The one thing in Jerusalem on which Jews and Arabs can agree
I've been trying to avoid this topic, largely because that was the strategy that nearly all our Rabbis adopted this past summer. Unfortunately, it looks like discussing it has become unavoidable, and I have no choice but to weigh in on the topic.
When I was in law school many moons ago, a fellow student who was also Jewish came to me for help arguing with a professor and much of her class that permitting Nazis to march through Skokie, Illinois was not a great idea. Ironically, Skokie is my wife's home town, and I was relatively familiar with the case, but for those who are not, here is a summary from Wikipedia:
Skokie is the traditional home of a sizable Jewish population, although in recent years the town has significantly diversified and much of the Jewish population has moved to other suburbs. In 1977 and 1978, members of the National Socialist Party of America (an offshoot of the American Nazi Party) attempted to march through Skokie. The NSPA planned to rally in Marquette Park, Chicago; the city reacted by placing a ban on all demonstrations in the park. Seeking another venue, the NSPA chose Skokie. On account of the large number of Holocaust survivors in Skokie, it was believed that the march would be disruptive, and the village refused to allow it. The American Civil Liberties Union intereceded on the behalf of the NSPA in National Socialist Party v. Village of Skokie, and the march was permitted to proceed under court order but they were not permitted to show or wear the swastika. However, due to the recant of the Marquette Park ban, the NSPA ultimately rallied in Chicago. In 1981, the incident was documented in the network TV movie, "Skokie".
At the time (1982), I suggested to my law school classmate that she use the same argument used by Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes in Schenk v. United States. In making the argument that speech may be subjected to reasonable time, place and manner restrictions, Justice Holmes noted that "the most stringent protection of free speech would not protect a man in falsely shouting fire in a theater and causing panic."
Next Friday (November 10), there is a massive 'gay pride' parade scheduled to be held here in Jerusalem. This is the third time it has been scheduled. The first two times it was supposed to be an international convention, but it was cancelled due to the expulsion of Jews from Gaza in the summer of 2005, and due to the war in Lebanon this past summer. In fact, it is popular folklore here that God brought the disengagement and the war upon us so that the international gay convention would have to be cancelled.
Jerusalem is a city that is approximately 75% religious (and I mean really religious - not just that they go to synagogue every Sabbath), and it is clear to everyone that the main motivation for having that parade here (and not in Tel Aviv where, if they would not be welcomed with open arms, they would at least encounter much less hostility) is because they want it to be an "in your face" statement to Jerusalem's religious population. And yes, that includes Jerusalem's Muslim community.
If you read the media here, you would think that the engines are already revved up and ready to go out and oppose this. Until tonight, they were not. Even now, not all the forces are mobilized yet. In my ultra-Orthodox neighborhood, until today all you saw was an occasional wall poster talking about "mitzad ha'toeva" (the disgusting parade - a takeoff on what the event is actually called in Hebrew which is "mitzad ha'ga'ava" - the pride parade). Tonight, my entire neighborhood is plastered with signs that say "Jerusalem is not Sodom." In the morning, maybe I will try to add a picture to this post. Tonight, we also had our first riot over this as the leadership of the anti-Zionist Eda Charedis marched in sackcloth and ashes across the ultra-Orthodox neighborhood of Meah Shearim - and tried to block a major highway that skirts around that neighborhood.
The way that the government proposes to deal with this 'demonstration' is by concentrating every police officer in the country in Jerusalem. Plus 2000 border police. They expect 5000 people to 'march' in this 'parade' - and up to a million to demonstrate against it (the only thing that might keep down the crowd of demonstrators, at least the Jewish ones, is that it's a Friday and the Sabbath starts relatively early). There is no way they can deploy enough police to control 1,000,000 demonstrators.
It's not just the ultra-Orthodox and the Muslims who will demonstrate against this 'parade.' The 'National Religious' community will also come out in force against this 'parade'. As will many secular Jerusalemites who just feel that the 'parade' goes against the city's character. Jerusalem is not San Francisco, Amsterdam or New York.
The last time a gay pride parade was held here - a local parade on a much smaller scale about a year and a half ago - it was cut short when a protestor stabbed three marchers. I certainly hope that people going to protest will not be armed. But that possibility cannot be discounted.
But it's not just that this parade goes against Jerusalem's character. It's not just that the bible calls sex acts between two males a to'eva (abomination). The parade is also a security risk to the rest of the country. The proposed police deployment for next Friday is similar to what the police did in 2005 during the Gaza expulsion.
In August 2005, the police and much of the IDF was pre-occupied with Gaza, leaving the rest of the country exposed. While the Palestinian terrorists had an incentive to keep quiet then - if a major terror attack meant that the Jews could not all be expelled from the Gaza Strip, the Palestinians had something to lose - they have no such incentive now. It is well within the realm of possibility that Palestinian terrorists could take advantage of the massive concentration of security forces in Jerusalem during the parade to attack elsewhere. While other 'Palestinians' join the protests against the parade - and wouldn't that R"L be a target for a suicide bomber?
No Jew here (that I know of anyway) would go into private homes looking to persecute gays. Let them do whatever they want to do in the privacy of their own homes. That's between them and God. But not on our public streets. Jerusalem is a special city; its holiness comes straight from God. The Pope may have chosen Rome (where a similar parade was held a few years ago), but God chose Jerusalem. Can anyone imagine them even trying to put on such a parade in Mecca (l'havdil!).
Wednesday, November 1, the police are going to meet one last time to decide whether to call the parade off due to the security issues. Let's hope the police decide to just say no to the 'parade.' Either that or one massive rain storm next Friday - maybe that will do the trick.
At Israpundit, Omri Ceren does a great job of pointing out the stupidity of saying that we are at war with the 'Palestinian terrorists' but not with the 'Palestinian people.'
At this point, all we’re asking for is a basic command of language, so that words uttered mean more or less what people would expect them to mean. But apparently even that’s too much of a challenge: this constant refrain about how Israel is at war with “Palestinian terrorists” but not “the Palestinian people” being a perfect example. It seems to us that if a broad majority of the Palestinian people fund terrorism and shelter terrorists, then in a real sense the Israeli people are at war with the Palestinian people. Certainly, it’s hard to find many places in history where this stupid idea has been given as much airing as it has in the context of the Israeli-Arab conflict: no one in World War II ever said “we’re not at war with the German people, only with the German army”. Ditto for almost any other war in human history…
Remember how people on both the right and the left were a little uneasy about the label “war on terror” because what the West is actually fighting is a group of violent ideologues seeking its elimination and their own domination? It’s a good point - the threat of Islamofascism is not limited to, or even primarily from, its inhumane tactics. Rather, its true threat is as an existential danger to Western civilization - its ideologues literally seek to impose Islamic law throughout Europe and the Americas.
Similarly, the Palestinians should not face disapprobation only for their broad support of savage terrorism. What we should actually be shunning them for is the fact that their support for this tactic is part of their broad based support for the violent elimination of the Jewish state. Let’s say the Palestinians stopped trying to succeed in their genocidal quest through terrorist - that they built themselves an army and tried to wipe out five million Jews with tanks. Would that make them any less worthy of condemnation? Obviously not.
Risking his life by speaking out - interview with Salah Uddin Shoaib Choudhury
I wish this was my interview, but it's not.
Today's Jerusalem Post has an interview with Salah Uddin Shoaib Choudhury, the Bangladeshi journalist who is due to stand trial for sedition in his home country on the grounds that he advocates having diplomatic relations with Israel, and because he tried to visit Israel. Two weeks ago, Choudhury was beaten by a mob led by officials in Bangladesh's ruling party. Choudhury was arraigned in a Dhaka court on October 12, and his trial is due to resume on November 13. Michael Freund interviewed him in today's Jerusalem Post. Some highlights:
What led you to decide to speak out against Islamic extremism? Weren't you concerned about the possible repercussions of doing so?
Since my childhood, I listened to the provocative sermons of the clerics in the mosques during Friday prayers, where they repeatedly encouraged the people about Jihad and fighting against Jews and Christians. They would bring an example of a verse of the Holy Koran, which says "those who will make relations with the Jews and Christians will be in their groups." But my father, the late Ghulam Ater Choudhury, always suggested to me not to believe these words and to look at the world with a broader perspective.
So, when I grew up, I remembered the words of my father. An opportunity came for me when I met Russian Jews for the first time, while I was working for the Russian news agency Itar-Tass. By mixing with them, I discovered excellent human qualities. They were always extremely friendly and honest to me. They never hated me because I was a Muslim. So, when I established the Weekly Blitz newspaper, I thought it would be best for me to tell our people the truth - to unmask the nasty faces of Islamist radicals.
By that time, through my investigative journalism, I was aware that extremists were being incubated in the madrassas and more precisely in kindergarten madrassas. Of course, I was aware that the term "Jew" itself was viewed as a kind of horrific pronunciation in the Muslim world. But someone has to take the responsibility of breaking down such firewalls of lies. So I started publishing positive articles on Judaism as well as on Israel in the Blitz. I also asked my American Jewish brother, Dr. Richard Benkin, to write positive articles for the Bangladeshi press, which I managed to get published in the largest English dailies.
Why do you think it is important for Muslim countries such as Bangladesh to have a dialogue with Israel and the West?
There is no alternative to dialogues with mutual understanding and mutual trust, which ultimately turn into multi-level cooperation.
Were you surprised when you were arrested in November 2003 before boarding the flight to travel to Israel?
Yes I was! Because, although our passports are not valid for traveling to Israel or to Taiwan, as Bangladesh does not have diplomatic relations with them, many people travel to Taiwan regularly. There are even exchanges of high-level delegations between Dhaka and Taipei. So, I thought, as a journalist and editor, I had the right to travel to any country.
Why do you think the Bangladeshi government is putting you on trial? What is their motivation in doing so?
The Bangladeshi government wants to make their radical partners in the coalition happy. They want to show that they have finally convicted an "agent of Jews." Their intention is also to let others know that, "if you speak in favor of Judaism or Israel, you shall have to be hanged."
Why is Islamic fundamentalism succeeding in attracting so many followers? What is its appeal?
The main reason that Islamist fundamentalism succeeds in countries like Bangladesh is poverty. Poor people can not obtain a general education. They send their children to madrassas, where they only learn hatred. On the other hand, during each winter season, there are mehfils (gatherings) of people where Islamist orators are invited to give speeches. Unfortunately, these are speeches which spread the poison of religious hatred, inspiring people toward Jihad. Such activities are funded by various Afro-Arab NGOs and other sources.
On the other hand, the media in Muslim countries are also gradually falling into the grip of radicals. The radicals are spending money on the media to spread their messages. The main message of the Islamists is: "Jews and Christians are your enemies. So hate them to remain a Muslim."
They make up imaginary stories about Jews torturing the prophet of Islam as well as repression of Muslims in Israel. Such stories are so well constructed that people become kind of hypnotized into listening and believing them.
Do you think people in the West are sufficiently aware of the dangers posed by Islamic extremism?
No, I don't think so. The people in the West have a very foggy idea about the dangers posed by Islamic extremism. That is why they too are visibly silent in countering the false propaganda of the radicals in the media. But one thing I can say is that by allowing radicals to be incubated in Muslim countries, the West is giving a chance to the evil forces to generate thousands of Osama Bin Ladens for future generations. If they want this trend to end, they should definitely work out a formula aimed at having certain media in the Muslim countries, which would at least confront the lies and culture of hatred promoted by the radical-controlled Muslim media.
Talks with Hezbullah over kidnapped soldiers 'stuck'
Nearly every day of late, there's an article in the papers that indicates that the release of kidnapped IDF Corporal Gilad Shalit by Hamas in exchange for [pick a number] of 'Palestinian' prisonersterrorists is 'imminent.' I have been ignoring these articles, because for the most part they add nothing new. You can find the latest such article here.
But there has been nothing about kidnapped IDF soldiers Eldad Regev and Ehud Goldwasser since I ran an article about Germany's Mr. Hezbullah eight days ago. And now I know why.
Maariv is reporting this afternoon that the talks to release Regev and Goldwasser are at an impasse. (The link is in Hebrew). Maariv reports that the talks are proceeding on two tracks: the Mr. Hezbullah track, which is seeking to negotiate Regev's and Goldwasser's release in exchange for prisonersterrorists, and the Red Cross track, which is simply seeking signs that the two kidnapped soldiers are alive and well. Maariv reports that a Red Cross representative has told them that both sets of talks are 'stuck.'
The German Mr. Hezbullah, who negotiated the release of 'businessman' ElhananTannenbaum and the bodies of three kidnapped IDF soldiers in exchange for more than 400 terrorists held in Israeli prisons, has been shuttling back and forth between Jerusalem and Beirut with no visible signs of progress. And Hezbullah wants something in return for even a sign of life from the two prisoners according to the Red Cross. This despite the fact that Israel forwarded letters from Hezbullah prisoners captured in the recent war to Lebanon via the Red Cross.
“The humanitarian issue has no role here from Hezbullah’s standpoint,” reported the Red Cross representatives to Israeli diplomats. “They want payment and consideration for any hint regarding the soldiers’ fate, and are willing to drag this out forever. Their concept of time is completely different from Israel’s, and they say they are in no hurry to go anywhere. This issue could persist for years to come.” [Translation mine. CiJ]
Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said Tuesday that Hizbullah no longer poses a threat to northern communities. He noted during a tour of northern IDF posts that Hizbullah's positions in southern Lebanon were now occupied by the Lebanese Army and that the IDF was more prepared now, Army Radio reported.
I hope that the next time Karnit Goldwasser, kidnapped IDF solder Ehud Goldwasser's wife, meets with Olmert, she gives him a good swift kick somewhere rather than a hug.
IAF jets buzz southern suburbs of Beirut as Lebanon admits Hezbullah smuggling arms
IAF jets buzzed the Hezbullah stronghold of Dahiya in the southern suburbs of Beirut. The planes dove six times during the course of about thirty minutes, but no bombs were dropped. This was the largest Israeli show of force since the cease fire went into effect on August 14. According to the Jerusalem Post, the timing of this incident was no accident:
The overflights came only hours after UN envoy Terje Roed-Larsen told the Security Council that the Lebanese government had reported that arms were being smuggled into Lebanon from Syria.
The United Nations has repeatedly called on Israel to stop flying over Lebanon, saying it was violating the cease-fire. But Israel has said the flights would continue to prevent Hezbollah from re-arming.
The Post is also reporting that the IAF jets flew low over Tyre and Nabatiyeh on their way to Beirut.
My problem with this is that while Israel continues to observe Hezbullah's rearmament, it does nothing to stop it. We've known that this was going on since the day after the war ended. Literally. Why aren't we telling UNIFIL that if they don't the job we will? Because at the moment, we are incapable of doing it. The IDF command is too busy covering its own backside against a commission of inquiry to fight.
Yesterday, Chief of Staff Dan Halutz promoted all the generals who were involved in this summer's debacle with the exception of OC Northern Command Udi Adam who resigned. Defense Minister AmirComrade Peretz is too concerned with saving his own butt to try to take on Halutz. The Winograd Commission toils on in silence with no power while the Supreme Court decides its fate.
In that context, today's overflight is nothing more than cheap muscle-flexing. We already know that Hezbullah cannot be defeated solely from the air.
Meanwhile, Hezbullah rearms under the protection of UNIFIL and the Lebanese government, and Olmert, Peretz and Livni continue to fiddle while our northern border burns.
There have been a lot of confusing reports coming out of the Philadelphi corridor over the last few days. Yes, the Egyptians sent 5000 troops there. No, the Egyptians did not send 5000 troops there. Yes, Israel is going to take action against arms smugglers operating in the corridor. Oops, Israel pulled its troops out halfway through the operation. Yes, the troops are going back in. I'm going to try to sort out some of the confusion for you.
You will recall that the Philadelphi corridor is a 100-meter strip that runs along the Egyptian-Gaza border from the point where the borders of Israel, Egypt and Gaza intersect until the Mediterranean Sea. Since Israel surrendered the Gaza Strip to the 'Palestinians' in August 2005, the corridor has become a massive smuggling zone, mostly for weapons, but also for drugs and prostitutes.
In November 2005, US Secretary of State Condaleeza Rice 'brokered' an agreement between Israel and the Egyptiansforced Israel to agree that the Egyptians would control security along the Philadelphi corridor, with European monitors observing on the Egyptian side of the border. In March, I blogged a WorldNetDaily article:
A senior Israel security official involved in the investigation of possible al-Qaida operatives in Gaza told WND last week he fears the global group can still make its way from Sinai into the Gaza Strip due to major security lapses at the Rafah crossing following a deal brokered in November by U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.
A recent WorldNetDaily probe found Rice's international border agreement, which called for European monitors at the Rafah crossing, is allowing terrorists to infiltrate the Gaza Strip, where they are poised to attack Israel. WND also found the deal allows Gaza-based terrorists freedom to travel into Sinai, where they can meet with regional jihadists.
Rice's agreement, which Israel accepted reportedly after intense American pressure, restricted the Jewish state to monitor the area by camera, called for a European presence at the border station and offered the Palestinians some veto power on vehicles and persons entering Gaza.
New border rules stipulate Israel cannot restrict who leaves Gaza, but it can ask the European monitors to delay for several hours anyone crossing the border if Israel provides information indicating an entrant may be a security threat.
Israeli security officials told WND the cameras at the border are not sufficient to identify entrants, and they said the Palestinians have been failing to supply accurate and timely lists of individuals crossing into Gaza. They charged the Palestinians have tampered with the names of entrants, accusing Palestinian border workers of deliberately disguising the personal information of terrorists crossing the border.
"The result," one security officials said, "is that the border between Gaza and Egypt is nonexistent."
Indeed, several senior terrorists based in Gaza told WorldNetDaily the past few weeks they were able to cross into the Sinai and back without a problem.
One terror leader said he went to Egypt for "vacation."
The smuggling has only gotten worse, as I have noted several times.
Late Saturday night, I reported that Egypt was deploying 5000 troops to the Philadelphi area in order to head off an Israeli operation that would essentially mean retaking the corridor. That report has been confirmed and denied by everyone involved. Last night, the Jerusalem Post reported that Israeli Defense Minister AmirComrade Peretz categorically denied it. But according to the Jerusalem Post (link above) , what did happen is that the Egyptians deployed 5000 'security guards' who are normally deployed throughout Sinai across the northern part of the peninsula in a bid to stop the smuggling and head off an Israeli smart bomb attack against the tunnels.
DEBKAfile reports that there is more at stake here than an Israeli raid to close the tunnels. It seems that the US has been pressuring Egypt and threatening to come in and do the job if the Egyptians won't:
The American delegation reported back that the Egyptian officers and personnel on the spot were not exactly straining themselves to guard the border; in fact, some were taking hefty bribes from the Palestinian terrorist organizations to shut their eyes to the traffic.
Acting on this report, the Bush administration turned to Cairo with a demand for US officers and counter-terror experts of the US-led MFO, the Multinational Forces and Observer force stationed in Sinai, to be attached to the Egyptian border units.
The Egyptian government took umbrage over the demand and decided to prove it was fully capable of handling border control without American supervision. One result was the dispatch of 5,000 security personnel to northern Sinai on Saturday, Oct. 28.
DEBKAfile’s Washington sources disclose that the Americans were not convinced; they are continuing to press for US observers to join Egyptian units along the Philadelphi route dividing Gaza from Sinai, maintaining that MFO’s task in Sinai is to combat terror; putting a stop to Palestinian weapons smuggling including missiles, they say, is part of the war against world terror.
DEBKA is also reporting that this is not the first action the Egyptians have taken in a bid to mollify the Americans:
DEBKAfile’s military sources report that the 5,000-strong force posted to northern Sinai was Cairo’s third action in two weeks to fend off the pressure from Washington.
The two previous steps were:
1. The tip-off to Israel on the locations of 13 smuggling tunnel exits within the Philadelphi route on the Gazan side of the border. IDF units on special tunnel-hunting expeditions earlier this month were able to blow the shafts up. But Egypt gained points for doing very little. Cairo much prefers Israel to destroy the tunnels at the Gaza end rather than having its own security police halt the traffic at the Sinai entrances. Demolishing the shafts in Gaza leaves the main galleys in Sinai whole and ready for reuse by Palestinian weapons smugglers.
2. Friday, Oct. 27, Egypt announced that Bedouin goatherds had “discovered” a ton of explosives hidden in the Rissan mountain range of central Sinai, 30 km from the Egyptian-Israeli border. [I think that should be October 20. CiJ] Al Qaeda’s Sinai cells and their Bedouin collaborators are holed up in a well-fortified hideout on this range. Repeated Egyptian security forces operations to flush them out in the last two years always ran into trouble. Our sources report that the Bedouins’ “discovery” of the explosive cache was not exactly fortuitous. It was handed to Egyptian intelligence agents under the command of Intelligence Minister Omar Suleiman after long haggling with the Bedouin chiefs, who were well rewarded with cash and promises of better living conditions.
According to DEBKAfile’s sources, the Americans were not taken in by the two Egyptian gestures as proof of a serious effort to stem the flow of smuggled arms through Sinai to Palestinian terrorists in Gaza.
The Americans have troops in the Sinai as part of the multi-national peace keeping force that has been posted there since the Israel - Egypt treaty of 1979. They could easily move some of those troops to patrol the Philadelphi corridor. But the Egyptians don't want that to happen.
The implication of all this is that the Egyptian force is still there, if not in the Philadelphi area, at least somewhere along the northern area of the Sinai peninsula - i.e. along the border between Israel and the Sinai. This morning, we are assured that the IDF is going to take action "soon" to stop the smugglers in Philadelphi. Caroline Glick finds all this alarming. She does not trust that the Egyptians have good intentions. Neither does Yuval Steinitz of the Likud, the former Chairman of the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee:
The fact that Egypt wishes to prevent Israel from stemming the flow of weapons to Gaza - which Egypt itself is supposed to be cutting off - should tell us all we need to know about Egypt's intentions. But apparently the government and Southern Command weren't listening. Sunday, Defense Minister Amir Peretz denied that Egyptian forces had been deployed along the border. An IDF commander in the Southern Command strangely expressed satisfaction at Egypt's move arguing that with the larger force Egypt would finally take action to prevent the arms transfers. The Foreign Ministry assured the public that the peace treaty with Egypt allows Cairo to deploy an unlimited number of "policemen" in the Sinai.
It is hard to decide which is more frightening, Egypt's move or Israel's response to it.
As MK Yuval Steinitz, former chairman of the Knesset's Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee explains, Egypt's sudden decision to deploy a massive force along the border is a strategic threat of the first order to Israel. "Egypt," he explains, "is taking advantage of the weakness and incompetence of the government."
Over the past decade, Egypt has been assiduously preparing its military for war against Israel. From the ideological indoctrination of its forces, to its massive armament programs, to the relocation of its military installations, units and logistical bases to both sides of the Suez Canal, to the training of its troops to fight "an unnamed country on Egypt's northern border," Steinitz warns that Egypt has done more than Iran to ready its forces for war against Israel.
Rather than protest Egypt's actions, successive Israeli governments have swallowed whole Egypt's strategic deception. Egypt protests friendship and pretends to combat terrorism and prevent weapons smuggling into the Sinai.
Yet under this friendly guise, Egypt has legitimized Palestinian terrorists and stood behind the massive weapons smuggling operations. As Steinitz puts it, "Egypt is to Palestinian terrorism what Syria is to Hizbullah.
"The weapons to the Palestinians are brought in through Egyptian ports and El-Arish and are imported by land from Sudan. Those latter imports have to traverse Egypt on their way to Gaza. There is no way that the Egyptian government is not colluding with the weapons shippers."
AS STEINITZ notes, over the past eight months the weapons being shipped to Gaza have been sharply upgraded. Egypt today is overseeing the import of sophisticated anti-tank and anti-aircraft missiles, as well as upgraded Katyusha rockets to Palestinian terror groups.
And now Mubarak is sending 5,000 "policemen to the border." As Steinitz notes, Israel has no way of knowing who these forces are, whether they are police or commandos or infantry or anti-aircraft units. He warns, that "If Israel does nothing to prevent their deployment today, there is no reason to doubt that in a year or two there will be tens of thousands of Egyptian troops along the border with Israel."
As Steinitz notes, not only does every single Egyptian soldier deployed along the border have a job to do in time of war, today they are perched along the border with the Negev, where, as the government turns its back on them and the IDF applauds their deployment, they are within striking distance of some of the IDF's most important military bases and strategic installations.
So what's really going on? The Americans want to do the job that the Egyptians won't do. The Egyptians are either preparing for war with Israel or they are trying to stop Israel from taking action against the 'Palestinians' and their weapons smuggling - from which the Egyptians are undoubtedly profiting as well. Or more likely both. And Olmert, Peretz and Livni continue to fiddle as Israel's borders slowly burn.
Germans questioning their government's commitment to UNIFIL
There's an interesting story in Der Spiegel today about some of the fallout from the twoincidents last week involving IAF bombers and the German spy ship Alster. From the sounds of it, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's apology to German Chancellor Angela Merkel over the weekend should resolve the issue between Israel and Germany. But the Germans are upset with UNIFIL's lackluster rules of engagement, and the opposition is questioning why Germany is involved in this in the first place. Der Spiegel also has a couple of fascinating tidbits of how things are being run in Lebanon right now. And, I am pleased to tell you, that if the average German thinks the way Der Spiegel does, they are probably quite supportive of Israel.
As it turned out, the Tuesday incident wasn't the first time tempers had flared. At first the Israelis claimed to know nothing about the Alster flyby, only to then loudly complain that on Tuesday morning a helicopter, heading for the coast, had taken off from a German ship without first issuing the necessary notification. According to the Israeli air force, this was why fighter jets had to be sent out. The Germans, though, knew nothing about it because the reports had not been sent up the command chain.
Two weeks previously, a similar event took place. In both cases though the Israeli fighter jets did at least turn back as soon as the German helicopter pilot identified himself over the radio. But both cases do demonstrate how threatened the Israelis feel, despite the ceasefire.
The reasons are obvious -- even though the international community is now present in Lebanon, many of the causes for the July conflict between Israel and Hezbollah have not disappeared. Because Hezbollah has openly rejected the UN Security Council resolution which led to the Aug. 14 ceasefire, the UN's main demands have gone unfulfilled. The two Israeli soldiers who were abducted on July 12 -- the event which triggered the war -- are still in Hezbollah custody and Israelis fear that the Shiite militia are still being supplied with weapons by Syria. Indeed, it is to prevent such weapons traffic that Israeli military planes carry out daily reconnaissance flights in Lebanese airspace -- flights which are in turn seen as provocative in Beirut.
Just how much power Hezbollah still has in Lebanon is evident from an incident a little over two weeks ago. A patrol of Spanish peacekeepers was stopped by Hezbollah fighters. The Spanish called the Lebanese army for support, but they never showed up. The Spanish had to turn back.
The freedom of movement of the UNIFIL fleet has also been limited by pressure from Hezbollah. In October, after the German parliament had approved sending a naval force to the Middle East, the Lebanese government -- in negotiations with the UN -- was able to impose restrictions on the fleet's movements. According to this agreement, UNIFIL ships are only allowed within six miles of the coast "when Lebanon requests it" -- that, at least, is what is noted in a confidential Bundestag defense committee document.
But that's not what Merkel promised during the parliamentary debate on the mission. She had said that Lebanon doesn't have any right to veto. "We are allowed to travel in the whole region," was the promise she made before the German government agreed to the decision.
The FDP opposition party is now criticizing Merkel for misleading parliament. The mandate given to UNIFIL was never quite as "robust" as it was claimed to be, say FDP politicians. "Deliberate deception to pass the Lebanon mandate," accuses FDP functionary Dirk Niebel. "Absurd," is the government's answer -- at least for now.
But during a special meeting of the defense committee on Friday, Minister Jung had to admit that German naval ships were not always allowed to travel everywhere they wanted. The agreement, which was negotiated on Oct. 12, really does state that the ships may only enter the six mile zone when this is really required, in order to follow suspicious vessels for example. If naval ships want to travel into this zone for other reasons, a fuel stop at a Lebanese harbor for example, then they must first register with the authorities.
It should be obvious from reading this that the UNIFIL force is not a long-term solution. The questions that remain are how long this relative lull will last and what each side is doing to prepare for the next battle. Unfortunately, in Israel's case, my impression is that we are not doing enough.
Captain's Quarters reports on a handwritten memo from the Iraqi Foreign Ministry's Arabic Department recounting a meeting between PFLP officials and representatives of the Iraqi government. It also makes a reference to Syria (where Israel has long claimed that Iraq hid its weapons of mass destruction before the war started) as having given permission for the PFLP to make arrangements to stage suicide operations within Iraq in the opening days of the American invasion.
The Captain comments:
The mention of Syria seems significant. Syria has run Hamas for years, and Islamic Jihad at least in part. The PFLP gets support from Damascus, and they speak about using all three groups in Iraq to fight off the American invasion. It implies strongly that Syria partnered with Saddam Hussein at some level, which again begs the question about Saddam's missing weapons. Did Damascus partner with Saddam on those as well as on martyrdom operations and insurgent fighting?
In any case, it shows that the previous thinking on the entry of foreign insurgents was not entirely correct. Saddam didn't keep terrorists out of Iraq; in this case, he has a good enough relationship with the PFLP and through them Hamas and Islamic Jihad to call on them for action on his behalf. Supposedly these groups only have Palestinian interests in mind, but here they seem anxious to help rescue a secular Iraqi dictator. Saddam had plenty of connections to terrorists in the region, and it hardly surprises that he would rely on them in his hour of need.
In 'free and fair' elections last January, the 'Palestinian people' elected Hamas to head their 'government.' This places the 'Palestinian people' squarely in the court of Saddam Hussein and against the United States. And CondiRice wants to give them a statereichlet?
Wealthy Israelis building bunkers designed to survive nuclear attack
The Times of London reported yesterday that even if the rest of the world is not taking Ahmadinadinnerjacket seriously, wealthy Israelis are. They are building bunkers designed to survive a nuclear attack in their own backyards.
The shelters, which cost at least £60,000 for a bargain-basement version, are built to withstand radioactive fallout, have fortified walls and doors and generate their own electricity and decontaminated air. Defence experts estimate that hundreds of such bunkers, many fitted with all modern conveniences such as bedrooms, kitchens and bathrooms, have already been built in private homes across the country and demand is soaring.
Zaki Rakib, a wealthy businessman, built a shelter for himself and his family under his large villa overlooking the Mediterranean in Herzliya, an exclusive garden suburb north of Tel Aviv.
“The shelter looks like a regular flat,” he said. “It is 2,000 square feet, with a living room, two bedrooms, kitchen, self-powered electricity.”
Rakib’s post-nuclear pad, which can accommodate more than 25 people for two weeks, cost about £250,000. “The difference between an atomic shelter and a regular one is in the technical components: the thickness of the walls and a special system to block radioactive fallout,” he said.
Leading the stampede to the nuclear bunker is Shari Arison, the country’s wealthiest woman, estimated to be worth about £2.7 billion. The Israeli media have reported that she has already made preparations for Armageddon by building two sophisticated underground structures. One is at her home in Tel Aviv, the other in the garden of her holiday villa in Bnei Zion village.
And here I am wondering how these people got building permits. Getting a building permit in this country is a nightmare, especially if you're going to do something that makes your house look permanently different than all the houses around you. You need all your neighbors to agree before you can even go before a planning commission (and you can imagine that some neighbors might want a little gift before they approve...).
And as usual, our government is talking out of both ends of its mouth:
Seeking to allay public fears, the government insists that the population has little to fear. “We are aware of all these panicky people building atomic shelters. They’re wasting their money,” said a security source.
“Israel will not allow Iran to build an atomic bomb, and even if it did, the Iranians know very well that we’ll bomb them back to the Stone Age before they’ve launched a single missile.”
However, the government is quietly updating its preparations for a possible nuclear strike. Ephraim Sneh, the deputy defence minister, confirmed that a £300m nuclear shelter is being constructed in the Jerusalem hills for the Israeli war cabinet. “This will be a command and control centre that will be able to run the state of Israel during a war, even after a nuclear strike,” he said.
You can bet that shelter will be large enough to hold every MK in the country. And maybe their families. But no one else. They can start the country all over again with the elites when it's over.
While the well-off are calling in the builders, nearly one third of the country’s population have no protection even against conventional weapons. “If Tel Aviv were attacked today, you can expect thousands of casualties,” predicted one security expert.
For those of you who are wondering, we have a 'sealed room,' as does every apartment built in Israel after the first Gulf War in 1991. Our sealed room is concrete reinforced, has a steel closure on its window, and an extra heavy door against the rest of the apartment. It would probably work well against chemical or biological weapons, but not against nukes. The other problem with it is that it is not the master bedroom (it's one of the kids' bedrooms) so it doesn't have the master bath, and it would be difficult to stay there for any length of time (not to mention that it would be awfully crowded even for the wife and I and the five kids who are living at home right now). Three and a half years ago, when the US invaded Iraq and they warned us to prepare sealed rooms, we prepared the master bedroom rather than the mamad, as the sealed room is called, because we wanted a bathroom available if we were going to be there for any length of time (we weren't there at all). By the way, at the time, the government also told us to take our gas masks out of their cases, which starts them on their way to becoming useless. Since then, the government has not replaced or updated the gas masks. I guess since it's been so peaceful here they figure we won't need them.
We have another kidnapping of a foreigner in Gaza City. This time it's 34-year old Spainard Roberto Vila, who works for the Cooperation Assembly for Peace, a Spanish charity group.
Celine Gagne, a fellow worker, said she and Vila were on their way out of Khan Younis after visiting a project for handicapped children when three or four men carrying Kalashnikov rifles stopped them.
"They asked me to stay behind," she said. The gunmen then forced Vila into their car and sped away, she said.
According to other sources, Palestinian gunmen kidnapped two foreign journalists. [It's not clear to me whether that is in addition to Vila, or instead of Vila. If the latter, it certainly seems to be incorrect. CiJ]
I don't know which of these next two statements is funnier:
Fawzi Barhoum, a spokesman for Hamas, condemned the kidnapping. "These groups that are behind these acts do not represent the Palestinian tradition, culture and religion," he said. [Really? It's been less than a week since the last kidnapping. CiJ].
Fatah spokesman, Tawfiq Abu Khoussa, called for the immediate release of Vila. "The protection of our foreigner friends is a collective responsibility for all Palestinians," he said. [Tell that to Angelo Frammartino's family. CiJ]
What I don't understand is why otherwise sane people continue to risk their lives to help the 'Palestinians.' If you want to risk your life and at least be appreciated for it, we can supply plenty of opportunities and plenty of appreciation here in Israel.
Vila and Gagne are no strangers to FOP (Friends of Palestine) abductions. Last December, they headed to Gaza after their friend, Kate Burton, was kidnapped by palestinian terrorists.
The party got into the taxi and headed for the Rafah crossing which reopened after the Israeli pullout from Gaza in a deal brokered by the US Secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice, and is monitored by the European Union to allow Palestinians from Gaza to travel in and out of Egypt. Mr Khulab said: "They wanted to see the suffering of the Palestinian people and the destruction of the border but also to see how the crossing was working."
They got to see something else: the muzzle end of a "militant" gun.
Mr Mansour said: "It all happened so quickly no one had time to say much. I said, 'What are you doing' to one of the men but he pointed the gun in my face. Kate told her father to get in the [kidnappers'] car. She was calm. No one was screaming or anything. If there was anything I could have done to stop it I would have done, believe me." Neither he nor Mr Khulab had a weapon. Mr Khulab tried to call for help on his mobile phone but the network was busy so they drove to the Rafah police station, five minutes away, and told officers what had happened. The two men stayed in Rafah until midnight desperately hoping for news. Two of Ms Burton's friends, Celine Gagne, 25, and Roberto Vila, 33, have arrived in Gaza from Ramallah hoping for news. Like her, they work for an non-governmental organisation passionately devoted to helping Palestinians under occupation.
According to other sources, Palestinian gunmen kidnapped two foreign journalists. Palestinian security officials said they were searching for a yellow Skoda.
Kate Burton told the BBC Arabic service she and her parents had been held in Rafah, southern Gaza, but that she could not say a bad word about her captors, who always asked whether they needed anything.
You just knew they had to be useful idiots. If the 'Palestinians' actually kidnapped someone who wasn't one of their supporters the ransom demands would come much more quickly. Look for Vila to be released sometime tomorrow.
Last night, I noted an interview (which has not even been fully published yet) that Cal Thomas conducted with US Secretary of State Condaleeza Rice, which indicates that Rice is far from President Bush's stated positions on Israel. A number of bloggers have weighed in on the interview, and I'd like to point a couple of them out to you.
Rice must resign? Why, because her replacement will understand better? No, Rice needs to wake up and smell the sulphuric hatreds emanating from the allegedly robust “civil society.” She needs to spend some time visiting Palestinian Media Watch and MEMRI. And so do most other Americans, right, left, center, and been-down-so-long-it’s-beginning-to-look-like-up.
At Kesher Talk, Judith Weiss thinks Condi is confusing cause and effect:
But Condi is putting the cart before the horse. The Soviet State didn't crumble because we tried to create a new Soviet state in the same location, with the same cast of characters, expecting to change their spots. It crumbled because we forced it to intensify its internal contradictions, tempting it into an accelerated arms race and continually showing its people the contrast between their lives and the ones they could have in a freer society.
That is the way to destroy jihadism, by not allowing it to expand its empire, not allowing it any military victories, starving it of legitimacy and financial support, until its internal contradictions force it to collapse, while at the same time demonstrating an alternative.
Therefore the solution is the opposite of what Condi proposes. The Palestinians must not be given any rewards for choosing jihadism. They must not be given even more money for their corrupt murderous leaders to buy arms with and sock away in Swiss bank accounts. The Palestinian state must not be allowed to happen unless it is unambiguously on record in Arabic and Hebrew and English that it will co-exist with Israel, and unambiguously repudiate terrorism and the groups which promote and conduct it. As long as the "70% of Palestinians who just want a normal life" continue to vote for and support the terrorists, they are complicit, and what they "really" want is moot. If they are truly 70%, they should have been able to make it happen by now. If they didn't, simply pronouncing a "state" is not going to empower them.
Twenty years after the collapse of the Soviet system, Russia is still struggling to transition from a command and control economy, and is not succeeding. Does it matter whether most Russians believe in international communism? Does it matter whether 70% of Palestinians are educated and just want a normal life?
I think Judith's view of the 'Palestinians' - she accepts that 70% of them would actually rather live in peace with Israel - is too optimistic. If left to their own means for the last thirteen years, they might have come to that conclusion. But I believe that a lot more than 30% of the 'Palestinians' have no desire to live in peace with Israel. Yes, they may have been brainwashed by the 'Palestinian' media. But I think Judith will agree with me that for our purposes it doesn't matter why they don't want to live in peace with Israel - what matters is that they don't want peace. I believe that many of the 'Palestinians' who would have lived in peace with Israel are those who have emigrated (or are trying to emigrate) in the last six years.
There's good news from the New York Times this morning: the fear of government investigations has reduced 'charitable donations' to Muslim groups in the United States. According to the Times,
Fearful that donations to an Islamic charity could bring unwanted attention from federal agents looking into potential ties to terrorism, many Muslim Americans have become reluctant to donate to Islamic causes, including charities.
When Mrs. Bazzy calls people to solicit contributions, they quickly beg off and hang up, telling her later in the grocery store or the bank not to ask them for money on the phone because the government is probably eavesdropping.
Nobody wants to write a check for any amount, and they look at her in horror when she offers a receipt — some of the largest donations she still receives have been anonymous wads of $100 bills stuffed into envelopes.
The developer of the new building that had volunteered office space for her charity begged off, saying that even the potential for a raid might drive away other tenants and bring down rents. The irony, she points out, is that she deliberately avoided any connection with a religious institution, even taking out a loan on her house to finance her longstanding dream of starting the charity. But given her headscarf, many people assume it is a faith-based organization.
And when things don't go right for Muslims, you can guess what they do: they blame Israel.
Yet, his gleaming new $15 million mosque here, a handsome white structure with a gold dome and soaring twin minarets that is billed as the largest in America, remains $6 million in debt. Contributions dropped sharply this summer after the war in Lebanon, the imam said, when the Bush administration expressed its unreserved support for Israel. Other mosques report similar difficulties. The general sentiment is that the American government’s tilt toward Israel extends to hounding anyone supporting Arab causes.
Then the Times tries to make the case that Muslim charities should not be hounded, and goes off into Fantasyland:
The Office of Terrorism and Financial Intelligence at the Treasury Department has shuttered five major Muslim charities in the United States since 2001, seizing millions of dollars in assets, yet not a single officer or organization has been convicted of anything connected to terrorism. Muslim charities operating overseas have been directly linked to terrorist operations, but if such evidence exists in the United States it has remained secret.
On October 19 of this year, the trial of Abdelhaleem Ashkar began in a Federal courtroom in Chicago. Ashkar is charged with funneling tens of thousands of dollars through his bank account to Hamas, which used the money to perpetrate terror attacks in Israel. Ashkar's co-defendants are Moussa Abu Marzook, the number two man in Hamas' politburo, who lives in Syria and therefore is not present at the trial, and Muhammad Salah, an Illinois 'businessman.'
On July 27, 2004 a federal grand jury in Dallas,Texas returned a 42-count indictment against the Holy Land Foundation. Charges include: conspiracy, providing material support to a foreign terrorist organization, tax evasion and money laundering. The indictment alleges that the Holy Land Foundation provided more than $12.4 million to individuals and organizations linked to Hamas from 1995 to 2001, when their asset were frozen. The indictment also names specific officers of the Holy Land Foundation: president Shukri Abu Baker; chairman, Ghassan Elashi; and executive director, Haitham Maghawri and four others: Mohammad el-Mezain, Akram Mishal, Mufid Abdulqader and Abdulraham Odeh. Five of the seven have been arrested. Maghawri and Mishal have not been found and are considered fugitives.
In sum, the organizations have been convicted, and the individuals are on their way to being convicted.
It should be added that Mr. Ghassan Elashi, Holy Land Foundation (HLF) chairman, is among the founders of the Texas branch of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR-Texas). Mr. Elashi was also vice president of InfoCom Corporation of Richardson, Texas, indicted along with Hamas' Marzook. InfoCom, an Internet company shared personnel, office space, and board members with the HLF. The two organizations were formed in California around the same time, and both received seed money from Hamas leader Marzook. InfoCom also maintained the web sites for HLF and IAP.
The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) organization headquartered in Washington, D.C. was founded by former members of the Hamas front organization Islamic Association of Palestine (IAP), with funding from HLP. The Anti-Defamation League states that the HLF is a daughter organization of IAP.
The Times notes that the Muslims have not stopped giving, except that they are now giving cash for their zakat (charity) and they are giving it to needy individuals rather than to terror funding organizations. They are also giving less. Maybe that's because it costs less to help needy individuals than it costs to fund terror.
This post is not about the Kassam rockets that have been falling on southern Israel non-stop since Israel surrendered the Gaza Strip to Palestinian terrorists last summer. That story has been well-documented and continues to be reported on an ongoing basis. This post is about a different story: the story of the refugees from the Jewish cities and towns in the Gaza Strip. Their story ought to give any Israeli government pause as it considers turning territory over to terrorists in Judea and Samaria and in the Golan Heights.
Let's go back for a minute and set the scene. We can do that, because there is now a full length movie out about the last days in the Gaza Strip. The movie is called Home Game, and it is about the annual basketball tournament that took place among the Jewish cities and towns in the Gaza Strip. Dave Bender posted on his blog and it will give you some idea of where we stood in August 2005.
In fact, for those of you looking to see what life was like in the Gaza Strip on the eve of the disengagementsurrender, Dave has a whole post about it here.
Israelis were assured over and over again that housing arrangements would be made for the Jewish residents of the Gaza Strip. Even in the weeks after the surrender, when the Jewish refugees were shuttled off to (mostly cheap) hotels, we were promised that this was temporary, and that permanent housing was on its way. The first incident that led many to believe that the government had lied again was the appeal for winter clothing that went out about this time last year. The refugees had put all of their worldly belongings into storage, and they were not able to remove them unless they removed everything. They had no place to keep all of their possessions. So appeals went out for winter clothes, toys for children, etc. That eventually led to this incident, when the Olmert government (before Peretz joined and before Livni became foreign minister), embarassed by the sheer quantity of donations coming from abroad, attempted to tax the donations so as to discourage foreign donors. Since then, the government's handling of the situation has gone from bad to worse.
This morning, the mainstream Jerusalem Post is reporting that Olmert is 'furious' over the 'red tape' that is delaying the 'resettlement' of the Gaza refugees. One has to wonder why they didn't think of that before they embarked on the surrender plan (yes, I know, they thought of it and they could not have cared less, but I'm being charitable). Anyone who has ever bought an apartment on paper in this country knows that it takes at least 2-3 years before anything is built here, and that doesn't even count how many times they will dig up your street to add infrastructure!
But the percentage of families that have no housing solutions is astounding. As you read these statistics, keep in mind that the government started talking about this folly in 2003(!) and the surrender took place in August 2005. There were 1700 families in the Gaza Strip, and about 9000 Jews there. By comparison, the Golan Heights has about 33,000 Jewish residents and Judea and Samaria have close to 100,000. How has the government fared in 'resettling' the 1700 families of the Gaza Strip?
While most of the evacuees now live in some form of temporary housing, only 21 families have made it through the bureaucratic process and obtained permission to build permanent homes. It is estimated that some 1,379 families still await authorization to build homes that replicate their Gaza communities. The remaining 300 families are assumed to have sought individual solutions.
Twenty-one families out of 1700. That's about 1.2%. By the way, 'temporary housing' doesn't mean that they're living in someone else's apartment for a while. It means one of two things: either a hotel room (and most of the nice hotels pulled their rooms because they can make more renting them out to tourists), in which a family of eight may be living in the same room, or what's known here as a 'caravan' or in American parlance, a mobile home. The Post goes on:
It is now estimated by government officials that the time needed to build new homes for the evacuees will be three years, instead of two as originally estimated.
That's a good joke. Remember how I said that it takes 2-3 years to build a new apartment here. Well, that's from the start of construction. Let me give you some idea. I live in a relatively new area of Jerusalem. Our entire neighborhood was a barren mountaintop in the early 1990's, except that it had been flattened out for another construction project that ended up being cancelled. We signed up for our apartment at the end of February 1992, just before the deadline (sign up actually began a couple of months earlier). We went to contract during the course of 1993. Actual construction started at the end of 1993 (they actually dug the foundations a couple of months earlier because there was a rumor that the government was going to agree to a housing freeze in 'East Jerusalem' and that anyone whose foundations were dug would not be subject to the freeze). People started moving into this neighborhood - with no infrastructure - in early 1996. We moved into our home in May 1996, but did not have phone lines until August 1996. Most people moved in during the course of the summer and fall of 1996. But for three years, most of the synagogues were 'caravans.' The only reason our bus service was decent almost from the outset is that our neighborhood is well-connected politically.
The way that the government is talking of 'resettling' the Gaza Strip's Jewish refugees is comparable to my neighborhood. As far as I can tell, they have not even gone to contract yet. That would mean it would be at least 2009 before these people are 'resettled.' That's a best case scenario of four years from the time they were expelled from the Gaza Strip (and let's not even talk about how the government is going to pay for this). And the government wants to 'evacuate' more Jews? There aren't enough hotel rooms and mobile homes in the country!
Three weeks ago, I told you why many Israelis feel differently about the Golan than they do about Judea and Samaria. The Washington Post has a similar article today in which they note the large increase in Jewish residents in the Golan in the past fifteen years. Given the fashla that the 'resettlement' of the Jewish refugees from Gaza has become, I cannot conceive of any circumstances in which the average Israeli is going to agree to just surrender the Heights to Assad, and that's without even considering their strategic value and the fact that one third of Israel's water supply is controlled from the Heights. Nor do I believe that the government is capable of undertaking the 'resettlement' of the 33,000 Jews in the Heights, let alone that of the 100,000 residents of Judea and Samaria. The Gaza experience shows us why.
When we voice our opposition to further surrenders of territory for an illusory 'peace,' it's important that we add the creation of long-term Jewish refugees to our security concerns. While many Israelis are naive enough to trust the good intentions of 'moderate Palestinian President' Mahmoud AbbasAbu Mazen and of Bashar al-Assadthe Chinless Ophthalmologist, most Israelis are not stupid enough to trust their own government not to leave Jewish refugees in the streets for four years or longer. This is a different aspect to the problem that may even arouse sympathy from at least some people on the left side of the political spectrum.
Palestinian terrorists fired a Kassam rocket fired from the Northern Gaza Strip this morning that just missed a 'strategic facility' in Ashkelon. YNet reports that the rocket landed in a field just south of the facility and that there was 'slight damage' to the site. The few employees who were present at the site at the time fled to secure areas before the rocket hit.
# The Rotenberg Power Plant, Israel's second-largest generating station which supplies an estimated quarter of the country's needs.
# The Ashkelon Seawater Reverse Osmosis Plant, the largest desalination plant of its kind in the world. Launched last August (2005), the facility is ramping up to provide an annual flow of 100 million cubic litres of water, an estimated 15 per cent of domestic demand.
# The Eilat Ashkelon Pipeline Company, which controls three oil pipelines reaching to the port cities of Eilat, Ashdod and Haifa.
Unlike Sderot, where Kassams fall daily, Ashkelon has been quiet of late due to intensified IDF activity that has prevented Kassams from being shot from the relevant area of the Northern Gaza Strip.
For those who are wondering, yes, aside from the 'strategic facilities' in Ashkelon, Ashkelon is mostly middle and upper class Ashkenazi (Jews originally from the west), while Sderot is blue collar and mostly Sfardim (Jews originally from Arab countries) and 'immigrants' (i.e. Russians and Ethiopians).
New incident between IAF and German forces in Lebanon
Al-Reuters is reporting yet another incident between the IAF planes monitoring weapons transfers to Hezbullah and German forces attached to UNIFIL in Lebanon. Germany has apparently confirmed the incident:
The Defense Ministry said it occurred on Thursday and involved a German navy helicopter and Israeli F-16 fighters.
"We are aware of the episode, but it was not menacing," The spokesman said, after the Bild am Sonntag newspaper reported the Israeli planes had "dangerously badgered" The helicopter.
The spokesman said the area was used by the Israeli air force for training, adding: "Perhaps other standards apply for them than for us."
On Wednesday, Israel denied a German newspaper report that two of its air force planes had fired twice as they flew over a German navy ship patrolling the Lebanon coast. But it did say jets had been scrambled when a helicopter took off from a German aircraft carrier without identifying itself.
Germany confirmed at the time that that an incident had occurred, but gave no details. It subsequently received assurances from Defense Minister Amir Peretz that the air force would not carry out any hostile fire or maneuvers around German vessels.
It would be nice if someone did something about the arms shipments to Hezbullah instead of just 'monitoring' them or complaining when someone else monitors them.
Glick: Why US withdrawal from Iraq is bad for Israel
In Friday's Jerusalem Post, Caroline Glick's column was mostly about how the US media is misportraying the events in Iraq in a bid to undermine President Bush's policy there. What's curious about this is that, according to Glick, the State Department is actually behind much of the misinformation. That's not all they're behind either. Glick says that it is none other than Condaleeza Rice who has prevented John Bolton's confirmation as UN Ambassador, and as a result, Bolton may lose the position next month.
According to Glick, Israel has a lot to lose if the US leaves Iraq:
For Israel, the results of the American debate over the future of the war in Iraq are of critical importance. A US retreat will place Israel in grave danger. The eastern front, whose demise the military "experts" were quick to announce in 2003 to justify slashing the defense budget, will make a comeback - replete with massive quantities of arms and tens of thousands of trained jihadi soldiers who will believe that they just won their jihad against the US. Moreover, if the US retreats, the IDF will find itself facing a US-armed and trained Shi'ite army. That is, if the US withdraws, Israel could potentially find itself facing an enemy force better trained and equipped than the IDF.
The leaders of the Democratic Party today compete amongst themselves to see who can be more defeatist. If in the November 7 elections the Democrats take control of both houses of Congress, or even just one of them, the push for a US retreat will grow stronger.
Whatever the results of the elections, Israel must hope that for his last two years in office, President Bush will take firm control of his administration - first and foremost by curbing Rice and her State Department associates - and lead a concerted, unabashed diplomatic and public opinion offensive.
If Bush does this, he will gain wide public support and sufficient support from the international community to move ahead in the war.
If Bush does not take control of his administration, the Vietnam War analogy will become an accurate one for Iraq, and Israel will find itself playing the role of Cambodia.
Former IDF Chief of Staff Moshe ("Boogie") Yaalon had a date with Atlas last night and the results are there for all of you to see. Atlas contrasts them with a horrific interview that Cal Thomas conducted with Secretary of State Rice in which Condi presents herself as totally divorced from the reality of the 'Palestinians.' In an op-ed in Friday's Washington Times, columnist Joel Mowbray took aim at Rice's misconceptions about the 'Palestinians.'
While the words she chose have invited criticism, much more concerning is that the top U.S. diplomat has the same fundamental misunderstanding of the Middle East that most do, namely that Palestinians are ready to coexist peacefully next to a Jewish state. This conventional diplomatic wisdom, however, ignores the history of the region since the Oslo accords in 1993: The once largely secular Palestinian society has become increasingly Islamic-and deeply radicalized.
Comparing the Palestinian cause to her own civil rights struggle growing up in "segregated Birmingham, Alabama," Miss Rice reminded the activist audience that if she could overcome such tremendous odds to become Secretary of State, Palestinians could achieve their dream of statehood. She based this belief on "the commitment of the Palestinian people to a better future."
Where does Mr. Bush's most loyal and trusted aide find evidence of this "commitment?" She offered none in her speech. Even if she had wanted to, though, such proof is in short supply. Poll after poll has indicated majority Palestinian support for suicide bombings. Even the term used for bombers, "shahids," is one of glorification, the equivalent of calling someone a saint. And whereas children across the world have posters in their room of sports stars or famous artists, Palestinian youths decorate their living space with posters celebrating "shahids."
In view of the radicalization of Palestinian society, the election this year of Hamas seems far less a vote against corruption-as the State Department explained it-and far more a statement of principle. Yet Miss Rice not only defended the election of Hamas but characterized it as an opportunity since "the Palestinian people and the international community can hold Hamas accountable. And Hamas now faces a hard choice that it has always sought to avoid: Either you are a peaceful political party, or a violent terrorist group -- but you cannot be both."
But what about the very real possibility, or even likelihood, that the Palestinian people elected Hamas precisely because it's a "violent terrorist group?" One thing Palestinians are not is stupid. Is it even possible that Palestinians didn't understand that they were electing a "violent terrorist group" with the stated goal of eliminating the Jewish state?
Is the Muslim world waking up to its own violent nature?
Blogger Micah Halpern notes with some satisfaction that Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak and Hamas spokesman Dr. Ghazi Hamad have issued very critical statements about Islam's dependence on violence in the last couple of weeks. He attributes Islam's violent nature to its 'unity uber alles,' its inability to admit mistakes.
One of my biggest and most often repeated critiques of the Arab world is their own lack of critique, their own lack of self-criticism. One of the most significant weaknesses of Arab-leadership, Arab intelligentsia and the Arab masses has been that they have all, blindly and boldly, followed the move to extremism.
As fractured and as divided as they are internally, the Arab world has always determined to present a cohesive, united front to the rest of the world. Now, suddenly, we are beginning to see cracks in the facade of Arab harmony and unity. Distinct voices are being heard, publicly and in the press, speaking lovingly of their people but critical of the direction the Arab world has taken.
Truly, this is one of the first times in a very long time that I am hearing material of this critical nature coming out of the Middle East. The best and only serious self-critique we have heard has, until now, come from ex-pat Muslims musing from the safety of the West, in interviews given to al-Hayat, the largest Arabic London-based newspaper, posturing on al Jazeera or even penning op-eds for The New York Times.
The Muslim world had fallen victim to its own violence. The radical Muslim world intended for violence to be a response to the non-Muslim world. And it was. But now that violence has spread and engulfs the world it was supposed to protect.
Muslim terror and violence will continue to haunt us in the West, but first it will haunt and destroy Arab culture and society. First it will cause the Arab world to implode and self-destruct.
The threat of Muslim violence to the Western world is real, but it is not existential. The true tragedy is that the Muslim world has attached so much value to the warped myth of Arab unity uber alis that is has empowered the myth to destroy the value of human life.
While I agree with him that the Arab world is lacking in internal critical analyses, I fear that Halpern is latching onto a very weak branch. While Islam may be ready to take small steps to confront its own internal violence (let's see if anyone is willing to do what needs to be done to keep Hamas and Fatah apart), I'm afraid that they still fail to grasp that glorifying violence against non-Muslims only leads to violence becoming the solution to all disputes, including internal disputes. The Islamic world is a long way from doing away with its violent culture. I don't expect it to happen in our lifetimes.
US Democrats apparently fear a break in their long-time domination of the Jewish vote in American politics. While US Jews constitute only 2.5% of the population, their concentration in States like New York, California, Illinois and Florida, and in large cities like New York City and Los Angeles, have long given Jews a disproportionate say in American politics. That coupled with the fact that US Jews donate heavily to political causes - mostly on the left and Democratic side of the equation - makes the Jewish vote an important factor in any national election in the United States.
Were it not the case that Democrats fear Republican inroads into the Jewish vote, there is no explanation for House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi's statement a couple of days ago that former President Jimmy Carter "does not speak for the Democratic Party on Israel."
Democrats have been steadfast in their support of Israel from its birth, in part because we recognize that to do so is in the national security interests of the United States. We stand with Israel now and we stand with Israel forever? It is wrong to suggest that the Jewish people would support a government in Israel or anywhere else that institutionalizes ethnically based oppression, and Democrats reject that allegation vigorously."
Carter, who has become known in many Israeli circles as being vehemently opposed to the Jewish state's continued existence as a Jewish state, is about to publish a book called "Palestine Peace, Not Apartheid." Carter claims that he speaks for "the vast majority of Democrats."
As I noted in a post two weeks ago, Carter has been a target for attacks by a group called the Republican Jewish Coalition, which has been questioning the Jewish community's knee-jerk habit of voting Democratic. That Pelosi apparently found it necessary to answer the group's ads - at least in the case of Carter - speaks volumes about the group's potential success in wooing voters away from the Democratic party.
French foreign minister Philippe Douste-Blazy may be convinced that Israel's 'security fence' is a necessity, but that isn't going to stop almost-gone UN Secretary General KofiGoofy Annan. Haaretz is reporting this morning that Goofy has initiated the establishment of an office that would be responsible for collecting data and testimonies on damages caused by the separation fence to Palestinians in Judea and Samaria. It goes without saying that the office will be financed from the United Nations budgetUS taxpayers' money. The "Register of Damage" is based upon the 2004 recommendations of the International Court of Justice, which were presented to the General Assembly.
The 'register' would be set up in Vienna, and would be responsible to register damages to Palestinian homes, businesses and agricultural holdings caused by the "wall." The documentation will serve for possible future international adjudication. The 'register' will be brought to a vote in the General Assembly - not the Security Council - where the US has no veto and it will be assured of passage.
Annan quotes from the International Court's recommendations in his report, noting that "Israel also has an obligation to compensate, in accordance with the applicable rules of international law, all natural or legal persons having suffered any form of material damage as a result of the wall's construction."
The Register of Damage is to be overseen by a three-member independent board, appointed by the secretary-general, and run by a small secretariat in Vienna, headed by an executive director, also appointed by the UN, the report noted. [Maybe Goofy is just looking for a couple more patronage appointments before he leaves office? CiJ]
Professor Yoram Dinstein, an expert on international law, says that even though the International court has concluded that Israel must compensate for any damages caused by the separations fence, "the way to receiving compensation is far removed."
Dinstein points out that "this is the creation of the basis to claim compensation in the future. But in order to pay this compensation, it will be necessary for an international forum to force Israel to do so. The International Court at The Hague can do so only if Israel accepts the authority of its jurisdiction or [if] the Security Council [does]. Israel will hope for a U.S. veto there [in the Security Council] to block demands for compensation payments."
Maybe Fwance would veto it too? Nah, that's asking too much.
More on South African Broadcasting Corporation scandal
Yesterday, I did a lengthy post on the blacklisting of eight reporters of the South African Broadcasting Corporation. My starting point was that one of the reporters is Paula Slier, who is based here in Israel, and on whom a feature was done in Friday's Jerusalem Post. Thanks to Soccer Dad, I discovered that there's a blogger in South Africa named It's Almost Supernatural, who has been all over this story for a while, including three interviews with Slier. You can find the starting point to his posts here.
Abu Mazen wants to deploy PLO troops from Jordan; Investments in 'Palestine' drop 60%
Al-AP is reporting that the Israeli government is considering a request from 'moderate Palestinian President' Mahmoud AbbasAbu Mazento deploy troops from the PLO's Badr brigade in Jordan against Hamas. In the past, Israel has denied requests to deploy the Badr brigade in Judea, Samaria or Gaza, but this time it is 'considering' the request. Palestinian officials did not say how many Badr forces Abbas hopes to mobilize. What is most important to him is that he would command their loyalty as head of the PLO.
Two more interesting tidbits from the same Al-AP report:
Abbas plans to dissolve the Hamas-led government within two weeks if the Islamic militant group doesn't agree to form a coalition with Fatah, Palestinian officials said Friday.
Comment - I'll believe it when I see it. Abu Mazen is afraid to pull the trigger like that.
Abbas confidant Saeb Erekat announced in Ramallah that the Palestinians' gross domestic product (GDP) was projected to drop 28 percent in 2006 to $2.9 billion (€2.3 billion) from $4.04 billion (€3.2 billion) in 2005. The projections were based on data from the first nine months of the year, Erekat said.
Investments this year are projected to drop 60 percent to $400 million (€320 million), from $1 billion (€800 million) in 2005, he said.
Erekat blamed the decline on the international aid freeze, imposed in March to pressure Hamas to recognize Israel and disarm, and Israeli closures of vital border crossings.
He warned that if the economic decline continued, the Palestinian areas would face "total collapse."
I don't see why Israel should be taking sides between Hamas and Fatah. One is no better than the other. It's time for us to acknowledge that - Abu Mazen and Haniyeh differ in their tactics, but not in their ultimate goals.
I am an Orthodox Jew - some would even call me 'ultra-Orthodox.' Born in Boston, I was a corporate and securities attorney in New York City for seven years before making aliya to Israel in 1991 (I don't look it but I really am that old :-). I have been happily married to the same woman for thirty-three years, and we have eight children (bli ayin hara) ranging in age from 10 to 31 years and seven grandchildren. Our eldest daughter and eldest son are married! Before I started blogging I was a heavy contributor on a number of email lists and ran an email list called the Matzav from 2000-2004. You can contact me at: IsraelMatzav at gmail dot com