Thursday, December 06, 2012

6-Dec-12: A day in the life

Cairo today [Image Source]
Israel is so small it could fit into the state of Florida eight times. France is 25 times larger; Portugal is four times as big; Iran is 76 times larger; and Israel's total area could fit into Saudi Arabia 90 times. Tasmania, Australia's smallest state is three times the size of Israel.

Israel has borders with territory governed by Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, Egypt, the Hamas-dominated Gaza Strip and the area controlled by the Palestinian Authority. All are hostile; all are seriously troubled.

It's become fashionable to heap scorn on the way Israelis, ranging from the government at its highest levels through to the most ordinary and powerless of citizens, relate the political and military decisions of our tiny country to this thing called the 'security situation' - in Hebrew, the matzav.

Today, Thursday, we thought it might be illuminating to a certain degree if we published here the briefest of snapshots of the matzav: in simple terms, what news is emanating today, Thursday, from each of the political entities on the far side of Israel's borders.

Clashes flare up in north Lebanon, death toll rises
Source: The Daily Star, December 6, 2012
BEIRUT: Clashes between supporters and detractors of Syrian President Bashar Assad flared up once more Wednesday in Tripoli, as the death toll in the north Lebanese port city rose to six. Security sources said Khodr Hanoun, Mehdi Khodr and Ali Hadabah were identified as the latest fatalities of the fighting between the neighborhoods of Jabal Mohsen, which strongly supports Assad, and Bab al-Tabbaneh, where residents oppose the embattled Syrian leader. Hanoun, according to the sources, died from wounds in a local hospital at dawn. Khodr, 18, was killed by sniper fire, the sources added. The sources said the number of wounded from the fighting also rose to 56. Schools were closed Wednesday but some shops opened despite the frequent sound of sniping from the tense neighborhoods, where intermittent sniper fire could still be heard.
Syria Loads Chemical Weapons into Bombs; Military Awaits Assad's Order
Source: NBC News, december 6, 2012Jim Miklaszewski and M. Alex JohnsonThe Syrian military is prepared to use chemical weapons against its own people and is awaiting final orders from President Bashar Assad, U.S. officials told NBC News on Wednesday. The military has loaded the precursor chemicals for sarin, a deadly nerve gas, into aerial bombs that could be dropped onto the Syrian people from dozens of fighter-bombers, the officials said.
Second policeman dies after Jordan fuel unrest
Source: France24A Jordanian policeman died on Thursday from a gunshot wound suffered during riots over fuel price hikes last month, in the second such death in a week, the police force said... "Second lieutenant Faisal Ahmad Soeidat, 36, died today at the King Hussein Medical Centre, after he was shot by unknown gunmen on November 15 in the southern city of Karak during the riots," police spokesman Ahmad Abu Hammad told AFP. Police said earlier that corporal Ahmad Ali Hamdan died on Saturday after assailants armed with automatic weapons attacked his station on November 14 in Shafa Badran, near Amman, hitting him directly in one of his eyes. More than 50 policeman and 17 civilians were hurt in violent protests against a government decision to raise fuel prices by up to 53 percent, according to police.
Egypt Sees Largest Clash Since Revolution
Source: Wall Street Journal, December 6, 2012Charles Levinson and Matt BradleyTens of thousands of supporters and opponents of Egypt's president clashed Wednesday, hurling rocks and Molotov cocktails and brawling in Cairo's streets, in the largest violent battle between Islamists and their foes since the country's revolution. The confrontation started after Islamist protesters marching in support of President Morsi moved to break up a demonstration by the president's non-Islamist opponents outside the presidential palace. A report by state television quoted the Health Ministry as saying five people were killed and 446 people were injured.
Over in Hamas-controlled Gaza, a shooting war involving hundreds of rockets fired at Israeli civilian targets and hundreds of air force sorties and bombing runs was suspended when a ceasefire was agreed on November 21. In the areas controlled by the Palestinian Authoritythe past week's celebration of the UN decision (on November 29) to upgrade their non-state to non-member state status is going to be followed this weekend by PA/Fatah reps celebrating all over again in Gaza as the Hamas branch of the Moslem Brotherhood - certified by major Western governments as a terrorist organization - marks its silver anniversary. The pro-Fatah Ma'an newsagency coyly writes today that "Fatah members who fled Gaza during factional fighting in 2007 have started returning to the enclave", but makes no mention of the Fatah members who were too slow to flee and were slaughtered by their Hamas bretheren during the 2007 fighting with Hamas for primacy in Gaza. Ma'an points out that "Fatah leader Abbas congratulated Hamas on what he called a victory against Israel, and Hamas expressed support for Abbas' UN bid. Meanwhile, Fatah rallies have been held in Gaza and Hamas has rallied in the West Bank." At some of those rallies, chances are that the revellers may have joined together to sing a new hit broadcast this week by official PA radio, a song of hatred and death whose words include "We strapped ourselves with explosives, and trusted in Allah".

Pulling it all together, if you were a news channel, and you had to sum up the state of tension, violence, danger in the region, where would you place the emphasis on your news reporting?

Here's how the mainstream news media are answering.

Associated Press said today: "Israel's Jerusalem plans ratchet up Mideast tension". Catholic News Service leads with this: "Palestinian question key to Mideast peace, say Catholic leaders". At the Christian Science Monitor, a major feature article ["Obama and Israel are walking away from two-state solution with Palestinians"] builds to the conclusion that "Israel is increasingly seen as a strategic liability for the US".

In fact, media attention is riveted on an Israeli decision to establish new communities in the undeveloped space between Jerusalem and Maale Adumim. So riveted that all the drama and violence in the states and would-be-states bordering Israel (exemplified by the reports above) recede into the distance. If there's an obstacle to peace in the region, the editorial consensus is that it's on our side of the border.

How correct is that consensus? A Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs paper, published yesterday, offers a basis to suggest it's not correct at all.
From the start of the peace-process negotiations, it was agreed between the parties, and accepted by the international community in witnessing and endorsing the Oslo Accords, that the issue of settlements would be one of several issues to be negotiated in the permanent status negotiations. None of the agreements signed between the parties contain any limitation on building by the parties in the areas under their respective jurisdiction. The attempt by the Palestinian leadership to isolate the settlements issue and to turn it into a precondition for further negotiation, as well as threats to initiate action regarding settlements in the International Criminal Court, undermine and prejudice any chance of a return to viable negotiations. [More]
Today is almost over as we write this. From Jerusalem, where we sit, the robust back-and-forth discussions about what can, what should, what must, be done to make peace happen are active and energetically underway as they always are. By contrast, on the far side of the fences, the view seems to be dominated by chaos, vituperation, killing, and conflict. To us, the JCPA's conclusion seems pretty close to the target:
"Any solution to the Middle East issues, including the achievement of Palestinian statehood, cannot be imposed by UN General Assembly resolutions, whatever majority they may command and however many times they may be repeated... Only genuine and bona fide negotiations will produce the sought-after solution and permanent settlement, including opening the route to Palestinian statehood."
Did this day bring us closer to that? In a word: no.

6-Dec-12: Turkish columnist asks: "Is Hamas real or a bad joke?" and offers a thoughtful answer

Turkey's Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and
Hamas' Gaza leader Ismail Haniyeh (Reuters)
Here, in full, is an op ed written by Burak Bekdil, and published yesterday on the Turkish news site Hurriyet Daily News. It's entitled "Is Hamas real or a bad joke?".
I am not sure if Hamas is unhappy or happy with Israel’s use of “disproportional force” each time the jihadists escalate indiscriminate rocket attacks against Jewish targets. I am not sure if we poor souls can ever understand the jihadists when they say “they love death more than we love life.” 
Hamas’ rhetoric stinks of death, nothing but death – indiscriminate death. Be it “our” death or “the enemy’s.” And it never metamorphoses into something more humane, something less nihilist. Most recently, in an interview with Today’s Zaman, Gaza’s Hamas prime minister, Ismail Haniyeh, confidently spoke of “defending and liberating Jerusalem,” and “fighting the enemy forever.” 
According to Mr. Haniyeh, the nearly 200 dead Palestinians – including Palestinian children killed by errand Hamas rockets – proved Hamas’ “prowess.” He called the eight-day fighting a “victory.” 
In the same interview, the prime minister pledged to prepare “bodies and army” for the next attack on Israel and to keep their strategy “always based on armed struggle.” Mr. Haniyeh defines the Palestinian borders as “from Palestine as we know it [Gaza, West bank and Jerusalem] to Rafah and from the Mediterranean Sea to the Jordan River.” 
Mr. Haniyeh claims that “with every [Israeli] attack we grow stronger.” Since “Muslims don’t cheat or lie,” one cannot help but wonder if the Israeli Defense Forces are secretly conspiring for Hamas’ jihad. If what Mr. Haniyeh says is true, why do the willing subscribers of the Palestinian cause across the world, including Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, complain of Israel’s retaliatory attacks on Hamas targets? They should instead welcome every attack, thinking every attack will strengthen Hamas. Is that too cruel to say? Ask Mr. Haniyeh. 
But Hamas can be amusing too. Its charter is must-read fun. My favorite section is the one which states: “The Day of Judgment will not come until Muslims fight the Jews, when the Jew will hide behind stones and trees. The stones and trees will say, ‘O Muslims, O Abdullah, there is a Jew behind me, come and kill him.’” 
Other pearls of humanity include holding Jews responsible for a wide range of events and disasters going as far back in history as the French Revolution. The Hamas covenant also provides justification for fighting and killing Jews, without distinction of “whether they are in Israel or elsewhere.” 
Meanwhile, Wikipedia’s section on Hamas contains these headings, among others: Military wing, Islamization efforts, antisemitism and anti-Zionism, statements on the Holocaust (another fun read), children as human shields, children as combatants, human rights abuses, rocket attacks on Israel, attempts to derail 2010 peace talks, themes of martyrdom, guerilla warfare and other targets. Another heading reads: Tayyip Erdoğan’s Turkey as a role model. We are honored! 
And the U.N.-sponsored probe into the previous war, the Goldstone Report, accused Israel of war crimes and other offenses, but it also found that:
  • They (Hamas’s activities) constitute a deliberate attack against the civilian population. These actions would constitute war crimes and may amount to crimes against humanity... The rocket and mortar attacks launched by armed Palestinian groups have caused terror. 
  • Hamas continues to view all armed activity directed against Israel as … a legitimate right of the Palestinian people.
  • The security services under the control of the Gaza authorities carried out extrajudicial executions, arbitrary arrests, detentions and ill treatment of people.
The latest war is over. Hamas is happy because the war gave Hamas what it says it loves more than we love life. And I tend to blame the whole bloodshed on stupid trees and rocks in the holy lands. They still refuse to call out to Muslims or Abdullah and betray the last Jew hiding behind them – the last Jew to be killed.
He's also the author of "Sorry to remind you (but Golda Meir was right!)".

Wednesday, December 05, 2012

5-Dec-12: Some indicators about the road ahead

With so much turbulence about (especially now but also in the past several years), it's easy to overlook the fact that Israel has fought no wars against any Arab state since the Yom Kippur War of 1973.

As Robert Satloff notes in the first of the articles we extract below, Israel's experiences over these last four decades include "successful diplomacy with intermittent bouts of terrorism and asymmetric war against non-state actors". Looking ahead, there's more than a little reason to take a sober view of the future.

The End of the Forty-Year Peace between Israel and Arab States
Robert Satloff  in the New Republic n With Hamas' strong political backing from regional states, future historians might very well view the recent Gaza conflict as the first episode of a new era of renewed inter-state competition and, potentially, inter-state conflict in the Arab-Israeli arena... The "old new Middle East" was a region of peace, trade, and regional cooperation. It reached its heyday in the mid-'90s, when Israelis were welcome everywhere from Rabat to Muscat... The "new new Middle East" is the region defined by the twin threats of Iranian hegemonic ambitions and the spread of radical Sunni extremism, where Israelis are not only unwelcome but where they are building fences along their borders to separate themselves from the fight around them... There is much the U.S. can do to postpone the return to inter-state Arab-Israeli conflict. Such a strategy begins with strengthening American-Israeli cooperation and includes such initiatives as preventing Hamas from winning a political victory over the moribund Palestinian Authority, incentivizing moderate behavior from the calculating Islamist leaders of Egypt, speeding the demise of Bashar al-Assad's regime in Syria, and preventing the collapse of a wobbly Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan.

Hamas Tells Fatah: Let's Fight Israel Together
Khaled Abu Toameh in the Jerusalem Post n Hamas leader Mahmoud Zahar on Monday called on Fatah to join his movement in the fight against Israel and to stop wasting time and effort with the peace process. "Our hands are extended to Fatah to join the program of [armed] resistance and the liberation of Palestine... Let's join hands and carry the rifle together."

Hizbullah TV Claims Its Rockets Can Reach Eilat 
Zach Pontz in the Algemeiner n Israel's Channel 2 television broadcast a video from Hizbullah's Al-Manar TV claiming that the terror group's rockets could reach as far as Eilat. The segment, accompanied by many graphic descriptions, claimed: "Hizbullah has the following capabilities: the destruction of buildings in Tel Aviv; damage to ports and ships in the Mediterranean and the Red Sea and capability to hit specific targets with missiles on the residents and resources of Israel." Last week Hizbullah terror chief Hassan Nasrallah told a crowd: "Israel, which was jolted by Fajr-5 missiles [from Gaza] - how will it be able to endure thousands of missiles falling on Tel Aviv and other cities if it attacks Lebanon? Our campaign against Israel is from Kiryat Shmona to Eilat."

5-Dec-12: Snapshots from a country at war with a terrorist regime: it's not so terribly well understood by most

A Gaza kind of happiness [Image Source]   
Barely two weeks after our country and the terrorist regime in Gaza reached an understanding to bring the round-the-clock rocket firings at Israel's civilian communities to a temporary halt, there are some things we have learned that we want to share.

First, the Hamas clique that dominates Gaza is today welcoming back into its bosom several more convicted murderers.

Former prisoners deported to Qatar in Gaza for Hamas celebrations
Ma'an [Palestinian news agency based in Bethlehem] Published 05/12/2012
GAZA CITY (Ma’an) – A number of former Palestinian prisoners who were deported to Qatar as part of the prisoner swap deal between Hamas and Israel have arrived in Gaza City to mark Hamas’ 25th anniversary. Sabir Abu Karsh, chief of the Waed prisoners association, told reporters that six former prisoners arrived in Gaza to join celebrations of Hamas' anniversary “and the triumph the Gaza Strip achieved against Israel in the last military offensive Israel launched against the coastal enclave.” Gaza-based former prisoner and senior Hamas’ leader Tawfiq Abu Naim greeted the returning former prisoners in a news conference held by Waed prisoners’ association... Abdul-Hakim Hanani, a former prisoner who arrived from Qatar, said the “future stage will be based on the principle hit for hit, and blood for blood.”
From our records, this Hanani - a native of Nablus, whose name appears as Abd al-Hakim Abd al-Aziz abd Hanaini in the walk-free list - is identified as prisoner number 273 in the long and ugly database of 1,027 murderers and assorted terrorists released in October 2011 as Israel's price for the return of the young hostage, Gilad Shalit.

Hanani/Hanaini was serving a life sentence for (of course) homicide. Life in Qatar can't be too difficult for people like him, but Gaza is where he really fits right in. And having an abundance of convicted murderers present for their silver anniversary will help the Hamas overlords set just the right celebratory tone.

Remember how we wrote yesterday about the ever-faster Syrian descent into hell ["4-Dec-12: Thinking about what Syria has become and what can be done"]? There's a piquant side to this in Times of Israel, capturing a moment in which the Israel side, whose diplomatic representatives have not been having the most of pleasant of weeks in the forums of the United Nations, was able to smile and even cause some of the rest of us to do the same.

"Frankly, Syria, we don’t give a damn"
Raphael Ahren in Times of Israel, December 4, 2012, 11:45 pmOn November 29-30, the International Anti-Corruption Academy hosted 350 state officials and international organization representatives for an assembly in Vienna. Israel is a founding member of the UN-affiliated organization and Hebrew University law professor Mordechai Kremnitzer, who holds no official position with the Israeli government, was elected last week to the board of governors for three years — all of this to the evident chagrin of the delegate from the Syrian Arab Republic. “The representative of Syria requested that his reservation on Israel be included in this report... We don’t like the idea that an Israeli is a member of the board.” [Ambassador Aviv Shir, speaking for Israel referred to the Syrian delegation's pompous remarks and then stated what every last one of us would have wanted to say:] “On the background of what’s going in Syria, we really don’t care about the Syrian recognition.”
“They usually want to get into this debate, where they can say we don’t accept Israel, the occupier, and the poor Palestinians, etcetera. So he was a bit embarrassed because he was not expecting such an answer. He just shrunk in his chair.” [More]
It would be nice to think the barbarity being executed daily in today's Syria would make moments like the one in Vienna unnecessary. How Syria's official representatives can summon up the brazenness to walk into the room, let alone complain about an Israeli being there, is a puzzle. 

It has to be said that a considerable part of the current tension in the air relates to decisions taken by Israel's government in the wake of last week's UN General Assembly decision to give the Palestinian Arabs in Ramallah (not those in Gaza, but it's a distinction little understood outside our region) an upgrade. The result has been some odd diplomatic steps taken by states that we had hoped would show more understanding. Since that is not happening much, it's good to see and hear some articulate voices speaking out for non-politically-correct viewpoint, like this one.

Did Israeli settlements in the West Bank kill the two-state solution?
The Spectator | Douglas Murray | 3 December 2012 | When did the dream of a two-state solution die? When it became clear that there are already two Palestinian states – the Hamas-run Gaza and the Palestinian Authority-governed West Bank? Or when the extremists of Hamas fired thousands of missiles into Israeli cities? Or last week when the ‘moderates’ of Fatah once again refused Israeli offers to go to the negotiating table and instead moved to circumvent their only negotiating partner via a diplomatic coup at the UN? No, in the eyes of portions of the UK government as well as the international community, the two-state solution is threatened not by these consistent, physically and diplomatically violent moves; but by everybody’s favourite subject: Israeli settlement building….the blockage to peace is not Israeli settlement-building, unhelpful though that undoubtedly is. The bar to peace remains, as it always has been – as it was at Oslo, Camp David and over all the decades before and since – an unwillingness on the part of the Palestinians to accept the existence of the Jewish state and an almost completely ignored Palestinian insistence that the final-status Palestinian state should be completely and wholly free of Jews. [More]
Finally, a gem of an analysis from the ascerbic Sultan Knish blog - a rather biting explanation for those who need one - of where the real danger in this fraught, on-edge region is coming from.

The Deadly Israeli House
Sultan Knish blog | Posted by Daniel Greenfield, Tuesday, December 04, 2012
Forget the cluster bomb and the mine, the poison gas shell and even tailored viruses. Iran can keep its nuclear bombs. They don't impress anyone in Europe or in Washington DC. Genocide is equally not worthy of attention when in the presence of the fearsome weapon of terror that is an Israeli family of four moving into a new apartment downwind from Jerusalem. Sudan may have built a small mountain of African corpses, but it can't expect to command the full and undivided attention of the world until it does something truly outrageous like building a house and filling it with Jews. Since the Sudanese Jews are as gone as the Jews of Egypt, Iraq, Syria and good old Afghanistan, the chances of Bashir the Butcher pulling off that trick are rather slim. Due to the Muslim world's shortsightedness in driving out its Jews from Cairo, Aleppo and Baghdad  to Jerusalem, the ultimate weapon in international affairs is entirely controlled by the Jewish State. The Jewish State's stockpile of Jews should worry the international community far more than its hypothetical stockpiles of nuclear weapons. No one besides Israel, and possibly Saudi Arabia, cares much about the Iranian bomb. But when Israel builds a house, then the international community tears its clothes, wails, threatens to recall its ambassadors and boycott Israeli peaches. [More - it's really worth reading to the end]
Hopefully everything's a little clearer now.

Tuesday, December 04, 2012

4-Dec-12: Thinking about what Syria has become and what can be done

The BAS Doomsday Clock
Here, in the simplest, bluntest of bullet-point formats, is what the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, in a report datelined March 1, 2012, wants the rest of us to know about the unresolved nightmare going on just north of our border, and how its effects can dramatically impact well outside Syria's borders.
  • Syria has one of the largest and most sophisticated chemical weapons programs in the world and may also possess offensive biological weapons.
  • Longstanding terrorist groups and newly arrived Al Qaeda-affiliated fighters from Iraq have been active in Syria during that country's recent insurgency.
  • The United States and regional powers - including Saudi Arabia and Iran - need to start planning now to keep Syria's WMD out of terrorist hands if the Assad regime falls.
There's a long history to the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists. Established in 1945 by scientists, engineers, and other experts who had created the atomic bomb as part of the Manhattan Project, "they knew about the horrible effects of these new weapons and devoted themselves to warning the public about the consequences of using them." They "reach policy leaders and audiences around the world with information and analysis about efforts to address the dangers and prevent catastrophe... [and] help educate the next generation." And they made famous the Doomsday Clock which they set at seven minutes to midnight back in 1947.

Lest all the nation-building action of the past week at the United Nations has distracted us, here are some salient aspects of what's happening on the ground north of Israel's border with Bashar al-Assad's regime today.
  • AP says a mortar attack on a school in the suburbs of Damascus today killed 29 students and a teacher. The report provides this context: "The bloodshed comes as Syrian forces fired artillery at rebel targets in and around the capital and the international community grew increasingly alarmed about the regime’s chemical weapons stocks."
  • A Turkish news source, Hurriyet Daily News, says the Bteiha school in Wafideen camp, 20 kilometres  from Damascus, came under attack, with 9 students killed. Wafideen houses some 25,000 Palestinian Arabs.
  • It appears Jihad Makdissi, who served as the public face of Syria's Foreign Ministry for the past two years and was regarded as al-Assad's premier mouthpiece, has evidently fled his homeland and defected.  
  • The UN is withdrawing its foreign staff (about 100 people) from Syria by the end of this week because of "deteriorating security conditions", according to the Christian Science Monitor, which also reported in the past couple of hours that a Damascus-bound commercial jet was forced to turn back because of gunfire in the vicinity of the airfield. AFP, quoting the British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, confirms that raging battles are underway today (Tuesday) near the road that links Damascus to the international airport. The EgyptAir and Emirates airlines have discontinued all flights to Syria 'until further notice'.
  • Since the battles inside Syria began in March 2011, some 40,000 people have been killed. Forty thousand.
  • Keep that number in mind as we touch once again on the chemical weapons issue. A Reuters report ["NATO warns Syria not to use chemical weapons"] put out in the past hour (it's now 6:00 pm here in Jerusalem) says NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen told Bashar al-Assad, who presides over the ongoing Syrian massacre, today that "any use of chemical weapons in his fight against encroaching rebel forces would be met by an immediate international response". Reuters, as aware as we are that 40,000 lives have been snuffed out already, says "international concern over Syria's intentions has been heightened by reports that its chemical weapons have been moved and could be prepared for use." Rasmussen resorted to very angry words - very angry indeed. "The possible use of chemical weapons would be completely unacceptable for the whole international community" he is quoted by Reuters as saying. "If anybody resorts to these terrible weapons I would expect an immediate reaction from the international community", he told reporters in Brussels.
Ah, yes. The international community.

Whom specifically does one imagine the NATO secretary-general means when he invokes "the whole international community"? Would that be the same "international community" that was said to have put Mahmoud Abbas "under intense pressure... to stop the growing lawlessness in Gaza, where rival militant groups are jockeying for power" back in 2005; shortly afterwards, the PA lost all semblance of control there, Hamas began arming itself with a vast arsenal of rockets, and southern Israel has yet to recover. Is it the "international community" to which "Cairo will have to answer... if there is evidence of an arms flow from Sinai into the Gaza Strip", as an over-optimistic 2005 Israeli analysis claimed? The arms flowed and continue to flow, and some prominent advocates (Boot, Stephens, others) of the 2005 disengagement now say they made a terrible mistake.

We suspect Bashar al-Assad and his advisers actually have a solid, practical, realistic and clear-eyed view of what the "international community" is capable of doing, and what it cannot or will not. That being so, is there any reason not to expect many more Syrian deaths in the days to come? Or worse?

Monday, December 03, 2012

3-Dec-12 [UPDATED]: Ax-wielding Palestinian Arab is stopped by Israeli soldiers this morning

The scene [Photo credit: Gur Dotan]
There are first reports of an ax-wielding Palestinian Arab shot dead today by IDF soldiers.

Times of Israel and Ynet are both reporting that the man was driving a car on the road between the communities of Shavei Shomron and Einav in the northern Samaria region. Something about him (it's early) aroused the suspicion of the soldiers who gave chase and rammed his vehicle after he failed to stop.

According to the updated Ynet version: "The man's car crashed head on into an army vehicle transporting a Shin Bet officer and other security personnel near the Palestinian village of Deir Sharaf in the West Bank." He emerged from his vehicle and charged at the soldiers with an ax. They shot and killed him. Two soldiers were injured in the clash which caused their vehicle to flip over. It's worth noting that stoning and firebomb attacks on Israeli vehicles have significantly increased in the past month.

UPDATE Monday December 3, 2012 at 1:40 pm: The IDF issued a note around one o'clock this afternoon saying no soldiers were involved in this incident. We're awaiting further details.

UPDATE Tuesday December 4, 2012 at 8:00 am: Ma'an, a Palestinian Arab newspaper, reports the incident under the heading "Palestinian shot dead by Israeli agents near Nablus". It adds these details:
Witnesses identified the dead man as Hatem Shadid of the nearby village of Alar. His vehicle collided with an Israeli jeep near the northern West Bank village of Beit Lid, they told Ma'an... Shadid then approached the Israelis, who were already injured from the crash, hitting one in the head and the other in the shoulder with an object that he was carrying. Israeli officials said it was an axe... Shadid's brother Khaled, reached by Reuters, said he had not received any official notification of the death. He said Shadid was a 35-year-old construction worker with five children.
Consistent with the way reality is depicted in sharply different versions in this ongoing war, a pro-Palestinian Arab version is bouncing around Twitter this morning in this form: "Martyr Hatem Shadid from Illar, Tulkarm - shot dead in cold blood today by Zionist Shin Beth agents".

3-Dec-12: [Updated] Deadly dangerous games and those who play them

CNN's coverage [Image Source]
We started this blog some years ago out of immense frustration.

Living here in a democratic society, humanistic values are taken for granted. Human rights can actually be obtained, if need be, by turning to the media, the law and public opinion; no small quality here in this part of the world. We saw over time and particularly after the events of 2001 how a deadly combination of media reporting (sometimes malicious, sometimes manipulated, sometimes incompetent and superficial) and political hypocrisy produced a result in which the war by the terrorists against Israelis went under-reported and was and is, tragically, little understood.

Being the parents of a child murdered in a deliberate and greatly-celebrated massacre of children in the center of the country's capital city makes us feel there's no need to dwell on the consequences of such lethal factors. To us, it's clear that people need to hear about the terrorism and the terrorists. For the most part, that does not happen.

Today there's a reminder of how this sickening duplicity/stupidity/hypocrisy works. It concerns sport.

An Associated Press report from this past Saturday says there's yet another world-wide campaign to damage Israel by appealing to uninvolved parties - in this case footballers - to boycott an international sporting competition that is set to take place here next year.

Footballers protest Israel hosting UEFA Euro U21
Saturday, 01 December 2012 [online here]
LONDON: Dozens of leading footballers have signed a statement protesting UEFA’s decision to stage the European under-21 championship in Israel next year following the country’s recent military offensive in the Gaza Strip. Sixty-two players, including Chelsea’s Eden Hazard, Arsenal’s Abou Diaby and Paris Saint-Germain’s Jeremy Menez, claim that Israel hosting the tournament will be “seen as a reward for actions that are contrary to sporting values.” The protest statement was promoted Friday by several pro-Palestinian groups... Headed “European footballers declare support for Palestine”, it was not signed by any players due in Israel in June.... “We, as European football players, express our solidarity with the people of Gaza who are living under siege and denied basic human dignity and freedom,” the players said in the statement, which was also published on the website of former Tottenham and Sevilla striker Frederic Kanoute... The draw for the biennial UEFA tournament was conducted on Wednesday in Tel Aviv, the coastal city that was bombarded by rocket fire from Gaza. But UEFA President Michel Platini has said he has no security concerns about the eight-team tournament, which will be played from June 5-18 in Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, Netanya and Petach Tikva... Platini wrote to the Israel Football Association in June to say that the country “earned the right to host this competition through a fair, democratic vote.”
One of the incidents in the just-concluded shooting battle between Israel's defense forces and the terrorist organization Hamas that rules the Gaza Strip with an iron fist and an unimaginably large arsenal of rockets intended for Israeli civilian targets, involves a football field.

Israeli forces attacked and bombed a Gazan soccer pitch and stadium two weeks ago. Days later, the international roof body of soccer, FIFA, said [report] it is going to take responsibility for making good the damage. A friendly-sounding FIFA secretary-general Jerome Valcke is quoted saying "Soccer brings people together and we will support any re-construction necessary when football infrastructure is destroyed through disasters".

The soccer field he mentions appears in the IDF-issued aerial photo below:

We're connected to this in a somewhat personal way.

Two Fridays ago, we lit the Sabbath candles here at home in Jerusalem, and several minutes later were forced to run, carrying our wheelchair-bound youngest daughter, down the stairs for shelter, as did hundreds of thousands of other Israelis living where we do in the capital Jerusalem. A cluster of medium-range rockets had just been fired by the terror thugs of Hamas-ruled Gaza towards our home and the incoming-missile sirens were blaring.

Now we know, though we knew almost nothing at the time except fear and anxiety, that the 'football infrastructure' to which the head of FIFA refers was the launch pad for the brazen terror attack.

That field was hit by an IDF counterattack two days later, presumably to reduce the likelihood that we would have to run for our lives again, at least from that same source. For people with their heads in the sand, we remind this this is exactly what defense forces are supposed to do. The IDF did it with precision and a well developed sense of proportionality.

You will find no mention of the abuse of sporting facilities for the purposes of trying to kill innocent civilians in the footballers' letter calling for Israel to be denied the right to host an international sporting event.

Nor will we see mention of how Israeli soccer players of Arab origin are respected members of both local and national sporting teams. Nothing especially noteworthy in this, given the inclusive nature of day to day in this country, but it's truly shocking how little this is known outside our borders. Israel's Walid Badir, a soccer champ who is an Arab Israeli, is a fine example, but just one of many. Captain of the Hapoel Tel Aviv team, he has played in scores of internationals for Israel and most famously slammed the equalizing goal in Israel's 2006 World Cup qualifying match against France. There are many others like him.

Here below are the names of the players (sorted by country) who evidently signed the letter calling for a boycott of Israel [source]. Though we realize there is more than a small degree of manipulation going on here, they deserve to be named and shamed for ignorance of the facts, for their lack of sporting goodwill, for voluntarily submitting to a campaign of political manipulation of their names and their sport, and for collaborating in a masquerade that cynically exploits the terminology of human rights while engaging in the very opposite:

Melbourne Victory
Melbourne Victory
Shanghaï Shenhua
Beijin Guoan
Montpellier HSC
Bastia Sporting Club
Olympique de Marseille
Olympique de Marseille
AC Ajaccio
Football Club Sochaux Montbéliard
Football Club Sochaux Montbéliard
Olympique de Marseille
Olympique de Marseille
Stade Rennais Football Club
Football Club Sochaux Montbéliard
Olympique de Marseille
AC Ajaccio
Olympique de Marseille
FC Valenciennes
Olympique de Marseille
Le Tallec
AJ Auxerre
Toulouse Football Club
Olympique de Marseille
FC Girondins de Bordeaux
Paris Saint-Germain Football Club
Olympique Lyonnais
Chartres Football Club
SM Caen
Olympique de Marseille
FC Girondins de Bordeaux
Paris Saint-Germain Football Club
Olympique de Marseille
AC Lumezzane
El-Arabi Hilal
Vitoria Sport Club Guimares
SC Braga
Sporting Braga
Vitoria Sport Club Guimares
Al-Sadd SC
Al Hilal Riyad Football Club
Saudi Arabia
FK Slovan Duslo Sala
Granada Football Club
Granada Football Club
Sivasspor Kulübü
Doudou Jacques
Sivassport Kulübü
Eskisehispor Kulübü
Fenerbahçe Spor Kulübü
Newcastle United
Blackburn Rovers Football Club
Newcastle United
Doncaster Rovers Football Club
Newcastle United
Arsenal Football Club
Queens Park Rangers
West Ham United
Ipswich Town Football Club
Chelsea Football Club
Newcastle United
Stoke City Football Club
Newcastle United
Queen Park Rangers FC
Kembo Ekoko
Al Ain Football Club
United Arab Emirates

It's unlikely the promoters of this nasty anti-Israel campaign will have shared the following with the footballers. So we'll mention that the Palestinian Football Federation happens to headed by an especially unlovely individual called Jibril Rajoub, reportedly one of the promoters of the players' letter. Rajoub's Wikipedia page dishes out some facts that the defenders of Palestinian Arab sport and attackers of Israel ought to take into account but almost certainly have not.

Rajoub is a convicted terrorist who spent years in prison. He was "a close lieutenant of Arafat" who "criticized the growing influence of religious fundamentalism in Palestinian society schools" during the years immediately after the 1993 Oslo accord when it was expedient for him to hold to those views. As the head of one of Arafat's largest armed militias, he "launched a major crackdown on Hamas and the Islamic Jihad Movement". His men and weaponry were used "to quash political dissent and harass political opponents of Yasser Arafat and the Palestinian National Authority, including the use of torture". Last year, he went public with a peace-loving, co-operation-seeking speech about the terrorists who kidnapped and held hostage a young Israeli serviceman: see "We salute Shalit's kidnappers, says Jibril Rajoub"], making it perfectly clear which of the two sides - the kidnappers and the victim - he backed.

It happens that we wrote about this giant of sports' highest values four months ago ["26-Jul-12: The Olympic Games start tomorrow. What have we learned?"]. Just before the London Olympics, decent people throughout the world were unsuccessfully campaigning [see "20-Jul-12: The Olympics, terror, cowardice and wisdom"] for the International Olympic Committee to remember the victims of the Munich Olympic massacre of 1972 - the one carried out by terrorists in the service of Rajoub's master and colleague. Rajoub's sporting contribution was to term the request for a minute's silence "racist".

Jibril Rajoub's speech on YouTube
He's a man who understands racism from the inside. Here's a video of a Rajoub speech in the Arabic language, translated to English via Palestinian Media Watch subtitles, from a July 2012 PA television show:
"Normalization with the occupation is impossible, impossible, impossible, with no exceptions... I understand by normalization that the relationship between me and you will be normal, that we'll play [sports] together and there will be a joint program. I say: There will never be normalization in sports. Next time, we are prepared to bring the Executive Committee in helicopters... so they will see no Jews, no Satans, no Zionist sons of bitches..."
Unfortunately yet another obnoxious figure who embodies the 'admirable' values of Palestinian Arab sport and whose deeply offensive rantings, expressed in a language most people outside the region don't understand, go ignored and unnoticed.

UPDATE December 8, 2012

The excellent researchers at CAMERA reported on Thursday that the 62 names on the letter above have now gone down to 52. If, as the CAMERA people write, "the text of the petition is inaccurate, why wouldn't many of the signatures be, too?

The following ten "signatories" (in alphabetical order) apparently never signed, and perhaps never even saw, the petition, as their names have been removed from the list of 62 purported signatories:
  • André Ayew, Olympique de Marseille (France)
  • Jordan Ayew, Olympique de Marseille (France)
  • Yohan Cabaye, Newcastle United (UK)
  • Soulaymane Diawara, Olympique de Marseille (France)
  • Didier Drogba, Shanghaï Shenhua (China)
  • Rod Fanni, Olympique de Marseille (France)
  • Charles Kaboré, Olympique de Marseille (France)
  • Anthony Le Tallec, AJ Auxerre (France)
  • Steve Mandanda, Olympique de Marseille (France)
  • Arnold Mvuemba, Olympique Lyonnais (France)
We think the promoters of the shabby letter/petition/campaign managed to score an own-goal.