Sunday, August 14, 2016

14-Aug-16: Who actually cares that foreign aid is diverted from needy Gazans to terror? Not who most people think

A Hamas/Gaza tunnel under construction, October 2013 [Image Source]
Audit firms, governments and Christian aid groups are sorting out their post-exposé strategies following the arrests of several Palestinian Arabs on charges of illegally and surreptitiously siphoning vast sums into Palestinian Arab terror.

But strangely those who are most identified with doing humanitarian good for the Palestinian Arabs don't appear to be in the front lines of those expressing deep concern at the harm such diversions have caused. And that's an understatement.

One of the most visible signs of where the cash goes (that's present tense - no one believes the scandal has been stopped) is the tunnels of Gaza. The latest news from there - just this month and just from Palestinian Arab sources indicates this vast engineering project is not going smoothly:
  • August 6, 2016: "The al-Qassam Brigades, the armed wing of Hamas, has reported that one of its fighters was killed, Saturday, when a tunnel collapsed on him, in the Gaza Strip. In a statement, al-Qassam said the fighter has been identified as Khaled Methqal al-Hoor, 23... According to the al-Qassam Brigades, ten of its fighters have been killed in several tunnel accidents in several parts of the Gaza Strip, since the beginning of this year." [IMEMC, a Palestinian media source which "combines Palestinian journalists’ deep understanding of the context, history, and the socio-political environment with International journalists’ skills in non-partisan reporting."]
  • August 10, 2016: "Eight Palestinians were injured when a tunnel collapsed in the al-Shujayya neighborhood in eastern Gaza City, local sources told Ma’an. They were taken to al-Shifa Hospital in Gaza City to be treated for light to moderate injuries, according to Gaza Ministry of Health spokesman Ashraf al-Qidra. The incident came after three Palestinians died over recent weeks in tunnel collapse accidents in the Gaza Strip. On Saturday, a member of Hamas' military wing the Izz al-Din al-Qassam Brigades was killed, and in mid-July, two members of the Islamic Jihad were killed in separate incidents..." [Ma'an News Agencybased in Bethlehem]
  • August 14, 2016: "...A member of the Izz al-Din al-Qassam Brigades, the military wing of the Hamas movement, was killed by an electric shock on Saturday while working inside a tunnel in the besieged Gaza Strip. The military wing released a statement confirming the death of Muhammad Shlouf from the city of Gaza... The Hamas movement which governs the blockaded Palestinian territory has been allegedly reconstructing a vast tunnel network intended to be used for carrying out attacks on Israeli military targets and civilians, swathes of which were destroyed during the war... The Institute for Palestine Studies reported in 2012 that Hamas authorities had counted 160 deaths inside the tunnels since the Israeli blockade began in 2007, and in August 2014, al-Jazeera reported that figure to be as high as 400." [IMEMC]
Setting aside the appalling matter of lives thrown away (many of them, probably hundreds, are children) in the cause of expanding the terrorist infrastructure and earning Hamas tunnel-traffic royalties from smuggled cigarettes to benefit Hamas insiders, there's a colossal amount of tunnel building going on in Gaza.

This is one of the Middle East's most ambitious current undertakings, ignoring the mind-blowingly, astronomically-expensive preparations for the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar about which we wrote here: "11-Jul-13: Football and barefaced hypocrisy". And in a world where there are no free lunches, someone's paying for it. Paying for the construction and materials, that is. Essential safety equipment is evidently still looking for a donor.

This is infrastructure investment on a truly serious scale. So, in hideous terms, is the pay-off:
"A Hamas operative who was captured in June after illegally crossing into Israel revealed that the terrorist group’s fighters can travel underground throughout the entirety of Gaza." [The Tower, August 11, 2016]
This is Gaza too: the Al-Mashtal Hotel as it looked some years
ago [Image Source: Reuters]
An important piece this weekend in the Wall Street Journal by one of its editorial writers, David Feith, reaffirms the depressing point ["Your Tax Dollars Fund Palestinian Terror", August 11, 2016] that none of this could happen but for the willful blindness of governments, foremost among them the United States.

It's a weighty charge if true. The WSJ analysis is driven mainly by recent events here in Israel where sensational criminal prosecutions have recently been brought against Palestinian Arab individuals alleging they succeeded in diverting aid money into the hands of Palestinian Arab terrorist organizations. Many millions of dollars are involved.

Sounding an ambitious note, Feith addresses the scandal we have long called here the PA's Rewards for Terror Scheme:
This revelation should spur a broader reassessment of American aid to the Palestinian government... [since] the Palestinian government has used U.S. and other foreign taxpayers’ money to pay generous rewards to the families of terrorists. The deadlier the crime, the larger the prize, up to about $3,100 a month, or several times the average salary of a worker in Palestine’s non-terrorist economy... No U.S. official can plead ignorance. Palestinian law has sanctioned these payments since at least 2004, specifying how much money is earned depending on the circumstances of the attacker and the body count. [WSJ, August 11, 2016
Should spur a broader reassessment. But almost certainly will not.

This happens while the Hamas regime in Gaza, along with its humanitarian-aid-industry co-conspirators and principally UNRWA ["Gaza Emergency"], continues to make the case that the Palestinian Arabs of Gaza are undergoing prolonged suffering from a lack of housing reconstruction. Yes, there's a connection. Cash, cement and goodwill have been pouring into Gaza yet those houses remain piles of rubble. UNRWA's most recent Gaza Situation Report, dated August 12, 2016, like all those before it, makes approximately zero references to the malevolent hand of Hamas in repurposing humanitarian aid into terrorist resources. (Repurposing in this context means stealing.)

The reassessment of foreign aid programs and charitable subventions ought to, but almost surely will not, be affected the factors disclosed in those recent Israeli revelations.
Israel has discovered that Mohammed El-Halabi, currently employed as director of the Gaza branch of World Vision, is actually a major figure in the terrorist/military arm of Hamas... World Vision is an international NGO, one of the largest charitable and humanitarian aid organizations in the world, which operates in more than 100 countries. It receives support primarily from the UN and from Western governments...  El-Halabi has been taking advantage of his position to divert the humanitarian organization’s funds and resources from the needy to benefit Hamas’ terrorist and military activities... More than half of World Vision’s resources in the Gaza Strip – originating in aid money from Western states such as the United States, England and Australia – were transferred to Hamas to strengthen its terrorist arm... During the investigation, El-Halabi revealed that he has been a Hamas member since his youth and had undergone organizational and military training in the early 2000s. In 2005, Hamas dispatched El-Halabi to infiltrate World Vision. El-Halabi related that Hamas believed that he had a good chance of infiltrating the humanitarian aid organization because his father works for the UN and he himself had worked in UNDP... Over the years, El-Halabi advanced in the charity’s hierarchy until he was appointed director of the Gaza branch. In this capacity, he controlled the budget, equipment and aid packages which amounted to tens of millions of dollars... [Foreign Ministry of Israel Backgrounder, August 4, 2016]
El-Halabi's methods were not the most sophisticated. But then neither do the checks and balances of World Vision and others among the world's humanitarian aid giants appear to be.
To divert the funds, the Shin Bet said el-Halabi initiated fictitious projects meant to help farmers, the disabled and fishermen. He would falsely list Hamas operatives as workers on those projects and write up inflated receipts, according to the Shin Bet. Companies hired to carry out certain projects under fictitious tenders were “made aware” that 60 percent of the project’s funds were destined for Hamas, the Shin Bet statement said, adding that some of World Vision’s budget was used to pay the salaries of Hamas operatives. The Shin Bet also said el-Halabi would transfer to Hamas materials such as steel, digging equipment and pipes that were meant for World Vision agricultural assistance. Thousands of packages with food and medical aid received monthly would allegedly be diverted to Hamas operatives and their families rather than reach Gazan civilians. Beyond arms purchases and tunnel digging, the funds also helped build military bases, including one constructed in 2015 built entirely from British aid money, according to the Shin Bet. The security agency also said that since his arrest, el-Halabi divulged intelligence about employees working for United Nations agencies and other aid groups who were also assisting Hamas, without elaborating. [Associated Press, August 4, 2016
Little publicized (for some reason), the el-Halabi indictment included a paragraph devoted to suspected malfeasance at another humanitarian aid agency active in Gaza:
An official from Save the Children was also allegedly turned to Hamas, according to Halabi’s charge sheet. [Times of Israel, August 11, 2016]
There quickly followed further Israeli charges said to implicate the United Nations via its UNDP arm:
Israeli authorities have announced charges against a Palestinian employee of a United Nations agency, accusing the Gaza resident of providing "material assistance" to Hamas. According to a statement released on Tuesday by the Israeli Security Agency (ISA), or Shin Bet, 38-year-old engineer Waheed Borsh was arrested on July 16 and charged in a Beersheva court on Tuesday. The indictment accused the UN Development Programme (UNDP) staffer Borsh of abusing his position to renovate Hamas members' homes, having been recruited by "a senior member of the Hamas terrorist organisation to redirect his work for UNDP to serve Hamas' military interests". The ISA claimed that Borsh had confessed to the charges, and admitted that "other Palestinians who work for aid organisations are also working for Hamas". According to the ISA, the case exemplifies "how Hamas exploits the resources of international aid organisations at the expense of the civilian population of the Gaza Strip"... In a statement, UNDP said it was "greatly concerned" by the Israeli allegation that Borsh had "complied with a request from a senior Hamas individual to transport 300 tonnes of rubble from a UNDP rubble removal project site to a Hamas-run location at the Northern Gaza Hamas-operated port". UNDP added that it will be "conducting a thorough internal review of the processes and circumstances surrounding the allegation". [Aljazeera, August 09, 2016]
It's good to know of the "great concern" and the "thorough internal review" now said to be on the way. The problem is that allegations of these kinds have been made by Israel for years, and no response ever occurred.

Matters are considerably worse, as we view them, when you consider that the diverted and abused funds are charitable and/or characterized as foreign aid, making a reasonable person think the trustees of the cash would have bent over backwards to defend their probity.

But that reasonable person would be wrong. Nothing - for all practical purposes - has happened until now, even though the consequences are huge.

That's expressed well in a statement published last week by Robert Piper, an Australian development aid coordinator for the UN who, since May 2015, has been the Jerusalem-based Deputy Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process and the Humanitarian Coordinator for the Occupied Palestinian Territory, with the rank of UN Assistant Secretary General. He said:
Israel’s accusations against el-Halabi “raise serious concerns for humanitarian organizations working in Gaza.” “Redirecting relief away from its intended beneficiaries would be a profound betrayal of the trust put in a senior manager by his employer and by the organization’s donors,” Piper said. “Everyone would pay a high price for such acts – beneficiaries and the wider aid effort alike. If proven by a due legal process, these actions deserve unreserved condemnation; Gaza’s demoralized and vulnerable citizens deserve so much better.” ["World Vision: ‘Huge gap’ in Israeli terror funding allegations", Times of Israel, August 08, 2016]
Unfortunately there have been few signs from the aid agencies themselves that they acknowledge the problems (other than the problem of facing accusations from the unloved government of Israel) and in particular that their internal checks are lacking. At the UNDP, they are now saying they have
zero tolerance for wrongdoing in all of its programmes and projects [The Guardian, August 9, 2016]
so look elsewhere for solutions, they seem to say. This is bold and brave of them considering that two years ago, an internal UN audit report found serious short-comings including
  • Their Gaza operation should have been using an electronic funds transfer system with local banks that would have allowed the UNDP program to “be notified electronically when any bank transactions take place,”  including, as the report delicately puts it, “transactions not made by UNDP.” But it didn't use it. Why? Good question.
  • Core procurement  processes for ordering up “significant” civil construction activities that were supposed to be handled strictly by staffers - were not. Outsiders somehow got into the process. Why? Anyone's guess. The auditors called this a “critical” lapse and demanded “prompt action... to ensure that UNDP is not exposed to high risks. Failure to take action could result in major negative consequences for UNDP.” We will watch to see whether this fault gets mentioned in future media reports. 
  • "The office’s internal financial tracking system — a UNDP-wide system known as Atlas — was improperly recording at least $8 million worth of civil construction spending at far less than its full value, a practice that UNDP auditors noted could keep the activity under the radar of higher-level U.N. officials who must approve purchase orders above defined cost threshold levels."
  • Expenditures and receipts were not adequately tracked in the financial system. For instance, a sampling of 41 payment vouchers showed 12 purchase orders had no receipts recorded. “This practice,” the report noted, “increases the risk of paying for goods that are not delivered.” [Fox News, August 11, 2014]
At World Vision, senior management
has cast doubt on Israel's accusations, saying they seemed implausible... [NPR, August 9, 2016]
And at Hamas, they amazingly
denied that Halabi was a member... [as well as] denied the allegations. A spokesperson, Sami Abu Zurhi, called the accusations “false and baseless”, saying they were designed to allow Israel to strengthen its “siege” of Gaza... [The Guardian, August 9, 2016]
Prof. Gerald Steinberg, an authority on transparency and the lack thereof in funding across borders (and president of the esteemed NGO Monitor, a research institute based here in Jerusalem) had some points to make on this in a powerful op ed in the Wall Street Journal three days ago:
World Vision leaders such as Tim Costello of the charity’s Australian branch, which provided a significant portion of World Vision JWG’s 2014 budget of more than $20 million, took refuge in distant accounting firms. “We have PricewaterhouseCoopers that audit us each year,” Mr. Costello said. But Mr. Costello and his peers at other aid groups should be aware that no international auditing firm can independently track funds in terror enclaves. In Gaza, there are no receipts for the numerous cash transactions that were conducted via World Vision. Even if there were, how would the auditors verify their authenticity? Indeed, the audit claim wasn’t enough to convince the Australian government, which immediately froze the $5.7 million annual budget granted to World Vision. Germany soon followed suit. The broader problem is that due diligence for humanitarian aid in war and terror zones requires the allocation of significant resources and a professional staff capable of detaching itself from the pressures and sympathies of the local environment. World Vision, like most aid groups operating in Gaza, clearly failed in this respect... Mr. Halabi’s arrest should be cautionary moment for other international aid organizations with operations in Gaza such as Care, Christian Aid, Oxfam and the United Nations Relief and Works Agency. The need to deal realistically with operations in a terror-controlled zone like Gaza, and the costs of failing to perform due diligence, should be apparent. World Vision’s auditing claims notwithstanding, cash payments in Gaza are a direct path to corruption and diversion to terror. They should be ended immediately... ["The Palestinian Charity Trap", WSJ, August 11, 2016]
The charges of malfeasance have not stopped coming. We know, for instance, from an AFP report, that
Aid workers privately admit to feeling pressure from Hamas, with the powerful group seeking to influence how projects are organized. In a few rare cases NGOs have seen their offices temporary closed by Hamas... ["Foreign aid workers fear the impact of Hamas allegations", AFP/Saudi Gazette, August 11, 2016]
That 2014 Fox News report [online here] we just mentioned also implicates the highly problematic UNRWA (the UN's pseudo refugee agency whose existence is predicated on a never-ending "Palestinian refugee problem") about which we have written often and with passion). Turns out
the main purpose of the UNDP program, based in Jerusalem and like all U.N. activities operating under diplomatic immunity from any national authorities, was to provide funding and support for what the document chastely calls “another U.N. entity” that coordinates the world organization’s activity in Gaza. That “entity” is the United Nations Relief and Works Agency, or UNRWA, which has been accused for years... of allowing Hamas to divert humanitarian supplies to its own military purposes. UNWRA has some 13,000 employees in Gaza, the overwhelming majority of them local Palestinians... [Fox News, August 11, 2014]
The problems at UNRWA, unique but hardly new, stem from factors outlined in sharp terms two years ago in the Wall Street Journal (again). That piece shows how the multi-billion-dollar agency agency is unusual, and unusually unaccountable compared with other UN operations, by reason of at least these three factors:
  1. All other refugees world-wide fall under the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees. Only the Palestinians have their own dedicated U.N. refugee agency, offering special access to the perquisites of the U.N. logo, stage and fundraising. 
  2. Almost all other U.N. agencies report to an executive board, allowing at least some chance of functional oversight. Unrwa reports directly to the entire 193-member General Assembly, where responsibility is broadly dispersed and easily avoided. According to a paper in 2010 by the agency's own chief of legal affairs, Lance Bartholomeusz, UNRWA enjoys the added flexibility of having no clearly defined mission: "its mandate is not conveniently stated in one place and must be derived from all other relevant resolutions and requests."
  3. Thus unencumbered, UNRWA has ensured its own survival by transforming itself into the patron of Palestinian grievance, conferring refugee status down the generations... ["The U.N. Handmaiden of Hamas", Claudia Rosett in the Wall Street Journal, August 07, 2014]
Israel's concern for the well-being of the Gazans, suffering for years already under the jackboot of a kleptocratic Fatah regime and then, for the past nine years, under the ruthless Islamists of Hamas, may not be top of its list of concerns. But it's undoubtedly a concern. Whether out of altruism or self-interest, there are few voices in Israel calling for an enlargement of Gaza's undoubted plight.

Here's an instance of the sort of Israeli voice Israelis are hearing even if the Arabs aren't. Maj. Gen. Yoav Mordechai is Israel's Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories Unit, better known as COGAT. It's a hybrid civilian/military body with a mission
to promote and implement the policy of the Israeli Government in civilian matters, to facilitate humanitarian issues and economic and infrastructure projects in Judea and Samaria and in the Gaza Strip. In addition, the unit leads the coordination and liaison with the Palestinian Authority and with the Palestinian population the West Bank and the Gaza Strip... [fuller description here].
Mordechai, speaking in Arabic in the wake of el-Halabi's confession to the charges of subverting World Vision funding into the pockets of Hamas. addressed the Palestinian Arabs:
Hamas stole this money and passed it to its military wing to build bases, provide salary bonuses and dig the tunnels of death that have brought destruction upon you and the Gaza Strip... Hamas is burying you and your hope of living a normal life. [Associated Press, August 4, 2016]
We can't know what impact this speech had ordinary people in Gaza, or even whether they know it happened. (Freedom of information is currently scarcer in Gaza than Olympic-size pools.) But if a mission, which Israel plainly has undertaken, to produce greater benefits to ordinary Gazans from more efficient delivery of foreign aid and from less siphoning off into the maw of the terrorists, were genuinely shared by the humanitarian aid industry, there's little doubt that the benefits would be widespread and meaningful.

Israelis have always understood that the Palestinian Arabs need to have something to lose in order to be motivated to make the compromises from which peace is fashioned. Hamas and Fatah understand that too; hence the decades-long efforts to give their people literally nothing to lose from the conflict continuing.

But let's acknowledge that if that kind of sea change were to happen, it would likely lead to a rapid, substantial and irreversible cut in the headcount of certain high-profile, billion-dollar aid agencies.

And most of us know what sort of response that will trigger.

UPDATE August 17, 2016: For additional context, friends have suggested we re-post here a remarkable Tweet by the New York Times Jerusalem correspondent. We're glad to do that. Diaa Hadid and her editors seem to feel that what news consumers are missing is some self-justification by the man accused of embezzling World Vision - a disturbingly odd moral judgment but perhaps in tune with the ethos of today's journalism as practiced by the New York Times and others following in its path:

If it's no longer posted on Twitter (here), we have archived it here. We asked (via repeated Twitter posts) both the New York Times people and Ms Hadid to explain how these claims bear on the extremely serious charges against the World Vision man. No answer.

---

[Our thanks once again to Malgorzata Koraszewska for having translated this article into Polish. It now appears in that language on the Listy z naszego sadu site.]

http://www.listyznaszegosadu.pl/notatki/kogo-rzeczywiscie-obchodzi-gdzie-trafia-pomoc-zagraniczna

Thursday, August 11, 2016

11-Aug-16: Another Jerusalem stabbing

Young Hassidim, like this afternoon's stabbing victim, are
frequent visitors to the ancient Jewish graves of the
Mount of Olives [Image Source]
Another violent Arab-on-Israeli incident is unfolding in Jerusalem as we write this.

We are working from initial reports only at this stage, but it appears an Israeli male of 18 was stabbed this afternoon (it's now Thursday 3:00 pm) in the A-Tur neighbourhood of the city about half an hour ago.

The weapon is reported to be a screwdriver and the assailant is the subject of a police manhunt. The victim's injuries at this early stage are being described as moderate which for the rest of us means serious.

At Ynet, they are reporting that he is a yeshiva student who was leaving the ancient Mount of Olives Jewish cemetery and walking in the direction of a bus stop when attacked and pushed to the ground and stabbed in the back and neck. Social media reports quoting sources at nearby Hadassah Mt Scopus emergency room confirm back and neck injuries to a young man who was visiting the thousands-of-years-old Jewish cemetery as part of a group of Slonimer Hassidim,

Arab-on-Israeli violence has, for decades, been part of the reality of visits to the thousands of hallowed graves (estimated to number 70,000) on Jerusalem's Mount of Olives. A huge number of ancient Jewish tombstones were vandalized, sacked and appropriated for road-paving purposes during the Jordanian military occupation of the area between 1949 and 1967. Smashing and desecration of Jewish graves at the site by Arab youths are a daily reality [link].

None of this, you will not be surprised to know, has the slightest impact on the Palestinian Arab news reporting industry. At the European-funded Ma'an News Agency, its report on this afternoon's stabbing attack includes this zinger:
According to Israeli police spokesperson Luba al-Samri an 18-year-old Israeli was leaving a Jewish cemetery at the Mount of Olives when an unidentified youth stabbed him with a screwdriver in the neck and back before fleeing the scene. ["Israeli youth stabbed, lightly wounded in occupied East Jerusalem", Ma'an, today]
Sacred ground, and the place of final repose of tens of thousands of Jews since the days of the Second Temple, and the ideologically-obsessed reporters and editors sitting in Ma'an's Bethlehem office call it "a Jewish cemetery". That's some fine, world-class reporting, boys and girls.

(Needless to say, Ma'an's Arabic version, which in general makes little pretense at being anything other than an echo chamber for Arab-on-Israeli malice and the airbrushing out of the Jewish connection to Jerusalem and Israel, reports [here] merely that "a settler" - that's how the young Hassidic Jewish victim, the location of whose home is completely unknown to the bigots of Ma'an, is described - was "stabbed Thursday".)

Tuesday, August 09, 2016

09-Aug-16: Fifteen years after the Sbarro massacre

Malki 1985-2001
Frimet Roth shares some personal thoughts at her blog on the anniversary of the day our daughter was murdered: Fifteen years on, there's no relief from the grief

Please read and share.

Monday, August 08, 2016

08-Aug-16: When they crave attention, where do the practitioners of Pal Arab barbarism turn?

A monster among monsters: This Tamimi woman engineered
the 2001 massacre at the Sbarro pizzeria, was set free and enjoys
unabashed adulation wherever Tamimi clan members gather
[Image Source: Screen-shot from a 2012 MEMRI video]
August is a hard time in our family.

The Hebrew month of Av, which is now, is traditionally a period associated with some of the hardest moments in Jewish history down through the ages. But then, as it crescendos on the 9th day of Av (that's this coming weekend), the collective mood quickly eases and the month takes on an altogether different, comforting character.

Not for us. The 20th day of Av is when our daughter Malki was murdered in a Hamas terror attack, along with her closest friend and thirteen other innocent victims inside the Sbarro pizzeria which was located back then in the very center of Israel's capital city. The anniversary comes out this year (since we observe it according to the Hebrew calendar date) on August 24 as we noted here. That's when as a family and a community we remember our losss.

According to the civil calendar, however, the fifteenth anniversary of that cruel act of savagery is tomorrow, Tuesday. A number of articles have emerged today, marking the day and what it signifies.

Two of the best happen both to focus on the work of an American journalist who has lately made a name by airbrushing out the nauseating sides of barbarous Palestinian Arab jihadism, leaving behind a fabricated confection of brave, blond, innocuous fighters for freedom, justice and rights.

First, over at Tablet Magazine, the modern historian Petra Marquardt-Bigman has a featured article "Was Ben Ehrenreich Bamboozled By a Palestinian Terror Clan?", referring to the vicious Tamimis and their self-promoting booster, publicist and propagandist whose Jewish-sounding name serves to give a certain edginess to his views with in some circles.

Ehrenreich's work, which has gotten boosted by backers at the New York Times [see 
["17-Mar-13: A little village in the hills, and the monsters it spawns"] takes a despicable line, ignoring those aspects of this remarkable family of in-bred jihadists he finds inconvenient, while promoting them, Amnesty International-style, as fighters for freedom, self-determination and Apple Pie. His admiration for their values and their violence amounts to a kind of obsequious fawning that seems to infect the ranks of self-styled progressives. No one should be surprised that we find his views and his manner of pushing them repellent.

We shone a torch into some of the especially dark and ugly aspects of his oeuvre, focusing on a recent Ehrenreich book which has gotten favorable reviews at LARB, The Economist and Telegraph UK. We gave expression to those aspects in a post of several weeks ago, "24-Jul-16: Sociopaths, savagery and the seductiveness of Palestinian Arab victimhood".. 

Ehrenreich is hardly alone in bringing together unabashed enthusiasm for jihadist thuggery while masquerading as a holder of progressive-ish views. We think of them as card-carrying members of the pampered moral narcissists brigade. Often treated as belonging to the forces of peace and human rights, thos among them whose work focuses on the Arab/Israel conflict tend to be driven by a sense that they are in a struggle towards victory, where winning means the defeat and destruction of another people's state by whatever means, legitimate or foul, are available to them.

Ehrenreich speaks at a Palestinian Arab event in
Nablus, May 2016 [Image Source]
The second artiucle, in which historian Petra Marquardt-Bigman again plays an enabling role, is a blog-post-and-video assembled by the indefatigable Elder of Ziyon and streamed from his busy blog site. It's entitled "Ben Ehrenreich shares his love for the Sbarro massacre mastermind’s family".

It begins with these words:
This Tuesday will be the 15th anniversary of the infamous Sbarro pizza shop bombing, masterminded by Ahlam Tamimi. The attack, on August 9, 2001, killed 15 people and injured 130. Among the dead were a pregnant woman and seven children – some counted eight, including an 18 year-old who had just finished school; the injured also included one young mother who was left in a permanent vegetative state.For the families of the victims, this year’s 15th anniversary of the attack may well be particularly grim, because of a fawning book that has been recently released by Ben Ehrenreich, lionizing the murderous Tamimi clan. Who would have ever imagined that an American writer would come out with a book that presents the family of Ahlam Tamimi – the Sbarro massacre mastermind – as simply wonderful people? 
We're wondering the same. But the evidence in front of our eyes is - people who think like Ehrenreich are hardly in short supply. Their upward mobility reflects a catastrophic malaise going well beyond moral narcissism that we think is not well understood. This video will help.

We endorse Elder's words:
For a glimpse of the intense Jew-hatred and the ardent support for terror that animates Ben Ehrenreich’s protagonists, watch the video below [link] that will introduce you to the four people Ehrenreich lists first in the Acknowledgements for his book: Bassem and Nariman Tamimi, and Bilal and Manal Tamimi.
(We are busy with preparing a feature-length post to share some of what the past fifteen years since the Sbarro disaster have taught us.)

UPDATE August 10, 2016: Another fine expose of Ben Ehrenreich by Petra Marquardt-Bigman appears on the Harry's Place site: "Ben Ehrenreich Celebrates the Tamimis (who celebrate terror)", today.

Wednesday, August 03, 2016

03-Aug-16: For our friends in and near Jerusalem

The annual Aliyah Lakever (going up to the gravesides) and Azkara (memorial service) in memory of the lives of our daughter Malka Chana Roth and her friend Michal Raziel, may their memories be a blessing, will take place at the Har Tamir cemetery in Jerusalem on Wednesday evening, August 24, 2016 (Chaf Av, according to the Hebrew calendar) at 17:30

The girls, aged 15 and 16, were the closest of friends and neighbours in life. Buried side by side, they were victims of a Hamas attack on a Jerusalem restaurant that sought, and succeeded, to murder as many Jewish children as possible, according to the engineer of the massacre.

As in previous years, free bus transport will be available to and from the ceremony via a chartered bus that will leave the Ramot neighborhood in Jerusalem half an hour before the ceremony, returning afterwards to the same place. For driving and bus directions and for details, please email us and we will be happy to provide some notes. 

Donations in respectful memory of the murdered girls will be greatly appreciated. We especially recommend the Malki Foundation as a worthy target of your charitable support. 

Tuesday, August 02, 2016

02-Aug-16: Rat poison, bruised religious sensitivities and a July bombing assault in Jerusalem

Scene of the July 17, 2016 attempted bombing outrage in the center of Jerusalem [Image Source]
We reported here a little over two weeks ago ["17-Jul-16: At a Jerusalem corner with a tragic history, a human bomb is intercepted this morning"] about the thwarting of an Arab-on-Israeli bomb attack on a Jerusalem Light Rail stop located a few meters from where our daughter Malki was murdered - with fourteen other people - by Hamas terrorists some years earlier.

Today (Tuesday), key details were revealed about the July attack. Times of Israel says Ali Abu Hassan, a student civil engineering at Hebron University, aged 21, was charged with "attempted murder, creating a weapon and conspiracy to commit a crime". Slipping into Jerusalem via the Arab neighbourhoods of Tsur Baher and Jabel Mukaber, he shaved off his beard and changed into shorts and a T-shirt "to better blend in with the Jerusalem population" and embarked on an act of intended revenge to pay Israel back for the ghastly offense to the religious sensitivities of certain kinds of Muslims: "visits by tourists and Israeli Jews to the Temple Mount”, according to a police statement given to the court.

(We checked. The Hebron University website makes no claims of offering civil engineering courses or indeed courses in any other branch of engineering. In the circumstances, it's a small issue. Perhaps he was actually enrolled in the school's Islamic Studies program - here - and preferred not to say that. Or perhaps we didn't check carefully enough.)

His weapons are worth a few moments' reflection. The alleged assailant:
was armed with three pipe bombs he had linked together into one large explosive and had covered with nails and screws dipped in rat poison. “In his bag there were also two knives and a cellphone,” police said Tuesday. Hassan researched how to make a pipe bomb that would “cause the most, and most effective, damage” on the internet and “even carried out test explosions with a number of bombs in order to check them before entering Israel,” according to a joint Shin Bet-Israel Police investigation.
Rat poison as an element in Palestinian Arab terrorists' arsenal has been pooh-pooh-ed for years by certain kinds of Western commentators (see for instance a July 2002 piece in Slate, entitled "Rat Poison Bombs Revisited: The Middle East story that refuses to die"). For the record, rat poison
...is an especially nasty bio-terror weapon.  Most rat poisons are made up of chemicals called anti-coagulants with trade names like warfarin, fumarin, diphacinone and bromadiolone.  Some also contain poisons such as strychnine. All work more or less the same way. A small mammal eats the poison and soon gets sick and dies from internal hemorrhaging. This happens because a mammalian needs to constantly manufacture coagulants to manage internal body functions.  When the coagulant is blocked, uncontrolled internal bleeding occurs... ["Bio-Terrorism in Israel", Dr Stephen Bryen, December 12, 2001
The thwarted bomber is said, according to police testimony at this morning's hearing, to have left what he called a final testament at the university along with a request that this be handed to his parents when the intended savagery was done. He didn't die, but all is not lost. As we noted in our original report:
Assuming he's convicted, [the] thwarted human bomb starts earning Rewards for Terror cash from the Palestinian Authority via its malevolent, ever-so-slightly-disguised prisoner payments authority. The funding all comes from European and American foreign aid to the Palestinian Authority, as government officials of all the relevant countries know well - but in large measure deny. As for the man in underwear in the photo [in our earlier post - the] would-be human bomb, his financial future, and that of his dependents, is suddenly secure... [From our July 17, 2016 post]
We can't help thinking back to the terrorist and her (human) bomb who blew up the Sbarro pizzeria 15 years ago. There are strong similarities in the way Abu Hassan approached his target, according to the Times of Israel account:
On July 17, Hassan took a bus to the center of the capital and walked along Jerusalem’s popular Jaffa Road to find a target for his bombing, before stopping near the intersection with King George Street. According to investigators, he originally intended to attack a restaurant on Jaffa Road and scoped out the area to prepare for his assault. However, when he noticed the large number of passengers boarding the light rail that runs through downtown, Hassan changed his target. When he attempted to board the tram, he was stopped after he raised the suspicions of a security guard. When the guard asked to examine the contents of the bag, he noticed the bomb and called the police.
Our daughter's murderer accompanied the human bomb on a bus and taxi journey into Jerusalem from Ramallah on August 9, 2001. Both were dressed to look like Israelis and fool the security people. Tragically, this worked.

The explosives were packed with thousands of small, nasty black nails, designed to rip through human flesh and to inflict massive injuries on those lucky enough to escape death. Several of those were embedded in the cell phone case that had once been Malki's and that was handed back to us by the police after the massacre.

Once they reached the center of Jerusalem, the female terrorist, a woman of 21 who was the engineer of the massacre on behalf of Hamas, told her bomb, a young man called Al-Masri, to walk to the same intersection where the July 2016 attempt was made and, after waiting several minutes to give her enough time to flee to safety, to explode in the middle of the four-way pedestrian crossing.

But that's not what he did. He, the bomb, evidently realized that more Jewish children were inside the pizzeria than in the intersection. So he kept walking and was standing at the Sbarro pizzeria counter, right next to two pretty teens - our Malki and her friend Michal - when he ignited the explosive package concealed in the guitar case on his back. No quick thinking security man was there that day.

Like the July 17, 2016 bomber, the woman who engineered the Sbarro pizzeria massacre also became a beneficiary of the PA's loathsome  scheme. She has been living in total freedom in the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan since October 2011. She has received and, we assume, spent many thousands of dollars of funds that originated with gullible taxpayers in the Western countries (including the United States, the United Kingdom, Norway, France, Germany and the European Union). 

It's those payments that make that abominable safety-net for more terror possible. 

Monday, August 01, 2016

01-Aug-16: At the crossings and road junctions: Scenes from a war

Vehicles line up for security inspection at Huwwara
(not yesterday) [Image Source]
Israel's internal security arrangements tend to get very bad press despite the fact that - or is it because? - they frequently prevent acts of terror from taking place.

We happen to believe strongly in security arrangements. When we say "human rights", we actually mean to be thinking, first and foremost, about the human right to stay alive. It's a right that was denied our daughter Malki, murdered in a Hamas attack when she was fifteen, and a right the breach of which aroused, in simple terms, terribly little outrage by the human rights industry.

Yesterday (Sunday), a balmy summer day when much of the country was vacationing, provided several insights into how security works and who benefits. This is true not because yesterday was a special day but because it actually was not. And what's striking is that for all the arguing that security barriers are pointless, worthless, useless, ineffective because terrorists can easily avoid them, and a torture for those forced to endure them, the uncomfortable fact remains: those are exactly where malevolent people with weapons of death on their bodies or in their bags or cars keep turning up and keep getting caught.
  • At the IDF security checkpoint at Huwwara, south of Shechem (Nablus), an Arab male driving a vehicle stopped shortly before reaching the soldiers manning the barrier, got out of his car and came running at them with his knife brandished. The soldiers acting on orders opened fire in the face of a hostile action with clearly-articulated intentions, and the attack ended. The assailant, according to the Palestinian Health Ministry, quoted by Israel National News, is a 31 year old resident of Shechem. Ma'an News Agency gives his name as Rami Muhammad Zaim Awartani. The circumstances suggest he was intent on launching the sort of interaction for which knives are needed, and not - as is frequently claimed - en route to some other peaceful purpose when assailed by hostile IDF personnel. The attacker is now dead - assassinated, in the words of parts of the English-language Palestinian Arab media [click].
  • Also on Sunday, a little later in the day, Israeli police stopped a Palestinian Arab taxi cab at the busy Tapuah intersection in the Samaria district. Such searches are common and routine, and often triggered by suspicions stemming from indicators for which the security people are trained to identify. In this case, their search turned up parts of M16-type weapons in the cab. The driver is now helping the authorities with their enquiries. He is unharmed.
  • Then last night (Sunday) at the Trans-Samaria Crossing, a vehicle driven by an Israeli Arab with Israeli citizenship papers was stopped and in the course of a search was found to have four pipe bombs on board. The driver was heading back across the Green Line from the communities of Judea and Samaria. A police sapper was called to the scene to neutralize the bombs. While that was underway, the very heavily-traveled east-west Route 5 highway was temporarily shut down to traffic in both directions. The driver turns out to be a resident of the Bedouin city of Rahat in the Negev. He is now arrested and he too is helping the authorities in their enquiries.
The Trans-Samaria Crossing on Israel's east-west Route 5 [Image Source]
Closely related to that last intercept - just the evening before (Saturday night) at the same Trans-Samaria Crossing - a different Palestinian Arab driver was was arrested when a security check turned up a stock of weapons, including two large knives, two axes and a cache of 25 nine-millimeter bullets, inside his vehicle. Times of Israel said his car had Israeli license plates.

It's safe to assume that in the absence of the security arrangements in each of the locations we just described, very different outcomes would have eventuated.

That's a reality that has played a central role in the posts we wrote over the years. Take a look at "5-Jul-06: Preventive Measures... Work" from more than a decade ago. We noted there that
There are many aspects of the news coverage of this war that infuriate us. One of them is the dishonest and cowardly way some reporters and photographers distort how the Israeli authorities carry out preventive security. Among the favorite cliches of agenda-driven reporters and photographers... is the Israeli security check. Nothing captures quite so well their perception of an asymmetrical war. You can count on words like "forced to stand in the heat", "treated rudely by Israeli troops", "seething anger", "humiliation" and "demeaning" sprouting from each sentence. But never the unbearable truth that this is the strategy of last resort and it saves lives on both sides...

For those of us not infected by the Fiskean approach to this war, the role of active, preventive security is probably better appreciated. 
A classic of the genre is Robert Fisk's memorable article with the unmemorable title "How Pointless Checkpoints Humiliate the Lions of Palestine, Sending Them on the Road to Vengeance" [reviewed here - we are still hunting for an online version of the Fisk piece]. If you click the link to read it, please keep in mind it was written several weeks before the murder by Hamas terrorists of our fifteen year-old daughter. Ponder also on the fact that Malki's killer hid his explosives inside a guitar case on his back. Under current Israeli security procedures (but not at that time), he would have been stopped and our daughter would be twenty and alive. (The death toll that day was 15, plus 130 injured, plus a young mother left unconscious and still unconscious today.) 
The appalling Fisk, and perhaps also his editors at Britain's Independent newspaper, would find it hard to see what that has to do with him and his writing. But for us the connection is clear. 
Eliyahu Asheri Hy"d: Murdered a decade ago
Not everyone sees things as we do. That's because not everyone sees security as a significant factor in keeping their own lives and those of their loved ones safe and intact. But those of us who do are very serious about it and very appreciative of those who make it happen.

Incidentally, if you visit Tapuah Junction (mentioned above), you will find a brand-new rest facility there for travelers. It was inaugurated very recently by the Asheri family in honor of their son, Eliyahu Hy"d, to mark ten years since he was abducted and murdered by Palestinian Arab terrorists. 

We wrote about them at the time of their terrible loss: see "29-Jun-06: The face of the enemy" and "4-Jul-06: Saving Hostages". 

Though we felt drawn to the tragedy of their son's death and took part in his funeral in Jerusalem all those years ago, we don't know the Asheris and have never met them. Still, we're confident they have not spent the past decade plotting revenge, stewing in their anger or incubating hatred. We are confident of that because of our close familiarity with that powerful urge in Jewish tradition to connect really bad events - personal and communal tragedies - to positive responses: acts of charity or of chesed - acts that bring a little more goodness into a world that needs as much as we can possibly provide.

The Asheris understand that. Mr Fisk and his editors, we assume, surely do not. And nor will the families of the violence-minded individuals in yesterday's three jihadist near-misses.

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

27-Jul-16: Pope "decries" what the Islamist terrorists do - disconnects it from religion

The church in Saint-Etienne-du-Rouvray where the priest's throat
was slit by a pair of young Islamists yesterday [Image Source]
Via Wall Street Journal today, this depressing reaffirmation of the confusion at the highest levels over terror and those doing it that keeps counter-terrorism so relatively ineffectual...
Pope Francis Says ‘World Is at War,’ Decries Terrorist Attack on French Church | As he arrives for visit to Poland, pontiff says conflicts inspired by economic, political interests | FRANCIS X. ROCCA | Updated July 27, 2016 11:22 a.m. ET | ...Pope Francis added that the current violence was over economic and political interests rather than religion. “There is war for money,” he said. “There is war for natural resources. There is war for the domination of peoples. Some might think I am speaking of religious war. No. All religions want peace; it is other people who want war.”
Decrying, compared with the alternatives, can be a good thing. But it's not a counter-terror strategy. It will do precisely zero to save lives in the face of murder-minded zealots, many of them shiftless young men freshly admitted to a mostly-unprepared Europe.

Europe is at a loss to formulate strategies for fending off the jihadists. And its security resources have for years already [link] been close to exhaustion.

Pope Francis arrives in Poland today [Image Source]
The WSJ piece refers to yesterday's Islamist terror murder of the Rev. Jacques Hamel, 85, whose throat was slashed by a couple of Islamist teens while he was celebrating Mass at a church in a small town in Normandy, Saint-Etienne-du-Rouvray. One of them is a known French jihadist Adel Kermiche, who was awaiting trial on terror charges and had been fitted with an electronic tag.

The murderous attack, says the WSJ reporter
broke the pattern of Islamist terrorist strikes in Europe, which have till now been limited to secular targets. Islamic State identified the two assailants, who were killed by police, as its “soldiers.” [Wall Street Journal, today]
Limited to secular targets? How about "07-Jun-15: In France, arrests in wake of an intended Islamist terror assault on a Paris church" and what about the many Jewish targets that have been threatened and attacked and the Jews who have lost their lives in jihadist attacks inside synagogues in France? And in Turkey? In Norway? In Denmark? In the UK?

27-Jul-16: The Hamas terrorists who murdered Rabbi Miki Mark are located and forcibly retired

In the PA-controlled village of Surif this morning, the body of a
terrorist gunman is removed by IDF soldiers [Image Source]
Violent riots erupted in the PA-controlled village of Surif, north of Hebron, early this morning (Wednesday) as a joint IDF, Shin Bet and Israel Police operation trapped the four-person terror cell that murdered Rabbi Michael Mark, the executive director of the Otniel Hesder Yeshiva, on July 1 [link] and seriously injured his wife and children. The victims of that attack were traveling in a car that came under murderous gunfire on Route 60 ["01-Jul-16: The drive-by shooting near Otniel"].

Times of Israel reports that the members of the Hamas-aligned terror cell
opened fire at the Israeli troops from inside the house in which he was hiding, and the IDF responded by firing several anti-tank missiles... The IDF then used a bulldozer to knock down most of the building, and when the troops finally entered the destroyed home they found Fakih dead inside...
One of the cell members, Muhammad al-Fakih, 29, died and three others were taken into custody, unharmed. According to Reuters this morning
Islamist group Hamas identified the man killed in the raid as Mohammad al-Fakih and it said he was a member of its armed wing, the al-Qassam Brigades
The Ma'an News Agency version follows the customary template, starting with the title of the piece: "Palestinian accused of Hebron shooting killed after Israeli forces bombard house":
The Palestinian Ministry of Health reported that five Palestinians were shot with rubber-coated bullets during clashes in Surif. [IDF Spokesperson Avichai Edre'i] confirmed that a Palestinian woman sustained minor wounds during the military attack and was taken to a hospital for treatment, adding that a Kalashnikov machine gun and a grenade were found in the house. Locals said Israeli forces detained four Palestinians from Surif during the raid, identified as Ahmad Ibrahim al-Hur, Diyaa Khalid Ghneimat, and Muhammad Ali al-Heeh, the owner of the demolished house in which Faqih was hiding. Al-Heeh’s mother was also detained... Faqih himself was from the village of Dura in southern Hebron. [Ma'an, July 28, 2016]
The Arabic edition of the Ma'an story, again following the customary approach of one version for the Arabic speakers, a specifically different and carefully sanitized one for foreigners, says
The [Israeli] army claimed to find gun-type rifles and grenades next to the martyr... ["Martyrdom of a citizen after bombing and besieging of a home in Surif", Ma'an Arabic, July 28, 2016]
A martyr al-Fakih assuredly is becoming as we write these lines. Hamas, which de facto controls large swathes of the nominally Fatah/PA towns and villages of the mis-named "West Bank" (a name given to it for the first time by the Jordanian occupation forces who conquered it militarily in the course of the 1947-49 War of Independence in which the most of the Arab world sought to destroy the nascent state of Israel), is active now preparing for a showcase funeral and demonstrations of rage and power. These, as always, are intended not only as a token of how far away peace is, but to show that the PA - with all its foreign aid, its police and its European-supplied limousines for insiders - actually takes a back seat to the Hamas organizers on the ground.

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

26-Jul-16: Arab-on-Israeli stabbing is foiled at Qalandiya

After the April 28, 2016 attack at the same location [Image Source]
A stabbing attack on Israeli security personnel was thwarted this afternoon at the Qalandiya Crossing controlling a heavily-traveled road connecting Jerusalem and Ramallah where the Palestinian Authority administration is based. Qalandiya, the site of many previous Arab-on-Israeli terror attacks [link] on which we have reported, is
the largest and most frequented passageway for Palestinian laborers from the Ramallah area to cross into Jerusalem, with lines flowing in a relatively orderly manner. [Times of Israel, May 17, 2016]
It's the same site as the April attack we mentioned here ["28-Apr-16: Terror-by-knifing attack foiled at Qalandiya; assailant, again, is a child"].

Times of Israel, quoting a police statement today, reports that
a Palestinian woman, roughly 18 years old from the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Aqab, approached the checkpoint and walked into the inspection area for cars. She then ran at security guards “who told her to stop multiple times,” When the woman ignored their warning, the guards shot at her legs, the statement said. The woman was lightly injured and Magen David Adom paramedics treated her at the scene. A police bomb disposal expert was called in to check the woman’s bag, and found a knife inside.
She was recorded screaming at the Israelis shortly before she was stopped in a video that is circulating on social media [an Arabic source here via YouTube]. Arabs began rioting at the site soon afterwards.

A photo of the inside of the attacker's handbag, showing a kitchen-knife, is doing the rounds of the social media [here for instance].

Monday, July 25, 2016

25-Jul-16: More on Tutu, Barghouti, terror, peace and prizes

Nobel Peace Prize laureate,
Bishop Desmond Tutu [Image Source]
A Pakistani website today published an op ed lauding Marwan Barghouti, providing us (we're guessing this was not their intention) with an opportunity to share our feelings concerning the man and those who seek to aggrandize him.

The article is entitled simply "Marwan Barghouti". We had not heard of the author before; his name is Abbas Hasan and his self-description is sparse: "an engineer and a cricket fan who works in the Middle East".

Here's our comment.
It's helpful to see acolytes of Barghouti highlighting, as this piece does, the emphatically *anti-peace* stance of the convicted and imprisoned murderer. Our attention was drawn to this article because of our tracking the efforts of Bishop Desmond Tutu, a Nobel Peace laureate himself, in shilling for Barghouti to get the same prize. In his public statements, Mr Tutu repeatedly speaks of Barghouti as an agent for peace. But as this fine article makes clear, Barghouti totally rejects peace in the Arab vs Israel wars as this quote makes clear:-
The role and mission of the Palestinian authority should be reassessed so that its main mission must be in supporting and assisting a comprehensive resistance, which necessitates the immediate termination of security coordination and cooperation with Israel as this only reinforces occupation and is a tremendous detriment to the Palestinian people. We must stop betting on the illusion of peace negotiations”.
It's a valuable service to the cause of peace (in which most Israelis, us among them, believe passionately) that Abbas Hasan has done. Sincere thanks to him.
In case you missed our recent commentary on the odious and fundamentally dishonest efforts by Bishop Desmond Tutu to have the murderer Barghouti awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, it's posted at "09-Jun-16: The convicted killer, the churchman, the prize". We hope you will click and read it.

We have felt the need to speak out against Mr. Tutu several times in the past, the first time some nine years ago [link]. At that time, the learned churchman said he was "in despair" over the savagery being visited on one another in Gaza by the forces of Fatah and Hamas - actually a blood-soaked struggle for control of the Gaza Strip that was resoundingly won by the side (i.e. Hamas) that managed to be more effective at hacking, shooting and beating to death and hurling from high building more of its brethren than the other (i.e. Fatah).

But not totally in despair at the Arab-on-Arab carnage for, as Tutu noted, 
"When you are oppressed, it is so very easy to turn on yourselves..." [June 2007 Source]
Forgive us, Bishop, but we find that view racist, irrational and frankly nauseating. As we wrote all those years back:
And so easy, too, to blow up innocent women, children, men, schools, hospitals, restaurants. So easy. And to have church leaders slobber their sympathy all over your poor oppressed heads. The only thing more appalling about what the Palestinian Arabs have done to themselves is the unforgivable forgiveness, the incomprehensible understanding emanating from such ill-informed, theologically-addled, hand-wringing, high-profile individuals as the pious church-man quoted above. Without him and the many others like him, the devastation and misery of the Pal-Arabs could have ended decades ago.
It hasn't ended, as we all know. And as Tutu's campaigning for a prize to be given to Barghouti demonstrates, his ill-informed hand-wringing and irrational urge to forgive remains unaffected by any knowledge he might have acquired - but clearly has not - in the intervening years. 

25-Jul-16: German tentacles: An explosion in a wine bar and deepening concern about 'asylum seekers'

A bag outside the wine bar in Ansbach gets inspected  by
security - long after the explosion [Image Source]
Germans, no matter where on the political spectrum their views fit, must be wondering where the next violent headlines in their country are going to come from.

This morning (Monday), the country is waking up to what seems to be a terror attack on a drinking spot in the town of Ansbach, the capital of the administrative region of Middle Franconia in the German state of Bavaria and home to about 40,000. It happens also to be where the United States 12th Combat Aviation Brigade ("Wings of Victory”) has its base.

An open-air music festival was being held in the town, but was immediately canceled by local authorities. Thousands of patrons were evacuated by police in the wake of the assault. German radio speaks this morning of 12 people injured, three of them seriously. The human bomb is dead.

The Interior Minister of Bavaria, Joachim Herrmann, is willing to go on the record with his private speculation about the character of this explosion:
"My personal opinion is that, unfortunately I think, it is very obvious that there has been a real Islamist suicide attack here," Herrmann said early Monday. ["Bavaria bomb blast", RT, July 25, 2016]
The perpetrator is described as a "failed asylum seeker from Syria" [BBC, which in accordance with its guidelines calls this "an attack" but not "terror"] whose "asylum application was rejected last year for reasons that we don't know right at this minute" [Al Jazeera]. He is said by Reuters to have been "carrying a backpack filled with explosives and metal parts that would have been sufficient to kill more people", If they're right, we think the metal parts part of the account might be something of a give-away.

We think it's fair to wonder as well what sort of security was in place at that popular music festival where the man was denied entry for lack of a ticket but where, as it appears, no one checked what must have been a heavy bag on his back to see what use that might be to him. (Israel, this clearly wasn't.)

He won't be answering questions in his current situation. But the trail he left behind during a two year sojourn in Germany (including two attempts to take his own life and getting psychiatric help) en route to his final explosion places him firmly within that million to two million group of recent "asylum"-seeking "refugees" whose presence is reshaping not only Germany but all of Europe. To anyone watching, the influx is much less reported now than a year ago, but continues in full force: about 50,000 undocumented migrants entered Italy from Africa in May 2016 alone [source].

An effort, involving the payment of many millions of Euros to Turkey, was made four months ago but whatever expectations that created have now evaporated:
Under the notorious bargain struck with Ankara on March 18, all those who arrive on the Greek islands were meant to be detained, brought before an asylum tribunal and returned to Turkey in under a week. When the deal was struck, many warned it had pushed international laws governing asylum to their limit. Now, the Greek officials charged with interviewing and approving deportation seem to agree. Aid agencies protested that it violated international law by designating Turkey a “safe third country” for asylum seekers – a controversial premise given Turkey’s record of human rights abuses, reports that it has forcefully deported refugees to the countries they fled, and its only partial ratification of the Geneva Conventions. ["Tension rises among asylum seekers as EU deportation plan falters", Independent UK, March 2016]
Events in Turkey of the past ten days guarantee that efforts to designate it a "safe country" are on ice until further notice.

What we know at this point about the events of last night:
An explosion in the southern German city of Ansbach was a suicide attack, according to the region's interior minister. The bomber died in the blast. A device was exploded by a 27-year-old Syrian national outside a music festival. He had been denied entry into the event due to the lack of a ticket, Bavarian Interior Minister Joachim Herrmann said during a news conference early Monday. Twelve people were injured. The man, who has not yet been named, stood around the festival entrance for a short period before he blew himself up. The music festival and surrounding area were evacuated. Authorities said the bomber had previously applied for asylum in Germany but had had his application rejected. He was also known to police in Ansbach for previous offenses. German media outlets reported that he had previously attempted suicide. Herrmann said his backpack contained screws and nails, an apparent attempt to inflict further damage. Officially this attack is not confirmed as terrorism, he said, but there are strong indications it may be. ["Suicide bomb rocks Ansbach, Germany", CNN, July 25, 2016]
A January 2016 Bloomberg report quotes the premier of Bavaria, Horst Seehofer, expressing vigorous rejection of Chancellor Angela Merkel’s open-door policy toward "refugees":
“You have to face the fact that the confusion surrounding the stream of refugees is being exploited to commit crimes,” Seehofer told reporters at Wildbad Kreuth in the Bavarian Alps. “I’m sticking with my demand for a change of refugee policy in all its facets in 2016.” ["Germany Saw 1.1 Million Migrants in 2015 as Debate Intensifies", Bloomberg, January 6, 2016]
It would be surprising to know that the debate he invokes is not growing more intensified this morning. Germans are probably not the only Europeans wondering how many other recently-admitted "asylum seeking" men from places where explosions, stabbings and shootings are rather more common than in Europe are currently getting psychiatric treatment to fight suicidal urges.

Also yesterday, a Syrian "refugee" of 21 - another "asylum-seeker" said to have been "known to the police and... charged in the past with assault" [WSJ] was arrested in the southwestern city of Reutlingen, near Stuttgart after hacking to death a pregnant woman and wounding two people with a machete. He had "arrived in Germany by himself about 18 months ago" [AFP]. The Wall Street Journal notes that "More than 300,000 Syrians have applied for asylum in Germany since January 2015". It doesn't say how many of them are known to the police, or what the police know in general. (Or how sure any of the authorities are that this or that arrival is actually a Syrian.)

Add that and the wine bar bombing to these acts of terror on German soil in the past five days:
We're with the Europeans. There is much to fear.