Wednesday, January 30, 2013

"Exposé: How Much Does the War On Israel Cost Europe?

Over the past year, the Coordination Forum for Countering Anti-Semitism monitored incidents worldwide. In 2012, 6 oof the 10 worst anti-Semithic attacks took place in Europe (the rest are shared among Iran, Yemen and United States).

Even more frightening are the new statystics about the popular feelings about the Jewish people in Europe.

Amid the rise in hate crimes in France, the World Zionist Organization calculated the level of anti-Semitism among French citizens. The survey revealed that more than 40% of the French population holds anti-Semitic beliefs. The survey also found that 47% of the population believes that "French Jews are more loyal to Israel than the country where they live."

The Pew Research Center's Global Attitudes Project found that 46% of Spanish residents held an unfavorable view of Jews. Meanwhile, 47% of Germans are of the opinion that "Israel is exterminating the Palestinians," according to a poll undertaken by the Friedrich Ebert Foundation, affiliated with the German Social Democratic Party.

44 % of Italians are prejudiced or hostile toward Jews, according to a study recently issued by the Italian Chamber of Deputies's Committee.

You can find the same trend all over Europe. Half of the population holds deep anti-Jewish feelings.

Britain has just included Israel on a list of 28 countries whose human rights record is of "concern" to the government. It's the same Britain that in 1989 refused to sell gas masks to Israel because they could be used for "offensive purposes". In 1991 a subsidiary of Thames Water Plc., the British company that supplies water and sewage services to most of London, refused to do business with Israel because it has "many and valued Arab clients".

How much is Europe investing in Israel's destruction? By financing the Palestinian war and sponsoring the Arab rejectionist anti-Semitism, Europe is reawakening the centuries-old beast of Judeophobic bigotry. European taxes are used to fund anti-Semitism of an intensity unseen since Nazi Germany.

The European Union just announced a contribution of EUR 14 million for a programme in Gaza. Most of this aid goes through UNRWA.

Many terrorists work for the UN agency, such as Issa al Batran, who was in charge of Hamas rockets production and was also employed as a teacher in the UN schools. Or the UN Gaza's schoolmaster, Awad al Qiq, who was the Islamic Jihad "rocket-maker".

Food storage facilities in UNRWA's areas, funded by the European Union, have become munitions depots. UNRWA's employees transported weapons and terrorists by the agency ambulances.

Hamas interior minister, Said Sayyam, was also a math teacher for UNRWA. The schools administered by the UN have become madrassa for the war against the Jews.

In Jenin, UNRWA schools displayed images of "martyrs" responsubile for dozens of Israelis killed in Hadera and Afula.

Despite all this evidence, for the period 2007-2013 a total of €29 million has been allocated by the European Union to UNRWA's programme.

Among the recipients in Nablus of the European aid just approved there is also Al-Najah University, which serves Palestinian terror organizations as a stage for promoting their commitment to armed struggle. Many of Hamas' leaders in Nablus, including leaders of the Az Adin al-Qassam terrorist wing, began their involvement in the movement while students or professors at the university. The faculty also served as a recruitment center for suicide bombers. Brussels just approved for Nablus a 4-year programme with 4 million €.

Meanwhile, the Palestinian Authority and the European Union recently met in Ramallah to discuss foreign aid in the next five years. The European Union just allocated €60 million to "support the Palestinian National Development Plan by helping the PA to finance its budget deficit and implement its reform agenda". This fund perpetuates the chronic Arab corruption.

In 1998 $20 million in European Union aid that was intended to provide "cheap housing for Palestinians" was used to finance luxury apartments for rich supporters of Palestinian Authority Chairman Yasser Arafat.

The European Union also just made a contribution of €7.2 million to the payment of the December salaries and pensions of "83,800 Palestinian civil servants and pensioners in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip".

The Palestinian Authority routinely authorizes payments to the families of "martyrs" by using Europe's aid. The Palestinian Authority has introduced a new law which pays the families of suicide bombers out of its civil service budget.

In 2011, the European Union allocated €145 million for the Palestinian Authority's expenditures, €35 million for "institution building projects" and €22 million for support to public infrastructure. A further 11 million were allocated for the "private sector" and €8 million for "East Jerusalem initiatives", which means charging Israel of "apartheid," "ethnic cleansing," and creating a "model of terrorising a civilian population".

Europe's goal is to make Israel surrender Area C in Judea and Samaria, because as John Gatt-Rutter, the European Union Representative in Jerusalem said, there is "no viable Palestinian state without area C". Translated: Judea and Samaria must be "Judenrein", cleansed of any Jew.

From 1994 to 2011, the EU donated €4.26 billion to the Palestinian Authority through various channels – and this figure does not take into account individual EU states' donations to the PA. The EU has become the largest single donor to the Palestinians, contributing about €500 million ($720 million).

Europe also channels an ocean of money to the anti-Israel NGOs.

The Dutch government, for example, grants millions of euros to organizations such as Kerk in Aktie and the Interchurch Organization for Development Cooperation, which support a "general boycott" of Israeli products as per the policy of the Protestant Church of the Netherlands. The Interchurch Organization received money from the European Union (€5.3 million).

Diakonia, Sweden's largest humanitarian NGO founded by five Swedish churches, financed programs "to commemorate the Nakba," the Palestinian term for "catastrophe" which indicates Israel's foundation in 1948.

The UK's Christian Aid and Finland's FinnChurchAid received millions from the EU to propagate the worst anti-Israel lies, including starving, torture, dispossession and siege.

Europe is also channeling millions of euros to leftist NGOs. These are just some of them: Addameer (207.000 $ from Sweden), Al Haq (426.000 $ from Holland, 88.000 $ from bailout-needing Ireland and 156.000 $ from Norway), Al Mezan (105.000 $ from Sweden), Applied Research Institute (374.000 $ from the European Union and 98.000$ from bankrupt Spain), Coalition of Women for Peace (247.000 $ from the European Union) and Troicare (2.000.000 $ from the European Union and 640.000 $ from UK).

These NGOs are so ambigous that the IDF just launched a raid in their offices in Ramallah.

There is a fourth way Europe funds Palestinian terrorism and anti-Semitism: school textbooks and television channels. This is a kind of "software" of the holy war against the Jews.

The textbooks funded by the European Union call for Jihad: "Palestine" is shown to encompass all the Jewish State, Judaism's most holy sites (such as the Temple Mount) have been erased, the Jews are demonized and Arab "martyrdom" is praised.

In these texts, Jews are described as "cunning," "locusts" and "wild animals."

European Union officials just met with the Palestinians in Ramallah, Nablus and Hevron. And the EU allocated €5,000,000 for "a cultural programme".

EuroMed Heritage is a €17 million EU-funded programme, "which contributes to the exchange of experiences on cultural heritage, creates networks and promotes cooperation with the Mediterranean Partner Countries". Among these networks is the Palestinian television, which glorifies suicide attacks, anti-Semitism and Jihad. A poem just read by hosts of program on PA TV funded by the EU incited to terrorism on airplanes.

Shakespeare's Shylock and his pound of flesh have caused shudders to many generations of Jews. By financing Islamic anti-Semitism with €500 million per year, Europe is now asking Israel for a new pound of flesh.

Monday, January 28, 2013

Can Israel's New Coalition Fix Relations with Turkey?

Tensions between Jerusalem and Ankara run too deeply for a single election to make much difference.

Since Yair Lapid and his Yesh Atid party's surprise showing last week in Israel's elections, the there has been an outpouring of commentary about a new dawn in Israeli domestic and foreign policies. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, whose Likud, in conjunction with Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman's Yisrael Beitenu party lost a combined eleven seats in the Knesset, will have to form a broader government that includes centrists like Lapid. As a result, a conventional wisdom has developed that this new coalition will lead Israel out of its international isolation. Typically, observers have been asking what the Lapid phenomenon means for the "peace process" -- as if that is something that exists. Yet a handful of commentators have also zeroed in on Turkey-Israel ties as ripe for rapprochement under a new, allegedly more conciliatory, Israeli government. It is a nice idea, but so are rainbows and unicorns. The reality is that, despite Lapid's rise, nothing has or will likely change to convince Israeli and Turkish leaders that mending ties is in their political interests.

To be fair, the Turks themselves have led foreign observers to believe that a change in Turkey-Israel relations was possible. For the better part of the last four years, Turkish officials have indicated that Israel itself was not the problem, but "this Israeli government," meaning, of course, Netanyahu's outgoing coalition of right-of-center parties. It is true that it is difficult to work with Prime Minister Netanyahu and that Foreign Minister Lieberman had, contrary to his job description, a knack for aggravating relations with other countries. Still, with the exception of the Mavi Marmara incident, the biggest problems in the Turkey-Israel relationship -- the blockade of the Gaza Strip and Operation Cast Lead -- predate Netanyahu's tenure. Indeed, the idea that a new broader and allegedly more moderate Israeli coalition will lead to reconciliation between Jerusalem and Ankara badly misreads the dynamics of Israel's left-right politics, the profound unpopularity of Israel in Turkey, and the centrality of the Middle East to the architects of Turkish foreign policy.

Turks have often pointed to Israeli policy in the Gaza Strip, especially the blockade of the area, as a prime example of its problems with Netanyahu's previous government and the primary obstacle to better relations. This is a principled position, but Ankara seems to have its chronology incorrect. Israel's land closure of Gaza dates to June 2007 and the naval blockade was implemented in January 2009 -- both under the premiership of Ehud Olmert, who after leaving Likud to join Ariel Sharon in his breakaway Kadima Party has developed a reputation as a centrist. There was no way that Netanyahu was going to reverse Olmert's policies and there is a slim chance that that he would do so now even with Yair Lapid -- who is not actually all that to the left on foreign policy -- in his government.

Even if Israelis had given a resurgent Labor Party the most Knesset seats and its leader, Shelly Yachimovich, was tapped to form a government, Israel's land and sea blockade of the Gaza Strip would remain firmly in place. A left-of-center government simply could not be perceived as being soft on security and Gaza. The cliché "only Labor can make war and only Likud can make peace" was coined a long time ago, but it still holds today. Over the last two decades, Israeli prime ministers have consistently been brought down from the right often over some issue related to the country's security. Politics aside, there really is not much disagreement among the country's major political parties that Gaza poses a threat to Israel's security. If the Turkish demand that Israel must lift its closure of Gaza is serious, and there is little reason to believe that it is not, ties between Ankara and Jerusalem are likely to remain strained.

It is not just the Israeli politics of the Gaza blockade or the actual threat from Gaza that is the problem in Turkey-Israel relations. Those who see an opportunity to restore good ties with the emergence of a new Israeli government or who become positively giddy at every leak of high-level contact between Turkish and Israeli officials -- which the Turks invariably deny -- are not paying close enough attention to Turkish politics. Israel is not popular in Turkey and never really was despite the blossoming of strategic relations between Jerusalem and Ankara in 1996. Those ties served the Turkish General Staff's specific national security and, importantly, domestic political interests at a time when the officers' power was at its height. That was during an era before the rise of the Justice and Development Party (AKP) when public opinion mattered very little in Turkish foreign policy.

Prime Minister Erdogan, who is an astonishingly talented politician and has a keen sense of what makes average Turks tick, understands the political benefits that are derived from strained relations with Israel. To be sure, it took Erdogan some time before putting the bilateral relationship on ice. He visited Jerusalem in May of 2005 and invited his then counterpart, Ariel Sharon, to visit Ankara; but as he and the AKP grew more confident at home, relations with the United States improved, and Turkey became a player in the Middle East and wider Islamic world, it became easy to jettison ties with Israel with the approval of many Turks. Israel's only constituency in Turkey includes parts of the business community, but even as Turkish-Israeli trade has continued and even increased, there are few voices who want a resumption of the alignment of the 1990s. Turkey's opposition rebukes Erdogan and the AKP mercilessly on a wide-range of issues, but not on the quality of Ankara's relations with Jerusalem.

The fact that the prime minister has been able to leverage the Palestine issue to great political effect without penalty suggests that the Turkish public's now manifest solidarity with Palestinians was not just manufactured in 2002 when the AKP came to power. Still, outright enmity toward Israel was generally confined to Turkey's hard core Islamists even if the broader public remained wary of Ankara's relations with Jerusalem and critical of the Israel Defense Force's policies in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

This changed during the early days of Operation Iraqi Freedom when unsubstantiated stories of Israeli support for Kurdish independence in northern Iraq surfaced in The New Yorker and Turkey's less well-regarded dailies. Then the way in which Erdogan exploited Israel's Operation Cast Lead in late 2008 and early 2009 and, of course, the Mavi Marmara incident in May 2010, transformed solidarity with Palestinians into hostility toward Israel, which has become political gold for Erdogan. The U.S. government believes that in Turkey's last elections (June 2011), which Erdogan won with almost 50 percent of the vote, Turks voted on two "p's" -- their pocketbooks and Palestine. Under these circumstances, Erdogan, who plans to be Turkey's president one day and who believes that the AKP will be dominant for at least another decade, is unlikely to be receptive to a substantial improvement in Ankara's ties with Jerusalem.

Even as Erdogan plans his path to the Cankaya Palace, he is currently content to be "King of the Arab Street." The Turkish prime minister is consistently ranked the most popular world leader in polls of the Arab world. Erdogan's standing is primarily a function of his position on Gaza, but also his early call for Hosni Mubarak to leave office during the Egyptian uprising, and Turkey's harboring of tens of thousands of Syrian refugees fleeing Bashar al Assad's brutality. These policies are emblematic of a broader Turkish engagement and activism in the Middle East that distinguishes Erdogan and the AKP from previous Turkish governments. The architects of Turkish foreign policy -- Erdogan, President Abdullah Gul, who served as prime minister and foreign minister, and Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu -- believe that Turkey is the natural leader of a region that the Ottomans once dominated as imperial overlords.

The combination of Turkey's economic might, diplomatic clout, and cultural affinity to Arabs and Muslims is central to the prosperity and political development of the region. Some have called this "neo-Ottomanism" to a fair amount of controversy, but whatever it is called, Ankara could not truly be a regional leader, trouble shooter, "inspiration," and economic engine, as well as the many other designations and appellations Turkey has picked up over the last decade, while simultaneously nurturing close ties with Israel.

The Turks were already suspect in the Arab world given the legacies of Ottoman colonialism, the Jacobin secularism of Mustafa Kemal, and Ankara's institutional ties to the West through NATO and its efforts to join the European Union. These deficits ultimately proved to be surmountable, but at the cost of Turkey's ties with Israel. Nothing about the way Turkey's leaders view the world, the Middle East, and the Turkish role in it has changed now that Benjamin Netanyahu is poised to make Yair Lapid his junior coalition partner.

It has been 16 years since General Cevik Bir, then Turkey's deputy chief-of-staff, revealed to an audience in Washington, DC that Ankara and Jerusalem had upgraded their ties to a strategic relationship that included a robust security component. For some it was a golden age -- and even if that level of cooperation and coordination is an artifact of the past, it is worth salvaging Turkey-Israel relations. There has been every effort to do just this over the course of the last four years to no avail. This is unfortunate, but the disincentives for both Turkish and Israeli politicians to improve relations are great.

Steven A. Cook is the Hasib J. Sabbagh Senior Fellow for Middle Eastern Studies at the Council on Foreign Relations.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

EXCLUSIVE: Nobel Laureate Elie Wiesel slams UK LibDem MP for "shameless" slanders over Holocaust remarks

On Friday 25th January, the press broke the story of David Ward MP, a member of the British parliament, who this week brought shame on the Liberal Democrat party -- the junior partner in Britain's coalition government -- by conflating the Holocaust with the ongoing conflict between Israel and the Palestinians.

His words have now been condemned by Nobel Laureate and Holocaust survivor Professor Elie Wiesel in an exclusive statement to The Commentator.

Ward, the representative for Bradford East, stated openly: "I am saddened that the Jews, who suffered unbelievable levels of persecution during the Holocaust, could within a few years of liberation from the death camps be inflicting atrocities on Palestinians in the new State of Israel and continue to do so on a daily basis in the West Bank and Gaza."

He then went on to defend himself by using the words of Holocaust survivor, Professor Elie Wiesel: "I swore never to be silent whenever human beings endure suffering and humiliation. We must always take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented."

But Professor Wiesel has issued a harsh rebuke to Ward, telling The Commentator, exclusively: "Although he quotes me correctly, I am outraged that he uses my words at the same time he utters shameless slanders on the State of Israel."

Liberal Democrat HQ will be expected to act swiftly to remove Ward from the party, with many campaigners and commentators now stating that his position as a Liberal Democrat MP is untenable.

Professor Wiesel is the author of 57 books, and was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1986. He has also received the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the Congressional Gold Medal and the Legion of Honour.

At the time of writing, Mr. Ward has not been removed as a member of the parliamentary Liberal Democrats. Holocaust Memorial Day is on Sunday 27th January 2013.

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Saturday, January 26, 2013

Time to Annex Judea and Samaria

In a few months it will be the twentieth anniversary of the signing of the "Oslo Accord" on the White House lawn.  In that signing, Yassir Arafat, on behalf of the so-called "Palestinian Liberation Organization," committed himself and his "people" to conduct negotiations with Israel that would lead to a peaceful resolution of the Middle East Arab-Israeli conflict. He forswore unilateral actions and decisions.

Since then, the "Palestinian Authority," which was set up by the PLO, has violated every single clause in that and the subsequent Oslo Accords.  Twenty years hence, the "Palestinians" as represented by the "Authority" have yet to comply with a single one of their obligations.  Arafat and his gangsters simply used the Accord as a cover to gain control over part of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.  They then converted all the territory they controlled into bases for launching terrorist aggression against Israel.  The Palestinian terrorist groups have murdered at least 1700 Israeli civilians since signing that first "peace accord."  Thousands of Palestinian rockets have been launched into Israel aimed at Israeli civilians, and not just by the Hamas.  "Palestinian leaders" repeat several times each day before breakfast that their aim is the obliteration of Israel altogether and that they will never recognize the legitimacy of Israel within any set of borders.

The media controlled by the "Authority" and the terrorist organizations have been thoroughly nazified; they broadcast anti-Semitic filth that exceeds what the German Nazis broadcast in the 1930s.  The Gaza Strip has been completely nazified. Very little distinguishes the Islamofascism of the Hamas from the Islamofascism of the PLO, and the "president" of the Palestinian Authority is a certified Holocaust Denier.

And now to top it all off, the "Palestinian Authority" has unilaterally declared itself to be a sovereign state and applied for United Nations membership as such.  This is just the latest and not even the worst violation of "Palestinian" obligations under the Oslo Accords.

There is growing debate about how Israel should respond to the behavior of the "Palestinians."  Indeed, there have already been calls in Israel to implement part of the proposals that follow here.  This unilateral "declaration" of Palestinian statehood and bid for international recognition is not just a wholesale repudiation of the Oslo Accords by the "Palestinians."  It is also as much a declaration of war as was the secession of South Carolina.  Any similar "secession" would be casus belli in any other country on the planet and would be suppressed with arms.  And any country endorsing or supporting such secession would be treated as an enemy belligerent.

Israel must make it crystal clear: the experimental Israeli willingness to consider acquiescing in the creation of a separate Palestinian state is over.  The "Palestinians" never had a legitimate claim to statehood in the first place, although in exchange for peace Israel was in the past willing to overlook this.  The "Palestinians" forfeited any shaky claim they might have had to statehood because of their behavior during the past two decades, indeed during the past century, their nonstop barbarism and mass atrocities.  This is much like the East Prussians and Sudeten Germans forfeiting all THEIR rights to self-determination and even to autonomy after World War II.

Israel must declare: The game of pretense and fiction is over.  Israel is no longer willing to pretend that there exists some sort of "Palestinian people" entitled to statehood.  The "Palestinians" are Arabs, and Arabs already have 22 states.  They will not get yet another inside Israeli lands.  Any Palestinian wishing to enjoy national sovereignty is free to move to one of those 22 Arab states, but no Arab sovereignty will exist in Israeli territory, meaning the lands between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea.

The "Palestinian declaration of statehood" must be dealt with by means of a unilateral Israeli settlement imposed on the West Bank and de-nazification of the local population.

The principles upon which such a unilateral Israeli concordance and resolution must be founded are these:

1.  The West Bank belongs to Israel and is Israeli in all ways.  No non-Israeli sovereignty of any form will be permitted in the territory between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea.  The West Bank is part of the Jewish national homeland, always was, and always will be.

2.  "Palestinian" Arabs living in the West Bank will not receive Israeli citizenship and will not vote in Israeli national elections.

3.  The land and resources in the West Bank will remain under Israeli supervision, control, and regulation.

4.  "Palestinians" who do not wish to live under Israeli sovereignty will be free to leave.  Israel may consider providing financial support, property compensation, or incentives for those so wishing to leave.

5.  Most "Palestinians" choosing to remain in the West Bank will live in reservations, in some ways resembling Native-American-Indian territories that function inside the United States (possibly even including casinos), although in some ways they will differ.  Reservations will be operated in those parts of the West Bank that have large concentrations of Arab population, meaning Jericho, Nablus, Ramallah, Jenin, Tul Karem, and a few other areas.  Reservations will NOT have territorial contiguity.  In each reservation, the "Palestinians" will be permitted autonomy and limited self-rule to manage their own local affairs as long as violence is completely absent from the reservation.  Where violence is present, they will be denied autonomy.  Reservations from which terrorism arises may be shut down and their populations dispersed.  Arabs engaging in or supporting terrorism in any way will be deported.

6.  "Palestinians" in the West Bank will be considered to be resident aliens within the Jewish state.  Many still have Jordanian passports and citizenship and will be considered resident Jordanians.  "Palestinians" who do not have Jordanian citizenship will be stateless unless they obtain citizenship from some other country.

7.  Jews will have the right to live anywhere they wish in the West Bank outside the reservations assigned to the "Palestinian" Arabs. The territory in the West Bank in which Arabs do not live or live sparsely, and this includes the Jordan Valley and the sparse areas in between the reservations, will be opened to unlimited Jewish settlement.

The villages and towns with the Arab reservations will be assigned to two lists, a white list and a black list.  Those in the white list will manage their own affairs without interference from the Israeli central authorities.  Residents of white-list towns may hold commuter jobs in Israeli cities and industrial parks.  The local authorities in the white areas will manage their schools and other local institutions.  They will collect their own taxes and may benefit from revenue sharing arrangements with the Israeli fiscal authorities, like other Israeli towns.  They might be allowed to operate their own local police forces.  Residents in white-listed areas will be fully and freely mobile, able to move freely within and among all white-list areas. They will be allowed to develop local industry and tourist services.  Their residents will have access to Israel universities, health facilities, and other services.

Those towns and villages in the black list will enjoy none of the above.  Their residents will be denied the opportunity to hold day jobs in Israeli cities and industrial parks.  They will have no access to Israeli services.  They will have control over nothing.  Their residents will be prevented from moving freely outside their reservation, except in cases where they wish to leave the country altogether.  They will receive no shared revenues, no fiscal incentives.

Villages and towns will be assigned to the two lists based entirely on one single factor: violence.  Areas in which violence occurs, and this includes rock throwing, will be assigned to the black list.  Areas in which violence is absent will be assigned to the white list.  Towns and villages will be reassigned to the black list from the white list when terrorism, sniping, mortars, rockets, or other forms of violence occur there.  Towns and villages in the black list will be assigned to the white list only when the local population cooperates fully with Israel in apprehending and arresting the terrorists and those engaged in violence, and takes other effective actions to end the violence.  Otherwise they will remain on the black list indefinitely.  Entry into black list areas will be denied to foreigners, journalists, and especially to the "International Solidarity" anarchists and their ilk. Any such anarchist infiltrating the areas of the black list will be denied permission to leave them and will remain there indefinitely, or else will be imprisoned by Israel.

This of course leaves the dilemma of the Gaza Strip.  As noted, because of the Israeli folly of withdrawing from and abandoning its control over the Gaza Strip, the area is now nothing more than a large rocket-launching terrorist base.  I happen to believe that, in the long run, Israel will have no choice but to re-impose its complete control over the Gaza Strip.

But for the immediate future, an Israeli unilateral set of moves will be necessary here as well.  Basically these must consist of a three-pronged assault against Gaza the very first time that a rocket is launched into Israel from that territory.  In this assault, Israel will seize a strip of land several kilometers wide that will divide the Gaza Strip from Egypt and this will end the massive smuggling of weapons, explosives, drugs and other materials into Gaza.  The other two prongs will split Gaza into three smaller segments.  Israel will control movement of people and materials among these segments.  It will arrest and shoot terrorists on the spot.  And eventually it may impose the system of reservations and the white-black lists upon Gaza as well.

This is how Israel should respond to the declaration of war by the "Palestinians" in their unilateral declaration of statehood.

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By Steven Plaut

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Friday, January 25, 2013

Israel's Barak: Syria serves as warning

Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak said Thursday that global inaction on the bloodbath in Syria is a warning to many countries that they cannot count on outsiders' help _ no matter how dire the circumstances.

He suggested, in an ironic twist, that this applied to Israel itself, discouraging its people from backing risks for peace, such as the return of strategic Palestinian territories in exchange for various assurances.

"Many of our best friends are telling us ... `Don't worry, if worst comes to worst the world will inevitably (help),'" Barak said at the World Economic Forum in the Swiss resort of Davos. "It cannot be taken for granted."

The Syrian civil war was a major topic at Davos this year. This was evidenced by the startling vehemence displayed by even Barak and Israeli President Shimon Peres _ whose country is technically in a state of war with Syria _ as they lamented the killing of Syrian innocents.

"It's on the screens all around the world," Barak said, tens of thousands of people "slaughtered by their own leader and the world doesn't move."

His conclusion: Even "unspeakable atrocities ... taking place in front of the eyes of the whole world" cannot guarantee "that there will be enough sense of purpose, sense of direction, unity of political will, readiness to translate it into action ... in a way that will put an end to it."

He said Israel should nonetheless overcome its concerns and find a way to withdraw from the West Bank _ in order to avoid becoming inseparable from it in a single state that will ultimately have an Arab majority.

On the threat of Iran's nuclear program, Barak said that Israel believed there "should be a readiness and capability to launch a surgical operation" if diplomacy and sanctions fail.

He said it was in U.S. interests to be able to project credibility among future allies in Asia by ensuring that it makes good on promises to prevent an Iranian nuclear weapon.
By Dan Perry

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Lance Armstrong’s Morality Play

Lance Armstrong's confession is a shock to our humanity system. The seven- time winner of the prestigious Tour de France, and one of this era's most admired athletes, has all along been using illegal Performance Enhancing Drugs in the most sophisticated doping scheme in sports history, all the while indignantly proclaiming his honesty and integrity.

How can a human being do such a thing? It was not so much the doping – bad enough – that wounded us; it was the ongoing, passionate declarations of aggrieved innocence that betrayed us and played us for fools.

It was a form of moral violence committed against millions of people who trusted him. Though he did not attack us with guns and bullets, it was traumatic nevertheless, for this was a spiritual assault on our ability to trust in other human beings. He gave new meaning to the concept of hypocrisy, and thus affronted our innate sense of truth and integrity.

A society cannot long exist without this sense of trust in one another, without some standards of truth. No amount of legislation can help against such onslaughts. Note well the words of the Sages that one of the three pillars on which the world exists in the pillar of emet, Truth (Avot I:18).

A violation like this forces us to ask ourselves: who are we really? Are we inherently evil, or are we angels? Jewish tradition says that we are an amalgam of both. We can climb as high as the heavens or we can sink lower than the beast. We can choose life and contentment for ourselves and for others, or we can choose misery and virtual death for ourselves and for those around us. This is what the Torah in Deut.30:19 means when it tells us that God places before us both life and death, and urges us to "choose life."

There are certain bedrock elements of human life that we violate only at our peril — not as a punishment for misdeeds, but because they are built into the fabric of the universe. Just as a tall building with a faulty foundation will eventually cave in under its own weight, so also a life — or a society, or a nation — built on shoddy moral foundations will ultimately disintegrate. Truth and integrity are the bedrock elements without which life collapses. Falsehood bears within it the seeds of its own inevitable destruction. Deprived of the bedrock, disintegration is inescapable. This explains why the three-letter Hebrew word for truth, emet, is mentioned almost 150 times in the Bible, and why this word is inscribed on God's seal (Talmud, Shabbat 55a). The disgraced lives of so many people in public life – climaxed now by Armstrong's self-inflicted humiliation — are cautionary tales about living without the undergirding of truth.

Anatomy of a Lie

Armstrong is a one-man morality play, a study in the anatomy of a lie. All lies start out as babies. In this case, one can speculate that perhaps the first time he used PED was because he had recently recovered from his dread illness and needed some assistance. It worked its magic, so he did it again – and again and again. The baby lie grew up, matured, and developed into bolder falsehoods involving many other people. Then he had to cover up his lie which, given his intelligence and his clean reputation, was so easy to do that he kept doing it and kept re-inventing himself. Ultimately he surely began to believe that his deceitfulness and duplicity were the truth, and that those who challenged his lies with truth were themselves liars. He even sued in court and won cases against those who challenged his honesty.

Lying to others is one thing; the Armstrong lesson is that lying to one's own self is much easier and much more insidious. In interpersonal relationships, in friendships, in marriages, in commerce, in social life, baby lies tend to mature and to envelope the liar in their own webs. This is why the Torah in Exodus 23:14 does not simply say, "Do not lie, " but instead says, Midvar sheker tirchak – "Distance yourself from falsehood," warning us not only not to violate this sin, but to keep away from it as we would from a pestilence — whether against others or one's own self.

Can Armstrong be forgiven and redeemed? The Talmud states: "Whoever transgresses and is embarrassed by it, all his sins are forgiven" (Berachot 12b). This is because to admit one's sins is one of the most difficult things for a person to do. He confessed in public before millions of viewers — which is appropriate, having lied to millions of fans over the years. Nothing stands in the face of true repentance, and only time will tell if his repentance is genuine. One hopes that it is not a ploy, as some are suggesting, getting his penalties reduced in order to compete once again. Given his past performance – and "performance" is the precise word – one can be forgiven for being a bit skeptical , especially since his confession came only after there was overwhelming evidence against him..

L'affaire Armstrong underscores the comment of the Sages: sheker ein lah raglayim – "falsehood has no leg to stand on." Note that the Hebrew word for falsehood, sheker, has a shin, a kof and a reish. In the normative Ashkenazic script, each of these three letters has only one leg, and thus cannot stand on its own. But in the word for truth, emet, each of its three letters aleph, mem, tof, has two solid legs. God is the God of Truth, Emet, the Torah is Torat Emet, a Torah of Truth, and neither can abide deviations from Truth. Though falsehood seems to fly high for a while, that is only temporary. Ultimately it self-destructs because by definition it is anti-God and has no leg to stand on.

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Sunday, January 20, 2013

Algeria Hostage Death Toll: Standoff Dead Climbs Past 80 In Siege In The Sahara

ALGIERS, Algeria —
The death toll from the terrorist siege at a natural gas plant in the Sahara climbed past 80 on Sunday as Algerian forces searching the refinery for explosives found dozens more bodies, many so badly disfigured it was unclear whether they were hostages or militants, a security official said.

Algerian special forces stormed the plant on Saturday to end the four-day siege, moving in to thwart what government officials said was a plot by the Islamic extremists to blow up the complex and kill all their captives with mines sown throughout the site.

In a statement, the Masked Brigade, the group that claimed to have masterminded the takeover, warned of more such attacks against any country backing France's military intervention in neighboring Mali, where the French are trying to stop an advance by Islamic extremists.

"We stress to our Muslim brothers the necessity to stay away from all the Western companies and complexes for their own safety, and especially the French ones," the statement said.

Algeria said after Saturday's assault by government forces that at least 32 extremists and 23 hostages were killed. On Sunday, Algerian bomb squads sent in to blow up or defuse the explosives found 25 more bodies, said the security official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the situation.

"These bodies are difficult to identify. They could be the bodies of foreign hostages or Algerians or terrorists," the official said.

In addition, a wounded Romanian who had been evacuated died, raising the overall death toll to at least 81.

"Now, of course, people will ask questions about the Algerian response to these events, but I would just say that the responsibility for these deaths lies squarely with the terrorists who launched a vicious and cowardly attack," British Prime Minister David Cameron said. Three Britons were killed and another three were feared dead.

The dead hostages were also known to include at least one American as well as Filipino and French workers. Nearly two dozen foreigners by some estimates were unaccounted for.

It was unclear whether anyone was rescued in the final assault on the complex, which is run by the Algerian state oil company along with BP and Norway's Statoil.

Two private Algerian TV stations and an online news site said security forces scouring the plant found five militants hiding out and learned that three others had fled. That information could not be immediately confirmed by security officials.

Authorities said the bloody takeover was carried out Wednesday by 32 men from six countries, under the command from afar of the one-eyed Algerian bandit Moktar Belmoktar, founder of the Masked Brigade, based in Mali. The attacking force called itself "Those Who Sign in Blood."

The Masked Brigade said Sunday the attack was payback against Algeria for allowing over-flights of French aircraft headed to Mali and for closing its long border with Mali. In an earlier communication, the Brigade claimed to have carried out the attack in the name of al-Qaida.

Armed with heavy machine guns, rocket launchers, missiles and grenades, the militants singled out foreign workers at the plant, killing some of them on the spot and attaching explosive belts to others.

Algeria's tough and uncompromising response to the crisis was typical of its take-no-prisoners approach in confronting terrorists, favoring military action over negotiation. Algerian military forces, backed by attack helicopters, launched two assaults on the plant, the first one on Thursday.

The militants had "decided to succeed in the operation as planned, to blow up the gas complex and kill all the hostages," Algerian Communications Minister Mohamed Said told state radio.

Norwegian Foreign Minister Espen Barth Eide said the terrorists had tried to blow up the plant on Saturday but managed only to start a small fire. "That's when they started to execute hostages, and the special forces intervened," Eide said. Norway's Statoil said five Norwegians were still missing.

An audio recording of Algerian security forces speaking with the head of the kidnappers, Abdel Rahman al-Nigiri, on the second day of the drama indicated the hostage-takers were trying to organize a prisoner swap.

"You see our demands are so easy, so easy if you want to negotiate with us," al-Nigiri said in the recording broadcast by Algerian television. "We want the prisoners you have, the comrades who were arrested and imprisoned 15 years ago. We want 100 of them."

In another phone call, al-Nigiri said that half the militants had been killed by the Algerian army on Thursday and that he was ready to blow up the remaining hostages if security forces attacked again. An organization that monitors videos from radicals posted one showing al-Nigiri with what appeared to be an explosive belt around his waist.

The Algerians' use of forced raised an international outcry from some countries worried about their citizens.

But French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said Sunday on French television: "The terrorists ... they're the ones to blame."

David Plouffe, a senior adviser to President Barack Obama, said that al-Qaida and al-Qaida-affiliated groups remain a threat in North Africa and other parts of the world, and that the U.S. is determined to help other countries destroy those networks.

Speaking on "Fox News Sunday," Plouffe said the tragedy in Algeria shows once again "that all across the globe countries are threatened by terrorists who will use civilians to try and advance their twisted and sick agenda."


Ganley reported from Paris. Associated Press writers Paul Schemm in Rabat, Morocco, and Lori Hinnant in Paris also contributed to this report.

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Friday, January 18, 2013

Women in Politics in Saudi Arabia

On Friday, Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah made history when he named thirty women to the kingdom's Shura Council, an appointed advisory body that cannot enact legislation but is still the closest institution to a parliament in that country. He also amended the Shura Council's law to ensure that women would make up no less than 20 percent of the 150-person council going forward.

Friday's announcement did not occur in a vacuum. Before now, some women served in an advisory capacity, but not as full members, on the committee. In 2011, King Abdullah, known for relatively moderate views on women's roles in society, announced that women would be appointed to the Shura Council and that women would be able to run and vote in the country's 2015 municipal elections.

Nevertheless, Friday's follow-through is a sign of King Abdullah's seriousness about incrementally increasing women's participation. In a 2011 speech, King Abdullah introduced the decision as a vital step for keeping up with the times, saying, "Balanced modernization in line with our Islamic values, which preserve rights, is an important requirement in an era with no room for the weak and undecided people." He also explained that the decision to appoint women to the Shura Council and to allow them to vote and run in elections was made after consulting with religious scholars.

Much as when women from conservative Muslim countries including Qatar and Saudi Arabia competed in the Olympics for the first time this past summer, a considerable amount of attention is being paid to the logistics of women's participation in the Shura Council. The amendments allowing women to join the council specifically prescribe gender-segregating measures, ranging from separate office spaces to council chamber entrances to seating areas. As journalist and Saudi Arabia expert Thomas Lippman explains, "Even when [King Abdullah] moves boldly, he moves cautiously, in increments that the conservatives can be persuaded or forced to accept." Indeed, this gender segregation is an absolute prerequisite to women's participation in Saudi Arabia.

Reaction to the Shura Council is mixed. On Twitter, the hashtag "The new Shura Council does not represent me" materialized, a reminder that the Shura Council is unelected. Manal al-Sharif—a female activist who has shown great courage in advocating for Saudi women's right to drive—wrote on Twitter that "The amendments ignored Saudis' demands of electing the members and increasing the Council powers! It still cannot pass or enforce laws" (via POMED). Essam Alzamel, a tech entrepreneur with a significant Twitter following, wrote, "There are two types of parliaments: the kind that represents the people and the kind that represents the people but is not of the people." Just today, around fifty clerics opposed to the Shura Council decision turned up at the Royal Court to request a meeting with the king and one of his advisers, which they were not granted. This protest was notable, particularly given that Saudi Arabia's primary religious authorities have approved of the king's decision.

Despite the limitations of the Shura Council, the appointed women have their work cut out for them. As my friend, women's rights advocate and new Shura Council member Thuraya Arrayed said to Al Arabiya News, "I expect this decision to open doors for qualified women to take part in all fields and not just in politics but in all areas." Fellow new Shura Council member Thuraya Obaid, whose impressive career includes time as executive director of the UN Population Fund, told the newspaper Asharq Alawsat, "…as for those who do not accept this, this is a huge challenge for women to prove that their presence is an addition to, not lessening of, Saudi society." With female council members like these, this mixed-gender Shura Council may well pave the way to greater opportunities for Saudi women, however incrementally.

Thanks to my research associate, Thalia Beaty, for providing the Arabic translations.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

$1B Later, US Claims Anti-Terror Victory in Somalia


Four years and over $1 billion in U.S. support later, the Obama administration today claimed a victory in its war on terror in Africa by officially recognizing the government of Somalia, once a country overrun by al Qaeda-linked terrorists.

At a press conference at the State Department, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton stood shoulder to shoulder with President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud, the first democratically elected President of Somalia since 1991, and told reporters that working to stabilize Somalia had been "a personal priority" of hers.

"So I'm very pleased that in my last weeks here, Mr. President, we are taking this historic step of recognizing the government," Clinton told reporters.

Earlier today Clinton said the Somali president also met with President Obama, as a sign of how committed the U.S. is to new democracy.

When Clinton came into office in early 2009, the al Qaeda-allied terrorist organization al-Shabaab controlled all of southern and most of central Somalia and all but 10 blocks of the capital city of Mogadishu. The country had not a functioning government in nearly two decades. The United States had engaged with Somalia during that time, including the infamous "Black Hawk Down" incident in 1993, and had provided support for the Ethiopian incursion into Somalia in 2006, which lasted for three years and is widely considered to have been a failure.

Over the last four years, the U.S. has poured more than $1 billion into the country, with at least $650 million dollars used to support and train African Union troops fighting the terrorists, $200 million in humanitarian aid and more than $130 million to fund programs to help the country rebuild its security structures. The U.S. also helped beat back the terrorists with drone strikes and intelligence support for the AU force.

By officially recognizing Somalia's new government, the U.S. has now opened the door for formal diplomatic ties, including USAID programs. Somalia is now also eligible to apply for assistance from the World Bank and the IMF. Clinton spoke about how in the last year two different senior State Department officials visited Mogadishu, a city state department officials working on Somalia were forbidden to visit just two years ago. Clinton said that while security is still tenuous, the ultimate goal is to have a permanent U.S. presence in the country.

"Our diplomats, our development experts are traveling more frequently there, and I do look forward to the day when we can re- establish a permanent U.S. diplomatic presence in Mogadishu," said Clinton.

But she also acknowledged that security remains an issue and that the new government and democracy remain fragile.

Just this week the Somalia-based terror group al-Shabaab publicly boasted that they had executed a French intelligence agent codenamed Dennis Allex, who al-Shabaab had held in captivity since 2009. An al-Shabaab spokesperson issued a statement saying the execution was retaliation for Western incursions into Mali, Afghanistan and other Muslim countries. Days before, France launched a coordinated military operation to pummel extremists in Mali, a West African nation more than 3,000 miles from Somalia.

In her address today, Clinton acknowledged that the "threat of terrorism and violent extremism... is not just a problem in Somalia. It is a problem across the region."

"The terrorists, as we have learned once again in the last days, are not resting, and neither will we," she said. "We will be very clear-eyed and realistic about the threat they continue to pose."

Clinton said that Somalia serves as an example of how terrorists groups in Africa can be defeated. She stressed the Obama administration's policy of supporting African-led solutions, like the African Union Mission in Somalia. She said the administration is taking the same approach fighting Al Qaeda groups in Mali.

"This is difficult but essential work. These are some of the most remote places on the planet, very hard to get to, difficult to have much intelligence from, so there's going to be a lot of work that has to go into our efforts. But I want to assure the American people that we are committed to this work just as we were committed to Somalia," said Clinton."There were so many times…over the last four years, when some people were ready to throw up their hands and say, you know, al-Shabaab made an advance here, and this terrible attack in Mogadishu, and we kept persisting, because we believed that with the kind of approach we had taken, we would be standing here today with a democratically-elected president of Somalia."

Somali President Sheikh Mohamud was emotional as he personally thanked Secretary Clinton and America for its support of Somalia.

"I wish madam Secretary all of the best for her future, and we all miss her greatly. And I will welcome the new Secretary of State and the new administration that will take over," said the President. "Somalia will remain grateful to the unwavering support from the United States government in the last 22 years that Somalia was in a difficult era. We remain, and we will remain, grateful to that. And I -- and I say in front of you today, thank you, America."

Currently there are nearly 1.4 million displaced people within Somalia, and another 1.4 million refugees in neighboring countries, according to the United Nation's refugee agency. ABC News reported on the horrors of the refugee crisis from Somalia's famine less than two years ago when tens of thousands of Somalis fled al-Shabaab controlled areas just to be able to find food.

ABC News' David Muir witnessed a gun battle between African Union troops and extremists battling for control of Mogadishu. At that time, basic security, not elections, was the priority.

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Wednesday, January 16, 2013

French and Malian Troops Confront Islamists in Seized Mali Village

In a little noticed situation, media is finally referring to Islamists as what they are, rather than the generic terms such as fighters or militants. The most brutal and cowardly threat to world peace is militant Islam. MFBsr

BAMAKO, Mali - French soldiers battled armed Islamist occupiers of a desert village in central Mali on Wednesday, a Malian Army colonel said, in the first direct ground combat involving Western troops since France began its military operation here last week to help wrest this nation back from a militant advance.

The Malian colonel said his army's ground troops had joined the French forces and ringed the village of Diabaly, which Islamist fighters had seized the day before. Now, he said, they were engaged in fighting to extricate the militants, who had taken over homes and ensconced themselves.

"It's a very specialized kind of war," said the colonel, who spoke on condition of anonymity. "The town is surrounded."

But French officials have been cautious about saying exactly when the ground combat would begin. On Wednesday, a senior French defense official confirmed that a detachment of about 100 members of the French special forces were approaching Diabaly, about 250 miles north of the capital, in an effort to halt an insurgent move south and take back the town. But the official refused to confirm that an assault was yet under way.

The ground fighting expands the confrontation between the Islamists and the French forces, who have previously conducted aerial assaults after President François Hollande of France ordered an intervention in Mali last Friday to thwart a broader push by Islamist rebels controlling the north of the country.

The broadening of the military conflict came as an Algerian government official and the country's state-run news agency said that Islamist militants had seized a foreign-run gas field near the Algeria-Libya border, hundreds of miles away, taking at least 20 foreign hostages, including Americans, in retaliation for the French intervention in Mali and for Algeria's cooperation in that effort.

The Algerian agency said at least at least two people had been killed in the gas-field seizure, including one British national, and that the hostages included American, British, French, Norwegian and Japanese citizens.

Victoria Nuland, a State Department spokeswoman, told reporters in Washington, "The best information that we have at this time is that U.S. citizens are among the hostages."

Japanese officials acknowledged that Japanese citizens were involved in the hostage situation, and the Irish foreign ministry said one Irish citizen had been kidnapped. The British foreign office also said in a statement that "British nationals are caught up in this incident," which it described as "ongoing."

The twin developments underscored an earlier acknowledgment from French officials that the military campaign to turn back the Islamists and drive them from their redoubts in northern Malian desert would be a protracted and complicated one.

"The combat continues and it will be long, I imagine," the French defense minister, Jean-Yves Le Drian, said Wednesday on RTL radio. "Today the ground forces are in the process of deploying," he said. "Now the French forces are reaching the north."

Adm. Edouard Guillaud, the French chief of staff, told Europe 1 television that ground operations began overnight.

He accused jihadists of using civilians as human shields and said, "We refuse to put the population at risk. If there is doubt, we will not fire."

In Paris, Mr. Hollande said Wednesday that he took the decision to intervene last Friday because it was necessary. If he had not done so, it would have been too late. "Mali would have been entirely conquered and the terrorists would today be in a position of strength."

On Tuesday, witnesses in Mali reported, the insurgents had regrouped after French airstrikes and embedded themselves among the population of Diabaly, hiding in the mud and brick houses in the battle zone and thwarting attacks by French warplanes to dislodge them.

"They are in the town, almost everywhere in the town," said Bekaye Diarra, who owns a pharmacy in Diabaly, which remained under the control of insurgents. "They are installing themselves."

Benco Ba, a parliamentary deputy there, said residents were fearful of the conflict that had descended on them. "The jihadists are going right into people's families," he said. "They have completely occupied the town. They are dispersed. It's fear, " he said, as it became

clear that airstrikes alone will probably not be enough to root out these battle-hardened insurgents, who know well the harsh grassland and desert terrain of Mali.

Containing the rebels' southern advance toward Bamako is proving more challenging than anticipated, French military officials have acknowledged. And with the Malian Army in disarray and no outside African force yet assembled, displacing the rebels from the country altogether appears to be an elusive, long-term challenge.

The jihadists were "dug in" at Diabaly, Defense Minister Le Drian said Tuesday at a news conference. From that strategic town, they "threaten the south," he said, adding: "We face a well-armed and determined adversary."

Mr. Le Drian also acknowledged that the Malian Army had not managed to retake the town of Konna, whose seizure by the rebels a week ago provoked the French intervention. "We will continue the strikes to diminish their potential," the minister said.

Using advanced attack planes and sophisticated military helicopters, the French campaign has forced the Islamists from important northern towns like Gao and Douentza. But residents there say that while the insurgents suffered losses, many of them had simply gone into the nearby bush.

Analysts said that while forcing the insurgents from the cities was achievable, eliminating them altogether would require considerable additional effort.

"You can't launch a war of extermination against a very tenacious and mobile adversary," said Col. Michel Goya of the French Military Academy's Strategic Research Institute. "We are in a classic counterinsurrectionary situation. They are well armed, but the weapons are not sophisticated. A couple of thousand men, very mobile."

While striking the Islamists from the air, France has been steadily building up its forces on the ground: 200 more soldiers and 60 armored vehicles arrived in Mali overnight on Tuesday from Ivory Coast, bringing the total to nearly 800 soldiers. The French Defense Ministry said the force would soon number 2,500, in the vicinity of its peak Afghanistan deployment.

France is the former colonial power in Mali, and Mr. Le Drian has said it intervened to prevent the possible collapse of Mali's government and "the establishment of a terrorist state within range of Europe and of France." The French mission is aimed at supporting an African force that is still being assembled and that French officials said could begin to deploy in as soon as a week. The United States has also committed its support to the French mission.

Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta, traveling in Spain, said that France faced a difficult task in taking on the extremists and that the Pentagon remained in talks with the French about what sort of aid was required.

The implications of the nascent French deployment - and of the Islamist takeover of Diabaly, only about 220 miles from the capital here - seem clear: rooting out the few thousand insurgents could well be a slog.

The Islamists are well armed, with AK-47s, rocket-propelled grenades and heavy machine guns mounted on vehicles, as well as some armored personnel carriers seized from the Malian military last year.

In the initial clashes, allied officials said, French airstrikes inflicted heavy losses on Islamist columns that could be easily identified and attacked as they advanced on roads. That led to some optimistic assessments of a rout.

But a military spokesman for the French operation in Mali said Tuesday that the Islamists had taken more territory since the French air raid began because the fighters were mixing in with the population and making it difficult to bomb without causing civilian casualties.

"It's really much too soon to tell how this fight will turn out," said an American official who has been surveying the battle from afar.

Adam Nossiter reported from Bamako, Mali; Alan Cowell from Paris; and Eric Schmitt from Washington. Reporting was contributed by Steven Erlanger and Scott Sayare from Paris, Julia Werdigier from London, and Elisabeth Bumiller from Madrid.

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Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Israel Elections 2013: Netanyahu Re-Election And Legacy Hinge On Iran

By Crispian Balmer JERUSALEM, Jan 14 (Reuters) - Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has a simple message as he seeks a third term in office - he is a strong man and a vote for him at parliamentary elections on Jan. 22 means Israel will be a powerful nation. The Hebrew word for strong, "hazak", peppers the television adverts of his right-wing Likud-Yisrael Beiteinu party like a compulsive mantra and is smeared across the blue-and-white campaign posters that dominate billboards around the country. Robust leadership is vital, Netanyahu says, to deal with his generation's biggest challenge - not the decades-old conflict with the Palestinians, but fears that Iran is bent on building an atomic bomb that could one day target the Jewish state. "My priority, if I'm elected for a next term as prime minister, will be first to stop Iran from getting nuclear weapons," Netanyahu told a delegation of U.S. senators who visited him in Jerusalem on Jan. 11. Iran denies that its nuclear programme is aimed at making bombs and says Israel, widely assumed to have the Middle East's only atomic arsenal, is the region's greatest menace. Recent opinion polls suggest that Netanyahu will indeed be re-elected at the head of a coalition government. This means the Iranian issue, which has largely lain dormant since before the U.S. presidential election in November, will return to the fore. In the diplomatic battle over Iran, Netanyahu, 63, portrays himself as an uncompromising tough guy, a former commando turned conservative hardliner, who will go it alone against Tehran if necessary to thwart what he sees as an existential threat. But just how strong is he? Not very if you are to believe the previous head of Israel's Shin Bet intelligence agency, who has launched an astonishing pre-election attack on his former boss, accusing him of being weak and wavering. "He has no strong core, no tough kernel about which you can say, 'Know what? In an extreme situation, in a crisis situation, I can follow him. I can trust him,'" Yuval Diskin, who retired as Shin Bet chief in 2011, told the Yedioth Ahronoth daily in a front-page interview published on Jan. 4. Although opinion polls show most Israelis trust Netanyahu's handling of security issues, Diskin is not the only senior official to express doubts about his character. That in turn reflects the fact that despite serving as Israeli prime minister longer than anyone bar founding father David Ben-Gurion, Netanyahu remains something of a conundrum. While his rhetoric can make him sound brash and bullying, he has often proved circumspect and contradictory. Although he has promised reform, he has frequently clung to the status quo, both in domestic and foreign affairs. The most American of all Israeli premiers, he has arguably presided over the worst relations with a U.S. president, due in part to disagreements over how to handle Iran.

"CULT OF DEATH" While Netanyahu's motives and method can be questioned, few doubt that his concerns about Iran are genuine. "Netanyahu's raison d'etre is to save Israel from Iran. That is it. That is his mission in the most profound sense. I have seen it up close," said Naftali Bennett, his chief of staff from 2006 to 2008 who quit the prime minister's rightist political grouping and pitched his tent in the national-religious camp. "Everything else is subject and subordinate to Iran. That is potentially an alibi for why he has not made any bold moves during his premiership and just minded the shop," added Bennett, whose party may well be in the next coalition government. Known universally in Israel by his childhood nickname 'Bibi', Netanyahu works out of a nondescript Jerusalem building, about as far removed from other seats of power, such as the White House or Elysee Palace, as you could hope to find. The first thing you notice when you enter his small office is a large map of the Middle East, with Israel set to the side and Iran dominating much of the document. The issue also dominates the conversation as he questions whether Western politicians, who may doubt a nuclear Iran would risk its own destruction by attacking Israel, fully understand the Islamic Republic's religious leadership. "They know it's a very bad thing, but they need to understand the convulsive power of militant Islam...the cult of death, the ideological zeal," he said in a meeting last year, before the election campaign started. A stocky, imposing man, Netanyahu has regularly drawn parallels between Nazi Germany and modern-day Iran. On his well-stacked bookshelves, sit a number of biographies of Winston Churchill, a man Netanyahu says he admires because he realised the true dangers posed by Adolf Hitler before other leaders. History matters to Netanyahu. His father, Benzion, was a renowned Zionist historian and a decisive influence on his son. A fervent believer in the idea of "Greater Israel", he was opposed to any compromise with the nation's enemies. "Bibi is the son of an historian and if you want to understand him, you have to start there," said one of the prime minister's closest aides, who declined to be named. It was thanks to his father's teaching work in the United States that Netanyahu developed one of his important political tools - fluent English that he has used to great effect to woo influential audiences, notably in the U.S. Congress. After studying at a U.S. high school, he returned to Israel for his military service. He served in the elite special forces - the same unit his charismatic brother fought and died in. Yonatan became a national hero after he was killed in 1976 in a daring raid to free more than 100 Israelis being held by pro-Palestinian hijackers at Entebbe Airport, in Uganda. Armchair psychoanalysts have suggested that the killing stoked a deep dislike of Palestinians in the young Netanyahu. What is certainly true is that Yonatan's death helped propel Bibi into the limelight, from where he has rarely strayed.

"SHOW ME SOME LEG" A rapid rise in the world of politics saw him became Israel's youngest prime minister in 1996. But his government survived barely three years, buffeted by crises and squabbles. He returned to the top a decade later as a less brash leader, who was nimbler at coalition politics, enabling him to secure rare stability and win cover billing in Time magazine as "The King of Israel". But the calm of his coalition over the past four years has not been matched by tranquillity within his inner circle, which centres around the so-called Aquarium - a sealed-off cluster of offices where the toughest decisions of state are made. "Bibi demands loyalty, but I don't think that his behaviour makes you feel necessarily loyal. He is very, very suspicious, even towards his closest guys," says a former official, who quit his post during the last term and declined to be named. After taking office in 2009, Netanyahu made a major speech, declaring that he was ready to accept a demilitarized Palestinian state alongside the Jewish state, ending years of opposition to such a move at a personal and party level. Netanyahu's commitment to this pledge is widely questioned. At a meeting in 2010, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton asked the Israeli leader to "show me some leg" and explain what concessions he was willing to make to the Palestinians, according to someone present at the meeting. Netanyahu shooed everyone from the room and talked alone with Clinton, afraid his comments would otherwise leak. But he never showed his leg to the wider world and the Palestinian issue was swiftly shunted down the global agenda after direct peace talks broke down in late 2010 over continued Jewish settlement building in the occupied West Bank. To the exasperation of his Western allies, Netanyahu has pursued the settlement drive, announcing in December alone plans for more than 10,000 homes on land seized by Israel in the 1967 war - a move that jeopardises the so-called two-state solution of an independent Palestine sitting alongside the Jewish state. One of his most vocal critics, Gideon Levy, a prominent left-wing journalist, accuses Netanyahu of deliberately playing up the Iranian threat to divert attention from the Palestinians. "Spreading fear. That is his big capacity. To spread fear," said Levy, who regularly rails against Netanyahu in Israel's liberal Haaretz newspaper. "I think he deeply, deeply does not believe in peace with the Arabs in general and the Palestinians in particular. He just wants to get the Palestinian issue off the table." Without significant pressure from Washington, it will remain off the table for the foreseeable future, with Netanyahu's own party drifting ever further rightwards.

"BACKBONE FOR RENT" According to Israeli calculations, Iran may be only a couple of months away from crossing a "clear red line" for uranium enrichment that Netanyahu spelled out at the United Nations in September. For all Netanyahu's dire warnings, a poll this month by the Times of Israel showed just 12 percent of Israelis saw Iran as the top priority facing the next government, compared with 16 percent who named deteriorating relations with the Palestinians and 43 percent who pointed to economic problems. "Despite their hostility and differences, the Iranian and Israeli governments have one thing in common, they both try to portray outside threats as the most urgent issue, but their citizens disagree," says Meir Javedanfar, a Middle East analyst at the Interdisciplinary Center in Herzliya, near Tel Aviv. "It's time for both countries to listen to their public." That is unlikely to happen if Netanyahu wins next week. Members of his inner circle say his legacy depends almost entirely on whether he prevents Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons. Even his political opponents credit him with putting the issue on the top of the global agenda, helping to convince Western nations to impose increasingly tough sanctions on Iran. But many pour cold water on the idea that he is ready to unleash a hazardous, long-range war to try to halt Iran. For all his tough talk, Netanyahu has only launched one, brief, military confrontation in more than seven years in office - a conflict against Hamas militants in Gaza last November that ended after eight days without the threatened land offensive. Reflecting the view of his critics, who wanted the army to be sent in, Israeli daily Maariv printed a cartoon of Netanyahu carrying an object under his arm marked "backbone for rent". But some influential figures in the security establishment are starting to believe that Netanyahu might be ready to strike at the Islamic Republic for history, despite the risks. In 2011 a senior Israeli strategist, screwing up his fingers to show two tiny holes, said dismissively of Netanyahu: "The man has balls the size of raisins." A year on, the same official has changed his tune. "It's amazing," he said. "He is really serious about Iran."

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Monday, January 7, 2013

The callousness of Hamas

by Richard Cohen,

Of all the points of disagreement between Israel and Hamas, maybe the most profound is this one: Israel cares more about sparing innocent lives — including those of Palestinians — than does Hamas. Not only have Hamas and other militant groups this year sent more than 700 rockets crashing haphazardly into southern Israel, but also Hamas instigated yet another war where the chief loser will certainly be its own people. If hell has a beach, it's located in Gaza.

The Gaza Strip is a congested, fetid place. It is densely populated and in the slums and housing blocks, Hamas has hidden its weapons, explosives and rocket launchers. Israel has gone out of its way to avoid civilian casualties. Its air force has used new, highly accurate ammunition aiming for rocket-launching sites and government installations. For the most part, it has succeeded.

For Hamas, civilian casualties are an asset. Palestinians love and grieve as do other people, but Hamas leadership knows that the world has gotten impatient with Israel. Increasingly, many people now see Israel as the aggressor, as Gaza's occupying power (never mind the 2005 pullout), and they overlook such trifles as the Hamas charter, which is repellently anti-Semitic and cites the discredited forgery "The Protocols of the Elders of Zion." In the Hamas cosmology, Jews are so evil that somehow "they also stood behind World War II, where they collected immense benefits from trading with war materials." This, you would have to concede, is a wholly original take on the Holocaust.

Many in the West heroically ignore such nonsense. They embrace Hamas as the champions of a victimized Third World people. In recent days, some editorialists have bemoaned the war and Hamas' role in inciting it. But then comes the inevitable "however." "However, the government of Benjamin Netanyahu must also take much blame for stoking resentment among Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank for so long," opined the Financial Times. The New York Times' caveat came lower down in its initial editorial on the war: "But it would be easier to win support for retaliatory action if Israel was engaged in serious negotiations with Hamas' rival, the Palestinian Authority." Apparently, 700 rockets are not enough.

Look, let us stipulate: Palestinians have suffered greatly. They have legitimate grievances. Israel has at times been a bully, and the slow and steady march of West Bank settlements is both wrong and destructive of the (nonexistent) peace process. But for all this, it is insane to apply the Officer Krupke rule (from "West Side Story") to Hamas: "We ain't no delinquents, we're misunderstood. Deep down inside us there is good." There is little good in Hamas.

Hamas is not the passive party in this struggle. It rules Gaza by force. The other day it murdered — please don't say "executed" — an alleged collaborator without the inconvenience of a trial, shooting the man on a crowded street. It chose to make war by allowing more militant groups to use Gaza as a launching pad for rockets and firing off the occasional rocket itself. No nation is going to put up with this sort of terror. The rockets do some, not a lot of damage, but that's not the point. The point instead is that people who have the wherewithal will not continue to live in a place where even the occasional rocket can come down on your kids' school. This is not a mere border problem. For Israel, this is an existential threat.

What various editorial writers and others seem not to understand is that the very peace agreement they accuse Israel of forestalling is, in fact, impeded by Hamas' use of violence. Who wants to make peace with extremists? Who wants to give up land for the promises of peace offered by zealots who read Hitler for inspiration? Israel pulled out of Gaza once already. Abandoned greenhouses were refurbished by Jewish philanthropists in America. The greenhouses were trashed and with them what now seems like naive optimism. Soon, Hamas took control and the rockets started hitting Israel.

This war between Arabs and Jews, between Israelis and Palestinians, is well over 100 years old. Both sides have a case and both sides have proved to be indomitable. But both sides are not equally right in all instances. Hamas sent rockets into Israel, not caring if they hit a chicken coop or a group of toddlers jumping in and out of a sprinkler. You want balance? Here's balance. Hamas didn't care if its own people died either.

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Saturday, January 5, 2013

Girl Shot by Pakistani Taliban Is Discharged From Hospital


LONDON - Malala Yousafzai, the Pakistani schoolgirl shot in the head three months ago by the Taliban for advocating the education of girls, has been discharged from a British hospital. Doctors said she had made "excellent progress" and would be staying with her family nearby before returning for further surgery to rebuild her skull in about four weeks.

"Following discussions with Malala and her medical team, we decided that she would benefit from being at home with her parents and two brothers," said Dr. Dave Rosser, the medical director.

Video released by Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham, England, showed Ms. Yousafzai walking slowly out of a ward, wearing a head scarf and accompanied by a nurse.

The release was a promising turn for the teenage activist. Her shooting brought global condemnation of the Pakistani Taliban, whose fighters killed six female aid workers this week in the same region in northwestern Pakistan where Ms. Yousafzai was shot.

On Oct. 9, gunmen halted her school bus as it went through Mingora, the main town in the Swat Valley, singled her out and opened fire. A bullet grazed her brain, nearly killing her, and traveled through her head before lodging in her neck.

Six days later, after emergency treatment in Pakistan, she was airlifted to the hospital in Birmingham, which specializes in treating British soldiers wounded in action in Afghanistan.

Medical experts say Ms. Yousafzai has a good chance of making a full recovery because of her youth, but the long-term impact of her head injuries remains unclear.

In recent weeks, she has left the hospital regularly to spend time with her family. The Pakistani government is paying for her treatment.

Ms. Yousafzai rose to prominence in 2009 with a blog for the BBC's Urdu-language service that described life in Swat under Taliban rule. Later, she was featured in a documentary by The New York Times.

Now her father, Ziauddin, a school headmaster, has accepted a three-year position as education attaché at the Pakistani Consulate in Birmingham, making it unlikely that the family will return to Pakistan anytime soon. In any event, it may be too dangerous, because the Taliban have vowed to attack her again.

© 2013 The New York Times Company.

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Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Israel Already Deals With Hamas

by Nervana Mahmoud

As the debate about the potential nomination of Chuck Hagel as the next U.S. Secretary of Defense becomes increasingly heated, many have expressed their opinions both for and against the nomination. Last week, the New York Times ran two op-ed articles two days in a row defending Hagel. In one piece, Thomas Freidman did not just defend the Hagel nomination—he also defended Hagel's alleged willingness to engage Hamas. Freidman wrote: "I don't think America or Israel have anything to lose by engaging Hamas to see if a different future is possible."

Here is a surprise for Mr. Freidman: Israel is engaging with Hamas—not only recently, but it has been doing so for the past few years. The best example of this quiet engagement is the ceasefire agreement that ended Israel's recent operation in Gaza (Pillar of Defense). Despite  initial skepticism, the deal seems to be holding, with more positive steps to ease the blockade (delivering building materials and allowing fishing at Gaza's shore). In addition, Israel allowed Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal to visit Gaza after years in exile for Hamas's anniversary celebration. The man that Netanyahu once tried to assassinate has enjoyed unprecedented freedom. Israel, it seems, rewarded Hamas for firing the rocket that reached Tel Aviv and Jerusalem by acceeding to a wide-reaching deal with the terrorist organization that is still committed to destroying the Jewish state.

What both Israel and Hamas has learned from the failed Oslo peace process is that direct engagement and shaking hands at the White House are bad ideas that bring scrutiny and earache. Therefore, both opted for quiet, indirect talks (the Gilad Shalit deal) that were necessarily based on shared interests. And believe it or not, there are many shared interests between those two archenemies: keeping quiet at the Gaza/south Israel front and undermining Abbas's leadership are the best examples. Israel, for example, decided to punish President Abbas, who dared to go to the U.N. and achieve an observer status, if only a symbolic one, by blocking funds to the Palestinian Authority. Israel's Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman went event further by claiming: "There are many alternatives to the Palestinian President."

Israel's ill-fated disengagement from Gaza  empowered Hamas and other radical Palestinians groups, who viewed it as a victory for the "resistance," and helped them later to fully control the Gaza Strip. The same scenario could easily happen if the Palestinian Authority weakened more in the West Bank (despite Lieberman's claims to the contrary). There are already reports—which may or may not be credible—of possible preparations by Hamas to take over the West Bank. Nonetheless, the ultimate aim of Hamas is to control the West Bank; whether they will achieve it by "reconciliation" or by takeover remains to be seen. It all depends on the evolving facts on the ground in 2013. A weak Abbas, a crumbling economy, troubles in Jordan and an Islamist regime in Syria, may all bring the West Bank to a tipping point, which Hamas is eagerly waiting.

Like two hostile neighbors living in a tense, crowded region, they continuously watch each other, looking for clues and hints. Netanyahu and the leadership of Hamas are enemies who at times share the same mindset: both want their cake and to eat it. Neither are willing to compromise, nor like to admit defeat, which is precisely why both are seeking to redefine victory and bend the definition of deterrence and balance of terror to their advantage.

Whether Obama appoints Hagel or not, Israel's policy toward the Palestinians will continue to be dictated by the reckless underestimation of Hamas's tenacity and ability to maneuver. Netanyahu might thinks he tolerate an emboldened Hamas until he finishes Abbas off, then later turn against Hamas if necessary—a risky game that will backfire. He shares the same mindset of Ariel Sharon, who assumed that disengagement from Gaza, without reaching a comprehensive deal with the Palestinians, was a good idea. It was not. Hamas's rule over Gaza may not alone finish the prospect of a two-state solution, but could soon open the gate for Hamas to re-launch its influence in the West Bank as the only party that can "engage" with Israel and bring reliable political results on the ground.

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The Chomsky Hoax

The Chomsky Hoax
Exposing the Dishonesty of Noam Chomsky