Friday, September 29, 2006

Prisoner swap?

The present is buried in the past, and past mistakes come back to haunt you. The current model for Hamas and Hizbollah is the fact that Israel released 400 Palestinian prisoners plus 39 Lebanese and 59 bodies in 2004 to Hizbollah, in exchange for the bodies of three dead IDF soldiers, previously captured and killed by them in a cross-border raid, and with them a former IDF Colonel and businessman, Elchanan Tenenbaum, who was apparently lured to Kuwait on the promise of a drug deal. When returned he was lucky not to get a long prison sentence for helping the enemy.
In fact, in the past 30 years, notwithstanding routine statements about not dealing with terrorists, Israel has released a total of 7,000 prisoners in exchange for 19 Israelis (nearly 400 per Israeli) and the bodiers of 8 others. If you were sitting on the Palestinian or Hizbollah side, you would look at these statisics and decide, "Hey, all we have to do to get our prisoners back, and become heroes to our people, is to mount a surprise cross-border raid, take some soldiers captive, and bingo! We know the Israelis will deal!" So the current situation in which Hamas in Gaza is holding IDF Cpl. Shalit, and Hizbollah in Lebanon is holding Sgts. Goldwasser and Regev, was initiated based on Israel's mistakes in the past. I don't care who they are, and this may sound harsh, there should be no dealing with terrorists, since it only encourages them to kidnap more Israelis. Only because they know they will get something outrageous for it do they specifically base their strategy on the capture of Israeli soldiers. If they knew that they would get nothing they wouldn't bother to do it.
Of course, there is a conflicting issue here, since the IDF's ethical policies means that they will never leave a fallen colleague on the battlefield, and they will do all they can to retrieve them if captured. But, originally these prisoner exchanges were first instituted by Israel after mothers put tremendous personal pressure on PM Rabin to get their sons back. Knowing how much value we place on the life of every individual soldier, the terrorists know they can exploit our humanity. But, the national interest must be placed above personal considerations. Certainly, I would want the Government to deal if it were my son captured, but that's not the point, its the State or its representatives, not me or any other related person who should decide. Certainly the media make much more fuss about the captured individual than the many more who lost their lives in the fighting, for example 8 others were killed in the same Hizbollah cross border attack on July 12 that captured the two soldiers, and noone remembers their names!
At first PM Olmert stated that he would not accept a ceasefire until the captives were released in Lebanon, but he didn't stick to that, then he stated that the IDF would not withdraw from Lebanon until the two captives were released, but he didn't stick to that either. He also stated that he would not meet with Pres Abbas of the PA until Shalit was released, but he abrogated that too. So far he has kept to the position that the prisoners in Lebanon must be released before Israel will release any prisoners in exchange, as enshrined in UN resolution 1701, that says that they must be released "unconditionally". Let's hope that he keeps to that! But, eventually one can expect that ca. 400 prisoners will be released for each Israeli captive, leading to the capture of more IDF soldiers in the future. Give the terrorists an incentive and they'll take it.

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Subtle dance

In the past few days reports have appeared of a meeting between PM Olmert and Saudi King Abdallah, but these reports have been vehemently denied by both sides. What is one to make of this? Was there a reason why the reports have been appearing now, and equally that the meeting never occurred or if it did occur, it shouldn't have. What is the significance of this subtle dance between the Israeli PM and his mortal enemy, the King of Saudi Arabia (or a "senior Saudi official").
At the beginning of the recent war in Lebanon, Saudi Arabia officially criticized Hizbollah for taking preemptive action and plunging the region into a crisis, without any consultation with the Lebanese Government, and not only that, not with the usual suspects of the anti-Israel coalition, namely the "confrontation" states of Egypt, Jordan and Saudi Arabia, in other words the Sunni "moderates." This criticism was unpreceedented, and was soon replaced with more congratulatory comments towards Hizbollah, once they were actually in combat with the IDF and once the extent of destruction in Lebanon ("disproportionate") became the media focus. It was clear that this Hizbollah action was dictated from Iran. So for the first time the Arabs were not determining policy of war and peace towards Israel, the inititative has been taken out of their hands by the Shia Muslim non-Arabs, the Iranians.
The Saudis have good reason to fear the power of the Iranian State, that in a way is filling the vacuum left by the overthrow of Saddam Hussein and the chaos in Iraq. In effect the Americans did just what the Iranians have been longing for for a long time, they removed their greatest proximal enemy. And with the US bogged down fighting the insurgencies in Iraq and Afghanistan, Iran is flexing its muscles. The Saudis and the Egyptians as well as the Gulf Arabs have as much to fear from an Iranian nuclear weapon as does Israel. Perhps more because they have no answer to nuclear blackmail, at least Israel is supposed to have nuclear weapons too, that might deter the Iranian threat to Israel.
The main magnet for Iranian interest/attack on the Gulf Arabs States is oil! In effect Iran is now replacing Iraq under Saddam as the great Middle East power, that is immensely attracted to the oil, not least because it would put them in charge of the destiny of the West. By regulating/stopping the flow of oil to the West from the oilfields and through the Straits of Hormuz in the Persian Gulf, the Iranians could weaken the West without actually attacking it militarily, and then when it is weakened by financial chaos, then turn the screws with military and terrorist attacks. There have been reports that the Iranians are training 40,000 young people to send into the West to carry out suicide bombings. They are prepared to kill their own children, as they showed before in the Iraq war, and by the time these children are grown they will be hardened martyrs for the supremacy of Shi'ite Islam.
This scenario is more than idle speculation, it underlies the report that PM Olmert said in an interview with the J'sam Post this week that Pres. Bush is determined that Iran will not get an atomic weapon. Now we know why, and we hope that all reasonable Westerners will see the danger in such a weapon being in the hands of a fundamentalist Islamic Shi'ite State. The future of the Western world depends upon it.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

UNIFIL2 rules of engagement

In the past few days reports have appeared of a meeting between PM Olmert and Saudi King Abdallah, but these reports have been vehemently denied by both sides. What is one to make of this? Was there a reason why the reports have been appearing now, and equally that the meeting never occurred or if it did occur, it shouldn't have. What is the significance of this subtle dance between the Israeli PM and his mortal enemy, the King of Saudi Arabia (or a "senior Saudi official").
At the beginning of the recent war in Lebanon, Saudi Arabia officially criticized Hizbollah for taking preemptive action and plunging the region into a crisis, without any consultation with the Lebanese Government, and not only that, not with the usual suspects of the anti-Israel coalition, namely the "confrontation" states of Egypt, Jordan and Saudi Arabia, in other words the Sunni "moderates." This criticism was unpreceedented, and was soon replaced with more congratulatory comments towards Hizbollah, once they were actually in combat with the IDF and once the extent of destruction in Lebanon ("disproportionate") became the media focus. It was clear that this Hizbollah action was dictated from Iran. So for the first time the Arabs were not determining policy of war and peace towards Israel, the inititative has been taken out of their hands by the Shia Muslim non-Arabs, the Iranians.
The Saudis have good reason to fear the power of the Iranian State, that in a way is filling the vacuum left by the overthrow of Saddam Hussein and the chaos in Iraq. In effect the Americans did just what the Iranians have been longing for for a long time, they removed their greatest proximal enemy. And with the US bogged down fighting the insurgencies in Iraq and Afghanistan, Iran is flexing its muscles. The Saudis and the Egyptians as well as the Gulf Arabs have as much to fear from an Iranian nuclear weapon as does Israel. Perhps more because they have no answer to nuclear blackmail, at least Israel is supposed to have nuclear weapons too, that might deter the Iranian threat to Israel.
The main magnet for Iranian interest/attack on the Gulf Arabs States is oil! In effect Iran is now replacing Iraq under Saddam as the great Middle East power, that is immensely attracted to the oil, not least because it would put them in charge of the destiny of the West. By regulating/stopping the flow of oil to the West from the oilfields and through the Straits of Hormuz in the Persian Gulf, the Iranians could weaken the West without actually attacking it militarily, and then when it is weakened by financial chaos, then turn the screws with military and terrorist attacks. There have been reports that the Iranians are training 40,000 young people to send into the West to carry out suicide bombings. They are prepared to kill their own children, as they showed before in the Iraq war, and by the time these children are grown they will be hardened martyrs for the supremacy of Shi'ite Islam.
This scenario is more than idle speculation, it underlies the report that PM Olmert said in an interview with the J'sam Post this week that Pres. Bush is determined that Iran will not get an atomic weapon. Now we know why, and we hope that all reasonable Westerners will see the danger in such a weapon being in the hands of a fundamentalist Islamic Shi'ite State. The future of the Western world depends upon it.

Monday, September 25, 2006

Unexpected haven

The first Concentration Camp for Jews in Italy was established in 1938 located in the extreme south of Italy in the poor region of Calabria in an isolated valley called Ferramonti. From the beginning, the Italian administration allowed the internees to regulate the life of the camp. They established schools and synagogues, and the doctors among them gave medical treatment not only to their fellow inmates, but also to the local inhabitants, who were deprived of such luxuries. Essentially it was like a normal camp, where the food was bad, the conditions unpleasant, but there were no killings and the Italian military that ran the camps was very easy-going and even friendly. Interactions were allowed with the local Italians and bartering and selling were carried out openly. In every respect it was different from a German Concentratrion Camp and in fact, it turned out to be a haven from the war. A few unlucky German Jews were repatriated to Germany, but the rest of the Jews (Italians and Jews from Eastern and Central Europe) were saved, ca. 1,000 Jews survived the war there.
In 1941, a group of 500 Zionists from Bratislava tried to escape from Europe via the Danube on an old wreck called the Pentcho. Miraculously they managed to survive being shot at by the Rumanians and Bulgarians and made it to the Aegean Sea, where they floundered, and were subsequently interned in Ferramonti. As with the other Jews they were left alone, and as soon as the war ended they continued their journey to Palestine.
On the island of Rab in the Adriatic Sea the Italians established two adjacent camps, one where they interned Jews for their protection, mostly Jews who had fled from German and Croatian areas, and the other Camp for the imprisonment and "repression" of Slavs. It should be remembered that Slovenia, Serbia and other Slav areas were anti-fascist and were considered enemies by the Italians. In this camp, the Slavs were treated terribly, while in the Jewish camp ironically the people were protected.
However, after the Allied Invasion of southern Italy and the subsequent fall of the Mussolini regime and the takeover by the Germans of northern Italy, the remaining camps fell into German hands and things changed drastically. The Germans built a true German style Concentratrion Camp outside Trieste known as the "Rice Factory" and began to kill Jews there, but fortunately it was so near the end of the war that it only lasted a short time, and was then partly destroyed by the Germans themselves to hide the evidence.
Nevertheless, the Italian Army and the Camps in the south of Italy that never came under German occupation saved many Jewish lives. This article came about because a former inmate of the Italian camps pointed out to me a special commemoration service that took place in the ruins of Ferramonti, which the Italian Government is considering putting on a list of historic places.
Information about the camp at Ferramonti can be found at

Sunday, September 24, 2006

The lessons of 5766

The past year, 5766 in the Hebrew calendar, has been a momentous year in Jewish/Israeli history. Not only was there the second Lebanese war with Hizbollah, but all the events leading up to it. The disengagement from Gaza, that lead to PM Sharon losing support among his own Likud Party, hence the splitting off to form the Kadima Party. Then Sharon's strokes that finally put him out of the picture, although he is still alive.
Then Olmert stepped forward as Sharon's successor and became PM. The election resulting in Kadima's victory on the basis of the "realignment" from the West Bank, and then the formation of a coalition with Labor, resulting in Amir Peretz, for the first time a man with no relevant background, becoming Defense Minister. The firing of Kassem rockets from Gaza, finally reaching Ashkelon, resulted in IDF action to try to stop the rockets, and then the Hamas attack that resulted in the killing of two IDF soldiers and the capture of Cpl. Shalit. Then Hizbollah decided to get into the act, and carried out a similar action on the northern front, crossing the international border killing 8 IDF soldiers and capturing two, Goldwasser and Regev. We all know these bare facts, but what about the trends behind them, what do they portend?
Perhaps the most significant outcome was that the IDF was unable to "win" this war. They were unable to achieve any of the main goals of the war, first the recapture of the two Lebanese captives, second the "destruction" of Hizbollah, and third stopping the Katyusha bombardment on northern Israel. Yes, the IAF did extensively destroy Hizbollah assets in south Beirut and southern Lebanon. But, the fact is that Hizbollah was still fighting up to the ceasefire and after a month was still firing 100 rockets a day into Israel. By all accounts the actions of the IDF were uninspiring. Examples are: 1. The lack of readiness of the IDF for action in the north. It is an amazing fact that knowing that Hizbollah had over 10,000 rockets and knowing that they had been fortifying the villages in southern Lebanon for 6 years, there were no up-to-date maps or intelligence available for an IDF invading force. One would think this was elementary, how could they send men into action with maps dating from 2000? Unbelievable! 2. The political and military echelons were unprepared for any kind of war, and had no overall strategy. Decisions about how to execute the war were made on the spur of the moment with no overall plan of action. It was obvious to most people that an invasion of the north was necessary in order to try to stop the firing of the rockets, but this was repeatedly put off in favor of air attacks and piecemeal attacks on fortified villages, until two days before the ceasefire. In the past, Israel's tactics have always been to bypass heavily fortified positions and cut off the lines of supply in the rear. Why was this not attempted in this situation? 3. Hizbollah was not a bunch of ill-trained terrorists as we thought, but a well-trained and well-equipped terrorist army. Their tactics were well-prepared, they used motor bikes to outflank IDF positions, they listened in to IDF communciations and due to carelessness by Israeli reservists they were able to decode and decipher front line conversations.
Yesterday Hizbollah held a huge victory rally in south Beirut. Sheikh Nasrallah harangued the crowd and declared a "holy" victory. For the first time an Arab force (supported by the Iranians) had "defeated" the glorified IDF. In reality things are not so clear-cut. By objective measures, the destruction of its infrastructure and the loss of its fighters, Hizbullah really lost. But, in terms of PR and politics they won. So the results on both sides of the border are characteristically different. Hizbollah celebrates a victory, while the Israeli people are soul-searching, why were 100 IDF and 50 civilians killed, why did the home front fail to act (people in the north were left to their own devices), and why did the IDF not achieve its principal aims? All of these questions will be considered in great detail in the coming year, and let's hope answers will be forthcoming, so that such as situation will never be allowed to be repeated.
One thing is clear, we have to throw out the current Government, we have to repudiate the policy, that we tried and saw that it failed, of piecemeal "disengagements," and continue to retain as much territory as possible until any kind of reciprocal agreement can be negotiated with the PA. We have to replace the Government with more experienced and militarily competent men, particularly in the key positions of Minister of Defense and Chief of Staff (no more Air Force Chiefs). I don't believe it is appropriate to call for their immediate resignations, the results of the war were not that drastic, and it is best not to "change horses in mid-stream." The Committees need to report back, the true picture needs to be examined in detail, and then maybe the coalition will collapse and a new election will be held.
It is not hard to predict that Benjamin Netanyahu of Likud will be elected PM with a larger majority and that Kadima will be thrashed. As usual a center party lasts for only one term in Israeli politics, and as a result of the war a majority of Israelis have turned to the right, under the circumstances this is the only sensible thing to do. In a recent poll of potential candidates, Netanyahu scored 45%, Olmert 24% and Peretz, Head of the Labor Party 1%! When the current Government releases 500-1,000 prisoners for captive soldiers that were kidnapped as a result of its incompetent policies then the die will be cast.
May 5767 be a better and more peaceful year for Israel, and may the lessons of the past year be learnt.

Friday, September 22, 2006

Israel for Iran?

Whenever the US gets itself into a corner and can't find a way out, one way always comes up. To make friends and obtain quid pro quo the US usually tries to deliver Israel. That is what is behind the deal that the Bush Administration has apparently made with the Quartet (US, UN, EU & Russia) at the UN yesterday, in order to gain the support of these nations for its Iranian policy. This is not to say that Israel does not support the US Iranian policy, nor is Israel in principle against talking to Abbas, which is what FM Tzipi Livni did at the UN and what Olmert will do soon in the region. But, the US dropped one of its most consistent policies, namely not to deal with Hamas, an unregenerate Islamist terrorist organization.
Now, does it make much sense to agree to accept Hamas in a Unity Palestinian Government, when Hamas is supported by Iran, and at the same time use this to get support from other nations against Iran? What the US is saying is that since they no longer oppose Hamas in a Unity PA Government, Israel should do so too. But, Israel will not do so.
Fortunately, this may be an academic point since: 1. Both the US and the Quartet as well as Israel will still apply the three conditions for working with any PA Govt., namely that it recognize Israel's right to exist, stop terrorism and accept all previous PA agreements. It is highly unlikely verging on the impossible that Hamas in any shape or form would accept this, particularly since their sponsor Iran would not agree to this. But, Abbas has announced that they will. 2. On the ground there are ongoing violent clashes between Hamas and Fatah. A few days ago PM Haniyeh's way to his office was blocked by striking Fatah workers and his bodyguards literally had to fight their way in, including shooting their guns. A few days ago a General, deputy intelligence chief to Abbas, was gunned down in his car. Such incidents are going on all the time, and have nothing directly to do with Israel. They represent the fundamental differences between the secular and nationalist Fatah and the Islamist Hamas. Can they ever forge a Unity Govt.? Probably not!
One interesting sidelight to this situation is a that a few days ago an aide to Secty. of State Condy Rice gave a speech in which he pointed out that with the US mired in Iraq, and with anti-American feeling bubbling up in the whole Arab/Muslim world, and with the EU opposing many US policies, and now that Israel's image has been tarnished from the outcome of the Second Lebanon War (even though this is largely media manipulation), the US, in order to placate its friends and seduce its enemies, has only one card to play, namely delivering Israel. When Israel protested this speech, Rice immediately denied that there was any intention of changing US policy, but of course that was a lie. It's a game that has been played many times before, and it usually fails, not least because of Congressional support for Israel and because the Arabs usually shoot themselves in the foot one way or another.
It remains to be seen if this version of "delivering" Israel, in this case in exchange for support for its Iranian policy, will be successful for the US.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

The UN Circus

What is going on at the Annual General Meeting of the UN has its pros and cons. Certainly there are some serious attempts to deal with the issues that are currently (and chronically) on the front burner. Of course, most leaders emphasize the Israel-Palestine conflict, while blaming Israel for "the occupation" as Kofi Annan did in his speech, and for the "invasion of Lebanon" as many other speakers did (forgetting that Hizbollah actually started it, but that's an inconvenient detail). Apart from this perennial topic, the most mentioned issues were the Iranian nuclear threat, and the chaos in Darfur.
Most Western nations agree that the Sudanese Government is not being cooperative in refusing to accept UN forces, and the lack of aid getting in and the continued fighting is likely to push the death toll so far to 200,000, with 2-3 million people in danger of starvation. But, as usual, the Arab/Muslim nations draw together in a defensive stance every time any one of them is criticized. Although it is required that the host nation request any peacekeeping force, as Lebanon did, there is an attempt at the UN to force a peace-keeping presence on Sudan. But, this could be a dangerous precedent, because then a majority could turn around and say that Israel must be forced to take a UN peace-keeping force on its territory. So it is not necessarily a good precedent.
Pres. Bush gave a fair analysis of the situation, and put his finger on the main culprits, Islamic radicals and Iran (without mentioning it). He was careful to draw the distinction between Islam and the terrorists. Pres. Hugo Chavez of Venezuela, who is making a strong bid to become the leader of the "nonaligned world" in the absence of Pres.Fidel Castro of Cuba, made a disgusting speech, in which he very deliberately insulted Pres. Bush. This was a new low for a so-called leader of a country. The so-called non-aligned movement in the absence of the Soviet Union has turned into a one-sided anti-American, anti-Israel movement.
Even Pres. Amhedinejad's speech was tame in comparison to that of Chavez. But, he made the usual points, that Iran only wants nuclear capability for peaceful purposes (yeah, I trust him) and that the US and its allies control the UN (that's a laugh given the actual control of the 81 Muslim and allied nations).
Israeli FM, Tzipi Livni, called the US granting of a visa to Amhedinejad, given his stated intention of wiping Israel, a UN member, off the map, a "scandal." Livni seemed to do very well, and her meeting with PA Pres. Abbas was well received. As long as the PA Unity Govt. accepts the three conditions of the international community, recognition of Israel's right to exist, no terrorism, and accepting past agreements of the PA, then Israel can deal with it. But, let's be honest, the likelihood of Hamas accepting these conditions is nil. Pres. Bush also met with Abbas and called him "a man of peace." Yes, but he doesn't currently control the situation in the PA, as witness the current unrest and killings in Gaza.
Another leader who was taken by surprise by events at home was Thailand's PM Thaksin Shinowatra. He was deposed by a military coup and suddenly was without a government. He bowed out of the GA and started his journey home to whatever awaits him.
I am in favor of a proposal that appeared in the J'sam Post recently for the formation of an international organization of democratic nations. This is not intended to replace the UN, but rather to form a growing group of countries that would or could vote as a bloc for democratic interests. This might persuade some countries that have been "third world" or "nonaligned," such as India, to consider its true interests (it is certainly threatened by Islamic terrorists). It is about time the democratic nations asserted themselves to stop such nonsense as 2/3 of the Gen Assembly resolutions being anti-Israel, and countries such as Syria being on the UN Commission of Human Rights.
Kofi Annan's speech was his last to the annual convention and there is already jockeying for his position. An Indian is being considered. I favor Tony Blair, he would make a great UN Secty. Gen. and would reassert its original aims, that have been lost in the miasma of extremism and futility. Perhaps the UN's time has passed, but I can dream can't I.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Crime in Israel

Last week a large modern men's store on the main street, Rehov Herzl, in Netanya was torched. It may have been an accidental fire, but the likelihood of that is near zero. Peridically fires destroy new stores in Netanya, and everyone knows why, it's the mafia, probably the Russian mafia. Some of the Russian immigrants, just as immigrants in other countries, are involved in crime, in this case a "protection racket."
Israel is now one of the main targets of illegal trafficking in women due to the Russian mafia. The women are usually taken illegally across the border from Egypt by Beduin and work in brothels in Tel Aviv and elsewhere. Even with military patrols it is almost impossible to stop them. I spoke to a young soldier who does this work and he said that the Beduin use dune buggies, drive without lights and will fire at anyone who gets in their way. Most of the women come from Moldova, Ukraine and Belarus, and are blondes, not indigenous here and in demand.
But, the local Israeli criminals need no training by the Russians. Currently there is a hearing going on in the Knesset, the Zeiler Commission, looking into official corruption in the Police Department. The subject is incredibly tortuous. A letter was written by a former top policeman, Cmdr.Yaakov Borovsky, accusing his former boss and current Inspector Gen. Moshe Karadi of being involved in getting former Minister Tzahi Hanegbi (who is currently under investigation for improper appointments) to appoint a police Asst.-Cmdr. Yoram Levy, who had a relationship to the Perinian crime family that is active in southern Israel, as head of the Southern District's Central Investigative Unit, in order to prevent the Perinians (and Omri Sharon) from being indicted for buying votes for the Likud. You see what I mean, typical situation. Of course, Hanegbi and Karadi say that Borovsky is lying, and the State Comptroller, Lindestrauss is also investigating the matter. Somewhere in there was also the murder of a gangster named Buhbut (I am not making this up!)
Last March, one of the major crime figures in Israel, Zeev Rosenstein, was extradited from Israel to the US, where he is standing trial in Ft. Lauderdale on drug trafficking charges. If convicted he will be returned to Israel to serve his sentence. This is a condition of Israeli extradition agreements.
So there is plenty of crime in Israel. There were two kinds of Zionists, idealists who wanted to develop a perfect nation where there was no crime and no injustice, and those realists who wanted a Jewish State like all other states. Seems the latter group won.

Monday, September 18, 2006

Comparative theology

Theology is no science, it is a discipline that is self-serving for each religion. There are three takes on the Pope's foray into comparative theology: (1) his public talks are carefully crafted so that he must have known how that particular little quotation from the 14th century would be received in the Muslim world; (2) even the Pope and his advisors could not have forseen the strength of the reaction, given the relatively innocuous nature of the point he was making and the tendency to over-reaction in the Muslim world; (3) by castigating Mohammed for spreading his religion "by the sword" he was leaving Christianity open to the same criticism, given how Christianity was also spread.
Newspapers are full of parallel articles each focussing on one of these reactions. Overall, the impact is that Pope Benedict XVI is far more aggressive on this point than his predecessor. In a way he is right, what do you make of a religion that reacts to an accusation of being violent by rioting, burning flags (Israeli and American?), blowing up Churches and even killing a nun in Somalia. Four churches were fire-bombed on the West Bank and two in Gaza. What is even more odd is that these were mostly Greek Orthodox churches, meaning that the culprits make no distinction between distinct Christian sects. Also, a Greek Orthodox Bishop was quoted as saying that the Muslims who did this were ignorant. I wonder if he would say the same thing the next time Muslims riot and attack Jewish properties and people.
What the Pope was actually trying to say is that violence has no place in religion, and this goes for forced conversions (which Catholics used routinely) as well as terrorism. In that respect he is right, and his making this point is a measure of how far Catholicism has come in the past 40 or so years. That is not to say that all Catholics have changed, witness Mel Gibson's anti-Semitic tirade as characteristic of a certain group of drunken Catholics.
There are two points that need to be made to Muslims: (1) Islam was spread by the sword, and this is not just my opinion, but that of Bernard Lewis, one of the world's leading experts on Islam, as well as our own local expert Livia Bitton-Jackson, who has lectured here on the origins of Islam. In the Koran it describes how when Mohammed was rejected in Mecca he raised an army in Medina and then went back and conquered Mecca, the so-called Hajira, that is considered the beginning of Islam. Also, note that Islam means "submission" and people tend to submit more readily when they have a sword at their neck. How else did Islam spread so quickly from Arabia, within a century becoming an Empire from Spain in the West to India in the East. And then it collapsed leaving a legacy of violent struggles. (2) The reaction to the Pope's point and the resort to terrorism by Muslim radicals only goes to proove the point, that Islam is fundamentally a violent religion, that seeks to replace all other religions, and needs to evolve into a peaceful and tolerant religion before there can be peaceful coexistence. Before then talk of peaceful coexistence is wish fulfillment.

Saturday, September 16, 2006

Ancient and modern

There used to be a major clash of civilizations between the two great monotheistic religions, Christianity and Islam, that are derived from Judaism. This was exemplified by the Muslim invasions of Europe - at the Pyrenees, where Islamic armies were defeated at the battle of Poitiers in 732 by Charles Martel ("the hammer") and the Moors who were finally expelled from Spain in 1492, and outside Vienna in 1683 resulting in the Treaty of Carlowitz in 1699 between the Turkish Empire and the "Holy League" of Europeans. But for these two defeats Europe would long since have become Muslim. The clash was also represented by the counter-invasions of the Crusades.
Now there is a civil invasion by immigration of millions of Muslims into European countries. They come because, like many Africans, there is no work in their countires of origin, that have failed to keep pace with Western development, and because the Western countries need unskilled and some skilled workers to satisfy the needs of their economies. So the Muslims are gradually, by stealth, trying to accomplish what they could not do by force centuries ago. While we must repeat the truism that "not all Muslims are terrorists, but all terrorists are Muslims," we must be aware that most Muslims are in sympathy with the attitudes of the extremists. This is exemplified by the many trials occuring of Muslims in the UK for some relationship with underground, illegal and/or terrorist groups, as well as the use of Muslim facilties, mosques and schools, to distribute anti-Western propaganda. This is the modern onslaught of Islam against the West, but can it be successful where the ancient wars failed?
There is a peculiar resentment among Muslims that they are not predominant in the world. This is a bit like the Communists, whose ideology was supposedly superior to that of materialistic capitalism, even though their system collapsed. Also, Fascism had a superior idology, that involved the killing of all opponents to make a pure world, but luckily that too was defeated. Now the idology of extreme Islam seeks to supplant all other civilizations with their sharia law and Muslim culture. Much of this, while not of specifically religious origin, includes the suppression of women, forcing them to wear all-encompassing clothes, not going out in public alone, not speaking to men in public, etc. Such repressive regimes, as far as the West is concerned, are found in Iran, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, etc.
Now the Pope makes a speech, and very much like the inocuous cartoons published in Denmark, there are demonstrations all around the world, from Egypt to Indonesia and in Pakistan the Parliament passes a unanimous condemnation of the Pope. This is a reversion to the status quo ante, except so far with words and not with guns. But, the Pope was quoting a 600 year old statement, and even if the speech is offensive to Muslims, within the context of a secular society it is totally inocuous, a comment on the historical fact (that Muslims deny) that Islam was spread by "the sword." But, while the Pope may well be right that the use of jihad by Muhammed, spreading Islam by the sword, was an inappropriately violent basis for a religion. However, the Pope seems to forget that Christianty was also spread in a similar way, for example during the Crusades, when many Jews and Muslims were sacrificed to the sword in order to force them to convert to the "one, true faith." The inquisition in Spain was a further typical example of this attitude. In fact, the presence at Regensburg, where the Pope gave his speech, of a notorious concentration camp where Jews were murdered during WWII, was the logical outcome of this Christian attitude. They may not have called it jihad, but the consequences were the same.
So now the big question is whether or not the "clash" between Islam and the West will remain at a slow boil or will it burst out into a full-out war. If it can be subsumed under the rubric of secularism, and can be kept at the level of the war on terrorism, then it can be managed.

Friday, September 15, 2006


Major Gen. Udi Adam, Head of Northern Command of the IDF during the recent war in Lebanon, has resigned. He presented his letter of resignation to the Chief of Staff Dan Halutz yesterday and to Defense Minister Peretz today. In resigning Gen. Adam did not take personal responsibility for all the many failures of the war, but did so as a matter of personal integrity. Apparently during the war he had a serious falling out with Dan Halutz, which caused Halutz to appoint his Deputy Maj. Gen. Kaplinsky as his representative to the Northern command as a means of out-flanking Adam. Adam comes from a well-known military family, his father was a famous general who carried out numerous dangerous actions in the Yom Kippur war in Sinai and was the highest IDF rank killed in action. Adam has stated that he hopes his action will cause other high officers to follow his example. By this he clearly means Halutz and Peretz.
There were two kinds of failures that took place during the war, and even though there were many and they were significant, overall the war was still a success relative to the predicament of Hizbollah. The two kinds of failures were strategic and tactical. The strategic failures were largely commited by the highest echelon of Government and IDF involving war strategy, such as whether or not to depend largely or entirely on IAF power, and if or when to engage the IDF armored corps and infantry in a ground invasion of S. Lebanon. It does not take too much imagination to conclude that the crux of the disagreement between Adam and Halutz was over this issue, since Halutz was former head of the air force and Adam was head of the tanks corps. Most observers agree that Halutz relied too much on air power and should have involved the ground forces earlier and at larger strength than was eventually used, but others disagree. There was no doubt a great deal of indecision at the command level, with IDF forces being ordered into battle, and then the orders being either cancelled or changed. This has been interpreted as the higher echelon rescinding orders that might have resulted in casualties that would have been their responsibility. As a result the war was fought in an indecisive and incoherent manner.
The tactical failures were such as not supplying food and water to the troops on the ground, not taking enough precautions to protect troops in bivouac areas from incoming rockets, incorrect armaments, not enough intelligence of fortified Hizbollah positions, not enough coordination between helicopters and ground forces, etc. Other failures, included the lack of a defence against short range Katyusha rockets (Nautilus) and no active defence of tanks (17 were hit and several IDF servicemen were killed), even though systems to do this were recently cancelled by the Defense Ministry.
There are now several Committees set up by the Olmert Government to look into these failures and report. No doubt some heads will roll, but Adam will probably not be one of them. He took the dignified way out.
It should be pointed out that after most wars, both sides lick their wounds and try to find out what happened. The sense of failure, of not having done as well as one could have done, is probably inevitable. But, while Israel is facing its failures, it is sinking in in Lebanon and the Arab world that Hizbollah took a drubbing. They have been forced to agree to things that were inconceivable before the war, such as the deployment of the Lebanese Army and international forces (UNIFIL2) in the south and in view of the huge extent of the destruction in the Shia areas, they will not any time soon risk losing their support in Lebanon and among the Shia by provoking Israel or jeopardizing the ceasefire.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

PA Unity Government

Negotiations over many months between Pres. Abbas of Fatah and PM Haniyeh of Hamas have finally resulted in agreement to form a Unity Government. Superficially the outcome is positive in that now the split in the PA is less likely to result in a civil war, and more likely to result in continued negotiations with Israel.
While Abbas will strut before the cameras as if he is in charge, in reality the Unity Government is a front, a facade behind which Hamas will continue to wield the power and determine the outcome. Haniyeh will reman PM, and only seven of the Ministers will be from other parties. Haniyeh's office issued a statement that said that while the Unity Government can talk peace with Israel, that is really the job of the PLO, and even if a peace agreement is reached, that does not mean that Hamas will recognize Israel's right to exist or stop the armed struggle. In other words, one part of the Government can negotiate peace with Israel, while another part, including the PM, will not accept it. Does this make any sense?
The international community set three conditions for Hamas to be recognized as a legitimate government of the PA, not only recognizing Israel's right to exist, but also stopping the use of terrorism/violence and accepting previous agreements made by the PA. None of these conditions have been met by the formation of the Unity Government, even if Fatah claims to have satisfied them, and so the Unity Government cannot qualify for international recognition or payments. Nevertheless, the EU, has immediately announced that it will recognize the Unity Government, and will drop the economic boycott that it was enforcing against the Hamas Government. It is to be hoped that at least the US will not be taken in by this flimsy attempt at international flim-flam.
A more charitable, optimistic, and leftist interpretation is that at least Israel can negotiate with Pres. Abbas, that maybe a long-term ceasefire (hudna) will be agreed, and that during this period the Unity Govt. will result in a period of peaceful coesistence, with no terrorism, that will eventually lead to peace. It's a nice story if you want to believe it.
Meanwhile the Israeli Govt. is not so stable. Last night after a 12 hour session the Cabinet voted by 19-4 to accept the Budget drafted by the Finance Minister. Amir Peretz was in a bind, as Defense Minister he should have voted for the increased funding of his Ministry, but as Head of the Labor Party he should have voted against the budget because it dropped most of the social expenditures he committed himself to. So like a good politician he abstained. But, most of his Party colleagues voted for the budget, showing a split in the Labor Party in which the members did not follow their leader. Also, the Shas Party members of the Coalition boycotted the vote altogether. This leaves the Government in a weak position going forward to the Finance Committee and the Knesset votes on the Budget. If it is rejected at any stage it could lead to the downfall of the Government.
After the partial failure of the war in Lebanon and its eventual consequences, and the current budget struggle, and Gilad Shalit still being held by a Hamas group, Israel will not be negotiating with the PA Unity Government from a position of strength.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

9/11 + 5

Five years ago the title of this piece would have been considered a test of arithmetic, now it has it own calculus. Everyone recognizes that the world changed on that day, after Muslim radicals attacked the US in what amounted to a declaration of war and killed over 3,000 Americans on US soil. What has happened since then are various acts in the ongoing War against Islamic Terror.
While this is not a war against Islam, it is sometimes difficult for people to distinguish between the majority of peaceful Muslims and the radical fringe. But, make no mistake, this radical fringe is not a small minority, maybe 20% of Muslims agree with the use of force against Americans, and support the program of al Qaeda and other violent groups. This has been discovered in polls at various times throughout the world from Indonesia, Malaysia, Pakistan, Iraq, and among Muslims in the UK, France and the US. While a large proportion of Muslims don't agree with the use of suicide bombers, they do agree with the aims of the radicals, mainly because they feel that they are victimized by the West and are aggrieved as Muslims.
The biggest lie that is being promulgated today by many Western liberals as well as Muslim "moderates" is that the reaction of the West to the 9/11 attacks and the subsequent invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq, are now the CAUSE of the current continuing violence. On the contrary, they still are the reaction to it. It is as if the action of 9/11 and subsequent attacks in London (7/7), Madrid, Bali, Casablanca, Karachi, etc. are readily discounted. The letter sent by a group of prominent Muslims in the UK to PM Blair, opposing his policies and threatening him if he does not change them, and the hateful public reaction to Blair's visit to Lebanon exemplify these attitudes. PM Siniora, in response to the protest from an Irish journalist at the press conference, said essentially (in Arabic) "I thank those who protest, but we can get something from this guy so that's why I invited him." Just as Arafat always said to the Israelis, either change your policies and accept mine or you will suffer (from terroism of others). This is politics by intimidation, or as Daniel Pipes called it "Piggybacking on terror," (
And the attacks have not stopped, but they have been more successfully prevented, for example the train bombings in Germany, and the massive plan to blow up planes en route to the US over the Atlantic. This was a major success of Western intelligence and positive action that would have been inconceivable before 9/11 jolted us all to recognise the reality of the situation. Also, the suicide bombings in Israel have all but been prevented by a combination of targeted killings and arrests, the Security Barrier, and improved intelligence (notably lacking in the war against Hizbollah).
A recent poll has shown that now 63% of Palestinians support direct attacks against Israelis, i.e. suicide bombing. But, this is down from a high of over 85% when the second intifada started in 2001. Can we call this progress? On the other hand a large majority (75%) of Palestinians support the formation of a National Unity Government between Pres. Abbas' Fatah and PM Haniyeh's Hamas. This is mainly because they are suffering from the lack of Western funding. Now the reports are that such a National Unity Government may be formed in the PA. But, this may bode ill for the future since it would provide a cloak of legitimacy for Hamas, and put Abbas forward as the moderate with whom Israel and the West can deal, while he has no real power.
Nevertheless Blair, our friend, in order to blunt the criticism that has all but cost him his job, puts out the falsehood that the Israel-Palestine conflict is the fundamental cause of instability in the Middle East. That is simply not true, the fundamental cause of the instability and violence is the expansionist ideology of radical Islam. Those who killed themselves and others on London Underground trains do not do so for the Palestinians, but in order to overthrow the infidel governments of the West. Ayman al Zawahiri in his latest video tape for 9/11 + 5, warns Israel and significantly the Gulf States that they are next on the list for attacks. What do theGulf States have in common with Israel? Only that they are more and more adopting a Western culture and lifestyle. Doha is being developed as the new Miami on the Gulf, luring Western tourists and investment. I predict that since Israel and the US are harder nuts to crack for al Qaeda, that the Gulf States and particularly Doha will be an easier soft target. Expect another "killing" there, I wouldn't visit there if I were you.

Monday, September 11, 2006

Jerusalem visit

Last week there was a hiatus in my messages because we were in Jerusalem for four days, including Shabbat, principally for a barmitzvah. But, while we were there we managed to cram in some interesting visits.
The barmitzvah was that of Netanel Kaye, who is spending a year with his parents, Sherrill and Jeff, in Modi'in. They took the opportunity of being here to have his barmitzvah at the Kotel, the "Wall" in Jerusalem. Since the barmitzvah was due to begin early we were to be there at 8.15 am Thursday morning. So we went up to J'sam on Weds morning and stayed overnight at my favorite hotel, Beit Belgia, the faculty club on the Givat Ram campus of the Hebrew University. Everybody knows me there because I've been going there every week for two years or so and because I had my art show there.
Since we had some time to spare we went around the area near Jaffa Road and Ben Yehuda Street (a pedestrain mall) to try to buy 18 shofrot (pl. of shofar) for our daughter-in-law Sharon Cohen who teaches a confirmation class each year at their Reform shool in Livermore, CA. She presents each graduating bar/barmitzvah with a shofar each year. So we did a Judaica store crawl around the area. In the process we met some interesting people, including a S. American couple living in Amsterdam We found a very nice store and owner on Ben Yehuda Street itself who had a nice collection of shofrot and was willing to deal. So eventually we came away with the shofrot.
Then we had a reservation to go around the Begin Museum that is over by the Montefiore Windmill and has a magnificent view of the Sultan's Pool and the Walls of the old city. It has been open for about a year, and is very modern, with videos of Begin's famous story, how he was the leader of the Revisionist youth movement Betar in Poland. How he evaded the Nazis by going to Lithuania, but was then captured by the Soviets and sent to Siberia. How he then joined the Polish Army and managed to move to Palestine, where he became underground head of the Revisionist Irgun Zvai Leumi (national army). After the State was established he spent 29 years (!) as the leader of the opposition before he was elected PM of Israel in 1977. There was the famous video of him, Sadat and Carter signing the Israel-Egyptian peace treaty in Washington.
That evening we had a dinner at one of our favorite restaurants "Olive and Fish" to celebrate my 68th birthday, with our old friends visiting for the barmitzvah, Manny & Florence the barmitvah boy's grandparents, Barry & Ramah, his uncle and aunt, and Barry Garfield. We had all been at high school together in London over 50 years ago!
On Thurday morning we took a cab to the Dung Gate (Sha'ar Ha'ashput, really "trash" gate, from where the inhabitants of ancient Jerusalem disposed of their trash into the Valley of Hinnom nearby). We went with the assembled guests through the new center for the archeological excavations of the wall area directly to the southern-most part of the Kotel beyond the ramp that had been left by the Israelis to the gate in the wall. Sherrill had discovered that (for a fee) you can use this site for barmitzvahs, and it was wonderful because it was quiet, there were no other parties there, and we were right up to the Kotel. Just next to us, above the excavated area, was the spur in the Wall from Robinson's arch, that had been one of the principal entries into the Temple area from the ancient City of Jerusalem, before it was destroyed by the Romans in 70 ce, and was not rediscovered by Robinson until the mid-1800's. After the partial ceremony, that was only a taste of the full service that was to be held on Shabbat, we repaired to a wonderful restaurant for lunch, literally under the arches in one entrance to the Wall area, that had once been a Crusader hall.
Then, after a rest we met our friends at the Israel Museum to see the newly installed model of the ancient city of Jerusalem in 66 ce, that had recently been transferred from the Holyland Hotel. In its location at the Museum it is much more impressive, since it has much more space and you can look down over the whole of it. There one can see the stairs that once led up to Robinson's arch, the stairs for the main entry into the Temple from the south side that are still there, although partially built over (deliberately) by later Arab structures and the other archway called Warren's arch that is still there but can only be seen from below in the men's praying area. After that we visited parts of the Israel Museum, but it was very quiet, few tourists and not many special exhibits.
Then on Friday morning we visited the new Herzl Museum on Mount Herzl, which has only just been opened. It was very similar to the Begin Museum in concept, showing his early years, the Dreyfus affair, then his founding of political Zionism, the First Zionist Congress in Basle in 1898, where he said famously that "today I founded the Jewish State." Then in his book "Altneuland" he predicted that a Jewish Stae would come into existence 50 years hence, and he was precisely right, it was as you know founded in 1948!
Finally we went to the Ramat Rachel Hotel, on the southern border of Jerusalem for the full festivities of the barmitzvah. Ramat Rahel was the scene of very heavy fighting in 1948, when the kibbutzniks with reinforcements from Jerusalem, held off the invading Arab armies. From our window we could see Bethlehem, (Beit Lehem) just up the road, and the new Jerusalem neighborhood of Har Homa under construction nearby.
Needless to say Netanal did a flawless performance of his barmitzvah, reading the whole Torah portion. We spent a lot of time eating wonderful food and chatting with our old friends. Then we came home motzei shabbat, full and happy. It was a wonderful visit to Jerusalem.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Israeli Arabs

Last week there was a minor but telling incident that many of you may have missed, a bus carrying Israelis crashed off the road in southern Sinai and turned over. Eleven were killed, one an Egyptian, and many were wounded. The difference was that these were Israeli Arabs returning from a vacation in Sinai, which is a favorite location for them.
Egyptian facilties are not up to Western standards. First, it took three hours before any emergency vehicles reached the accident scene. Then, athough the location was within 3 hours drive from the Israeli border at Eilat, the Egyptian authorities refused permission for Israeli ambulances to enter Egypt and the wounded were taken to Egyptian hospitals that were inadequate to treat them. Finally the wounded were taken to the Israeli border where a fleet of ambulances awaited them and took them to Eilat's Josephson Hospital, where emergency services were alerted for their arrival. As is well known the emergency services in Israel are among the best in the world. The crucial point is that many of the wounded and their families who were interviewed gave thanks for being back in Israel and showered Israel with praise for their reception and their treatment.
This is the positive face of the Israeli Arabs, who know that they are better off in Israel than in any other country in the Arab world, both materially and in terms of freedom of expression.
During the rocketing of northern Israel, where a large proportion of the Israeli Arab population lives, many Arabs were killed and wounded in the Hizbollah barrage. When reminded that his rockets were also targeting Arabs (some of them Christian or Druse) Sheikh Nasrullah said "never mind, they die as martyrs for the cause." While many Israeli Arabs were sympathetic to Hizbollah's cause, many were nevertheless quite opposed. They were angry because they too were indiscriminate victims, in one case two young children, a brother and sister playing in a Nazareth alley, were killed. At first the Arabs thought that somehow the rockets would not harm them so they mostly ignored the calls for citizens to stay in protected rooms. So while Jewish children and adults were underground for a month, most of the Arabs were pretending that they were immune.
When the Arab casualties began to mount, they started complaining that they did not have protected rooms. But that is largely their own fault. When a new building is built in Israel it is required to have a "safe room" added to each apartment. This is since the Gulf War of 1999 and the bombardment of Israel by Saddam Hussein's missiles. But, this is considered part of the cost of the apartment, and needless to say most of the Arabs did not add this feature to their houses.
Also, in most municipalities, central underground shelters were constructed for the safety of residents who did not have a protected basement in their building or a saferoom. But, the cost of this is funded out of the municipal taxes, which many Arabs refuse to pay on principle to the Jewish State (or because it is cheaper not to). So their municipalities had neither the money nor the interest to constuct such public facilities. Only when they unexpectedly came under fire did they protest that they did not have the same protection as the Jewish citizenry. Many of the Jews who were killed would not have been if they had remained off the streets or in shelters.
During the War, the Israeli Arab representatives in the Knesset (there are 6 of them) mostly behaved in a disgusting manner, siding with Hizbollah and attacking Israel for causing the war and deliberately killing Lebanese civilians. At one point several of them were forced out of the Knesset chamber due to rowdy behavior, and a Bill was introduced to expel them from the Knesset as traitors. This was not acted upon, but in most countries in time of war they would have been arrested and shot.
In Israel we are used to this open level of political hatred expressed by the Arab representatives, but ask Israeli Arabs if they prefer to be Israelis or Palestinians, and you will receive a definite answer. Although they support the rights of the Palestinians, they themselves prefer to remain Israelis. When the right wing party the National Union under Avigdor Lieberman proposed during the last election campaign that some Israeli Arabs be transferred to the PA, there was a big uproar in the Arab community, and they were totally against this themselves. So there are a lot of complaints, but overall the Israeli Arab community is basically loyal and well off, but I wouldn't trust them with my life.

Monday, September 04, 2006

The danger of UNIFIL2

Until now UN peace keeping missions have been somewhere between a disaster and a joke. The UN peace keeping mission in Rwanda was withdrawn on the orders of its then boss Kofi Annan just before the massacres started, or when it might have been of some use. The UNIFIL peace keeping mission in Lebanon was not just neutral in relation to the two sides, Israel and Hizbollah, on several occasions it actively sided with Hizbollah. For example, when three IDF soldiers were captured and killed by Hizbollah in 2000, Hizbollah tricked the IDF soldiers by using UN vehicles that they had "rented" from UN forces. Not only was this known to the UN, they had a videotape of the actual attack, but withheld it from Israel for several years.
The question is will the new UNIFIL2 peace keeping force be any better. Yes, it will be much larger (from 2,000 to supposedly 15,000), yes it will have a more "robust" mandate to engage forces involved in ceasefire violations. But, there are several potential dangers involved, for Israel and the West: 1. If a small and moribund UN force has sided with Israel's enemy, a larger more robust force could be more dangerous for Israel. There is no doubt that Hizbollah will continue to dig underground tunnels near UN bases from where they can launch rocket attacks in order to attract IDF responses to the vicinity of the UN bases. Also, Hizbollah will no doubt infiltrate the UN forces and find some who are sympathetic to them either ideologically or for money. 2. The addition of Muslim forces as part of the UNIFIL2 (either Turkey and/or Indonesia) could open up a can of worms. Suppose there is a Hizbollah attack on IDF forces, a breakage of the ceasefire, and the IDF retaliates. And suppose this retaliation hits a nearby UN post in which there are Indonesian troops and 10 of them are killed. What then? Will the UN lodge a complaint, will Indonesia, that doesn't recognize Israel, ask for UN action against Israel, will Indonesia declare war on Israel? Anything is possible. 3. The UN does not have its own army. In order to mount these peace keeping missions, the UN Secty. Gen. has to in effect beg for forces from member states that support the mission and that are prepared to risk their own troops in the action. That's how US forces became involved in Somalia that turned out to be a disaster. The member states also pay for the cost of their own forces. But, the more robust rules of engagement of the UNIFIL2 is the closest the UN has come so far to a real army. We of course hope that if it needs to get militarily forceful it will be against Hizbollah breaking the ceasefire in Lebanon. But, even if it does, a precedent will be set whereby forces under UN command, wearing blue berets, will be acting in pursuance of UN aims. On the one had this could be a good precedent (think of what might have happened in Rwanda) but on the other hand it could be very dangerous, knowing that the UN is basically anti-Israel and is largely controlled by Muslim nations that mean the West harm. The developing situation portends promise or danger.

Sunday, September 03, 2006

Financial appeasement

The EU is in the process of bailing out the Palestinians. Because the Palestinians elected a Hamas terrorist Government (even the EU defines Hamas as terrorist, although they don't define Hizbollah thus) all Western governments stopped paying funds to the PA. In any case, everyone knew that most of the money paid was being stolen and misued by the PA Government, both under Arafat and his successor Abbas. EU money was being used to subsidize weapons to support terrorist actions against Israeli civilians, but the EU didn't want to acknowledge that, especially when Chris Patten was in charge of their foreign policy.
There is no doubt that the PA and the Palestinians are becoming impoverished due to this situation. Never mind, the EU has stepped in with a generous aid package. First they are paying direct salaries to hundreds of thousands of Palestinian civil servants who are no longer being paid by the PA itself. This money is not paid via the Hamas government to avoid the appearance of breaking the rules, since the EU has also accepted the formula that the Hamas Government should not be supported unless they: 1. recognize Israel's right to exist, 2.stop the use of violence, and 3. accept previous PA agreements with Israel.
Nevertheless, in its munificence the EU countries have awarded another m$50 to the Palestinians for relief of humanitarian workers, such as health workers (and security men). And in addition to that, at the conference held in Stockholm yesterday for supporters of the PA (after the one for support of Lebanon), the EU pledged another m$65, bringing their total commitments to the Palestinians to over m$200! There must be some special relationship between the poor, suffering Palestinians and the wealthy, philanthropic EU, because no other group in the world gets anything like this kind of support (let the black Sudanese in Darfur starve). In effect, the EU is bailing the Palestinians out of the consequences of their mistakes.
To what can we attribute this incredible financial support? Well, of course, the suffering of the Palestinians is there for all to see in the media (apart from a break for the Lebanon war), because the Palestinians are the darlings of the leftist-oriented media, and can do no wrong. As the Fox reporter said, immediately after he was released from captivity by a Palestinian terrorist group, "the Palestinians are a beautiful people, kind, generous and friendly"!! His wife had said several times before he was released, "why would they kidnap him when they know he is presenting their case." I don't get it, no bitterness, no complaints, must be "Stockholm syndrome"!. They even said that they hoped their kidnapping wouldn't deter other reporters from going to Gaza to present the case of the Palestinians, but I don't think you'll see the two of them back there any time soon. (Why were Fox personnel targeted? Perhaps because they are the only network critical of the Palestinians. I wonder if Fox made a deal to moderate their critical reports for the lives of their personnel).
But, apart from the obvious suffering, there are two other political reasons for the EU support of the Palestinains: 1. Since the US generally supports Israel, in reaction the EU must support Israel's enemies. This is a measure of the anti-Americanism that suffuses the EU, especially in France and Britain, but generally in all the liberal-leftist sectors of European society. The US is by definition "imperialist" hence so must Israel be imperialist. Any brown, poor people must be intrinsically "good" and any white, rich and powerful people must be intrinsically "bad" (as the Europeans were so "bad" in the past - but that's history). It's such a simple way to rationalize one's guilt. 2. There is residual anti-Semitism in Europe, especially in Germany, that they can rationalize as anti-Israelism, thus freeing themselves of the guilt associated with the Holocaust. Overall, the EU support for the Palestinians is appeasement, they are saying in effect to their "home-grown" and immigrant Muslims, don't hate us, see how nice we are to the Palestinians!
But, behind this attitude lies the concept that all conflicts in the Middle East and with Muslims in general derive from the Israel-Palestinian conflict. If only that were solved then peace would reign in the world! What a lot of nonsense! Does the Kashmir conflict have anything whatsoever to do with Palestine? Does the Chechen conflict have anything to do with Palestine? Does the Iraqi situation have anything to do with Palestine? Does the ages old Sunni-Shia conflict have anything to do with Palestine? If there were peace in the Holyland, would any of these other conflicts stop? Do the Iranian threats to Israel and the West have anything to do with Palestine? Only insofar as the totalitarian Iranians seek to use Israel as a means to rally support among their own people as a convenient focus of their hatred. So the conflict in Palestine has been used by the Sunni Arabs as a means of self-aggrandisement, and it failed, now the Shia Muslims are having their turn. And the EU's response is appeasement, just pile in the Euros.

Friday, September 01, 2006

Palestinian woes

It's amazing to what extent a war distracts the press to forsake their favorite victims, the Palestinians, and run after the most sensational news items. While the focus has been, and still largely is, on Lebanon, Israel has been pummeling the Palestinians in the PA. In several incursions, intended to stop the firing of Kassam rockets into southern Israel, to find tunnels and to prevent suicide bombings, the IDF has had some success. Over 200 Palestinians have been killed in the past month, the majority of them terrorists.
In Nablus early on Thursday morning a gunfight between an IDF patrol and a group of al Aksa Martyr's Brigades gunmen resulted in the death of 6 of them and their leader Fadi Kafishe, who was on the IDF's most wanted list and was one of their most prolific bomb makers, responsible for dozens of Israeli deaths. Also, on Thursday in Gaza, Rayid Nahal, a leader of the Popular Resistance Committees, also on the most wanted list, was assassinated by gunmen. It was not clear if this was done by the IDF or if gunmen from another Palestinian faction were responsible.
A major IDF incursion near the Sharjayieh camp in Gaza resulted in the killing of 18 gunmen, and the finding of a tunnel (150 m long) that lead from a private house (owned by a Hamas representative in Syria) to the Karni crossing, that was evidently to be used in an attack on the crossing. Also, a few days ago a huge tunnel complex nearly 2 km long was discovered in Lebanon near Rosh Haniqra right near the Israeli border, that included rooms, bathrooms, stores of rockets and other ammunition. These tunnels were destroyed by the IDF.
The continuing pressure and intensity of these IDF attacks are in response to the continued shelling of Sderot and the holding of the IDF hostage, Gilad Shalit. Although there has recently been a lull in the rockets, on Thursday 6 rockets fired by Fatah hit Sderot and two women were injured. The problem is that the Palestinians seem not to get the message that their suffering will continue until Shalit is released and the firing of rockets stop.
Pres. Abbas in a revealing speech in Ramallah before leaving for Gaza for yet more negotiations with PM Haniyeh of Hamas, was quite frank. He said that the IDF operations were hurting the PA, that the cause was the rockets fired into Israel and the taking of the hostage, and that these were not in the interests of the Palestinian people. He also said that the situation in Gaza was verging on chaos, that armed gunmen are causing "death and destruction," and there are many civil servants who have no salaries. However, Fatah recently gave him the go-ahead in a meeting in Amman to form a united government with Hamas. To expect that this could produce any useful result for the Palestinians, or indeed for Israel, would be optimistic in the extreme. While attention is diverted, nevertheless the Palestinian pot continues to boil.