Category Archives: Israel and West Asia

Happy 62nd Birthday, Israel! (Yom HaAtzmaut/Independence Day, 2010)


“If You Will It, It is No Dream”–Theodore (Binyamin Ze’ev) Herzl

Via Ynet:

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu issued a special statement for the occasion, saying, “On this Independence Day we mark two of the Jewish nation’s miracles: The miracle of revival and the miracle of building. The miracle of revival, because I an not familiar with any other nation in history that was scattered all over the world and lost control of its destiny but still managed to return to its homeland and rebuild its sovereignty there.

“The other miracle is building: What we have built in this land since the State of Israel’s inception. Israel is quickly becoming a regional economic superpower and a global technological superpower. In this world of knowledge in the 21st century our possibilities are endless: In science, medicine, technology and art. In each and every field, the forces of genius within our nation break out and create a magnificent country,” the PM’s statement read.

Netanyahu also mentioned the nation’s capital, saying, “We are not here by chance. We are here because this is our land. We’ve returned to our land, to our city – Jerusalem – because this is our land, this is our city.

Arutz Sheva has the following podcast, “Those Who Fought to Create the State of Israel

From Haaretz:

Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin lit the first beacon at the ceremony, and emphasized Israel’s commitment to the unity of Jerusalem in his address.

“We will not apologize for building up Jerusalem our capital,” Rivlin said during his Independence Day speech, which focused heavily on Jerusalem and on the divisions within the city and its population.

“In an era of cultural openness, we are witnessing a dangerous process of deepening entrenchment of each group behind its four walls. This entrenchment only creates cultural and political polarization.

“Look at what Jerusalem has become in the past decade: separate neighborhoods, separate public transportation, separate shopping malls for Haredim and seculars, Arabs and Jews,” he said, referring to this separation as ghettos within the city.

“Our fear of the ‘other’ across the wall, especially in Jerusalem, whether Arab or ultra-Orthodox, goes against the Zionist spirit,” said Rivlin.

“The mentality of concrete and barbed wire; the mentality of enclosure in homogenous neighborhoods, and the mentality of escaping a dialogue with the ‘other’ is not only destructive to our social and national foundations,” said the Knesset speaker, “but also enables the rise of the very voices who today demand the division of Jerusalem.”

Rivlin also spoke of Herzl’s legacy during his Independence Day address, calling Zionism an act of courage.

“Sixty-two years after the prophecy of [Herzl’s] Altneuland was realized, we, the generations of those who established the country, know very well that Israel’s salvation did not come from prophets or from diplomats,” said Rivlin, “but from those who dared to stop dreaming and start realizing the dream; in the hands of those who stopped waiting for the establishment of Israel and made the dream a reality.”

Rivlin continued, “The Zionist act is an act of courage, executed by individuals who take a leap of faith from dreaming to action.”

Rivlin concluded by saying that Israel will retian its Zionist character and make no apologies for it.

“Make no mistake, there will be no cooperation with those who demand that we diminish the country’s Zionist identity. We will not apologize: not for conquering Katamon, Jaffa or Safed, not for freeing Hebron, and not for building Jerusalem our capital,” Rivlin said.

[AFP photo]

Long War Journal: Hezbollah Brigades propaganda specialist captured in Baghdad


[H/t Long War Journal]

Bill Rogio writes:

Coalition special forces teams, likely the terrorist hunter-killer teams of Task Force 88, have captured a Hezbollah Brigades propaganda specialist during a raid in New Baghdad.

The propaganda specialist was positively identified by his wife after the raid, and he later admitted to his role in seeding websites with attack videos.

“The man uploads web sites with imagery and video taken from attacks on Iraqi Security and Coalition forces,” Multinational Forces Iraq reported in a press release. “Reports indicate this is part of a propaganda effort in order to earn money and support from their Iranian financiers.”

Little information is publicly available on the Hezbollah Brigades, or the Kata’ib Hezbollah. Multinational forces Iraq indicates the group receives support from Iran, and is an “offshoot of Iranian-trained Special Groups.”

The logo used by the Hezbollah Brigades is nearly an exact match of the one used by Lebanese Hezbollah, which is directly supported by Iran. The logo shows an arm extended vertically, with the fist grasping an AK-47 assault rifile. US forces captured Ali Mussa Daqduq inside Iraq in early 2007. Daqduq is a senior Hezbollah commander who was tasked with setting up the Mahdi Army Special Groups along the same lines

The Hezbollah Brigades began uploading videos of attacks on US and Iraqi forces this year.

[read it all here]

Lebanese Army Kills Abssi, Claims Victory


[Hat tip to Right-Wing Nuthouse]

It took 106 days and nearly 160 fatalities for the Lebanese Army to clear out the nest of terrorists who had infested the Nahr al-Bared Palestinian refugee camp but they finally finished the job yesterday, killing Fatah al-Islam’s leader Shakir al-Abssi in the process:

The Lebanese Army has finished off the Fatah al-Islam legend, killed its leader Shaker al-Abssi and 31 other terrorists and rounded up 20 in the 106th day of the confrontation at the northern refugee camp of Nahr al-Bared.
Security agencies have launched a nationwide manhunt for 10 terrorists who escaped the battle Sunday by infiltrating through the al-Bared River stream.Judicial sources told Naharnet a Palestinian cleric, who had mediated with Fatah al-Islam terrorists, identified al-Abssi’s body.

However, the judiciary issued a warrant to bring in al-Abssi’s wife and daughter to the public hospital in Tripoli to identify the body and, to conduct DNA tests that would provide the definite answer to questions related to identity of the alleged Abssi corpse, the sources explained.

Later reports from the hospital confirm that al-Abssi’s wife has in fact identified the body of her husband in the morgue.

Abssi created Fatah al-Islam last November following a break with the ultra radical Palestinian faction based in Syria Fatah al-Intifada. Sentenced to death in absentia for his role in the assassination of US Jordanian diplomat Laurence Foley, Abssi had previously fought with Al-Qaeda in Mesopotamia leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi in Iraq and claims to have been inspired by al-Qaeda’s radical ideology, pledging his loyalty to Osama Bin Laden.

All that is known is that Abssi moved into Nahr al-Bared in November and in a matter of months, he had assembled 300 fighters (many of them Salifists from other Arab countries) and was training them at a makeshift camp. Many Lebanese believe that Abssi is a present from Syrian gangster President Bashar Assad. While Assad’s relations with the parent terror group Fatah al-Intifada are not the best, it is not beyond imagining that the Syrian president would have facilitated the creation and growth of Fatah al-Islam as a means to destabilize the Lebanese government.

[continue reading]

Understanding the U.S.-Israel Alliance: An Israeli Response to the Walt-Mearsheimer Claim


[Hat tip to Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs]


Understanding the U.S.-Israel Alliance:
An Israeli Response to the Walt-Mearsheimer Claim

Dore Gold

  • Contrary to the assertions of Professors Stephen Walt of Harvard University and John Mearsheimer of the University of Chicago, who claim that no compelling strategic argument can explain American support for Israel, which they argue has been promoted by “the unmatched power of the Israel lobby,” the two countries have, in fact, developed strong strategic ties over the years that have evolved into a unique alliance.
  • As early as December 27, 1962, President John F. Kennedy told Israeli Foreign Minister Golda Meir: “The United States has a special relationship with Israel in the Middle East really comparable only to what it has with Britain over a wide range of world affairs.” During the Cold War, the U.S. and Israel had a joint strategic interest in defeating the aggression of Soviet-backed rogue states in the Middle East. This began when Nasser’s Egypt intervened in the Arabian Peninsula in 1962, through Yemen, and in 1970 when Syria invaded Jordan.
  • In 1981, Israel destroyed the nuclear reactor of Iraq’s Saddam Hussein, severely reducing Iraqi military strength. Ten years later, after a U.S.-led coalition had to liberate Kuwait following Iraq’s occupation of that oil-producing mini-state, Secretary of Defense Richard Cheney in October 1991 thanked Israel for its “bold and dramatic action” a decade earlier.
  • Presently, U.S.-Israeli defense ties have grown even tighter. Testifying before the House Armed Services Committee on March 15, 2007, USEUCOM commander General Bantz J. Craddock stated that Israel was America’s “closest ally” in the Middle East and that it “consistently and directly” supported U.S. interests. This professional evaluation of the U.S.-Israel relationship flies in the face of Walt and Mearsheimer’s assertion that Israel is a “strategic burden” that does not serve the American national interest.
  • Because many elements of this strategic relationship are kept secret – particularly in the intelligence field – it is difficult for academics and pundits to assess the true value of U.S.-Israel ties. Nonetheless, General George F. Keegan, a retired U.S. Air Force intelligence chief, disclosed in 1986 that he could not have obtained the same intelligence that he received from Israel if he had “five CIAs.” During his interview, at which time the Cold War was still raging, he added: “The ability of the U.S. Air Force in particular, and the Army in general, to defend whatever position it has in NATO owes more to the Israeli intelligence input than it does to any single source of intelligence.”

[continue reading]

India and Israel, Hindus and Jews: Increasing Connections



Israel has made, let’s face it, some unsavory alliances and business deals over the years. For example, during the Cold War, Israel sold military products to a variety of right-wing authoritarian states. In discussions with my loony radical lefty friends, I contend that this was largely the result of Cold War dynamics and the embargo against Israel. Soviet allies were part of the Warsaw pact and mainly traded with their fellow states in the socialist camp. Decolonizing states in the so-called Third World, especially in Africa and Asia, actively boycotted Israel and Israeli goods. In this situation, Israel’s trading partners were incredibly limited.

After the collapse of the Soviet Union bloc in the 1990s, there was a generalized euphoria among political elites in the West regarding the ability of open markets to encourage greater cultural, social and intellectual exchanges. Markets previously closed to the Western capital—and to Israel—were opened. Additionally, new security alliances were developed. For Israel, an incredibly important trading partner and military ally–and one that is certain to grow in importance in the future–is the alliance with India.

While the radical left laments these increasing interconnections, it is a welcome development and benefits both countries. I’ve long felt, despite the variance, some commonalities between the political history of India and Israel. Both were colonized by the British and emerged from colonial rule as democracies, not authoritarian states as was the case in so much of the developing world. Both experienced partition—Israel-Palestine and India-Pakistan—resulting in wars and animosity with neighbors. Both countries also share a common adversary in the form of Islamist terrorism.

On a more individual level, Varnam brings to my attention this article about personal networking, intermarriage* and political alliances between Hindus and Jews in the San Francisco Bay Area.

Here is a bit:

Working together also presents a chance to wield greater political influence. Both communities, on their own, represent a small, if affluent, portion of America’s population. According to census data from 2005, there are 2.3 million Indian Americans in the United States, while an American Jewish Committee survey last year found 6.4 million Jews in the United States. Together, they amount to 3 percent of the population. And so the two communities have started collaborating on common political aims, such as immigration reform and protecting church-state separation.

They’ve also been willing to rally to one another’s side.

When protesters disrupted the first-ever Hindu prayer to open the Senate’s daily session in July, Jews stood alongside Indians in decrying the incident. And when Bay Area Jews face off against protesters in San Francisco calling for people and businesses to dump their Israeli assets, they’re not alone.

“When we stand out there counter-protesting, we found that members of the Hindu-American community always stand shoulder to shoulder with us,” said Lisa Cohen, who has taken part in a number of rallies and protests.

That friendship, she added, is just going to get stronger.

*Here’s an old article from The Forward on HinJews/Om-Shalomers.

Armenian Genocide and the Jewish Community*



Image from iWitness, The Armenian Genocide Project

[Hat tip Normblog and Contentious Centrist]

Norman Geras brings attention to an article on the Armenian genocide by Leonard Fine in the Forward. Fine contends that:

It is doubtful that many people are persuaded by the Turks and their lobbyists. The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum recognizes the Armenian genocide, as does the Reform Jewish movement, as, one assumes, do most Jewish leaders, at least privately — perhaps even the leaders of the Anti-Defamation League, the American Jewish Committee, the Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs and B’nai B’rith International.

Fine concludes the paragraph by noting:

Yet the leaders of these organizations have steadfastly refused to endorse a bill currently before Congress that would formally acknowledge the fact of the Armenian genocide.

On one hand, I strongly agree with Fine. These organizations should absolutely endorse the bill. But Fine asks the readers to make a major leap of faith when he assumes that most Jewish leaders, “perhaps” even the leaders of major Jewish organizations like the American Jewish Committee agree with him. What evidence does Fine have? Did any of these organizations ever produce a publication, a pamphlet, even a letter confirming Fine’s assumptions? Why doesn’t Fine mention that Bernard Lewis, an expert on Turkish history, does not think that genocide took place?

I’m not that old but I do know Jews have not been of one voice on the Armenian genocide just as we have rarely been of one voice on any issue. For example, in an article in Commentary (“The First Genocide of the 20th Century?” December 2005 you can read it for free here), Guenter Lewey wrote:

The historical question at issue is premeditation that is, whether the Turkish regime intentionally organized the annihilation of its Armenian minority. According to the Genocide Convention of 1948, such an intent to destroy a group is a necessary condition of genocide; most other definitions of this crime of crimes similarly insist upon the centrality of malicious intent. Hence the crucial problem to be addressed is not the huge loss of life in and of itself but rather whether the Turkish government deliberately sought the deaths that we know to have occurred.

It is true that no written record of Hitler’s order for the Final Solution of the “Jewish question” has been found, either. But the major elements of the decision-making process leading up to the annihilation of the Jews of Europe can be reconstructed from events, court testimony, and a rich store of authentic documents. It is doubtful that the Nuremberg trials would ever have achieved their tremendous significance in authenticating the crimes of the Nazi regime if they had had to rely on a few copies instead of on the thousands of original documents preserved in archives. Barring the unlikely discovery of sensational new documents in the Turkish archives, it is safe to say that no similar evidence exists for the tragic events of 1915-16. At the same time, a number of facts about the deportations argue against the thesis that they constituted a premeditated program for exterminating the Armenians of Turkey…


Again, let me clear, I support the bill and think that there was intent to destroy the Armenians i.e. genocide did occur. But the jury is out and historians are not of one mind on this conflict, nor are Jews and Jewish organizations. Contentious Centrist writes:

Personally, I’m quite fed up with kowtowing to any authoritarian regime’s whims and eccentricities. Turkey is a big kid already and should be able to face up to atrocities committed by Turks when Turkey was still an empire. This includes not only the Armenian genocide but also the various massacres and expulsions committed under the Ottomans against Palestinian Jews

Now they are seeking to use Jewish influence in the Congress to block this acknowledgement of a historical atrocity. And the Jewish organizations that help them pretend that they can’t smell the stench of this humongous hypocricy. Why do they agree to do this dirty work for the Turks?


Among mainstream Jewish organizations, Abe Foxman and the ADL have come under intense criticism. Foxman in particular. The Boston Globe reports the regional chapter of the ADL broke with national leadership:

In an emergency meeting yesterday afternoon, the regional ADL board adopted resolutions calling on the national organization, which has refused to recognize the Armenian genocide, to change its policy, according to a source familiar with the proposal.

This is a positive development. Keep the pressure on. Foxman will likely change his position if he gets enough pressure from the regional chapters.

Text of the Armenian Genocide Bill is available here. More coverage at Jewcy.

*Dumb title, I know. We are a people divided into many communities, in Israel, the U.S. and throughout the Diaspora.

[UPDATE (19:31 GMT): Since writing this post Abe Foxman and the national ADL have changed their position and now recognize the Armenian genocide. However, the organization still refuses to support the bill. With continued pressure from regional chapters and concered individuals, this can change. More updates will be provided as they become available.]

Hezbollah Celebrates ‘Victory’ on Ceasefire Anniversary



[article from The Middle East Times, August 14, 2007]
BEIRUT — Thousands of people gathered Tuesday in a Beirut suburb to listen to a “victory” speech by Hezbollah’s leader marking the one-year anniversary of the ceasefire that ended the war between the militant group and Israel.”Come on Nasrallah. We are waiting for you Nasrallah,” chanted a huge crowd of men, women, and children as they waited for Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah to speak.

Giant screens were set up in the Dahiyeh area controlled by the Shiite group but it was unclear whether Nasrallah would appear in person to address the crowd.

The last time the charismatic leader, considered Israel’s enemy number one, appeared in public was September 22, 2006 when he made a speech in the same neighborhood to proclaim victory following the devastating 34-day war with Israel.

The conflict ended August 14 of last year in line with a UN-brokered ceasefire.

Nasrallah since then has made a number of speeches that were always broadcast.

“We are here because Hezbollah is the only one that managed to defeat Israel, despite the high price we paid,” said Hassan Korkomaz, who gathered with his family Tuesday to listen to Nasrallah’s speech.

Siham Karout, a 22-year-old student, said she was attending the rally as Hezbollah represented “the country’s future.”

[continue reading]

It isn’t politically correct, or the most pleasant thought, but some conservatives wonder why the Israeli Air Force doesn’t drop a load of bombs on these demonstrations? It isn’t going to happen for a variety of reasons (collateral damage, the potential to create many more terrorists, incredibly bad P.R. for Israel, etc.). A targeted assassination of Nasrallah, on the other hand, is surely on the table.

In a related article, the London Sunday Telegraph reports that Christian and Druze residents of southern Lebanon are selling their property to supporters of Hezbollah. The money is most likely coming from Iran. The Telegraph claims this is all part of a larger scheme to prepare for another war with Israel.

Hizbollah is buying up large tracts of land owned by Christians and other non-Shias in southern Lebanon as the militant group rebuilds its defences in preparation for a new war with Israel, The Sunday Telegraph has been told.
The land grab is thought to be driven by the Iranian-backed guerrillas’ efforts to rearm themselves and fortify the strategically important ravines north of the Litani River, just north of the front line in last year’s 34-day conflict with its Jewish neighbour.

Here, Hizbollah has been free to press forward without harassment from the 13,000 United Nations peacekeepers and 20,000 Lebanese army troops who were deployed south of the Litani as part of the ceasefire agreement that ended the conflict.

Just south of the Litani, the UN is conducting hundreds of patrols each day in a bid to keep Hizbollah weapons out of the area, but the peacekeepers’ mandate ends at the river.

The Lebanese army, meanwhile, is about 50 per cent Shia and seems to be turning a blind eye to Hizbollah activities north of the river.

[continue reading]

Once again, IDF soldiers will have to go in, town by town, house by house, as in this video (it takes a bit of time to load so be patient):

Schoenfeld: “Blowback” in Lebanon?


[Hat tip to Contentions]

“Blowback” in Lebanon?

by Gabriel Schoenfeld

The State Department has designated Fatah al-Islam, a self-declared al-Qaeda affiliate of Sunni Muslim extremists based in northern Lebanon, a “terrorist” group.

Back in March, the investigative journalist Seymour Hersh, writing in the New Yorker, explained that this outfit, consisting of a relatively small number of fighters but heavily armed, was actually a creature of the United States. In line with a reorientation of U.S. policy to bolster Sunni Muslims in the growing contest with the Shiites of Hizballah and its controlling hands in Iran, the U.S. had covertly joined with Saudi Arabia to support the terrorists of Fatah al-Islam.

Here was Hersh in May amplifying his point on CNN:

Key player are the Saudis, of course, and [Saudi Prince] Bandar. What I was writing about was a sort of a private agreement that was made between the White House, we’re talking about [Vice-President] Dick Cheney and Elliott Abrams, who is one of the key aides in the White House, with Bandar. And the idea was to get support, covert support—money, from the Saudis to support various hard-line jihadists, Sunni groups, particularly in Lebanon, who would be seen in case of an actual confrontation with Hezbollah.

If Hersh was right, and that was indeed the U.S. plan, it badly backfired. Fatah al-Islam, holed up in a Palestinian refugee camp near the city of Tripoli, was then and still is locked in combat with the Lebanese army. “Unintended consequences,” was Hersh’s explanation for the contradiction.

But Hersh is a serial confabulist. In the pages of the New Yorker, he is kept somewhat in accord with reality by the demands of fact-checkers. But off that magazine’s pages, and on the lecture circuit and TV, he feels free to say all sorts of things that do not exist in the here and now but only in the not-here and never.

Hersh thus explained, in the same CNN interview, how in this latest Lebanese case of “blowback” history is repeating itself:

If you remember, you know, we got into the war in Afghanistan with supporting Osama bin Laden, the Mujahadeen back there in the late 1980’s with Bandar, and with people like Elliott Abrams around, the idea being that the Saudis promise us they could control—they could control the jihadists.

Even when Hersh is making things up, he is nothing if not skilled at maintaining an aura of plausibility. Thus, his account of U.S. support for Osama bin Laden in the Afghan war will ring a bell of truth in many minds. But that is only because it is a myth that has been put in circulation for years thanks to people like Hersh himself. It too is false.

[continue reading]

Israeli and Palestinian Transport Unions Forge Cooperation


Israeli and Palestinian transport unions have forged a groundbreaking cooperation agreement at a special meeting held under the auspices of the International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF).

Around 20 Israeli and Palestinian transport union representatives met together in Limassol, Cyprus on 31 July – 1 August as guests of the ITF’s Cypriot affiliate the Federation of Transport, Petroleum and Agricultural Workers. There they discussed common issues such as collective bargaining, delayed payment of wages, loss of union membership and the increasing outsourcing of work to contractors.

They agreed to establish a joint liaison committee to provide a mechanism for dealing with practical problems faced by transport workers in the region and for building trust between Israeli and Palestinian transport unions. In particular the committee aims to deal with the difficult and sensitive issue of the problems faced by Palestinian transport workers at military checkpoints. This is a major concern for Palestinian drivers who complain of too many checkpoints and unnecessary delays.

The Israeli Histadrut transport union says it is committed to trying to help where it can play a positive role. The committee intends to set up a process for dealing with incidents on a case by case basis and the Palestinian union will set up a telephone “hot line” for drivers. Relevant cases will be handled in coordination with the Israeli union. It was agreed that the Israeli union would request the Israeli security services to participate in the committee’s work when issues such as checkpoints and barriers are under discussion.

This agreement was set out in a joint declaration signed by Avi Edri Chairman of the Histadrut Transportation Workers’ Union; Naser Yunes, President of the Palestinian General Federation of Transport Workers Unions and David Cockroft, ITF General Secretary.

According to ITF President Randall Howard who chaired the meeting: “The participants were remarkable for their commitment to getting a job done which they believe will not only bring real benefits for transport workers, but in a small way set a direction for building wider trust and cooperation. People did not agree about everything, there were some raw and difficult moments, but they agreed to respect each other and try to work together. This joint declaration is, in my view, a remarkable achievement and a dramatic leap forward in defending and advancing the interests of Palestinian and Israeli transport workers.”

During the meeting Naser Yunes welcomed the declaration. He said: “The priority was to deal with transport workers’ problems. We have to show our members that such initiatives can work. I believe that by working together we can really bring real and practical improvements for trade union members.”

Avi Edri added: “We are very serious about this cooperation. I believe we can make a real difference working together.” Both union leaders called on the ITF to maintain its role in supporting this initiative. Meanwhile David Cockroft committed himself to visiting both unions during the next 12 months. The declaration commits both unions to regular meetings of the joint liaison committee.

R Related documents