* Columbia University professors plan Iran trip to “apologize” to Ahmadinejad
* Palestinians bombed the American International School in Gaza today
* Protests against The Los Angeles Times’s “anti-Semitic cartoon”
* “I divorce you by text message because you didn’t answer your husband”
* Al-Qaeda makes its jihad videos available to download to your cell phone
* U.S. army blogger dies in Iraq, writes about his own death
1. “Ahmadinejad secretly met with U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates in Qatar”
2. Columbia University professors and deans “plan to apologize to Ahmadinejad”
3. Protests against The Los Angeles Times’s “anti-Semitic cartoon”
4. Libya vetoes UN condemnation of rocket attack on Israel from Lebanon
5. Israel complains that UNIFIL is leaking information to Hizbullah
6. Palestinian doctor held by Libya files torture charges
7. Olmert prevents Israeli terror victims from condemning Fatah
8. Palestinian poll as Bush visits: only 9% say Israeli occupation is their main concern
9. “I divorce you by text message because you didn’t answer your husband”
10. Spreading jihad by cell phone
11. U.S. army blogger dies in Iraq, writes about his own death
12. U.K. Bishop warns of “no-go zones for non-Muslims across Britain”
13. Oxford mothers condemn school’s halal meat decision
14. “Operetta in two acts” (By Hillel Halkin, New York Sun, Jan. 8, 2008)
15. “Iran 1, USA 0” (By Ralph Peters, New York Post, Jan. 8, 2008)
[All notes below by Tom Gross]
“AHMADINEJAD SECRETLY MET WITH U.S. DEFENSE SECRETARY ROBERT GATES IN QATAR”
Citing Russian, Arab and Swiss sources, the Iranian publication Entekhab reports on a secret meeting between Iran’s dictator Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates in Qatar.
According to these sources Gates and Ahmadinejad agreed a non-aggression pact and the meeting occurred on the same day that the Pentagon and the CIA released the hitherto top secret National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) report on Iran’s nuclear program to the media. (The meeting, according to the sources, preceded the release of the NIE report by a few hours.)
The Arabic source is al-Watan al-Arabi.
Entekhab appears to be an opposition publication and it is of course possible that these reports are incorrect. (Entekhab used to be a popular daily in Iran, and it is currently run as a news agency from the U.S. Entekhab means “choice” or “election” in Farsi.)
Nevertheless, as Iran expert and Giuliani advisor Michael Rubin points out to me, rumors can be important in their own right in a region where perception means more than reality. “Certainly, if the White House had been more consistent and transparent on Iran policy, such rumors wouldn’t fly,” he adds.
U.S. President George W. Bush is currently on the second day of an eight-day tour of the Middle East. In Israel yesterday, Israeli defense and security officials showed Bush classified information that demonstrates that the American National Intelligence Estimate suggesting that Iran abandoned plans for nuclear weapons in 2003, is wrong.
(For background on the NIE, see:
* British intelligence: Israelis are right, U.S. is wrong; Iran is rushing to acquire nukes (Dec. 11, 2007)
* Ahmadinejad doesn’t want a nuclear bomb? Just like there are no gays in Iran? (Dec. 6, 2007)
COLUMBIA UNIVERSITY PROFESSORS AND DEANS “PLAN TO APOLOGIZE TO AHMADINEJAD”
Iran’s Mehr News Agency reports that a group of senior professors and deans of faculties from Columbia University plans to travel to Iran in order to present their “formal apologies” for “the insulting remarks Columbia University President Lee Bollinger made to President Ahmadinejad.”
While condemning Bollinger, the delegation – which is said to include deans and/or professors from the faculties of history, anthropology, Middle Eastern studies, philosophy and Islamic studies – have failed to properly condemn Ahmadinejad for his Holocaust denial and his threats to further the genocide of the Jews by wiping out Israel.
UPDATE: The “Teheran apology” trip has now been confirmed by sources at Columbia.
(For background on Ahmadinejad’s visit to Columbia, see:
* Deny Holocaust? Get welcomed by Columbia University (Sept. 24, 2007)
* “Bravo, bravo, bravo, Columbia!” (& Hillary Clinton “confirms” Israel took out Syrian nukes) (Sept. 27, 2007)
PROTESTS AGAINST THE LOS ANGELES TIMES’S “ANTI-SEMITIC CARTOON”
There have been widespread protests against The Los Angeles Times after it carried what many said was a blatantly anti-Semitic cartoon earlier this week to accompany yet another piece slurring Israel by the historical revisionists Stephen Walt and John Mearsheimer.
The cartoon showed America, dressed as Uncle Sam, in a concentration camp inmate-type uniform, with his hands manacled in handcuffs shaped as a Star of David.
As I have documented previously on this website, Professors Walt and Mearsheimer have done much to stir up anti-Semitic feeling in the United States and beyond in the last two years with a series of false and slanderous accusations against American Jews.
There has also been criticism of The Times of London which ran a lengthy feature yesterday full of untrue statements about Israel. Even the article’s byline was incorrect, referring to “a wall built on 2500 years of implacable enmity and hatred”. Islam was in fact only founded in the 7th century AD.
LIBYA VETOES UN CONDEMNATION OF ROCKET ATTACK ON ISRAEL FROM LEBANON
Last week, in a move that shocked people who genuinely care about human rights (as opposed to the many phony “human rights groups”), Libya assumed the presidency of the United Nations Security Council.
In one of its very first moves, Libya blocked a resolution yesterday condemning the unprovoked firing the day before of Katyusha rockets by Hizbullah or a related terror group from Lebanon into civilian homes in the Israeli town of Shlomi.
Israel says that the attack – which much of the international media failed to report – was a clear and serious violation of UN Resolution 1701, which ended the war between Israel and Hizbullah in the summer of 2006.
Libya’s term in the rotating UN presidency lasts one month.
ISRAEL COMPLAINS THAT UNIFIL IS LEAKING INFORMATION TO HIZBULLAH
Israel has also once again complained to the Italian and French-led UNIFIL forces in south Lebanon that they are doing next to noting to prevent the smuggling of Syrian and Iranian arms across the Syrian-Lebanese border. Nor, says Israel, have they taken any action at all to disarm the militias in south Lebanon, in accordance with the UN Security Council resolutions.
On Tuesday, Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak told a conference of military officials that Hizbullah now had more – and longer-range – missiles than it had prior to the war it fought against Israel during the summer of 2006. UNIFIL was supposed to disarm the terror group.
Furthermore Israeli defense officials yesterday raised concerns that information they were regularly passing on to UNIFIL concerning Hizbullah’s military buildup in southern Lebanon was then being leaked to Hizbullah, either directly, or indirectly by Lebanese army officials with whom UNIFIL shared the Israeli information with.
For more on Hizbullah, see here.
PALESTINIAN DOCTOR HELD BY LIBYA FILES TORTURE CHARGES
A Palestinian doctor who was imprisoned with five Bulgarian nurses by Libya for eight years on trumped up charges of deliberately infecting Libyan children with AIDS, has filed a complaint with the UN Human Rights Committee charging that he was tortured during his captivity. Ashraf Al-Hazouz and the nurses were pardoned last summer after a deal with the Libyan government was brokered by France. (In return, France arranged for Libya to received hundreds of millions of dollars in economic benefits.)
At the time of their release, all six were forced by the Libyan regime to sign a statement saying they were treated well while in captivity. But immediately after they arrived in Bulgaria they gave interviews outlining what they said was “horrific torture,” including the use of electric shocks, beatings and violation of their bodies with blunt instruments.
The Associated Press reports that Dr. Al-Hazouz has been warned by European Union officials not to sue because it could undermine diplomatic relations between European states and Libya. Al-Hazouz says he will ignore the European Union warnings.
OLMERT PREVENTS ISRAELI TERROR VICTIMS FROM CONDEMNING FATAH
There was anger among many in Israel yesterday after the Jerusalem police, acting on orders from Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, arrested a group of Israeli mothers who had lost their children in Palestinian suicide bombings, for distributing a booklet to foreign journalists detailing Mahmoud Abbas’ Fatah movement’s involvement in terrorist attacks.
They had been handing out the booklet to coincide with George W. Bush’s visit to Jerusalem yesterday. Police released the group without charge once most of the foreign journalists had moved on to Ramallah in the West Bank.
The booklet, “Fatah as ‘Moderate’: A Hard Look Post-Annapolis,” can be found in English here.
In a not very nice welcome yesterday, Reuters reports that 20,000 Islamists in Gaza protested against “Vampire” Bush. Using international aid money still pouring into Gaza, they brandished thousands of placards showing George W. Bush as a vampire swigging Muslim blood.
And today Palestinians in Gaza launched a rocket attack on the local American International School in protest against President Bush’s visit. Witnesses said large parts of the school were damaged by rockets, mortars and explosive devices. The attack came hours after several Palestinian groups called on Palestinians to kill Bush.
The Israeli newspaper Ma’ariv today asks why Israel has not devoted greater resources to explaining the plight of Jews who were forced to leave Arab and Islamic countries in the years after 1948. The editors assert that “Someone must remind Bush: There were more Jewish refugees from Arab countries than Palestinian refugees, and more Jewish property was confiscated than Palestinian property.”
And The Jerusalem Post today opines that “the most important thing Bush can do in Ramallah is to say to the Palestinians that if they want a state they must stop spewing hatred and glorifying terrorism. Rather than constantly using the ‘right of return’ as code for Israel’s destruction, Abbas must tell his people the truth: a Palestinian state requires giving up the dream of Greater Palestine, making peace with the Jewish democracy of Israel, and building a state alongside it in most of the West Bank and Gaza.”
PALESTINIAN POLL AS BUSH VISITS: ONLY 9% SAY ISRAELI OCCUPATION IS THEIR MAIN CONCERN
President Bush, who today visited the West Bank, might want to consider the results of this poll, taken by a leading Palestinian polling company. It shows that contrary to what Condoleezza Rice and various journalists would have us believe, most Palestinians are much less concerned about ending the Israeli “occupation” than they are about finding reliable and honest leaders to govern any future Palestinian state.
The poll was taken in the run-up to Bush’s visit by the Near East Consulting company in Ramallah on the West Bank. 959 Palestinians over the age of 18 from the West Bank and the Gaza Strip were interviewed by phone.
Among the results:
What is the main issue that makes you feel concerned?
The economic hardship of my household: 29%
The absence of security for my family and me: 19%
The internal power struggle: 27%
The Israeli occupation: 9%
Family problems: 3%
I have no concerns: 13%
Do you support the security plan by the caretaker (Palestinian) government, and the collection of weapons (from Palestinian militia)?
What is your level of optimism about the future?
Very optimistic: 10%
Very Pessimistic: 9%
Do you think the new aid to the Palestinians will be managed properly by the Palestinian Authority?
Which party do you support?
West Bank residents:
Islamic Jihad: 2%
I trust none of these factions: 47%
Islamic Jihad: 5%
I trust none of these factions: 27%
Perceptions about Hamas’ position towards the elimination of Israel, according to region:
West Bank residents:
Hamas should maintain its position: 35%
Hamas should change its position: 65%
Gaza Strip residents:
Hamas should maintain its position: 39%
Hamas should change its position: 61%
“I DIVORCE YOU BY TEXT MESSAGE BECAUSE YOU DIDN’T ANSWER YOUR HUSBAND”
The Egyptian government-run daily al-Akhbar reports from Cairo that a woman is seeking clarification from a court on whether her husband’s declaration of divorce by text message is legally valid.
After missing a call from her husband on her mobile phone, Iqbal Abul Nasr received a text message from him which read: “I divorce you because you didn’t answer your husband.”
In line with Sharia law, Egyptian men do not need to go to court to file for divorce. A unilateral declaration of divorce by a man, repeated three times, formally ends a marriage. Mrs. Abul Nasr, an engineer from Cairo, received three such text messages from her husband, says the newspaper.
If a family court declares the couple divorced, it would be the first reported case of divorce by SMS text message in Egypt.
SPREADING JIHAD BY CELL PHONE
First (as I reported on my January 2 dispatch) al-Qaeda’s second-in-command Ayman al Zawahri announced he was becoming a blogger. Now al-Qaeda says it is preparing propaganda videos you can download to your cell phone, reports The Associated Press from Cairo:
In an effort to extend its influence and its message, al-Qaeda is reissuing batches of its video recordings in formats suitable for viewing on cell phones.
Al-Qaeda’s media wing, al-Sahab, has announced the move on websites commonly used by Islamic militants. Yesterday eight previously recorded videos were made available including a tribute to Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the former al-Qaeda in Iraq leader, killed by U.S. forces in June 2006.
... Watching videos on cell phones is increasingly popular in the Middle East. Clips showing former Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein’s execution in December 2006 showed up on cell phones soon after his death. In Egypt, images showing police brutality have been passed around via handsets...
U.S. ARMY BLOGGER DIES IN IRAQ, WRITES ABOUT HIS OWN DEATH
An American army officer who blogged from Iraq for The Rocky Mountain News in Colorado has been killed in an attack in the north of the country.
The U.S. army said Major Andrew Olmsted died with another American soldier when insurgents attacked with small arms near Sadiyah, 100 miles north-east of Baghdad.
But before he left for Iraq in July, he penned a final entry about his death in the event that he did not make it back, and this has now been published posthumously.
“I’m dead,” he wrote in July 2007 as he arrived in Iraq for an 18-month tour of duty. “But if you’re reading this, you’re not, so take a moment to enjoy that happy fact.”
“[Being dead] sucks, at least for me and my family and friends,” he wrote. “But all the tears in the world aren’t going to bring me back, so I would prefer that people remember the good things about me rather than mourning my loss.”
In his final post, Olmsted, 37, warned against making his death an argument for or against the war.
“My life isn’t a chit to be used to bludgeon people to silence on either side,” Olmstead wrote. “I have my own opinions about what we should do about Iraq, but since I’m not around to expound on them I’d prefer others not try and use me as some kind of moral capital to support a position I probably didn’t support.”
He added that one of the things he would miss the most would be “not being able to blog any longer… The ability to put my thoughts on (virtual) paper and put them where people can read and respond to them has been marvelous, even if most people who have read my writings haven’t agreed with them.
“If there is any hope for the long term success of democracy, it will be if people agree to listen to and try to understand their political opponents rather than simply seeking to crush them.”
The editor of The Rocky Mountain News, John Temple, said news of Olmstead’s death was “devastating”:
“The major was a brave man who obviously thrived on sharing his experiences and thoughts on his blog. He provided a perspective on Iraq that would have been impossible for a journalist.”
U.K. BISHOP WARNS OF “NO-GO ZONES FOR NON-MUSLIMS ACROSS BRITAIN”
Writing in the (London) Sunday Telegraph, one of Britain’s most senior clerics, the Rt. Rev Michael Nazir-Ali, the Bishop of Rochester, has warned that people of different faiths risk physical attack if they live or work in communities in Britain dominated by radical Muslims.
Islamic extremists have created “no-go” areas across Britain where it is too dangerous for non-Muslims to enter, writes Bishop Nazir-Ali, who is the Church of England’s only Pakistani-born bishop.
Bishop Nazir-Ali added that attempts are being made to give Britain an increasingly Islamic character by introducing the call to prayer and wider use of sharia law, a legal system based on the Koran.
OXFORD MOTHERS CONDEMN SCHOOL’S HALAL MEAT DECISION
Scarcely a day goes by without further reports of Islamic customs encroaching on the British way of life.
The Oxford Mail reports from Britain’s famous university town:
Mums have criticised an Oxford [primary] school for serving halal meat in children’s lunches without their knowledge.
Parents of pupils at Rose Hill Primary School, in The Oval, were angered by a letter they received from headmistress Sue Mortimer.
It informed them the halal meat, which involves slaughtering animals in a special way for consumption by Muslims, had been used in all school meals as part of the school’s inclusion policy.
The letter said the reason for the decision was that since halal meat was not forbidden by any religion or culture, its use would allow everyone to choose a meat dish for lunch.
But parents had not been consulted… Mum-of-three Sharon Haynes, 35, from Radford Close, said: “Why should we let our kids eat halal meat?”
I attach two articles below. The first relates to the chances for Israeli-Palestinian peace as Bush visits. The second argues that the lack of reaction last Sunday by the U.S. Navy (as five armed Iranian speedboats belonging to the Revolutionary Guard harassed American naval ships in international waters in the Gulf of Hormuz) “guarantees that American sailors will die at Iranian hands in the future.” (The writers of both articles are subscribers to this email list, as is Michael Rubin, mentioned above.)
-- Tom Gross
THE ILLUSION OF SUCCESSFUL PEACE TALKS
Operetta in Two Acts
By Hillel Halkin
New York Sun
January 8, 2008
President Bush’s brief visit to Israel and the Palestinian territories tomorrow and Thursday will be staged as an operetta in two acts.
In Act One, the president will meet with Prime Minister Olmert in Jerusalem, where he will be told of Israel’s determination to conduct successful peace talks with the Palestinians, to remove illegal outposts, and to ease up on military checkpoints, and where he will in turn assure the prime minister that America is behind him.
In Act Two, Mr. Bush will meet with President Abbas of Palestine in Ramallah, where he will be told of the Palestinian Authority’s determination to conduct successful peace talks with Israel, to crack down on terror, and to put European and American foreign aid to productive use, and where he will in turn assure Mr. Abbas that America is behind him.
Then Mr. Bush will reboard Air Force One and fly on to the next stop of his Middle East tour while most illegal outposts and Israeli military checkpoints stay where they are, no real crackdown on terror takes place, foreign aid to the Palestinians is frittered away by a corrupt bureaucracy, and Israeli-Palestinian peace talks go nowhere in the course of the next year.
The next year, indeed, is about as far ahead as Messrs. Olmert, Abbas, and Bush are thinking. All each of them wants to do is get quietly through it.
Mr. Olmert knows that peace talks with the Palestinians cannot succeed. Even if he were personally willing to make the far-reaching concessions necessary for their success on such matters as borders, Jerusalem, and the refugees, there is no way for him politically to do so without losing his governing coalition in the Knesset.
The two right-of-center parties in this coalition have made it clear that they will desert him if he tries, and without them he would have to agree to new elections that he cannot win and might not even get his own party’s nomination to run in. His inability so far to shut down even the outposts, which would be the merest foreplay compared to the mass evacuation of settlers that a peace agreement would entail, illustrates how little room for maneuver he has.
Yet Mr. Olmert also knows that it is only the illusion of successful peace talks that can continue to keep him in the prime minister’s office at all. He is unpopular in the polls, he is still facing several corruption charges even after being cleared of others, and he stands to be badly hurt by the findings, due to be released at the end of this month, of the Winograd Commission’s investigation of the botched 2005 war against Hizbullah that took place on his watch.
The one thing Mr. Olmert has going for him is his coalition partners’ fear of new elections, which could well bring back Benjamin Netanyahu and the Likud party – and this fear needs the window dressing of the peace process to be marketable as concern for the nation. One can count on Mr. Olmert to do all he can in the months ahead to make this process look as promising as possible. Mr. Abbas is in the same boat. He too cannot make the minimal concessions to Israel that might enable negotiations to succeed. He has lost the Gaza Strip to Hamas and his control over his own Fatah is shaky; were he to give in on the refugee or borders, his days would be numbered.
His main selling point to the Palestinian public is his ability to bring in large contributions of money that can partly be pumped into a destitute Palestinian economy and partly divided up among the factions that support him – and to do that he must, just like Mr. Olmert, keep sounding as if peace were around the corner.
As for Mr. Bush, it is reasonable to assume that he knows the score. Unlike the Israeli prime minister and the Palestinian president, he does not have to worry about how long he will stay in office; the number of days, hours, and minutes is already spelled out. Nor will history judge him by what he did or didn’t do about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. He will be judged on the basis of Iraq and it may be years after he leaves the presidency before that judgment is in.
Until then Mr. Bush has nothing to lose by acting as though he were pushing the Palestinians and Israelis forward. When, a year from now, he retires with their problems still unsolved, no one will blame him for it, while if by some miracle progress is made, a good part of the credit will go to him.
In the meantime, he might as well humor Condoleezza Rice and whoever else thinks that a tad more diplomacy, a bit more rationality, and a touch of good is all that is needed for the two sides to arrive at an agreement that has eluded them for the last 70 years, ever since the Arab world turned down the first two-state proposal for Palestine, made by the British-appointed Peel Commission in 1937.
From Israel’s point of view the second term of the Bush administration, none friendlier than which is ever likely to come again in Washington, has been largely squandered.
Instead of trying to negotiate an impossible agreement about the Israel of the future with the Palestinians, Mr. Olmert should have tried harder to negotiate a possible one with Mr. Bush. Now, though, that’s all spilled milk. For 2008, the show can go on.
“WHAT MATTERS IS WHAT THE IRANIANS THINK... WE PLAY CHECKERS, THEY PLAY CHESS.”
Iran 1, USA 0
By Ralph Peters
New York Post
January 8, 2008
Early Sunday morning, the US Navy lost its nerve and guaranteed that American sailors will die at Iranian hands in the future.
As three of our warships passed through the Straits of Hormuz, five small Iranian patrol craft rushed them. As the Revolutionary Guard boats neared our vessels, an Iranian officer broadcast a threat to our ships, claiming they’d soon explode.
The Iranians tossed boxes into the water. Mines? Just in case, our ships took evasive action.
The Iranians kept on coming, closing to a distance of 200 meters – about two football fields. Supposedly, our Navy was ready to open fire but didn’t shoot because the Iranians turned away at the moment the order was given.
We should’ve sunk every one of them. Not because we’re warmongers. But because the Iranians had made threats, verbal and physical, that amounted to acts of war. When will we learn that resolute action taken early saves vast amounts of blood and treasure later?
Oh, from Washington’s perspective we did the right thing by “exercising restraint.” But Washington’s perspective doesn’t amount to a gum wrapper in a gutter. What matters is what the Iranians think.
They now believe that the Bush administration, our military and the entire United States are afraid of them.
It goes back to the politicized and irresponsible recent National Intelligence Estimate that insisted the Iranians had abandoned their nuclear-weapons program years ago.
They didn’t. They’re pursuing enriched uranium as fast as they can. That’s what you need for bombs. At most, Tehran ordered its weaponeering efforts to parade rest – until it has the ingredients it needs, after which building bombs won’t take long at all.
Forget Washington’s trust-fund-twit view of all this: Here’s how the train of thought rolled down the tracks in Tehran:
“The Americans have told the world we don’t want nuclear weapons, even though they know we do want them. That can only mean that America is afraid to confront us, that their weak, defeated president needs an excuse to back down.
“We can push these cowardly Americans now. They’ve had enough in Iraq. Their spirits are broken. Their next president will run away like a gazelle pursued by a lion.
“Even their military is frightened of us. On Sunday, America’s might bowed down to us. They are frightened and godless, and the time has come to push them.”
Sunday’s incident wasn’t a one-off event improvised by the local yokels after a long Saturday night at the hookah bar. It was blessed and carefully planned in Tehran and had practical as well as political goals.
At the tactical level, the Revolutionary Guards’ naval arm was testing our responses: How soon do the American weapons radars activate? At what range do the lasers begin to track targets? How close can a small vessel get to a major American warship? How do the Americans respond to possible mines? Can we use phony mines to steer them into real ones? How long does it take an American commander to make a decision?
Above all: Does an American commander have the courage to make a decision on his own? When he doesn’t have time to deflect responsibility onto his superiors?
And it wasn’t just some madrassa dropout with salt spray on his glasses scribbling notes on the lead Iranian boat. On shore, the Iranians would’ve had all their intelligence facilities tuned in to map our electronic profile as our ships prepared to defend themselves. Rent-a-Russian military experts would’ve been onhand to assist with the newest gear purchased from Moscow.
The Iranians may even have had an escalation plan, in case we opened fire. President Ahmadinejad and his posse may seem contemptible to Washington, but the Iranians think several moves ahead of us: We play checkers, they play chess.
On Sunday, the Iranians tested us. We failed. They’ll probe us again. And every time we fail to react decisively, we raise the number of future US casualties.
Remember the USS Cole? You bet the Iranians do. They plan to better that attack by an order of magnitude.
For almost 70 years, we’ve deployed the finest navy in the history of the world. But it looks increasingly as if we’ve gone from “Damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead!” to “Will this interfere with my next promotion?”