Saturday, May 31, 2008

Palestinian industry of lies

An opinion from Ynet News, 30/5/08, by Danny Seaman, director of the Israeli Government Press Office:

Media manipulation has become strategic Arab weapon against Israel media coverage of the Middle East...has been biased for many years now.

The revelations of the deceit in the al-Dura affair are a result of intense work by physicist Nahum Shahaf. He was followed by many good people from academia and the world of journalism who exposed the methods used by the Palestinian industry of lies to produce images that are etched in the collective memory via global media. This was succinctly defined by American Professor Richard Landes as “Pallywood.”

The al-Dura affair is the most conspicuous and blatant of the phenomenon of media manipulation undertaken by Palestinian workers employed by international media outlets. These employees stage, produce, and edit events and photos in a bid to slander Israel in the world. Media reports and photos such as the al-Dura case affect global public opinion and governments. The stages events undermine Israel’s ability to conduct itself within the conflict and affect our ability to maneuver and secure targets in times of emergency.

Media manipulation has in fact turned into an strategic Arab weapon used against the State of Israel. It is used as an equalizer vis-à-vis Israel’s military advantages while boosting the Arabs’ global status vis-à-vis Israel. During the Second Lebanon War, international media personnel on the ground reported of an “IDF massacre in Qfar Qana,” while bloggers at homes around the world quickly and without much effort revealed that the incident was in fact a Hizbullah production.

Yet this did not prevent the international community from pressing Israel to end the war. Several weeks before that we saw the photos of a Palestinian girl on the Gaza beach – later revealed to be the reenactment by a Palestinian photographer of an event the IDF was not involved in. Just recently, a mother and her four children in Gaza were hit by an explosive device carried by Hamas men, an incident that was immediately attributed to the IDF by the media.

‘Credible’ sources The bias is not only reserved for times of emergency. Often we see reports about some kind of harm done to the Palestinians by Israel that immediately make headlines worldwide. In many cases, the charges turn out to be false, yet the damage to Israel is already done. This stems from the fact that foreign networks do not do the minimum they should be doing – verifying sources and crosschecking information. After all, they always attribute reports to Palestinian reporters and always find “credible” sources that would confirm the charges.

This may be forgiven the first and possibly second time. Yet once these revelations emerge time and again, we could expect foreign media outlets to be stricter and exhibit proper professional conduct before again leveling false charges at the State of Israel

Friday, May 30, 2008

Olmert's 'graceful exit' plan


Recognizing that his political downfall is all but unavoidable, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert is considering accepting a proposal by senior Kadima ministers and MKs that is intended to allow the party to prepare for early elections while he leaves the Prime Minister's Office in a dignified manner....

According to the proposal, the prime minister would give the authorization necessary to initiate a Kadima primary that would elect his successor.

If Olmert is not charged in the Talansky affair, he would continue to serve as party leader and prime minister until the next general election, and the primary winner would become his heir apparent. If he is indicted and keeps his promise to step down, the winner could either form a new government or lead the party in elections that appear increasingly likely to take place by the end of the year.

...Kadima MK Tzahi Hanegbi, who heads the party's steering committee, announced that he would summon representatives of the four candidates to replace Olmert to decide on a mechanism for the primary.....candidates who spoke to Kadima MKs on Thursday said a September race was likely....

Jenna Stark contributed to this report.

Search Is Urged for Syrian Nuclear Sites

From The Washington Post Thursday, May 29, 2008, by Joby Warrick and Robin Wright:

The Bush administration is pressing U.N. inspectors to broaden their search for possible secret nuclear facilities in Syria, hinting that Damascus's nuclear program might be bigger than the single alleged reactor destroyed by Israeli warplanes last year.

At least three sites have been identified by U.S. officials and passed along to the International Atomic Energy Agency, which is negotiating with Syria for permission to conduct inspections in the country, according to U.S. government officials and Western diplomats. U.S. officials want to know if the suspect sites may have been support facilities for the alleged Al Kibar reactor destroyed in an Israeli air raid Sept. 6....

The U.N. nuclear watchdog, which has been seeking access to the Al Kibar site since shortly after the bombing, has acknowledged receiving requests to expand the scope of its inspections, but provided no details.

...Syria, which has denied having a nuclear weapons program, has not yet responded to IAEA requests for a firm date for inspections.

...CIA Director Michael V. Hayden ... predicted that Syria would "almost certainly attempt to delay and deceive" the IAEA. But he added: "We know what they did." ...

Myth & Muhammad al-Dura

From THE JERUSALEM POST May. 29, 2008 [my emphasis added - SL]:

Last week, a surprising decision handed down by the French Court of Appeals shed rare light on how both news and myths are made in this part of the world.

On September 30, 2000...a 12-year-old Palestinian boy, Muhammad al-Dura, was filmed cowering with his father, Jalal, at the Gaza Strip's Netzarim junction during an apparent gun battle between Palestinians and IDF troops.

The video...shows al-Dura hiding, and then cuts to footage of him lying, apparently dead, in the arms of his distraught father. Although he was not in Gaza that day, France 2's correspondent Charles Enderlin ...added a voice-over narration, ascribing the boy's death to "gunfire from the direction of the Israeli positions," and released his report to the world.

The effect of the image of wounded father and murdered son, a...taken as a potent symbol of Israeli brutality, was electrifying. Al-Dura's death, a cause celebre of the second intifada, provoked worldwide outrage. Streets, public squares, and schools in Muslim cities bore his name. He was featured on a Tunisian stamp, a poem by Mahmoud Darwish, and an al-Qaida recruitment video. "In killing this boy the Israelis killed every child in the world," Osama bin Laden said. In June 2005, Wafa Samir al-Bis, an aspiring 21-year-old "martyr," after being apprehended by Israeli guards at the Erez checkpoint in Gaza with 20 pounds of explosives in her underwear, said that she intended to carry out a suicide attack to retaliate for al-Dura's death.

BUT THE video report - 55 seconds of footage out of some 18 minutes that were shown in court - also aroused doubts. It does not show the boy being killed. No bullets are seen hitting the alleged victims. No blood is visible on their clothes, on the wall, or on the ground. It never shows Israeli soldiers aiming at the al-Duras. More than a dozen cameramen filmed the junction that day. Reuters, AP, and France-2 outtakes show apparently staged scenes and faked ambulance runs.

The IDF, which initially apologized for the death of al-Dura, concluded that the boy could not have been hit by Israeli bullets....

France 2 stuck to its story... The station also initiated libel suits against several writers and Web sites who challenged the veracity of its story.

One of the defendants was Philippe Karsenty, director of the Media-Ratings watchdog site, who had called the report "a hoax." France 2 won three out of four judgments, including against Karsenty, who was convicted of libel in 2006. Last week, to bring matters around full circle, the appellate court overturned that decision.

THE RECENT verdict, besides usefully underscoring the right to criticize the press and its sometimes dangerously hasty product, also calls much-needed attention to the ways in which world opinion is shaped by perceptions that are themselves shaped by a not infallible media.

The al-Dura affair, like the myth of a massacre in Jenin in April 2002, has been so fervently seized by those who seek confirmation for their belief in Israeli culpability, that it is likely never to be erased from international consciousness. It by now stands well beyond the reach of refutation.

... the sordid affair teaches a valuable lesson about the dangerous enthusiasms, especially in Muslim societies, and especially among those who claim to speak for an awakened conscience, for modern myths of Jewish evil.

Livni calls for Kadima primaries 'as soon as possible'

From Ynet News, 29/5/08, by Neta Sela [my emphasis added - SL]:

Foreign minister tells Jerusalem conference ruling party must 'prepare for any scenario', including early elections. 'Kadima must elect its candidate for the premiership,' she says. Barak: General elections perhaps before end of the year

"Kadima is at a point in which it must make decisions and prepare for any scenario, including early elections; I am a firm believer in the primary system," Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni said Thursday ..."we cannot ignore the events of the past few days. This is not just a legal matter, and it does not pertain solely to the prime minister as a private person – these are questions that are related to the values and norms that we want to instill and their effect on the public's trust in Israeli politics." ...

...“The State has a vision and values that bind both its citizens and its leaders,” she said. “Those values are the common denominator representing the unwritten norms and personal codes of behavior that should guide each one of us.”

Defense Minister Ehud Barak said in response to Livni's remarks that "the decision has been made – we must start preparing for general elections, perhaps even before the end of the year.
"We have a stake in governmental stability and we will support forming a new government within the existing Knesset," he told a Labor faction meeting in Tel Aviv.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Iran strike an unattractive last resort: Bolton

From Reuters, 28/5/08 by Nigel Stephenson:

Military action against Iran would be a last resort but the United States and its allies have not done enough to promote the alternative, a former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations said on Wednesday.

John Bolton
...five years of "failed" negotiation with Iran over its nuclear program had left just two options for dealing with the issue -- regime change and use of force. "The use of military force is an extremely unattractive option and only to be used as a last resort," [John Bolton, former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations] said, adding he would favor regime change.

Bolton said the elements for regime change were present in Iran -- the economy was in difficulties, young Iranians could see the possibility of a different life and there were ethnic tensions within the country. But he added that the United Nations and its allies had not done enough to bring about the required change. "I wish that we had had a much more vigorous policy five years ago," he said.

Bolton...said the insistence of Britain, France and Germany on trying to negotiate a solution with Iran and U.S. acquiescence in this policy had failed. "Today Iran is five years closer to having a nuclear weapons capability..." ...

Elections in Israel?


Olmert: I have no intention of resigning

Prime Minister Ehud Olmert vowed Wednesday not to quit after Defense Minister Ehud Barak called on him to "detach himself from the day-to-day leadership of the country" in light of the Morris Talansky affair....

...and from Ynet News 29/5/08 by Roni Sofer:

Labor, Shas, Likud begin preparations for what they believe is inevitable resignation of PM, subsequent general elections by end of 2008. Some in Kadima begin prepping for September primaries.

Senior sources in Kadima said Wednesday that the Prime Minister Ehud Olmert was very much aware of the political crisis enveloping his government following his investigation and that he is seriously considering stepping down, increasing the prospects for general elections by the end of 2008.

Should Olmert resign, said senior sources in the political area, there is a greater chance of the Knesset dispersing than there is of a transitional government taking over. Several Kadima members have already begun preparing for primaries to take place as soon as September.
Ynet has learned that senior members of the various political parties have met, trying to agree on an election date, most likely in November. Should that be the case, the municipal elections scheduled for November would be postponed....

...The only party not talking about the nearly-definite possibility of elections is Kadima. MK Yoel Hasson said Wednesday that should Olmert be indicted and choose to resign there is a possibility of transitional government or the possibility of an election, which I don't think should take place before March of 2009."

Iran & Venezuela use oil tankers to manipulate global markets

From World Check, 9 May 2008:

... the governments of ...Iran and ...Venezuela are engaged in a major covert effort .... The Iranian government has leased and engaged the bulk of the available supertankers, and smaller vessels and is storing oil in ten of them in the Persian Gulf, and keeping others idle ....which has resulted in the tripling of the daily charge for tanker use since April, because of a fifty per cent drop in vessel availability during the next thirty days...

.... Is this the functional equivalent of a declaration of economic war against the United States? What will the response be, and when will it occur?

... The Iranian scheme will not only disrupt global markets, it could cause serious economic distress in both North America and Europe. Since we know that the US government is aware of the scheme, it should also be assumed that they have planned an adequate response, whether it be major regulatory sanctions, universal economic sanctions, limited military action, or even general war.

Barak appeals to Olmert to step down, but no ultimatum

From DEBKAfile, May 28, 2008, 2:13 PM (GMT+02:00):

In a tensely awaited statement, defense minister Ehud Barak said: “Considering the situation and the weighty challenges facing the country ... Ehud Olmert cannot be considered fit to manage affairs of state and I call upon him to withdraw as prime minister ....“We are not waiting for Kadima with a stop watch, but would hope they move quickly,” he said.

... the Barak announcement disappointed ...[those] who expected him to take Labor out of the government coalition and [force] a general election.

...Four members of Olmert’s own Kadima have [also] called on him to step down...

Follow this link for a full report and video from Ynet News.

Ahmadinejad loses power as Larijani elected speaker

From a JPost Analysis, May 28, 2008 By YANIV BERMAN, THE MEDIA LINE NEWS:

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad appears to be losing power in the local political arena, with the election of his political adversary Ali Larijani as parliament speaker.

Larijani, a close ally and foreign policy consultant of Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamanai, won a landslide victory in the parliamentary vote, defeating Ahmadinejad's favorite, former speaker Ghoulam Ali Hadad Adil.

Larijani served as chief nuclear negotiator until late 2005, when he resigned over differences of opinion with the president's non-compromising hard-line view regarding the nuclear program.
The massive support Larijani enjoys within Iran's parliament and the Guardian Council, combined with his powerful position as parliament speaker, will enable him to guide the parliament according to his views, at times at the expense of Ahmadinejad.

His election will give him power to influence Ahmadinejad's policies on many levels, including "the controversial budget next year… the ratification of legislation… and the debate between the Majlis [parliament] and the Guardian Council," Prof. Anoush Ehteshami of the International Relations Department at Durham University in England told The Media Line.

But as powerful as his current position may be, Larijani may regard it as just a launching pad to a much higher position - that of Ahmadinejad's. ... analysts see Larijani as an obvious candidate for next year's presidential election....

...This has been Ahmadinejad's second major hurdle in the last few months, after the election last September of another political adversary - ex-president Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani - as head of the Assembly of Experts [in charge of electing and dismissing the Supreme Leader].

Rafsanjani, who served as Iranian president between 1989 and 1997, won his current position at the expense of Ahmad Jinati, considered a strong ally of Ahmadinejad and among the leaders of the extremist current in the Iranian administration....

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Leadership Crisis

From JPost, 28/5/08:

Prime Minister Ehud Olmert will not quit despite the illicit funding investigation against him, since such a move wound be tantamount to an admission of guilt, the prime minister's strategic adviser, Tal Zilberstein, said Wednesday.

It followed reports that Defense Minister Ehud Barak planned to present Olmert with an ultimatum at a press conference on Wednesday afternoon: Either the premier resign, or Labor will pull out of the coalition, thus forcing new elections.

...and from Ynet News, 28/5/08:

Barak was expected to hold a special conference at 1:30 pm Wednesday and to address the issue.

UNIFIL is ignoring Hezbollah violations in south Lebanon

From Haaretz, by Barak Ravid, Haaretz Correspondent:

Israel has submitted a complaint to United Nation Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon against the commander of United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) General Claudio Graziono and UNIFIL official Milosh Strugger for giving interviews to the Lebanese press in which they ignored violations of UN resolution 1701.

According to the Security Council resolution, which brought an end to the Second Lebanon War in the summer of 2006, armed Hezbollah militants are not supposed to be present south of the Litani river. In their interviews to the Lebanese media, both Graziono and Strugger spoke of UNIFIL's success in southern Lebanon [ha ha ha!!]. Graziono said that the only violations of the resolution were by Israel, who have continued to conduct flyovers in Lebanese air space.

Strugger said that "the situation south of the Litani River is calm. Hezbollah is a social group that runs many charity organizations."

Israel is also concerned about the new instructions that were given to UNIFIL troops following recent incidents in which UNIFIL soldiers managed to take photos of armed Hezbollah militants. In some of these instances, Hezbollah managed to grab hold of the photography equipment. UNIFIL now instructs its soldiers not to take pictures of Hezbollah. According to Forign Ministry officials, Graziono is totally ignoring Israel's claims ...

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

We will never recognize Israel, says Mashaal

From The Tehran Times, May 27, 2008:

TEHRAN (Press TV) -- Hamas Political Chief Khalid Mashaal says that the Palestinian nation will neither submit to nor recognize the illegal Israeli regime.

“We will never recognize Israel or cease to fight for our land. Our battle against Israel is one of resistance to occupation,” said Khalid Mashaal in an address to 'The Decline of the Zionist Regime' conference at Tehran University, Press TV correspondent Saman Kojouri reported.

Referring to President George W. Bush's speech at the Israeli Knesset, Mashaal said, “When the United States cannot even defend its own troops in Iraq, how does it propose to protect the Israeli regime from collapse?”

UNRWA: Barrier to Peace

From BESA Perspectives Papers No. 44, May 27, 2008, by Jonathan Spyer, Senior Research Fellow at the Global Research in International Affairs Center, IDC, Herzliya:

Executive Summary: The United Nations Relief Works Agency (UNRWA) was created under the jurisdiction of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), with the unique responsibility of solely aiding the Palestinians.

Due to this special status, the UNRWA perpetuates, rather than resolves, the Palestinian refugee issue, and therefore serves as a major obstacle toward resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Like no other UN body, UNRWA's definition of refugees includes not only the refugees themselves, but also their descendents. Moreover, refugees keep their status even if they have gained citizenship.

UNRWA employs teachers affiliated with Hamas and allows the dissemination of Hamas messages in its schools. The Hamas coup in Gaza of July 2007 has resulted in a Hamas takeover of UNRWA facilities there.

Therefore, UNRWA's activities require urgent action. The Agency should be dissolved and its services transferred to more appropriate administering organizations.

Millions of refugees worldwide – over 130 million since the end of World War II – have come under the responsibility of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), which aims to resettle and rehabilitate refugees. On December 8, 1949, the United Nations General Assembly passed Resolution 302, establishing an agency dedicated solely to "direct relief and works programs" for the Palestinian Arab refugees – UNRWA (United Nations Relief Works Agency) – making it a unique body.

UNRWA exists in order to perpetuate, rather than to resolve, the Palestinian refugee issue. No Palestinian has ever lost his or her refugee status. There are hundreds of thousands of Palestinian refugees and their descendants who are citizens of Jordan, for example – yet as far as UNRWA is concerned they are still refugees, eligible for aid. UNRWA, over the past 60 years, has transformed itself into a central vehicle for the perpetuation of the refugee problem, and into a major obstacle for the resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

The Problem of Definition
When UNRWA first began counting refugees in 1948, it did so in a way without precedent – seeking to maximize the number of those defined as refugees. UNRWA counts every descendant of the original refugees as a refugee themselves – leading to an increase of 400 percent in the number since 1948.

This was a politically motivated definition to imply that either Palestinians would remain refugees forever or until the day that they returned in a triumph to a Palestinian Arab state that included the territory where Israel existed. If they built lives elsewhere, even after many generations – decades or centuries – they still remained officially refugees. In contrast to other situations around the world, other refugees only retained that status until they found permanent homes elsewhere, presumably as citizens of other countries.

Moreover, refugee status was based solely on the applicant's word. Even UNRWA admitted its figures were inflated in a 1998 Report of the Commissioner General of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (July 1997-30 June 1998): "UNRWA registration figures are based on information voluntarily supplied by refugees primarily for the purpose of obtaining access to Agency services and hence cannot be considered statistically valid demographic data.”

Fostering Conflict
In October 2004, then UNRWA Commissioner General Peter Hansen publicly admitted for the first time that Hamas members were on the UNWRA payroll, adding, “I don’t see that as a crime. Hamas as a political organization does not mean that every member is a militant and we do not do political vetting and exclude people from one persuasion as against another.” Consequently, taxpayers’ money in countries where Hamas was legally defined as a terrorist organization, like the United States and Canada, was being illegally used to fund Hamas-controlled activities.

Hanson’s view that Hamas was a normal political organization whose doctrines did not interfere with the governance and education of Palestinians remains the position of UNRWA. This has been so even when Hamas has committed violence against other Palestinians. After the organization seized Gaza by force in July 2007, UNRWA immediately indicated to Hamas that it was eager to get back to providing its services. Nothing was changed in its procedure or performance after the takeover.

A graphic demonstration of this issue was the death of Awad al-Qiq in May 2008. Qiq had a long career as a science teacher in an UNRWA school and had been promoted to run its Rafah Prep Boys School. He was also the leading bombmaker for Islamic Jihad. He was killed while supervising a factory to make rockets and other weapons for use against Israel, located a short distance from the school. Qiq was thus simultaneously building weapons for attacking Israeli civilians while indoctrinating his students to do the same. Islamic Jihad did not need to pay him a salary for his terrorist activities. The UN and the American taxpayer were already doing so.

The increasing numbers of UNRWA teachers who openly identify with radical groups have created a teachers' bloc that ensures the election of members of Hamas and individuals committed to Islamist ideologies. Using classrooms as a place to spread their radical messages, these teachers have also gravitated to local Palestinian elections. Thus, UNRWA's education system has become a springboard for the political activities of Hamas. For example, Minister of Interior and Civil Affairs Minister Saeed Siyam of Hamas, was a teacher in UNRWA schools in Gaza from 1980 to 2003. He then became a member of UNRWA's Arab Employees Union, and has headed the Teachers Sector Committee. Other notable Hamas graduates of the UNRWA education system include Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh and Abd al-Aziz Rantisi, the former Hamas chief.

Fostering Dependency
UNRWA’s budget has been supported by many countries of which the United States and Western countries have been the largest contributors. In 1990, UNRWA’s annual budget was over $292 million, and by 2000 it had increased to $365 million. Despite this seemingly significant rise, however, actual allocations among the various refugee camps has decreased – compounded by a very high birth rate and burgeoning camp populations. Refugees were discouraged from moving out and had the incentive of being on welfare if they remained.

Per capita spending among refugees in camps thus declined from $200 in services per year per refugee in the 1970s to about $70 currently. This situation has been most evident in Lebanon, where the government provides little if any additional assistance to the Palestinians.

UNRWA provides jobs to a large number of Palestinians (it has a full time staff of 23,000). While the UN High Commission on Refugees (UNHCR) and the UN Children's Fund (UNICEF) avoid employing locals who are also recipients of agency services, UNRWA does not make this distinction. UNRWA thus keeps a large population of refugees and their descendants in a permanent state of welfare dependency, financed by the western taxpayer. In so doing, it acts as a barrier to attempts to make the refugees into productive citizens. Bureaucracies have a tendency to become self-perpetuating. In the case of UNRWA, this tendency is exacerbated by the fact that the organization’s raison d’etre is the preserving of a refugee problem, rather than finding a solution for it.

The UN erred when it created a UN body devoted exclusively to one refugee population and with a modus operandi contradicting that of all other relief institutions. Four steps are required to bring the international approach to the Palestinian refugee issue in line with standard practice on similar situations.

First, UNRWA itself should be dissolved.

Second, the services UNRWA currently provides should be transferred to other UN agencies, notably the UNHCR, which have a long experience with such programs.

Third, responsibility for normal social services should be turned over to the Palestinian Authority. A large portion of the UNRWA staff should be transferred to that governmental authority.

Fourth, donors should use the maximum amount of oversight to ensure transparency and accountability.

Also see other JIW postings on this subject

Sunday, May 25, 2008

The Fall of Lebanon: a victory for terrorism - in the words of Churchill

If you don't read anything else this week, read this posting from GLORIA, by Barry Rubin May 24, 2008 [my own emphasis added - SL]:

May 21, 2008, is a date...that should now live in infamy... On that day, the Beirut spring [popular mass movement opposing Syrian control of Lebanon] was buried under the reign of Hizballah.

Speaking on October 5, 1938, after Britain and France effectively turned Czechoslovakia over to Nazi Germany, Winston Churchill said, "What everybody would like to ignore or forget must nevertheless be stated, namely, that we have sustained a total and unmitigated defeat...."

Winston Churchill

In contrast, Assistant Secretary of State David Welch said that the agreement over Lebanon was, "A necessary and positive step."

At least when one sells out a country one should recognize this has happened rather than pretend otherwise. But this is precisely what took place at Munich, when the deal made was proclaimed as a concession that brought peace and resolved Germany's last territorial demand in the region.

...selling out to murderers

Churchill knew better and his words perfectly suit the situation in Lebanon today: "The utmost [Western diplomacy] has been able to gain for Czechoslovakia...has been that the German dictator, instead of snatching the victuals from the table, has been content to have them served to him course by course."

Yes, that's it exactly. On every point, Hizballah, Iran, and Syria, got all they wanted from Lebanon's government: its surrender of sovereignty. They have veto power over the government; one-third of the cabinet; election changes to ensure victory in the next balloting; and they will have their candidate installed as president.

.... If Syria murders more Lebanese journalists, judges, or politicians, no one will investigate. No one dare diminish Hizballah's de facto rule over large parts of the country. No one dare stop weapons pouring over the border from Syria and Iran. In fact, why should they continue to be smuggled in secretly? No one dare interfere if and when Hizballah, under Syrian and Iranian guidance, decide it is time for another war with Israel.

This defeat was not only total, it was totally predictable. Just as Churchill said:
"If only Great Britain. France and Italy [today we would add the United States, of course,] had pledged themselves two or three years ago to work in association for maintaining peace and collective security, how different might have been our position.... But the world and the parliaments and public opinion would have none of that in those days. When the situation was manageable it was neglected, and now that it is thoroughly out of hand we apply too late the remedies which then might have affected a cure."

Instead there was a lack "of foresight, unwillingness to act when action would be simple and effective, lack of clear thinking, confusion of counsel until the emergency comes, until self-preservation strikes its jarring gong...." Actually, though, as Churchill knew, when he spoke these faults were still not corrected. The folly continued.

And so is what comes next? Back to Churchill: "All is over. Silent, mournful, abandoned, broken, Czechoslovakia recedes into the darkness." That country suffered because it put its faith in the Western democracies and the League of Nations (now the United Nations). In particular, she was betrayed by France whom the Czechs then, and the Lebanese today, trusted to help them.

The UN Security Council on May 22 endorsed the Lebanon agreement even though it totally contradicted the Council's own resolution ending the Hizballah-Israel war, thus betraying the commitments made to Israel about stopping arms smuggling, disarming Hizballah, and keeping that group from returning to south Lebanon. The UN's total reversal of its demands from two years ago--constituting a total victory for Hizballah--did not bring a flicker of shame or even recognition that this in fact had happened.

All this is a victory for terrorism. It is quite true that the Lebanese Shia--like the German minority in Czechoslovakia which Hitler promoted--has genuine grievances and that Hizballah has real support in its own community. But how did it overcome the other communities, the other political forces in Lebanon? Through assassination and bombing intimidation and fear, by demagoguery and war.

Iran and Syria help their allies; the West doesn't. And so the message was: We can kill you; your friends cannot save you. Look at their indifference! Despair and die.

And here, regarding the future, we can only quote Churchill's speech extensively:
"In future the Czechoslovak State cannot be maintained as an independent entity. I think you will find that in a period of time which may be measured by years, but may be measured only by months, Czechoslovakia will be engulfed in the Nazi regime. Perhaps they may join it in despair or in revenge. At any rate, that story is over and told. But we cannot consider the abandonment and ruin of Czechoslovakia in the light only of what happened only last month. It is the most grievous consequence of what we have done and of what we have left undone in the last five years - five years of futile good intentions, five years of eager search for the line of least resistance...."

Lebanon will not disappear as a country on the map, of course--contrary to the Iranian alliance's intentions toward Israel--but it is now going to be part of the Iranian bloc. This is not only bad for Lebanon itself but also terrifying for other Arab regimes. The Saudis deserve credit for trying to save Lebanon. But what will happen now as the balance of power shifts? They are less inclined to resist and more likely to follow the West's course and adopt an appeasement policy. Again, Churchill in 1938: "Do not let us blind ourselves to that. It must now be accepted that all the countries of Central and Eastern Europe will make the best terms they can with the triumphant Nazi power. The system of alliances in Central Europe upon which France has relied for her safety has been swept away, and I can see no means by which it can be reconstituted. The road down the Danube Valley to the Black Sea, the road which leads as far as Turkey, has been opened."

In less than four years, that is where German armies were marching, thankfully a situation far worse than we can expect in the Middle East. Yet the trend toward appeasement and surrender could well be similar. Churchill said: "In fact, if not in form, it seems to me that all those countries of Middle Europe... will, one after another, be drawn into this vast system of power politics--not only power military politics but power economic politics--radiating from Berlin, and I believe this can be achieved quite smoothly and swiftly and will not necessarily entail the firing of a single shot."

...Only the names of the countries need be changed to make Churchill's point apply to the present: "You will see, day after day, week after week [that]...many of those countries, in fear of the rise of the Nazi power," will give in. There had been forces "which looked to the Western democracies and loathed the idea of having this arbitrary rule of the totalitarian system thrust upon them, and hoped that a stand would be made." But they would now be demoralized.

Churchill knew that his country's leader had good intentions but that wasn't enough. His analysis of British thinking applies well both to Europe, to President George Bush's current policy, and very well to the thinking of Senator Barack Obama: "The prime minister desires to see cordial relations between this country and Germany. There is no difficulty at all in having cordial relations between the peoples. Our hearts go out to them. But they have no power. But never will you have friendship with the present German government. You must have diplomatic and correct relations, but there can never be friendship between the British democracy and the Nazi power, that power which...vaunts the spirit of aggression and conquest, which derives strength and perverted pleasure from persecution, and uses, as we have seen, with pitiless brutality the threat of murderous force. That power cannot ever be the trusted friend of the British democracy."

Churchill understood that his nation's enemies took their ideology seriously and that their ambitions and methods were incompatible with his country.

And finally, Churchill understood the trend: things will get worse and would even make it politically incorrect to criticize the enemy: "In a very few years, perhaps in a very few months, we shall be confronted with demands with which we shall no doubt be invited to comply. Those demands may affect the surrender of territory or the surrender of liberty. I foresee and foretell that the policy of submission will carry with it restrictions upon the freedom of speech and debate in Parliament, on public platforms, and discussions in the press, for it will be said--indeed, I hear it said sometimes now - that we cannot allow the Nazi system of dictatorship to be criticized by ordinary, common English politicians. Then, with a press under control, in part direct but more potently indirect, with every organ of public opinion doped and chloroformed into acquiescence, we shall be conducted along further stages of our journey."

In short, what could be called "Germanophobia" or seen as war-mongering in resisting German demands and aggression would be...verboten, something often seen in contemporary debates when political correctness trumps democratic society and pimps for dictatorial regimes and totalitarian ideology...

Churchill predicted victory but only if the free countries--and even some not so free whose interests pushed them to oppose the threat--were strong and cooperated: "Do not suppose that this is the end. This is only the beginning of the reckoning. This is only the first sip, the first foretaste of a bitter cup which will be proffered to us year by year unless by a supreme recovery of moral health and martial vigor, we arise again and take our stand for freedom as in the olden time."

Wow. Well if you don't see yet the parallelism with the current time let me continue on my own. Lebanon's brief period of independence has ended. Lebanon is now incorporated--at least in part and probably more in the future--into the Iranian bloc.

Only three years ago, after the assassination of former prime minister Rafiq Hariri, almost certainly ordered at the highest level of the Syrian government, a popular mass movement called the Beirut spring helped push out the Syrian military. The resulting government was called "pro-Western" in the newscasts, but it might have well been called pro-Lebanon.

Forget about the Israel-Palestinian (and now Israel-Syrian) negotiations or the latest reports from Iraq or Afghanistan. What has happened in Lebanon is far more significant. When all these other developments are long forgotten, the expansion of the Syrian-Iranian zone of influence to Lebanon will be the most important and lasting event.

Basically, the supporters of the Lebanese government--the leadership of the majority of the Sunni Muslim, Christian, and Druze communities--capitulated to the demands of Hizballah. And who can blame them? With a steady drumbeat of terrorist acts and assassinations, with the Hizballah offensive seizing Sunni west Beirut, with the lack of support from the West, they concluded that the battle was unwinnable.

...Make no mistake, Obama is channelling Neville Chamberlain--precisely because what he says shows his parallel thinking....

.... the threat is of an Iran that's aggressive precisely because it knows that it will not have to confront U.S. forces. Tehran knows that it can sponsor terrorism directly against U.S. forces in Iraq, and also against Israel and Lebanon, because that level of assault will not trigger American reaction.

Yet anyone who doesn't want to get into war with Iran should be all the more eager to talk about sanctions, pressures, deterrence, building alliances and backing allies; in short, combating Iran indirectly to avoid having to confront it directly.

All the more so now, however, Syria won't split away from Iran; Iran won't give up on its nuclear program; Hamas won't moderate; Hizballah won't relent.

Why should they when they not only believe their own ideologies but also think they are winning?

In each case, too, they are banking on an Obama victory--whether accurately or otherwise-- to bring them even more.

There are too many Chamberlains and not enough Churchills, perhaps none at all. Things are bad, very bad, for the West right now. The beginning of repairing those strategic fortunes is to recognize that fact.

Iran wins

From The Telegraph (UK), 22/05/2008, by Tim Butcher, Middle East Correspondent:

Iran's influence across the Middle East was strengthened today when its close ally, Hizbollah, greatly increased its political power in Lebanon by winning a veto over all government decisions.

... there are fears that Tehran will exploit the development to foment trouble in the Levant region.

Crucially, under the deal announced in the Qatari capital of Doha the issue of disarming all Lebanese militia, including Hizbollah, was postponed.... ...the threat of violence and chaos in Lebanon remains a real one.

The deal represented a major setback for the anti-Hizbollah parties that constitute the largest bloc in the Lebanese parliament.

Their parliamentary power had been shown to count for little when well-armed and well-trained Hizbollah gunmen took over Beirut's major highways and airport earlier this month, effectively taking control of the city.

Saad Hariri, leader of the parliamentary majority, announced in Doha: “We made this agreement, although we are deeply wounded”....

...Under Lebanon's de facto constitution, no single ethnic faction had a clear veto over government business. This has now changed with able to stop cabinet decisions unilaterally.

Hezbollah Wins

From The New York Times, May 22, 2008, by ROBERT F. WORTH and NADA BAKRI:

BEIRUT, Lebanon — The agreement reached by Lebanese political factions early Wednesday amounted to a significant shift of power in favor of ...Hezbollah and its allies in the opposition, who won the power to veto any cabinet decision.

...The agreement was brokered by Arab mediators in Doha, Qatar, and involved intensive last-minute diplomacy among the major regional players in Lebanon, including Syria, Iran and Saudi Arabia.....

...But the deal leaves unresolved the questions that provoked the crisis in December 2006. Those include Hezbollah’s weapons and Lebanon’s relations with Syria, which ended its 29-year military presence here in 2005 after the assassination of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri.

The divisive issue of cooperation with a United Nations tribunal to investigate Mr. Hariri’s murder and 10 other killings that followed also remains to be solved. Pro-government officials accuse Syria of involvement in those assassinations...

...The agreement in Doha provides for a government of 16 cabinet seats for the governing majority, 11 for the opposition and 3 to be nominated by the new president. That will allow the opposition to veto cabinet decisions, a demand the governing coalition refused to accept until now....

...Several Lebanese government officials said they felt they had no choice but to accept the deal. Although their side has long had strong verbal support from the United States and Saudi Arabia, they appeared to have overplayed their hand earlier this month when they challenged Hezbollah’s private telecommunications network and its control over the Beirut airport....

Helene Cooper contributed reporting from Washington.

Syria / Israel...blah blah blah

From Ynet News, 21/5/08, by Shai Bazak, communications lecturer at the Interdisciplinary Center in Herzliya:

Syria, Israel may be interested in dialogue, but not in peace or withdrawal ... Syria has no interest in peace with Israel, just like Israel has no interest is handing the Golan over to the Syrians.

Syria cannot deliver the minimal goods required of it; that is, severing its ties with terror organizations and the Iranian influence in favor of normalization with Israel.

Meanwhile, Israel has no desire to provide the Syrians with military positions on the Golan, which would again threaten Israeli communities, or to allow the Syrians access to the Sea of Galilee.

On the other hand, both sides have an interest in maintaining a sort of pre-dialogue process; that is, an interest in being perceived as though they are aspiring for peace while the other side is presented as the rejectionist.

The supreme interest of President Bashar Assad, who is a member of the Alawite minority, is to safeguard his regime – a complicated mission considering the small size of the ethnic minority he is a part of. Any action undertaken by Assad stems from this desire.

... does Assad really want peace? Would such peace serve his supreme goal, which is the safeguarding of his regime?

The answer to that is negative of course. The hatred for Israel, the external enemy, enables him to maintain absolute power in his country despite the economic and social repression suffered by the masses. The connection with terror groups, Iran, and the Palestinians enables Assad to get along with the Arab world and with his own citizens under the umbrella of hostility to Israel...

...Assad must appear as though he wants peace, especially vis-à-vis the world and the United States, and in light of the International Court of Justice proceedings against him over the assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Hariri. Hence, Assad’s declarations regarding his desire for talks with Israel are directed at the White House in Washington and at The Hague more than they are at Jerusalem....

...there is no genuine Israeli desire to hand over the Golan to the Syrians. The Golan isn’t Gaza, or even Judea and Samaria. It has no Arabs residents, with the exception of four Druze villages. The Golan, which is based on Jewish settlement, dominates the entire Galilee region.

.. there is no reason to give the Syrians the Golan in exchange for peace ...when there is no guarantee that the Syrians won’t attack again once the conditions or regime in Damascus change.

Therefore, beyond words, war threats, and the rustle of papers, apparently nothing will be changing on the Golan in the coming years.

The Syrian Mirage

From the New York Sun Editorial, May 22, 2008:

... Is it possible, and if so is it proper, to reach an agreement with a state such as Syria?

... Syria has been and is on the wrong side of the war against Islamic terror. It sponsors terrorist groups and offers them safe haven; it is loyal to Iran's objectives and backs Iran's allies, including Hamas and Hezbollah....

...clearly American interests do not lie in a peace with the current regime in Damascus, with which our relations are close to a point of rupture. They have deteriorated sharply from when President Assad, father of the current Syrian strongman, would receive administration officials and even meet with the an American president.

Syria is also moving against the nascent democracy in Lebanon where its ally, Hezbollah, gained veto power in the Lebanese cabinet, a result of its putsch earlier this month. Hezbollah's ultimate loyalties are to Iran and the idea of a Shi'ite Moslem ascendancy, not to the Arab nationalist and fascist ideas which provide the rational for the Alawite's minority rule.

...In previous talks, it was understood that aside from the specific contours of an agreement with Israel, Syria expected Israel's assistance in securing its role in Lebanon and righting relations with America. That is obviously not a role that it would benefit Israel to play.

... the likelihood is that the talks that were confirmed yesterday to be underway indirectly will founder on the Alawite epiphany that peace with the West would bring new dangers from the Iranian-backed factions. So peace with Syria will have to await a democratic revolution in Tehran.

Israel never pledged withdrawal from Golan

From Haaretz, 22/05/2008:

Jerusalem never pledged to withdraw from the Golan Heights and return to the 1967 borders as part of peace negotiations with Syria despite the declarations of officials in Damascus, Israeli sources said Thursday in an interview with Channel 10.

...A source in the Prime Minister's Office on Wednesday denied the Syrian assertion, saying: "During the talks Israel did not make any preliminary promises on the Golan Heights and did not refer to the promises made by Rabin." He was referring to a 1994 promise Rabin made to U.S. Secretary of State Warren Christopher, that if Syria met Israel's security conditions, Israel would withdraw from the Golan Heights.

A recent survey found that about two-thirds of Israelis object to withdrawing from the Golan Heights even for peace with Syria - more than those who object to dividing Jerusalem for ending the conflict with the Arab world.

Tehran "University" hosts hate-fest on "Israel's End"

And now, an early Purim-shpiel from the Islamic Republic News Agency (IRNA), which aims at "securing ...Iran's national interests as the 'mother source of information dissemination' within the country" [their own self-description - George Orwell would love it - SL], Tehran, May 22 :

Iranian Justice Seeking University Students Movement [Kafka would love that one!] and University Students Mobilization Basij will jointly sponsor International Conference on Israel's End on May 26th, 2008.

... the timing of the conference is adjusted to coincide with the sad 60th anniversary of Palestine's occupation by the Zionists [which "occupied territory"?].

The guests of the conference ...will be intellectuals and university professors [ha ha ha!!!] from Egypt, Venezuela, Morocco, Lebanon, Indonesia, the United States, Pakistan, Argentina, India, Iraq, Syria, Chile, Saudi Arabia, Algeria, France, Tunisia, and a number of other countries.

Supporting the Palestinian nation's righteous liberation movement and signs of the illegitimate Zionist regime's upcoming downfall are among the axes of the international conference.