Sunday, August 07, 2011

7-Aug-11: It's a long way from Rothschild Blvd Tel Aviv to Sha'ar Hanegev. Right?

"Who cares about missiles...?" Well, these Gazan
terrorist thugs do, for a start. And when we stop caring is when
they start winning. [Source]
The newly appointed editor of the Jerusalem Post Magazine penned a piece this past weekend called "Communication is key" (behind the paper's paywall unfortunately). It takes a fleeting and not-so-penetrating look at the middle-class protests that have captured the public imagination here in the past few weeks, and ends with this rather unfortunate line:
"Without a doubt, Iran, Hamas and Hezbollah will remain an issue, and our security is an important priority - but as some protestors have already expressed, who cares about missiles when we can't afford food and rent?"
To be clear about this, we care about food and rent. And we care - a lot - about the threats posed by Iran et al to the well-being of Israel's families and society, as well.

Sad to say, those threats keep being actualized, including this evening. Ynet reports that a Qassam rocket fired from the northern part of the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip crashed into southern Israel's Sha'ar Hanegev region in the past hour. No injuries or damage have been reported yet, but as we remind ourselves whenever this happens, no injuries is not the outcome that the jihadists seek. This time their incompetence overcame their passions (again), but as weaponry and advanced technology keep pouring into Gaza, that's not something we ought to count on.

At a rough guess, we'll say that the ease with which missiles are ignored is directly related to how far from your living room they're falling. Sadly, none of us can count on that distance being a permanent factor.

Friday, August 05, 2011

5-Aug-11: Those glowing articles about despots? There's usually a story behind the story

Vogue Magazine, March 2011: Were the bodies of Syrian protestors,
crushed under the treads of Assad regime tanks, deleted
for aesthetic reasons?
The website of the Madison Ave PR firm Brown Lloyd James crows about its success in managing the international launch of Al Jazeera English, a product it calls "arguably one of the world's most well-known and controversial brands".

But much less publicly, the firm signed up another controversial client - the Syrian Arab Republic - in November 2010. That assignment resulted in the placing of an extremely favorable piece on the Syrian regime and its First Family, the murderous al-Assad second-generation despots, in the fashion magazine Vogue.

Because this has direct implications for the war against the terrorists, we took notice of an analysis today by the blogger Elder of Zion who disclosed details of the story behind that Syria/Vogue scandal, based in part on an expose by The Hill. For its $5,000 per month contract, Damascus was rewarded with an extraordinary piece of fluff entitled "Asma al-Assad: A Rose in the Desert" that appeared in Vogue's March 2011 issue... just in time for the start of the the Syrian government’s relentless campaign against its millions of anti-regime protesters.  

Vogue senior editor Chris Knutsen (according to the website Fashionista) was asked to justify the fawning showcasing of one of the world's deadliest renegade states in such glowing light. (He had called Basher al-Assad “a precise man who takes photographs and talks lovingly about his first computer.” We'll leave out the gushing description of the dictator's wife.)  Knutsen stands behind the story and the decision to publish it:
“We felt that a personal interview with Syria’s first lady would hold strong interest for our readers…The piece was not meant in any way to be a referendum on the al-Assad regime. It was a profile of the first lady.”
The smiling Assads at play (Vogue): role models for the sort of
clientele their PR firm seek to attract?
Strong interest or not, the Vogue.com website wiped the article shortly afterwards. (Not standard turnover for Vogue.com; other items from the same issue are still viewable on the site.)

It's surprising to us how surprised some people are at the way these things work.

Money is invariably behind this kind of spinning, just as it has been behind a series of decisions taken by globally-known and highly influential institutions.

For instance, the London School of Economics ("For the LSE, in thrall to a dictator, Gaddafi was pure roast duck: The school's association with Libya's leader is just an extreme version of the predicament now facing all UK universities" online here).

For instance, Britain's universities including Oxford, Cambridge, Durham, University College London, the LSE, Exeter, Dundee and City which collectively pocketed more than £233.5 million from potentates and those closely connected to them from the Arab and Islamic world between 1995 and 2008. (See "Libya and the LSE: Large Arab gifts to universities lead to 'hostile' teaching/The LSE is not the only university that has reason to feel ashamed", online here.) From that article:
"On the most conservative estimate, other British universities have received hundreds of millions of pounds from Saudi and other Islamic sources – in the guise of philanthropic donations, but with the real intention of changing the intellectual climate of the United Kingdom." 
For instance, some of America's most prominent Ivy League and top tier universities (see "From the Muslim World, Big Donations to American Colleges; What's revealed when you follow the money?" online here). According to their analysis, the list includes
  • Georgetown University: $6,000,000 gift from Prince Al Waleed Bin Talal of Saudi Arabia “to support a chair in the Center for Muslim and Christian Understanding”; 
  • Columbia University - a gift of $1.7 million in June 2010 from Arif Naqvi, the CEO of a Dubai-based bank and a member of the Advisory Board of the Columbia University Middle East Research Center; 
  • Georgetown University again - a $20,124.955 contract from the Qatar Foundation “for the operation of the Georgetown University School of Foreign Service in Qatar”
  • Harvard University - two gifts from Saudi Arabia’s Abdulaziz University, both for $300,000 on in July 2010 and in January 2011; 
  • The Universities of Michigan and Virginia and Tufts dental school - gifts from Saudi Arabia’s Abdulaziz University; 
  • Georgetown University again - a contract from the Qatar Foundation in July 2010 for $42,800,000;
  • Purdue University - gifts from Qatar University in June 2010 ($350,000) and September 2010 ($6 million) from King Abdullah University of Science and Technology;
  • Yale University - $500,000 gift from Bahrain, January 2011; 
  • And numerous other prominent Western academic institutions.
Money and the things it buys change people's understanding of the Mysterious Middle East. Sometimes the payoff is a piece of flattery focused on your wife. Sometimes it much, much more sinister.

5-Aug-11: Anti-missile defence batteries deployed in Ashkelon

The Hebrew caption from this morning's front page reads:
Iron Dome is deployed again in Ashkelon
The escalating rocket attacks on southern Israel, emanating from the terrorist vipers' nest of Gaza, has prompted the authorities here this morning to announce the immediate deployment of batteries of the Iron Dome anti-rocket defense system outside the southern city of Ashkelon. Thirty Gazan rockets, every single one of them constructed, delivered, aimed and intended to kill civilian Israelis, have been fired into Israel since the beginning of July.

The Jerusalem Post's military correspondent writes that the Israeli Air Force (IAF) currently has two operational Iron Dome batteries and is expected to receive a third by the end of 2011.

Meanwhile the Air Force air-bombed five targets in the Gaza Strip following the incoming Gazan rockets of the last few days. Four tunnels were struck and destroyed, along with what the IDF called a "terror activity base" in the central Gaza Strip. The IDF says the precision strikes were identified as hitting their targets. Palestinian sources say several buildings are on fire in Khan Yunis following the strike with no reports of injuries.

This leaves us wondering, yet again, about the moral logic of Israel striking at terrorist infrastructure only after absorbing round after round of terrorist attacks, mainly indiscriminate rocket firings in the general direction of Israeli towns and communities. Defeating terrorism needs a full-court press rather than the rules of ping-pong.

Thursday, August 04, 2011

4-Aug-11: More rocket attacks on Israel tonight are a taste of... more rocket attacks on Israel

The Intel plant in Kiryat Gat

Ynet reports that the rocket attacks are continuing.
A loud explosion was heard in the Kiryat Gat region of southern Israel this evening (Thursday) after the Color Red siren was activated. Officials said a rocket apparently landed in an open area in the town's vicinity. No injuries were reported in the latest attack but two people were treated for anxiety... The anti-rocket Iron Dome system... is currently not deployed n the area. Iron Dome batteries are now deployed elsewhere in the country as part of tests. At this time there is no intention to deploy the systems in the Gaza region again, unless a dramatic escalation necessitates such move.
INN reported around 8 this evening that the incoming missile was a Grad-style Katyusha rocket, and that it struck a barn in a community close to Kiryat Gat, adding that "the Israel Defense Forces are checking reports of another rocket landing in an open area next to Kiryat Gat."

Kiryat Gat's population is around 48,000. An Intel microprocessor-manufacturing plant located in the city employs some 2,000 people.

4-Aug-11: And a second GRAD two hours later

Ynet says a second GRAD rocket, fired from the Gaza Strip by the resident terrorist thugs in the general direction of Israel, exploded some two hours after the one we reported earlier (4-Aug-11: Rocket attacks escalate: GRAD fire on southern Israel), this time at what it terms "the entrance to the southern city of Ashkelon". No injuries or damage are so far reported, though the Jerusalem Post is saying roads were damaged. It calls the attacks an escalation in the firing of longer-range rockets. In Ashkelon, five people were injured while running for shelter after the incoming rocket warning was sounded.

4-Aug-11: Rocket attacks escalate: GRAD fire on southern Israel

Grad rocket fired from Gaza
Rocket explodes near town in Lakhish region, police say. No injuries or damage reported
A Grad rocket was fired from Gaza late Wednesday evening... The rocket fell in open spaces between Sderot and Kiryat Gat, near a town in the Lakhish region. No injuries or damage were reported... Police assume it fell in agricultural fields near the town. Ynet received dozens of emails reporting a rocket alert that sounded in the southern city of Kiryat Gat. Residents of the area also reported hearing loud blasts. A resident of one of the towns in the Lakhish region told Ynet of the terror. "We heard a very loud blast and hoped that it didn't explode in a house. We were frightened, but we have nowhere to go because many of the residents here don't have bomb shelters," she said.
Escalation. Again. Again.

Wednesday, August 03, 2011

3-Aug-11: Just how dangerous is religious fanaticism when it's cloaked as journalism?

From the CBC website [source]
We have written here in the past about a London-based Arab journalist who has made a career practice of racist and hate-based pronouncements, while continuing to enjoy a surprisingly respectable degree of respect from such mainstream media channels as NPR, Sky News, CNN and the BBC. Each of these has hosted him frequently and, for reasons which can only leave us wondering, presents him as an objective observer on events in our part of the world.

[Take a quick look at what we have written about this very unlovely man in the past. "4-Dec-10: Should this man be accorded the respect due to an objective, professional journalist?" and "11-Dec-10: Should this man have been given a public platform?" among others.]

The man is called Abdel al-Bari Atwan, and he has an essay in The Guardian's widely-read Comment is Free blog this week under the title The chance of Ramadan. In it, he expounds on the NATO military campaign in Libya.  

In the words of CIF Watch, a plain-talking and incisive watchdog that exposes the sickeningly high levels of anti-semitism and racism to be found in The Guardian and especially CIF, he offers presents an explicit ethical and religious endorsement of Muslims waging war against “infidels”.  Adwan writes:
Islamic experts assure me there is no prohibition of warfare during Ramadan. On the contrary, many of Islam’s great conquests occurred during this holy month, including the first clash between Muslims and infidels, which occurred in 624 when Muhammad led his troops to victory in the battle of Badr. War for the furtherance of Islam and against non-believers is considered ethically acceptable by scholars, even during the month of fasting and prayer.
Lucky for us, we're in the realm of ethically acceptable. What a relief.

Atwan contrasts this ethical waging of war during Ramadan with wars waged by non-Muslims:
Islamic clerics concur that it is absolutely prohibited for Muslims to seek the help of non-believers against fellow Muslims.
Is The Guardian endorsing this rather narrow view of ethics and of justifiable and unjustifiable war? CIFWatch says it's actually more serious than that. By continuing to post essays by Atwan, the editors at The Guardian
"...are making a conscious decision to provide a platform to an anti-Semite who openly supports religious extremism and terrorist attacks against innocent civilians... In the context of the Guardian’s continuing righteous condemnations of right wing political incitement, their decision to sanction an open advocate for violent religious extremism represents yet another example of their appalling moral hypocrisy."
We think moral hypocrisy is the right note to sound when reviewing the writings and rantings of Abdel al-Bari Atwan. The world is already too dangerous a place. Shame on those editors, The Guardians' in the vanguard, who lack the courage and moral integrity to call Atwan for what he is. And shame on the rest of us for allowing this man and those other editors, and so many others like them, to sow confusion in the minds of people directly threatened by this ongoing war and by the jihadists who stand behind it.

Getting these existential issues wrong, as they do chronically, is a terribly dangerous mistake for which ordinary people like us are liable to pay the price.

Tuesday, August 02, 2011

1-Aug-11: School's out, so 26 rocket attacks on Israelis in July and two more tonight

They're prepared for life with the best skills that foreign aid (more
per capita than for any other region on earth) can give them. [Source

It's high summer and the end of the school year. With so many of Gaza's young men coming to the end of their training for life, a training that prepares them for terrorist activity and rifle and rocket fire on Israelis - and little else, we are seeing a significant increase in those attacks.

Early this evening (Monday) according to the only report we have seen so far, another Gazan mortar was fired into the Western Negev region, doing no damage, causing no injury, and therefore failing to live up to the hopes and prayers of the thugs doing the firing.

Later tonight, a Qassam rocket also fired by the terrorists of the Gaza Strip landed in southern Israel, lightly wounding a 50-year-old woman. Haaretz says it fell near one of the communities in the Hof Ashkelon area, causing shrapnel wounds to the civilian woman's legs. She was treated at Barzilai hospital in Ashkelon, along with several other civilians who suffered shock. INN says the shrapnel victim, a Bedouin woman, is the wife of a shepherd from Be'er Sheva who tends his flock in the area several months each year. The shrapnel penetrated her legs while she was at home inside the family tent.

Two additional rockets were fired from the Gaza Strip into southern Israel yesterday (Sunday) near Pit'hat Shalom and Shaar HaNegev. AFP quotes the IDF saying there were 26 such rockets fired at Israelis by the dark forces of the Gaza Strip during July. Every last one of them was directed at Israeli civilians.

It's maddening to us that these rockets go unreported. (Try to find any coverage in the news media serving your area.) Everyone who pays attention understands that there's a kind of roulette process at work here. The Hamas-ruled jihadists fire them off as often as they can manage without being detected, taking care not to be eliminated by Israeli defence forces in the process. The rockets are not fired for their effect. These are hardly fireworks. They are deadly weapons. The intention is for them to kill and maim. They fail more often than they succeed, but the jihadists don't plan to fail and every so often they succeed.

What would you do if they were your neighbours?