Saturday, July 03, 2010

Obama - Israel gulf is immense

From the National Post · Friday, Jul. 2, 2010, by Peter Goodspeed (my emphasis added. SL): Tuesday’s meeting in Washington between Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and U.S. President Barack Obama ...aims to rebuild trust. ...It could be a tall order. The gulf separating the two sides is immense.

Israeli leaders, fearing for their country’s very existence, are reluctant to trust anyone, including the Americans, and won’t be rushed into a peace deal with the Palestinians, while Washington suddenly fears its failure to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian problem is harming its strategic interests.

The last time the two leaders met, in March, Mr. Netanyahu was treated to the diplomatic equivalent of a trip to the woodshed and U.S.-Israeli relations plunged to their lowest level in decades....Mr. Obama refused to have his meeting with Mr. Netanyahu photographed and didn’t bother to mark the occasion with a formal statement afterwards.

Later, it was learned the U.S. leader presented Mr. Netanyahu with a list of 13 demands for rebuilding confidence in the peace process and abruptly left him to peruse the points while he went for dinner with his family. “I’m still around,” he allegedly said. “Let me know if there is anything new.”

While some American pundits fumed, accusing Mr. Obama of treating Mr. Netanyahu like an unsavory Third World dictator, the Israeli news media anxiously wondered if Israel’s relationship with Washington was permanently damaged.

... Mr. Netanyahu’s brother-in-law, Hagi Ben Artzi, fanned the flames of the crisis telling an Israeli talk-radio show, “There is an anti-Semitic president in America."

... Mr. Obama’s support among Jews, both at home and in Israel, has been plummeting, as anxieties soar over apparent U.S. attempts to make a settlement of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict — not the relationship with Israel — a core U.S. national security interest.

“We consider Obama’s actions an affront and an insult to all Jews in America and Israel,” said Morton Klein, president of the Zionist Organization of America. “This administration is hostile to Israel. Period. Over the past 18-months there has been a dramatic shift in the U.S.-Israel relationship, including harsh, repeated criticism of Israel.”

...While there is still a moral and emotional commitment to Israel, U.S. policy makers are looking beyond their traditional views of the Middle East to lay more stress on resolving the Israeli-Palestinian deadlock.

“With 200,000 American troops committed to two wars in the greater Middle East and the U.S. president leading a major international effort to block Iran’s nuclear program, resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has become a U.S. strategic imperative,” said Martin Indyk, a former U.S. Ambassador to Israel who is now with the Brookings Institution in Washington. “The President views curbing Iran’s nuclear program and resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as two sides of the same coin,” Mr. Indyk said. “In order to isolate and pressure Iran, he believes he needs to unite Israelis and Arabs with the rest of the world in a grand international anti-Iranian coalition.”

U.S. Army General David Petraeus made a similar point this spring, when he told the U.S. Senate Armed Services Committee, that “enduring hostilities between Israel and some of its neighbours present distinct challenges to our ability to advance our interests in the [Middle East].” “Arab anger over the Palestinian question limits the strength and depth of U.S. partnerships with governments and peoples [in the region],” Gen. Petraeus said.

Israel needs to be more pragmatic, said Anthony Cordesman, an expert with the Centre for Strategic and International Studies. “It is time Israel realized that it has obligations to the U.S., as well as the U.S. to Israel, and that it becomes far more careful about the extent to which it tests the limits of U.S. patience and exploits the support of American Jews,” Mr. Cordesman said. “Israel should show enough discretion to reflect the fact that it is a tertiary U.S. strategic interest in a complex and demanding world..."

Friday, July 02, 2010

Zentai wins extradition appeal

From ABC News, 2 July 2010:

Zentai had previously lost all of his legal battles against the extradition.

Accused war criminal Charles Zentai has successfully appealed against a decision which would have allowed for his extradition to Hungary over an alleged murder.

Mr Zentai, 88, has been fighting for five years against a Hungarian government request for him to be returned to face questioning over the death of a Jewish teenager in 1944.

...He had previously lost all of his legal battles against the extradition.

Earlier this year Federal Minister for Home Affairs Brendan O'Connor approved his extradition.

However, today a Federal Court Judge in Perth overturned the Mr O'Connor's decision....

Note that in a SMH article, April 27, 2010, by LLOYD JONES:

Zentai's lawyer Malcolm McCusker QC ...said Hungarian authorities had made it clear there was ...a "well-founded suspicion" he may have participated in the crime.

Thursday, July 01, 2010

Hypocrisy in UK Media

From Just Journalism, 30 June 2010:

[In] the cases of the alleged Russian spy ring arrested in the US yesterday and the suspected assassination by Israeli agents of a Hamas leader in Dubai in January this year, the common misuse of British and Irish passports is worth noting. In the latter case, expressions of political and media outrage were abundant; in the former, not so much on either front.

An editorial published by The Guardian ...following the Dubai affair: ‘Israel and Britain: The rule of law,’ (24 March 2010)  ...described the faking of UK passports as ‘the mark[s] of an arrogant nation that has overreached itself.’

In today’s editorial, ‘Russian espionage: Spies like us,’ in the same newspaper, the alleged use of a forged UK passport failed to even elicit a mention.

...In [BBC] coverage so far the profile given to the UK passport forgery is negligible. Of the eight articles published on its news website on the subject in the last 24 hours, only three even mention the issue...
BBC broadcast coverage followed the same line, treating the misuse of UK passports as a footnote. Yesterday's PM programme on Radio 4 contained a three-minute report on the story in which the introduction stated: ‘British officials say they’re investigating whether a member of the alleged Russian spy ring used a UK passport.’ In the subsequent interview with an ex-KGB agent, the subject was not revisited. Last night's The World Tonight did not mention this point in its brief coverage at all. On the channel’s flagship news programme, Today, only one of the numerous reports contained a (passing) reference to the use of a British passport by the alleged spies.

Both the BBC Six and Ten O’clock news editions contained brief mentions of the fact that a British passport may have been used by the alleged Russian spies, whereas Channel 4 News gave the allegation prominence by including it in its introduction to the story; however, this was not followed up subsequently.

Unlike the swift and strong political reaction from the UK to the suggestion that Israel had misused British passports in the Dubai affair, the Foreign Office has, as yet, not issued harsh words aimed at the Russian government...

Obama: "...a menace to Israel, Westen Europe ...and the whole of the Western world..."

From YouTube, 23 June 2010 (an interview by Jerry Gordon, Senior editor of the New English Review):

Dr. Richard L. Rubinstein, author of "Jihad and Genocide", Harvard Phd, Yale fellow, "Distinguished Professor of the Year", and Harvard Phd, states that president Obama's intention is to "correct the historical mistake of the creation of the state of Israel." Dr. Rubenstein states that president Obama due to his family heritage is extremely pro Muslim - to the point of "wanting to see the destruction of Israel."

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Antisemitic attack by Nation of Islam Minister Louis Farrakhan

From Ynet News, 30 June 2010:

...Nation of Islam Minister Louis Farrakhan has written the leaders of more than a dozen major US Jewish groups and denominations seeking "repair of my people from the damage" he claims Jews have caused blacks for centuries.

"We could charge you with being the most deceitful so-called friend, while your history with us shows you have been our worst enemy," he wrote...

..."This is an offer asking you and the gentiles whom you influence to help me in the repair of my people from the damage that has been done by your ancestors to mine," he writes. "Your present reality is sitting on top of the world in power, with riches and influences, while the masses of my people ... are in the worst condition of any member of the human family."

In the past, Farrakhan's most inflammatory comments have included referring to Judaism as a "gutter religion" and calling Adolf Hitler "wickedly great." Recently, he has railed against the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, which he claims is conspiring to trap the US in a war with Iran.

... Farrakhan has over the years denied claims of anti-Semitism, arguing his remarks are often taken out of context and that criticism of Jews in any light automatically earns the "anti-Semite" label.

ANTISEMITISM: The dying Age sinks to new low in bizarre front-page attack on Jewish businessman

From VEXNEWS, June 29, 2010:

The Melbourne Age newspaper has stunned and appalled the Jewish community today by confecting a scandal about the fact that the Prime Minister’s partner works for a Jewish businessman Albert Dadon.

It inaccurately describes Albert as an “Israel lobbyist” which suggests he is paid to promote Israel. That’s simply not correct and conveys a false impression.

Dadon is an investor, in property and many other things and was the Chair of Melbourne’s international Jazz Festival and created the Australia Israel Leadership Forum...

...Dadon went to some effort to encourage The Age to open its eyes to both sides of the story in the Middle East and  ...a member of The Age’s staff was invited to attend Australia Israel Leadership Forum events, including one in Israel.

[Editor of the Age, Paul] Ramadge endorsed this and went to some trouble to undo the damage done by his predecessor Andrew Jaspan whose attacks on Israel seemed to know no decent bounds. That reputation will be confirmed by today’s breathtakingly anti-semitic attack that deems all Jews to be “pro-Israel lobbyists”.

The story was based around a letter from a retired and grouchy Arabist crank, Ross Burns  ...a career diplomat who was given many sweet plum Ambassador appointments, ...a perfect embodiment of [anti-Israel bias].

Burns has now retired into the comfort of superannuation and is completing a PhD at Macquarie University on archaeology in Syria. He very frequently visits Syria...[and] has a long history of blowing anti-semitic dog-whistles against Israel, with a steady stream of cranky letters to the editor, speeches, appearances on an appreciative ABC and so on.

... Where will this obscenity end? Will The Age’s Jewish employees soon be subjected to tests to ensure they are not “pro-Israel lobbyists.”

As for Burns, he is an old crank, who is just running out his private hatreds of Israel in public view...
But The Age has a greater responsibility than that....[It's] sickening effort today reveals it not to be a force for good in any respect.

The newspaper’s revenues are in freefall, its employees facing further redundancies, its circulation numbers rigged, the shares of parent company the most shorted in the entire stock market.

Its end is nigh. And we’ll be dancing in the streets when that day finally comes.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Iran Targets Azerbaijan

From BESA Center Perspectives Paper No. 110, June 23, 2010, by Dr. Alexander Murinson*:

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY: Israeli–Azerbaijani trade, security, and diplomatic ties have raised Iran’s ire and exposed Azerbaijan and the Israeli assets there to terrorist threats. Azerbaijani security forces, in cooperation with Israel, have thwarted several Iranian-backed terrorist operations in that country, but there are reasons to believe that radical Islamic terrorist groups continue to operate in Azerbaijan at Iran’s behest. Israel should not only continue its successful joint security efforts with the government of Azerbaijan, but should also employ ‘soft power’ to enhance its positive image among the population and to counter Iranian influence.

Shortly after obtaining independence in 1991, Azerbaijan established friendly relations with Israel and has continuously been expanding its economic, political, and military ties with the Jewish state, as the state visit by Israeli President Shimon Peres on June 28-29, 2009 reinforced. Azerbaijan is Israel's top trade partner in the Muslim world with an annual trade volume in 2008 of $3.5 billion. It is the second largest exporter of oil to Israel after Russia. Relations between Baku and Jerusalem are perceived by the Iranian regime as a strategic threat.

Following the independence of the Central Asian states -- Azerbaijan, Tajikistan and Turkmenistan in the early 1990s -- Tehran launched a comprehensive program for the export of its “Islamic Revolution” to these countries. Numerous fundamentalist clerics, armed with pamphlets, books, audio equipment and money, flooded the capitals and larger cities of the newly independent states. The aim was to prevent a pro-Western orientation in foreign policy and to forge an ‘Islamic revival.’ The fulfillment of this ideological goal also required the creation of welfare organizations, the construction of schools and clinics, and the financing of religious parties.

More recently, after the June 2009 elections, Iran, in preparation for a possible Western (or Israeli) military strike against its nuclear facilities, increased its training and creation of terrorist cells in its periphery and the presence of its agents within countries allied with America and Israel, such as Azerbaijan. The appointment of Ahmad Vahidi, accused of masterminding the 1994 Buenos Aires attack on the Jewish Community Center, to the post of Defense Minister by Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in August 2009 reflects this thrust in Iranian policy. The Islamic regime has been stepping up its jihadioperations around the world, particularly by penetrating its Muslim neighbors.

Iranian Penetration in Azerbaijan
Azerbaijan is particularly vulnerable to Iranian influence due to its Shi'i population and to the large Azeri minority in Iran, which is highly integrated into the Islamic revolutionary elite. Iran's supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamene'i is Azeri, for instance. After Azerbaijani independence, Iranian authorities attempted to staff the majority of mosques in Azerbaijan with their own mullahs. Iran was most successful in Astara, Lankaran, and Massala, the more conservative areas bordering it.

The Iranian Cultural Center in Baku spread the message of Khomeini’s Islam, affecting many strata of Azeri society. The Iranian-based welfare foundation Imdad, dedicated to Ayatollah Khomeini, opened a regional branch in Azerbaijan in 1993. A bulletin published by the Iranian embassy in Baku stated that between 1993 and 2002 Imdad provided aid in 19 population centers to 19,000 indigents and 8,000 students in a country where almost three million of its citizens lack proper housing due to dire economic circumstances. Iranian aid organizations also distributed small grants and other assistance to refugees from the Karabagh region and to young families. The latest figures, from 2003, indicate that this aid reached 25 million dollars, a significant sum in this poor country.

The small, conservative town of Nardaran, near Baku, served as an important focus of Iranian religious and propaganda activities in Azerbaijan due to the location there of the important Pir (burial site) of Rehime Khanim, a local Shi'i saint. In 2002-2006, violent clashes with Nardaran state authorities, which originated from grievances over the unfair distribution of economic aid, transformed under Iranian tutelage into protests against the secular Constitution of the state. The riots, known as the Nardaran events, were organized by groups who received money, agitation literature, and some weapons from Iran.

Iranian fundamentalists also promoted their ideology by sponsoring political parties and movements in Azerbaijan. Accordingly, Iran funded the activities of the legal Islamic Party of Azerbaijan (IPA) and of the clandestine cells of Hizballah and Jayshallah (Army of God). Hizballah has operated clandestinely in Azerbaijan since 1993. Many of its Azerbaijani members underwent training in Iran and obtained weapons sufficient to arm a battalion of jihadis. Jayshallah, established in 1995, was determined to carry out attacks against Western targets, including the US embassy, in Baku.

The IPA, founded in Nardaran in 1991, openly espoused anti-American and anti-Semitic views. The Ministry of Justice cancelled the party’s registration in 1995 due to the indictment of its senior members on charges of treason and posing a threat to state security, but the party has continued its activities without official registration. Investigations of the arrested party members revealed that the party’s leaders had active ties with the Iranian leadership. IPA members were later implicated in Hizballah and Jayshallah networks. More recently, in 2009, the IPA organized anti-Israel demonstrations in Baku during Operation Cast Lead and Shimon Peres’ visit to the city.

To counter Iranian attempts to undermine the secular regime in the Republic of Azerbaijan, in the late 1990s, former President Heydar Aliyev banned and expelled Iranian mullahs who were preaching in Azerbaijani mosques. In 2000, Azerbaijani security forces arrested members of Tehran-sponsored terrorist organizations. In 2007, Azerbaijan's Ministry of National Security (MNB) apprehended members of another group linked to the Iranian secret service. The members of this group, called the Northern Fighters of Imam Mahdi (NIMA), had been involved in monitoring the activities of American, Israeli, and other Western diplomatic missions and companies on Azerbaijani soil. Founded in 2005, the group's 16 active members had also traveled to Iran in 2005-2006 in order to establish links with the Iranian Intelligence Service (MISIRI) and Sepah-e Pasdaran, the notorious Guardians of the Iranian Islamic revolution. NIMA produced 150 reports for its Iranian sponsors on the activities of the United States, the United Kingdom, and Israel, and was paid US $10,300.

In the most recent case of a thwarted terrorist attack in Azerbaijan, six suspected perpetrators -- four Azerbaijanis and two Lebanese members of a Hizballah cell -- were charged with planning attacks on several strategic sites in Azerbaijan, including the Gabala anti-missile radar station (the largest anti-missile defense installation in the South Caucasus) and the Israeli embassy in Baku on July 4, 2009. The subsequent investigation showed that the Lebanese citizens, Ali Mohammed Kerekli and Ali Husyen Nadjmedin, who had ties with al-Qaida and Hizballah, were the leaders of the terrorist cells. It surfaced during the trial that the Sepah-e Pasdaran had organized and run this secret cell. It was also revealed that since the Lebanese operatives had poor knowledge of Azerbaijan and the Azerbaijani language, they had received assistance from Iranian agents, who provided them with an interpreter. The defendants were charged with preparation to commit acts of terrorism as well as state treason.

Azerbaijan’s growing ties with Israel are a threat to Iran, which has intensified its efforts to destabilize its neighbor. For Israel, ties with Azerbaijan are extremely important. Israel has increased its efforts to foster understanding and positive perceptions among the population of this important Muslim partner.

If the Israeli government desires to strengthen its image as a true friend of Azerbaijan, Israelis should clearly side with Baku in its conflict with Armenia on the issue of Armenian-occupied Azerbaijani territories.

In the pursuit of its avowed goal of creating the Med Stream project, a multi-purpose offshore pipeline project that not only is purported to connect Turkey and Israel via the Mediterranean Sea but also to extend the Turkish-Israeli energy network to India, Israel should find profitable ways for Azerbaijan to be involved.

It would also be wise for Israel to impress upon Azerbaijan the importance of political and economic reform in order to preempt economic and political unrest, which plays into the hands of the Islamists. It is up to Israel to win the battle for the hearts and minds of the young generation of Azerbaijanis and the greater Muslim world.

*Alexander Murinson, an independent researcher, holds a PhD from the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London. He is the author of Turkey's Entente with Israel and Azerbaijan: State Identity and Security in the Middle East and Caucasus.