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Monday, November 28, 2011

Soccer Dad's Middle East Media Sampler

Here's Soccer Dad's Middle East Media Sampler for Monday, November 28:
1) "Brain wars"

A few weeks ago Nicholas Blanford reported for the Daily Star Speculation continues over Hezbollah’s ability to disable Israeli drones:
The recent mysterious disappearance of a suspected Israeli pilotless reconnaissance plane from the radar screen of the French UNIFIL battalion in south Lebanon has raised speculation that Hezbollah has found a way of electronically jamming and disabling drones.
Information has been circulating for over a year that Hezbollah has been exploring – and may have discovered – a means of jamming the data link between a drone and its ground control base or interfering with the guidance system of drones on pre-programed flight missions in order to crash them.
There is no confirmation yet that Hezbollah has acquired the ability to jam and destroy Israeli reconnaissance drones, but there is no question that its highly secret electronic warfare and communications capabilities have advanced tremendously over the past decade and will play a critical role in any future war with Israel.
Later in the article, Blanford quotes a member of Hezbollah calling these efforts a "war of brains." (Blanford followed up with an article in the Wall Street Journal, Hezbollah waits and prepares.)

Ronen Bergman (via Daily Alert, Israel Matzav) recent wrote Knife in Hezbollah's heart.
One of Hezbollah’s main lessons following its success in the 2006 war was the establishment of as many arms depots as possible in urban areas and in non-residential regions. As result of this combat doctrine, Hezbollah is attempting to rebuild its weapons depots, under the noses of UNIFIL and with the quiet backing of the Lebanese army. This is being done as part of the preparations for the Third Lebanon War.

Israel, which wishes to prove its claims, published about a year ago the intelligence files of some Lebanese villages; the photos prove the scope of the weapons being stored there.
Simultaneously, in the past two years, some of these arms depots started to explode under mysterious circumstances, like a knife in Hezbollah’s heart.
A well known anti-Israel blogger has claimed that the drone was a Trojan horse attack against these arm depots. Whether or not the drone was part of these attacks is impossible to know at this time. If it's true, it would be a huge achievement for Israel; a victory in this "war of brains.'

I'm skeptical of claims that Hezbollah has the ability to disable the drones electronically. Hezbollah has long bragged about its proficiency in fighting Israeli intelligence operations. It has claimed to have hacked Israeli drones showing that Israel was responsible for killing Rafiq Hariri. It has claimed to have discovered Israeli spy equipment. It has claimed to have caught spies in 2009 and again last week.

Whether or not that means that the drone was a Trojan horse, I can't tell. But if Israel's having success striking at the arms depots, Hezbollah needs to claim victory elsewhere, whether or not it's true.

2) Putting their money where their interests lie

Last week the New York Times reported Israel Halts Payments to Palestinians, Adding to Fiscal Woes:
Mr. Fayyad noted that since the Europeans were facing their own fiscal crises and the Arabs had not come forward with pledged donations, it made little sense to assume either would come to the rescue now. In the past two years, the authority has set up institutions as part of its ambition to be ready for statehood, and that has made fiscal reliability all the more important.
“If we can’t meet our contractual obligations, that has a chilling effect on the private sector,” Mr. Fayyad said. “This undermines confidence in the Palestinian Authority’s capacity to function, which has a debilitating effect on investor confidence. Like a family, a government can make do with less — but not a drop of two-thirds.”
Last week Ha'aretz reported Palestinians invest twice as much in Israel as they do in West Bank:
Private Palestinian investment in Israel, as of 2010, amounted to $2.5 billion in a conservative estimate, and according to a more optimistic estimate this investment possibly even amounts to $5.8 billion. For purposes of comparison, private Palestinian investment within the West Bank, as of 2011, was only $1.5 billion.
This is the surprising conclusion reached by Issa Smeirat, who for his master's thesis in economics has done the first research of its kind into this phenomenon, its extent and its implications - issues that until now have not been discussed in the professional literature.
I find it odd that despite Fayyad's efforts, the Palestinians Authority is still largely dependent on foreign donations to function. To be sure, the article, which is written by Amira Hass claims that the study shows how the restrictions Israel places on the Palestinians discourages investment in the PA. Despite this charge, the final paragraph tells us:
Smeirat asked the subjects of his study whether they would want to go back and invest in the areas of the West Bank. Of his respondents, 35.3 percent replied in the negative, 28.9 percent said they would go back if the PA manages the economy better, and 35.8 percent said they would go back if conditions were improved (such as better infrastructure and loans ).
These responses suggest that it is the Palestinian management of the economy that is the problem. While Fayyad has been praised for introducing transparency into the handling of foreign aid, it isn't clear that he's managed to foster a private economy. According to this survey, only those seeking better infrastructure could possibly be attributed to Israeli actions; the others see a failing of the PA.

3) Remembering Mumbai

On the third anniversary of the terror attack in Mumbai, Warren Kozol writes Remembering the Terror in Mumba:
In all, 164 people were killed in Mumbai and 308 were wounded. What stands out in the horror of those days is the particular viciousness of the attack on the defenseless people inside Nariman House. The Holtzbergs—a young couple, emissaries from the Chabad-Lubavitch movement—along with four other Jewish visitors were all killed. But Rabbi Gavriel Holtzberg and his pregnant wife Rivka were first tortured, the details of which are too gruesome to recount. (Their 2-year-old son was rescued by his Indian nanny, who grabbed the blood-spattered child and ran outside when the attackers weren't looking.)
Why did the attackers specifically target Chabad and why with such viciousness? Lashkar-e-Taiba, or the Army of the Pure, is South Asia's largest and most militant terror network. It is based in Pakistan, where it reportedly received planning assistance for the Mumbai operation from Pakistan's secret service agency. The group's founding aim was to reclaim the disputed Kashmir region for Muslims, but in recent years Lashkar has expanded to global scope, with particular animus toward India and Israel, declaring Hindus and Jews to be enemies of Islam.
It's a reminder that when people say they consider Jews (or Israel) to the enemy they really mean it and may act on their feelings. This reminder is especially important when newly ascendent Islamist movements are gaining power or poised to gain power across the Middle East.

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