Saturday, August 09, 2008
Donations given in good faith in Australia sometimes fall into the wrong hands.
CHILDREN with distended bellies, villages destroyed by earthquakes, a bandaged infant lying in a makeshift hospital bed recovering from bullet wounds. These are images used by some humanitarian organisations to promote their fundraising campaigns.
...funds raised for good causes sometimes have a way of taking other routes.
The most dangerous route delivers the money to the hands of Islamic terrorists to bankroll their suicide bombings and other deadly campaigns. It's a route that continues to dog Western security agencies, which are attempting to significantly curb, if not stop, terror financing through charity organisations.
Two of Australia's most prominent Islamic charities -- Muslim Aid Australia and Human Appeal International -- are being investigated for their alleged links to Palestinian terrorist network Hamas.
MAA was raided by the Australian Federal Police last month following The Australian's revelations of the group's connection to humanitarian aid body Interpal, which is proscribed by Australia and the US for its alleged terror links.
While the MAA and HAI, both Sydney-based humanitarian organisations, have denied having any terrorism connections, they have brought into focus questions about whether charity groups have hidden agendas and the extent to which terrorist organisations go to exploit the finances of such bodies.
And for Australia, the second most generous nation among the 30 Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development member countries, such questions are demanding an answer, especially to put at ease the minds of Australian donors, who in 2006-07 raised more than $750 million for overseas aid through local non-profit charity networks.
National security expert Carl Ungerer says it is difficult to determine whether money raised by charities for humanitarian aid in developing countries is being used for terrorist operations or for the manufacture of things such as rockets and suicide vests.
...He says it must also be remembered there are some Australian Muslims who do not believe that Hamas or Hezbollah -- organisations that do not separate the pool of money between their humanitarian and military wings -- are terrorist organisations. "Hezbollah and Hamas are not only considered resistance groups in the Middle East but ones (that) do charitable work that governments won't do," Ungerer says.
"The Lebanese Government in southern Lebanon is really nonexistent. It really is Hezbollah that is first on the ground after any sort of natural or political conflict." Ungerer's words are a sobering reminder of the declaration of support for terrorist groups by Australia's most senior Muslim spiritual leaders. At a 2006 rally during the Hezbollah-Israeli war, Australian Sunni Muslim spiritual leader Fehmi Naji El-Imam praised the militants as "freedom fighters".
In June last year, The Australian revealed that Shia Muslim spiritual leader Kamal Mousselmani openly declared his support for the Iranian-backed terrorist group. And former mufti Taj Din al-Hilali was investigated by the AFP last year following revelations that he gave $US10,000 ($10,986) of Australian-raised funds to an accused terrorism supporter in Lebanon in 2006. Hilali was cleared of any wrongdoing.
Hamas, which has claimed responsibility for numerous terrorist attacks and suicide bombings in Israel, was proscribed in Australia on November 9, 2003. Hezbollah was banned in Australia on June 5, 2003.
...Australian Council for International Development executive director Paul O'Callaghan says that in some situations there is nothing local charities can do to stop the flow of humanitarian aid funds being used by the wrong people. He says it is especially evident in some regions of developing nations that are being run by terrorist outfits. Hezbollah in southern Lebanon is one such example. ..."Where you have a whole part of a country which is run by a (banned) organisation ...."
US security expert Robert Looney defines Islamic charities under three categories: legitimate bodies promoting positive activities, those that have their funds unknowingly diverted and others that deliberately engage in supporting terrorist networks.
...Sydney Muslim charity Human Appeal International was among three of 12 HAI branches worldwide named and banned by Israel's Defence Ministry last month for allegedly raising "very large sums of money" for Hamas.
HAI's Sydney director Bashar Al-Jamal rejects the Israeli Government's accusations against his organisation but refuses to concede Hamas is a terrorist network.
HAI and MAA are under investigation by the NSW Government's Office of Liquor, Gaming and Racing.
The MAA also is being investigated by the AFP and the Australian Council for International Development for its connection to Interpal... also known as the Palestinian Relief and Development Fund ...[which] failed three years ago to have its proscribed status removed from the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade's consolidated list, which names banned groups and people....
Friday, August 08, 2008
Lebanese President Michel Suleiman is to visit Syria next week...
...French President Nicolas Sarkozy last month hailed President Bashar Assad's expression of willingness in principle to establish diplomatic relations with Lebanon as "historic progress."
...the signs of normalization in relations between Syria and Lebanon are significant. They are the latest indication of Syria's growing confidence, and far from being a harbinger of more peaceful times in the neighborhood, they offer clues as to the shape of possible further strife.
The formation of the new Lebanese government after the Beirut clashes in May represented a very significant gain for the pro-Syria element in Lebanese politics. Hizbullah now controls a blocking 11 of the 30 cabinet seats. With a Lebanese government of this type, there is no reason for Syria to be in dispute there. The short period when Damascus felt the need to express its will in Lebanon solely in a clandestine way is drawing to a close.
... one may glimpse the contours of Syrian strategy in the next stage. The election of May 2009 will be conducted under the shadow of Hizbullah's independent and now untouchable military capability.
Intimidation will go hand in hand with the real kudos gained by the movement and its allies because of recent events - including the prisoner swap with Israel, and the Doha agreement that followed the fighting in May. The result, the Syrians hope, will be the establishment of a government more fully dominated by Hizbullah and its allies, in which the pro-Western element will have been marginalized.
Such a government would mark the effective final reversal of the events of the spring of 2005, when the Cedar Revolution compelled the Syrian army to leave Lebanon. Damascus would then go on to conduct friendly and fraternal relations with the new order in Beirut. Mission accomplished.
If this strategy plays out, however, it will represent not the normalization of Syrian-Lebanese relations, but rather the enveloping of Lebanon into the regional alliance led by Iran, of which Syria is a senior member.
On the ground in Lebanon, this regional alliance is still engaged in consolidating its gains. The lines separating the official Lebanese state from the para-state established by Hizbullah continue to blur. The new government's draft policy statement, which is still to be discussed by the parliament, supports the "right of Lebanon's people, the army and the Resistance to liberate all its territories."
This statement thus nominally affords the Resistance. i.e. Hizbullah, equal status with the Lebanese Armed Forces, and appears to consider it an organ of official government policy.
The new organ of government policy, meanwhile, is building its strength. Ostensibly for the mission of "liberating" 20 square kilometers of border farmland, Hizbullah has built a capability of 40,000 missiles and rockets, is frenziedly recruiting and training new fighters, and is expanding and developing its command and logistics center in the Bekaa.
The latest talk is of Iranian-Syrian plans to supply Hizbullah with an advanced anti-aircraft capacity that would provide aerial defense to the investment in rockets and missiles. Such a move would represent a grave altering of the balance of power. Serious moves towards it could well prove the spark for the next confrontation.
In all its moves, the Iranian-Syrian-Hizbullah alliance has known how to combine brutal military tactics on the ground with subtle and determined diplomacy. Its willingness to throw away the rule book governing the normal relations between states has been perhaps its greatest advantage. While the West sees states as fixed entities possessing certain basic rights, Iran and Syria see only processes of rising and falling power. They see themselves as the force on the rise, and the niceties of internationally fixed borders as a trifle unworthy of consideration.
The region has known the rise of similar systems of power and ideology in the past. Experience shows that such states and alliances have become amenable to change and compromise - if at all - only after experiencing defeat, setback and frustration.
The Syrians and their allies, of course, are far weaker in measurable military and societal terms than their rhetoric would suggest. Western (including Israeli) actions over the last years have tended to blur this fact. The general acceptance of the transformation of Lebanon into a platform for this alliance - and the lauding of it as 'historical progress' - is the latest example of this. The reacquaintance of rhetoric with reality on all sides is long overdue.
Dr. Jonathan Spyer is a senior research fellow at the Global Research in International Affairs Center at the Interdisciplinary Center, Herzliya Israel.
If Russia goes through with the sale of its most advanced anti-aircraft missile system to Iran, Israel will use an electronic warfare device now under development to neutralize it and as a result present Russia as vulnerable to air infiltrations...
The Russian system, called the S-300, is one of the most advanced multi-target anti-aircraft-missile systems in the world today and has a reported ability to track up to 100 targets simultaneously while engaging up to 12 at the same time. It has a range of about 200 kilometers and can hit targets at altitudes of 27,000 meters.
While Russia has denied that it sold the system to Iran, Teheran claimed last year that Moscow was preparing to equip the Islamic Republic with S-300 systems. Iran already has TOR-M1 surface-to-air missiles from Russia.
...A top IAF officer also said this week that Israel needed to do "everything possible" to prevent the S-300 from reaching the region. "Russia will have to think real hard before delivering this system to Iran, which is possibly on the brink of conflict with either Israel or the US, since if the system is delivered, an EW [electronic warfare] system will likely be developed to neutralize it, and if that happens it would be catastrophic not only for Iran but also for Russia," the defense official said.
Neutralization of one of the main components of Russian air defense would be a blow to Russian national security as well as to defense exports. "No country will want to buy the system if it is proven to be ineffective," the official said. "For these reasons, Russia may not deliver it in the end to Iran."
Also on Thursday, Defense Minister Ehud Barak told an Italian paper that a nuclear Iran would be "dangerous to world order." Barak emphasized that all options for dealing with threat of a nuclear Teheran were "open and ready," and stressed the importance of "strengthening and accelerating economic sanctions against Iran."
"Either way, we need to keep every option open. If they provoke us, or they attack us, our army is prepared to attack and to succeed uncompromisingly," he asserted in an interview with the daily Corriere della Sera . "It's up to us to find the best way to get the best result with minimum damage," Barak added.
"Iran confirmed its message when it stood against the whole world: to deceive and to reject. Their aim is to obtain an atomic bomb," he continued....
Jerusalem Post staff contributed to this report.
Russia Asks that Iran Be Given More Time - Colum Lynch
Russia said Wednesday that Iran should be granted more time to respond to a package of incentives that the U.S. and five other powerful nations have offered Tehran to freeze its uranium enrichment efforts, a stance that may slow U.S. and European efforts to impose UN sanctions on Tehran. Russia's UN ambassador, Vitaly I. Churkin, dismissed assertions that Tehran had missed a deadline this week to respond to the offer, which would make a push for UN sanctions inevitable.
U.S. officials say Iran is buying time to advance its capacity to enrich uranium, and hope to secure a fourth round of UN sanctions against Tehran before President Bush leaves office in January.
...France: Iran Reply on Nuclear Offer Insufficient - Jan Sliva
France joined the U.S. on Wednesday in rejecting Iran's response to an incentives package aimed at defusing a dispute over its nuclear program as insufficient. France regrets that Iran "has again chosen not to provide a clear response," Foreign Ministry spokesman Romain Nadal said in Paris.
...U.S., Britain Mulling Fresh Iran Sanctions
Six world powers agreed Wednesday to consider new sanctions on Iran after Tehran gave an ambiguous answer to their latest demand to freeze key nuclear work, the U.S. and Britain said.
A Detroit-area military engineer accused in 1997 of passing secrets to the Israelis was targeted because of his Orthodox Jewish faith, the Defense Department's Office of Inspector General said in a report.
The report said David Tenenbaum, 50, of Southfield, who was suspected but never formally charged with espionage involving his job at the U.S. Army Tank-automotive and Armaments Command (TACOM) in Warren, was singled out because he is an observant Jew.
Tenenbaum's lawyer, Mayer Morganroth of Southfield, said the bogus investigation prompted the Army to scrap Tenenbaum's 1995 project to improve the armor on Humvees, a decision that proved fatal to American troops who were sent to Iraq and Afghanistan in woefully inadequate fighting vehicles. "The discrimination in this case ended up costing American soldiers their lives," Morganroth said.
...Tenenbaum and his lawyers said the report proves that he was innocent and the victim of anti-Semitism. "You have no idea what it's like to have your loyalty questioned, to be accused of being a traitor," Tenenbaum told the Free Press last week. He wants an apology from the Army and his accusers punished.
The 62-page report, requested by U.S. Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, was issued three weeks ago with little fanfare.
"It was well known that Mr. Tenenbaum was Jewish, lived his religious beliefs and by his actions appeared to have a close affinity for Israel," the report said. "We believe that Mr. Tenenbaum was subjected to unusual and unwelcome scrutiny because of his faith and ethnic background, a practice that would undoubtedly fit a definition of discrimination."
It said TACOM counterintelligence officials had Tenenbaum apply for a higher security clearance as "a ruse" to launch an improper spy investigation. The FBI is the only agency authorized to investigate civilians for espionage. The report said he lost his security clearance but eventually got it back and upgraded, a result that "suggests that Mr. Tenenbaum did not improperly disclose classified material."
...TACOM officials wouldn't comment on the report. Neither would John Simonini, a retired lieutenant colonel and TACOM's counterintelligence chief who spearheaded the investigation. The Army and Levin are reviewing the report, staffers said....
Differences spark suspicion
Tenenbaum, a Detroit-born son of a Holocaust survivor, was hired by TACOM in 1984 after obtaining engineering degrees from Wayne State University and working for a defense contractor in Troy. TACOM hired him to design safer combat vehicles.
The report said TACOM hired Tenenbaum because he speaks Hebrew, which officials viewed as an asset in working with Israel on joint projects....
...The report said Tenenbaum wore a yarmulke and adhered to strict Jewish dietary rules, prompting him to bring kosher food to work rather than joining coworkers for lunch at restaurants. Colleagues questioned why he was allowed to leave work early on Fridays to prepare for the Jewish Sabbath, the report said.
The FBI looked into the complaints but found no evidence of wrongdoing.
Accusations and deceit
...Unable to persuade the FBI to launch a spy probe, the report said, Simonini and others had Tenenbaum's boss request a top-secret security upgrade for Tenenbaum, which he didn't want because he worked on unclassified projects....
..." 'I've done other Jews before, and I've gotten them to confess, too,' " Tenenbaum said the examiner told him, according to the report.
...the examiner's report prompted the FBI to launch a criminal investigation, put Tenenbaum and his family under around-the-clock surveillance and searched his home on a Saturday -- the Jewish Sabbath. Agents carted out 13 boxes of the family's belongings, including their children's coloring books.
..."It was terrifying," Tenenbaum's wife, Madeline, said. "I felt totally violated."
In February 1998, one year after the raid, Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael Leibson in Detroit advised the FBI in Washington that the investigation had failed to turn up any evidence to charge Tenenbaum with espionage. "There is no question that if evidence existed which would prove this case, then these agents would have found it," Leibson wrote to the FBI.
...The report is a victory for civil rights, said Rabbi Abraham Cooper of the Simon Wiesenthal Center in Los Angeles, a Jewish human rights group. He said the Army needs to hold TACOM officials accountable, and he praised Tenenbaum's courage. "There was enormous pressure on him." Cooper said. "A lesser person would have folded. ... He stayed the course, and it's nice to see that, once in a while, the good guy comes out the winner."
Thursday, August 07, 2008
...There was a time when Europe often behaved in ways parallel to that of Muslim-majority countries today. ...it's true there are parallels between Western and Middle Eastern societies. But even leaving aside quite important doctrinal religious issues the difference is that things far in the past in Western ones still exist in Muslim-majority counterparts. Crusades ended eight centuries ago; Jihad continues.
...progressive opinion, intellectuals, governments, even much of the Christian churches themselves, fought for progress in the West. They didn't say, "These are our sacred practices, our lifestyle and thus must remain forever unchanged." They didn't let fear of being labeled "Christianophobic" paralyze them.
...four centuries of rethinking, struggle, and debate were needed to create contemporary Western democratic society. Such processes have, at best, barely begun in the contemporary Middle East.
... secularism is almost a hanging offense in the Middle East and democracy, as it is understood in the West, is deemed inappropriate. Much of Europe's cultural production of Europe in the sixteenth through eighteenth century could not be produced and widely accepted in the Arabic-speaking world today.
...[a] struggle between the old and new societies characterized much of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, yet the trend was steady. Perhaps fascism (arguably Communism) and World War Two were, respectively, the final reactionary movements and last struggle. Yet victory required 500 years of rethinking and education.
There's no such history in the Middle East and several additional problems block change toward moderation and democracy here. ... the big problem is that [Islamic doctrine] remains so powerful and hegemonic. Arab nationalism is anti-democratic, repressive, and statist. Islamists seek a somewhat revised version of the eighth century, albeit with rockets and mass communication.
It is also worse because Middle East regimes and revolutionaries know Western history. ...They know what happened to Soviet bloc dictatorships ... they have weapons, technology, new means of organization and communication to block change through persuasion and threat. This point applies as much to Iran's Islamist rulers as to Syria's pretend-pious ones or Saudi Arabia's Wahhabi monarchs.
... there's a powerful, growing movement--radical Islamism--posing an alternative to modernism. The question is not merely of tiny, marginalized al-Qaida but also the governments of Iran, Syria, and Sudan; the Saudi regime; powerful mainstream societal influences, Hamas and Hizballah; the Muslim Brotherhoods, and many others.
In comparison, while there are courageous individual liberals, there's no real liberal party anywhere in the Middle East, no liberal-controlled media or liberal proselytizing university. In Egypt the liberal organization has been taken over by the Muslim Brotherhood...
...Anyone who doesn't understand history is doomed to be battered by it.
THE German government has agreed to pay €12.3 million ($20.8 million) to about 6500 Jewish survivors of the Nazi occupation of Budapest, an international Jewish organisation said today.
"In negotiations with the German government, the Claims Conference has secured payments for certain Jewish survivors of the Nazi occupation of Budapest," the Claims Conference said.
The organisation has been representing Jews in negotiating compensation and restitution for victims of Nazi persecution since 1951.
"In recognition of the incarceration and suffering of Budapest Holocaust survivors, certain Jewish survivors of Nazi-era Budapest - who currently reside in eastern Europe and previously did not receive any payments from certain major compensation programs - will receive a one-time payment of €1900 ($3200) from the Claims Conference Budapest Fund."
In all, payments totalling €12.3 million would be issued to approximately 6500 survivors living in Hungary.
Up until World War II, around 725,000 Jews were living in Hungary. But around 625,000 were deported and murdered by the Nazis in the death camps.
[The equivalent of $150 today's dollars, given in 1945 and invested at 5%pa return (in excess of inflation), would today be $3200. In other words compensation for the deportation or murder of an average of 6 relatives equates to $25 each relative - the eqivalent of returning a parking fine from 1945 - SL].
...The conference said that in order to "streamline the process and distribute the funds as quickly as possible, the Claims Conference has reviewed over 25,000 files to identify eligible survivors".
"Brief and simple waiver forms ", as required by the German government , were being sent to 5790 survivors who the conference believed may be eligible. [So... to get your "parking fine" back you must agree that you are not entitled to any other compensation? - SL] The application deadline for compensation was August 6, 2009.
Mazshisz head Mr Feldmayer welcomed the compensation deal, but said it must be only a first step in negotiations between the Claims Conference and the German government to secure a monthly payment to ghetto survivors.
There are some 80,000 Jews currently living in Hungary, out of a total population of 10 million, meaning the Hungarian Jewish community is the second largest in Europe after France.
Tuesday, August 05, 2008
... Australia was one of just six countries to vote against a United Nations resolution demanding Israel dismantle its ...security barrier ...that, while making life a misery for Palestinians, has done much to thwart suicide bombings. The UN held the non-binding vote after the International Court of Justice ruled a section of the structure had been built on Palestinian land. The five other "no" votes came from Israel, America, Marshall Islands, Micronesia and Palau - 150 other countries voted "yes".
[now Australian Prime Minister, Kevin] Rudd was telling anyone who'd listen that Australia's position was shameful. The government, aware of this, did some rear-guard briefing of its own, telling journalists that not only could Labor not be trusted to manage the precious bi-lateral relationship with America, but it would also mishandle Australia's "special friendship" with Israel.
... this time last year...some Israeli officials and some prominent Australian friends of Israel viewed the prospect of a Rudd Government with measured caution.
A few months ago...one of Tony Blair's advisers [asked me]..... "Did you know...that your government has increased aid to the Palestinian Authority?" This was seen as a big deal by the quartet - something John Howard would not have done and a sign, perhaps, of a different approach by Kevin Rudd on Israel. A week before Christmas the Parliamentary Secretary for International Development Assistance, Bob McMullan, announced Australia had indeed doubled its 2008 aid package to the Palestinian Territories to $45 million.
A senior Australian diplomatic source told me the aid increase "succinctly reflected a subtle repositioning and a new approach" in the Middle East.
Earlier this year Downer's replacement, Stephen Smith, gave an interview in Washington in which he said Australia was committed to an "even-handed" approach on Middle East policy....
... On February 8, Michael Burd, in a letter to the Australian Jewish News, wrote: "It wasn't so long ago Jewish Labor supporters were arguing there was no difference between Liberal and Labor policy towards Israel, and Jews who attended private dinners with Kevin Rudd … were led to believe Labor would continue to support Israel. "This letter writer will be watching for the next Arab/Muslim-backed UN anti-Israel resolution to see if Rudd stands by his commitment to the Jewish community."
Around this time, Rudd seemed to allay some fears when he introduced a motion into Federal Parliament honouring the state of Israel, which turned 60 this year. One of his MPs, Julia Irwin - a long-time critic of Israel's conduct - boycotted the motion.
....There is no doubt that, while the Australia-Israel relationship remains close, there is significant new uncertainty about it.
Rudd, who has yet to visit Israel as prime minister, does little by accident.
Dr Colin Rubenstein, Executive Director, AIJAC comments as follows:
"We have seen no sign of any subtle let alone significant shift of Australian policy on the Middle East, and the Daley article offers no new evidence that any such change is occurring. We are satisfied that the Australian Government maintains a strong positive commitment to a secure Israel, and to the pursuit of a viable and lasting two-state peace."
Monday, August 04, 2008
A fourth round of indirect talks between Syrian and Israeli representatives was concluded in Istanbul this week ...the [Israeli] prime minister said...it would soon be time for the Syrians to make their choice between the "Iranian grip" and their partnership in the "axis of evil," and rejoining the "family of nations" in pursuit of peace and "economic development."
Actions and statements from Syria and its allies, however, convey a distinctly less pressing sense of the negotiations....for the Syrians, the already considerable benefits derived from the very act of talking are more important than the talks themselves. Damascus's allies in Iran have also given no sign of real concern that their most important Arab allies are about to jump ship.
Damascus's main aim in entering the talks was to use them as a means to rebuild relations with the US and other Western powers, in particular France....Damascus ...sets out to reap diplomatic gains by offering a cautious hand of reconciliation.
But this hand of reconciliation is intended to add a layer to the gains achieved through violence - not to bargain them away. This strategy has served Syria well in the past. It has been likened to an arsonist who offers his service to the fire brigade.
With regard to Syria's contact with Israel... Damascus is in no hurry. Syrian officials, speaking in Arabic, have made clear that they believe the negotiations would likely take between one and three years for completion, and that no summit meeting would be likely in the foreseeable future.
The Syrians have also made clear that Damascus's long-standing alliance with Iran is not a subject of discussion in the talks...
So far, the strategy seems to be paying dividends. For the cost of the flight tickets and hotel rooms in Istanbul, Assad has ended Syria's isolation. He and his wife found themselves feted in Paris in early July where Syria was welcomed into French President Sarkozy's new Mediterranean Forum. Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Muallem beamed after his meetings with French officials that the Hariri tribunal had not even been mentioned.
The reception in Washington has been more cautious, of course. Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs David Welsh made it clear that he was not prepared to meet with Syrian official Riad Daoudi as part of talks with an "unofficial" Syrian delegation in the US last week.
But here, given Syria's projected time frame for negotiations with Israel, it is evident that Damascus is looking beyond its foes in the Bush Administration. Assad evidently expects a more friendly face in the White House by early 2009, and this offers a further reason for Syria's lack of haste.
With all this rapprochement going on, the alliance with Iran seems safe and sound. Muallem was in Teheran this week, and met with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmedinejad. The two reconfirmed what Ahmedinejad called their "regional cooperation," and the Iranian president lauded the foiling of "the Zionist regime" and America's plans in Lebanon and Syria.
Thus, the act of talking in Istanbul seems a worthy investment. But it is the side benefits of the conversation which interests Damascus....
The Arab political spectrum has been reduced to just two colours. Increasingly, positions and people are being judged on the basis of “us” and “them”. ...
...This trend reflects the deterioration of a collective culture sinking deeper into the abyss of rejectionism. Increasing numbers of social, religious and political groups are claiming a monopoly on universal truths. Accusations of treason and infidelism are made as casually as claims to sacredness and righteousness. The narrowing of political horizons and the continued restrictions on freedom of expression and association are pushing more people into identifying with rejectionist clandestine groups, or rendering them susceptible to extremist thinking.
The situation in Palestine offers a striking example of the spread of the culture of intolerance. Never in the history of the Palestinian struggle have the different factions sunk to the level of rejectionist political discourse that we see now between Hamas and Fatah. Hamas leaders openly accuse their rivals in the Palestine Liberation Organisation of treason and betrayal. Fatah levels equally degrading charges against Hamas. Absolute judgments that allow no room for disagreement are frustrating all attempts to resolve the widening divisions in Palestinian society.
Uncompromising revolutionary thinking intolerant of dissenting viewpoints is increasingly shaping the political culture in the Arab world. The doctrine of “if you are not with us, you are against us” is gaining new legitimacy, fed by frustration and the absence of enlightened cultural projects or political programmes that celebrate pluralism and encourage openness. In this environment, exclusionist groups are mushrooming as larger segments of societies are embracing their absolutist stands. The oppressive policies of some regimes, as well as reluctance by moderate governments to proceed with political and educational reforms, are also making people more receptive to extremist thinking.
Moderation is on the retreat because its advocates have failed to produce tangible results. Meanwhile, extremists are exploiting the bankruptcy of moderation in their crusade for the hearts and minds of disgruntled Arab populations. Unfortunately, reformist agendas have been retreating even in moderate Arab countries. Security considerations, some credible and others exaggerated, have halted reforms. Fear of change has also prevented the launch of initiatives to fix deeply-rooted problems in the educational systems as economic problems push people to religious parties that provide easy answers.
The decreased tolerance for opposition groups, even those that follow peaceful means, is destroying people’s faith in state structures. Consequently, they are seeking protection in narrow affiliations along tribal and sectarian lines. This makes them easy prey to exploitation as the sense of belonging to the tribe or the sect remains stronger than identification with the state. In such an environment, injustice or inequality are blamed on other groups that do not share the same affiliation. The “other” is seen as an enemy in a zero-sum formula.
As people grow more estranged from their governments and identify more with basic identities at the expense of a sense of national belonging, extremists are thriving by manipulating people’s fears and by presenting differences as threats. Ultimately, it is the failure of moderation more than the logic of extremist reasoning that is determining the course of the confrontation between modernity and rejectionism in the Arab world.
This dangerous course is reversible. But success requires the articulation of comprehensive programmes aimed at instilling democratic values and the kind of practices essential for building a tolerant culture open to political and intellectual differences.
It might not be reasonable to expect ideologically driven groups to accept opposing points of views; they are driven by a blind faith that divides the world into good and bad. The same applies to dictatorships, where regimes fear that reform is a sure exit out of office; political survival is all they care about.
Moderates, however, have a public responsibility to offer people credible alternatives to these fatalistic ideologies. Investment in democratisation will result in consolidating a culture that recognises the benefits of ethnic, social, cultural and sectarian diversity. Opening the public space encourages involvement in lawful political participation and weakens the appeal of undercover activism.
Time is on the extremists’ side.
The reluctance of moderates to initiate long over-due reforms has allowed rejectionists to capture support. Moderate governments can start regaining ground if they proceed with modernisation plans designed to create more transparent, inclusive and accountable structures of governments. Losing some of the absolute power they wield to a constitutional process or even to opposition groups through the political process is definitely better than losing their constituencies to exclusionists who pose a growing threat to stability in the region.
WASHINGTON — The official line in Washington, Jerusalem and Ramallah is that the decision by Prime Minister Ehud Olmert of Israel to resign will not affect American efforts to negotiate a peace deal between Israelis and Palestinians before the end of the year.
Israeli officials said Thursday that Mr. Olmert could still try to reach a peace pact in his remaining time in office. In Tunisia, Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian leader, pledged to work with Mr. Olmert and his successor.
...But ...foreign policy experts said...the Bush administration’s efforts to mediate a peace deal between the Israelis and Palestinians this year are unlikely to bear fruit.
“It’s over,” said David Makovsky, an analyst with the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. “Rice was counting on the fact that Olmert’s dwindling political fortunes would lead him to turn to a diplomatic victory as a springboard toward a political comeback. But if he’s leaving office, that doesn’t happen.”
... Can Olmert reach a half-baked agreement minus Jerusalem with Abbas and with Condi looking on proudly in the next several months? Maybe...But can he sell it, let alone implement it, in an environment in which he has no popular support or moral authority, with Hamas threatening from the sidelines? No way....
...The final status issues include the dismantling of Israeli settlements in the West Bank and agreeing on the borders of a Palestinian state, the status of Jerusalem and the fate of Palestinian refugees who left, or were forced to leave, their homes.
“There is zero chance” now, said Ghaith al-Omari, a former negotiator for Mr. Abbas. ...“The best we can hope for is a stabilization package that will make it easier for the next president to engage the process,” Mr. Omari said.
Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Salaam Fayad has asked the World Bank for emergency funding so that he can pay salaries to PA employees, said PA officials in Ramallah on Wednesday.
The request underscores the severity of the financial crisis in the PA.
Earlier this week, PA officials had told The Jerusalem Post that their government was on the "verge of bankruptcy" because most donor countries, particularly the Arabs, had failed to live up to promises of funding for the Palestinians.
The officials said that because of the financial crisis, the PA would not be able to pay July salaries to more than 150,000 employees.
...The Palestinian Economic Council for Development and Reconstruction [PECDAR] said in a report this week that the PA had received only $900 million of the $7.7b. promised during the December 2007 Paris Donors' Conference for supporting Palestinians. The money was promised to the PA over a period of three years by nearly 90 countries and international organizations during that conference.
...The officials also said they were particularly disappointed with the majority of the Arab countries for failing to meet their financial commitments toward the Palestinians.
"Most of the Arab countries are now setting conditions for providing us with financial aid," the PA officials said. "Some are saying that they will give us the money only after we end our differences with Hamas, while others are suddenly talking about the need for reforms and transparency in the Palestinian Authority."
The officials pointed out that the Arab countries have given the PA this year only about 15% of what they promised.US State Department Spokesman Sean McCormack said Tuesday that Washington was aware of the financial crisis in the PA.
"It has been clear for some time that the Palestinian Authority faced a serious and imminent budget crisis," he told reporters. "This is why we have been working urgently with the Palestinian Authority and our partners in the international community, in particular with regional partners committed to peace, to do everything possible to support the Palestinian Authority and the Palestinian people."
He added that the US remains the largest single state donor to the Palestinian Authority. "We have provided $562m. in total assistance in 2008, surpassing our pledged level of $555m.," he revealed.
WASHINGTON (Reuters) ...Since the multi-party talks in Geneva, Iran has said it would press ahead with its nuclear plans.
...[Israel's] Deputy Prime Minister Shaul Mofaz..."...urged the Americans to set firm conditions, such as a refusal to allow the Iranians to enrich uranium on their turf, and to be clear that the deadline must be preserved. The Iranians are simply looking for cracks to exploit."
...The State Department issued a statement ...."The United States and Israel share deep concern about Iran's nuclear program, and the two delegations discussed steps to strengthen diplomatic efforts and financial measures to prevent Iran from developing a nuclear weapons capability," the statement said. It gave no details of the measures discussed.
"We also reaffirmed our strong mutual determination to counter Iran's support for terrorism," said the statement, which the State Department said was being issued by both the United States and Israel.
...Mofaz, a former defense minister, is considered a possible successor to Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, who plans to quit after his party chooses a new leader in September.
...Mofaz said during his Washington talks that "all options against Iran should not only be on table, but prepared..." ....
© Thomson Reuters 2008 All rights reserved. Follow this link to see the original Reuters posting.
If Iran’s nuclear weapons ambitions weren’t clear enough before, last month’s sit-down in Geneva is instructive: the Iranian delegation rejected a comprehensive package of incentives offered by the US, UK, France, Germany, Russia and China, all of whom had representatives there. Iran refused outright to discuss their one concern: a suspension of Iran’s uranium enrichment.
These facts should shatter the common narrative that the stand-off could be resolved if only the international community, and especially the US, engaged Iran diplomatically. Unfortunately, those myths and others continue to permeate the discussion and obscure the threat a nuclear-armed Iran would pose.
Myth #1: The crisis could be solved if only the international community “engaged” Iran diplomatically
That’s exactly what the international community has done since the start of the crisis in 2003. In fact, the US, Israel and everyone else have always emphasised their desire to solve the crisis diplomatically; it’s Iran that has responded with bellicosity.
France, Germany and the UK (the “EU-3”), backed by Russia and China and fully supported by the US, have taken the lead in negotiating with Iran. On behalf of the UN Security Council, these six countries have repeatedly offered Iran an extremely generous package of incentives, including nuclear plants and a nuclear fuel supply, economic normalisation, membership in the World Trade Organisation, aid, and security guarantees - essentially everything Iran could want.
All Iran has to do to reap these benefits is stop enriching uranium. Yet as happened in Geneva, each time Iran either rejects the offer or responds with just enough ambiguity to stave off further sanctions.
Myth #2: But the EU-3 have failed because the US won’t “engage” Iran directly
Iran’s non-answer to the latest offer puts paid to this argument, since, in a policy reversal, the US sent its third highest-ranking diplomat to the talks - to no effect. But this argument was specious even before then, since the US fully backed, often in writing, every previous offer to Iran, and made clear to Iran that it would engage directly on a host of issues if only Iran suspended enrichment.
This argument also ignores the long - and failed - history of US efforts to engage with Iran. For example, the US and Iranian ambassadors to Iraq met several times in Baghdad to discuss stability there, all to no avail. Previously, the Clinton Administration unsuccessfully sought a “dialogue of civilisations” with Iran under its more moderate former president, Mohammad Khatami. Unofficial contacts have also occurred repeatedly. These entreaties were all rebuffed.
Myth #3: But Iran has a right to enrich uranium anyway
As a signatory to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), Iran may pursue a peaceful nuclear energy program as long as it is subject to international safeguards and monitoring by the International Atomic Energy Association (IAEA) to prevent it from diverting nuclear technology or material into weapons.
But Iran’s claims to want only a peaceful program are simply not credible. Iran has repeatedly rejected offers from the international community to provide the civilian-only program it claims to want. Its uranium enrichment program is conducted outside IAEA safeguards and was started covertly nearly 20 years ago - both violations of its NPT obligations. And subsequent IAEA investigation has revealed that Iran possessed blueprints for a nuclear warhead and conducted specific missile and warhead research that is relevant only to weaponisation.
Iran is also violating three legally binding Chapter VII UN Security Council resolutions, passed after Iran failed to satisfactorily address the IAEA’s concerns and the Agency referred the issue to the Council. These resolutions find Iran in breach of its NPT obligations, call on it to stop enriching uranium, and impose economic sanctions for its failure to do so. Yet Iran openly and defiantly continues to enrich uranium.
Nor has Iran been singled out. North Korea was similarly isolated and sanctioned for its NPT violations. India and Pakistan, which never signed the NPT, were also sanctioned when they announced to the world they had nuclear weapons by testing them. In contrast, Israel, which has not been sanctioned, never signed the NPT and has never confirmed that it has nuclear weapons.
Myth #4: The consequences of using military force are too great / The world can learn to live with a nuclear-armed Iran
A military strike to prevent Iran from “going nuclear” undeniably has serious risks, such as Iran’s ability to retaliate by closing the Strait of Hormuz, thereby restricting the global supply of oil; attacking US troops in Iraq; attacking Israel; and supporting terrorist attacks world-wide.
But too often ignored is the fact that a nuclear-armed Iran could still do all of the above, and worse. Driven by a revolutionary ideology, Iran already acts provocatively to support its hegemonic ambitions. An Iran with nuclear weapons would be further emboldened, calculating that no country will risk a nuclear war to oppose it. It would also spark a nuclear arms race in the Middle East: witness the number of countries, including Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Turkey, that have suddenly expressed interest in “civilian” nuclear programs to counter the Iranian threat.
Given Iran’s behaviour, ideology, and genocidal rhetoric, it would be irresponsible and dangerous to blithely assume that a nuclear-armed Iran would be a “rational actor” and that the threat can be “managed” or “lived with” through Cold War-style strategies like deterrence.
The goal must be to stop Iran before it acquires a nuclear bomb. The clear hope of all involved, including the US, Israel and Prime Minister Kevin Rudd, among others, is to do so through continued diplomacy and economic sanctions. But almost all these actors agree, these tactics must also be backed by a credible last-resort threat of force to increase their chance of success.
Sunday, August 03, 2008
Doesn't the world owe it to all the Nazis' victims to make equal efforts to bring each of their torturers and killers to justice?
Recently, I've found myself increasingly preoccupied with that question, following a two-week mission to South America on the trail of the Wiesenthal Center's most-wanted Nazi war criminal, Dr. Aribert Heim. Heim committed his most heinous crimes at the Mauthausen concentration camp, where his nickname was "Doctor Death."
To put the question into proper perspective, it is important to note that during practically every press conference I conducted or interview that I gave in South America, I had to address the question of the validity or value of the effort to track down a 94-year-old war criminal.
In every venue, I recited the standard mantras:
- "The passage of time in no way diminishes the guilt of the killers";
- "a suspect's advanced age is no reason to ignore mass murder"; and
- "the practical implication of establishing a time limit for prosecuting genocide suspects is that those lucky enough, rich enough or smart enough to elude justice will ultimately be allowed to get away with their crimes."
However, I also stressed the concept that every man and woman persecuted by the Nazis deserves that an effort be made to find and hold accountable those who turned them, innocent civilians, into victims. I noted in my remarks that Simon Wiesenthal himself had always stressed this principle, and in fact I deeply believe in its validity and moral power.But the fact of the matter is that our recent mission to Chile and Argentina clearly underscores the unfortunate fact that not all of the Nazis' victims get equal treatment when it comes to the investment made to bring their killers to justice, and the Heim case is a classic illustration. For starters, Heim is the only Nazi war criminal in recent history who is being sought by four different police forces - those of Germany, Austria, Chile and Argentina. He is, to the best of my knowledge, the only Holocaust perpetrator in at least the past three decades, for whose capture a special task force was established by the German police. Also he is the only such criminal for whom a huge reward is being offered: 315,000 euros (135,000 euros from the Simon Wiesenthal Center, 130,000 euros from the German government, and 50,000 euros from the Austrian government).
It is true that these relatively excellent and virtually unprecedented conditions stem, to a large extent, from the fact that Heim has been on the run since 1962, when he disappeared from his home in Baden-Baden after being tipped off that the West German police were about to arrest him for his crimes at Mauthausen. So while it is true that the current whereabouts of all the other Holocaust perpetrators on our "most wanted" list (with one exception) are now known, down to their exact address and telephone number, the fact is that none of the police forces in their countries of residence were looking for them at all before they were exposed as Nazi war criminals.
Given the fact that criminals like John Demjanjuk, Sandor Kepiro and Milivoj Asner - Nos. 2, 3 and 4 on the list, respectively - played an active role in the liquidation of at least hundreds, if not thousands, of innocent civilians, one may ask what allows the Heim case to benefit from special status, abundant political good will and relatively munificent financial resources? The answer to this question became apparent when our team traveled to Puerto Montt, Chile and Bariloche, Argentina - the area where we believe he is currently hiding. Although we had previously publicized the reward for Dr. Heim in Chile and Argentina, it was only when we actually reached Patagonia and had an opportunity to describe his crimes in great detail, that we felt that we were finally getting our message across to the wider public.
This achievement was no doubt considerably enhanced by the fact that Heim's daughter is living in Puerto Montt, and it became evident to us in two ways: One was the flow of information that reached us from informants in the area, either via our hotline or in person. The other was the expressions of support, on the one hand, and opposition, on the other, from various local residents. What became clear was that even if Heim had committed his crimes 67 years ago, their utter cruelty simply could not be ignored. So although I consciously tried not to overdo the descriptions - of the injections of phenol directly into the hearts of inmates, the operations performed without anesthesia, the castrations and use of body parts of those murdered as decorations - the few facts I did relate made quite an impact.
In other words, the key issues that elevated Heim to his current status were the degree of his own personal responsibility for his crimes and their absolutely horrific nature, all compounded by the fact that he was a doctor who had pledged to protect and save his patients, whom he instead mercilessly murdered. In that respect, Heim easily became a symbol of the Nazis' perversion and misuse of medicine - a fact which no doubt increased his "attractiveness" as a target for all of us.
If Mengele was never prosecuted, perhaps Dr. Death's apprehension and punishment could be a partial atonement by those who failed to bring the "Angel of Death" to justice. I certainly have no objection to the efforts and resources being invested in trying to bring Heim to justice. I only wish that a far more serious effort was being to made to ensure that the killers of the other victims will also be held accountable in this world.
Dr. Efraim Zuroff is director of the Israel office of the Simon Wiesenthal Center.