Monday, May 27, 2019

Murderer of Sarah Halimi Will Avoid Criminal Trial, French Jewish Defense Group Says - Ben Cohen

by Ben Cohen

The Halimi family -- “sensed from the beginning of the investigation that this crime would go unpunished.”

Murdered French Jewish pensioner Sarah Halimi. Photo: Halimi family.

A leading French Jewish organization said on Friday that it had “learned with consternation” that the man accused of murdering Jewish pensioner Sarah Halimi in April 2017 will not face a criminal trial.

In a statement carried by the Jewish publication Alliance, the BNVCA  —  a Paris-based group that works with victims of antisemitic attacks — said that the investigating magistrate in the Halimi case had concluded that the murderer, Kobili Traore, was heavily intoxicated on marijuana when he committed the killing, and mentally unfit to stand trial.

The BNVCA did not disclose its source for this information, which was unreported in the French media on Friday.

Referring to the numerous political and legal obstacles encountered by the Halimi family in their fight for justice over two years, the BNVCA said that it had “sensed from the beginning of the investigation that this crime would go unpunished.”

Halimi, 65-years-old at the time of her death, was subjected to a frenzied beating and then hurled from a third-floor window in the early hours of Apr. 4, 2017, by Traore, a neighbor in the same public housing project in eastern Paris who broke into her apartment.

Terrified neighbors who alerted police after hearing her cries for help reported that Traore had shouted the words, “Allahu Akhbar,” and, “Shaitan” (Arabic for “Satan”), during Halimi’s ordeal.

Police investigations later revealed that Halimi had told relatives that she was scared of Traore, who insulted her visiting daughter as a “dirty Jewess” a few weeks before the murder.

Traore’s lawyers, however, have insisted throughout that their client was too intoxicated from his ingestion of cannabis to be held responsible for his actions. On March 20, a third psychiatric report commissioned by the investigating judge in the Halimi case concurred with this assessment, arguing that Traore’s consumption of cannabis had eliminated his “discernment” (a clinical term for “judgment”).

In its statement, the BNVCA pointed out the “paradox that a driver under the influence of alcohol has his sentence heavily aggravated, and a drug user is exonerated.”

The group added that it was now “very pessimistic about the real possibilities of eradicating antisemitism when the culprits are neither tried nor sentenced.”

It concluded: “We fear that this decision will encourage other so-called mentally ill people to commit other anti-Jewish crimes.”

The BNVCA’s announcement came two weeks after magistrate Anne Ihuellou announced the end of her investigations into the murder, setting off concerned speculation among observers of the Halimi case that Traore would escape a criminal trial.

Ben Cohen


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Iraq offers to serve as mediator in Persian Gulf crisis - AP and Israel Hayom Staff

by AP and Israel Hayom Staff

Shiite-majority Iraq has been trying to maintain a fine line as allies Iran and United States descend into verbal vitriol.

Iraq offers to serve as mediator in Persian Gulf crisis
Iraqi Foreign Minister Mohamed al-Hakim, right, shakes hands with his visiting Iranian counterpart Mohammad Javad Zarif at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Building in Baghdad, Iraq, Sunday | Photo: AP Photo/Khalid Mohammed

Iraq offered Sunday to mediate in the crisis between its two key allies, the United States and Iran, amid escalating Middle East tensions and as Tehran’s nuclear deal with world powers steadily unravels.

Iraqi foreign minister, Mohammed al-Hakim, made the offer during a joint news conference in Baghdad with visiting Iranian counterpart Mohammad Javad Zarif.

“We are trying to help and to be mediators,” said al-Hakim, adding that Baghdad “will work to reach a satisfactory solution” while stressing that Iraq stands against unilateral steps taken by Washington.

In recent weeks, tensions between Washington and Tehran soared over America deploying an aircraft carrier and B-52 bombers to the Persian Gulf over a still-unexplained threat it perceives from Tehran. The U.S. also plans to send 900 additional troops to the 600 already in the Mideast and extending their stay.

The crisis takes root in U.S. President Donald Trump’s withdrawal last year of America from the 2015 nuclear deal between Tehran and world powers that capped Iran’s uranium enrichment activities in return to lifting sanctions. Washington subsequently re-imposed sanctions on Iran, sending its economy into freefall.

Trump has argued that the deal failed to sufficiently curb Iran’s ability to develop nuclear weapons or halt its support for militias throughout the Middle East that the U.S. says destabilize the region, as well as address the issue of Tehran’s missiles, which can reach both U.S. regional bases and Israel.

Zarif, who was been on a whirlwind diplomatic offensive to preserve the rest of the accord, insisted that Iran “did not violate the nuclear deal” and urged European nations to exert efforts to preserve the deal following the U.S. pullout.

Speaking about the rising tensions with the U.S., Zarif said Iran will be able to “face the war, whether it is economic or military through steadfastness and its forces.” He also urged for a non-aggression agreement between Iran and Arab countries in the Gulf.

The Shiite-majority Iraq has been trying to maintain a fine line as allies Tehran and Washington descended into verbal vitriol. The country also lies on the fault line between Shiite Iran and the mostly Sunni Arab world, led by powerhouse Saudi Arabia, and has long been a battlefield in which the Saudi-Iran rivalry for regional supremacy played out.

The mediation offer by al-Hakim, Iraq’s foreign minister, echoed one made Saturday by Mohamad al-Halbousi, the Iraqi parliament speaker. Al-Hakim also expressed concern for Iran’s spiraling economy.
Iranians make up the bulk of millions of Shiites from around the world who come to Iraq every year to visit its many Shiite shrines and holy places and their purchasing power has slumped after Trump re-imposed the sanctions.

“The sanctions against sisterly Iran are ineffective and we stand by its side,” al-Hakim said.
Meanwhile, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani suggested the Islamic Republic could hold a referendum over its nuclear program. The official IRNA news agency said Rouhani, who was last week publicly chastised by the country’s supreme leader, made the suggestion in a meeting with editors of major Iranian news outlets on Saturday evening.

Rouhani said he had previously suggested a referendum to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei in 2004, when Rouhani was a senior nuclear negotiator for Iran.

At the time, Khamenei approved of the idea and though there was no referendum, such a vote “can be a solution at any time,” Rouhani was quoted as saying.

A referendum could provide political cover for the Iranian government if it chooses to increase its enrichment of uranium, prohibited under the 2015 nuclear deal.

Earlier last week, Iran said it quadrupled its uranium-enrichment production capacity though Iranian officials made a point to stress that the uranium would be enriched only to the 3.67% limit set under the deal, making it usable for a power plant but far below what’s needed for an atomic weapon.

Rouhani’s remarks could also be seen as a defense of his stance following the rare public chastising by the supreme leader.

Khamenei last week named Rouhani and Zarif – relative moderates within Iran’s Shiite theocracy who had struck the nuclear deal – as failing to implement his orders over the accord, saying it had “numerous ambiguities and structural weaknesses” that could damage Iran.

Khamenei, who has final say on all matters of state in Iran, did not immediately respond to Rouhani’s proposal of a referendum. The Islamic Republic has seen only three referendums since it was established in 1979 – one on regime change from monarchy to Islamic republic and two on its constitution and its amendments.

AP and Israel Hayom Staff


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Iran's Options and the Destructive Defiance - Amir Taheri

by Amir Taheri

Contrary to claims by the pro-mullah lobby in Washington, the choice isn't between surrender to Khomeminist madness and full-scale invasion of Iran.

  • To start with, we must realize that the crisis in question isn't caused by any of the traditional causes of conflict between nation-states.... In other words, the conflict isn't a classical international one. The reason is that Iran no longer behaves as a nation-state but as a vehicle for an ideology.
  • The madness that is Khomeinism has always had its method, which includes abject surrender when pressed too hard and brazen aggression when pressure is eased.
  • Contrary to claims by the pro-mullah lobby in Washington, the choice isn't between surrender to Khomeminist madness and full-scale invasion of Iran. Only when the threshold of tolerable pain is reached the "Supreme Guide" may well reconsider his options. We are not there yet.

The madness that is Khomeinism has always had its method, which includes abject surrender when pressed too hard and brazen aggression when pressure is eased. There are signs that Iran's "Supreme Guide," Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, may be contemplating what he has called "heroic flexibility". (Image source:

According to an old adage, every crisis also contains an opportunity. And the current crisis between the Islamic Republic of Iran and the United States may be no exception. Intense sabre-rattling on both sides, combined with what one might call "diplomacy of gesticulations," have reignited interest in what was a half-dormant conflict. That renewed interest could be used for persuading both sides, and others interested in the "Iran problem", to re-visit the root causes of the conflict. And, having done so, try to find realistic ways of defusing the situation.

But before that could be done, a number of steps must be taken.

To start with, we must realize that the crisis in question isn't caused by any of the traditional causes of conflict between nation-states. Iran and the US do not have a border problem, they are not fighting over access to natural resources and do not seek to snatch market share from one another. Nor are they in conflict over the oppression of one side's kith-and-kin by the other. The two are not fighting over water resources, access to open seas or calculations about national security.

In other words, the conflict isn't a classical international one. The reason is that Iran no longer behaves as a nation-state but as a vehicle for an ideology. One might suggest that ideological aspect is also present on the American side, as shown by all the talk about democracy and human rights. However, as decades of Cold War with the Soviet Union -- as ideological adversary -- showed, the US was mostly successful in fitting the ideological aspect of the conflict into a frame of nation-state behavior.

In the case of the current conflict with the Islamic Republic, the US has on several occasions indicated that it could do the same, provided the ruling mullahs pursued their ideological fight against "American values" as a nation-state and through generally accepted standards of international behavior. The US never shared, let alone approved of, the Soviet Union's Communist ideology, but was capable of factoring it in as one element among many in a complex relationship. From Nikita Khrushchev onwards, Soviet leaders were ready to reciprocate that approach. They still said they wanted to "bury capitalism" and made ample use of black-arts and other shenanigans to advance their cause. However, all that was done within the parameters of "cold monster" behavior. In other words, the USSR was pursuing its ideological goals, which over time became less and less defined, by non-ideological methods. Where raison d'état demanded, ideology was ditched with few qualms.

In 1970, when Iran decided to establish diplomatic relations with "Red China" it did not demand that China cease to be Communist or even stop hosting dozens of anti-Shah Iranians who had traveled to Mao-istan to train as guerrillas. What Tehran demanded was for Beijing to stop arming Omani insurgents operating from South Yemen, then under Communist control, and to conclude a trade agreement with Iran. Two years later, the success of Iran's Chinese experiment encouraged the Nixon administration in Washington also to launch a process of normalization with Beijing, eventually leading to full diplomatic relations.

However, historic precedents may not always be applicable to every conflict situation.

And, on balance at this moment, I find it hard to imagine the Islamic Republic, under Ayatollah Ali Khamenei's weird leadership, ever sacrificing its ideological pretensions in order to advance the interest of Iran as a state.

Yet, although it is hard to imagine, provided the current level of pressure is maintained both by internal opposition and from the outside by its many enemies and adversaries, Iran may be forced to ponder other options besides destructive defiance.

The Second Imam has made a spectacular comeback within the Khomeinist establishment. Last month, a biography of him, written by an Arab author and translated by Khamenei, with a preface, was re-published and used as an excuse for extensive debates in the official media and intellectual circles. Last Tuesday, the Islamic Security Minister, Ayatollah Mahmud Alawi praised Imam Hassan's strategy as "divinely inspired". "The Imam of Ummah need not always rise," the minister said. "There are times when the Imam's kneeling is a source of inspiration for their followers."

There are other signs that Khamenei may be contemplating what he has called "heroic flexibility". The official propaganda machine is already geared up to claim victory for the Islamic Republic. The official news agency reported on May 21 that "the world is already hearing the sound of breaking of America's bones."

Another sign is that the date fixed by the "Supreme Guide" for Israel to disappear from the face of the earth has been extended to 2050. More importantly, we are now told that Israel's "disappearance" will come at the same time as "the end of America".

"Islamic Iran shall witness the fall of the Satanic and earth devouring America and the usurper Israel in 2050," General Hamid Abazari, one of Islamic Revolutionary Guard's strategists, assured an audience last week.

Should one regard all that as good news?

Not necessarily. The madness that is Khomeinism has always had its method, which includes abject surrender when pressed too hard and brazen aggression when pressure is eased. The challenge facing Iran is to get rid of that madness altogether as every episode of cheat-and-retreat makes the eventual cure that much more difficult. Contrary to claims by the pro-mullah lobby in Washington, the choice isn't between surrender to Khomeinist madness and full-scale invasion of Iran. Only when the threshold of tolerable pain is reached the "Supreme Guide" may well reconsider his options. We are not there yet.
This article was originally published by Asharq al-Awsat

Amir Taheri was the executive editor-in-chief of the daily Kayhan in Iran from 1972 to 1979. He has worked at or written for innumerable publications, published eleven books, and has been a columnist for Asharq Al-Awsat since 1987.


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Grenell schools Germans about wearing the Jewish kippa - Monica Showalter

by Monica Showalter

Germany's anti-Semitism commissioner advised Jews not to wear the kippa head covering in public. Grenell smacked that bad idea down with the moral clarity that was needed.

America's best diplomat is schooling the Germans again. This time, it's about Jew hatred, something they were supposed to have learned the dangers of and paid reparations for a few decades ago. They haven't. 

Here's the latest from the Jerusalem Post:
The US government's most high-profile ambassador in Europe, Richard Grenell, said Jews in Germany should not conceal their religious identity and urged them to wear kippot in defiance of a Sunday statement from Germany's commissioner to combat antisemitism to avoid kippot in public.

Grenell, the US ambassador to Germany, tweeted: "The opposite is true. Wear your kippa. Wear your friend’s kippa. Borrow a kippa and wear it for our Jewish neighbors. Educate people that we are a diverse society."
The kippa, or kippot, is the distinctive disk-shaped hat that many observant Jewish men wear. Nobody else wears them, so anyone who has one on is easily recognized as Jewish.
Grenell was responding to this statement from a German official known as the 'anti-Semitism commissioner,' a well-paid bureaucrat who's supposedly in charge of keeping the country's Jew hatred at bay:
On Saturday, Felix Klein, the federal government Commissioner for Jewish Life in Germany and the Fight against Anti-Semitism, said, “My opinion on the matter has changed following the ongoing brutalization in German society, " Klein told the Funk media group, adding "I can no longer recommend Jews wear a Kippah at every time and place in Germany."
I am sure he was a well-meaning, practical German who only wanted to get the anti-Semitic attacks down in his country and thus, call it a protection of sorts for Jews. He might have even been in a position to claim success then, from his bureaucrat's perspective on the data, because right now, anti-Semitic attacks in Germany since its inundation by hostile Muslim migrants has pretty well created that situation in the once-Nazi nation that tried to exterminate the world's Jewry. It reminds me of how our leftist pope calls on Catholics to fuel the migrant trade as their Christian duty with zero regard for how it fuels an underlying structural problem.

Germany's got such a structural problem, too, in spades. The commissioner's statement suggests something horrible is going on, what with the inundation of the country with stone-aged Muslim migrants along with the country's native far left and fascist extremists: "Ongoing brutalization in German society"? Those are strong words.

But for the anti-Semitism commissioner to suggest that Jews need to hide -- rather than the cops crack down on violent Nazis and Islamofascists targeting Jews and teaching them a lesson they'll never forget -- is quite despicable.
It's appeasement, appeasement of a very creepy kind the kind described by Martin Niemöller in his "First they came for" poem. 
Now it's down to first, they tell Jews to hide their Jewishness. 
That idiocy is what they are supposed to be avoiding. It sends a message to the assorted Muslim and other thugs that they've won round one. 
Next, one of the few who doesn't gets attacked. That brings charges and the next thing you know, the anti-Semitic attacker is let off with a lesser sentence since prevailing custom is to not wear the kippa. The Jewish person gets blamed for not following custom. After that, restrictions on wearing the kippa at all go into place. After that... 
The rest is history. 
Anti-Semitism, as German history demonstrates, is a long slide downward, not an instant explosion. Hitler rose to power with even some German Jewish supporters undoubtedly thinking he was a crocodile who would eat them last. It was appeasement, just as Neville Chamberlain's Munich agreement was appeasement, nobody took anti-Semitism seriously because, well, Hitler seemed so reasonable. It didn't work out that way and Hitler in the end got what he wanted, taking every advantage from this cover.
Now it's chiefly Muslims engaged in anti-Jewish attacks and the Germans have learned utterly nothing. Instead of reading the Jew-haters the riot act and throwing the perpetrators back to their native hellholes, the Jews are called on to accommodate them. It reeks of failure and tells us Germans have learned nothing.
It take an American ambassador to re-teach them the obvious and rest assured, they are going to resent it. But it's the truth and Germans now have one more cause for shame.

Monica Showalter


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Genocide of Christians Reaches "Alarming Stage" - Raymond Ibrahim

by Raymond Ibrahim

The BBC report highlights "political correctness" as being especially responsible for the West's indifference....

  • Many of the world's most persecuted Christians have nothing whatsoever to do with colonialism or missionaries. Those most faced with the threat of genocide — including Syria's and Iraq's Assyrians or Egypt's Copts — were Christian several centuries before the ancestors of Europe's colonizers became Christian and went missionizing
  • The BBC report highlights "political correctness" as being especially responsible for the West's indifference....
  • Among the worst persecutors are those that rule according to Islamic law, or Sharia -- which academics such as Georgetown University's John Esposito insist is equitable and just. In Afghanistan (ranked #2), "Christianity is not permitted to exist."

UK Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt (pictured) commissioned an "Independent Review into the global persecution of Christians," which was recently published. (Photo by Jack Taylor/Getty Images)

"Christian persecution 'at near genocide levels,'" the title of a May 3 BBC report, cites a lengthy interim study ordered by British Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt and led by Rev. Philip Mounstephen, the Bishop of Truro.

According to the BBC report, one in three people around the world suffer from religious persecution, with Christians being "the most persecuted religious group". "Religion 'is at risk of disappearing' in some parts of the world," it noted, and "In some regions, the level and nature of persecution is arguably coming close to meeting the international definition of genocide, according to that adopted by the UN."

British Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt is also quoted on why Western governments have been "asleep" — his word — concerning this growing epidemic:
"I think there is a misplaced worry that it is somehow colonialist to talk about a religion [Christianity] that was associated with colonial powers rather than the countries that we marched into as colonisers. That has perhaps created an awkwardness in talking about this issue—the role of missionaries was always a controversial one and that has, I think, also led some people to shy away from this topic."
Whatever the merits of such thinking, the fact is that many of the world's most persecuted Christians have nothing whatsoever to do with colonialism or missionaries. Those most faced with the threat of genocide — including Syria's and Iraq's Assyrians or Egypt's Copts — were Christian several centuries before the ancestors of Europe's colonizers became Christian and went missionizing.
The BBC report highlights "political correctness" as being especially responsible for the West's indifference, and quotes Hunt again in this regard: "What we have forgotten in that atmosphere of political correctness is actually the Christians that are being persecuted are some of the poorest people on the planet."

Although the BBC report has an entire heading titled and devoted to the impact of "political correctness," ironically, it too succumbs to this contemporary Western malady. For while it did a fair job in highlighting the problem, it said nothing about its causes — not one word about who is persecuting Christians, or why.

The overwhelming majority of Christian persecution, however, evidently occurs in Muslim majority nations. According to Open Doors' World Watch List 2019 [WWL], which surveys the 50 nations where Christians are most persecuted, "Islamic oppression continues to impact millions of Christians." In seven of the absolute worst ten nations, "Islamic oppression" is the cause of persecution. "This means, for millions of Christians—particularly those who grew up Muslim or were born into Muslim families—openly following Jesus can have painful consequences," including death.
Among the worst persecutors are those that rule according to Islamic law, or Sharia -- which academics such as Georgetown University's John Esposito insist is equitable and just. In Afghanistan (ranked #2) , "Christianity is not permitted to exist," says the WWL 2019, because it "is an Islamic state by constitution, which means government officials, ethnic group leaders, religious officials and citizens are hostile toward" Christians. Similarly, in Somalia, (#3), "The Christian community is small and under constant threat of attack. Sharia law and Islam are enshrined in the country's constitution, and the persecution of Christians almost always involves violence." In Iran (#9), "society is governed by Islamic law, which means the rights and professional possibilities for Christians are heavily restricted."

Equally telling is that 38 of the 50 nations making the WWL 2019 are Muslim majority.

Perhaps the BBC succumbed to silence concerning the sources of Christian persecution — that is, succumbed to "the atmosphere of political correctness" which it ironically highlighted — because in its own report, it did not rely on the WWL. The problem with this interpretation is that the study the BBC did rely on, the Bishop of Truro's, is saturated with talk concerning the actual sources of Christian persecution. In this regard, the words "Islam" and "Islamist" appear 61 times; "Muslim" appears 56 times in this review on persecuted Christians.

Here are a few of the more significant quotes from the Bishop of Truro's report:
  • "The persecution of Christians is perhaps at its most virulent in the region of the birthplace of Christianity—the Middle East & North Africa."
  • "In countries such as Algeria, Egypt, Iran, Iraq, Syria and Saudi Arabia the situation of Christians and other minorities has reached an alarming stage."
  • "The eradication of Christians and other minorities on pain of 'the sword' or other violent means was revealed to be the specific and stated objective of [Islamic] extremist groups in Syria, Iraq, Egypt, north-east Nigeria and the Philippines."
  • "[T]here is mass violence which regularly expresses itself through the bombing of churches, as has been the case in countries such as Egypt, Pakistan, and Indonesia."
  • "The single-greatest threat to Christians [in Nigeria] ... came from Islamist militant group Boko Haram, with US intelligence reports in 2015 suggesting that 200,000 Christians were at risk of being killed... Those worst affected included Christian women and girls 'abducted, and forced to convert, enter forced marriages, sexual abuse and torture.'"
  • "An intent to erase all evidence of the Christian presence [in Syria, Iraq, Egypt, north-east Nigeria and the Philippines] was made plain by the removal of crosses, the destruction of Church buildings and other Church symbols. The killing and abduction of clergy represented a direct attack on the Church's structure and leadership."
  • "Christianity now faces the possibility of being wiped-out in parts of the Middle East where its roots go back furthest. In Palestine, Christian numbers are below 1.5 percent; in Syria the Christian population has declined from 1.7 million in 2011 to below 450,000 and in Iraq, Christian numbers have slumped from 1.5 million before 2003 to below 120,000 today. Christianity is at risk of disappearing, representing a massive setback for plurality in the region."
The BBC should be commended for (finally) reporting on this urgent issue — even if it is three years behind the times. As the Truro report correctly observes, "In 2016 various political bodies including the UK parliament, the European Parliament and the US House of Representatives, declared that ISIS atrocities against Christians and other religious minority groups such as Yazidis and Shi'a Muslims met the tests of genocide."

At the very least, it appears that the BBC has stopped trying to minimize the specter of Christian persecution as it did in 2013, when this situation was just starting to reach the boiling point.

Raymond Ibrahim, author of the new book, Sword and Scimitar, Fourteen Centuries of War between Islam and the West, is a Distinguished Senior Fellow at the Gatestone Institute and a Judith Rosen Friedman Fellow at the Middle East Forum.


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The final stretch (to form a coalition) - Mati Tuchfeld

by Mati Tuchfeld

The two major sticking points holding up a new coalition are haredi conscription and the justice minister appointment. Despite what the media is saying, the question of immunity for the prime minister is not an issue.

The final stretch
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Acting Foreign Minister Yisrael Katz, bottom left and right, sit in front of Yisrael Beytenu leader Avigdor Lieberman, top center, in the Knesset | Photo: Oren Ben Hakoon

Now that the weekend is over, we are approaching the final stretch of the race to assemble a coalition. Negotiations will shift gear from foot-dragging to a discussion of sticking points, which will decide the new government’s policies for the next few years.

The biggest disputes that have held up the formation of a new government are the haredi conscription bill and the justice minister appointment. Everything else was basically agreed upon by the last government. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the haredi parties have reached understandings about budgets, appointments, and laws. The same goes for the Likud and the Union of Right-Wing Parties, and Netanyahu and Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon. The weak link is, as usual, Yisrael Beytenu leader Avigdor Lieberman. After the April 9 election, Lieberman tossed aside all his campaign pledges to become part of the right-wing coalition and support Netanyahu as prime minister and did a U-turn toward the opposition.

Lieberman remains unmoved by the fact that for the first time in years, the Likud did not set up a Russian campaign headquarters – this with the express purpose of bringing Yisrael Beytenu over the minimum electoral threshold. He now prefers to be offended about a few Russian-language Likud signs that were posted in the last few days of the election, after it was already clear that the risk his party wouldn’t make it into the Knesset had passed. This is a kind of political ingratitude that is typical of Lieberman.

Immunity? Don’t bore us 

Last Wednesday, the eve of Lag Ba’omer, Netanyahu met with Lieberman. The meeting was brief and to the point. Head of Netanyahu’s coalition negotiations staff, Tourism Minister Yariv Levin, was also there. When it concluded, Netanyahu was more pessimistic than he was when it started. Those present came away with the impression that Lieberman had effectively decided not to join the coalition, but was unwilling to say so. His insistence on passing the haredi draft bill gave the Likud official something to cling to. Lieberman won’t pay any price among his constituency if he leads the compromise he is expected to. At one point, one of the people in the meeting exclaimed, “This stubbornness will send us into another election!” Lieberman’s response? “No problem.”

Last Thursday, a change in strategy was proposed – a bill to dissolve the Knesset before the deadline to form a government. This would prevent President Reuven Rivlin from handing the job of forming a governing coalition to someone other than Netanyahu. It seems that a majority of Knesset members would back that bill. The haredi parties would support it, as would the Union of Right-Wing Parties and, of course, Lieberman. What’s more, the further the bill gets in the legislative process, the greater the chances that something might happen at the last minute to break the impasse.

What hasn’t been addressed at all in the negotiations are the cases against Netanyahu. There is an astonishing discrepancy between the media headlines and what is actually happening on the ground, where the investigations aren’t even a topic of discussion among coalition members. As far as they are concerned, Netanyahu was elected for a four-year term, and he is the one who will choose how he wants to ensure he remains in power. If he wants to pass a bill that would give him, as prime minister, immunity from prosecution – let him have immunity. If he wants to forgo the immunity bill and use his existing immunity? Not a problem. Does he want to forgo immunity entirely and allow himself to be indicted and possibly tried while in office? Bring it on. No one in the coalition will give him a hard time or demand that he resign.

The opposition’s campaign about the issue of immunity and the harm to democracy not only isn’t hurting him, it could wind up doing the opposite and prompt the right-wing parties to seek and pass the bills that so terrify the left side of the political map, because they would keep Netanyahu in office. Even former Likud minister Gideon Sa’ar, who did a turn in the media after coming out against Netanyahu, has said that he would support immunity for the prime minister under the existing law.

What’s going on with Gabbay? 

In the new government, Likud ministers will get the leftover crumbs. Netanyahu decided that the government will include only 16 Likud ministers. The current 11 will stay on. It looks like they will be joined by Avi Dichter, Tzipi Hotovely, and Nir Barkat. That leaves two. Netanyahu wants Amir Ohana to serve as communications minister. David Amsalem is also expected to receive a ministerial role. As is David Bitan. But all these will be handed out only after the Gideon Sa’ar riddle is solved. No one knows whether or not Netanyahu intends to appoint him to anything and if so, what.

It looks like Yisrael Katz will stay on as foreign minister. Hotovely, if appointed at all, would be the first female minister from the national religious sector, which would be a bonus if she were given the culture and sport portfolio, for example.

Meanwhile, in the Labor Party, senior party officials’ questions about where Labor chairman Avi Gabbay is leading the party after its election loss turned into real concern this past week. Based on Gabbay’s behavior, and even though he is denying it, they think that not only is he not drawing the necessary conclusions after his failure as party head, he is actually doing less than nothing to keep himself in the role of party leader much longer. In addition to announcing that he was moving the Labor primaries forward by six months, Gabbay is still increasing his grip on the party mechanisms by exploiting the constitutional changes he passed when he was made party leader. These changes were meant to give him tools to ensure that Labor would win the election, but in effect are just increasing his lopsided rule over the skeleton of the party whose assets he has stripped. Former party leader Isaac Herzog successfully “re-set” the party, and covered its 8 million-shekel debt. But in Gabbay’s short time at the helm, Labor’s debt has ballooned to 4 million shekels, an enormous amount for a party that has only six Knesset seats.

Last week, Labor Secretary General Eran Hermoni sent Gabbay and members of the Labor faction a letter in which he demanded explanations for their financial conduct. Hermoni asked them to submit lists of everyone in the party who holds official positions and receives salaries. Gabbay had already refused to comply with similar requests.

Hermoni also wrote that “a number of questions I posed to the party leader about expected expenditures … like [questions] about the considerations behind some of the actions he has taken as part of the plan to rehabilitate the part, have yet to be answered.”

Hermoni’s letter indicates that the party spent over 300 million shekels on business deals, contracts, and covering debt in the month after the election. Which senior party officials do not see as a sign that Gabbay intends to go anywhere. One source in the Labor Party said, “Gabbay apparently set the primaries for a far-off, unrealistic date, so he can postpone them against and tighten his grip. That’s not how someone who means to take responsibility for the failure and leave behaves.”

“For now, Gabbay is still … selling off assets as if this were a company he has to strip,” the source said.

Associates of Gabbay said in response to these claims that “the only unreasonable expense in the budget is the useless salary for a useless secretary general, who admits himself that he has done nothing for the past two years. The primaries will be moved up, there’s no argument about that, and the one who is leading that move is Gabbay himself.”

This week, David Bitan launched a lobby to strengthen national institutions. While sitting with other MKs, Bitan spotted Gabbay and asked him to join the lobby. He was gobsmacked at Gabbay’s response: “Not only will I not join – as far as I’m concerned, you can dismantle the Jewish Agency tomorrow morning,” he told Bitan.

Senior members of the Labor party were less surprised at this than Bitan and his colleagues.
“The Jewish Agency is a Labor asset. So it’s no surprise that Gabbay is trying to dismantle it, too,” they said.

Mati Tuchfeld


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US sanctions on Iran felt in Iraqi Shiite tourist districts - AP and Israel Hayom Staff

by AP and Israel Hayom Staff

Millions of Shiites from around the world come to Iraq every year to visit its many Shiite shrines and holy places. But visitors from Iran are feeling the economic heat, and shopkeepers prefer not to accept the constantly-depreciating rial.

US sanctions on Iran felt in Iraqi Shiite tourist districts
Street vendors and shop owners wait for customers outside the shrine of Imam Moussa al-Kadhim in Kadhimiya district in northern Baghdad, May 21 | Photo: AP Photo/Khalid Mohammed

For years, Karar Hussein has sold sweets in his shop near the entrance to one of Shiite Islam’s holiest shrines, accepting whatever currency was offered to him by his clients, many of them religious tourists from neighboring Iran. But lately, when Iranian pilgrims ask about prices, he tells them he can only sell if they pay in Iraqi currency. They often walk out, disappointed.

Hussein and many other shop owners in Baghdad’s northern Shiite holy neighborhood of Kadhimiya have seen sales drop sharply over the past year since U.S. President Donald Trump began re-imposing sanctions on Iran, home to the largest number of Shiite Muslims around the world.

The value of Iran’s currency, the rial, has decreased almost fourfold, pushing the price of nearly everything beyond the reach of ordinary Iranian consumers in Iran and abroad.

Standing in his shop wearing jeans and a T-shirt, 27-year-old Hussein said his sales have dropped 30% since last year, but he still prefers not to be paid in Iranian rials because the currency’s value keeps depreciating. “Their currency is crashing,” he said.

Millions of Shiites from around the world come to Iraq every year to visit its many Shiite shrines and holy places, including the holy cities of Najaf and Karbala in southern Iraq and the central city of Samarra, home to the revered golden-domed al-Askari shrine. They bring large amounts of money into the country, where tourism is the second biggest source of income for state coffers after oil exports.

Since the fall of Saddam Hussein’s government in 2003, Iranians have made up the majority of religious tourists to Iraq, although tens of thousands come from other countries.

But tensions have been rising recently in the Middle East between the United States and Iran and there have been concerns that Iraq, whose government is allied with both Tehran and Washington, would become caught in the middle, likely increasing pressures on Iraq’s tourism sector.

A favorite tourist destination is the Kadhimiya district in north Baghdad, typically bustling with Iranians shopping for clothes, sweets and trinkets. The area is home to the al-Kadhimayn shrine, known for its two domes and four minarets draped with gold and contains the tombs of Imam Moussa al-Kadhim and his grandson Mohammed al-Jawad, two of Shiite Islam’s most revered figures.

On a recent afternoon in Kadhimiya, hundreds of Iranian pilgrims entered and left the shrine, passing by scores of shops on both sides of a pedestrian street leading to the holy site without buying anything.

“Money is a big problem for us. This is really hurting us,” said Iranian citizen Hussein Fazeli, as he left the shrine. Fazeli, who brings pilgrims from Iran to Iraq, said the number of Iranian visitors has dropped because many cannot afford to travel now.

Speaking in broken Arabic, Fazeli said Iran will end up victorious no matter how long the crisis takes, adding that “Trump will go, and Iran will stay.”

Iran’s currency has been declining steadily for years but the drop has accelerated in recent months after Trump’s decision to pull out of the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran and re-impose sanctions.

Mohammed Saadi Hadi, who inherited his tiny clothes stand outside the al-Kadhimayn shrine from his father, says sales have dropped by 70%. Prayer gowns for women now cost four times what they cost last year in Iranian currency. He used to sell 60 gowns a day but today he sells fewer than 10.

Thamer Jabbar, owner of a perfume store, said Iranian tourists now not only abstain from buying, but some of them bring with them items such as saffron spice and stone rings to sell in Iraq, hoping to make up for some of their trip’s cost.

Jabbar, 38, said his best days were after Iran and world powers signed the nuclear deal in 2015, which led to the lifting of sanctions on Iran and the release of billions of dollars of frozen assets. On a good day then, Jabbar would sell $700 worth of perfume.

“Today I barely sell anything to an Iranian tourist. Perfumes in Iran have become cheaper,” he said.

AP and Israel Hayom Staff


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Trump Derangement Syndrome claims another victim - Thomas Lifson

by Thomas Lifson

A judge – a person who is entrusted with great powers on the premise of an ability to remain detached and impartial in official duties – has betrayed himself and his responsibilities.

A Utah judge has been suspended for six months without pay by that state’s supreme court for intemperate comments about Trump online and even from the bench. Utah judges are appointees based on “merit,” so there will be no electoral consequences, but such a drastic rebuke to a person in a position dependent on high regard from the public is potentially devastating. personally and professionally. 

This incident seems to be an example of the human tragedies that result from the media-fed obsession with demonizing President Trump that has gripped so many Americans.

Judge Michael Kwan

What is remarkable and tragic in this incident of TDS is that a judge – a person who entrusted with great powers on the premise of an ability to remain detached and impartial in official duties – has betrayed himself and his responsibilities. Judge Michael Kwan of Taylorsville, UT seems to have been driven by TDS to disregard these issues.

Dennis Romboy of the Deseret News reports:
During an exchange with a defendant during a January 2017 hearing, [Kwan launched into a commentary about Trump's immigration and tax policies. Apparently behind in his fine payments, the defendant told Kwan he would pay after he received his tax refund.
Kwan questioned whether the defendant would get any money back.
"I pray and cross my fingers," the man said.
Kwan replied, "OK. Prayer might be the answer. ‘Cause he just signed an order to start building the wall and he has no money to do that, and so if you think you are going to get taxes back this year, uh-yeah, maybe, maybe not. But don’t worry, there is a tax cut for the wealthy so if you make over $500,000 you’re getting a tax cut. You’re right there, right? Pretty close? All right, so do you have a plan? Other than just get the tax cut and pay it off?"
There is absolutely no professional reason for such comments from the bench. Could anyone who supports President Trump feel secure if facing a proceeding in Judge Kwan’s courtroom?

The expression “sober as a judge” reflects the notion that judges must not allow themselves even the minor vices that the rest of us are permitted, in order to remain clear-headed and in control at all times, not just on the bench.
In 2016 and early 2017, Kwan repeatedly posted comments and shared articles on Facebook and LinkedIn about Trump.
"With respect to Donald Trump, Judge Kwan’s postings were laden with blunt, and sometimes indelicate, criticism," Pearce wrote.
Kwan posted a Washington Post article titled, “Ghazala Khan: Trump criticized my silence. He knows nothing about true sacrifice," in July 2016. Above the article’s headline, he added, “Checkmate.”
In November 2016, three days after the presidential election, "Judge Kwan remarked, 'Think I'll go to the shelter to adopt a cat before the President-Elect grabs them all …," the court's opinion states.
On the day Trump was inaugurated in January 2017, Kwan posted, “Welcome to governing. Will you dig your heels in and spend the next four years undermining our country’s reputation and standing in the world? … Will you continue to demonstrate your inability to govern and political incompetence?"
In February 2017, Kwan wrote, “Welcome to the beginning of the fascist takeover," and "We need to … be diligent in questioning Congressional Republicans if they are going to be the American Reichstag and refuse to stand up for the Constitution, refuse to uphold their oath of office and enable the tyrants to consolidate their power."
How is it possible that a respected, veteran jurist – Judge Kwan has 21 years on the bench – go so far over the edge and disgrace his years of service?

I blame the media that constantly fan the flames of hatred and resentment of those members of the public that were surprised and disappointed that their candidate, Hillary Clinton, lost an election. With such continual support from the media, in many social circles, voicing disgust and anger at President Trump has become a signal of solidarity with their friends, who – let’s be frank here – regard themselves as intellectually and morally superior to the unwashed masses who inflicted Trump upon them.

They do not see how self-destructive this is. That is why TDS is derangement. Deranged people lose their normal amities to perceive reality and reason from it.

It is a tragedy, I maintain, one that victimizes not only Trump and his supporters (as objects of hate) but the TDS sufferers themselves, who are inclined toward self-destructive behavior.

Thomas Lifson


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Turkey offers to “help Canada” repatriate Islamic State jihadists held in Syria - Christine Douglass-Williams

by Christine Douglass-Williams

Should Islamic State fighters indeed return to Canada, the country’s current leadership has shown no reason to be trusted with the responsibility of public safety.

Turkey has offered to help Canada repatriate Islamic State (IS) fighters who are currently held in Syria, along with their families.  Canada’s Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) views Turkey as “a better option than Iraq” to partner with, “where foreign ISIS members could face death sentences”; while Jessica Davis, a former Canadian Security Intelligence Service analyst, recognized that returning IS fighters has its own challenges, but in her view “it had to be done”. Davis reasoned:
I think leaving them overseas is much more problematic from a threat perspective. There’s a possibility of being released, of being reintegrated into ISIS forces. All of those things just make it worse.
In a rather troubling demonstration of just how serious the dilemma is in exploring ways to repatriate returning Islamic State jihadists into Western nations,  Iraq justified handing down death sentences to British Islamic State jihadists as a “bid to protect Britain.”  According to judge Abdul Sattar Beraqdar, spokesman for the Supreme Judicial Council:
 The punishment, as much as it seems strong, will affect the security of your country….I am sure there are hundreds of people in Britain at this moment thinking of committing similar crimes.”
Should Islamic State fighters indeed return to Canada, the country’s current leadership has shown no reason to be trusted with the responsibility of public safety. Some reasons why:
  • Prime Minister of Canada, Justin Trudeau, threw out a welcome mat to Islamic State jihadists, while stating — according to Canadian Baptist minister Steve Long — that “evangelical Christians were the worst part of Canadian society.”
  • Trudeau “pledged taxpayer funds” last year to “de-radicalize” IS jihadists, and declared that they could become “an extraordinarily powerful voice.” De-radicalization programs have been tried and failed.  While reasons for such overwhelming failure are still being studied, it is obvious, or at least should be, that for any reform program to work, there must be a strong will on behalf of the participant. Jihadists are fueled by religious zeal. They are engaged in a religiously sanctioned war against ‘disbelieving’ Western nations. Take for example the words of the soon-to-be released American Taliban Fighter John Walker Lindh: “we are in prison due to our beliefs and the practice of our religion, not for committing any crime.
  • Breitbart Leaked documents from the Canadian Security Intelligence Service which showed “that the intelligence service is far more concerned with Islamic terrorism behind closed doors than the left-wing Trudeau government will admit in public.”
  • It emerged in 2017 that dozens of jihadis were walking free in Canada, yet authorities won’t charge them.
  • Trudeau has a reputation of being soft, if not ‘kind’, to jihadists. He paid out jihadist Omar Khadr 10.5 million dollars for shoddy treatment in Gitmo; Trudeau made up silly excuses and said he also felt the frustration of Canadians when questioned about it.
  • Trudeau met privately with Joshua Boyle, a suspicious former Taliban captive who is also now up on 15 criminal charges. One wonders why.
  • Trudeau also accused the Conservative party of “Islamophobia” for merely inquiring about the threat to Canadians posed by jihad terror.
  • Member of Parliament Omar Alghabra represented Canada at the 44th session of the Council of Foreign Ministers of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation. Since when is Canada an OIC state? The thought now of Canada teaming up with the likes of Turkey to “repatriate ISIS members” is daunting. “The Liberal government has said it would be difficult to get the Canadians out of Syria because they could be arrested and charged by authorities in neighbouring Turkey and Iraq.” Much could go very wrong in partnering with Turkey.
Unless a government can be fully trusted to protect public interests first, Islamic State jihadists should not be allowed back into Western nations. They are enemy combatants, many of whom are already walking free in Canada and elsewhere. The current threat is bad enough already as the Islamic State  has long found successes in infiltrating refugee streams. Under the current government, Canada ascribes to open doors, and boasted about ‘leading the charge’ in the UN Global Migration Pact.

Seven months ago Global News reported on an opposition Conservative government motion tabled in the House of Commons which “called on the government of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to put forward a plan within 45 days for bringing to justice those who fought with ISIS.” Member of Parliament Michelle Rempel– who introduced the motion– argued that “the government should acknowledge that anyone who traveled abroad to take part in terrorism or genocide should face legal consequences.” Rempel continued….
To date this government under Justin Trudeau has failed to take action, and Andrew Scheer’s Conservatives are calling on the Prime Minister to immediately table a plan to serve justice to anyone who left our country to fight with this terrorist organization.
As an alternative to a death sentence as advised by Iraqi judge Abdul Sattar Beraqdar, Jihadists should be tried and prosecuted in a separate international court, one that fully understands the nature of the Islamic jihad against the West. Unfortunately, this institution does not exist;  and jihadists should be kept in separate institutions away from Western civilization since they spread salafi ideology in regular jails and they continue their jihad war once released. Gitmo, which was shut down by Obama, is a model of a good start.  Donald Trump reversed the policy of the Obama Administration last year and signed an executive order to keep Gitmo open. Trump reasoned….
“Terrorists who do things like place bombs in civilian hospitals are evil,” Trump said. “When possible, we have no choice but to annihilate them. When necessary, we must be able to detain and question them. But we must be clear: terrorists are not merely criminals. They are unlawful enemy combatants. And when captured overseas, they should be treated like the terrorists they are…..In the past, we have foolishly released hundreds of dangerous terrorists, only to meet them again on the battlefield – including the Isis leader, al-Baghdadi.”
At the turn of the new year, Trump’s move to re-open Gitmo was branded–there’s that word again– “Islamophobic“.

Canadians should be in uproar over Trudeau’s sprawling out the welcome mat to Islamic State militants, his reckless immigration policy,  dismissal of the global war on terror, and new efforts to repatriate Islamic State fighters, using the help of Turkey.

Christine Douglass-Williams


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