Tuesday, March 03, 2015

03-Mar-15: Which way? A time to choose

No one knows yet just where the speech (text here) delivered with passion by Israel's prime minister to a joint session of the US Congress in the past hour and urging American negotiators and decision-makers to maintain restrictions on Iran until Iran's aggression is brought to an end, is going to take us. We're at the intersection pictured below. It's time to choose which way to go.


And yes, it's a real place, if you're wondering, in Sydney, Australia (here). Thanks to our friend David S. for snapping the photo.

Sunday, March 01, 2015

01-Mar-15: Facts, dam facts, and non-factual inventions aimed at the gullible

Friday's revised AFP report on that Gaza flooding
[Screen capture from this source]
A number of news channels reported this past Monday ["23-Feb-15: Dam!"] about a malicious Israeli "attack dam" strategy. With Hamas regime spokespeople in Gaza as their sole source, they dutifully parroted serious charges about Israel deliberately opening the gates of dams in southern Israel so that floodwaters would pour into the teeming communities of the wretched Hamas-dominated Gaza Strip. 

Not a single reporter saw anything to confirm the claims. The dams were never named or located or photographed. 

None of this, however, prevented some of the most respected names in journalism from reporting that Israel's actions were malicious and calculated to increase Gazan suffering.

We followed up a day later ["24-Feb-15: The mess that the receding flood waters reveal"] with some observations about how some of the silly media people were dealing with having been conned: 
  • Ma'an, the self-styled "independent" Palestinian Arab news source that had run the story (here) as its main lead during last Sunday's evening hours, left it online, unchanged (you can see that it's still unchanged today). Headlined "Hundreds of Palestinians flee as Israel opens dams into Gaza Valley", the piece reports as fact that "Israeli authorities opened a number of dams near the border, flooding the Gaza Valley in the wake of a recent severe winter storm."
  • The influential Chinese newsagency, Xinhua, reported it too, and made no change once the facts got clearer. It too has left the story as it was, unmoved by the actual facts even today.
  • Egypt's Al Akhbar reported it on the first day ("Israel's Open Dams Flood Gaza, Hundreds Evacuated"), and it too found no need to update it, to modify the charges, or to investigate the facts as received from the Hamas-controlled ministry that announced them. The same is true as of today: Sunday's bogus Al Akhbar story still stands.
  • Aljazeera's version changed its version of the story, to their credit, quoting Israeli sources and presenting a more balanced version while repeating the made-up Hamas claims.
  • The Russian RT news agency editors also ran with the Hamas claims, but a day later tried to clean their act up by modifying the original headline and some of the contents too, to project a "he said/she said" narrative. As we noted, RT's editors didn't claim to conduct any actual investigation into the facts. Getting it from Hamas was evidently sufficient validation for them.
There are others as well. But the most interesting of the list is Agence France-Presse ("...the oldest news agency in the world and one of the largest", according to its Wikipedia entry). They published and syndicated the Hamas whopper on Day One to their huge subscriber base. But by the following day the story had already been removed. Clicking on the story's original link [http://news.yahoo.com/video/gaza-village-floods-israel-opens-163038474.html] produced an AFP error message. 

On Friday, the French agency issued a completely-changed version of its tune.
"For the residents [of Gaza], there was no doubt: Israel was responsible after deliberately opening "a dam" to flood the enclave. But an examination of the facts on the Israeli side tells another story, shattering a long-held Palestinian myth... [AFP]
(There's a video version of AFP's February 27, 2015 shattering-the-myth report here.)

Here's what AFP's new take on the attack-dams story does not do:
  • Does not make any mention of its disgraceful original report
  • Does not acknowledge that its gullible reporters and editors accepted at face value a string of Hamas claims about Israeli malfeasance, and did so without making the smallest effort at checking the facts until it ran into a torrent of criticism from readers and media watchdogs
  • Does not apologize for its role in creating the Hamas myth and then spreading it as "news" throughout its subscriber base
  • Does not name and shame the Hamas individuals who fed it the original story
  • Does not name and shame the AFP stringers, AFP reporters, AFP news editors, AFP fact-checkers and AFP syndication editors who had only one job to do (report and disseminate the facts on an objective and verifiable basis) and failed miserably.
Affairs like the attack-dam myth get propagated widely because, for the professionals of the news reporting industry, their anti-Israel character is enough to overcome the absence of a factual basis and the nonsense logic underpinning them. For those of us who depend on them (to whatever extent) for information and ideas, we have much to fear from today's industrialized mainstream news channels.

Saturday, February 28, 2015

28-Feb-15: That was shocking and dangerous, whine the sadistic, murdering thugs

Shocked: Inner circle of Hamas child abusers, with Haniyeh and Meshaaal in the
central roles [Image Source]
The terror-addicted Hamas Islamists who boast of kidnapping and murdering teenagers, of executing a massacre outside a night spot frequented by youngsters, of bombing a pizzeria filled with children are outraged. Yes, outraged.

From Reuters today:
Hamas says Egypt listing it as terrorist organization is 'shocking and dangerous' | GAZA Sat Feb 28, 2015 7:45am EST | (Reuters) - An Egyptian court decision to list Hamas as a terrorist organization is "shocking and dangerous," the Islamist group said a statement from Gaza on Saturday. "The Egyptian court's decision to list the Hamas movement as a terror organization is shocking and is dangerous, and it targets the Palestinian people and its factions of resistance," the statement said. "It will have no influence on the Hamas movement, which enjoys the respect of all the nation and the leaders of the nation."
Xinhua this evening quotes Hamas calling the Egyptian ruling
"a coup on history...  a despaired (sic) Egyptian attempt to export the internal Egyptian crisis, but it will never influence Hamas' status which (has) gained the respect of Arabs and Muslims all over the world"
The growing isolation of Hamas is a work in progress. A year ago, the Egyptian Urgent Matters Court, the same legal forum that handed down today's decision
banned all activities by the Palestinian Islamist movement Hamas and ordered the seizure of its offices and assets... Egypt's interim government designated the Brotherhood a terrorist group in December [2013], five months after President Mohammed Morsi was ousted by the army. A Hamas spokesman, Sami Abu Zuhri, condemned the court ruling. "The decision harms the image of Egypt and its role towards the Palestinian cause," he told Reuters news agency. "It reflects a form of standing against Palestinian resistance." [BBC]
Hamas is regarded as an outlaw by a long list of states [see this Wikipedia table].
  • Canada lists Hamas as a terrorist entity. 
  • The European Union designated Hamas as a terrorist group from 2003 to 2014, a status annulled for now by its General Court in December 2014 for "technical" reasons: see "17-Dec-14: Has Hamas just been whitewashed by Europe?". The EU and its 28 member states are maintaining its funding freeze and sanctions against Hamas and Hamas members for now. 
  • New Zealand, the United Kingdom, Egypt (on January 31, 2015) and Australia all list Hamas' so-called "military wing" as a terrorist organization. Japan froze Hamas assets in 2005, 
  • The Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan banned Hamas in 1999 but (typically for the country) gives it considerable on-again/off-again freedom to operate. 
  • Saudi Arabia outlawed the Muslim Brotherhood, of which Hamas is an offshoot, in 2014, terming it a terrorist organization; several Hamas insiders have been quoted in the past month expressing optimism about a new Saudi "openness" since the January 23, 2015 death of King Abdullah bin Abdul-Aziz Al Saud.
  • Hamas is designated by the United States as a Foreign Terrorist Organization. 
The demonstrable Hamas devotion to extreme violence, cold-blooded murder, bombings, shootings, stabbings and sadistic child abuse are not incidental to their approach to life and to Jews. They are central to it:
Initiatives, and so-called peaceful solutions and international conferences, are in contradiction to [Hamas] principles... There is no solution for the Palestinian question except through Jihad. Initiatives, proposals and international conferences are all a waste of time and vain endeavors... [from Hamas Charter, Article 13]
Many people know (though far fewer have actually read it) that Hamas has a Charter in which they give confident, full-volume publicity to their blood lust and (in their own words) its Islamic underpinnings. Their boastful strategy works with huge effect in the Arab world and among non-Arab Moslems for whom bloodshed appears to serve as a kind of grotesque magnet.

When the president of the United States says, as he did on Wednesday 18, 2015 in the White House, that
We are not at war with Islam. We are at war with people who have perverted Islam... No religion is responsible for violence and terrorism. People are responsible... We have to make sure ... that we do not stigmatize entire communities... [Aljazeera]
he reminds us ("we are at war" and "people are responsible") how much of a mistake it can be to attack people for their religious beliefs. It's clear to us that Hamas acting in the name of Islam is a matter for them - and much less so for us. For us, what's important is the things they do: the viciousness of their hatred, the amorality of their murderous violence, the utter absence of any recognizable Hamas moral compass.

The Egyptians are right when they say the people of Hamas are terrorists. And President Obama is right when he says we are at war with them. Now if only we could get the US State Department ["14-Sep-13: Memo to Secretary of State Kerry: Your staff need some urgent guidance"] to finally pay attention to those truths.

Friday, February 27, 2015

27-Feb-15: Being a Jew on Europe's streets

Belgium, 2015 [Image Source: The Guardian]
Sirens are sounding throughout Europe. Increasingly, the warnings they express are encountering willful deafness.

The analysis below from Jonathan Tobin in Commentary Magazine ought to be read far and wide - if not by Europeans of every kind then at least by Europe's Jews and those who care for their well-being.

Contentions | If European Jews Must Live in Fear, Why Was Netanyahu Wrong?
Jonathan S. Tobin | Commentary Magazine, February 26, 2015

Last week, Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu took a pasting from pundits and even some Jewish leaders when he reacted to the attack on Copenhagen synagogue by repeating his call for European Jews to “come home” to Israel. Many people were uncomfortable with the prime minister’s open advocacy for Zionism. But the problem goes deeper than that. Despite the recent violence against Jews in Paris and Copenhagen, denial about what even the U.S. State Department has termed a “rising tide” of anti-Semitism still exists. But yesterday’s comments by a German Jewish leader advising fellow Jews not to identify themselves by wearing yarmulkes while walking in certain sections of the country is yet more confirmation that what Europe is experiencing is a revival of Jew hatred that can’t be ignored. If Jews must live in fear even in a country that supposedly has learned the lessons of the Holocaust, then what hope is there for Jews on the Continent other than to seek protection elsewhere.

A new Pew Research Center study shows that Jews were harassed or oppressed by their governments in 77 of the 198 countries covered by the survey. That includes a frightening total of 34 out of 45 countries in Europe. Yet the problem with accepting the reality of European anti-Semitism arises from a reluctance to place the blame for this prejudice on the haters rather than the victims.

One example came this week from “Science Guy” Bill Nye, the popular science educator and television star. On Bill Maher’s HBO show Real Time, Nye said that the problems of European Jews stem from their reluctance to make friends with those who hated them. Attacking Netanyahu’s Zionist stand, Nye said the answer was that Jews should do more “to get to know their neighbors,” as if the roots of centuries of European anti-Semitism was the unwillingness of the victims to undertake outreach to anti-Semites.

That was offensive enough, but an even better example of the mentality that tolerates this new wave of anti-Semitism came from a British Jew. Harry Potter Actress Miriam Margolyes told the Guardian, “I don’t think people like Jews” but blamed the current outbreak on Israel since it gave Britons an excuse to vent their true feelings because of anger about the Gaza war. Like most British artists Margolyes blamed Israel for defending itself against Hamas terrorism and said the backlash against Jews was therefore somehow understandable, if deplorable. Her stance was both uninformed and illogical but it reflects the attitudes of English and other European elites who have, in a strange confluence of opinion, come to share the prejudices of Muslim immigrants who have helped revive traditional Jew hatred on the continent.

Blaming the Jews for being clannish (the conceit of Nye’s bizarre comments) sounds more like 19th century anti-Semitism, but even if we only focus on the way anti-Zionism has allowed traditional hatred to undergo a revival, there is no longer much doubt about the fact that it is becoming open season on Jews on the streets of Europe. A viral video of a Jewish journalist strolling through Paris wearing a kippah being abused by passersby is one more confirmation of a trend that can only be denied by those with ulterior motives.

European Jews may still prefer to think of themselves as safe, free, and prosperous and the political leaders of their countries may often say the right thing about anti-Semitism. But if Jews can no longer walk the streets of Europe’s capitals while identifying themselves with their faith or fear to speak out in defense of Israel lest they face opprobrium, then they cannot pretend to be truly free. The choice whether to stay or to go is personal, and it is difficult for anyone to pick up and leave their homes even under duress.

But, as it did throughout the 20th century, history continues to vindicate the cause of Zionism. The Jews of Europe cannot pretend to be secure or to be confident that worse is not in store for them. Netanyahu was right to speak up about them having a haven where they will be able to defend themselves. Those inclined to denigrate his remarks should stroll about Europe’s streets while identifying themselves as Jews before they speak.

27-Feb-15: CVE revisited

Who was not at the "Countering Violent Extremism" conference
is almost as interesting as who was [Image Source]
Some non-mainstream analysis here ["Islamists Featured at Countering Violent Extremism Summit", Ryan Mauro of Clarion Project, February 24, 2015] on how last week's Obama White House summit "featured Islamists known for preaching those same themes that the White House cited as the cause of terrorism".

Bearing in mind the media gave (and got) very little information about who participated (and who didn't), the article offers up some startling profiles, leading to this conclusion:
President Obama rightly stated that these threats emanate from destructive themes and worldviews, but the answer isn’t to deny that that there is an extremist interpretation of Islam that is the source of these destructive worldviews. And the answer isn’t to give a platform to gradualist Islamists whose final goal is the establishment of a global caliphate and forceful implementation of sharia law, just like Al Qaeda and the Islamic State. The answer is to exalt those who offer an alternative narrative altogether.
Let's hope the analyst, and others too, follows up with a look at the post-Summit messages these invited White House guests deliver to those in their spheres of influence.

In case you missed our take on the conference, written before it convened, check out "18-Feb-15: Countering Vacuous Euphemisms" and "20-Feb-15: US fears and our nightmares". For a more robust criticism than ours, see "10 Troubling Aspects of President Obama’s ‘Countering Violent Extremism’ Summit".

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

25-Feb-15: A step closer to making the PA unable to keep funding its terror addiction

Aftermath of a January 27, 2002 human bomb attack on central Jerusalem's
Jaffa Road, directly across the street from the Sbarro pizzeria,
[Image Source]
Many readers will already know about the major legal victory ["Palestinian Groups Are Found Liable at Manhattan Terror Trial"] achieved on Monday when the Palestinian Authority and the Palestine Liberation Organization were found liable by a jury in Federal District Court, Manhattan, for the roles they played in knowingly supporting six terror attacks in the Jerusalem, Israel, area between 2002 and 2004.

A relevant terrorism law provides for the automatic tripling of the $218.5 million damages awarded by the jury. (The plaintiffs’ attorney sought an order of $350 million.) So the defendants are ordered to pay $655.5 million. According to the New York Times report,
In at least two previous cases, in which judges entered default judgments against them for more than $100 million, the groups reached confidential settlements, court records show.
So there's some history of extracting money from them. Lawyers for the plaintiffs say that if the Palestinian Arab entities fail to pay, the groups’ assets can be seized in the United States and elsewhere.

This case was filed by the plaintiffs in 2004. A decade is a long time for a case to run its course, but the likelihood is there will be still more delays before the court-ordered damages are collected. To no one's great surprise, the PA have said they will appeal. Mahmoud Khalifa, their deputy minister of information, says the PA are
"confident that we will prevail, as we have faith in the U.S. legal system and are certain about our common sense belief and our strong legal standing. This case is just the latest attempt by hard-line antipeace factions in Israel to use and abuse the U.S. legal system to advance their narrow political and ideological agenda..." [New York Times]
But meanwhile, it's clear that several things of enduring importance have been achieved. In the words of the NYT report
While the decision on Monday was a huge victory for the dozens of plaintiffs, it could also serve to strengthen Israel’s claim that the supposedly more moderate Palestinian forces were directly linked to terrorism.
Does the word claim really belong in that last sentence? A jury and a judge sat listening to testimony and evaluating piles of evidence for nearly seven weeks. In the end, they found they had a solid basis for deciding and so they handed down a resounding verdict. The evidence made it impossible to ignore, and the political spinmeisters with their pretentious circumlocutions ("violent extremism", for instance) are not allowed into the court.

The plaintiffs are 10 families, about three dozen people. Eight individual plaintiffs had been physically injured in the attacks; many of the others were "left with deep psychological scars, testimony showed" (NYT). In all, the terror attacks that underpin the case took the lives of 33 people and left more than 450 injured. The law under which the action was brought - the Anti-Terrorism Act, which allows cases dealing with international terrorism to be heard in United States courts - requires that the injured and dead must be Americans. The number of plaintiffs would have been far larger otherwise.

The usually taciturn Mahmoud Abbas comes perilously
close to smiling as he and freshly released life-term
murdering terrorists strut and high-five in a Ramallah
victory parade, August 13, 2013 [Image Source]
We are struck by the high-sounding words of that information ministry politician. When he blames the bad outcome (all bad outcomes have to be blamed on someone else, according to the Palestinian Arab playbook) on "hard-line antipeace factions in Israel", was he deaf to the blood-curdling shrieks of joy, jubilation and triumph from his side (presumably he would call them the pro-peace side) cheering the undeserved freedom of convicted and unrepentant murderers during three rounds of US State Department-inspired prisoner releases of Palestinian Arabs from Israeli prisons in 2013-2014?

Those scenes - like the one depicted in the photo on the right - are indelibly engraved in our memory. We expressed the despair of seeing and hearing it happen in several posts like, for instance, "25-Aug-13: Wake up call for those who thought the terrorists are walking free for peace", written after we witnessed the murderers of unarmed Jews
placed on pedestals and given lavish foreign-funded pensions for life... Abbas, who ought to be believed on such things, says this has nothing to do with making peace.
PLO's Ashrawi in Ramallah yesterday: “We cannot pay.
We do not have this money... the Authority is fighting
for its survival. If it collapses, there will be consequences for
the entire world.” [Image Source]
We take some small comfort in the knowledge that Hanan Ashrawi, a smooth-talking, long-term member of the PLO executive committee who testified for the defense in the late stages of the trial, told the jury "We tried to prevent violence from all sides" and was clearly disbelieved.

In fact, as the NY Times account reports,
the plaintiffs showed that many of those involved in the planning and carrying out of the attacks had been employees of the Palestinian Authority, and that the authority had paid salaries to terrorists imprisoned in Israel and had made martyr payments to the families of suicide bombers [New York Times]
and certainly still do today, they might have added.

How much does that cost? Back in 2011, Palestinian Media Watch presented data to US Congressional lawmakers showing the monthly PA outlay on salaries to convicted and imprisoned terrorists came to more than $5 million per month. Assume it has not shrunk since then, and we are talking of about $65 million per year at least. Now terminate that illegal and immoral policy immediately and the PA will have been able to set aside enough in the next decade to satisfy its liability under the verdict. (But holding breaths would probably be a mistake.)

The day their financial condition renders them unable to keep making those payments (may it come soon!) will be one of celebration for those Palestinian Arabs who understand the corrosive effect on their lives of the Arafat/Abbas/Hamas circles' addiction to terror.

25-Feb-15: Talking Turkey on terror

Erdogan and Obama: A relationship based on 'confidence' and
'bonds of trust'. {Image Source: Sunday's Zaman, an influential 
Turkish newspaper]
For some people, terrorism is perceived as a mortal threat against which the most serious of efforts and resources need to be arrayed in order to defeat its practitioners, destroy their capabilities and take them out of the game in every possible way.

For others, it's a justifiable means to an end, and in many cases not merely justified but demanded by a divine authority.

For a third group, it's both.

We have some thoughts to share about Turkey. To us it's clear Turkey currently belongs to that third group.

Turkey happens to be in the news today for several terror-related reasons. In no particular order, one concerns the revolving door that Turkey seems to have put at the service of jihad-bedazzled individuals en route to, and occasionally from, the killing fields of Syria:
Fears emerged on Friday that London students Kadiza Sultana, Shamima Begum and Amira Abase had fled in a bid to become 'jihadi brides' for ISIS terrorists... Counter terrorism police have confirmed that the three schoolgirls who fled the UK to Turkey have crossed the border into Syria. Since then, a diplomatic row has broken out between British and Turkish authorities on the details of how the schoolgirls travelled to the country without more thorough checks being carried out... [Mirror UK last night]
You get a small sense of rising British irritation at the Turkish tolerance of pro-jihad affection from how the BBC focused on the same affair yesterday:
Turkey's Deputy PM Bulent Arinc said officials would have taken "necessary measures" had they known earlier... Mr Arinc said: "It is a condemnable act for Britain to let three girls... come to Istanbul and then let us know three days later. They haven't taken the necessary measures. The search is ongoing. It would be great if we can find them. But if we can't, it is not us who will be responsible, but the British." ...But Scotland Yard has said it began working with Turkish authorities a day after the girls went missing. The girls boarded a Turkish Airlines flight at Gatwick, and would have required a visa to enter the country... Commons Home Affairs Committee chairman Keith Vaz said there needed to be "much closer co-operation" with Turkey in tackling the problem of people travelling through the country to Syria and Iraq. [BBC, February 24, 2015]
On the other hand, Turkey's counter-terror persona is on display in this recent Agence France-Presse story:
The EU said Monday it will launch anti-terror projects with Muslim nations and boost intelligence sharing following the Paris attacks, as anger over the Charlie Hebdo cartoons fed fresh protests and violence. Foreign ministers meeting in the shadow of the Islamist attacks and a wave of arrests across Europe agreed on the need to work with Arab nations and Turkey in particular to counter the growing threat... ["EU to launch anti-terror drive with Muslim countries", January 19, 2015]
Then again, which threat exactly?
Prime Minister Ahmet Davuto─člu has said that Turkey and Pakistan will “continue their cooperation and solidarity in the fight against terror and Islamophobia” around the world... The Turkish prime minister emphasized that it was time for all humanity to work “shoulder to shoulder” against all kinds of racist, xenophobic and Islamophobic tendencies. [Hurriyet (Turkey), February 17, 2015]
It's a taste of the pretend game that involves stretching the notion of terrorism and the fight against it until it encompasses whatever threat happens to be top of that political figure's list of current concerns.

The pretense falls away, however, once Israel enters the picture. Here's part of an important (we think) story on the Ynet site today under the title "Forced from Damascus, Hamas establishing itself in Turkey" [Ynet | February 25, 2015] by Alex Fishman: an example of "talking Turkey". Some selected quotes:
  • Relations been Israel and Turkey have been on a slippery downward slope in recent years; of late, however, the situation has led to grave consequences beyond the realm of politics: Turkey has become a Hamas hotbed, and members of the organization's military wing are undergoing military training on Turkish soil, with the knowledge, support and assistance of the local authorities
  • The US administration has appealed in recent months to the Turkish government to prevent Hamas military activity in its territory, arguing that Turkey is a member of NATO and that Hamas is viewed by most NATO members as a terrorist organization. The appeals have gone unanswered
  • Hamas set up its so-called West Bank and Jerusalem Headquarters in Istanbul immediately following the organization's expulsion from Damascus in 2011. 
  • In 2013, Hamas underwent restructuring, and the organization expanded the activities of the Turkey-based headquarters, headed by Salah Al-Arouri, who was deported from Israel in the past. Among others, under him now in Turkey are 20 militants released as part of the Gilad Shalit deal, including the likes of Zaher Jabarin and Jihad Yarmur, who were involved in the murder of soldier Nachshon Wachsman.
  • ...Since Jordan does not allow Hamas activists to undergo military training on its soil, the recruits are sent to the headquarters in Istanbul, where they receive security clearances and are sent for military training just outside the city – under the watchful eye of Turkish intelligence officials... From there, they go the West Bank to engage in terror activities and establish clandestine terror cells.
  • May and August of last year saw the arrest [by Israel - we wrote about it here: "27-Nov-14: Hamas terrorist ring is busted; Israel says the handlers operate from Turkey"] of 93 terror activists who were planning to carry out a series of attacks in the Palestinian Authority in an effort to destabilize and topple the government. Heading the terror network was Riad Nasser, a veteran Hamas operative who was working in conjunction with the headquarters in Istanbul...
  • [T]he Turkey-based command center has been behind several of the violent events that have occurred in Jerusalem and on the Temple Mount in recent months.
  • The killers of the three Israeli teenagers prior to Operation Protective Edge were also deployed by the headquarters in Turkey. Furthermore, a significant portion of the arms in the hands of Hamas in the West Bank were purchased and sent there by the headquarters in Istanbul.
Turkey happens to be on the minds of a lot of people here. On ours too: here are some earlier posts
Australian visitors at the 2013 ANZAC Day commemoration in Turkey
amid a rising sense of impending terrorism [Image Source: Daily Mail UK]
Turkey's relationship with terror has already prompted people better connected than we are to ask whether its dangerous, threatening and frankly irresponsible stand doesn't warrant having it expelled from NATO - this commentator in 2014, for instance, and this one today.

We wrote in an earlier post ["18-Jul-14: Before holidaying in Turkey, some messages to bear in mind"] that "We happen to have warm feelings for the Turks and their gorgeous country. But it is impossible to ignore some of the very ugly events unfolding there." One of our children finished his university studies there and the experience was overwhelmingly positive.

But now we are hoping people, and in particular Australians, will take a careful view of where Turkey stands and what it does. 

This fast-approaching Anzac Day, April 25, will be the 100th anniversary of "probably Australia's most important national occasion". An even larger Australian presence than in previous years is going to tale part in the centennial commemoration in Turkey. And while it's always uplifting to see former rivals and enemies overcome differences and celebrate the humanity that they hold dear in common, it's a mistake (as we pointed out here: "14-Jan-15: A reminder that hateful conspiracy theories are not only found in dark corners") to think profound differences of outlook on core ideas can be papered over or wished out of existence. 

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

24-Feb-15: The mess that the receding flood waters reveal

The Anadolu (Turkish news agency) caption reads:
"Hundreds of Palestinians were evacuated from
their homes Sunday morning after Israeli
authorities opened a number of dams
near the border, flooding the Gaza Valley
in the wake of a recent severe winter storm.
Anadolu/Ashraf Amra"
Here's some follow-up to a post ["23-Feb-15: Dam!"] we published yesterday about the uncritical, lazy and irresponsible way some news agencies carry stories, often originating from notoriously partisan sources, that pin damaging allegations against Israel without bothering themselves to check whether they're true or made-up.

First, a clear and unambiguous assertion: yesterday's widely published news reports about Israel opening up dams in the vicinity of the Gaza Strip are in the made-up category.

The story, based on allegations that no reporter claims to have investigated or to have proven, exists in order to validate perpetual claims from the Palestinian Arab power structure - in this case, from Hamas - of Palestinian Arab victimhood and Israeli malevolence.

Once invented and handed to gullible reporters and editors, stories like the one about Israel's "attack dams" go public and become part of the news cycle. Their anti-Israel character, it seems, is enough to overcome the absence of a factual basis and the nonsense logic underpinning them.

The most direct version of the libelous story can be found in Ma'an, the self-styled "independent" Palestinian Arab news source about which we posted critical comments on Sunday. It ran this story as its main lead during Sunday's evening hours; the article remains online and unchanged as of today:
Hundreds of Palestinians flee as Israel opens dams into Gaza ValleyHundreds of Palestinians were evacuated from their homes Sunday morning after Israeli authorities opened a number of dams near the border, flooding the Gaza Valley in the wake of a recent severe winter storm.
The Chinese newsagency, Xinhua, reported it too, and has made no change since then:
Israel opens dams, floods Gaza | Mufid al-Hasaynah, minister of Housing and Public Works in the Palestinian unity government, told Xinhua that Israel deliberately increases the suffering of the Gazans.
Egypt's Al Akhbar reported it yesterday ("Israel's Open Dams Flood Gaza, Hundreds Evacuated"), and has found no need to update it or modify the charges. Or to investigate the facts as received from the Hamas-controlled ministry that announced them.

The major French news agency Agence France-Presse ("...the oldest news agency in the world and one of the largest", according to its Wikipedia entry) published it too. But click on its link now [here] and you get an error message:


The nonsense article has been removed by the AFP editors, leaving behind this text: "Hmmm... the page you're looking for isn't here. Try searching above". Perhaps it should read:
"Hmmm, you discovered we trusted Hamas with predictable consequences. In future, try searching at a more reliable source".
In any event, no apology from AFP and no explanation for the article or its removal.

Aljazeera's version of the bogus story has been changed, and now carries this doctored headline: "Israel denies causing Gaza floods by opening dams". We should have archived the original version but did not. However the URL gives a clear indication of the headline it used to have:
http://www.aljazeera.com/news/2015/02/gazans-flee-floods-caused-israel-dams-opening-150222115950849.html
To their credit, Aljazeera's editors now open their account with what they ought to have reported a day earlier:
Israel has rejected allegations by government officials in the Gaza strip that authorities were responsible for released storm waters flooding parts of the besieged area.
"The claim is entirely false, and southern Israel does not have any dams," said a statement from the Coordinator of Government Activites in the Territorities (COGAT).
"Due to the recent rain, streams were flooded throughout the region with no connection to actions taken by the State of Israel."
Over at the Russian RT news agency, the editors have tried to clean their act up by modifying the original headline and some of the contents too. Yesterday their story was entitled "Israel opens dams forcing hundreds of Gazans out of flooded houses", and asserted as fact that "In the wake of a recent severe winter storm in the region, Israeli authorities opened the floodgates to discharge the accumulated water." Today at the same URL it's called "Palestine accuses Israel of opening dams, flooding Gaza, forcing evacuations". Not much better, but in the face of the criticism directed at their editorial foolishness, it's a concession. And in the body of the piece, they now add:
In a letter to RT regarding the issue, Israel’s Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT) maintained that “the claim is entirely false."
As for RT actual investigation into the facts, their editors evidently don't feel the need. Getting it from Hamas is apparently sufficient validation for them.

No one was killed. But the affair gives a useful - if depressing - insight into how packaged news on the Arab/Israel conflict (and many other matters) gets its character and makes its way into our living rooms and heads. There is much to fear from today's industrialized mainstream news channels.

Monday, February 23, 2015

23-Feb-15: Dam!

Flooding in a Gazan urban street: Not this week, and not because of any
Israeli dams (there are none in the area) but because of heavy rain in November 2014
and chronic Hamas municipal malfeasance [Image Source]
The "independent" Palestinian Arab news agency Ma'an (about whom we had some comments just a few hours ago) ran this story as its main lead during the evening hours yesterday (Sunday):
Hundreds of Palestinians were evacuated from their homes Sunday morning after Israeli authorities opened a number of dams near the border, flooding the Gaza Valley in the wake of a recent severe winter storm.

Aljazeera ran with a similar report, as did Agence France-Presse, the Chinese Xinhua news agency, Russia's RT and Egypt's al-Akhbar. All quoted Gaza ministries as their source. None of them named or located the dams. Not one of them said a reporter of theirs saw anything to confirm the central claim. But all were able to report that this was malicious and intended to increase Gazan suffering.

It's not the first year we are hearing of un-named Zionist dams that are opened at precisely the same time as torrential rains wash through Gaza's under-invested, sewer-deficient communities bringing havoc in their wake. See "How Hamas used the weather to defame Israel" from last winter, as an instance.

There were also torrential rains in the area at the start of the winter, just a few weeks ago. The reliably hostile UNRWA published reports [here] about the damage at that time, along with appeals for more help, without once mentioning an Israeli hand in the disaster. That's because there was none. Of course, it might have been helpful if they had said what they know about Hamas' chronic and deliberate failure to improve infrastructure, facilities and life for the unfortunate Gazan population living under their rule. But that kind of thing is not in UNRWA's charter.

As for the notorious "Gaza Valley", does anyone out there know where in the narrow coastal plain it's located? And if we can ask that question, why can't the lazy editors at those news outlets? They are at least as culpable as the thugs inside Hamas are.

For the record, Honest Reporting sought and got a relevant quote this morning from a respectable Israeli source, the Spokesperson’s Office of the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT):
The claim is entirely false, and southern Israel does not have any dams. Due to the recent rain, streams were flooded throughout the region with no connection to actions taken by the State of Israel. Prior to the storm, the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories allowed the transfer of four water pumps belonging to the Palestinian Water Authority from Israel into Gaza to supplement the 13 pumps already in the Gaza Strip in dealing with any potential flooding throughout the area.
Stand by to see those newsagencies listed above promptly issue a prominent correction, and express thanks to COGAT for relieving widespread regional concerns about malicious Zionist use of attack-dams.

Kidding aside, shouldn't they?

23-Feb-15: Funding Palestinian Arab terror: a UK aspect

Prime minister David Cameron speaks at
Eid al-Adha celebration, October 8, 2014 [Image Source]
For readers who asked us to expand on the questions we raised in "08-Feb-15: Foreign money and the Palestinian Arab terror it buys", here's the prime minister of the United Kingdom speaking about the UK's contribution:
If you look at who funds the Palestinian authority, again, Britain is one of the most generous donors, not just to help with aid but also to help with governance and with expertise so that Palestine can have the statehood that it so richly deserves. [PM David Cameron in his 2014 Eid al-Adha reception speech at 10 Downing Street]
That February 8 post we mentioned is about how Palestinian Arab terrorism and corruption are funded by taxpayer money from countries whose citizens have no discernible interest in encouraging or supporting it. There's no secret about the Mahmoud Abbas-controlled PA and its massive payments to convicted killers and assorted other terrorists. (For doubters, start here.) 

Just knowing this will provide some perspective to the crescendo of warnings in the media this week about what might happen if the PA is "toppled". But can we point out that there is no discernible crescendo of alarm at the ongoing diversion of unsustainably large amounts of cash by the always-out-of-money Abbas people to reward convicted terrorists and thereby encourage others to follow in their blood-stained footsteps?

It's endlessly astonishing to us how politicians can condemn terror while the cameras are rolling and fund and/or encourage it when seated at their desks or pow-wowing with their civil servants. Britain is certainly not worse than the many other states engaged in this

From experience, the most usual reaction given by spokespeople for those governments when asked bluntly why they do it is to fix their gaze at some point in the far off distance and wait for the questioning to end.

The money they invest in this might be yours.

23-Feb-15: Lessons learned, and not learned, from an Australian encounter with jihad

Australia's Martin Place siege in December 2014 was a front-page event
everywhere. Now it's time for the lessons learned [Image Source]
In Australia, the government says it is prepared to act in the face of the growing pile of evidence that terrorism is not only not retreating but metastasizing and reaching places that no one expected even a short time ago. Extracts (all direct quotes) from an Aljazeera report today:
  • [Prime minister Tony] Abbott said the threat at home was getting worse with security agencies currently running more than 400 high-priority "counterterrorism" investigations, which is more than double the number just one year ago.
  • Canberra says it has since carried out a series of raids amid the alleged departure of at least 110 Australian nationals to Iraq and Syria to fight with ISIL.
  • "By any measure, the threat to Australia is worsening," the prime minister said in an address following the release of a government review into December's  deadly siege  at a cafe in Sydney. "The number of foreign fighters is up. The number of known sympathisers and supporters of extremism is up. The number of potential home-grown terrorists is rising... In proclaiming a caliphate, the Islamist death-cult [referring to ISIL] has declared war on the world."
  • [He] announced that his government will tighten immigration laws and crack down on groups that incite hatred under a raft of counterterrorism measures introduced in a bid to combat the threat from "home-grown terrorists". The measures announced on Monday would revoke or suspend Australian citizenship for dual nationals who fight alongside "terror groups" overseas, axe welfare payments and consular services to those involved in terrorism and clamp down on "hate preachers," or groups that incite religious or racial hatred.
  • "Even if the flow of foreign fighters to Syria and Iraq stopped today, there's an Australian cohort of hardened jihadists who are intent on radicalising and influencing others," said Abbott. "The signs are ominous."
  • The government review found no major faults with multiple agencies that failed to detect Monis was a threat, despite the fact that he was out on bail on sexual assault and accessory to murder charges. But Abbott acknowledged the system itself had failed, saying Monis should never have been allowed into Australia, should not have been out on bail and should not have been able to get a gun.
(Monis is the Australian Islamist, an immigrant from Iran, who died in a hail of police gunfire on December 15, 2014 after holding hostages for 16 hours inside central Sydney's Cafe Lindt.)

The hard talk and plain logic of the Australian political leadership today makes a lot more sense to us than some of the initial assessments appearing in the media after the Martin Place Sydney killings. At that time, prime minister Abbott was quoted saying:
"This was the act of a deeply unstable person with a long history of violence and mental illness. This was the act of someone who is way beyond any mainstream – any mainstream – and has been rightly, absolutely repudiated by all of the communities of Australia.” [source]
But with the taste of real, personal, existential fear still bitter in the mouths of many Australians, and the realization that "deeply unstable person" might not be the most insightful way to think about the threats, some difficult questions are left after all the speeches, assurances and post-event findings. 

An analysis in the Sydney Morning Herald today, by its chief political correspondent, for instance ["Sydney siege report: Biggest question left unanswered in review"]:
Specifically on Monis, the National Security Hotline had taken 18 calls from concerned members of the public regarding his website  in the six days before the December 15 siege at the Lindt Cafe. Crucially, Monis had announced his conversion from Shia to Sunni Islam - the sect to which Islamic State and al-Qaeda belong. Those complaints were referred to ASIO, the Australian Federal Police, and in some cases, the NSW Police. Each was dismissed... [SMH today]
And
Remember the context. Australia had just had its national security alert system moved from medium to high. A terrorist attack in Australia was regarded as likely. The advent of IS had presaged a dangerous new threat: spontaneous "lone-wolf" attacks licensed by a one-way propaganda model where extremists were invited to initiate whatever harm they could. It had already seen some deadly attacks abroad and sparked "chatter" of similar intent here... This was a systemic failure. [SMH today]
We happen to have received a response this morning from the Australian government in Canberra about Australian support for media glorification of our daughter's murderer. (Our daughter was born in Australia.) Today's letter, about which we plan to write later, gives assurances that in our view are without a basis in fact, and largely misses the points we think Australians should be confronting. Even when faced with evidence that Australian policy is providing a fig-leaf for the incubation of terror and terrorists, its officials choose (like many governments and NGOs) to back off. We can see why this might seem right to them; but it's not. (The circumstances and background are here.)

But what seems right to a civil servant or a security official from a distance might be considerably less right when immediate mortal danger and actual casualties stare you in the face. That's why a comment of prime minister Abbott's yesterday ought to be on the minds of the Australian officials with whom we are currently exchanging viewpoints:
"Precisely where we draw the line in the era of terrorism will need to be reconsidered," he said... "We need to ask ourselves, at what stage do we need to change the tipping point from protection of the individual to the safety of the community? Obviously we need to look at what are the relevant triggers for concern and ask ourselves what should be the consequence if concerns are triggered." [ABC Radio, February 22, 2015]
His questions are worth pondering in Canberra and in Amman and practically anywhere that terrorism is emerging (i.e. everywhere). In an age of rampant, expanding jihad, who can afford systemic failures?

Sunday, February 22, 2015

22-Feb-15: Stabbing attack in Jerusalem's City Hall Square; the terrorist is apprehended by the mayor and his bodyguard

Safra Square and City Hall, Jerusalem, on a less fraught day [Image Source]
A stabbing attack in Jerusalem's City Hall Square, Kikar Safra, in the past hour (Sunday 5:30 pm) resulted in a Haredi man of 27 being stabbed and rushed to Jerusalem's Shaarei Zedek Medical Center and the attacker being subdued by the mayor's bodyguard, assisted by Jerusalem's mayor(!). This is Ynet's version:
An ultra-Orthodox man was stabbed by an Arab teen in Jerusalem Sunday evening in a suspected terror attack. The incident took place in Safra Square in central Jerusalem. Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat was present at the scene with his security guard, who helped subdue the terrorist. The incident took place at around 5:30 pm at Safra Square, adjacent to Jerusalem's City Hall... The police say that Barkat and his bodyguard witnessed the event, prompting the guard to overtake the stabber and hold him until forces arrived. Police say the stabber is a 18-year-old Palestinian teen from Ramallah who has now been taken in for questioning. Barkat recalled the event: "I was traveling in a car next to the IDF Square (Safra Sqaure) when my team suddenly saw a terrorist with a knife right next to us. I immediately jumped out of the car together with my team, (my bodyguard) pulled out his gun and together we held the terrorist until security forces arrived; we also attempted to treat the victim." [Ynet]
There's bound to be more detail to follow. And as for knifing attacks by Palestinian Arabs on unarmed, unsuspecting Israelis, it's possible they are not yet at an end either. Very possible.

22-Feb-15: Terming a Palestinian Arab news source 'independent' might require some flexibility of definition

Inside the Ma'an News Agency offices [Source: Ma'an web site]
The indispensable Elder of Ziyon posts a blog under the title "One day after Gazans killed in tunnels, Hamas claims there are no tunnels" today, in which he lets three separate news reports from a notable Arab source pretty much speak for themselves. 

They tell a story that mainstream news editors and reporters know but rarely convey to their readers: that Ma'an, the Palestinian news agency usually described as 'independent', pretty much is not.

Story Number 3 reported by Ma'an New Agency on Saturday (yesterday) afternoon ["Hamas accuses Egyptian media of spreading anti-Palestinian lies"] quotes the notably unlovely Hamas "spokesman" and sometime mule [background here], Sami Abu Zuhri, slamming (that's their word) what he calls
a "Zionist-like" network that had spread the rumors and sought to sow discord between Egypt and Palestine. 
These rumors concern tunnels running between Egypt and Hamas-controlled Gaza. Abu Zuhri from Hamas says they don't exist any more, and that's exactly what Ma'an reports with no if's, and's or but's:
All of the tunnels under the border area, he said, have been destroyed and both Egyptian and Palestinian security forces have been guarding both sides of the borders. [Ma'an, Saturday]
Story Number 2, also from Ma'an News Agency, appeared two days earlier, Thursday, under the give-away title "Hamas fighter, civilian killed in Gaza tunnels near Rafah":
Two Palestinians died in separate incidents in underground tunnels beneath the besieged Gaza Strip and Egypt on Thursday. The al-Qassam Brigades, the military wing of the Hamas movement, said that a fighter in the group was killed during a military mission in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip. The brigades said in a statement that "Muhammad Talal Abu Matar, 25, from western Rafah was killed in a jihadi mission," without providing further details. However, a spokesperson for the Gaza Ministry of Health said that Abu Matar was killed in an accident in one of the tunnels. Also Thursday, a young Palestinian man died after being accidentally electrocuted inside a smuggling tunnel connecting Rafah to Egypt... [Ma'an, last Thursday
Two deaths in non-existent tunnels? And a few days before that, on Monday February 16, there's this ["Egypt finds 2.5 km smuggling tunnel under Gaza border"], also via Ma'an:
Egyptian border guards on Sunday discovered a smuggling tunnel from Gaza which ran at least 2.5 kilometers underground. Egyptian military officials told Ma'an that it was the longest tunnel ever discovered by Egyptian security forces. The opening of the tunnel was found in an unpopulated area near Rafah. Large communication networks connected to satellites were found inside the tunnel. [Ma'an
Elder connects the dots:
Ma'an knows that Hamas is lying, but it doesn't have the integrity - or the bravery - to prove it using its own reporting. Instead, when a terror group releases a statement, Ma'an acts as its mouthpiece, without caveats or context. Just something to keep in mind when one uses Palestinian "independent" media as a news source.
The Ma'an News Agency was launched in 2005 with funding from the Danish and Dutch Representative Offices to the Palestinian National Authority... [It] describes itself as "the main source of independent news from Palestine" and "the premier source of independent Palestinian news on the internet". According to a 2007 survey, 95.6% of Palestinians with internet access "frequently visit" the site... [Ma'an] claims that it "scrupulously maintains its editorial independence and aims to promote access to information, freedom of expression, press freedom, and media pluralism in Palestine." The Ma'an Network was founded with the goal of creating a media source that was free of factional control, unlike the major existing broadcasters such as Hamas' Al-Aqsa TV and Fatah's Palestine TV... Funding for Ma'an Network comes from advertising revenue and from foreign donors... [Wikipedia]
Ma'an self-promotion [Image Source]
People who track the scandalous story of how foreign aid money lubricates the Palestinian Arab hate/terror machinery know, it's none too easy getting those foreign donors to take a critical view of what's being done with their (tax-payers') money. Ma'an's funding, according to a March 2007 analysis published by NGO Monitor, which assiduously tracks what happens to foreign aid to the Palestinian Arabs, comes from
the US government's Middle East Partnership Initiative (MEPI) and United States Institute of Peace; the Netherlands Ministry of Foreign Affairs; the Denmark Ministry of Foreign Affairs; the US-based National Endowment for Democracy and Academy for Educational Development; the United Nations Development Programme and European Commission Technical Assistance Office. ["The Ma'an Network: Promoting Understanding or a Radical Palestinian Agenda?", NGO Monitor | March 2007]
The report concludes by pointing out that the Ma'an Network has close links to highly politicised non-governmental organizations that "promote conflict rather than internal development or peace-building" with the result that what it actually does "contradicts the funding aims of its donors.and contradicts the funding aims of its donors." Could it be the donors don't know this? Perhaps they ought to be advised to get their news and analysis from better sources.