Saturday, March 21, 2009

Palestine victim of Arab betrayal

From: The Australian, March 20, 2009, by Nonie Darwish*:

INTERNATIONAL donors pledged almost $4.5 billion in aid for Gaza earlier this month. During the past few years it has been very painful for me to witness the deteriorating humanitarian situation in that narrow strip where I lived as a child in the 1950s.

The media tends to attribute Gaza's decline solely to Israeli military and economic actions against Hamas. But such a myopic analysis ignores the problem's root cause: 60 years of Arab policy aimed at cementing the Palestinian people's status as stateless refugees to use their suffering as a weapon against Israel.

As a child in Gaza in the '50s, I experienced the early results of this policy. Egypt, which controlled the territory then, conducted guerilla-style operations against Israel from Gaza. My father commanded these operations, carried out by Palestinian fedeyeen (Arabic for self-sacrifice).

Back then, Gaza was already the front line of the Arab jihad against Israel. My father was assassinated by Israeli forces in 1956.

It was in those years that the Arab League started its Palestinian refugee policy. Arab countries implemented special laws designed to make it impossible to integrate the Palestinian refugees from the 1948 Arab war against Israel.

Even descendants of Palestinian refugees who are born in another Arab country and live there their entire lives can never gain that country's passport. Even if they marry a citizen of an Arab country, they cannot become citizens of their spouse's country. They must remain Palestinian even though they may have never set foot in the West Bank or Gaza.

This policy of forcing a Palestinian identity on these people for eternity and condemning them to a miserable life in a refugee camp was designed to perpetuate and exacerbate the Palestinian refugee crisis.

So was the Arab policy of overpopulating Gaza. The UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East, whose main political support comes from Arab countries, encourages high birthrates by rewarding families with many children. Yasser Arafat said the Palestinian woman's womb was his best weapon.

Arab countries always push for classifying as many Palestinians as possible as refugees.

As a result, about one-third of the Palestinians in Gaza still live in refugee camps. For 60 years, Palestinians have been used and abused by Arab regimes and Palestinian terrorists in their fight against Israel.

Now it is Hamas, an Islamist terror organisation supported by Iran, that is using and abusing Palestinians for this purpose. While Hamas leaders hid in the well-stocked bunkers and tunnels they prepared before they provoked Israel into attacking them, Palestinian civilians were exposed and caught in the deadly crossfire between Hamas and Israeli soldiers.

As a result of 60 years of this Arab policy, Gaza has become a prison camp for 1.5 million Palestinians. Both Israel and Egypt are fearful of terrorist infiltration from Gaza - all the more so since Hamas took over - and have always maintained tight controls over their borders with Gaza. The Palestinians continue to endure hardships because Gaza continues to serve as the launching pad for terror attacks against Israeli citizens. Those attacks come in the form of Hamas missiles that indiscriminately target Israeli kindergartens, homes and businesses.

And Hamas continued these attacks more than two years after Israel withdrew from Gaza in the hope that this step would begin the process of building a Palestinian state, eventually leading to a peaceful, two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. There was no cycle of violence then, no justification for anything other than peace and prosperity.

But, instead, Hamas chose Islamic jihad. Gazans' and Israelis' hopes have been met with misery for Palestinians and missiles for Israelis.

Hamas, an Iranian proxy, has become a danger not only to Israel but also to Palestinians as well as to neighbouring Arab states, which fear the spread of radical Islam could destabilise their countries.

Arabs claim they love the Palestinian people, but they seem more interested in sacrificing them. If they really loved their Palestinian brethren, they would pressure Hamas to stop firing missiles at Israel. In the longer term, the Arab world must end the Palestinians' refugee status and thereby their desire to harm Israel.

It's time for the 22 Arab countries to open their borders and absorb the Palestinians of Gaza who wish to start a new life.

It is time for the Arab world to truly help the Palestinians, not use them.

*Nonie Darwish, who grew up in Gaza City and Cairo, is the author, most recently, of Cruel and Usual Punishment (Thomas Nelson).

Friday, March 20, 2009


From the Dry Bones Blog, 20/3/09:

This is NOT a joke. See the following, from M&C, 19/3/09:

...A special ministerial committee appointed a team to examine whether it would be possible, in accordance with international law, to limit the amount of money transferred to prisoners for their personal use, their ability to watch television and listen to the radio, acquire an education and isolate them so they cannot enjoy physical contact with prisoners....

Churchill on How to Deal with Iran and Syria

In the GLORIA Blog 17 March 2009, Barry Rubin has picked up some good advice on how to deal with Iran and Syria today. Paraphrasing from Churchill's speech on 5th October 1938, in the House of Commons, on the Munich Agreement, in which Czeckoslovakia was sacrificed to the Nazi regime:

"[President Obama] desires to see cordial relations between [the USA] and [Iran]. There is no difficulty at all in having cordial relations between the peoples. Our hearts go out to them. But they have no power. But never will you have friendship with the present [Iranian] Government. You must have diplomatic and correct relations, but there can never be friendship between the [US] democracy and the [Islamic Revolutionary] power, that power which spurns Christian ethics, which cheers its onward course by a barbarous paganism, which vaunts the spirit of aggression and conquest, which derives strength and perverted pleasure from persecution, and uses, as we have seen, with pitiless brutality the threat of murderous force. That power cannot ever be the trusted friend of the [US] democracy."

Still no Australian decision despite Durban draft change

From the AJN, March 19, 2009, by NAOMI LEVIN:

REFERENCES to Israel have been removed [WRONG: see below - SL] from the draft resolution for the Durbin Review Conference , but the Australian Government is yet to make a decision on whether it will attend.

The new text, which has not yet been accepted, was drafted by the Russian delegation, and according to reports it is shorter in length and no longer singles out Israel for criticism. [Note that the new draft starts by reaffirming the Durban 1 declaration, which singles out Israel as a so-called "racist" state. See our previous postings on this topic - SL]

Earlier this month, Foreign Minister Stephen Smith said Australia would consider the draft outcome document after revisions were made on March 16.

Speaking to ABC News Radio on Wednesday morning, Smith said he had spoken to the Dutch Foreign Minister Maxime Verhagen about the new developments.

Verhagen told him that he had informed the European Union Foreign Ministers that unless the text changes, the Dutch won’t be going.

“He got very strong support from a number of his European colleagues,” Smith reported.

Smith also emphasised that without substantial changes, Australia would pull out.

“We won’t take part in the re-run of Durban I, which was essentially an anti-Israel, anti-Semitic harangue.”

This week, three senators spoke out in favour of Australia boycotting the conference, also known as Durban II, next month in Geneva.

But this was before a new draft text was released overnight on Tuesday, erasing all references to Israel in an attempt to placate possible attendees, including Australia, the United States, and the European Union.

Earlier, Senator Judith Troeth, a Victorian Liberal, called on Michael Danby to speak out in the Labor party room on the matter. “Australia has a long and proud history of standing up against racism and anti-Semitism,” Senator Troeth said. “Mr Danby should call on his own government to continue this tradition. ...Danby said the Government is waiting to see changes to the draft document.

...Two other senators, Labor’s David Feeney and Family First’s Steve Fielding, also spoke this week against Australia’s attendance at the Durban Review Conference.

“It seems the Rudd Government’s fanatical obsession with winning a seat on the [UN] Security Council has caused it to lose its moral compass,” Senator Fielding said.

In his speech, Senator Feeney said: “I believe that Australia should give very serious consideration to what interests we would be serving by dignifying this conference with our presence.”

The Jewish community also kept pressure on Smith this week.

Zionist Council of Victoria president Dr Danny Lamm said: “The best message we could give the world is for Libya, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, the Arab League and the Palestinian Authority to pontificate to a sea of empty desks.”

Lieberman as Foreign Minister: Anatomy of a Ploy

From GLORIA, March 17, 2009, by Prof. Barry Rubin*:

It is being widely reported that Benyamin Netanyahu is making Avigdor Lieberman Israel’s foreign minister in his coalition plan.

Maybe; maybe not.

This story should be looked at as a ploy in the maneuvering over Israel’s next government.

...Netanyahu is offering a bluff, saying to Kadima: “...we will form a coalition with the right wing and make Lieberman foreign minister! ...”

...Livni would rather have a government that is bad for Israel than play second-fiddle for four years to Netanyahu; Netanyahu is threatening to have a government coalition that is bad and for himself rather than have Livni be prime minister for the second half of the government’s term.

...ignore all the stories ...until the first week of April. ...That will be the moment of truth, but not yet.

...If Livni lets a coalition take office that is dependent on right-wing support and including Lieberman as foreign minister..., she will be hurting the country. But she will also be hurting herself. Can Kadima really survive in the opposition? Can she really remain head of the party under such circumstances when she has not shown herself to be a great leader? ...

...if Netanyahu leads such a coalition, it is likely to fall apart before too long....

...Politics are not completely rational but Israel needs a national unity coalition. I care who is prime minister far less than whether the country’s leaders show a regard for national interests and rational policies.

*Barry Rubin is director of the Global Research in International Affairs (GLORIA) Center and editor of the Middle East Review of International Affairs (MERIA) Journal. His latest books are The Israel-Arab Reader (seventh edition), with Walter Laqueur (Viking-Penguin); the paperback edition of The Truth About Syria (Palgrave-Macmillan); A Chronological History of Terrorism, with Judy Colp Rubin, (Sharpe); and The Long War for Freedom: The Arab Struggle for Democracy in the Middle East (Wiley). To read and subscribe to MERIA, GLORIA articles, or to order books, go to

New Durban 2 statement still singles out Israel

From Haartez, 19/3/09, by Barak Ravid:

Israel rejects the latest draft of the "Durban 2" anti-racism conference closing statement, a senior Foreign Ministry source said.

While all direct references to Israel and the Israel-Palestinian conflict have been removed - in an attempt to keep the European Union from boycotting - it still implicitly singles out Israel.

"The first clause in the new document reaffirms the declaration of 'Durban 1,' which calls Israel a racist state, and the change is cosmetic only. The essence remains the same," the official said. "This is a diplomatic ruse intended to blur matters and introduce criticism of Israel by the back door."

...The previous version of the "Durban 2" closing statement led the United States, Canada and Italy to announce they would be boycotting the conference. Other EU countries, as well as Australia and New Zealand, also threatened to boycott.

The edited version was crafted by a committee headed by Russia, with the goal of preventing the boycott.

...The Foreign Ministry yesterday instructed its envoys to continue asking their host countries to boycott the conference.

UK Jewish students advocacy successes

From THE JERUSALEM POST, Mar. 18, 2009, by Adam Pike, chair of the Union of Jewish Students in the United Kingdom:

As the tensions around the Gaza conflict begin to subside and another round of the intellectually bankrupt "Israeli Apartheid Weeks" passes by...No one can deny that the challenges facing Jewish students are great but once again the Union of Jewish Students' (UJS) long-term strategy to tackle them has proved successful.

The steadfast support of the National Union of Students (NUS) and political groups like Labor Students has shown that long-term relationship building, built on a foundation of shared progressive values, works. During the height of the conflict the national chairperson of Labor Students wrote to UJS and stated that "Labor Students has never flinched from speaking out and standing with Jewish students to denounce anti-Semitism and racism of any kind, and I want you to know that that has not and will not change." At a time when condemning Israel and ignoring anti-Semitism seemed to be the easy way out, our real friends didn't let us down.

THE RESPONSE from universities was not always so positive and those institutions who failed to stand up against hatred and support their students against some of the intimidation and harassment we witnessed will be held to account. The new government-led group to tackle campus anti-Semitism, launched by Minister for Higher Education David Lammy, will give UJS the opportunity to challenge the authorities head on and work with them to find solutions and models of best practice. Home Secretary Jacqui Smith also received a letter from Jewish students urging her to ensure that Hizbullah's communications head Ibrahim Moussawi was not given a visa to add to the already rising levels of hate speech we witness on UK campuses, and he was in fact barred from entering.

We also learned about the expediency of anti-Semitism to so many on the supposedly anti-racist far left. Minorities engaged in the usual vitriolic demonization of Israel showed disregard for anti-Semitism and the usual lack of rational thinking around the Middle East. Token gestures toward racism are not good enough when dealing with any other form of discrimination and we won't accept them for anti-Semitism either.

More than anything though, UJS learned about our members; they stood up and stood proud. As full-time students with degrees, extracurricular commitments and a social life, many of them put it all to one side and dedicated everything to the fight for Jewish students' rights. They continued their deep involvement in student political life, and in this past month students at Leeds University elected three Jewish sabbatical officers to lead their student union.

Throughout the recent conflict UJS expressed a clear commitment to continuing our action plan and delivering on the activities we promised our membership. Despite great challenges, Jewish student life on campus has never been more thriving and enriched. UJS has ensured that positive Jewish experiences have continued with Israel Awareness Weeks, Tu Bishvat seders, Purim parties, Shabbat UK and the inaugural Jewish student lobby of Parliament.

Those who want to see us silenced and intimidated learned about UJS and about Jewish students - we will never let our adversaries define our Jewish identity and nothing will stop us proudly expressing that identity on every campus in the UK and Ireland.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Brumby snubs former Iran leader

From The Age, March 18, 2009, by Barney Zwartz:

PREMIER John Brumby has snubbed former Iranian president Mohammad Khatami and will not meet him in Melbourne next week.

...Spokeswoman Jessica Harris said in a one-paragraph statement: "The Premier's Department recommended the Premier meet in response to an invitation from Professor Joseph Camilleri (director of La Trobe's Centre for Dialogue). Upon further consideration, the Premier does not intend to meet with Mr Khatami."

... Jewish Community Council of Victoria had asked Melbourne Anglican Archbishop Philip Freier not to host a private interfaith function for Mr Khatami on the grounds that he was a sponsor of terrorism and led a country that constantly threatened to destroy Israel.

Council president John Searle yesterday said the Jewish community had made no representations at all to Mr Brumby but "we are not surprised at his decision. We had reservations, and it's conceivable that he shares our reservations."

Mr Khatami is being brought to Australia by La Trobe University's Centre for Dialogue and the Australian National University in Canberra to deliver two public lectures. His Canberra itinerary is not yet finalised, though he will not meet Prime Minister Kevin Rudd or Foreign Minister Stephen Smith, as both will be overseas.

...Also yesterday, Victorian Liberal Senator Judith Troeth seconded the Jewish council's call to Dr Freier to reconsider his function...

Senator Troeth said Mr Khatami had made "inflammatory and racist" remarks about Israel. "He may be regarded as a reformer in comparison to other leaders in Iran, but that does not excuse the repression that occurred during his term, nor his belligerence since he left office," said Senator Troeth...

Also see our earlier posting on this subject.

Obama Should Denounce Durban II

From, 17/3/09, by Anne Bayefsky*:

The U.N. betrays human rights, and Israel, yet again.

Under the growing threat of a boycott by the United States and European countries, negotiators planning the U.N.'s Durban II "anti-racism" conference made a new move in Geneva today. They released a modified version of a draft declaration that is expected to be adopted at the April melée. The draft jettisons much of the extra baggage Islamic states had piled on throughout the 10-month drafting process (for the sole purpose of "compromising" at the end).

The improvements, however, do not meet the minimal conditions that the Obama administration delineated for U.S. participation. It is time to end the equivocation and get out.

Durban II represents a global showdown on the ideological battlefield between Democrats and anti-Democrats, between tolerance and intolerance. For years, the worst abusers of human rights have commandeered U.N. vehicles to trample rights and freedoms. Given the close relationship between spewing hatred and reaping violence--which the first Durban Declaration adopted on Sept. 8, 2001, made abundantly clear--the stakes are high.

Two weeks ago, the Obama administration set out four conditions for U.S. participation in Durban II. The new version of the Durban II declaration must be:
  • "shorter,"
  • "not reaffirm in toto the flawed 2001 Durban Declaration,"
  • "not single out any one country or conflict" and
  • "not embrace the troubling concept of "defamation of religion."

On some of these counts, the document makes substantial changes. It is somewhat shorter, removes grotesque allegations like calling Israel an apartheid state and deletes the words "defamation of religions."

But most important, it refuses to disavow the 2001 Declaration. On the contrary, it "Reaffirms the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action (DDPA) as it was adopted at the World Conference against Racism ... in 2001." That declaration says Palestinians are victims of Israeli racism--with Israel the only U.N. state found guilty of racism. And though today's draft divides provisions into the negotiable and non-negotiable, it announces that reaffirming Durban I is text which does not "remain to be negotiated."

This "new and improved" document, therefore, breaches President Obama's key conditions. It "reaffirms in toto the flawed 2001 Durban Declaration." In so doing, it does not satisfy the demand that no country or conflict be singled out. Unsurprisingly, behind the scenes, Palestinian negotiators in Geneva are expressing satisfaction with today's result.

For Americans, to reaffirm the Durban Declaration is to affirm precisely what our government rejected on Sept. 4, 2001, when the United States--led by Congressman and Holocaust survivor Tom Lantos--walked out from Durban I in disgust.

The new draft is a textbook example of diplomatic double-talk. Diplomats often couch objectionable outcomes in superficially unobjectionable language, using a tool that lawyers call "incorporation by reference." Don't repeat the offensive words in the new document; just include them by referring to another document where they can be found--and which most people won't bother to read.

In plain language, here is exactly what it means to reaffirm the DDPA and its claim that Palestinians are victims of Israeli racism.

For one, reaffirming the Durban document will set the priorities of the U.N. human rights system. As U.N. High Commissioner Navi Pillay--who is also the Secretary-General of Durban II--proclaimed earlier this month: "The focus on victims is the cornerstone of OHCHR's [Office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights] work. The office pays particular attention to the protection of the groups of victims identified in the DDPA." Among them, of course, the alleged victims of the diabolical Israeli state.

Second, Durban I went forth and multiplied. The DDPA spawned: the Intergovernmental Working Group on the effective implementation of the DDPA, the Independent Eminent Experts Group, the Ad Hoc Committee on the Elaboration of Complementary Standards and the Preparatory Committee of the Durban Review Conference and its working groups. In addition, U.N. High Commissioner Pillay has promised: "I will take the lead in encouraging mainstreaming of the implementation of the DDPA in the work of all relevant United Nations entities." In this case, mainstreaming is a U.N. euphemism for ensuring the cancer spreads to all parts of the body politic.

Driving the Durban committee dealing with "complementary standards" is the game plan of Islamic U.N. member states. They argue that existing standards on racial discrimination and related intolerance--which they ignore in practice--have normative gaps. What kind of gaps? Insufficient attention to the defamation of religions--Islam in particular.

There has been some push-back from other states on the concept of "defamation of religion," since Islamic governments would be both judge and jury on what counts as defamation. So this latest version of the Durban II declaration focuses on "incitement to hatred of religious communities." It "calls upon states ... to declare illegal and prohibit by law all organizations which ... attempt to justify or promote national, racial and religious hatred and discrimination in any form ..." It calls for more U.N. "workshops" on "the prohibition of incitement with a view to remedy any possible substantive or implementation gaps." It also insists that "any advocacy of national, racial or religious hatred that constitutes incitement to discrimination ... shall be prohibited by law ... and that these prohibitions are consistent with freedom of opinion and expression."

The United States has formal legal reservations to U.N. treaties that attempt to impose fewer limits on free speech than Durban II. Those reservations insist upon the primacy of stronger American constitutional protections. Signing on to anything looking like this Durban II declaration would therefore be inconsistent with American law.

Tuesday's development sent diplomats in Geneva scurrying off in different directions. The Netherlands decided to play hardball in the defense of democracy. The Dutch took the U.S. conditions seriously and publicly disseminated a complete alternative text two pages long in stark contrast to the U.N.'s 17-page draft. The Dutch draft is direct; it highlights in plain language that "freedom of expression is a cornerstone of our fight against racism;" it includes protection for discrimination against sexual orientation; and it does not reaffirm Durban I.

Some members of the EU were not pleased. The French and the Germans are insisting the European Union act with one voice and are intent on dragging the Dutch back into the fold. The Italians have gone silent after announcing last week they were going to boycott, apparently succumbing to demands for European unity. American state officials are busy drafting alternative texts behind the scenes despite the pretense of non-participation. NGOs are pressuring the Obama administration not to leave for any reason. The Australians have been apparently struck dumb until President Obama tells them what he'll do. The Palestinians are threatening to make the draft a lot worse if "reaffirming the Durban I Declaration" is removed. The secretary-general of the Conference Navi Pillay--a native of Durban who promised the mayor to rescue the city's good name--is helping Islamic states fight the forces that are serious about combating racism.

As for human rights? What does that have to do with anything? This is the U.N.

*Anne Bayefsky is a senior fellow of the Hudson Institute, director of the Touro Institute on Human Rights and the Holocaust and editor of

Revised Durban II Text Does Not Meet Conditions for U.S. Participation

From, March 18, 2009, by Patrick Goodenough:

Language targeting Israel and references to “religious defamation” have been removed from the draft final declaration of next month’s boycott-threatened U.N. racism conference, but the amended version still fails to meet the conditions laid down by the U.S. for participation.

Crucially, the revised text still begins by reaffirming the Durban Declaration and Program of Action (DDPA), the document adopted at the U.N.’s first world racism conference in Durban, South Africa in 2001.

When the State Department announced late last month that the U.S. would not attend the Durban Review Conference (“Durban II”) in Geneva, it left the door open to reverse that decision.

For the U.S. to attend, it said, the 2009 document would have to meet specific criteria, including that it must “not reaffirm in toto the flawed 2001 Durban Declaration and Program of Action,” and that “it must not single out any one country or conflict.”

A key point of contention in the DDPA is its singling out of Israel: While references to other country-specific situations were avoided, the “Palestinian people under foreign occupation” were identified as “victims of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance.”

The U.S. and Israel walked out of the 2001 conference in protest. In the run up to Durban II, Canada and Israel said they would not attend, and the U.S., Italy and Australia said they too would not take part unless the wording of the text was altered significantly.

This week the European Union was edging closer to taking a similar, unified stance when on Tuesday, in the most significant development yet in the long-running saga, organizers released a considerably shorter proposed document in a bid to avert a Western boycott.

A note attached to the draft explains that some text “remains to be negotiated” while other parts, which are highlighted, had now been adopted, ahead of formal endorsement by an intergovernmental working group.

The new version, cut to 17 pages from 45, removes all direct references to Israel, the Palestinians, occupation and defamation of religions. (The Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC)-led campaign at the U.N. to outlaw what it calls religious defamation has been widely condemned as an attempt to erode free speech and shield Islam and Islamic practices – including the treatment of women and “apostates”– from legitimate criticism.)

Critics say the amended Durban II text still contains problematic elements – some evident, others couched in “coded language.”

The DDPA reaffirmation is a key problem, Anne Bayefsky, editor of the Hudson Institute’s Eye on the U.N. project, said Tuesday.

Although the amended text “jettisons much of the extra baggage” piled on by Islamic states during the preparatory process, she said, the improvements “do not meet the minimal conditions which the Obama administration delineated for U.S. participation.”

Not only does the revised draft reaffirm the DDPA, but the reaffirmation is highlighted in the text – meaning it is not still up for negotiation.

“This ‘new and improved’ document, therefore, breaches President Obama’s key conditions,” Bayefsky said. It both reaffirms the DDPA and, by doing so, breaches the further criterion, that no country or conflict be singled out.

“It is time to end the equivocation and get out.”

Hillel Neuer, executive director of the Geneva-based body, UN Watch, agreed that the conditions for American participation in the conference had not been met.

“The new text breaches red lines by reaffirming the pernicious 2001 text – which singled out Israel as a racist state,” he said by phone from Geneva late Tuesday.

This clearly contravened the U.S. conditions.

Fixing gaps in international conventions

On the issue of religious defamation, although the specific terminology had been excised, “coded language and veiled references” still lent support to the OIC’s campaign, Neuer said. These include a reference to “negative stereotyping of religions.”

The draft also praises progress made by a U.N. body, set up as a result of the Durban process, known as the “ad hoc committee on the elaboration of complementary international standards.” The committee’s function is to update existing international human rights conventions, filling in “gaps” and ensuring that the conventions cover “all forms of contemporary racism, including incitement to racial and religious hatred.”

Remedying these gaps, said Neuer, “in U.N.-speak means a call for legislating a new international crime for ‘defamation of religion.’”

Religion also makes appearances elsewhere in the text. One article says states resolve “to fully and effectively enact and implement the prohibition of advocacy of … religious hatred … through all necessary legislative, policy and judicial measures.”

Neuer pointed out that the revised text refers to the “transatlantic” slave trade, while there is no mention of the Arab trade in African slaves. This, he said, reflected an “anti-Western agenda.”

In another article, Western counter-terror activities are targeted. States are called on “to ensure that any measures taken in the fight against terrorism are implemented in full respect of all human rights, in particular the principle of non-discrimination.”

The Netherlands, meanwhile, has drafted for consideration an alternative text for Durban II. Just two pages in length, the Dutch proposal significantly does not refer back to the DDPA.

It also includes a reference to discrimination based on sexual orientation, one of the Dutch conditions for participation in the conference.

And, taking aim at the OIC’s religious defamation drive, the Dutch document declares that “freedom of expression is a cornerstone of our fight against racism.”

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

'Durban II' and the AJC

From The Jerusalem Post, March 17, 2009, by by Isi Leibler:

David Harris is an exemplary Jewish professional who is largely responsible for the American Jewish Committee becoming a major creative force throughout the global Jewish arena.

I am therefore saddened by his vitriolic public attack on Anne Bayefsky, Melanie Phillips and Caroline Glick for their well-founded criticism of the strategy adopted by his organization in relation to "Durban II" and the UN Human Rights Council.

The AJC adopted a flawed approach to this issue from the outset, insisting that that the American government and others should participate in the conference. Their attitude undermined efforts by bodies like "Eye on the UN" which invested massive efforts in creating a public awareness of the need for a boycott.

The AJC decision to accept the invitation to participate as a member of the US delegation in the Durban II preparatory committee to ascertain whether this obnoxious body would change its approach was an even greater blunder. They were irresponsible in encouraging the perception that a body totally controlled by the Islamic Conference and rogue states, and even chaired by Libya, with Iran and Cuba serving as deputy chairs, could possibly be anything other than an instrument for promoting evil.

To make matters worse the US delegation, including the AJC representative, actually sat on its hands during the proceedings of the preparatory committee while vicious demonizations of Israel took place. They even remained silent when Iran objected to a resolution condemning Holocaust denial.

For many of us, the jury is still out regarding the Obama administration's approach to Israel. But it would require burying one's head in the sand not to be disconcerted by the new policy of "engaging" tyrants and jihadists, not to mention some of the candidates recommended for government positions in recent weeks.

In this context we look to the American Jewish community, which overwhelmingly supported Obama, to endeavor to ensure that Israel is not sacrificed to enable the US to placate Arab extremists.

Hence the disappointment expressed by Anne Bayefsky, Melanie Phillips and Caroline Glick that the AJC agreed to participate in a US delegation to such a brazenly anti-Semitic body would be endorsed by most activists involved in this area.

One would have expected American Jewish leaders at the least to have also expressed concern when simultaneously with its announcement it would not partake in Durban, the US government proclaimed that it would in future participate in meetings of the Human Rights Council, and would even seek to be elected to the leadership of that despicable body. The US action will only legitimize an organization which represents the antithesis of its title, defends the worst regimes practicing the denial of human rights and now seeks to limit all criticism of Islamic behavior or practice. Alas, the AJC only two years ago was "urging the United States to seek membership on the UN Human Rights Council." It would appear that to this day Harris and the AJC fail to appreciate that organizations purporting to promote human rights which are controlled by tyrannies and dictatorships can never be reformed. They must be isolated and marginalized.

The US backed down on participating in Durban II for two reasons. The most important was the campaign spearheaded by Bayefsky exposing the disgusting behavior of those controlling the proceedings. The second was the stubbornness of the preparatory committee about even paying lip service to behaving decently and amending their draft document. The danger now is that they will come up with a shorter document which does not include the vile language, and the US hailing that as a victory and agreeing to participate in what will still be a massive anti-Semitic hate-fest controlled by the same villains.

David Harris is a devoted and capable leader with a track record of outstanding achievement for the Jewish people. He is not infallible, and erred in this matter. He should take one step backwards and resume his constructive work on behalf of the Jews. Instead of berating those with whom he should be working in tandem, Harris should be at the forefront of efforts to persuade the Obama administration that appeasing jihadists or providing them with legitimacy could have devastating repercussions on the future of the civilized world.

Israel's strategic dilemmas in a changing Middle East

The Australia/Israel & Jewish Affairs Council (AIJAC) is hosting Dr Jonathan Spyer, an eminent analyst of Middle-East affairs on a speaking tour of Australia.

He was in Perth for one day on Friday 13th March, giving private briefings to WA State and federal parliamentarians, academics, strategic analysts and to AIJAC supporters.

He also gave a public lecture at the University of WA, hosted by the Centre for Muslim States and Societies (CMSS) and the Institute of Advanced Studies (IAS), as follows (click here to download the flyer):

"Israel's strategic dilemmas in a changing Middle East"
Strategic relations in the Middle East are currently undergoing rapid change. The changes offer both opportunity and cause for concern to Israel. Centrally, a new regional cold war is taking shape - pitting an Iranian-led alliance against a pro-western alliance which includes Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Israel. The pro-Iranian alliance has made the destruction of Israel a central goal, and is supporting insurgent movements among the Palestinians and further afield as part of this objective. The Second Lebanon War and the recent Gaza war must be seen in this perspective. At the same time, the new regional cold war sees Israel aligned on the same side as major Arab states in a regional struggle for the first time. This lecture will explore the emergence of this new strategic situation, its key components and its meaning for hopes for peace in the Middle East.

Dr Jonathan Spyer at the University of WA with Prof. Yasmeen
Click here to download an mp4 of the lecture and the subsequent discussion, in full. Note that the lecture commences 9 minutes into this 2-hour recording.

About Dr Jonathan Spyer
Currently a Senior Research Fellow at the Center for Global Research in International Affairs, at the Inter-Disciplinary Center in Herzliya, Israel, Dr. Jonathan Spyer is a former official of the Israel Government Press Office, and has served as a Special Adviser on international affairs to Israeli cabinet ministers. His specialization is in the field of Israeli foreign policy, the Arab-Israel conflict, and the political history of Israel. He also lectures on the new anti-Semitism in Europe and the Middle East, Islamist ideologies and movements and political trends in the modern Middle East.

He received his Ph.D. in International Relations from the London School of Economics, and his MSc. in Modern Politics of the Middle East at the School of Oriental and African Studies. Born in Britain, he has lived in Israel for the past 13 years. Dr. Spyer's analysis of Israeli and broader regional events and processes has been published in major journals in Israel and abroad including the Guardian, Ha'aretz, the Jerusalem Post and the Middle East Review of International Affairs (MERIA).

He has many book chapters on Middle East issues and is the co-author of "The Rise of Nationalism: The Arab World, Turkey and Iran, (Mason Crest Publishers, 2007) and will soon publish "The Transforming Fire: Tracing the Israel-Islamist Conflict" (Continuum, 2010 - forthcoming).

He acts as a consultant to a wide variety of bodies in the academic, non-governmental, media and public affairs fields.
Dr. Spyer was also a guest of Fran Kelly on ABC "Radio National" on 18 March 2009. The segment can be downloaded here.

Latrobe insanity

From The Age, March 18, 2009, by Barney Zwartz:

MELBOURNE Anglican Archbishop Philip Freier is a function for former Iranian president Mohammad Khatami while he is in Melbourne this month.

...Mr Khatami, president of Iran from 1997 to 2005 ...was a sponsor of terrorism, a Holocaust denier and leader of a country that has often threatened to "wipe Israel off the map". ...[He has] called Israel 'an old, incurable wound on the body of Islam, a wound that really possesses demonic, stinking, contagious blood'.

Mr Khatami is being brought to Australia by La Trobe University's Centre for Dialogue and will give a public lecture on March 26. The Jewish Community Council has resigned from the centre's board of advisers in protest.

...Mr Khatami ... said in Iran yesterday he was withdrawing as candidate for president against the hardline incumbent, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, to avoid dividing the reformist vote.

Professor Joseph Camilleri, director of La Trobe's Centre for Dialogue, said ...Mr Khatami was "a major intellectual of the 21st century" and that he would be discussing his influential theory of the importance of dialogue in international affairs....

US Intelligence and the anti-Israel lobby

From THE JERUSALEM POST Mar. 12, 2009, by Caroline Glick:

Ill winds are blowing out of Washington these days....

... former US ambassador to Saudi Arabia Charles "Chas" Freeman is blaming Israel's Jewish American supporters for his resignation Tuesday from his post as chairman of the National Intelligence Council...

...Freeman was a career US diplomat until his retirement in the mid-1990s. He served as ambassador to Saudi Arabia during the first Bush administration. ...Instead of advancing US interests with the Saudis, Freeman championed Saudi interests to the US government.

In 1997, Freeman became president of the Saudi-funded Middle East Policy Council. There Freeman continued his outspoken support for Saudi positions against the US. In January 2009, for instance, he praised Saudi King Abdullah for coercing the second Bush administration into supporting Palestinian statehood.

Freeman castigated the Bush administration as "the world's first genuinely autistic government." Then he bragged that it was only due to Abdullah's "threat... to downgrade relations with the United States," that the administration finally announced its support for Palestinian statehood.

According to financial records made public in recent weeks, the Middle East Policy Council has received millions of dollars from the Saudi government and royal family over the past several years.

Saudi Arabia is not the only country with interests and values that conflict with US interests and values that Freeman has championed and earned a living from. Until accepting his appointment as chairman of the National Intelligence Council, Freeman was a paid member of the Chinese government-owned China National Offshore Oil Company's international advisory board. CNOOC has been the target of a US Treasury probe due to its multi-billion dollar contract with Iran to develop the South Pars gas field.

As with the case of Saudi Arabia, Freeman's political sympathies go hand in hand with his financial ties. In a list-serve e-mail in 2006, Freeman criticized the Beijing Politburo for being too lax with the pro-democracy demonstrators in Tiananmen Square in 1989. As he put it, "the truly unforgivable mistake of the Chinese authorities was the failure to intervene on a timely basis to nip the demonstrations in the bud."

As Martin Cramer, Steven Rosen and other Jewish writers have noted in their reporting on Freeman in recent weeks, Freeman's positions on Israel closely mirror the Saudi Foreign Ministry's positions. So it is that in 2006, for instance, Freeman blamed US ties with Israel for the September 11, 2001, attacks. As he put it, "We have paid heavily and often in treasure for our unflinching support and unstinting subsidies of Israel's approach to managing its relations with the Arabs. Five years ago, we began to pay with the blood of our citizens here at home."

Then, too, like the Saudi government, Freeman argues that Arab terrorism against the US is solely a consequence of US support for Israel. Were the US to abandon its alliance with Israel, all Arab terror against the US would stop.

...the main reason Freeman's appointment was controversial was not the opposition it garnered among pro-Israel American Jews. The main controversy surrounding his appointment as the Obama administration's top intelligence analyst revolved around his financial and political ties to potential and actual US adversaries.

Indeed, according to Newsweek, it was these connections - and specifically Freeman's ties to the Chinese Politburo - that scuppered his appointment. According to Newsweek, the White House withdrew its support for Freeman because House Speaker Nancy Pelosi was angered by his support for Beijing's repression of Chinese democracy activists, which she described as "beyond the pale." Freeman's animus towards Israel apparently played no role in the White House's decision to show him the door.

Whatever the reason for his resignation, it is a good thing that Freeman was forced to resign. It is a very good thing that the man writing the US's National Intelligence Estimates and briefing the president on intelligence matters is not a hired gun for the Saudi and Chinese governments who believes that Jewish Americans have no right to participate in public debate about US foreign policy. But while his appointment was foiled, the fact that a man like Freeman was even considered for the post tells us two deeply disturbing things about the climate in Washington these days.

First and foremost, Freeman's appointment gives us disconcerting information about how the Obama administration intends to relate to intelligence. Freeman was appointed by Adm. Dennis Blair, President Barack Obama's director of national intelligence. Blair stood by Freeman's appointment even after information became known about his financial ties to foreign governments and his extreme views on Israel and American Jews were exposed. Blair repeatedly extolled Freeman for his willingness to stake out unpopular positions.

On Tuesday, Blair appeared before the Senate Armed Services Committee. There he answered questions about Freeman and about Iran's nuclear weapons program. Just as he defended Freeman, so Blair defended the Islamic Republic. He claimed that there is no way to infer from Iran's satellite program that it is expanding the range of its ballistic missiles. He claimed that just because Iran is enriching uranium, there is no reason to believe that the mullahs are interested in building a bomb. That is, America's top intelligence officer is willing to take Iran's word on everything.

On the other hand, he isn't willing to take Israel's word on anything. Although he acknowledged that his nonchalant assessment of Iran was based on the same information as Israel's dire assessment of Iran, Blair scoffed at Israel's views, claiming that they are colored by the Jewish state's fears. In his words, "The Israelis are far more concerned about it, and they take more of a worst-case approach to these things from their point of view."

What Blair's staunch championing of Freeman's appointment and his casualness regarding Iran's nuclear program indicates is that like Freeman, he assumes the best of America's adversaries and the worst of its friends. This approach to intelligence analysis will be destructive not just for the US's relations with its allies, but for America's own national security.

THE SECOND disturbing development exposed by Freeman's appointment is the emergence of a very committed and powerful anti-Israel lobby in Washington. In the past, while anti-Israel politicians, policy-makers and opinion-shapers were accepted in Washington, they would not have felt comfortable brandishing their anti-Israel positions as a qualifying credential for high position. Freeman's appointment shows that this is no longer the case. Today in Washington, there are powerful circles of political players for whom a person's anti-Israel bona fides are his strongest suit.

In the weeks since Freeman's appointment first came under scrutiny, his defenders have highlighted his hatred of Israel as the reason for their support for him. Just as Pincus's post-mortem write-up of Freeman's appointment and resignation [in The Washington Post] barely mentioned his ties to Saudi Arabia and China, and focused on Jews who opposed his appointment, so in recent weeks, his defenders - both non-Jewish and Jewish - have highlighted his hatred of Israel and its American supporters as the primary reason for defending it. The likes of Steven Walt, M.J. Rosenberg and Matthew Iglesias didn't try to explain why Freeman was right to support the suppression of freedom in China. They didn't support his claim that the Saudi king is among the most profound and thoughtful leaders in the world. They didn't repeat his assertion that the US had the September 11 attacks coming to it.

They felt that the fact that he raised the hackles of Americans who support Israel was reason enough to support him. Whether his views on other issues are reasonable or not was of no interest to them.

From September 11, to Russia's invasion of Georgia, from Hamas's victory in the 2006 Palestinian elections to the 2007 National Intelligence Estimate that claimed Iran ended its nuclear weapons program in 2003, it is clear that in recent years, the US intelligence community has regularly substituted wishful thinking for true analysis. Freeman's appointment and the emergence of the anti-Israel lobby as a major force in Washington policy circles show that turning the US away from Israel has become a key component of that wishful thinking.

But, as they say in the world of intelligence, forewarned is forearmed.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Negotiators return from Cairo without Schalit deal


Hopes for a breakthrough that would lead to the release of captive soldier Gilad Schalit were dashed Monday night when the Prime Minister's Office released a statement saying that Hamas had hardened its position.

The statement was issued upon the return of Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) head Yuval Diskin and senior negotiator Ofer Dekel from Cairo Monday night after two days of marathon Egyptian-mediated talks toward concluding a prisoner swap.

Hamas has hardened its position, gone back on understandings that had been reached in the past year and raised extreme demands in spite of the attempts to advance the negotiations, the Prime Minister's Office said. It added that Hamas had taken this position despite generous offers that were raised in the latest round of talks.

...An official from Olmert's office ...called Gilad's father Noam to tell him that efforts to finalize a deal had failed.

On Tuesday, a government official is expected to update the Schalit family on the negotiations. Then, at 2 p.m. Olmert is due to convene a special cabinet session to give a full report to the 25 cabinet members.

...Prime Minister-designate Binyamin Netanyahu has been silent with respect to his views on the issue and is not expected to express an opinion until the end of the week.

...not everyone agreed that freeing prisoners guilty of serious crimes was the way to go.

Among those calling on the government not to release terrorists with blood on their hands was MK Aryeh Eldad (National Union).

"Anyone who is ready to say that he demands the release of Gilad Schalit at any price is irresponsible," said Eldad, who warned that the 450 terrorists would turn around and kill thousands of Israelis.

"Are we ready to pay with the blood of our children?" he asked.

...Across the street from the {Shalit protest] tent, Almagor, the terror victim association that has opposed the move, continued its mostly solitary vigil to protest the deal.

It has said that 180 Israelis have already been killed by terrorists released in past deals. If there is a deal, it said, it is considering a petition to the High Court of Justice to block the cabinet from voting on the swap.

Among the few who stood in Almagor's tent on Monday was Swery Zion, who lost his son Doron, 21, and his daughter Sharon , 24, in a terror attack in 2001. Sharon's husband Yaniv, 25, was also killed in that attack.

"I felt that I had to come to scream against this deal," Zion said.

The issue here is not revenge, he said. Nor did he oppose the release of Gilad by other means. "I just want to prevent another disaster."

Nine nations agree plan to combat arms flow to Gaza

From Reuters, Fri Mar 13, 2009 by Adrian Croft:

LONDON (Reuters) - The United States, Canada and seven European nations agreed Friday to try to stop the flow of weapons to Gaza by methods such as interception at sea, information sharing and diplomatic pressure.

Experts from the nine nations, meeting in London, agreed on a program of action to prevent arms reaching the Palestinian enclave bordering the Mediterranean, a senior British diplomat said.

But states are not obliged to join any particular action and the diplomat said that naval vessels would not use force.

Britain, Denmark, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands and Norway signed up to the program, the diplomat said....

GLORIA launches new web site

The Global Research in International Affairs (GLORIA) Center has launched its new web site. Follow this link to go there. The link at the right of the page has also been updated accordingly.

I encourage JIW subscribers who want more in-depth analysis to often visit GLORIA and subscribe by email or RSS feed.

From their "About' page:

[GLORIA is] directed by Barry Rubin, is a research center located at the Interdisciplinary Center, Herzliya (IDC). IDC is Israel's first private institution of higher learning.

Our special focus is a unique and creative application of new information technologies to scholarly and analytical work. We believe that these new tools can revolutionize the study of international affairs. Our basic conception in this regard is presented in our article "Bringing Middle East (and International Affairs) Studies into the Twenty-First Century."

Our Staff

Prof. Barry Rubin
Director of the Global Research for International Affairs (GLORIA) Center.
He is editor of the Middle East Review of International Affairs (MERIA) Journal and of the Turkish Studies journal. His latest books are The Truth About Syria, The Future of the Middle East...

Prof. Dr. Wolfgang G. Schwanitz
Visiting Professor at the GLORIA Center.
He authored four and edited ten books on the history and politics of the Middle East in international relations. Among his works are the History of the German Orientbank...

Dr. Jonathan Spyer
Senior Research Fellow at the GLORIA Center.
He is a former official of the Israel Government Press Office and Advisor on International Affairs at the Ministry of National Infrastructures. He completed his...

Dr. Reuven Paz
Senior Research Fellow at the GLORIA Center.
He is the Founder and Director of the Project for the Research of Islamic Movements (PRISM). He has published numerous articles in the fields of Palestinian society and politics...

Keren Ribo
Director of Operations/Chief Administrator.
Keren previously worked as editor of MERIA News and assistant editor of MERIA Journal. She was Director of Publications at the National...

Yeru Aharoni
Director of Publications/Chief Editor.
An M.A. student in Tel Aviv University's Middle East Studies Program, she also holds a B.A. in French and psychology from Bar-Ilan University. She has published articles...

Anna Melman
Assistant Editor of Turkish Studies.
She is an M.A. student at the Hebrew University's Federmann School of Public Policy. She holds a B.A. in political science (with a focus on international relations)...

Support Gloria Center
Every word of support, every thank you letter we receive, means a great deal to us; our readers are a great part of what keeps us going and striving forward. Any suggestions you have for joint projects between your institution and the GLORIA Center are welcome.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Freeman's rants prove he was wrong pick for Obama adviser

From the Daily News Editorial, Friday, March 13th 2009:

President Obama's choice to head the National Intelligence Council has withdrawn with charges that he was squashed by the great and powerful conspiracy known as the "Israel lobby." Good riddance to him.

Charles Freeman's ranting over a powerful force that brooks no dissent about U.S. policy toward Israel left no doubt of his unsuitability to head a body that assesses data and presents considered judgments to the President.

To put it mildly, his views were ill-considered - and not just on Israel. Among the more startling were criticisms of China for failing to crackdown sooner on pro-democracy Tiananmen Square demonstrators. He wrote that the 1989 assault on protesters "stands as a monument to overly cautious behavior on the part of the leadership, not as an example of rash action."

Regarding Israel, Freeman's beliefs run counter to documented fact. Proof: his statements that "Israeli violence against Palestinians" is a key barrier to peace, and that "Israel no longer even pretends to seek peace with the Palestinians; it strives instead to pacify them."

Those who are concerned about the U.S. posture in the Mideast had good reason to be worried that someone so off the dial would be briefing the President. And Freeman proved the point with his ravings on being cut loose by the White House.

Also see "Blaming the Jews' doesn't always work" from The Washington Post.

Money to burn?

From Scripps Howard News Service, Wed, 03/11/2009, by CLIFF MAY:

... Scores of donors gathered an "International Conference in Support of the Palestinian Economy for the Reconstruction of Gaza," in Sharm El-Sheikh, a resort in Egypt where a total of $4.5 billion in pledges was collected.

The people of Gaza have long been receiving more aid per capita than just about any other group in the world -- a high multiple of what Darfurians receive -- but Gaza is in an especially sorry state these days. The reason: Gazans elected Hamas to rule them, and Hamas' has vowed to exterminate Israel and, in pursuit of that goal, Hamas routinely fires missiles at Israeli towns.

...Many in the "international community" criticized Israel's response as "disproportionate" despite the fact that it did not succeed in stopping the missile attacks. There have been over 100 since the "ceasefire" on Jan. 18. Logically, doesn't that suggest that the response was insufficient, rather than excessive?

What's more, Richard Kemp, former commander of British Troops in Afghanistan, carefully examined the Israeli military action and came to this conclusion: "I don't think there has ever been a time in the history of warfare where any army has made more efforts to reduce civilian casualties and deaths of civilians" than did the Israeli Defense Forces in Gaza, he told the BBC.

But the worsening crisis in Darfur has not gone entirely unnoticed. Hamas, as well as Hezbollah and their mutual sponsor, Iran, spoke out strongly -- in defense of Sudan's militant Islamist president, Omar al-Bashir, the individual most responsible for the death and destruction in Darfur.

Hamas supporters in Gaza even held a march in support of al-Bashir who recently expelled 13 aid agencies that had been attempting to assist Darfurians ...the Arab League said it would send a delegation to the United Nations to argue for the suspension of an international arrest warrant against al-Bashir.

...There is one nation in the Middle East that has opened its borders to refugees from Darfur. That nation is Israel. Perhaps Israelis see a parallel between Darfur -- which has been undergoing genocide -- and their nation, which was created after the genocide known as the Holocaust, and which is under genocidal threats from Iran, Hezbollah and Hamas.

I don't mean to seem callous about the hardships being endured by Gazans. But I do mean to emphasize their responsibility -- and the fact that unlike the Darfurians they could alleviate their suffering by tolerating Israel's existence, and pursuing peace.

So long as they are led by Hamas, however, they must be guided by the Hamas Charter, which not only pledges to "obliterate" Israel, but also states plainly, "there is no solution to the Palestinian question except through Jihad. Initiatives, proposals and international conferences are all a waste of time and vain endeavors." With the exception, perhaps, of conferences that put dollars and Euros in their pockets.

(Clifford D. May is president of the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies, a policy institute focusing on terrorism. E-mail him at

Iran's persecution of Bahá'ís is devastating

From The Telegraph (UK), 13 Mar 2009, by Nazila Ghanea*:

Iran’s Prosecutor General, Ayatollah Qorban-Ali Dorri-Najafabadi, has declared that the very expression of affiliation to the Bahá’í faith is illegal, writes Nazila Ghanea. academic, a blogger, a Nobel prize winner, a postgraduate researcher, a cyber feminist, a journalist and a woman who let her head covering slip ... have all been imprisoned, flogged and fined in Iran.

...But now a new embargo on freedom of expression has formally been announced. Iran’s Prosecutor General, Ayatollah Qorban-Ali Dorri-Najafabadi, has declared that the very expression of affiliation to the Bahá’í faith is illegal. This was communicated in a letter to the Minister of Intelligence, Ghulam-Husayn Ejeyee, who needs no encouragement to violate rights. Human Rights Watch named him one of Iran's 'Ministers of Murder' four years ago.

...“the administration of the wayward Baha’i sect at all levels is illegal and forbidden … their danger to national security is documented and well-established.”

A few days later, the Prosecutor General made the rather fantastic claim that Bahá’ís in Iran are provided with all facilities afforded other Iranian citizens, and are respected as human beings, “but not as insiders, spies, or a political grouplet supported by Britain and Israel to cause disturbance in Iran”. Much kindness had always been shown Bahá’í citizens of Iran, he asserted, but there was “opposition to the relations of many of them with the enemies of the Iranian nation and particularly with Israel.”

The spurious nature of such assertions are obvious to anyone with the most basic knowledge of the Bahá’í faith, the persecution it has faced in Iran on religious grounds for more than a century, and the historical events which led to its Prophet being banished in 1868 to a remote corner of the Ottoman empire, which now happens to sit within the borders of modern-day Israel.

...What we are being told, therefore, is that the Iranian belief system is unitary and very vulnerable to the free expression of some bloggers, some morally loose women and some journalists - but all Bahá'ís, all 300,000 of them that make up Iran’s largest non-Muslim religious minority...

*Dr Nazila Ghanea is a Lecturer in International Human Rights Law at the University of Oxford. She serves as the Editor-in-Chief of the international journal of Religion and Human Rights.

Iran can't be trusted

From the National Post (Canada), Thursday, March 12, 2009:

...On Tuesday, the UN Security Council sanctions-monitoring committee rebuked Iran for trying to smuggle a vast shipload of arms to Syria in violation of at least five UN resolutions. The discovery of over 3,000 cases of high explosives, large-bore armour-piercing shells and anti-tank propellant proves Iran has no intention of ceasing its arms shipments to terror groups such as Hezbollah, using Syria as a conduit. Nor can it be trusted to honour its international agreements to forgo acquiring nuclear arms...

...This is not, of course, the first time Iran has been caught red-handed smuggling powerful weapons to terror groups it funds and trains. In January, 2002, a Palestinian ship, the Karine A, was caught by the Israelis in the Red Sea crammed full of Iranian-and Russianmade weapons. Many of the munitions used by Iraq's insurgents over the past seven years have been stamped "Made in Iran" and several times since the end of the Hezbollah-Israel war in the summer of 2006, convoys carrying Iranian weapons have been spotted resupplying the terrorists overland from Syria.

All of this violates a string of Security Council and General Assembly resolutions going back to 2004 and before. Five years ago, the UN unanimously adopted a resolution upholding the independence and territorial integrity of Lebanon. In particular, Resolution 1559 called for the disarmament and dismantling of private militias such as Hezbollah. Iran ignored the edict, as did Syria.

Indeed, the two continue to meddle in Lebanese internal politics so as to keep that nation open as a staging area for terror attacks on Israel. And they do so despite the presence of 15,000 UN peacekeepers in Lebanon.

By some estimates, Iran has rearmed Hezbollah with more than two million rounds of ammunition and thousands of mortars and rockets since the UN brokered an end to the 2006 Hezbollah-Israel conflict, a deal that forbad Iran from re-equipping the Shiite radicals.

All this establishes not only why Iran cannot be trusted (and why the U. S. and other Western nations must closely monitor and constrain Iran's actions), but also why Israel is right to counteract threats to its security from places such as Gaza.

The Jewish state's neighbours, starting with Iran, have no interest in playing nice.

Palestinian unity negotiations near collapse

From THE JERUSALEM POST, Mar. 12, 2009, by Khaled Abu Toameh:

Hamas and Fatah negotiators said on Thursday they are having difficulty reaching an agreement ....

Sharp differences erupted between the two parties during the Egyptian-sponsored reconciliation talks that began in Cairo earlier this week, they said...

...Five joint Hamas-Fatah committees that have been trying to forge compromises had made little progress in the past few days, representatives of Fatah and Hamas said.

Ibrahim Abu al-Naja, a senior Fatah official participating in the discussions ...said that both Hamas and Fatah must also take into consideration the international community's attitude, noting that the US and some EU countries have already made clear they won't deal with a new government that does not recognize Israel's right to exist, renounce violence and accept all previous agreements between the PLO and Israel...

...Hamas spokesmen reacted angrily to US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's demand that a new Hamas-Fatah government accept the conditions of the Middle East Quartet, namely recognizing Israel's right to exist, renouncing terrorism and accepting all agreements between the PLO and Israel.

"Who said that we are going to form a government just to appease the Americans?" Barhoum asked. "The main reason for schism in the Palestinian arena is US meddling in our internal affairs."

Taher a-Nunu, spokesman for the Hamas government in the Gaza Strip, said he wasn't optimistic about the Cairo talks. Fatah's demand that the next PA government accept the PLO's political agenda, which supports the two-state solution, was unacceptable, he said.

"Fatah wants a government that accepts the two-state solution, and this is something that Hamas can't and will never accept," Nunu said. "We are prepared to accept a Palestinian state in the 1967 boundaries only as a temporary solution, without recognizing the Zionist occupation of any inch of our homeland." ...

Iran missile, nuclear threat 'real, dangerous'

From RIA Novosti, 12/ 03/ 2009:

...Russia and the West would be making a big mistake if they ignored or underestimated the potential missile and nuclear threat coming from Iran, a Russian military expert said on Thursday.

"Iran is actively working on a missile development program. I won't say the Iranians will be able to develop intercontinental ballistic missiles in the near future, but they will most likely be able to threaten the whole of Europe," said Maj. Gen. Vladimir Dvorkin*, head of the Moscow-based Center for Strategic Nuclear Forces.

Some Western and Russian sources claim that Iran may be currently running a program, dubbed Project Koussar, to develop a totally different missile with a range of 4,000-5,000 km (2,500-3,300 miles).

"Iran has long abandoned outdated missile technologies and is capable of producing sophisticated missile systems," Dvorkin said at a news conference in RIA Novosti.

Iran successfully launched last year an upgraded Shahab-3 ballistic missile as part of a navy exercise, dubbed Great Prophet 3, in the Persian Gulf and the Strait of Hormuz.

With a reported range of 2,000 kilometers and armed with a 1-ton conventional warhead, the Shahab-3 puts Israel, Turkey, the Arabian peninsula, Afghanistan and Pakistan within striking distance....

..."The real threat is that Iran, which is already ignoring all resolutions and sanctions issued by the UN Security Council, will be practically 'untouchable' after acquiring nuclear-power status, and will be able to expand its support of terrorist organizations, including Hamas and Hezbollah," the expert said...

*Dvorkin has had a role in writing all major strategy documents for the Strategic Nuclear Forces and the Strategic Missile Forces. As an expert in the field he participated in preparing the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty and the START I and START II pacts, and has made a significant contribution to formulating Soviet and Russian positions at negotiations on strategic offensive arms control and reduction.

Occupation? Resistance? ...bullshit

From MEMRI Dispatch No. 2278 March 12, 2009:

Following are excerpts from a speech delivered by Egyptian cleric Muhammad Hussein Ya’qoub, which aired on Al-Rahma TV on January 17, 2009.

Click here to view this MEMRI TV clip.


"You Must Believe That We Will Fight, Defeat, and Annihilate Them, Until Not a Single Jew Remains on the Face of the Earth"

Muhammad Hussein Ya’qoub: "If the Jews left Palestine to us, would we start loving them? Of course not. We will never love them. Absolutely not. The Jews are infidels - not because I say so, and not because they are killing Muslims, but because Allah said: 'The Jews say that Uzair is the son of Allah, and the Christians say that Christ is the son of Allah. These are the words from their mouths. They imitate the sayings of the disbelievers before. May Allah fight them. How deluded they are.' It is Allah who said that they are infidels.

"Your belief regarding the Jews should be, first, that they are infidels, and second, that they are enemies. They are enemies not because they occupied Palestine. They would have been enemies even if they did not occupy a thing. Allah said: 'You shall find the strongest men in enmity to the disbelievers [sic] to be the Jews and the polytheists.' Third, you must believe that the Jews will never stop fighting and killing us. They [fight] not for the sake of land and security, as they claim, but for the sake of their religion: 'And they will not cease fighting you until they turn you back you’re your religion, if they can.'

"This is it. We must believe that our fighting with the Jews is eternal, and it will not end until the final battle - and this is the fourth point. You must believe that we will fight, defeat, and annihilate them, until not a single Jew remains on the face of the Earth."

"As For You Jews - The Curse of Allah Upon You... You Pigs of the Earth! You Kill the Muslims With That Cold Pig [Blood] Of Yours"

"It is not me who says so. The Prophet said: 'Judgment Day will not come until you fight the Jews and kill them. The Jews will hide behind stones and trees, and the stones and tree will call: Oh Muslim, oh servant of Allah, there is a Jew behind me, come and kill him - except for the Gharqad tree, which is the tree of the Jews.' I have heard that they are planting many of these trees now...

"As for you Jews - the curse of Allah upon you. The curse of Allah upon you, whose ancestors were apes and pigs. You Jews have sown hatred in our hearts, and we have bequeathed it to our children and grandchildren. You will not survive as long as a single one of us remains...

"Oh Jews, may the curse of Allah be upon you. Oh Jews... Oh Allah, bring Your wrath, punishment, and torment down upon them. Allah, we pray that you transform them again, and make the Muslims rejoice again in seeing them as apes and pigs. You pigs of the earth! You pigs of the earth! You kill the Muslims with that cold pig [blood] of yours."