Friday, January 1, 2010

The 'Israelification' of airports: High security, little bother.

 

by Cathal Kelly

 

While North America's airports groan under the weight of another sea-change in security protocols, one word keeps popping out of the mouths of experts: Israelification.

 

That is, how can we make our airports more like Israel's, which deal with far greater terror threat with far less inconvenience.

 

"It is mindboggling for us Israelis to look at what happens in North America, because we went through this 50 years ago," said Rafi Sela, the president of AR Challenges, a global transportation security consultancy. He's worked with the RCMP, the U.S. Navy Seals and airports around the world.

 

"Israelis, unlike Canadians and Americans, don't take s--- from anybody. When the security agency in Israel (the ISA) started to tighten security and we had to wait in line for — not for hours — but 30 or 40 minutes, all hell broke loose here. We said, 'We're not going to do this. You're going to find a way that will take care of security without touching the efficiency of the airport."

 

That, in a nutshell is "Israelification" - a system that protects life and limb without annoying you to death.

 

Despite facing dozens of potential threats each day, the security set-up at Israel's largest hub, Tel Aviv's Ben Gurion Airport, has not been breached since 2002, when a passenger mistakenly carried a handgun onto a flight. How do they manage that?

 

"The first thing you do is to look at who is coming into your airport," said Sela.

 

The first layer of actual security that greets travellers at Tel Aviv's Ben Gurion International Airport is a roadside check. All drivers are stopped and asked two questions: How are you? Where are you coming from?

 

"Two benign questions. The questions aren't important. The way people act when they answer them is," Sela said.

 

Officers are looking for nervousness or other signs of "distress" — behavioural profiling. Sela rejects the argument that profiling is discriminatory.

 

"The word 'profiling' is a political invention by people who don't want to do security," he said. "To us, it doesn't matter if he's black, white, young or old. It's just his behaviour. So what kind of privacy am I really stepping on when I'm doing this?"

 

Once you've parked your car or gotten off your bus, you pass through the second and third security perimeters.

 

Armed guards outside the terminal are trained to observe passengers as they move toward the doors, again looking for odd behaviour. At Ben Gurion's half-dozen entrances, another layer of security are watching. At this point, some travellers will be randomly taken aside, and their person and their luggage run through a magnometer.

 

"This is to see that you don't have heavy metals on you or something that looks suspicious," said Sela.

 

You are now in the terminal. As you approach your airline check-in desk, a trained interviewer takes your passport and ticket. They ask a series of questions: Who packed your luggage? Has it left your side?

 

"The whole time, they are looking into your eyes — which is very embarrassing. But this is one of the ways they figure out if you are suspicious or not. It takes 20, 25 seconds," said Sela.

 

Lines are staggered. People are not allowed to bunch up into inviting targets for a bomber who has gotten this far.

 

At the check-in desk, your luggage is scanned immediately in a purpose-built area. Sela plays devil's advocate — what if you have escaped the attention of the first four layers of security, and now try to pass a bag with a bomb in it?

 

"I once put this question to Jacques Duchesneau (the former head of the Canadian Air Transport Security Authority): say there is a bag with play-doh in it and two pens stuck in the play-doh. That is 'Bombs 101' to a screener. I asked Ducheneau, 'What would you do?' And he said, 'Evacuate the terminal.' And I said, 'Oh. My. God.'

 

"Take Pearson. Do you know how many people are in the terminal at all times? Many thousands. Let's say I'm (doing an evacuation) without panic — which will never happen. But let's say this is the case. How long will it take? Nobody thought about it. I said, 'Two days.'"

 

A screener at Ben-Gurion has a pair of better options.

 

First, the screening area is surrounded by contoured, blast-proof glass that can contain the detonation of up to 100 kilos of plastic explosive. Only the few dozen people within the screening area need be removed, and only to a point a few metres away.

 

Second, all the screening areas contain 'bomb boxes'. If a screener spots a suspect bag, he/she is trained to pick it up and place it in the box, which is blast proof. A bomb squad arrives shortly and wheels the box away for further investigation.

 

"This is a very small simple example of how we can simply stop a problem that would cripple one of your airports," Sela said.

 

Five security layers down: you now finally arrive at the only one which Ben-Gurion Airport shares with Pearson — the body and hand-luggage check.

 

"But here it is done completely, absolutely 180 degrees differently than it is done in North America," Sela said.

 

"First, it's fast — there's almost no line. That's because they're not looking for liquids, they're not looking at your shoes. They're not looking for everything they look for in North America. They just look at you," said Sela. "Even today with the heightened security in North America, they will check your items to death. But they will never look at you, at how you behave. They will never look into your eyes ... and that's how you figure out the bad guys from the good guys."

 

That's the process — six layers, four hard, two soft. The goal at Ben-Gurion is to move fliers from the parking lot to the airport lounge in a maximum of 25 minutes.

 

This doesn't begin to cover the off-site security net that failed so spectacularly in targeting would-be Flight 253 bomber Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab — intelligence. In Israel, Sela said, a coordinated intelligence gathering operation produces a constantly evolving series of threat analyses and vulnerability studies.

 

"There is absolutely no intelligence and threat analysis done in Canada or the United States," Sela said. "Absolutely none."

 

But even without the intelligence, Sela maintains, Abdulmutallab would not have gotten past Ben Gurion Airport's behavioural profilers.

 

So. Eight years after 9/11, why are we still so reactive, so un-Israelified?

 

Working hard to dampen his outrage, Sela first blames our leaders, and then ourselves.

 

"We have a saying in Hebrew that it's much easier to look for a lost key under the light, than to look for the key where you actually lost it, because it's dark over there. That's exactly how (North American airport security officials) act," Sela said. "You can easily do what we do. You don't have to replace anything. You have to add just a little bit — technology, training. But you have to completely change the way you go about doing airport security. And that is something that the bureaucrats have a problem with. They are very well enclosed in their own concept."

 

And rather than fear, he suggests that outrage would be a far more powerful spur to provoking that change.

 

"Do you know why Israelis are so calm? We have brutal terror attacks on our civilians and still, life in Israel is pretty good. The reason is that people trust their defence forces, their police, their response teams and the security agencies. They know they're doing a good job. You can't say the same thing about Americans and Canadians. They don't trust anybody," Sela said. "But they say, 'So far, so good'. Then if something happens, all hell breaks loose and you've spent eight hours in an airport. Which is ridiculous. Not justifiable

 

"But, what can you do? Americans and Canadians are nice people and they will do anything because they were told to do so and because they don't know any different."

 

 

Cathal Kelly

Copyright - Original materials copyright (c) by the authors.

 

The double standard exposed: Iran v. Israel.

 

by  Meryl Yourish

Iranians are being murdered in the streets. The sister of Shirin Ebadi, the 2003 Nobel peace laureate who is not currently in Iran, was arrested and imprisoned apparently for the crime of being Shirin's sister. The Iranians are beating protesters, hanging protesters, torturing protesters, and have been doing so since last year. And the world's outrage this month is focused on—Israel. At Human Rights Watch, the last comment on Iran was Dec. 10th, where there is an article titled "Iran: Stop harassing Shirin Ebadi." There is nothing to date about the current wave of protests, beatings, and murders.

The UN website is concentrating on Gaza. And Gaza. And Gaza. And Gaza. Four news releases in the last week on Gaza. How many on Iran? You're kidding, right? Because the last one was over a month ago, and it was about Iran's nuclear violations.

To its credit, Amnesty International is calling on Iran to stop killing its protestors. In fact, Amnesty has several calls for Iran to stop abusing its own people.

UN SecGen Ban Ki-Moon is "deeply concerned" about Gaza, but is apparently quite unconcerned about Iran, as there is no statement whatsoever regarding the current uprising. As for the worldwide protests agaist Iran cracking down on its populace's human rights, well—there are none. Crickets, and all that.

Remember this, the next time you read about the worldwide outrage over human rights in the occupied territories. Not that I expect anything to change. But we do get to point out that there is a double standard in the world regarding Israel, and the rest of the world. But not to worry, as I also always point out: It only happens on days that end with a "y."

Meryl Yourish

Copyright - Original materials copyright (c) by the authors.

 

From shelled to sheltered: Sderot's new reality.

 

by  Jeff Abramowitz

Sderot, Israel (dpa) - This winter, Eli Asayag has opened the windows of his cafe.

A year ago they were tightly shuttered, hopeful protection against rockets that were raining down onto southern Israel and especially on Sderot, located about three kilometres from the Gaza Strip.

Sderot residents are breathing easier today, 12 months after last winter's war between Israel and Gaza militants. Israel had launched the campaign after years of rocket fire from Gaza on its southern towns and villages.

However, even though rocket fire is no longer a feature of daily life in Sderot and other towns and villages close to the Gaza Strip, it is not yet a distant memory. Rockets are still launched from the salient, but in far, far fewer numbers.

"This last year was one of the calmest in the last 10, possibly even 20 years. Only 284 missiles were launched at southern Israel from the Gaza Strip, compared to 3,200 in 2008," says Noam Bedein, who heads an NGO in Sderot.

"We feel the conflict has not ended 100 per cent, but we do feel a difference," notes Sderot supermarket owner Yakov Dahan.

"At last our children can go out onto the streets, to join in outdoor activities," he says.


Yet for all the palpable sense of relief residents say they feel after Israel's offensive, the trauma of the past decade, when a total of 12,000 rockets were launched at southern Israel, remains.

Residents still remember the fear that the constant threat of rocket attacks used to bring.

Despite the anxiety, however, the effects of the relative calm are visible in the streets. Unlike last winter's war, which turned Sderot into a ghost town as residents huddled fearfully indoors, people are venturing outdoors to go about their daily business.

There are fewer "for rent" of "for sale" signs hanging outside apartments. Real estate prices have in fact risen, as some who previously fled the town return home.

And locals are taking advantage of the lull to build safe rooms or bombshelters, turning Sderot from the one of the most shelled cities in the world in 2008, to one of the most bomb-sheltered city in the world now.

Built with government financial help, the new constructions look like normal rooms attached to a building, but they have walls which are 40 centimetres thick and reinforced with concrete.

Playgrounds too are still sheltered by reinforced concrete "umbrellas," although these provide protection only against rockets with 3 kilogrammes of explosives or less. Latest rockets fired by the Gaza militias can carry between 20 to 40 kilogrammes of explosives.

And of course, the shelters only provide physical protection. Repairing the mental damage is another matter. Some 70 to 90 per cent of Sderot children suffer from some form of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, mental health experts estimate.

For Shula Sasson, the new calm in Sderot means that her family no longer sleep all together in the living room.

Her teenage son, traumatised after he was caught in the open during a missile barrage some years ago, also no longer insists on spending the night huddled in a claustrophobic steel shelter especially erected for him in a corner of the room.

However, the family keeps mattresses stacked behind the living room couch, in case they once again have to take shelter in the ground floor room at night. The makeshift protection built for their two mongrel dogs is also still on the back porch.

"It's calm," she notes of the relative lull, "but it's a calm I cannot believe in."

Every missile warning broadcast, she notes, triggers the same movie in her head.

She is not alone in this. And sometimes it does not even take a missile warning to trigger the old fear and the routine of running to find shelter in 15 seconds, residents say.

One woman walking outdoors soon after the Israeli offensive ended heard a boom of thunder and instinctively dropped to the ground to take whatever cover she could find.

Despite the careful, grateful optimism of residents that the lull has restored some semblance of normality to their lives, few believe that it will be permanent.

"Everything is very fragile," Bedein notes. "Everyone understands it's just a matter of time before fighting erupts again."

 

Jeff Abramowitz

Copyright - Original materials copyright (c) by the authors.

 

Thursday, December 31, 2009

In defiance of demographic fatalism.

 

by  Yoram Ettinger

In 1948, prime minister David Ben-Gurion declared independence in defiance of demographic fatalism, which was perpetrated by the country's leading demographers. He rejected their assumptions that Jews were doomed to be a minority between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean, that a massive aliya wave was not feasible, that the Jewish fertility rate was declining to below reproduction levels and that the Arab fertility rate would remain the highest in the world, irrespective of modernity.

Instead, Ben-Gurion highlighted demographic optimism and aliya as top national priorities, coalesced a solid Jewish majority and planted the seeds that catapulted Israel to a Middle East power, highly respected for its civilian and military achievements.

In 2005, in capitulation to demographic fatalism, prime minister Ariel Sharon retreated from Palestinian terrorism, uprooting 10,000 Jews from Gaza and Samaria. Sharon abandoned his lifelong ideology of defiance, subordinating long-term strategy and security concerns to doomsday demography. Thus, he facilitated Hamas's takeover of Gaza and its ripple effects: slackened posture of deterrence, intensified shelling of southern Israel, the 2006 Second Lebanon War, 2008's Operation Cast Lead, the Goldstone Report and the exacerbated global pressure on Israel.

DEMOGRAPHIC ASSUMPTIONS have played an increasing role in shaping national security policy since 1992. But what if these assumptions are dramatically wrong? For example, since the beginning of annual aliya in 1882 - and in contradiction to demographic projections - the Jewish population between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean has grown 238-fold, while the Arab population increased only sixfold. Since 1948, the Jewish population has increased almost tenfold, and the Arab population has expanded threefold.

Israel's demographers did not believe that a massive aliya would take place in the aftermath of the 1948/9 war. One million Jews arrived. They projected no substantial aliya from the communist bloc during the 1970s. Almost 300,000 Jews arrived. They dismissed the possibility of a massive aliya from the USSR, even if the gates were opened. One million olim relocated from the Soviet Union to the Jewish homeland during the 1990s.

Contrary to demographic assumptions, a rapid and drastic decline in Muslim fertility has been documented by the UN Population Division: Iran - 1.7 births per woman; Algeria - 1.8 births; Egypt - 2.5 births; Jordan - three births; and so on. The Arab fertility rate in pre-1967 Israel declined 20 years faster than projected, and Judea and Samaria Arab fertility has dropped below 4.5 births per woman, tending toward three births.

Precedents suggest that low fertility rates can rarely be reversed following a sustained period of significant reduction.

At the same time, the annual number of Jewish births increased by 45 percent between 1995 (80,400) and 2008 (117,000), mostly impacted by the demographic surge within the secular sector. The total annual Arab births in pre-1967 Israel stabilized around 39,000 during the same period, reflecting the successful Arab integration into the infrastructure of education, employment, health, trade, politics and sports.

AN AUDIT of the documentation of Palestinian births, deaths and migration, which is conducted by the Palestinian Authority ministries of Health and Education and Election Commission, as well as by Israel's Border Police and Central Bureau of Statistics and by the World Bank, reveals huge misrepresentations by the Palestine Central Bureau of Statistics.

For instance, the PCBS's census includes about 400,000 overseas residents who have been away for more than one year, ignores high net-emigration (28,000 in 2008, 25,000 in 2007, etc.) and double-counts some 250,000 Jerusalem Arabs, who are also counted by Israel. Furthermore, a 40,000-60,000 annual birth gap is confirmed between PCBS numbers and the documentation conducted by the PA Health and Education ministries.

The audit of Palestinian and Israeli documentation exposes a 66% bend in the current number of Judea and Samaria Arabs - 1.55 million and not 2.5 million, as claimed by the PA. It certifies a solid 67% Jewish majority over 98.5% of the land west of the Jordan River (without Gaza), compared with a 33% and an 8% Jewish minority in 1947 and 1900, respectively, west of the Jordan River. An 80% majority is attainable by 2035 with the proper demographic policy, highlighting aliya, returning expatriates, etc.

In conclusion, demographic optimism is well-documented, while demographic fatalism is resoundingly refuted. There is a demographic problem, but it is not lethal, and the tailwind is Jewish. Therefore, anyone suggesting that there is a demographic machete at the throat of the Jewish state and that Jewish geography must be conceded to secure Jewish demography, is either grossly mistaken or outrageously misleading.

 

Yoram Ettinger is executive director of Second Thought, which researches national security aspects of Judea and Samaria.

Copyright - Original materials copyright (c) by the authors.

 

Jimmy Carter and the Politics of Apology.

 

by Jacob Laksin

 

When it comes to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Jimmy Carter is no stranger to apologies. The former president has spent years making excuses for Hamas, championing the Palestinian jihadists as the embattled victims of Israeli aggression – the group’s exterminationist founding charter and record of terrorism notwithstanding. Now it’s Israel’s turn to profit from Carter’s dubious public relations tactics.

After years of demonizing the Jewish state on the world stage, Carter at last has seen the error of his ways. Or so he says: Last week, Carter issued a statement to the Jewish community in which he apologized for his role in tarnishing Israel’s image and, invoking a traditional Jewish prayer, asked for forgiveness.

“I never intended or wanted to stigmatize the nation of Israel, even though I have disagreed with the settlement policy all the way back to the White House,” Carter reportedly said. He also urged that “[w]e must recognize Israel’s achievements under difficult circumstances,” and that “we must not permit criticisms for improvement to stigmatize Israel.”

In completely unrelated news, Carter’s grandson, 34-year old Atlanta attorney Jason Carter, is running for a state senate seat in a suburban Georgia community that just happens to be home to a proportionally small but politically significant Jewish population.

If Carter’s conversion to nuance on the issue he has long viewed through a thoroughly anti-Israel lens seems more than a trifle expedient, it is. This after all is the man whose 2007 book, Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid, notoriously equated democratic Israel with South Africa’s regime of racist discrimination. The author now suggests that he overstated his case, and that he regrets the book’s inflammatory title. Carter remains critical of Israeli settlements, but he now allows that Palestinians aren’t actually suffering under the yoke of racist apartheid. His mistake

For Israel’s supporters, that concession, however self-evident, could still be welcome. Yet it’s difficult to see Carter’s mea culpa as a genuinely good-faith effort to undo the damage his campaigning has done to Israel’s reputation. Most conspicuously, there is the convenient timing of his contrition, which comes as his grandson aims to fill a post vacated by Jewish politician – David Adelman, now the Obama administration’s nominee for ambassador to Singapore – in a district with an influential Jewish community. In such circumstances, having one of the world’s preeminent detractors of the Jewish state as a direct relative is not exactly a selling point.

Even if opportunism doesn’t fully explain Carter’s apology, his second thoughts remain deeply suspect. Just days before airing his regrets, Carter published an op-ed in London’s Guardian that rehearsed many of the anti-Israel tropes for which he now purports to be sorry.

In making a case for a renewed Middle Eastern peace process, Carter excused Arab intransigence (“no Arab or Islamic nation will accept any comprehensive agreement while Israel retains control of East Jerusalem”); whitewashed Palestinian terrorism (Carter made only an oblique reference “Palestinian recalcitrance”); and blamed Israel and Israeli leaders for the failure of past negotiations even as he exempted Palestinians from comparable scrutiny.

Equally deplorable, if typical, was Carter’s one-sided and selective account of the background of the conflict. Though lamenting the “intense personal suffering” of Palestinians living “under siege in Gaza” in the aftermath of last year’s war, Carter never mentioned the relentless eight-year rocket bombardment of Israeli cities and villages that forced the Israeli offensive. Similarly, Carter denounced Israel’s reluctance to allow the shipment of construction materials like cement into Gaza, but failed to note both that Israel has indeed allowed some limited shipment of materials and the reason why it has to screen such shipments in the first place: Construction materials are routinely used by Palestinian terrorists to build rockets and fortifications. In yet another revisionist flourish, Carter accused Israel of destroying Palestinian schools and hospitals with “precision bombs missiles” during the Gaza war, while omitting the critical fact that they often served as havens for Hamas gunmen who tried to exploit the Israeli military’s restraint and its reluctance to strike civilian targets.

But nothing betrayed Carter’s biases as plainly as the one concrete proposal he offered to begin the peace process: urging the United Nations Security Council to pass even more resolutions condemning Israel. It was precisely the kind of stigmatization of Israel for which Carter would reject within days. Apologizing for such attacks apparently did not mean abandoning them.

Unfairly singling out Israel for criticism is not the worst of Carter’s sins. After all, the United Nations, whose Goldstone report is only the most recent example of the agency’s anti-Israel animus, has long made a habit of doing just that. Far more harmful to the interests of enduring peace in the Middle East is the ex-president’s longtime courtship of Hamas terrorists.

Carter has made no secret of that sinister partnership. On his travels to the Palestinian territories, Carter routinely sings the terrorist group’s praises, assuring all who will listen that, were it not for Israel’s belligerence, Hamas long ago would have accepted a ceasefire and laid down its arms. At times, Carter’s apologetics have gone from the merely credulous to the pernicious, as when he claimed that the tunnel networks that Hamas used to attack and kidnap Israeli soldiers were really “defensive” structures.

That the United States and Europe consider Hamas a terrorist group has not dampened Carter’s enthusiasm for the jihadists. In January 2006, he called on the international community to defy laws on terrorism financing and launder money to Hamas in the form of relief aid. Not even Hamas leaders themselves can convince Carter that peace is the furthest thing from their intentions. Hamas leader-in-exile Khaled Meshal has never hidden his support for suicide terrorism and has called destroying Israel the “destiny” of the Palestinian people. That didn’t keep Carter from seeking out Meshal for a friendly chat about peace negotiations in the spring of 2008.

If Carter truly feels that an apology is in order, he might consider atoning for his role in promoting a terrorist organization that has murdered thousands of Israelis, brutalized its fellow Palestinians, poisoned the political climate in the region, and destroyed any hope for a present-day peace settlement. But that sorry contribution to the peacemaking that Carter still claims as his life’s work would require something more substantial than a bankrupt and cynically proffered apology.

 

Jacob Laksin is managing editor of Frontpage Magazine. He is co-author, with David Horowitz, of One-Party Classroom: How Radical Professors at America's Top Colleges Indoctrinate Students and Undermine Our Democracy. His work has appeared in the Wall Street Journal, the Philadelphia Inquirer, The Weekly Standard, City Journal, Policy Review, as well as other publications.

Copyright - Original materials copyright (c) by the authors.

 

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Israel’s false friend.

 

by  Melanie Phillips

Five years ago, anti-Israel campaigners tried to arrest the then Israeli Defence Minister Shaul Mofaz for 'war crimes' while he was on a visit to London. Melanie Phillips

Since then, a steady stream of senior Israeli officials have either narrowly escaped similar arrest in Britain through diplomatic immunity, or have had to cancel planned visits because such an arrest was all too likely.

In all that time, the government has sat on its hands. Only now that Tzipi Livni has had to cancel her trip to London following an attempt to arrest her over her part in Operation Cast Lead has the British government said it will change the law, probably by making the Attorney-General the gatekeeper for any such arrest attempts.

Why is it only now that the balloon has gone up? One reason is that this is the first time the Israeli government has responded with unbridled fury at Britain. But also, for British diplomats, Livni is 'one of us'. That is because, since she is one of the most appeasement-minded politicians Israel has ever produced, it is considered an affront to try to arrest her, of all people, for her part in warfare.

'Livni supports a two-state solution. This attempt to secure her arrest has really set alarm bells ringing,' a horrified senior Foreign Office source reportedly told the Guardian. The unpleasant implication is that the Foreign Office cares far less about attempts to arrest Israeli politicians with more hawkish views.

This telling remark shows how the Foreign Office circles the wagons when one of its ideological soul-mates is under attack — and is wholly unable to see how the amoral and unprincipled view of the world it believes it shares with Livni may actually be contributing to the problem.

The British refusal to see Israel's predicament as an existential siege, insisting instead that the Middle East impasse is a boundary dispute, perpetuated by Israel's refusal to compromise, is the false analysis fuelling the poisonous atmosphere giving rise to these arrest warrants.

After all, Gordon Brown's government has been displaying the most hostile attitude towards Israel that many in Britain have ever seen.

It is leading a boycott of Israeli goods from the West Bank, singling out its democratic ally Israel for condign punishment that it dishes out to no other country, however tyrannical. It has similarly imposed a limited arms embargo on parts for Israeli warships. It refused to vote against the Hamas-leaning Goldstone report at the UN.

It denounced Cast Lead as disproportionate, thus endorsing Hamas propaganda and effectively denying Israel the right to defend its people against attack. And it supported the vicious Swedish proposal pre-emptively to hand half of Jerusalem to Israel's Arab attackers.

It puts out the false view that Israel is still occupying Gaza and that the settlements are illegal — legally illiterate claims which derive entirely from Britain's time-hallowed policy of sucking up to the Arabs.

Whether or not they are wise or desirable, the settlements are legal, not least because the 1922 mandate for Palestine, whose provisions are still legally binding, laid down that the Jews should have "close settlement" of the land from the Jordan to the sea.

The unpalatable fact is that, ever since the 1920s, when Arab terror first began against the Jewish presence in Palestine, the British responded by appeasing it and reneging on its own treaty obligations, thus giving such terrorism every incentive to continue.

That despicable tradition continues today in Brown's government, even as it claims that Israel is Britain's "strategic partner and close friend".

In fact, its hostility has contributed enormously to the climate of rabid hysteria, irrationality and bigotry towards Israel now consuming British public debate and in which these arrest attempts are being made.

With a 'close friend' like this, who needs enemies?

 

Melanie Phillips

Copyright - Original materials copyright (c) by the authors.

 

Boycott Israel and British Lives Will Be Lost.

 

by Carol Gould

 

Why does the UK want to distance itself from the country best positioned to help protect British troops from IEDs?

 

Britain has become the world center for boycotts of Israeli goods and of academic exchange. It is rare to pass a day without an email from a supporter of the Jewish state bringing to my attention yet another boycott campaign. Whether it is grassroots campaigns to label oranges and avocados in supermarkets or universities stopping academic cross-fertilization of brainpower, the many forces at work in Britain seem never to run out of momentum.

It is therefore all the more lamentable that British soldiers are suffering losses every month in Afghanistan, yet the country does not promote good relations with Israel, the world expert on defusing IEDs (improvised explosive devices). On December 13 British Prime Minister Gordon Brown visited troops in Kandahar, the first British head of state to visit servicemen in a war zone since Winston Churchill in the Second World War. Brown told the media during his visit that soldiers "were discovering improvised explosive devices every two hours."

On television in the months leading up to the prime ministerial visit to the war zone, bereaved British mothers, sisters, and widows lamented the shortage of bomb disposal experts and the apparent lack of appropriate equipment and protective gear available to their sons, brothers, and husbands. On BBC television's Question Time on Thursday, December 10, recorded in Wootton Bassett, a town hit particularly hard by recent war losses, anguished women asked panelist Sir Richard Dannatt, former head of the armed forces, for better care of the fighting men.

In the meantime Israeli bomb disposal experts are available for consultation, but if the word "Israel" so much as appears in any public discourse, those same studio audiences erupt in rage at the "apartheid" state that engages in "ethnic cleansing," and they refuse to see the connection between Israel's sixty-year defensive battle against terror and the war their menfolk are facing in Taliban-land.

Researching this article I came upon a compelling screed, "Countering Improvised Explosive Devices" by Colonel David Eshel of the IDF, or Israeli Defense Forces. What is intriguing is that the piece was published in the Royal Tank Regiment Journal, Volume 771, way back in March 2005.

Eshel recounts the events after cessation of initial hostilities in Iraq in 2003, when insurgent attacks began to dominate the landscape, but coalition leaders seemed uninterested in briefings on IEDs. He asserts: "It seems therefore strange, and possibly inexcusable, that the coalition forces failed to take notice of the vast combat experience that could have become willingly available from its Israeli allies, in order to at least try and reduce the heavy loss of life sustained mainly by U.S. forces from IED and suicide attacks."

Eshel's article makes it clear that the range and lethality of IEDs are staggering: In the early days of the Iraqi insurgency, attackers pulled out the firing pins of hand grenades and kept them from detonating by holding down the "spoon" and covering it with ducting tape. By dropping it into a canister filled with gasoline, the tape would dissolve in a few hours and cause a terrific explosion. Terrorists would place an obstruction on the road, causing vehicles to stop and investigate; the results were catastrophic.

Eshel enumerates the vast array of other methods used by insurgents to disable tanks and kill servicemen and women, and comments: "Only the Israelis have been waging a relentless anti-IED campaign against such elements, lately with growing success." He describes the lethality of terrorist tactics derived from combined advice from Chechen rebels and al-Qaeda and former Taliban, corroborated by an unnamed senior U.S. intelligence officer at the 3rd Corps Support Command in north Baghdad.

The Israeli Defense Forces endured "camouflaged IEDs" in south Lebanon, weapons that have caused grief to coalition forces. Eshel asserts that Israel has unparalleled expertise combating IEDs after painful encounters during the Second Intifada and in south Lebanon.

That brings me to December 2009, when to the utter astonishment of the Anglo-Jewish community and to the truly incandescent rage of the Israeli government and embassy, Israeli Kadima Party leader Tzipi Livni canceled a visit to Britain to appear at a Jewish National Fund conference in the wake of the issuance of an arrest warrant charging her with war crimes. It beggars belief that Britain is now in the position of forcing one of its valued allies to keep its officials from its shores; in recent years other Israeli dignitaries have refrained from getting off flights because of threats from the British courts. Had an injunction sought by sixteen Palestinians been successful, Defense Minister Ehud Barak would not have been able to visit Britain in October, although former IDF Chief of Staff Moshe Ya'alon did cancel a journey to London. The Livni affair has brought the issue of obsessive Israel-bashing to a head.

In the bulk of this article I outline the threat that exists to coalition forces in Iraq and Afghanistan and bring in the factor of Israeli expertise in reducing fatalities. Instead, Britain, recently obsessed with Zionist-bashing  ramps up its efforts to prevent Israeli experts from entering the country. This is insane and self-destructive. Martin Bright comments in the Spectator: "War crimes should be punished and Israeli politicians cannot be exempt. But is this really the best way of going about this? I worry that we are making a special case of Israeli politicians and that Britain has become associated with a particularly virulent form of anti-Zionism."

What is even more alarming is that in the week of December 21, several television news reports claimed that Hamas was responsible for securing the warrant against Tzipi Livni. The implication of this is that a terrorist group proscribed by the United States and European Union can operate freely with the British justice system. The Israeli government went so far as to say the warrant for Livni's arrest was issued "at the behest of radical elements." Israel has now said its officials simply cannot visit the United Kingdom.

In the holiday season even the Ahava shop in Covent Garden is the target of hate-Israel groups. Stephanie Brickman wrote in May from Edinburgh about the boycotts and kosher foods getting harder to find, noting that one of the earliest Nazi tactics was to ban such goods.

While dictators and rogues travel the world and speak at the United Nations General Assembly, a valued military ally is now unable to offer its advice in person to the British government. British soldiers die and could be saved by Israeli expertise, but thousands of union members, supermarket customers, and academicians rally to boycott anything and everything Israeli.

It beggars belief.

 

Carol Gould

Copyright - Original materials copyright (c) by the authors.

 

The two most-asked questions: will Obama attack Israel, will Israel attack Iran?


by Barry Rubin

Of all the questions readers ask, there's no question about which are the two most frequent. First, is Israel about to attack Iran or when will this happen? Second, do President Barack Obama and his entourage hate Israel and will there be a major confrontation or some kind of sell-out.

The first two questions are pretty easy to answer, the third less so.

Israel and an attack on Iran: Israeli policy is quite clear. Its current emphasis is on supporting strong sanctions. There is, of course, skepticism as to whether strong sanctions will be applied and whether such a step would work, but that's not the determining factor. It is recognized that the West must thoroughly try diplomatic means to satisfy itself that everything short of an armed attack has failed.

Only when the sanctions have been seen to be ineffective at stopping Iran's march to nuclear weapons would Israel even begin to go into an attack phase but even then there are two major considerations.

One is that Israel will only attack when Iran is on the verge of getting weapons. Not only would that situation make the decision about responding an immediate task but also because that would be when Tehran has the maximum equipment installed and the most damage can be done. There is no sense bombing half-empty buildings.

The disadvantage is that this would give the regime more time to disperse the facilities. And that introduces the other problem. An Israeli cabinet meeting would be held to determine whether an attack could be carried out, whether the political and security costs would be acceptable, and whether an attack would succeed in setting back the Iranian program by a big margin.

Is Israel capable of launching an effective attack? Without going into all the complex details, the basic answer is "yes."

If destroying Iran's nuclear capability is an existential imperative could Israel weather the diplomatic criticism and terrorist or other attacks? Again, yes. Hamas and Hizballah would escalate and launch rockets but they could be deterred or defeated.

It is the last point, however, that is critical: Would an attack achieve considerable success in putting back Iran's nuclear program by years? That cannot be taken for granted. In military action lots can go wrong. Planes can crash; mechanical breakdowns or bad weather may cause failure. The distances involved are huge; the margin of error very fine.

What if the bombs miss and hit civilians? (Yes, Israel cares a lot about this despite all the slander and lies regarding its behavior.) Will dispersion of facilities mean that only a small portion of Iran's facilities will be damaged or destroyed?

In short, is it worth launching an attack that only inflames the situation further, costs lots of diplomatic capital, and doesn't do any good?

This is a question that can only be raised and decided in a cabinet meeting at the proper time. There is no determined choice already made and that is as it should be.

The second question relates to Obama and Israel. In my opinion, Obama has absolutely no warm feelings toward Israel at all and, if anything, his instincts are hostile. But previous American presidents—notably Richard Nixon—have followed pro-Israel policies despite being personally unfriendly. What is important is that Obama and his entourage have learned two things.

One of them is that bashing Israel is politically costly. American public opinion is very strongly pro-Israel. Congress is as friendly to Israel as ever. For an administration that is more conscious of its future reelection campaign than any previous one, holding onto Jewish voters and ensuring Jewish donations is very important. There will almost certainly not be a visit of Obama to Israel in 2010, he'll wait until it will do him some good at the polls (which is a good thing since the less attention he pays to this issue the less harm he'll do.)

The other point is that they have seen that bashing Israel doesn't get them anywhere. For one thing, the current Israeli government won't give in easily and is very adept at protecting its country's interests. This administration has a great deal of trouble being tough with anyone.

If in fact the Palestinians and Arabs were eager to make a deal and energetic about supporting other U.S. policies, the administration might well be tempted to press for an arrangement that largely ignored Israeli interests. But this is not in fact the case. It is the Palestinians who refuse even to come to the negotiating table—and that is unlikely to change quickly or easily. Arab states won't lift a finger to help the United States on Iran, Iraq, or Arab-Israeli issues. So why bother?

Moreover, no matter how much noise the administration makes about being engaged on the Israel-Palestinian front, it knows that not much is going to happen. Its envoy, Senator Mitchell, will run around and make plans but the top brass in Washington isn't going to devote all that much time to this issue.

The hostility to Israel of the administration's overall personnel can also be exaggerated. A couple of names come to mind of officials who are hostile, but there are also many—arguably more in number--who are reasonably friendly, including the secretaries of state and defense.

The idea that David Axelrod and Rahm Emanuel constitute some anti-Israel cabal is misleading, too. If there were a serious peace process, they'd certainly push Israel harder to make more concessions than others would do but they are focused on domestic affairs and also know that this issue is a non-winner for them in terms of success, glory, or political advantage.

These two factors form the basic framework for understanding the Middle East in 2010. Putting down a smokescreen of diplomatic activity and proposals, the U.S. government is likely to place the "peace process," whose non-existence is too real to ignore, on the back burner. Meanwhile, Israel is doing the same thing with an attack on Iran. The next year's events in the region will come from other crises and issues.


Barry Rubin is director of the Global Research in International Affairs (GLORIA) Center and editor of the Middle East Review of International Affairs (MERIA) Journal.

Copyright - Original materials copyright (c) by the authors.

 

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