Monday, May 07, 2012

7-May-12: The trouble with Sinai

Fijian servicemen in Sinai
We have posted more than a dozen comments about the situation in Sinai (the size of Ireland, but a population of barely a million) since posting this one: "5-Oct-11: Quote of the day: Sinai is 100% safe". 

At that time, we quoted Field Marshal Mohammed Hussein Tantawi, the head of Egypt's military government, declaring that security in the Sinai Peninsula was "100% under control... The security situation in Sinai is 100% safe".

We also noted [5-Apr-12: The terrorists send us their Passover greetings] that Egypt's chief of security made two uncompromising statements in the wake of the pre-Passover rocket attacks on Israel. One - they didn't come from Egyptian territory. And two - in case anyone might have thought that there were security issues in the Sinai, well - there aren't. 

Anyone with eyes can see Sinai is not safe. It's a place that presents serious and obvious challenges for the Egyptians and also for us, given the long border we have with Egyptian Sinai. It has been the scene of repeated pipeline bombings, attacks on Egyptian police, attacks on Israelis and all of this against a background in which the sounds emanating from Cairo and its newly empowered Islamist politicians have caused deep disquiet among Israelis of every stripe.

Tonight we had indications that the Egyptian authorities are seriously out of their depth and that Sinai is getting worse and more worrying:
Bedouin have kidnapped 10 Fijian members of an international peacekeeping force in Egypt's Sinai Peninsula, security sources [quoted by the BBC] say. The kidnappers are reportedly demanding the authorities release from prison several fellow tribesmen, some of whom have been convicted of terrorism... The MFO is an independent force formed to monitor the borders between Egypt and Israel following the 1979 peace accord. It consists of military staff from 12 countries including the US and France. "They were patrolling and we seized them by firing in the air," one of the kidnappers told the AFP news agency. "They are with us now, and we want the liberation of all Bedouin prisoners..." Such incidents have increased in frequency since the overthrow of the former President Hosni Mubarak last year.
This Salafist was detained for 8 years under Mubarak.
Today free, he heads the Islamic religious courts
in northern Sinai. Reuters caption reads:
"With Mubarak's removal from power,
the government authority has collapsed  in much of Sinai
with the Islamists taking over" [Source]
In the past few minutes, there are reports that the Fijian peacekeepers are free again (fair warning: with so much confusion down there, we're not sure what is really happening):
"Bedouins in Egypt's Sinai Peninsula released 10 Fijian members of a multinational peacekeeping force they had kidnapped earlier on Monday to try to secure the release of fellow tribesmen from prison, Egyptian security sources said. The Multinational Force and Observers (MFO) could not immediately be reached for comment. The remote Sinai region has descended further into lawlessness since a popular uprising ousted Egypt's president more than a year ago and threw the security apparatus into disarray. [Source]
A Reuters backgrounder on Sinai, published some weeks ago, puts some facts around those concerns:
The group of 50 young men who had blocked off access to a small international military base in the Sinai desert would say nothing of who they were but their appearance held a few clues. Dressed in army fatigues and armed with AK-47s, they wore the long beards of the hardline Islamists who are increasingly a law unto themselves in this part of Egypt. Quietly, barely noticed by outsiders fascinated by upheavals in Cairo and other Arab capitals, they are building a presence in Sinai that might offer a new haven for anti-Western militancy at the strategic junction of the Mediterranean, Africa and Asia.
Lawlessness, disarray, a haven for anti-Western "militancy". Just the things that are lacking in this region. 

7-May-12: Caught another would-be terrorist carrying pipe bombs

We wrote on Friday ("4-May-12: Fewer terror attacks? It's no accident") about alert security personnel who apprehended two young Palestinian Arab men near busy Tapuah Junction in the Shomron (Samaria). The men several explosive pipe-bomb devices and knives in their backpacks. Today, Sunday, the story repeated itself. According to The Times of Israel, a 17-year-old Palestinian Arab was stopped today by Border Police in the same vicinity, Tapuah Junction. He too was found to be carrying three pipe bombs and he is now under arrest. 

Sunday, May 06, 2012

6-May-12: What lies behind freedom of the Palestinian Arab press?

Robust, noisy, vigorous: Israel's media.
We posted earlier today ("6-May-12: Are the Palestinians getting the freedom, the funding, the support that they demand from the United States? Yes and no") about the exquisitely well-funded, oh-so-angry professionals of the territory controlled by the Palestinian Authority. 

We noted how much of the funding that makes their temper tantrums possible comes from the United States and its taxpayers. We also referred to the distinctive form of last week’s celebration of press freedom in the world of the Palestinian Arabs.

UNESCO says the other part of the Palestinian Arab government, the one controlled by the Hamas regime, will also be "celebrating" World Press Freedom Day in Gaza on May 10. Elder of Ziyon, a sharp observer of the cynicism that accompanies public life in both of the Palestinian Arab polities, notes how very odd this is:
Hamas routinely attacks Gaza journalists and who disagree with its policies. Right now, there is no freedom of the press in Gaza and reporters self-censor out of fear for their lives. They have beaten journalists who try to cover anti-Hamas demonstrations, they have banned Fatah newspapers from Gaza, and they have even attacked documentary filmmakers.
This past October, the terrorists of Hamas engineered a forcible takeover of the Gaza headquarters of the Palestinian Journalists' Syndicate. Then in March, Hamas "security forces" physically attacked three journalists while they were covering a Gaza City event, assaulting and beating them. [See this Palpress report in Arabic.] If you look at the names and professional affiliations of the victims, you might be persuaded to expect some kind of global media outcry: Muhammad Masharawi, a reporter for SKY News (who suffered the additional indignity of being abducted by the Hamas thugs immediately afterwards); Adnan al-Barsh who reports for the BBC; and a journalist by the name of Amer Abu Omar.

As far as we can tell (and we're open to being corrected) neither SKY nor BBC gave any coverage at all to what was done to their own people. Sadly, there's a long tradition of foreign news media hushing up the intimidation their field people experience in the dark corners of the Arab world.

Israel, with its robustly open and unrestrained media channels, comes in for what we consider unfair criticism from certain quarters. Though it ranked first in the Middle East and North Africa group analysis of Freedom House this year, and was the only country in the region that received a “free” rating, Israel gets plenty of flak. For instance, the press freedom index published by Reporters Without Borders put Israel at number 92 in 2011, a drop of six places from the year before. Our sense is that some of the negativism is based on distortion and misuse of statistics (here’s a cogent analysis). Some of it, we believe, is tainted with straight-forward malice.

But we think it's instructive to dig below the data. Understanding the case of one particular journalist whose story has never properly been told, but who has been featured in reports of how Israel infringes the freedom of the Palestinian press, might be helpful in this respect. 

In 2001, when this woman was 21 years old, she worked as an on-camera news reader for PA Television's evening news, based in Ramallah. Several days after 9/11, the Israelis arrested her and subsequently she spent time in prison. It’s reasonable to assume that her case would - and in fact it did - attract criticism of the kind that is frequently directed at Israel: the alleged abridgement of the freedom of working journalists to do their all-important reporting work, oppression, harassment etc etc.

She was eventually released. Since February 2012, her career has been on a sharply-upward trajectory. She got her own glossy television program that is beamed by satellite every Friday night into all parts of the Arabic speaking world via the Al-Quds TV channel. That's one of two global-facing television channels operated by the Hamas terrorist regime; the other is called Al-Aqsa TV. Her weekly program, "Naseem Al Ahrar" (translation: “Breezes of the Free”) focuses on the injustices allegedly visited on Palestinian Arab prisoners languishing in Israeli custody. 

All in all, it would be fair to say that at the age of 31, this woman possesses one of the most prominent and influential platforms that an Arabic-only journalist could ever dream of having. In the screen shot below you see her reading the evening bulletin on a Palestinian Arab television news program beamed from Ramallah on Thursday August 9, 2001.

 Screen shot from a Palestinian TV news program, the evening
of August 9, 2001. A woman news-reader reports on the terrorist attack on a
Jerusalem restaurant. But she's not just a news-reader. Read this article to
learn who this woman is.
That night, seated in the Ramallah studio a few minutes drive north of here, her hair uncovered in Western, non-Islamic style and dressed fashionably, she read from the prepared script about a terrorist outrage (trust us on this: the script writers did not call it a terrorist outrage) that had paralyzed and shocked nearby Jerusalem some hours earlier the same day. 

The demands of journalistic objectivity meant that, whatever personal feelings she must have had, were kept under control, sheathed and hidden. But ten years on, we know something now about those repressed and unseen passions. 

That’s because this journalist is a woman called Ahlam Tamimi. She was the planner and engineer of the massacre about which she laconically reported in the evening news. It was she herself who had placed the bomb that ripped through Sbarro, a pizza restaurant in the center of Jerusalem earlier that afternoon. 

The bomb, who had been a human being until 2:00 pm that afternoon (no misprints here - read it again), had been ‘enhanced’ with steel balls and nails to enlarge the impact on passers-by. And indeed it had that effect. 130 people were mutilated and maimed. Fifteen more were killed including our teenage daughter Malki. Most of the dead were children, like Malki. A sixteenth person, a young mother who had popped in to the Sbarro restaurant that day for a quick lunch with her two year old daughter, suffered severe injuries and has remained comatose for the ten years since then. Her daughter is now twelve and is being raised, alone, by her father.

That most of the dead and injured were women and children is mostly due to Tamimi's diligence. In accordance with the instructions of her Hamas masters, she herself in the couple of days before the attack had walked around downtown Jerusalem looking for, and finding, a target for the massacre (as she herself has said on public video) that had the optimal concentration of Jewish women and children. 

She has boasted on television that her priority was to find a restaurant that not only attracted Jews but that attracted religious Jews, Orthodox Jews. They were her principal target, she said. And for this purpose, Sbarro – with its well-advertised, highly-stringent kosher supervision - fit the bill.

Tamimi the journalist, no longer bareheaded and dressed like a Westerner but now attired in the shape-concealing garb and head covering we associate with Islamist females, is free as a bird to travel wherever she likes. She got out of prison, despite the thousand-plus year sentence, in October 2011. Today she has a Facebook page, an army of supporters and acolytes, a highly public persona, large and enthusiastic audiences. 

If the circles in which she moves had a culture of idolizing female rock singers, Tamimi's standing would be on that level. But they don't. What they have is Tamimi. When her appearances are announced, the crowds gather. She embodies something profound and powerful for a large and very specific segment of the world's population: a literally-lethal blend of Joan of Arc and pop diva.

It's arguable that no murderer in history has had as much opportunity as Tamimi to unashamedly claim credit for the killings of which she was charged, tried and convicted. Certainly no one who was sentenced to sixteen life terms in prison has ever been interviewed as a perfectly free citizen (of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, for the record), openly exulting in her 'achievement', asserting again and again that what she did was right, proper, good, justified. And encouraging others to do what she did - to kill.
"I dedicated myself to the path of jihad for the sake of Allah, and Allah granted me success… Do you want me to denounce what I did? That's out of the question. I would do it again." [Video interview recorded in Jordan, October 2011]
It was a calculated act, performed with conviction and faith in Allah… Jihad warriors are always ready to die as martyrs, to be arrested - or to succeed. I managed to overcome the barrier of prison and was released. Why should I repent?" [Video interview recorded in Jordan, November 2011]
Are we overstating any of this, or its impact? Let whoever knows of such statements send us a link to a public statement in the Arabic language - written or spoken - expressing embarrassment, regret, even discomfort, at the emergence of this woman as a hero of her people. Even a statement simply criticizing her and the murders she executed. From anywhere, just so long as it appeared in Arabic.

This woman's horrifying career and its impact on the world she occupies throws more light on the life and values of our neighbors than a free press alone, which they have never had, would or could.

6-May-12: Are the Palestinians getting the freedom, the funding, the support that they demand from the United States? Yes and no.

Ramallah, February 2011: This masked Palestinian Arab burning
a US flag was described (in the original caption) as expressing
his solidarity with the protestors in Cairo's Tahrir Square. Your
taxes at work.
There's never enough plain, well-informed talk about how public funding from Europe has enabled  terrorism, hatred and self-delusion to remain central features in the 'achievements' of the Palestinian Arab leadership.

We took some small role during the era of the arch-terrorist Arafat's presidency in drawing attention to this. By writing and speaking, we and many others tried to show how foreign aid was the fuel that made these appalling aspects of PA rule possible. A handful of examples of articles we published:
Today, there are many who think the nepotism, the waste, the corruption, the incitement and most of all the organized suppression of genuine peace-building efforts among Palestinian Arabs somehow ended when Arafat was buried. That of course would be mere wishful thinking.

And it is by far not only European money that allows it all to happen. America's taxpaying citizens are entirely justified to wonder whether US aid to the Palestinian Arabs is going to the right people, in the right manner and subject to the right conditions. A Palestinian Arab journalist of notable integrity provides us with a reminder of why this is important.

Writing for the Gatehouse Institute, a US-based thinktank, Khaled Abu Toameh published a short analysis this past Friday entitled "What the Palestinians Want" (online here). He points out something that most Americans, and not only Americans, simply do not know: the largest provider of bilateral development assistance to the Palestinian Arabs happens to be the US. Via the USAID agency, the Palestinians have pulled in some $3.5 billion since 1994. These funds were earmarked for education, health, humanitarian assistance - the usual targets, plus programs  to enhance democracy and governance, private enterprise, water resources and infrastructure.

How successful has this flood of free money been? Here's a very recent insight. President Obama signed his approval of America's latest gift - some $147 million - to the Palestinian Arabs a week ago [source].

Almost immediately afterwards, the US consulate sponsored an event in Ramallah, the PA's prospering capital city, to mark World Press Freedom Day. How did that go?

The event did go ahead but the streets outside the glitzy Movenpick hotel were blocked by protesting Palestinian Arabs carrying placards that read: "USAID go out!" and "We reject aid from those who deny our people the right to self-determination." They chanted slogans denouncing US "bias" in favor of Israel and  accusing the US of "covering up" for Israeli "war crimes". Twenty or so Palestinian Arab professional unions and similar organizations, including absurdly the journalists' union, announced a boycott of the US-sponsored event. Not surprising then that many of the Palestinian journalists, invited to cover the event, stayed away. Their spokespeople explained this was because US "supports Israel" and is working toward "normalizing" relations between Israel and the Palestinians.

A few months earlier, visiting US diplomats including the ambassador experienced the indignity of having shoes hurled at them, a traditional expression of loathing in Arab culture.

So what is all this wailing and gnashing of teeth about? Abu Toameh explains it concisely:
Palestinians are reminded almost every day that the US, which has been providing them with billions of dollars, is a foe rather than a friend, although no one seems to ask how come a foe is so generous... The Palestinians want the US to endorse all their demands and force Israel to give them everything... No matter how much the US tries to help the Palestinians, it will always be viewed by many of them as an enemy. US aid should be conditioned not only on transparency and accountability, but also on an end to the campaign of hatred and incitement.
And will those millions make a difference? Khaled Abu Toameh nails it:
The Americans can pour billions of dollars on the Palestinians every year, but that won't change their hearts and minds, especially toward the US. The same applies to the rest of the Arab world, where the masses continue to strongly detest the US. The $147 million that Obama released to the Palestinians will probably help pay salaries of civil servants and improve infrastructure in Palestinian cities and villages, but the aid will surely not change the Palestinians' attitudes toward the US... The anti-US sentiments are the direct result of incitement by the Palestinian Authority and other Palestinians against the US. 
So does it make sense to keep funding them?

Friday, May 04, 2012

4-May-12: The bloodbath that is Syria: can anyone make any sense of it?

The face of the regime that the al-Assad regime
prefers we see: Syria's First "Lady" in Vogue. The backstory 
is very much less attractive.  
To get a sense of what terrorism can achieve when it's dished out by a government with its own well-equipped military, the appalling massacres in Syria are instructive. Since the convulsions began in January 2011, thousands have been killed, by far most of them civilians. Nine members of one family were wiped out two days ago by Syrian army bombardment. Yesterday, four students were killed at a university in Syria's largest city when security forces raided the dormitories following anti-government protests. Between 50 and 200 were rounded up and arrested.

The Secretary-General of the UN Ban Ki-moon is "gravely alarmed" at the continuing killings despite the government of Syria's repeated "commitments to end the violence". He said earlier this week that heavy weapons are deployed in populated areas though the Syrian regime says they had already been withdrawn. "The continued repression of the civilian population is totally unacceptable" the newsagencies quote him saying. But everyone knows it is not going to stop, not even with 300 UN observers being deployed there at the moment. This Kuwaiti news source said Tuesday that 141 people had been killed since the UN observers started arriving. 43 Syrians were killed on Tuesday alone.

Needles to say, the blood-drenched al-Assad regime that has ruled Syria with an iron boot for two generations disclaims all responsibility. The guilty party - as of yesterday - is the government of the United Kingdom. Syria's deputy foreign minister, Fayssal Mekdad, says Britain is directly responsible for the deaths of civilians in his country (video interview here).  A week earlier, the Syrian government said the fault was with the UN (see "Syria accuses U.N. head of encouraging terrorists") and erstwhile-friend Turkey ("Syria accuses Turkey of meddling". In March, Syria blamed Saudi Arabia and Qatar for what it called "arming the rebels".

But mostly it's Israel (naturally), and "the rebels" who get the blame for the thousands of Syrian dead (the UN's estimate is 9,000).

But maybe the answer is simpler. On the blog site of Michael J. Totten, an independent American journalist who reports from the Middle East (his work has appeared in The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, the Daily Star of Lebanon, LA Weekly and the Australian edition of Newsweek), he has posted an illuminating video and some interesting commentary under the title "Fake Terrorist Attacks in Syria":
No one who follows Middle East conflicts should be shocked to discover that the Syrian government is staging terrorist attacks against itself. For a year now the Assad regime has claimed it’s fighting our war against radical Islamist terrorist “gangs,” even though we all know Damascus is the biggest state-sponsor of radical Islamist terrorism in the Arab world. And those of us who followed and reported on the 2006 war in Lebanon, Operation Cast Lead in Gaza, and the Second Intifada in Israel and the West Bank know chapter and verse how Middle Eastern terrorist organizations and their sponsors manipulate the media by using actors, Photoshop, bogus hysterical claims, etc. It’s de rigueur over there. I’m not exactly sure who edited this video, but the clips do appear to be from Syria’s state-run TV. These idiots are not even trying to make their ridiculous dramatizations look credible. UPDATE: I know now who made this video. He's a friend of a friend named Mike Nahum who is a graduate of Damascus University's Arabic program and a media analyst based in Washington, DC.
The video is only four minutes long, a small price to pay for a small insight into what's behind the misery. Click on the image below.

In a way, this is the story of the Middle East: hard to make sense of the conflicting narratives without considerable patience, some insider guidance and a healthy dose of skepticism for public statements. Meanwhile ordinary people get trampled and antidemocratic elites pursue their survive-at-all-costs agendas.

By the way, that Vogue article from February 2011 we illustrated above is no longer on the Vogue website. But the al-Assad clan want you to be able to see it, so they have posted on the family's own website, here. (Considerate of them, no?) A brief extract:
Asma al-Assad is glamorous, young, and very chic — the freshest and most magnetic of first ladies. Her style is not the couture-and-bling dazzle of Middle Eastern power but a deliberate lack of adornment. She’s a rare combination... “It’s a tough neighborhood,” admits Asma al-Assad... Syria is known as the safest country in the Middle East... The 35-year-old first lady’s central mission is to change the mind-set of six million Syrians under eighteen, encourage them to engage in what she calls “active citizenship.” “It’s about everyone taking shared responsibility in moving this country forward, about empowerment in a civil society. We all have a stake in this country; it will be what we make it."
Tragically, she's almost certainly right.

4-May-12: Fewer terror attacks? It's no accident

The community of Elon Moreh
A week ago, we wrote ("28-Apr-12: Security barrier proves yet again to be a life-saver") about the small victories of an alert security force confronted with terrorists in ordinary clothing carrying weapons of extreme hostility in their bags and on their bodies.

This morning there's more. 

Two Palestinian Arab men, reported to be in their 20s, were apprehended by Israeli Border Guard personnel yesterday (Thursday) near busy Tapuah Junction in the Shomron (Samaria). They were found to have explosive pipe-bomb devices and knives in their backpacks. The bombs were safely exploded by sappers and none of the harm which the terrorists intended to cause materialized. They are now in custody.

Then in the small hours of this morning (Friday), an alert security guard protecting the Elon Moreh community (population: 1,300), also in the Shomron,  alerted soldiers to the presence of a Palestinian Arab man approaching the security fence. He was promptly arrested by soldiers from the IDF's Kfir Brigade and found to be armed with a knife 14 centimeters (6 inches) long [sources: herehere and here]. A previous attack by a pair of would-be terrorists equipped with knives was foiled just eight weeks ago in the same place. At the time, we wrote:
A thriving Jewish village of some 1,200 people today, Elon Moreh is in the vicinity of Itamar, Har Bracha and Yitzhar... For at least two millenia, Jews have traditionally reckoned Elon Moreh to be the place where Abraham had been told by the Almghty: “To your descendants will I give this land” (Genesis 12:6) and where Abraham's grandson Jacob later purchased land (Genesis 33:19). Skeptics will question whether Jacob and Abraham heard this or even whether they existed. But it's far more difficult for them to deny that Jews have held this belief about their historical forebears as part of Judaism's written tradition stretching back far longer than most of today's cultures have had a written tradition... If only all terror attacks ended as neatly and successfully as today's.
We wish Elon Moreh's residents and ourselves a peaceful Sabbath. 

Thursday, May 03, 2012

3-May-12: Two GRAD rockets failed on take off and crashed inside Gaza

The report, published around 1:00 pm Thursday Israel time, comes from, a Hebrew language source. Awaiting confirmation now.

3-May-12: Is the war on terror over? And if yes, who won?

It's election season in the United States and Israel and a dangerous time to be taking leads from political figures whose public pronouncements, in too many cases, turn slightly nutty and more than usually self-serving at times like these. The same can be said for political commentators whose analyses are too often calibrated to meet the requirements of those same election campaigns.

Case in point and an instance of the current cup-is-half-full irresponsible silliness: Michael Hirsh, writing in the National Journal, for which he is chief correspondent, last week: "One Year After Bin Laden's Death: A New World":
If Osama bin Laden were still alive today, one year after he was killed in a U.S. raid, he would hardly recognize the world he knew. Nor would he see the supposed "clash of civilizations" that he tried so hard to foment over two decades of violent jihad. Instead bin Laden would see Islamist radicals on the election stump in emerging governments in Egypt and Tunisia, pledging cooperation with senior U.S. officials, and even meeting with a few neocons in Washington. He would see a U.S. administration that, having killed most of bin Laden’s confederates, is now ready to move into a post-al-Qaida era and engage with Islamist politicians as long as they renounce violence and terrorism. He would see Islamist parties that are passionately pursuing power and vested interests within their own countries (Egypt, Libya, Tunisia) rather than against bin Laden’s old “far enemy,” the United States.
Elsewhere, on the same day, the same writer ("Can Obama Safely Embrace Islamists?") blogging on the same journal's blog, extrapolated from there by quoting with approval from a pronouncement that issued forth from an Obama administration official:
It is no longer the case, in other words, that every Islamist is seen as a potential accessory to terrorists. "The war on terror is over," one senior State Department official who works on Mideast issues told me. "Now that we have killed most of al Qaida, now that people have come to see legitimate means of expression, people who once might have gone into al Qaida see an opportunity for a legitimate Islamism." 
He goes on to momentarily acknowledge that "true, a deep skepticism is in order when it comes to the longer-term program of radical Islamist groups". But having dismissed that concern, he quickly shoves the skepticism roughly aside and encourages his readers to prepare themselves properly for an era of blue skies, happy days and productive dialogue with the hitherto bigoted, vicious and fanatic Islamicists, freshly metamorphosed into democrats and statesmen.

Lest we take him too seriously, Hirsh also identifies what he calls "dependable (if inadvertent) allies in the United States" of Bin Laden and his fellow Islamist mass-murderers. The people he means (and names) turn out to be certain syndicated North American media commentators he calls "right-wing conservatives". The notion that they can be called "allies" of the arch-terrorists in polite circles is simply repugnant. We'll leave it at that.

It's hard for those of us who see the Islamicists from much closer to be other than cynical and somewhat bitter about the approach of people like the man from the National Journal. We're not so confident of our political smartness to say that Bin Laden's vision of a re-emergent Islamic caliphate is becoming real in front of our eyes, though others do; for instance "The Realization of Osama bin Laden's Dream", published this past week.

"The Next Chapter of Global Jihad", also published this week by the Brookings Institution, gives this striking assessment of post-Bin Laden Al-Qaeda:
"Their intent to strike U.S. interests and the U.S. homeland has not changed... The increasing democratization of science and technology down to the individual level has emerging implications... Increased transparency, sharing, and technological advances are providing even more operational options to redefine tactics, select and surveil targets, move money, and execute attacks. In this next chapter of global jihad it turns out that the light at the end of the tunnel leads to another tunnel."
Later today (Thursday), as part of the first anniversary of the killing of Bin Laden in an impressive U.S. Navy SEAL operation in Pakistan, a trove of papers found in his compound is going to be released. We're as interested as the next person to know what's there, but we are troubled by how so much emphasis is being placed on the now-deceased Osama Bin Laden as if he were the physical embodiment of terrorism, jihadism and Islamicism. He was one of its leaders. But we need to acknowledge that its forces remain in place. They certainly did not die in that blaze of SEAL bullets. Some say they are diminishing or, like Mr Hirsh above, that they are embracing democracy and soccer. We think differently.

For this reason, it's gratifying to see an interesting poll report this week that shows US voters are generally not buying the "happy post-terror days are here again" meme. Issued this past Monday, and headlined "Only 11% Think War on Terror Is Over", the Rasmussen Report finds that
"just 11% of Likely U.S. Voters think the war on terror is over. Seventy-nine percent (79%) say that war, declared after the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on America, is not over... Voters overwhelmingly reject the idea that the war on terror is over one year after the death of 9/11 mastermind Osama bin Laden, although most feel his al Qaeda terrorist group is weaker today. But a majority also still thinks a terrorist attack is possible in the next year."
On the whole, we think it's right to remain worried and watchful. If we're not, then we are going to have to find creative ways to pigeon hole such ongoing issues as these below or else keep our heads firmly buried in the sand:
  • Homegrown "made in USA" jihadists like Naser Jason Abdo, the American serviceman charged with planning a deadly attack on Fort Hood soldiers in July 2011. 
  • Adis Medunjanin, convicted this week of plotting an attack on New York City subways in partnership with American friends Najibullah Zazi and Zarein Ahmedzay "who met as students in Flushing High School". Federal authorities called it "one of America's closest calls since 9/11".  
  • Ongoing moves by Al-Qaeda to create and expand partnerships in Saharan and Sub-Saharan Africa - see this Royal United Services Institute report. Al-Qaeda's activities have "potential for radicalisation and then mobilisation of a new subset of youth in the UK [as] has already taken place over the last fifteen years in sections of the Pakistani, North African and... Indian communities
  • The expanding scope of Taliban jihadism in Afghanistan. Pres. Obama visited there this week and showed real courage in doing so. But note that the Taliban attacked less than two hours after his departure yesterday (Wednesday), targeting a foreigners' housing compound by means of a car bomb and armed terrorists disguised as women wearing burkas. Seven people were killed, four of them children walking to school in the second major terror attack on civilians in Kabul in the past three weeks. Taliban's continued ability to execute terrorist attacks is not diminishing; it's growing.
  • The escalating and already huge scale of vicious blood-letting in Nigeria driven by the Al-Qaeda-connected Boko Haram Islamicists.
  • The ongoing but under-reported massacres of civilians executed or planned in the name of some variant of Islam in IndiaIndonesia, Macedonia, EthiopiaFrancethe Phillippines. It's not our intention to be encyclopaedic about this but to offer a mere handful of current examples from a much longer list. And we're not even mentioning the daily bloodbaths in Iraq and Syria.
So is the war on terror really over, as the Obama State Department official quoted above says? It's a question that we don't see as political so much as it's of the existential, actual-life-and-death kind. The name of this blog tells you how we think it's going.

Wednesday, May 02, 2012

2-May-12: Terrorists' rocket falls short, crashes near security fence

No confirmation yet from the IDF and no news agency is reporting this so far. According to the Hatzala-Yesha Hebrew-language site, in the past hour yet another Gazan Qassam rocket was fired off in the customary indiscriminate manner in the general direction of the Jews and the Israelis on the far side of the fence. This time, as many times in the past, the rocket fell short. It crashed into or just near the border fence in the Sha'ar Hanegev region, near one of the kibbutzim in the area. The remains were discovered when a search was set up following a loud explosion. The Color Red (Hebrew: Tzeva Adom) incoming rocket warning siren was not heard in the area.

Tuesday, May 01, 2012

1-May-12: Incoming rocket tonight missed and exploded harmlessly. But how long...?

The wail of the Color Red (Tzeva Adom in Hebrew) incoming-missile warning system sounded right across southern Israel's communities about an hour ago - about 9:45 pm Tuesday night, Israel time. Seconds later, a Qassam rocket - despatched with extreme malice by the terrorists who infest the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip - exploded somewhere (not disclosed by the authorities in this country) in the Hof Ashkelon region, according to Ynet.

The inhabitants of the area have already absorbed hundreds of such rockets in the past several years. This time, there are no reports of injuries or property damage - which is plainly not for lack of destructive intentions by the jihadists. The numbers are on the side of these malevolents: their stock of rockets is counted in the tens of thousands. At some point, every once in a while, they get lucky.

If you have not already done so, please now read our post of several hours ago: "1-May-12: If rocket attacks are no big deal for us, what should we expect our friends to say and do?"

1-May-12: If rocket attacks are no big deal for us, what should we expect our friends to say and do?

Aftermath of Gazan rocket attack on Ashdod, 2012:
What's the big deal?  
Regular readers of our postings know that we try to record as many as possible of the terrorist rocket attacks on Israel like the one that happened last night - see "30-Apr-12: Rocket crashes into southern Israel again tonight" -  and that almost no one heard about.

These deadly terrorist events impact the lives and homes of hundreds of thousands of Israelis. They are an integral part of a relentless and explosive ongoing war conducted against us by the terrorist forces arrayed against us from outside our borders and from within them. 

Despite this it is the case that our site is frequently among the mere handful of English-language sources to publish reports of such rocket attacks. If you don't know about them, what does that mean about the misery caused to the victims?

It's a situation that - given the effects of this kind of warfare on Israel's non-aggressive civilians and the phenomenal scale of the weaponry held by the terrorists - is simply appalling. There is no milder word.

In a thoughtful analysis entitled "Where 8,000 Rocket Launches Are Not a Casus Belli" [online here], journalist, commentator and JINSA Fellow Evelyn Gordon wonders about the wisdom of Israel's extraordinary passivity in the face of those attacks on its people and territory. Here's an extract: 
The most chilling comment I've seen on the mid-March surge of violence from Gaza, when terrorists fired 300 rockets at Israel in four days, was made almost three weeks earlier. The rocket fire had been steadily increasing, indicating that the deterrent effect of Israel's 2009 war in Gaza was fading, and Israel Defense Forces officers were discussing whether another large-scale operation in Gaza was needed. "The debate within the IDF," The Jerusalem Post reported, "is whether it needs to wait for a successful attack by Gaza terrorists - be it a rocket attack that causes casualties or a successful cross border attack - or if the sporadic rocket fire is enough of a justification to launch an operation today." Think about that: Palestinian terrorists have fired more than 8,000 rockets at Israel since its mid-2005 pullout from Gaza, along with thousands of mortar shells; even in 2011, a "quiet" year, there were 680 rocket and mortar launches, almost two a day. A million residents of Israel's south live in permanent fear, punctuated every few months by more intensive bouts of violence that, like the one in mid-March, close schools for days and empty workplaces of parents, who must stay home with their kids. In Sderot, the town closest to Gaza, an incredible 45% of children under six have been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder, as have 41% of mothers and 33% of fathers; these statistics will presumably be replicated elsewhere as the rockets' increasing range brings ever more locales under regular fire. In any other country, such relentless shelling would unquestionably be a casus belli. But Israel's army was seriously debating whether this alone justified military action, or whether it had to wait until the rockets caused a mass-casualty incident. This is the rotten fruit of a government policy that for years dismissed the rockets as a minor nuisance for reasons of petty politics...
Ms. Gordon quotes the famous 2006 dictum of Israel's Vice-Prime Minister at the time, Shimon Peres - the same Shimon Peres who is now Israel's much-honored state president -  accusing Israelis from the Knesset podium of "stoking hysteria" about the rockets and demanding "What's the big deal?" 

For Israelis living in the exposed towns and communities of the south, it was not only a big deal but a harbinger of what was - and is - in store for the rest of us. And we don't mean just Israelis - but that's another analysis. 

Evelyn Gordon points out that when you have prominent Israeli voices wondering why people are making such a fuss over such small matters as rockets being fired at Israelis, then people and politicians outside Israel will quickly get the message and the fuss will go away

That's largely where we are today: a mere handful of the tens of thousands of lethal rockets held by the terrorist regimes who control our northern (Lebanese) and southern (Gazan) borders are fired indiscriminately in the general direction of anything Jewish or Israel, as they are daily. And it goes unreported and unremarked. 
Former U.S. Ambassador to Israel Dan Kurtzer told The Jerusalem Post Washington expected "a very serious Israeli response to the first act of [post-pullout] violence coming out of Gaza" and "was very surprised there was no reaction to the first rocket, second rocket and 15th rocket." But Sharon insisted the rockets were "not really that bad." Thus "all of a sudden," Kurtzer said, "people got acclimated to the idea that there can be rocket fire."
Gordon offers a concrete suggestion for what to do. Only Israel's citizens are actually thinking about what to do since only we bear the burden of the outcome. Only we have the obligation and the right. So:
Israel should begin warning relentlessly that if the rocket fire doesn't stop completely - as opposed to the current "norm" of one or two launches a day - it will be forced to reoccupy Gaza. That might actually galvanize constructive international action, such as pressure on Egypt to crack down on arms smuggling to Gaza and terrorist bases in SinaiBut if not, it would at least underscore how seriously Israel takes the rocket threat, since most Israelis have no more desire to reoccupy Gaza than they do to start a war with Iran. And it would thereby prepare world opinion for the operation if and when it ultimately takes place.
The whole Evelyn Gordon article is surely worth your attention.