Friday, September 04, 2009

Russia's Syria jet deal

From AFP, 3/9/09:

MOSCOW — A top Russian official confirmed the existence of a contract for the supply of MiG-31 fighter jets to Syria but said work on the planes had been frozen, the daily Kommersant reported on Thursday.

"A few years ago, two contracts were signed: one for (the supply to Syria of) MiG-29s and one for MiG-31s," the head of Russia's United Aircraft Corporation, Alexei Fedorov, told the paper. "Consultations on this contract are now ongoing, so its future is unclear."

Kommersant reported in May that Russia had halted work on the modernisation of the fighter jets at the Sokol aviation plant in the Russian city of Nizhny Novgorod. But Russia's state arms exporter has dismissed such reports as rumours.

The 400-500 million-dollar (280-350 million-euro) contract for the delivery of eight MiG-31s fighter jets was inked in early 2007, according to Kommersant. It cited sources close to the arms exporter in May saying the supplies of the planes had been frozen under pressure from Israel over fears the weapon sales could offset the balance of power in the region.

According to a a government official cited by Kommersant, the contract had been suspended after Damascus could no longer afford the planes.

In 2005, Moscow forgave 70 percent of Syria's total debt of 13.4 billion dollars.

United Aircraft chief Federov nevertheless told the paper the Russian planemaker was counting on completing contracts, as production at its factories has slumped amid the global financial crisis.

"Negotiations are ongoing, I hope that in the end the contracts will be realized. We put a lot of hope in it stabilizing the situation in Nizhny Novgorod," he was quoted as saying

Can A State Be Built On A Pack of Lies?

From Hudson New York, September 1, 2009, by Alan M. Dershowitz, Felix Frankfurter Professor of Law, Harvard Law School:

The so-called “spiritual” leader of Hamas has ordered that the Holocaust not be taught to Palestinian children. Younis Al-Astal—who is about as spiritual as Al Capone—has declared that the United Nations’ proposal to include Holocaust education in a course on human rights would constitute a “war crime.” It would be “marketing a lie and spreading it.” Instead, he would have Palestinian children learn only about the so-called crimes of the Israeli occupation and the self-inflicted wound that Palestinians call the Nakba.

I am not so sure I would trust the United Nations and especially its Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) to teach anything relating to Jews, Israel or the Holocaust. That agency has been part of the problem, not the solution, by perpetuating the refugee status of Palestinians who could have been integrated into the Palestinian mainstream over the past sixty years. By making an industry out of their permanent status as refugees, UNRWA has made peace more difficult and hatred more acceptable. The agency has turned a blind eye to Hamas terrorists who routinely used UNRWA facilities as launching sites for rockets. It has protected terrorists. It has sought to legitimate Hamas as a social service agency rather than as a fascist group of anti-Semites who employ violence in the false name of Mohammad.

Now, perhaps in an effort to appear balanced, UNRWA has agreed to provide basic information about the Holocaust to eighth grade students. These would be the only Palestinian students who learn about the murder of six million Jews at the hands of Hitler, since the Palestinian Authority has banned the teaching of the Holocaust to students on the West Bank. It is unlikely that the UNRWA educational unit would include factual information about the leader of the Palestinians during the Second World War, Haj Al-Husseini (the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem) and his active role in the Holocaust when he lived in Berlin as a guest of Adolph Hitler. But even a sanitized, watered down account of the Holocaust is too much for the Hamas leadership, which does not believe in history, but rather in propagandistic accounts that serve the terroristic goals of the organization.

In the end, UNRWA will buckle to Hamas, as it always does. Even if a compromise were to be reached, it might be worse than the current situation in which nothing is taught. There is absolutely no way in which Hamas would ever allow any kind of objective analysis of the Holocaust to be taught to their students. The essence of Hamas education is brainwashing and the shutting down of any marketplace of ideas. What Hamas fears most is truth, science, history and objectivity.

A state built on lies cannot long endure, unless it is an entirely totalitarian state such as North Korea, which denies its citizens access to any alternative information or point of view. Even Iran cannot stop ideas from filtering through its network of censors. Nor can China or Venezuela. But Hamas can and does impose total censorship over those it controls. If it were to become a state, its control over the minds and actions of its citizens would become even more total. The sad reality is that totalitarian censorship—provided it is completely totalitarian—really does work. The people of Gaza really believe that the Holocaust never occurred. They really believe that firing rockets at school children is God’s command. They really believe that Jews are a combination of the devil monkeys, pigs and vermin. They really believe that Jews control the world and that Barak Obama is a puppet whose strings are pulled by hook-nosed “Yids.” They really believe that Israel doesn’t want peace and seeks to destroy the Islamic world and its holy places.

It is difficult to build an enduring peace on such a structure of lies. That is why the Oslo Accords, and other peace agreements between Israel and the Palestinians, insisted that the Palestinians stop teaching their children to hate, stop teaching their teachers to lie and stop inciting violence against the Jews. In this respect, the Palestinian leadership, both in Gaza and the West Bank, has been an utter failure. Not much can be expected from the Hamas leadership, but even the Palestinian Authority has failed miserably in this regard. Abu Mazen received his PhD for a thesis that denied the Holocaust. He claims to have changed his views, but he is still unwilling to teach his students the true history of World War II.

Israel, on the other hand, has a free and open press in which the Palestinian narrative is presented honestly and fully—indeed sometimes more favorably to the Palestinians than is warranted by the facts. Israeli books present varying accounts of the conflict and teachers may supplement the texts. Some schools and teachers obviously present biased views, but students are free to subject their teacher’s biases to the open marketplace of ideas.

It should come as no surprise therefore that far more Israelis than Palestinians favor a compromise peace. The two-state solution cannot be built on lies. The truth, it turns out, is good for peace. The reality of the Holocaust is an important aspect of truth, regardless of what Hamas may say.

Iran’s offer of nuclear talks hinders Security Council talks on sanctions

From The Times September 3, 2009, by Roger Boyes in Berlin:

Western diplomats struggled yesterday to secure an agreement on imposing tougher sanctions on Iran in an attempt to end its nuclear programme.

The meeting of the five United Nations permanent Security Council members and Germany was complicated by a last-minute offer of talks from Saeed Jalili, the top nuclear negotiator in Iran.

Because no details of the offer were available, the delegates assumed that Mr Jalili planned to use his proposal to slow the progress of moves to impose sanctions. Russia and China used the prospect of a peace offering from Tehran, however vague, as an argument against punitive measures.

One of the diplomats said: “The point is to duck, dive, tease and confuse until they are more or less resistant to the kind of sanctions that we have been considering.”

One plan, currently before the US Congress, is to ban exports of refined petroleum products and tighten control over Iran’s activities in the financial and insurance markets. A ban on petrol would hit Iran since it imports about 40 per cent of its needs. Petrol shortages have, in the past, led to domestic protests.

But China is already helping Iran to build new oil refineries in the hope of doubling domestic capacity by 2012. By that time Iran will be immune to threats of cutting off petrol imports. It also intends to remove subsidies on domestic petrol, making it more expensive and throttling consumption.

China thus has no commercial interest in sharpening the sanctions weapon. The Russians too are sceptical. Before the permanent members’ session, Moscow talked down the prospect of swift progress.

“I believe nothing new should be expected as the six nations differ over which way they should follow to tackle Iran’s nuclear programme,” said Vladimir Sazhin, of the Russian Institute of Oriental Studies.

Moscow’s view is that Iran is softening its position somewhat and the Security Council five should wait and see how the power structures change in the light of the June 12 presidential election and subsequent unrest.

“Iran has allowed access to the previously classified nuclear facilities in Natanz,” Mr Sazhin said.

France and Germany called this week for harder-edged sanctions. Their concern is that if the West is not seen to be pushing Iran harder, Israel may consider a military strike. Critics of President Obama, such as John Bolton, the former US envoy to the United Nations, argue that sanctions are doomed to fail even if they could be linked directly to stopping Iranian nuclear plans.

“Adopting tougher economic sanctions is simply another detour away from hard decisions on whether to accept a nuclear Iran or support using force to prevent it,” he wrote in The Wall Street Journal this week.

Thursday, September 03, 2009

Neve Gordon oversteps the boundaries

From The LA Times, September 1, 2009, by Rivka Carmi, president of Ben-Gurion University of the Negev in Beer-Sheva, Israel:

Ben-Gurion University's president responds to one of her professor's call for a boycott of Israel.

As president of Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, I have always remained open and impartial to the wide diversity of opinions within our academic faculty and their right to free speech....

However, I strongly believe a call for a worldwide boycott of Israel written by a Ben-Gurion University faculty member, Neve Gordon, that appeared in The Times oversteps the boundaries of academic freedom... ... Gordon ...used his pulpit as a university faculty member to advocate a personal opinion, which is really demagoguery cloaked in academic theory.

Gordon argues that ..."a boycott would save Israel from itself."

But would destroy the very fabric of the society that he claims to want to protect. ...this "call for a boycott" is already being used to isolate Israel.

...Like it or not, Gordon cannot be readily dismissed. The law in Israel is very clear, and the university is a law-abiding institution.

At the same time, by calling on other entities, including academic institutions, to boycott Israel -- and effectively, to boycott his own university -- Gordon has forfeited his ability to work effectively within the academic setting, with his colleagues in Israel and around the world. After his very public ...Op-Ed article...[and] his extreme description of Israel as an "apartheid" state, how can he, in good faith, create the collaborative atmosphere necessary for true academic research and teaching?

The primary effect of Gordon's Israel-bashing will be to detract from the work of his university....There are many more hopeful and pragmatic voices to be heard at our institution than Gordon's, and they are the ones who will ultimately guide us, and Israel, to a brighter future.

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Israel - on the concert circuit

From Associated Press, 2/9/09, by KARIN LAUB:

TEL AVIV, Israel — Madonna brought her mix of provocative music and spirituality to the Holy Land with a concert Tuesday in front of 50,000 fans who had endured a 16-year wait since the pop icon's last gig in Israel.

..."I shouldn't have stayed so long away," she told the adoring crowd midway through the show, as she broke away from the script to express her affection for the country.

...Madonna's fans are happy she's in Israel. Her first show sold out quickly, and a second was added.

After years of concerns over political tensions and violence, more world artists are performing to Israel.

Ex-Beatle Paul McCartney performed a year ago...

David Brinn, a music critic for The Jerusalem Post, said Madonna's performances are a sign that Israel is becoming more attractive as a concert venue. The Pet Shop Boys played Israel in July, pop sensation Lady Gaga was here last month, the rock band Faith No More is playing Tel Aviv on Tuesday night, and the iconic songwriter Leonard Cohen is to perform later this month.

"For a long time, it was security-related, and artists and managers didn't want to take a chance," he said of the dry spell in concerts. "They realized it is safe in comparison to other countries, and it is viable for artists to come here."

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

Hamas Shoah Denial

From Associated press, 1/9/09, by DIAA HADID:

GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip — A Hamas "spiritual" leader on Monday called teaching Palestinian children about the Nazi murder of 6 million Jews a "war crime," rejecting a suggestion that the U.N. might include the Holocaust in Gaza's school curriculum.

A senior Israeli official said such statements should make the West think twice about ending its boycott of Hamas, in place since the group seized Gaza by force in 2007. Israeli officials called the comments as "obscene" and said they place Hamas in a pariah club of Holocaust deniers that includes Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

Hamas spiritual leader Younis al-Astal lashed out after hearing that the U.N. Relief and Works Agency, the main U.N. body aiding Palestinian refugees, planned to introduce lessons about the Holocaust to Gaza students. Adding the Holocaust to the curriculum would amount to "marketing a lie and spreading it serves the Zionist colonizers and deals with their hypocrisy and lies," he wrote.

...Many Palestinians are reluctant to acknowledge Jewish suffering, fearing it might diminish their own. Attitudes toward the Holocaust range from outright denial to challenging its scope.

...Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri also objected to including what he referred to as the "so-called Holocaust" in the lesson plan. "We think it's more important to teach Palestinians the crimes of the Israeli occupation," he said.

Israeli government spokesman Mark Regev said countries contemplating ending their boycott of Hamas must "seriously reconsider" after the Hamas statements, which he described as "obscene."

The Holocaust is not taught in West Bank schools, said an education ministry official in Western-backed President Mahmoud Abbas' government.

Israelis have long complained that Palestinian textbooks present Israel only as an enemy, despite a series of interim peace deals. Also, they charge that maps in the books do not show Israel at all...

...Some parents opposed the idea of their children learning about the Holocaust. "I don't want them teaching my children Jewish lies," Mohammed Silmi, 33, said Monday, after driving his son to a U.N. school in Gaza City on the back of a motorbike. "It will just be Zionist propaganda."

Hamas' founding charter calls for Israel's destruction, though senior Hamas officials have recently said they would accept a Palestinian state alongside Israel as an interim stage to full Islamic control of the region...

Shabbat, Iran, and all that stuff

Follow this link to download a copy (47MB) of an interview of Steve Lieblich, talking about Jewish customs, Iran, and various topics, by Trish Duke of Twin Cities FM, the community radio station for the cities of Joondalup and Wanneroo (north of Perth), on the 17th August 2009.

Building a Church is a "Sin" in Egypt

From The Assyrian International News Agency, 31/8/09, by Mary Abdelmassih:

A controversial Fatwa (Islamic edict) prohibiting the construction of new churches in Egypt has provoked considerable discussion and spiraled into a crisis, involving the Fatwa Council, Al-Azhar Grand Sheikh, Christian and Muslim religious personalities, and the media...

The Fatwa (Arabic) in question was issued by the Al-Azhar affiliated "Dar el-Eftta" -- Fatwa Council for Islamic interpretations of laws in Islam. It stated "the will of a Muslim towards building a Church is a sin against God, just as if he left his inheritance towards building a nightclub, a gambling casino, or building a barn for rearing pigs, cats or dogs."

...To highlight the reason for this "sin" the Fatwa went on to state: "Salvation in the Christian religion is the belief in Jesus as Lord, where Muslims fundamentally disagree on it. Muslims believe that Issa [Jesus in Arabic] peace be upon him, is a slave of Allah and His Messenger, and that Allah is one. He begets not and He is not begotten and there is none like unto Him. So if it is seen that one sect has deviated from this absolute Monotheism, then according to that person's own religion he is forbidden to donate for the erection of buildings where Allah is not worshiped alone."

...Christians were angered and considered it a clear and explicit insult to all Christians. The renowned theologian Reverend Abdelmassih Bassit, Professor at the Coptic Orthodox Clerical Institute, called it "a shocking Fatwa."

...Most Muslim leaders ...supported the Fatwa "as being issued by people qualified in Islamic Shari'a law" or "a Muslim should not donate to the building of a church when Christians do not believe in the religion of Mohammed, or him being a prophet."

...Many Christians believe that this Fatwa has exposed the true stance of the religious authorities and the government towards churches, and the reason why it refrains from passing the long awaited bill on the "unified law for building places of worship," which would put an end to all problems related to building and restoring places of worship. It is also believed that since Islam views church building as a sin, passing this bill would therefore be in conflict with Shari'a Law -- which is the main source of legislation as stipulated in the Constitution -- and this would be something that the government would avoid at all costs.

Palestine problem hopeless, but not serious

From The Asia Times, 18 August 2009, by "Spengler" (David P Goldman, associate editor of First Things):

"The situation for the Palestinian people is intolerable," declared United Sates President Barack Obama in his June 4 Cairo address.

Really? Compared to what? Things are tough all over. The Palestinians are one of many groups displaced by the population exchanges that followed World War II, and the only ones whose great-grandchildren still have the legal status of refugees. Why are they still there?

The simplest explanation is that they like it there, because they are much better off than people of similar capacities in other Arab countries. The standard tables of gross domestic product (GDP) per capital show the West Bank and Gaza at US$1,700, just below Egypt's $1,900 and significantly below Syria's $2,250 and Jordan's $3,000. GDP does not include foreign aid, however, which adds roughly 30% to spendable funds in the Palestinian territories.

Most important, the denominator of the GDP per capita equation - the number of people - is far lower than official data indicate. According to an authoritative study by the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies [1], the West Bank and Gaza population in 2004 was only 2.5 million, rather than the 3.8 million claimed by the Palestinian authorities. The numbers are inflated to increase foreign aid.

Adjusting for the Begin-Sadat Center population count and adding in foreign aid, GDP per capita in the West Bank and Gaza comes to $3,380, much higher than in Egypt and significantly higher than in Syria or Jordan.

Why should any Palestinian refugee resettle in a neighboring Arab country? GDP per capita, moreover, does not reflect the spending power of ordinary people. Forty-four percent of Egyptians, for example, live on less than $2 a day, the United Nations estimates. The enormous state bureaucracy eats up a huge portion of national income. New immigrants to Egypt who do not have access to government jobs are likely to live far more poorly than per capita GDP would suggest. Other data confirm that Palestinians enjoy a higher living standard than their Arab neighbors.

A fail-safe gauge is life expectancy. The West Bank and Gaza show better numbers than most of the Muslim world:

Life Expectancy by Country in Years

  • Oman 75.6
  • Bahrain 75.6
  • West Bank and Gaza 73.4
  • Saudi Arabia 72.8
  • Jordan 72.5
  • Algeria 72.3
  • Turkey 71.8
  • Egypt 71.3
  • Morocco 71.2
  • Iran 71.0
  • Pakistan 65.5
  • Yemen 62.7
  • Sudan 58.6
  • Somalia 48.2

Source: United Nations

Literacy in the Palestinian Authority domain is 92.4%, equal to that of Singapore. That is far better than the 71.4% in Egypt, or 80.8% in Syria.

Without disputing Obama's claim that life for the Palestinians is intolerable, it is fair to ask: where is life not intolerable in the Arab world?

When the first UN Arab Development Report appeared in 2002, it elicited comments such as this one from the London Economist: "With barely an exception, its autocratic rulers, whether presidents or kings, give up their authority only when they die; its elections are a sick joke; half its people are treated as lesser legal and economic beings, and more than half its young, burdened by joblessness and stifled by conservative religious tradition, are said to want to get out of the place as soon as they can."

Life sounds intolerable for the Arabs generally; their best poet, the Syrian "Adonis" - Ali Ahmad Said Asbar - calls them an "extinct people".

Palestinian Arabs are highly literate, richer and healthier than people in most other Arab countries, thanks to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency and the blackmail payments of Western as well as Arab governments. As refugees, they live longer and better than their counterparts in adjacent Arab countries. It is not surprising that they do not want to be absorbed into other Arab countries and cease to be refugees.

If the Palestinians ceased to be refugees, moreover, it is not clear how they would maintain their relatively advantaged position. They cannot return to farming; for all the tears about bulldozed olive groves, no one in the West Bank will ever make a living selling olive oil, except perhaps by selling "Holy Land" products to Christian tourists.

Apart from tourism, the only non-subsidy source of income the Palestinians had was day labor in Israel, but security concerns close that off. Light manufacturing never will compete with Asia, and surely not during a prolonged period of global overcapacity. An alternative is for the Palestinians to continue to live off subsidies. But why should they?

Why should Western taxpayers subsidize an Arab in Ramallah, when Arabs in Egypt are needier? The answer is that they represent a security concern for Western countries, who believe that they are paying to limit violence. That only makes sense if the threat of violence remains present in the background and flares up frequently enough to be credible. One cannot simply stage-manage such things. A sociology of violence in which a significant proportion of the population remains armed.

To contain the potential violence of an armed population, donors to the Palestinian authority hire a very large proportion of young men as policemen or paramilitaries. According to a February 10, 2008, report by Steven Stotsky [2]:

Overhauling the Palestinian security forces will cost $4.2 to $7 billion over the next five years. What's more, the recent aid package agreed on in Paris committing to $7.4 billion for the Palestinians doesn't contain any provision for the security services.

The Reuters report follows a piece in the Jordan Times announcing plans to train a 50,000-person police force for the West Bank. This translates to one police officer for every 42-70 citizens (depending on which population figures for the West Bank are accepted), an unprecedented concentration of police presence. Currently, there are only 7,000 Palestinian police officers in the West Bank (Reuters, January13, 2008), so the new plan calls for a seven-fold increase. The planned expansion would result in a density of police at least three to four times that of major American cities that have to contend with much higher crime rates than the West Bank.

Add to this bloated police force the numerous other state security organizations as well as private militias, and it is clear that security is the biggest business in the Palestinian territories and the largest employer of young men.

The number of armed Palestinian fighters is estimated at around 80,000 or more than six times the soldiers per capita in the United States. About one out of four Palestinian men between the ages of 20 and 40 makes a living carrying a gun. That is, the economic structure of "pre-state" Palestine is heavily skewed towards the sort of institutionalized means of violence that is supposed to disappear once a state has been established. This is absurd, and creates a double disincentive for the Palestinians to maintain a low boil of violence.

Just how this violence-centered society is supposed to make the transition to an ordinary civil society is an unanswerable question. Once the problem is diagnosed with this kind of clarity, the solution becomes obvious:

  • Cut Western support to the Palestinians with the aim of reducing living standards in the West Bank to those prevailing in Egypt, as an incentive for emigration.
  • Demilitarize Palestinian society: offer a reward for turning in weapons, seize them when necessary, and give newly-unemployed gunmen employment weaving baskets at half pay.

Like many obvious solutions, this one never will be put into practice. The problem all along has been the wrong set of expectations. Once Palestinian Arabs adjust their expectations to correspond to levels of income, education and health prevailing in other Arab countries in the region, they can either form a state similar to other Arab states in the region, or simply emigrate to those states as individuals.

The Palestinians cannot form a normal state. They cannot emigrate to Arab countries without accepting a catastrophic decline in living standards, and very few can emigrate to Western countries. The optimal solution for the Palestinians is to demand a state and blackmail Western and Arab donors with the threat of violence, but never actually get one. That is why the Palestinian issue is "hopeless, but not serious", in the words of my old mentor Norman A Bailey, a former national security official. As long as all concerned understand that the comedy is not supposed to have an ending, the Palestinians can persist quite tolerably in their "intolerable" predicament.


[1] The Million Person Gap: The Arab Population in the West Bank and Gaza, Bennett Zimmerman, Roberta Seid and Michael L Wise, February 2006. The Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies, Bar-ilan University, Mideast Security and Policy Studies No. 65. Click here.

[2] Plan for Palestinian Police Force Seven Times Larger than Current Force by Steven Stotsky, February 10, 2008.

Monday, August 31, 2009

Syria "on the nose"

From THE JERUSALEM POST Aug. 31, 2009, by Herb Keinon:

...Iraq and Syria are entangled in a diplomatic dispute over demands that Damascus extradite two suspects wanted in recent suicide attacks on government ministries in Baghdad that killed about 100 people. The tension led both countries to recall their ambassadors.

The dispute was further compounded on Sunday, when Iraqi authorities broadcast a confession from a man who said he received terrorist training in neighboring Syria.

The Iraqi government has blamed an alliance of al-Qaida in Iraq and Saddam Hussein loyalists it says are based in Syria for the Aug. 19 bombings and demanded that Damascus hand over the two suspected plotters, raising tensions between the two countries.

...In a bid to ease diplomatic tensions between the two neighbors, Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu planned to meet leaders in Iraq and Syria later Monday.

...the US believes some of those responsible for the wave of attacks, as well as some of the explosives that were used to carry them out, came across the border from Syria ...

...The deadly attacks have also severely strained Syrian-Iraqi relations, with Iraq charging that Syria is sheltering suspects connected to some of the bombings. Iraq demanded Damascus hand over the suspects, Damascus demanded proof that they were involved, and the two countries recently recalled their respective ambassadors over the issue.

With all this in the background, Syria - according to Israeli sources - has made it clear in recent weeks that it was no longer interested in Turkish mediation in indirect talks with Jerusalem, but now only wanted US mediation.

According to assessments in Jerusalem, however, the US was far less likely now to accommodate this Syrian request until it did more to stop the infiltrations into Iraq...

Conflict is inevitable unless...

From The Wall Street Journal, AUGUST 30, 2009:

Israel, Iran and Obama
Conflict is inevitable unless the West moves quickly to stop a nuclear Tehran

The International Atomic Energy Agency has produced another alarming report on Iran's nuclear programs.... Meanwhile, Iran intends to introduce a resolution, backed by more than 100 members of the so-called Non-Aligned Movement, that would ban military attacks on nuclear facilities. No actual mention of Israel, of course.

The mullahs understand that the only real challenge to their nuclear ambitions is likely to come from Israel. They've long concluded that the U.N. is no threat, as IAEA chief Mohamed ElBaradei has in practice become an apologist for Iran's program. They can also see that the West lacks the will to do anything, as the Obama Administration continues to plead for Tehran to negotiate even as Iran holds show trials of opposition leaders and journalists for saying the recent re-election of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was fraudulent. The irony is that the weaker the West and U.N. appear, the more probable an Israeli attack becomes.

The reality that Western leaders don't want to admit is that preventing Iran from getting the bomb is an Israeli national imperative, not a mere policy choice. That's a view shared across Israel's political spectrum ...Iran's march to the bomb also alarms its Arab neighbors, but it represents an existential threat to an Israeli nation that Iran has promised to destroy and has waged decades of proxy war against.

This threat has only increased in the wake of Iran's stolen election and crackdown. The nature of the regime seems to be changing from a revolutionary theocracy to a military-theocratic state that is becoming fascist in operation. The Revolutionary Guard Corps is gaining power at the expense of the traditional military and a divided clerical establishment.

On the weekend, Ahmadinejad called for the arrest and punishment of opposition leaders, and last week he nominated Ahmad Vahidi, a commander in Iran's Revolutionary Guards Corps, to become defense minister. Vahidi is wanted on an Interpol arrest warrant for his role in masterminding the 1994 attack on a Jewish cultural center in Buenos Aires. That attack killed 85 people and wounded 200 others. Vahidi's nomination shows that when Ahmadinejad talks of wiping Israel off the map, no Israel leader can afford to dismiss it as a religious allegory.

Israel also looks warily on the Obama Administration's policy of diplomatic pleading with Iran, which comes after six years of failed diplomatic overtures by the European Union and Bush Administration. ...

...It's no wonder, then, that the Israeli military has been intensively—and very publicly—war-gaming attack scenarios on Iran's nuclear installations. This has included sending warships through the Suez Canal (with Egypt's blessing), testing its Arrow antiballistic missile systems and conducting nation-wide emergency drills. U.S. and Israeli military officials we've spoken to are confident an Israeli strike could deal a significant blow to Iran's programs, even if some elements would survive. The longer Israel waits, however, the more steps Iran can take to protect its installations.

The consequences of an Israeli attack are impossible to predict, but there is no doubt they would implicate U.S. interests throughout the Middle East. Iran would accuse the U.S. of complicity, whether or not the U.S. gave its assent to an attack. Iran could also attack U.S. targets, drawing America into a larger Mideast war.

... Yet in its first seven months, the Administration has spent more diplomatic effort warning Israel not to strike than it has rallying the world to stop Iran.

In recent days, the Administration has begun taking a harder line against Tehran, with talk of "crippling" sanctions on Iran's imports of gasoline if the mullahs don't negotiate by the end of September. Rhetorically, that's a step in the right direction. But unless Mr. Obama gets serious, and soon, about stopping Iran from getting a bomb, he'll be forced to deal with the consequences of Israel acting in its own defense.

Arab Theft of Jewish-owned Land

From The Point of No Return (Blog)*, 22 July 2009:

The stench of hypocrisy is rising ....

...Jewish construction is seen as an obstacle to peace; burgeoning Arab construction in Jerusalem (much of it illegal) is not. You only have to read Justus Reid Weiner's research exposing the construction boom in thousands of Arab units in Jerusalem, much of it lavishly funded by Saudi Arabia, the Gulf states and the Palestinian Authority, to understand that peace is not the issue. On the contrary, over the last several years, the Arabs have been engaged in a political and demographic race for control of Jerusalem.

To the US government and the European Union, everything is black-and-white: in their eyes west Jerusalem is 'Jewish', and east Jerusalem ...remains 'Arab'. In truth, this simplistic view ignores the fact that the eastern part of Jerusalem only became Jew-free when the thousands of Jewish inhabitants were 'ethnically cleansed' from the old city in 1948, scores of synagogues destroyed and cemeteries desecrated during 19 years of Jordanian occupation. The city was reunited when the eastern side of the city was recaptured and annexed in 1967 by Israel.

The issue of land ownership in Jerusalem is far more complex than the Obama administration and the EU would have us believe. Mount Scopus - the original site of the Hebrew university campus and the Hadassah hospital - remained a Jewish enclave in Jordanian-controlled territory.

It is also a little known fact that hundreds of thousands of Arab squatters in 'Arab east Jerusalem' live on land still owned by the Jewish National Fund. The JNF purchased hundreds of individual parcels of land in and around Jerusalem during the 1920s, 1930s and 1940s. Some ended up under Jordanian control.

In 1948, on one of these parcels the UN built the Kalandia refugee camp, seizing the land without permission from the owners, the JNF. As Gil Zohar explained in his 2007 Jerusalem Post piece other parcels of land in 'Arab' east Jerusalem were cut off from their Iraqi and Iranian Jewish owners after they came under Jordanian rule. In total 145,976 dunams [almost 600,000 acres] of Jewish land is said to have come under Jordanian control. (Jewish property claims against Arab countries by Michael Fischbach, p 85).

Another 16,684.421 dunams of Jewish land in the rural West Bank - including the Gush Etzion settlements, land between Nablus, Jenin and Tulkarm, and in Bethlehem and Hebron - were seized by the Jordanians after 1948.

The Golan Heights are almost universally considered 'Syrian' territory and yet the JNF lays claim to 73,974 dunams in southern Syria (op cit, p36)...

On the macro-level, it is estimated that Jews living in Arab countries owned some 100,000 sq km of deeded property, equivalent to four or five times the size of Israel.

Many cities in the 'Arab' Middle East and North Africa had large Jewish populations.

Baghdad was a quarter Jewish. When over 90 per cent of Iraq's Jews left for Israel in 1950 - 51, property seized by the Iraqi government included three hospitals, 19 Jewish schools, 31 synagogues and two cemeteries.

In Egypt mansions belonging to wealthy Jewish families became embassies, residences and public institutions. Jihan Sadat still lives in a mansion once owned by the Castro family, and president Mubarak reputedly has the use of a villa owned by the Smouha family.

The international community gets into a huff when Jerusalem property once owned by Arabs is legally bought by Jews. Across the Arab world, Jewish property has been abandoned, sequestered or sold well below market value as Jews left in haste or were driven out.

The West is sanctioning the principle that the Arab world must be Jew-free (Arab states have almost succeeded in this task, having banished 97 percent of their Jewish population) . The takeover of millions of dollars' worth of Jewish homes, shops, offices and communal property by Arabs has never been considered provocative or an 'obstacle to peace'...

*The Point of No Return is dedicated to preserving the memory of the near-extinct Jewish communities, which can never return to what they once were. It will attempt to pass on the stories of the Jewish refugees and their current struggle for recognition and restitution. I've linked to that excellent Blog in our Blog Roll on the right-hand side of the page - SL.