by Caroline Glick
Copyright - Original materials copyright (c) by the authors.
Arab states plan to cut commercial ties with Syria's government and freeze its assets as they step up pressure to end months of political violence in the country, a draft document to be discussed by Arab ministers on Sunday showed.
The sanctions would also include a travel ban on senior Syrian officials and a halt to commercial flights to the country, according to the Arab League document seen by Reuters on Saturday.
Dealings with Syria's central bank would be halted, it said, but basic commodities needed by the Syrian people would be exempted from the list of sanctions.
Syria's economy is already reeling from months of unrest, aggravated by US and European sanctions on oil exports and several state businesses.
The document, drawn up by the Arab League's Social and Economic Committee at a preparatory meeting in Cairo in Saturday, would need to be ratified by ministers before coming into force.
The document was drafted after Damascus missed a Friday deadline to sign an agreement under which the Arab League planned to send observers to Syria, where the United Nations says 3,500 people have been killed since the start of the uprising in March.
Despite Syria's pledge this month to withdraw its army from urban areas and let in the monitors, the violence has continued, prompting reprisals from the Arab League, stinging rebukes from Turkey and French proposals for humanitarian intervention.
Damascus says regional powers have helped incite the violence, which it blames on armed groups targeting civilians and its security forces.
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Yes, that's the call from a Muslim Brotherhood rally after Friday prayers in Cairo. If anyone thinks the so-called "Arab Spring" hasn't altered the landscape against Israel in the Middle East, they should start listening to the Islamists in Egypt, Libya, Syria, Yemen, Tunisia, Lebanon, and other nations where the Brotherhood, the Salifists, and other radical extremists will be running governments. Throw in an Iran with hegemonistic designs on the region armed with nuclear weapons and you have a recipe for years of tension and perhaps worse.
A Muslim Brotherhood rally in Cairo's most prominent mosque Friday turned into a venomous anti-Israel protest, with attendants vowing to "one day kill all Jews."
Some 5,000 people joined the rally, called to promote the "battle against Jerusalem's Judaization." The event coincided with the anniversary of the United Nations' partition plan in 1947, which called for the establishment of a Jewish state.
However, most worshippers who prayed at the mosque Friday quickly left it before the Muslim Brotherhood's rally got underway. A group spokesman urged attendants to remain for the protest, asking them not to create a bad impression for the media by leaving.
Speakers at the event delivered impassioned, hateful speeches against Israel, slamming the "Zionist occupiers" and the "treacherous Jews." Upon leaving the rally, worshippers were given small flags, with Egypt's flag on one side and the Palestinian flag on the other, as well as maps of Jerusalem's Old City detailing where "Zionists are aiming to change Jerusalem's Muslim character."
Propaganda material ahead of Egypt's parliamentary elections was also handed out at the site.
Someone drawing up a worst case scenario for Israel's interests a year ago could hardly have imagined their version of this nightmare coming true.
As of Friday morning, it was expected in Cairo that, later in the day, up to a million people would be confronting the Egyptian army in the Tahrir Square area. It had earlier been reported that the target of such a gathering would be the “Judaization” of Jerusalem. By now, though, it appears clear that if the event occurs, the fury will be directed mainly at Egypt’s own military regime that has tried to hold things together since President Hosni Mubarak was thrown out of office last winter.
Tens of thousands of anti-regime protesters have been swarming in the Tahrir Square area for about a week. Police have killed about 40 and wounded hundreds. A ceasefire was attempted on Thursday morning, with Field Marshal Mohamed Hussein Tantawi’s regime going so far as to apologize for the deaths and promising to prosecute the perpetrators. But by Thursday afternoon it had already broken down with fresh outbreaks of violence.
Unlike those of Qaddafi in Libya and Assad in Syria, the regime is not bent on staying in power at any price and indeed appears desperate to try and appease the protesters. Parliamentary elections are set for Monday, and the regime moved presidential elections up from 2013 to next spring. But the protesters out in the streets—some of them—appear driven by a blind fury and keep demanding that the regime step down immediately.
Boaz Bismuth, special correspondent in Cairo for Israel Hayom, reported on Thursday that
Tahrir Square, the symbol of the original uprising, is no longer the home of the revolution…. the battlefront is now on Mohammed Mahmoud Street, the street that leads from the square to the Interior Ministry. That is where protesters and police officers violently clash, where the battle is waged. That is where people are wounded and killed.
But while these protesters have mostly been secular youths impelled more by hatred of the regime than by any coherent notion of what’s supposed to replace it or how Egypt is supposed to be run, Bismuth noted that: “Some protesters are organized: the bearded ones. And they come in groups. The women, covered in black from head to toe, also take part in the demonstration….”
In today’s Egypt, the khaki uniforms of the army that were so highly revered during that 18-day revolution back in January-February have been replaced by beards. Lots of beards.beards but also many Salafist beards. Beards that have joined forces to ensure that not only deposed President Hosni Mubarak is gone, but that any memory of his legacy is gone too. Beards that promise that everything will be alright only because “Allahu akbar” (God is great).
In other words: the shabab or violent, youthful protesters basically don’t know what they’re doing, probably are not keen on an Islamist regime, but are helping pave the way for one while the Islamists observe with satisfaction.
Observing the upheaval in Egypt with a lot more trepidation than satisfaction is Israel, where views are divided as to the implications but most are negative.Some believe that, even when the Islamists take over as appears all but inevitable, Egypt’s dire economic straits will force it to uphold its peace treaty with Israel so as to keep the aid spigots—particularly those of the multibillion-dollar U.S. aid—turned on. But another view, voiced by a former Israeli ambassador to Egypt, is that when
the radical elements in Egypt are sitting strong in government, they will remove the “abomination”…of the Israeli flag in central Cairo…. They will be willing to pay the economic price of (rupturing) relations with Israel and the United States to promote their ideological, political, Islamist agenda—as occurs in other places like Iran.
Among the skeptics is Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu. Against the background of the turmoil in Cairo, he told the Knesset on Wednesday:
In February of this year, I stood on this stage as millions of people flocked to the streets in Cairo. Commentators and even some friends of mine here from the opposition explained to me then that we are entering a new era of liberalism and progress that will sweep away the old world order….
When I said, despite all hopes, that it is more likely that an Islamist, anti-West, anti-liberal, anti-Israel, and anti-democratic wave will come instead, they told me I am trying to scare the public, that we are on the wrong side of history, that I do not understand the direction in which things are heading.
Things are heading somewhere, but they are going backwards, not forwards….
Israel is reacting accordingly, both building a fence along the increasingly lawless, terror-infested Sinai—nominally part of Egypt—and beefing up its forces there. The lessons—that “peace treaties” are fragile entities in the Middle East, that lands given up for “peace” become bases for terror, that Israel’s real value to the West lies in being an island of stability and progress instead of a fawning supplicant for “peace”—are not lost on most Israelis.
At an academic conference in Israel on Wednesday, Efraim Karsh said it well:
P. David Hornik
Islam remains the strongest identity framework in Egyptian society in particular, and in Arab society generally. The Arab national dictatorships that were layered over this basic Islamic identity for the past 80 years were but a thin veneer of repression. With the fall of these dictatorships, what remains is the core Islamic underpinnings of society, and these will now come to the fore. Consequently, no democratic structures, processes or values are likely to emerge in the Arab world for many generations.
Syrian dictatorcan feel the noose around his neck tightening. France is now calling for a humanitarian corridor in Syria and multiple reports talk of a Turkish-Arab military action following an authorization from the Arab League. The U.S. is telling its citizens to immediately leave the country. War may be on the horizon.
On Thursday, the French Foreign Minister asked the Arab League to endorse a “secured zone to protect civilians” in Syria. France is also officially embracing the Syrian National Council, an umbrella of opposition groups and figures, as a legitimate body. Foreign Minister Alain Juppe played a game of semantics, saying France was not endorsing a military intervention for a “buffer zone,” while admitting that the proposed “secured zone” would need military protection to ensure the delivery of aid.
At the same time, Israeli officials expect Turkey to soon establish buffer zones within Syrian territory near the border to create a safe haven for civilians and military defectors. The Turks are already housing the leadership of the Free Syria Army that is waging an armed struggle against Assad. The Kuwaiti Al-Rai newspaper is being told by senior sources in Europe that the plan is for a no-fly zone to be enforced by Arab and possibly Turkish air power after the Arab League approves of it. The U.S. will be involved behind-the-scenes, offering logistical support but no direct participation. NATO has ruled out military action in Syria.
According to the report, the no-fly zone will not be limited to only stopping Syrian airplanes and helicopters, which have been rarely used in putting down the uprising. It will enforce a ban on all movement of military vehicles and artillery, forcing them off of the streets. It is hoped that Assad’s military will be forced to end operations “in less than 24 hours.” This account differs from the Israeli one in that it states that Turkey has ruled out sending its military into Syrian territory to create a buffer zone.
Turkish state television revealed on Tuesday that the commander of the army was evaluating the forces stationed along the border with Syria. The Syrian military is reinforcing its positions in the area, digging trenches and moving tanks behind trees. The Turkish government is telling its citizens returning from their pilgrimage to Mecca not to travel through Syria following an incident where Assad’s security forces fired upon two buses filled with Turkish citizens.
The U.S. is telling its citizens in Syria to immediately depart. Ambassador Robert Ford’s planned return to Syria has been canceled. It should be noted that the Obama administration waited to support military intervention in Libya until all American citizens had left.
Three cities near the Turkish border have become the focal points of the protests and the fighting between the regime and the Free Syria Army: Idlib, Homs and Hama, the lattermost being the base of therevolt in 1982 that was crushed by the regime. Part of Idlib is said to be free of the regime’s control. This makes it a candidate to be the Syrian version of Libya’s Benghazi where the opposition headquartered its revolution.
The Free Syria Army’s strategy is to create a safe haven in northern Syria near Turkey and then win international support for its fight to overthrow Assad. The leader of the Free Syria Army claims to have 15,000 defectors under his command, up from the number of 10,000 he regularly boasted of. This may be an exaggeration, but it is clear that the forces’ capabilities are increasing. It recently carried out attacks on the Air Force Intelligence headquarters near Damascus and the ruling headquarters in the capital.The rhetoric of Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan towards Assad has become much more aggressive over the past week. He accused him of “cowardice” and said he’ll share the fate of Hitler, Mussolini and Qaddafi if he doesn’t resign.
“Just remove yourself from that seat before shedding more blood, before torturing more and for the welfare of your country as well as the region,” Erdogan said to Assad. He has been saying as far back as August that “the Syrian issue is an internal Turkish affair.”
Jordanian King Abdullah II became the first Arab leader to explicitly tell Assad to give up power. “If I were in his shoes, I would step down…If Bashar has the interest of the country, he would step down,” he said.
The Arab League suspended Syria’s membership in a measure that only Yemen (where Syrian pilots are reportedly helping the regime) and Hezbollah-controlled Lebanon voted against. Iraq abstained, likely out of fear of Iranian proxy Moqtada al-Sadr, who is standing by Assad. The Arab League is signaling its support for regime change by meeting with the Syrian National Council in Cairo. An advisor to the Secretary-General of the Arab League said sanctions are being prepared against Assad and that it is working on “uniting the Syrian opposition on a united vision regarding the future of Syria during the transitional period.” Syria has until the end of Friday to allow a team of 500 human rights monitors into the country.
Iran is standing by Assad, helping his forces to put down the revolution. At the same time, Iran tried to reach out to the National Coordinating Committee opposition group, which is opposed to foreign intervention. It is unknown if Iran is trying to build relations with the opposition in case Assad loses or if Iran is trying to split the opposition and empower the one opposed to outside help. Either way, the Committee rejected Iran because “no one trusted Iran.”
Russia has deployed warships to the Mediterranean Sea, which was widely interpreted as an expression of solidarity with Assad. According to one Arab newspaper, the Russian ships transported technical advisors to Syria to install advanced radar systems at every critical site. The advisors are said to be helping Assad set up the Russian S-300, an advanced air defense system, which the report says was delivered in recent weeks. Iran paid for the delivery. The Russians offered the same kind of aid to shortly before the invasion of Iraq.
Iran and Assad will not take this lying down, and Assad will not go down without a bloody fight. The Middle East is about to become an even hotter place.
The recent arrest of Jose Pimentel, a 27-year-old convert to Islam who was allegedly planning to detonate an explosive device in New York, underscores the ongoing danger posed by so-called "lone wolf" terrorists. Pimentel, busy preparing a bomb at the time of his arrest according to prosecutors, is alleged to have wanted to kill American troops returning from Afghanistan and Iraq. The real significance of his plot, however, lies in the method he was using.
Pimentel is believed to have read Inspire magazine, a quarterly publication that is produced in English by al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula and is aimed at Muslims living in the West. The magazine was largely put together by Samir Khan, an American of Pakistani ethnic origin, who grew up in Queens, New York. He left the United States in 2009 to join al-Qaeda in Yemen where he teamed up with another American, the radical cleric Anwar al-Awlaki.
Although both were killed earlier this year in a drone strike, their destructive legacy lives on in Inspire magazine. Its primary aim Is to incite Muslims in the West to support al-Qaeda by appealing to them directly, in terms they can relate to. This is where Inspire's American propagandists come in useful – they are able to sell their ideas in a language and style that resonates with many young Muslims in the West. Notably, rather than telling them to migrate to Yemen, Afghanistan, or Pakistan, each edition of the magazine aims to inspire self-starting "lone wolves."
The overall approach of Inspire is simple: First, it primes sympathetic Muslims with anti-Western anger; then it provides theological arguments which legitimize terrorism -- before it finally offers detailed technical instructions on how to commit acts of terrorism.
This strategy is something the group calls "Open Source Jihad," which it defines as:
A resource manual for those who loath the tyrants; includes bomb making techniques, security measures, guerrilla tactics, weapons training and all other jihad related activities...the open source jihad is America's worst nightmare. It allows Muslims to train at home instead of risking a dangerous travel abroad.
Coupled with that, Anwar al-Awlaki would tell readers to target the United States with statements such as:
In the case of the United States, both the government and private citizens should be targeted. America and Americans are the Imam's [in this case he means "leaders"] kufr [infidels] in this day and age. The American people who vote for war mongering governments are intent on no good. Anyone who inflicts harm on them in any form is doing a favor to the ummah [Islamic nation].
Awlaki's influence in this regard has been well documented and is explored in this new report by Alexander Meleagrou-Hitchens. Khan explains that the strategy of Open Source Jihad is based on disseminating all the necessary things a would-be terrorist needs so that they can form independent cells of their own and need never leave their countries for training elsewhere. As a result, each edition of the magazine typically carries bomb making instructions.
It is alleged that Pimentel was following one of the recipes outlined in Inspire at the time of his arrest; it is a method that makes detecting self-radicalized individuals extremely difficult. Samir Khan even noted that:
Thousands of productions were produced and dispersed to both the net and real world. Something that was produced thousands of feet above in the mountains of Afghanistan was found distributed in the streets of London and California. Ideas that disseminated [sic] from the lips of the mujahidin's leaders were carried out in Madrid and Times Square.
All this focuses attention on the role played by the internet in radicalizing individuals. Through sophisticated and password-protected web forums, al-Qaeda is now able to prime sympathisers with everything they need to become active terrorists.
The attack in December 2009 on the CIA's forward-operating base, Camp Chapman, in Khost, Afghanistan, was carried out by a prolific forum participant, Humam Khalil Abu-Mulal al-Balawi, a Jordanian doctor who wrote online under the names Abu Dujaanah al-Khorasani and Malik al-Ashja'ee. Shortly before his suicide attack, Balawi conducted an interview with al-Qaeda's media production unit, As-Sahab Media (meaning, "The Clouds"), and explained:
Your brother is the poor slave Abu Dujaanah al-Khorasani, from Jordan…I used to write in the Jihadi Internet forums under the name Abu Dujaanah al-Khorasani, and I was also a supervisor in al-Hisbah network – may Allah bring it back – under the name Malik al-Ashja'ee. So this is me in a nutshell. I mobilized to the land of Jihad earlier this year, in March of 2009.
During the interview, Balawi describes how he used the forums to make contact with the mujahideen. He is not the only forum participant to have become an operational terrorist. In 2010 the Ansar al-Mujahideen forum announced that two web participants, Mohammed bin Ali Al-Tamimi – who wrote under the name "Qahar Al-Saleeb" ["Defeater of the Cross"] and "Saleel Al-Soyoof" ["Sabre Rattler"] -- had been killed in Waziristan. They were registered members on both the Ansar al-Mujhaideen forum as well as the al-Faloja forum, based in Gaza.
The connection of these web forums to al-Qaeda is also shown by Ayman al-Zawahiri's offering members of the Ekhlaas and Hesbah forums (Hesbah means: "the act of holding others to account") the equivalent of a town hall meeting in December 2007 and January 2008: members were told they could pose any question to Zawahiri who would then respond, which he did in April 2008. Zawahiri's use of these forums to communicate with the outside world would seem to underscore their potency and relevance.
Since 9/11, Western governments have become more effective at closing down many of the routes terrorists traditionally had used to reach al-Qaeda camps in places such as Afghanistan, Pakistani and Yemen. Now, however, equal attention should be given to the more difficult task of also clamping down on those being radicalized and "Inspired" through the internet.
Millions of Palestinians living in Jordan are, for now, sitting on the fence. But when and if they break their silence and join the enemies of King Abdullah II, it would be hard to see how the monarchy would be able to survive. That is unless the US and other Western powers decided to intervene to prevent the establishment of an Iranian and Syrian backed dictatorship in Jordan.
Syrian dictator Bashar Assad has every reason to be furious with Jordan. Since the beginning of the revolt against Assad earlier this year, the Jordanians have come out in public in support of the anti-regime protesters in Syria.
The Jordanian authorities have permitted anti-Assad demonstrators to stage demonstrations outside the Syrian embassy in Amman. Moreover, the Jordanians have opened their borders to facilitate the escape of thousands of Syrian civilians from the massacres carried out by Assad's army.
The Jordanians are now in the process of setting up refugee camps along their border with Syria to absorb Syrians fleeing from Assad's murderous war machine.
Signs of a looming crisis between Amman and Damascus first surfaced a few months ago when the Syrians claimed that weapons were being smuggled from Jordan to help Assad's political foes. Since then the Syrian authorities have beefed up security measures along the border with Jordan, carrying out thorough searches of passengers wishing to enter Syria.
The Syrian authorities say they have also discovered that anti-Assad demonstrators have been using Jordanian SIM cards on their mobile phones to avoid by detected by the Syrian security forces.
More recently, Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Mualem accused Jordan of harboring Syrian army defectors in the kingdom. The Jordanian government has dismissed the allegation as "baseless and inaccurate.
A Jordanian government official, however, pointed out that some Syrian army soldiers and officers may have fled to Jordan as civilians.
In another sign of mounting tensions between the two Arab countries, a Jordanian newspaper reported last week that the Syrian army has planted land mines along the border with Jordan to stop refugees from entering the kingdom.
According to media reports in Jordan, at least 5,000 Syrians have fled to the kingdom since the beginning of the violence in Syria. The reports revealed that prominent Syrian human rights activist Suhair Atassi managed last week to cross the border into Jordan.
Earlier this year, Atassi was arrested by Assad's security forces and accused of "sowing division" among the Syrian people. "I was dragged for what felt like the length of two streets," she later said in an interview with Reuters. "The apparatchiks looked at me as if I was not their compatriot. They kept shouting at me that I was an Israeli spy."
The crisis between Jordan and Syria reached its peak last week when, in an unprecedented step, King Abdullah II called on the Syrian tyrant to step down.
"If Bashar (Assad) has the interest of his country, he would step down, but he would also create an ability to reach out and start a new phase of Syrian political life," the Jordanian monarch told the BBC in an interview. "If I were in his position, I would, step down and make sure whoever comes behind me has the ability to change the status quo that we're seeing."
Not surprisingly, the king's comments triggered a wave of anti-Jordan protests by Assad loyalists, who attacked the Jordanian embassy in Damascus, chanting slogans accusing the Jordanians of being "traitors" and "Israeli spies."
Eyewitnesses reported that the thugs who attacked the embassy removed the Jordanian flag and replaced it with the flag of the terrorist Hizbollah organization. This has raised speculation in Syria that the assailants were in fact Hizbollah militiamen who have been sent to Syria to help Assad crush the anti-regime demonstrations.
Since King Abdullah II called on Assad to step down, he has become the subject of daily attacks by the Hizbollah, Syria and Iran media.
Some Jordanians are now expressing fear that Assad may be planning to use Hizbollah and some armed Palestinian groups that are based in Damascus to undermine stability in the kingdom.
Saleh Kallab, a renowned Jordanian columnist, said that while he didn't foresee an all-out military confrontation between Jordan and Syria, he did not rule out the possibility that Assad would instruct Palestinian and Lebanese terrorists to launch attacks inside the kingdom to create panic and confusion. He noted, however, that some "hot-headed" officials in Assad's entourage would still like to see Syria go to war against Jordan.
Kallab disclosed that the Jordanian authorities had received information about attempts by Palestinians and Hizbollah to smuggle weapons into Jordan to carry out terror attacks against the monarchy and government institutions.
Obviously, Jordan would not be able to deal with the new threats alone. The king is already facing huge problems at home from the Islamists and other groups that are demanding reforms and democracy.
SIDDIQIN, Lebanon: An explosion shook a Hezbollah stronghold near Siddiqin in the Tyre region of south Lebanon overnight, a security source told The Daily Star Wednesday.
The Lebanese Army released a statement Wednesday afternoon saying that the explosion was likely the result of a landmine or a cluster bomb left over from the July-August war between Lebanon and Israel in 2006.
Earlier Wednesday, the security source, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the cause of the blast, which was heard shortly before midnight, could not be determined due to a heavy security blanket by Hezbollah that followed the explosion.
In its statement Wednesday, the army said it had searched the area but found no trace of the explosion as it “left no visible effects.”
Early in the day, local media said the explosion likely took place at a Hezbollah arms cache.
In a statement later in the day, Hezbollah denied that the explosion in south Lebanon was a result of an explosion at an arms depot.
"What has been circulating in the media regarding the explosion in Sidiqqin and that it is related to storage center for Hezbollah is utterly false,” the party said in the statement.
Four Israeli warplanes were spotted flying over Siddiqin at around 10.00 a.m. and patrols by the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon were active in the area. A UNIFIL helicopter could also be seen flying over the village.
A spokesman for the U.N. peacekeeping force said UNIFIL had heard about the explosion on the news.
"We have no information at the moment. We are checking this report," Andrea Tenenti told The Daily Star by telephone.
Iran's claim to arresting 12 CIA agents in its territory is linked to clandestine efforts by Tehran to disperse missiles around the country, a senior Iran analyst in the US told The Jerusalem Post on Thursday.
Professor Raymond Tanter, adjunct scholar at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, and founder of the Washington-based Iran Policy Committee, said the Iranians were moving and testing missiles "that would form the first response" to an Israeli strike on Iran's nuclear sites.
"The rollup of alleged western spies in Iran involves the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC)," Tanter said, adding that this was an organization which "operates all of Iran’s Scud missiles and provides the military leadership for Iranian missile production."
"Events in Iran concern surreptitious testing and movement of missiles at an IRGC facility during mid-November to harden and hide them from surprise attack," he added.
Referring to a mysterious and powerful blast that rocked a missile base on the outskirts of Tehran earlier this month, killing General Hassan Moghaddam, the architect of Iran's missile program, and at least 16 other Iranian officials, Tanter said, "The accident in Iran is consistent with statements by Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak that Tehran seeks to create a 'zone of immunity,' which spreads missile sites around. The goals are to increase the costs of an Israeli first strike, lower the likelihood of success, and decrease the time window of opportunity for Israel to attack Iran."
Earlier on Thursday, Iran's IRNA official media outlet said the supposed agents were planning to attack Iranian targets. The report quoted a senior Iranian security official as saying that the alleged spies were planning to carry out espionage attacks to "damage Iran both from inside and outside with a heavy blow, using regional intelligence services."
"Fortunately, with swift reaction by the Iranian intelligence department, the actions failed to bear fruit," the official, named as Parviz Sorouri, a member of Iran's foreign policy and national security committee, added.
Sourouri also said the alleged agents were working with "the Zionist regime."
Tanter said that "there is a humongous need for human intelligence from inside Iran," adding, "The best source to complement western intelligence on the IRGC is the main Iranian opposition organization, the Mujahedeen-e-Khalq (MeK), which is under siege in Iraq but still maintains an effective intelligence network in the Iranian national security establishment."
On Tuesday, unnamed US officials were quoted by Reuters as saying that Hezbollah too "succeeded in identifying and arresting informants within its ranks who were working for the CIA," and described the development as an apparent "serious setback for US intelligence."
"Some former US officials said that the CIA informants, believed to be local recruits rather than US citizens, were uncovered, at least in part, due to sloppy procedures - known in the espionage world as 'tradecraft,' - used by the agency," Reuters said.
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Congressmen Ted Deutsch (D-FLA) and Steve Israel (D-NY) have asked US Comptroller-General Gene Dodaro to investigate the Palestinian Authority’s use of American funding, three weeks after MK Moshe Matalon (Israel Beiteinu) sent a letter informing the budget committees of the US Senate and House of Representatives of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’s policy to pay murderers released from Israeli prisons $5,000 and build them new homes.
“Many of the released prisoners were convicted of orchestrating and carrying out Hamas-sponsored terrorist attacks in Israel, including the bombing of a Tel Aviv nightclub that killed 21 people, the attack on a Netanya hotel that killed 29 people, and the bombing of a Sbarro Pizzeria that killed 15 people,” Deutsch and Israel wrote.
The two congressmen explained to Dodaro that they “are troubled by reports of President Abbas’ use of Palestinian Investment Fund (PIF) funds to provide housing for these convicted terrorists.”
According to the letter, the US contributed to the PIF after PA Prime Minister Salam Fayyad founded it in 2002 “under a framework of transparency and accountability.” However, recently there has been “ambiguity surrounding the amount of US taxpayer dollars contributed to the PIF,” Deutsch and Israel wrote.
In addition to Abbas’ plans to build houses for terrorists, Deutsch and Israel “are concerned about the increasing lack of transparency for the PIF as well as reports that Prime Minister Fayyad is no longer overseeing the fund and that Hamas has taken control of PIF assets in Gaza.”
The letter also requests that the US Government Accountability Office, which Dodaro heads, investigate whether US Economic Support Funds (ESF) given to the PA were used to fund Abbas’ ’”trips around the world “on his misguided attempt to unilaterally declare statehood at the United Nations…efforts that are in direct contravention of US policy.”
The congressmen say US ESF should not be used “to fund Mr. Abbas’ extensive lobbying to achieve a Palestinian state by any means other than direct negotiations with Israel.”
“The US must be unequivocally committed to ensuring that American taxpayer dollars are used to serve the interests of the US and our allies around the world,” Deutsch and Israel wrote.
Matalon received a copy of the democratic congressmen’s request after sending a letter to Senate and House of Representatives budget committees, informing them that Abbas is rewarding “unrepentant terrorists.”
“At the ceremony Abbas held [ in honor of released prisoners] in Ramallah, he is reported as having praised these individuals for their ‘courage and sacrifice,’” the Israel Beiteinu MK wrote. “The atrocities referred to by Abbas as acts of ‘courage’...include the murders of scores of innocents, including women and children.”
Matalon’s letter reads: “I feel it incumbent upon myself to present these facts to you, as a fellow parliamentarian, not as interference in your parliamentary activities, but rather in order to ensure that the full facts are before you, as you deliberate on whether to continue extending financial assistance to the Palestinian Authority.”
On the heels of several arrests by Hezb'allah in Lebanon comes news that another US spy ring in Iran has been rolled up.
Parliamentarian Parviz Sorouri, who sits on the powerful committee of foreign policy and national security, claimed that the arrested agents planned to strike at Iranian interests with the aid of Israel.
Sorouri said the spy network aimed at damaging Iran in the security, military and nuclear sectors.
The Iranian official's comments come after current and former U.S. officials said on Monday that dozens of spies working for the CIA were captured recently in Lebanon and Iran, as well as after Iran's claim earlier this year that it had intercepted a major spy ring.
Following the report of a compromised CIA ring in Lebanon, the French intelligence newsletter Intelligence Online indicated in its latest issue that U.S. Congressman Mike Rogers, a member of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, arrived recently in Beirut to probe the affair.
The timing of this couldn't have been worse. Analysts don't believe this is the work of a mole, but rather highly technical capabilities of Hezb'allah in tracking cell phones and other electronic means. The bottom line is that the CIA got sloppy and are now paying for it.
It will take years to rebuild these networks. In the meantime, we head into a very dangerous period with little on the ground intel to keep us informed of what's going on.
In 2008, during a presentation at a panel discussion on the Middle East conflict at Santa Clara University (Santa Clara, CA), a young Arab-American lady claiming to be a “Palestinian refugee” posed to the present writer the following question:
“Why can any ‘Moishe Pipik’ from Brooklyn go to live in Israel, but I, a child of Palestinian parents living in the USA, cannot go back to my ancestral homeland, Palestine, where our families lived since time immemorial?”
The response to that question may be useful to readers who find themselves confronted with similar questions by friends, relatives, colleagues, or others.
The first thing to note is that “Palestinians” have not been living in Palestine (now Israel) from time immemorial. Turkish and British records are clear that Palestine was flooded with Arab immigrants from the late 1850’s onward due to the salutary effects of British colonial and Zionist developments from the mid-19th century onward. Groundbreaking work on the Arab historical demography of Palestine during the second half of the 19th and the first half of the 20th centuries has been done by Professor Justin McCarthy in his book The Population of Palestine: Population History and Statistics of the Late Ottoman Period and the Mandate (Institute for Palestine Studies Series), summarized here. McCarthy, not a Jew nor an Israeli nor a Zionist, writing for a Palestinian institute, demonstrates that the Arab population of Palestine almost quadrupled from c. 1855 to 1947. Only a tiny minority of Arabs can claim ancestral attachment to this territory, and even those claims are based solely on anecdotal accounts for which there is no empirical evidence.
Then one must recall that the Arab side started the war, and lost the war. Israel accepted the UN partition plan in 1947. The Arab states launched a war. When an aggressor loses a war because the victim country successfully repulses the aggression, and in doing so captures some of the aggressor’s land, the disposition of that captured territory, and its inhabitants, must await a peace treaty between the belligerents. Refugees from the aggressor country have recourse to repatriation only in the context of a peace treaty. Most Arab countries have refused to make peace. It was Arab aggression that started the war. Had there been no war there would have been no refugees, and there would have been a state for the Palestinians since 1947.
Moreover, a careful analysis of the evidence from Arab sources indicates that the Arab side encouraged, and in some cases even forced c. 90% of the refugees to flee. Therefore the Arab leadership bears the onus of culpability for creating the problem, and thus the Arab side, and not Israel, bears responsibility for solving the problem. Because Israel was not threatening that 90% who fled, there is no legal claim for refugee status. Refugee status accrues to those who flee due to persecution or danger. Just as that 170,000 stayed and encountered no danger, so too could many hundreds of thousands more have stayed.
It was not Israel, but Arab countries’ refusal to respond to Israel’s call for peaceful negotiations that made it impossible for refugees to be repatriated. At the Rhodes Armistice talks in 1949, Israel offered reparations, resettlement assistance, and repatriation, but only in the context of peace treaties. The Arab leaders refused all talk of peace. Had there been peace, there could have been repatriation, and perhaps even the creation of a Palestinian state after the war. It was the Arab side that slammed the door on that option.
To the onus of culpability for creating and maintaining the refugee problem at the onset one must add the calumny of Arab states’ exacerbating it for decades thereafter. Except for Jordan, Arab host countries denied citizenship to the refugees, locked them in barbed-wire camps, kept armed guards to prevent their leaving, and legislated laws against integration of refugees in to their host country. Lebanese law, for example, lists more than 70 professions in which the Arab refugees were prohibited from engaging. It is illegal for a Palestinian refugee to buy land in Lebanon. There is ample evidence from Arab sources that the Syrian government transported fleeing refugees, at gunpoint, in cattle cars to far-flung borders in 1949, in order to keep them away from Palestine, to thus prevent their repatriation, and to eternalize the “refugee problem.”
But Arab guilt in stymieing any solution does not stop there. At the Lausanne conference of 1949, Israel offered unconditionally and unilaterally to repatriate 100,000 Arab refugees even without any peace accords. The Arab leaders refused.
Israeli offers of repatriation and reparation continued until June, 1967. The Arab side refused all offers. Not Israel, but the Arab refusal to countenance any possibility of peace treaties offered by Israel condemned the refugees to penury and homelessness.Despite this criminal treatment of their brethren by Arab states, Israel succeeded in repatriating many. Between 1949 and June, 2005, Israel repatriated more than 127,000 Arabs who claimed refugee status, in the context of programs for family re-unification and spousal accommodation, or in programs where refugees sought asylum in Israel due to persecution in their host countries (usually Christian Arabs or homosexuals). Israel ended this policy in 2005 when it was discovered that Palestinian terrorists were using this policy to enter the country and gain Israeli citizenship, and with that the ID cards and automobile license plates which allowed them to travel freely around the country and perpetrate acts of terror.
While Israel was seeking resolution to the problem, Arab host countries exploited their refugees, keeping them as prisoners in refugee camps. Yasir Arafat describes, in his authorized biography, the brutal treatment of refugees in the Gaza Strip by the Egyptians. The Arab host countries did this in order to perpetuate the problem and use it as a moral bludgeon against Israel and Europe and the USA. Were it not for this unconscionable Machiavellian use of their own people’s suffering for political gain, there might have been resolution to the problem decades ago.
International law weighs in on Israel’s behalf. There is no refugee status for the second and following generations. There is no international law which accommodates demands of second or third generation children born of refugees who have relocated and resettled. Per international law, the status of refugee does not extend to the children and later generations of refugees once they are resettled elsewhere. Children and grandchildren of refugees have no legal or moral claims to property which they may claim to be ancestral. A relocated and resettled family is no longer a refugee family, and that family’s children are not refugees. See “Right of Return of Palestinian Refugees,” for a detailed discussion of this issue, with citations to international conventions and legal sources relating to refugees.
A further complexity is that the war has not ended! There is no sovereign nation in the world, and across all of world history, which could ever be expected to accommodate the influx of civilians from the population of a belligerent and hostile enemy WHILE THAT ENEMY IS STILL, DE IURE AND DE FACTO, AT WAR with that nation.
So Israel, as all sovereign states, accrues to itself the right to make whatever immigration laws it feels will most benefit the state and its citizens. It decided to decree a “right of return” to all Jews world-wide. Those laws offer special privileges for Jews. That is bias, indeed. But it is the same kind of bias that American minorities have enjoyed thanks to an accommodating, forward-looking and sensitive American society and government which declared that Affirmative Action was a moral enterprise worth pursuing to assist in righting the wrongs of slavery and Jim Crow and anti-Asian sentiments and misogyny.
Israel offers the same immigration options to non-Jews that Denmark offers to non-Danes; and it offers more generous and accommodating immigration options to Jews who wish to live there in order to right the wrongs of European and Islamic societies’ millennia of oppression and repression and mass murder and pogroms and exiles and genocide of Jews. These laws inconvenience native-born Israelis of all religions – and that is unfortunate; but it is the price that they have agreed to pay in order to help the oppressed and disadvantaged and threatened Jews world-wide.
The Israeli “right of return” does indeed allow any “Moishe Pipik” from Brooklyn to enjoy the benefits that these laws offer to Jews even though this Moishe Pipik and most of his friends and family are not oppressed. The reason for this is because Israel has decided, for good reason, that in order for Israel to continue to exist and to serve as the Affirmative Action state for all Jews everywhere and anywhere any time and forever, it needs all the help it can get from Jews everywhere. So not-oppressed Jews are encouraged to come and live in Israel so that they can strengthen the state and contribute to its society, so that that state and society are there to help other Jews….for as long as Jews are oppressed elsewhere.
And for those who chaff at the idea of a “Jewish” state, it seems appropriate to ask: do you have the same problem with a Christian state such as Ireland, or an Islamic state such as the Islamic Republic of Iran and the Muslim states of Pakistan and Afghanistan and Azerbaijan and Tajikistan, not to mention the most Muslim of all: Saudi Arabia.
Since there is no problem with states self-defining as Islamic, why is there a problem with a state which self-defines as Jewish?
In Stephen Vincent Benét's story "The Devil and Daniel Webster," Satan called a jury of the damned composed of turncoats, traitors, and Blackbeard the Pirate, "with the stench of hell still upon them." At the United Nations Human Rights Council, accusations against the Dutch political leader Geert Wilders will be heard by Chinese and Russian lawyers who spent the 1970s and 1980s running the "human rights" entities of their respective countries, an Egyptian-educated diplomat from Morocco, and a "human rights" specialist from Cuba, according to the UNHRC website. The Cuban died last year, but in the spirit of Benét's story, he still might be serving on the UN working group hearing Mr. Wilders's case.
Last week, three Dutch Moroccans filed a complaint against their country's government with the UNHRC, an entity that U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki Moon in 2007 accused of a "pathological obsession with Israel," echoing similar complaints by the United States, Canada and the European Union. Under the Bush administration the United States boycotted the Council, but President Obama sent American diplomats back to it. On Oct. 1, the State Department released a statement claiming that "U.S. engagement thus far has resulted in significant improvements to the Human Rights Council as a multilateral forum for promoting and protecting human rights. Accomplishments include groundbreaking resolutions on freedom of expression, freedom of assembly, preventing discrimination against women, LGBT human rights, (and) religious tolerance."
As leader of the Party for Freedom, Holland's third-largest political party, Wilders has fought to limit Muslim immigration to his country, and demanded a hard line against "street terror" by Muslims in European cities. The former parliamentary assistant to the leading Dutch conservative politician Fritz Bolkestein, Wilders is a traditional liberal and a strong supporter of Israel. In January 2009, Dutch prosecutors accused him of "hate speech" against Islam; he was acquitted of all charges in March 2011. Wilders lives under continuous threat of murder by Islamists; he is guarded at all times and sleeps in a different location every night.
The Dutch-Moroccan complaint to the United Nations Human Rights Council claims that the Netherlands violated their human rights by failing to convict Wilders. Their complaint states:
Systematic incitement to hatred and discrimination against Muslims and other migrants has been committed over years – in different forms – by the Member of Parliament Geert Wilders. The complainants – who are Muslims and belong to the Dutch-Moroccan community in the Netherlands – feel discriminated against, humiliated and threatened by Mr. Wilders and the members and adherents of his party, resulting in discrimination and an increasingly negative attitude by considerable parts of the population. They are of the opinion that Mr. Wilders by his continued hate speech has poisoned the social climate in the Netherlands, that has become more and more anti-migrant and anti-Muslim.
The document contains no allegations about murder, torture, massacres, or imprisonment, the sort of human rights violations that routinely occur in countries that the Human Rights Council has specifically declined to consider, for example, Cuba and Belarus. The complainants state that their feelings were hurt.
Because "the District Court of Amsterdam acquitted Mr. Wilders…and subsequently dismissed the claims of the complainants," that is, followed due process, "no appeal is open to them" except to haul the Netherlands before the United Nations Human Rights Council.
This is made possible by a complaints procedure established by the U.N. General Assembly, which allows individuals to bring alleged human rights violations before the Council. Such complaints are referred to a "Working Group on Communications" composed of "independent experts." The members of the Working Group are listed on the UNHRC web site, and prove that a lifetime of promoting human rights abuses is no obstacle to a new career passing judgment on the human rights violations of others.
The Working Group members include one Vladimir Kartashkin, who was employed by the Moscow Institute of State and Law with brief interruptions between 1961 and 1992, that is, during a period when the KGB routine committed dissidents to psychiatric hospitals, and tortured and murdered political prisoners. Another member is Chen Shiqiu, the Vice-Chairman of the People's Republic of China Society for Human Rights Studies. His other affiliations show a special sort of attachment to human rights issues, including the China Association for Preservation and Development of Tibetan Culture, and the China Family Planning Association -- that is, the entities responsible for erasing Tibetan culture and forcing Chinese mothers to abort prospective second children. Stephen Vincent Benét could not have made this sort of thing up.
Also listed on the Working Group for Communications is Alfonso Martinez, a Cuban diplomat who served as the spokesman for his Foreign Ministry between 1994 and 1997. "As an expert in Human Rights he represented the Government of Cuba in numerous meetings and conferences, mainly within the UN system," according to a Taino News dispatch last year. Dr. Martinez helped persuade the United Nations Human Rights Council to take Cuba off its agenda, to the consternation of Secretary General Moon. Dr. Martinez died in 2010, but under the circumstances, that may not disqualify him from serving on the Working Group that will decide whether the Netherlands violated human rights by acquitting Geert Wilders.
Messrs. Kartashkin and Shiqiu (and perhaps the late Dr. Martine) are joined in the Working Group by Halima Warzazi, a Moroccan diplomat educated at the University of Cairo. To her credit, Warzazi has directed United Nations studies on female genital mutilation. How she will respond to the hurt feelings of the Dutch-Moroccan complainants remains to be seen. Americans became aware of Morocco's pattern of human rights abuse when Malika Oufkir's book Stolen Lives: Twenty Years in a Desert Jail became a best-seller in 2001.
If the complaint is taken seriously, the Obama administration will have to explain more clearly why it praises American participation in a forum which hires thugs with decades of service to some of the world's worst human rights violators, and empowers them to judge anyone who makes Muslims "feel discriminated against," as the complaint maintains. In theory, the UNHRC might refer the Netherlands for prosecution by the International Criminal Court, although it seems unlikely that matters might go that far. The Netherlands defending itself before Russian, Chinese, Cuban and Moroccan hacks is offensive enough.
The ongoing pressures exerted against construction in Jewish neighborhoods of Jerusalem like Gilo reflect intensified global efforts to redivide the city.
Like many aspects of the Israeli-Arab conflict, the issue of Jerusalem is being reviewed in a vacuum without relationship to the reality on the ground. It also overlooks the abominable restrictions on freedom of worship in the eastern part of the city between 1948 and 1967 when the city was occupied by Jordan. Jewish holy sites, including the 2000 year-old Jewish cemetery at the Mount of Olives were desecrated, with tombstones used to build latrines.
In the Old City, all 58 synagogues were razed to the ground, including the ancient Hurva synagogue.
Abdulla el-Tal, Jordan’s military governor of the Old City and an uninhibited anti-Semite, proudly proclaimed that “for the first time in 1,000 years, not a single Jew remains in the Jewish quarter... and as not a single building remains intact, this makes the return of the Jews here impossible.”
Christians were also maltreated, with over 60 percent of them emigrating from Jerusalem during that period.
Yet, since the reunification of the city in 1967 following Israel’s victory over the combined Arab assault, complete freedom of religion was immediately extended to all citizens of Jerusalem.
In addition, universities, hospitals and social service facilities provided absolutely equal services to Jew and Arab alike. One need only visit any of the major hospitals in Jerusalem to verify the extraordinary high standard of health benefits that unification provided for Arab residents.
IRONICALLY, JEWS today are the ones being discriminated against by their own government in their own capital. In 1967, immediately after the liberation of Jerusalem, Moshe Dayan effectively handed over the keys of the Temple Mount to the Muslim Waqf (religious authority), who retained total control and jurisdiction over this extensive area which includes the holiest Jewish site in the world. It proved to be a disastrous blunder.
That situation was further aggravated by the rabbinate, which on halachic grounds prohibited Jews from visiting the holy site. However, today many national religious rabbis maintain that Jews are entitled to visit most of the area and even consider it a mitzva to pray there.
But on a recent visit to the Temple Mount, I was astonished to observe the bizarre spectacle of Jews being bundled off by Israeli police in co-operation with the Wakf for quietly engaging in private prayer. I was informed that some Jews who were seen praying are permanently prohibited from visiting the area. This is scandalous.
For Israeli police to deny Jews the right to pray at their holiest site in their own capital because it offends Muslim sensitivities is surely outrageous. It amounts to practicing inverse discrimination, denying the same freedom of worship to our own people which we take pride in guaranteeing to others.
This chaotic arrangement also provided fuel to Palestinians to initiate a massive exercise in historical revisionism in order to bolster their false narrative. They are now frenziedly attempting to deny the Jewish links to Jerusalem and make the preposterous allegation that the Jewish relationship to Jerusalem was effectively a Zionist fabrication designed to justify the “invasion” of Palestine. It is a form of revisionism no less obscene than Holocaust denial and has emerged as a central tenet of hostile Palestinian nationalism.
As late as the 1930s, Muslim Council guidebooks identified Solomon’s Temple on the site. But those references were expunged in 1954 in favor of a new historical “narrative.”
In 2000, Arafat stunned then-US president Bill Clinton at Camp David by declaring that “Solomon’s Temple was not in Jerusalem. It was in Nablus.” On another occasion he said it was in Yemen.
Others, like Palestinian Authority spokesman Saeb Erekat, alleged that “the issue of the Temple... is a Jewish invention lacking any basis.”
PA President Mahmoud Abbas now repeatedly dismisses any Jewish link to the Holy Land and the PA Ministry of Information website describes the Jewish connection to Jerusalem as a “biblical myth.” Even the “moderate” Sari Nusseibeh claimed that “the historical ties and attachments of the Palestinians precede any Israeli claim to Jerusalem.”
These expressions were recently extended to even include denial of a Jewish link to the Western Wall.
Only last week, Sheikh Ahmed al-Tayib, head of Cairo’s al-Azhar University and the principal global religious authority for Sunni Muslims, warned that the continued “Judaization” of Jerusalem, which he claimed had originally been constructed by Arabs, would result in the annihilation of “the Zionist entity in Palestine.”
In addition, we are witnessing a systematic, ongoing course of wanton destruction in which bulldozers have been employed on the Temple Mount by the Palestinian Wakf in order to eliminate ancient Jewish archaeological evidence. But despite protests and expressions of outrage from most Israeli archaeologists, the government has refused to intervene.
The links of the Jewish people to Jerusalem are at the very core of our national and spiritual history and identity.
For over 2,000 years of exile we yearned and prayed for a return to Jerusalem, and since 1800 Jews have constituted the majority of the population of Jerusalem.
IT IS noteworthy that Yitzhak Rabin, in what proved to be his last Knesset speech before being assassinated, pledged that Jerusalem would never again be divided.
Yet the sad truth is that in addition to condemning any construction in Jewish Jerusalem as “undermining the peace process,” neither the United States nor the Europeans have even recognized Israeli sovereignty over west Jerusalem.
There is no doubt that were any areas of Jerusalem ever to fall under Palestinian jurisdiction, the despicable discriminatory practices applied by the Jordanians until 1967 would be reintroduced. Abu Mazen [Abbas] has already publicly proclaimed that not a single Jew would be permitted to live in any future Palestinian state.
It is also inconceivable that neighborhoods like Ramot, Gilo, French Hill, Ramat Eshkol and Givat Ze’ev will ever be seceded from Israel. No power could evacuate over 100,000 Jews from these areas.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel allegedly criticized Netanyahu recently in relation to the announcement of new construction in Gilo, but in view of her personal Berlin background she should be sensitive of the highly negative aspects of dividing a city. Although it will never happen, greater autonomy and allocation of municipal duties could be extended to Arabs in areas in which they comprise the majority of inhabitants.
Interestingly, a recent poll conducted by the Palestinian Center for Public Opinion demonstrated that 59 percent of Arab residents in Jerusalem were satisfied with their standard of living and that the majority strongly objected to dividing the city and living under PA jurisdiction. In fact, as many as 40% stated that if the city was divided, they would prefer to move to an Israeli neighborhood rather than fall under the authority of the corrupt Palestinian Authority and possibly eventually find themselves under Hamas control.
The writer’s website can be viewed at www.wordfromjerusalem.com
This column was originally published in the Jerusalem Post