Friday, December 12, 2008

Simon Wiesenthal Center urges more political will in bringing Nazi war criminals to justice

From The Star Tribune, Minnesotta, by VERONIKA OLEKSYN, Associated Press, December 11:

VIENNA, Austria - Australia, Hungary and Lithuania are failing to investigate and prosecute suspected Nazi war criminals largely due to a lack of political will, the Simon Wiesenthal Center said Thursday.

The Nazi-hunting group said the same holds true for Croatia, Estonia, Latvia and Ukraine, adding all countries in question face no legal obstacles in bringing suspects to justice.

The findings were published in the center's annual report, which graded the investigation and prosecution efforts of countries around the world between April 2007 and March 2008.

"In analyzing the results presented in this report, the critical importance of political will in bringing Nazi war criminals to justice is increasingly evident," wrote Efraim Zuroff, the center's chief Nazi hunter.

However, he lauded the success achieved by U.S. prosecution agencies, saying they should serve as a catalyst for governments around the world.

Australia was given the worst possible mark — an "F-2"_ for its continued failure to extradite Nazi collaborator Charles Zentai, an Australian citizen accused of killing a Jewish teenager in Hungary during World War II.

The report said Australia admitted at least several hundred Nazi war criminals and collaborators but has failed to take successful legal action against a single one.

In August, an Australian judge found that Zentai's case and circumstances met the requirements of the Australian Extradition Act and the Extradition Treaty between Australia and the Republic of Hungary. Lawyers for Zentai said at the time they would appeal the ruling....

Toben's offensive

From: The Australian December 08, 2008 by Pia Akerman:

...serial Holocaust revisionist Fredrick Toben is unrepentant....the Holocaust denier is free once more to loudly declare the views that others find so offensive.

"The Germans never systematically exterminated anyone - it's a lie," he says.... "I refuse to recant."

..Toben, 64, returned to Adelaide last week after his 50-day stay in London's Wandsworth Prison and wasted no time in resuming his Adelaide Institute newsletter...

The former schoolteacher was arrested aboard a plane at Heathrow airport on October 1 en route to Dubai. British police were acting on a European Union arrest warrant, issued in Germany, which accused him of publishing internet material "of an anti-Semitic and/or revisionist nature".

...But Dr Toben's legal team - recruited by former Newcastle beauty queen and outspoken revisionist supporter Michele Renouf - emerged victorious after a British judge ruled the arrest warrant invalid.

...Holocaust denial is not a crime in Britain or Australia.

It was not the first time Germany - his homeland - had pursued Dr Toben. He spent seven months in a Mannheim prison in 1999 for inciting racism.

With international travel off the cards in the near future in case of further arrest, Dr Toben remains in Adelaide awaiting a Federal Court judgment in a civil case against him.
He has pleaded not guilty to 28 charges alleging he breached orders by the Federal Court in 2002 not to publish offensive material on his website. He faces a finding of criminal contempt if found guilty.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

A thousand words...

IDF is poised for a Gaza operation

From Ynet News, 11/12/08, by Ron Ben Yishai:

...military is waiting for political echelon to green light operation in Strip ...various plans already presented to cabinet

Eight days before the ceasefire agreement brokered with the militant groups in the Gaza Strip is scheduled to end, and amid non-stop rocket fire, a security source said that "the IDF will execute any operation the political echelon orders."

The source further criticized statements made by various cabinet members, saying there was no need for them to publicly call for a Gaza operation, while they choose to take different stands – sometimes opposite stands – in the practical discussions on the matter.

The IDF presented the National Security Cabinet, which discussed the ongoing rocket fire on Israel Wednesday night, with various plans of action, meant to paralyze the rocket and mortar shell fire emanating form the Strip.

According to the security source, the IDF is ready to launch any of its plans or a combination of them, but for that to happen, the political echelon must make an operational decision.

In a meeting which included Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, Defense Minister Ehud Barak and Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, and in light of the sparring between Barak and Livni, the prime minister urged both to leave the IDF and the defense establishment out of the political debate: "The heads of the defense establishment and the IDF must not be attributed with any political considerations," the Prime Minister's Office said.

National Security Cabinet member Interior Minister Meir Sheetrit, called on the cabinet to halt the discussions on the fortification of the Gaza vicinity communities: "The best defense is a good offense… I want to see fortifications in Gaza, not in Israel," he said.

Shas Chairman Eli Yishai called for "an immediate surgical operation against Hamas' heads and those carrying out terror attacks and firing Qassam rockets and mortar shells on Israel." Yishai also said Israel should opt for a "financial chokehold" on Gaza.

Foreign Minister Livni demanded an immediate Israeli response to the recent rocket fire, saying "fire should be met with fire."

"The situation is unbearable," said her office. "Hamas and other terror groups are firing rockets, we close the (Gaza) crossings but we don't launch a military response, and as a result the fire continues. The IDF has to act. As for the extent of the operation, we have to choose from the options laid out before us."

What do the present financial crisis and U.S. Middle East policy have in common?

From The Adelson Institute for Strategic Studies, The Shalem Center, 27/11/08, by Martin Kramer:

Behind the financial crisis was a well-practiced mechanism for concealing risk. The risk was there, and it was constantly growing, but it could be disguised, repackaged and renamed, so that in the end it seemed to have disappeared. Much of the debate about foreign policy in the United States is conducted in the same manner: policymakers and pundits, to get what they want, conceal the risks.

In the case of the Middle East, they concealed the risks of bringing Yasser Arafat in from the cold; they concealed the risks of neglecting the growth of Al Qaeda; and they concealed the risks involved in occupying Iraq. It isn't that the risks weren't knownג€”to someone. The intelligence was always there. But if you were clever enough, and determined enough, you could find a way to conceal them.

But concealed risk doesn't go away. It accumulates away from sight, until the moment when it surges back to the surface. It did that after Camp David in 2000, when the "peace process" collapsed in blood; it did that on 9/11, when hijackers shattered the skies over New York in Washington; and it happened in Iraq, when an insurgency kicked us back. This tendency to downplay risk may be an American trait: we have seen it in U.S. markets, and now we see it in U.S. election-year politics. In Middle East policy, its outcome has been a string of very unpleasant surprises.

A case in point is radical Islam. One would think that after the Iranian revolution, the assassination of Anwar Sadat, the terrorism of Hezbollah, the Rushdie affair, the suicide attacks of Hamas and Al Qaeda, the Danish cartoons, and a host of other "surprises," that we would not be inclined to ignore the risks posed by radical Islam. And yet there are batteries of interpreters, analysts and pundits whose principal project is to obscure if not conceal the risks. Here are some of the most widespread variations on the theme:

Worried about Ahmadinejad? Pay him no mind. He doesn't really call the shots in Iran, he's just a figurehead. And anyway, he didn't really say what he's purported to have said, about wiping Israel off the map. What the Iranians really want is to sit down with us and cut a deal. They have a few grievances, some of them are even legitimate, so let's hear them out and invite them to the table, without preconditions. Iran isn't all that dangerous; it's just a small country; and even their own people are tired of the revolution. So pay no attention to Ahmadinejad, and pay no attention to the old slogans of "death to America," because that's not the real Iran.

Worried about the Palestinian Hamas? You've got it wrong. They merely represent another face of Palestinian nationalism. They aren't really Islamists at all: Hamas is basically a protest movement against corruption. Given the right incentives, they can be drawn into the peace process. Sure, they say they will never recognize Israel, but that is what the PLO once said, and didn't they change their tune? Anyway, Hamas controls Gaza, so there can't be a real peace processג€”a settlement of the big issues like Jerusalem, refugees, bordersג€”without bringing them into the tent. So let's sit down and talk to them, figure out what their grievances areג€”no doubt, some of them are legitimate too. And let's get the process back on track.

Troubled by Hezbollah? Don't believe everything they say. They only pretend to be faithful to Iran's ayatollahs, and all their talk about "onwards to Jerusalem" is rhetoric for domestic consumption. What they really want is to earn the Shiites their rightful place in Lebanon, and improve the lot of their aggrieved sect. Engage them, dangle some carrots, give them a place at the table, and see how quickly they transform themselves from an armed militia into a peaceable political party.

And so on. There is a large industry out there, which has as its sole purpose the systematic downplaying of the risks posed by radical Islam. And in the best American tradition, these risks are repackaged as opportunities, under a new name. It could just as easily be called appeasement, but the public associates appeasement with high risk. So let's rename it engagement, which sounds low-risk--- after all, there's no harm in talking, right? And once the risk has been minimized, the possible pay-off is then inflated: if we engage with the Islamists, we will reap the reward in the form of a less tumultuous Middle East. Nuclear plans might be shelved, terror might wane, and peace might prevail.

The engagement package rests upon a key assumption: that these "radical" states, groups, and individuals are motivated by grievances. If only we were able to address or ameliorate those grievances, we could effectively domesticate just about every form of Islamism. Another assumption is that these grievances are finite--- that is, by ameliorating them, they will be diminished.

It is precisely here that advocates of "engagement" are concealing the risk. They do so in two ways. First, they distract us from the deep-down dimension of Islamism--- from the overarching narrative that drives all forms of Islamism. The narrative goes like this: the enemies of Islam--- America, Europe, the Christians, the Jews, Israel--- enjoy much more power than the believing Muslims do. But if we Muslim return to the faith, we can restore to ourselves the vast power we exercised in past, when Islam dominated the world as the West dominates it today. The Islamists believe that through faith--- exemplified by self-sacrifice and self-martyrdom--- they can put history in reverse.

Once this is understood, the second concealment of risk comes into focus. We are told that the demands of Hamas, Hezbollah or Iran are finite. If we give them a concession here, or a foothold there, we will have somehow diminished their demand for more concessions and footholds. But if their purpose is the reversal of history, then our gestures of accommodation, far from enticing them to give up their grand vision, only persuade them to press on. They understand our desire to engage them as a sign of weakness--- an attempt to appease them--- which is itself an enticement for them to push harder against us and our allies. And since they believe in their narrative of an empowered Islam with the fervency of religious conviction, no amount of insistence by us that we will go only so far and no further will stop them.

Our inability to estimate this risk derives in part from our unwillingness to give credence to religious conviction in politics. We are keen to recast Islamists in secular terms--- to see them as political parties, or reform movements, or interest groups. But what if Islamists are none of these things? What if they see themselves as soldiers of God, working his will in the world? How do you deal with someone who believes that a paradise awaits every jihadist "martyr," and that the existence of this paradise is as real and certain to him as the existence of a Sheraton Hotel in Chicago? Or that at any moment, the mahdi, the awaited one, could make a reappearance and usher in the end of days? How do we calculate that risk?

So what are the real risks posed by Islamic extremism? If I were preparing a prospectus for a potential investor in "engagement," or a warning label on possible side effects of "engagement," they would include these warnings:

With regards to Iran. The downside risk is that Iran will prolong "engagement" in such a way as to buy time for its nuclear program--- perhaps just the amount of time it needs to complete it. At the same time, it will use the fact of "engagement" with the United States to chisel away at the weak coalition of Arab states that the United States has cobbled together to contain Iran. If "engagement" is unconditionally offered, Iran will continue its subversive activities in Iraq and Lebanon until it receives some other massive concession. Indeed, it may even accelerate these activities, so as to demand a higher price for their cessation. If the United States stands its ground and "engagement" fails, many in the Middle East will automatically blame the United States, but by then, military options will be even less appealing than they are today.

In regards to Hamas. The downside risk is that "engagement"... will be the nail in the coffin of Mahmoud Abbas, and of any directly negotiated understandings between Israel and the Palestinians. It is true that Israelis and Palestinians aren't capable today of reaching a final status agreement. But the present situation in the West Bank allows for a degree of stability and cooperation. This is because Israel stands as the guarantor against Hamas subversion of the West Bank. "Engagement" with Hamas would weaken that guarantee, signal to Palestinians once again that terrorism pays, and validate and legitimate the anti-Semitic, racist rhetoric that emanates daily from the leaders and preachers of Hamas. It might do all this without bringing Israeli-Palestinian peace even one inch closer.

In regards to Hezbollah. The downside risk is that "engagement" will effectively concede control of Lebanon to an armed militia that constitutes a state within a state. It will undermine America's pretension to champion civil society and pluralism in the most diverse Arab state. It will constitute the final rout of the beleaguered democracy forces within Lebanon, which have been consistently pro-American. It will compound the unfortunate effects of the 2006 summer war, by seeming to acknowledge Hezbollah as the victor. And it might do all this without bringing about the disarming of a single Hezbollah terrorist, or the removal of a single Iranian-supplied missile from Lebanon.

...In the Middle East, the idea that "there's no harm in talking" is entirely incomprehensible. It matters whom you talk to, because you legitimize your interlocutors. Hence the Arab refusal to normalize relations with Israel. Remember the scene that unfolded this past summer, when Bashar Asad scrupulously avoided contact with Ehud Olmert on the same reviewing stand at a Mediterranean summit. An Arab head of state will never directly engage Israel before extracting every concession. Only an American would think of doing this at the outset, and in return for nothing: "unconditional talks" is a purely American concept, incomprehensible in the Middle East. There is harm in talking, if your talking legitimates your enemies, and persuades them and those on the sidelines that you have done so from weakness. For only the weak talk "unconditionally," which is tantamount to accepting the enemy's conditions. It is widely regarded as the prelude to unconditional surrender.

The United States cannot afford to roll the dice again in the Middle East, in the pious hope of winning it all. Chances are slim to nil that the United States is going to talk the Iranians, Hamas or Hezbollah out of their grand plan. Should that surprise us? We "engaged" before, with Yasser Arafat, and we know how that ended. We downplayed radical rhetoric before, with Osama bin Laden, and we know how that ended. We assumed we could talk people out of their passions in Iraq, and we know how that ended.

It is time to question risk-defying policies in the Middle East. The slogans of peace and democracy misled us. Let's not let the new slogan of engagement do the same. The United States is going to have to show the resolve and grit to wear and grind down adversaries, with soft power, hard power and will power. Paradoxically, that is the least risky path--- because if America persists, it will prevail.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Milestone in Baghdad

From the Washington Post, by Charles Krauthammer, Friday, December 05, 2008:

The barbarism in Mumbai and the economic crisis at home have largely overshadowed an otherwise singular event: the ratification of military and strategic cooperation agreements between Iraq and the United States.

They must not pass unnoted.

They were certainly noted by Iran, which fought fiercely to undermine the agreements. Tehran understood how a formal U.S.-Iraqi alliance endorsed by a broad Iraqi consensus expressed in a freely elected parliament changes the strategic balance in the region.

For the United States, this represents the single most important geopolitical advance in the region since Henry Kissinger turned Egypt from a Soviet client into an American ally. If we don't blow it with too hasty a withdrawal from Iraq, we will have turned a chronically destabilizing enemy state at the epicenter of the Arab Middle East into an ally.

...The only significant opposition bloc was the Sadrists, a mere 30 seats out of 275. The ostensibly pro-Iranian religious Shiite parties resisted Tehran's pressure and championed the agreement. As did the Kurds. The Sunnis put up the greatest fight. But their concern was that America would be withdrawing too soon, leaving them subject to overbearing and perhaps even vengeful Shiite dominance.

The Sunnis, who only a few years ago had boycotted provincial elections, bargained with Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, trying to exploit his personal stake in agreements he himself had negotiated. They did not achieve their maximum objectives. But they did get formal legislative commitments for future consideration of their grievances, from amnesty to further relaxation of the de-Baathification laws.

That any of this democratic give-and-take should be happening in a peaceful parliament just two years after Iraq's descent into sectarian hell is in itself astonishing.

Nor is the setting of a withdrawal date terribly troubling. The deadline is almost entirely symbolic. U.S. troops must be out by Dec. 31, 2011 -- the weekend before the Iowa caucuses, which, because God is merciful, will arrive again only in the very fullness of time. Moreover, that date is not just distant but flexible. By treaty, it can be amended. If conditions on the ground warrant, it will be.

True, the war is not over. As Gen. David Petraeus repeatedly insists, our (belated) successes in Iraq are still fragile. There has already been an uptick in terror bombings, which will undoubtedly continue as what's left of al-Qaeda, the Sadrist militias and the Iranian-controlled "special groups" try to disrupt January's provincial elections.

The more long-term danger is that Iraq's reborn central government becomes too strong and, by military or parliamentary coup, the current democratic arrangements are dismantled by a renewed dictatorship that abrogates the alliance with the United States.

Such disasters are possible. But if our drawdown is conducted with the same acumen as was the surge, not probable. A self-sustaining, democratic and pro-American Iraq is within our reach. It would have two hugely important effects in the region.

First, it would constitute a major defeat for Tehran, the putative winner of the Iraq war, according to the smart set. Iran's client, Moqtada al-Sadr, still hiding in Iran, was visibly marginalized in parliament -- after being militarily humiliated in Basra and Baghdad by the new Iraqi security forces. Moreover, the major religious Shiite parties were the ones that negotiated, promoted and assured passage of the strategic alliance with the United States, against the most determined Iranian opposition.

Second is the regional effect of the new political entity on display in Baghdad -- a flawed yet functioning democratic polity with unprecedented free speech, free elections and freely competing parliamentary factions. For this to happen in the most important Arab country besides Egypt can, over time (over generational time, the time scale of the war on terror), alter the evolution of Arab society. It constitutes our best hope for the kind of fundamental political-cultural change in the Arab sphere that alone will bring about the defeat of Islamic extremism. After all, newly sovereign Iraq is today more engaged in the fight against Arab radicalism than any country on earth, save the United States -- with which, mirabile dictu,it has now thrown in its lot.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

US policy on Iran

From MSNBC 'Meet the Press' transcript for Dec. 7, 2008 with President-elect Barack Obama:

...MR. BROKAW: .... What are the circumstances under which you would open a dialogue with Iran?

PRES.-ELECT OBAMA: Well, I've said before, I think we need to ratchet up tough but direct diplomacy with Iran, making very clear to them that their development of nuclear weapons would be unacceptable, that their funding of terrorist organizations like Hamas and Hezbollah, their threats against Israel are contrary to everything that we believe in and what the international community should accept, and present a set of carrots and sticks in, in changing their calculus about how they want to operate.

You know, in terms of carrots, I think that we can provide economic incentives that would be helpful to a country that, despite being a net oil producer, is under enormous strain, huge inflation, a lot of unemployment problems there. They could benefit from a more open economy and, and being part of the international economic system.

But we also have to focus on the sticks, and one of the main things that diplomacy can accomplish is to help knit together the kind of coalition with China and India and Russia and other countries that now do business with Iran to agree that, in order for us to change Iran's behavior, we may have to tighten up those sanctions. But we are willing to talk to them directly and give them a clear choice and, and ultimately let them make a determination in terms of whether they want to do this the hard way or, or the easy way.

From, Dec. 5, 2008:

Bush vows to deny Iran nuclear weapons

WASHINGTON, Dec. 5 (UPI) -- U.S. President George Bush reiterated Friday his pledge that the United States would not allow Iran to develop a nuclear weapon.

"We have made our bottom-line clear. For the safety of our people and the peace of the world, America will not allow Iran to develop a nuclear weapon," Bush said in remarks prepared for the Saban Forum in Washington.

Bush said he looks forward to "a Middle East where our friends are strengthened and the extremists are discredited, where economies are open and prosperity is widespread, and where all people enjoy the life of liberty ... ."

The president said the United States is urging Mideast nations "to trust their people with greater freedom of speech, worship, and assembly," as well as advancing economic prosperity, quality healthcare, education and women's rights.

The United States has worked to achieve an Israeli-Palestinian peace accord, including the establishment of two democratic states, Palestine and Israel, "living side-by-side in peace and security," Bush said.

Challenges remain in the region, he said, including state-sponsored terror, Iran's nuclear aspiration and oppressive governments.

"Yet the changes of the past eight years herald the beginning of something historic and new," Bush said. "I believe that the day will come when the map of the Middle East shows a peaceful, secure Israel beside a peaceful and democratic Palestine" and independent countries "bound together by ties of diplomacy, tourism, and trade."

Likud veterans prevail in primaries

From Ynet News, 8/12/08, by Amnon Meranda:

...A total of 48,458 out of 99,000 Likud members voted on Monday's primary elections, in all 49.17% of the party's eligible voters cast their ballots.

Accounting for party chairman, Benjamin Netanyahu [1], the big winner of the evening is MK Gideon Saar [2].

He is followed by Gilad Erdan [3], Reuven Rivlin [4], Benny Begin [5], Moshe Kahlon [6], Silvan Shalom [7], Moshe Yaalon [8], Yuval Steinitz [9] and Leah Ness [10] – who surprised everyone by overtaking Limor Livnat as the Likud's top female candidate.

The next ten consist of Yisrael Katz, Yuli Edelstein, Limor Livnat, Yossi Peled, Haim Katz, Michael Eitan, Dan Meridor, Tzipi Chotobali, Gila Gamliel.

Moshe Feiglin, whose ascent is greatly feared by Netanyahu, reportedly reached the 20th spot....

Monday, December 08, 2008

Senate Inquiry into Academic Freedom "achieved nothing"

From an Australia/Israel & Jewish Affairs Council MEDIA RELEASE, Thursday, December 4, 2008:

The Australia/Israel & Jewish Affairs Council [AIJAC] ...was "very disappointed" with the majority report resulting from the Senate Standing Committee on Education, Employment and Workplace Relations Inquiry into Academic Freedom...[which] made no recommendations and essentially denied that there were any substantive problems with respect to academic freedom or political bias on Australian campuses.

"... the Committee split on partisan lines, and essentially achieved nothing... there is certainly evidence of Jewish students at Australian universities experiencing problems with bias or intimidation, and we provided substantive examples of inappropriate behaviour by some lecturers."

... "AIJAC will be taking our concerns about some aspects of campus culture and behaviour directly to Education Minister Julia Gillard. We hope and believe that she will prove less partisan and more farsighted than her Senate colleagues....."

Sunday, December 07, 2008

Gaza lull is dead - Israeli government paralysed

From Ynet News, 6/12/08, by Shmulik Hadad:

Ashkelon mayor says he expects Barak to show Hebron-style determination vis-à-vis terrorists

Ashkelon's outgoing Mayor, Roni Mahatzri, said Saturday that the Gaza Strip lull is dead, following rocket attacks on the southern city throughout Shabbat. The mayor said he fails to understand the government's delay in responding to the ongoing rocket fire.

At least 12 rockets and mortar shells were fired at the city in the past 24 hours and landed in open areas. One rocket hit Ashkelon's southern industrial zone but caused no injuries or damages.

"We saw that when the defense minister wishes to show determination and resolve, he knows how to do that," Mahatzri said. "He did it while handling the case of the house in Hebron. I would like to see the same determination when it comes to the rocket fire. The government must realize that the lull no longer exists, and if they fail to understand it now we shall find ourselves facing very heavy barrages and endless attacks."

"The situation cannot go on like this," the mayor said.

'We demand government response'
The past week has seen an escalation in Qassam and mortar attacks on the western Negev, with fire continuing throughout the day. During the weekend the issue was discussed by the four heads of the regional councils in the Gaza vicinity.

The head of the Ashkelon Beach Regional Council, Yair Farjoun, said that he and the other council heads were expecting the government to exact a "price tag" for rocket attacks.

"Over the past few days there has been non-stop Qassam and mortar fire," he said. "This steady drip has become a daily ritual and unfortunately we are not seeing a response. This situation cannot continue. We demand that the government respond."

In past weeks the number of Ashkelon residents appealing for secure rooms in their homes has also increased. The government has not formulated a plan to fund these rooms, and many residents have appealed for benefits from city council if no such plan is forthcoming.