Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Assessing Alan Dershowitz's View of Peace
By David Bedein

 Apr 30 2013

At the Jerusalem Post Conference on April 28, 2013, Harvard Law Professor Alan Dershowitz once again declare that he has received assurances from Palestinian Authority leader Machmud Abbas, AKA Abu Mazen, that the Palestinian Authority remains a “partner for peace”.
The assumptions on which Prof. Dershowtiz bases his optimism about the Palestinian Authority as a partner for peace are delineated in Dershowitz's book, The Case for Peace (Wiley and Sons, NYC, 2005)
The time has come to provide a dispassionate presentation of the assumptions that guide Dershowitz's thinking, as expressed in Dershowitz's book
Palestinian willingness to compromise on the right of return?
Professor Dershowitz asserts that the "Palestinian leadership seems willing to compromise on the right of return," yet he cannot find any footnote to support any such newsworthy assertion. He also states that "Although Mahmood Abbas insisted on a full right of return during his election campaign, he has, since becoming president, moderated his stance somewhat." Yet Dershowitz relies only on a New York Times correspondent who thinks that this is the case, and cannot point to any such statement by Abbas to his own people in his own language and media.
Meanwhile, Professor Dershowitz calls for the "symbolic recognition" of the "rights of Palestinian refugees' which would include a "compensation package and some family reunification, without addressing implications of what it would mean for Israel if the Jewish State were to absorb a hostile population in its midst, without addressing the issue of who would choose which families would be "reunited".
For some reason, Professor Dershowitz does not consider the legal precedent that such recognition would create for all Palestinian Arab refugees and their descendants who demand the "right of return." While he writes that Palestinians stake claim to all lands lost in 1967, he neglects to mention that the PLO claims all lands lost in all of their wars with Israel in the context of the consistent PLO demands for the realization of the "right of return" to lands lost in 1948.
Instead, Prof. Dershowitz calls on Israel to allow for a "reasonable number" of Palestinian refugees and their descendants to return to their "homes" in Israel, yet he does not address the situation that would be created if, say, Israel were to allow 5% of the four million refugees and their descendents now registered with UNRWA's refugee camps to "return," an act that would force Israel to allow 200,000 people from a hostile entity to reside in Israel itself.
And he brings no source whatsoever to the possibility that the PLO would accept any such "compromise."
Professor Dershowitz asserts that the Palestinian leadership "would have to waive or compromise the broad, collective political 'right' to turn Israel into another Palestinian state by orchestrating a mass return of Palestinians to Israel," yet he produces no evidence that the Palestinian leadership would make any such move..
Professor Dershowitz posits that "Israel should declare, in principle, its willingness to give up the captured territories in return for a firm assurance of lasting peace," yet he does not show any hint o evidence that the PLO would be willing to provide any such "firm assurance".
Dividing Jerusalem Leading to Peace?
Perhaps most astonishing of all is Dershowitz's call for a "division of greater Jerusalem," with the "Arab part becoming the capital of the Palestinian State," without relating to the fact that Arab & Jewish neighborhoods are intertwined in Jerusalem. For example, when you drive from the Israeli neighborhood of Gilo to Katamon, you travel through the Arab neighborhood of Beit Tzfafa. And when you travel from the Israeli neighborhoods of Neve Yaakov to French Hill, you traverse the Shuafat and Beit Hanina. And when you travel from Mount Scopus to the center of town, you traverse Wadi Jose. Imagine what it would be like to have to negotiate a PLO army base in the middle of Jerusalem. In other words, his suggestion would mean that PLO armed forces would be placed at the edge of every Jewish neighborhood in Jerusalem. Yet he asserts that "Jerusalem must be divided for peace," without saying on what basis he comes to the conclusion that relinquishing neighborhoods of Jerusalem to the PLO, which remains at war with Israel, would lead to peace. He advocates "Palestinian sovereignty in Arab neighborhoods of Jerusalem," without explaining to the reader that sovereignty means guns in the hands of the PLO in Jerusalem, and that if his suggestion were implemented, it would be life-threatening to Jews throughout Jerusalem.
Prof. Dershowitz also asserts that the "Moslem Quarter should be under Palestinian or Islamic Authority," without taking into consideration the Jewish population who live and own property in the Moslem Quarter, which, by the way, has only been known as the "Moslem Quarter" since the Mufti-inspired expulsion of the Jewish population in that part of Jerusalem in 1936. He also asserts that the Temple Mount, on which two mosques stand, "should be largely under the sovereignty and control of the Palestinians and Moslems," without taking into consideration that such sovereignty would mean possession of weapons, which would allow armed Palestinians to threaten lives of Jewish worshipers below at the Western Wall Plaza.
Palestinian Leadership Desire for Peace?
Somehow, Prof. Dershowitz comes to the conclusion that "mainstream Israelis and mainstream Palestinians, along with their respective governments, are largely on the same side: they all want peace, compromise and a two state solution," yet no one has ever found mainstream Palestinians who make such expressions of compromise in the official publications, radio or TV broadcasts of the official Arabic language Palestinian Authority media.
Professor Dershowitz posits that the "only real hope for peace is that the current Palestinian leadership will be more like the pragmatic leadership of the Jewish Agency in 1937 and 1948," yet he provides no evidence that the PA leadership has expressed any such pragmatism in their public statements to their own people in the Arabic language.
Professor Dershowitz refers to preventive measures by PA armed forces against terrorists, yet he brings no sources to support any such measures.
Professor Dershowitz gives credence to the assertion of Tom Friedman from the New York Times that "hot pursuit" of terrorists does not work, yet he does not say on what basis he accepts that premise. He does not relate to the fact that the IDF's dispatch of troops inside Palestinian population centers, since April 2002, has served to curtail infiltrations of terrorists
Professor Dershowitz contends that Abbas condemned a terror attack in Tel Aviv in February, 2005, yet brings no evidence from Palestinian Authority Arabic language media to support that assertion, and makes no mention of the honor that the official Arabic language Palestinian Authority media afforded these killers.
Since monitoring the Arabic language expression of the Palestinian Authority has become a cottage industry of late, Professor Dershowitz could have easily accessed Palestinian Authority media from news organizations that retain credible Arabic speaking professionals such as the Israel Resource News Agency, The Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center, IMRA, PMW, MEMRI or Middle East News Line, all of which produce timely and publicly available updated reports from what is said in the PA public domain.
None of these organizations have found that " mainstream Palestinians" express support for "peace, compromise and a two state solution," in their own language and in their own media, except in Dershowitz's imagination.
Furthermore Professor Dershowitz fantasizes that the Palestinian state might become "economically viable, politically secure, religiously free, and protective of individual rights," yet makes no mention of the rampant corruption in a PA regime which is currently devoid of human rights and civil liberties.
Is this the same Alan Dershowitz who has made his name synonymous with his lifelong struggle for human rights and civil liberties?
Professor Dershowitz advocates a "secure elevated highway" between Judea/Samaria and Gaza, without taking into consideration that since the PLO remains in a state of war with Israel, would this not give them the opportunity to fire on Israeli lands from their "elevated road" on Israeli vehicles and on Israeli communities in the Negev.
Professor Dershowitz quotes the covenant of the Hamas to dispossess the Jews and destroy Israel, which remains in force, yet makes no mention of the PLO covenant which also remains in force with the same goals.
Professor Dershowitz asserts that the "only way that Israel is going to have security is if the Palestinians provide it by restraining their own...", yet he does not relate to the fact that the PLO has not foresworn its war against Israel, raising the question of why an entity at war with Israel would "restrain" their forces.
Professor Dershowitz gives credence to the statement of President Bush's press secretary that the Israelis and Palestinians "must work together to fight terror", yet he does not relate to the fact that over the last five years, the security services of the PA have been engaged in direct acts of terror against the state and people of Israel.
While Professor Dershowitz notes that Palestinians have been raised in hatred of Jews, and that this is a by product of their school curricula, he then goes on to mention The Hamas Charter, without a word about the fact that the Palestinian school curriculum, available in English at www.edume.org, is produced by the Palestinian Authority Ministry of Education, and not by Hamas.
Professor Dershowitz praises the PA Minister of Information for requesting that the Religious Affairs Ministry dismiss Sheik Ibraham Mudreis from his position after Mudreis had delivered an anti semitic sermon - yet he does not report that the Religious Affairs Ministry simply refused the request to fire Mudreis, and that Mudreis continues to deliver his virulent message every Friday as a paid employee of the PA, and that his speeches are broadcast by the official PBC Radio and RBC TV.
Incidentally, he writes that the PA negotiators at Camp David "seemed" to accept the limitation of the PA armed forces to "only" have light weapons, yet he brings no Palestinian source to support any such assertion.
Professor Dershowitz mentions that Al Aksa Brigades as one of the terrorist organizations threatening the stability of Abbas's regime, yet forgets to mention that the Al Aksa Brigades remain an integral part of the Fateh, and that Abbas remains the chairman of the Fateh.
Professor Dershowitz does mention "incitement to violence from Palestinians themselves", and yet only alludes to Hamas, and mentions that the Imams who preach hatred on Palestinian-run radio and television, official textbooks, and neglects to mention that this message of hatred emanates from the official Palestinian Authority-run radio station and TV, and that the Palestinian Authority employs these imams, and that the PA has done nothing to ameliorate the hatred which emanates from its education system
Professor Dershowitz expresses confidence that Palestinian pragmatism will emerge, yet he cites no statements made by Palestinian leaders to their own people in the Arabic language which would support any such confidence.
Professor Dershowitz devotes much space to resentment of those who engage in holocaust denial, yet makes no mention of Abbas's PhD. which promotes holocaust denial.
Professor Dershowitz mentions the Palestinian "thirst for education", yet he does not address the connection between current Palestinian Authority education and incitement to terrorism. He could have mentioned how incitement to terror remains a focus of the curriculum at Palestinian Universities., as shown in studies conducted by The Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center in Herzelia, or he could have mentioned the study of Palestinian school books conducted by the Center for Monitoring the Impact of Peace.
Appropriating History?
Professor Dershowitz rewrites history when he asserts that Ben Gurion sank the Altelana because he wanted to "prevent arms from reaching Israeli paramilitary groups such as Etzel... and Lechi." And he ignores the fact that the IDF fired on the Altelena and killed 19 Jewish passengers only AFTER an agreement had been reached to hand over ALL of the weapons on board the ship to the IDF.
Professor Dershowitz even ascribes past peaceful intentions to Syria, and writes that "Syria seemed willing at least for a time to make peace with Israel in exchange for the Golan Heights and other considerations...," yet he brings no documentation of any kind that Syria ever sought peace with Israel.
Coping with Reality?
Professor Dershowitz waits until page 91 in the eighth chapter of his Case of Peaceto comment that " a Palestinian state may probably evolve into a launching pad for terrorism", and notes only on page 96 in chapter nine that "Abbas will not disarm terrorist organizations". Such statements, buried in the midst of his book, undermine almost every premise of any theoretical possibility of peace with the Palestinian entity, and then he goes back to asserting that the new Palestinian entity will make peace with Israel.
Professor Dershowitz suggests that US troops could be positioned to respond to terror attacks on Israel, yet he does not relate to the danger that US troops placed in the line of fire would be hurt in response to attacks on the sovereign state of Israel.
Yet even after Professor Dershowitz notes that Abbas will not disarm terrorists, he still advocates light weapons for the PA armed forces.
Does he not know that the PA's mainstream armed forces have taken credit for use of "light weapons" to murder hundreds of Israeli citizens, especially over the past five years.
His reassurance that the PA entity would have to "control terror in its midst" is left hanging, since he gives no indication that the PA will ever "control terror in its midst".
Instead, he concludes with a bland wish for "democratic governance"
Professor Dershowitz makes no reference to the 51 dissidents against Abbas who linger on death row, and makes no reference to the proposed Palestinian State Constitution, which denies juridical status to Judaism and to Christianity and which is based on the Sharia Law.
Again, is this the same Alan Dershowitz who has made his name synonymous with his lifelong struggle for human rights and civil liberties?
Is this a prescription for "democratic governance"?
Is the PA attitude towards democracy since its inception not an indication of how a PLO state would behave?
Then again, Professor Alan Dershowitz did not base his book on what the Palestinian Authority conveys in the Arabic language, in their own media, to their own people, but rather on what he hopes they would be saying.
However, given Professor Dershowitz's immense credibility and his direct access to the media, the damage that this book to Israel will be immeasurable.Instead of using his immense skills to challenge questionable assumptions that this book is based on, Prof. Dershowitz has written a book that joins the cacophony of detractors of Israel, adding his respected voice to their chorus.

Monday, April 29, 2013

Obama should remember Rwanda as he weighs action in Syria

 Anne-Marie Slaughter,  Washington Post April 26. 2013 

Anne-Marie Slaughter is a professor of politics and international affairs at Princeton University. She was director of policy planning at the State Department from 2009 to 2011.{Obama Administration}
The Rwanda genocide began in April 1994; within a few weeks, nongovernmental organizations there were estimating that 100,000 Tutsis and moderate Hutus had been massacred. Yet two months later, Reuters correspondent Alan Elsner and State Department spokeswoman Christine Shelly had an infamous exchange:
Elsner: “How would you describe the events taking place in Rwanda?”
Shelly: “Based on the evidence we have seen from observations on the ground, we have every reason to believe that acts of genocide have occurred in Rwanda.”
Elsner: “What’s the difference between ‘acts of genocide’ and ‘genocide’?”
Shelly: “Well, I think the — as you know, there’s a legal definition of this. .. . Clearly not all of the killings that have taken place in Rwanda are killings to which you might apply that label. ... But as to the distinctions between the words, we’re trying to call what we have so far as best as we can; and based, again, on the evidence, we have every reason to believe that acts of genocide have occurred.”
Elsner: “How many acts of genocide does it take to make genocide?”
Shelly: “Alan, that’s just not a question that I’m in a position to answer.”
As President Obama and his advisers look for “more conclusive evidence” that Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad has used chemical weapons against his people, he would do well to remember this shameful moment. The evidence Obama is reviewing first surfaced in December, when the U.S. consul in Istanbul sent a cable detailing interviews with victims and observers of an attack in Homs just before Christmas and concluding that it was likely that the Syrian government had used chemical weapons.
The reported evidence was of paralysis, muscle spasms, seizures, blindness, hallucinations and disorientation. Victims reportedly responded well to atropine, a drug used to treat people exposed to the nerve gas sarin. This was very inconvenient for an administration determined not to get more involved in Syria, however, so U.S. officials said in early January that the Syrian government had used a “riot control agent.” Similar evidence has been squelched again and again, until finally our allies — the British, the French and even the Israelis — forced our hand.
The Clinton administration did not want to acknowledge that genocide was taking place in Rwanda because the United States would have been legally bound by the Genocide Convention of 1948 to intervene to stop the killing. The reason the Obama administration does not want to recognize that chemical weapons are being used in Syria is because Obama warned the Syrian regime clearly and sharply in August against using such weapons. “There would be enormous consequences if we start seeing movement on the chemical-weapons front or the use of chemical weapons,” he said. “That would change my calculations significantly.”
Unfortunately, changing the game is hard. Moreover, even against the reported recommendations of his advisers, Obama has shown little interest in intervention in Syria beyond nonlethal assistance to some opposition forces, diplomatic efforts with Russia and the United Nations, and political maneuvering to try to unify the opposition.
But the White House must recognize that the game has already changed. U.S. credibility is on the line. For all the temptation to hide behind the decision to invade Iraq based on faulty intelligence about weapons of mass destruction, Obama must realize the tremendous damage he will do to the United States and to his legacy if he fails to act. He should understand the deep and lasting damage done when the gap between words and deeds becomes too great to ignore, when those who wield power are exposed as not saying what they mean or meaning what they say.
The distrust, cynicism and hatred with which the United States is regarded in much of the world, particularly among Muslims across the Middle East and North Africa, is already a cancer. Standing by while Assad gasses his people will guarantee that, whatever else Obama may achieve, he will be remembered as a president who proclaimed a new beginning with the Muslim world but presided over a deadly chapter in the same old story.
The world does not see the complex calculations inside the White House — the difficulty of achieving any positive outcomes in Syria even with intervention, the possible harm to Obama’s domestic agenda if he plunges into the morass of another conflict in the Middle East. The world would see Syrian civilians rolling on the ground, foaming at the mouth, dying by the thousands while the United States stands by.
Mr. President, how many uses of chemical weapons does it take to cross a red line against the use of chemical weapons? That is a question you must be in a position to answer.


You've got to hand it to him. Bashar al-Assad may be a cruel and ruthless dictator, but he does know how to play his cards. His careful, incremental introduction of chemical weapons into the Syrian conflict has turned President Barack Obama's clear red line into an impressionist watercolor, undermining the credible threat of U.S. military intervention. Despite Obama's statement on Friday that "we've crossed a line," Assad knows that the United States does not want to be dragged into a Middle Eastern civil war and is attempting to call Obama's bluff.
The Syrian regime's subtle approach deliberately offers the Obama administration the option to remain quiet about chemical attacks and thereby avoid the obligation to make good on its threats. But even more worrying, Assad's limited use of chemical weapons is intended to desensitize the United States and the international community in order to facilitate a more comprehensive deployment in the future -- without triggering intervention. 
The advent of chemical weapons use in Syria should not come as a surprise, and neither should the manner in which Assad has introduced them. The gory details about chemical weapons use are still forthcoming, but one of the first likely instances took place in late March at Khan al-Asal, a regime military facility under siege by rebels. Opposition reports and videos showed symptoms and effects consistent with a chlorine or phosphate-based chemical weapon, which the rebels claimed was delivered by a short-range rocket.
The Assad regime swiftly accused rebels of firing "rockets containing chemical materials" within hours of the attack, which helped outsiders suspect that a chemical-laden projectile had actually been used, and also had the effect of incriminating the usually slow-to-react regime. The chemical rocket attacked a specifically military rebel target at Khan al-Asal and the chemicals used were not highly lethal, although the recent reports from Israeli and U.S. intelligence officials have pointed to the use of more lethal sarin nerve gas.
This subtle introduction of chemical weapons fits the Assad regime's established model for military escalation. Over the course of the conflict, each regime escalation has started with military necessity and expanded to brutal punishment of the Syrian population. Assad has established a clear modus operandi for ramping up the battle without triggering international intervention: toe the line, confirm Western inaction, and then ratchet up the violence further. At each step Washington's hollow "we strongly condemn" rhetoric has validated the approach.
Assad's forces began using heavy weapons to shell Homs in February 2012 because they could not dislodge the rebels with ground forces alone. From the regime's perspective, military necessity demanded the relatively restrained use of artillery bombardment to soften rebel positions ahead of a ground offensive. Once Assad confirmed that artillery would not trigger an international response, the shelling expanded to target opposition civilian neighborhoods each day -- without any attempt to retake these areas with ground forces.
When the Syrian regime's ground troops became overstretched in June 2012, military necessity once again dictated escalation: Assad unleashed his air force. Assad did not have the troops necessary to respond to rebel advances in northern Aleppo and Latakia, and therefore employed limited helicopter strikes against rebel military targets. By August of last year, Assad had confirmed that his air offensive would not trigger a U.S.-imposed no-fly zone, which allowed him to deploy Syrian Air Force jets against rebel-held neighborhoods in Aleppo, punishing an innocent population for the rebels' gains.
The cynical pattern continued. The regime introduced ballistic missiles once the rebels became adept at shooting down aircraft and overrunning airbases. The strikes began in December 2012, with small numbers of Scud missiles fired at an explicitly military target, a base overrun by rebel forces. Once again, Assad waited to see what the reaction would be. And once again, it was Western silence. By restricting the initial targets to rebel forces and limiting the number of strikes, Assad desensitized the U.S. and international community to the introduction of a new, strategic weapon that could later be turned against the Syrian people. By January of this year, the missile strikes had expanded to include consistent attacks against densely populated urban areas in Aleppo and Damascus.
And chemical weapons are next. Much like the strategy employed with artillery, air power, and ballistic missiles, Assad's introduction of weapons of mass destruction intends to pave the way for more lethal and wide-ranging chemical attacks against the Syrian people in the future. Assad's chemical weapons are not just a strategic deterrent against foreign intervention, they represent a critical tool in the ongoing campaign against the Syrian opposition. Assad's approach to the conflict has been the inverse of what Western militaries call population-centric counterinsurgency: rather than clear insurgents out of population centers, Assad has sought to clear populations out of insurgent-held areas.
The strategy has successfully ensured that even when the rebels gain territory they lose the population, either literally, through physical displacement or death, or in the hearts and minds department, as civilians bear the brunt of the bloodshed and blame the rebels for their plight. It's a cynical but effective strategy. The regime's campaign of air strikes against bakeries, for example, isn't just sadism or poor aim; it's a deliberate attempt to ensure that the rebels can't provide basic services for the people in the areas they control. This approach to insurgency is not new; the Russians have historically adopted this model against insurgents in Afghanistan and Chechnya.
Population displacement is central to Assad's campaign: massacring Sunni villages, bulldozing Damascene neighborhoods, and launching ballistic missiles into downtown Aleppo all fit this overall approach. And chemical weapons fit this strategy. Even their limited use is terrifying, forcing populations to leave areas that the rebels have seized -- and sowing fear that more is to come. But in order to use this weapon in greater numbers, Assad needs to be sure that Washington isn't about to come knocking on his door with bunker busters. So far, there's no indication that it will.
Russia and China have made sure that United Nations Security Council support for any intervention won't be forthcoming. And with both Iranian proxies and al Qaeda affiliates already well-ensconced in Syria, President Obama is paralyzed by the fear of repeating the Bush administration's mistakes, notably dragging the United States into another long campaign in the Middle East (not to mention attacking another Baathist regime over the threat of WMD). But that's where the parallels end. Unlike Iraq, Syria's chemical weapons are not a poorly disguised pretext for an ill-conceived war: they represent an imminent threat to the Syrian people.
That said, Syria's chemical weapons probably do not represent a direct threat to the United States -- at least while they remain in Assad's hands. If Obama calculates that the risks and costs of U.S. intervention are too high, then that's his prerogative as commander-in-chief. Over the past decade of conflict, the United States has learned the hard way not to underestimate the potential risks of military action (usually referred to as "second and third order effects" in military parlance). But the trajectory of the Syrian conflict will teach us that inaction also carries risks.
Despite the president's stated red line, it remains an open question whether that fundamental cost calculus has shifted even after a chemical attack. Worse, it remains unclear what exactly the United States can do about it now. Any feasible campaign to neutralize or secure all of Syria's chemical weapons would represent precisely the large-scale military intervention that the administration has long feared.
President Obama's reluctance to entertain military options derives from his recognition that Syrian state failure is likely, his conviction that the United States not become invested in another costly foreign conflict, and his determination that history not blame him for Syria's implosion. The White House has, for now, urged the United Nations to authorize a "full investigation" -- a limp response if ever there was one. But the president has made it clear that he'll need a big, smoking gun to push him into taking on the responsibility of a decisive U.S. response. Unfortunately, the wily Assad doesn't seem likely to give Obama such an easy decision.

Let me see if I’ve got this straight: U.S. intelligence agencies are reported by the Los Angeles Times to be in agreement “that Syrians have been exposed to deadly sarin gas in recent weeks,” but they refuse to blame the Syrian regime “because of the possibility — however small — that the exposure was accidental or caused by rebel fighters or others outside the Syrian government’s control.”
If the Times is to be believed, this, apparently, is the fig leaf that President Obama is using to justify his inaction even after it is clear to the entire world that Bashar Assad has flagrantly violated the “red line” laid down by the president. Are we seriously to believe that rebels somehow have taken chemical weapons out of Assad’s stockpiles and are using it on Syrian civilians themselves? If you believe this, then I have some fine beachfront property in Syria to sell you.
Instead of doing something about Assad’s war crimes, Obama prefers to ask for a full United Nations investigation, which could take years–if ever–to reach a definitive finding.
This is rapidly turning the U.S. into a global joke: the superpower that issues ultimatums it has no intention of enforcing. But the consequences of inaction are no joke because they are, as former U.S. army officer Joseph Holliday argues, a virtual invitation for Assad, now that he has seen the world will do nothing, to expand his use of chemical weapons.
By preferring to look the other way, Obama is repeating the experience of the 1990s when the Clinton administration ignored the genocide in Rwanda–something that Bill Clinton subsequently said he regretted.
Anne-Marie Slaughter, a former official in Obama’s own State Department, offers a devastating critique of the president’s inaction in this op-ed, which draws a comparison with the risible efforts of a State Department spokeswoman in 1994 to differentiate “acts of genocide”–which, she admitted, had occurred in Rwanda–from “genocide” pure and simple, which might actually demand an American response.
Obama set up the Atrocities Prevention Board a year ago precisely to avoid similar inaction in the future. “Preventing mass atrocities and genocide is a core national security interest and a core moral responsibility of the United States,” Obama said. Yet this vaunted board has been as silent as the rest of the administration in the face of Assad’s mass atrocities. Perhaps the administration can now explain why Assad’s actions constitute “acts of atrocity” rather than “atrocities” themselves.

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Palestinian Journalists Declare War on Israeli Colleagues
 April 28th, 2013

Palestinian journalists have declared an intifada against their Israeli colleagues.

In recent weeks, Israeli journalists who cover Palestinian affairs have been facing escalating threats from Palestinian reporters. On an increasing  number of occasions, the threats included acts of violence against the Israeli journalists, particularly in Ramallah.

Bt'selem and other human rights organizations and groups claiming to defend freedom of media have failed to condemn the campaign of intimidation waged by Palestinian journalists against their Israeli fellow-journalists.

It is one thing when governments and dictators go after journalists, but a completely different thing when journalists start targeting their counterparts.

An Israeli journalist had his microphone damaged during an assault, while another was thrown out of a press conference. Behind the two incidents were Palestinian journalists, angered by the presence of Israelis in Ramallah and other Palestinian cities.

The threats and harassment came as more than 200 Palestinian journalists signed a petition, for the first time ever, calling on the Palestinian Authority to ban Israeli correspondents from operating in its territories "without permission."

The Palestinian Authority, for its part, has complied, issuing instructions requiring Israeli journalists to obtain permission from its Ministry of Information before entering Palestinian cities.

Palestinian Authority officials and journalists later explained that the ban does not apply to journalists working for the Israeli daily Ha'aretz .

The Palestinian journalists campaigning against their Israeli colleagues claim  that  Israeli authorities do not allow them to work freely inside Israel. They also accuse the Israeli authorities of refusing to issue them with [Israeli] government press cards.

If anything, these claims represent a hypocritical approach.

In recent years, Palestinian journalists have strongly opposed to "normalization" with Israelis, including meetings with Israeli colleagues. Some Palestinian journalists who violated the ban and met with Israeli counterparts were denounced as traitors and expelled from the Palestinian Journalists Syndicate.

So while Palestinian journalists are opposed to "normalization" with Israel, they are at the same time demanding that Israeli authorities grant them permission to work inside Israel.

Even more, the Palestinian journalists are demanding that Israel provide them with press cards issued by none other than the Israeli government.

Won't the Palestinian journalists be violating their own rules and ideology once they accept press cards issued by the Israeli government? And if they enter Israel and meet with Israelis, won't they also be acting against their own boycott campaign?

What is disturbing is that foreign journalists based in Israel have not come out against the campaign of intimidation against their Israeli colleagues. Could it be because these foreign journalists have also been facing threats and want to stay on good terms with Palestinian reporters, and will also agree to report only on "Palestinian suffering"?

Gone are the days when Israeli and Palestinian journalists used to work together and exchange information on a daily basis, in the days before the peace process started.

Today, there is a new generation of Palestinian journalists who have evidently been radicalized to a point where any meeting with an Israeli is being viewed as a "crime." This is the result of anti-Israel incitement by the Palestinian Authority and Hamas, especially over the past two decades.

Aware that many Palestinian journalists have been so radicalized that some are willing to resort to violence, the Palestinian Authority, together with the American security detail, banned a large number of Palestinian journalists from covering the visit of U.S. President Barack Obama to Ramallah last month.The biggest fear was that a Palestinian journalist might even attempt a physical assault against Pres. Obama. 

Islamist Rebels Create Dilemma on Syria Policy

The New York TimesBy BEN HUBBARD     April 27, 2013

CAIRO — In Syria’s largest city, Aleppo, rebels aligned with Al Qaeda control the power plant, run the bakeries and head a court that applies Islamic law. Elsewhere, they have seized government oil fields, put employees back to work and now profit from the crude they produce.
Across Syria, rebel-held areas are dotted with Islamic courts staffed by lawyers and clerics, and by fighting brigades led by extremists. Even the Supreme Military Council, the umbrella rebel organization whose formation the West had hoped would sideline radical groups, is stocked with commanders who want to infuse Islamic law into a future Syrian government.
Nowhere in rebel-controlled Syria is there a secular fighting force to speak of.
This is the landscape President Obama confronts as he considers how to respond to growing evidence that Syrian officials have used chemical weapons, crossing a “red line” he had set. More than two years of violence have radicalized the armed opposition fighting the government of President Bashar al-Assad, leaving few groups that both share the political vision of the United States and have the military might to push it forward.
Among the most extreme groups is the notorious Al Nusra Front, the Qaeda-aligned force declared a terrorist organization by the United States, but other groups share aspects of its Islamist ideology in varying degrees.
“Some of the more extremist opposition is very scary from an American perspective, and that presents us with all sorts of problems,” said Ari Ratner, a fellow at the Truman National Security Project and former Middle East adviser in the Obama State Department. “We have no illusions about the prospect of engaging with the Assad regime — it must still go — but we are also very reticent to support the more hard-line rebels.”
Syrian officials recognize that the United States is worried that it has few natural allies in the armed opposition and have tried to exploit that with a public campaign to convince, or frighten, Washington into staying out of the fight. At every turn they promote the notion that the alternative to Mr. Assad is an extremist Islamic state.
The Islamist character of the opposition reflects the main constituency of the rebellion, which has been led since its start by Syria’s Sunni Muslim majority, mostly in conservative, marginalized areas. The descent into brutal civil war has hardened sectarian differences, and the failure of more mainstream rebel groups to secure regular arms supplies has allowed Islamists to fill the void and win supporters.
The religious agenda of the combatants sets them apart from many civilian activists, protesters and aid workers who had hoped the uprising would create a civil, democratic Syria.
When the armed rebellion began, defectors from the government’s staunchly secular army formed the vanguard. The rebel movement has since grown to include fighters with a wide range of views, including Qaeda-aligned jihadis seeking to establish an Islamic emirate, political Islamists inspired by the Muslim Brotherhood and others who want an Islamic-influenced legal code like that found in many Arab states.
“My sense is that there are no seculars,” said Elizabeth O’Bagy, of the Institute for the Study of War, who has made numerous trips to Syria in recent months to interview rebel commanders.
Of most concern to the United States is the Nusra Front, whose leader recently confirmed that the group cooperated with Al Qaeda in Iraq and pledged fealty to Al Qaeda’s top leader, Ayman al-Zawahri, Osama bin Laden’s longtime deputy. Nusra has claimed responsibility for a number of suicide bombings and is the group of choice for the foreign jihadis pouring into Syria.
Another prominent group, Ahrar al-Sham, shares much of Nusra’s extremist ideology but is made up mostly of Syrians.
The two groups are most active in the north and east and are widely respected by other rebels for their fighting abilities and their ample arsenal, much of it given by sympathetic donors in the gulf. And both helped lead campaigns to seize military bases, dams on the Euphrates River and the provincial capital of Raqqa Province in March, the only regional capital entirely held by rebel forces.
Nusra’s hand is felt most strongly in Aleppo, where the group has set up camp in a former children’s hospital and has worked with other rebel groups to establish a Shariah Commission in the eye hospital next door to govern the city’s rebel-held neighborhoods. The commission runs a police force and an Islamic court that hands down sentences that have included lashings, though not amputations or executions as some Shariah courts in other countries have done.
Nusra fighters also control the power plant and distribute flour to keep the city’s bakeries running.
While many residents initially feared them, some have come to respect them for providing basic services and working to fill the city’s security vacuum. Secular activists, however, have chafed at their presence. At times, Nusra fighters have clashed with other rebels who reject their ideology.
In the oil-rich provinces of Deir al-Zour and Hasaka, Nusra fighters have seized government oil fields, putting some under the control of tribal militias and running others themselves.
“They are the strongest military force in the area,” said the commander of a rebel brigade in Hasaka reached via Skype. “We can’t deny it.”
But most of Nusra’s fighters joined the group for the weapons, not the ideology, he said, and some left after discovering the Qaeda connection.
“Most of the youth who joined them did so to topple the regime, not because they wanted to join Al Qaeda,” he said, speaking on the condition of anonymity for fear of retaliation.
As extremists rose in the rebel ranks, the United States sought to limit their influence, first by designating Nusra a terrorist organization, and later by pushing for the formation of the Supreme Military Council, which is linked to the exile opposition group, the Syrian National Coalition.
Although led by an army defector, Gen. Salim Idris, the council has taken in the leaders of many overtly Islamist battalions. One called the Syrian Liberation Front has been integrated nearly wholesale into the council; many of its members coordinate closely with the Syrian Islamic Front, a group that includes the extremist Ahrar al-Sham, according to a recent report by Ms. O’Bagy, of the Institute for the Study of War.
A spokesman for the council, Louay Mekdad, said that its members reflected Syrian society and that it had no ties to Nusra or other radical groups. “The character of the Syrian people is Islamic, but it is stupid to think that Syria will turn into Afghanistan,” he said. “That’s just an excuse for those who don’t want to help Syria.”
The Obama administration has said it needs more conclusive information before it acts on the Syrian government’s reported use of chemical weapons. It remains unclear whether such action would translate to increased support for the rebels.
In the past, United States officials saw the Islamist groups’ abundant resources as the main draw for recruits, said Steven Heydemann, a senior adviser at the United States Institute of Peace, which works with the State Department.
“The strategy is based on the current assessment that popular appeal of these groups is transactional, not ideological, and that opportunities exist to peel people away by providing alternative support and resources,” he said.
Mr. Heydemann acknowledged, however, that the current momentum toward radicalism could be hard to reverse.
The challenge, he said, is to end the conflict before “the opportunity to create a system of governance not based on militant Islamic law is lost.”
Emile Hokayem, a Middle East analyst at the International Institute for Strategic Studies, framed the rebels’ dilemma another way: “How do you denounce the Nusra Front as extremists when they are playing such an important military role and when they look disciplined, resourceful and committed?”
From the start, the Syrian government has sought to portray the rebels as terrorists carrying out an international plot to weaken the country, and the rise of extremist groups has strengthened its case and increased support among Syrians who fear that a rebel victory could mean the end of the secular Syrian state.
Many rebels and opposition activists complain about the Western focus on Islamist groups, some even dismissing the opposition’s ideological differences.
“We all want an Islamic state and we want Shariah to be applied,” said Maawiya Hassan Agha, a rebel activist reached by Skype in the northern village of Sarmeen. He said a country’s laws should flow from its people’s beliefs and compared Syrians calling for Islamic law with the French banning Muslim women from wearing face veils.
“In France, people don’t like face veils so they passed laws against them,” he said. “It’s the same thing here. It’s our right to push for the laws we want.”
An employee of The New York Times contributed reporting from Aleppo, Syria.

Friday, April 26, 2013

Time to confront Obama
By Caroline B. Glick 4-26-13

The time has come for Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu to confront US President Barack Obama.

A short summary of events from the past three days: On Tuesday morning, the head of the IDF's Military Intelligence Analysis Division Brig. Gen.

Itay Brun revealed that the Syrian government has already used "lethal chemical weapons," against Syrian civilians and opposition forces. Brun described footage of people visibly suffering the impact of chemical agents, apparently sarin gas.

Hours later, US Secretary of State John Kerry said Netanyahu had told him on the telephone that "he was not in a position to confirm" Brun's statement.

It is hard to imagine the US was taken by surprise by Brun's statement. Just the day before, Brun briefed visiting US Defense secretary Chuck Hagel on Syria. It is not possible he failed to mention the same information.

And of course it isn't just the IDF saying that Syrian President Bashar Assad is using chemical weapons. The British and the French are also saying this.

But as a European source told Ma'ariv, the Americans don't want to know the facts. The facts will make them do something about Syria's chemical weapons. And they don't want to do anything about Syria's chemical weapons.

So they force Netanyahu to disown his own intelligence.

Thursday afternoon, in a speech in Abu Dhabi, Hagel confirmed, "with some degree of varying confidence," that Syria used chemical weapons, at least on a "small scale."

What the administration means by "some degree of varying confidence," is of course, unknowable with any degree of varying confidence.

Then there is Iran.

Also on Tuesday, the former head of IDF Military Intelligence, Maj.-Gen. (res.) Amos Yadlin, said that Iran has already crossed the red line Israel set last year. It has already stockpiled 170 kg. of medium-enriched uranium, and can quickly produce the other 80 kg. necessary to reach the 250 kg. threshold Netanyahu said will mark Iran's achievement of breakout capability where it can build a nuclear arsenal whenever it wants.

Yadlin made a half-hearted effort Wednesday to walk back his pronouncements. But his basic message remained the same: The die has been cast.

Due to American pressure on Israel not to act, and due to the White House's rejection of clearcut reports about Iran's stockpile of enriched uranium, Iran has crossed the threshold. Iran will be a nuclear power unless its uranium enrichment installations and other nuclear sites are destroyed or crippled. Now.

True, the Americans set a different red line for Iran than Israel. They say they will not allow Iran to assemble a nuclear bomb. But to believe that the US has the capacity and the will to prevent Iran from climbing the top rung on the nuclear ladder is to believe in the tooth fairy - (see, for instance, North Korea).

Iran has threatened to use it nuclear arsenal to destroy Israel. Have we now placed our survival in the hands of Tinkerbell? And yet, rather than acknowledge what Iran has done, Netanyahu, President Shimon Peres and Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon carry on with the tired act of talking about the need for a credible military option but saying that there is still time for sanctions and other non-military means to block Iran's quest for the bomb.

Perhaps our leaders are repeating these lies because they want to present a unified US-Israel front to the world. But the effect is just the opposite.

What their statements really demonstrate is that Israel has been brought to its knees by its superpower patron that has implemented a policy that has enabled Iran to become a nuclear power.

Indeed, the US has allowed Iran to cross the nuclear threshold while requiring Israel to pretend the course the US has followed is a responsible one.

The announcement that the US has agreed to sell Israel advanced weapons specifically geared towards attacking Iran should also be seen in this light. Israel reportedly spent a year negotiating this deal. But immediately after its details were published, the US started backing away from its supposed commitment to supply them. The US will not provide Israel with bunker-buster bombs.

It will not provide Israel with the bombers necessary to use the bombs Israel isn't getting. And anyway, by the time Israel gets the items the US is selling - like mid-air refuelers - it will be too late.

When, after overthrowing Saddam Hussein's regime in Iraq, the US failed to find chemical weapons in the country, then-president George W. Bush's Democratic opponents accused Bush of having politicized intelligence to justify his decision to topple Saddam. In truth, there is no evidence that Bush purposely distorted intelligence reports. Israel's intelligence agencies, and perhaps French ones, were the only allied intelligence arms that had concluded Saddam's chemical weapons - to the extent he had them - did not represent a threat.

The fact that Bush preferred US and British intelligence estimates over Israeli ones doesn't mean that he politicized intelligence.

In contrast, what Obama and his advisers are doing represents the worst case of politicizing intelligence since Stalin arrested his senior security brass rather than heed their warnings of the coming German invasion of the Soviet Union in June 1941.

Never in US history has there been a greater misuse and abuse of US intelligence agencies than there is today, under the Obama administration.

Take the Boston Marathon bombings. Each day more and more reports come out about the information US agencies had - for years - regarding the threat posed by the Boston Marathon bombers.

But how could the FBI have possibly acted on those threats? Obama has outlawed all discussion or study of jihad, Islamism, radical Islam and the Koran by US federal government agencies. The only law enforcement agency that monitors Islamic websites is the New York Police Department.

And its chief Ray Kelly has bravely maintained his policy despite massive pressure from the media and the political class to end his surveillance operations.

Everywhere else, from the Boston Police Department to the FBI and CIA, US officials are barred from discussing the threat posed by jihadists or even acknowledging they exist. People were impressed that Obama referred to the terrorist attack in Boston as a terrorist attack, because according to the administration-dictated federal lexicon, use of the word terrorism is forbidden, particularly when the act in question was perpetrated by Muslims.

Then there are the Palestinians. On Thursday, it was reported that in the midst of everything happening in the Middle East, Obama is planning to host a peace conference in Washington in June to reinstate negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians.

The terms of reference for the conference are reportedly the 2002 Arab League "peace plan."

Among other things, that plan requires Israel to accept millions of hostile foreign-born Arabs to whatever rump state it retains following a "peace" agreement with the PLO. In exchange for Israel agreeing to destroy itself, the Arab peace plan says the Arabs will agree to have "regular" relations with Israel. ("Regular" by the way, is a term devoid of meaning.) During his visit here last week, Kerry announced that the new US policy towards the Palestinians is to pour billions of dollars into the Palestinian economy. Among other things, the administration is going to convince US companies like Coca-Cola to open huge plants in Judea and Samaria.

Sounds fine. But as usual, there is a catch. The administration wants US firms to build their factories in Area C, the area of Judea and Samaria over which, in accordance with the agreements they signed with Israel, the Palestinians agreed Israel should hold sole control.

In essence, the policy Kerry announced is simply an American version of the EU's policy of seeking to force Israel to give up control over Area C.

Area C, of course, is where all the Israeli communities are, and almost no Palestinians live.

Those Israeli communities and the 350,000 Jews who live in them are the strongest assertion of Israeli sovereign rights to Judea and Samaria. So the EU - and now the Americans - are doing everything they can to force Israel to destroy them. The campaign to coerce Israel into surrendering its sole control over Area C is a central component of that plan.

It cannot be said often enough: The administration's focus on the Palestinian conflict with Israel in the midst of the violent disintegration of the Arab state system and the rise of jihadist forces throughout the region, coupled with Iran's steady emergence as a regional power, is only understandable in the framework of a psychiatric - rather than policy - analysis.

For the past five years, perhaps Netanyahu's greatest achievement in office has been his adroit avoidance of confrontations with Obama. With no one other than the US willing to stand with Israel in public, it is an important national interest for Jerusalem not to have any confrontations with Washington if they can possibly be avoided.

This attempt to avoid confrontations is what made Netanyahu agree to Obama's anti-Jewish demand to deny Jews their property rights in Judea and Samaria in 2010. This is undoubtedly what stood behind Netanyahu's decision to apologize to Turkish Prime Minister Recep Erdogan during Obama's visit to Israel last month. That apology constituted a moral abandonment of the IDF naval commandos who Netanyahu's government sent - virtually unarmed - to face Turkish terrorists affiliated with al-Qaida and Hamas aboard the Mavi Marmara terror ship.

To a degree, all of Netanyahu's seemingly unjustifiable actions can be justified when weighed against the need to avoid a confrontation with America.

But by now, after five years, with Iran having passed Israel's red line, and with chemical weapons already in play in Syria, the jig is up.

Obama does not have Israel's back.

Contrary to the constant, grinding rhetorical prattle of American and Israeli politicos, Obama will not lift a finger to stop Iran from becoming a nuclear power. He will not lift a finger to prevent chemical weapons from being transferred to the likes of al-Qaida and Hezbollah, and their colleagues in Syria, or used by the Syrian regime.

From Benghazi to Boston, from Tehran to Damascus, Obama's policy is to not fight forces of jihad, whether they are individuals, organizations or states. And his obsession with Palestinian statehood shows that he would rather coerce Israel to make concessions to Palestinian Jew-haters and terrorists than devote his time and energy into preventing Iran from becoming the jihadist North Korea or from keeping sarin, VX and mustard gas out of the hands of Iran's terrorist underlings and their Sunni competitors.

No, Israel doesn't want a confrontation with Washington. But we don't have any choice anymore.

The time has come to take matters into our own hands on Syria and Iran. In Syria, either Israel takes care of the chemical weapons, or if we can't, Netanyahu must go before the cameras and tell the world everything we know about Syria's chemical weapons and pointedly demand world - that is US - action to secure them.

As for Iran, either Israel must launch an attack without delay, or if we can't, then Netanyahu has to publicly state that the time for diplomacy is over. Either Iran is attacked or it gets the bomb.