Tuesday, October 08, 2013

800,000 at Rabbi Ovadia Yosef’s funeral in Jerusalem

800,000 attend last procession for revered leader of Sephardi Jewry; 300 require medical treatment — but no serious injuries… and one birth; worried police chief had feared disaster as crowds swelled; public figures send condolences, recall a giant of Jewish thought
  • Hundreds of thousands of mourners attend the Jerusalem funeral procession of Shas spiritual leader Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, Monday, October 7, 2013 (photo credit: Flash90)
    Hundreds of thousands of mourners attend the Jerusalem funeral procession of Shas spiritual leader Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, Monday, October 7, 2013 (photo credit: Flash90)

  • Mourners on a rooftop near the Porat Yosef yeshiva in Jerusalem, where hundreds of Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, the powerfulmuch-loved and sometimes controversial spiritual leader of Israel’s Sephardi community, passed away in Jerusalem early Monday afternoon after being hospitalized repeatedly over the last several weeks. He was 93. Ovadia was being laid to rest Monday night in the Jerusalem neighborhood of Sanhedria, with some 700,000 mourners converging on the funeral from all over the country.

    Monday, October 07, 2013

    Abbas’s Glowing Praise of the Nazi Mufti and Netanyahu's Response

    October 7, 2013, by David Bedein:

    In his new year’s speech, Abbas spoke glowingly of the legacy of the god father of the PLO, the Mufti of Jerusalem Hajj Muhammad Amin Al-Husseini , who during the 1920’s and 1930’s instigated pogroms against the Jews of Palestine and who during his residence in Nazi Germany actively plotted a Final Solution to be carried out once his German allies would win the war. 
    Abbas praised the Mufti as a man whose ways should be emulated by all Palestinian Arabs.
    “We must remember the pioneers, the Grand Mufti of Palestine, Hajj Muhammad Amin Al-Husseini, as  well as Ahmad Al-Shukeiri, the founder of the PLO,” Abbas said according to a translation of the speech made by the Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI).
    At the time, our agency asked Israeli President Shimon Peres for a comment and Israeli Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu for comment on the Mufti’s praise of Hitler’s ally.
    Since the Israeli government is on record as defining Abbas as a partner for peace, one would have expected a response which expressed horror and revulsion.
    Instead, there was silence from the highest officials of the Israeli government.
    Peres’s office said that there would be no response.
    Netanyahu’s office said that there would be a response, in due time. Nine months after the Abbas praise of the Mufti, on Oct. 6, 2013, Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu chose the venue of a policy speech at Bar Ilan University to respond to the emulation lauded on the Mufti by Abbas and by the official curriculum of the Palestinian Authority.
    Israel’s Prime Minister quoted the protocols of the Hitler -Mufti pact, presented as evidence against the Mufti in the Nuremberg war crimes trials.
    The records of the meeting between Hitler and the Mufti explicitly state that Hitler would exterminate the Jews in Europe, while the Mufti would enlist Nazi aid to exterminate Jews in Palestine, so as to establish a “JudenRein” state of Palestine.
    To that end, the Mufti ensconced himself in Hitler’s bunker, from where he recruited an Islamic unit of the Waffen SS, which actively engaged in the mass murder of Jews, while issuing Arabic language appeals on Nazi radio which incited Moslems to join the Nazi cause and to prepare for mass murder of Jews in Palestine.
    The Protocols of the Nuremberg trials concerning the Mufti were published in a 1946 book, entitled, MUFTI OF JERUSALEM, authored by journalist Maurice Pearlman, who was appointed in 1948 by Israel’s first Prime Minister, David Ben Gurion as the first director of the Israel Government Press Office.
    Pearlman reported that the refusal of the British government to arrest the Mufti in Cairo caused the head of the Zionist revisionists in the United States at the time, Ben Zion Netanyahu, the late father of Israel’s current Prime Minister, to launch an unsuccessful campaign to push the US to demand the arrest of the Mufti in Cairo.
    In his Bar Ilan speech, Netanyahu cited affidavits of senior SS prosecution witnesses who testified that the Mufti, working directly under Eichmann and Himmler, identified the Mufti’s instrumental role in making sure that millions of Jews were murdered, and not ransomed.
    Netanyahu referred to the affidavit of one of Eichmann’s subordinates, SS Hampsturmfuerer Dieter Wisliceny, who appeared as a witness for the Nuremberg prosecution, where the Nazi officer testified that
    “The Mufti was one of the initiators of the systematic extermination of European Jewry for the Germans and had been the permanent collaborator and advisor of Eichmann and Himmler in the execution of the plan…According to my opinion, the Grand Mufti, who had been in Berlin since 1941, played a role in the decision of the German government to exterminate the European Jews, the importance of which must not be disregarded, He had repeatedly suggested to the various authorities with who had been in contact, above all before Hitler, Ribbentrop and Himmler, the extermination of European Jewry. He considered this as a comfortable solution of the Palestinian problem. In his messages broadcast from Berlin, he surpassed us in anti-Jewish attacks. He was one of Eichmann’s best friends and had constantly incited him to accelerate the extermination measures…”
    Discussion of the Mufti’s role in the extermination of the Jews has been downplayed for years by Israeli officials, who were hesitant to attack the George Washington of the PLO. Perhaps that would spoil the moderate image of the PLO as a peace partner.
    Now  Israel’s Prime Minister has placed the Mufti’s legacy on the agenda.
    A little known fact concerns the Mufti’s special relationship with a young relative in Cairo, whom to the Mufti would affectionately give the name “Yassir Arafat”. In December 1996, Haaretz interviewed Yassir Arafat’s younger brother and sister, who said that the Mufti performed the role of a surrogate father figure and mentor to the young Arafat.
    Prime Minister Netanyahu’s erudite reference to the Mufti role in the mass murder of Jews in World War II was not lost on pundits who followed every word of his speech. After all, that mass murder of Jews is currently taught in Palestinian Authority schools in accordance with Abbas’s 1983 doctoral thesis at the University of Moscow, which concludes that the World Zionist Organization, not the Nazis, was responsible for the destruction of European Jewry.

    Rouhani brags on Iranian TV about how he deceived the West and continued nuclear development

    October 2013:

    In a video clip now gaining fresh attention as the international community seeks to assess his credibility, Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani bragged on Iranian state television just four months ago that he and the regime utterly flouted a 2003 agreement with the IAEA in which it promised to suspend all uranium enrichment and certain other nuclear activities.
    Rouhani, who was being interviewed by Iran’s state IRIB TV (Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting) on May 27, less than three weeks before he won the June 14 presidential elections, was provoked by the interviewer’s assertion that, as Iran’s chief nuclear negotiator in 2003-5, “everything was suspended” on the nuclear program under his watch. 
    Smiling but evidently highly irritated by the suggestion, Rouhani called it “a lie” that only “the illiterate” would believe, and said that “whoever is talking to you in your earpiece” was feeding false information. He proceeded to detail how Iran, in fact, had flagrantly breached the October 2003 “Tehran Declaration,” which he said “was supposed to outline how everything should be suspended.”
    Although Iran issued a joint statement with visiting EU ministers in October 2003 setting out its pledged obligations under the Tehran Declaration, in practice, Rouhani said in the interview, “We did not let that happen!”
    The interview, conducted by Hassan Abedini, was one in a series of shows in which the presidential candidates were questioned by the widely watched channel. The TV station is closely controlled by loyalists of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, and Rouhani clearly felt the imperative to underline that he was no Western pushover.
    Far from honoring the commitment, in which Iran said “it has decided voluntarily to suspend all uranium enrichment and reprocessing activities,” Rouhani told the interviewer that all Iran did was merely suspend “ten centrifuges” in the Natanz enrichment facility. “And not a total suspension. Just reduced the yield.”
    Unimpressed, interviewer Abedini asserted that work had been suspended at the UCF — the Uranium Enrichment Facility at Isfahan. Quite the contrary, Rouhani countered, detailing the completion of various phases of work at Isfahan under his watch in 2004 and 2005. He went on to state proudly that the Iranian heavy water reactor at Arak was also developed under his watch, in 2004.
    “Do you know when we developed yellowcake? Winter 2004,” Rouhani went on. “Do you know when the number of centrifuges reached 3,000? Winter 2004.”
    Incredulous at the notion that Iran had bowed to international pressure and halted nuclear activities in that period, Rouhani asked the interviewer, We halted the nuclear program? We were the ones to complete it! We completed the technology.”
    He clarified that this was not his solo success, but was rather thanks to the work of “our valuable nuclear scientists. Our beloved ones. We kiss their hands.” But he stressed, “We were the first to initiate this. By ‘we,’ I mean the whole government, not Hassan Rouhani. By we, I mean the supreme leader. We were all hand in hand. That is why the supreme leader in his speech of November 11, 2003, said that in those negotiations, the conspiracy of Washington and Israel was shattered.”
    Iran had taken “the correct stance [in the nuclear talks], without submission and coercion,” he said.
    Rouhani then again attacked the interviewer, and “the guy who talks into your earpiece” for allegedly misleading viewers, to which Abedini replied: “I have read your book from cover to cover, twice.”
    “Good job,” retorted Rouhani. “Then read it for a third time, Mr. Abedini. This is how we completed the nuclear enrichment program.”
    In his speech to the UN General Assembly last week, and in a succession of other statements and inteviews, Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has alleged that Rouhani, in his current outreach to the West, is misleading it by professing a willingness to negotiate over the nuclear program. Netanyahu warned the international community not to be “fooled” by Rouhani as it enters new diplomatic negotiations set to start next week.
    As Iran’s chief nuclear negotiator between 2003 and 2005, Netanyahu said at the UN, Rouhani “masterminded the strategy which enabled Iran to advance its nuclear weapons program behind a smokescreen of diplomatic engagement and very soothing rhetoric.” 
    Netanyahu then quoted from Rouhani’s 2011 book, in which he wrote, “‘While we were talking to the Europeans in Tehran, we were installing equipment in Isfahan.’ Now, for those of you who don’t know,” Netanyahu explained, “the Isfahan facility is an indispensable part of Iran’s nuclear weapons program. That’s where uranium ore called yellowcake is converted into an enrichable form. Rouhani boasted, and I quote, ‘By creating a calm environment — a calm environment — we were able to complete the work in Isfahan.’ He fooled the world once. Now he thinks he can fool it again.”
    In Rouhani’s address to the UN, on September 24, the president said “Iran poses absolutely no threat to the world or the region,” and offered “to engage immediately in time-bound and result-oriented talks” over the nuclear program, “to build mutual confidence and removal of mutual uncertainties with full transparency.” At the same time, he warned, “Nuclear knowledge in Iran has been domesticated now and the nuclear technology, inclusive of enrichment, has already reached industrial scale. It is, therefore, an illusion, and extremely unrealistic, to presume that the peaceful nature of the nuclear program of Iran could be ensured through impeding the program via illegitimate pressures.”

    Netanyahu blames Mideast conflict on refusal to recognize Jewish state

    From the Times if Israel, 6 Oct 2013:

    In address at Bar-Ilan University, PM says lasting peace only possible if Palestinian leadership acknowledges Jewish sovereignty


    In a marked change in emphasis from a speech at the same podium four years ago, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday voiced doubt over the possibility of a two-state solution, citing the Palestinian leadership’s refusal to recognize Israel as a Jewish state.
    Speaking at the 20th anniversary ceremony of Bar-Ilan University’s Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies, the prime minister placed blame for the ongoing Israeli-Palestinian conflict on Ramallah’s refusal to come to terms with Israel as a Jewish state.        
    “The Palestinians must abandon their refusal to recognize the right of the Jewish people to have their national state,” he said.
    Netanyahu dismissed claims that Israel’s presence in the West Bank stood at the heart of the conflict, stating instead that as long as the Palestinians don’t internalize the Jewish state’s right to exist, there will not be peace.
    “In order for the process in which we find ourselves to be significant… in order for it to have a real chance of success,” he said, referring to the current rounds of negotiations begun this summer, “it’s necessary to hear the Palestinian leadership finally say that it recognizes the right of the Jewish people to a state of its own, which is the state of Israel.”
    “I hope that it shall be so, so that we can advance a real solution to the conflict,” continued Netanyahu.
    The prime minister stated that the conflict between the Jews and Arabs began not in 1967, when Israel captured the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem in the Six Day War, but in 1921, when Palestinian Arabs attacked a building in Jaffa that housed Jewish immigrants.
    He also called for Palestinians to give up on their demand for Palestinian refugees and their descendants to return to areas now inside Israel. ”The Palestinians must abandon their [demand for a] right of return,” he said.
    And he said any agreement would need to address Israel’s security needs.
    “After generations of incitement, we have no confidence that recognition [of Israel] will trickle down to the Palestinian people. Therefore, we need very strong security arrangements, and to go forward without blindness.”
    In 2009, also speaking at Bar-Ilan University, Netanyahu said that “if we get a guarantee of demilitarization, and if the Palestinians recognize Israel as the Jewish state, we are ready to agree to a real peace agreement, a demilitarized Palestinian state side by side with the Jewish state.”
    The speech was seen as a major milestone, marking the first time the prime minister openly endorsed a two-state solution.
    Israel and the Palestinians restarted peace talks in July, committing themselves to a US-brokered effort to reach a permanent accord within nine months, though officials said recently negotiations have become stuck over a number of issues, including land swaps and recognizing Israel as a Jewish state.
    Earlier Sunday, Palestinians in Ramallah held a rally calling for Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas to pull out of the talks. In Jerusalem, a number of Israeli politicians also called for Netanyahu to rethink negotiations after a suspected terror attack in the settlement of Psagot in which a 9-year-old girl was shot and slightly injured.
    Netanyahu also addressed the Iranian nuclear issue, reiterating his distrust of Iranian President Hassan Rouhani’s peace overtures to the West at the United Nations and saying Iran aspires “to rule the entire Middle East” and destroy the state of Israel.
    He repeated his insistence that Iran abandon its uranium enrichment capacity and dismantle its plutonium core, saying those apparatuses are “not necessary at all for [civilian] nuclear energy,” and that only a state seeking a bomb would refuse to give them up.

    Sunday, October 06, 2013

    Rouhani, in his flimsy disguise, brings a smile and experienced embezzlers to the job

    From The Times of Israel, 5 Oct 2013, by Emanuele Ottolenghi and Saeed Ghasseminejad,:

    In his address to the United Nations, Benjamin Netanyahu described Hassan Rouhani as a wolf in sheep’s clothing, but you’d have to be very gullible or very nearsighted to be fooled by the Iranian president’s flimsy disguise.
    After all, Rouhani has not conceded one iota of Iran’s nuclear program on substance. He has stood defiantly at the United Nations and challenged the international community over Iran’s continuing refusal to comply with UN Security Council resolutions and its solemn obligations under the Nuclear Non Proliferation Treaty. His speeches offered convoluted verbiage that, while not as esoteric as his predecessor’s, were in line with his regime’s third world-ist grievance-filled rhetoric. He rejected a request for a meeting with the U.S. president – though he found time to sit with many other world leaders – and settled only for a phone call on his way to the airport that the White House initiated. Finally, while he did not deny the Holocaust in as crass and insulting a fashion as Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, he engaged in the kind of belittling typical of more sophisticated Holocaust denier.       
    And yet, Rouhani’s charm offensive seems to be working – witness the enthusiasm triggered by his New York visit as evidence that many wish to turn a new page on the strength of charm alone. In fact, Rouhani is a more polished version of Ahmadinejad – more sophisticated and worldly, but not substantively better.
    Many words have been used to describe Iran’s former president – vile, radical, authentic, messianic, confrontational. But behind the rhetoric, there stood a leader who attempted to leverage his presidency as a challenge to the entrenched power structure of the Mullahs and wealthy revolutionary aristocracy that had power over the country’s purse strings. While it is doubtful that a more moderate Iran would have emerged had he been successful, it’s almost certain that Rouhani, with the installation of an old guard of insiders and trusted loyalists of former Iranian president Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, has plans to continue in a familiar and corrupt oligarchical vein, a troubling development as current events unfold in the Eastern Mediterranean.
    Most Western observers welcomed the end of Ahmadinejad’s term with a sigh of relief, interpreting Rouhani’s election as a sign of moderation and, perhaps, even a return of something like a reformist agenda. Western chanceries were adamant that anything was better than Ahmadinejad.
    This was a mistake, if an understandable one.
    Rouhani presented himself as a moderate. But he has begun meticulously replacing Ahmadinejad’s friends with familiar faces who spent previous decades plundering the country’s resources for their own personal profit, or in pursuit of proliferation activities that allowed them to make money on the side. Rather than reforming the system, there’s every reason to believe Rouhani and his clique will be busy milking it.
    Take for example Mr. Bijan Namdar Zanganeh, Rouhani’s minister of oil. As the holder of a key position that controls billions of dollars’ worth of contracts and revenues, Zanganeh knows his way around. He served as oil minister under reformist president Mohammad Khatami. Reuters described him as a ‘non-partisan technocrat.’ In truth, Zanganeh’s time at the oil ministry is associated with many high level corruption cases – most notably with handing contracts to Petropars under the buy-back scheme he invented to lure foreign oil companies back into the Iranian energy market during the reformist era.
    Petropars is a subsidiary company of the U.S. and EU sanctioned Naftiran Intertrade Company (NICO), which Zanganeh helped establish. During Zanganeh’s tenure at the oil ministry, Petropars was chaired by Akbar Torkan, who previously served as Iran’s minister of defense under Rafsanjani. Zanganeh rewarded Torkan’s company with contracts worth billions – including several development phases of the lucrative South Pars natural gas field. Now the two occupy key posts in government once again – and the contracts are predictably flowing.
    Zanganeh and Torkan are but two in a long list of recent returnees to the corridors of Iranian power. Mehdi Karbasian, the newly appointed chairman of the Iranian Mines & Mining Industries Development & Renovation Organization (IMIDRO), is a board member of the U.S. sanctioned Parsian Bank and of Sepehr Energy Corporation, which has been winning oil contracts at an astonishing rate, despite its short existence and lack of proven record.
    Like Zanganeh and others, Karbasian never really left the control room – his resume reads like a U.S. Department of Treasury sanctioned entities’ list, with past and present executive roles with companies in the shipping, heavy industry, food, transport, banking, and oil sectors. A veteran of the Islamic Republic’s early glories and, like Zanganeh, a past holder of ministerial positions beginning in the early 1980’s, Karbasian’s business interests flourished during his time in the private sector thanks to government contracts. He is now back at the helm of a key government holding company, whose portfolio he needs to privatize – presumably to friendly investors like himself. Above him sits Minister of Industries and Trade, Mohammad Reza Nematzadeh, another veteran of the Islamic Republic’s cabinet, who, in between government assignments, ran overseas companies for Iran’s energy industry.
    Then there’s Rouhani’s Minister of Justice, Mostafa Pour Mohammadi, known for his blood-soaked past. In 1988, at the behest of the late Ayatollah Ruollah Khomeini and with the full knowledge and backing of former president Rafsanjani, Pour Mohammadi was responsible for the death of thousands of political prisoners, who were ultimately executed after infamous one-minute trials. For his solicitude in efficiently ridding Iran of so many political undesirables, Pour Mohammadi earned the post of deputy Minister of Intelligence once Rafsanjani became president in 1989. And his corruption extends beyond his reputation as a ruthless murderer.
    Ahmadinejad appointed Pour Mohammadi Interior Minister because of his bloody record, but eventually tried to fire him because of his graft. The trigger was the allegation that he had stolen millions from the ministry’s account for his own personal use. There was only one problem: Pour Mohammadi headed the institution in charge of prosecuting him. With Ahmadinejad now gone, Pour Mohammadi is back in a position that allows him to return to his old habits of theft and graft.
    Another example is Valiollah Seif, the new head of Iran’s Central Bank, who was the CEO of Bank Saderat from 1992 to 1995, and presided over one of the most notorious corruption cases in Iran involving the embezzlement of millions of dollars from Saderat Bank. The main culprits in the scheme were Fazel Khodadad and Morteza Rafiqdoust, the latter the brother of the president of the Mostazafan Foundation, Mohsen Rafiqdoust, whose vice president for international and economic affairs at one point was Seif himself. Khodadad was executed, but not Rafiqdoust.
    Moshsen Rafiqdoust stayed at the Foundation. His brother Morteza stayed alive. Seif quit Saderat Bank, but his banking career never suffered – he was quickly appointed CEO of the Bank Sepah. He later became the CEO of Karafarin Bank, a U.S. and EU sanctioned bank controlled by Iran’s Supreme Leader, its main shareholder. In short, Mr. Seif has a record of corruption and of loyalty to the Islamic Republic’s financial interests, which appears to have been the reason Rouhani appointed him.
    It is increasingly clear that Rouhani’s skilled and moderate technocrats are in fact the old elite of regime stalwarts, whose main claim to fame is making themselves rich in pursuit of public office. Competent though they may be at maximizing business profits for government companies, these new appointees are faithful servants of the Islamic Republic and loyal associates of those who, like Rafsanjani, helped make them rich. Rouhani has provided them with renewed access to power so they are free to plunder again.
    Ahmadinejad’s rhetoric will not be missed. But given that his successor brings only a smile and experienced embezzlers to the job, it’s a pity his assault on the entrenched elites of the Islamic Republic was not more successful.
    *This post was co-authored by Emanuele Ottolenghi, a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies in Washington DC; Mr Saeed Ghasseminejad, a Ph.D. Candidate in Finance at City University of New York.