Saturday, March 01, 2008

3 hurt when Katyusha hits Ashkelon

From THE JERUSALEM POST by Staff, Mar. 1, 2008:

Three people were lightly wounded when a Grad-type Katyusha rocket smashed into Ashkelon early Saturday.

Two of the casualties were young children.

At least 11 rockets hit in or around Ashkelon since early Saturday, and at least 13 Kassam rockets hit open areas around Sderot. ...approximately 44 rockets have hit Israel during the day....

33 Palestinians killed during ongoing IDF raids in Gaza Strip

From THE JERUSALEM POST, by AP and Jpost staff, Mar. 1, 2008:

Thirty-three Palestinians have been killed on Saturday and at least 40 have been wounded in an IDF operation meant to combat the ongoing Palestinian rocket fire on Israeli cities in the western Negev.

...Five IDF troops were wounded during the operations, two lightly to moderately, and three lightly.......clashes between Israel and Hamas terrorists sparked Wednesday when an Israeli student at Sapir College in Sderot was killed by a Kassam rocket.

...The IDF, which sent troops, tanks and aircraft after Gaza rocket squads, said it only attacks rocket-launching operations, but noted that terrorists sometimes operate within civilian areas.
Fierce fighting erupted Saturday east of the town of Jebaliya.....

.....At around midnight on Friday the IDF said it attacked an armaments factory in the central Gaza Strip and a rocket launcher in the north Gaza. At the same time, Palestinians said Eid al-Ashram, a weapons expert, was killed by an IAF missile in an open area in northern Gaza.
Deputy Defense Minister Matan Vilna'i told Army Radio that Israel had "no other choice" but to launch a massive military operation in Gaza.

"We will use all our strength in every way we deem appropriate, whether in air strikes or on the ground," Vilna'i said....

....The IDF has notified the government it is ready to launch a major ground offensive as soon as it is ordered to do so, defense officials said. Nothing is expected for the next week or two....

....US State Department spokesman Tom Casey denounced Hamas's rocket attacks as "completely unacceptable" and demanded they stop....

Friday, February 29, 2008

US Congressional panel recognizes the “forgotten” Jewish refugees from Arab lands

From DEBKAfile, February 29, 2008, 10:55 AM (GMT+02:00):

The resolution unanimously approved by the House Foreign Affairs Committee Thursday, Feb. 29, recognizes the “over 850,000 Jews put to flight from Arab countries” in 1948 as refugees, no less than their Palestinian counterparts, who they outnumber.

The US president is urged to ensure that when the Middle refugee issue is discussed in international forums, any reference to Palestinian refugees be matched by a similarly explicit reference to expelled Jewish populations.

Report on Israel to Western Australian Parliament

The Hon. Robert Charles Kucera presented his report on the WA Parliamentary Study Tour of Israel last December, under the auspices of the the Australia / Israel & Jewish Affairs Council (AIJAC) Rambam programme, to the Western Australian Parliament Legislative Assembly session yesterday afternoon.

The report was impassioned and extremely complimentary of Israel and its citizens. Bob expressed a heartfelt understanding of the challenges Israel faces and admiration for the achievements of its citizens.

He mentioned many of the activities organised by AIJAC , including a visit to Beer Sheva and the site of the 10th Light Horse battle that took the town from the Turks. He specifically proposed the establishment of a sister-city relationship between Albany (the West Australian port from which the 10th Light Horsemen embarked) and Beer Sheva. He also referred to his recommendation to the Returned Servicemen’s League to encourage visits to Beer Sheva as part of the annual ANZAC commemorations.

I will get a copy of the Hansard transcript and, if possible, of the video clip of the session and try to make them available to readers of Jewish Issues Watchdog.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

This is no time for a celebrity in the Oval Office

From The Australian, by Greg Sheridan, Foreign Editor February 28, 2008:

....In terms of who would be best for Australia, there is a respectable case to be made for each remaining US presidential candidate: Obama, Hillary Clinton and John McCain.

The case for Obama rests on the fact that .... His is a candidacy of celebrity and identity.... and for a time the world probably would fall in love with president Obama.

At a deeper level, Obama's soaring rhetoric seems to serve no purpose beyond itself.....

... Obama does have a record and it places him generally on the Left of the Democratic Party, although he has often used centrist and sometimes even hawkish rhetoric. But his closest advisers all come from the Left of the party.

This is bad for Australia in four ways.
It has led Obama into protectionism, he campaigns against Clinton because her husband passed the North American Free Trade Agreement.
Second, the Left of the Democratic Party has no interest in Asia and can barely find it on a map.
Most important, Obama steadily increases the stridency of his opposition to US troops in Iraq.
Members of the Bush administration are worried that the Democratic primary has gone on so long. This has resulted in both Obama and Clinton appealing only to the Democratic base on the Left, and not yet tracking back to the centre.

Iraq has faded as an issue because the US strategy there is now working. There is a real chance the US could prevail in Iraq. ....But Obama, playing not least for the Hollywood Bush haters, has left little room to manoeuvre as president on Iraq. A sudden US withdrawal from Iraq could be catastrophic for the Middle East, and for US standing generally. Obama is all over the place on foreign policy. He has threatened to bomb Pakistan to kill terrorists (imagine if Bush or McCain had said such a thing) but also to journey to Tehran to fix a grand bargain with Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. His rhetoric on foreign policy, apart from Iraq, is scattered, which is a sure sign that he's never given the matter any serious thought.

Finally, the Left of the Democratic Party cares least for the military and for alliances. But the chief way Washington conceives of Australia is as an ally, and the chief US thinkers about us are the military.

The case for Clinton is a more modest version of Obama. ..... The world would be much less hostile to her than it is to Bush. Moreover, while she has tracked Obama on protectionism, she has not gone as far.... Similarly, though promising to withdraw from Iraq, she has left herself much more wriggle room. She is surrounded by the hawks and centrists of the Democratic Party: old friends of Australia of great competence such as Kurt Campbell and Martin Indyk. She has no natural affinity with Asia and little knowledge of it, but some of her closest advisers do.

In my view the best candidate from Australia's point of view is McCain. Like his close friend former deputy secretary of state Rich Armitage, McCain has a national security outlook which elevates allies to a central position. He knows Asia very intimately. Like almost all US Vietnam veterans he has close Australian friends and has visited Australia on numerous occasions. He has spoken to the Australian American Leadership Dialogue.

Because he has been such a fierce critic of the way the Bush administration initially mismanaged Iraq, and the war on terror more generally, he can plausibly represent significant brand change from Bush, while still being from the same party. ..... One reason McCain would be good for Australia is that he would stay strong in Iraq. He would not let the Middle East spin out of control.

So why do I think an Obama ascendancy could cause war in the Middle East? It's a simple calculation. Despite the recently released US National Intelligence Estimate that Iran is not working on nuclear weaponisation, no one seriously doubts that Iran is moving towards nuclear weapons. The NIE confirms it is continuing to pursue uranium enrichment and missile capabilities. Weaponisation is the easiest bit of the process.

Many Israeli leaders say that a nuclear armed Iran represents an existential threat to Israel. If they really believe this, they have no alternative but to strike Iran's nuclear facilities. If they believe McCain will win, they will have faith that the Americans, one way or another, will try to handle the Iranians. If they believe Obama will win, they not only believe he definitely won't handle Iran effectively, but he might even stop them from doing so....

....The odds are against a US strike on Iran under any circumstances, and I would say the odds are even against an Israeli strike. But either or both are much more likely if it looks like Obama will win.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Iran’s supreme ruler solidly backs Ahmadinejad’s drive for a nuclear weapon

From DEBKAfile, February 27, 2008, 9:18 AM (GMT+02:00):

Khamenei lines up behind Iran's extremists

...18 days before parliamentary elections to the majlis, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei for the first time threw all his weight and authority behind his country’s nuclear program and President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

His words clearly celebrated the failure of the United States, the West at large and Israel to stall Tehran’s nuclear ambitions - whether by military force or sanctions.

Tuesday, Feb 26, the supreme ruler told Iranian officials:
“One example of an advance by the Islamic system has been the nuclear issue, in which the Iranian nation has honestly and seriously won a great victory.” For the first time, he echoed Ahmadinejad’s intransigent position and praised his role in advancing the nuclear issue as “outstanding.”

In the face of the nuclear watchdog’s latest report that questions about Iran’s possible weaponization of nuclear materials remain unanswered, Khamenei backed to the hilt the hard-line positions taken by the president and the Revolutionary Guards and their drive for a nuclear bomb and nuclear-capable missiles.

Transparently pouring scorn on the US and Israel, the supreme ruler said: “Those people who used to say Iran’s nuclear activity must be dismantled are now saying we are ready to accept your advances, on condition that it will not continue indefinitely. This was achieved by perseverance.” The ayatollah was referring obliquely to certain Western powers including Germany which have discreetly engaged Tehran for a deal to acknowledge Iran’s nuclear achievements provided it put its military option on ice for some years.

Khamenei treated this concession, which would leave the Islamic Republic free to invoke its option at will, as a “great victory.” He was clearly crowing over US secretary of state Condoleezza Rice’s call for a third round of sanctions and Ehud Olmert’s reliance on the international community.

Khamenei’s lavish praise for the president ahead of the majlis vote was a setback for the theory held by US and Israeli policy-makers that the supreme ruler and his faction are more amenable to reason that Ahmadinejad and the Revolutionary Guards and, if confronted with a military showdown with the US and Israel, they would prefer to deal. Khamenei’s rhetoric Tuesday put paid to this illusion.

In fact, domestically, his latest statement will strengthen the radical president’s parliamentary support in the March 18 election, as well as his call to wipe Israel off the map.

Turkey in radical revision of Islamic texts

From BBC News, 26/2/08, by Robert Piggott, Religious affairs correspondent:

Turkey is preparing to publish a document that represents a revolutionary reinterpretation of Islam - and a controversial and radical modernisation of the religion.

The country's powerful Department of Religious Affairs has commissioned a team of theologians at Ankara University to carry out a fundamental revision of the Hadith, the second most sacred text in Islam after the Koran. The Hadith is a collection of thousands of sayings reputed to come from the Prophet Muhammad. As such, it is the principal guide for Muslims in interpreting the Koran and the source of the vast majority of Islamic law, or Sharia....

...But the Turkish state has come to see the Hadith as having an often negative influence on a society it is in a hurry to modernise, and believes it responsible for obscuring the original values of Islam. It says that a significant number of the sayings were never uttered by Muhammad, and even some that were need now to be reinterpreted.

Commentators say the very theology of Islam is being reinterpreted in order to effect a radical renewal of the religion. Its supporters say the spirit of logic and reason inherent in Islam at its foundation 1,400 years ago are being rediscovered. Some believe it could represent the beginning of a reformation in the religion.

....The argument is that Islamic tradition has been gradually hijacked by various - often conservative - cultures, seeking to use the religion for various forms of social control. Leaders of the Hadith project say successive generations have embellished the text, attributing their political aims to the Prophet Muhammad himself.

Turkey is intent on sweeping away that "cultural baggage" and returning to a form of Islam it claims accords with its original values and those of the Prophet. But this is where the revolutionary nature of the work becomes apparent. Even some sayings accepted as being genuinely spoken by Muhammad have been altered and reinterpreted.

Prof Mehmet Gormez, a senior official in the Department of Religious Affairs and an expert on the Hadith, gives a telling example. "There are some messages that ban women from travelling for three days or more without their husband's permission and they are genuine. "But this isn't a religious ban. It came about because in the Prophet's time it simply wasn't safe for a woman to travel alone like that. But as time has passed, people have made permanent what was only supposed to be a temporary ban for safety reasons." ...Prof Gormez points out that in another speech, the Prophet said "he longed for the day when a woman might travel long distances alone". So, he argues, it is clear what the Prophet's goal was.

....As part of its aggressive programme of renewal, Turkey has given theological training to 450 women, and appointed them as senior imams called "vaizes". They have been given the task of explaining the original spirit of Islam to remote communities in Turkey's vast interior....

....According to Fadi Hakura, an expert on Turkey from Chatham House in London, Turkey is doing nothing less than recreating Islam - changing it from a religion whose rules must be obeyed, to one designed to serve the needs of people in a modern secular democracy. He says that to achieve it, the state is fashioning a new Islam....

Remembering the Nazis

Europe 1939-45

Austria, July 2007 ( a carpark near Mauthausen - I photographed this myself)

Australia, February 2008 (if you'd like to "enquire" about these, see Lawsons Auctioneers (NSW), Auction No. 7571, and search for "WWII" or go to Lots 125 and 126)

Israeli Rabbi Condemns Organ Harvesting

A 98-second video clip, from YouTube, 19/5/07:

ABC (Australia) admits bias

Israellycool Blog, 26/2/08 posted a response to a complaint by Dr Sam to an ABC article about drug use amongst Palestininans The ABC has admitted
  • factual inaccuracies
  • lack of substantive comment from the Israeli side
  • lack of balance (bias)
Read this excerpt of their response [my own emphasis added - SL], or follow the link to IsraellyCool to read the entire response, verbatim:

Dear Dr Sam
I refer to your emails of 8 and 12 November regarding the AM report “Palestinians struggle with surge in drug use” broadcast on 7 November. Once again, I apologise for the delay in responding to your concerns.

...Our investigation has concluded that the report contained three factual inaccuracies, in breach of the standards outlined in clause 3.2 of the Code. We have found that these inaccuracies, together with the lack of substantive comment from the Israeli authorities, has resulted in a broadcast that does not meet the requirement for balance outlined inclause 3.5 of the Code...

.... it is the view of ACA that every reasonable effort should have been made by the reporter to seek substantive comment or an interview with the relevant Israeli authorities. If the Israeli authorities declined an interview, this should have been clearly indicated in the report. ....

.... the ABC’s complaint handling standards have been breached because you did not receive a substantive response within 60 days of submitting your complaint.

I would like to assure you that these breaches of editorial standards have been brought to the attention of ABC News management and will be reported to the ABC Board. The AM online transcript has been amended to correct the factual inaccuracies identified, the audio of the report has been removed from the website and an Editor’s Note has been appended to the transcript which states: “Parts of this story have been amended or omitted and the audio removed to address issues of factual correctness. The story was also found to have lacked balance because there was insufficient opportunity for Israeli authorities to respond. The ABC apologises for these instances of inaccuracy and lack of balance.”

Further, AM will broadcast an on air apology at the end of the program this Thursday morning (28 February) acknowledging the inaccuracies and lack of balance, and listeners will be directed to the corrected transcript of 7 November 2007....

.... ABC News advise that Mr Hardaker acknowledges that this statement is incorrect: “The drug dealers are nearly always Israelis, sometimes working with Palestinians.” The statement should have said “The drug dealers are nearly always ARAB Israelis, sometimes working with Palestinians.”

This is a breach of our editorial guidelines for accuracy, and we acknowledge that the omission of the descriptor “Arab” was a significant oversight and changed the emphasis of this segment of the report....

....Additionally, this statement is incorrect: “The research backs up what Imad Schweiki says. Young Palestinians are getting their drugs in areas where they’re in contact with Israelis, either in Jerusalem itself or around the giant wall, known as the separation barrier, between Israel and the West bank.” The PCBS report identified the suburbs with the highest number of drug users, but it did not identify those drug users as Palestinians, Arab Israeli or Jewish Israeli.....

.... The opinion expressed by Hosni Shahin that; ”… So the occupation, if he can keeps the youth calming down all thetime, the occupation will be, avoid a lot of problems, they will avoid it.” …” was given some context by the preceding statement by David Hardaker, who explained: “Israeli authorities have flatly denied using drugs as a tool of occupation. Drug workers on the ground can’t prove it, but they are convinced that the inaction of Israeli police is deliberate and that it’s aimed at pacifying angry young Palestinians.” However, as stated above, the inclusion of such allegations required that the Israeli position be explained more prominently in the report.....

While I believe the further seven points raised in your correspondencehave been largely addressed, for the sake of clarity, I have responded to each matter below:

1. The ABC acknowledges that the claims made in the report should have been countered by those of an appropriate Israeli agency. ....

2. The ABC has identified and acknowledges three inaccuracies in the broadcast.

3. Some of the claims made by those interviewed in the report are very critical of the Israeli administration...Hosni Shahin asserts that drug addicts sell their houses to those in the Jewish community to fund their addiction.

4. This report contained views that were highly critical of the Israeli administration, and every reasonable effort should have been made by thereporter to provide a more substantive response. Through the lack of balance, the broadcast gives undue emphasis to the Palestinian viewpoint, however, the ABC does not agree that this constitutes vilification of the Jewish people, or that the report is anti-Semitic.....

5. The ABC acknowledges that the report did not meet its editorials tandards for balance.

6. It is not the role of ACA to review “the research or due diligence”of David Hardaker. Rather, as outlined in section 13 of the Editorial Policies, it is our role to assess the compliance of program contentwhich is the subject of complaint against our editorial standards.

7. It is not the role of ACA to determine whether a party has been defamed. If you wish to pursue any allegation of defamation, you willneed to provide full details of your claim to ABC Legal Services (attention Jonathan Duhs / Megan Edwards).

In conclusion, the ABC apologises for the serious deficiencies in this report, and once again I regret the delay in providing you with a substantive response to your complaint....

Yours sincerely
Denise MustoAudience & Consumer Affairs

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

GAZA motion in Australian Parliament

From AIJAC Rambam Fellow Senator Joe Ludwig's speech against a motion by Greens Senator Kerry Nettle noting comments about the hardship in Gaza from the Commissioner-General of UNRWA and calling "on the Australian Government to make representations to the Israeli Government to immediately lift the blockade of Gaza." The motion contained no mention of Palestinian rocket attacks or any other comment on Palestinian activities.

Senator LUDWIG (Queensland-Minister for Human Services) (10.38 a.m.)-by leave-We oppose the motion as it stands because it is one-sided and does not recognise the complexities of the situation which has arisen as a result of the Hamas takeover of Gaza last year. We call on all sides in the conflict to make every effort to end violence affecting civilian populations in both the Palestinian territories and Israel. It is important that both sides remain focused on peace negotiations launched at Annapolis which offered the only viable hope for a peaceful and just solution to the conflict. The Australian government is seriously concerned at the humanitarian situation in Gaza. The humanitarian crisis is in no-one's interest. Note that we have doubled our aid to the Palestinian territories to $45 million for 2008. Israel's policies towards Gaza are a result of continued rocket attacks launched from Gaza. Australia is committed to a two-stage solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict which recognises both Israel's right to exist in peace and security and the legitimate aspirations of the Palestinian people for a state of their own.

Divided Arabs "have no brains"

From Asharq Al-Awsat (pan-Arab daily newspaper) Sunday 24 February 2008, by Mshari Al-Zaydi, a Saudi journalist and Asharq Al-Awsat’s opinion page Editor:

One of the most compelling things about Imad Mughniyeh’s assassination is the nature of the description and image that various parties use to depict him. For Hezbollah, Iran, Syria and their supporters in Lebanon, such as followers of General Aoun, the [Weam] Wahab, [Talal] Arsalan or [Omar] Karami movements, Mughniyeh is a saintly resistance hero and a symbol of martyrdom and jihad.

However for others, especially in the Gulf region and among some Arabs and Lebanese, he is a master of plane hijacking, explosions and terrorism. It’s true that Iran employed Mughniyeh as an instrument to spread terror and panic but he was also an 'academy' [accomplished mentor] that specialized in generating Shia movements across various states in the same vein as Hezbollah in Lebanon, the Mehdi Army in Iraq and the Shia terrorist groups in the Gulf region. In this regard, we must also refer to his basic role in the Khobar Towers explosions in Saudi Arabia in 1996.

... it only seems natural that his assassination would continue this conflict and disunion since he had dedicated his life and services to serve a vision, project, and course that constitute a point of contention and conflict in the Arab region, which has been witnessing a broad and extensive state of transformation in its present and future.

The Arab region is divided between some parties who seek to transform it into a land of strife, war, martyrdom and another Karbala, such as illustrated by some of the slogans raised in the Iranian demonstrations that hailed Lebanon as 'Karbala' following the assassination of Mughniyeh.

However, there are also those who want to head in another direction towards progress, developing the economy and catching up with the contemporary world. Such a contradiction may be summarized as: the two cultures [trends] of life and death and it can be used to describe the conflict between these two visions, such as those of Hezbollah, Hamas, Iran and Syria on the one hand, and the March 14 Coalition Forces, Egypt and Saudi Arabia on the other.

The latter culture is one that propagates stability, calm and peace and is against revolutionary trends, suicide operations and weapons. This is why Hezbollah, Iran and those that orbit in the same circles should not expect the world to praise or commemorate Imad Mughniyeh since his life and efforts – and even his death – reflect the interests of a hostile party, namely Iran and its supporters.

My approach is not one that stems from Sunni-Shia sectarianism to which I oppose strongly; rather it emerges from a practical description of reality. What I am referring to is the audacious manipulation of Khomeini's Iran of all Shia followers around the world with the intention of attaching them to pure Iranian interest ... and ultimately only serve the interests of the Iranian political agenda....

Division among the Arabs has reached unprecedented depths; compliments and rehashed words about the interests, dreams and objectives of the Arab nation are useless, as are the tours and statements issued by Amr Moussa [Secretary-General of the League of Arab States]....

..... All it takes is tuning into Al-Manar TV, which is affiliated to Hezbollah, to gauge your feelings and reactions. You will find yourself bombarded by scenes of martyrs, death, explosions and songs of praise for suicide bombers and other media tools that are only dedicated to one purpose: to glorify the dead and persuade the living to seek the same end so that they may share the same fate as the archetypal martyr: al Hussein. And it goes on and on…

But if you happen to change the channel to any other, even if it were the Disney Channel you would suddenly feel as if you had just exited a stifling steam room to an open space with fresh air and scenes of life; a place where death does not reign. The culture of Hezbollah ... is a death culture ...this is the mobilizing culture that drives vital youth to become reduced to nothing but guns and bombs that heed the direction of Sayyed Nasrallah or follow the orders of Hajj Radwan. And this is exactly what happens to their Sunni counterparts who have been recruited as the soldiers of Al-Qaeda and other Islamic movements that adopt the Salafist Jihadist approaches....

.... Even if Hezbollah were to liberate the Shebaa farms and free the prisoners held in Israeli prisons, it would still not mean that it would shift into becoming a civil party with a civil ideology and a civil vision. The party will not stop generating individuals who are obsessed with death and martyrdom since its very structure is built upon 'resistance', as Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah told the 'understanding' General Michel Aoun in their second meeting.... the aim behind Hezbollah's armament, and therefore its culture and exceptional nature, is to annihilate Israel!

This is why after the assassination of Imad Mughniyeh; Nasrallah came out to say that his blood would wipe out Israel. A few days later General Jaafari offered his condolences and support to Mughniyeh's supporters and said that Hezbollah would eliminate the Israeli virus “soon” .....

Thus, Hezbollah’s arms and culture will always exist until Israel no longer exists, which is an impossible objective – just as Hezbollah’s stipulations are in the Lebanese arena. It is a laborious task not just for the party but for the entire Lebanese state, let alone Syria, which is a major state and which could not succeed in eliminating Israel. “Imad Mughniyeh’s blood means the annihilation of Israel…soon!”

It is true what the great Arab poet Abul Alaa Al-Maari said: These words are fully loaded with meaning

They mean that we have no brains!

Nuclear Agency Says Iran Has Used New Technology

From The New York Times, February 23, 2008, by DAVID E. SANGER:

WASHINGTON — The International Atomic Energy Agency described for the first time on Friday the evidence it has shown to Iran that strongly suggests the country had experimented with technologies to manufacture a nuclear weapon....”

... an 11-page report ...painted a mixed picture of Iran’s activities, and confirmed that Iran had begun to deploy a new generation of machinery to enrich uranium. ....

But officials with the United Nations agency said Iran had refused to deal with the evidence that served as the basis for American charges that Iran had tried to design a weapon. Much of it was contained in a laptop computer slipped out of the country by an Iranian technician four years ago and obtained by German and American intelligence agencies....

....Since 2005, the I.A.E.A. has urged the United States and other countries to allow it to show Iran the evidence obtained on the laptop, which intelligence officials have said once belonged to an Iranian technician with access to the country’s nuclear program. But the United States. refused to allow the information to be shown to the Iranians until a few weeks ago.

Now that roadblock has been broken. The report says that a week ago the I.A.E.A was given permission to show original documents to the Iranians. In the report issued Friday, the agency described some of that evidence in public for the first time.

The most suspicious-looking document in the collection turned over to the I.A.E.A. was a schematic diagram showing what appeared to be the development of a warhead, with a layout of internal components. “This layout has been assessed by the agency as quite likely to be able to accommodate a nuclear device,” the I.A.E.A. wrote. But that does not prove it was a nuclear warhead, and Iran argued that its missile program used “conventional warheads only.”...

France, the UAE, Qatar, Saudi Arabia secretly launch their first joint war game

From DEBKAfile, February 25, 2008, 10:55 PM (GMT+02:00):

...the first Persian Gulf exercise without the US in many years began Feb. 24. It will last ten days. It is also the first time the United Arab Emirates and France have invoked their 19-year old military pact. France has contributed 1,500 navy marine and air force personnel to the exercise; the UAE, 1,500 and Qatar 3,000 troops. ... a number of the advanced French Rafale B and naval units are deployed in the exercise.

While Iran is not explicitly targeted, the objectives of the maneuver are to practice repulsing marine landings by sea on the Gulf participants’ shores and missile attacks from the east, i.e. Iran. The joint force is also drilling tactics to defend their oil and gas fields and oil ports.
While the Saudi army is not directly participating in the maneuver, King Abdullah has permitted some of the air and naval movements to take place in the kingdom’s territorial waters and over its air space.

...It will be France’s first military foothold in the Persian Gulf region. French president Nicolas Sarkozy and the UAE government agreed to establish this base with the approval of US president George W. Bush during their respective Gulf tours last month.

Obama and Clinton’s senior advisers visit Syrian president Assad

From DEBKAfile, February 25, 2008, 7:54 PM (GMT+02:00):

Zbigniew Brezhinsky, adviser to Jimmy Carter and Barack Obama
...Zbigniew Brezhinsky, President Jimmy Carter’s national security adviser, who now advises Democratic Senator Barack Obama on foreign policy, and the Iranian-American Hassan Nemazee, one of Hillary Rodham Clinton’s principal donors.... were in Damascus last week as part of a RAND Corporation delegation.
[Brezhinsky] stated: “The conversation dealt with recent regional developments, affirming that both sides have a common desire to achieve stability in the region, which would benefit both its people and the USA.” These words...raised new speculation about the Middle East policies of the Senator from Illinois and his attitude toward Israel.

Brezhinsky’s statement was compatible with Obama’s avowed intention, if elected, of meeting Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and the Syrian ruler to persuade them that cooperation with America is preferable to confrontation. Clinton calls this approach naïve.

However, Brezhinsky went so far as to portray Assad as a seeker of Middle East stability. This sounds odd to anyone familiar with the Syrian ruler’s record of permitting anti-American fighters, weapons and cash to flow from his country to Iraq, his violent destabilization of Lebanon, his arming of Hizballah and his playing host to the command centers of the most radical Palestinian terrorist organizations such as Hamas and Jihad Islami.

Brezhinsky in fact called on Assad only days after the master terrorist Imad Mughniyeh was assassinated in Damascus, exposing for all the world to see the welcome he and his ilk enjoy in the Syrian capital.....

Obama: Pro-Israel needn't be pro-Likud

From THE JERUSALEM POST Feb. 25, 2008, by Hilary Leila Krieger, jpost correspondent in WASHINGTON:

"I think there is a strain within the pro-Israel community that says unless you adopt an unwavering pro-Likud approach to Israel, then you're anti-Israel..." leading Democratic presidential contender Illinois Senator Barack Obama said Sunday.

"If we cannot have an honest dialogue about how do we achieve these goals, then we're not going to make progress," he said. He also criticized the notion that anyone who asks tough questions about advancing the peace process or tries to secure Israel by anyway other than "just crushing the opposition" is being "soft or anti-Israel."

Obama made the comments in a closed-door meeting with several members of Cleveland's Jewish community....

Obama defended - and distanced - himself from criticism that has been leveled at him about some of his campaign advisers and endorsers, but he suggested that too black-and-white a perspective on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict helped no one.

He described the debate in Israel as "much more open" than it often is in the United States.
"Understandably, because of the pressure that Israel is under, I think the US pro-Israel community is sometimes a little more protective ..." he continued. ....

He also again noted his disagreement with some of the critical statements on Israel made by the pastor of his church, which he ascribed to the latter's support for the anti-apartheid struggle in South Africa at a time that Israel continued to trade with the regime there....

...Also on Sunday, Ralph Nader, while declaring his third-party candidacy for the US presidency, attacked Obama for allegedly concealing his "pro-Palestinian" feelings. ...

......The progressive candidate's opening shot at Obama over Israel intensified a debate raging ... over whether the Illinois senator has solid pro-Israel credentials. Nader's comments were quickly seized upon by the Republican Jewish Coalition. "When a long-time political activist like Ralph Nader, with a well-documented, anti-Israel bias, claims that Senator Obama shares this anti-Israel bias, that is alarming," said RJC Executive Director Matt Brooks.

"If Senator Obama has only reversed his positions to run for president, it once again raises serious questions about his grasp of the geopolitical realities of the Middle East and puts into doubt his commitment to the safety and security of Israel. These are important questions we in the Jewish community will be asking."

Monday, February 25, 2008

China Olympics

The following two messages, are a clear call to the Jewish world to fulfil the mitzvah of Tikkun Olam.

...firstly, from an address by Jennifer Zeng, of Australia, a refugee from China and survivor of its forced labour camps, PUBLIC LIBRARY, Tel Aviv, February 18, 2008:

...Some 60 years ago, shocked by what had happened to millions of Jews in the Nazi concentration camps, the world vowed "Never Again". Unfortunately, similar anti-humanity crimes have been happening again now for eight years in China....which is killing people en masse for their vital organs.

For any sensible human being, this sounds unbelievable. But I know it is true as I myself am a survivor. In order to get out of a party-state concentration camp and to tell the world what was happening there, I have experienced something worse than death.

I was sent to the Female Forced Labour Camp in Beijing in 2001 for practising Falun Gong. ...We were shocked with electric batons, beaten up, sexually abused, forced to work under appalling conditions for 16 or even 20 hours a day. We were put under severe and endless mental pressure to betray our own beliefs in "Truthfulness, Compassion, Tolerance".

I saw people driven into insanity ...deprived ...of ... sanity, a free will, dignity ...human beings were reduced to being living corpses.

Having witnessing all sorts of unimaginable crimes for months, I suddenly developed a very strong impulse to write a book to expose it all. When I made the decision to give a statement pretending to give up my beliefs-so that I could gain freedom to write a book- I didn't know that the cost would be so dear. I was forced to write "thought reports" and essays ...slandering my cherished beliefs. I was forced to read out a slanderous article with a calm face in front of cameras and hundreds of inmates in the camp; I was even forced to help the police to torture the newcomers in order to make them "reform". I 'm too ashamed to go into more details. There were many times when I wondered why I had not gone mad or died.

Yet, among all these inhuman crimes, would you believe that camp officials pretended to care about our health so much that they gave us very thorough physical periodic check-ups, including X-rays and blood tests? While in the labour camp, I never had the heart or ability to think why they did this, until with a chilling realization I learnt that blood tests and a data base of blood and tissue types was necessary to set up a large live organ bank.

For those who don't know what the day-to-day life is like behind the walls of 21st century Nazi-like camps, I invite you to read my book: "Witnessing History-one woman's fight for freedom and Falun Gong". It is a first-hand account of my life, written with a lot of tears. It is about what's happening in a place some 20 kilometres from the Tiananmen Square, or thirty from the main Olympics facility in Beijing. Even before you finish it, you will draw your own conclusion as to whether humankind and the Olympics movement will benefit from an Olympiad hosted by a Hitler-type regime.

...and this is supported by the following from "HUMAN RIGHTS IN CHINA AND THE 2008 OLYMPIC GAMES", a Keynote Address by Hon. David Kilgour, J.D. International Forum, Grand Hyatt Hotel Taipei, Taiwan February 21, 2008:

...The government of China hopes that spending vast amounts of money on Games facilities--and forcibly removing thousands from their homes with inadequate compensation--will improve its reputation despite its well-documented systematic violations of human dignity. The opposite seems more likely since the Games are now being used by the regime as a pretext for a crackdown on human rights advocates and other patriotic citizens of China. One Internet survey I saw a few months ago in Canada indicated that more than nine in ten of respondents favoured changing our trade laws with China presumably because of their human rights abuses; surveys in a number of other countries evidently also show mounting concern about the Hu-Wen government....

...In 2006, the most recent year for which figures are available, there were more than twice as many arrests in China as the previous year for the offence of 'endangering state security', which is used by totalitarian governments everywhere to silence journalists, civil-rights lawyers and advocates of religious freedom. The number jumped to 604 arrests in 2006 from 296 in 2005. Among those arrested were the crusading defence lawyer Gao Zhisheng, who was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize last year and who has been repeatedly detained and beaten; the human-rights, AIDS and environmental advocate Hu Jia; the blind self-taught lawyer Chen Guangcheng, now serving a four-year prison term; and the civil-rights lawyer Guo Feixiong, now serving a five-year term.

Stubborn Facts
...The world should draw conclusions about China from facts alone. For example, Carsten A.Holz, an academic economist who specializes in China, ...noted for example, that China experts often take at face value the country's business laws without mentioning the dominant role of the Communist party. He adds: "At the national level, the leadership of the 50 largest state-owned enterprises-enterprises that invest around the world-is directly appointed by the Politburo." .... Holz notes that among the 3,220 persons with a personal worth of $13 million or more in the country 2912 are children of high-level cadres.....

....The Party seeks to equate itself with China as a country, to convince naive persons within and outside the country that it is China, and that without the Party there would be no China.....our criticisms are directed at the unelected government in Beijing and never at the exploited and hard-working people of the country.....

Organ Pillaging - "Bloody Harvest Games"
David Matas, and I concluded to our horror following our independent investigation last year that since the end of 2000 the party-state of China and its agencies have killed thousands of Falun Gong practitioners, mostly without any form of prior trial, and then sold their vital organs for large sums of money, often to 'organ tourists' from wealthy countries (Our report is available in nineteen languages, including Mandarin, at

Neither of us are Falun Gong practitioners, but my experience with Falun Gong in the numerous national capitals Matas and I have now visited, seeking to bring these crimes against humanity to a halt by helping to raise public awareness, has been overwhelmingly positive. Falun Gong practitioners really do attempt to live their core principles of "truth, compassion and tolerance", which are shared by virtually all of the world's spiritual communities.

Matas and I have spoken in several countries to a small number of Falun Gong practitioners sent to labour camps since 1999, who managed later to leave both the camps and China itself. They told us of working in appalling conditions for up to sixteen hours daily with no pay and little food and many persons sleeping in the same room, making export products, ranging from garments to chopsticks to Christmas decorations for multinational companies. .... The labour camps, operating across China since the 1950s, are remarkably similar to one's in Stalin's Russia and Hitler's Germany. They operate outside the legal system and allow the Party to send anyone to them for up to four years with no hearing and no appeal by simply getting their police to sign an order.

Rwandan Echoes
The propaganda phase of the persecution, begun in mid-1999 against a then estimated 70-100 million Falun Gong practitioners across China, demonized, vilified and dehumanized them in Party-controlled media. Many Chinese were thus persuaded to think of the community tragically as even somehow less than human. The phenomenon recalls a similar media campaign unleashed by another party-state in Rwanda against its minority Tutsi community prior to the genocide there between April and June, 1994.

...Why is it that in only one of the eighty or so countries where Falun Gong practitioners now live are they persecuted mercilessly? Their growing popularity among the Chinese people generally during the 1990s was clearly one major reason, but another no doubt was that the values of those in power in Beijing were and are at the opposite end of the ethical spectrum.

The Chinese Medical Association has now agreed with the World Medical Association quite recently that 'organ tourists' will obtain no more transplants in China. Whether this is anything more than public relations cant intended to benefit the Beijing Olympiad remains to be seen. Another concern is that organs seized from unwilling "donors" across China, including Falun Gong practitioners, will now go to wealthy Chinese patients instead, with the grotesque commerce thus continuing in the same volume.

None of these deaths would be occurring if the Chinese people as a whole enjoyed the rule of law and their government believed in the intrinsic worth and dignity of each one of them. Human lives generally across China appear to have no more value to the party-state there than does the natural environment, work safety, health care and social programs for all Chinese, or Buddhist monks in Tibet and Burma. In my judgement, it is the toxic combination of totalitarian governance and 'Anything is permitted' capitalism that allows this new form of evil in the world to persist.

"Genocide Olympics"
A number of the world's most brutal dictatorships, including North Korea, Burma and Zimbabwe, have fallen under Beijing's sway during its scramble to acquire as much as possible of the earth's natural resources. ...I'd ask you to consider how any regime which is doing such terrible things in Burma, Tibet, East Turkestan, Zimbabwe and elsewhere in the world could be allowed to host an Olympiad?....

Growing Shadows over Olympic Games
... the Summer Games this year face increasing opposition because the host national government remains one of the world's most gross and systematic violators of human dignity.

China was awarded the Games by the IOC only after it pledged to respect the Olympic Charter and to improve its human rights record. Many independent organizations have since observed that an already appalling record is instead worsening as the Beijing Games approach.

Why, for example, do Falun Gong practitioners face continuing merciless persecution after eight long years? What principle of the modern Olympic Games, especially after the experience in Hitler's Berlin at the 1936 Olympics, allows a host government to bar Falun Gong or any spiritual community's members from competing in, or even watching, events in Beijing? What about Tibetans, Buddhists, Uighurs, human rights advocates, independent journalists, other spiritual communities and democracy activists?

The government of China's outrageous treatment of human beings deemed 'enemies of the Party' both at home and abroad in the run up to the Games has led to an understandable call for a boycott. Both the Olympic Games and human rights movements worldwide share a common goal: the unity, dignity and equality among the entire human family. When this precept is violated systematically by the host government of a particular Olympiad, as is the case this year, the modern Olympic movement as a whole comes into question....The IOC should demand from the organizers of the 2008 Olympic Games that they conform to the Charter and refrain from discrimination against any group or individual during their Games....

Sunday, February 24, 2008


From MERIA, Volume 12, No. 1 - March 2008, by Jonathan Spyer, senior research fellow at the Global Research in International Affairs (GLORIA) Center, Herzliya, Israel [brief excerpts only -follow the link to the full paper]:

The Lebanon war of 2006 failed to resolve any of the issues over which it was fought. Ultimately, the war may be understood as a single campaign within a broader Middle Eastern conflict--between pro-Western and democratic states on the one hand, and an alliance of Islamist and Arab nationalist forces on the other. The latter alignment has as one of its strategic goals the eventual demise of the State of Israel. While such a goal may appear delusional, the inconclusive results of the 2006 war did much to confirm the representatives of the latter camp in their belief that they have discovered a method capable of eventually producing a strategic defeat for Israel.

The 2006 war between Israel and the Lebanese Hizballah organization...places the United States and its allies in opposition to Iran and its allies and client organizations. Israel is part of the former camp, while Hizballah is part of the latter. ...

....This article will briefly look at the events of the war itself over which the argument is taking place and will close with an attempt to draw some conclusions regarding the strategic significance and lessons of the war.

The Second Lebanon War began on July 12, 2006, with the shelling by Hizballah of the Israeli border villages of Zarit and Shlomi. The shelling was intended to act as a diversion for the commencement of a cross-border raid. The objective of the raid was the abduction of IDF soldiers for use as bargaining chips ....

...The IDF carried out air and artillery strikes on targets in southern Lebanon in the course of the day. .... Over the next few days and weeks, Israeli aircraft struck at Hizballah missile capabilities, at Nasrallah's headquarters in southern Beirut, and also bombed the Rafiq Hariri International Airport and roads leading out of Lebanon.

Hizballah leaders were undoubtedly surprised by the extent and ferocity of the Israeli response. .... In the following days, the movement reinforced the border villages, moving in elements of its regular force. At an early stage, however, the Israeli political leadership chose to rule out a major ground assault to the Litani River. Instead, an intensive air campaign commenced.

Limited ground operations began only on July 17, 2006...The Hizballah units were also able to benefit from an extensive storage, tunnel, and bunker system put in place prior to the war. Due to Israel's decision to concentrate on confronting Hizballah in the villages and towns close to the border, the IDF was unable to utilize fully its advantages in terms of armor, artillery, and air power.

The result was a series of bloody encounters between Israeli infantry on the one hand and Hizballah fighters on the other. Hizballah's ability in tactical maneuvering under fire was noted, as was the creative effect with which the movement used antitank weapons in the infantry combat......

....The Israeli decision to concentrate in the first part of the war on an air campaign....enabled Hizballah to maintain a constant stream of short-range rockets onto populated areas of northern Israel. .... Hizballah would fire just under 4,000 rockets in the course of the fighting, with over 200 rockets a day fired in the final days of the war....the rockets were employed in essence as a terror weapon, designed to produce panic and disorientation among Israel's civilian population in the north. This appears to have been precisely the intention of Hizballah, which places stress on what it considers to be the weakness of Israeli society and its susceptibility to casualties......

The conduct of the Second Lebanon War, and in particular the perceived failure of Israel to achieve its stated objectives, such as the freeing of the two kidnapped soldiers and the disarming of Hizballah, led to a mood of deep disquiet in Israel in the months that followed the war....

....There was a general sense of surprise at the losses encountered by the ground forces, at the failure to end the short-range rocket attacks, and at what was widely seen as the failure of the political echelon to set a coherent, achievable set of political goals which could clearly be achieved by the reaching of a defined, coherent set of military objectives. Rather, the impression was one of general confusion among both the military and political leaderships. Demonstrations by demobilized reserve soldiers commenced in the weeks following the ceasefire, and a committee of enquiry into the conduct of the political and military echelon was appointed, chaired by Judge Eliyahu Winograd.....

....Hizballah, for its part, declared that the war represented a "divine victory" for the movement..... A statement made by Hizballah leader Hasan Nasrallah in an interview with a Lebanese TV channel shortly after the war, however, indicated a more complex response to the war within Hizballah. Nasrallah said that had the movement known of the likely IDF response to the kidnapping operation, it would have never have carried out the kidnappings.....

...Since, clearly, neither side had won a "knock-out" victory in the war, the way was open for differing interpretation and rival claims.....

....All Israeli and international accounts of the war concur that the Israeli performance contained serious problems at every level: the political planning and setting of objectives for the war, the military strategy adopted for the war, the performance of some of the senior commanders, and the preparedness of elements of the fighting troops....

....because of the mistaken belief that air power could deliver victory, Israel failed to follow through with the massive commitment of ground forces, which alone would have enabled it to conquer the area of land up to the Litani River and then to hold this land for sufficient time to clear it of short-range rocket launching teams and Hizballah fighters. The completion of such an operation would have taken several weeks and would have required a larger commitment of forces by Israel. ...Israel's ground operations for the greater part of the war consisted of sporadic operations in an area up to ten kilometers from the border. The IDF in fact began a more extensive ground operation only in the period immediately preceding the ceasefire. This more extensive ground operation made some headway, but with considerable losses, and with questionable political purpose, and was called off 24 hours before the ceasefire on August 14, 2006.....

....Since it is clear that, difficulties notwithstanding, the IDF would have been capable of carrying out a conquest and consolidation of southern Lebanon if it had been ordered to do so, the failure is not in the final instance a military one. The fact is that ultimate responsibility must lie with the political echelon for the failure to calibrate coherently military operations with political objectives--which would surely have meant a major ground operation, in terms of the stated goals of the war.....

With the implementation of the ceasefire and the passing of Resolution 1701, it was noted that in assessing the final results of the war, much would depend on the implementation of 1701.....

....A year after the war, it was clear that the new arrangements put in place by Resolution 1701 had failed to prevent Hizballah from largely replenishing its strength and replacing the losses incurred in the 2006 war, although the movement's freedom of activity was curtailed in the area between the Litani and the southern border.....

UNIFIL and the Lebanese army made little effort to prevent the smuggling of arms and equipment across Lebanon's eastern border with Syria. Hizballah has thus been able to rebuild its medium- and long-range missile teams north of the Litani....

....Hizballah's rebuilding of its capabilities does not mean that the next round of fighting is necessarily imminent. Hizballah's capabilities were clearly badly damaged in the war, and the movement faces a long process of reconstruction. Hizballah has also since the war been embroiled in internal political battles in Lebanon, which have served to cost it much of the kudos it gained as a result of the 2006 conflict. ....

...Hizballah clearly wishes to justify its continued bearing of arms and to make use of the status deriving from its self-declared status as challenger to Israel. In November 2007, the movement held a three day military exercise in southern Lebanon, observed by Israel and unmolested by UNIFIL, in spite of Resolution 1701's stipulation prohibiting the organization from operating south of the Litani River.

The role of Hizballah's Iranian patrons in choosing the moment when the movement may wish to reignite hostilities should also be taken into account. Given the damage and losses incurred by the movement as a result of the kidnapping operation in July 2006, it is likely that Iran will be impressing upon its clients the need for caution and patience, as it finances and facilitates the rebuilding and equipping of Hizballah.

It is noticeable that despite Hizballah claims of massive investment in reconstruction in the areas hit by the war, the evidence of the damage caused is still very visible in the towns and villages of southern Lebanon. In Marun al-Ras, for example, the scene of some of the heaviest fighting, a section of the town remained in rubble and uninhabited a year and a half after the war. Iran is likely to be keen to rebuild and to keep its Hizballah client intact for use in line with Iranian broader policy objectives at some future date....

....In a military sense, the war revealed serious deficiencies in the IDF as well as in the political and military decisionmaking process in Israel. ..... Barak's replacement of Peretz... signaled recognition that Israel was entering a period of new uncertainty and potential conflict, such that it was essential that somebody experienced be at the head of Israel's defense establishment.

While lacking in air power, armor, and artillery, Hizballah forces engaged in high intensity combat in southern Lebanon in 2006. Due to Israel's decision not to launch a large-scale ground assault and conquest of southern Lebanon, the impression was created that somehow Hizballah had succeeded in "stopping" the IDF--that is, in engaging in a frontal clash with Israeli forces which prevented the IDF from advancing further into Lebanon. Hizballah's ability to fire short-range rockets into Israel up to the ceasefire enhanced this impression. However, it was a misleading one.

The IDF's hesitant approach toward the ground combat played to Hizballah's strengths. The small, pinpointed scale of attacks enabled the organization to concentrate its forces in limited areas. Yet a small organization of a few thousand fighters would not have been able to resist a full-scale ground assault of the four divisions with which Israel fought the war. Such an assault, however, was never ordered.

The model adopted by Hizballah has been promoted in the propaganda of the movement and its backers as representing a new approach to armed conflict with Israel that maximizes the benefits enjoyed by the Arab side while neutralizing the advantages enjoyed by Israel. In the propaganda of Syria, Hizballah, and Hamas, this new model of muqawama (resistance) is constantly returned to. It derives from an ideological view according to which Israel is particularly unable and unwilling to absorb casualties and make sacrifices.....

..... This view of Israel is not new and has formed a constant in Arab nationalist views of the country, and before this in Arab views of the Jewish national movement. Ultimately, it rests on a very widespread and deeply felt ideological belief in the Arab world and among the Iranian ruling elite that Israel is a temporary phenomenon, artificially implanted in the region by Western colonialism.

Thus, the Muqawama strategy rests on an article of faith--namely, that Israel's perceived "weakness" will ultimately serve to cancel out its advantages in the fields of technology, societal organization, conventional military strength, and so on. The events of the Second Lebanon War have been arranged to fit with this view in the interpretations of Hizballah and the larger regional camp to which it belongs.

From Israel's point of view, the significant problems in the functioning of both the political echelon and the military in the war of 2006 derived from deep structural and ideological factors, which were nevertheless rectifiable. ....the political echelon seems to have failed to internalize immediately that Israel was at war. The result was a slow, incremental increase in ground operations, which achieved little. Furthermore, the political echelon underestimated the strategic importance of leaving Hizballah's short-range rocket capacity intact. At certain points, it defined ill thought out, unrealistic goals for the war, (such as the recovery of the kidnapped soldiers, or the permanent disarming of Hizballah), which it did not then seriously pursue. Since the ceasefire, Israel has observed the ongoing rebuilding of Hizballah's strength north of the Litani, which makes an eventual next round of fighting likely.

Israel will thus need in the time available to overhaul its military--training and preparing it adequately for the relevant challenges ahead. It will need to ensure that it has a national leadership that understands the capabilities of the military and that knows how to integrate this knowledge into a clear, stable national strategy with clearly defined goals and parameters, and to which it then adheres. It will need to prepare its public for the awareness that the country is engaged with an enemy pursuing a clearly thought out "long war" strategy, which may take years and may require further sacrifices--such as, for example, the inevitable cost in the lives of soldiers that would accompany a large-scale ground operation into southern Lebanon of the type which could deal a real military blow to Hizballah....

.... Crucial to all this is a factor pointed to by the Winograd Committee and other critiques of Israel's performance in the war--namely, the urgent need for a properly integrated structure in Israel for the formulation of a long-term national security strategy.....

....Ultimately, the 2006 war must be understood as a single campaign within a broader Middle Eastern conflict, between pro-Western and democratic states on the one hand, and an alliance of Islamist and Arab nationalist forces on the other. The latter alignment has as one of its strategic goals the eventual demise of the State of Israel. While such a goal may appear delusional, given the true balance of forces involved, the inconclusive results of the 2006 war did much to confirm the representatives of the latter camp in their belief that they have discovered a method capable of eventually producing a strategic defeat for Israel.

It is therefore expected that a further round of conflict is only a matter of time. Israel, meanwhile, must endeavor to develop a strategy capable of striking a blow in a future engagement sufficient to make any subsequent ambiguity untenable.


From BICOM, 22/02/2008:

Rocket ranges from Gaza and prominent targets

Annual distribution of rocket and mortar shell fire

Executive Summary

  • If the current rate of fire continues, by the end of 2008, over 4,500 rockets and mortar shells will have been fired by Palestinian terrorist organisations based in Gaza.

  • Since 2001 rocket and mortar shell fire has been directly responsible for the deaths of 24 Israelis and the wounding of 620. This statistic does not take into account the massive psychological cost borne by the 190,000 Israelis who live within striking range. With a population almost ten times that of Israel, the corresponding UK figures would be 240 killed and 6,200 wounded in a city the size of Newcastle.

  • The problem with rockets predates the Hamas coup in Gaza, the winning by Hamas of the PA elections and the disengagement from Gaza. Indeed Israel's western Negev communities have endured 7 years of relentless rocket and mortar shell fire.

  • For comparative purposes, note that the July 7 2005 suicide bombers each detonated 5-7kg suicide bombs killing 52 civilians and wounding 700. The average rocket fired from Gaza contains 7-8kg of explosives.
Follow the link to the full article...

Hizballah probe on Mughniyeh hit

From DEBKAfile, February 23, 2008, 10:39 PM (GMT+02:00):

DEBKAfile exclusive: Last photo of terrorist chief Imad Mughniyeh shortly before his death Feb. 12. (Only photo of him conferring with Hizballah’s Hassan Nasrallah.)

DEBKAfile’s intelligence report exclusively the findings of the special inquiry launched by Hizballah to solve the mystery of who killed the master terrorist Imad Mughniyeh and how.

....above all Hizballah was keen to clear itself of suspicion that Mughniyeh was betrayed by an insider planted by Mossad, and this report points at Palestinians who are accused of giving him away.

Their investigators claim that the Israeli Mossad tracked him down through the Palestinian operatives with whom he recently rendezvoused in Beirut and Damascus to coordinate a new wave of terror against Israel....

...This information was leaked to the Mossad networks said to be working under cover in Beirut and Damascus, who then tipped Mossad HQ in Tel Aviv. .... The Israeli agents, it is said, then put two and two together and came up with the dangerous terrorist Israel and the US had been hunting for two and a half decades.

Two pieces of information clinched the fix, says the Hizballah report.

One was the type of terror operations he discussed with his Palestinian colleagues: ....mass high-quality attacks inside Israel in conjunction with Iran and Hizballah. They talked about scale, targets, funding, weapons and manpower. No one but Imad Mughniyeh was believed to have the breadth and skill to put together a complex Palestinian operation of this type and its detailed cooperation with Tehran and Beirut.

The other clincher was the fact that ... [he] turned up for all his meetings without bodyguards. In this Mughniyeh was unique. No other Middle East terror chief moves without bodyguards, but the Lebanese terror mastermind trusted nothing and no one but total secrecy. For the Mossad, his lone wolf habits were a telltale trademark.

The Shiite group’s investigators went on to claim that when the Mossad realized that Mughniyeh was within their grasp, they ordered two hit teams waiting in West Europe to set out for Damascus and Beirut.

The Hizballah finds support for its conclusion in the resemblance between the alleged Mossad modus operandi for killing Mughniyeh and the way Ali Hassan Daib in 1999, Ali Hussein Salah in 2003 and Ghalb Alawi in 2004, were killed. All three were Hizballah liaison men who collaborated with Palestinian terror groups on joint attacks against Israel.

Code Red in Sderot: Living in the most heavily bombed place in the world

Brief excerpts only, from The Daily Mail (UK), by PHILIP JACOBSON 15th February 2008:

On a parched strip of the Israeli/Palestinian border, a dustbowl frontier town has a unique boast: per head of population, it is the most heavily bombed in the world.

.... my guide has insisted on talking me through the local ground rules ...:
1. I am not to fasten my seat belt. This is the only place in Israel where seat belts are forbidden. Buckling up prevents drivers and their passengers getting out of a vehicle quickly.
2. I am not to play my car radio. It may drown out the warnings.
3. I am not to have a shower if there is nobody else in the house to hear the alarms. Last month, a woman who ignored this rule was washing her hair when she was blown off her feet.
4. Be extra vigilant when it's misty. It can confuse the laser-activated warning systems.

And suddenly it comes, a noise like the slamming of a heavy door as a sleek, six-foot-long Qassam rocket bursts into the cloudless blue sky. Its trajectory is marked by a trail of white smoke as it curves towards the town. Almost simultaneously, sirens begin to wail. A woman's urgent voice repeats the words, "Tseva Adom, Tseva Adom," over public address loudspeakers. In Hebrew this means, "Code Red". It signifies a missile is on its way. Sderot's jittery residents have no more than 15 seconds to take cover before the rocket hits.

On this occasion, they will have to wait there for a long time. For the next 72 hours Code Red alerts will sound almost continuously; Islamic militant groups in Gaza have begun raining the first of more than 100 rockets on to the town during a terrifying three-day attack.....

....many residents wonder aloud how much longer they can endure life under fire in what some describe, with gallows humour, as "the biggest bull's-eye on the map of Israel". Because of its proximity to the border and the concentration of Hamas-led amateur bomb-makers on the other side, Sderot has a unique civic claim: on a rocket-per-head-of-population basis, it is the most targeted town in Israel, indeed the world.

It is more than six years since the first rocket was launched from Gaza. Since then, well over 2,000 Qassams – named after a fiery Muslim preacher – have landed in or around the town killing 13 people (including four children) and injuring several dozen more. Since the beginning of this year, at least 300 rockets have been fired.

...But beyond the grim arithmetic of body counts, Sderot is a special case because nowhere else in Israel do ordinary people face the draining pressure of coping day in, day out with the fear that a rocket could fall at any moment. "Everybody here lives on the very edge of their nerves," says Noam Bedein, a young Israeli journalist who moved to Sderot several years ago. "The peak time for Qassam attacks is while people are going to and from work and at the beginning and end of school. "Believe me, that really grinds you down, mentally and physically."

While the psychological fall-out from the rocket attacks affects young and old, poor and prosperous alike, the cruellest impact has been on Sderot's children. A recent survey concluded that almost one-third of those aged between four and 18 now suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder, while many more exhibit the symptoms of severe anxiety and feelings of helplessness that warn of more serious problems to come.

The fact that ten-year-olds receive daily tranquillisers demonstrates how they are being robbed of a normal childhood.

Children are evacuated from school during a rocket attack

Only in Sderot will you find school runs conducted with military precision, as security guards rush children to and from coaches and parents' cars at staggered intervals to guard against a Qassam falling among a crowd......

....The sensation of living in and moving about Sderot is unique.
At the open-air market, there is none of the cheerful hubbub found in other Israeli towns, no blaring radios or raucous stallholders.

....In the courtyard of Sderot's police station, where scores of rocket casings are stacked on shelves, each numbered and dated, a young woman officer of Ethiopian descent displays the scorched and twisted remains of a Qassam launched the previous day.

Israeli policewoman Sara Vavshet and a yard full of spent Qassam rockets

Sara Vavshet points out the slogan in Arabic painted on its fuselage, explaining that "each of the terrorist organisations uses its own colours and emblems, and they sometimes send threatening messages in Hebrew" (the Hamas faction that now rules Gaza favours the red, green and white of the Palestinian flag).....

....Yet for all that, something akin to the spirit of the London Blitz persists in Sderot, whether it is the elderly Russian immigrants drinking tea in the cafés and insisting that they will stay put....

......One afternoon while I was in Sderot, a battered truck pulled up in the town centre and disgorged several Orthodox Jews in their trademark long black coats and broad brimmed hats.
A sound system was quickly erected and started blasting out Israeli folk songs at top volume while they capered around on the pavement, curly side locks swinging. Pausing for breath, their leader told me that it was their mission to bring a little light relief to Sderot's residents.....

...And then there is the mayor, Eli Moyal, a fast-talking lawyer who was born and bred in the town and likes to recall that when he took the job a decade ago, "I thought I'd be dealing with stuff like schools, leisure centres and rubbish collection."

An accomplished self-publicist, Moyal announced his resignation last December in protest against Government inaction, then allowed himself to be persuaded to stay. He has staged "Solidarity with Sderot" demonstrations all over Israel, and once led a march of residents to the border with the Gaza Strip to brandish mocked-up Qassams at the Palestinian side.

When a TV reporter informed him that Hamas leaders had threatened to drive the Jews out of Sderot, he seized the microphone and announced: "I am Eli Moyal, looking straight into the eyes of the terrorists to tell them that we've been standing firm against their rockets for the past seven years. "We will do so for the next seven hundred."

Another Palestinian illusion

From an opinion - Ynet News, 22/2/08, by Moshe Elad [emphasis added - SL]:

... For a moment, Palestinian Authority leaders attempted to amuse themselves with the illusion that a mere declaration separates the dream of Palestinian independence from the reality of sovereignty in the territories. “Kosovo enjoys less international support then us, so why don’t we also declare our independence?” the Palestinians wondered.

Had I been Kosovo’s leader Hashim Thaci I would tell Abed Rabbo to show some respect before he makes such comparison.

As long as we are only dealing with declarations, the Palestinians are certainly world champions. Twenty years ago already, on November 15, 1988 the Palestinian National Council in Algeria declared the establishment of the state of Palestine within the 1967 borders, with east Jerusalem as its capital. This declaration was recognized by more than 100 countries!

And again, on May 4th, 1999 the Palestinian National Council ratified the declaration of independence “in accordance with international conventions,” and again the Palestinians enjoyed overwhelming international backing.

Why then have the Palestinians failed to establish a state of their own, despite these declarations? There are three main reasons for this.

First, an “Israeli and international reason.” The conditions for the creation of a sovereign state do not only include a political entity that declares itself to be independent and enjoys broad international support. There is yet another basic condition that the Palestinians must fulfill: Displaying effective control and capabilities by the new state, in what is termed “de facto authority” over the area under its jurisdiction. Yet ...Palestinian leaders over the years have completely failed on this front, unless the relationship between the “exiled leader” Abbas and the territories, and particularly Gaza, can be termed “control.”

The economic front is yet another reason why there is no independent Palestinian state. The PA’s history since the Oslo agreement shows that there is good reason why the Palestinians are in love with the peace process more than they are in love with peace itself. The process is profitable, while peace could lead to losses. In other words, the Palestinians (belonging to the PLO) fully exploit their status as an underdog requiring nurturing, the darling of the UN and of the West, and the darling of donor nations, by ceaselessly eliciting more resources, financial and otherwise.

In fact, Kosovo would be able to erase its 50% unemployment rate if it only received a fraction of the funds donated to the Palestinians. Yes, Kosovo can only be jealous of the puzzling pampering treatment enjoyed by Abbas and Abed Rabbo between one declaration of independence and another.

Another reason pertains to the very heart of the Palestinian problem. The Palestinians can keep on saying that what prevents them from establishing a state is the implementation of the core issues. Oh well, let them fool themselves and their fans. Even those who are engaged in talks with them know that the PA will not be able to rid itself of the image of a failed state, which it earned honestly. Based on any international standard, one of the most blatant indications of a failed state is terrorism [let me repeat that one: terrorism... terrorism... terrorism... terrorism... terrorism... terrorism...], and those who currently pamper the Palestinians with corrupt money are responsible for it.

The seeds of the failed Palestinian state were sown in the West’s original sin, which granted the PLO the precedence of simultaneously being both a legitimate entity and a terror group.

It is no wonder then that Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni announced that “negotiations with Abbas will continue even if terror persists.” Livni is right. She indeed was referring to Hamas terror, yet intelligence information shows that the al-Aqsa Brigades, which belong to Abbas and Fatah, are not trailing far behind Khaled Mashaal and his Hamas men.

.... In the past, following such declarations, western leaders flooded the territories with solidarity visits. Today, they stay away. We can certainly understand them – they’ve become fed up with only visiting the government enclave in Ramallah.

Two-state two step...

For the "health" of the two-state solution, see the following, three excerpted articles [with my emphasis added - SL]

...first"Arab Leaders Say the Two-State Proposal Is in Peril" from The new York Times, by MICHAEL SLACKMAN, February 22, 2008...

CAIRO — Arab leaders will threaten to rescind their offer of full relations with Israel in exchange for a complete Israeli withdrawal from occupied lands unless Israel gives a positive response to their initiative, indicating the Arab states’ growing disillusionment with the prospects of a two-state solution for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

At an Arab League meeting next month in Syria, the leaders are planning to reiterate support for their initiative, first issued in 2002. The initiative promised Israel normalization with the league’s 22 members in return for the creation of a Palestinian state on the West Bank and Gaza Strip, with East Jerusalem as the capital, and a resolution of the issue of Palestinian refugees.
But this time, “there will be a message to Israel emphasizing the need to respond to the initiative; otherwise, Arab states will reassess the previous stage of peace,” said Muhammad Sobeih, assistant secretary general of the Arab League in charge of the Palestinian issue. “They will withdraw the initiative and look for other options. It makes no sense to insist on something that Israel is rejecting.”

Many Arab leaders never warmly embraced the idea of a two-state solution to the conflict because of their distaste for Israel, but they accepted it as a means to stabilize the region and tamp down extremism. ....

....there is a growing sentiment in Arab states that the principle at the core of the peace process — the two-state solution — has no future. Increasingly, the peace process, once aimed at figuring out how to get from here to there, is back to a more fundamental point: where to go. “There Is No Longer Space for Two States on the Palestinian Land,” read a headline in a recent edition of Al Hayat, a pan-Arab newspaper in London.

One of Egypt’s English-language newspapers, The Egyptian Mail, ran this headline about a week later: “No Hope for Two-State Solution.” Egyptians and Jordanians say that the way events have evolved, there is no likelihood that a real Palestinian state would be formed. .....

[Perhaps the two-state solution is really dead ... ?]

....“There is a general Arab sentiment of despair regarding this issue,” said Dureid Mahasneh, a member of the Jordanian team that negotiated the treaty with Israel in the 1990s. “I challenge you to find anyone who took part in the negotiations with Israel to say that he is optimistic.”
That despair is accompanied by anxiety and fear that momentum is moving in favor of the more radical players, like Hamas and its patron state, Iran. “Hamas is going to be fortified,” said Mahmoud Shokry, a retired Egyptian ambassador to Syria who serves on the Egyptian Council for Foreign Affairs, a government advisory group. “Not only Egypt, but all the Arab countries have to think about this.”

Arabs blame Israel — as the occupying power — for the diminishing viability of a two-state solution, even while Mr. Sobeih said he would never, under any circumstances, accept Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish state.

....Egypt and Jordan have specific practical concerns because they fear they will ultimately be pressed to absorb the Palestinians into their states, a prospect they find as abhorrent as Israelis view the prospect of joining their Palestinians in a so-called one-state solution, meaning the end of Israel as a state of the Jewish people.

Egypt worries that absorbing Gaza would seem to extinguish the rallying cry of Arabs for a Palestinian state. It would also be a financial burden and create a potential for spreading throughout Egypt the kind of Islamic extremism promoted by Hamas, which is an offshoot of Egypt’s homegrown Muslim Brotherhood, a group that is banned but tolerated.

Jordan sees the prospect of having to take responsibility for the West Bank as a financial burden and an existential threat to its very identity. “There are fears a federation will be forced on Jordan and the Palestinians,” said Taher al-Adwan, editor of the Jordanian newspaper Al Arab Al Youm. “This is completely rejected by the Jordanians and by the Palestinians as well. Jordan is already half-Palestinian.”....

Mona el-Naggar contributed reporting.

...and "Israel Keeps Palestinian Offices Shut" in The Washington Post, by STEVE WEIZMAN, The Associated Press Friday, February 22, 2008:

JERUSALEM -- ...Israel this month renewed its order to close a leading Palestinian center known as Orient House, the city's Arab Chamber of Commerce and other symbolic buildings that are rallying points for the Palestinians' claims to Jerusalem's eastern sector, the officials said. The fate of east Jerusalem is the most explosive issue facing Israeli and Palestinian peace negotiators, and the closures are the latest area of dispute in the peace talks, relaunched in November after seven years of violence.

....Alongside the talks between Israel and the moderate Palestinian government based in the West Bank, daily violence has continued in Gaza. Early Friday, an Israeli airstrike in central Gaza killed two Islamic Jihad gunmen posted near the border with Israel to observe army movements, the organization said.

...During peace talks in the 1990s, Israel allowed the Palestinians to operate institutions such as Orient House, an elegant century-old mansion that served as the headquarters of the Palestine Liberation Organization....Israeli police shut down the institutions in 2001, shortly after the second Palestinian uprising erupted. It has issued orders every six months since then renewing the closure.

With the resumption of peace talks, the Palestinians say these places should reopen. The U.S.-backed "road map" peace plan, the basis for negotiations, calls on Israel to "reopen the Palestinian Chamber of Commerce and other Palestinian institutions in east Jerusalem." .....
Officials at the U.S. Consulate declined comment....

....U.S. officials told the Palestinians the issue was unlikely to be resolved quickly. "They told us they need time to negotiate with the Israelis," he said.

..."As the PLO Headquarters in the occupied city, the Orient House aspires to develop Arab East Jerusalem as the capital of the emerging Palestinian state," the center's Web site says....

...and "...Jerusalem Arabs oppose division of capital" from Haaretz, by Nadav Shragai, 21/2/08:

Minister of Pensioners' Affairs Rafi Eitan on Thursday said that Jerusalem must not be divided as part of the peace process with the Palestinians, saying "we took a poll and found the [Arab] residents themselves don't want to leave. They like it with us."

Speaking during a conference in Jerusalem, Eitan said that he did not believe that the Palestinian government was able to fight terror, "and therefore we must keep the capital whole, and fight to have it all under Israeli control." Eitan was reacting to ongoing wrangling between Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas over Olmert's assertion that the sides had agreed to defer discussions over the status of Jerusalem to a future final phase of negotiations.

On Wednesday, Likud leader and chairman of the opposition MK Benjamin Netanyahu said that Olmert's government was taking measures to divide Jerusalem, and urged the key Shas party to bolt the coalition and topple the government in order "to save Jerusalem." ....

.... Meanwhile, Abbas and Olmert agreed on Wednesday to expand their negotiations to topics beyond the "core issues" of borders, Jerusalem and the refugees: Within two weeks, teams will be set up to discuss at least seven other issues. ..... One of the most important new issues on which Israel hopes to begin talks is the development of a "culture of peace," with an emphasis on ending incitement to terrorism.

The state of Jew-hatred

From THE JERUSALEM POST, by Isi Leibler, Feb. 23, 2008 [my own emphasis added - SL]:

Almost 300 parliamentarians, academicians, human rights activists and Jewish leaders from all corners of the globe are participating in the Global Forum against Anti Semitism, held under the auspices of Israel's Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Ministry for Diaspora Affairs. More importantly, at least 45 governments are represented and have pledged meaningful cooperation with Israel to combat the world's oldest hatred.

This commitment, combined with the record number of high-caliber participants, reflects a growing concern about a mushrooming of Judeophobia which would have been deemed inconceivable just over a decade ago, when anti-Semites were considered an almost extinct species. Today the intensity of the hatred has become so fierce that it is ominously reminiscent of previous occasions when demonization preceded Jewish catastrophes.

Paradoxically, setting aside the Arab world, this anti-Semitic tsunami is taking place at a time when Jews have achieved a unique level of equality, freedom and affluence, and annual Holocaust memorials have been institutionalized and elevated to unprecedented status.
Yet it should also be noted that in the post-Holocaust era, overt anti-Semitism tended to rise and decline in tandem with perceptions of strength or weakness on the part of Israel. Anti-Semitism sank to its lowest levels in the wake of the Six Day War, and experienced an exponential increase after the Second Lebanon War, when Israel was perceived as weak.

CONTEMPORARY anti-Semitism differs from the traditional hatred Jews encountered throughout the millennia. But the venom emanating from the Islamic world is no less lethal than the most obscene Nazi variety, even incorporating the notorious medieval blood libel. Islamic Judeophobia combines demonic religious xenophobia and racism; depicts Jews and Israelis as vampires or descendants of apes and pigs; as evil creatures who disseminate AIDS; as conspirators seeking to enslave mankind; and as the real masterminds behind the 9/11 attacks.

In a word, Jews are again being portrayed as the source of all the woes of mankind and presented as cancers that must be excised from humanity.

The electronic age is a boon to these hate-mongers, who, unlike their Nazi predecessors, are today able to globally disseminate their satanic defamation of Jews through the Internet, instantly and effectively.

In the West, Arab Judeophobia has been refined and integrated with the long-standing religious, cultural and racial prejudice which, due to Holocaust reverberations, had been suppressed for over half a century. The newly resurrected blend of anti-Semitism is thus no longer directed primarily against individual Jews. Israel, the "Jew amongst the nations," has become the new vehicle for demonizing Jews.

The symbolic turning point was the cartoon displaying Ariel Sharon as a monster devouring Palestinian children which was awarded the prize for the best cartoon in the UK a few years ago. This approach and other calumnies, especially employing Holocaust inversion by linking Israeli behavior with Nazi crimes, have become staple features of much of the Western media.
The new anti-Semitism depicts Israel as evil incarnate. Even after a rogue state like Iran threatens to wipe Israel off the map and may well unleash a global nuclear catastrophe, most Europeans still regard the Jewish state as the greatest threat to world peace....

....Not surprisingly, European Jews in particular feel besieged. Some are in denial or lie low, hoping the hatred will decline of its own accord; most are deeply pessimistic about the future for their children in the continent which only 60 years ago was soaked in the blood of their forbears. The most severe repercussions are visible at European universities, which have been transformed into centers of Israelphobia. To a lesser extent this is now also emerging on campuses in the United States....

...IN THE context of confronting Islamic Jew-hatred, the time has come to repudiate the politically correct mantra that .... Islam is a religion of peace. ...Today, under the influence of Wahhabi teachings from Saudi Arabia, it cannot be denied that the dominant Islamic bodies, as well as many secular Arabs, if not actively endorsing violence, at best tend to remain silent. To expose this in no way contradicts or inhibits simultaneously reaching out and endeavoring to build bridges with moderate Islamic groups courageous enough to condemn the jihadists.

FINALLY, it is a fact that since the 1993 Oslo Accords, the Jewish state has failed to effectively make its case in the international arena. For political reasons, the government has also tended to understate the criminal anti-Semitic incitement and culture of death and martyrdom that to this day prevails in the areas administered by our purportedly moderate Palestinian peace partner. In order to create "the right atmosphere" for promoting the peace process, there has been an inclination to understate the fact that kindergartens, mosques, media and all levels of society under the jurisdiction of the Palestinian Authority continue breeding future killers of Jews and sanctifying martyrdom.

The object of the Global Forum is to review these issues and consider policies designed to reverse the tide. My hope is that it will create a standing body to conduct ongoing activities in conjunction with the Israeli government until the next meeting convenes.

The presence of prominent non-Jewish parliamentarians and personalities representing a broad political spectrum suggests that efforts to expand alliances with political and NGO groups genuinely promoting human rights are beginning to bear fruit. Above all, the presence of 45 governments that have pledged to cooperate with the Israeli government to overcome this evil should be interpreted as a signal that the tide may be turning. Nor should we underestimate the benefit of the extraordinary support Israel now receives from vast numbers of evangelical Christians, whose important contribution many of us are only now beginning to fully appreciate.

CLEARLY the struggle of the Jewish people against the world's oldest hatred will be ongoing. But we have overcome far worse situations. We must now employ our global assets in the most effective manner and join with others to expose, shame and discredit the bigots and barbarians who promote Judeophobia and racism and threaten to pollute the social hygiene of democracies.