Saturday, May 30, 2009

US Justice Dept. Backs Saudi Royal Family on 9/11 Lawsuit

From The new York Times, May 30, 2009, by ERIC LICHTBLAU:

WASHINGTON — The Obama administration is supporting efforts by the Saudi royal family to defeat a long-running lawsuit seeking to hold it liable for the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.

The Justice Department...said it saw no need for the court to review lower court rulings that found in the Saudis’ favor in throwing out the lawsuit.

The government’s position comes less than a week before President Obama is scheduled to meet in Saudi Arabia with King Abdullah as part of a trip to the Middle East and Europe intended to reach out to the Muslim world. members of several Sept. 11 victims said they were deeply disappointed and questioned whether the decision was made to appease an important ally in the Middle East. The Saudis have aggressively lobbied both the Bush and Obama administrations to have the lawsuit dismissed, government officials say.

“I find this reprehensible,” said Kristen Breitweiser, a leader of the Sept. 11 families, whose husband was killed in the attacks on the World Trade Center. ...Bill Doyle, another leader of the Sept. 11 families whose son was killed in the attacks, said, “All we want is our day in court.”

The lawsuit, brought by a number of insurance companies for the victims and their families, accuses members of the royal family in Saudi Arabia of providing financial backing to Al Qaeda — either directly to Osama bin Laden and other terrorist leaders, or indirectly through donations to charitable organizations that they knew were in turn diverting money to Al Qaeda.

A district court threw out the lawsuit, finding that the Foreign Sovereign Immunity Act provided legal protection from liability for Saudi Arabia and the members of the royal family for their official acts.

Solicitor General Elena Kagan ...noted that the Supreme Court had historically looked to the executive branch to take the lead on such international matters because of “the potentially significant foreign relations consequences of subjecting another sovereign state to suit.”

...Justice Department officials declined to address the issue of whether the timing of the brief was related to Mr. Obama’s trip to Riyadh...

Friday, May 29, 2009

Obama meets Abbas

From AFP, 28/5/09, by Stephen Collinson [my emphasis added - SL]:

WASHINGTON (AFP) ...Obama met Palestinian leader Mahmud Abbas for the first time as president.. ...The US president recalled that last week he had been "very clear" with Netanyahu about the need to "stop settlements" and again stated his desire to see a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

He was asked by a reporter if he would strong-arm Israel if it did not back down in its refusal to support a Palestinian state. "I think it's important not to assume the worst, but to assume the best," said Obama, who rejected an opportunity to set a date for the establishment of a "viable, potential" Palestinian state. "I want to see progress made, and we will work very aggressively to achieve it. I don't want to put an artificial timetable," he said.

"I am confident that we can move this forward if all parties are ready to meet their obligations."

...The US president also called on Abbas to offer security improvements to Israel and to quell anti-Israel incitement in Palestinian mosques and schools.

Abbas warned that all parties should work night and day to alleviate the plight of the Palestinians and move towards statehood. "I would like to take this opportunity to affirm to you that we are fully committed to all of our obligations under the roadmap, from the 'A' to the 'Z'," he said....

...The US-backed roadmap calls for a halt to Jewish settlement activity in Palestinian territories and an end to Palestinian attacks against Israel but has made little progress since it was drafted in 2003.

[AFP have omitted to mention "Phase I: Ending Terror And Violence, Normalizing Palestinian Life, and Building Palestinian Institutions ...In Phase I, the Palestinians immediately undertake an unconditional cessation of violence ...Palestinians and Israelis resume security cooperation based on the Tenet work plan to end violence, terrorism, and incitement through restructured and effective Palestinian security services. Palestinians undertake comprehensive political reform in preparation for statehood..." - verbatim quote from the text of the Roadmap, with my emphasis added - SL]

Clinton had on Wednesday said Obama "wants to see a stop to settlements. Not some settlements, not outposts, not natural growth exceptions."

But Israel on Thursday dismissed the blunt US call.

"Normal life" will be allowed in settlements in the occupied West Bank, government spokesman Mark Regev said... ...[meaning] continuing construction to accommodate population growth. He added the fate of settlements "will be determined in final status negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians and in the interim, normal life must be allowed to continue in those communities."

...The Israeli prime minister told his cabinet Sunday he did not intend to build new settlements but that "it makes no sense to ask us not to answer to the needs of natural growth and to stop all construction," aides said.

The Abbas meeting represented Obama's latest attempt to revive the stalled Middle East peace process, which have included talks with Jordan's King Abdullah II, Netanyahu and in London with Saudi King Abdullah.

Next week, Obama will meet the Saudi King in Riyadh and deliver a long-awaited address to the Muslim world in Cairo. But he said he would not lay out his long-awaited peace plan in the speech, which he said was designed to lay out a path for a "better" US relationship with the Islamic world.

Palestinian Incitement to Violence

From the the Global Research in International Affairs (GLORIA) Center, May 28, 2009, by Barry Rubin, director of GLORIA and editor of Middle East Review of International Affairs (MERIA) Journal [follow the link to the full article]:

If the U.S. Government Ignores Palestinian Incitement to Violence There's No Hope for Peace

There is probably no more obnoxious action of the Palestinian Authority (PA) than its continuing glorification of terrorists who have murdered Israelis. Not only does this show a lack of support for any peace process, but doing so for facilities built with U.S. taxpayer money is against U.S. law.

To my knowledge, the U.S. government has never pressed or even mentioned this issue. It is important as a signal of the lack of effort to hold the PA to commitments. If the current administration wants to press for progress, this is the kind of question which must be taken up...

In a May 25 200, Jerusalem Post op-ed, Itamar Marcus and Barbara Crook, who deserve credit for monitoring this issue, point out that $900 million in aid to the PA is being offered. Yet the PA’s new computer center is named after “the martyr Dalal Mughrabi””who led a terror attack which murdered photographer Gail Rubin and then hijacked a bus in which 37 civilians, 12 of them children, were gunned down. To honor terrorists is against the U.S. law governing the funding of Palestinian institutions.

Last year, the PA sponsored a football championship for children and a summer camp named for Mughrabi, someone who has know positive achievement. A party was also held under Abbas’s personal auspices for top students named for Mughrabi.

A television program was also produced which called the killing of 38 Israeli civilians “one of the most important and most prominent special operations” and referred to Mughrabi as a “heroic fighter.”

... The authors recall that in 2002, after a girls’ school was named for Mughrabi, the U.S. State Department cancelled the funding. The PA then promised to change the name and the money was paid. The school, however, continues to carry Mughrabi’s name.

...To see the perfect symbol of the problem with U.S. Middle East policy you need look no further. No one in the region takes America too seriously because it does not follow up and enforce its positions. The PA knows that it can do what it wants and pay no price. There is no—repeat no—real pressure on it to stop incitement, educate its people for peace, make any real compromise or concession. Instead, this “moderate” institution is continuing to teach its children that being a terrorist is the highest calling and due the greatest honor.

Just like Hamas does.

The Western media also has no interest in this issue either despite energetically seeking out any issue on which Israel can be criticized, even often when such things are made up and prove to have no basis in reality.

We have seen, and will see, the administration devote huge efforts to stopping settlers from adding a room onto an existing apartment. Will it devote any effort at all to turning the PA in the direction of peace or even enforcing U.S. law?

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Two-State solution will lead to the collapse of Israel

From ANB TV, May 7, 2009 [posted on MEMRI - View the clip.]:

[Palestinian Ambassador to Lebanon] Abbas Zaki: "What is needed is a settlement, not a hudna [truce]. After 45 years of struggle, we have the right to reach a conclusion to this conflict, rather than extending the hudna, enabling Israel to expand on a daily basis.

"My advice is: we should not give Israel a hudna, because whenever Israel is given a hudna, it consolidates its position and becomes more deeply rooted. What hudna? If they do not withdraw from the 1967 lands - what hudna? Israel will become a fact on the ground, and we will end up as small enclaves, and should be driven out with time.

"Therefore, it is high time that we found a final, comprehensive solution. The Arabs talk about a comprehensive solution and present initiatives, and the world talks about a solution, yet we say: Let's stick to the hudna. No, my friend. I personally joined Fatah somewhat belatedly, in 1962. Work out how many years that is. Should I keep on extending the hudnas? Impossible. We want a solution now.

"They talk about a two-state solution, and when that is achieved... Even Ahmadinejad, leader of the rejectionists throughout the region, said he supports a two-state solution. Nobody fools anybody.

"With the two-state solution, in my opinion, Israel will collapse, because if they get out of Jerusalem, what will become of all the talk about the Promised Land and the Chosen People? What will become of all the sacrifices they made - just to be told to leave? They consider Jerusalem to have a spiritual status. The Jews consider Judea and Samaria to be their historic dream. If the Jews leave those places, the Zionist idea will begin to collapse. It will regress of its own accord. Then we will move forward."

The Palestinians' Nazi past and present

From FrontPageMagazine, October 4, 2007; reposted on the Likud Holland website:

The most important book to read on the Palestinians, the Arabs and the Nazis has, unfortunately, not yet been translated into English.

Klaus-Michael Mallmann and Martin Cuppers'

"Halbmond und Hakenkreuz. Das "Dritte Reich", die Araber und Palestina"
["Crescent Moon and Swastika: The Third Reich, the Arabs, and Palestine"]

was published September, 2006.

Dr. Klaus-Michael Mallman, the author of many books on Germany and the Holocaust, is Privatdozent fur Neuere Geschichte at the University of Essen.

Martin Cuppers is a researcher at the Forschungsstelle Ludwigsburg, and has published an important book on the command staff and office of the Reichsfuhrer SS, the Head of the SS, Heinrich Himmler.

Here is a summary of the argument of the book, translated from a long summary in German:

The Nazis prepared to extend the Holocaust into Palestine and in preparation for doing so they infected the Arabs with their ideology, especially the Muslim Brotherhood, and the forces around Amin al-Husseini, in order to have allies.

"The Jew is the enemy and to kill him pleases Allah." This statement, which is formulated a bit more rhetorically in the Charter of the Palestinian government party Hamas and which appears in publications of the Iranian state publishing house, and is daily broadcast by Hezbollah TV al-Manar to all world, actually originates neither from Islamic extremists nor from recent events.

It was the common coin of Nazi radio broadcasts to the Arabs between 1939 and 1945 in order to win Arab hearts and minds to the German cause. Meanwhile German Middle East experts endeavoured in Germany to convince the Nazi government of "the natural alliance" between National Socialism and Islam. Experts such as the former German Ambassador in Cairo, Eberhard von Stohrer, reported to Hitler in 1941 that "the Fuhrer already held an outstanding position among the Arabs because of his fight against the Jews."

Nazi propaganda with the Arabs had considerable success. Cuppers and Mallmann quote many specific documents from the Nazi archives on this. Against common perception, according to which Germany only became involved in the Middle East via (originally) support for the Israeli state, Cuppers and Mallmann show what an important shaping influence national socialism had on the Arab national movement.

The German invasion of the Middle East never happened because Rommel was defeated, but that does not mean that the Nazis exerted no influence. From the late 1930s, the planning staffs dealing with the external affairs of the Reich in the Head Office of Reich Security (RSHA, Reichssecuritathauptamt: originally under the monstrous Gestapo-chief Reinhard Heydrich) sought influence in the Arabian Peninsula. The dream was a pincer movement, one from the north via a defeated Soviet Union, one from the south via the Near East and Persia, in order to separate Great Britain from India and to control completely the oil-rich Middle East.

That was the plan, but the counteroffensive of the Red Army before Moscow in 1941/1942 and at Stalingrad in 1942/1943, and the defeat of the German Africa Corps with El Alamein, finally defeated the plan. These victories also prevented the arrival of the Holocaust in the Near East, riding with the German armed forces, something which, however, was intended.

Despite the initial Nazi tolerance of Jewish emigration from Germany to Palestine, the Nazi government eventually expanded their Holocaust plans to include the destruction of the Jews in the Near East. Studies undertaken by SS Einsatzgruppe [Special Taskforce] F already were listing Jewish dwellings in Palestine to be confiscated as accommodations for German troops once the Afrika Korps arrived in Palestine.

Starting from the summer of 1942, an "SS Einsatz Gruppe Egypt" was established after the model of the mass-murder Einsatzgruppen active on the East Front, which had already murdered hundreds of thousands of Jews. The one established in Egypt was led by SS-Obersturmbannfuhrer Walter Rauff and he had a whole staff with him, experienced in the murder of Jews, experts from the RSHA, the Head Office for Reich Security. Their order: To continue "the destruction of the Jews begun in Europe with the energetic assistance of Arab collaborators" in the Near East.

According to Mallmann and Cuppers, the main Nazi ally locally was the Arab National Movement, and especially the Palestinian national movement, under the guidance of the exiled Amin al-Husseini Grand Mufti of Jerusalem and uncle of the later Palestinian president Yassir Arafat. Its task was the spreading of pro-Nazi propaganda intended to mobilize local collaborators with the Nazi army and Nazi policies.

The latter task, spreading support for Nazi policies, was not a failure. Partly because of the attraction of the alleged anti-imperialism of the Nazis, which was directed against the mandate power of Great Britain, partly because of the dream of the resurgence of a vast Arab-Islamic realm, the Middle East elite became what Hitler celebrated as "prophets against the Jews."

Already at that time the so-called Palestinian question provided the crucial link, hatred of the Jews provided the crucial link, between the two different forces.

The military successes of the Afrika Korps eventually came to an end, stopped by the British in August/September 1942. But a lasting Nazi propaganda achievement was to place the Jewish settlement in Palestine in the center of Arab political mobilization and at the same time within a burning Islamic anti-imperialism.

The central idea was that the destruction of the Yishuv (the Jewish population in Palestine) was the condition for the release of the Arab world from foreign rule. "Hear, O noble Arabs!," reads one German pamphlet spread in Tunisia in 1943, "Free yourselves from the Englishmen, the Americans and the Jews! Because the Englishmen, Americans, the Jews, and their allies are the largest enemies of the Arabs and Islam!"

Messages such as these were spread by a far-reaching network of Nazi agents and collaborators, and met with a positive response in Arab nationalist and Islamic circles, a positive response from an elite that would eventually run entire Arab states.

Thus agents of Nazi foreign propaganda in Egypt maintained close relations not only with the Muslim Brotherhood (from which Hamas descends), but also with "the free officers," a clandestine group from which the later presidents Abdel Nassir and Anwar al Sadat originated.

Arab terrorists in Palestine were already being supplied with weapons from Nazi Germany in the mid-1930s, when the Grand Mufti Husseini was leading them in an anti-Jewish rebellion against the British; the Nazi intent was to weaken both the Jewish and British mechanisms of power.

In all parts of the Arab world, similar groups, such as those in Iraq in 1940-1941 (the pro-Nazi coup of Rashid Ali in Baghdad in April 1941, with Husseini again present) pushed for action and gratefully received the material and ideological support from Nazi Germany.

From April to June 1941 there was actually a Luftwaffe squadron stationed in Baghdad. The Rashid Ali coup was eventually overturned by the British in June 1941 -- but not before there was a pogrom in Baghdad that led to the murder of several hundred (and perhaps up to two thousand) Iraqi Jews.

With the defeat of El Alamein in November 1942, it was clear that the German military invasion of the Middle East would not materialize. The Nazi government therefore concentrated German policy on mobilizing "the Arab resistance." In this way the advance of the Allied armies could be hindered (though not stopped).

The connection of all this to the Jews, however, soon embodied itself in the everyday consciousness of the masses. "What do the Americans want? They want to help the Jews," was the type of propaganda the Nazis were spreading at that point. "Take up weapons, where you find them. Do damage to the cause to the enemy, wherever you can."

As Mallmann and Cuppers write, the "remarkable similarity between Nazi propaganda that was broadcast into the Middle East and the treatises of today's terrorists is not accidental;" the one is the ancestor of the other.

Mallmann and Cuppers show that virulent Arab anti-Semitism is older than the founding of the state of Israel in 1948, and they demonstrate what part Nazi Germany had in its propagation. Their work is based on investigations in German archives.


From Reuters, Wed May 27, 2009, by Jeffrey Heller:

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on the eve of a White House visit by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas that Palestinians must also be pressed to meet commitments under a U.S.-backed peace plan.

Pledging to honor Israel's international agreements, which include a 2003 peace "road map" with the Palestinians, Netanyahu said, "We want an end to the conflict and we want reciprocity in the demands made of both sides, and in carrying them out."

...Netanyahu has demanded Abbas' Palestinian Authority meet its commitments under the road map, including a crackdown on militants -- a task complicated by the 2007 takeover of the Gaza Strip by Hamas Islamists.

...Underscoring some common ground with Obama, who is to make a June 4 speech in Egypt to the Muslim world, Netanyahu called in parliament for Arab countries to "join the peace effort."

The Israeli leader has proposed shifting the focus of currently suspended peace talks with the Palestinians from difficult territorial issues he said have stymied progress to improving economic, security and political relations.

..."We are prepared to take, and we will take, concrete steps toward peace with the Palestinians. We also expect the Palestinians to take concrete steps," Netanyahu said. A statement issued by the prime minister's office said Netanyahu convened a ministerial committee earlier in the day to discuss ways to "improve the situation of Palestinian residents" in the West Bank. Netanyahu told the committee it would soon be asked to examine several economic projects that would benefit the Palestinians and that Israel would seek international funding for the initiatives.

"peace in our time" (?) ...again

From THE JERUSALEM POST, May. 27, 2009, by Hilary Leila Krieger:

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said Wednesday that the United States would present detailed plans on the peace process to the parties as part of its efforts to jumpstart negotiations.

...Though the Obama administration has pledged intensified Middle East diplomacy since the beginning of its term, Clinton's comments went the furthest to date in suggesting that the US would make its own proposals for resolving the conflict that multiple American administration plans have failed to resolve.

Such US initiative has been urged by Arab countries, beginning with Jordan's King Abdullah during his own White House visit in April. At that time he also said the Arab countries would themselves have to contribute to the process...

...Greater participation has been a central piece of the US administration's approach thus far, with Clinton stressing that "we've also been reaching out to governments of Arab nations, asking what they could be expected to do as we move forward to build confidence and to create a good atmosphere for decisions to be made."

US officials see the Arab League peace plan as providing a possible basis for negotiations. That plan calls for an Israeli withdrawal from all land captured in the Six Day War, as well as a resolution on the Palestinian refugee issue, in exchange for normalization with the entire Arab world.

...The US administration is using ...visits with Middle East leaders to shore up support for its program and seek regional participation. On Tuesday, Obama also added a stop in Saudi Arabia - the original authors of the Arab peace plan - to the beginning of his overseas trip.

Nabil Abu Znaid, the head of the Palestinian Authority's mission to the US, praised Obama's efforts and his "global" approach....

...Clinton stressed the US position that settlement construction must stop, even though Netanyahu has indicated "natural growth" in major blocs was set continue.

"The president was very clear when Prime Minister Netanyahu was here. He wants to see a stop to settlements - not some settlements, not outposts, not natural growth exceptions," she said. "That is our position, that is what we have communicated very clearly, not only to the Israelis, but to the Palestinians and others. And we intend to press that point."

She did not elaborate on what the administration had in mind when she referenced "very specific proposals," saying only, "We are making a very concerted effort. ...We have a lot of support from countries such as Egypt...."

The Jewish Catastrophe

From Tom Gross Media, by Ben-Dror Yemini [translation from Ma'ariv-Hebrew, 16 May 09 - brief excerpts only - follow the link to read the full translation]:

Every year on the 15th of May, the Palestinians − and many others around the world along with them − “celebrate” Nakba Day. For them, this is the day that marks the great catastrophe that befell them as result of the establishment of the State of Israel. Hundreds of thousands of Arabs became refugees. Some fled, some were deported. The Nakba grew to such enormous proportions that it is preventing a solution to the dispute. the 1940s, population exchanges and deportations for the purpose of creating national states were the accepted norm. Tens of millions of people experienced it, but only the Palestinians have been inflating the myth of the Nakba.

However, there is another Nakba: the Jewish Nakba. During those same years, there was a long line of slaughters, pogroms, property confiscation and deportations -against Jews in Islamic countries.

The Jewish Nakba was worse than the Palestinian Nakba.

The number of Jews murdered was greater, their dispossession was greater, and their suffering greater. The only difference is that the Jews did not turn that Nakba into their founding ethos. To the contrary. ...Like tens of millions of other refugees around the world, they preferred to heal the wound.

...A stunning testimonial from those years actually comes from the Arab side. In 1936, Alawite notables sent a letter to the French Foreign Minister which said: "The Jews brought civilization and peace to the Arab Muslims, and they dispersed gold and prosperity over Palestine without damage to anyone or taking anything by force. Despite this, the Muslims declared holy war against them and didn't hesitate to massacre their children and women." One of the letter's signers was the great grandfather of Bashar al-Assad, the president of Syria.

Nakba Day is the date of the declaration of Israel's independence, May 15. A few hours after that declaration, the Secretary of the Arab League, Abdul Rahman Hassan Azzamaha, announced a declaration of war against Israel: "This war will be a war of annihilation and the story of the slaughter will be told like the campaigns of the Mongols and the Crusaders."

The Mufti of Jerusalem, Haj Amin Al Husseini, who was close to Hitler during the Second World War, added: "I am declaring a holy war. My brother Muslims! Slaughter the Jews! Kill them all!"

....There were periods in which Jews enjoyed relative peace under Muslim rule, but those periods were the exception. History records a long series of massacres in Muslim countries long before the Zionist endeavor. Tens of thousands were murdered simply because they were Jewish. The fairytale of coexistence and blaming Zionism for undermining that coexistence is yet another completely baseless myth.

Tom Gross adds:
Many countries where tens of thousands of Jews lived are now totally "Judenrein."

Apart from Morocco and Tunisia, where about 4,000 Jews remain, no Arab state now has more than 100 Jews. In just a few years, Jewish communities stretching back up to 3,000 years, well before the birth of Islam, have been "ethnically cleansed" from Arab countries.

This contrasts sharply with Israel where the Arab population continues to increase greatly and is now much larger than it was in the British Mandate period.

Gillard to lead Israel delegation

From The Australian Jewish News, May 27, 2009, by NAOMI LEVIN :

[Australian] DEPUTY Prime Minister Julia Gillard will become the second senior Rudd Government minister to visit Israel next month.

Gillard will participate in a leadership forum organised by the Australia Israel Cultural Exchange (AICE) ...

"The Deputy Prime Minister will lead a delegation of Australians to the first Australian Israel Leadership Forum in June," Gillard's spokesperson told The AJN. "The Australian Israel Leadership Forum will highlight both the strength and potential of the Australian Israel relations. The forum will provide an opportunity for both nations to build stronger ties as well as build important people-to-people links."

It will be the second visit for Gillard, who has attended and spoken at Jewish community fundraising events, including the Jewish National Fund. Foreign Minister Stephen Smith visited Israel in October last year. He was the first minister to visit the country after the Rudd Government was elected in November 2007.

Joining Gillard at the leadership forum will be a number of her parliamentary colleagues from both sides of the house, including former treasurer Peter Costello, Jewish MP Mark Dreyfus and Shadow Education Minister Christopher Pyne. They are expected to meet with their Israeli Knesset counterparts.

...AICE is a relatively new organisation that promotes ties, particularly cultural ties, between Australia and Israel. It was launched in 2002 in simultaneous ceremonies: one at Australia's Parliament House in Canberra and the other at the Israeli Foreign Ministry in Jerusalem.

Use Iranian opposition as leverage

From THE JERUSALEM POST, May. 26, 2009, by Raymond Tanter*:

...If the Iranian regime makes a strategic commitment to enrich [uranium] to higher levels before there is a diplomatic breakthrough, it would leave Israel with little choice but to consider when, not whether, to attack its nuclear weapons facilities.

Given the history of negotiating with Teheran it is highly unlikely that a breakthrough will occur before the end of the year.

In a May 17 press conference with Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, Obama was careful to point out that ...the US would consider a "range of steps" if negotiations failed.

...At issue is whether the plan to reach out to Iran coupled with the ambiguous threat of a "range of steps," if the negotiating track fails, provides sufficient leverage to coerce Iran to cease its quest for the bomb.

...Obama has other options that he has yet to employ.

ONE POINT of leverage would be to reach out to the Iranian opposition as Washington reaches out to Teheran. According to research of the Iran Policy Committee, the Iranian regime pays attention to the Mujahedeen-e Khalq (MEK), the main opposition group, 350 percent more than all other opposition groups combined.

Only if the survival of the regime were placed on the table by reaching out to its main opposition is it conceivable that Teheran would consider reversing its quest for nuclear arms status.

The US could take an escalating series of steps to reach out to the Iranian opposition and thereby ratchet up pressure as negotiations unfold.

A first step could be for Washington to indicate that it is considering removal of the MEK from the State Department's list of foreign terrorist organizations. Doing so would bring US policy in line with the European Union, which removed the MEK from its terrorist list in January.

A second step would be to hold congressional hearings on use of the MEK to increase pressure on Teheran, including removal of the group from the list.

A third step would be for US officials to meet with MEK representatives in Iraq, where the group is based, and invite MEK leadership to Washington for talks.

Using the Iranian opposition as a point of diplomatic leverage does not imply that Washington would arm, train or finance that opposition as it did when it created an opposition to Saddam Hussein.

The worst approach would be to sell out the opposition as a part of a "grand bargain" with the Iranian regime. Such an approach has been ineffective in the past. The US made several concessions to the Iranian regime during 2003 to entice it not to interfere in Iraq after the US invasion. Such incentives did not stop Teheran from infiltrating roadside bombs, which have been the leading cause of coalition casualties.

As Obama said, "We're not going to have talks forever." The US has one last chance at diplomacy before resorting to increased sanctions that are unlikely to work and the unappealing option of military strikes. To avoid such an outcome, it is crucial that it make use of every point of leverage available, of which there are very few. The Iranian opposition is one such point of leverage that has yet to be exploited.

*The writer is visiting professor at Georgetown University, president of the Iran Policy Committee, a former member of the National Security Council staff and personal representative of the secretary of defense in the Reagan-Bush administration.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Elena Bonner speaks

On 19 May 2009, Elena Bonner, widow of great scientist and dissident Andrei Sakharov, friend and colleague of Natan Sharansky, and an outstanding human rights activist in her own right, spoke at the Oslo Freedom Forum.

Excerpts of her eloquent address [with my emphasis added - SL] are posted below. Read the full text in the Kathy Young Blog, May 20, 2009.

Please, you MUST take the time to read these excerpts, if not the full speech....

Ladies and Gentlemen, Dear Friends...

... summing up my life (at age 86, I try to sum up my life every day I am still alive), I can do so in three words. My life was typical, tragic, and beautiful. Whoever needs the details — read my two books, Alone Together and Mothers and Daughters. They have been translated into many languages. Read Sakharov’s Memoirs. It’s a pity his Diaries haven’t been translated; they were published in Russia in 2006. Apparently, the West isn’t interested in Sakharov right now.

The West isn’t very interested in Russia either, a country that no longer has real elections, independent courts, or freedom of the press. Russia is a country where journalists, human rights activists, and migrants are killed regularly, almost daily. And extreme corruption flourishes of a kind and extent that never existed earlier in Russia or anywhere else.

So what do the Western mass media discuss mainly? Gas and oil — of which Russia has a lot. Energy is its only political trump card, and Russia uses it as an instrument of pressure and blackmail. And there’s another topic that never disappears from the newspapers — who rules Russia? Putin or Medvedev? But what difference does it make, if Russia has completely lost the impulse for democratic development that we thought we saw in the early 1990s? Russia will remain the way it is now for decades, unless there is some violent upheaval.

... It seems to me that the world has become more alarming, more unpredictable, and more fragile. ...

... there is no end to the conferences, summits, forums, and competitions from beauty contests to sandwich eating ones. They say people are coming together — but in reality, they are growing apart.

And that isn’t because an economic depression suddenly burst forth, and swine flu to boot. This began on September 11, 2001. At first, anger and horror was provoked by the terrorists who knocked down the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center and by their accomplices in London, Madrid and other cities, and by the shaheeds, suicide bombers who blew themselves up at public spaces like discotheques and wedding parties whose families were rewarded $25,000 each by Saddam Hussein.

Later, Bush was blamed for everything, and as always, the Jews — that is, Israel. An example was the first Durban Conference, and the growth of anti-Semitism in Europe, noted several years ago in a speech by Romano Prodi. Then there was Durban-2; the main speaker was Ahmadinejad proposing to annihilate Israel.

So it is about Israel and the Jews that I will speak. And not only because I am Jewish, but above all because the Middle Eastern conflict since the end of World War II has been a platform for political games and gambling by the great powers, the Arab countries and individual politicians, striving, through the so-called “peace process,” to make a name for themselves, and perhaps win a Nobel Peace Prize. At one time, the Nobel Peace Prize was the highest moral award of our civilization. But after December 1994, when Yasir Arafat became one of the three new laureates, its ethical value was undermined. I haven’t always greeted each selection of the Nobel Committee of the Norwegian Storting with joy, but that one shocked me. And to this day, I cannot understand and accept the fact that Andrei Sakharov and Yasir Arafat, now posthumously, share membership in the club of Nobel laureates.

...Here are several citations from Sakharov:

  • “Israel has an indisputable right to exist.”

  • “Israel has a right to existence within safe borders.”

  • “All the wars that Israel has waged have been just, forced upon it by the irresponsibility of Arab leaders.”

  • “With all the money that has been invested in the problem of Palestinians, it would have been possible long ago to resettle them and provide them with good lives in Arab countries.”

Throughout the years of Israel’s existence there has been war. Victorious wars, and also wars which Israel was not allowed to win. Each and every day — literally every day — there is the expectation of a terrorist act or a new war. We have seen the Oslo Peace Initiatives and the Camp-David Hand-shake and the Road-map and Land for Peace (there is not much land — from one side of Israel on a clear day you can see the other side with the naked eye).

Now, there is a new (actually, quite old) motif currently in fashion (in fact it’s an old one):

“Two states for two peoples.”

It sounds good...

.... the plan “two states for two peoples” is the creation of one state, ethnically cleansed of Jews, and a second one with the potential to do the same thing. A Judenfrei Holy Land - the dream of Adolph Hitler come true at last. So think again, those who are still able, who has a fascist inside him today?

And another question that has been a thorn for me for a long time. It’s a question for my human rights colleagues. Why doesn’t the fate of the Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit trouble you in the same way as the fate of the Guantanamo prisoners?

... during the two years Shalit has been held by terrorists, the world human rights community has done nothing for his release. Why? He is a wounded soldier, and fully falls under the protection of the Geneva Conventions. The Conventions say clearly that hostage-taking is prohibited, that representatives of the Red Cross must be allowed to see prisoners of war, especially wounded prisoners, and there is much else written in the Geneva Conventions about Shalit’s rights. The fact that representatives of the Quartet conduct negotiations with the people who are holding Shalit in an unknown location, in unknown conditions, vividly demonstrates their scorn of international rights documents and their total legal nihilism. Do human rights activists also fail to recall the fundamental international rights documents?

And yet I still think (and some will find this na├»ve) that the first tiny, but real step toward peace must become the release of Shalit. Release — not exchange for 1000 or 1,500 prisoners who are in Israeli prisons serving court sentences for real crimes.

Returning to my question of why human rights activists are silent, I can find no answer except that Shalit is an Israeli soldier, Shalit is a Jew. So again, it is conscious or unconscious anti-Semitism. Again, it is fascism.

Thirty-four years have passed since the day when I came to this city to represent my husband, Andrei Sakharov, at the 1975 Nobel Prize ceremony. I was in love with Norway then. The reception I received filled me with joy. Today, I feel Alarm and Hope (the title Sakharov used for his 1977 essay written at the request of the Nobel Committee).

Alarm because of the anti-Semitism and anti-Israeli sentiment growing throughout Europe and even further afield. And yet, I hope that countries, their leaders, and people everywhere will recall and adopt Sakharov’s ethical credo: “In the end, the moral choice turns out to be also the most pragmatic choice.”

See the full text of Elena's speech, in English here. The original Russian text is here.

Internal struggles within Fatah over 'armed resistance'

From Ynet News, 27/5/09, by Ali Waked:

Abbas spars with Barghouti over removal of militaristic clause from movement's platform ahead of upcoming faction summit

The Palestinian Authority "will do everything in its power" to advance peace with Israel, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas vowed this week during an official visit to Canada.

The armed struggle against Israel has emerged as one of the key issues being dealt with by Fatah members ahead of the organization's committee convention.

One side of the movement calls for the removal of militaristic terms from its platform, which was formed during the 1980s. However a rival group, which includes senior members of the organization, demands Fatah be presented not only as a political group but also as a force battling "occupation".

On the fringes of the debate is a group calling for a compromise, in which Fatah will not abandon its "armed resistance" but also refrain from making it the main tack. These members consider militarism the legitimate right of the Palestinian people where negotiations fail.

Abbas and his affiliates prefer to remove all militaristic clauses from Fatah's ideology, but Marwan Barghouti's affiliates have vowed to fight against this stance as they believe it will encourage the proliferating view that the Palestinian Authority is in league with Israel.

Netanyahu backs out on planned visit to French capital next week

From THE JERUSALEM POST, May. 26, 2009:

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu cancelled a meeting with French President Nicholas Sarkozy scheduled for next week, reportedly amid anger at France for its position on the final status of Jerusalem.

Additionally, sources in the Prime Minister's Office said that Netanyahu wanted to distance his recent - and highly publicized - meeting with US President Barack Obama from his relations with European countries.

A PMO official confirmed that Netanyahu postponed his European trip because he believed preparations for the visit were incomplete.

But statements released by the French Foreign Ministry provided an alternative reason for the cancellation. Ministry spokesman Frederic Desagneaux said "The declaration which the Israeli prime minister issued yesterday derives from prejudice regarding the final status agreement," referring to Netanyahu's pledge on Jerusalem Day, last week, that Jerusalem would "never again be divided or partitioned."

"In the eyes of France," Desagneaux said, "Jerusalem needs to turn into a capital for two states," emphasizing that French President Sarkozy made the same point last year.

"Activities like destroying Palestinian houses and expulsion of Arab citizens encourage violence," the spokesperson said. "They are unacceptable, and against international law."

...In an earlier address, President Shimon Peres said that Jerusalem, while sacred to others, is the only capital Israel and the Jewish people have ever known.

"Jerusalem is held sacred by half of mankind [but] it has been and always will be Israel's capital. We never had another and it has never been the capital of any other people."

Venezuela sends uranium to Iran

From The Washington Post, Monday, May 25, 2009, by MARK LAVIE, The Associated Press:

JERUSALEM -- Venezuela and Bolivia are supplying Iran with uranium for its nuclear program, according to a secret Israeli government report...
The two South American countries are known to have close ties with Iran, but this is the first allegation that they are involved in the development of Iran's nuclear program, considered a strategic threat by Israel...

...The report concludes that Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez is trying to undermine the United States by supporting Iran.

Venezuela and Bolivia are close allies, and both regimes have a history of opposing U.S. foreign policy and Israeli actions. Venezuela expelled the Israeli ambassador during Israel's offensive in Gaza this year, and Israel retaliated by expelling the Venezuelan envoy. Bolivia cut ties with Israel over the offensive.

...The three-page document about Iranian activities in Latin America was prepared in advance of a visit to South America by Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon, who will attend a conference of the Organization of American States in Honduras next week. Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman is also scheduled to visit the region...

...The Israeli government report did not say where the uranium that it alleged the two countries were supplying originated from.

Bolivia has uranium deposits. Venezuela is not currently mining its own estimated 50,000 tons of untapped uranium reserves, according to an analysis published in December by the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. The Carnegie report said, however, that recent collaboration with Iran in strategic minerals has generated speculation that Venezuela could mine uranium for Iran.

The Israeli government report also charges that the Iran-backed Hezbollah guerrillas in Lebanon have set up cells in Latin America. It says Venezuela has issued permits that allow Iranian residents to travel freely in South America.

The report concludes, "Since Ahmadinejad's rise to power, Tehran has been promoting an aggressive policy aimed at bolstering its ties with Latin American countries with the declared goal of 'bringing America to its knees.'"

The document says Venezuela and Bolivia are violating the United Nations Security Council's economic sanctions with their aid to Iran.

As allies against the U.S., Ahmadinejad and Chavez have set up a $200 billion fund aimed at garnering the support of more South American countries for the cause of "liberation from the American imperialism," according to the report...

Monday, May 25, 2009

Iran dispatches six warships to international waters

From THE JERUSALEM POST, May. 25, 2009:

Iran has sent six warships to international waters, including the Gulf of Aden, to display its ability to confront any foreign threats....

...The move to dispatch the warships was "indicative of the country's high military capability in confronting any foreign threat on the country's shores," [its naval commander Admiral Habibollah] Sayyari said....

...Also Monday, Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad rejected the latest proposal by the West in its bid to bring Iran to halt its nuclear program.

"Our talks [with major powers] will only be in the framework of cooperation for managing global issues and nothing else. We have clearly announced this," Ahmadinejad said when asked about the so-called "freeze-for-freeze" proposal, Reuters reported.

"The nuclear issue is a finished issue for us," Ahmadinejad told a news conference....

Strategic Defense

Left with obsessive, delusional behavior

From "Middle East and Terrorism" blog, Monday, May 25, 2009, by Caroline B. Glick*:

Strip away the smiles from the Obama-Bibi press conference and we are Left with obsessive, delusional behavior.

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu's visit with US President Barack Obama at the White House on Monday was baptism of fire for Israel's new premier. What emerged from the meeting is that Obama's priorities regarding Iran, Israel and the Arab world are diametrically opposed to Israel's priorities. During his ad-hoc press conference with Netanyahu, Obama made clear that he will not lift a finger to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons. And acting as Obama's surrogate, for the past two weeks CIA Director Leon Panetta has made clear that Obama expects Israel to also sit on its thumbs as Iran develops the means to destroy it.

Obama showed his hand on Iran in three ways. First, he set a non-binding timetable of seven months for his policy of appeasement and engagement of the ayatollahs to work. That policy, he explained will only be implemented after next month's Iranian presidential elections. And those direct US-Iranian talks must be given at least six months to show results before they can be assessed as successful or failed.

But Israel's military intelligence has assessed that six months may be too long to wait. By the end of the year, Iran's nuclear program may be unstoppable. And Iran's successful test of its solid fuel Sejil-2 missile with a two thousand kilometer range on Wednesday merely served to show the urgency of the situation. Obviously the mullahs are not waiting for Obama to convince them of the error of their ways.

Beyond the fact that Obama's nonbinding timeline is too long, there is his "or else." Obama made clear that in the event that in December or January he concludes that the Iranians are not negotiating in good faith, the most radical step he will be willing to take will be to consider escalating international sanctions against Teheran. In the meantime, at his urging, Congressman Howard Berman, Chairman of the House International Affairs Committee has tabled a bill requiring sanctions against oil companies that export refined fuel into Iran.

Finally there was Obama's contention that the best way for the US to convince Iran to give up its nuclear program is by convincing Israel to give away more land to the Palestinians. As Obama put it, "To the extent that we can make peace with the Palestinians -- between the Palestinians and the Israelis, then I actually think it strengthens our hand in the international community in dealing with a potential Iranian threat."

This statement encapsulates the basic lack of seriousness and fundamental mendacity of Obama's approach to "dealing with a potential Iranian threat." Iran has made clear that it wants Israel destroyed. The mullahs don't care how big Israel is. Their missiles are pointing at Tel Aviv not Beit El.

As for the international community, the Russians and Chinese have not been assisting Iran's nuclear and missile programs for the past fifteen years because there is no Palestinian state. They have been assisting Iran because they think a strong Iran weakens the US. And they are right.

The Arab states, for their part are already openly siding with Israel against Iran. The establishment of a Palestinian state will not make their support for action to prevent Iran from acquiring the means to dominate the region any more profound.

On the face of it, Obama's obsessive push for a Palestinian state makes little sense. The Palestinians are hopelessly divided. It is not simply that Hamas rules the Gaza Strip and Fatah controls Judea and Samaria. Fatah itself is riven by division. Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas's appointment of the new PA government under Salam Fayyad was overwhelmingly rejected by Fatah leaders. Quite simply, today there is no coherent Palestinian leadership that is either willing or capable of reaching an accord with Israel.

And as for the prospects for peace itself, given that there is little distinction between the anti-Semitic bilge broadcast daily in Gaza by Hamas-controlled media, and the anti-Semitic bilge broadcast daily in Judea and Samaria by the Fatah/Abbas/Fayyad-controlled media, those prospects aren't looking particularly attractive. That across-the-board anti-Semitic incitement has engendered the current situation where Hamas and Fatah members and supporters are firmly united in their desire to see Israel destroyed. This was made clear on Thursday morning when a Fatah policeman in Kalkilya used his US-provided rifle to open fire on IDF forces engaged in a counter-terror operation in the city.

Given that the establishment of a Palestinian state will have no impact on Iran's nuclear program, and in light of the fact that under the present circumstances any Palestinian state will be at war against Israel, and assuming that Obama is not completely ignorant of the situation on the ground, there is only one reasonable explanation for Obama's urgent desire to force Israel support the creation of a Palestinian state and work for its establishment by expelling hundreds of thousands of Israelis from their homes. Quite simply, it is a way to divert attention away from Obama's acquiescence to Iran's nuclear aspirations.

By making the achievement of the unachievable goal of making peace between Israel and the Palestinians through the establishment of a Palestinian terror state the centerpiece of his Middle East agenda, Obama is able to cast Israel as the region's villain. This aim is reflected in the administration's intensifying pressure on Israel to destroy Israeli communities in Judea and Samaria. In portraying Jews who live in mobile homes on barren hilltops in Judea and Samaria -- rather than Iranian mullahs who test ballistic missile while enriching uranium and inciting genocide -- as the greatest obstacle to peace, the Obama administration not only seeks to deflect attention away from its refusal to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons. It is also setting Israel up as the fall guy who it will blamed after Iran emerges as a nuclear power.

Obama's intention to unveil his Middle East peace plan in the course of his speech to the Muslim world in Cairo on June 4, like his decision to opt out of visiting Israel in favor of visiting a Nazi death camp, make clear that he does not perceive Israel as either a vital ally or even as a partner in the peace process he wishes to initiate. Israeli officials were not consulted about his plan. Then too, from the emerging contours of his plan, it is clear that he will be offering something that no Israeli government can accept.

According to media reports, Obama's plan will require Israel to withdraw its citizens and its military to the indefensible 1949 armistice lines. It will provide for the free immigration of millions of Israel-hating Arabs to the Palestinian state. And it seeks to represent all of this as in accord with Israel's interests by claiming that after Israel renders itself indefensible, all 57 members of the Organization of the Islamic Conference (including Iran) will "normalize" their relations with Israel. In short, Obama is using his peace plan to castigate the Netanyahu government as the chief destabilizing force in the region.

During his meeting with Obama, Netanyahu succeeded in evading the policy traps Obama set for him. Netanyahu reserved Israel's right to act independently against Iran and he conceded nothing substantive on the Palestinian issue. While itself no small achievement, Netanyahu's successful deflection of Obama's provocations are not a sustainable strategy. Already on Tuesday the administration began coercing Israel to toe its line on Iran and the Palestinians by engaging it in joint "working groups." Then too, the government's destruction of an outpost community in Judea on Thursday was perceived as Israeli buckling to US pressure. And it doubtlessly raised expectations for further expulsions in the near future.

So what must Netanyahu do? What would a strategy to contain the Obama administration's pressure and maintain international attention on Iran look like?

Under the present circumstances, the Netanyahu government's best bet is to introduce its own peace plan to mitigate the impact of Obama's plan. To blunt the impact of Obama's speech in Cairo, Netanyahu should present his peace plan before June 4.

Such a plan should contain three stages. First, in light of the Arab world's apparent willingness to engage with Israel, Netanyahu should call for the opening of direct talks between Israel and the Arab League or Israel and the OIC regarding the immediate normalization of relations between Israel and the Arab-Islamic world. Both Obama and Jordan's King Abdullah claim that such normalization is in the offing. Israel should insist that it begin without delay.

This of course is necessary for peace to emerge with the Palestinians. As we saw at Camp David in 2000, the only way that Palestinian leaders will feel comfortable making peace with Israel is if the Arab world first demonstrates its acceptance of the Jewish state as a permanent feature on the Middle East's landscape. Claims that such an Israeli demand is a mere tactic for buying time can be easily brushed off. Given Jordanian and American claims that the Arab world is willing to accept Israel, once negotiations begin, this stage could be completed in a matter of months.

The second stage of the Israeli peace plan would involve Israel and the Arab world agreeing and beginning to implement a joint program for combating terrorism. This program would involve destroying terror networks, cutting off funding for terror networks, and agreeing to arrest terrorists and extradite them to the Hague or the US for trial. It should be abundantly clear to all governments in the region that there can be no long term regional peace or stability for as long as terrorists bent on destroying Israel and overthrowing moderate Arab regimes are allowed to operate. So making the implementation of such a join program a precondition for further progress shouldn't pose an obstacle to peace. Indeed, there is no reason for it to even be perceived as particularly controversial.

The final stage of the Israeli peace plan should be the negotiation of a final status accord with the Palestinians. Only after the Arab world has accepted Israel, and only after it has agreed to join Israel in achieving the common goal of a terror-free Middle East can there be any chance that the Palestinians will feel comfortable and free to peacefully coexist with Israel. And Israel, of course, will feel much more confident about living at peace with the Palestinians after the Arab world demonstrates its good faith and friendship to the Jewish state and its people.

Were Netanyahu to offer this plan in the next two weeks, he would be able to elude Obama's trap on June 4 by proposing to discuss both plans with the Arab League. In so doing, he would be able to continue to make the case that Iran is the gravest danger to the region without being demonized as a destabilizing force and an enemy of peace.

Whether Netanyahu advances such a peace plan or not, what became obvious this week is that his greatest challenges in office will be to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons while preventing the Obama administration from blaming Israel for the absence of peace.

*Caroline B. Glick is the senior Middle East Fellow at the Center for Security Policy in Washington, DC and the deputy managing editor of The Jerusalem Post.

Construction to Continue in Israeli Settlements

From the Washington Post Foreign Service, Monday, May 25, 2009, by Howard Schneider:

JERUSALEM, May 24 -- Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu told his cabinet on Sunday that construction will continue in existing Jewish settlements in the occupied West Bank, despite a call by President Obama for it to be stopped, according to an Israeli official.

Netanyahu has not commented publicly on the settlement issue since returning from meetings with Obama and other U.S. officials last week.

In briefing his cabinet on those meetings, however, Netanyahu said he would not halt building or population growth in dozens of established settlements that house about 250,000 Israelis throughout the West Bank, said the official, who paraphrased Netanyahu's remarks.

Israeli officials say they do intend to remove about two dozen unauthorized settlement outposts and will not establish new settlements. Palestinian officials consider both of those steps to be of marginal significance.

Netanyahu's comments to his cabinet mark the second time since returning from Washington that he has highlighted significant differences with Obama in regard to Israel's treatment of land whose ultimate status is under discussion.

Netanyahu's comments to his cabinet mark the second time since returning from Washington that he has highlighted significant differences with Obama in regard to Israel's treatment of land whose ultimate status is under discussion.

Last week, at a ceremony marking the Israeli takeover of East Jerusalem during the 1967 Arab-Israeli war, Netanyahu said the city "has always been -- and always will be -- ours. It will never again be divided or cut in half. Jerusalem will remain only under Israel's sovereignty."

Palestinians want to form the capital of a future state in the Arab neighborhoods of East Jerusalem, and the United States regards the city's fate as a matter for negotiations.

Holocaust toll will rise even higher, says priest

From The Times, May 23, 2009, by Roger Boyes:

...After a five-year investigation [Father Patrick Desbois] had received a shocking insight into the mechanics of genocide — and strong indications that historians may have to raise their estimate of how many Jews were killed.

Working with a ballistics expert, the 53-year-old French priest dug up the mass graves of Ukraine. “Every village was a crime scene,” he says, “and each case was different because the heads of the killing squads had to take in all the different factors — the geography, the transport available, the proximity of partisans — before organising the most efficient massacre.”

As his work in the Nazi killing fields continues, he is convinced that the figure for the number of Jewish dead will have to be revised upwards. “Surely at the end of it all the numbers will be larger,” Father Desbois said, “but we are still inspecting sites in Belarus and there is the vastness of Russia ahead of us.”

At present, Paul Shapiro, of the US Holocaust Memorial Museum — which has been co-operating in Father Desbois’s body hunt — reckons that 1.5 million Jews were murdered by the Germans, their allies and collaborators in the towns and villages of Ukraine, Belarus, Russia and other former Soviet republics.

As Hitler’s armies pressed into Russia, the Einsatzgruppen — Operational Groups — rounded up the Jews, forced them to dig pits, strip and lie in the mud until they were shot.

Hundreds and thousands were killed even before German bureaucrats met in 1942 at the Wannsee Conference to work out the logistics of systematically murdering European Jewry and before the concentration camps were slaughtering their inmates. Father Desbois calls it “the Holocaust by bullets”.

The activities of the Einsatzgruppen have been known at least since the Nuremberg trials but their scope was never quite clear.

As a result, estimates of the number of Jewish Holocaust victims fluctuates between 5.1 million (Raoul Hilberg), 5.7 million (Martin Gilbert) and 5.9 million (Lucy Dawidowicz). These figures may have to be raised once Father Desbois has completed his grim research.

When the Germans were driven out of Russia and Ukraine, Soviet investigators were sent to the villages to take witness testimony, photograph the sites and make an estimate of how many died in the usually unmarked sites in fields and forests.

It was not until some years after the collapse of communism that it was feasible to check the Soviet documentation.

It was a task Father Desbois took on as a holy mission. His curiosity was stirred as a child because his grandfather had been a prisoner of war in a German camp in Ukraine.

The priest went to what was left of the camp — a small memorial stone — and discovered that 7,500 Jews had been killed in the area. The deputy mayor organised the local old people to meet the priest and the stories, untold for more than 60 years, tumbled out.

Some had fathers who had used the farm’s horse and cart to carry away the clothes of the victims. At least one interviewee was ordered to rip the gold teeth out of the mouths of victims.

In deserted barns the priest discovered old farming machinery designed to sort out chaff from wheat — but used by the Germans to sift for valuables in the ashes of cremated Jews.

“Now it is a race against time,” he says. “The witnesses who I am talking to were children at the time and are now very old indeed. So far I have talked to 950.”

One of his interviewees was Petrivna, a Ukrainian woman, in the village of Ternivka. The Jews, she said, were gathered in the centre of the village and taken to a large pit on the fringes of the community.

They were told to lie down, 20 at a time, and shot in the back of the head. “It’s not easy to walk on bodies,” Petrivna told the priest.

“Very calmly I asked her: ‘You had to walk on the bodies of the people who were shot?’ She replied: ‘Yes, I had to pack them down . . . after every volley of shots. We were three Ukrainian girls who, in our bare feet, had to pack them down, the bodies of the Jews, and throw a fine layer of sand on top of them so that other Jews could lay down’.”

More than 2,000 were killed in that single massacre and even larger numbers were killed across Ukraine. In the Lisinitchi forest, outside Lviv, 90,000 were shot in six months.

“Now it is just a recreation area, part of the city. Lovers go there. And though there are 57 mass graves in the woods there is not a single monument or memorial.”

Using a powerful metal detector, the priest and his team worked out where to dig. After one visit to a massacre site they gathered up the German cartridges and counted them on a restaurant table. They came to 600.

So far the priest’s investigations suggest that the Soviet reporting was accurate. This, he says, will help to thwart the Holocaust deniers.

Father Desbois’s account of his investigation so far is called Holocaust by Bullets and is published by Palgrave Macmillan.

Records of genocide

The commonly quoted figure of six million Jews killed during the Holocaust is derived from a claim by the senior SS officer Adolf Eichmann during his trial in Israel in 1961. It was the figure that he gave to Heinrich Himmler in 1944. Many historians believe it was an overestimate.

Raul Hilberg's 1961 book, one of the first significant studies after the war, estimated that 5.1 million Jews were killed. The British historian Martin Gilbert, in his Atlas of the Holocaust, said it was 5.75 million.

Much of the controversy over the figures comes from different estimates of the numbers killed by roaming SS squads after Germany invaded Russia in 1941. Records of the number of Jews killed in open-air shootings in places such as Ukraine, Poland and Russia are far less definitive.

A Hizballah Takeover?

From BESA Center Perspectives Papers No. 76, May 24, 2009, by Mordechai Kedar* [this important and concise analysis is posted here in full]:

Hizballah is on a determined path to control Lebanon. The June 2009 parliamentary elections could be a watershed, leading to a result that the West will deeply regret – an Iranian-like regime.

On June 7, 2009, the citizens of Lebanon will head to the polling booths to elect their parliamentary representatives. Elections in Lebanon are run uniquely according to the constitution that was tailored to the country's needs and its composition in the 1930s. The guiding principle was that the significant political players in Lebanon were not individual citizens but ethnic communities: Sunni Moslems, Shi'is, Druze and Christians. Every citizen elects a parliamentary representative from his own community according to the area in which he resides.

There are 128 seats in the parliament and each community has a number of seats which are predetermined before the elections. This division of seats, however, no longer reflects the relative strength of each community. The reality today is that the communities are no longer equal in size. The demographic situation in Lebanon has changed: when Lebanon was founded in 1943, the Christian community was the largest (according to the first – and last – population census taken in Lebanon in 1932) and so it became the most dominant.

However, over the past 65 years the number of Christians in Lebanon has drastically dropped, due to a lowered birth-rate (in common with elite classes all over the world) and a high rate of emigration, whereas the Shi'i community – which had been pushed to the economic, social and political margins – has been characterized by a high demographic increase due to polygamy, the social ethos which encourages large families, and a low emigration rate.

Today, not only is the Shi'i community the largest, but it also encompasses more than half of the population of Lebanon. Hence, half the country receives only one quarter of the parliamentary representatives, whereas the Christians, who now constitute only 10-15 percent of the population, elect more than a quarter of the parliament.

Over the years community representatives in the parliament broke away from the mother-communities and created inter-communal coalitions. The most prominent of these coalitions is headed by Sa'ad Al-Hariri, son of Rafiq Al-Hariri, who was assassinated in February 2005. This coalition, "The March 14th Forces," constitutes the largest party and includes representatives from all communities. Its primary aim is to ensure that Lebanon remains a pluralistic, democratic and Western-oriented state. It is also the main political body which tries to stop Hizballah and its allies from taking over total political control of the country.

Shi'i Hizballah is supported by members of parliament from other communities headed by Michel 'Aoun, a Christian who leads a small political party, but is a staunch ally of Nasrallah in the parliament. The Druze Arsalan family is also a part of the Nasrallah coalition in the parliament. 'Aoun and the others support Hizballah because they understand that eventually the Shi'i community will gain control of Lebanon, whether by fair means or foul, since the demographic balance is changing in favor of the Shi'is; their military might is greater than the government's army; the Hizballah civilian and economic infrastructure includes hundreds of companies, non-profit organizations, institutes and organizations; and Iranian money keeps Hizballah's wheels greased. Hizballah has indeed set up "a state within a state" and as time passes, this "State of Hizballah" is becoming a viable alternative to the Lebanese state.

Syrian support of Hizballah aims to convince the country that the organization is the sovereign lord of Lebanon, in spite of what anyone may say or think. Similarly, the anti-Nasrallah forces in Lebanon see how the world has betrayed them by leaving them as easy prey for the Shi'i community. The world does not lift a finger against Hizballah's arsenal of arms nor against Iran, the supplier of long-range missiles, which could throw Lebanon back into a bloody war with Israel. The world also did nothing when Hizballah took control of Beirut in May 2008 and burned down the opposition television channel, Al-Mustaqbal.

The Lebanese view America – particularly after the election of Obama – as an ineffectual entity, lacking in determination and strength to cope with the Iranian octopus and its Lebanese tentacle, especially in light of the complex situation in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan. The Lebanese view Europe as weak, unable to prevent Lebanon from falling into Shi'i hands, and the economic relations between Europe and Iran confirm their belief in Europe's reluctance to pressure Iran into leaving Lebanon.

For the past few years Hizballah has been busy buying up "equity" of different forms. They have bought land, plots, homes and apartments in Christian neighborhoods. The moment a property is sold to a Shi'i, the surrounding properties values drop and are swallowed up by other Shi'is. Even members of the parliament have been "bought," through threats on their lives that "persuade" them to help Hizballah. Some of those who refused to be bought or persuaded by threats have been eliminated by car bombs.

In the short-term, the political ambitions of Hizballah include revising the constitution to change the political system. Hizballah prefers elections based on "one man, one vote," which will allow the Shi'i community – the largest in the country – to receive appropriate representation according to its strength. To change the constitution, Hizballah must receive majority consent in the parliament.

Hence, the elections in June 2009 revolve around one question: Will the voters of the different communities vote for members of parliament who support Hizballah's ambitions or will they join Sa'ad Al-Hariri in his struggle to prevent Hizballah from taking control of Lebanon by political means? Will they allow Hizballah control of the state de jure after it has gained control de facto?

To sway voters, Hizballah tries to create an eve-of-war-against-Israel atmosphere. If this is the perceived reality, only Hizballah with its array of missiles will be able to defend the motherland. Within this framework, security organizations of Hizballah "have discovered" several "Israeli spies," and Hizballah media outlets create the impression of an imminent Israeli attack on Lebanon and Iran.

The stormy conflict between Egypt and Hizballah in April 2009 did not prevent Nasrallah – in his eyes, at least – from achieving popularity as a Lebanese nationalist who is not afraid to stand up to the leading Arab president, Husni Mubarak.

If Nasrallah succeeds in taking control of the parliament by democratic means, a significant number of Lebanese who object to Nasrallah may retrieve the historic plan to separate "little Lebanon," from "greater Lebanon," areas Hizballah has not yet managed to purchase, the heart of which is the Christian mountain (Jebel Tzenin), and to establish a state with a Christian majority that is pluralistic, democratic, free, and Western-oriented, as it was in the first place. An interesting question arises as to whether Nasrallah will leave them alone or whether he will attack them militarily.

The Western world may soon have to contend with a number of difficult questions: How did the world lose a liberal, pluralistic state and fall asleep on guard while Iran took control? Which state will be next to be overtaken by Iranian-funded Islamic extremists? What can be done to prevent the progress of Iran, especially if it becomes a nuclear power?

*Dr. Mordechai Kedar, a research associate at the BESA Center and a lecturer in Arabic at Bar-Ilan University, is a 25-year veteran of IDF Military Intelligence specializing in Syria, Lebanon and Islamic groups.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

When Doves Can’t Flock Together

From The Forward, issue of May 29, 2009, by Ephraim Sneh, former Israel minister of health, minister of transportation and deputy minister of defense:

...In 1988, after I had retired from military service, Rabin and then-foreign minister Shimon Peres asked me to lead the first secret negotiations between Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organization. Since then, I have dedicated most of my energies to promoting Israeli-Palestinian peace.

In this effort, I have enjoyed the cooperation of American Jewish groups that shared my commitment to achieving peace with the Palestinians. I considered the stances of these organizations to be in line with the positions of the Zionist peace camp in Israel.

Recently, however, I have come to feel that we no longer share the same convictions, that our paths have diverged. Some American Jewish organizations that are at the forefront of pushing for peace have begun adopting positions that contradict Israel’s most basic security needs and that ultimately are at odds with the goal of Israeli-Palestinian reconciliation.

We have seen dovish Jewish organizations advocate including Hamas in a Palestinian unity government (and support the idea of offering American aid to such a government), fight against the swift enactment of tough sanctions against Iran and vehemently oppose military action against the Islamic Republic — action that may eventually prove to be necessary to prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon.

Certainly, I do not consider a military operation to be the preferred option. It is the very last resort. But we cannot afford to be complacent about the nature of the threat we face.
Iran is ruled by a despotic theocracy, with a horrendous record of human rights abuses. This regime is fueled by a fanatical ideology of hatred: Hatred of the West, of its culture, of democratic values. Hatred of Jews and their state. Hatred of Muslims who believe in peace and democracy.

...The Islamist-fascist regime in Tehran must be stopped, not hugged. Effective economic sanctions are the best way to make it impossible for the regime to govern, and to create a revolutionary situation in Iran.

Wasting time with futile talks, with gestures to the ayatollahs, will pull the rug out from under the feet of moderates in the Middle East. Policies that postpone confronting the danger that a nuclear Iran poses to Israel and other American allies in the region will bring about a nuclear arms race or make a military operation against Iran unavoidable.

I remain firm in my belief in the necessity of Israeli-Palestinian peace. But I also believe that achieving peace requires a willingness to stand up to the enemies of peace.