Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Saudi air space

There have been reports in major newspapers, including The Times of London, that Saudi Arabia has approved in advance the fly-over of Israeli airplanes in their air space on their way to bomb Iranian nuclear facilities. Apart from the fact that the Saudis have formally denied this, this Report is most implausible. The Report includes the turning off of the Saudi air defence systems so that they would not be activated by the IDF planes and the setting aside of space on Saudi airfields for Israel jets to refuel if necessary. This report is so unbelievable that one must assume that it has been planted by pro-Iranian sources in order to discredit the Saudis. After all, why would the leader of the Sunni Muslim world suddenly decide to cooperate with their greatest enemy, the Jews. Remember that in the Gulf War of 2004 Israel was asked by the US to take the rockets being fired from Saddam's Iraq without military response, rather than risk the breakup of the allied coalition that included such unlikely countries as Syria and Saudi Arabia. The conventional view was that if IDF planes counter-attacked Iraq, as they were imminently prepared to do, that the US could not prevent the break-up of its coalition. So what could possibly have happened since then that would reverse such an ingrained policy.

The explanation would be that Iran is a far more powerful and immediate threat to the security and survival of the Saudi regime than Saddam ever was. Faced with the hegemonic aims of the Iranian regime, the Sunni Arabs are being challenged by their great rivals, the Shi'ite Muslims. It is as if the Protestants and the Catholics were about to restart a war that has been going on for hundreds of years, with each side regarding the other as heretical, and nearby there is a power that could significantly tip the balance. The fact is that the Sunni Arab regimes are weak and incompetent, and it was only because Saddam's Iraq was so corrupt and over-estimated (such as its lack of WMDs) that it fell so quickly. Also, the crucial question is does the old adage apply to the Middle East that has so often been quoted, i.e. "the enemy of my enemy is my friend." I am afraid not, as the case of the first Gulf War attests, and in many areas the US has had to avoid including Israel so as to avoid losing Arab support.

But, now with Pres. Obama, the situation has become even more delicate. US engagement with Iran, although so far unsuccessful, frightens the Sunni Arabs even more than Israel. At least Israel has itself to rely on, but what have the Arabs got if not the US. With US forces stretched in Iraq and Afghanistan, and with Obama considered relatively passive by his enemies, hence giving them the opportunity to expand their plans, this Report does become more plausible. If it happened, if Israel found it necessary to strike Iranian targets, then this would indicate a real turnaround by the Arab world. It would be an acknowledgement that Iran is a far more dangerous threat to them than is Israel.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Goal or no goal?

In the 38th minute of the World Cup elimination match between England and Germany last week, Frank Lampard scored a goal. It clearly was a goal in that the ball crossed the goal line, but it was actually not allowed as a goal because the referee and the linesmen did not see it. They thought that the ball had not crossed the line after hitting the crossbar and being deflected downwards. So it was not registered as a goal, leaving England 2-1 behind, but millions, if not trillions, of TV viewers, as well as the spectators in the stadium and even the German coach saw that it actually was a goal. So the question arises, when is a goal not a goal?

I raise this issue in relation to Israel and the common perception among many that Israel is an aggressive militaristic state, so that when there was an encounter at sea and Turkish Muslims were killed by Israeli commandos, it was immediately assumed and widely reported that they were killed in a deliberate and premeditated attack by the armed commandos. Certainly this is what would have happened if the roles were reversed, so that most Brits and Muslims around the world assume that the IDF does what they would do, i.e. kill the enemy at every opportunity. But, after about 24 hours it became clear that that is not what happened, the facts are: 1. That a group of hard-core Turkish Islamists belonging to the IHH organization had prepared for a fight on board, had cut railings for handy metal bar weapons, had knives and even guns, and had declared that they wanted to become martyrs (shaheeds); 2. That the Israeli commandos were outnumbered (about 50 to 15) as they rapelled onto the deck of the Mavi Marmara, and they were set upon and beaten; 3. That the commandos did not have regular weapons, but were using paint guns for crowd control, although luckily they did have revolvers that eventually saved their lives; 4. That these facts were shown by numerous videos, both those taken by Israeli helicopters hovering above the ship and several that were taken on board by reporters. So that actually the violence was started by those on board, not the commanados, as attested also by the fact that on 5 other ships in the flotilla there was no violence. But, as in the case of this goal, the media and the audience playing the role of the referee and the linesmen failed to see the "goal." So it was declared not a goal, in contravention of the facts.

But, this comparison breaks down for two reasons: first, in the case of the World Cup referee, there is no indication that he or the linesmen were biased against England, it is assumed that it was simply negligence in that they failed to observe that the goal was scored, while by comparison the media and much of the public are pre-biased against Israel and so the worst is always assumed. Second, the rules of soccer (football) are well known, and whether or not a goal is scored should be clear, but the rules of engagement at sea between armed blockade breakers and Israeli commandos are unclear, and anything can happen. Also, the assumptions that most make and even assert that the blockade is illegal or that there is a humanitarian catastrophe in Gaza are manifestly false, and this is a further part of the automatic bias against Israel. But, Israel cannot allow free entry of goods into Gaza without checking for arms and terrorists due to the enmity and attacks of Hamas that controls Gaza on Israeli territory and citizens. The Turkish PM was looking for a fight against Israel and he got it, but the onlooking public should not be taken in by Turkish declarations of outrage and rage, this is part of Erdogan's "move to the east." This is what serious analysts should be worried about, not whether or not a goal was scored.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Terror or war?

An Israeli policeman was killed and two others were wounded in a shooting on the West Bank near Hebron last week. His police car was shot at, but it was unclear if this was a drive-by shooting or a stationary shooter. The police are investigating. The father of three children from Beersheva, his family is mourning his loss. A young Palestinian was arrested at a checkpoint near Ramallah after he left a satchel containing 4 pipe bombs. He said he was told to take the satchel to a contact in Nablus, but he was afraid he would be caught in a search so he dropped the satchel. A rocket was launched from Gaza and hit Israel south of Sderot, there were no casualties. This is the constant background of terrorism that the Palestinians use to let us know that they are still there.

Israel is in the unenviable position of having 4 possible fronts in any future war, Gaza, Lebanon, Syria and Iran, and that's without considering the West Bank. Hamas in Gaza and Hizbollah in Lebanon are proxies of Iran, supported, supplied and trained by the Iranian Revolutionary Guards (IRG). The IRG itself was specifically named in the recent UN SC resolution just passed adding sanctions against Iran in view of its nuclear program, since the IRG are responsible for all military activities in Iran. The decision by Iran to send a flotilla of two ships to Gaza in order to break the blockade seems to be a a maneuver that could be designed deliberatly to cause a war with Israel. If an incident happens as it did on the Mavi Marmara with the Turks, and in this case Iranians are killed by Israeli commandos, then Iran might use this as a causus belli, an excuse to start a war with Israel.

Meir Javedanfar, an expert on Iran writing in the Jerusalem Post, in an article entitled "The Turkey vs Iran flotilla race," proposes another interpretation, that the reason why Iran is sending a flotilla now is that it is jealous of Turkey. After all, Iran has put an enormous amount of funding into Gaza, but who comes along and scoops them - Turkey. Without putting in any money, Turkey is now the favorite in Gaza, with Turkish flags flying everywhere. This is an embarrassment to Iran, after all the brave talk by Ahmedinejad, it was Turkey that actually sent in fighters to break the Israeli blockade. So now Iran is sending its own flotilla to try to get some of its kudos back.

But, they have to be careful, often wars start from unexpected incidents and Iran is not yet ready to dominate the region because it has not yet developed its nuclear capability. So it is a race against time, will they get their atomic bomb before Israel or any other country strikes, or will they try a preemptive strike, using their proxies, Hamas, Hizbollah and Syria. Only time will tell.
PS. There will be a break in my messages due to vacation.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Repentent rocket shooter

Paul Martin is a BBC reporter and documentary film maker who used to work in Gaza. During August 2008 he filmed a report about children being indoctrinated as future suicides (shahid) and the consequences of this "culture of death" (see ). In this film he interviewed a Gazan psychologist who wants children to live normal lives and not decide about this "psychology of death" until they are grown up and mature. In another report in 2009, Paul Martin filmed a group of young men of the Abu Rish Brigades, a militant Fatah offshoot, preparing to fire rockets at Israel during Operation Cast Lead, one of them was named "Mohammed" ( ). In order to fire their rockets they first had to get permission from the Hamas authorities.

Some time later by chance he met this young man, Mohammed abu Mualik, who spoke English very well, in a coffee shop and Mohammed told him that he had given up firing rockets and was now against it. Martin thought this was interesting enough that he made a film of this young man and why he had changed his views about trying to kill Israelis. In this film Mohammed said that "Islam should be a peaceful religion" and he does not want to kill anyone anymore. It turned out that Mohammed had made contact with an Israeli thru the internet and this had helped change his mind, seeing that all Israelis were not "bloodthirsty killers." Partly as a result of Martin's film Mohammed was later arrested and tortured by Hamas security forces.

Martin then filmed an attempt by Mohammed to escape from Gaza to Egypt, but he was stopped at the border, taken into custody and shortly after that was charged with spying and collaborating with Israel. Martin left Gaza under threat, but when Mohammed was put on trial in 2010 he went back in order to try to give testimony on his behalf. He knew these charges were totally false, Mohammed was simply a young man who had decided against participating in the "culture of death" of Hamas in Gaza, and was now on trial partly because Martin himself had filmed him and publicized his views. However, when Martin returned to Gaza in Feb, 2010 he was also arrested and held for two weeks under "excruciating" conditions. He was never charged and was released as a result of an international campaign on his behalf, including Tony Blair, Desmond Tutu and many journalists. However, the spokesman of the Hamas Government, Mohammed al-Zahar, accused him of being a spy and a collaborator, and said that he was in league with the other prisoner, meaning Mohammed abu Mualik.

Mohammed abu Mualik has been tortured by Hamas security forces and is now awaiting the verdict of his trial. He is expected to be executed. Martin has now released his film about Mohammed on the BCC under the title "Rocket man under fire" (a url for this program is not available). Not exactly an appropriate title, but it is clear that Martin has a conscience about having been partly responsible for the terrible fate of this young man. Nevertheless, the overall message of this series of events is that Hamas is a ruthless dictatorial regime and that anyone who disagrees with their violent methods can be arrested, tortured and killed. The naieve western liberals who have been running around with slogans saying "we are all Hamas" should take a look at the reality.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

The Terkel Committee

Former Israeli Supreme Court Justice Jacob Turkel has been appointed to Head the Israeli Committee of Enquiry into the Turkish "Freedom Flotilla" incident. The Committee includes two other former Judges, Amos Horev and Shabtai Rosen, as well as two international observers, former Canadian Army Judge Advocate General Ken Watkin and Northern Irish Nobel Peace Prize Winner David Trimble. Neither of these two foreign members are particularly known for their pro- or anti-Israel views. Although the Committee is welcomed in Israel, and the Obama Administration has already indicated its support for it, the Turkish and other Muslim governments regardit as unacceptable. UN Secty Gen. Ban ki Moon, has proposed that a fully international committee be set up, to include Israeli and Turkish representatives. But, in view of the UN's perpetual anti-Israel stance, and given that it is within Israel's legal right to have its own committee, Israel has rejected this. But, the UN may go ahead anyway, particularly unless the US indicates its opposition to the UN initiative. Note that there are no American members of the Israeli Committee, a deliberate move by the Obama Administration to distance itself from the outcome.

The main domestic criticism of the Committee is the age of the Israeli members. Turkel himself is 75 years old, but Rosen is 93 and Horev is 86. The average age of the Commitee is 85 years old. Many feel this is too old for such an important task, but noone has said that any of the members are senile or incapable of carrying out this function. The foreign observers are younger. The Committee will have to produce its Report quickly, not only because of the pressing political situation, but also because some of the members might not survive a lengthy process.

Note that the Terkel Committee is a fact-finding Committee, it is not an offical State Commission whose findings are binding on the Government. Nevertheless, the facts determined by the Committee will be very influential in determining what actually happened during this incident and how the Government should act in future cases. However, given the PR victory that the Turks and their supporters think they achieved in the case of the Mavi Marmara, they are attempting such flotillas again. There are supposedly two ships on the way from Iran, two from Lebanon (one carrying only women and oen with journalists), one carrying left-wing Jews organized from Germany due in September and two planned by George Galloway. Surely the world will see thru these follow-up flotillas as purely cynical PR events and in no way related to the actual humanitarian situation in Gaza.

We should distinguish between a a civilian (or humanitarian) blockade and a military blockade. Given the current import of humanitarian supplies by land from Israel to Gaza and the imminent liberalization of the delivery of humanitarian supplies proposed by Quartet Representaive Tony Blair and agreed by the Israeli Cabinet, the blockade of Gaza bears no resemblance to the kind of total siege that has been used by other ("civilized") nations in the past, and is currently enforced on Gaza by Egypt. But, the Israeli military blockade of Gaza remains unchanged, and Israel's UN Representative, Gabriela Shalev, has written in a letter to the UN Secty. General that Israel reserves the right to stop any ship attempting to break the legal blockade by "any means."

Friday, June 18, 2010

Haredi riots

Israel has seen several haredi (ultra-orthodox) riots recently. The biggest in Jerusalem relates to a case in nearby Emmanuel, where a group of haredim, the Slonim Hassidim, have been separating their daughters from the Sephardi and other Jews attending the local school. The school is proivate but is supported by State funds. The reason they say they do this is that the other girls are not sufficiently observant of religious rules and they are afraid that they will influence their own daughters. Others see this as a clear case of discrimination, becuse they also ahve separate entrancews and different school unifomrs, etc. The case was appealed to the Israeli upreme Court and the Judges ruled that indeed it is a case of illegal discrimination, and the school must be integrated. Since the haredim regard all their activities as mandated by God, they of course refuse to change the arrangements. So a group of 43 parents have been ordered to go to jail for disobeying the Court's ruling. They even rejected a compromise that would have closed the school or reclassified it as a camp, since there are only 2 weeks of school left before the summer holiday. They presented themselves at the Police HQ in Jerusalem on Thursday afternoon, and were accompanied by a huge crowd of ca. 50,000. From there the parents will be sent to prison. There was also a demonstration of ca. 20,000 in B'nei Barak. The haredim ask their rabbis for guidance, and if they tell them to demonstrate, they all go to demonstrate (no TV or other distractions).

This is the first time a group of ultra-Orthodox Jews may be jailed in Israel for refusing to obey the law, which they regard as secular and illegal. This clash between the ultra-religious and the secular authorities has been a long time coming. Lines are being drawn and the ultra-orthodox are lining up on the side of the parents. The demonstrations against the Supreme Court's decision in Jerusalem and B'nei Barak have been huge. This whole situation might escalate.

Meanwhile another haredi riot is taking place in Jaffa, due to the excavations for a new building complex that has supposedly unearthed ancient Jewish graves. Whenever excavations take place in Israel there is a high probability that they will find something of archeological interest, and if there are Jewish graves, according to strict Jewish law they are not supposed to be disturbed. But, a more liberal interpretation allows the graves to be removed and reinterred elsewhere. A similar thing happened recently at the Barzilai hospital in Ashkelon, where a new reinforced emergency operating theater is to be built due to the rockets being fired from Gaza. The Minister of Health Jakob Litzman, who is himself ultra-Orthodox, at first ordered the building to be moved elsewhere so as not to disturb the graves, but then this was rescinded. The haredim rioted there too, but the Government decided, under public pressure, not to give in to them. There were also riots in Jerusloaem over the opening of a parking lot during Shabbat. The riots in Jaffa are the latest in a series of such riots that erupt every time that excavations reveal graves. The haredim do not recognize the authority of the State legal system, but rather they answer to a higher authority.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Boycott Turkey!

The time has come to boycott Turkey! In Israel, all vacations to Turkey have been cancelled. Given that Israelis are the second largest national tourist group (after Germans) visiting Turkey, that means a lot. The Israeli Government has banned all military and government personnel from visiting Turkey, in case of attack or kidnapping, and several Israeli supermarket chains have banned further import of Turkish goods for sale. Since the Turkish Government under PM Erdogan and the AK Party became Islamist several years ago, Turkey has gradually become more anti-Israel and this has become a clear split as a result of the ambush of Israeli commandos on the Turkish flotilla to Gaza. Some postulate that since Turkey was not welcomed into the EU they have turned "east", but the reason many countries in the EU did not want Turkey included was precisely the possibility of this happening. In Turkey the Army was the guardian of Kemal Attaturk's secularism, but within the last year the Turkish Government has arrested about 100 senior Army officers and put them on trial for a suspected coup. So now they feel that they have a free hand.

Turkey has a terrible record on human rights, including the massacres of non-Turkic peoples, such as the Armenian Genocide in 1917-20, but also the constant attacks on the Kurds in eastern Turkey. The Kurds are considered the largest ethnic group in the world without self-determination. Since the Kurds are split between Turkey, Iraq and Iran, all countries with terrible human rights records, the Kurds have been attacked and massacred for years. Now that Iraq is under US domination and has a nominal democracy, the Kurds are finally fluourishing there, and the Turks are getting jittery. That's why the Turkish air force is attacking Kurdish villages in Iraq on a weekly basis and have killed dozens of Kurds, going on concurrently with their hypocritical "outrage" over the deaths of 9 Turks on the Mavi Marmara. The world, particularly the western liberal world, has averted its gaze and has little concern for the Kurds. The US and Iraq have not lifted a finger to stop this atrocity.

Now that Turkey has reverted from secularism to overtly Islamist policies and has openly shown its enmity to Israel, now is the time for the Jewish people to adopt a boycott of Turkey and all things Turkish. No more eating Turkish delight (try the Greek Lokum instead), no more sending Israeli rescue teams in case of earthquakes in Turkey, no more flying Turkish airlines to Israel because they are "globally yours," no more friends with Turkey. If the Jewish people in the USA took up this boycott we could have a greater effect than the constant DBS (boycott, divestment and sanctions) campaign against Israel. Find out what Turkey exports to the US and then boycott it.

PS. For the most complete picture of what happened aboard the Mavi Marmara go to

Wednesday, June 16, 2010


Kyrgyzstan is one of the 15 countries that emerged from the former Soviet Union, in a region of central Asia that is Muslim and was conquered by Russia centuries ago. Like most nation states, Kyrgyzstan contains ethnic minorities, including in this case an Uzbek minority. Recently I have written an article about the Middle East in which I emphasized the tribal nature of the conflict (not yet accepted for publication). It seems to me that tribal conflicts have in fact dominated the world since time immemorial. WWII can be seen as a tribal conflict of the Germanic tribe against the rest. Since a tribe can be defined in several terms, language, religion, ethnicity, geography and so on, it is clear that many recent conflicts have been in effect tribal, the Irish conflict between Protestants and Catholics (the Catholics are indigenous Irish while the Protestants in the north are primarily Scottish), the Sri Lankan conflict (between southern Buddhist Sinhalese and northern Hindu Tamils), Rwanda (Hutu and Tutsi), Iraq (Sunni, Shi'ites and Kurds), and so on.

To us there seems little difference between the Kyrgyz and the Uzbeks, they are both Muslim peoples of Turkic origin, and we cannot understand why the Kyrgyz would rise up and attack their neighbors. According to reports several hundred people have been killed and 100,000 Uzbeks have fled to neighboring Uzbekistan. Uzbeks constitute about 14% of the total Kyrgyzstan population of ca. 5 million (Russians are the largest minority at ca. 18%). In the southern city of Osh, Kyrgyz who are armed have attacked their defenceless Uzbek neighbors. There are reports that these attacks might be due to internal political troubles. Neighboring Uzbekistan is a larger country with a population of ca. 25 million, and it is more homogeneous, with ca. 80% Uzbeks. If the situatioin deteriorates it could lead to war in central Asia.

In Europe, there have been many similar ethnic conflicts, Hungarians and Romanians, French and Germans, Dutch (Flemish ) and French (Walloons) in Belgium, Italian and Austrian (in the Tyrol). When ethnic groups are split by national borders (such as the Hungarians in Romania, the German-speaking (Alsatians) in France) there is always the chance of further conflict. It takes a democratic system to ensure tolerance of minority rights. Because of the development of the EU, ethnic minorities are currently quiescent, but in central Asia, where the divisions are still new and often raw, the conflicts continue. For example, the Chechens and the Russians, the Georgians and the Abkhazians, and so on.

If we consider the Middle East conflict between Jews and Arabs in this context, it is easier to understand it as a tribal conflict, where religion, language, and ethnicity are quite distinct. Nevertheless, there is more concern for the Palestinians among western liberals than there is for Uzbeks. As far as western liberals are concerned their lives are not worth a single demonstration, because their enemies are not Jews.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

The Gaza blockade

We all know that the Turkish flotilla and other boats sent to Gaza are really a PR exercise and not really intended to "break the blockade" and deliver "humanitarian aid" to Gaza. One way we can know this is that Gaza port does not have the facilities to berth any ship the size of those taking the aid, such as the Mavi Marmara and the "Rachel Corrie." If these ships arrived at Gaza port they would have to unload their cargo onto small boats and some of the cargo, including bulldozers and cement, could not be transported easily if at all. There is a report that Gaza port officials asked Israel is they would help in organizing a system to ferry the aid to the shore.

Let's be clear, the blockade doesn't mean that food or other essential supplies are not getting to Gaza, on the contrary, the blockade is intended to prevent arms from reaching Gaza. But, all the rest of the material is trucked into Gaza. Hundreds of trucks take ca. 10 -15,000 tons of materiel, from food and medicine to cement and clothes, into Gaza from Israel every week. Most of it is paid for out of aid money and is ordered by the UN agencies, particularly UNWRA that has numerous warehouses around Gaza. Material such as cement that could be used by Hamas to construct war-related facilities must be specifically directed to UN facilities. The cargo of the ships that were detained by the IDF was off-loaded into Ashdod port to be trucked to Gaza after being searched. But, Hamas has refused to accept these goods. This shows how much of a humanitarian crisis there is in Gaza. Apart from the goods trucked in by Israel there are enormous amounts of food and other goods (even cars!) smuggled thru tunnels under the Egyptian-Gaza border, as well as arms and rockets. The Egyptian Army is building a steel barrier to stop smuggling under the border, but so far it has had no effect, the payoffs must be huge.

Not only are such blockades legal in time of war, as exists between Hamas-controlled Gaza and Israel, but most nations criticizing Israel have also used them, such hypocrisy! Apart from the historic ones (including NATO blockading the Serbian coast - when they had one - to prevent smuggling of arms) but right now there is a UN ordered blockade of the Lebanese coast. This was part of UNSC resolution 1701 that ended the Second Lebanon War in 2006. In order to stop arms being shipped to Hizbollah from Iran, the French and Italian navies agreed to carry out the blockade of the Lebanese coast. Not only has this blockade been ineffective, but, unfortunately there was no provision for the UN force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) to blockade the Lebanese-Syrian border, thru which most of the arms are smuggled. So now Hizbollah is even stronger than before that War, and they reportedly have up to 40,000 rockets (!) some of them long range that could hit anywhere within Israel. Why do they need this huge arsenal, in such a small, poor country, only to attack Israel!

The EU this month is chaired by Spain, and the Spanish PM Zapatero met in Madrid Saturday with PA Pres. Abbas. Abbas' position is nuanced, he supports the military blockade against Hamas but opposes the blockade of goods to the Palestinian people. Sunday, Amr Mousa, Head of the Arab League, visited Gaza for the first time since Hamas took power there. He spoke against the Gaza blockade and called for reconciliation betweeen Fatah and Hamas (rejected by them!). But, why was he there? Because the Arabs are being put on the defensive by the excessive PR support of non-Arab Turkey and Iran for the Palestinians, out-flanking the Arabs.

Tony Blair, Representative of the Quartet (US, EU, Russia and UN), has made a proposal that Isael change the blockade and open it up to more goods. He proposes that instead of Israel using an inclusionary blockade they change it to an exclusionary one. In other words instead of preventing most goods from getting into Gaza, Israel should exclude only those items, arms and explosives, that are of military use. The proposal by Blair also includes a recognition of the need for Israel to prevent arms reaching Hamas and calls for the release of Gilad Schalit. Also, all building supplies allowed into Gaza would be carefully monitored by the Quartet representatives to ensure that they are not diverted to military uses by Hamas, but would be used to rebuild the damage inflicted by Operation Cast Lead. Although Israel has little reason to trust the EU, by making this proposal attractive to Israel, the hope is that the crisis caused by the Turkish flotilla and further attempts to break the blockade could be circumvented.

Monday, June 14, 2010


Rawabi is the name of the first new Palestinian town to be built in the West Bank region of Samaria using funds donated by Western countries. It is planned for 50,000 inhabitants and will be located between Ramallah (the PA capital) and Nablus (Shechem in Hebrew). Because of its location it requires new access roads, and one of these must go through Israeli territory. The local Israeli inhibitants of Binyamina are unhappy about this, they fear an upsurge of terrorist violence as has happened whenever Palestinian population centers have unhindered access to Israeli territory.

Rawabi is being built as a cooperative project between a private company, the Bayti Real Estate Investment Company, managed by Bashar Masri and the Palestine Authority. It is a tribute to the economic success of the West Bank PA area as a result of millions of dollars invested by the EU and the US in the PA, through the government of PM Salim Fayyad, who is an economist who is considered both effective and honest. He was appointed by Pres. Abbas, even though he represents not Fatah but the Third Way (Palestine Democratic Party), which has only 2 members in the Palestine Parliament, himself and Hanan Ashrawi.

As a result of the policy of the Quartet (US, EU, UN and Russia) who appointed Tony Blair to be their representative to the PA as an economic advisor, and a result of PM Benyamin Netanyahu's policy of improving the situation of the Palestinian Arab people, by removing checkpoints and by allowing them freely to export via Israeli territory and ports, the growth rate of the West Bank has shot up to 8% (compared to 0.5% for Israel and much worse for Gaza). However, don't expect them to show any gratitude for this support. They take it and ask for more. At the same time that the PA is engaging in indirect "proximity" peace talks with Israel they have officially sponsored (by PM Fayyad and Pres. Abbas) a boycott of Israeli goods produced on the West Bank, and this is spreading to all Israeli goods, with houses being searched by the PA police and large scale dumping and destruction of Israeli-produced products, at the same time that Israel is allowing them to use Israeli facilities to export their goods! What hypocrisy.

The question of roads came up again recently when the Israeli Supreme Court ruled that route 443, that connects Modiin to Jerusalem, must be opened to Palestinian Arab traffic. Many Israelis are against this because the road was closed a few years ago to Palestinians after 6 Jews were killed in several terrorist attacks, mainly drive-by shootings. There are about 6 Arab villages that will now once again be connected to route 443, although there will still be IDF checkpoints to monitor the cars. When the first Israeli is shot then they will have to close the road again, too bad! You can be sure it won't be one of the judges or their family that are the victims.

Note that while the Palestinians are free to build a new town and anything they like on the West Bank, before any agreement has been arrived at, Israel is bound by a one-sided and unjust policy that freezes all building, and this is imposed by the leader of the free world, under President Barack Obama. Let's hope it ends in September as promised.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Jewish fate

It is no coincidence that in the same week the spokesman for the IHH Turkish extremists on board the Mavi Marmara ship told Israelis to "go back to Auschwitz," Helen Thomas, distinguished White House reporter of Lebanese Christian origin, told Jews to "go back to Poland and Germany." This attitude is rife among all Muslims, all Arabs and many others too. It shows how anti-Israelism segues easily into classic anti-Semitism. Ironically it is directly opposite to what was said to me when I was growing up Jewish in London's East End, when the standard phrase was "go back to Palestine," or "go back to where you came from." Remember Britain was the Mandatory Power in Palestine, and was supposed to be setting up a Jewish "homeland" there, although in 1938 they illegally reversed course. I suppose the kids saying this had no idea where Jews came from (Eastern Europe or Palestine), but these were the phrases they heard from their parents. Well, you could say that I took their advice, I got out and came to Israel, and now they want me to go back. What's a Jew to do? But, the answer is that I'm here to stay and so are all us Zionists, so the rest of the world should get used to it.

Some have commented that I am wasting my time writing these missives, that those who try to break the blockade of Gaza intend to destroy Israel and those in the West who read about it are not interested in hearing Israel's side. They have already made up their minds: Israel is the irritant, Israel is the cause of all the problems, Israel has stolen the land from the Palestinians, and therefore Israel must be destroyed (even though it contains 6 million Jews). Simple as that!

Truth is supposed to be "the first casualty of war," but, I cannot desist from truth-telling. Some think that everything is relative and there is no such thing as actual "truth" or history. To me what actually happens matters. Like most of you I expected that there would be some resistance to the IDF commandos on that Turkish flotilla, but if the commandos had shot down innocent civilians I would have been among the first to condemn that. But, as it happens we can see that that was not the case. Five ships out of the six that comprised the flotilla were boarded and taken to Ashdod without any resistance or violence. Also, the "Rachel Corrie" passengers showed no resistance and there was no violence. But only on the Mavi Marmara was there violence that was obviously planned and prepared in advance and Israeli commandos were beaten, stabbed, shot and gravely injured as seen in clear-cut videos. I trust our soldiers not to attack civilians, but these were not civilians, they were trained Islamic thugs. Now, if that is only my version, or Israel's version, so be it. But, if it is the truth, no honest man can deny it. In fact, the major Turkish newspaper Hurriyet published photos of beaten and bleeding Israeli soldiers and confessed that the followers of IHH had deliberately tried to kill and/or capture them. They admit it! Reuters and some other news organizations published purposely cropped versions of these photos. It was revealed by the IDF that three injured naval commandos had in fact been captured and taken down a deck and placed in a cabin together, but were released by their comrades as the fighting continued and one officer had also been thrown overboard and one was shot.

In order to find out the details of what actually happened there needs to be a commission of enquiry, but that does not need to be an international commission, a purely Israeli commission with neutral judges should suffice with internbational observers. Would the US agree to an international enquiry to investigate US "crimes" in Afghanistan, did Britain agree to an international enquiry on its "illegal" attack on the Argentinian Malvinas Islands, did NATO agree to a UN enquiry of its intervention in Serbia over the Kossovo invasion? The answer is an emphatic NO! In Israel there is a strong need to know what happened, not only for the facts alone, but also so we can learn from the mistakes that were made. Also Israel has a strong tradition of such investigations, after every war we have had such commissions, and some of them have been extremely critical of the Israeli Government and forces (such as after the 2006 Second Lebanon War). That is what happens in a democracy.

So, even if most people have made up their minds in advance, or don't care, or are antagonistic, we will pursue the truth and I will report it as best I can. If the rest of the world chooses to ignore that, it is a problem, but one hopes that in a democracy truth will eventually prevail.

Friday, June 11, 2010

"The Grey Zone"

I was surfing the TV channels late one night when I came across a riveting movie entitled "The Grey Zone." This tells the story of the 12th Sonderkommando (special commando), the group of Jews that were forced by the Nazis to dispose of the bodies in the crematoria in Auschwitz, and under unimaginable circumstances revolted and blew up one of the crematoria.

First it should be noted that even though the movie made in 2001 is almost incredible to believe and hard to watch, this was based on the book of Dr. Miklos Nyiszli, a Hungarian Jewish doctor who worked for Dr. Mengele in the Camp and who was allowed to live in comparative luxury while helping Mengele to carry out his experiments. Nyiszli was a skilled surgeon and Mengele valued his assistance, and his job was to carry out pathological studies on the tissues of Jews subjected to Mengele's experiments and of bodies from the crematoria. He was in constant contact with the Sonderkommando and so knew of their activities, and was probably the only survivor able to describe what happened.

Each Sonderkommando consisted of ca. 500 able-bodied Jewish men, whose job it was to process the Jews who arrived on train transports, usually after days without food and water. When they were told to undress in the underground dressing room, they were told to remember the number of the hook where their clothes were hung, and then they were ushered naked into the gas chamber, and the door was sealed. Then after the gassing the Sonderkommando had to process the bodies, remove any hidden jewelery, gold teeth, etc. and then transfer the bodies to the crematorium where they were placed on pallets and then burned. All the time there were German soldiers surrounding the Sonderkommando and if they failed to follow instructions or hesitated they were shot immediately. Since this was a death factory, their bodies were then added to the hundreds being processed. It was quite a complex multi-stage process and consequently the Sonderkommando were considered to be skilled prisoners and were allowed more food and even alcohol. They found food and drink in the suitcases and packages left in the dressing room, and generally were allowed by the Germans to retain some of this. But, the Germans were careful, every two months they executed all the Sonderfommando and trained another group.

The title "Grey Zone" comes from a book describing Auschwitz by the Italian Jewish survivor Primo Levi. It was used to describe the area around the crematoria where the bodies were burned and everything was covered with a layer of grey ash. The title also refers to the incredibly difficult moral choices faced by the Sonderkommando. To not obey the order to send the Jews into the gas chamber would result in instant death. Also, any one suspected of being involved in anything suspicious was immediately shot. The 12th Sonderkommando decided that since they were all going to die in 2 months anyway they would try to organize an uprising and blow up the crematorium. They were able to obtain guns smuggled in from the nearby Polish village and gun powder smuggled in inside bodies from the nearby women's camp. But, this was detected and four women, Polish and Jewish, were tortured, but did not reveal the plot.

The sergeant in charge of the 12th Sonderkommando SS-Oberscharfuhrer Muhsfeldt, played by Harvey Keitel, bribes Dr. Nyiszli to tell him about the plot in exchange for saving the lives of his wife and daughter who were in one of the camps. Nyiszli was kept in the dark by the Sonderkommando, but he manages to save his family by telling Muhsfeldt that there will be an attempt at an uprising, something he already suspected. When one of the Jewish couriers is found my Muhsfeldt in the wrong place he shoots him without compunction. Also, a young Hungarian Jewish girl somehow survives the gassing, under a pile of bodies, and although unconscious, Dr, Nyiszli revives her. The Sonderkommando although engaged in the process of killing Jews, claim that they never "pulled the trigger" and that they only did what they did in order to survive. So they are faced with trying to save this girl under impossible circumstances, and when Muhsfeldt finds her he eventually shoots her too.

When the 12th Sonderkommando were warned that they were to be murdered on October 12, 1944, they initiated their uprising, first killing several SS men and kapos with knives and axes, then they fired on the SS troops sent to attack them, and then they started a fire and blew up crematoria 1 and 3 at the Auschwitz complex. About 350 of the Sonderkommando were killed in the uprising and another 200 were executed by being shot in the back of the head. As a warning to others, every third man in another Sonderkommando at another crematorium was shot. Fortunately the 13th Sonderkommando was the last, and the destroyed crematorium was never rebuilt, thus possibly saving unknown numbers of lives, although subsequently bodies were burnt in pits. Of the thousands of Jewish men who were in the Sondercommandos at Auschwitz only 27 survived and 20 have written descriptions of their experiences. After the war, Sergeant Muhsfeldt was executed by hanging.

When I see terrible events like this reenacted it reminds me why I am here in Israel, and why we need Israel despite any minor glitches, such as the relatively trivial action on the Mavi Marmara in which 9 Islamic extremists were killed.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Treading a thin line

To many in the world the Netanyahu Government is a hard right-wing government that is occupying the West Bank and continuing to build "settlements". Actually there has been a freeze on new settlements on the West Bank for about 10 years, everybody forgets this, during the Sharon and Olmert Adminsitrations no new settlements were built! But, there was an understanding that existing recognized settlements could expand, particularly to take account of natural growth (people do have children) and for the building of synagogues, kindergartens, schools and theaters. Also, this freeze did not apply to Jerusalem east of the former ceasefire line between Israel and Jordan, since this area had been incorporated into Israel after the Six Day War and is no longer part of the West Bank. The new freeze instituted by Netanyahu under pressure from Pres. Obama involved stopping all new building projects aimed at expanding existing settlements. This required stopping all planning and requires compensation for individuals and companies who were given permission to build, but had not yet started. But, all buildings already underway were exempt from the freeze.

Understandably, many settlers who had made plans to build houses or who need schools to which to send their children are very upset by this freeze, that is supposed to end in September, although Obama wants it to continue. Also, there are many so called "hilltop" settlements, where young people have gone to establish new locations, which is how most settlements get started in the first place. For some time these "hilltop" settlements have been considered illegal and the Government is supposed to close them down, but in fact that is almost impossible. Whenever the Govt. sends in the troops and bulldozers and removes the people from the land and destroys their flimsy houses, they come back a few days later and rebuild. The Government simply doesn't have the manpower to permanently prevent several thousand dedicated young people from returning to the places where they have decided to settle. Of course, they could do this by arresting the people, usually youths, and imprisoning them, but this is unacceptable. One can predict that until there is a negotiated peace agreement with the Palestinians, which means effectively never, that these young people will persist in their dream of building a new home in the Jewish homeland, where there is still a lot of space. In fact, in my opinion, if the US wants the PA to sign a peace treaty with Israel then they should accept unfettered Jewish settlement on the West Bank. The Palestinians would soon get the message and sue for peace before they are surrounded and overcome by Jewish villages and towns.

So the Netanyahu Government is treading a thin line between the dictates of the Obama Administration involving a total freeze on all new construction in the West Bank and the right wing settler movement that continues to push for permission to expand existing settlements and to establish new ones. This is a difficult line to tread, and in doing this Netanyahu receives NO sympathy from western liberals, who assume that he is allowing the settlers to go ahead unhindered. That is not true, as the clash Tuesday between settlers and police at the settlement of Beth El shows. Apparently two foundations were laid illegally according to the freeze and the attempt to circumvent the freeze was discovered. So police were sent in to protect a busload of workmen who were sent to destroy the foundations. But, a large number of people, including yeshiva students, gathered and fought with the police. 38 people and 8 cops were injured and 8 people were arrested. If it takes this much trouble to just deal with two foundations, that will be replaced in a week anyway, how is this or any other government going to deal with this problem. In the absence of a mutually acceptable agreement with the Palestinians that is enforceable, there is no way that any Israeli Government can stop the process of settler expansion. It is as irresistable as the expansion of US settlers west of the Mississippi River.

Wednesday, June 09, 2010

Alon Hilu

Alon Hilu is an Israeli of Syrian origin who has written two very well received books, "Death of a monk" and "The House of Rajani." He spoke about them recently at the Writer's Center in Bitan Aharon near Netanya.

As a speaker of Arabic and influenced by his parents' good memories of growing up in Damascus, he feels a natural affinity for Arab culture. Although he is a practising lawyer his interest was sparked by the famous "Damascus blood libel" of 1840, in which members of the Jewish community were accused of killing a Catholic monk, Father Tomaso, who had disappeared a month before Pesach, and they were accused of using his blood for making matzoh. This was considered a very primitive accusation in the West, but nevertheless several Jews were arrested and tortured to obtain information. Notwithstanding this, the body of the Monk was never recovered and under international pressure the Jews were released and the case was never solved. One aspect of the case attracted Alon's attention. First, a poor Jewish barber was arrested, then he implicated a rich Jewish family and then they accused another Jewish family, all trying to pass the blame. But, one young man came forward and strangely accused his father of the murder. Alon wondered why a young man would do this. His conclusion was that the boy, who was forced into marriage to a woman he could not stand, hated his father and also wanted to transfer the blame from himself. If so then he might have had a homosexual relationship with the Monk, and the monk might have died of a heart attack while having sex with him. It was this theory of the case that became the basis of his book.

His recent book "House of Rajani" takes place in Jaffa in 1895 and was based on real characters in the early days of Jewish immigration. As an Israeli with sympathies for the original Arab inhabitants, he conceived of a book that takes the two "narratives," Jewish and Arab at that time and alternates them. He discovered that there was a rich Arab family that once owned land in Jaffa and elsewhere named Dajani, and in the original Hebrew version of his book that was the name he used. In the story, they had an estate in Jaffa that was not being farmed because there was a local belief that there were ghosts in the house. Enter an Ashkenazi Yiddish-immigrant who is based on a real character who was active in buying up land at that time. In the Hebrew version Alon presented the book as one based on actual diaries kept at the time by the two protagonists, but that is untrue. In the Hebrew version he also used the actual names of the people, but was forced by threat of legal action to change the names. According to his plot, the Ashkenazi schemes to obtain the ownership of the land and intends to treat the Arabs well, but they distrust him and are uncooperative. The Arab son of the owner of the land is depicted as mentally unstable and also homosexual. This has caused some consternation on both sides, since both the Jew (aggressive, land-grabbing) and the Arab (passive, mentally disturbed) are depicted in nearly stereotypical ways. But, the book is well written and has received some prizes.

I pointed out that just because there are two narratives that doesn't mean that they both have to be equal in morality or significance. Also, when the British forces invaded the area that is now Tel Aviv in 1917, when they tried to cross the Yarkon River that was then a swampy marsh, they came under fire from Arab villages on the other side. Troops were sent over to stop the firing and they massacred the villagers and destroyed three villages. The area is now part of Tel Aviv north of the Yarkon. Sometimes there are more than two narratives.

Alon Hilu said that he tries to create an "alternative" history that may be loosely based on real incidents and people, and he always wants to include a homosexual theme. His work is controversial and has come under fire for being anti-Zionist. It was praised by President Shimon Peres and the Arab MK Ahmed Tibi. I leave you to draw your own conclusions.

Tuesday, June 08, 2010

Causus belli

If the enemies of Israel are searching for a "causus belli," a convenient excuse to initiate war with Israel, they may have found it. There are reports (from Beirut) that PM Erdogan of Turkey may join a flotilla of ships trying to break the Gaza blockade, escorted by ships of the Turkish navy. Unless US Pres. Obama intervenes and prevents such a provocation, there might be a military clash on the high seas that could lead to war between Turkey and Israel and then no doubt the whole shebang will join in, Hamas in Gaza, Hizbollah in Lebanon and Iran. Now since this seems to be before the Iranians have developed their nuclear capability this may be premature for them, but they do have rockets that can reach Israel with conventional and possibly other (biological, chemical?) warheads. However, given the accuracy of these rockets they may also wipe out some of the Palestinian Arab population they are seeking to support (not that they care).

Of course, this is all a pretense, since there is NO humanitarian crisis in Gaza. Israel cooperates with the UN and humanitarian agencies involved with shipping aid into Gaza. Certainly one could find pockets of poverty in the camps there, but note that the leaders of Hamas are not the suicide bombers and those that are suicide bombers are usually not the poorest, but are usually middle class and educated. It is strange that the current most fervent supporters of the Palestinians are the non-Arab Turks and Iranians, who have been the enemies of the Arabs for centuries, not the usual Arab countries (Jordan, Egypt, Iraq, Saudi Arabia). There must be a reason for this, and it is not based on a true concern for Palestinian suffering. There is no doubt that both the Turkish and Iranian rulers are using the Palestine conflict as a means to obtain popular support as well as to outmaneuver the Arabs and show that they are more holy than the Pope (that's a bad metaphor in context, but maybe more Holy than the Imam of the Mosque of Mecca). Also, note that Turkey illegally invaded northern Cyprus and set up a Cypriot Islamic Republic there that is not recognized by the UN. Who are they to lecture Israel?

There are serious concerns for Israel's survival should there be an all out war with Turkey as well as the near enemies. Also, Syria has not been mentioned since in the past Syria has been very conservative when it came to actual combat. But if they allowed Iranian troops to enter their territory then that would be a causus belli for Israel. Also, Iran has offered to send its navy to escort ships to Gaza. Now that they have an Islamic extremist proxy in Gaza they want to expand their control and influence. This all seems very fraught with danger, but things in history often happen unpredictably, and although Turkey has a massive army, they do not have the level of Israel's air force. Israel has been supplying them with military supplies for years and knows their capability. Israel has announced that should warships enter the fray they would be sunk not boarded. Also, Turkey is very vulnerable for two reasons. First, their European part could be easily separated from the Asian part (a bridge links the two regions) and second they have a very restive internal Kurdish minority. Let's hope it doesn't get to that and that saner heads prevail. But, if Turkey would do such as thing as send a naval escort to Gaza, it should be expelled from NATO.

Monday, June 07, 2010

Muslim beauty

The fact that an American Muslim beauty, Rima Fakih representing Michigan, has been selected as Miss America is more of concern for devout Muslims than for Americans. The rest of us are quite tolerant, as indicated by the election of a Black man as President of the USA. Certainly there are racists in the US who would oppose both a Black man as President and a Muslim woman as Miss America, but they are a tiny ineffective minority. Also, devout Christians and Jews, who might be offended by any kind of beauty competition, where women walk around in bikinis before large crowds of people, nevertheless in our form of democracy have no influence on the matter. That there is a Miss America competition every year is proof of that, as well as the public display of pornography and many racy programs on TV, which are protected under the first amendment to the US constitution, freedom of speech, that allows all opinions to be expressed.

What is most worrying to the devout and extremist Muslims is that women in their culture and religion are supposed to be inferior. They are supposed to be "owned" by their husbands and masters and supposed to do as they are told, as well as go around completely covered in a burka so that no "strange" man can look on them. In the Muslim world it is believed that it is women who are responsible for men's sexual misbehavior, and not vice versa. For a good expose of this see "Nine parts of desire: the hidden world of Islamic women" by Geraldine Brooks, and the more recent "A thousand splendid suns" by Khaled Hosseini (who wrote "The kite runner").

The question is should Islamic women be forced to wear the burka or be free to choose what they wear, including western dress. Of course, according to western views, they should have this freedom of choice, that is not available in many areas of the Muslim world. In Egypt and Turkey women still wear western dress, but as Islamism spreads it is becoming increasingly difficult for women to choose freely. Of course, there are many Muslim women who choose a veil (hijab) or a burka. Only France, as far as I know, has banned the use of face coverings in public places, including schools. In several other countries, Britain and Holland, it is forbidden for women to wear a face covering when required to be scrutinized for security purposes. Also, in Britain a private school may insist that women teachers do not wear face covering.

At least from my point of view it is good that a Lebanese Shi'ite woman is so emancipated in the US that she can show her face and body without fear. And I am very glad to see that.

PS. The sending of this e-mail was delayed because of the current Gaza flotilla incident.

Sunday, June 06, 2010

Which Palestinians?

Leftists and well-meaning Western liberals who support "food for Gaza" and "breaking the blockade" in order to help the Palestinian people, have chosen the wrong Palestinian cause. What about the majority of Palestinians who live in the West Bank and who are governed by the Palestine Authority, controlled by Fatah. Politically these are the natural allies of the liberal left, since they support the founding of a secular national Palestinian State. Gaza, controlled by Hamas, is an Islamic State, where movie theaters are closed down, children's camps are burned ( ) , independent NGO's are being closed down ( ) and women are being "encouraged" to wear full Islamic covering. This is all happening while the leftists are supporting a campaign of "breaking the blockade" that if successful would enable Hamas to smuggle in arms and rockets to use against Israeli civilians and against the PA/Fatah, and where Western liberal/leftists would be in danger of being kidnapped and beheaded for their views.

It is notable that even though the PA supported the "freedom flotilla" in principle, they were not as openly supportive as many Muslim States, such as Turkey. Not only do they know that this is all arranged by Iran to take attention away from its development of nuclear weapons and its take-over of Gaza through support of Hamas, but Pres. Abbas announced that the "proximity talks" with Israel thru the US would continue despite the incident involving the death of passengers aboard the Mava Marmara. And Pres. Obama specifically urged that the peace talks be "bolstered" in order to counter the negative effects of the clash at sea.

At the same time as the flotilla clash, there was an investor's conference for the PA in Bethlehem, that resulted in the commitment of ca. one billion dollars (!) to the PA ( ), and the theme at the conference was upbeat because of the current growth in the PA economy at 8%. This was ignored in the media, but this is what people who support the poor Palestinians should be focussing on! Not only is the West Bank developing economically and improving the life of ordinary people with the help of the Quartet representative Tony Blair and of PM Netanyahu, who has facilitated trade and reduced checkpoints, but if the theory is correct, then the population should have a greater desire for peace. But, at the same time as the PA is developing and having indirect talks with Israel, Hamas is against any negotiations with Israel, has a declared policy of destroying Israel and in fact fires rockets into Israel on a daily basis (yesterday four rockets hit Israel, but this is not news).

It is because of these policies and actions of Hamas that Israel was forced to institute a blockade against Gaza, that incidentally Egypt has also done. But, even though there is a naval blockade to prevent the smuggling of arms, Israel allows humanitarian shipments of food, medicines and other material into Gaza, with the cooperation of the international aid agencies, including UNWRA. There is actually NO humanitarian crisis in Gaza (see : ) This is merely an excuse for committed anti-Israel organizations to discredit and embarrass Israel. They may succeed in this to some extent, but Israel will never compromise its security.

Friday, June 04, 2010

Talking Turkey

We Jews have a tendency to react like "chicken little" to media events, running around randomly and shouting "the sky is falling, the sky is falling." Actually, any perceptive person who views the whole Gaza flotilla incident in context can see that it was pre-planned in order to discredit Israel and bring it into further disrepute. What were PM Erdogan and the leaders of Syria, Pres Assad, and of Iran, Pres. Ahmedinejad, discussing during their recent long visits together? It must be admitted that Turkey, under the Justice and Development (AK) Party of PM Erdogan, has gone in a decidedly Islamist anti-Western direction, they are not allies of the so-called "moderate" pro-American Islamic States, Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, but rather of the rejectionist anti-American ones, Syria and Iran.

For some time, Israel has been willing to give Turkey the benefit of the doubt, but not any more. This Gaza flotilla was organized and supported by the Turkish Government and the majority of the "passengers" on board the Turkish ship Marmara were Turks. Some of them belonged to Islamist organizations and had clearly violent intentions, under the guise of being a "peace" convoy. When they attacked the Israeli commandos this was what they had prepared for. In many countries many more of them would have been shot. The fact that they were treated in a civilized manner in Israel and then immediately deported back to Turkey will give no kudos to Israel.

The two claims that the UN Human Rights Commission want to investigate with another "Goldstone Report" that will criticize Israel even before it is written, is that the taking over of the ships in international waters was illegal and that international humanitarian law was broken in the killing of 9 passengers. These are demonstrably false. International law recognizes the right of a belligerant in a war situation to institute a blockade and to board and take-over ships and bring them to its own port for checking. There are numerous instances of this in world history (US-Cuba, UK-Falklands, etc.). International humanitarian law does not prevent the forces occupying a ship from using violence with whatever means is necessary. For example, forces of the US and several European countries have boarded merchant ships that have been taken by pirates in international waters near East Africa, and they have shot and killed some of the pirates. I am confident that Israel will carry out a transparent and honest investigation of what actually happened on board the Marmara. However, we all know that this is not the point, which is that the enemies of Israel will use this as an excuse to pillory israel once again in the court of international public opinion. I wonder what left-wing opportunist Jewish judge they will use as a front this time?

Three predictions can be made: 1. Those who have soft-pedalled blaming Turkey for the genocide of the Armenians in WWI will no longer be restrained. 2. Turkey will never be accepted into the EU if it continues in this Islamist direction. 3. There will be serious upheavals in Turkey as the Islamic-leaning Government tries to undo Turkish secular policy based on the foundation of Kemal Attaturk. Since the army is avowedly secular and the Government is now pro-Islamic there is likely to be serious trouble ahead for Turkey. There is no doubt that the Erdogan Government is using this premeditated ambush of Israel to bolster its popularity in Turkey at the expense of the secular forces.

Thursday, June 03, 2010

Bad news - NPT

Recently I wrote a posting entitled "Good news," and several readers accused me of being taken in by Pres. Obama's "charm offensive" after the debacle of his pressure on Israel over the building freeze and his evident hostility to PM Netanyahu at their last White House visit. The gist of these criticisms is that Obama has a third-world viewpoint, that he is pro-Islamic and anti-Israel at core, and there is nothing one can do about it, and this upcoming invitation to Netanyahu to visit the White house is nothing more than a facade, designed to placate the American Jewish vote.

I was inclined to disagree with them, putting the recent mistakes in Middle East foreign policy down to not only a desire to "engage" the Muslim world as a typical liberal policy, but also to a great deal of naievete regarding the Arab/Muslim world. If Obama expected a positive response from them in reaction to his pressuring Israel, previous Presidents and many Middle East observers could have forewarned him against that. In other words, it was amateurism and incompetence that was at work rather than antagonism to Israel.

However, now I must revise that conclusion in the wake of the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) scandal. After 40 years trying to put pressure on Israel over its nuclear policy of ambiguity, the Arab/Muslim world, led by Egypt, have finally managed to pull off a major coup, and it happened only because Obama was antagonistic to Israel's fundamental needs! The NPT conference that was held at the UN in NY voted for a resolution condemning Israel and calling for a nuclear-free Middle East and for the organization of a conference at which Israel will be required to join the NPT and submit to IAEA monitoring. Israel has studiously avoided joining the NPT and hence was not subject to such monitoring. However, the 188-member NPT group was joined by the US in passing this resolution, even though it only attacked Israel and did not even mention Iran, the only country in the world currently that is in violation of its NPT commitments. How could this have come about? The analysis is that Obama ordered the US to vote for this resolution hoping that in return the NPT countries will reduce their opposition to UN sanctions against Iran. However, there is no evidence for this interpretation. Basically the US betrayed Israel at this NPT meeting in order to curry favor with the Muslim/Arab world. Having done this, Obama then issued a statement that he still supports Israel's policy of ambiguity and will support Israel. But, this is pure duplicity. Now we are faced with the problem of a conference in 2012 that will be called exclusively to bring pressure on Israel. If Israel refuses to cooperate, then the conference could pass a resolution condemning Israel and calling for sanctions against it. This is what Obama has wrought!

Yes, it could be naievete, yes it could be amateurism, yes it could be liberal ideology that is driving this mess, this confusion in US Middle East policy. But, it cannot only be this, it must result from an underlying antagonism to Israel that is manifested in Obama's policies. Because of the crisis over the flotilla to Gaza attack, PM Netanyahu flew home directly from Canada and missed the meeting with Pres. Obama in the White House. I'll bet he was sorry.

Wednesday, June 02, 2010

Flotilla pros and cons

"It was the best of times, it was the worst of times!" With such a contradiction begins one of the most famous books in the English language ("A tale of two cities" by Charles Dickens). Israel is in the same situation regarding the so-called flotilla that tried to breach the Israeli blockade of Gaza.

There is no doubt that right was on Israel's side, Israel has the right of self-defense and Hamas is a terrorist organization that smuggles arms into Gaza. Therefore, the cargo and people on the flotilla had to be stopped and checked. To those, including high level Ministers at the UN and even Heads of State who call this Israeli operation illegal under international and humanitarian law, I say nonsense! The Allies did this during WWII, the US did this during the Cuban missile crisis in 1962, the British did it during the Falkland war of 1982, it is common practice in a state of war, as exists between Hamas-controlled Gaza and Israel, that a naval blockade in international waters is used to prevent arms from reaching the enemy. The fact that there was no violence on 5 out of 6 of the boats and all those passengers were fine refutes the point about humanitarian law, and in fact here is no scarcity of food or other materials in Gaza!

Also, there is also no doubt that, as a result of the IDF's mistake in not expecting a violent confrontation on the MV Marmara, we saw on the videos graphic evidence of the extreme violence by the passengers against the Israeli naval commandos We can see them being thrown overboard, being beaten viciously with iron rods and bats and some of the soldiers are now being treated for stab wounds and one was shot. If these videos had been released to the press as soon as they were received by the IDF it might have made some difference to the international reaction, showing that Israel was not responsible for initiating the violence, although I doubt that it would have made much difference. As it was they were not released for about 24 hours, too late for the initial reporting.

Certainly Israel made two major mistakes: 1. The commandos were sent into action against a huge mob with paint guns and arriving one at a time down ropes. At least the commandos should have sprayed the decks with some kind of crowd suppressant, such as tear gas, to clear them before they could go aboard. 2. The lack of intelligence was striking given that Al Jazeera was broadcasting from the boat and two days before sent out a report showing the "passengers" sitting around shouting anti-Semitic and Islamist slogans, and stating that they wanted to be martyrs. There was also a huge collection of bats, knives, rods and possibly even some guns found aboard the ship. This was a failure of Israeli intelligence and of Israeli tactics.

I think everybody, Israelis included, would like to see a thorough investigation by Israel so that we can learn who made this stupid decision, sending the commandos into a trap and putting their lives in danger, and those responsible should be punished. But, inadvertently they gave the world graphic evidence that the violence was not initiated by the IDF commandos, but by the Islamist crowd of thugs on board. Can anyone dismiss the evidence of their eyes? However, ten people were killed in the fracas, some of them Turks, and this will inflame opinion against Israel. On the other hand, you might conclude that those who are calling for censure of Israel and investigations by the UN etc. would have done this whatever happened on the boats. They are calling for opening the blockade to Gaza, something that they know Israel cannot do, and so this was a deliberate politically motivated action, with the outcome predetermined.

What is good about the result is that 1. The flotilla was stopped and forced to dock at Ashdod, main mission accomplished. 2. Everyone can see that it was the passengers that initiated the violence on one of the ships and not the IDF; 3. Anyone thinking of testing Israel again should be in no doubt that the IDF will not shrink from its task whatever they try. It is true that at this moment the airways and the Islamic world is full of riots and condemnation of Israel, but these news items fade fast. The oil spill in LA, the French Open tennis championship, the World Football Cup in South Africa and many other issues will quickly surpass such an obviously premediatated act of Islamic aggression.

Note: In my previous posting on "The fatal flotilla" I missed one word, i.e. "Unfortunately, the IDF did NOT have enough commandos on this big boat". This was meant to indicate that it was a fashla, a mishandled incident by the IDF.

Tuesday, June 01, 2010

The fatal flotilla

The loss of life in the incident of the Gaza flotilla is regrettable, but predictable. Even though there were no doubt some peaceful dissidents aboard who are "useful idiots," nevertheless the whole affair was a calculated PR campaign organized by pro-Hamas supporters. One should remember that Hamas is an Islamist terrorist organization, recognized as such by the US and UN, that seeks to destroy Israel and they can hardly be said to be concerned about the humanitarian situation in Gaza. Gaza is full of food and medicine and all sorts of goods both trucked in from Israel and smuggled under the Egyptian border in tunnels. There was no rational need for this flotilla, and its intentions were certainly not peaceful, but rather political. If Israel allowed them to go thru the blockade that would have been a victory and if Israel stopped them and there is loss of life that too is a victory for Hamas.

It is easy to see that the IDF was not primarily responsible for the violence since there were 6 ships in the flotilla, and all were boarded by the IDF naval commandos, whose orders were to shoot only if attacked. Only on one of the vessels did this happen, the MV Marmara that was specifically sponsored by the IHH, an extremist Turkish Islamic aid organization, that supports Hamas. Only on this boat were there violent extremists that attacked the Israeli commandos, who then shot back. Unfortunately the IDF did not have enough commandos on this big boat and they were surprised by the level of deliberate provocation. There was a running battle and the commandos were nearly overrun and several were stabbed and injured. This can be seen in videos (released after 24 hrs) that show the commandos being attacked by men with metal poles, with Molotov cocktails and also being shot at. These were not innocent civilians, but trained thugs. There are reports of 9 dead and seven commandos injured. Notably, even though there were Israeli commandos aboard the other 5 ships there was no violence on them. So the Arab PR machine is now in full swing, accusing Israel of breaking international law and there is a UN security council meeting.

The role of Turkey in this operation is highly suspect. Although the Turkish Government spokesmen said that they were not officially reponsible, this seems like a lie. Turkish operatives visited the ships, including a Turkish Government Minister who broadcast a supportive message, the ships were strung with Turkish flags and the MV Marmara is a Turkish-registered ship. In response, Israel has warned Israelis not to visit Turkey, both as a safety measure and a punishment to Turkey, involving huge loss of tourist income, and as a political gesture, as a result of the Turkish Government's open support for the "flotilla." The Turkish Ambassador to Israel has been recalled and Turkey is attacking Israel at the UN. This incident will no doubt be the nail in the coffin of Israeli-Turkish relations.

As I said, all loss of life is regrettable, but maybe it will serve as a warning to the extremists and other fellow-travellers, that Israeli means business. When the Israeli Government warned them not to do this they should have listened.