Saturday, November 03, 2007

Suspected US missile strike in Pakistan

From DEBKAfile, November 2, 2007, 5:48 PM (GMT+02:00):

A suspected US missile strikes Taliban or al Qaeda hideout, killing 10 people, in Miran Shah, capital of Pakistan’s North Waziristan

Later, armed men surrounded the scene, 20 km from the Afghan border, and carried away the dead and wounded. DEBKAfile reports that al Qaeda makes it a rule to evacuate the dead and wounded so as not to disclose their identities, especially when a prominent operative is hit.
Witnesses reported seeing a drone flying in from the West before a big explosion.

The attack, denied by a US military spokesman, took place as U.S. Central Command chief Adm. William Fallon was in Pakistan to meet President Gen. Pervez Musharraf.
Suspected US missiles have struck extremist hideouts in Pakistan’s tribal regions in the past but were never acknowledged.

Bahrain accuses Iran of nuclear weapons lie

From The Times, November 2, 2007, by Giles Whittell in Manama:

...Crown Prince [of Bahrain] Salman bin Hamad bin Isa al-Khalifa ... has become the first Arab leader to jettison the language of diplomacy and directly accuse Tehran of seeking nuclear weapons.

“While they don’t have the bomb yet, they are developing it, or the capability for it,” he said – the first time one of Iran’s Gulf neighbours effectively has accused it of lying about its nuclear programme.

The Crown Prince also gave a blunt warning that “the whole region” would be drawn into any military conflict and called on India, as well as Russia, to help find a diplomatic solution. “There needs to be far more done on the diplomatic front,” he said. “There’s still time to talk.”
If there is a front line in the looming confrontation between Iran and the Arab world, Bahrain is on it.

The US Fifth Fleet is based here, its main carrier battle group tasked with securing the Strait of Hormuz. The King Fahd causeway to Khobar makes Bahrain a gateway to the richest oil reserves on Earth in eastern Saudi Arabia.

The Iranian coast is ten minutes away by fighter or medium-range missile. And this week a senior Iranian general said that suicide bombers were ready to strike at targets throughout the Gulf “if necessary”. Such rhetoric will focus minds in Qatar, Riyadh and the United Arab Emirates. But its effect is especially chilling in Bahrain as the only Sunni-led country with a Shia majority that is not at war or on the brink of war.

“We are a country like Iraq and Lebanon, and we are the only one that is functioning properly,” said Sheikh Khalid al-Khalifa, the Foreign Minister. Bahrain’s Shias – and the carnage in Iraq to the north – make the kingdom a vital experiment in sectarian coexistence. So far the Shias have repaid the Royal Family’s efforts at political reform with consistent professions of loyalty. That could change overnight in the event of an attack on Iran.

Already, large-scale demonstrations are not unusual. When the Golden Mosque in Samarra was bombed by al-Qaeda in Iraq last year, and again when Israel invaded Lebanon, “Bahrain turned yellow with Hezbollah flags”, according to one Western diplomat.

Since then a reform process that started with the release of all political prisoners in 2000 has largely stalled and leading Shia figures have complained about “systematic discrimination” by the Sunni Establishment. A scandal over alleged plans to end the Shia majority by granting fast-track citizenship to tens of thousands of foreign-born Sunnis has proved so inflammatory that an otherwise relatively free press has been banned from covering it.

The Crown Prince rejected claims of discrimination but acknowledged that the broader sectarian issue had become “so politically charged that nobody is really willing to have a rational discussion about it”.

Iran has not helped. In a newspaper editorial this summer, a close associate of President Ahmadinejad rekindled an old claim on Bahrain as Iran’s 14th province, with echoes of Saddam Hussein’s designs on Kuwait in the late 1980s that were picked up from London to Washington. The claim “touched on the legitimacy of our country”, the Foreign Minister said.

There is no suggestion – yet – of an Iranian invasion of Bahrain. But even as the kingdom throws up skyscrapers to compete with Dubai and Abu Dhabi for regional financial dominance, its security forces are on high alert for evidence of Iranian-backed “sleeper cells” that could bring them all tumbling down.

Between Bahrain’s two tallest office towers three giant wind turbines are suspended in a brave vote of confidence in a future of eco-friendly peace and prosperity. Without a diplomatic end to the Iran crisis, that confidence may soon look misplaced. But the alternatives – a military strike on Iran and a regional nuclear arms race – are too bleak to contemplate.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Let My People Go: Lessons after 40 years

From » Opinion » Editorials Oct 30, 2007 [my emphasis added - please take the time to read this important essay - SL]:

2007 marks 40 years since the launch of the movement to free Soviet Jewry, one of the defining developments in the Jewish world in the second half of the 20th century. In its honor, the US Senate will vote this week on a resolution commemorating the movement's founding following the Six Day War.

"Forty years ago, in the depths of the Cold War, Americans from all walks of life came together to stand in solidarity with Soviet Jewry during its darkest hour," Sen. Joe Lieberman (Ind.-Connecticut), who co-authored the bill with Republican Sen. Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania, said this week. "Organizations like the National Council of Soviet Jewry gave voice to the voiceless millions of people trapped behind the Iron Curtain."

The movement's success, the liberation of Soviet Jews from totalitarian communism, was the final stage of a dramatic reorientation of world Jewry. The exit of an estimated million and a half Jews, two-thirds to Israel and the rest mainly to North America, marks the most recent major exodus of Jews from Europe. In its wake, a Europe that began the 20th century as home to 85-90% of the world's Jews finds itself at the start of this century with only some 15% of a much-reduced world Jewish population. Jews represent a perhaps unique victim of the ideological upheavals of Europe in the 20th century, becoming the only European people that has in effectively relocated en masse out of that continent.

This century-long process, from the flight from Czarist oppression in the late 1800s to the "opening of the gates" for Soviet Jewry in the early 1990s, has both solved and created enormous challenges for modern Jewish security and cultural continuity. Three important lessons can be drawn from this unique experience.

Looking back on the beginning of the Soviet Jewry movement in the US, one is struck by its improbability. At the time, the Soviet Union - a nuclear power run by a highly organized and ruthless regime that led the world in technological progress in numerous areas - constituted an existential threat to a politically polarized America mired in Vietnam. Hindsight cannot capture what must have seemed an immensely lofty goal. How likely was it that such a regime could be successfully opposed by foreign representatives of an oppressed minority that was barely a generation removed from the Holocaust? This is the political message of that movement.

Challenges today facing the Jewish people may seem equally daunting: reaching a modus vivendi with the Palestinians; dealing with Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's fundamentalist Iran; developing a shared cultural language between the disparate communities of the Jewish world. One of the deep lessons of the Soviet Jewry movement is simply this: We need not be overwhelmed.

The second important lesson concerns the power of Jewish peoplehood, particularly when post-Zionist voices in Israel claim an "Israeli peoplehood" separate from the Jewish one and some American social activists see in tikkun olam an ideal divorced from Jews' responsibility toward one another. The impossible task of resisting Soviet power was taken up with zeal by a wealthy and comfortable community of Jews on the other side of the world. Indeed, it became the galvanizing agenda that formed a generation of Diaspora Jewish leaders committed to carrying out the final liberation of the Jews from the last bastion of European repression. Today, American Jewry is unimaginable without the generation of activists that now fills central leadership roles.

Third, the Soviet Jewry movement marked the end of a process that saw the complete restructuring of the Jewish world's demographics. For 2000 years, Jews were spread out in communities across many linguistic, ethnic and racial divides. But during the 20th century, world Jewry became overwhelmingly concentrated in just two - wholly different - Jewish cultures, one in the United States and the other in Israel. This created the deepest challenge of peoplehood in the 21st century.

While the success of the Soviet Jewry movement teaches us the potential embedded in the concern of Jews for their brethren, the dichotomies between American and Israeli Jewry have created a nearly bipolar Jewish world whose centers of gravity are steadily drifting apart.

The new Jewish world demands a generation of leaders that can find a shared transnational Jewish culture, a common ground not just of activism, but of culture and language, that will allow a united Jewish world to meet the challenges of the 21st century with the same success that it met those of the 20th.

Gaza-Israel front escalates

From DEBKAfile, October 30, 2007:

Gaza-Israel front escalates with heavy mortar attack on Israeli village

Defense minister Ehud Barak reiterated: Every passing day brings a major IDF operation nearer.

...Tuesday night, Oct. 30, Gazan Palestinians pounded Netiv Ha’asara to the north with a barrage of 10 mortar shells. One smashed a house and also damaged its neighbors. Only slight injuries are reported. Two Qassam missiles were fired at Kibbutz Saad, damaging a home after two landed earlier near Sderot.

Monday, Paratroop Reserve St. Sgt. Ehud Efrati, 34, from Beit Yehoshua, was killed, another Israeli soldier seriously injured in counter-terror operations in Gaza. Two other soldiers suffered minor injuries. The unit continued fighting, killing one of the gunmen and injuring others, in an operation to stop mortar fire on Israeli locations...and Palestinian attempts to send bombers from the southern Gaza Strip into Israel.

.... The entire length of Gaza’s border fence is constantly buffeted by terrorists attempting to cross into Israel, only to be fended off in daily engagements with Israeli forces. Last week, 20 Palestinian would-be intruders were killed in these attempts.

Hamas conducts big guerilla exercise in Gaza’s Al Burej camp focusing on maximum Israeli troop casualties and abductions

...Heavily armed masked Hamas operatives performed field exercises Tues. Oct. 30 in anti-aircraft tactics, assaults on buildings occupied by Israeli troops, and methods of identifying and targeting Israeli undercover and special forces units. A special sniper unit also took part in the drill. The tactics Hamas demonstrated reflected lessons drawn from Hizballah’s experiences in battles with Israeli forces during the 2006 Lebanon War and techniques imparted in special training courses they attended in Iran and Syria.

Our military sources add that, like Hizballah, Hamas has set up small, swift units to meet an Israeli advance into the Gaza Strip with strikes from the rear and attacks on transport routes.
All Hamas tactics are geared ultimately to maximizing Israeli troop casualties and abducting hostages.

Last month, Egypt allowed 85 Hamas graduates of these courses to cross Sinai and return home to Gaza.

World Jewry rallies for kidnapped troops

From Oct 30, 2007, by ABAYE SILBER :

... events ... worldwide ... calling for the release of captive IDF soldiers Ehud Goldwasser, Eldad Regev and Gilad Schalit.

The rallies, petition signings and other awareness-raising events were largely organized by students as part of an International Day of Solidarity, coordinated by the World Zionist Organization and the Jewish Agency.

It marked the largest demonstrations by Diaspora Jews to free the IDF soldiers since they were kidnapped in June and July 2006.

Most of the events took place on college campuses in North America... six in Canada.... more than two dozen events outside of North American, in places ranging from Buenos Aires to Amsterdam to Kiev.

Synagogues recited a special prayer written by Sephardi Chief Rabbi Shlomo Amar, and many planned to hold programs dedicated to the missing soldiers.

The organizers of the International Day of Solidarity are determined to prod the world into action. ..... The call to release the soldiers was directed at Iran, Syria, the UN, the EU and human rights organizations.

....Many human rights organizations have taken up the cause, and several countries have raised the issue in their legislatures. ...

....The largest rally took place in front of the United Nations in New York. ...Miki Goldwasser, Ehud Goldwasser's mother, spoke to the rally from Israel via telephone. Ehud's wife, Karnit addressed 20 campuses and communities by live video feed Tuesday night.

The events were launched Sunday at a rally at the Jerusalem International Convention Center. The crowd of 3,200 was addressed by Karnit Goldwasser and Jewish Agency Chairman Ze'ev Bielski. "The world is not doing enough to bring these boys back," Bielski told the protesters.

Al Qaeda declares Cyber Jihad

From DEBKAfile, October 30, 2007:

In a special Internet announcement in Arabic....Osama bin Laden’s followers announced ....Electronic Jihad.

On Sunday, Nov. 11, al Qaeda’s electronic experts will start attacking Western, Jewish, Israeli, Muslim apostate and Shiite Web sites. On Day One, they will test their skills against 15 targeted sites expand the operation from day to day thereafter until hundreds of thousands of Islamist hackers are in action against untold numbers of anti-Muslim sites.

DEBKAfile’s counter-terror sources report that, shortly after the first announcement, some of al Qaeda’s own Web sites went blank, apparently crashed by the American intelligence computer experts tracking them. The next day, Oct. 30, they were up again, claiming their Islamic fire walls were proof against infidel assault.

They also boasted an impenetrable e-mail network for volunteers wishing to join up with the cyber jihad to contact and receive instructions undetected by the security agencies in their respective countries. ....the instructions come in simple language and are organized in sections according to target. They offer would-be martyrs, who for one reason or another are unable to fight in the field, to fulfill their jihad obligations on the Net. These virtual martyrs are assured of the same thrill and sense of elation as a jihadi on the “battlefield.”

... The electronic war they have declared could cause considerable trouble on the world’s Internet.

Growing mistrust of IAEA director

DEBKAfile Reports October 30, 2007:

Iranian-Syrian nuclear issues heat up amid growing mistrust of IAEA director in Washington, Paris and Jerusalem

French defense minister Herve Morin said Monday, Oct. 29, he has information that Iran is developing nuclear weapons. He thus publicly contradicted remarks made by IAEA director Mohammed ElBaradai that there is no such evidence. Morin, on a visit to the Persian Gulf emirates, spoke at the same time as the IAEA director’s address the UN General Assembly.

DEBKAfile’s sources report that president Nicolas Sarkozy plans a state visit to Jerusalem in a few weeks, during which he will the address the Knesset on the Iranian nuclear threat, counter-measures and his commitment to Israel’s security.

Washington and Jerusalem are in intensive discussions over the prudence of Israel publicly leveling on its Sept. 6 attack on the Syrian installation, in consideration of the risk that a statement by prime minister Ehud Olmert could further raise war tensions. DEBKAfile’s military sources report that Israel’s air force and navy have been on high alert for some days.
Washington and Jerusalem are of one mind about the need to refute ElBaradei’s position that there are no grounds for nuclear allegations against Iran and Syria.

Addressing the UN General Assembly Monday, the IAEA director admitted that Iran was flouting UN Security Council resolutions on two points: uranium enrichment continued and so did the construction of a heavy water plant in Arak. He made no reference to Iran’s current work with plutonium.

The Wall Street Journal quoted a senior American official who has worked extensively on nuclear issues: “I would say there's no doubt now that Syria was in an early phase of a program."

Some U.S. diplomats were quoted by the paper as deriding the IAEA for failing to identify the Syrian program itself. Involving the IAEA could have bogged down the Syrian proliferation threat in endless rounds of negotiations with no action. "The Israelis decided to take care of this early on. We don't want to involve an agency that thinks it's in control, but isn't," said one diplomat.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

'Israel should no longer grant automatic citizenship to Jews'

From, Oct 30, 2007, by HAVIV RETTIG :

Israel should no longer grant automatic citizenship to Jews, Interior Minister Meir Sheetrit said on Tuesday.

"I'd like to see that [the immigrant] is not a criminal, that he's learning Hebrew; that he's here for five years before getting citizenship," he said.

Sheetrit was speaking to the Jewish Agency Board of Governors meeting in Jerusalem. He also called for more careful filtering of who is allowed to enter the country.

"Don't go finding me any lost tribes because I won't let them in any more," he declared. "We have enough problems in Israel. Let them go to America."

Sheetrit told the delegates from around the world that "we have to focus on absorption" of the olim already in Israel, "Whose lives are miserable."

Sheetrit's remarks did not reflect the views of the Jewish Agency, said Jewish Agency Board of Governors Chairman Richie Pearlstone.

Monday, October 29, 2007

The Attempt to Kill Olmert

From GLORIA, by Barry Rubin, October 28, 2007:

Several Fatah security force officers assigned to protect Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert as he went to meet with Palestinian Authority (PA) head Mahmoud Abbas, it has just been revealed, planned to assassinate him instead.....

...It should be emphasized that the would-be assassins were Fatah, not Hamas, and that they were quickly released by PA authorities before outside pressure forced their re-arrest. (Prediction: they will be freed soon with little or no international media coverage.)

But this is merely the same basic pattern as happened with the assassins of Israeli government minister Rehavam Zeevi in 2001 or the gunmen who seized the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem in 2002: international indifference, a show of PA law enforcement, and terrorists go free.....

...The PA has never really punished anyone for murdering or trying to kill an Israeli or for attacking Israel. Occasionally, in the 1990s, there were convictions but only on charges of damaging the Palestinian cause which meant attacking at an embarrassing time. Even those prisoners were quickly released....

....Why? Because of the rules of Palestinian politics which are absolutely fatal to the hope of getting a Palestinian state, becoming more moderate, ending terrorism, or stopping even officially sponsored PA incitement to commit terrorism. Palestinians know these rules well though outsiders seem largely unaware of them. Exceptions can be found but few and since these are considered shameful they go unpublicized and thus form no precedent for changing the rules, which are:
  1. Palestinians cannot stop other Palestinians from attacking Israel. To do so would be betraying the cause, becoming Israel’s lackey. This applies even if the Israelis are bringing in supplies or providing jobs to Palestinians, or if the attack damages Palestinian interests. If the victims are schoolchildren or shoppers or people riding on a bus, of course, is irrelevant in this world view.
  2. He who is most militant is always right. Extremism equals heroism. This is one reason why Fatah has such a difficult time competing with Hamas. It cannot denounce these rivals for being too hardline and intransigent. Suicide bombers along with those who incite and manage them are role models, not misled individuals, much less evil ones.
  3. More violence is good and a victory if it inflicts casualties or damage on Israel. Other than ritual denunciations for the foreign media, these are matters for pride, with the implication being that they advance the cause rather than sabotage it.
  4. No Israeli government can do anything good. Thus, Olmert is no better than anyone else even as he withdraws from the Gaza Strip, offers to accept a Palestinian state, and is ready to give up east Jerusalem. Some Palestinian leaders can talk privately to Israeli counterparts about cooperation and even their dream of peace but don’t tell this to their own people.
  5. Since Palestinians are the perpetual victim they are entitled to everything they want and never need to give anything in exchange for Israeli concessions. Thus, the preferred PA diplomatic option is that Israel withdraws from the West Bank and east Jerusalem, recognizes an independent Palestinian state, releases all Palestinian prisoners, and then talks can begin. (Note: I thought of this as a satire but a high-ranking Syrian official just proposed the equivalent on that front.)
  6. No Palestinian should be imprisoned for attacks on Israel one minute longer than required by international public relations’ needs. After all, if they are doing heroic deeds against an evil enemy—even by murdering civilians on purpose—why should they be punished?
  7. Fatah won’t discipline or expel anyone for launching attacks.
  8. Wiping Israel off the map is morally correct. If anyone says anything different they will be scared or ashamed, justifying their lapse as a temporary tactical measure or way to fool enemies.
  9. While pretending to be nationalist, the movement sets as top priority the so-called “right of return,” the demand that all Palestinian refugees or their descendents—several million people—must be allowed to live in Israel. It is better not to get a state than to give up this demand. Even though having many Palestinians go live in Israel would make Palestine weaker and poorer it is better to focus on destroying Israel from within.
  10. It is more important to be steadfast and patient with a terrible status quo than to make big gains by ending the conflict forever. To do so would give up future Palestinians’ chance to seek total victory. Their right to all of the land cannot be given away.
  11. No speeches, no foreign aid, and no international plans or meetings have altered these basic rules. Palestinian leaders may sincerely voice their dismay with this problem privately but won’t fight to smash them. If they ever really do change we’ll know. But until then, these are the reasons why the Palestinian side cannot and will not reach for peace or keep existing commitments very well. Even if a handful of top Palestinians want to reach agreement with Israel, they cannot—and even worse, dare not—violate these commandments.

Islamic elements radicalising Australian youth

From The Australian, by John Lyons October 29, 2007:

AUSTRALIA faces a "London-type bombing" if relations between Muslims and the intelligence and police authorities do not improve, an influential Islamic youth leader has warned.

Fadi Rahman, who runs one of Sydney's biggest youth centres at Lidcombe in the city's west, said overseas Islamic elements were attempting to radicalise Muslim youth with their hardline ideologies.

... Mr Rahman said Muslims did not trust ASIO or the Australian Federal Police and that the bungled terror case against Gold Coast doctor Mohamed Haneef had worsened the situation. " one in the Islamic community trusts them enough to give them a heads-up about anything," Mr Rahman told The Australian. "Look at the Haneef thing - why would we trust these guys when all you see is one fumble after another? People are afraid."

...Mr Rahman said a battle for the hearts and minds of young Muslims was under way in Australia between influences from overseas wanting to radicalise youths and more moderate influences in Australia. Mr Rahman said he believed he had been the target of a recruitment attempt but when he responded "defensively" those talking to him said they had merely been joking.

Asked about the anatomy of a recruitment, he said: "Most of the time they start at the local mosque in small groups - they move quickly into the garage, then people's homes. You get sucked in." He said the typical recruiter was in their 40s or 50s, "from overseas, well-educated and tapping into young people's frustrations and anger". "I think we are very similar to London," he said. "There are these individuals from overseas who are basically in their mid-life who have these ideologies and because of the animosity they have experienced in their own countries have deep hatred of the Western world. It's very easy to tap into the mind of someone who has a low education level, unemployment and who has basically given up on life.

"The right ingredients are there. We need to do something or what happened in London, a London-type bombing, will happen here." The "something" includes programs to give opportunities to Muslim youth and a "less hostile" attitude by the federal Government. Mr Rahman said the Government was spending too much on campaigns directed at people who did not know what was going on - such as the Be Alert, Not Alarmed campaign - but not enough in communities such as southwestern Sydney, where about 250,000 Muslims live. "It's not like it will be John Smith on the north shore of Sydney who will have information, it will be Mohammed or Ahmed out here," he says.

Mr Rahman said he and Toufic Mallah, the man he brought into the youth centre to stress moderation, preached non-violence. About 50 of the youths at the centre, which has about 460 members aged 10 to 35, are former criminals who have done time in jail. Mr Rahman said they could go "either way".

At the Independent Centre of Research Australia, he runs anger-management programs and has opened a prayer room run by Sheik Mallah. Sheik Mallah said the second chapter of the Koran stressed that "we have made a moderate nation". He says non-Muslim Australians should approach their local sheiks if there was anything they did not understand or like about their local Muslim communities. "Come and speak to us," he said.

.... In the aftermath of the Cronulla race riots in Sydney in 2005 there was progress between Muslim and non-Muslim communities, but since then "things have taken a nasty turn".
"The blame game" of all Muslims being blamed for terrorism "will only put people offside", he said. "When the shit hits the fan we will all be covered with it. It's just a matter of time before someone says I've had enough. Unless something is done and attitudes change something will happen....