Tuesday, December 07, 2010

7-Dec-10: Look, up in the sky -- no, don't bother

You would have to search hard to find any news channel covering the fact that a Qassam rocket fired by the jihadists of Gaza exploded in the fields just south of Ashkelon yesterday (Monday). Ynet mentions it but it's buried deep inside the site. Fortunately, no injuries or damage were reported but this, of course, was not the intention of the rocket-firing thugs.

Since we're speaking of the intentions of the terrorists, it's timely to mention that the terrorist forces of Hezbollah, arrayed right across Israel's tense border with Lebanon as we write this, are now reliably thought to be equipped with 40,000 to 50,000 rockets and missiles. This report says they can now easily hit Tel-Aviv. In effect this means they can choose to hit any target within Israel.

A WikiLeaks piece from yesterday says Bashir al-Assad, the Syrian president, was "reprimanded" by US officials for supplying deadly weaponry to the Shiite terror group Hezbollah a week after assuring them he would not. (Oh the shock/horror!) In February 2010, Hillary Clinton, the US Secretary of State, wrote to the Syrian:
"In our meetings last week it was stated that Syria is not transferring any 'new' missiles to Lebanese Hezbollah... We are aware, however, of current Syrian efforts to supply Hezbollah with ballistic missiles. I must stress that this activity is of deep concern to my government, and we strongly caution you against such a serious escalation."
Despite this "deep concern", Syria's foreign ministry promptly rejected the allegations and now, 9 months later, Pentagon officials say the flow of deadly weapons to Hezbollah is continuing with no signs of restraint from any quarter.

How does all of this square with the Obama administration's special efforts to engage Hezbollah and the Syrian regime as part of the president's attempts to foster a wider peace in the Middle East? A syndicated article from AFP yesterday offers an answer, under a telling headline: "Cables reveal US flailing as arms traffic cop".

So when does US policy stop being termed flailing and starts being called failing? Which it certainly is.

No one likes being wrong. But here's the point. If you're sitting in Washington and you're wrong, life goes on. On the other if, like us, you sit and live and work in Jerusalem or Herzliya, and the US is wrong in how it sizes up Syria and its grotesquely-over-armed Hezbollah proxies, then it's we who pay a steep price. As the New York Times notes:
Israeli officials told American officials in November 2009 that if war broke out, they assumed that Hezbollah would try to launch 400 to 600 rockets at day and sustain the attacks for at least two months.
But it's actually a good deal worse:
Break the Silence on Syria's Nuclear Program - Graham Allison and Olli Heinonen (Wall Street Journal): The U.S. has joined other major powers in a dangerous conspiracy of silence on Syria's nuclear program. Syria foreswore nuclear weapons when it ratified the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty in 1969... yet Syria was able to secretly buy a nuclear reactor from North Korea. If Israel had not bombed the Al-Kibar reactor site in September 2007, it would be producing plutonium by now for Syria's first nuclear bomb. Since November 2008, nine IAEA reports (the latest released last month) have documented Syria's noncompliance with its requests for more details about its nuclear program.
And now this:
Possible Syrian Nuke Facility Identified by Satellite - Yaakov Katz
A compound in western Syria with buildings and hundreds of missile-shaped items has been identified as functionally related to a nuclear reactor Israel destroyed northeast of Damascus in 2007. Satellite footage of the site in Masyaf was obtained by the Washington-based Institute for Science and International Security. Several years ago, a military base near Masyaf was mentioned as a possible hiding place for weapons of mass destruction that Saddam Hussein might have sent to Syria before the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003. ISIS head David Albright told the Jerusalem Post on Thursday that the site could be a military storage facility. "We have identified one site and learned the approximate locations of three other sites as well," Albright said. (Jerusalem Post)
The frightening thing is, as the torrent of Wikileaks demonstrates, that politicians in all the relevant places including Washington almost certainly know this even if we did not. And yet this awareness does not translate into effective action.

The price of inaction and going round in circles keeps rising. And meanwhile the steady drumbeat of falling rockets on Israeli soil goes entirely un-noticed.

Sunday, December 05, 2010

4-Dec-10: Should this man be accorded the respect due to an objective, professional journalist?

IAbdel al-Bari Atwan the kind of person who should be given
public platforms in highly prominent settings?  
As newspaper editors go, Abdel al-Bari Atwan gets more than the average amount of prominence.

Given the nature of his political views, he gets a surprisingly respectable degree of respect from such mainstream media channels as NPR, Sky News, CNN and the BBC (who call him Abdel-Bari Atwan) which have hosted him frequently and which, for reasons which can only leave us wondering, present him as an objective observer on events in this part of the world.

Given what is known about him from the public record (see an earlier blog article of ours: "16-Mar-08: The unindicted co-conspirators"), this might be surprising.

Mr. Atwan edits a London-based Arabic-language newspaper called Al-Quds Al-Arabi. The paper takes a robustly nationalistic Arab line and has several notable scoops to its name. In August 1996, it was the first to publish a fatwa, or declaration of war, "Against the Americans Occupying the Land of the Two Holy Places." The author was Osama bin Laden.

In October 2003, after Atwan wrote that the hatred directed towards the United States by the Arab world is the fault of the United States itself, a US-based, Yemenite journalist and liberal columnist called Munir Al-Mawari who writes for another London Arabic-language daily Al-Sharq Al-Awsat, made some interesting observations:
"The Abd Al-Bari Atwan [appearing] on CNN is completely different from the Abd Al-Bari Atwan on the Al-Jazeera network or in his Al-Quds Al-Arabi daily. On CNN, Atwan speaks solemnly and with total composure, presenting rational and balanced views. This is in complete contrast with his fuming appearances on Al-Jazeera and in Al-Quds Al-Arabi, in which he whips up the emotions of multitudes of viewers and readers."
We have been pondering those two faces of Atwan since learning that he is going to be honored by being invited to lecture publicly at the London School of Economics this coming Monday. (Source: "Terror supporting' Arabic-daily editor to speak at LSE")

The honor extended to this rather edgy journalist has aroused some controvery. Indeed, on his own personal website (the one where he describes himself as a "highly respected author" - and he would certainly know), Atwan claims at least some the uglier quotations attributed to him are false:
"I did not say any of the things listed on the Wikipedia site... They are false allegations, part of a smear campaign against me".
So in the interests of an open public record, and in the hope that someone attending the Atwan lecture in London might get the great man to go on the record and actually repudiate them, here are some Atwan statements that can be found in various online locations.

On one hand:
"I do not endorse or in any way support al-Qa'ida's agenda… I utterly condemn the attacks on innocent citizens in the West". [Source: The Secret History of Al-Qa'ida, Abdel Bari Atwan, Abacus (2006), ISBN 978-0-34-912035-5, p1]
On the other:
"The events of 11 September will be remembered as the end of the US empire. This is because all empires collapse when they pursue the arrogance of power."
Source: BBC
Sadam Hussein (who murdered countless numbers of Arabs and Iraqi Kurds) should be honored for preserving "the unity of Iraq, its Arab and Islamic identity and the coexistence of its different communities". Source: Africa News, December 31, 2006
In the case of war, Iran will retaliate against its Arab neighbors, American bases in the Gulf and "Allah willing, it will attack Israel, as well... If the Iranian missiles strike Israel, by Allah, I will go to Trafalgar Square and dance with delight."
Source: Wikipedia, referring to an interview in Arabic on Lebanese ANB television station, June 27, 2007 (also referred to in this Jerusalem Post article). The actual video clip (in Arabic with English subtitles) can be seen here. (Keep in mind that Atwan explicitly denies he said what is recorded in this video. He calls them "false allegations, part of a smear campaign".)
Atwan said the March 2008 point-blank, cold-blooded shooting-massacre by a Palestinian Arab gunman of eight unarmed high school students, most of them aged 15 or 16, at Jerusalem's Merkaz HaRav yeshiva "was justified." Their school is to blame, Atwan claims, by "hatching Israeli extremists and fundamentalists". Atwan says the celebrations in Gaza that followed the massacre symbolized "the courage of the Palestinian nation." Source: The Jerusalem Post
Depending on where you stand, justifying a terrorist massacre is not the worst of crimes. On the other hand, given what is at stake when it comes to defeating the practitioners of terror and their supporters, is Abdel al-Bari Atwan the kind of person who should be given public platforms in highly prominent settings?

Or is Abdel al-Bari Atwan simply the innocent victim of some atrocious misquoting?

Thursday, December 02, 2010

2-Dec-10: It's hot, and especially on the Hamas border

On yet another day of unseasonable heat as well as truly tragic news from Israel, there are all-too-familiar reports of an attempt by Gazan terrorists early this morning to penetrate the Israel/Gaza border and carry out another attack on Israelis.

Ynet says IDF aircraft and tanks fired on several Palestinian Gazan Arabs trying to cross the border near Kibbutz Kfar Aza around dawn. Kfar Aza, a sun-drenched, almost idyllic kibbutz community created in 1951 by Jewish immigrants from Egypt and from the Moroccan community of Tangiers, is ten kilometers south of Sderot, and unbearably close to the viper's nest on the far side of the border with Hamas-controlled Gaza. In May 2008, rocket and mortar fire from the Gazan terrorists crashed into Kfar Aza and killed Jimmy Kedoshim while he was tending his garden. A champion paraglider, Jimmy turned his love for parachuting and aerial photography into a business. A photo he took of his community from the air, showing its proximity to the misery of Gaza, is above - source here.)

According to Haaretz, the terrorists were laying explosives intended to injure or kill Israelis.

The IDF alert system was triggered and a coordinated operation of the Paratroop Brigade, the Armored Corps, the Engineering Corps and the Air Force responded. The terrorist gunmen were shot before they managed to open fire. Weapons found on their bodies are being analyzed. The men's identities are still not published, but it's a safe bet that photographs of wailing relatives and angry pall-bearers will be on the news-wires before the day is out.

People often observe the disproportionate numbers of dead and injured on the two sides of the Gazan border. Why is Gazan terrorist activity not producing more Israeli victims? Because Israeli defence forces are constantly on the alert. It's not because the jihadists of Gaza have seen the light, but because they are foiled most of the time. Sadly they are not foiled all the time.

Friday morning UPDATE: The terrorists were sent by Islamic Jihad, according to this Palestinian Arab source which quotes a spokesman for the jihadist saying the two were "planting explosive charges in the eastern area in case Israel carried out any attack."

The semi-official Egyptian news agency Al-Ahram writes this morning that the would-be killers were eliminated by what it terms "Israeli occupation forces", making you wonder which territory these Israelis, firing from the Sderot area inside the the 1967 "Green Line" are occupying - not that it matters much to such demagogues for whom Israelis are by definition occupiers.