Friday, July 22, 2016

Hezbollah’s Massive Missile Build-Up Could Cause Thousands Of Israeli Deaths - Morton A. Klein and Daniel Mandel

by Morton A. Klein and Daniel Mandel

Why Israel may be forced to strike first.

One day perhaps not far off, there will be another war between Israel and Hezbollah, the Iranian terrorist proxy in Lebanon. One might assume that any future clash will be similar to past ones –– Israel struck by disruptive and occasionally lethal rocket attacks, and intense, but limited, hostilities over days or weeks, leading to a new, uneasy ceasefire. But this is unlikely. The next Lebanon war might well be like none that preceded it.

The reason is that Hezbollah, in the decade since the last Lebanon war, has amassed an astonishing arsenal of 130,000 rockets, missiles and mortars, largely provided by Iran, aimed at virtually every square inch of Israel. 

As Willy Stern in the Weekly Standard reminds us, “This is a bigger arsenal than all NATO countries (except the United States) combined.” And it is the hands of a movement whose veteran leader, Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah, has spoken of Israel as a “cancerous tumor” to be eliminated and of Jews to be globally murdered, saying, “if they all gather in Israel, it will save us the trouble of going after them worldwide.”

Worse, these are not the katyushas rockets or mortars of old, which terrify and disrupt, but kill and maim only in small numbers, mainly in Israel’s border areas. 

Hizbollah’s arsenal includes over 700 long-range Fateh-10 and Scud-D missiles, sophisticated munitions which carry heavy payloads and can hit any part of Israel, killing hundreds or even thousands. Add to that new Russian anti-tank and anti-ship missiles, and future Israeli operations against Hezbollah will be scarcely a cakewalk. 

With its enormous number of missiles, Hezbollah could rain down huge barrages that overwhelm Israeli anti-missile defenses, with some 10% of their missiles penetrating the Iron Dome defenses. Thus, Israeli casualties could be in the thousands and senior Israeli military figures have said as much. Israel Defense Forces Deputy Chief of Staff Major-General Yair Golan has estimated that central Israel, untouched in previous clashes, will be hit hard. “Dozens” of missiles, in his view, could hit Tel Aviv.

Where terrorists have no scruple about using whatever weapons they can obtain against an enemy nations’ civilians en masse, it is clear that it is only a matter of time until that country acts. The truth is that Israel will be obliged to do so before long, whether by its own pre-emptive initiative or in response to a devastating attack.

Israel has been constrained by a desire to avoid military clashes that harm its international reputation, so it has been reluctant to act in the past. Just recall the 1973 Yom Kippur War, when Israel waited rather than shoulder the blame for initiating fighting, causing Israeli casualties to be in the thousands.

Israel has normally awaited a serious escalation –– a border attack with numerous casualties, for example –– before responding.

And when doing so, it has, despite false charges of overkill, harmed a lower ratio of civilians to combatants –– about one to three –– than any other army. General Martin Dempsey, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said Israel went to “extraordinary lengths” in the 2014 Gaza war to minimize civilians casualties.

But, the critics say, more Lebanese than Israelis have died in past clashes. Why? Because of Hizballah’s war crime, also practiced by Hamas in Gaza, of enmeshing its forces and missiles in the surrounding civilian population. 

Inevitably, targeted strikes thereby sometimes kill civilians as well as terrorists. Thus, though this is the moral and legal responsibility of Hezbollah, a jaundiced world, which either dislikes Jews or fears Arabs, or both, holds Israel responsible, thereby incentivizing Hizbollah’s war crimes into the future.

Such dilemmas will only be enlarged for Israel now, given that to await a Hezbollah first strike with this sort of weaponry is to await a massacre of its people.

In short, Israel will have no option but to act and Hezbollah, with its rocket launchers deep in strongholds like Beirut’s Dahiya neighborhood, will ensure that many civilians die as a result. The only question is how the world will react.

To judge by history, the international reaction will be as before: foreign offices across the world will condemn violence on both sides, admit Hezbollah is misbehaving –– few will call its acts war crimes –– but reserve their strongest condemnation for Israel.

Yet, the world could act differently and thereby profoundly alter Hizbollah’s thinking as a result. Thus far, there has been no sign of this happening. The U.S. can start changing that by speaking up before there is war, demanding verified Hezbollah disarmament within a clear period, in the absence of which it will state that Israeli pre-emptive action will be justified and supported. If President Obama remains mute, the Congress need not. 

Morton A. Klein is National President of the Zionist Organization of America (ZOA). 
Dr. Daniel Mandel is Director of the ZOA’ s Center for Middle East Policy and author of H.V. Evatt & the Establisment of Israel (Routledge, London, 2004).


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The Palestinians: Refugee Camps or Terrorist Bases? - Khaled Abu Toameh

by Khaled Abu Toameh

The Lebanese apartheid measures against Palestinians are rarely mentioned in the Western media and international human rights groups. The UN does not seem overly concerned about this discrimination.

  • The 450,000 Palestinians in Lebanon are still banned from several professions, especially in the fields of medicine and law. They refer to these restrictions as apartheid measures. The Lebanese apartheid measures against Palestinians are rarely mentioned in the Western media and international human rights groups. The UN does not seem overly concerned about this discrimination.
  • Palestinian refugee camps in Lebanon have become in the past few decades bases for various innumerable militias and terrorist groups.
  • The United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian Refugees, UNRWA, is formally in charge of the refugee camps in Lebanon, including those that are now providing shelter to Islamist terrorists.
  • The Lebanese authorities are increasingly running out of patience with the growing Islamist threat.

ISIS is on the mind of the Palestinian Authority (PA) leadership. Top PA officials have expressed concern that jihadi groups, including ISIS, have managed to infiltrate Palestinian refugee camps in Lebanon.

Lebanese authorities are also worried -- so worried that they have issued a stiff warning to the Palestinians: Stop the terrorists or else we will take security into our own hands.

According to Lebanese security sources, more and more Palestinians in Lebanon have joined ISIS and the Al-Qaeda-affiliated Al-Nusra Front, a Sunni Islamist militia fighting against Syrian government forces. In response, the Lebanese security forces have taken a series of measures in a bid to contain the problem and prevent the two Islamist terror groups from establishing bases of power in the Palestinian refugee camps in Lebanon.

According to some reports, dozens of Palestinians from Lebanon who joined ISIS and Al-Nusra Front have been killed or wounded in Syria in recent months. Most of those who were killed have been buried in Syria, the reports said.

Alarmed by the success of ISIS and Al-Nusra Front in recruiting dozens of Palestinians to their ranks, the Palestinian Authority leadership this week sent Azzam Al-Ahmed, a senior advisor to President Mahmoud Abbas, to Beirut for urgent talks with Lebanese government officials on ways of containing the escalation. The PA leadership fears that the heightened activities of the two terrorist groups in the refugee camps will force the Lebanese army to launch a massive military operation to get rid of the terrorists, who pose an immediate threat to Lebanese national security.

Al-Ahmed, who is in charge of the Lebanon Portfolio in the Palestinian Authority, held a series of meetings with Lebanese government officials in a bid to avoid a security showdown between the Lebanese army and the Palestinians living in the country's refugee camps. Following a meeting with Lebanese Interior Minister Nihad Al-Mashnouk, the Palestinian envoy said that the talks focused on the need to take "joint steps to ensure security stability in the Palestinian refugee camps." According to Al-Ahmed, the talks also dealt with ways to prevent certain parties, especially ISIS and Al-Nusra Front, from exploiting the Palestinian refugee camps to threaten Lebanon's security interests.

Lebanese security officials have reported direct contacts between ISIS leaders in Syria and some senior Islamist figures in the Ain Al-Hilweh refugee camp, the largest camp in Lebanon, with a population of more of than 120,000 -- half of them refugees who fled Syria since 2011. The officials said that one of the commanders of ISIS in Syria, Abu Khaled Al-Iraqi, has stepped up his contacts with Palestinians in Ain Al-Hilweh in recent weeks, in preparation for launching terrorist attacks against Lebanese targets. The Lebanese have named a number of Palestinians from Ain Al-Hilweh evidently serving as ISIS representatives in Lebanon: Emad Yasmin, Helal Helal, Abed Fadda, Nayef Abdullah and Abu Hamzeh Mubarak.

Last week, Palestinian sources revealed that one of the jihadi leaders in Ain Al-Hilweh, Omar Abu Kharoub, nicknamed Abu Muhtaseb Al-Maqdisi, was killed while fighting alongside ISIS in Syria. The sources said that he is only one of hundreds of Palestinians from Lebanon who have joined ISIS and the Al-Nusra Front.

The Lebanese government has informed the Palestinian Authority leadership in Ramallah that at least 300 jihadi terrorists are now barricaded inside Ain Al-Hilweh. "The situation has become intolerable and we can no longer turn a blind eye to this threat," the Lebanese warned the PA.

The Islamist terrorists who have found shelter inside Ain Al-Hilweh have repeatedly warned the Lebanese authorities against launching a military attack against the refugee camp.

In a recent sermon for Friday prayers, Sheikh Abu Yusef Aqel condemned Lebanon's mistreatment of its Palestinian population. He pointed out that under Lebanese law, Palestinians are banned from working in 72 professions. Referring to reports in the Lebanese media about the threats emerging from the Palestinian camps, Sheikh Aqel said:
"If these (Lebanese) media outlets were really affiliated with the resistance, as they claim, they would have focused on the suffering of a people that was displaced from its homeland more than 70 years ago. They would also have focused on the fact that Lebanon bans this people from working in 72 professions."
Aqel is referring to the circumstance that until a decade ago, a total of seventy-two professions were restricted to Lebanese only. The Lebanese government issued a memorandum on June 7, 2005 permitting Palestinians refugees to work in fifty of these seventy-two professions. However, Palestinians in Lebanon are still banned from several types of jobs, especially in the fields of medicine and law. The 450,000 Palestinians living in Lebanon refer to these restrictions as apartheid measures.

The Lebanese apartheid measures against Palestinians are rarely mentioned in the Western media and international human rights groups. The United Nations does not seem overly concerned about this discrimination, apparently because it is practiced by an Arab country against Arabs.

Lebanon has never been comfortable with the presence of the Palestinians on its soil. That is precisely why the authorities have turned the twelve Palestinian refugee camps in Lebanon into ghettos. These ghettos are off-limits to the Lebanese security forces. As a result, these camps have become in the past few decades bases for various innumerable militias and terrorist groups. Until a few years ago, the major Palestinian Fatah faction was the dominant group controlling the refugee camps in Lebanon. No longer. Today, it has become evident that many other groups such as Hamas, Islamic Jihad, ISIS and Al-Qaeda have established bases of power inside the camps.

It is worth mentioning that the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian Refugees (UNRWA) is formally in charge of the refugee camps in Lebanon, including those that are now providing shelter to Islamist terrorists.

The Wavel refugee camp for Palestinians, near Baalbek in Lebanon, which is administered by UNRWA. (Image credit: European Commission DG ECHO)

Back to PA anxiety. Undoubtedly, the Palestinian Authority leadership is concerned that many of its erstwhile loyalists in Fatah have defected to the various jihadi terror groups. These groups are now posing a major threat not only to Lebanon's security and stability, but also to the PA and its president, Mahmoud Abbas, who feel helpless in the face of the Islamist tsunami sweeping the Palestinian refugee camps in Lebanon.

Abbas and his PA have clearly lost control over the millions of Palestinians living in the neighboring Arab countries, including Lebanon, Syria and Jordan. This is in addition to the fact that Abbas and the PA have nearly no control over Palestinian refugee camps in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, where various jihadi groups and other secular militias and gangs are now in control.

The hands of the Palestinian Authority leadership are now tied: the PA cannot regain control over the refugee camps in the West Bank, Gaza Strip and the Arab countries. There is also nothing that Abbas can do to stop the residents of these camps from joining ISIS, Al-Qaeda, Hamas and Islamic Jihad.

All what is left for Abbas to do is to try and prevent a catastrophe from falling on the heads of the Palestinians in these camps, especially Lebanon, where the Lebanese authorities are increasingly running out of patience with the growing Islamist threat.

"The Lebanese army will not allow terrorism to find a safe place in Ain Al-Hilweh or any other part of Lebanon," cautioned a Lebanese security source. "We will not allow Ain Al-Hilweh to become a hotbed for terrorism and be used as a launching pad to explode the situation in Lebanon. We will face any such attempt with force and firmness."

The Palestinians' biggest fear now is that Ain Al-Hilweh will meet the same fate as the Nahr Al-Bared refugee camp in Lebanon, which was almost entirely destroyed by the Lebanese army in 2007. Then, the presence of Islamist terrorists belonging to the Fatah Al-Islam group inside Nahr Al-Bared triggered heavy clashes during which the Lebanese army used artillery and helicopter gunships to attack the camp, home to some 40,000 Palestinians. At least 158 people were killed and hundreds wounded in the fighting, which also left many families homeless.

Busy with more pressing issues, Abbas was unable to make the trip to Lebanon himself. What is the urgent business that prevented him from showing up in person to try to prevent catastrophe for his people in Lebanon? His grand tour, an end-game bid to win support for an international Middle East peace conference that would choke Israel into submission.

Abbas is next slated for Paris, where on July 22 he is scheduled to meet with President François Hollande to discuss the latest French initiative to "solve" the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Hollande might do better to turn inward to consider how his own country will manage the latest wave of Islamist terrorism. Abbas, for his part, is unlikely to broach with Hollande the incendiary situation in the Palestinian refugee camps, where ISIS and Al-Qaeda are gaining the upper hand.
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Khaled Abu Toameh, an award winning journalist, is based in Jerusalem.


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No GOP Sus-Pence on Security and Allies - Lloyd Billingsley

by Lloyd Billingsley

Vice presidential nominee Mike Pence says “We stand with Israel.”

Outside the Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland Wednesday, the 60s reenactors were venting in the usual style. Donald Trump was in the building but again the dominant themes were American security and the Democratic nominee.

“This threat is real and it is here,” said Florida governor Rick Scott. “The next president must destroy this evil.” The current administration had projected weakness on the international stage and radical Islamic terrorism was ascendant. “We need a president who will wipe it off the face of the earth,” and in Scott’s view that was not Hillary Clinton.

Radio host Laura Ingraham lamented that “our allies don’t respect us anymore” and that “The Democrats’ answer is to nominate the woman who helped orchestrate America’s decline.”

For Florida Attorney General Pam Biondi, Hillary Clinton “believes our enemies deserve our respect and empathy.” By contrast, “Donald Trump believes terrorists deserve to die,” and the conventioneers responded with cheers. “Send ISIS a message that we are really coming after them,” Biondi said. “Donald Trump will.”

Ralph Alvarado, a state senator from Kentucky, whose father is from Costa Rica and mother from Argentina, charged that President Obama has “made America more divided than ever.” The administration had also failed on Benghazi, the “Fast and Furious” scandal, and the Iran nuclear deal, “and with Hillary Clinton the nightmare will be worse.”

African American pastor Darrell Scott told the convention that “the Democratic Party has failed us” and that liberals were afraid to use the word “patriot.” Abroad the United States was “no longer respected.” Scott called for a “Greater America” and defense of the Constitution.

“Climate change is not our biggest problem,” said Harold Hamm of Continental Resources, a shale oil company. “It’s Islamic terrorism.” In Hamm’s view, Donald Trump would be the first president to bring about energy independence. Hillary Clinton, on the other hand, “would eliminate it.”

Wisconsin governor Scott Walker said Trump was willing to name the threat for what it is, “radical Islamic terrorism,” and he called for “absolute victory for our troops.” Hillary Clinton, Walker said, is “the ultimate liberal insider. If any more on the inside, she would be in prison.”

Recalling FBI director James Comey’s recent testimony, Scott said “I wouldn’t give Hillary Clinton the password to my iPhone, let alone to classified information.” And for those security reasons, “Hillary Clinton is unfit to be president.”

Appearing in a video, Marco Rubio, called Hillary Clinton a key figure of President Obama’s “appeasement” policies. Rubio did not openly endorse Trump but did say that he “takes seriously Islamic terrorism” and that “the time for fighting each other is over.”

Texas Senator Ted Cruz hailed the comeback victory of Cleveland Cavalier LeBron James, and told the convention “America is going to come back too.” The current administration, he said, thinks ISIS is  a “JV team” and that it is possible to make a deal with Iran, whose holidays include Death to America Day and Death to Israel Day. “This is madness,” said Cruz.

Newt Gingrich told the convention that “we are at war with radical Islamist terrorists, we are losing the war, and we must change course to win the war.” The former House Speaker detailed recent terrorist attacks in Turkey, German, Nice, and Istanbul. The danger we now face, he said, was greater than on 9/11, and the “worst scenario is losing city to terrorists with weapons of mass destruction.”

Pakistan and North Korea have nuclear weapons and Iran with a nuclear weapon made a catastrophic attack more possible. Gingrich said Hillary Clinton was incapable of dealing with the threat and “the cost of Hillary Clinton’s dishonesty could be loss of America as we know it.”

Indiana governor Mike Pence, a former Democrat, accepted the nomination for vice-president and told the convention his heroes, he said were John Fitzgerald Kennedy and Martin Luther King, Jr. His father was combat veteran in Korea and his son a lieutenant in the Marines. The nominee left the convention in no doubt where he stood on security issues.

“Will not turn our back on those who serve and protect us at home and abroad,” Pence said. “We will always stand with those who stand on the thin blue line of law enforcement.”

Hillary Clinton “undid all the gains of the troop surge” and Pence lamented her performance in Iran and Benghazi, repeating her explanation of  “what difference, at this point, does it make.” For Pence, “anyone who said that should be disqualified as commander in chief.” The nation, in his view, needs a president who will “confront Islamic terrorism and rid the world of ISIS.”

Pence told the Republicans that “Donald Trump will destroy the enemies of our freedom” and that “America stands with Israel.” Pence also assured the convention that “the team is ready.” The presidential nominee will get his turn on Thursday.

Lloyd Billingsley is the author of Bill of Writes: Dispatches from the Political Correctness Battlefield and Hollywood Party: Stalinist Adventures in the American Film Industry.


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Coup Attempt in Turkey: A Feast of Pretexts - Burak Bekdil

by Burak Bekdil

  • Turkey now will be an even more difficult place to live in for dissidents. President Erdogan is already talking about the reintroduction of death penalty.
  • The Security General Department (which runs the police force) issued a statement calling on citizens to inform them about any social media material that supports terrorists, the Gulen organization or that contains anti-government propaganda material.
Everything looked surreal in Turkey; soldiers inviting the head of the police anti-terror squad for a "meeting" only to shoot him in the head; top brass, including the chief of the military general staff, air force commander, land forces commander and gendarmerie commander, being taken hostage by their own aide-de-camps; then people taking to the streets in their thousands to resist the coup d'état, taking over tanks, getting killed, soldiers opening fire at the civilians and finally the victorious pro-Erdogan people lynching coup-staging soldiers wherever they could grab them.

Turkey's NTV TV shows soldiers involved in coup attempt surrendering on Istanbul's Bosphorus bridge with their hands raised, July 15, 2016.

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan accused his formerly staunchest political ally, a Muslim cleric in exile in the United States, Fethullah Gulen, and his loyalists within the military. Appearing before a crowd of party fans, Erdogan pleaded to Washington for "the terrorist" Gulen's extradition.

Erdogan's intelligence and loyal police force immediately arrested nearly 6,000 military officers and members of the judiciary, claiming that they belong to the "Gulenist terror organization." Justice Minister Bekir Bozdag said that more arrests were in the offing, signaling a witch hunt across the country. Immediately after that move the Interior Ministry suspended 8,777 officials, including governors, suspected of being "Gulenists," and arrested thousands in the judiciary. Many liberals believe the government will use the coup attempt as a pretext to intimidate its opponents, whether or not with any links to Gulen.

"He [Erdogan] comes out of this tremendously strengthened," says Howard Eissenstat, associate professor of Middle East history at St. Lawrence University in Canton, New York. "This has remobilized a base that was getting sort of tired of him. It gave him at least a moment in which he unified all elements of society against a clear threat."

Turkey now will be an even more difficult place to live in for dissidents. Erdogan is already talking about the reintroduction of death penalty. "Our government will discuss [the death penalty] with the opposition," he said when he spoke to a crowd of party fans who interrupted his speech with the slogan "we want the death penalty." Then he said he would endorse the reintroduction of the death penalty if parliament approved it.

Meanwhile, the Security General Department (which runs the police force) issued a statement calling on citizens to inform them about any social media material that supports terrorists, the Gulen organization or that contains anti-government propaganda material.

All this Turkish upheaval reminds one of the Reichstag fire, an arson attack on the German parliament building in Berlin on Feb. 27, 1933. A young unemployed Dutch communist, Marinus van der Lubbe, was arrested for the crime. He had only recently arrived in Germany; he pled guilty and was sentenced to death. The Reichstag fire was used as a pretext by the Nazi Party to tell its public that communists were plotting against the German government -- a pivotal event in the establishment of Nazi Germany.

We may never know if the failed coup of July 15 was a Turkish version of the Reichstag fire. But we do know that it will be used as a pretext to claim that a multitude of enemies, inside and outside Turkey, are plotting against the government.
Burak Bekdil, based in Ankara, is a Turkish columnist for the Hürriyet Daily and a Fellow at the Middle East Forum.

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Saudis Announce a Turn Away from Wahhabi Cultural Vandalism - Stephen Schwartz

by Stephen Schwartz

If carried out, the effort will represent a break with the doctrines of the Wahhabi sect that has maintained a close alliance with the Saudi monarchs for more than two centuries, and is the official Islamic theological dispensation in the desert kingdom.

The Cave of Hira on the "Mountain of Light," the site where Muhammad is said to have received his first revelations from God.
The rulers of Saudi Arabia have announced a new program for cultural renovation of architecture associated with the life of Muhammad. As described in the leading pan-Arab daily Asharq Al-Awsat, a Saudi Commission for Tourism and National Heritage (SCTH) has begun planning rehabilitation of sites in Mecca, the direction of prayer for Muslims around the world, and Medina, which includes the Prophet's Shrine, where Muhammad is said to be buried.

The restorations would include Jebel Al-Nur, the "Mountain of Light" in Mecca, where Qur'an is believed to have been first revealed to Muhammad, and locations where he is said to have sojourned. Jebel Al-Nur is a key topic in this discussion. In Medina, sites identified with battles fought by the Muslims, and four early mosques, are due for reorganization and restructuring. Museums drawing on Islamic military history and other themes will be opened and guides to the attractions provided.

The endeavor has been endorsed by Prince Sultan bin Salman, the 60-year-old son of the current ruler, King Salman. Prince Sultan is best known for having traveled in 1985 on the U.S. space shuttle Discovery. SCTH president Saad Al-Rashed will head the undertaking.

Wahhabis argue that protection of architectural sites, even Islamic ones, is 'idolatry.'
If carried out, the effort will represent a break with the doctrines of the Wahhabi sect that has maintained a close alliance with the Saudi monarchs for more than two centuries, and is the official Islamic theological dispensation in the desert kingdom. Wahhabi iconoclasts have been infamous as wreckers of the heritage of Islam and other religions. They argue that protection of architectural assets, including sacred structures, is "idolatry" prohibited by Islam. Those so accused are judged to have abandoned Islam and are subject to execution.

The Saudis and Wahhabis invaded and sacked the Shia Muslim holy cities of Karbala and Najaf in today's Iraq, following the emergence some 250 years ago of Muhammad Ibn Abd Al-Wahhab, the preacher for whom the fanatical creed is named. This violence against Shias, whom Wahhabis condemn as alleged apostates from Islam, and their monuments was repeated frequently. To the Wahhabis, the contemplative traditions of Sufism constitute another form of "polytheistic apostasy," along with Shia Islam, in that Shia and Sufi adherents alike honor Muhammad and other spiritual figures, rather than Allah alone.

Wahhabis zealously condemn ritual respect paid even to outstanding Muslims.
In their zealous condemnation of ritual respect paid to outstanding Muslims, Wahhabis further decry such practices as an imitation of Christians, for the love the latter show toward Jesus. After the Saudi conquest of Mecca and Medina in the mid-1920s, tombs in the sacred cemeteries housing the remains of Muhammad's family and early companions were levelled. The same addiction to demolition was seen in the Taliban assault on the Bamiyan Buddha statues in Afghanistan in 2001, and in its most spectacular form, on September 11 of that year, in the wrecking of the World Trade Center towers and the crash of a hijacked jet into the Pentagon. Those structures were additionally viewed as "idols" by the Wahhabis of Al-Qaida.

In an excess of metastasized Wahhabism, these destructive urges are visible in the devastation of the pre-Islamic legacy of Palmyra in Syria last year by the terrorists of the so-called "Islamic State" (ISIS), who also blow up Shia and Sufi installations.

The Saudi regime seems to have decided suddenly to adopt a new perspective on the matter, having hitherto neglected to restrict Wahhabi interference with Islamic heritage. "Saudi modernization" is a convoluted process at best. While the house of Saud long allowed the Wahhabi clerics to hinder visits to Islamic religious sites, they did not censure as "idolatry" the recent erection of grotesque and garish hotels and malls surrounding and dwarfing the Kaaba, the black stone cube at the center of the Grand Mosque of Mecca, and the ground where Islam originated. Seen from above, the Kaaba is now a tiny structure far overshadowed by a Stalinesque clock tower. To facilitate construction of the clock tower, an entire hill and the Ottoman fortress on which it sat, protecting the Grand Mosque since Ottoman times, were bulldozed.

King Salman Bin Abd Al-Aziz, in power beginning last year, and succeeding his half-brother, the reforming King Abdullah, promised after he ascended the throne that he would continue on the path of positive change pursued by Abdullah. Of course, real social reform—allowing women to drive, for example—is impossible without curbing the power of the Wahhabi clerics. Despoliation of Islamic historical structures is the most obvious symbol of Wahhabi radicalism.

The blind Wahhabi Grand Mufti of Saudi Arabia, Abdul Aziz Ibn Abdullah Bin Baz [1910-99], known for his intransigent views, issued two fatwas against participants in Muslim pilgrimages to Mecca visiting and praying at places traditionally seen as appropriate for such devotions. In the first, Bin Baz opined that walking up Jebel Al-Nur to a cave known for Muhammad's revelation was a "means leading to [polytheism]," and must be banned. The restriction is not enforced, but the steep climb up the steps of Jebel Al-Nur, in raging heat, is daunting to most pilgrims.

The second such fatwa by Ibn Baz was more sweeping, and summarized the Wahhabi hostility to historic preservation. It stated, "It is impermissible to exaggerate the importance of historical sites and buildings, because this might lead to [polytheism]. The laypeople may be tempted to believe that such places are blessed, and be driven to commit acts of disbelief. . . . It is, therefore, obligatory to neglect and abandon such a deed and to warn against it." The "acts of disbelief" execrated by Ibn Baz consist of commemorative prayers to Muhammad and other Muslims deemed virtuous.

The "new" Mecca.
Arab media reporting on the new Saudi approach to the Islamic legacy lack any reference to three of the most controversial issues involving the cultural legacy of Mecca and Medina. These are the identification and reconstruction of houses in Mecca, in one of which Muhammad was reputedly born and another where he is thought to have lived with his wife Khadijah; ongoing Wahhabi demands for a desecration of Muhammad's tomb and shrine in Medina by removal of an Ottoman dome constructed over it, and rebuilding of the cemeteries obliterated in the 1920s. The latter subject produces annual protests at the Royal Saudi Embassy in Washington, mainly by Shia Muslims.

Why have the Saudis now adopted a public stance in such contrast with the Wahhabi mischief that lasted so long? Prince Sultan is famous for his "correction" of Ibn Baz, who preached as unchallengeable Islamic dogma that the earth was a flat disk around which the sun rotated. Challenged on this medieval view, Ibn Baz did not hesitate to argue that being blind, he believed the evidence of his feet rather than what others told him. After his trip on Discovery, Prince Sultan told Ibn Baz he had seen the earth and the sun and that Wahhabi astronomy was wrong. Ibn Baz could not defy a member of the royal house.

Prince Sultan has affirmed that the new preservation enterprise will reflect a dedication to "a manner that serves . . . Islam; besides preserving those sites as an integral part of the great history of our religion." But throughout its history, the Saudi regime and their Wahhabi partners have acted as if they hate Muhammad and Islam. European chroniclers of the Wahhabi movement in the 19th century described the phenomenon as a rebellion against Islam altogether.

The most obvious reason for the promised new turn may be that it is part of King Salman's commitment to austerity and a reduction of the Saudi dependence on energy income, with the price of oil falling. To propel economic diversification, the king may hope that tourism in the kingdom will expand. A less obvious motivation may be a desire to adequately shield Mecca and Medina from terrorism. King Salman holds the title "Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques," but his position was challenged internationally by the July 4 bombing near the Prophet's Shrine in Medina. Outrage over the failure of the Saudi rulers to protect Mecca and Medina has led leading Indian Sufis to call for the liberation of Hejaz, the Arabian province in which the cities are located.

In the past, the Saudi royals reined in the Wahhabis when necessary. Given the threat of ISIS, such an action is once again needed, and the conflict over the preservation of Islamic heritage cannot but dramatize the situation profoundly.

Stephen Schwartz is executive director of the Center for Islamic Pluralism in Washington, DC, and a fellow at the Middle East Forum.


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Bill eyes tougher action against incitement on social media - Gideon Allon and Israel Hayom Staff

by Gideon Allon and Israel Hayom Staff

New legislation seeks to mandate social media giants such as Facebook and Twitter to monitor, remove posts inciting violence or terrorism or face a hefty fine • Public security minister says new bill imperative, "Facebook has certain responsibilities."

Social media has a responsibility to fight online incitement to terrorism [Illustrative]
Photo credit: Reuters

Gideon Allon and Israel Hayom Staff


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Is Israel More Accepted in the Middle East? - Efraim Inbar

by Efraim Inbar

The courtship of the Jewish state by an Islamist regime with wide-ranging regional ambitions is a direct corollary of the current geopolitical reality, which makes collaboration with Israel a necessity.

Summary account by Marilyn Stern, Middle East Forum Board of Governors

The Israeli-Turkish renewal of diplomatic relations reflects Jerusalem's growing regional strength. While the agreement stipulates the provision of humanitarian Turkish aid to Gaza via the Ashdod port, the naval blockade of Hamas remains intact despite Ankara's longstanding insistence on its removal.

The agreement also provides for the supply of Israeli gas to Turkey, thus strengthening Ankara as an energy bridge to Europe while reducing its energy dependence on Moscow and Tehran. Jerusalem must nevertheless strive to avoid excessive dependence on Ankara, should it choose to build a pipeline to Turkey via Cyprus.

The courtship of the Jewish state by an Islamist regime with wide-ranging regional ambitions is a direct corollary of the current geopolitical reality, which makes collaboration with Israel a necessity.

Islamist-led Turkey's courtship of Israel reflects Jerusalem's growing regional strength.
Given the Saudi-Turkish failure to topple the Assad regime, Iran's regional surge in the wake of the nuclear deal, Egypt's jihadist predicament in the Sinai Peninsula, and the Obama administration's Middle Eastern retreat, Israel is increasingly seen as the foremost, perhaps only bulwark against Tehran's hegemonic ambitions, and a key ally in the regional anti-jihadist struggle. Hence the reported support of some Arab states for Israel's first-ever election to chairmanship of a permanent UN committee, and hence the $1 billion-plus annual purchases of Israeli goods by the Gulf states.

Israel's greater regional acceptability notwithstanding, one should not hold too high hopes for further gains. Strategic environments by their nature are susceptible to vicissitudes, while deeply ingrained anti-Jewish stereotypes and perceptions among Middle Easterners will take generations to change. Hence Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan's current predicament is unlikely to lead to the restoration of the intimate Turkish-Israeli political and military collaboration of the 1990s, just as the Saudi-Israeli collaboration will likely remain covert for quite some time given the desert kingdom's Wahhabi source of legitimacy.

Efraim Inbar, director of the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies at Bar-Ilan University and a Shillman/Ginsburg Writing Fellow at the Middle East Forum, briefed the Middle East Forum in a conference call on June 30, 2016.


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After decades, Israel renews diplomatic relations with Guinea - Shlomo Cesana, News Agencies and Israel Hayom Staff

by Shlomo Cesana, News Agencies and Israel Hayom Staff 

Israel and the mostly Muslim nation of Guinea severed ties in 1967 • Renewal of relations is part of a larger Israeli effort to improve ties with African countries • Foreign Ministry Director General Dore Gold: Israel and Guinea are age-old friends.

Foreign Ministry Director General Dore Gold with Chief of Staff of the Guinean President's Office Ibrahim Khalil Kaba
Photo credit: Erez Lichtfeld

Israel said Wednesday it has renewed diplomatic ties with the largely Muslim African country of Guinea, the latest step in Israel's courtship of the continent, and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said he expected another nation to soon follow suit. Many anticipate Chad to be the still unnamed country. 

The news comes after Netanyahu's four-nation Africa tour this month. It was the first visit to sub-Saharan Africa by a sitting Israeli prime minister in nearly three decades.

Netanyahu addressed budding relations with Africa on a visit to southern Israel. "During my visit to Africa, I told you that another country that we didn't have ties with would soon announce a renewal of ties, and indeed that happened today with Guinea," he said. "In the coming days, I believe another country will be added as well. This is part of a process that is gaining momentum, and it is very important. It is opening Israel up to Africa, and it, of course, helps us in other aspects too."

Israel's ties with Guinea, a Muslim majority country, were severed in 1967. Forty-nine years later, Foreign Ministry Director General Dore Gold signed the renewal agreement in Paris with Chief of Staff of the Guinean President's Office Ibrahim Khalil Kaba. 

Gold said Wednesday, "Israel calls on countries that have not yet renewed diplomatic relations to follow in Guinea's footsteps, so that we can work together for the benefit of all peoples in the region. The number of countries in Africa that still haven't done so is getting smaller, and we hope that soon there will not be any."

'Age-old friends'

Gold added that "Guinea and Israel are countries between which there is an age-old friendship, which also existed during the years without diplomatic relations. Israel is proud to have taken part in the international effort to eradicate the Ebola virus that also hit Guinea. Our participation in the U.N. Secretary-General's fund and our contribution of the mobile clinic are testimony to that friendship. Israel is prepared to share its experience and capability to help with Guinea's development needs in a wide range of fields, such as, agriculture, water management and homeland defense."

Gold stressed that the renewal of relations followed Netanyahu's decision to improve diplomatic, economic and security ties with Africa. "The visit expresses Israel's commitment to the continent and the recognition of African countries and of Israel regarding the need to join hands and fight the challenge of Islamist terrorism, which threatens both the Middle East and Africa," he said.

Shlomo Cesana, News Agencies and Israel Hayom Staff


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Anthropology: Abandon All Truth Ye Who Enter - Philip Carl Salzman

by Philip Carl Salzman

Intellectual homogeneity is enforced, with Marxism, post-colonialism, and radical feminism the principal approved paths to enlightenment. Classical liberal beliefs in markets, liberty, and individual rights are verboten.

Baluchi Nomad Woman
In the decades after WWII, anthropologists carried out ethnographic field research in the Middle East inspired by a scientific spirit to discover the cultures of the region and their dynamics. Among those who produced sound, grounded research were Fredrik Barth on the Basseri nomads, William Irons on the Yomut Turkmen, Lois Beck on the Qashqa'i confederation, William Lancaster on the Rwala Bedouin, and A. S. Bujra on Yemen. I had the privilege of carrying out field research among the Baluchi tribes of Iran.

However, anthropologists, including those studying the Middle East, gradually moved away from a scientific perspective toward a more subjective and politicized view. They were influenced in part by Edward Said, who in Orientalism (1978) argued that Western accounts of the Middle East were fabrications invented to justify imperialist invasion, colonial imposition, and oppression of local peoples. This "postcolonial" view blames Western imperialism for myriad problems worldwide, a view which neglects the cultures and agency of people around the globe.

This intellectual revolution has infected anthropology (among many fields) with a dangerous, self-contradictory nihilism that rejects the possibility of objective Truth toward which we may move and posits many different truths held by different peoples — all equally valid. Yet they behave as if their belief in many truths must be treated as The Truth that must not be questioned.

Anthropologists insist on the relativity of knowledge, except when it comes to their own statements, which they take to be The Absolute Truth.

One should not, however, expect anthropologists who believe in "many truths" to encourage a diversity of opinion within their university departments. Intellectual homogeneity is enforced, with Marxism, postcolonialism, and radical feminism the principal approved paths to enlightenment. Classical liberal beliefs in markets, liberty, and individual rights are verboten.

So, today, is the once-regnant faith in science itself rejected as the best way of uncovering the truth about anthropologists' subjects. Witchcraft, oracles, ancient religious systems, voodoo, and just about any pseudo-science that denies the validity of Western systems of thought are championed as equally valid paths to knowledge in fields from botany to medicine. Of course, anthropologists still employ the latest products of scientific research and live as affluent Westerners, but they do not claim that the way they live conforms to their beliefs.

This abandonment of objective methodologies underscores anthropologists' belief that their discipline is not the science of humankind as upheld by its original practitioners, but a subjective, political commitment to a "praxis" that will liberate the world's oppressed. The result is deplorably partisan, faux "anthropological" accounts by notoriously partisan writers, such as Palestine, Israel, and the Politics of Popular Culture, edited by Rebecca L. Stein and Ted Swedenburg, and Nakba: Palestine, 1948, and the Claims of Memory, by Ahmad H. Sa'di and Lila Abu-Lughod. Yet past and current "praxis" in such places as the USSR, Eastern Europe, the People's Republic of China, North Korea, Cambodia, and Cuba, and its consequences for the people concerned, holds little interest to anthropologists.

The same moral and intellectual incoherence underlies anthropologists' insistence that they do not study culture and cultures since these are invalid concepts from a bygone age. Rather, anthropology's mission is the study of victims and their oppressors. Among the many "victims," Palestinians are awarded pride of place, their century of violence against Jews and their public commitment to refuse any compromise or cooperation with others notwithstanding. Israeli Jews, on the other hand, are often characterized by anthropologists, using "postcolonial" Leninist terminology, as "settler colonialists" even though Jews are the indigenous population of Israel, including Judea and Samaria (the so-called West Bank), are agents of no metropolitan home country, and originate as much from the Middle East, Asia, Africa, and Russia as from Europe and North America.

Such is the inevitable result of contemporary anthropology, which has jettisoned the objective, scientifically-grounded study of humankind's cultures in favor of advocating for selected "victims" of supposed Western perfidy. The outcome of this abandonment of the search for Truth is not a plethora of "truths," but a regnant false Truth that reduces scholarship to advocacy and demands blind adherence to approved yet false narratives. If anthropologists hope to restore the integrity of their field, they must abandon their intellectually flaccid, morally corrupt habits and readopt the scientific objectivity toward their subjects that marked their discipline from its inception.

Philip Carl Salzman is a professor of anthropology at McGill University and a fellow at the Middle East Forum. This essay was sponsored by Campus Watch, a project of the Middle East Forum.


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Jews loyal to Democrat disloyalty - David Lawrence

by David Lawrence

Pro-Jewish Trump, who has done nothing but been supportive of Israel and furious at Islamic radicals, is enjoying less support from the self-destructive Jews.  Jews are Democrats first.

See also: Jews for Trump grassroots movement launches website

Many American Jews are more loyal to the Democratic Party than to their religion.  Their historical opposition, the Muslims, are totally committed to the Muslim religion.  How are we, a few Jews, going to stand up to the multitudinous Muslims when we care more about a political party that despises us than about Judaism?

Twenty-six years ago, Hillary screamed, "You f------ Jew b------" at her husband's campaign manager, Paul Fray.  A big deal?  Maybe.

But Trump gets more grief for printing a star next to a picture of Hillary.  The Jews don't know how to hate people who hate them or how to like someone like Trump who is on their side.  They don't sense the stench of Hillary's dislike.

Hillary has favored Palestinians throughout her career.  She has wandered around as secretary of state in anti-Semitic, pro-Muslim Obama's administration.  She favored the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt and protects her personal assistant, Huma Abedin, despite the Abedin family's radical roots.

Doesn't it matter that Hillary works for an anti-Semitic president and that she accepts millions into the Clinton Foundation from terrorist countries?

What has Trump done wrong?  Print a picture of a Jewish star.  As Bill Clinton said about Obama, "give me a break."

Hillary worked in Obama's administration even after Obama told Israel's Prime Minister Netanyahu that he would blow his planes out of the sky if he tried to decimate Iran's nuclear reactors.

Thus, Obama has set up Iran's future ability to annihilate Israel with nukes.  And Hillary  has fostered Obama rather than confront him.

It doesn't  surprise me that roughly seventy-five percent of the Jews voted for anti-Semitic Obama and that probably a similar number would back their enemy – Hillary.

Pro-Jewish Trump, who has done nothing but been supportive of Israel and furious at Islamic radicals, is enjoying less support from the self-destructive Jews.  Jews are Democrats first.

I would trade in my Jew card if it weren't that I felt my people need a few reasonable Jews to live among them.  In my rap album, "The Renegade Jew," which is still on YouTube, I presented a strong Jew rather than a sucker for Obama/Hillary self-destruction.

Hillary has always been a sucker for Palestinian rights, regardless of whether or not their idiot fathers strap suicide vests to their children.  She is a feminist who, just accidentally in absentia of rebuke, supports sharia law and Arab female circumcision.

Sidney Blumenthal, who has worked for the Clintons and earned hundreds of thousands of dollars, harbors a virulent anti-Semitic son, Max.

When Elie Wiesel died, Max couldn't help but tweet his hatred for Wiesel.  Max called Elie Wiesel a supporter of "war crimes" who "should not be honored."

Dolly Kyle, author of Hillary the Other Woman, excoriated the press for accusing Trump of anti-Semitism when he printed a Jewish star but ignored Hillary's involvement with anti-Israel figures.

Hillary called Max Blumenthal's screeds against Jews "smart writing."

Dolly Kyle accuses the Clintons of racial slurs against blacks and Jews.  Imagine if Trump were even accused of that.  He'd be booted out of pre-office.

Kyle also points out that Hillary approved of the sale of $29 million in fighter jets to Saudi Arabia.  Hillary plotted to get rid of stabilizing Moammar Gaddafi and arm ISIS.  Her Clinton Foundation was basically supported by ISIS and terrorists who hate Israel.

Trump, unlike Hillary, has always stuck up for Israel as a very important ally.  He says he will protect them one hundred percent.

Trump does what he says – unlike Obama and Hillary, who lie for sport.  He has built hundreds of buildings.  She decorated her house.  Hillary wrote a socialistic treatise, "It Takes a Village." 

But she and Obama have built a village of lies and a failed incestuous country.  She should not be president.  Particularly not of the Jews.

David Lawrence


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