Saturday, November 29, 2008

Gavriel & Rivka Holtzberg z"l

From a personal tribute by Benjamin Holzman, ex-Habonimnik from Sydney, 28/11/08:

...I lived in Mumbai for 6 months last year, and would go to the Beit Chabad with friends for a Shabbat meal about every second week. Over the course of 6 months, we got to know the Rabbi and his wife quite well.

They were wonderful people; warm, inviting and engaging. Gabi would get visibly excited to have so many guests for Shabbat, you could tell it really made his week. He would have a grin on his face almost the entire meal, including during his Dvar Torah. He was always so eager to create a communal feeling that he insisted everyone go around the table and say a few words to the group, giving guests 4 options: either delivering a Dvar Torah, relating an inspirational story, declaring to take on a mitzvah, or leading a song.

As most of the guests were Israeli backpackers and other passers-through, they might have found this quite novel. For us regulars, it was just Gabi’s shtick. I can still hear him reciting those 4 options to the group now, as if he had discovered some miraculous way to make everyone involved in the Shabbat with no escape, impressed by his own genius week in and out. He had a devilish smile, you could really see the child still in him, just beneath the surface.

Gabi was also exceptionally thoughtful. Though most of the guests were Israeli, Gabi would give his Dvar Torah in English for the sake of the few of us English-speakers there with sketchy Hebrew, so we’d understand. Sometimes he spoke line by line first in English, then Hebrew. Gabi would start discussions and made it his personal mission to get everyone talking, to make a group of disconnected Jews feel like a family. It worked. That was Gabi.

Rivki was a certified sweetheart. She’d generally sit apart from Gabi, to spread herself out, and usually sat with the girls. She too relished Friday night dinners—I think she needed her weekly female bonding time. She’d talk to the girls about the challenges of keeping kosher in India, and share exciting new finds at the market together. You could tell she was far from home, in this dense Mumbai jungle, but she was tough and really made the best of it. She would balance Gabi’s presence, occasionally making comments to people at her table while Gabi was speaking. Not as a sign of disrespect, but to keep the people around her having a good time, perhaps in the same way a youth group counsellor would, when the kids were bored by another counsellor. That was Rivki. Brave, fun-loving, and super sweet.

Perhaps the greatest testament to their character was simply the fact that they lived in downtown Mumbai for years on end. Having lived there for just 6 months, I understand how incredibly taxing just existing in the city is. Even when trying to relax, the city still seems to suck the life out of you. Living as Westerners in modest conditions in the thick of Mumbai, with the restrictions of kashrut and Shabbat, is certainly no small feat.

I’m not sure if they were thrilled with their placement in Mumbai, but they certainly made a good go of it. They were only a few years older than me, in their late 20s, and despite being far from friends and family and perhaps not in the most exciting Chabad placement (compared to Bangkok, Bogota or Bondi), they kept positive and built a beautiful bastion of Jewey goodness. They chose a life that demonstrated such altruism and care, in the truest sense. The Mumbai Chabad really made a difference to my time in India, and made me feel that much more at home in such a foreign country....

...Chabad lost two soldiers today, emissaries and keepers of the Jewish people. Let us honour their work and their lives in our prayers, in our thoughts, and in our deeds, and let us pray for the families of the dozens of other victims of these attacks. May all souls rest in peace, and may we see an end to violence in our time. [Amen - SL]

Local and global terrorists join forces

From The Australian by Greg Sheridan, Foreign Editor November 29, 2008:

THE terrorist massacres in Mumbai this week are India's 9/11...

...They represent, too, a probably definitive merger of internal Indian conflicts with the global war on terror. ...There is much still to be discovered, but as the hours have rolled by since the attacks began in the early hours of Thursday morning, the Pakistan connection has become clearer and clearer....

...The Indian military has let it be known that it believes the Pakistan-based Lashkar-e-Toiba...was deeply involved. ...US intelligence, on the other hand, believes the attacks bear the unmistakable signs of al-Qa'ida.

Pramit Chaudhuri, senior editor of the Hindustan Times and one of India's most brilliant and influential strategic analysts, outlines a different theory....the attack could have been a combined effort by LeT and al-Qa'ida.

"That would explain the schizophrenic nature of the Mumbai attacks," Pramit tells me. "If you look at the attacks, half were directed entirely at killing Indians. Going to the railway station and the hospital, you won't find foreigners there. That's exactly the sort of attack the LeT engages in.
"The other half of the attacks were directed entirely at foreigners. Indian Muslims have never attacked foreigners and never attacked Jewish targets, of which there are plenty in India. The attackers at the Taj Hotel were interested only in Americans and Brits. There was a guy there with an Italian passport and they let him go. They weren't interested in Indians at all in that attack. "Then the attack on the Chabad House. This is a New York Jewish organisation. They weren't even looking for Indian Jews but going after an American organisation." These attacks, Pramit says, have al-Qa'ida written all over them.

US intelligence agencies also believe the attacks were, if anything, even better organised and more highly co-ordinated than the 9/11 attacks in New York. Other Indian sources say the terrorists in the Taj and Oberoi hotels operated with a high degree of competence. Indian counter-terrorist forces found them to be much more technically proficient...than the average LeT recruit.

Several things follow from the overall nature of the attacks. One is a high degree of preparation, which means the terrorists had local supporters or an advance team. The intelligence agencies believe there was so much preparation - the advance renting of rooms in a building next to the Chabad House, the pre-positioning of materials - that the two dozen or so terrorists probably had a support team in Mumbai of roughly the same size. Another is that they were extremely well trained, which means the training almost certainly took place in Pakistan.

Pramit believes there is a compelling strategic logic to an LeT-al-Qa'ida joint operation. LeT hates the Indian state and is incensed that Kashmir, which it believes should not be part of India, is holding democratic internal elections. Al-Qa'ida wants to show it can strike back against Western targets, especially as a new US president comes to office. Al-Qa'ida's No2, Ayman al-Zawahiri, recently exhorted all jihadists to continue killing Americans and Brits. He also mocked Obama, and called him America's "house negro".

Those who thought George W. Bush was the cause of radical Islamist hostility to the US and the West are set for a sore disappointment. The terrorists didn't hate the US because of Bush. They hated Bush because of the US. Similarly, they will not love the US because of Obama: they will hate Obama because of the US.

Increasingly, al-Qa'ida has been operating recently on a coalition, or almost contract, basis. It sets out a target, such as the murder of former Pakistani prime minister Benazir Bhutto, and other Islamist groups volunteer to carry out the operation. When al-Qa'ida approves, the two groups then collaborate on training, technology and other operational issues. Al-Qa'ida gives the local group a sophistication it could not otherwise attain, while the local group gives al-Qa'ida intimate local knowledge, new recruits and a reach it could not otherwise achieve.

In this case, the internal situation in Pakistan could play directly into al-Qa'ida's calculations. If the Indians become convinced of a Pakistani involvement, they may mobilise some troops near the Pakistani border. This would force Pakistan to withdraw troops from its fight against jihadis in the tribal areas of Pakistan. In other words, the military pressure, such as it is, would come off al-Qa'ida. Thus the Mumbai strike would serve a whole range of al-Qa'ida objectives: harming the Indian state, demonstrating al-Qa'ida's continuing lethality, hitting the Americans when they are celebrating their new president and relieving military pressure on them in Pakistan.

Most senior Indian analysts I spoke to do not believe the Pakistani Government at the highest level was involved in these attacks. This is a critical judgment and it is to be hoped it holds during the coming days.

Gopalaswamy Parthasarathy, one of India's most senior retired diplomats and a former high commissioner to Pakistan as well as to Australia, does not believe the Pakistani Government or military was involved. But he does not rule out the support or involvement of rogue elements of the Pakistani state.

Further, Pakistan's civilian President Asif Ali Zardari has been making strong peace overtures to India. However, this happened once before. When Nawaz Sharif, a civilian prime minister, was making peace with India, Pervez Musharraf, then Pakistan's military commander (and later its military dictator) mounted a military attack on India through Kashmir. This nearly brought war between the two nations, but it also had the effect of torpedoing the peace process, which the military didn't like. Such a peace process is also bitterly opposed by Pakistan's Islamist extremists.

"Pakistan is now becoming seriously dysfunctional," Parthasarathy says. Pramit agrees: "There's no one in charge in Pakistan. There's no one you can talk to, no one home. The multiple centres of power in Pakistan traditionally mean jihadis get a lot of leeway. Pakistan is now a net exporter of terrorism. No one's in charge and we're likely to see a spiral of violence out of Pakistan. "The old model was that the different centres of power were vying for the jihadis' support and the bargain was, come and support us internally and you can do what you like externally so long as you keep it out of this country."

This bargain, Pramit says, is breaking down because several of the jihadi groups have come to see the Pakistani state as the enemy and are attacking it internally. As a result the Pakistani army has had to fight back against them. But they are not doing very well, according to Pramit: "The Pakistani Army is appalling at counterinsurgency. Its army is riven between Sunni and Shia, Pathans and Punjabis. Their army is learning counter-insurgency from scratch." Even today, he says, the Pakistani army targets only some jihadi groups while letting others flourish.

Certainly, the Pakistani state has been involved in a great deal of anti-Indian terrorism, which is why involvement this time cannot be ruled out absolutely. Even if the Pakistani Government is not involved, its growing status as a failed state is evident in the home that regional terrorists have found in its lawless provinces. Al-Qa'ida now has more Pakistani and Afghan recruits than Arabs.

But the Mumbai tragedy presents the Indians with a raft of new challenges. "We are a remarkably incompetent government on counter-terrorism," Parthasarathy says. "There is a lack of political will to acknowledge the reality and mobilise public opinion against it." He also believes there is some risk of terrorism becoming "a dirty political issue" in India.

The Opposition Hindu fundamentalist BJP tends to tar all of India's overwhelmingly peaceful Muslim minority with the extremist brush, while the governing Congress Party, which traditionally enjoys Muslim support, will not acknowledge the reality of Islamist terrorism.

The Indian Government, senior think tank figures and others have had a lot of communication from the Obama team in the past few days. This is a heartening sign because one of the strategic objectives of the terrorists was surely to harm India-US relations. In this, they seem, to have failed. On other questions, the jury is still out.

Rabbi Holtzberg, wife Rivka killed in Mumbai terror attack

From THE JERUSALEM POST Nov. 27, 2008 by staff, Yaakov Lappin and AP:

Six hostages found dead in Mumbai's Chabad House. The Chabad-Lubavitch movement has confirmed that a New York rabbi and his wife are among the dead in the India terrorist attack.

A spokesman, Rabbi Zalman Schmotkin, said Rabbi Gavriel Noach Holtzberg and his wife, Rivka, have been killed in Mumbai. They ran the movement's local headquarters, which was one of 10 sites attacked.

The couple's toddler son, Moshe Holtzberg, was taken out of the center by an employee, and is now with his grandparents.

Speaking to Army Radio on Friday, a relative, Yitzhak Dovid Grossman, said there was "an eruption of emotion" when the grandparents met their grandson. But he said they soon resumed "worrying about what is happening with Rivki and her husband."

Schmotkin identified two other victims as Bentzion Chroman, an Israeli with dual US citizenship, and Leibish Teitlebaum, an American from Brooklyn. He said a fifth victim was an Israeli woman but did not give her name.

On Friday night, the Foreign Ministry confirmed that a sixth victim was found in the building; Indian commandos were still combing the floors of Nariman House for other casualties.

A ZAKA delegation entered the building after the raid and reported through an Indian aide that five hostages were dead, a ZAKA spokesman in Israel said. The mission of the ultra-Orthodox ZAKA volunteers is to rescue the living - and in the case of the dead, carry out the task of gathering up all pieces of flesh and blood to facilitate a proper Jewish burial....

Five hostages killed at Jewish centre

From The Australian, by John Lyons November 29, 2008:

THE bodies of five Israeli hostages seized by Islamic militants were recovered early today from a Jewish centre in Mumbai after it was stormed by Indian commandos.

"Five bodies of hostages have been found. They are Israeli nationals,'' said Eli Belotsercovsky, deputy chief of mission at the Israeli embassy in New Delhi.

The Press Trust of India quoted Indian national security guard chief J.K. Dutt as saying the militant gunman had killed the hostages during the commando assault on the building. "We had taken over the second floor of the house when a grenade was launched from above. Three hostages were killed by terrorists,'' Dutt said. As the armed unit moved upstairs, the militants killed another two hostages on the fourth floor, he added.

...Israel is believed to have considered sending in its own team of commandos to rescue a group of Israeli citizens trapped inside the Jewish centre in Mumbai. ... the Indians...declined Tel Aviv's offer of troops, and by Israeli ambassador to India Mark Sofer.

...The Jerusalem Post reported that Israeli military officials were critical of the Indian security forces, saying they had stormed the area prematurely. The paper quoted Israeli officials as saying the Indian counter-terrorist forces were well-trained "but failed to gather sufficient intelligence before engaging the terrorists ... it appears the forces showed up at the scene and immediately began exchanging fire with the terrorists instead of first taking control of the area ...'' ....

...The Jerusalem Post reported that under a defence agreement due to be signed soon, the Israeli Defence Forces will send commandos to India to provide training in counter-terrorism, urban warfare and guerilla tactics.

Friday, November 28, 2008

'Five Chabad House hostages appear to have been killed'

From THE JERUSALEM POST Nov. 27, 2008, by staff, Yaakov Lappin and AP:

Five hostages in Mumbai's Chabad House have been killed, an Israeli diplomat in India was quoted by Reuters as saying Friday afternoon.

Two gunmen were also killed in the operation, Sky News quoted Indian National Security Guards chief J.K. Dutt as saying.

Earlier, following reports that the operation had reached its conclusion, Mumbai Police Chief Hassan Ghaffoor stressed to the crowd outside the Chabad center that "the operation is ongoing" but in its "final stage."

It came after commandos blew a hole in the wall of the besieged building as they tried to box in the Islamic terrorists who were holding an unspecified number of hostages.

The massive explosion shook the Chabad center, blowing out windows in neighboring buildings, while gunfire and smaller explosions followed the blast.

Commandos had rappelled from helicopters to storm the center earlier Friday, two days after a chain of Islamic terrorist attacks across India's financial center left at least 143 people dead and the city in panic.

Israel's ambassador to India, Mark Sofer, said he believed there had been up to nine hostages inside. Their fate was not clear. Sofer denied reports that Israeli commandos had taken part in the operation.

The hostages were believed to include Chabad Rabbi Gavriel Holtzberg and his wife, Rivka.

Haim Hoshen, the Foreign Ministry's Head of Asia and South Asia Department, told the Jerusalem Post that two to four Israelis were being held inside the building.

The Foreign Ministry said that a total of 17 Israelis were still unaccounted for in Mumbai.
Meanwhile, the Holtzberg's two-year-old son, Moshe, who was rescued from the attack, was reunited with his grandparents, Shimon and Yehudit Rosenberg, who arrived from Israel to take custody of him.

Speaking to Army Radio on Friday, a relative, Yitzhak Dovid Grossman, said there was "an eruption of emotion" when the grandparents met their grandson. But he said they soon resumed "worrying about what is happening with Rivki and her husband."

Also Friday morning, two Israeli businessmen were freed together with the dozens of hostages rescued late Friday morning from Mumbai's Oberoi hotel.

Earlier, an El Al plane carrying some 300 Israelis arrived at Ben Gurion Airport from Mumbai.
One of the passengers described the atmosphere in the city to Army Radio.

"There was a feeling of fear, panic and naivety on the part of the Indians. They realized that they did not know how to take control of the situation. I found myself in a closed, dark room waiting, listening to CNN…waiting to know what to do next," he said.

Indian Commandos raid Jewish center in Mumbai

From Reuters, Fri Nov 28, 2008 By Rina Chandran:

MUMBAI (Reuters) - Indian commandos stormed a Jewish center in Mumbai on Friday and found two bodies which appeared to be of hostages, the country's National Security Guards chief said.

J.K. Dutt also told Indian television that the commandos had killed two militants in operations at the center.

"We have neutralized two terrorists," Dutt said. "Along with that we have also found two bodies. Those bodies appear to be of hostages."

An Israeli rescue service run by Orthodox Jews said its staff sent to Mumbai to help at the siege believed that hostages in the Chabad Center had died. "Apparently the hostages did not remain alive," the Zaka service said in a brief statement quoting its staff in Mumbai. It did not identify the hostages nor say how many may have died.

Earlier, Israel's ambassador to India said he believed about six Israeli nationals had been held hostage at the center, including a rabbi and his wife....

(Reporting by New Delhi and Mumbai bureaux; Writing by Simon Denyer; Editing by Jeremy Laurence)


From JPost, by Isi Leibler November 27, 2008 [with my own, necessary emphasis added - SL]:

The interfaith conference of King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia which took place under the auspices of the United Nations received wide acclamation. President Shimon Peres went to the lengths of telling the Assembly that he wished that "King Abdullah's voice would become the prevailing voice of the whole region, of all people". The World Jewish Congress published a full page advertisement in The New York Times praising the monarch who leads one of the most oppressive and anti-Semitic regimes in the world.

To their credit, the Saudis were upfront about Israel, stressing that Peres and Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni were present by virtue of their UN membership and not by Saudi invitation, and that the King would not engage in any contact with them. And, despite his somewhat servile remarks in praise of Abdullah, Peres was strongly criticized by the Saudi foreign minister.

As a reward for groveling to King Abdullah, the World Jewish Congress was invited to the conference after the Saudis had the chutzpa to brazenly inform them that major Jewish organizations - including the American Jewish Committee, the Presidents Conference, and the Anti Defamation League - were "too political" and would thus be excluded! It was shameful and unprecedented for a reputable Jewish organization to participate at an interfaith conference at which outsiders like the Saudis were able to veto who represents the Jewish people.

It was even more outrageous that the Jews who did participate in the event failed to challenge the behavior of the Saudi regime or even relate to the vicious anti-Semitism which dominates Saudi society. After all, it was Wahhabi preachers from Saudi Arabia who initially provided the inspiration for al Qaeda, until the latter turned on the Saudi leaders, accusing them of corruption and collusion with the US and Western world. To this day, Saudi money is utilized to promote global jihad.

This interfaith activity must also be viewed in the context of the global campaign launched by the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC), the umbrella body representing 57 Moslem states, to criminalize any criticism of Islam - including Shar'ia law.

The members of the OIC include the most tyrannical and repressive states in the world. Many deny human rights to their own citizens and brutally persecute non-Islamic religious minorities, denying them freedom of worship. Even purportedly moderate Islamic countries such as Egypt endorse domestic campaigns inciting their citizens to hatred of non-Islamic minorities, concentrating in particular on promoting the crudest forms of anti-Semitism.

Some of these countries, like Saudi Arabia, also seek to globally extend the application of Shar'ia law, which incorporates barbaric practices such as stoning adulterous women to death, decapitating blasphemers, homosexuals and apostates, and cutting off limbs as punishment for petty theft.

The OIC bitterly complains that Islamophobia in Western countries is rampant and escalating. Yet taking into account that global terrorism today emanates overwhelmingly from Islamic fundamentalists - including those born and bred in the societies hosting them - it is surely a tribute to Western communities that they continue to peacefully co-exist with their Moslem minorities.

Without detracting from the obligation to combat hatred against Moslems and all minorities, the reality is that despite protestations to the contrary from liberals, Moslems residing in Europe face far less institutionalized discrimination than what other migrant groups, including Jews, underwent in the past. Moreover, they are not targeted by terrorists - in contrast to European Jews, their mosques and schools do not require round the clock security guards.

It is also astonishing that some Moslem organizations have the impudence to demand an end to security profiling, though over 95 percent of global terrorist acts originate from radical jihadists. Profiling is undertaken exclusively as a pragmatic means to maximize security and is not related to racist bias. If red-headed individuals committed the bulk of terrorist acts it would surely not be unreasonable to profile redheads for security screening. It is even more bizarre that demands to ban profiling are frequently supported by liberals, including paradoxically, Jews who themselves represent the prime targets for acts of terror.

The OIC campaign has made considerable inroads, with the UN Secretary General recently boasting that "in confronting the Danish cartoons [caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad] and the Dutch film FITNA, we sent a clear message to the West regarding the red lines that should not be breached." In other words, violence, murder and blackmail have succeeded in forcing impotent Western governments to appease radical Islamist forces, even at the price of compromising hitherto sacrosanct commitments to freedom of expression.

Resolutions calling for criminal prosecution of anyone criticizing Islam or Islamic practices have already been formally adopted by the inappropriately named UN Human Rights Council and subsequently by the UN General Assembly. The discredited UN Human Rights Council, which concentrates the bulk of its efforts on delegitimizing Israel, has now formally endorsed a resolution prohibiting any discussion during its proceedings that could be deemed to be critical of Islam, Moslem practice or Shar'ia law. Yet this same body has shamelessly avoided condemning human rights violations including the genocidal killings by the barbaric Islamic Sudanese government at Darfur.

The current priority for the Human Rights Council is to ensure that the forthcoming Durban II conference is transformed into a launching pad for resurrecting the previous Durban anti-Semitic hate fest demonizing Israel.

The structure of the Durban 2 Preparatory Committee says it all. The chairman is a former Libyan ambassador who described Israel as "the most tyrannical regime in the world," and he is backed by an Iranian deputy chairman. The Committee held one of its most important meetings on Yom Kippur to ensure that Israelis and Jews would not participate. In its recently released Final Document for Discussions, undisguised bias is reflected in the language employed. It refers to "Israeli apartheid," the "racist Israeli Law of Return", Palestinians as "victims of Israeli racism," and so on.

This abominable body is simultaneously proclaiming that "the most serious manifestations of the defamation of religion are the increase in Islamophobia and the worsening situation of Moslem minorities throughout the world."

It is incomprehensible why it took until now for Israel to recognize that Durban 2 is controlled by our most venomous enemies and is intended to serve as a global platform for promoting anti-Semitism and Israel bashing. Had we from the outset supported the Canadian decision to boycott this bogus conference, the Americans and many other democratic nations might also have resolved to distance themselves from these hate mongers.

To offset these challenges, Israel must seek to create alliances with democratic nations and NGOs. Likewise, where possible, Diaspora Jewish organizations should seek out moderate Moslem groups with whom to promote genuine interfaith relationships. But such activity must be transparent. Those who accept as a precondition to dialogue the exclusion of Israeli participants or restrictions on discussion relating to Israel are harming the Jewish cause, providing respectability to extremists and marginalizing moderate Moslems.

Without diminishing our ongoing efforts to outlaw hate crimes or incitement against all minorities, including Moslems, we must resist OIC attempts to pressure Western countries into criminalizing criticism of religion which, aside from being an unprecedented restriction of freedom of expression, would also deny us the opportunity of exposing Islamic extremism.

Series of Attacks in Mumbai Leave at Least 125 People Dead

From the Washington Post Foreign Service, by Emily Wax and Debbi Wilgoren, Thursday, November 27, 2008:

MUMBAI, Nov. 27 - Sharpshooters and Indian Army commandos conducted dramatic raids Thursday inside two of India's most luxurious hotels, attempting to root out gunmen whose deadly attacks have transformed parts of India's commercial capital into smoldering war zones.

Hundreds of families grieved for the 125 people reported killed, as police and terrorism experts remained puzzled over who was behind the attacks on the hotels, a Jewish center, and other sites in the heart of Mumbai. More than 325 people were reported injured.

Closed-circuit television cameras that recorded some scenes of the attack showed college-aged men roaming the streets with automatic assault rifles and backpacks apparently filled with ammunition and explosives. In one video still, one of the gunmen appears almost giddy as he walks down the street with an AK-47 assault rifle.

In a speech on national television Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh made the first official assertion that the attackers were from outside India, statements usually taken here to point to Pakistan. "The well-planned and well-orchestrated attacks, probably with external linkages, were intended to create a sense of panic, by choosing high profile targets and indiscriminately killing foreigners," Singh said. Some news channels split their screens to show the prime minister speaking and the ongoing battle between security personnel and the attackers.

The prime minister called for creation of "a central agency" to investigate terrorism in India, where some 44 bomb blasts in seven different cities have killed more than 150 people since May. Wednesday's assaults were seen as unprecedented, authorities said, in terms of the open, coordinated effort to lay siege to well-known symbols of India's prosperity and to places where Westerners gathered...

...The attacks began at 10:30 p.m. Wednesday. In addition to the assault on the Taj and Oberoi hotels, bands of masked assailants armed with rifles, hand grenades and explosives attacked a popular café packed with tourists; the historic Metro Cinema; a crowded train station; the Chabad-Lubavitch Jewish center and a hospital.

Eight Israelis were being held hostage at the Jewish center, officials said, including a young rabbi and his wife. Their condition, and the total number of hostages trapped in or rescued from the hotels, was not known.

At the Jewish center, five rounds of shooting were heard Thursday and a grenade was thrown, said army officials who were surrounding the site and launching a rescue effort.

... gunmen ...began shooting at Nariman House, the headquarters of Chabad Lubavitch, an Orthodox Jewish group that offers outreach and a place for traveling Jews to attend prayer services and eat kosher food.

"We heard bang-bang in the alleyway and first thought it was firecrackers. But then we heard horrible grief and a woman ran out covered in the blood of her mother. We saw two older women were shot dead while cooking dinner in their kitchens," said Sanjay Kokate, who was a local political leader and said he was part of a self-appointed citizens police force. "We helped carry the bodies out. People have been trapped inside their apartments ever since. It's so horrifying."
According to Chabad's Web site, the center is run by Rabbi Gavriel Holtzberg and his wife Rivka....

...and from Nov 27, 2008 by BY HERB KEINON AND AP:

...Amid the carnage and chaos in Mumbai that left at least 120 people dead, there was mounting fear in Jerusalem Thursday night for up to 20 Israelis being held hostage by terrorists in the besieged Chabad House.

There were conflicting reports about whether some of the hostages had been freed, and there was grave concern for the lives of Chabad's emissary, Rabbi Gavriel Holtzberg, and his wife Rivka.

Late Thursday, two explosions were reported at the building, suggesting that a commando operation might be under way.

Eight people seen outside Chabad House in Mumbai earlier Thursday night were local Indians from a home in the same compound, and not Jewish or Israeli hostages from the Chabad House, Foreign Ministry spokesman Yigal Palmor said, refuting media reports that the Chabad House hostages had been freed.

Palmor said that the ministry's information was obtained from the Mumbai police. This was an indication of the degree to which Jerusalem was watching the dramatic developments in Mumbai with frustration, unable to get clear information about what was transpiring on the ground, and deeply troubled about the fate of an unknown number of Israelis believed to be held hostage.

While throughout the day Foreign Ministry officials were being quoted as saying that 10 to 20 Israelis were among the hostages, Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni said Thursday evening that 32 Israelis believed to be in the city had not yet been accounted for.

Livni said that it was not known how many people were in the Chabad House, and that the situation was "worrisome." The house is a center not only for Israelis visiting the city, but also for Jews from all over the world.

Chabad spokesman Moni Ender in Israel said there were eight Israelis inside the house, including the Chabad rabbi and his wife. Thursday morning Sandra Samuel, a woman who worked at the center and had been barricaded inside, came out of the building with the Holtzbergs' two-year-old son, Moshe.

In addition to the Chabad House, Livni said it was likely that there were also Israelis in the Oberoi Hotel, one of two luxury hotels that the terrorists also took over. No Israelis were believed to be in the other hotel, the Taj Mahal...

...Indian authorities reported that 119 people had died and 288 were wounded when the terrorists, armed with assault rifles, hand grenades and explosives, launched a highly coordinated attack against 10 sites in the city Wednesday night.

Dozens of people were held throughout the day at the hotels and the nearby Chabad House by the well-trained and heavily armed gunmen, authorities said.

...President Shimon Peres said that the events in India must make the world aware of the dangers of terrorism, the need to develop a united and serious strategy in the war against terror and the importance of striking at the core of terror cells in different parts of the world. Peres pointed to Iran as the heartland of global terrorism, saying that it openly supported terror....

....Greer Fay Cashman and Judy Siegel contributed to this report.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Mumbai attacks: troops storm hotels

From The Australian by Bruce Loudon and agencies November 27, 2008:

INDIAN commandos have stormed two hotels hit by co-ordinated Islamist terrorist attacks in Mumbai overnight that targeted tourists and left at least 80 people dead.

More than 900 people, including two Australians, have been injured in India's financial capital after one of the biggest attacks since 9/11, targeting the city's luxury hotels and taking hostage scores of foreigners. Officials said that the terrorists, firing high velocity rifles, had swept through some of India's most famous hotels seeking American and British as well as other tourists.

At least 12 targets across Mumbai were attacked in the co-ordinated onslaught, which killed the city's two top Anti-Terrorist Squad officials. Among the targets attacked were the Taj Mahal and Oberoi (Trident) hotels, all of which were crowded with foreigners including Australians. Officials said that at least 20 Australians - including a trade delegation from NSW - were caught up in the drama and there were reports that two Australians had been wounded in the attacks.

The attacks started shortly after midnight local time with assaults on local train stations, hospitals and the hotels. As the extent of the attacks became apparent, units of the Indian army were called out and deployed across the city.

Officials said four terrorists had been killed while fleeing two incidents in cars, while another nine had been arrested. A group calling itself the Deccan Mujahedeen claimed responsibility for the assaults, the Press Trust of India reported.The focus of the co-ordinated assaults was the two upscale hotels, with gunmen taking foreign guests hostage and exchanging fire with anti-terrorist commando units.

Commandos stormed the Taj today, apparently leading to the release of guests inside, with television footage showing people being shepherded out of the building. Shortly afterwards, the upper floors of the landmark hotel became engulfed in flames and huge plumes of smoke billowed out from its distinctive red dome. It was not immediately clear what caused the blaze or whether the gunmen were still inside.

At the Oberoi the military reportedly entered the building and a large explosion was heard shortly afterwards. Another hostage situation was unfolding at Cama Hospital, CNN's sister network in India, CNN-IBN reported.

One of those killed during the Taj operation was Mumbai's Anti-Terrorism Squad chief Hemant Karkare. At least 11 police were killed across the city, CNN-IBN said. A top government official in New Delhi told The Australian today that the attacks were believed to be the work of Islamic terrorists linked to al-Qa'ida, and said he believed they may be related to local elections now taking place in the disputed territory of Kashmir...

... Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh condemned the attacks, which Interior Minister Shivraj Patil described as a “big conspiracy.” The US State Department voiced shock at the “horrific” events in Mumbai, while British Prime Minister Gordon Brown called the attacks “outrageous.” India has witnessed a wave of coordinated attacks in recent months.

and from Nov 27, 2008 by DAVID HOROVITZ:

Chabad fears for safety of its Mumbai rabbi

Chabad-Lubavitch is asking people to say prayers for its director in Mumbai, Rabbi Gavriel Holtzberg, and his wife Rivka Holtzberg, whose whereabouts it has been unable to establish following Wednesday's terrorist attacks in the city.

"Pray that we should hear good news," urged a Chabad spokesman, Rabbi Zalman Shmotkin...

...there had been "several reports that shots were fired in the vicinity of the Chabad House, and unconfirmed reports on CNN of casualties ...." ... The Foreign Ministry in Jerusalem confirmed the possibility that hostages had been taken in the Chabad House area, Israel Radio reported.

...The Foreign Ministry repeated at 2 am that it had no reports of Israeli casualties in the attacks. Runyan said that the Israeli consulate in Mumbai also had no reports of Israeli casualties.

... "People are urged to say Psalms for Gavriel Noach ben Freida Bluma and Rivka bas Yehudis, and anyone affected by the tragedy."

What to do about Durban? – A time to make a stand

This lenghty excerpt from a letter by Rama Enav, World WIZO Representative to the UN in Geneva, is a very worthwhile summary of this issue:

As many of us might remember, in August of 2001, the world witnessed the so-called World Conference against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and related Intolerance, by now known to all as Durban Conference. This conference quickly became a huge display of anti-Semitism, giving a platform to the demonization of Israel as the crucifier and of the Palestinian people as the victims. The equating of Zionism with Racism that was annulled by the UN in 1991, was happily revived and Israel was blamed of using “apartheid practices”, and committing “crimes against humanity”.

Much of the hatred took place in the six-day NGO forum preceding the actual conference. In a large stadium, attended by 6000 representatives of close to 2000 NGOs, the Star of David was horrifyingly compared to the Nazi Swastika and posters were displayed claming that the world would have been a better place if Hitler had won.

On the fourth day of the conference the United States and Israel walked out. Other western countries stayed throughout the conference, hoping to be able to balance the outcomes. As so often happens in UN conferences, the coalition of the 56 Islamic countries followed by the African Group managed to divert attention and blame from their own transgressions against women, religious minorities and political challengers by bashing and singling out Israel.

The conference, which was chaired by South Africa and dominated by an African agenda, failed to acknowledge the ills Africa has inflicted upon itself and continues to inflict on its people seven years after Durban. These ills we recently witnessed in violent racial attacks against immigrants in Johannesburg, genocide and rape of women and girls in the Sudan and the Democratic Republic of Congo, and the politically-rooted starvation in Zimbabwe.

The attempts by European and other western countries to balance the extreme language offered by Iran and the Arab States was successful only in blunting it. They finally agreed to single out Israel (in more moderate and balanced language) in order to proclaim a successful conference. The final document of the Conference, the Durban Declaration and Program of Action (DDPA) “expressed concern about the plight of the Palestinian people under foreign occupation” which, taken at face value, is not such a disagreeable concept. However, it is wrong to address such a concept in a conference on racism and intolerance. Furthermore, it was the only country-specific situation included in the 380-paragraph document.

As many of us are already aware, the UN, with growing pressure from the growing Muslim domination in the organization, decided to engage in a review process of the above declaration (DDPA). In 2006, the United Nations General Assembly, in its resolution 61/149, decided to convene a review conference on the implementation of the Durban Declaration and Program of Action in 2009. It requested that the Human Rights Council (in Geneva) prepare this event. The Human Rights Council elected a Preparatory Committee, paradoxically chaired by Libya and seconded by Cuba, to oversee this process.

The first substantive session of the Preparatory Committee was held in Geneva from 21 April to 2 May 2008, which was over the Pesach holiday, a fact that made it very difficult for Jewish NGOs to participate. During this session the Preparatory Committee took several “important decisions” concerning such things as the accreditation of several NGOs, such as one called “Grassroots Anti-Apartheid Wall Campaign” while barring other UN approved NGOs such as the “Canadian Council for Israel and Jewish Advocacy”. The date of the Review Conference was set for the 20-24 April, 2009, which ironically falls on Yom Hashoa, and the venue was decided as Geneva. The structure of the Draft Outcome Document was starting to form. At this point it was already clear the direction in which this conference is to go.

Even before April, 2008, Canada declared that they will not participate in the Durban Review Conference (DRC), by now coined “Durban II”, saying it will "not be party to an anti-Semitic and anti-Western hatefest dressed up as an anti-racism conference.”

Israel repeatedly says that it will not give legitimacy to this process unless it is proven beyond all doubt that the conference will be free from any antisemitic narratives. The US is headed in the same direction.

President Sarkozy of France made a statement to CRIF in February saying that a breach of red lines could also trigger France boycott of the conference. There were no clear indications of what these “red lines” are.

The British Government announced during a debate in the Parliament last spring that it would pull out of the process if it appeared that there would be a repeat of the “disgraceful antisemitism that blighted the 2001 conference”.

The Dutch Foreign Minister said last May that he would withdraw from the process if he gets the feeling that events are taking negative turn. He said that it is unacceptable for Israel to be persistently denounced by countries that have a long way to go in terms of democracy and respect to human rights.

During the last week of August the African Regional Group met in Abuja, Nigeria, to adapt a declaration which will contribute to the negotiation of the proposed outcomes of Durban II. The African declaration failed to address racial and ethnic crimes committed by Sudan (or any other African nation, for that matter) but directly targeted Israel alone, implying that it is uniquely racist.

On September 29, 2008, the eve of Rosh Hashanah, the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC) and the Asian Regional Group publicized their written contribution to the draft outcome document, for the first time. The OIC said it expects Durban II to repeat or add to the Original DDPA a list of multiple allegations of Israeli human rights violations and a claim that Palestinians are victims of Israeli racism. The document also contains wild accusations of global Islamaphobia which, in turn, justify gross violations of freedom of expression around the world. In addition the document claims that "defamation of religion" surmounts individual rights and freedoms, and that individual rights must take a back seat to the protection of religion. These accusations refer, of course, to the Danish caricatures and to the European (Free world?) freedom of expression.

The second substantive session of the Preparatory Committee took place in Geneva between 6 and 17 October 2008. It was the two weeks of Yom Kippur and Sukkoth. Again it was seemed that someone is purposely trying to prevent Jewish NGOs from participating in the meetings.
For two whole weeks, states and NGOs’ representatives battled over the long proposed outcome document (by now 646 paragraphs long) that is supposed to be adopted at the UN so-called anti-racism conference. That document features ever stronger accusations that Israel is guilty of apartheid, crime against humanity and Genocide, and affirms that Palestinians are victims of Israeli racism. It makes new allegations that Zionism is racism by connecting it to “racially based law of return”, and claims the right of return for the Palestinian people which will end the Jewishness of Israel. It declares the internationality of Jerusalem and as such contest the Israeli sovereignty over Jerusalem.

Beside these anti-Zionist paragraphs, which is still the only country situation to be named in the document, the draft proposed document also contains an attempt to confine freedom of speech, and insist that the world media will be governed by “a code of ethical conducts” to protect against defamation of religion.

This document is an obvious effort by states that sponsor terrorism to turn attention away from their own atrocious behavior by presenting themselves as victims. They claim that “the most serious manifestations of defamation of religion are the increase in Islamaphobia and the worsening of the situation of the Muslim minorities around the world”.

And despite all that - the European countries still do not walk out. By now I am not sure anymore which “red lines” have not yet been breeched. During the 2 weeks of negotiation, the European Union, led by France, made very few and very non-powerful interventions. The stage was altogether taken by the Muslim and Arab coalitions.

In a briefing last week by the Israeli ambassador to the UN to Geneva Based NGOs, the ambassador said that Europe is currently willing to sacrifice Israel’s cause for their objectives: to improve the language of the proposed draft concerning freedom of expression and defamation of religion .

He said that England and Denmark are considering leaving Durban II conference but would not yet commit themselves. His Australian counterpart told him that various Jewish NGOs in Australia are lobbying the Australian government to participate in the process. The same I heard from a representative of the Board of Deputies of British Jews (BOD) who was in Geneva last week. She told me that the British Jewish Community encourages the British government to stay within the Durban process. They believe that from within, their government has the power to influence the outcomes; a thought that I entertained for a long while myself.

However, as said by Anne Bayefsky of the Hudson institute in New York “The continued participation of democratic states like the EU and Australia in the Durban II forum is legitimizing a global discussion for and against antisemitism, for and against a Jewish state, for and against freedom of expression”. She calls for the Western states to immediately walk out instead of providing a global platform to the enemies of human rights.

In the coming weeks the Israeli government will declare its total boycott of the Durban Review Conference [now done - SL]. It will ask its friends in the international community (Paris, London, Berlin, Rome…) to do the same. ...

...The European Union and the Western Group see themselves as a week minority who can not stand up to the dominating Muslim Block. They do not understand that actually without them there will be no conference. Without them it will be a conference of non-democracies who speak only to themselves. By stepping out, the European Union and other western states would de-legitimize the whole process. In that respect, they are very powerful....

Rights group calls for U.N. apology over Congo post

From Reuters, by Robert Evans, GENEVA, Nov 26 [my own emphasis added - SL]:

The United Nations Human Rights Council should apologize for having abolished its post of rights monitor for the Democratic Republic of Congo earlier this year, a non-governmental group said on Wednesday. [They're too busy vilifying Israel - SL]

The Geneva-based UN Watch said the 47-member state body should be held to account for getting rid of its special rapporteur for the Congo, given the abuses and atrocities people there are now enduring. "Morally, those countries on the Council who were behind the elimination of the monitoring mandate in March ought now to apologize to the victims of Congo," UN Watch executive director Hillel Neuer said ahead of the Human Rights Council's emergency session on conditions in Congo, scheduled for Friday.

The one-day special session was called at the request of mainly European and Latin American states, following requests from rights bodies such as Amnesty International for the Council to take action over the Congo crisis.

A report prepared by the office of U.N. Secrtetary-General Ban Ki-moon, obtained by Reuters earlier this week, accused both government and rebel forces in the former Zaire of carrying out mass killings, rape and torture.

Several rights groups are calling for the re-establishment of the Council's independent monitoring post for Congo, which was eliminated with the support of Egypt, Algeria, Tunisia, Russia and other countries after the administration of President Joseph Kabila in Kinshaha argued there was no need for it.

"We will never know how many lives could have been saved if the Council, deferring to Congo's government, had not caused this unconscionable protection gap which slashed an early- warning mechanism just when the victims needed it most," Neuer said in a statement.

Over the past two years the Council has abolished the posts of several other location-specific special rapporteurs, including those in Belarus, Cuba and Sudan's Darfur region.

Since its launch in 2006 to replace the U.N. Human Rights Commission, the Council has held
  • four special sessions on Israel's treatment of the Palestinians,
  • one on Myanmar,
  • one on Darfur, and
  • one on the global food crisis.

(Editing by Laura MacInnis and Richard Balmforth)

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

US Puts Pressure on Israel to Refrain from Attacks

From Time/CNN, by Tim McGirk / Jerusalem Monday, Nov. 24, 2008:

U.S. officials have asked Israel to refrain from launching any major military action in the region during the waning days of the Bush presidency, Israeli sources have told TIME.

Previously, some Israeli military officials had hinted to the media that if Israel were to carry out its threats to strike at Iranian nuclear installations, it might do so before Barack Obama enters the White House in January. But now a Defense Ministry official says, "We have been warned off."

...Washington's concerns are not limited to the possibility of Israel attacking Iran, the sources say; U.S. officials have also cautioned Israelis against launching a ground assault inside the besieged Palestinian territory of Gaza in a bid to stop militants there from firing rockets into southern Israel. Bush Administration officials warn that such an attack could cost many lives and jeopardize the painstaking, thus far futile efforts of U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to broker a peace agreement between Israel and the Palestinian Authority.

To strengthen the case against Israel invading Gaza, U.S. officials turned to Jordan's King Abdullah for help in stemming the rocket attacks from Gaza, according to knowledgeable Palestinian and Jordanian officials. Because the U.S. has avoided direct talks with the militant Hamas movement, which runs Gaza but which the U.S. deems a terrorist organization, Abdullah was approached to act as a go-between, these sources told TIME. The Jordanian monarch complied with the U.S. request and last week dispatched a senior intelligence officer to Damascus to warn exiled Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal that Gaza was in danger of an Israeli attack unless the rocket fire was immediately stopped.

(See pictures of tension along the Gaza border.)

Rocket fire from Gaza had largely stopped during a five-month cease-fire between Israel and Hamas that was brokered by Egypt, but that unraveled on Nov. 4, when Israel raided Gaza to destroy a tunnel it accused Hamas of digging to conduct cross-border raids. Since then, dozens of rockets have been fired at Israel, and the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) have responded with land and air attacks and by halting supplies that were to enter Gaza. Israel has hoped to tighten the screws on Hamas by blocking all but a trickle of aid from reaching Gaza's 1.5 million stricken inhabitants, leading to what U.N. officials describe as a humanitarian crisis. For the past two weeks, the Israeli military has barred foreign journalists from entering the Palestinian territory to report on the siege.

Israeli officials told TIME that Israeli forces have no immediate plans to mount a ground assault on Gaza, and that the division commander in charge of the area had recently been transferred out. Israel faces a general election in February, and the current Defense Minister and Labor leader Ehud Barak, who is far behind in the polls, is unlikely to risk sending troops on a hazardous foray into Gaza.

In Damascus, Hamas leader Mashaal reportedly agreed to the request to halt rocket attacks and relayed orders to Gaza, Jordanian sources say. On Wednesday, according to sources in Gaza, senior Hamas military commanders met with leaders of Islamic Jihad and other smaller militant bands and ordered them to stop firing rockets.

Once Abdullah secured a promise from Hamas to halt the rocket fire, he summoned Olmert and Barak for an urgent meeting at his palace in Amman on Tuesday night, where he relayed the news of Hamas' willingness to curb the rocket fire. He also warned the two Israelis that an assault on Gaza would destroy any chance of an Arab peace initiative and would jeopardize Israel's ties with its moderate Arab neighbors, Jordan and Egypt....

...With reporting by Massimo Calabresi / Washington; Jamil Hamad / Ramallah; and Aaron J. Klein / Jerusalem

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Barak Urges U.S. to Focus on Iran Nuclear Threat

From, Nov. 20, by Gwen Ackerman and Calev Ben-David:

Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak said the U.S. and Europe should put aside differences with China and Russia over human-rights and missile-defense issues to focus on working together to stop Iran from developing nuclear weapons.

"The triad of nuclear proliferation, radical Muslim terror, and rogue states, epitomized in the Iran case, can be defeated only through a paradigm shift in international relationships,'' Barak said in an interview at the Defense Ministry in Tel Aviv late yesterday.

Barak said criticism of Russia's actions in Chechnya and China's human-rights record are hurting efforts to put up a united front against Iran. He also said that U.S. plans to deploy a missile-defense system in eastern Europe -- which the Americans say is aimed at countering Iran and which Moscow perceives as a threat -- also aren't helpful. "The other issues are not as urgent,'' he said.

..."The time for sanctions is still there, but it is short,'' said Barak, 66, who heads Israel's Labor Party and is the country's former prime minister. "The way I see to make it effective is to cut through the psychological obstacles about cooperating with Russia and China and open a new discourse.''

...Gerald Steinberg, chairman of Bar Ilan University's political science department in Ramat Gan, said Barak's comment tying the lack of progress on confronting Iran to the West's disagreements with China and Russia is noteworthy.

"...This is aligning Israeli policy, or at least Barak's policy, with the recognition that Barack Obama is coming into office.''

U.S. President-elect Obama, who will take office on Jan. 20, said during his campaign that he would seek more cooperation from Russia and China to make the sanctions against Iran effective. Barak said he has expressed his views about Iran to Obama and President George W. Bush....

Holy Land Foundation defendants guilty on all counts

From The Dallas Morning News, Monday, November 24, 2008, By JASON TRAHAN and TANYA EISERER:

A jury on Monday determined that the Holy Land Foundation and five men who worked with the Muslim charity were guilty of three dozen counts related to the illegal funneling of at least $12 million to the Palestinian terrorist group Hamas.

The unanimous verdicts are a complete victory for the government, which streamlined its case after a mistrial last year, and worked hard to carefully educate jurors on the complex, massive evidence presented in the trial.

Guilty verdicts were read on 108 separate charges.

..."...a loud and clear message has been sent – if any group funnels money to a terrorist organization, the government will hunt you down and turn off the money spigot," said Robert Hirschhorn, a nationally known jury consultant based in Lewisville. His partner, Dallas attorney Lisa Blue, was hired by the government to help pick the jury.

It was the second trial where the government attempted to convict the men and the now defunct Richardson-based Holy Land Foundation itself. It took the jury eight days of deliberations to reach its decisions – less than half the time it took jurors to end up with an almost complete mistrial last year on the first go-around.

...."The issue is not whether they made money. The issue is whether the money went to Hamas," said prosecutor Barry Jonas, addressing defense attorney arguments that their clients did not benefit from any of Holy Land's business transactions just before the jury went back into deliberations.

...prosecutors attempted to prove that five former charity organizers used Holy Land, once the largest Muslim charity in the U.S., to funnel an estimated $60 million to the militant group – most of it before 1995.

Hamas was designated as a terrorist organization by the U.S. in 1995, and the trial centered on the $12 million the government said Holy Land and supporters funneled to the group after that date....

...Holy Land, regardless of the verdict, is defunct. And other international terrorism financing pipelines have been interrupted....

Monday, November 24, 2008

Iranian general leads Hizballah war exercise integrated with Tehran, Damascus

From DEBKAfile November 23, 2008:

Iran's al Qods chief Qassem Suleimani commands Hizballah war drill in S. Lebanon

Hizballah’s military maneuver Saturday, Nov. 22, in an area south of the Litani River barred by the UN gave Iran’s Al Qods chief, Gen. Qassem Suleimani, a chance to personally check on its Lebanese proxy’s ability to draw up battle lines at speed against a potential Israeli tank incursion of the Beqaa Valley.

... the exercise provided Tehran’s first opportunity to test the functioning of the senior staff quarters in Khoramshahr near the Iranian-Iraqi border, which have taken over direct command of the Lebanese terrorist group.

Its maneuver was fully integrated with the military exercises staged across Iran over the week-end and coordinated with Syrian army headquarters in Damascus.

For the first time, all the pro-Iranian military elements on Israel’s borders have now been pulled together for a joint maneuver by a high-ranking Iranian general. As of Nov. 22, therefore, Iran, Syria and Lebanon are tightly meshed into a Tehran-led combined front against any war contingency.

This development seriously upgrades the peril Iran poses to Israel’s security and brings it right up to its back door.

On the ground, Hizballah’s field commanders practiced interchanges - and tested their communications links - with Syria’s 10th and 14th divisions deployed opposite South Lebanon and the Israeli border positions on Mount Hermon, Mount Dov and the Chebaa Farms.
Formally, the al Qods Brigades is a unit of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards Corps, but Gen. Suleimani, whose mandate covers Iran’s extraterritorial surrogates and sponsored terrorist movement, enjoys broad autonomy and answers directly only to supreme ruler Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

Engrossed in a tough election campaign, Israel’s leaders responded feebly to this development, merely commenting on Hizballah’s “brazen” violation of UN Security Council ceasefire resolution 1701 of 2006, which closed Lebanon south of the Litani to Hizballah gunmen. One defense ministry official affirmed that Hizballah had been armed with “tens of thousands of Iranian rockets,” without indicating what Israel intended to do about this menacing arsenal.

Hizballah manipulated from Tehran and Damascus is going full steam ahead with its war preparations without apparent fear of Israeli interference.

'Prepare for war'

From The Sydney Morning Herald, by Paul Sheehan November 24, 2008:

... Last week I met ...the former head of the Israeli Defence Forces, General Moshe "Boogie" Ya'alon, who is preparing the political groundwork for a military attack on Iran's key nuclear facilities. "We have to confront the Iranian revolution immediately," he told me. "There is no way to stabilise the Middle East today without defeating the Iranian regime. The Iranian nuclear program must be stopped."

Defeating the theocratic regime in Tehran could be economic or political or, as a last resort, military, he said. "All tools, all options, should be considered." ...

...Ya'alon ...will run for the conservative Likud party in the general election in Israel on February 10. Likud is leading the opinion polls. So I could have been speaking to Israel's next defence minister or, at least, an influential member of the next cabinet.

He is not known for making idle threats. Ya'alon is a former paratroop commander and was deputy leader of the Israel Defence Forces from 2000 to 2002, then chief of staff from 2002 to 2005, during the most recent Palestinian uprising, or intifada. He is credited with shutting it down.

Events are moving quickly. The Israeli Atomic Energy Commission has estimated that Iran will have produced enough highly enriched uranium by the end of next year to produce a nuclear bomb. Next year is widely regarded in Israel as year zero for the strategic decision about Iran's nuclear program.

"There is a growing sense of anxiety here, from the top levels down," said Eran Lerman, a former senior member of Israel's Directorate of Military Intelligence. "The anxiety is built on the knowledge that the Iranians are pressing ahead. The centrifuges are whirring away. Next year will be critical."

Boogie Ya'alon agrees. He has long regarded Iran as the main wellspring of instability and terrorism in the region. "I was chief of staff during Operation Iraqi Freedom [the US invasion of Iraq in 2003] and I was surprised the US decided to go into Iraq instead of Iran … Unfortunately, the American public didn't have the political stomach to go into Iran."

Ya'alon does. "Military intervention would not be one strike. It needs to be a sustained operation … Any military strike in Iran will be quietly applauded by Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Jordan and the Gulf states. It is a misconception to think that the Arab-Israeli conflict is the most important in the Middle-East. The Shiite-Sunni schism is much bigger, the Persian-Arab divide is bigger, the struggle between national regimes and jihadism is much bigger. And I can't imagine the US will want to share power in the Middle East with a nuclear-armed Iran."

The Boogie doctrine is mainstream, not fringe, in the Israeli strategic debate.
  • "We cannot accept a nuclear Iran, we cannot be reconciled to it," Major-General Amos Gilad, the head of the Defence Department's Diplomatic Security Bureau, told The Jerusalem Post last Thursday.
  • "Israel is preparing for an attack on the Iran nuclear facilities," Dr Jonathan Spyer, a senior research fellow at the Global Research in International Affairs Centre, told me in Tel Aviv last week.
  • "Sanctions won't work against Iran. Only a military action against Iran will work," Professor Efraim Inbar said. "I know the Israeli military is preparing its capacity to destroy the Iranian nuclear threat."

Inbar is another of Israel's warrior-scholars, a former paratrooper who is professor in political studies at Bar-Ian University and Director of the Begin-Sadat Centre for Strategic Studies. He does not accept the argument, popular in America, than the Iranian nuclear facilities are already impregnable to attack. "I'm a paratrooper. If you are committed, if you are willing to pay the price, you can destroy the target."

Inbar also believes the Iranian regime, by spreading Persian and Shiite power, is widely unpopular in the Sunni Arab world.

In effect, Israel has already conducted a test run into an enemy country and been encouraged by the results. In September last year, Israeli Air Force jets destroyed a nuclear facility under construction in Syria. Israel never said a word. Syria never said a word. No government in the Middle East ever said a word.

"Israel's raid on Syria was greeted by a thunderous silence from the rest of the region," Eran Lerman said. "What that silence told us was that the rest of the region regard Syria as part of the Iranian problem. If Iran obtains the bomb, even if they don't use it or threaten to use it, they will have positioned themselves in a way that will transform this region into a much more dangerous place. Iran has influence on the Shiia communities, not just in Iraq and through Hezbollah in Lebanon but in Syria and the Gulf states. The position of the moderate states in the Gulf will have been rendered more fragile."

Lerman, too, believes next year will be year zero. "Unless the pace [of developing Iran's nuclear program] is slowed down, we will need to face some bitter decisions within a year. The sanctions have failed.

"The Iranian regime's need for a nuclear bomb is a reflection of the profound crisis in which it finds itself after almost 30 years in power. They promised the earth and the country is in disarray. The regime has failed to create or sustain stable social structures. So the last validated remnant of the Iranian revolution is to destroy Israel."

Israel is preparing accordingly....

Good News About Obama Appointments

From Middle East Forum, by Steve Rosen, Wed, 19 Nov 2008:

Previous postings raised questions about potential nominees to Obama Administration positions regarding their views on Israel, Iran, the Palestinians, and other issues. Today, I focus on reasons to have confidence that the incoming team will do positive things in the Middle East. Many of the candidates already nominated or rumored to be likely appointees, are well known to and highly regarded by AIPAC and other pro-Israel organizations. My colleagues, and in some cases I, had contacts and dealings with each of these people over the years, and we had evidence that gave us confidence. This includes
  • Rahm Emmanuel, Chief of Staff to the President;
  • Ron Klain, Chief of Staff to Vice President Biden;
  • Jim Steinberg, likely to be Deputy National Security Adviser or National Security Adviser to Obama;
  • Tony Blinken, likely to be National Security Adviser to the Vice President;
  • Greg Craig, White House Counsel;
  • Pete Rouse, White House adviser;
  • Jim Messina, Deputy Chief of Staff to the president;
  • Phil Schiliro, Assistant to the President for Legislative Affairs;
  • Dennis Ross, rumored for several top diplomatic positions;
  • Jack Lew, rumored to head the National Economic Council;
  • Jane Harman and Tony Lake, rumored for top intelligence positions;
  • Janet Napolitano, who will head the Department of Homeland Security;
  • Richard Danzig, probable Deputy Secretary of Defense;
  • Richard Clarke, rumored for a ntational security post,; and many others.

Not to mention Hillary Clinton, Joe Biden, and Barack Obama. That certainly doesn't mean we never had disagreements or will never, but this looks like it will be an Administration full of people quite capable of making wise decisions in the Middle East.

That said, I will continue to look for potential problems among possible nominees and policy developments...

Sunday, November 23, 2008

UN to Mourn 60 Years of Israel's Existence

From Eye 0n the UN, 22/11/08, by Anne Bayefsky (

NEW YORK - This Monday, November 24th, the UN will commemorate its annual International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People with a film depicting Jews as Nazi-equivalents and a public exhibit mourning the sixty years of Israel's existence.

"The event is an annual reminder that the UN's real agenda is to delegitimize the birth - and the perseverance - of the state of Israel," said Anne Bayefsky, Editor of

Monday's observance marks November 29, 1947 - the day that the UN voted to establish a Jewish and an Arab state in Palestine - a decision accepted by the Jews and rejected by the Arabs. This year's observance is being held a week early due to scheduling conflicts.As in years past, there will be a formal meeting Monday morning of the Committee on the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People, a film, an afternoon meeting of the General Assembly on the "Question of Palestine," and the opening of a public exhibit in the entrance to the UN's New York headquarters.

Former UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan referred to November 29th as "a day of mourning and a day of grief," and the usual procedure is for UN member state after UN member state to use the opportunity to grieve for the suffering of the Palestinian people at Israeli hands. The General Assembly is scheduled to adopt another six resolutions condemning only Israel for violations of human rights. The total number of resolutions criticizing Israel expected to be adopted at this fall's General Assembly is 20, as compared to only four resolutions critical of human rights records in any of the remaining 191 UN member nations.

The 2008 installment of what is in essence a repeat of the "Zionism = Racism" allegation, will be the public showing of the film "La Terre Parle Arabe" or "The Land Speaks Arabic." The film draws parallels between the Nazis' final solution and the alleged Zionist design for Palestinians. It is commonly billed with these words: "…the late-19th century Zionists…drew up plans, put them into practice, then…used… force, often brutal." Here is some of the script for the UN public's edification:

"Christians and Muslims alike…unite in their hatred of Zionism…I preferred to die as a martyr rather than be governed by the Jews …We were against the Jews…The number of Jews increased constantly…The children cried …The Hagana had no mercy, no pity. Zionists! They were Zionists!… The Jews were shooting at us,
they were facing us…The Jews yelled "turn around you bastards, you dogs." They
machine gunned us…They started killing people who were asleep…[We]…found a poor woman…pregnant. They had killed her and the baby came out of the womb. They started slaughtering them until morning."

The exhibit to be opened at 6 p.m. on Monday in the UN lobby - the public entrance through which school children from across the United States and tourists from around the world pass every day - is entitled "The Palestinians: 60 years of struggle and enduring hope."

Bayefsky comments: "The "sixty years" of struggle is telling. It puts a lie to the alleged root cause of the Arab-Israeli conflict as an "occupation" that began with the 1967 war. The real complaint is the alleged wrong of the creation of the State of Israel itself." She adds: "The carefully selected word "struggle" also speaks volumes. What the UN glorifies as a struggle is a series of wars launched by Arabs to annihilate the state of Israel beginning in 1948, and the ongoing "struggle" of Palestinian and other Arab terrorists dedicated to the same end."

Past UN Palestinian Solidarity Day observances have included:
  • The display of a map in Arabic with the State of Israel missing altogether
  • Flying only the flags of "Palestine" and the United Nations, and omitting the flag of the UN member state of Israel
  • Opening the day with a moment of silence commemorating the death, among others, of suicide bombers or "all those who have given their lives for the cause of the Palestinian people..."
  • Exhibits promoting terrorism and the alleged right of return while criticizing a host of non-violent efforts by Israel to prevent terrorism from checkpoints to a security fence - all of which are invariably presented as evil steps taken in a vacuum.

"Anyone hoping to see an Israeli flag flown in addition to a Palestinian one in celebration of the UN partition plan that approved a two-state solution, should not hold their breath," said Anne Bayefsky, Editor of She continued, "the UN tradition of mourning the creation of the state of Israel continues."

There are people of goodwill everywhere

I'd like to draw your attention to a comment just added to a JIW posting entitled AUSTRIA: Land of Dungeons and Suppressed Memories, which I originally posted 3 May, and updated 6 May 2008.

The new coment is by "Anonymous", who actually introduces himself as Christoph Tremetzberger, is a 27-year-old Austrian, born in St Georgen an der Gusen, the epi-centre of the Nazi concentration-camp complex of northern Austria.

Despite the conspiracy of secrecy and suppression of the facts of Austrian Nazi collaboration, Christoph belongs to "a group of young people which wants to bring the truth in the heads of the people..."

Follow the link to read the original article and Christoph's comments in full.

It is a heartenening and encouraging sign that such young people are emerging in Austria to reconcile themselve with the history of their own region. I had the honour to meet several such honest people of goodwill in Austria, including the schoolteacher Martha Gammer, who Christoph mentions in his comment.

Those of us who are dedicsated to tikkun olam (repairing the world) salute Christoph and his friends...we are proud to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with them in their endeavours to help the world learn from history ....