Saturday, May 24, 2008

French State TV Network Loses al-Dura Libel Case

From National Review Online, Wednesday, May 21, 2008 by Tom Gross:

In a potentially ground-breaking decision for the way the modern television news media operates, a French court today ruled against the state-owned “France 2” TV network in the long-running libel case surrounding the alleged shooting death of a Palestinian child, Mohammed al-Dura, in the Gaza Strip in 2000.

(Reports from AP, in French, here; and here from The Jerusalem Post.)

The death-footage of al-Dura – the veracity of which has been repeatedly questioned by media watchdogs, one of whom defeated France 2 in court today – became a cause célèbre in the Muslim world. Osama bin Laden referred to al-Dura in a post-9/11 video; the killers of the Wall St. Journal reporter Daniel Pearl placed a picture of him in their beheading video; streets, squares and academies have been named after al-Dura.

Today’s ruling shows there are serious doubts about France 2’s version of events, and that the entire world press – including the American TV networks – were irresponsible in being so quick to take at face value the claims of a local Palestinian cameraman working for France 2, a cameraman who has admitted his partisanship....

...and from Pajamas Media, May 21, 2008 - by Philippe Karsenty:

In a stunning reversal, a French appeals court today dismissed France 2's defamation charges against Philippe Karsenty in the controversial Mohammed al-Dura case.

Today a French court ruled that I did not defame France 2 when I said that its news report was a staged hoax....

...The al-Dura lie is an assault on our ability to think, to criticize, to evaluate, and finally to reject information — especially the right to reject information on which we base our most cherished assumptions.

One of Europe’s most cherished assumptions is that Israel is a vicious Nazi-like entity that deliberately murders Palestinian Arab children. Moreover, polls conducted in Europe have identified Israel as the greatest threat to world peace, greater than Iran and North Korea, Pakistan and Syria.

The al-Dura hoax is one of the pillars on which these assumptions rely....

...Now it is time for France 2 to acknowledge that it created and is continuing to perpetuate the worst anti-Semitic libel of our era. It’s the responsibility of the French government ... to finally reveal the truth.

Philippe Karsenty is the founder and president of Media-Ratings, an agency that closely monitors French media outlets for anti-American and anti-Israeli bias.

Britain watches for more UN anti-Semitism

From the UK House of Commons Hansard, Tuesday 13 May 2008 (my own emphasis added - SL):

The Secretary of State was asked—
Durban II
1. John Mann (Bassetlaw) (Lab): What assessment he has made of the progress made at the April preparatory meeting for Durban II on racism.

The Minister for Europe (Mr. Jim Murphy): The United Kingdom wants the Durban review conference to contribute to the global fight against racism. The preparatory work is ongoing, but there should be no repeat of the disgraceful anti-Semitism that blighted events surrounding the 2001 world conference against racism.

John Mann: With Libya chairing the preparatory committee and Cuba and Iran supporting it as officers, the signs are not too good. Can the Minister assure us that if there is even the slightest whiff of anything comparable to the disgrace of the first Durban conference, the United Kingdom will not participate?

Mr. Murphy: I pay tribute to my hon. Friend and to other hon. Members in all parts of the House who played such an important part in the all-party inquiry into anti-Semitism. My hon. Friend is right that there have been dreadful comments and behaviour of an anti-Semitic nature in previous gatherings of that type. I wish to be clear that the UK Government will play no part in a gathering that displays such behaviour. We will continue to work to make sure that the conference is a success, but we will play no part in an international conference that exhibits the degree of anti-Semitism that was disgracefully on view on the previous occasion.

Mr. Tim Boswell (Daventry) (Con): Although the Minister’s comments are welcome, and his remarks about the anti-Semitism group are equally welcome, does he agree that it is interesting that Canada, whose Government are one of the most responsible and friendly with whom we ever have dealings, has already decided not to attend the conference? Is he in touch with the Canadian Government about their reasons for doing so?

Mr. Murphy: The hon. Gentleman was another important contributor to the all-party inquiry and it is right to put that on record. We are in touch with international partners on this serious issue. One of the reasons why the Canadian Government withdrew, as I understand it, is that unacceptable conditions were placed on a Jewish non-governmental organisation from Canada, initiated by the Iranian authorities. We continue to discuss that with Canada and other international partners and that dialogue will continue. If it gets to a point that we come to the view that the conference cannot be a success, the option of withdrawal from the conference remains available to us.

Friday, May 23, 2008

The Mike Wallace 1958 Interview of Abba Eban

From the University of Texas website, 12 April 1958 (50 years ago):

As Israel celebrates its tenth anniversary, Abba Eban, Israel's ambassador to the United States, talks to Wallace about Arab nations, the Arab refugee problem, Egypt's President Nasser, Jews in America, and the charge that Israel threatens world peace with a policy of territorial expansion.

Follow the link to the whole 4,300-word interview, which is well worth viewing or reading. Eban was not only Israel's outstanding spokesman but ranks with Winston Churchill as among the most eloquent English-language statesmen of recent times.

Enough of the empty threats. Put an end to Hamas.

From JPost, by Isi Leibler, May 22, 2008:

Alas. Our fears have been realized. A missile landed in a crowded shopping mall in Ashkelon, a city with 120,000 inhabitants. Although fatalities were miraculously averted, there were over 90 casualties, including a number of seriously wounded.

... Yet it seems our leaders consider that unless it is accompanied by numerous fatalities, the bombing of a crowded shopping mall does not qualify as a sufficiently grave offense to warrant a harsher military response.

It is surely unconscionable for them to continue abandoning their citizens. Yet these leaders have the gall to urge residents to stoically accommodate themselves to further onslaughts in order to promote a make-believe peace process.....

...The founding fathers of Israel, who vowed to ensure that Jewish blood would never again be shed with impunity, would turn in their graves if they were aware of the behavior of their successors.

...There is also an element of surrealism when our leaders babble endlessly about peace, implying that all that is required is to haggle over real estate and divide the land between two peoples.

Such attitudes deny the reality that, to this day, the overriding Palestinian objective remains to deny Jewish sovereignty. This applies no less to our duplicitous partner for peace, Mahmoud Abbas, who speaks with a forked tongue, than to Hamas, which at least is open about its intentions....

It is thus bizarre when, despite undeniable evidence to the contrary, we endorse the chorus of international leaders promoting the mirage of the feasibility of creating a Palestinian state, today, one that would live peacefully side by side with Israel...

...If we...repeat failures like Oslo or unilateral disengagement, we merely pave the way for more Israelis to die in vain. We must also stop hallucinating and recognize that our "peace partner" is an impotent, unpopular leader without a constituency who, moreover, like Hamas, denies us the right to Jewish sovereignty. Otherwise we will pay a bitter price for living in Wonderland.

With the barbarians at our gates, the time to act is now. Matters can only get worse. Our military intelligence chief predicts that Kiryat Gat, Ashdod and even Beersheba will soon fall into the range of the Hamas rocket launches. Must we wait to act until the Knesset is targeted? Or, God forbid, until there is a mega-bloodbath involving hundreds?

The vast majority of Israelis are willing to make great sacrifices to achieve a genuine peace, if they could achieve security. They would also dearly like to live in peace side by side with the Palestinians, or at least be separated from them. But creating false illusions simply undermines any possibility of achieving genuine peace.

...The road to peace lies in strength and determination and the application of deterrence. History consistently shows that appeasement only encourages further aggression.

We have one of the most powerful armies in the region. It is now abundantly clear that we cannot coexist with this evil Hamas regime and, unless a dramatic change occurs, there is no alternative. We must put an end to them.

National Suicide

From May 21, 2008» Opinion » by AMNON RUBINSTEIN: is obvious that Israel will eventually have to take military action [in Gaza] - no country could act otherwise - to silence the guns and missile-launchers.

...Hamas's rulers ... authorize extending the range of their missile attacks, knowing full well that this will hasten the day in which Israel, under any government, will have to order its army to march into Gaza and strip Hamas of its power.

Such is the Hamas policy: not only an endless blood-letting war against the Zionist entity, but also a readiness to lose their hold over Gaza as part of this war. This signifies a readiness not only to sacrifice the lives of men, women and children, but also a readiness to sacrifice the very regime they established not long ago through a violent coup. In other words, it is a process of political suicide writ large: The shahid is not only the individual, but the regime itself.

[There are]... three such examples of Arab-Muslim regimes irrationally sacrificing their very existence, overriding their instinct of self-preservation, to fight the perceived enemy to the bitter end.

• ...Saddam Hussein...2003 ....

• ...Yasser Arafat in 2000...

...Taliban. Post-9/11...

IN ALL three cases, the conclusion is plain: prolonged war, death, destruction and national suicide are preferable to peaceful solutions of conflicts: Dying is preferable to negotiating with infidels. The same conclusion, of course, is applicable to the Palestinians voting for Hamas and its suicidal path, and to Iran's decision to confront the Security Council in its insistence on acquiring nuclear weapons.

These cases, while unprecedented in the annals of history, should not be that surprising. If you glorify individual suicide, if death is the key to a happy afterlife, if war itself is sanctified, why not extend these ideas from the individual to the collective? To the regime itself ? Suicide is the path to both individual and national salvation....

....This unpalatable conclusion must be confronted....Israel, as well as the West, should be prepared for a long, irrational and costly war, unlike any other fought in the past.

The writer is a professor of law at the Interdisciplinary Center (IDC) Herzliya, a former minister of education and MK as well as the recipient of the 2006 Israel Prize.

Hope for Iraq

From a BESA Perspectives No. 43, May 21, 2008 by Max Singer* (brief excerpt only - follow the link for the full article):

Executive Summary
Opponents of the war in Iraq have long warned that the removal of Saddam Hussein would have two extremely negative consequences: that Iraqi Shiites would impose a radical religious regime on the country, and that Iran would effectively come to control the country. However, a dispassionate examination of the facts on the ground reveals that neither of these horrors has come to be. While the struggle is not yet over and these dangers exist, the likelihood of Iraq becoming radically religious or Iranian-dominated seems considerably lower than it did in 2003.

From the beginning, the Bush Administration knew that the war in Iraq would be difficult, and the decision to launch the war was not easily taken. Administration officials were forced to choose between the risks of removing Saddam Hussein and the risks of leaving him in power.

Many experts warned that the Shia majority rule that would inevitably follow ...suppression of Kurds and Sunnis, and a new ally for international Shia power. ....

Basis for Fear
There are both real and exaggerated fears of Iranian domination of a Shia-led Iraqi government. Iraqi leaders such as Talabani, Chalabi, al Sadr, Maliki, and Hakim often meet with high-level Iranian leaders in Iran, and have generally refused to denounce Iran ...

...Iran's population is more than double that of Iraq, and it is led by an authoritarian government with a powerful, well-financed force of foreign agents, many of them operating inside Iraq. ....

Understanding Iranian Influence on Iraqi Leaders
On the other hand, one can dismiss many of these warning indicators. It is true that in effect many Iraqi players have kept a foot in both the Iraqi and Iranian camps ...

...Now, five years after the liberation of Iraq from Saddam Hussein, after the creation of an Iraqi constitution and two elected Iraqi governments, and after the defeat of al Qaeda in Iraq, it is becoming increasingly clear that most of these leaders remain primarily loyal to Iraq. ...

.... A large number of Iraqi leaders will probably maintain significant relationships with the Iranian regime. A few will be almost completely compliant with the Iranians. Others will pay only perfunctory attention to Iranian attempts at influence. Most will be scattered along the spectrum of degree of Iranian influence.

Iranian Agents in Iraq
The Iranians have another source of power in Iraq. In addition to well-funded political agents, they support hundreds of armed agents, many in criminal gangs, especially in southern Iraq. ...

.... The gangs recently received a heavy blow in Basra and the south where the British had allowed them almost free rein, and they are not dominating the political scene in Baghdad.....

Iraqi Power
Thus far, the fears of Iranian domination are not materializing. In fact, it can reasonably be argued that the opposite is true: we are beginning to see signs of Iraqi Shiite independence and even blowback against the Iranians.

Led by Ayatollah Sistani, Iraqi Shiism (which theologically is traditional Shiism) is beginning to be considered as an alternative source of religious authority in Iran. A Shiite Iraq is beginning to look more like a rival to Iran than like an addition to Iranian Shia power.

Ayatollah Sistani was not willing to see Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad during his brief trip to Iraq in March 2008, and Iraqi demonstrations against Ahmadinejad kept him away from the Shiite holy city of Najaf.

While the fears of Iranian domination of Iraq are so far unrealized, the story is not yet over. In Iraq, as in most of the world, political leaders support those who they perceive will be the winner. Iran’s failure to dominate Iraq results from the expectation that Iraq will continue to be independent and protected by the US. If that expectation changes, and the common view becomes that Iran will be the dominant voice in the region, many Iraqis will pay more attention to Iranian suggestions.

This could result in an intensified struggle in Iraq and perhaps a drastic change in the current situation.

The other serious danger is deadlock in the Iraqi government, rendering it unable to carry out essential actions. The Iraqis – like the US when it first achieved independence – avoided the need to compromise by agreeing to act by consensus. This assured all parties that their interests would not be trampled on. However, a system in which nothing happens unless everyone agrees is vulnerable to deadlock. While this is still a danger, the confidence and respect that Maliki has gained by his initiative and success in Basra makes it more likely that Iraqi politicians will allow him enough freedom of action to limit harm from deadlock.

*Dr. Max Singer is Senior Fellow at both the Hudson Institute and at the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies at Bar-Ilan University. He is also Research Director of the Institute for Zionist Strategies.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Looking at the Golan through a Lebanese lens

From an analysis by Calev Ben-David , THE JERUSALEM POST, May. 22, 2008:

Almost every article on the Golan Heights mentions its commanding views down on northeast Israel. Far fewer choose to note that parts of Mount Hermon also offer sweeping vistas deep into Lebanon.

In the case of Wednesday's announcement about renewed peace negotiations between Israel and Syria, it might be more accurate to say that Lebanon is looming over the Golan Heights - or at least over the prospect that Jerusalem would be willing to concede sovereignty over the territory to Damascus.

Developments in Lebanon, including Wednesday's news that an agreement has been reached to end both recent hostilities and the 18-month-old political stalemate between Hizbullah and the ruling "March 14" coalition, are surely significant factors in driving both Israel and Syria back to the negotiating table.

While other elements are, of course, also involved, including Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's domestic political troubles, and Syrian President Bashar Assad's equal desire for positive "spin" directed at the international community, the ticking time bomb that is Lebanon has undoubtedly affected the timing of the decision from both sides to renew peace talks. That this news broke on the exact same day as the new agreement in Qatar reached between Lebanon's warring factions may be strictly coincidental, but not surprising given that these developments are running on parallel tracks.

First off, it is important to stress unequivocally that the Qatar agreement, despite being greeted positively by the Lebanese government and some of its Western supporters - such as the French - is unequivocally a triumph for Hizbullah.

Indeed, this was practically a fait accompli, since the Iran-backed radical Shi'ite militia had already achieved its key aims last week, after the Saniora coalition was forced to back down on its attempts earlier this month to rein in the operations of Hizbullah's alternative national telecommunications systems, and replace Beirut airport security chief Wafik Shoukeir, who has allegedly allowed Iranian arms to flow through his domain straight into the arms of Hassan Nasrallah's troops.

...analyst Marco Vicenzino noted in Beirut's Daily Star newspaper: "… Hizbullah's strategy is to create and instill the necessary fear to extract political concessions so that the government will be reluctant to take decisive constitutional/legal action in future."

Hizbullah succeed in extracting those concessions on Wednesday, getting Saniora and his allies to award it enough ministers in the Lebanese cabinet to grant Nasrallah veto power over any significant governmental decisions, and a potentially favorable realignment of electoral districts in Beirut.

....As for the real issue at stake here - the core of the conflict - the arming of an Iranian-directed radical Islamic "state-within-a-state" on Lebanese territory - it was vaguely left as a subject for "future discussion."

...Not surprisingly then, the agreement has been warmly welcomed by Teheran and Damascus. Jerusalem and Washington, in contrast, have real reason to be concerned...

The developments in Lebanon are a wake-up call for the West that the so-called "Cedar Revolution" may have reached its limits in challenging Iranian-Syrian hegemony over the Lebanon. It dispels any notion that a purely domestic opposition would develop under Saniora and Saad Hariri's leadership that could successfully challenge Hizbullah's combination of ideological ruthlessness and military might.

This provides the direct connection to the renewed Syrian-Israeli negotiations, which are at least partly motivated on Jerusalem's part - and apparently now with Washington's blessing - to draw Damascus away from its alliance with Teheran, including Iran and Syria's joint sponsorship of Hizbullah....

...Breaking Syria's ties to Iran and ending its support of Hizbullah thus becomes one way for Israel and the West - and perhaps the only way short of direct military intervention - to even the playing field in Lebanon between Hizbullah and that nation's more moderate forces.

Encouraging Damascus to make that dramatic strategic shift, though, could involve Israel's sacrificing the Golan Heights; however it is questionable whether even that by itself would meet the high price Assad is likely to set for any change in allegiance. Certain pricy items beyond Israel's ability to provide, such as major economic support from the West (including the US) and the dropping of the international inquiry into the assassination of former Lebanese president Rafik Hariri, are also likely to be demanded by Damascus.

That is granting Assad is even sincere in pursuing these talks, and not simply trying to "wag the dog" no less than Olmert is suspected of doing.

Whatever the case, there are signs of increased strain in recent months between Syria and Hizbullah, especially follow the February assassination of the latter's operations chief, Imad Mughniyeh, in Damascus. Some reports have suggested that growing Hizbullah distrust of Damascus's intentions is in part responsible for the fury with which it protected its Iranian-arms supply point at Beirut airport, in case the land route via Syria should no longer be reliable.
Stopping those weapons convoys to Hizbullah would be a key goal for Israel in any negotiation with Syria.

But whether improving the outlook toward Israel from Lebanon is really worth giving up those all-important views from the Golan over the Galilee, is a strategic consideration - and gamble - that this or any future government will have to weigh most carefully.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

DEFENDING IDENTITY - New Sharansky Book Preview

From The Shalem Center web site: an excerpt from: DEFENDING IDENTITY Its Indispensable Role in Protecting Democracy, by Natan Sharansky, with Shira Wolosky Weiss (soon to be published):

From birth I had been deprived of both freedom and identity. Then, suddenly, both came to me at the same time. For me the two became the most closely connected parts of my life, the one supporting the other. My participation in two movements- Jewish immigration and human rights- I treated as two complementary forces. One, human rights, gives quality of life, the life of a free person without fear. The other, my Jewish heritage, gives meaning to my life. It takes me above the immediate reality and provides a connection to history and to purpose- which then gives the strength to fight for freedom as well…

... More often than not the free world sees itself as endangered because of national and religious prejudices. The enlightened world watches in despair as nationalist, ethnic and religious groups are moving to attack and destroy one another, and are turning on the free world itself. The world seems to be seething with hatred based on identity, with daily scenes of barbarism, tribalism, terrorism. The most terrible atrocities in the name of identity are happening before our very eyes. All this only supports or strengths the conviction of those in the free world who think that identity is a kind of poison. It strengthens the authority of those post-national theories which deny the legitimacy of identity.

...identity looks like the main force of destruction..... But what I want to argue here, and this is the main purpose of this book, is that far from being only destructive, identity is a necessary and positive force.

I claim that identity is as important for the stability of our free world as is democracy. Only their conjunction gives strength to the individual, to society, and to the state, to guarantee a free, peaceful, and meaningful life for their citizens.

Follow this link to pre-order Defending Identity: It's Indispensable Role in Protecting Democracy

Anti-Semitism is alive and well in Australian polite society

From The Australian, May 21, 2008, by Barry Cohen, former minister in the Hawke government:

... Victorian Liberal Party campaign manager who described [Adam Held, the Liberal candidate at the recent federal election for the Victorian seat of Melbourne Ports] as a "greedy f..king Jew", appears to qualify [as an anti-Semite]....

It appears Held earned Chandler's ire during the campaign when he committed the unforgivable sin of ...asking for ...extra political pamphlets for his campaign. Chandler obviously thought it was a plot by the Elders of Zion to corner the market in political pamphlets. Today pamphlets, tomorrow the world.

...Clearly, Chandler is not the sharpest knife in the Liberal drawer. Anyone with an IQ above room temperature would not have committed such terms of endearment to email. Nor would they have been outraged at the suggestion that they had done anything wrong. "Anti-Semitic? Moi? Some of my best friends are Jews." ...

....In the 1940s, when Jews were unable to join any of the A-grade clubs in Sydney or Melbourne, they decided to build their own clubs and were immediately attacked for being exclusive. That the clubs had non-Jewish members was conveniently ignored.

After World War II, and the attempt by the Nazis to destroy European Jewry, there was sympathy and support for the establishment of a Jewish homeland in the mandated territories of Palestine. When the UN voted in November 1947 to create an Arab and a Jewish state, the neighbouring Arab countries attacked the Jewish state.

That Israel survived was first met with disbelief, then awe and finally anger. Those, particularly on the Left, who had wept openly for the murdered millions, started to resent Jews no longer being victims.

How dare Jews win? How dare they defend themselves against those who wished to destroy them? How dare they refuse to accede to the absurd demands of the people who had created the problem by refusing to accept the UN decision? ...

...As Israel repulsed attempts to destroy it, the anger of the liberal Left increased in intensity. As internationally famous lawyer Alan Dershowitz stated, "Throughout the world, from the chambers of the UN to the campuses of universities, Israel is singled out for condemnation, disinvestment, boycott and demonisation."

Anti-Semitism? "No! No!" cried Israel's critics. "We don't hate Jews, just Israel." For many, Israel became the pariah state. Anti-Semitism became acceptable again. The New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman responded: "Criticising Israel is not anti-Semitic and saying so is vile. But singling out Israel for opprobrium and international sanction, out of all proportion to any other party in the Middle East, is anti-Semitic and not saying so is dishonest."

...In Australia today many journalists are incapable of recognising their own deep-seated prejudices. When I asked one journalist why he and many of his colleagues felt it necessary to mention that certain businesspeople were Jewish, particularly those who had brushes with the law, he bridled at the suggestion that this was anti-Semitic. "It's part of the story," he spluttered....

...Then there's the sinister Jewish lobby. One Canberra journalist becomes apoplectic on the subject. Again, no mention of the Catholic, Protestant, Islamic, union or dozens of business and special interest groups that continually lobby governments. No suggestion that they are insidious or sinister.

Oh dear, no. Selective indignation, dear readers, is anti-Semitism.

As a young boy growing up in the aftermath of World War II, I hoped that anti-Semitism would gradually fade away. Regrettably, that has not been the case. It is alive and well and, it would appear, still common among what was once called polite society.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Golan withdrawal would be a nightmare

From Ynet News, by Martin Sherman, 17/5/08:

... Emmanuel Rosen's outrageous article "The power of weakness" ...urges Ehud Olmert to exploit the fact that he has totally lost public confidence and trust in order to concoct a hurried accord with Assad over the evacuation of the Golan. ... Because allegedly now he has nothing to lose!

...aside from the distasteful deception that Rosen urges in his blatantly undemocratic recommendation ...severe hazards to Israel's vital security interests ... are...starkly obvious ......

Strategic ...
...the huge military value of the Golan that gives Israel command over the approaches to Damascus and precludes Syrian command over the entire northern portion of Israel. This provides Israel with unequivocal deterrence, which has ensured that the Syrian frontier has been the most peaceful for over third of century – without Israel yielding a centimeter of territory. ...

... the intelligence gathering value of the area - particularly the ridge of hills on its eastern fringes and from atop Mt. Hermon (aptly dubbed "the eyes of the country") is indispensable.....

Economic ...
Moreover, the estimated direct cost of evacuation of the Golan runs in to the tens of billion of dollars with some estimates exceeding one hundred billion. .... Moreover, Israel will have to undertake huge investments in security and dramatically increase the defense budget to compensate for the relinquishing of the strategic advantages its presence in Golan provided....

Also, the Golan constitutes a vital portion of the drainage basin for the Sea of Galilee (Kinneret), and crucially affects both the quantity and the quality of its waters. Experts have warned consistently of the catastrophic consequences for the national water supply if the Syrians prevent the waters of the Golan from reaching the Kinneret, or if they pollute them before they do.

Finally, the detrimental social effects of the prospect of a withdrawal from the Golan would manifest themselves in three distinctly separate groups:

The evacuation of the Golan – a region far more part of the national consensus than Gaza – would be far more divisive than the Disengagement. It would cause exacerbated polarization, deepening despair and disillusionment in significant segments of the Jewish population and growing sense of alienation and disillusionment with the Israeli state and its leadership. ....

Meanwhile, the looming prospect of the return of Syrian rule will be a powerful inducement for the local Druze population to show their loyalty and allegiance to their new masters, and to endeavor to dispel any hint of suspicion of collaboration with the Zionist foe. It needs little imagination to realize that such a desire is easily likely to translate in acts of hostility against Israel and Israelis in order to prove their bona fide to their future rulers.

The withdrawal of the IDF from the Golan will compel it to redeploy in northern Israel, and particularly in the Galilee. Clearly this will require the expropriation of large tracts of land to accommodate new bases, installations and training areas. Inevitably much of this land will be in rural areas populated by the large Arab community. One hardly needs great powers of prediction to foresee the consequences of seizure by the IDF of land which the Arabs see as their own and which they depend on for their livelihood.

The foregoing list of the crucial advantages the Golan provides Israel, and the perilous dangers that relinquishing it would expose it to, is in no way exhaustive, nor adequately detailed. It should however suffice to demonstrate decisively that any initiative to withdraw from it would not be "bold" but "barmy", not "courageous statesmanship" but "craven capitulation."

Abbas to declare that peace negotiations have failed

From JPost, May 19, 2008 10:20:

Bush and Abbas talk with the media following their meeting in Sharm e-Sheikh.
(Photo: AP)

Less than a week after a speech by US President George W. Bush spurred condemnation from Palestinian Authority officials - who accused the American leader of being one-sided in peace negotiations between Palestinians and Israelis - PA President Mahmoud Abbas has come to the conclusion that peace talks have failed, the London-based newspaper Al-Quds al-Arabi reported on Monday.

... According to the paper, the report was given to Abbas from a European source, who claimed that the Americans were not interested in exerting pressure or confronting Israel, and that the US was "allowing Israel full freedom to take a stance which would serve its policies, its security, and its interests alone."

...the source told the paper that Abbas planned to give a speech in Ramallah, during which he would announce that negotiations had failed and blame Israel for the failure. The source added that the PA president would also blame the US for its lack of commitment to the peace process.
Abbas had planned to make a similar announcement following his disappointing visit to Washington in April, because he had heard that "the American government did not plan to pressure Israel into making concessions to the Palestinians," the source told the paper.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Israel Missed the Boat in Lebanon

From a DEBKAfile Exclusive Report, May 18, 2008:

Sunday night, May 11, the Israeli army was poised to strike Hizballah. The Shiite militia was winding up its takeover of West Beirut and battling pro-government forces in the North. When he opened the regular cabinet meeting Sunday, May 11, prime minister Ehud Olmert had already received the go-ahead from Washington for a military strike to halt the Hizballah advance. The message said that President George W. Bush would not call off his visit to Israel to attend its 60th anniversary celebrations and would arrive as planned Wednesday, May 14 - even if the Israeli army was still fighting in Lebanon and Hizballah struck back against Tel Aviv and Ben-Gurion airport.

American intelligence estimated that Hizballah was capable of retaliating against northern Israel at the rate of 600 missiles a day.

Olmert, defense minister Ehud Barak and foreign minister Tzipi Lvini, the only ministers in the picture, decided not to intervene in Lebanon’s civil conflict. Iran’s surrogate army consequently waltzed unchecked to its second victory in two years over the United States and Israel.

DEBKAfile’s US and military sources disclose the arguments Washington marshaled to persuade Israel to go ahead: Hizballah, after its electronic trackers had learned from the Israel army’s communication and telephone networks that not a single troop or tank was on the move, took the calculated risk of transferring more than 5,000 armed men from the South to secure the capture of West Beirut.

This presented a rare moment to take Hizballah by surprise, Washington maintained. The plan outlined in Washington was for the Israeli Air force to bombard Hizballah’s positions in the South, the West and southern Beirut. This would give the pro-government Christian, Sunni and Druze forces the opening for a counter-attack. Israeli tanks would simultaneously drive into the South and head towards Beirut in two columns.
1. The western column would take the Tyre-Sidon-Damour-Beirut coastal highway.
2. The eastern column would press north through Nabatiya, Jezzine, Ain Zchalta and Alei.

Sunday night, Olmert called Lebanese prime minister Fouad Siniora and his allies, the Sunni majority leader Saad Hariri, head of the mainline Druze party Walid Jumblatt and Christian Phalanges chief Samir Geagea and informed them there would be no Israeli strike against Hizballah. Jerusalem would not come to their aid.

According to American sources, the pro-Western front in Beirut collapsed then and there, leaving Hizballah a free path to victory. The recriminations from Washington sharpened day by day and peaked with President Bush’s arrival in Israel.

Our sources report that, behind the protestations of undying American friendship and camaraderie shown in public by the US president, prime minister and Shimon Peres, Bush and his senior aides bitterly reprimanded Israel for its passivity in taking up the military challenge and crushing an avowed enemy in Lebanon.

While the president was busy with ceremonies and speeches, secretary of state Condoleezza Rice and national security adviser Stephen Hadley took Israeli officials to task. Hadley in particular bluntly blamed Israel for the downfall of the pro-Western government bloc in Beirut and its surrender to the pro-Iranian, Pro-Syrian Hizballah. If Israeli forces had struck Hizballah gunmen wile on the move, he said, Hassan Nasrallah would not have seized Beirut and brought the pro-government militias to their knees.

One US official said straight out to Olmert and Barak: For two years, you didn’t raise a finger when Hizballah took delivery of quantities of weapons, including missiles, from Iran and Syria. You did not interfere with Hizballah’s military buildup in southern Lebanon then or its capture of Beirut now.

IDF generals who were present at these conversations reported they have never seen American officials so angry or outspoken. Israel’s original blunder, they said, was its intelligence misreading of Hizballah’s first belligerent moves on May 4. At that point, Israel’s government military heads decided not to interfere, after judging those moves to be unthreatening.

The Americans similarly criticizes Israel for letting Hamas get away with its daily rocket and missile attacks on Israel civilians year after year. A blow to Hizballah would have deterred Hamas from exercising blackmail tactics for a ceasefire. In Sharm el-Sheikh Sunday, May 18, President Bush called on Middle East countries to confront Hamas and isolate terror-sponsors Iran and Syria.

Command vessel USS Mount Whitney posted opposite Lebanon

From DEBKAfile, May 17, 2008, 6:16 PM (GMT+02:00):

DEBKAfile’s military sources report that Saturday, May 17, the USS Mount Whitney , considered the US Navy’s most advanced command, control, communications, computer and intelligence vessel, took up position opposite Lebanese shores for an “unscheduled mission.”
The Sixth Fleet spokesman Lt. Patrick Foughty said the ship would be there “to support additional communication requirements for our ships already underway.”

DEBKAfile’s sources add that the USS Cole missile destroyer arrived in that sector last week, while the USS Harry Truman carrier strike group began cruising in the Mediterranean around Greece, whence the aircraft on its decks can reach Syrian and Lebanese skies. ...

...during the fierce Hizballah onslaught on Beirut last week and its closure of the international airport, the Americans ran a helicopter lift from Cyprus to the US embassy landing pad with provisions of food, water, medicine and personnel.

The Mount Whitney enables a joint task commander to effectively control all the units of his force. The ship can receive and transmit large amounts of secure data from any point on earth and provide timely intelligence and operational support as needed.

Iran takes Beirut. Next, the world

From The Jewish Chronicle, 16/05/2008, by Barry Rubin, director of the Global Research in International Affairs (GLORIA) Center and editor of the Middle East Review of International Affairs (MERIA):

...Today, Lebanon ...tomorrow the world. ...

... ally with either the US or Iran. ...the two fronts right now being Lebanon and Iraq.

A Gulf Arab journalist, in an article tellingly entitled, Iran is Enemy Number One, wrote a few days ago: “The true feeling of the Saudis, Bahrainis, Kuwaitis and Qataris is that Iran is the enemy and it must be brought down and weakened.”

The conflict between Israel and the wider Arab world still exists but has become more of an Israel-Palestinian, Syrian and Iranian conflict in practice. For most Arab regimes, it is useful for making propaganda and proving their militant nationalist-Islamic credentials but things have changed a great deal from past decades.

Of course, this does not mean they will cooperate or make peace with Israel. Moderation not only threatens to expose them to radical subversion but also to weaken their own dictatorships’ structure, which rests heavily on demagogically blaming Israel for all their shortcomings.

As one Gulf ruler put it privately, “We can use Israel and bash Israel simultaneously.” In other words, Israelis must oppose Iranian ambitions for their own reasons anyway. So why should Arab regimes give them anything for doing so, even if it means protecting their own sovereignty and systems as well?

In this context, the idea that solving the Palestinian issue will bring peace and stability in the region, ensure good Arab-Western relations, and quiet radical Islamism becomes especially laughable.

Consider the possibility of Iran getting nuclear weapons. It is a certainty that no Western country will stand against it, Arab regimes will rush to appease it, and hundreds of thousands of Muslims will join radical Islamist groups to replace all those regimes Iran says must go.

For the moment, however, Lebanon resembles Spain during its civil war, just before the main conflict. A democratic majority, a united front of Christians, Druze, and Sunni Muslims, defies terrorist attacks sponsored by Syria, Iran’s ally. They simply don’t want to live under an Iran-style Islamist regime. Government supporters are angry that Hizbollah can launch war on Israel whenever it pleases at great cost to their nation. They remember decades of Syrian domination, repression and looting.

A Fascist-free Spain, of course, became progressive humanity’s cause of the 1930s. Such people were horrified that the Western democracies would not help the Republicans while the Germans and Italians poured troops, weapons and money into the Fascist side.

But why didn’t Britain and the others act? Their motives were precisely the same as inhibits determination today. They feared war and the resulting cost and casualties. They profited from trade with the other side. They disliked the great power that was more involved in the war (in those days the USSR, today America). Since the Catholic Church backed General Francisco Franco’s cause they didn’t want to be labelled what today would be called “Catholophobic”. They lacked confidence in their own society, which Ezra Pound called a “botched civilisation”. Pound eventually preferred the Fascists, as too many intellectuals and artists now find the Islamists the lesser of the two evils.

All rather similar to what happened in 2006, when the UN decided that troops would be sent to southern Lebanon, Hizbollah would be kept out and disarmed, and weapons smuggling would be blocked. Hizbollah disagreed and did what it wanted.

The world gave in: Hizbollah (Syria and Iran), 1; World, 0.

If the world won’t even help Arab, Muslim-led, democratic, Lebanon, why should Israel give credence to such promises?

Ah, but Israel can defend itself. It is the toughest of all Iran’s intended targets.

Prime Minister Winston Churchill recalled in December 1941, speaking to Canada’s parliament, that collaborationist French generals warned him that if Britain, too, didn’t surrender to Hitler, “In three weeks England will have her neck wrung like a chicken.” Churchill wryly told his cheering audience: “Some chicken; some neck!”

A few years later, Hitler lay dead and defeated. Mr Ahmadinejad, take note.