Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Three Arab crises

After the NATO summit in Riga, the first in a former Soviet bloc country, Pres. Bush and Secty. of State Condy Rice will arrive in Amman for a "Crisis Summit." King Abdullah of Jordan has invited a stellar cast of leaders (excluding Israel) to discuss three crises that could bring civil war to the Middle East. These are the internal conflicts between Hamas and Fatah in the Palestine territories, the clash between the pro-Syrian Hizbollah and the anti-Syrian Christians and others in Lebanon, and the sectarian conflict between the Shia and Sunnis in Iraq.
Now while these conflicts appear to be distinct, they all share a common basis, namely the support by Syria and Iran of terrorist forces in each of these Arab areas. Iran is bankrolling Hamas in the PA, Hizbollah in Lebanon and Shia forces (probably the Sadr Mahdi Army) in Iraq. Apart from Hamas which is a Sunni Muslim organization, the rest are Shia, and Abdullah and other Arab "moderates" in the Gulf, Saudi Arabia and Egypt, are concerned that they will be drawn into a long-term war between the Muslim Sunni and Shia. sects.
This war is 1,200 years old, and goes back to the very origins of Islam and the fight for dominance over Islamic countries and regimes. While the Sunni brand of Islam favored a Caliphate and the election of a Caliph as leader of the Islamic world, the Shia view is that all such elections are unacceptable, and the leadership has to come from the descendents of Mohammed. Since his direct line was destroyed by the Sunnis, they favor in place of it a return to rule by religious leaders, namely Ayatollahs, just as they have resurrected in Iran. Although they have a nominal parliament and elections, these are all subject to the decisions of the Supreme Religious Council, which for example vetted all candidates for parliament and excluded all moderates, as well as candidates for President, which is how they ended up with Ahmedinejad. Although he was voted in by the people, he was first selected from other candidates by the Ayatollahs.
So the course of action is deceptively simple, confront Syria and Iran and stop their machinations, if necessary by the use of force. However, the moderate Sunni regimes are desperate to avoid such a conflict, especially when the US is under pressure to withdraw from Iraq, and Iran is run by an extremist regime and seemingly is on a roll. That is one reason why the focus of the Arab moderates is to pressure the US to bring Syria and Iran into the fold by talking to them, by giving them a say in what happens in these and other conflicts.
In a way it is similar to the situation before WWII, in order to avoid the war the policy used was appeasement. Give Germany what it wants, the Sudentenland, Czechoslovakia, etc. and it will appease Hitler's hunger for land. But, the problem with this policy is that it doesn't work, because giving in to dictators and terrorists only whets their appetites, shows them the weakness of their opposition, the fatal tendency of democracies to fade initially in the face of determined anti-democratic forces. Ah, but will they rally later, when the anti-democrats show their true colors, or will it then be too late?
So while the summit in Amman was first publicized as a meeting on "democracy in the Middle East," it was renamed because the democracies are hardly even fledgling (e.g. Lebanon, the PA and Iraq) while the opposition to them is much more aggressive, and seeks to destroy them even before they can take hold. Perhaps it is in Israel's and the region's interest to have these conflicts work themselves out before any real progress can be made.
While the meeting in Amman is the current focus of initial attention, on the sidelines Rice will meet with PA Pres Abbas, and then if the ceasefire in Gaza holds, there may be a three way summit with PM Olmert added. There is a lot of international pressure, including an EU meeting today, to resume the "peace process" between Israel and the Palestinians. In his speech yesterday at Sde Boker marking the 35th anniversary of Ben Gurion's death, PM Olmert gave a very dovish view of the future. He said he will be prepared to give up land ("you will be surprised how much") and to recognize a Palestinian State living "side-by-side" with Israel. The necessary conditions set by Olmert for such a renewed peace process are the formation of a Unity PA Government that accepts the three conditions of the international community of recognizing Israel, etc. and the release of Cpl. Shalit, in exchange for many Palestinian prisoners. But, he drew the line at the repatriation of Palestinain "refugees" to Israel. This if course immediately brought a rejection by PM Haniyeh of Hamas, who favors the so-called Saudi/prisoners peace plan in place of the "road map" plan. But, as Olmert indicates his willingness to concede, seen as weakness by the other side, their demands escalate (the prisoners went from 400 for Shalit to a rumored 1,400). Eventually this becomes ridiculous, and whatever Israel does, as in the current ceasefire, some group or another will reject it and go on firing.
Today two Kassam missiles landed in Sderot, and the excuse given by the terrorists is that Israel has taken actions on the West Bank. But, the ceasefire explicitly does not include the West Bank, and so the Army spokesman said today that Israel cannot allow itself to get into a situation where its freedom of action is prevented in Gaza while Sderot is still being bombarded. This is no ceasefire and this is like all previous Palestinian agreements, never kept.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

The escape

The biggest news story in Israel these days is not the ceasefire, but the escape of the serial rapist Benny Sela and the nationwide hunt for him. In an example of (dare we say typical) incompetence, as well as possible malfeasance, two policemen were assigned to escort Benny aged 34 from his prison in Beersheva last Friday to a court appearance in Tel Aviv. Although it turns out that the court in question does not meet on Fridays, and the whole thing was a fraud. Nevertheless it seems that the prison authorities were taken in, and apparently no checking was made.
When they got to Tel Aviv Benny simply ran away, possibly in handcuffs but maybe not, and jumped over a wall and was gone. The two policemen have been suspended. Later they found his prison trousers abandoned, and he apparently had jeans underneath. Benny was the worst rapist in Israeli history, he was convicted for 35 years, the longest sentence in Israeli history for the rape of 14 women in the 1990's, but he is believed to have raped possibly as many as 40. These included young girls as well as adult women living alone that he stalked and broke into their apartments. He avoided capture by using gloves and forcing his victims to shower after the rape. He was very violent, although he did not kill any, and got away with it for years, another example of police incompetence.
Now there is a manhunt for him, but there are no leads. He was reported to be in Netanya, but the man in question who bolted from a taxi has been found and cleared. So a huge manhunt is on, probably the biggest in Israeli history, and the Minister for Security Affairs Avi Dichter has issued statements on the situation and has set up a Committee of Enquiry, and for once this has nothing to do with the Palestinians.
Naturally women are worried, but the police say that he is probably not going to give himself away by committing a rape, since he is very much trying to stay hidden, wherever he is. Certainly heads should roll for this, and it points up once again the incredible lack of seriousness or professionalism on the part of Israeli police and military, who have that characteristic Israeli attitude "don't worry, everything will be OK," until its not.

Monday, November 27, 2006


Pres. Abbas of the PA called his friend PM Olmert Sat night and offered him a ceasefire. One's immediate reaction should be that the Palestinians must be hurting, there must have been enough losses in men and materiel and enough damage to their infrastructure to cause them to shout "uncle." But, Olmert smartly accepted, because he is also hurting, he has no way of stopping the Kassams on Sderot and the Western Negev without a large scale invasion of Gaza, and this the Palestinians knew was imminently in the works unless they stop the rockets. That's why they called a temporary ceasefire now.
But, they did of course immediately break it. That's because first they have no intention of letting Israel off the hook so easily, and second because Abbas does not have complete control of his own house. Israel for its part immediately withdrew all IDF forces from Gaza back into Israel and stopped all military action. But, Islamic Jihad and al Aksa Martyr's Brigades of Fatah still fired 5 missiles into Sderot, one of which scored a direct hit on a house while the people were fortunately sheltering in the basement. For the first time that I can remember Saeb Erekat, Abbas's spokesman, admitted that the PA had violated the ceasefire agreement and promised they would do all they can to stop further violations.
The excuse given by IJ for its attack was that Israel had arrested 2 Hamas operatives in Nablus last night. But, first, the ceasefire had not come into effect yet, it was supposed to start at 6 am, and second the ceasefire explicitly only includes Gaza and does not extend to the West Bank. Erekat acknowledged these facts and said he hoped they could make a further agreement extending the ceasefire to the West Bank. Since IJ has refused to accept any ceasefire with Israel, it is hard to see how either Abbas can manage this or Israel can accept it. In order to enforce the ceasefire Abbas has finally ordered 15,000 men of the security services out into northern Gaza to stop further rocket firings. Hamas complained about this move, saying it was intended to prevent their freedom of action.
Nevertheless, the feeling in Israel is that after taking many casualties (ca. 300 in 2 months) and suffering great damage in Beit Hanun and surroundings from where the rockets are being launched, the Palestinians and their terror groups need a breather. They will use any ceasefire to prepare themselves for the next round. Surprisingly the ceasefire agreement includes stopping digging and use of tunnels, but how could anyone stop smuggling activities. They will go on, and the terrorist groups will rearm. So that next time there will be an even harder fight. Khaled Mashaal, while visiting Egypt to discuss the ceasefire and exchange of prisoners, promised Israel that they will start a new and even more costly intifada in six months. So the ceasefire is a temporary lull, while the Palestinian groups, especially Hamas, lick their wounds and prepare for the next clash in the ongoing conflict.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

The assassins

Recently there have been assassinations in Lebanon, London and Baghdad. These are different in type or cause, but have a common political basis. Those who wish to disrupt the workings of the democratic system use assassination as a tool.
First, we should note that the term "assassin" comes from the word hashish that was used by a medieval Arab gang to help them face the prospect of murdering Arab rulers. This group of assassins considered it a religious duty to remove Arab/Muslim leaders who were not acceptable to their interpretation of Islam.
Much the same attitude motivates the Sunni and Shia extremists who are killing each other in Baghdad today. Friday was the most murderous day in recent Iraqi history, 230 Shia were killed in the Sadr City region of Baghdad, and some 60 Sunnis were murdered in retaliation in other parts of the city, particularly when Shia burnt down several Sunni mosques. This is sectarian violence that borders on civil war, and the Iraqi Government, against which the killings are also targeted, was forced to declare martial law and close the city down. A few days ago two deputy Ministers of Health in the Iraqi Government were attacked, one was killed and the other escaped with injuries. This is a characteristic form of Arab-Muslim violence that has nothing to do with the existence of Israel. The Sunni-Shia conflict has been going on for 1,200 years, and was merely frozen by the Western occupation of Iraq, where there is the biggest concentration of Shia in the Arab world, excluding Iran which is Shia but non-Arab.
Another area of Shia domination is South Lebanon. That's why there is constant violent aggression against both Israel and the rest of Lebanese society, consisting of Sunnis, Christians (of various sects) and Druse. While Shia constitute 30% of the total population, they are not content to rely on democratic means, they seek to dominate the whole of Lebanon. This is why, acting as proxy for Syria and Iran, they attack both Israel and the Christian anti-Syrian forces. We do not know exactly who assassinated Rafik Hariri or Pierre Gemayel, but we can be sure that they were pro-Syrian and professional. Syrian intelligence with the aid of Lebanese actors has brought assassination to the level of an art form. If they want to kill you they can and will. And their message is crude, oppose us and you will die. Now they are risking a further outbreak of the civil war in Lebanon that pitted Muslim against Christian and Druse, only this time the Sunnis will be on the Christian side, since they will not act as agents for Syria or Shia Iran. We can expect the murders in Lebanon to continue and escalate.
The assassination of Alexander Litvinenko in London is a different case, but shares the same basis. It is a warning from the FSB, the successor to the KGB in Russia, to any defector or former spy, that you are in our sights and you will die horribly. All this talk about it having been done by criminals or oligarchs (the very rich Russian businessmen who have either been imprisoned or forced to flee to the West) is nonsense. Only the Russian Government of Pres. Putin can be considered to "gain" from such an assassination. The use of Polonium 210, a highly radioactive isotope that requires State involvement to produce enough to kill someone (even though only a minute amount is needed) clearly indicates a State-sponsored assassination. How the material was made, brought into the UK, and administered to the poor fellow is unclear, but that it was done and that the Russian State is responsible for this cannot be doubted. However, do not expect the British authorities to do anything about it. They do not have the capability nor the balls to charge any Russian for this murder, as Lebanon might do using the UN Commission to charge a Syrian with Hariri's assassination. They will investigate for a few months and then declare the case unsolvable. Meanwhile the assassinations of journalists critical of Putin and the Government in Russia will continue, and more defectors may die in the wake of Litvinenko's murder. The assassins are active again.

Saturday, November 25, 2006

The legality of occupation

What is the "occupation" and what does Israel actually occupy? So much is made by the left and the pro-Palestinians about " the occupation" that you'd think it was the origin of all the problems. Actually, as facts show, it is not.
First let us acknowledge that Israel has a legitimate claim in international law to all of the area of mandatary Palestine. It was this fact, supported by the Balfour Declaration as well as the outcome of the 1948 War of Independence, recognition by the UN and then the 1967 Six Day War, that lead to Israel's position as sovereign in most of what had been Palestine. Note that the ceasefire lines from 1948 determine the West Bank borders, and as such have no international legitimacy. However, although having a legitimate claim, Israel did not annex all of the West Bank or Gaza, as it did the Golan Heights captured from Syria, pending expected peace negotiations with the Palestinians.
In the absence of such negotiations and continued conflict, Israel removed all settlements and military facilties from Gaza in 2005. Therfore there is no "occupation" of Gaza! But what happened, the Palestinians continued to attack Israel with Kassam rockets from Gaza, as well as continuing to launch terrorist attacks, for example at the Karni and other crossings, and to kill and injure Israelis. Of course, the same happened in Lebanon, after Israel withdrew completely, as verified by the UN. Hizbollah continued to attack Israel using the Sabbah Farms, that had been part of Syria, as an excuse. These attacks lead to the second Lebanon War.
Israeli occupation is not the cause of Palestinian hostility, but a result of it. For example, in the West Bank there are numerous Jewish settlements, but even if there were none does anyone believe that the Palestinians would not continue to attack Israel as they do from Gaza. Under the Oslo Accords, Israel accepted the establishment of the PA and was due to gradually give up land to the PA according to an agreed schedule, in which some of the land would be jointly controlled for some period of time. First Israel gave up the seven cities, Tulkarm, Ramallah, Jericho, Kalkilya, Jenin, Bethlehem and Nablus to form the PA in 1994. Then the IDF started to withdraw from other areas, until 95% of the Palestinian population was under PA control.
But, then in 2000 the PA launched the second intifada, and the killings and suicide bombings reached a peak in 2002, until Israel under Labor Governments was forced to retake some of the areas that had been evacuated and launch operations against the PA cities.
This is the situation as of now, but although Israel has built the Security Fence that has greatly reduced suicide bombings, the terrorist organizations have not given up trying. Only last week a terrorist was captured in central Jerusalem wearing a bomb belt made of plastic explosives not detectable by metal detectors. After interrogation he lead the security services to another such belt that was hidden in the Palestinian police building in Ramallah where they arrested a Palestinian policeman. So much for cooperation with the PA. Predominant public opinion in Israel is that if this is the response to our willingly giving up territory and taking risks for peace, why should we actually do it again. Its not worth it, it only gives them better positions from which to attack us.
It is often said that the humiliation of the Palestinians, having to wait at road blocks and to take inconvenient routes, is what fosters their hostility. But, before the intifada started there were very few such roadblocks, and most were instituted in order to catch and prevent suicide bombers. Even now it is one of the most effective means of protecting Israeli civilians. So they brought this suffering on themselves, and it becomes a vicious cycle.
The left wing Israeli organization Peace Now has for years been monitoring Jewish settlements on the West Bank. It would be true to say that in this respect they act as a wing of the pro-Palestinian movement and of the PA. They certainly consider the Jewish settlers (especially orthodox Jews) as their enemy more than the Palestinians, who they protect and support. One of their latest actions was to issue a report at a press conference this week that claims that most of the settlements on the West Bank are built on private Palestinian property that was confiscated for this purpose. They estimate that ca. 40% of the land on which the settlements have been built falls into this category.
But, there are some very strange assumptions in their analysis. For example, before any land was used and can be used legally for building on, the owners must be given the opportunity to come forward and claim it, this usually takes 1-3 months and often requires legal proceedings. This was the process followed in all cases of Israeli building. In many cases Palestinians who claimed land had no legal papers or any sources to support their claim, also in many cases several Palestinian families or clans claimed the same piece of land (leading to strife). In some cases they were able to prove their ownership and still own and use their land (for example in Maale Adumim). Unless they can produce some legal basis for their claim they cannot be given title to the land, even if they still tell Peace Now that their land was confiscated.
Another very strange thing is that most of the land, ca. 60% of the West Bank, was State-owned land, ie. it was controlled by the previous sovereign (first the Turks and then the British) and passed on to the Israeli State. For reasons not given, Peace Now does not recognize this usual legal process, but although they don't recognize any Israeli State land on the West Bank, they consider all this land to have been owned by the Palestinian people. Very often you will see in the media the term "Palestinian Land," but there is no such thing. Legally this is nonsense, since there was no sovereign Palestinian entity that inherited this land. By using such subterfuges, Peace Now tries to subvert the normal legal processes of the State and tries to infer that Israel "occupied" the land of the West Bank illegally rather than having a legal claim to it. It is sad that Israeli organizations like Peace Now are prepared to lie and cheat in order to score points against their own State, people and interests.

Friday, November 24, 2006

Top of the world: India and China

A historic meeting took place in New Delhi this week when the Chinese President Hu Jin Tao met the Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. These two countries with huge populations, China with 1.2 billion and India with ca. 1 billion, represent 40% of the world's total population. Also, their economies have been booming in the past few years with China having annual increases in GDP of 10% or more and India now up to 8.5% last year.
Until a few years ago China and India had a number of border disputes that resulted in military action and bad relations between them. But, now both countries have realized that these disputes are minor compared to the importance of good economic relations. Both are anxious to upgrade their economies, and resent the West monopolizing their trade when they could be trading with each other. At present trade between them amounts to over b$10 per year, but they plan a huge increase to b$20 within the next few years and then to b$40 within a generation. These economic changes could alter the world. The US is still the leading economy in the world, but as far as sheer size and rate of growth is concerned China and India are the highest in the world.
Yet, for all their size and similarity, there are major differences between China and India. The most significant is that the Chinese population has levelled off as a result of years of enforced population control, allowing only one child per couple. While in India the population is still rising rapidly, with a large pool of children growing up in grinding poverty. Yet, this may be India's secret weapon, because while China does not have enough children growing into adulthood to fill its growing personnel needs in industry and technology, India has more than enough. Rather than being the negative problem of excessive population growth, this may be the one major advantage that India has in the competition with China and the world. But, on the other hand, while China can manage a carefully planned education policy geared for its large but limited school population, India's school's are swamped by too many kids often too poor to even have an education.
Another advantage that India has is that English is its national language, its lingua franca, while in China, learning English is one of the most difficult tasks the technologically developed children face. This is a significant plus for India, and explains why they have developed a huge computer industry in Bangalore and elsewhere, where they have the largest "call-in centers" in the world, where most calls to US companies end up. For this purpose, the Indians learn how to speak vernacular American English, so that their strong Indian accents don't interfere with their jobs. The idea of such call-in centers in China is presently absurd.
Another large difference is that India is a democracy, so that there is very little control of entrepreneurship and innovation. There was a time when the national government interfered in industry, preferring heavy industry and banning competition, such as IBM so that they could develop Hindustan Computers. Now that time has gone and they have caught up. The largest steel-producing conglomerate in the world (Mittal) is Indian-owned, and the largest concentration of computer software developers is in Bangalore.
While China has a very thriving market economy it is still a Communist Party dictatorship. Freedom of expression is not allowed and the internet and e-mails are monitored, so that the connotation of freedom of the market being allied with freedom of opinion is not true in China. How this might hamper the full flowering of economic development is unknown, although it seems to be working so far. Nevertheless, in the long run this must be seen as an advantage to India, where freedom of expression and opinion are relatively unhindered.
Not all is rosy in their relationship, India resents China's support for Pakistan and China resents India's limitation of Chinese investment in "strategic" industries. But, there is little doubt that China and India are the future giants of the world's economy, and how they will develop and in what ways they will differ will be very interesting to see, and could have momentous consequences.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Bnai Menashe

In one of the most romantic episodes of Jewish history a tribe in eastern India, in the tribal state of Mizoram, have been accepted as one of the "lost tribes" of Israel. They call themselves Bnai Menashe, the sons of Menashe.
After they were first "discovered" only a few years ago, a few of them managed to find their way to Israel. They lobbied the Israeli Government and various individuals, and eventually an organization called Shavei Yisrael, that deals specifically with so-called "lost Jews," such as the Anusim (Marranos) of Spain and Latin America, the Ethiopians, and the Bnai Israel of India, took up their cause. The first reaction to these oriental looking Jews was skepticism, but when the Cheif Rabbinate sent a delegation to India to investigate the Bnai Menashe there, they came to the conclusion on the basis of their customs and beliefs, that they were indeed a remnant of a lost Jewish tribe.
Following such contacts, many Bnai Menashe underwent orthodox conversion, and then applied to emigrate to Israel as Jews under the Law of Return. At first the Ministry of Immigration and Absorption, known for their rigorousness in upholding orthodox interpretations of Jewish law prevented their aliyah. But, after two years of legal proceeedings and appeals, finally the Government intervened and gave permission for those who had been converted to come. Yesterday the first 50 arrived and another 50 followed today. Altogether there are 7,000 of them wanting to come. If their aliyah succeeds and it looks as if they are highly dedicated Jews, then maybe many more of their native tribes will want to follow.
These "lost" Jews are quite distinct from the Pathans, a subdivision of the Pashtun tribes, who are the major group in Afghanistan and the largest minority in Pakistan. While many of the sub-tribes of the Pashtuns trace their origin to King Saul, some of the sub-tribes consider themselves "children of Israel" and related to one of the "lost tribes." One of the major distinctions from the Bnei Menashe is that at the same time the Pathans are devout Muslims, usually Sunni, and are fiercely independent and have in many cases resisted control by national governments. While it is a very touchy subject, nevertheless, some anthropologists who have investigated the matter have come to the conclusion that some of their customs date back to Jewish origins. While few of them have indicated an interest of rejoining the Jews and moving to Israel like the Bnai Menashe, if they did it could be a very difficult situation, because there are millions of Pathans, and noone quite wants to open this particular Pandora's box.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Syria, Lebanon and Iraq

The Syrians are masters of duplicity. On the same day that the Syrian Foreign Minister signed an agreement to re-establish diplomatic relations with Iraq after 20 years, they assassinated Pierre Gemayel, scion of a well-known anti-Syrian Christian family, in Lebanon.
Gemayel is the fifth anti-Syrian politician assassinated in 2 years and the third member of his family to be assassinated, after his grandfather Pierre, who founded the Christian Phalange Party, and his uncle Bashir, who was assassinated in 1982 following the first Lebanon war. Just when Bashir Gemayel was about to be elected President of Lebanon then he was blown up by a powerful truck bomb, and that changed the whole situation. Bashir was one of the few Lebanese who was prepared to collaborate with Israel. His death caused the Christians to back off and this changed the history of the Middle East.
There is little doubt that this current campaign of messages from Syria, delivered in the form of assassinations (that's how the Syrians negotiate with the Lebanese) results from the "victory" that Hizbollah achieved in the second Lebanon war against Israel. Now they feel powerful enough that they are flexing their muscles. Since Hizbollah is a Syrian and Iranian proxy, this is another attempt by Syria to reassert its control over Lebanon. Remember that Syria does not recognize the existence of Lebanon and they have no diplomatic relations with it, because they regard Lebanon as part of Syria, just as Saddam Huissein considered Kuwait part of Iraq. They are testing the anti-Syrian forces to see if they are prepared to fight the Shi'ites of Hizbollah in another round of the civil war to determine who controls Lebanon - Syria or the anti-Syrians forces.
The assassination of Rafik Hariri, former President of Lebanon, started this crisis, and the assassination of Pierre Gemayel may either expand it or finish it. By withdrawing all Shia support from the Seniora Government and by gradually removing all his Ministers (he now has only a majority of two) the Shia and Syria are hoping to cause its collapse.
Why now? Also yesterday, the UN Security Council passed its final vote to legally establish the judicial enquiry into the assassination of Rafik Hariri. Before the Panel becomes legal in Lebanon it has to be approved by the Seniora Government. That's why last week Sheikh Nasrallah pulled his five representatives from the Cabinet and issued a public call to his followers to be ready at a moment's notice to come out onto the streets and demonstrate against the Seniora Government. However, now after the assassination of Gemayel this is unlikely to happen, because it would be too explosive if the two groups met. However, Nasrallah's position is clear, he is trying to bring down the Seniora Government before they have the opportunity to vote for the UN Hariri Panel of Enquiry which has already announced that high Syrian officials will be called before it under suspicion of having organized that assassination. You have to be a very brave man to vote for this Panel when anyone who does so will immediately be targeted (and is already targeted) as an enemy of Syria. The messages have not stopped coming.
It is noteworthy that at the same time as Syria (and Iran) are exercising their influence over the fate of Lebanon, and trying to bring it entirely into their sphere, the "democratic" Government of Iraq has signed an agreement with the last Ba'ath (Renaissance) Party Government in the Middle East, in Syria. One should remember that Saddam Hussein was the leader of the Ba'ath Party in Iraq, while President Bashar Assad is Head of the Ba'ath Party in Syria. Originally the two Ba'ath Parties had the same origins, since the Party was founded in Lebanon in the 1950's by an Arab Christian, Michel Aflak. After taking over Syria and then Iraq, a dispute developed between Assad and Saddam essentially over who would be predominant and they broke off relations 20 years ago. Now Iraq, with US connivance, has come to terms with the Ba'ath regime of Syria, in the hope that they will use their influence to reduce infiltration of terrorists from Syria into Iraq. The Iraqi Government is also hoping the same thing by meeting with the Iranians. Don't hold your breath! If anything, sensing the weakness of Iraq, whatever the Syrians and Iranians say, they will increase the pressure in order to bring Iraq into their sphere rather than that of the US. The Syrians will try to control the Iraqi Sunnis from the West and the Iranians the Iraqi Shia from the East.
These accomodations of Iraq with Syria and Iran can be seen as the turning point of the Iraq war and of US influence in the Middle East. We would have liked it to be otherwise, but that is the current reality. It coincides with Blair talking appeasement of the Islamist forces and Bush beginning to retract in Iraq.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Ethiopian irony

Tens of thousands of Ethiopian Jews immigrated to Israel over the past 20 years. Many of them came with no experience of the West and little education. It so happens that Netanya contains a large population of Ethiopians, living mostly in the Dora neighborhood, that is basically a slum. Today I started delivering food to this neighborhood with a private group called "Keren Olim" (Fund for Immigrants). The delivery is organized by a few people mostly from England. They have a bevy of drivers and young volunteers from the ORT school nearby the food distribution center shlapping the food parcels.
The irony is that while we were driving to deliver these packages (a box of dry goods, a chicken and 2 dozen eggs to each of eight families), I heard on the BBC about "discrimination" in Israel against the Ethiopians. The nature of the discrimination was that the Magen David Adom takes blood donations from Ethiopians, but does not use them in transfusions. That is because, since they come from Africa and are carriers of blood-borne diseases (including AIDS), the decision was taken that it is too risky to mix their blood into the general population. Although this seems discriminatory the reasons for it are quite rational - would even another Ethiopian want to be transfused with possibly contaminated blood? So I chuckled a bit, when we were going around delivering our food parcels. I hope I can say that noone goes hungry in Israel, although I am not sure this is true. Ethiopians are poor, have large families and low-paying jobs. Our Mayor was quoted as saying that noone in Netanya goes hungry, but nevertheless a lot of different private charities distribute food to the poor, including the "Forgotten People's Fund" and "This land is my land."
Dora is not as bad as slums in the US or Europe, there is very little crime here (that is mostly in upper class neighborhoods) and it is quite safe to walk around even at night (although not recommended). As it happens I grew up in a similar slum in the East End of London in a small apartment block, where there was no elevator, the lights were broken and the facilities primitive. So I don't find it entirely foreign. Also, every apartment we went into had a TV.
The most recent scandal in relation to the Ethiopians was the Falash Mura, a group of several thousand Ethiopians who had converted from Judaism to Christianity over the last hundred years or so, who want to be with the rest of the Ethiopian Jews in Israel and in some cases to convert back. Under the very rigorous limitations of the Ministry of Immigration and Absorption, the Falash Mura were first excluded from the "right of return," but after some years of legal action they have been accepted, although the rate of transfer was very slow. Last year Government money was set aside to double the rate of immigration to 300 per month, although this was not done for budgetary reasons. As of this week, after demonstrations and public outcry the latest news is that the Falash Mura are coming at the designated rate. It is sometimes disconcerting to see a black woman in Israel with a cross tatooed on her forehead!
The young man who helped me deliver the food was very dark-skinned, and at first I thought he was Ethiopian, but he was of Moriccan origin and born here. Israel is indeed a rainbow country.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

UN hypocrisy as usual

The UN General Assembly voted 156 to 7, with 6 abstentions, to condemn Israel for the loss of life in Gaza. This shows the consistent extent of UN hypocrisy, it is totally without moral foundation and is completely biased and one-sided! After failing to obtain a Security Council resolution due to a US veto as a result of its one-sidedness, the Arabs went to the General Assembly where there is no problem getting a huge majority for an anti-Israel resolution. The Arab and Muslim States plus the so-called non-aligned (really aligned anti-Western) movement gives the anti-Israel axis 120 votes. In this case the EU voted as a bloc of 25 with them, mainly due to French lobbying for the resolution, then the Russians and their bloc voted for it, giving the total of 156. Only the US, Australia, and several Micronesian nations voted with Israel against. Israel's representative Danny Gillerman walked out of the UN chamber in disgust.
While the resolution mentioned the rocket attacks on Israel, in order to get EU support, the thrust of the resolution condemned Israel for what it has admitted was a mistake, and for which Israel already formally apologized. The resolution, that is not binding, calls upon the Secty. General to send a fact finding mission to Gaza and Israel to investigate, and calls upon Israel to cease all military action in Gaza, thus it would effectively render Israel defenceless while the rockets continue to rain down. There have been 1,000 rockets since the beginning of 2006, an average of about 4 per day. As Gillerman said the UN resolution can only encourage the Kassam crews to continue their relentless attacks. Today the Israeli Cabinet voted against cooperating with such a one-sided delegation.
As Gillerman also said in his speech, the motion did not mention Hamas, who are responsible for firing the rockets, nor terrorism. Thus, the members of the so-called Quartet, except for the US, who are supposedly standing in judgement over Israel, who have voted to hold Hamas to an international standard of recognising Israel, etc. voted in this case against their own position. The French hypocrisy is as usual extreme, last week the French Ambassador to Israel wrote an article in the Jerusalem Post saying how France supports Israel and how Israelis are wrong to be anti-French! I suggest we all boycott France and French products.
A left-wing demonstration of cars drove thru Sderot today to the Erez crossing into Gaza. They called for an end to violence! Nevertheless 7 rockets landed today, and they were lucky not to be hit by one. A taxi driver in Sderot was hit and is hospitalized. A delegation lead by Bibi Netanyahu also visited Sderot today, but had no answer to the current situation.
In order to reduce the pressure on the children, Arkady Guydamak, a Russian millionaire, has paid to send hundreds of Sderot children to Eilat for a weekend holiday. Others were taken on tours of Tel Aviv. Meanwhile, the Government, that seems to be paralyzed, has finally agreed to reinforce school buildings in Sderot. The Cabinet meeting today discussed what to do about the rockets, but came to no decision, pending the formation of a National Unity Government in the PA.
The Palestinians came up with another effective defence today, when the IAF telephoned a leader of the Popular Resistance Committees and told him they were going to hit his house (used as a weapons storage facility), instead of leaving, he called upon locals to gather at his house and a huge crowd acted as a "human shield," knowing that the IAF would not strike for fear of causing civilian casualties. So now the IDF has admitted that they cannot stop the rockets and now they cannot hit back at houses and other facilities. Today they did manage to hit a car in which several gunmen were travelling, who were killed.
The problem is that however many are killed, the Palestinians believe that they are onto a winning strategy, bleeding Israel daily with rocket attacks, and thwarting Israel's response due to international PR pressure and human shield tactics. This leads to loss of Israeli morale and frustration. Either the Israeli Government must act soon to end this fiasco or there will be a crisis. New Minister Avigdor Lieberman has called on the Government to stop attacking houses and to start to assassinate the Hamas leadership. Israel has resisted doing this since Hamas were elected as the Government of the PA. Apart from pounding Gaza cities, this is the only fresh suggestion that might break the stalemate. But, this has been heavily criticized from the left. and could lead to the breakdown of the Olmert coalition Government. Nevertheless it is reported that Defense Minister Peretz is very upset over the amputation of the legs of one of his bodyguards, and is determined to do something. The question is what?

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Alienation and evil

David Mamet, a quintessential Jewish American writer, has written a book consisting of a series of essays entitled, "The Wicked Son." This was reviewed in the Jerusalem Post this weekend by Abigail Radoszkowitz, and purports to describe the beliefs of the prevalent liberal-leftist Jewish Americans who are extremely critical of Israel for two reasons, overtly because it is consistent with their liberal humanitarian view that Israel is a "colonial", "imperialist" military power mistreating the poor native Palestinians, and covertly because it allows them to identify with the majority of liberal-leftist non-Jews who hold these views, and therefore they can meld into the general population of their contemporaries. Needless to say the title comes from the "wicked son," one of the four described in the Hagaddah, who asks "what is this service to you?" thus separating and distancing himself deliberately from the Jewish people.
When I was growing up my father always said during the Seder that I was the "wicked" son, because I was profoundly non-religious, or actually then anti-religious. No doubt part of this was the usual camouflage of self-hate, for being different in a non-Jewish world and resenting it. Surprisingly, despite this alienation, I turned out to have an intense Jewish identification and a strong Zionist attitude, even though coming from the same origin I might have turned out different. For example, Tony Judt and Richard Cohen, two prominent Jewish Americans have expressed the view that Israel is illegitimate, and should never have come into existence, and the resulting wars and killings (of Jews and Arabs) result from this original "mistake." They are the perfect examples of the "wicked son," self-hating, Arab-accomodating Jews. Of course, my views are diametrically opposed to theirs, I say that all the killing results from the inability of the Arabs to come to terms with the legitimacy of Israel, and the onus is on them to reform and accept. Pending that, Israel needs to fight them in self-defense because they are intent on killing us. Now that there are 6 million Jews in Israel, would Judt and Cohen and their ilk see us left at the mercy of the surrounding Arabs. Are they eager for another Holocaust?
Not having read the book and taking the review as my basis, Mamet's prescription for restoring these alienated Jewish sons to Jewish identity is for them to delve into Judaism. They should be as reverent (or more so) of Chanukkah as they are of Christmas and Kwanzaa, they should take the belief and ritual of Reform Judaism as seriously as their characteristically Jewish committment to social betterment.
But, I am sceptical that any religious approach would be persuasive for these lapsed Jews. On the contrary, I think they should be hit where they are most vulnerable, in the area of political committment. They should be challenged to support Israel's right to exist as a member of the UN as much as that of Ireland or India, whose contemporary existence also caused much suffering (or more so). Why should Israel be less legitimate than (say) Jordan or Lebanon, whose independence they would no doubt support. Ignoring the over-whelming historical and moral basis for the existence of the State of Israel is the lacuna in their souls, their self-negating raison d'etre.
It is difficult to make a wicked person righteous, but you can look for the place where he strays from the rightful path. If I examine my own views, then it is clear that I experienced and read about how Jews were (and are) persecuted in this world, and saw the necessity of the existence of the Jewish State as the only viable solution. I perceived the right and righteous conclusion and they did not.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Gaza and Lebanon

A 56-year old woman, Fatima Slutsker, was killed and a bodyguard to Defense Minister Peretz (who lives in Sderot) lost both his legs yesterday from one of 8 rockets that fell on the Negev town of Sderot. Another 5 rockets fell in the vicinity of Ashkelon, injuring a 17 year old boy. Ironically, Fatima Slutsker was a Muslim who made aliyah with her Jewish husband from the Caucasus region of Russia 3 years ago. Hamas and Islamic Jihad announced responsibility for these rocket attacks, in revenge for the accidental killing of civilians in Beit Hanun by the IDF.
As usual we have to wait for someone to die before the authorities take serious action. In the previous operations in Gaza the IDF said that we cannot expect them to stop all rockets being fired into Israel. Why not? Its true that the rocket launchers are mobile, but by taking enough ground the launchers could be moved away from the border, and by mounting large scale operations the launchers could be destroyed. This is what must be done. Southern Israel cannot live under this kind of constant bombardment.
The house of Min. Peretz has been reinforced to survive rocket attack, but only a few of the schools, kindergartens and other meeting places in Sderot have been protected, and it is only a matter of time before a tragedy happens. While the tragedy in Beit Hanun of 18 civiliains being killed was apologized for by our Government, there would have been no apology from the Palestinians for such an incident on our side, they would celebrate and rejoice, such is the difference between us.
In Lebanon, the report from Avi Dichter the security head, is that Hizbollah has recouped its previous armaments, and has now reintroduced the same number of fighters into South Lebanon as they had before the recent war. The presence of the new UNIFIL force has proved no impediment to them. So that PM Olmert's statement that they will never recover their former position is untrue. They have done so already, and they are rebuilding their underground bunkers with Iranian financial support. At the same time Sheikh Nasrullah is challenging the anti-Syrian Lebanese Government by withdrawing all Shia Cabinet members and threatening a repeat of the disastrous civil war that convulsed Lebanon for 15 years. In order to save democracy in Lebanon the forces of reason have to stand up to Nasrullah, but will they? He is capitalizing on his position as the "savior" of Lebanon from Israeli "aggression" and making a play for increased power in Lebanon itself, not just in the Shia south. Maybe he has bit off more than he can chew, but maybe he will be proved right, that the anti-Syrian opposition is all talk and no teeth. If they back down in face of his challenge it will be bad days ahead for Lebanon and for Israel, and a victory for Syria and Iran.
PM Olmert's trip to the US and his address to the GA in Los Angeles have passed without particular surprise. The main topic was Iran and what is going to be done about it. For all the breast beating of Olmert, the international community is passive, and the US is mired in Iraq. We await further developments. There is some breathing time before Iran goes nuclear, 1-2 years, but not much more.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

The poisoned chalice

Tony Blair's swansong at the Guildhall, which may be his last major speech on foreign policy before such a distinguished gathering prior to his resignation next June, was notable for its major turnaround. Instead of labelling Syria and Iran the leading enemies of the West in fostering international terrorism and violence in Iraq, as he has done in the past, he called them potential partners, and gave a list of what Iran should do to be accepted by the West, otherwise they will be "isolated." As if they care! He also labeled the Arab-Israel conflict as the "core" of all conflicts in the Middle East. It amazes me that a leader of such insight should repeat this shallow observation. How would solving the Palestine conflict, assuming that were possible, cause the reduction of violence in Iraq or cause Iran to stop developing an atomic weapon? I fail to see the logic of it. Would it suddenly persuade the Sunnis or the Shia that America is indeed their friend? No, on the contrary, it would be considered a victory for them and goad them on to further anti-Western efforts.
At the same time Pres. Bush was also back-tracking. In his meeting with PM Olmert in Washington he specifically mentioned that the US is not seeking a military solution to the Iran situation. This is not what he said previously, when he announced that all options were on the table. Iran, already flushed with the "victory" of the Democrats against the Iraq war, are now positively happy. They are not stupid, they see the nuanced back-tracking going on on both sides of the Atlantic. Bush rules out force in solving the Iranian nuclear crisis, and Blair calls for talks with Syria and Iran to solve their problems. This is climb-down time for the US and UK. The Iranians have won a round and see that the US involvement in Iraq is a step too far for them. There will be no more US reinforcements sent to Iraq, instead there will be a backing down, and there certainly is no basis for an American military confrontation with Iran.
Once again, Israel is left alone holding the poisoned chalice. Noone else in the world, although the whole Western world is threatened by the Iranian nuclear gambit, will do anything except talk, while Iran continues furiously to develop its nuclear bomb and prepares to use it on Israel and whoever else it chooses. Such is the level of defeatism and appeasement in the West. So the Islamists did not need to carry out another 9/11 type attack on the US, all they had to do was threaten terrorism and this had the desired effect. By being prepared to die in Iraq, and hitting US forces, they avoided the need to hit the US at home. They have been trying (e.g. the liquid explosive plan on trans-Atlantic flights), however, they can save the major effort for later, no need for it now. They know full well that democracies can't stand casualties, and now the US for all its strength is crumbling in Iraq.
Meanwhile, according to Israeli security chief Avi Dichter, Egypt is conniving in massive arms smuggling into Gaza, just as Syria and Iran have been doing in Lebanon. The strategy is to bleed Israel on two fronts with Hizbollah and Hamas acting as armed insurgents. Those who said that we could not trust Egypt and should not leave security on the Gaza border to them have been proven right.
At present the situation in both the PA and Lebanon is fluid. In the PA there is talk of a Unity Government that may or may not accept the conditions of the international community and Israel to enable negotiations. And in Lebanon the ramifications of the "victory" of Hizbollah in the Lebanon war with Israel are now coming home to roost, as Hizbollah is making a play to take over the Lebanese Government by challenging the anti-Syrian forces to a potential civil war, in the expectation that they will back down rather than risk fighting Hizbollah. Either way things do not look good for the future.

Monday, November 13, 2006

Olmert in Washington

PM Olmert is visiting Washington to meet with Pres. Bush at a relatively relaxed time. Olmert has strengthened his coalition with the entry of Yisrael Beiteinu, so that his Government is now quite stable. Pres. Bush has received a "thumping" in the mid-term elections, but he is still the Presdient and has two years to go. The UN Security Council voted on the Qatari resolution to blame Israel for the deaths of civilians in Gaza, while hardly mentioning the rockets fired into Israel every day for the last 3 years, and as pointed out by the US representative John Bolton, without mentioning terrorism at all. So fortunately for Israel the US vetoed the resolution, which in any case was about an accident, as every reasonable person knows.
While there is a crisis in Lebanon over the resignation of the 5 Shia members of the Cabinet, at least this is after the Lebanon war and so things are relatively calm on that front. Although there is on and off fighting in Gaza, at the moment there is no major IDF action there. In an interview before leaving Olmert stressed that he was unconditionally prepared to meet Abbas and make territorial concessions. This is what Bush wants to hear, since his advisers have persuaded him that if progress can be made on the Israel-Palestinian front then this will help him in his situation in Iraq, by somehow magically gaining "moderate" Arab support. This is illusiory, but all Presidents believe this, and so they are prepared to bring pressure on Israel to make concessions. However, at the present Israel cannot do that with the Hamas Government still in power. Although the Hamas Government has proven an obstacle to Bush's plans for his "Road Map" plan, nevertheless there is talk of prisoner exchanges and a National Unity Government in the PA.
Looming large on the horizon, but not yet with us, is the impending danger of the Iranian nuclear weapons issue. While the Russians and the Chinese have agreed in principle to sanctions against Iran, they seem to spend most of their time trying to reduce their impact. Of course, this is a life or death issue for Israel, but also one for the US, especially in terms of the US forces and interests in the Middle East. Although joint US-Israeli action would seem to be appropriate, the US usually shys away from this in light of the general anti-American reaction that such an alliance would engender in the Muslim world and elsewhere. But, twice now the US has been involved in coalitions in the Gulf region and Iraq that have proved virtually worthless, with often incompetent forces in token numbers from miscellaneous countries.
At least now the US and Israel have the opportunity to coordinate their intentions and efforts in regard to Iran. As Dep. Defense Min. Efraim Sneh said the other day "force is the last resort, but sometimes the last resort becomes the only resort." Apparently the Iranian Government is suing him for having spoken the obvious. Israel has had a concerted campaign against Iran over Ahmedinejad's terrible statements, such as "wiping Israel off the map," and now a group is taking legal action against him in the Intl. Court in the Hague for proposing genocide. Meanwhile, former Iranian Pres. Rafsanjani and 8 other officials are wanted on international warrants from Argentina for the bombing of the Jewish Community Center in Buenos Aires in 1994 that killed 85 people.
No doubt Olmert will want to hear from Bush and the Democratic leaders what they expect to happen now in Iraq that the Democarts have taken charge of both Houses of Congress. Whatever is decided it will undoubtedly affect Israel's position in the Middle East. Thankfully the Democratic leadership are known to be very supportive of Israel.
The expectations from this summit are not very high, and no press conference is even scheduled after the meeting. But, let's hope that quietly behind the scenes important decisions are being made that will ensure Israel's survival.

Friday, November 10, 2006

Out of Egypt

Thursday night we went to a talk at the AACI by Rabbi Michael Melchior, who is a well known Israeli politician and scion of a distinguished family of Scandinavian Rabbis. His grandfather was Rabbi of Denmark during WWII and he himself is still Chief Rabbi of Norway as well as being a member of the Israeli Knesset. He is a leader of the Meimad faction of the Labor Party, which is the religious group of Labor members, so it is an unusual grouping in contrast to the usual right wing religious MKs. Melchior is also Chairman of the Knesset Education Committee, as well as being on other Committees, and he is a former Cabinet member.
He was here to honor our friend Aron Korzen, who is a lawyer and long-time activist on social affairs in Netanya and formerly twice President of Netanya AACI. Aron is also a member and supporter of Meimad. Although I disagree fundamentally with Aron's liberal-left views, I respect his integrity and commitment to his principles.
Melchior spoke extrtemely well, the coherent presentation of a professional speaker. Being a Rabbi of course his talk was laced with Biblical quotations and allusions. His theme was that coming to Israel physically is not enough for a true Zionist, being here must also be a moral commitment to the betterment of the county and to our fellow human beings, Jews and non-Jews alike. He likened this to "coming out of Egypt," namely physically coming out of Egypt is not enough, but one must count oneself as morally and ethically coming out of a place of moral degradation to a place of moral betterment. This is a constant struggle for the Jewish soul.
He particularly bemoaned the constant cutting of the education budget in Israel that has reduced Israeli education from one of the best 20 years ago to one of the worst in the developed world. He also castigated Israel for the treatment of the Arabs of East Jerusalem, who were incorporated into Israel after 1967, but who have been neglected and ignored by successive governments.
Of course, one can agree that education and social welfare needs more funding without necessarily agreeing with his whole political position in principle. For example, as I pointed out to him afterwards, you can give as much money to education as you like, but some people will not try to better themselves. Some peoples are naturally industrious, such as Jews and Asians, and will better themselves whatever the circumstances, while some others are content to accept their lot, such as the Blacks and Arabs. Certainly there are some outstanding Black American individuals (such as Ed Bradley, who unfortunately died yesterday), but generally speaking Blacks do not do well educationally, even with the best of opportunities (there are reputed to be more young Black men in prison than in University). Note that I do not blame this on the color of their skin, but on their cultural predilections, and I recognize that this in not a "politically correct" opinion.
Palestinians are still living in camps after 60 years, not only kept there by their own Arab brothers, but also by their own sense of victimhood. They would prefer to blame the Jews than to try to better themselves by their own efforts. If any people could blame their oppressors if would be the Jews after WWII, but what did we do, instead we founded a State and in 60 years made it prosperous on a par with European countries. Such is the difference between peoples, and such is the limitation of the social welfare mentality.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Death in Beit Hanun

Unfortunately, another "fashla" of the IDF has resulted in the death of a large number of Palestinian civilians in Beit Hanun in Gaza. Apparently 20 people of the same extended family were killed including women and children, by several shells. It is likely that the firing of these shells was to the wrong coordinates, since they were supposed to be aimed at the site of a rocket salvo fired into Israel. Since the IDF has once again withdrawn from Gaza, the rockets this time were answered by artillery.
Today 10 rockets were fired at various areas of southern Israel and two women were mildly injured, yesterday one rocket hit the center of Ashkelon and others landed nearby and in Sderot. There is no doubt that this IDF hit was an unintentional accident, a response to these rockets. The Israeli Govt. apologized at the highest levels, including PM Olmert, Dep. PM Peres and Defense Minister Peretz, who initiated an enquiry and stopped all artillery attacks until further notice. However, this makes no difference to the enemy, who officially called us "animals" and of course, stated that it was a "deliberate massacre." Several terrorist groups issued warnings that they will now resume suicide bombings in Israel against Israeli civilians. But, in reality they have been trying all the time. Only a few days ago a Palestinian woman blew herself up when she was detected approaching a checkpoint out of Gaza. Luckily only one IDF guard was wounded.
In any case, these deadly incidents result from the need for Israel to respond to the constant barrage of rockets from northern Gaza. 900 rockets have been fired into Israel in the past 6 months and 300 from the area of Beit Hanun. Luckily so far there has been no major loss of life in Israel, but it is purely random chance, since the rockets are fired with the intention of killing civilians, quite the opposite to the Israeli intention.
In a completely separate incident 4 Palestinian terrorists were ambushed by the IDF near Jenin on the West Bank and killed while driving in a car. One of them was the wanted head of the al Aksa Martyrs Brigades in Jenin and three of his assistants.
PM Haniyeh of Hamas used the excuse of the deadly incident in Gaza to stop negotiations with Pres. Abbas on the formation of a Unity Government of the PA. He also issued a call to Muslims everywhere to attack American interests, since he said that Israel is supported by America. In a way it is coincidental that this bloody incident will not receive as much attention in the media as usual because of the US election results. So as you celebrate the victory of the Democrats in the current mid-term election, in which 87% of Jews voted Democratic and hope for a withdrawal of US forces from Iraq, prepare for other attacks in other parts of the world. The war on terror is still very much ongoing.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

The Anfal campaign

After the guilty verdict in his trial for the Dujail massacre in which 148 Shia men, women and children were murdered by Saddam Hussein and his associates following an attempt on his life there, Saddam is undergoing another trial. This is for the Anfal campaign, a campaign of Arabization of the Kurdish region of Iraq which took place between 1986-9 in which approximately 182,000 Kurds were massacred. This was one of the greatest crimes of the 20th century, although very little is known about it in the West.
Following the first Gulf War, Saddam decided that the Kurds were too rebellious and he ordered his troops to secretly attack large areas of the Kurdish region of northern Iraq, with the aim of totally wiping out the Kurdish population there and replacing them with Sunni Arabs. In doing so the Iraqi Army used ruthless "ethnic cleaning," literally murdering whole villages, including burying thousands alive in pits dug by bulldozers. During the Anfal campaign, the Iraqi government:
destroyed about 4,000 villages in Iraqi Kurdistan, executed approximately 182,000 men, women, and children and destroyed 1,754 schools, 270 hospitals, 2,450 mosques, and 27 churches. All of this will be brought up in evidence at his second trial which is already ongoing while his appeal against his death sentence in the Dujail trial is being considered.
One aspect of the Anfal campaign that is little noted is that it represents a further expansion, an imperialism, of the Arab world. It was not chance that lead Saddam to choose to "Arabize" the Kurdish region. If he had not been stopped he would have gone on to massacre in truly genocidal fashion the whole Kurdish population, just as he eliminated the Shia marsh Arabs in the south of Iraq by deliberately drying up their water sources (they have only recently been restored).
Another example of Arabization is the Darfur crisis, where some 200,000 black Muslims have been massacred and ca. 2 million have been displaced by the Sudanese Army and their accomplices the Janjaweed militias. These are acting as Arabs in expanding the area of Arab control, at the expense of ethnic cleansing of non-Arab Muslims. This follows the former war in south Sudan against black non-Muslims that took over a million lives in ca. 20 years of fighting.
Yet another location where the Arabs seek to remove a contiguous non-Arab minority is Israel. The main difference is that Israel is a sovereign State, recognized as a member of the UN, and no pushover militarily. Although we are still being bombarded by Kassam rockets in the South, one landed today in Ashkelon, the IDF just pulled out of Beit Hanun, after killing ca. 50 Palestinians in five days of the operation, of which the vast majority were terrorist gunmen. Today the organizer of the women who surrounded the mosque where the gunmen were holed up a few days ago and helped them to escape dressed as women was killed together with an Islamic Jihad leader when her house was destroyed.
This imperialist Arab mentality unfortunately is an integral part of Islam. They cannot give up any territory that was ever Arab/Muslim and seek to expand all the time. Other places where they have claims are Nigeria, where there is constant Muslim anti-Christian violence, Kashmir, south Phillippines, and Spain. One can predict further attempts to undermine the Governments of those countries. The Anfal campaign was an extreme case, but it was not an aberration.

Monday, November 06, 2006

The Rabin syndrome

The "Rabin syndrome" is a well characterized psychological mechanism whereby anyone who is assassinated becomes by virtue of his untimely death a veritable saint (remember Kennedy). Now after 11 years, the commemoration of Rabin's death this week at Rabin Square in Tel Aviv has sunk to new lows. It was presided over by his daughter Dalia Rabin-Filosof, who decreed that no politicians would speak there, because politicians are too self-serving. But, two were allowed on the podium, Defense Minister Amir Peretz, Head of Labor, whose popularity has sunk to a new low of only 14%, and the ubiquitous Dep. PM Shimon Peres, who is now running for the post of President.
The main speaker, apart from Rabin-Filosof herself, was David Grossman, a well-known leftist Israeli writer. He spoke in extreme terms about how the past Sharon and the present Olmert Governments have deliberately avoided making peace with the Palestinians and with Syria, who both have said they want negotiations, but the Government (being so right-wing) deliberately avoids negotiating with them. What absolute nonsense! When the whole world, including our good friends the EU, the UN and Russia, as part of the Quartet, have agreed not to talk to the PA Hamas Government until it recognizes Israel's right to exist, he conveniently ignores this reality. Grossman has earned some respect because his son was killed in the Lebanon war fighting Hizbollah. I am amazed that he did not suggest that Israel open negotiations with them.
But, what was most disconcerting about this Rabin Commemoration is that Rabin was never this left-wing. It has been co-opted by ultra-leftists, with Rabin-Filosof's connivance, as a place for mainly youth to go to be indoctrinated by Meretz policies. Rabin would be turning in his grave. During the bulk of his life he was a military man, organizing the IDF to ensure Israel's survival. And Labor at that time was far from the Party to which it has now sunk.
Even the national commemoration of Rabin's death at the President's House in Jerusalem was controversial. It was boycotted by most MKs and politicians who did not attend as a protest against the presence of Pres. Katsav, who is close to being indicted on charges of rape, sexual harrassment, illegal wire-tapping and selling pardons! Not exactly the kind of situation conducive to a dignified ceremony.
Unfortunately, like other politicians when they reach a ripe age, like Sharon too, they suddenly revert to a pacifist line, as if that will somehow ensure their name for posterity. Rabin made two unforgivable errors, he brought Arafat back from obscurity in Tunis to be head of the PA, and he accepted the plan of his chief rival Peres, and his malicious former assistant Yossi Beilin who is now head of Meretz, that lead to the Oslo Accords. So from now on we can predict that the legacy of Rabin will be dissipated, since it is no longer recognizable in the form in which it is being exploited.

Sunday, November 05, 2006


There are some perturbances of the atmosphere both inside and outside Israel. The most perturbing internal problem is the planned "gay-pride" parade in Jerusalem, supposed to take place next week. In the run up to this there has been violence from both sides. Haredi Jews had violent demonstrations in the area around Bar-Ilan Street, that forms a line between secular and haredi Jerusalem. Last night about 2,000 Haredim rallied against the "parade," that they see as a provocation, bringing lewd and lascivious public displays into the heart of the holy city. They burnt trash containers and clashed with police. This parade has united the religious communities, Jewish, Muslim and Christian, against it.
On the other hand, the secular gays regard it as their right to parade their wares in public, to strut their stuff and generally show their proclivities. In a democracy, they argue, they have the right to do this. Two synagogues were desecrated in Tel Aviv, stones were thrown through their windows and on the Great Synagogue was written "if we can't parade in Jerusalem you won't be able to walk in Tel Aviv." So a mini-war is developing between the ultra-leftist hedonists and the ultra-orthodox believers.
The police meanwhile are caught in the middle, trying to protect a legal parade, but at the same time fearful of the consequences of violence that it might engender. Since it seems clearly to be a provocation, because noone in Israel denies gays the right to their private preferences, this public demonstration is clearly intended to disturb the religious, rather than lead to a peaceful situation as the gays claim. So the police are now leaning towards banning the parade, and members of the Knesset are also considering taking legal action.
This is going on against a backdrop of IDF action in northern Gaza, where today Palestinian women were called upon publicly to protect the Hamas gunmen holed up in a mosque and surrounded by the IDF. The women did their job very well, although two of them were killed and several injured, nevertheless they managed to provide a human shield for the gunmen to escape from the mosque dressed as women.
Clearly the Palestinian gunmen are cowards. They first hide in a mosque, then they call upon unarmed women to give them cover as human shields. They don't care if the women are killed in the crossfire because women are worthless in the Muslim world. Anyway it makes good PR for them to have children (as in Muhammed al Dura) or women killed by IDF fire, even when they deliberately engineer or falsify it. Let us not forget that the cause of this IDF incursion into Gaza is the daily firing of Kassam rockets into Israeli towns and villages, which continued even today. No country can accept such a continuing bombardment, and this incursion into Beit Hanun is to show the Palestinians that we mean business, they will not enjoy peace while we are under fire!
At the same time Iran held a "war game" to show off the performance of its rockets. The Shihab 3 can reach Israel with a large payload, although what is clearly most worrisome is the possibility that in the future it might be boosting an atomic weapon. This could also be used against US forces in the Middle East (Iraq, Afghanistan) as well as other western allies.
Iran is clearly manipulating things behind the scenes. Although the media trumpets the fact that Hamas is the elected government of the PA, the person who seems to be calling the shots, especially in relation to the release of the IDF hostages, is Khaled Mashaal, the Hamas head in Syria. He clearly listens to Syria and Iran before taking any action, and he has so far stymied the possibility preferred by Pres. Abbas of the PA to release Cpl. Shavit so that the PA can get back to "normal" and begin receiving funds from outside. Well, they are receiving funds for salaries and humanitarian concerns thru the EU and UN, and they are getting supplies from Israel, even during the fighting yesterday Israel released 30 truckloads of supplies thru the Karni crossing. But, according to the Egyptians, Mashaal is blocking an agreement that they mediated between the PA and Israel, and in this respect Hamas is acting as an agent of Iran and not of the Palestinians. This can only lead eventually to a civil war in the PA between the Palestinian nationalists of Fatah and the Islamist extremists of Hamas, who would rather side with Iran in order to carry on their war against Israel.
Several of you have replied to tell me that the item I forwarded about the imposition of specific dress for religious minorites in Iran is untrue. For further information see:

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Gaza again!

One Israeli soldier and 10 Palestinian gunmen were killed last night in intense fighting in northern Gaza around the towns of Beit Hanun and Beit Haniyeh. This is another concerted effort by the IDF under the orders of the Government to take action to stop the Kassam rockets being fired into southern Israel, and particularly the town of Sderot. Pres. Abbas of the PA called this Israeli action a "massacre," but he should know that Israel will not tolerate the continual firing of rockets into its territory (the BBC in reporting this action conveniently omitted the firing of the rockets on Sderot, yesterday there were 4). Demonstrations last week by the residents of Sderot called attention to the continuing problem. They cannot live under the constant threat of this barrage.
The Security Cabinet decided not to launch a deep and sustained drive into the center of Gaza. Once again they prefer to take local action against the specific threat of the rocket launchers. Whether or not this will do any good is questionable. However, they said that they are prepared to keep the IDF there for as long as necessary, although they have no intention of again occupying Gazan territory.
A similar policy has been adopted in the south of Gaza against the threat of smuggling of arms across the Egyptian border thru tunnels. It has been reported that the Palestinians have now dug a "city" underground with kilometer long tunnels and distant connections. Although the Egyptians have now brought in 500 more armed Police to patrol their side of the border, there is a strong feeling that Egypt is doing nothing to really try to stop the arms flooding across the border. There are now calls for the IDF to reoccupy the Palestinian side of the border, called the Philadelphi corridor, and to take concerted action to interdict this smuggling. But, it may be too late. Anti-tank missiles are already being used by the Palestinians against IDF tanks and they are clearly basing their tactics on the success of Hizbollah in the recent war in Lebanon. It has been reported that instead of the rag-tag local terrorist groups, Hamas is building an army of 10,000 men, currently under training in south Gaza, modelled on Hizbollah, to take the field against the IDF. It is clear that their intentions are not in any way peaceful, they are preparing for the next round. It may be a big mistake for Israel to sit across the border and wait for them to succeed in doing this, as we did in Lebanon.
Meanwhile there are reports that negotiations are underway with the Egyptians as intermediaries for the release of Cpl. Shalit from Gaza initially for a group of ca. 40 women and juveniles and then for an additional 1,000 Palestinian prisoners. A similar negotiation is underway for the release of the two kidnapped IDF soldiers in Lebanon with the UN as intermediary. Sheikh Nasrullah in an interview today confirmed that the situation is close to resolution. However, they are now demanding that Israeli Arab prisoners also be included in the releases. This is getting ridiculous, over 1,000 Arab prisoners for one or two Israelis? This has been the situation before, but why does our Government allow this? Every terrorist who is released will go back and be another killer of more Israeli people. It has happened and it is predictable. We should be prepared to forgo the release of our prisoners for such an exorbitant price, why not 5,000 or 10,000 detainees? This is what happens when you negotiate with terrorists.
Meanwhile Pres. Abbas has once again extended his elastic deadline by another two weeks for the negotiations with Hamas to form a National Unity Government of the PA. First, they will never do this if it requires them to agree to recognize the existence of Israel and second they will not be treated as the weaker partner by Fatah, when they feel they have the greater strength (the majority voted for them!). In Lebanon, Nasrullah is trying to expand his powers in the wake of his self-declared "victory" in the recent war against Israel. If he continues on this course it could trigger another war in Lebanon. Prospects do not look good on any of the fronts.