there with leading Palestinian figures.

Israel had argued that the presence of Orient House and other PLO-linked institutions in the city were in violation of the Oslo Accords, which banned the Palestinians from conducting such activities in Israel. The closure of Orient House was followed by similar moves against at least a dozen PLO-affiliated institutions.

....Husseini said he was prepared to meet with Israeli government officials to discuss the issue if the institutions and other matters related to the day-to-day affairs of the Arab residents...."We hope the Israelis will wake up and realize the importance of the city to the Palestinians. Israel must accept the fact that we will never give up our claim to Jerusalem." Husseini said Israel must also realize that peace can't be achieved without a solution to the issue of Jerusalem. "There will be no Palestinian state without Jerusalem as its capital," he said....

....Likud MK Yuval Steinitz on Wednesday said Prime Minister Ehud Olmert had proven his hypocrisy by negotiating Jerusalem's future with Abbas. He recalled campaigning for the Knesset with Olmert, who told people to vote for him because he left the Jerusalem mayoralty to defend Jerusalem from a position of power against those who wanted to divide it. "Olmert is a prime minister with zero public support, waiting for a verdict from the police and the Winograd Commission, who is ready to divide Jerusalem and allow it to be destroyed to save his skin," Steinitz said.

Jerusalem Municipality spokesman Gidi Schmerling declined to comment Wednesday.
Pensioners Minister Rafi Eitan, who recently replaced Immigrant Absorption Minister Ya'acov Edri as minister for Jerusalem affairs, also declined to comment.

Gil Hoffman contributed to this report.•

Israeli anger over holy site work

From the BBC News, Jerusalem, 28/8/07, by Martin Asser:

To critics' eyes the work is a deliberate act of cultural vandalism

A group of Israeli archaeologists is protesting about fresh excavations at Jerusalem's holiest religious shrine, saying it threatens priceless relics. Muslim authorities at al-Aqsa mosque, also venerated by Jews as the Temple Mount, are digging a 150-metre trench for water pipes and electricity cables. Israeli critics say the work is causing irreparable damage, indiscriminately piling up earth and carved stones.

....With the rest of east Jerusalem the shrine was occupied by Israel in the 1967 war. Now the compound is run by the Muslim Waqf authorities under Israeli security control. The Waqf resumed working this week, using a mechanical digger on a metre-deep trench, cutting through the subsoil and piling it up beside the trench.

Israeli archaeologists say such material should be carefully sifted and documented, as it would be even at sites of far less significance than this most sensitive cultural and religious location.
Gabriel Barkai of the Committee Against the Destruction of Antiquities on the Temple Mount calls it an act of barbarism. "They are digging in the most crucial and delicate point of the Temple Mount - of the whole country," the Bar-Ilan University senior lecturer told the BBC.
"They should be using a toothbrush, not a bulldozer."
Dr Barkai .... lambastes the Israeli Antiquities Authority, meant to supervise any work at archaeological sites, for apparently giving the work legitimacy. Yusuf Natsheh of the Islamic Waqf dismisses such claims...He says the work is urgently needed to maintain the al-Aqsa compound as an important religious institution.....
...."The earth here is saturated by history. All we can do is alert the world to what is happening and try to stop the next disaster," [Dr Barkai ] says.

As far as Dr Natsheh is concerned the Israeli government has no authority over what is happening, as the Muslim authorities do not recognise its legitimacy in the occupied territory....

Malaysia, 50, turns back morals clock

From The Australian, by Nick Meo, Khota Bharu, Malaysia August 30, 2007:

...celebrations are starting for Malaysia's 50th year as an independent state. Its proud achievements are modern universities, a buoyant economy, and a respected place in the world as a moderate Islamic nation.

Mr Hassan's [Islamist ] party boasts a different set of achievements; banning miniskirts, chastising unmarried couples .....It also closed down nightclubs, banned nearly all bars except a few Chinese restaurants where no Muslims are allowed, and refused to let a proposed cinema open unless there were separate sections for men and women and the lights remained on to prevent immorality.

The Chief Minister is said to have mellowed since then and this year looked favourably on a proposal to open an alcohol-free disco for tourists. The idea never got off the ground after he insisted it be single-sex.

Mr Hassan, a moderate who was once a lawyer, is proud of his party's achievements in Kota Bharu. He says it has kept the rustic capital of Kelantan state upright and clean-living. The biggest building in the city houses the moral enforcement department whose officials spend their time prowling Kota Bharu's parks in search of amorous young sinners.

Mr Hassan is sensitive about the nickname "Taliban lite" often levelled at his party in Kuala Lumpur, where bars do a roaring trade and cinemas are full of dating couples.

"We are not the Taliban, we are in favour of women's education and against violence and corruption," he grumbles. "Malaysia is a Muslim state. We hope we can change people's mindset in Kuala Lumpur so they can live according to Islamic principles."

As it celebrates 50 years of independence from Britain this week, Malaysia has stepped up its long-running and angst-ridden debate about just how Islamic it should be.

Older Malays bemoan a younger generation that has become puritanical, self-righteously declining to attend social functions where alcohol is served. Headscarves, rare 20 years ago, are worn by almost all Malay women now, although often in combination with tight jeans.

Some non-Muslim Chinese and Indians feel increasingly treated like second-class citizens. They complain, usually privately, that Islamic religious schools are much better funded than theirs and that a system of affirmative action favours Malays when it comes to university places.
Some fear assertive Islam threatens to upset the delicate balance between the 60 per cent Malay-Muslim majority and the non-Muslim ethnic Chinese and Indian minorities, which have managed to co-exist, sometimes uneasily, since Malaysia's troubled birth in 1957 at a time of civil war and ethnic tension.

Islam is Malaysia's official religion and the constitution says anyone born Malay is Muslim.
Every state has a religious department with Saudi-style moral enforcers. Nowhere are they more active than Kota Bharu. Unmarried couples sharing hotel rooms are hunted down by enforcers. Couples caught sitting too close together on park benches are fined 2000 ringgit ($706) in the city's shariah court.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

YouTube neo-Nazi videos

From Ynet News, 29/8/07, by Eldad Beck:

German TV network reports anti-Semitic clips flooding site, being viewed by hundreds of thousands of surfers

The popular video sharing website YouTube has been flooded in recent months by anti-Semitic and neo-Nazi videos that have been viewed by hundreds of thousands of surfers, an investigative report broadcast by German national television network ARD revealed this week.

These clips include scenes from the anti-Semitic film The Jew Süss, which was filmed in 1940 under Joseph Goebbels' supervision; videos of neo-Nazi rock bands hailing the SS and the Ku Klux Klan; and footage from rallies calling for a "white revolution" or the reinstatement of the Nazi regime.

Furthermore, the German neo-Nazi party has until recently been taking advantage of the YouTube platform to broadcast its own alternative, anti-Semitic news edition.

The report aroused much concern and outrage among Germany's Jewish community. "I expect the General Prosecution, the authorities and the federal government to act decisively against this phenomenon," said vice president of the Jewish community Salomon Korn.

Some German Jews are also contemplating filing a lawsuit against the site.

The German Interior Ministry published a statement encouraging people to file lawsuits against YouTube, in a bid to try and fight the phenomenon. However, the ministry's spokesman said that in the absence of international cooperation on the issue of neo-Nazi propaganda on the internet, it would be very hard to combat it in Germany.

Google, which owns YouTube, stated that it advocated free speech and the right of every individual to express unpopular opinions. However, it said that it forbade slurs and "malicious use of stereotypes designed to attack or humiliate gender, sexual tendency, race, religion or nationality," and pledged to look into the videos in question.

Roee Shlomi contributed to the report

European Union officials hold secret talks with Hamas

From, Aug 29, 2007, by KHALED ABU TOAMEH :

EU security officials have been conducting secret talks with Hamas leaders in the Gaza Strip over the past few weeks, Palestinian Authority officials told The Jerusalem Post on Tuesday.

The PA officials did not reveal the identity of the visitors, except to say that they belonged to three EU intelligence services.

The Europeans are said to have met with top Hamas leader Mahmoud Zahar, as well as Ahmed Yusef, political adviser to Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh.

Sources close to Hamas confirmed that EU officials had visited the Gaza Strip recently for talks focusing on security-related issues. According to the sources, the Hamas leaders urged the EU representatives to work to end the boycott of the Hamas government in the Gaza Strip, and to pressure Israel to reopen the Rafah border crossing between Gaza and Egypt.....

....In response, Christina Gallach, spokeswoman for EU Foreign Policy chief Javier Solana, told The Jerusalem Post that she was unaware of any such meetings.....

....Israeli government officials contacted about this matter Tuesday night said they knew of no EU contacts with Hamas.....

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

False assumptions

From Ynet news, 28/7/07, by Moshe Ya’alon:

[Lt. Gen. (Res.) Moshe Ya’alon is a fellow at the Adelson Institute for Strategic Studies at the Shalem Center. He served as the 17th Chief of Staff of the Israel Defense Forces]

[my own emphasis added - SL]

Unless Tony Blair, Condoleezza Rice and other emissaries shake off the conventional wisdom that settling the Israel-Palestinian conflict is a prerequisite for Middle East stability, their visits to the region will be nothing more than mere meddling

....In just the last month, former British Prime Minister Tony Blair, now the Quartet’s envoy, and US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice visited Israel and our neighbors; the resulting press conferences, pronouncements and promises of “progress” were all-too-familiar.

.... While I deeply appreciate the willingness of Blair, Rice and the others to wade into the fray, I am nonetheless left skeptical: Unless Blair, Rice and the others sure to come are able to shake off long-disproven aspects of the conventional wisdom about Israeli-Palestinian conflict, their efforts are doomed to failure. To achieve real progress — and not just press conferences — those seeking to bolster peace must re-examine and reframe many of the primary assumptions that inform their view of the conflict.

Primary among these is the belief that solving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is a prerequisite for stability the Middle East. This view might be common in the West and even in Israel, but it is entirely fallacious.

The Middle East is riven by multiple clashes that have nothing to do with Israel (even though some of the actors in them do exploit the Israeli-Palestinian conflict for their own aims). To name a few examples, the Jewish state plays no role in the conflicts between the Shi’a and the Sunni, between Persians and Arabs, or between Arab nationalists and Arab Islamists.

Dovetailing with this is the assumption that Israeli territorial concessions are the key to progress in the Israeli- Palestinian conflict. Again: Completely false. The reality is that we are confronting an ascendant jihadist Islam that believes that it is leading the battle against Israel and the West.

In this context, Israeli territorial or other concessions — whether made unilaterally or according to an agreement — simply fill the jihadists’ sails: They reinforce the jihadi belief that Israel and the rest of the West are weak and can be conquered by military means. Not only are Israeli territorial concessions not the key to solving the conflict, they actually make it worse.

It is important, nonetheless, to note that the majority of Israelis supported Israel’s unilateral withdrawals from Lebanon in 2000 and from Gaza in 2005; they (mistakenly) believed that meeting Hizbullah and Palestinian territorial demands would nullify the cause of the conflict. We know now what the result was:

The Hizbullah and Palestinian reactions made clear that the central conflict in our region is not territorial —it’s ideological. And ideology cannot be defeated by concessions. It didn’t work in the lead-up to the Second World War and it won’t work today. Unfortunately, it’s not only the foreign emissaries who haven’t yet internalized this reality: In Israel there remain many, even among our political leadership, who hold onto the cherished, false belief that, if we just surrender enough territory, we can have peace.

Unfortunately, our experience shows that the opposite is true.

....Another misconception is the belief that the Palestinians want and have the ability to establish a state that will live in peace alongside the state of Israel. The clear-eyed among us understand that this hope has been dashed. Arafat established a gang rule that refused to take responsibility for its people and accept accountability for their welfare.

Mahmoud Abbas did not and does not want to take responsibility and enjoys his “weakness” — and the results are apparent. A society that educates and encourages a culture of death is a society with a built-in mechanism for self-destruction. We need simply to look at the sad case of the Gaza Strip: Palestinian nationalists won, received overwhelming political and economic support from the global community and from Israel, and the miserable outcome is apparent to all.

Many in Israel and the rest of the West, looking through w estern glasses, believe that economic development is an engine capable of neutralizing nationalistic and religious feelings, which will bring peace, which will in turn bring security.

If you still believe this, I recommend that you hearken to David Ben-Gurion at the opening session of the Knesset in 1960: He termed those who believed this “naïve Zionists.” Those still clinging to this misconception ought to demand that the Palestinians explain what they did with the $7 billion they received over the last few years....

....And so, the well-intentioned emissaries must be asked: Looking to the future in the light of the last decade, do you see a chance for a politically and economically sustainable and viable Palestinian state in the ‘67 territories? Given the Hamas coup in the Gaza Strip and Fatah’s behavior, do you think there is a chance for a political entity that is not hostile to Israel (and to Jordan) in the ‘67 territories? And is it in the best interests of the West to bring such an entity in being?

Once shorn of all these mistaken assumptions, the clear-eyed are left with a disturbing picture (no wonder, then, that so many cling to the misconceptions). So what course of action do I recommend?

Western governments must refrain from pressuring Israel, which leads only to short-term gains (and to longer-term complications). Instead, try to convince the Palestinians to commit to a long-term strategy: One premised upon educational, political and economic reforms that will lead to the establishment of a civil society that cherishes life and not death, that values human rights and freedom, and that develops a middle class and not a corrupt, rich elite.

Don’t waste money propping up Abu Mazen or his security organizations. Direct funds toward educational reform and toward encouraging small businesses in order to facilitate the growth of a middle class, which is the core of civil society.

At the same time, act to solve the Palestinian refugee issue through humanitarian means: Establish an international fund that will offer refugee families an appropriate amount to aid in their resettlement and integration ($100-200,000.00 per family), on the condition that the acceptance of this money represents the resolution of their refugee status.

Don’t be tempted to take the easy route of grabbing short-term — and short-sighted — “gains,” such as demanding that Israel uproot settlements or refrain from military activity in Palestinian towns. As I wrote, Israeli concessions will be viewed as yet another victory for Islamist jihad. Emissaries who press for the cessation of IDF activity in Palestinian areas are asking for a renewal of the terror war Israelis endured following the September 2000 withdrawal from Lebanon.

Blair — who sent the British army to Afghanistan to prevent terror attacks in London, Madrid and New York — particularly understands that the best defense is a good offense. And a good offense includes the freedom to capture and arrest terrorists in their hideouts.

Moral clarity
The emissaries must not be tempted to talk to Hamas, even in the face of pressure from home (be it political or economic, such as that from British Gas, which has interests in the Palestinian Authority that apparently outweigh moral considerations). For the sake of Palestinian society, Hamas and its ideology must be defeated.

Emissaries are sent to address with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, but they maintain clarity: The Israeli-Palestinian dispute is not the most significant conflict today. That title belongs to the battle between jihadist Islam and the West; Israel is merely one theater where that fight is being waged.

The West cannot overcome jihadist Islam without overpowering the regimes, organizations and ideologies that support and feed it — and the Hamas is one of largest jewels in the crown.

The emissaries must also keep in mind that their actions vis a vis the Palestinians may influence other Arab societies and can play a role in the larger conflict between jhadist Islam and the West. All leaders must act based on long-term visions with no shortcuts — and forgo the hunger for short-term accomplishments.

My advice here is not ideological: I am a kibbutz member who has always cherished life above land, one who was certainly willing to accept territorial compromise — until the failure of the Oslo accords and all that came after it demonstrated the futility and false hopes of such an approach.....

.....Though we Israelis are doing our best as a country and an army to win this war while remaining true to our values, we hear the voices blaming Israel and the rest of the West, and more loudly, in Europe. The voices in the media and academia are rising in volume and in conviction — even as they continue to miss the point in the most grandiloquent manner imaginable.

Rice, Blair and the other emissaries must be the countervailing voices, offering vision, clarity and leadership. A war fought on false assumptions cannot be won....

....The emissaries who travel here must drawn on their rich experience, free themselves from petty politics — especially from the binds of “political correctness” — to lead us all toward the goals of freedom, security—and true progress toward peace. Anything else is mere meddling.

Bombing Iran: Catastrophic but real

From DEBKAfile, August 28, 2007:

Sarkozy is first Western leader to speak out loud about US plan to bomb Iran

Addressing 180 French diplomats Monday, Aug. 27, French president Nicolas Sarkozy said a nuclear-armed Iran would be unacceptable and the world must tighten sanctions while offering Tehran incentives to halt weapons development. “This initiative is the only one that can enable us to escape an alternative that I say is catastrophic: the Iranian bomb or the bombing of Iran,” he said.

Sarkozy thus became the first important Western leader to declare with brutal frankness that Iran stands in peril of an attack on its nuclear installations.... His frank language – he called Iran’s nuclear ambition the world’s most dangerous problem – caused astonishment in diplomatic circles .....

Sarkozy did not indicate whether France would take part in an American or Israeli attack on Iran, but he did stress French backing for Security Council sanctions over Iran’s refusal to back away from uranium enrichment.

DEBKAfile’s diplomatic sources disclose that Sarkozy’s warning to Tehran was the bluntest but not the only one Tehran received of the Bush administration plans to bomb its nuclear facilities. Iran was discreetly warned by the Kremlin in early spring that an American attack was impending and would be coordinated with an Israeli strike against Syria. All three armies, the Iranian (plus Hizballah), Syrian and Israeli, have been deep in hectic war preparations ever since.

This war fever will be further heated by Sarkozy’s words. They certainly contradict Israeli defense minister Ehud Barak’s smooth assurance to the Knesset foreign affairs and defense committee, also on Monday, that he sees first signs of Syrian military suspense ebbing.

The French president’s reading of the situation was closer to that of the former US ambassador Edward P. Djerejian....[who] underscored the Syrian president Bashar Assad’s unshakeable commitment to Tehran’s foreign and military policies, even if his relations with Washington do improve.....

Challenging the UN's darker side

From The Boston Globe, August 25, 2007, by Hillel C. Neuer, executive director of UN Watch in Geneva:

...the UN on Monday will launch a series of international meetings on racism, leading up to a major world conference in 2009. The so-called "Durban Review" process is the follow-up to the 2001 conference in South Africa that turned into a diplomatic fiasco. All indications suggest next week's session, and the events that follow from it, will mimic both the format and script of the original.

The lead-up to Durban in 2001 was hijacked by the 57-strong Organization of the Islamic Conference. A February 2001 preparatory meeting for Asian nations was held in Tehran. (Israelis were a priori excluded.) The preparatory committee adopted a text singling out Israel for "ethnic cleansing" and of a "new kind of apartheid, a crime against humanity."

Durban's final declaration, after international interventions, toned down the language, but went on to single out Israel. The US delegation walked out.

Far worse, though, were the parallel proceedings held by the nongovernmental organizations. One widely distributed flyer showed a photograph of Hitler and the question, "What if I had won?" The answer: "There would be NO Israel." Goebbels-like caricatures of Jews circulated freely.

In his eyewitness account published in the Fletcher Forum of World Affairs, Democratic Representative Tom Lantos of California, a US delegate, remarked that "having experienced the horrors of the Holocaust firsthand, this was the most sickening and unabashed display of hate for Jews I had seen since the Nazi period." The final nongovernmental organization statement declared Israel a "racist apartheid state" guilty of "genocide."

The ghosts of 2001 are almost certain to be conjured up by the shamans of Durban II. In addition, Islamic states are expected to introduce new accusations against the West for "religious defamation." The subtext of this refrain -- which has made its way into UN resolutions over the past six years -- is that the greatest victim of Sept. 11 was actually Islam.

The party chosen to chair the entire process through 2009 indicates its seriousness of purpose: Moammar Khadafy's Libya. The same regime that, in 2002, gave its highest award to convicted French Holocaust denier Roger Garaudy, that routinely brutalizes black African migrants, and that tortures Bulgarian and Palestinian medics for the crime of being foreigners. This is the country that will now teach the world about racism -- all under the UN's imprimatur.

Second, on Thursday, while the Geneva session is underway, the European Parliament in Brussels will host a UN "International Conference of Civil Society in Support of Israeli-Palestinian Peace." Contrary to the noble-sounding title, the rapprochement is disingenuous at best.

Consider its idea of balance: On one side will be selected Palestinian presenters like Raji Sourani, who justifies Hamas attacks as "resistance," and Jamal Juma, who says Israel is a "colonial racist apartheid state." On the other side are selected Israeli presenters who couldn't agree more. These include Michel Warschawski, self-described as a "well-known anti-Zionist activist," and Nurit Peled-Elhanan, who recently pronounced that "the Jewish head has unceasingly been bowed in worship of racism, while the Jewish mind is devising the most creative ways to devastate and demolish and destroy this country." By citizenship, they are Israeli, but only a scoundrel or a fool would imagine either as representatives of Israel's point of view.

The UN's 16-member Palestinian division is part of a sprawling infrastructure of anti-Israel committees and programs launched by the General Assembly in 1975 alongside its resolution declaring that "Zionism is racism." In the past six months alone, the division devoted vast sums for gatherings in Doha, Rome, Pretoria, and New York. Wouldn't its $5 million budget go to better use -- and actually help Palestinians -- by building clinics in Gaza or schools in Ramallah? Tragically, the Arab regimes responsible for its annual renewal seem more interested in preserving grievances than solving them.

Faced with such intransigence, is there anything the secretary general can do? There is.
The greatest enabler of the Durban debacle, as Lantos recounts, was Mary Robinson, the UN's human rights commissioner, whose diplomacy of appeasement encouraged the spoilers. This time around, the secretary general should instruct his Geneva officials to stand firm.

As to Brussels, the secretary general's representative, billed as opening the event, should send a clear message that anti-Israel propaganda and posturing are relics of the past -- and hurt the cause of peace rather than help the Palestinians.....

Saudi daily blames Syria for assassinations

from the Daily Star (Lebanon), Friday, August 24, 2007 ....

BEIRUT: Riyadh-based Oukaz lashed out at the Syrian regime Tuesday accusing it of having plotted the assassination of Lebanese politicians starting with Druze leader Kamal Jumblatt.
"For the last 30 years Syria has set up a clear-cut plan to systematically kill Lebanese leaders to incite strife among various Lebanese sects, and consequently reinforce its presence and role in Lebanon," the newspaper said

The Saudi daily has published in its Tuesday issue a special report from Beirut tackling the role of Syria in Lebanon since 1975. The daily described the current Syrian regime as "a regime of slaying and slaughter," and accused it of making use "of all possible means to restore its influence in Lebanon after their withdrawal in April 2005."

"The Syrian regime has long worked on inciting hatred and conflicts among the Lebanese and has currently created what could be labeled as 'death teams' to silence anyone who dares to speak against Syrian influence in Lebanon," Oukaz reported....

...."The Syrian regime has brought nothing but harm to the Lebanese as well as the Palestinians in Lebanon; fueling inter-Lebanese and Lebanese-Palestinian skirmishes in an attempt to boost its role in Lebanon," the daily said. - The Daily Star

Sunday, August 26, 2007

"Blood and Honor" in New Zealand

Here's a little reminder of recent events in New Zealand

A rock concert commemorating Adolf Hitler's birthday held in New Zealand's capital has angered Jews and anti-racist groups....

The concert, which took place Friday night [20 April 2007] in Wellington, was organized by local skinheads belonging to [a] ...neo-Nazi organization Blood and Honor ... banned in several European countries.....New Zealand police, who were aware of the concert, said it was not illegal.

....Wellington's Jewish community was disgusted .... Israeli honorary consul David Zwartz said the concert was "distasteful and offensive..." ...

From The ADL Web site:
...August 6, 2004 - Wellington – A Jewish chapel was destroyed by fire and up to 90 Jewish headstones were pulled out of the ground and smashed at Makara Cemetery, on the outskirts of the nation's capital. Swastikas were cut into the cemetery lawn and etched on the chapel wall. Community officials described the desecration as the worst attack ever on the Jewish community of New Zealand.

July 15/16, 2004 - Wellington – Vandals smashed and overturned tombstones and carved a swastika into the grass in a Jewish cemetery. Some of the tombstones were over 100 years old....

Helen Clark, Prime Minister of New Zealand

Hitler sells Pizzas in New Zealand

From The Press (New Zealand) By IAN STEWARD Saturday, 25 August 2007 [my emphasis added - SL]...

... advertising executive Kirk MacGibbon said he had received complaints from Jewish people on [a billboard for Hell Pizza depicting Hitler] but none from Catholics on the use of the Pope in a Hell Pizza advertisement now on display in the city.

"Isn't it interesting how only the Jews complain? ... 'Don't forget – but don't look when we invade Palestine'..." he said.

The Hitler billboard in Addington, Christchurch, New Zealand.

... Hell Pizza appeared to be bowing to public pressure on Thursday, removing the controversial Hitler poster from Lincoln Road, Addington, only for it to reappear in St Asaph Street, in central Christchurch, yesterday morning.

The billboard ... has drawn widespread condemnation from the Jewish community. The New Zealand Jewish Council yesterday lodged an official complaint with the Advertising Standards Authority, while Israel's honorary consul to New Zealand, David Zwartz, described the advertisement as "distasteful" and "insensitive".

...Zwartz said MacGibbon's suggestion that the Holocaust was used as an excuse for Israel's present-day actions was a "very warped attitude...It's as distasteful as using Hitler in their advertisements..." ...

...MacGibbon said the ads were successful and were not in danger of turning off customers...


From DEBKAfile: August 25, 2007...

Assad is willing to talk to Olmert without involving Washington - but not to abandon absolute commitment to Tehran

This double message was brought to Jerusalem last week by Edward P. Djerejian
from unpublicized meetings he held in Damascus with president Bashar Assad and Syrian military and intelligence chiefs. This former US ambassador to Israel and Syria reported that Assad is willing to drop his prior conditions for talks with Israel regarding parallel dialogue with Washington and US participation in the peace process. But the Syrian ruler is also utterly committed to the diplomatic and military policies of his senior partner, Tehran.

...DEBKAfile’s sources stress, the Olmert government’s peace expectations of Syria must factor in Assad’s staunch dedication to Iran’s lead on Israel, Palestine, Lebanon and Iraq. His call for peace talks with Israel is well attuned to Tehran’s objective of engaging Washington in direct dialogue on its nuclear program and Iraq, provided that diplomacy does not shift the fundamental positions of either party.

Syrian rulers ... were completely confident they had opted for the winning side in the Middle East instead of the United States and Israel who they regard as the losing camp.

Iran: We are heading for an epoch-marking crisis

From The Australian, by Greg Sheridan. foreign editor August 23, 2007:

... Make no mistake, the world is building to a crisis in Iran.

The technical detail is endlessly fascinating and the manoeuvres by all the players gothic in their complexity. But the basic story is simple enough. Iran is pursuing nuclear weapons. It has two programs for this: a highly enriched uranium program and a heavy-water reactor that will produce plutonium.

...Iran is the leader of the Shia version of fundamentalist and extremist Islam. It sponsors terrorism promiscuously. Its most important terrorist client is Hezbollah, a Shia group that de facto rules southern Lebanon. It is also the most important foreign sponsor of Hamas, a Sunni terrorist organisation that rules the Gaza Strip. Islamic Jihad, which has been responsible for much Palestinian terrorism, is effectively a branch of the Iranian intelligence services.

Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has called for Israel to be "wiped off the map". Iran also sponsors Shia and Sunni elements of the insurgency in Iraq.

There is no doubt the US has given the deepest possible consideration to taking military action against Iran's nuclear plants. When I interviewed US Vice-President Dick Cheney earlier this year, he endorsed Republican senator John McCain's formulation that the only thing worse than a military confrontation with Iran would be a nuclear-armed Iran.

Yet some analysts consider the idea that Bush may strike Iran to be wildly unrealistic. Let's be quite clear. I am certainly not advocating a strike against Iran but we should all know that we are heading for an epoch-marking crisis. The US has deployed extensive naval resources into the Persian Gulf in a bid to coerce Iran into some co-operation and to reassure Iran's neighbours, especially the Arab states of the Persian Gulf, that the US will look after their security. At the same time it has strengthened its military bases in the Gulf states and provided moderate Arab governments with extensive military equipment. Washington is also considering declaring Iran's revolutionary guard a terrorist organisation.

The best-informed analysts in the world believe the Bush administration will try very hard to make UN-mandated sanctions against Iran as powerful as possible to deter Iran from pursuing nukes. However, these analysts also believe this will be unsuccessful and that, whatever the outside world does by way of sanctions and pressure, nationalism will trump economics and Iran will eventually get the weapons.

The Europeans have been their usual pathetic selves in all this but a sanctions regime of sorts is in place and it should get tougher. And Iran is vulnerable to sanctions, even though it has huge reserves of oil and gas. The revolution of the ayatollahs is worse at running a modern economy than even the old command economies of the defunct Soviet bloc were.

But it won't matter because Iran's leadership is motivated by a type of religious conviction that cannot be trumped by economics. Young people in Iran are reportedly alienated from their leadership, but they still want nukes. Virtually every section of the Iranian population, whether motivated by religion, nationalism, power considerations or whatever else, wants nukes. Indeed, one part of Ahmadinejad's problems with the religious leaders stems from their feeling that they could get nukes more quickly and with less trouble if he would just shut up.

On the positive side, the US is implicitly offering Iran full diplomatic relations, trade benefits and any other reasonable benefit it could want if it gives up the nuclear chase. But Iran is a classic demonstration of the limits of realist theory in foreign relations. It is genuinely motivated by ideology, not by a normal calculus of national interest. Washington has been offering Iran some version of this deal - diplomatic and trade normality in exchange for nuclear non-proliferation and regional stability - virtually since the ayatollahs came to power in 1979. It was once Madeleine Albright's chief goal in life when she was Bill Clinton's secretary of state.

The deeply flawed James Baker-Lee Hamilton report on Iraq contains some sentence along the lines of saying that Iran shares the US's interest in a stable Iraq. Which Iran are the two esteemed American statesmen talking about? It is an Iran of their imagination, it is certainly not the real, existing Iran.

Iran's leaders are delighted with today's geo-strategic situation. They would rather not have sanctions but they have shown full mastery of the techniques of suppressing their population and are not seriously inconvenienced by its troubles. Otherwise, for them life is fine. The Americans are in a world of pain in Iraq. Iran's ally Hezbollah is slowly trying to take control of the Lebanese Government, in alliance with a pro al-Qa'ida Syrian front group, Fatah al-Islam. One of their techniques is novel: to assassinate the existing Lebanese parliamentary majority one by one.

Meanwhile Iran's other proxy, Hamas, goes from strength to strength. The Iranians are leading the Shia reassertion in the Middle East at the same time as they are polarising the broader Arab population around the idea of resistance to the West. Thus, as things stand, Iran has no incentive to make a bargain, except the fear of a US military strike.

The world's best analysts believe that whatever Washington decides, Israel will act to meet an existential threat. And it views a nuclear-armed Iran as an existential threat. There is some thinking within the Australian Labor Party to the effect that Israel would have a right to pre-emptive action under international law because it legitimately faces a grave threat from a nuclear Iran.

An Israeli strike on Iran's nuclear facilities would be less effective in delaying Iran's nuclear weapons than a US strike. The Israelis believe Iran could have a nuclear weapon by the end of 2009. The International Atomic Energy Agency thinks it's three to eight years but is constantly revising this estimate down. Once Iran possesses nuclear weapons, its danger as a sponsor of Hezbollah rises exponentially. It can also paralyse Israel and render life there almost unbearable by moving periodically to nuclear alert, forcing Israel to do the same and effectively chasing out foreign investment and tourists and shutting down industry.

A strike on Iran would be an awesomely dangerous and fraught action to take. Allowing Iran to develop nuclear weapons may be equally as dangerous. There are no good options.
From The Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs, 16/8/07....

...After Hamas completed its takeover of the Gaza Strip in mid-June 2007, terrorist groups there have carried out rocket and mortar fire toward Israel’s western Negev settlements. During the last two weeks in June, 61 rocket hits were identified. A number of Israeli civilians were lightly wounded in the attacks, and several more were found to be suffering from shock; property was also damaged.

During July, rockets continued to be fired at western Negev communities from the Gaza Strip. There were 55 identified rocket hits in Israeli territory....

Kassam Attacks

Rocket Attacks

Terrorist Attacks

Israeli Casualties

Draft Report Logs Bleak Outlook for Iran

From The Guardian, Friday August 24, 2007 by PAULINE JELINEK and KATHERINE SHRADER, Associated Press Writers ....

WASHINGTON (AP) - A draft intelligence report on Iran suggests a change in the Tehran regime appears unlikely any time soon despite growing public anger over the country's economic woes, U.S. officials said Thursday.

The report also anticipates little progress in getting Iran to halt its nuclear program or stop supporting militant groups in the region, officials familiar with the draft said on condition of anonymity because the report has not been released.

The latest in a series of reports from the nation's 16 intelligence agencies, the new National Intelligence Estimate on Iran is nearly complete and could be shared with President Bush and other policymakers within weeks, said the officials.....

...The report on Iran's political situation looks at issues ranging from the economy to its weapons programs...It says that Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei will continue in power despite rising discontent with the worsening economy....

....The new intelligence report also says Iran will continue to pursue a nuclear program that the United States and others believe is aimed at developing nuclear weapons.....

..... the report also says Iran will continue to cause problems in Iraq....