Archive for February, 2008

Traitorous Moshe gets his cue from intellectuals

Friday, February 29th, 2008

The following report appeared in the Jerusalem Post today:

Israel recently foiled a terror attack on the Dimona nuclear reactor, a Kuwaiti newspaper quoted British sources as saying Friday.

According to the paper, Al Jarida, Israeli security forces arrested a senior employee at the plant after they uncovered a plot to blow up one of the heaters at the facility.

According to the British sources, the worker, who was only identified as Moshe, is also suspected of leaking information about the reactor to foreign sources.

Is it true? Who knows? A Kuwaiti newspaper quoting unnamed British sources plus about $1.51 will buy you one Euro (if you act quickly). But the fact that today this is considered not only thinkable but quite possible is upsetting.

The early Zionists wished for the Jewish state to be a ‘normal’ country with Jewish criminals and prostitutes (although they probably didn’t expect quite so many). But they certainly weren’t hoping for Jewish traitors and saboteurs like ‘Moshe’.

Possibly the fact that the intellectual and media elite of Israel are so anti-Israel has something to do with it.

An academic named Ze’ev Sternhell has received this year’s Israel prize in political science. Here are some choice quotations from his voluminous output:

Many in Israel, perhaps even the majority of the voters, do not doubt the legitimacy of the armed resistance in the territories themselves. The Palestinians would be wise to concentrate their struggle against the settlements, avoid harming women and children. — “Facing a sleepwalking government“, Ha’aretz (2001)

“In the end we will have to use force against the settlers in Ofra or Elon Moreh. Only he who is willing to storm Ofra with tanks will be able to block the fascist danger threatening to drown Israeli democracy.” — Davar, 1988

And Sternhell is not the only one. Apparently there is sort of a contest between left-wing Israeli intellectuals to say the most outrageous thing (even to an American Secretary of State), like former Ha’aretz editor David Landau’s comment that Israel needed to be ‘raped’ by America into making peace with the Palestinians (and no, it wasn’t a case of mistranslating the Hebrew verb לאנוס because Landau’s first language was English).

Every society, whether a business enterprise or a nation, gets a character formed by shared experiences but also by a top-down process from its leaders. So it’s been suggested that Microsoft’s aggressiveness has its roots in Bill Gates’ personality. When you have intellectual leaders who are apparently opposed to the whole enterprise of the Jewish state and political leaders who are constantly involved in scandal, is it surprising that there are people like Moshe?

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Give us the truth, not ‘balance’

Thursday, February 28th, 2008

The Jerusalem Post reports:

The latest deaths brought the number of Palestinians killed in army strikes on Thursday to 18, according to Gaza medical officials.

Thursday’s dead included members of rocket squads, but also five children, ranging in age from eight to 12, who their relatives said were playing soccer when they were killed in a missile strike…

Palestinians said Wednesday’s air strikes killed a 6-month-old baby, children ages 10 and 11, and heavily damaged the offices of the Palestinian Medical Relief Society, a local humanitarian group.

The Post at least includes the phrase “according to Gaza [Hamas -- ed.] medical officials” and “Palestinians said”. But other news agencies often do not. For example, the AP story by the intrepid Ibrahim Barzak and Karin Laub simply says:

The dead Thursday included members of rocket squads, as well as five children, ranging in age from 8 to 12, who their relatives said were playing soccer when they were killed in a missile strike…

Since Wednesday, 31 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli missile strikes, including 14 civilians, among them eight children, according to Palestinian officials. The youngest was a 6-month-old boy, Mohammed al-Borai, whose funeral was held Thursday.

The touch about the funeral is very nice, but how do we know that any of this is true?

The Palestinians have time and again fabricated entire incidents, like the ‘killing’ of Mohammed al-Dura. Why should they tell the truth now?

The news services depend on ‘official’ spokesmen, who are Hamas functionaries, and local Palestinian reporters — who won’t last 10 minutes if they deviate from the Hamas line — to report from Gaza. I mean, after what happened to Alan Johnston (who was pro-Palestinian) wouldn’t you? Yet their reports are treated as if they are as reliable as those of the latest killed and maimed in Sderot.

I am not saying that the IDF never accidentally kills or injures civilians. But great effort is expended to prevent it, and the true number of such cases is nowhere near what is reported.

It seems that the news services feel that it would be biased, racist or un-multicultural to treat Palestinian statements with a little bit more skepticism than those that come from a democratic state like Israel. But given the precedents, they should.

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What is Hizballah? And what does that say about Iran and Syria?

Thursday, February 28th, 2008

Every so often somebody says that Hizballah is just another political movement, possibly antagonistic to Israel but not relevant for the rest of the world.

There is also the view — which seems to be held the leading candidate for the US Presidency — that Iran and Syria are ‘normal’ nations with whom we may disagree and with whom we can negotiate, just like, for example, Russia or China.

The recent death of arch-terrorist Imad Mugniyah, however, provided a window into the real nature of Hizballah, as well as the nations that employ its murderous terrorism as instruments of policy.

Confessions At a Funeral
By Barry Rubin

A funny thing happened at the funeral of Imad Mughniyah. Those who had for years been denying any connection with him and his international terrorist activities–Iran, Syria, and Hizballah–suddenly admitted that he was one of their favorite people.

At the same time, other critical points came out. Mughniyah’s critical position as the link between those three allies, in their conduct of terrorism and subversion, stood out clearly. In addition, Mugniyah’s career as an international terrorist, who often operated against Western targets, showed how Hizballah–along with its backers in Tehran and Damascus–were second only to al-Qaida in their global operations of violence.

Let’s first look at the record of the man who Iran, Syria, and Hizballah were so eager to praise and ready to revenge. Mughniyah, a Lebanese citizen, first worked with the PLO and then with Hizballah, leading the latter group’s main terrorist operations. During the 1980s alone, Mughniyah was involved in killing 340 American and French soldiers in a peacekeeping force, 63 civilians in bombing the U.S. embassy in Beirut; kidnappings and sometimes executions of Westerners living in Lebanon; attacks on the U.S. embassy in Kuwait; hijacking an American airliner in which a U.S. citizen was murdered; killing two U.S. officials in Lebanon; and hijacking two Kuwait Airways’ planes.

In 1994, he organized the bombing of a Jewish Community Center in Argentina, killing 86 civilians. The official Argentinean investigation concluded Iranian intelligence had hired Mughniyah and his unit for this job.

As a result of his activities, Mughniyah was on the U.S. list of ten most wanted terrorists, with a $25 million reward on his head. Interpol had an extradition warrant against him due to the Argentina attack. But traveling between Lebanon, Iran, and Syria–protected and often working for the latter two governments–Mughniyah continued his career of violence up to the day of his death.

With the exception of the September 11 attack, Mughniyah was probably responsible for more terrorist violence and killings than any other individual over the last quarter-century.

How did Iran’s rulers respond to his demise? They all praised him. Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei called him, “An example for the young generation to follow.” Powerful former president and current Expediency Council Chairman Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani referred to Mughniyah as a “great figure” whose actions Iran did not consider terrorism. President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad eulogized him as, “An outstanding leader from Hizballah,” though up to his death that organization denied Mughniyah held such a post.

Hizballah’s own leader, Hassan Nasrallah, used his funeral oration to threaten to wipe out Israel, paralleling what many Iranian leaders say. If Iran obtains nuclear weapons that threat becomes most plausible. But Hizballah hopes to achieve the same end through lower-level violence. Nasrallah declared “open war” on Israel and boasted he would launch attacks anywhere in the world, presumably against anyone he deemed to be standing in the way of his destructive dream.

As for Syria, where Mughniyah was repeatedly given help and safe haven, he was being protected in a highly secure area under government control. An Iranian television station reported he was killed near a Syrian intelligence base at a time a major meeting of Palestinian groups was taking place, including Hamas leader Khalad Mishal, who is based in Damascus. Two respected Arab newspapers claimed Mughniyah was the guest of top Syrian leaders and had been meeting with them and Hamas chiefs to plan the kind of bloody deeds he was so good at doing.

Revenge was also threatened by such pro-Mughniyah groups as Hamas, the Muqtada Sadr forces in Iraq, and Fatah’s al-Aqsa Brigades. Not all Arabs reacted in this way. In Kuwait, for example, it was pointed out that Mugniyah had been involved in the murder of many Arabs and Muslims, in Kuwait, Lebanon, and Iraq

A Lebanese newspaper backed by Syria and Hizballah noted that Mughniyah’s Death was the hardest blow to Hizballah ever. Ironically, however, many in the past had refused to condemn Hizballah as a terrorist organization–including the EU–because they said there was insufficient evidence of such involvement.

As one expert on Hizballah, Magnus Ranstorp, retorted, too many had “allowed themselves to be misled” about Hizballah use of international terrorism and its use by Iran and Syria. “And so Hezbollah was allowed to have its cake and eat it too” since it could carry out terrorism without any significant international price or punishment.

When Iran, Syria, and Hizballah embrace such a person as a great hero and role model they are:

  • Openly admitting their association with many past acts of terrorism.
  • Making clear that they favor murderous attacks deliberately designed to kill civilians.
  • Showing their past denials of involvement to be lies.
  • Urging people to commit many more such attacks in future, include genocide against Israel and its people.

Now that Hizballah, Iran, and Syria have “taken credit” for Mughniyah’s past killings and urged many more in the future, the world should confront the fact that these groups are engaged in a systematic terrorist policy and react accordingly.

. . .

Barry Rubin is director of the Global Research in International Affairs (GLORIA) Center and editor of the Middle East Review of International Affairs (MERIA). His latest books are The Truth About Syria (Palgrave-Macmillan) and The Long War for Freedom: The Arab Struggle for Democracy in the Middle East (Wiley).

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Hamas plans mother of all information attacks

Monday, February 25th, 2008

Dry Bones: Battle Cry

Courtesy of Mr. Dry Bones

The primary theater of the Arab war against Israel has moved to the information war. Israel has consistently lost battles in this theater. For example, the second Lebanon war was not a military defeat for Israel despite what Nasrallah says; however it was a rout in the information arena. The Qassam rocket blitz, also spun as the ‘siege of Gaza’ has been another defeat.

Now Hamas is preparing the mother of all information offensives, the Women and Children’s Crusade against the Gaza/Israel border.

The Russians would probably respond with live fire, but almost anything Israel does is going to be a loss in the information theater, in part because the world is predisposed to accept the Arab story. The information war is cumulative; unlike traditional war, a sudden reversal cannot be brought about by a brilliant change in strategy.

What’s needed is a campaign to get the truth out in response to Palestinian lies, to respond quickly and effectively to incidents (the Mohammed Dura libel, the various ‘massacres’ in Lebanon), and to tell the overall story to the world in a clear way.

That means that Israel will have to devote an amount of money, personnel and effort to this project that is proportionally equivalent to that expended by her enemies. The process will be long and hard, before it will begin to reverse the present strategic disadvantage.

Also, Israelis have to understand that there is an information war, and that their words have consequences. Giving physical aid or comfort to an enemy in wartime is treason, and carries the highest penalties. In a democracy, anyone can say almost anything. When the editor of Ha’aretz, for example, does the information equivalent of smuggling explosives to Hamas, he is not arrested or placed in a mental institution.

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What’s the point?

Sunday, February 24th, 2008

There are several channels, open and secret, through which Israeli-PA negotiations are taking place. Here’s a report about the public one:

The new teams will work on common concerns about water, the environment, economic and judicial matters, while leaving the tough subjects of borders, Palestinian refugees and the status of Jerusalem to the political negotiators, said Arye Mekel, spokesman for chief negotiator Tzipi Livni, who is Israel’s foreign minister…

The main issues facing the negotiators have stymied decades of peace efforts. Arguably the touchiest is Jerusalem, where the Palestinians want to create a capital in the eastern sector. But both sides lay claim to the explosive joint holy site in the Old City, where the Al Aqsa Mosque compound sits atop the ruins of the biblical Jewish Temples.

No less volatile is the future of Palestinian refugees from the 1948-49 war that followed Israel’s creation. With their descendants, they number in the millions. Palestinians insist they have a right to return to their original homes in Israel, while Israel demands that they be resettled in the new Palestinian state. Other major issues are final borders and the future of Jewish settlements in the West Bank. No progress is reported in any of those areas. — Jerusalem Post

Leaving aside the issues about Palestinian ability or desire to perform if a deal is made, and of course what to do about Hamas, there is something else that is left out of this description.

That is that the real issue in dispute is whether or not there should continue to be a Jewish state. No Palestinian faction, not even Fatah as run by Mahmoud Abbas or by presently imprisoned murderer Marwan Barghouti, will accept this.

They make this totally clear by their demand for the resettlement of the ‘refugees’ in Israel, and by their refusal to accept that Israel is the Jewish state — can you imagine if someone refused to accept ‘Palestine’ as an Arab state?

It’s also clear that the elites of the Israeli Arab minority also do not agree that Israel should be a Jewish state, and wish to see national symbols such as the flag, the national anthem, etc. replaced. Of course they also want to see Israel’s Law of Return repealed.

In other words, everybody on the Arab side wants it to be 1947 again.

Is there any evidence that the Palestinians will change their minds and agree to another partition proposal after rejecting at least three?

No, the most that can be hoped for is that they will settle for getting the IDF and the settlements out of the West Bank, sovereignty over large portions of Jerusalem — including the holiest sites of Judaism — and some kind of arrangement that will accept in principle that the refugees are the real owners of Israel and pay them a bunch of money, but not actually allow them to take possession. At least, not today.

There is a danger that the present government, profoundly blind to symbolism and incapable of thinking in the long term, will agree to this.

But of course the Palestinians will not give up their dream of eliminating the Jewish state. The agreement will simply mark the beginning of a new round of threats, terrorism, international bullying of Israel, etc. And Israel will be in a far weaker position, militarily and diplomatically, to resist.

So what is the point of negotiating?

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‘Great’ newspapers and Fresno Bee have something in common

Saturday, February 23rd, 2008

I’ve been suspecting this for a long time, but now someone has come along and proven it:

The New York Times, LA Times (may its name be erased), and Washington Post’s op-ed sections are heavily biased against Israel:

A 19-month CAMERA study, from January 2006 through July 2007, of guest Op-Eds about the Arab-Israeli conflict found that in these three papers pro-Arab Op-Eds and/or those critical of Israel overwhelmingly outnumbered pro-Israel Op-Eds and/or those critical of Arabs. Even more telling is the striking fact that during the 19-month period, none of the newspapers ran even a single Op-Ed by an Israeli official. In contrast, each of the three papers ran four Op-Eds by Arab officials, including multiple pieces by Hamas leaders…

It should be noted that many of the Op-Eds generally supportive of Israel also contained criticism of the Jewish state. In contrast, virtually none of the Op-Eds expressing a pro-Arab point of view contained criticism of the Arab side.

While CAMERA inexplicably left our local paper, the McClatchy-owned Fresno Bee, out of the study, I have no doubt that it falls into the same category. Notable are periodic unsigned editorials which supposedly represent the opinion of the editorial board, although they are not written locally. And from time to time there is a particularly objectionable reader submission. Two weeks ago the Bee gave a prominent place to a poorly-written 700-word piece by a local pastor, a rehash of every libel and slander made against Israel, including accusations of murder, atrocities, ethnic cleansing, racism, apartheid, persecution (of Christians yet), etc.

I’m not the first one to note that journalists at media outlets great and not-so-great all do their best to get people to read their papers. And the op-ed page is, after all, the place where opinions are expressed, and strong opinions are interesting.

Nevertheless we know that the Timeses, the Post, or the Fresno Bee would not print an article which defames a racial or ethnic group. The editors would rightly judge this to be irresponsible.

So why is it acceptable to print hateful material that defames a nation?

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Former ‘self-hating Jew’ becomes Israel-hating Methodist

Friday, February 22nd, 2008

JTA writes,

Jewish groups blasted a Methodist study guide to Israel as riddled with inaccuracies and intemperate rhetoric.

The Jewish Council for Public Affairs, a public-polcy umbrella body of local and national groups, this week published a 25-page deconstruction of “Israel-Palestine: A Study Mission for 2007-2008.”

“I was particularly distressed to see the conditions created by the birth of Israel called ‘original sin’ and to see Israelis characterized as ‘hysterical’ and ‘paranoiac,'” said Steve Gutow, JCPA’s executive director. “The quest for peace is not helped by those who demonize and distort”…

B’nai B’rith called the report an “affront to Israel and Jews,” singling out passages from the guide that critique Jewish “obsessions” with the Holocaust and anti-Semitism, and notes the United Methodist Church general conference in April, when the church will consider divestment from Israel…

The author of the guide, Rev. Steven Goldstein, is the top mission official at the church. In personal history passages in the publication, he describes how he might have been described as a “self-hating Jew” prior to his conversion from Judaism to Christianity. 

So…how would he be described today?

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The more bad things that happen to them, the better they like it

Friday, February 22nd, 2008

Another ‘international’ wounded in action:

Some 2,000 Palestinians and left-wing activists gathered in the West Bank village of Bil’in on Friday to commemorate three years of their struggle against the security barrier in the area.

According to the organizers of the demonstration, 10 people were wounded in clashes with security forces, including a US peace activist who was hit in the head by a rubber bullet and evacuated in moderate condition to a hospital in Ramallah…

Since 2002, 11 people have been killed and thousands wounded in the weekly demonstrations. — Jerusalem Post

It would be cruel, but correct, to say that the organizers of the demonstration intend for such things to happen. That’s what makes them effective, and that’s why they do their best to provoke reactions from the soldiers and police who are trying to protect the fence (otherwise the ‘demonstrators’ would tear it down).

In my local newspaper today, there was a letter that pretty much encapsulates the point of view of the people who would risk injury or death to help the Palestinians.

The writer mentions “41 years of military occupation”, and talks about limitations on the freedom of Palestinians, such as Gaza residents who are allegedly (but in fact not) suffering from electricity reductions, etc. “Wouldn’t you fight back?” he asks.

He is unable or unwilling to see that the situation of the Palestinians today is a result of not 41 but close to a hundred years of war waged on the Jewish population of the region by the Arab world, especially including the Palestinians. He is unable to understand that the Palestinians have consistently rejected attempts to partition the already-partitioned Jewish portion of the Palestine mandate in such a way as to create an independent state of Palestine, choosing to hold out for the replacement of the Jewish state with an Arab one.

Even a Zionist like myself will admit that the Palestinians are having a rough time. The thing is, we are simply not prepared to give up the Jewish state. The Palestinian position that it all belongs to them is not justified historically, and certainly their murderous behavior and serial failures of leadership — the Mufti, Arafat, Hamas, etc. — place the majority of the blame for their problems squarely on them.

But the poor ‘international’ who was injured and my local letter-writer have room in their brains only for a list of Palestinian grievances — they did this to us, they did that to us. They don’t notice or don’t believe that the security fence has anything to do with terrorism. They don’t see that the minimal (in truth, laughable) reductions of fuel and electricity to Gaza are direct results of Hamas rockets hitting Israeli cities. And they are unaware of the long history of Arab terrorism against Israel (and against Jews in Palestine, before there was an Israel).

At some point, very soon I’m afraid, a rocket will hit a school and kill a bunch of children. Then Israel will invade Gaza, having exhausted every other means of stopping the rocket fire, and the internationals and letter-writers will go into high gear, exaggerating Palestinian suffering, inventing massacres, etc.

As I have pointed out, Hamas knows this and are continuing to shoot. This means that they welcome a confrontation. They expect that they will be able to cause significant Israeli casualties, which they think will weaken Israel’s resolve (to exist?) But also, they know that there is great value for them in Palestinian casualties, real or made up. They expect that the US, UN, etc. will intervene, protect Hamas from Israel, and force concessions.

Like the Bil’in demonstrators, the more bad things that happen to them, the better they like it.

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International plan to roll back history continues

Tuesday, February 19th, 2008

Yesterday I discussed a plan to station UN troops in Gaza, as an ‘exit strategy’ for the IDF after an incursion to remove Hamas from power.

Today, I am reading about plans to introduce NATO soldiers into the West Bank:

The plan, which is being spearheaded by US Special Envoy to the region Gen. James Jones, is being floated among European countries, which could be asked to contribute troops to a West Bank multinational force.

Jones, a former commander of NATO, was sent to Israel in November to help the Israelis and Palestinians frame some of the security mechanics necessary for a broader peace agreement.

As first reported in the Post last month, Jones’s plan calls for stationing third-party troops in the West Bank to secure the area in the interim period following an Israeli withdrawal and before the Palestinian Authority can take over full security control. — Jerusalem Post

Currently, the only thing keeping the Abbas/Fayad faction of Fatah in power in the West Bank is the IDF and its operations against Hamas and anti-Abbas segments of Fatah. NATO would not have the intelligence capabilities of the IDF, nor the knowledge of the area nor the stomach to replace the IDF. And Abbas/Fayad is growing weaker, not stronger.

Despite certain failure of this and similar plans, they continue to go forward. Why? Because the international community has one and only one goal: create a Palestinian state.

This goal is being promoted as a way to bring peace, but it is the opposite. It is based on false assumptions: that the conflict between Israel and the Arab nations is based on the Palestinian issue, and that it is possible to create a Palestinian entity that will be moderate — that is, that will not wage war on Israel. It pays only lip service to Israel’s security.

But this doesn’t matter, because it is only important to curry favor with the Arab oil powers by rolling history back before 1967 as promised. There is no concern for security. Get the Palestinian state, and everything will be OK, say the Saudis, and heads at the State Department and EU nod in unison.

This is only a first step. Assuming that a weak Israeli leadership allows this to happen, the next one — it is already beginning — will be agitation by and for the ‘oppressed’ Arab minority inside Israel, and of course the refugees. This is evidenced by the refusal of the Fatah moderates to accept that Israel is a Jewish state.

So what is supposed to come next? International troops inside Israel to help transition it to a ‘state of its citizens’? Will the US and EU time machine bring back the mandate?

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Gaza war and aftermath will be unique

Monday, February 18th, 2008

The Jerusalem Post reports:

Israel is considering a large-scale incursion into the Gaza Strip during which it would present an ultimatum to the international community for the deployment of a multinational force as the only condition under which it would withdraw, defense officials have told The Jerusalem Post…

While Defense Minister Ehud Barak has said numerous times that a major operation in Gaza is inevitable, the IDF has been reluctant to recommend such an incursion for a number of reasons, especially the lack of a clear exit strategy.

Without a multinational force on the ground and with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’s Fatah party too weak to retake control of Gaza, a large operation seems unlikely…

“We are talking about the Second Lebanon War model,” a defense official said. “To go to war and tell the world that if they want a cease-fire and for us to leave then they will need to send a force to replace us.”

I hope it will not be precisely that, where the multinational force is incapable of preventing the enemy from rebuilding its capabilities, and indeed ends up protecting it from Israel. There will have to be several differences:

First, Hamas will have to be completely crushed, its weapons and infrastructure destroyed. It will have to be liquidated as a functioning organization. In Lebanon, although Hezbollah suffered severe losses, Nasrallah remains in control, Hezbollah fighters are returning to South Lebanon, and there are installations north of the Litani river where UNIFIL is not deployed.

Second, Israel will need to take control of the Gaza-Egypt border. In Lebanon, UNIFIL has not been willing or able to keep supplies from flowing across the Syrian border.

Even so, I see some serious problems:

The war itself will be fought in the glare of TV lights, against a very media-savvy enemy. This will be the most thoroughly covered war in history, even more than the 2006 war. Every civilian casualty or damage to property will be multiplied by 10 in the unfriendly media. International reactions will be quickly fed back via the US and Israel will be forced to back off in critical situations. The only way to avoid this will be to seal off the strip, shut down communications and exclude the press. Is this even possible?

What will happen to the thousands of Hamas fighters that Israel will capture? Will they be imprisoned? Where? For how long? Who will guard them? And what happens when they are released?

Peacekeeping forces are known to be very risk-averse. How will they prevent terrorist attacks on Israel? It’s easy to go somewhere, fire rockets, and run away. How will the multinational force prevent this? And if not, how will Israel be able to respond? She will certainly lose the freedom of action in Gaza that she now enjoys.

It’s often said that generals always prepare to fight the last war. One naturally thinks of things like new weapons in this connection, but there are other kinds of change to be taken into account too, such as the evolution of war from a primarily military struggle in which armies fight battles into one in which the political and media aspects overshadow fighting as the primary determinants of the outcome.

There is no question that Israel has a great advantage in the ‘fighting’ part. The question is whether or not she can modernize and improve her abilities to fight in the political and media theaters as well.

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How to use $7 billion to make things worse than before

Sunday, February 17th, 2008

For some time, I’ve been arguing that the Western plan to support Fatah as a way of bringing about a two-state solution is bound to fail disastrously. Unlike Hamas, which at least has a (murderous) ideology, Fatah is no more than an agglomeration of gangsters.

In the days of Arafat’s support from the Soviet Union it at least pretended to be Marxist in orientation, although Arafat’s real ideology was just to kill as many Jews as possible. But now they are little more than a fractious street gang with US weapons and training. Giving them huge sums of money will be a boondoggle of enormous proportions, will lead to violence in the region, and will not achieve our goals.

Fatah Falls Apart

By Barry Rubin

Rather than unite in the face of the Hamas challenge and the task of gaining support from the West Bank’s people, Fatah seems to be collapsing.

Or perhaps the feuds are not only over power but who gets to control the almost $7 billion scheduled to be given the Fatah-controlled Palestinian Authority (PA) over the next three years. A contributing factor is that Fatah has said it will hold a congress in March, the first full such meeting in almost 20 years.

There are at least five factions operating in Fatah today, and even that is an understatement. While PA “president” Mahmoud Abbas and his prime minister, Salam Fayyad enjoy Western support, they have very little from their own organization. These two are relative moderates who have no internal base of support. Even the very tiny group of those who can be called moderate is split since, for example, Ahmad Khouri (Abu Ala), is quarreling with Abbas.

Then there are the cronies of the late head of Fatah and the PA, Yasir Arafat, who have not developed any moderate tendencies but are using Abbas to cling to power. A typical example of this group is Hakam Balawi who was the PLO ambassador to Tunisia when Arafat’s headquarters were there, a particular favorite of Arafat. These people are basically careerists who simply stick with whoever is leader.

A third group are the hardliners, like Abu Ali Shahin, who views himself as a revolutionary fighter. Other powerful figures in this group include Farouq Qaddumi, the actual head of Fatah; Sakhr Habash (Abu Nizar), chief of the Fatah Revolutionary Committee; and Salim al-Zaanoun, head of the Palestine National Council (PNC), the PLO’s legislature. These people want a continuation of armed struggle against Israel and believe that total victory is still possible.

A fourth faction can be called the “young guard,” but this is also split among different contenders for leadership. Muhammad Dahlan, formerly the leading Fatah security (i.e., military) commander in the Gaza Strip is one candidate; Marwan Barghouti, the head of Fatah in the West Bank and now imprisoned by Israel, is another. Dahlan and Barghouti are also very much at odds.

Recently, Shahin has called Abbas a failed leader who should resign. Balawi claimed Dahlan was plotting against Abbas, and Dahlan in return accused Balawi of being an Israel spy.

As if this isn’t enough, the “young guard” knows that the current leaders will not give it any meaningful share of power in Fatah. The group, for instance, does not have a single member on the Fatah Central Committee.

In short, PA and Fatah politics are a mess. This has long been true but few noticed and it didn’t matter when Arafat was alive since he kept the lid on everything, while playing off his subordinates against each other, and provided unity.

Now, however, things are different. It is amazing that since Fatah and the PA are the West’s candidate to make good use of almost $7 billion, beat Hamas, establish a Palestinian state, and make peace with Israel, few observers take note of this disastrous situation or factor it into their policies.

Unless Fatah changes its ways, and there is no reason to believe it will do so, one can only wonder if Hamas will be controlling the West Bank, too, within five years. Certainly, one can expect the aid money to disappear without helping the Palestinian people much and be sure that this divided, quarreling leadership will not be able to make peace with Israel.

. . .

Barry Rubin is director of the Global Research in International Affairs (GLORIA) Center and editor of the Middle East Review of International Affairs (MERIA). His latest books are The Truth About Syria (Palgrave-Macmillan) and The Long War for Freedom: The Arab Struggle for Democracy in the Middle East (Wiley).

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Media insanity award-winner: the BBC

Sunday, February 17th, 2008

The Jerusalem Post reports:

In an uncommon act of journalistic contrition, the BBC has apologized for equating former Lebanese prime minister Rafik Hariri and Hizbullah terror chief Imad Mughniyeh as “great national leaders.”

The BBC took the unusual step after Don Mell, The Associated Press’s former photographer in Beirut, lambasted the parallel, drawn by BBC correspondent Humphrey Hawkesley in a BBC World report last Thursday, as “an outrage” and “beyond belief”…

Hawkesley’s report on what he called “an amazing day for Lebanon,” when a memorial rally for Hariri was followed by Mughniyeh’s funeral, concluded: “The army is on full alert as Lebanon remembers two war victims with different visions but both regarded as great national leaders“…

Mell, who was present when journalist Terry Anderson was kidnapped by Hezbollah in 1985, wrote,

“For you to refer to former prime minister Rafik Hariri and Imad Mughniyeh as ‘great national leaders’ in the same sentence is beyond belief. One was an elected leader who spent years and millions of his own money rebuilding his country. The other was probably the world’s second most notorious terrorist, who was responsible for, in addition to running a major criminal enterprise, destroying the US Embassy, the French and US Marine barracks in Beirut in 1983; the hijacking of TWA 847; the bombing of the Israeli cultural center in Buenos Aires, [and] the kidnapping and murder of many Westerners in Lebanon, including Terry Anderson, Terry Waite, John McCarthy”…

“Most recently, Mr. Mugnhiyeh was responsible for provoking the Israeli-Lebanese conflict in 2006, which one may ask, accomplished what?”

And the BBC’s response?

“While there is no doubt that supporters of Hizbullah did regard Mughniyeh in such terms [as a great leader], we accept that the scripting of this phrase was imprecise. The description of Imad Mughniyeh should have been directly attributed to those demonstrating their support for him.”

The statement noted that Hawkesley’s report “made clear that Mughniyeh was believed to have been responsible for a series of bombings; it drew attention to his believed connection with Osama bin Laden and to the fact that he had been hunted by Western intelligence agencies for more than 20 years.”

However, said the BBC, “We accept that this part of the report was open to misinterpretation. We apologize to anyone who may have been offended by this item.”

Imprecise? Actually, it was quite unambiguous.

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