Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Collapse in Support among Israeli Jews for Withdrawal from the West Bank and the Establishment of a Palestinian State

From the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, 29 March 2017:

A poll conducted on March 20-21, 2017, by leading Israeli pollster Mina Tzemach for the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs found a decrease in support among Israeli Jews for withdrawal from the West Bank and the establishment of a Palestinian state.

Willingness to agree to a withdrawal from the West Bank as part of a peace agreement declined from 60% in 2005 to 36% in 2017. Support for the Clinton Parameters proposed by President Bill Clinton in December 2000 declined from 59% in 2005 to 29% in 2017.

  • 79% say it is important to retain a unified Jerusalem under Israeli sovereignty. 
  • 83% oppose transferring the Temple Mount to the Palestinians.
  • 88% say that Israel cannot withdraw from territories that border on Ben-Gurion Airport. 
  • 81% say that Israel cannot withdraw from territories bordering the Tel Aviv-Jerusalem Highway (Route 443).
  • 76% want Israel to have full security control of the West Bank. 
  • 81% say it is important that Israel retain sovereignty over the Jordan Valley.
  • 71% say an agreement should be conditioned on Palestinian recognition of Israel as the nation-state of the Jewish people.
The poll indicates that the Israeli public does not agree to Palestinian demands for an independent state on all the territory of the West Bank, including east Jerusalem and the Temple Mount, with its capital in Jerusalem. Therefore, it is difficult to see how any agreement is currently possible.

The poll reflects the suspicions Jewish Israelis have of Palestinian intentions and their awareness of the resulting security dangers, especially in light of the current realities in the region.

The poll results should clarify for those who wish to promote an agreement that if they want to succeed in promoting a peace agreement, the first step needs to be to increase the trust among the Israeli public for any agreement. The only way to achieve this is to attempt to have the Palestinians change their narrative, to stop their one-sided moves against Israel in international forums, and to stop paying salaries to terrorists and lauding them as heroic role models.

Click here to read the full poll.

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Iran, Hezbollah, and War Crimes in Syria

From The Tower, Issue 49 (Apr-May 2017), by Shlomo Bolts & Mohammed A. Ghanem:

Iran and its allied militias are tearing through Syria on behalf of Assad’s ruthless regime, leaving corpses and chaos in their wake. Will the world ever hold them to account?

On the night of April 6, 2017, U.S. President Donald Trump signaled a radical shift in America’s policy towards the six year-old Syrian civil war by ordering multiple airstrikes against the Al Shayrat airbase near the city of Homs. Two days earlier, the airfield had been used by Bashar al Assad’s regime to launch a horrifying chemical weapons strike against the town of Khan Sheikhnoun, in which more than 80 people were murdered and hundreds more severely wounded. Reportedly, the nerve agent used in that attack was sarin  – giving the lie to former Secretary of State John Kerry’s confident assertion, on NBC’s ‘Meet the Press’ in July 2014: “With respect to Syria, we struck a deal where we got 100 percent of the chemical weapons out.”

Whether Trump’s gambit will lead to the removal of Assad remains an open question. The stakes are certainly high, since the American airstrikes were not just a blow against Assad himself, but against his Russian and Iranian allies – the two outside powers that had secured, so went the conventional wisdom, his long-term survival through the brutal conquest of the northern city of Aleppo in December 2016. Five months on, the tyrant looks decidedly more insecure, now that he is in the sights of the world’s most powerful military.

The choice of Al Shayrat as the target for the Tomahawk missile strikes dramatically highlights the regional and global dimensions of the Syrian conflict. Russian military personnel are based there, as part of the extensive military aid which Moscow provides to Assad – they received advance warning from the Pentagon that the strikes were imminent. The base has also served officers of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC), Assad’s principle backer, and the shock troops of Hezbollah, Iran’s Lebanese Shiite proxy. Geographically, the airbase lies in the portion of south-western Syria, extending into Lebanon, under the control of Hezbollah and the IRGC.

Al Shayrat also highlights a too-often ignored aspect of this war, and the focus of this article: that Iran and Hezbollah have carried out grave war crimes and crimes against humanity ­– strongly resembling the crimes committed by the terrorists of the Sunni ISIS – against the Syrian people on Assad’s behalf. These took place, as we document here, not only in Aleppo and its environs, but in locations like Homs City and Tel Kalakh – with Al Shayrat serving as a launchpad for the attacks.

The Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) and its affiliated foreign fighters have long been the true drivers of Bashar al-Assad’s war against his own people.

When pro-regime forces launched an assault in 2013 on Homs, then the “Capital of the Syrian Revolution,” Hezbollah led the charge. When Free Syrian Army (FSA) rebels threatened the capital Damascus in March 2015, Iran-backed foreign fighters from Iraq, Afghanistan, and Lebanon beat them back. When the FSA along with Sunni Islamist factions launched an assault near Assad’s heartland of Latakia a few months later, Hezbollah stepped in to counter them. The horrific slaughter in Aleppo late last year was only made possible after the Iran-backed Iraqi Nujaba Movement, which mirrors Hezbollah ideologically and operationally, turned the tide in Assad’s favor.

Given the Assad regime’s history of fanning sectarian tensions and turning a blind eye to extremists, its claim to be running a “secular” model of government was always largely propaganda. But Iran-backed foreign fighters dispense with that pretense completely. As Phillip Smyth notes in “The Shiite Jihad in Syria,” Iran-backed foreign fighters in Syria are recruited with the stated purpose of defending Shiite Muslims and Shiite holy sites. Smyth also details how this recruitment is heavily linked to Shiite religious scholars who preach vilayet e-faqih, the ruling ideology of the Iranian regime, which holds that the only form of legitimate rule is that of Islamic jurists.

Political and operational ties between Iran and its foreign fighters in Syria are quite clear. Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah stated openly in August 2016 that “Hezbollah’s budget—its salaries and expenditures, its food and drink, weapons and missiles—are from the In January 2016, Human Rights Watch reported that the IRGC recruited thousands of Afghanis to “defend Shia sacred sites” in Syria by offering various material incentives. And the spokesman for Nujaba said in 2015, “We are all the followers of [Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali] Khamenei and will go and fight to defend the holy sites and Shiites everywhere.”

Furthermore, evidence suggests that Iranian oversight of its proxies in Syria extends to the highest levels. Only two months before Hezbollah began its assault on Homs in 2013, top IRGC commander Hassan Shateri was killed on the Syrian-Lebanese border. IRGC head General Qassem Suleimani appeared on the front lines of the crucial battle for Damascus in early 2015. Both the American Enterprise Institute and the Institute for the Study of War believe that, around this time, the IRGC took direct command of operations by its foreign proxies in Syria, allowing Iran to “implant military leadership over a base of irregular fighters that it organizes, funds, and equips.”...

General Qassem Suleimani is the head of the IRGC’s Quds Force, the primary force supporting Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. Photo: Office of the Iranian Supreme Leader

Follow the link for a detailed account of many atrocities by Iran

Saturday, April 15, 2017

The Middle East: There will be chronic instability for a long period of time.

From the transcript of a 20 March 2017 BICOM briefing with Moshe Ya’alon*:

The Middle East is going through the greatest crisis since the days of Muhammad. We’ve seen the Arab Spring become the Islamic Winter. We have witnessed ongoing internal conflicts, including the Syrian civil war, which has produced more than half a million casualties and has resulted in the majority of the Syrian population becoming refugees, some within the country, others in Lebanon, Jordan, Turkey and Europe.

I don’t see an end to this crisis. There will be chronic instability for a long period of time. I don’t see stable transition from the tyrannical regimes which have been removed. I don’t see a return of the old ideologies of Nasserism and Pan-Arabism. And those who believe that ‘Islam is the solution’ are frustrated.

Three radical Islamist movements

What we see today is a conflict between three different radical Islamist movements each seeking hegemony in the Middle East and beyond.

First, there is the Iranian ideology that seeks to export the “Islamic revolution”. They have reason to feel they have been successful so far. As well as Tehran, the Iranian regime is dominant in Baghdad through the Shi’a government, in Damascus by supporting President Bashar al-Assad, in Beirut through Hezbollah, and in Sana’a [in Yemen] through the Houthis. Iran is challenging the US in the region; we see them firing at American vessels. A grave concern for the region is Iran’s aspiration to develop a military nuclear capability. There will be a delay for about a decade as a result of the 2015 nuclear deal, but Iran will remain a serious challenge for Israel, for the Sunni Arab regimes and for the Western world. Iran’s belligerency is the result of the vacuum created by the former US administration. At present we have little idea of the current US administration’s policy, so Iran will see what it can get away with in the meantime.

The second radical Islamic movement seeking hegemony in the region is the Sunni jihadists; whether it is ISIS or Al-Qaeda, their aim is to impose an Islamic caliphate in the Middle East and beyond. ISIS succeeded in establishing Islamic State (IS) in Iraq, Syria, Sinai and Libya. The Sunni jihadists – especially ISIS – have too many enemies in the region. However, the fight against ISIS continues.

The third element is Turkey. President Recep Erdoğan is the leader of the Muslim Brotherhood in the region, and seeks to create a neo-Ottoman empire based on the ideology of the Muslim Brotherhood. He has acted with this goal in mind for a long time. He supported ISIS economically by buying oil because they were willing to kill the Kurds. He allowed trained and experienced jihadists to come from all over the world to join ISIS to fight in Syria and Iraq, and to go back to their own countries, especially to Europe, and we have witnessed the consequences of this.

For a very long time, Erdoğan didn’t just allow illegal immigration, he facilitated it. We are not only talking about refugees. I went to Greece in February 2016 and was briefed on illegal immigration from Turkey to the Greek islands in the Aegean Sea. There were more than 800,000 illegal immigrants coming from Turkey to the Greek islands. Most were illegal immigrants from Morocco and Pakistan. There was no war in those places. The Greeks also claimed that Turkey subsidised flights from Marrakech to Istanbul for US$50. My conclusion is that Erdoğan aims to Islamise Europe.

These developments are consequences of the vacuum created by the US. I’m not sure what will come now with the current administration. We must wait and see....

*Ya’alon is a former IDF Chief of Staff, and served as Israel’s Defence Minister from 2013 to 2016 until disagreements with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu led to his resignation. Ya’alon has announced the formation of a new political party and his intention to run for Prime Minister. He is likely to have a major role in determining the composition of the next government in Israel. In this briefing he discusses the security challenges facing Israel and the wider region and the prospects for resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

The Other Islamic State: Erdogan’s Vision for Turkey

From The Wall Street Journal, by Daniel Pipes*, April 13, 2017:

The strongman wants to reverse the country’s secularization and cement his authoritarian rule.

The Turkish president at a rally in Istanbul, April 12. 

This Sunday, millions of Turks will vote to endorse or reject constitutional amendments passed in January by Turkey’s Parliament. ... Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan years ago arrogated all the powers that the constitutional changes would bestow on him. He is already lord of all he sees for as long as he wants, whether through democratic means or by fixing election results. If the referendum passes, it will merely prettify that reality.

Consider the nature of Mr. Erdogan’s power. The obsequious prime minister, Binali Yildirim, tirelessly advocates for the constitutional changes that will eliminate his own office, historically the most powerful in the country. Criticism of the almighty president can get even a child thrown into jail. The most tenuous connection to a (possibly staged) coup d’état attempt last July means losing one’s job—or worse. The state routinely jails journalists on the bogus charge of terrorism, and truly independent publications are shuttered.

If Mr. Erdogan has no need for constitutional changes, which amount to a legislative triviality, why does he obsessively chase them? Perhaps as added insurance against ever being hauled into court for his illegal actions. Perhaps to assure a handpicked successor the power to continue his program. Perhaps to flatter his vanity.

Whatever the source of Mr. Erdogan’s compulsion, it greatly damages Turkey’s standing in the world. When his aides were not permitted to rally Turks living in Germany for the constitutional changes, he accused the Germans of “employing Nazi measures.” He also compared the Netherlands to a banana republic after Turkish ministers were prevented from speaking in Rotterdam. This souring of relations has already led to a breakdown in military ties with Germany.

Implicitly threatening street attacks on Europeans hardly helped Mr. Erdogan’s international standing, nor did allowing one of his close allies to call for Turkey to develop its own nuclear weapons. More damaging yet, the leader restarted a civil war with the Kurds in July 2015 as a gambit to win support of a nationalist party in Parliament, a move that has already had dreadful human consequences.

This insistence on doing things his way fits a pattern. Mr. Erdogan could have won visa-free travel for Turks traveling to Europe, but he refused a meaningless change to the definition of terrorism in Turkey’s criminal code. He harms relations with Washington by making the extradition of Turkish cleric Fethullah Gulen a personal fixation. He potentially disrupts relations with 35 countries by setting his intelligence agencies to spy on pro-Gulen Turks. Former Trump adviser Mike Flynn tarnished his image by registering as a foreign agent representing Turkey’s interests in 2016.

Mr. Erdogan’s narcissism increases the price of dictatorship by causing him to make unwarranted mistakes. A once cautious and calculating leader now pursues baubles that only generate enmities. This has damaged the economic growth that fueled his popularity. Mr. Erdogan has turned into a self-parody, with his 1,100-room palace and Ruritanian honor guard.

Where will it end? The president has two apparent objectives. First, Mr. Erdogan seeks to reverse Kemal Atatürk’s westernizing reforms to reinstitute the Ottoman Empire’s Islamic ways. Second, he wants to elevate himself to the grand, ancient Islamic position of caliph, an especially vivid prospect since Islamic State resurrected this long-moribund position in 2014.

Those two ambitions could meld together exactly 100 years after Atatürk abolished the caliphate, either on March 10, 2021 (by the Islamic calendar), or March 4, 2024 (by the Christian calendar). Either of these dates offers a perfect occasion for Mr. Erdogan to undo the handiwork of the secular Atatürk and declare himself caliph of all Muslims.

No one inside Turkey can effectively resist Mr. Erdogan’s enormous ambitions. This leaves him free to continue in his erratic ways, stirring trouble at home and abroad. That is, unless he one day trips, likely over an external crisis. Meantime, Turks and millions of others will pay an increasing price for his vainglorious rule.

*Mr. Pipes is president of the Middle East Forum.

Recep Tayyip Erdogan taking Turkey down the road to an Islamist state in the mould of Iran

From The Wall Street Journal, via The Australian, April 15, 2017 

Recep Tayyip Erdogan at rally in Black Sea city of Giresun yesterday.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has spent the past few years laying the groundwork for authoritarian rule shaded by Islamism. With tomorrow’s referendum, he seeks to ratify his gains and sweep away the remnants of Turkey’s once-liberal democracy.

Those are the stakes in the referendum, in which voters will decide whether to transform the country’s parliamentary model into a strong executive system with Erdogan at the top.

Polls show a slight advantage for “Yes”, though opinion polling should be taken with a grain of salt amid the paranoia and repression that prevail in Turkey.

Under the proposed changes, Erdogan would be allowed to lead Turkey until 2029. His powers would expand to include declaring emergencies, issuing decrees, and appointing ministers and senior civil servants. The changes would permit Erdogan to check the judicial branch in some instances and simultaneously to head a political party while in office, something the constitution denies him today.

This presidential system would be the culmination of an authoritarian drive Erdogan launched a decade ago, when the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) purged a secular establishment that was the main bulwark against Islamism. The AKP has since tightened controls over the internet, brutally suppressed a youth uprising in 2013 and won Turkey the dubious honour of being the world’s foremost jailer of journalists.

Then came last year’s attempted coup, for which Erdogan blames his erstwhile ally Fethullah Gulen, a US-based imam who leads a rival Islamist network. Since the coup, the government has detained, fired or otherwise punished more than 140,000 Turks. In parallel to his domestic repression, Erdogan has intensified his anti-Western rhetoric.

Ankara has accused the Dutch and German governments of “Nazi” practices after they denied permission to pro-Erdogan rallies.

All of this has transpired under Turkey’s current parliamentary system, in which opposition parties can still vie for seats and check at least some of Erdogan’s excesses. If the AKP had more seats, Erdogan could have pushed through the constitutional change without having to bother with a referendum.

If he gets his wish for a stronger executive, the opposition would be further marginalised. This suggests Turkish democracy’s future could be grim no matter the outcome, and the choice facing voters is between shades of black.

If Erdogan loses, he will continue to strengthen the repressive apparatus and whip up nationalism with his gratuitous war on Turkey’s Kurdish minority. But if he wins, the possibility of democratically removing the AKP from power will be even narrower.

The danger for the Middle East, and for Turkey’s NATO allies, is the country could evolve into an Islamist state in the mould of Iran — albeit Sunni, not Shia. Erdogan beguiled many in his early years as an Islamist leader who claimed to respect democratic norms, but the sad irony is his drive for authoritarian power will lead many in the West to the unfortunate conclusion that Islam and democracy are incompatible.

Thursday, April 06, 2017

Time is on Israel's Side

From BESA Center Perspectives Paper No. 440, April 5, 2017, by Prof. Efraim Inbar:

Life magazine cover on Six Day War, via Israellycool

Considering the ways Israel’s opponents have changed over the decades, the collective yearning among Israelis for a decisive, 1967-style victory is unrealistic. The false hope for such success impedes clarity of thinking and causes the Israeli public to lose confidence in both the military and the political leadership. The only approach that can succeed in Israel’s current conflicts is a patient, attritional, repetitive use of force. Israelis should take comfort that time is on Israel’s side....

The unrealistic anticipation that victories on the scale of 1967 should be the end result of any military engagement hampers clear thinking and impedes the adoption of appropriate strategy and tactics. Moreover, it encourages what is often an impossible hope for a quick end to conflict. In the absence of a clear-cut and speedy outcome, Israelis lose confidence in the political as well as the military leadership.

Israelis, many of whom have limited military experience, still long for decisive victories in the Gaza and South Lebanon arenas. The wars in which the IDF has participated so far in the twenty-first century, which appeared to end inconclusively, left many Israelis with a sense of unease. They miss the victory photographs of the 1967 war....

Hamas and Hezbollah do not possess arsenals of tanks and air fighters, which would be easy targets for Israel. The decentralized structure of their military organizations does not present points of gravity that can be eliminated by swift and decisive action. Moreover, their use of civilian populations to shield missile launchers and military units – a war crime – makes IDF advances cumbersome and difficult due to slower troop movement in urban areas and the need to reduce collateral damage among civilians. Urbanization among Israel’s neighbors has greatly reduced the empty areas that could have been used for maneuvering and outflanking. The use of the subterranean by Israel’s foes, be it in Gaza or South Lebanon, is another new element that slows advances.

It is naïve to believe the IDF can or should win quickly and decisively every time it has to flex its muscles. Yitzhak Rabin warned several times during his long career against the expectation of a “once and for all” victory.

The defeat of Israel’s new opponents requires a different strategy: attrition.

Israel is engaged in a long war of attrition against religiously motivated enemies who believe both God and history are on their side. All the IDF can do is occasionally weaken their ability to harm Israel and create temporary deterrence. In Israeli parlance, this is called “mowing the grass” – an apt metaphor, as the problem always grows back.

The patient, repetitive use of force is not glamorous, but it will eventually do the trick. Unfortunately, many Israelis do not understand the particular circumstances of the great 1967 victory. They have lost patience and do not realize that time is, in fact, on Israel’s side.

Wednesday, April 05, 2017

The Muslim Brotherhood has operated as a terrorist entity for almost a century.

From Middle East Quarterly, Spring 2017 VOLUME 24: NUMBER 2, by Cynthia Farahat:

What to make of the Muslim Brotherhood (MB)? 

The Muslim Brotherhood was founded in 1928 by Hassan al-Banna (third from left). An Egyptian schoolteacher from a rural town north of Cairo, Banna engaged in Islamist activities from a young age, joining a local group that intimidated and harassed Christians and non-observing Muslims in his hometown.

During the Obama years, it became commonplace for the U.S. administration and its Western acolytes to portray the Muslim Brotherhood as a moderate option to "more radical" Muslim groups. Thus, for example, U.S. director of National Intelligence James Clapper incredibly described the organization as "largely secular" while John Esposito of Georgetown University claimed that "Muslim Brotherhood affiliated movements and parties have been a force for democratization and stability in the Middle East."

On the other hand, in 2014, the United Arab Emirates formally designated the Muslim Brotherhood and its local and international affiliates, including the U.S. based Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), as inter-national terrorist groups. A British government review commissioned the same year similarly asserted that
parts of the Muslim Brotherhood have a highly ambiguous relationship with violent extremism. Both as an ideology and as a network it has been a rite of passage for some individuals and groups who have gone on to engage in violence and terrorism.

In the United States, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) and Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart (R-Fla.) have recently introduced legislation to designate the Muslim Brotherhood as a terrorist organization. In February 2016, the U.S. House Judiciary Committee approved a house bill that calls on the State Department to designate the Muslim Brotherhood as a foreign terrorist organization. In July 2016, Rep. Dave Brat (R-Va.) introduced the "Naming the Enemy within Homeland Security Act," a bill that prohibits the Department of Homeland Security from funding or collaborating with organizations or individuals associated with the Muslim Brotherhood.

The question is—which view is correct? Without doubt, the second one is. 

The Muslim Brotherhood has been a militaristic organization since its inception and has operated as a terrorist entity for almost a century. It influenced the establishment of most modern Sunni terrorist organizations, including al-Qaeda, al-Gama'a al-Islamiyya (GI) Hamas, and the Islamic State (ISIS). These organizations have either been founded by current or former Brotherhood members or have been directly inspired, indoctrinated, or recruited by MB members and literature. Contrary to what the MB propagates to Westerners, MB violence is not just in the past but is an ongoing activity...

Follow the link for the full article including history and detailed analysis. 

Jews Against "the Occupation" = Jewish anti-Zionism

From BESA Center Perspectives Paper No. 439, April 4, 2017by Asaf Romirowsky:

Fifty years after the Six Day War, the American Jewish community is sharply fragmented, with many Jews grappling with where Zionism fits into their Jewish identity. As the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement grows in popularity and attracts more Jewish advocates, the gap is growing even wider between American Jewry and Israel.

For American Jews, Zionism has become a source of debate, controversy, embarrassment, and guilt as they try to come to terms with the activities of the Jewish state and its elected officials. Consequently, many seek to detach themselves from what used to embody the core of Jewish identity. A case in point is Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP), a pro-BDS Jewish group that uses its “Jewishness” to validate its cause.

...JVP’s executive director, Rebecca Vilkomerson, is notorious for her hard leftist views, as illustrated in her Washington Post op-ed entitled “I’m Jewish, and I want people to boycott Israel.” So strong is JVP’s antipathy to Israel that the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) has called it “the largest and most influential Jewish anti-Zionist group” in the US.

...The difference between Herzl’s generation and post-1948 generations was a first-hand understanding of what the absence of a Jewish state means for Jewish survival. The state represents the difference between autonomy and servility, indeed between life and death. But today’s millennial generation has no memory of a time when Israel did not exist or was ever on the “right side of history.”

Given the wedge that has been pushed between Zionism and Judaism, one might even suggest that were Herzl to raise the question of a Jewish homeland today, he might not receive support. The irony is that what initially led Zionist leaders to bond over the idea of a homeland was the growing threat of antisemitism. Today, even as antisemitism is on the rise around the world, anti-Zionism is often viewed as legitimate criticism.

Abba Eban dispelled this notion eloquently, stating, “There is no difference whatever between antisemitism and the denial of Israel's statehood. Classical antisemitism denies the equal right of Jews as citizens within society. Anti-Zionism denies the equal rights of the Jewish people its lawful sovereignty within the community of nations. The common principle in the two cases is discrimination."

But with the popularity of the BDS movement’s crusade against Israel, some American Jews on the left have placed other Jews beyond the pale, as people who cannot be debated due to their abominable views. Moreover, an insidious double standard applies: Jewish organizations like Hillel must include anti-Israel voices or be deemed intolerant or racist. Jewish intellectuals must engage in dialogue with BDS representatives or other Palestinian advocates who demand the ethnic cleansing of Israel, lest they be called cowards and be subjected to insults. And now, leading American Jewish intellectuals have adopted the rhetoric and methods of BDS, to be applied to Jews only. Perhaps the next move will be to follow the Palestinian lead and charge Israelis in international courts.

Individuals like Peter Beinart, in his book The Crisis of Zionism, purport to offer so-called “tough love,” an approach that is supposedly required to curb the alleged expansion of the "occupation.” Driven by guilt, Beinart has embraced the left’s move to distance itself from Israel and the Zionist enterprise at large. For Beinart, the answer is a "Zionist" boycott of Israeli settlements and products.

Beinart, like many post-Zionists and revisionists, only opposes the "occupation," which leads him to place all the onus for the lingering Palestinian-Israeli problem on Israel. In this distorted narrative, Israel is largely to blame for the collapse of the Oslo/Camp David process of the 1990s-2000s and for the subsequent failures to revive the peace process. But the centrality of the “settlements” is an empty issue. It deflects from the core problem that truly obstructs a negotiated settlement: the Palestinians’ century-long rejection of a sovereign Jewish state.

...Anti-Zionist American Jews have found Israeli counterparts even in the Knesset. This was on display at the AIPAC Policy Conference in late March, at which Meretz MK Tamar Zandberg, whose trip to the conference had been paid by AIPAC, decided to join a protest outside the conference. At the protest, organized by the Jewish anti-establishment group IfNotNow, demonstrators held up signs reading “Reject AIPAC” and “Reject Occupation.” Zandberg justified her decision to participate by saying, “there is no greater deed of patriotism than opposing the occupation.”

Stronger Zionist anchors are needed within the Jewish community to overcome the guilt over Israel’s existence rather than its actions. Collective historical memory is absent from today’s discourse on Zionism, especially in America. While there are Zionists on the left and right who still appreciate Jewish history and believe in Jewish destiny, Zionist renewal outside Zion is needed. There is a serious need to teach and appreciate both Herzl’s Zionism and “Start-Up Zionism” if the dream is to be kept alive.

Saturday, April 01, 2017

Polish historian’s book on killing of Jews during Holocaust exposes raw nerve

From World Israel News, 16 March 2017:

Polish historian’s book on killing of Jews during Holocaust exposes raw nerve
Polish gendarmes during WWII. (Yad vashem via AP)

A book exposing the atrocities perpetrated by ordinary Poles against Jews during the Holocaust is again stirring dormant passions.  

A prominent Polish historian presented evidence Wednesday about Polish villagers’ widespread killing of Jews fleeing Nazis during World War II, touching a raw nerve in a country still grappling with its role during the Holocaust.

The research is likely to irk the nationalist Polish government, which has taken aim at those seeking to undermine its official stance that Poles were only heroes in the war, not collaborators who committed heinous crimes.

In launching the English-language version of her 2011 book, “Such a Beautiful Sunny Day,” Barbara Engelking details dozens of cases of everyday Poles raping Jewish women and bludgeoning Jews to death with axes, shovels and rocks. The book, which came out in Polish under the previous government, takes its title from the last words of a Jew pleading with peasants to spare his life before he was beaten and shot to death. It offers a searing indictment of Polish complicity that will now reach a far wider audience.

“The responsibility for the extermination of Jews in Europe is borne by Nazi Germany,” she writes. “Polish peasants were volunteers in the sphere of murdering Jews.”

Poland’s Avoidance of Responsibility

For decades, Polish society avoided discussing such killings or denied that Polish anti-Semitism motivated them, blaming all atrocities on the Germans. A turning point was the publication of a book, “Neighbors,” in 2000 by Polish-American sociologist Jan Tomasz Gross, which explored the murder of Jedwabne’s Jews by their Polish neighbors and resulted in widespread soul-searching and official state apologies.

But since the conservative and nationalistic Law and Justice party consolidated power in 2015, it has sought to stamp out discussion and research on the topic. It has demonized Gross and investigated him on whether he had slandered the country by asserting that Poles killed more Jews than Germans during the war — a crime punishable by up to three years in prison.

Despite the current climate, Engelking said she had no fear of recriminations and proudly took on the government’s historical revisionism.

“People think I should be afraid, but I am not. I have a sense now of inner freedom and they cannot harm me in any way,” she said during a break at a symposium recognizing the launch of her book at Israel’s Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial. “Let them try … you cannot obey this idea because this is really not true. I am obliged to tell the truth, that is all.”

Engelking, the founder and director of the Polish Center of Holocaust Research in Warsaw, said her decade-long research relied on diaries, documents and court files that gave voice not only to survivors but also victims. The government has long pointed to Poland having the largest number of citizens honored by Yad Vashem for saving Jews as evidence of their heroism. Engelking, however, said there were far less who aided Jews than those who betrayed them and that climate made the actions of the few all the more noble.

“There was severe punishment from Germans for helping Jews. They (the saviors) acted not only against German law, but against their neighbors, against the atmosphere, against the common sense of anti-Semitism,” she said.

The Enormity of Polish Cruelty Toward Jews

Mateusz Szpytma, a historian with Poland’s state-run National Remembrance Institute, said he found the book to be written in a “prosecutor’s style” and often relied on a single source.

“The attention is almost solely focused on negative events that took place but were not the only ones,” he said. “Almost every element that is unfavorable to Poles is taken as true. Positive things are pushed to the margin.”

The noted Israeli Holocaust historian Yehuda Bauer said the significance of Engelking’s findings was the enormity of the cruelty toward Jews that she details. “It is something that we assumed but she proves,” he said.

He said there were parallels to the way Jews were treated by the local population in other European countries like Lithuania, Bulgaria and Greece. But the sheer scope of the genocide in Poland — half of the 6 million Jews killed in the Holocaust were Polish — made Engelking’s findings most pertinent.

Havi Dreifuss, a Tel Aviv University scholar and director of Yad Vashem’s center for research on the Holocaust in Poland, said Engelking’s research has shed new light on the last phase of the Holocaust, after Jews were packed into ghettos and sent to extermination camps, and how even those who had managed to survive that still faced the wrath of their compatriots.

She said estimates range between 160,000-250,000 Jews who escaped and sought help from fellow Poles. She said only about 10-20 percent of those survived, with the rest rejected, informed upon or killed by the rural Poles themselves.

“This research reveals not only the Jewish immense efforts to escape, as well as the Jewish despair and helplessness. It also exposes the terrible reality in which those Jews found themselves: a reality where very few acts of kindness were lost among the countless acts of cruelty, abuse and meanness,” she said.

Polish Misconceptions

Poles have been raised on wartime stories of Polish suffering and heroism and many react viscerally when confronted with the growing body of scholarship about Polish involvement in the killing of Jews.

A recent poll showed an overwhelming majority of Poles believe their ancestors helped save Jews and rarely turned them over.

Engelking said that was unlikely to change as long as this “propaganda” continued and the “truth about our behavior during the war” was not allowed to be shared widely in schools and with the public.

“I hope that after this counter revolution that we are experiencing now, next time we will have another counter revolution,” she said.

A history of "Jewish Self-Hatred"

From an essay by Antony Lerman, Summer 2008:

... As a formal psychological category, the term ‘self-hatred’ was first used by Sigmund Freud in ‘Mourning and Melancholia’ (1916–17). But according to Professor Gilman, the term ‘self-hating Jew’ comes from a disagreement over the validity of the Jewish Reform movement between neo-Orthodox Jews of the Breslau seminary in Germany and Reform Jews in the nineteenth century. Some neo-Orthodox Jews viewed Reform Jews as ‘inauthentic Jews’ because they felt that the Reformers identified more closely with German Protestantism and German nationalism than with Judaism.

... the term ‘Jewish self-hatred’ [originally] arose from ... the attempts by Jews to assimilate into German society.

By the 1900s the formal emancipation of German Jews was complete and they had achieved a very high degree of assimilation. But the more they demonstrated their desire to be the same as everyone else, they more they were acutely reminded of their otherness. The more they distanced themselves from their Jewish identity the further away seemed the prize of complete acceptance. Coping with this double bind was not easy. One response — intended to help overcome those barriers — was to lay the blame, in whole or in part, at the feet of Jews themselves, to see weaknesses and faults in Judaism, Jewish culture, Jewish mannerisms, Jewish ways of behaving and so on — to cultivate the notion of group inferiority. On the one hand, this was an intensification of the lively, and valued, self-criticism among German Jews that had been developing for some time. On the other hand, the fact that it was sometimes couched in Anti-Semitic terms suggested that Jews were internalising the negative images society imposed on them, stemming from the increase in public Anti-Semitism, and seeking to appease their persecutors in order to finally gain acceptance....

Use of the term ‘Jewish self-hatred’ was very prevalent during the years immediately preceding the First World War, when German Jews continued to experience the dilemmas of wishing to become completely assimilated into German society. Theodor Lessing’s book Der judische Selbsthass (Jewish Self-Hate) appeared in 1933 and supposedly charts Lessing’s journey from Jewish self-hater to Zionist.

But the dilemma that led to the phenomenon of Jewish self-hatred came to an end with the Holocaust, so there seemed little reason for it to remain current. 

In most post-Holocaust centres of Jewish life, especially the United States, assimilation, though striven for, was a less anxious process, and Jews were not alone in their quest to integrate. And after the establishment of the state of Israel, losing your identity in order to become part of the national story was no longer the only option for a Jew who felt uncomfortable in the host country. Zionism seemed to represent the ultimate resolution of this identity problem: in Israel the Jew was the national story.

     But the concept did not disappear from the lexicon.

As the centre of Jewish life shifted from a devastated Europe denuded of Jews to the United States, where there were far fewer barriers to assimilation, so too the concept of Jewish self-hatred migrated to the New World, was reborn and took on additional meanings.

Hugely influential in this rebirth was Kurt Lewin, until 1932 professor of psychology at the University of Berlin. He emigrated from Germany in 1933 after Hitler had come to power. In 1941 he wrote an essay, ‘Self-hatred among Jews’, published in an American Jewish Committee-sponsored journal, which was much cited and frequently quoted. Lewin was the leading exponent of the study of group dynamics in the United States and a highly regarded social psychologist. He reinterpreted the problem as one mostly affecting the group rather than the individual. Not surprisingly, given the threat to Jews at the time, and his view of the failure of German Jewish leaders to give public support to Jewish institutions, he argued that criticism of the group weakens and endangers it, and those responsible for that criticism are unable to adjust to the group’s problems. The result is ‘neurosis’ manifesting itself as self-hatred.

A similar theory — ‘Negro self-hatred’ — had developed in relation to black Americans, also promoted by social psychologists like Lewin who had become highly influential in American society in the 1940s. With both theories being fuelled by conclusions drawn from investigations into growing anti-Semitism and anti-black racism, a ‘convergence zone’, as Susan Glenn described it in Jewish Social Studies (2006), was created ‘in which the figure of the “self-hating Jew” and the “negrophobic negro” were imagined […] by Frantz Fanon as “brothers in misery”’.

The concept of Jewish self-hatred gained wide theoretical currency in the 1940s, and as Glenn writes: ‘During and after the war, individuals and groups across the intellectual, social, cultural, religious and political spectrum deployed the term variously, inconsistently, and with conflicting social and political agendas.’ The 1940s and 1950s were ‘the age of self-hatred’. In effect, a bitter war broke out over questions of Jewish identity. It was a kind of ‘Jewish Cold War’: ‘a contentious public debate [intra-Jewish war] revolving around the question of Jewish group loyalty, Jewish group “survival”, and Jewish nationalism’.

Broadly speaking, this ‘war’ was a response to the success of assimilation. Those Jews who saw assimilation resulting in estrangement from Judaism and distaste for one’s Jewish identity diagnosed the problem as Jewish self-hatred. The cure was ‘positive Jewishness’, or ‘living Judaism’, as the influential Rabbi Milton Steinberg referred to it in A Partisan Guide to the Jewish Problem (1945). Critics of this movement accused it of promoting ‘narrow-minded ethnic chauvinism and ideological intolerance’.

These debates over Jewish self-hatred continued to the end of the 1970s but eventually died down, losing their force and urgency. But the concept reemerged with new polemical force in the 1980s in debates over Israel, debates which eventually spread to virtually every other western Jewish community.

In the United States, Glenn says, giving financial and moral support to Israel came to constitute ‘the existential definition of American Jewishness’. Which meant that the opposite was also true: criticism of Israel came to constitute the existential definition of ‘Jewish self-hatred’. So writers like Philip Roth were vilified as self-haters for not wanting to put pro-Israelism at the centre of their lives and left-wing Jews like the controversial journalist I. F. Stone were similarly derided for their ‘weakness’ for universalism.

The sharpness of the US exchanges was not mirrored in Britain, and even though Jewish criticism of Israel grew particularly from the 1982 Lebanon war on, the term ‘Jewish self-hater’ was rarely used. It is only relatively recently that Britain has caught up with the United States and Israel in this regard.

The self-hatred accusation ...has moved ...to embrace whole classes of people whose one common denominator is ...their willingness to connive in [Israel's] delegitimisation out of a misguided sense of guilt for what Jews have done to the Palestinians.

     Both of these accusations come together in the contempt with which the Israeli promoters of the 1993 Oslo Accords are now held... Examples are legion.

The Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, a major promoter of such views, published an article by Kenneth Levin of the Harvard Medical School, which seeks to explain how Israelis duped themselves about Oslo: ‘the phenomenon of segments of the community embracing the indictments of the besiegers and seeking relief through self-criticism and self-reform recurs constantly in the history of the Jewish Diaspora. […] some have seen it as a specifically Jewish pathology, a unique Jewish self-hatred.’

Steven Plaut, professor of business administration at Haifa University, asks: ‘Who […] could have dreamed that the fulfilment and realisation of Zionism would be accompanied by the emergence of the most malignant manifestations of Israeli self-hatred and Jewish anti-Semitism?’ In online journal Nativ, Shlomo Sharan, professor emeritus in psychology at Tel Aviv University, argues that the ‘“new” self-hatred […] preaches that living in Israel is immoral because Jewry stole the land from the Arabs’.

It would appear from these and many other writers that self-hating Jews, whether in Israel or the Jewish Diaspora, are not just responsible for taking Israel down the wrong path at Oslo but threaten the very existence of the Jewish people. 

Netta Kohn Dor-Shav, a US-born clinical psychologist now at Bar Ilan University in Israel, warns: ‘It is fair to say that the plague of Jewish self-hatred is more dangerous for the survival of the Jewish people than any outside threat.’ In a paper for the Ariel Center for Policy Research, titled ‘The Ultimate Enemy — Jews Against Jews’, she says: ‘This self-hatred fuels a vicious cycle that can lead to disaster and dissolution of the Jewish people and the Jewish State.’

The strength of feeling about the ‘self-hatred’ accusation burst into the open on both sides of the Atlantic early in 2007. In the United States, the New York Times brought to public attention growing controversy about a pamphlet by Professor Alvin Rosenfeld, Director of the Institute for Jewish Culture and the Arts at Indiana University, titled ‘Progressive Jewish Thought and the New Anti-Semitism’, published in December 2006 by the American Jewish Committee (publisher of Kurt Lewin’s 1942 Jewish self-hatred paper), one of America’s leading Jewish defence and advocacy groups, which has become increasingly vociferous in its defence of Israel over the last decade. In Rosenfeld’s own words, the essay takes ‘a hard look at Jewish authors whose statements go well beyond what most reasonable people would see as legitimate criticism of Israel and who call into question the very essence of the Jewish state and its right to continued existence.’ Rosenfeld made no explicit accusation of self-hatred against his ‘progressive’ Jewish targets. But many people believed that was exactly what his text implied...

In Britain, a network of a hundred or so progressive Jews critical of Israel’s policies for abusing human rights launched Independent Jewish Voices (IJV) in February 2007. They signed a declaration of principles, published in The Times, the Guardian and the Jewish Chronicle, asserting their right to speak out and arguing that established Jewish organisations fail to represent the diversity of views among the Jewish population, especially on Israel, and inviting others to sign. This provoked a storm of vitriolic criticism from many Jews...

...Daily Mail columnist Melanie Phillips called the signatories ‘Jews for genocide’ in her online diary on 8 February, and ‘the British arm of the pincer of self-destruction’ in the Jewish Chronicle on 16 February. And in an obvious reference to Jewish self-haters through the ages she wrote: ‘One of the most painful aspects of all of the Jewish tragedy is that, throughout the unending history of Jewish persecution — from the medieval Christian converts to Marx and beyond — Jews have figured, for a variety of reasons, as prominent accomplices of those who wished to destroy the Jewish people. These signatories are firmly in that lamentable tradition.’

... Professor Robert Wistrich, who now heads the Sassoon International Center for the Study of Anti-Semitism at the Hebrew University, speaks of Jewish self-hatred as ‘a pathological phenomenon’ and Jewish self-haters as being ‘driven by hate and anger against their own people’. Interviewed for his institution’s website, Wistrich excoriates ‘Israeli and Jewish intellectuals who think Israel is to blame for all the problems in the Middle East and even in the world in general. […] They rant on about the Jewish lobby, the Christian lobby, the foreign policy of the United States. Those are often worse than Arab anti-Zionists. In fact I prefer an open-minded Arab intellectual, even if he or she is anti-Israel, to the Chomskys, the Finkelsteins and Ilan Pappes of this world for whom I have no respect at all. They are much more dogmatic, sarcastic, narcissistic and self-righteous than most Arabs I know.’

Edward Alexander, professor emeritus in English at Washington University, [co-edited] ... a book of essays with Paul Bogdanor, "The Jewish Divide Over Israel: Accusers and Defenders". Interviewed about the book he said: ‘The rhapsodising over Islamic suicide bombers that one finds in such Jewish haters of Israel as Canada’s Michael Neumann or England’s Jacqueline Rose, breaks new ground in the long history of Jewish self-hatred’.

Writing about IJV in The Jewish Chronicle, Liberal Rabbi Sidney Brichto called them ‘enemies of the Jewish people’ who ‘must be condemned’. ‘The time for debates between Jews over Israel is over.’ Wicked enemies and worse than Arabs: can self-hating Jews sink any lower?...

...Melanie Phillips: ‘The history of the Jewish people has always been punctuated by Jews with a troubled relationship with their own ethnic identity who have gone along with or even become the prime instigators — see Marx or Freud, for example — of diabolical calumnies against their own people’.

Emanuele Ottolenghi, Director of the AJC’s Brussels-based Transatlantic Institute, tells us: ‘The Jewish intellectuals’ […] crusade against Israel is less about justice for the Palestinians than about coming to terms with their own tortured Jewish identity’. He speaks of ‘their effective alienation from Jewish life, Jewish values and Jewish communities’.

Similar sentiments were expressed by key figures associated with the Engage website (set up by a group of mostly left of centre Jewish academics to combat the proposed academic boycott of Israel and unmask people alleged to downplay the strength of current anti-Semitism) in an open letter to the organisers of Jews for Justice for Palestinians (JfJfP), excoriating them for appearing to justify Hezbollah’s anti-Semitic statements — vehemently denied by JfJfP.

Shalom Lappin, professor of computational linguistics at UCL, Eve Garrard, a senior lecturer at Keele University, and Norman Geras, professor emeritus in politics at the University of Manchester, wrote:
‘We are confident that when the history of this period is written and the widespread loss of political reason that characterises our age is finally recognised, your group will be properly consigned to a footnote in the long and dishonourable tradition of Jewish sycophancy and collaboration with hostility that has polluted the margins of European Jewry over the generations’ 

Antisemitism, the Left, and anti-Zionist Jews

From BESA Center Perspectives Paper No. 436, 30 March 2017, by Evyatar Friesel:

...One of the illusions of our times, an understandable case of wishful thinking, is that the horrors of the Holocaust rattled Western culture enough to pave the way to an eventual end to Jew-hatred. Sectors of Western society were indeed rattled (including the Church), but a few decades of soul-searching have not proved sufficient to erase a millennia-old component of the Western spiritual heritage. Like a chameleon, Judeophobia has changed colors and leitmotifs over the centuries, and it continues to do so. Today, before our eyes, it is reformulating itself into anti-Israelism. Although anchored in the broad ideological spectrum of Western society, much of the ideological impulse of Jew-hatred in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries came from the political right and nationalist circles. At present, the main impulse of the new Judeophobia comes from the political left.

...The left, for ideological reasons of its own, is straining to find areas of understanding and collaboration with the Islamic camp. The problem is that the fundamental values of the two sides are incompatible. Leftists and Islamists disagree on secularism, human rights, separation between state and religion, equality for women, and more. However, there is one issue on which the two sides are in accord: they both oppose the Jewish state. For Western leftists, it is a case of the old Judeophobic itch again making itself felt, unconsciously or even consciously, under new mottos. It is not so much the Jews, nowadays, but the Jewish state that is in leftist sights....

Regarding...the Israeli-Palestinian conflict:... “Imagine a film of a boxing match that is cut lengthwise, so we can only see the movements of one of the fighters ...What do we think we are seeing? A nut whose behavior defies all common sense.” ...The aims on the Arab side, the intentions of Hamas and of Hezbollah, the threats of Iran, the fact that in the century-old history of the conflict there has not been a single case of a whole-hearted Arab initiative to reach an understanding – all this is cut from [the] narrative. About Arab behavior in conflicts among themselves (or with non-Muslims), there is similarly not a word.  ...one finds only bad Israelis burdening the region with their bad intentions.

...In that broad range of positions [amongst Jews], running from ultra-Orthodoxy to almost total integration into the non-Jewish world, many anti-Zionist Jews ...are thoroughly immersed in Western life and culture. Their critics frequently excoriate them as self-hating Jews, a view that is simplistic and inexact: most of them are quite normal persons as long as Zionism is not mentioned.  ...they frequently collaborate with anti-Israel non-Jews, they do not oppose other Jews in the sense that classical antisemites do. Although critical of Israel and Israeli society, several of them live very well in Israel.

A large part of modern Jewry was touched by the Jewish spark, the dream of shivat tsion (the Return), and finds an emotional and conceptual anchor in the new Jewish reality of Israel even if they do not live there. Strangely enough, anti-Zionist Jewish intellectuals were also affected by the Zionist spark – but negatively. Their deeply emotional aversion to Zionism suggests a personal dimension, but that is beyond my expertise as a historian.

Anti-Zionist Jews concentrate primarily on one theme, the Israel-Palestinian conflict... The fact that Muslims have a misguided understanding of the connection of the Jews to Palestine is a major reason for their consistent failure to cope with what has become a major political and ideological problem for them. 

I have not met a single Muslim intellectual who did not repeat the canard that “antisemitism caused Zionism,” the inevitable corollary being: “The persecution of the Jews in Europe was a terrible thing. But why do the poor Palestinians have to pay for it?” Jewish intellectuals who support this approach bestow weight onto an ideological misconstruction, the ultimate effect of which is to perpetuate the conflict between Israel and the Arabs.

...Unlike the prophets of old (or the anti-Zionists of the early twentieth-century), these Jewish critics do not sermonize “inside” but “outside”: they preach to non-Jews. Jewish anti-Zionism was once an internal dispute, with Jews debating Jews. Contemporary Jewish anti-Zionism and anti-Israelism is mostly an external affair, with Jews addressing non-Jews, many of them Jew-haters. And those Jews say exactly what many of their non-Jewish listeners want to hear, giving the whole exchange a surreal dimension...

We live in a time when classical Judeophobia, in the new garb of anti-Israelism, is spreading. Encumbering the search for a solution to the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians is a political and ideological confrontation between most of world Jewry and the Muslims. There is no reason on earth not to believe the Iranian ayatollahs, or any other Islamists, when they declare repeatedly that their aim is to destroy the Jewish state, and that they will do their best to achieve that goal. And they are openly supported by Judeophobic sectors of Western society.

Obviously, it is absolutely legitimate to criticize this or that aspect of Israeli life and politics. Every newspaper in Israel does it every day. To call for the destruction of the Jewish state is something else: it is Judeophobia in contemporary dress. To collaborate with parties, states, or people who support such plans, as many Jewish anti-Zionists do, is sheer irresponsibility...

The “anti”-positions of anti-Zionist Jews provide them with a platform, but one does not find in their utterances an anchor in matters Jewish. Their trumpets are shrill but their analyses are incorrect, and over their message hangs a cloud of hopelessness. A bit more modesty and a dose of reflection may, hopefully, bring these anti-Zionist Jews to a better and more balanced understanding of modern Jewish history and actual Jewish realities.

Friday, March 17, 2017

Israel’s Next Big War

From the Forward, 16 March 2017, by Yossi Alpher:

Getty Images

Israel’s next big war is almost certainly going to pit it against some combination of Iranian, Syrian and Hezbollah forces along its northern borders with Syria and Lebanon. To be sure, an additional confrontation with Hamas in Gaza (Israel’s opponent in the costly 2014 Gaza War. which led to the death of roughly 2,100 Palestinians and 73 Israelis) could also be in the offing. But the forthcoming war in Israel’s North — home to an estimated 1.2 million people — could be closer to the kind of all-out war that the Jewish state hasn’t fought since 1973.

The reasons have far less to do with the Arab-Israel conflict than with the ongoing civil war in Syria and the continuing confrontation between Iran and Israel. The outcome could result in considerable destruction inside Israel, but also in a strengthening of Israel’s burgeoning strategic ties with its Sunni neighbors — Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates — who alongside their reservations on the Palestinian issue share Israel’s concerns regarding Iran’s aggressive regional ambitions. In this sense, a confrontation in Israel’s north would decisively reflect current far-reaching changes in the Middle East strategic balance of power.

Syria’s civil war is winding down, at least in the Western or non-desert part of Syria facing the Mediterranean — appropriately termed “Useful Syria” — and in the South, along Syria’s borders with the Israeli Golan Heights and Jordan. Iranian and Russian intervention has turned the tide in favor of the Assad regime in Damascus. In helping Bashar al-Assad to win on the ground, Tehran has mustered a broad war coalition of Shiite mercenaries from as near as southern Lebanon’s Hezbollah and as far afield as Afghanistan and Iraq. The end of fighting in Useful Syria is liable to leave all these battle-tested forces near the Golan. Alongside them will be al-Assad’s ally, Hezbollah, with its estimated arsenal of close to 100,000 rockets and missiles capable of targeting most of Israel, as far south as the Dimona nuclear reactor.

True, Iran’s proxy army, as well as Hezbollah, suffered losses in Syria and is battle weary. But Iran now has the financial resources to speed its return to battle-readiness. This force is understood by Israeli military intelligence to represent the primary military threat to the country for several reasons.

First, both Iran and Hezbollah continue to issue a barrage of threats against Israel — hardly the pose of someone shying away from a fight. In February, Iranian Supreme Leader Sayyid Ali Hosseini Khamenei, pictured above, referred to Israel as “a cancerous tumor that should be cut and will be cut.”

Second, victory in Syria will represent a major Iranian strategic success in projecting its power in the region. Iran, which is zealously buying top-flight weapons from Russia, is trying to develop a Mediterranean naval presence as well, with a port on the Syrian coast.

Forward Graphic

Third, a combination of Syrian, Iranian and Hezbollah pressure has spurred a political shift in Lebanon. President Michel Aoun, a Christian who owes his recent election to Hezbollah support, stated on February 12 that Hezbollah’s weapons are complementary to those of the Lebanese army: “The resistance’s [meaning Hezbollah’s] arms are … an essential part of Lebanon’s defense.”

This groundbreaking and, inside Lebanon, controversial statement abrogates Lebanese policy that once proclaimed that only the Lebanese army defends the country. Lebanon used to at least project a certain distance between Hezbollah’s strategic aims and activities and those of sovereign Lebanon.

Already there are signs that the Lebanese army in southern Lebanon is deferring to Hezbollah forces along Israel’s border. Given the [collaboration] between the Lebanese military and Hezbollah’s forces, Israel is justified in deeming another attack by Hezbollah an act of war by Lebanon itself and responding militarily against the Lebanese army and the country’s infrastructure. Yet this could have a devastating effect on both Lebanon’s delicate internal ethnic equilibrium and Israel’s otherwise improving relations with the Arab world.

On March 9, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu traveled to Moscow for a summit with Russia’s president, Vladimir Putin, for the fourth time in the past 18 months. Since Russian forces entered Syria in September 2015 to rescue the Assad regime, Jerusalem and Moscow have had much to talk about, including ways to ensure that Israeli and Russian combat aircraft don’t get into dogfights in the skies over Damascus. Changed global strategic circumstances may also now dictate that Netanyahu exploit his close contacts with both Putin and President Trump to pass messages between the two. But Netanyahu very pointedly stated after his meeting that the main agenda item was Iran: not the Iran nuclear deal, which is a fait accompli, but the growing Iranian military threat to Israel from Syria and Lebanon.

These developments raise weighty questions.

  • Can Putin be persuaded to escort Iran’s forces and proxies out of Syria as part of the Russian endgame there? 
  • Will the Israeli threat to target all of Lebanon next time around succeed in deterring another war with Hezbollah, or could it have the unfortunate effect of widening that war? 
  • And if war breaks out and Hezbollah rains tens of thousands of missiles over most of Israel, will an all-out Israeli response that targets large portions of both Syria and Lebanon succeed in ending the next war quickly? 
  • Will Iranian forces suffer enough damage in the fighting to deter Tehran in the future? 
  • Will Israel, too, suffer heavy civilian and infrastructure damage?

Last but not least, where does the Trump administration weigh in regarding the increasing Iranian threat to Israel from Syrian and Lebanese soil? 

The United States and Russia are potentially the only parties capable of changing the reality on the ground in Syria. The Arab world certainly won’t.

Thursday, March 16, 2017

A sick new low for UK aid to the PA

From The Daily Mail (Australia), 16 March 2017, by Ian Birrell In Hebron:

Palestinian boys and girls pretend to execute an Israeli soldier – as teachers at schools funded by YOU tell their pupils that terrorists are heroes 

  • Palestinian schools funded by British foreign aid are named after terrorists 
  • Pictures of 'martyrs' and revolutionary slogans are posted all over the walls
  • Despite this millions of pounds of aid continues to pour into the region
  • The Mail on Sunday is calling on the government to end foreign aid madness 

Britain is pumping huge sums of foreign aid into Palestinian schools named after mass murderers and Islamist militants, which openly promote terrorism and encourage pupils to see child killers as role models.

A Mail on Sunday investigation has found 24 schools named after Palestinian terrorists and evidence of widespread encouragement of violence against Israel by teachers, with terrorists routinely held up as heroes for schoolchildren.

Pictures of ‘martyrs’ are posted on school walls, revolutionary slogans and symbols are painted on premises used by youngsters, sports events are named after teenage terrorists and children are encouraged to act out shooting Israeli soldiers in plays.

In a sick classroom play children at the Al-Surra School surround a classmate dressed as an Israeli soldier to play out a mock 'execution'
In a sick classroom play children at the Al-Surra School surround a classmate dressed as an Israeli soldier to play out a mock 'execution'

Head teachers openly admit flouting attempts by British and European donors to control the curriculum at schools. They print overtly political study aids for pupils, some even denying the existence of Israel, and teachers boast of encouraging pupils to emulate teenage attackers killed in the most recent wave of terrorist attacks in the region.

One senior teacher from a prominent West Bank school, asked what he would say to a pupil threatening to attack Israelis, told this newspaper: ‘I would tell them go in the name of God.’

This is all despite a review of the hundreds of millions of pounds in donations poured into Palestinian public services last year, which came after Western donors raised concerns about the indoctrination of children.

The changes to aid handouts followed a furore sparked by a previous Mail on Sunday investigation exposing how British taxpayers’ cash supported monthly payments to convicted terrorist killers and the families of suicide bombers.

 After the soldier was 'shot' dead the photo was posted on the school's Facebook page 
 After the soldier was 'shot' dead the photo was posted on the school's Facebook page 

The investigation also discovered that British aid was funding salaries for thousands of civil servants who had not worked for nine years, despite many admitting they had second jobs. These payments were stopped three months ago.

The investigation was part of this newspaper’s long-running campaign against the Government’s commitment to foreign aid which is set to reach £12 billion.

Joan Ryan, chair of Labour Friends of Israel and MP for Enfield North, said she supported sending aid to Palestine but urged Ministers to make the Palestinians stick to funding agreements. She said: ‘We cannot stand idly by while the Palestinian Authority sanctions anti-Semitic incitement which poisons young minds and makes a two-state solution ever more difficult to achieve.’
Girls play outside Dalal Mughrabi high school. In 1976 Mughrabi led an attack that left 37 people dead, 12 of them children 
Girls play outside Dalal Mughrabi high school. In 1976 Mughrabi led an attack that left 37 people dead, 12 of them children 

This year alone Britain is giving £25 million to the Palestinian Authority (PA). It will help fund salaries for 30,000 officials in West Bank health and education.

The EU, which gets one-tenth of its aid budget from Britain, is donating £272 million. More than half of this goes to public servants in education, health and social services in Gaza and West Bank.

Dalal Mughrabi was a member of the Fatah faction of the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO)
Dalal Mughrabi was a member of the Fatah faction of the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO)

Both the Department for International Development and the EU say the use of such money is carefully vetted by accountants. But a new report prepared for Labour Friends of Israel by Palestinian Media Watch, a respected Israeli monitoring organisation, has discovered:

  • Twenty-four schools named after prominent Palestinian terrorists, including four named after the man who planned the murder of 11 Israeli athletes at the Munich Olympics, one after the founder of militant Islamist group Hamas and one after Amin al-Husseini, the infamous Grand Mufti of Jerusalem who backed Hitler and helped recruit for the SS.
  • Sports events being regularly named after terrorists. Typical was a football tournament, hosted by a school in al-Bireh, named after a 13-year-old who stabbed two Israeli citizens a few weeks earlier. His 15-year-old friend was shot dead in the attack.
  • Plays put on at schools and summer camps have pupils staging ‘executions’, such as one in Hebron featuring a child draped in Palestinian colours ‘shooting’ another dressed as an Israeli soldier. The images were posted on the school’s Facebook page.
  • The Palestinian ministry of education planted trees to commemorate terrorists killed in ‘the ongoing popular uprising’. It was a means of ‘honouring the martyrs, among them school students, and to strengthen the sense of belonging to the land.’

Itamar Marcus, the director of Palestinian Media Watch, said British aid was backing the glorification of terrorism and indoctrination of Palestinian children to see murderers as role models
‘Britain and the European Union bear responsibility for this terror when they are funding a school system that is actively promoting, and thereby creating, terrorism,’ he said. ‘This is simply child abuse, encouraging kids to die in armed struggle.‘It is a terrible message for the next generation. Children are the key to peace but look at what they are being exposed to from a young age, growing up in an environment of terror and told the killing of Israelis is a heroic action.’
One of the schools he identified was Khalil al-Wazir elementary school for girls in Hebron.

This is named after the Palestinian Liberation Organisation’s former military mastermind known as Abu Jihad, who was blamed for the slaughter of 125 Israelis.

The smart hilltop school has an image of his face painted inside its grounds alongside the words: ‘Abu Jihad. First the bullets and first the stones.’ The logo for political group Fatah, which runs the West Bank, is sprayed beside the main gate with its familiar crossed guns.

In one corner of the courtyard can be found a plaque marking the ‘construction and rehabilitation of toilets, storage facilities and drinking fountains’ funded by EU aid.

Another of the schools is Dalal Mughrabi high school for girls in al-Shuyukh, Hebron. It is one of three named after the woman who led the most lethal terror attack in Israeli history, a 1978 bus hijacking that left 37 people dead, including 12 children.

A mural nearby Khalil al-Wazir girls' school depicts PLO terrorist Abu Jihad, blamed for the slaughter of 125 Israelis 
A mural nearby Khalil al-Wazir girls' school depicts PLO terrorist Abu Jihad, blamed for the slaughter of 125 Israelis 

A map of Israel and the Occupied Territories was painted on the wall beside the front door – filled in entirely with the Palestinian flag to illustrate the ‘illegitimacy’ of Israel’s existence. Pupils told me they knew little about Mughrabi. But girls at another school named after her told Palestinian television three years ago of their pride in attending a place named after ‘a great leader’. One said her ‘life’s ambition’ was to emulate such a hero.

A teacher also hailed Mughrabi as ‘one of the brave female fighters who carried out martyrdom-seeking operations.’

An education official in Hebron told me they did not see such a person as a terrorist since she was defending the people’s rights against repressive occupation. ‘We do not consider her a child killer,’ he insisted. ‘Where is the problem in calling schools after such martyrs?’

As we talked, a colleague tapped away on a computer with a USAid sticker on it, one of 25 recently donated to the municipality.

One of Barack Obama’s last acts as President was to hand $221 million (£181 million) to the PA hours before Donald Trump succeeded him.

The move highlights how a corrupt regime is propped up by foreign aid, with £14 billion handed over during its 23-year existence. Foreign support has fallen recently, causing financial problems in the struggling region, yet terrorists and their families are still being paid £246 million a year.

Western donors, stung by accusations of aiding terrorism, forced the PA to change its school curriculum at the start of this school year by weeding out controversial issues in history, geography and religion.

In the courtyard of Khalil al-Wazir girls' school a plaque marks out that it's funded by the EU
In the courtyard of Khalil al-Wazir girls' school a plaque marks out that it's funded by the EU

Teachers told me they were now meant to be barred from discussing the 1948 Nakba, when hundreds of thousands of Palestinians were exiled or fled from their homes during Israel’s war of independence. Koranic verses referring to jihad are also off limits.

But they brazenly said they ignored the bans, claiming their leaders agree controls just to get through the vetting process and obtain aid cash in full knowledge any restrictions will be brushed aside in classrooms.

‘This is how it works,’ said Anwar Abu Quak, an English teacher in Ramallah. ‘They apply for funds, they get funds and they claim they will remove things from our textbooks. Then the principals tell teachers to take it upon themselves to teach the right things. Why should we listen to the foreign donors? They are buying the politicians and civil servants with their money, not those of us teaching the kids.’

He admitted they talked about the Nakba and ‘martyrs’ in lessons. ‘We tell them they are the foundation of our people,’ he said. ‘It is important to name schools after the martyrs. There should be monuments in schools celebrating them.

A Hamas demonstration in Palestine. Nabil Samara, a headteacher, said: 'If I am teaching students about the love of Palestine, I have to teach them about the importance of resisting the occupation' 
A Hamas demonstration in Palestine. Nabil Samara, a headteacher, said: 'If I am teaching students about the love of Palestine, I have to teach them about the importance of resisting the occupation' 

‘Where does all this aid money go?’ he asked. ‘First look at the schools, with no libraries or playgrounds and 45 children to a class – then look at the well-furnished offices of officials.’ He added that he had never seen a Western donor visit his school premises.

Nabil Samara, head of the 850-pupil school, spent two spells in prison for affiliation to a terror group and one for encouraging teachers to incite violence. He has seen five pupils shot dead in protests during his decade in charge (their pictures are displayed in the school) and about 20 jailed. ‘As long as the occupation continues it is impossible for us not to be inciting violence,’ said Samara, 58.

‘The donor countries put in their rules but if I am teaching students about the love of Palestine, I have to teach them about the importance of resisting the occupation.’

He admitted they printed their own leaflets to flesh out the new curriculum, including ones for geography lessons showing Palestine occupying all the territory of Israel, as before its creation in 1948.

‘The geography of Palestine has been removed from the curriculum,’ he said. ‘We should not take money with all these conditions. It is my job to teach children our history, our geography and our religion.’...

Samara insisted that he would seek to stop any of his pupils from actively participating in attacks on Israel
Stone-throwing "students"actively participating in attacks on Israeli civilians

Netanyahu urges Putin to block Iranian power corridor on Israel’s border

From the Washington Post,  March 9, by David Filipov and Ruth Eglash:

Russian President Vladimir Putin, right, and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu meet in Moscow. (Pool photo by Pavel Golovkin via European Pressphoto Agency)

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu [is] seeking reassurance from Russian President Vladimir Putin that his country’s presence in Syria would help Israel block arch-nemesis Iran from taking advantage of the chaos to position itself permanently on Israel’s northern border.

Until now, the Israeli government has stayed relatively quiet about developments in the six-year-old conflict raging in neighboring Syria, acting militarily only when it feels its security threatened. But now, as Syrian President Bashar al-Assad receives a boost from the strategic alliance between Russia and Iran, Tehran’s expanding influence across the region is causing alarm in Israel.

...Netanyahu noted the significant progress made by Russia and other players in the region in fighting Islamist militant groups, including the Islamic State and al-Qaeda. He added, however, that
“the victory over the terrorism of ISIS cannot lead to an upsurge in terrorism by Iran and its proxies. We will not exchange terrorism for terrorism.” ...
...Although Russia is unhappy with some of Iran’s strategic objectives in a postwar Syria, it is unclear how far Putin would go in supporting Israeli action to prevent Iran from building a sphere of influence from Tehran to Lebanon, via Syria and Iraq.

“Syria is at a crossroads right now. On one side, there is a cease-fire that seems to be holding and Assad has managed to regain control of parts of his country. Israel is worried that Iran and its proxies will gain a permanent foothold in Syria,” said senior Israeli minister Tzachi Hanegbi, a close ally of Netanyahu.

Ever since Russia entered Syrian territory two years ago, Israel has repeatedly emphasized to Putin its red lines regarding Iran and the groups it supports — Lebanon’s Hezbollah and other Shiite militias involved in the fighting in Syria. Netanyahu has visited Moscow four times over the past 1½ years, and the two sides have struck cooperation agreements aimed at preventing confrontations between their warplanes in Syrian airspace.

 With rapid changes on the ground, however, Hanegbi said Israel feels it is time to focus on the future.

In its official statements, Moscow has been unwilling to make predictions about what would happen with Iran’s military buildup after the end of hostilities in Syria.

Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov, in an interview with the newspaper al-Hayat on Sunday that was quoted by the Interfax news agency, said that any decision on the withdrawal of Iranian forces would rest with Syria’s leaders.
“The lawful authorities who will be lawfully chosen in Syria would be the ones with the right to demand the withdrawal of all foreign powers from the country,” Bogdanov said.
This official stance reflects the reality that Putin has neither the ability nor the intention to exclude Iran from a settlement in Syria, not when Iran’s role in supporting Assad far exceeds that of Russia, said Vladimir Frolov, a foreign-policy analyst based on Moscow.

 During the course of Syria’s war, Iran has provided billions of dollars to shore up Assad’s regime and contributed much of the manpower that has sustained the depleted Syrian army’s capabilities, in the form of Shiite militias recruited from the region and elsewhere.

In the process, Iran has significantly expanded its reach across Syria, giving it new strategic depth in any future conflict with Israel. Members of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps are now present along the 1967 cease-fire line with Israel in the Golan Heights, putting them directly opposite Israeli troops for the first time. 

Hezbollah, which has fought wars with Israel and has an estimated 6,000 to 8,000 fighters in Syria, is also active in the Golan.

 On Wednesday, an Iranian-allied Shiite militia from Iraq, Hezbollah al-Nujaba, announced that it had established a new unit, the Golan Liberation Brigade, dedicated to liberating the remainder of the Golan Heights occupied by Israel since 1967.

...Iran is also thought to have deployed missiles in Syria capable of reaching deep inside Israeli territory.

While refraining from commenting on the war in Syria, Israel is believed to have carried out unclaimed airstrikes inside Syria targeting suspected Iranian and Hezbollah weapons storage sites and missile depots in recent years. Russia has turned a blind eye to the strikes.

Putin, who has made support for Assad a cornerstone of his policy, would probably be unwilling to go beyond that and support an Israeli incursion.

“Given all this, it is hard to see what Putin could promise to Netanyahu,” Frolov said. “He might, and likely will, promise a lot, but is in no position to deliver.”

U.S. envoy to U.N. says 'we need to get Iran' out of Syria

From Reuters, 8 March 2017, by Michelle Nichols:

U.S. ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley speaks while Japan's U.N. Ambassador Koro Bessho (L) and South Korea's U.N. Ambassador Cho Tae-yul (R) look on during a press encounter after meeting on North Korea's launch of ballistic missiles at the United Nations in New York, U.S., March 8, 2017. REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton
U.S. ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley speaks while Japan's U.N. Ambassador Koro Bessho (L) and South Korea's U.N. Ambassador Cho Tae-yul (R) look on during a press encounter after meeting on North Korea's launch of ballistic missiles at the United Nations in New... REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton

The United States supports the U.N.-led Syria peace talks, U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley said on Wednesday, saying Syria could no longer be a "safe haven for terrorists" and that it was important "we get Iran and their proxies out."

Haley spoke to reporters after U.N. Syria mediator Staffan de Mistura briefed the Security Council behind closed doors on 10 days of talks between the warring parties in Geneva, which ended last week.

She did not respond to questions on whether the United States believed Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, backed by Russia and Iran, should step down.

All eyes have been on how Washington would approach ending the six-year war in Syria, given pledges by President Donald Trump to build closer ties with Russia, especially in the fight against Islamic State. Trump's Syria policy has been unclear.

"The United States absolutely supports Staffan de Mistura and the work that he's doing, we support the U.N. process, we support the talks in Geneva, we want to see them continue," Haley said.

"This is very much about a political solution now ... and that basically means that Syria can no longer be a safe haven for terrorists, we've got to make sure we get Iran and their proxies out, we've got to make sure that, as we move forward, we're securing the borders for our allies as well," she said.

Iran is backing fighters in Syria from Lebanese Shi'ite Muslim group Hezbollah....