Parting gift?: “Bush to offer Israel crucial new radar system” (& Iranian shell kills Israeli)

May 12, 2008

* Canadian PM Harper: Much criticism of Israel is thinly-veiled anti-Semitism
* Al-Akhbar: “Washington has given Israel green light to invade Gaza”
* Shell that killed Jimmy Kedoshim came from Iran
* Qassam explodes near school bus packed with children



1. Canadian PM: Much criticism of Israel is thinly-veiled anti-Semitism
2. British PM Brown: Israel’s creation one of the 20th century’s “greatest achievements”
3. Parting gift: “Bush set to offer Israel crucial new radar system”
4. Bush and Cheney remain great friends of Israel, despite unpopularity among U.S. Jews
5. Shell that killed Jimmy Kedoshim came from Iran
6. Qassam explodes near school bus carrying children
7. Al-Akhbar: Washington has given Israel green light to invade Gaza
8. Jordan bans “Nakba” commemorations
9. Rafsanjani blames Jews for Holocaust
10. Ahmadinejad: Israel is a “stinking corpse” doomed to disappear
11. Ahmadinejad criticized for saying long-ago 12th Imam leads Iran
12. These business visionaries know when to back a winner
13. Assad: Syria won’t cut Iran, Hamas or Hizbullah ties for deal with Israel
14. Former Guantanamo prisoner takes part in suicide attack
15. “What Spain was in 1936; Lebanon is today”

[All notes below by Tom Gross]


“Some of the criticism brewing in Canada against the state of Israel, including from some members of Parliament, is similar to the attitude of Nazi Germany in the Second World War,” Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper warned last Thursday.

“I guess my fear is what I see happening in some circles is an anti-Israeli sentiment, really just as a thinly disguised veil for good old-fashioned anti-Semitism, which is completely unacceptable,” Harper said in an interview with CJAD/CFRB radio.

“We learned in the Second World War that those who would hate and destroy the Jewish people would ultimately hate and destroy the rest of us as well, and the same holds today.”

(Report from The Ottawa Citizen here.)



British Prime Minister Gordon Brown has congratulated Israel on its 60th anniversary, calling the state’s creation one of the “greatest achievements” of the 20th century.

One should not, however, confuse the attitude of Brown, who is a lifelong friend of Israel – as his father (a Church of Scotland minister) was before him – with the attitude of many British journalists and academics who are lifelong haters of Israel (as in many cases, their fathers were anti-Semites before them).

“Many articles in papers like The Guardian and The Independent have become so stridently anti-Israel that it is difficult to distinguish them from anti-Semitism,” a British Muslim who subscribes to this list said to me last week.

For example, Johann Hari, an award-winning columnist for The Independent, for the second week in a row has written a column so dripping in hatred for Israel, and so packed with misinformation, that even one of his fellow columnists for The Independent, Howard Jacobson, devoted his column this past weekend to criticizing Hari (although Jacobson only dealt with part of what was wrong with Hari’s piece).

I am not going to waste my time further critiquing this latest hateful polemic from Hari – or “Dirty Hari” as British commentator Richard Littlejohn has now called him. You can read my previous item on Hari here: Journalist of the year calls Israel “shit,” as Israel marks Holocaust Memorial Day


There have been many other programs in Britain and elsewhere in the last week, rife with anti-Israel propaganda and revisionist history. For example, the documentary by the BBC’s Middle East editor, Jeremy Bowen, titled “The Birth of Israel,” has been widely criticized. Even such a moderate commentator as Alex Brummer, the Business Editor of The Daily Mail, wrote last week: “The shameful thing is that the revisionist historians have bought into ‘Arab disinformation’. After watching the BBC program the Birth of Israel and delving into the press coverage, one recognizes how corrosive this process has become.”



With new intelligence reports estimating that Iran may have a nuclear weapon by the summer of next year, the Bush administration appears ready to offer Israel a powerful new radar system capable of tracking baseball-sized objects from 2,900 miles away.

While it is not clear that the system could stop a nuclear weapon, it would greatly boost Israeli defenses against ballistic missiles in general while tying it directly into a growing U.S. ballistic missile shield. (Other locations are slated to be the Czech Republic, eastern Turkey, and possibly Georgia.)

President George W. Bush is expected to discuss the matter during his visit to Israel on Wednesday. The initiative has been spearheaded by Rep. Mark Kirk, an Illinois Republican, and Rep. Jane Harman, a California Democrat.

The system, known as a forward-based X-band radar, would let Israel’s Arrow missile defenses engage a Shahab-3 ballistic missile about halfway through what would be its 11-minute flight path from Iran to Israel, or six times sooner than Israel’s “Green Pine” Radar is currently able to do.

In the last year, Iran has expanded its ballistic missile program. In November, Iran tested a new “Ashura” long-range ballistic missile – an upgrade to the “Shahab-3” – capable of hitting Israel and Europe within minutes of launch.


Sources added that Bush and his vice-president Dick Cheney, generally regarded as the best friends Israel has ever had in the White House, wish to rush through as much defense cooperation for Israel as possible, fearful that a Barack Obama presidency could severely curtail military and other aid for Israel.

Cheney said last week: “America’s commitment to Israel’s security is enduring and unshakable, as is our commitment to Israel’s right to defend itself always against terrorism, rocket attacks and other threats from forces dedicated to Israel’s destruction. The United States under this administration will never pressure Israel to take steps that threaten its security.”

In spite of this, Bush and Cheney remain less popular among American Jews, according to opinion polls, than among the general population.

(Incidentally, last time I said something nice about Dick Cheney, I was named the “Worst Person in the Word” on MSNBC’s Countdown program with Keith Olbermann. Olbermann, true to form, misquoted me.)



The mortar shell that killed Jimmy Kedoshim on Saturday came from Iran, according to ballistic experts. Kedoshim, a father of three, was murdered as he tended to his garden in the southern Israeli kibbutz of Kfar Aza. His house took a direct hit from the mortar fired from Gaza. Hamas proudly claimed responsibility for firing it.

Such is their bias, almost no western media have reported on the murder, let alone on the fact that Iran supplied the weapon.

During Saturday alone, at least 20 missiles were fired from Gaza towards Israeli homes. Among the buildings damaged were a synagogue and a building belonging to Sapir Academic College. No foreign religious leaders have condemned the bombing of the synagogue. And no foreign academics have condemned the shelling of Sapir College.

In February, a student was murdered by a Qassam rocket fired at Sapir College, which lies 40 minutes south of Tel Aviv. Until today, to my knowledge, there hasn’t been even one statement of sympathy from all those academics in Britain and elsewhere who never tire of expressing solidarity with Palestinian academics. This is so even though Palestinian campuses have never been targeted for a bomb attack, as the Hebrew University of Jerusalem was in 2002, for example, and Sapir College is now.

As a result of the incessant Qassam fire, over 40 percent of pupils have already fled the Sapir campus and stopped attending classes. Some 40 classrooms and one third of the laboratories are not in use, because they are deemed too vulnerable to rockets and too far from the bomb shelters.

Rockets from Gaza also landed in various other towns and kibbutzim over the weekend and a number of injured Israelis were evacuated to Barzilai Medical Center in Ashkelon.



One of the Qassams that hit Israel’s Negev yesterday, exploded near a school bus packed with children, Ha’aretz (but not international media) reported. There were no casualties, but several children were treated for shock.

Two of the rockets fired on Sunday afternoon from Gaza, hit populated areas in Sha’ar Hanegev. Another again landed near Sapir College, damaging a local construction site.

This morning, a Qassam rocket hit a schoolyard in the Israeli city of Ashkelon just minutes before it would have been full of children.



The Lebanese newspaper Al-Akhbar reported on Saturday that the United States has given Israel a green light to carry out a large-scale military attack against Hamas in the Gaza Strip, following President Bush’s visit this week.

The Israeli town of Sderot is now the most bombed town in the world. It has been hit with more rockets than the whole of London in the blitz. (For more on the situation in Sderot, please see previous dispatches including this one.)

Quoting anonymous sources, Al-Akhbar said that Israel sent an intelligence report to Washington, stressing the importance of military action to crack down on Palestinian military groups that have amassed an unprecedented level of weaponry in Gaza. Misusing international aid money, as well as funds from Iran, Hamas has recently managed to acquire a vast arsenal of weaponry, said the Lebanese paper.

Diplomatic sources told Al-Akhbar that Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Defense Minister Ehud Barak have been holding meetings about the timing and scope of an invasion of Gaza.

Israel pulled its forces from the streets of the Gaza Strip in 1994, and evacuated settlers in 2005. (For more, please scroll down here to see this photo montage: Exodus From Gaza.)



Jordanian authorities have banned all events marking the “Nakba,” or “Catastrophe,” as some Arabs refer to the independence of Israel 60 years ago.

Several pro-Palestinian groups and Jordanian opposition parties had been planning to hold a rally in Amman on Friday. But the authorities banned the event, as well as other “illegal public gatherings.”

Earlier this year, Jordan banned relatives of Ala Abu Dhaim, the Palestinian who murdered eight students and wounded many others at a Jewish religious school in Jerusalem on March 6, from mourning him in public.

Meanwhile, “Nakba” events are continuing elsewhere in the world. See, for example this poster advertising the University of California’s “Nakba” events (scroll down to see it).



In a speech to mark “the 60th anniversary of the establishment of the Zionist regime,” former Iranian president Hashemi Rafsanjani blamed Jews for causing the Nazi Holocaust. He said that (what he claimed was) Jewish control of banks and the media had given Europeans no choice but to act. His remarks are in Persian here.

Unlike the current president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Rafsanjani didn’t actually deny the Holocaust took place. Rafsanjani has wrongly been described in some western media as a moderate Iranian leader.



Iran’s President Ahmadinejad on Thursday called Israel a “stinking corpse” which is doomed to disappear.

“Those who think they can revive the stinking corpse of the usurping and fake Israeli regime by throwing a birthday party are seriously mistaken,” Ahmadinejad was quoted by the official Iranian IRNA news agency.

“The Zionist entity [Israel] is on its way to annihilation,” he said. It “has reached the end like a dead rat after being slapped by the Lebanese” – a reference to the July-August 2006 war between Israel and the Iranian-controlled Hizbullah militia.



Several leading Iranian clerics last week criticized President Ahmadinejad for saying that the last imam of Shi’ite Islam, a messianic figure who Shi’ites believe was hidden by God 1,140 years ago, leads modern-day Iran.

“We see his hand directing all the affairs of the country,” Ahmadinejad told theological students in the city of Mashad. “A movement has started for us to occupy ourselves with our global responsibilities. God willing, Iran will be the axis of the leadership of this movement,” he said.

Several clerics in the Iranian parliament accused Ahmadinejad of implying that Imam Mahdi or Imam Zaman (Imam of the Age), as the Shi’ite messiah is also called, supports his government. Since Ahmadinejad came to power in 2005, he has made the “hastening of the coming of Imam Mahdi” an important aim. Some experts fear Ahmadinejad may use nuclear weapons “to hasten the Imam’s arrival.”



On Friday I was asked by The National Review “to write 200 or so words as part of a panel on Israel’s 60th birthday and what the future holds.” I wrote the following:

Even before Israel’s 60th-birthday celebrations began this week, there were those who once again were predicting doom and gloom for the Jewish state — and not just in Europe. In America, the cover of this month’s Atlantic magazine has a Star of David in Palestinian colors with the headline: “Is Israel finished?” In Canada, the cover of Maclean’s magazine has a montage of three Israeli soldiers unable to raise the national flag. The headline: “Why Israel Can’t Survive.”

This is all nonsense. Israel is flourishing. Indeed among the guests arriving in coming days are not only President Bush and political chieftains from 27 countries, but such front-rank business leaders as Rupert Murdoch, Google founder Sergey Brin, and Yahoo founder Terry Semel. Even Al Gore is turning up the week after.

These business visionaries know when to back a winner, and in Israel they see a winner. There is not a single major hi-tech company (IBM, Intel, Microsoft, Motorola, Hewlett Packard, Sun Microsystems, Google) that hasn’t now established an R & D center in Israel.

But there is one enormous problem: Iran. It is not only the Islamic regime’s nuclear threat but its support for the deadly militia Israel faces to its north (Hizbullah) and south (Hamas). Were the Iranian regime to crumble, Palestinian pragmatists might gain the upper hand, a responsible Palestinian state could be formed, and Israel’s future would indeed be rosy.



In an interview published on Friday with the Italian magazine L’Espresso, Syrian President Bashar Assad rejected Israel’s demand that Syria cut its ties with Iran and Hizbullah as part of any peace deal. He said that detaching his country from the two was “irrelevant” to reviving peace talks.

Syria maintains close ties with both Hizbullah, Hamas and Iran, all of which seek Israel’s destruction.

In recent days Hizbullah, copying tactics used by Hamas against Fatah in Gaza last year, have seized control of west Beirut from the more moderate, pro-Western Sunni government, in fighting that left many about 50 people dead. (For more, see the article below.)

The claim by Assad to the gullible Italian journalist that Hamas and Hizbullah don’t kill civilians is obvious nonsense. Assad said: “Syria remains firmly convinced that neither Hamas nor Hizbullah are terrorist organizations for the simple reason that they don’t kill civilians.”



A former Kuwaiti detainee at the United States prison camp at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, who was released from U.S. custody, was involved in the suicide attack in Mosul, Iraq, on April 29, which killed six people.

This has been confirmed both by forensic experts examining the corpse and by a jihadist website, which wrote that Abdullah Saleh al-Ajmi was one of the “heroes” who took part in the suicide attack: “May God have mercy on you Abdullah al-Ajmi. We send you a warm greeting O you martyr, O you hero, O you, a man in a time where only few men are left,” said the website.

Al-Ajmi is not the first former Guantanamo detainee to return to terrorism.

-- Tom Gross



In a lengthy article published today, Middle East expert (and longtime subscriber to this email list) Barry Rubin warns the west to “wake up fast” to what is happening in Lebanon. The article is rather long to include here, so I have prepared some extracts.

“While America’s secretary of state devotes her time to doomed Israel-Palestinian talks and America goes ga-ga over a candidate whose main foreign policy strategy is to talk to dictators,” Lebanon is on the brink as the Iranian and Syrian-backed Hizbullah show who is in control.

“What Spain was in 1936; Lebanon is today,” writes Rubin. “Does anyone remember the Spanish Civil War? Briefly, a fascist revolt took place against the democratic government. The rebels were motivated by several factors, including anger that their religion had not been given enough respect and regional grievances, but essentially they sought to put their ideology and themselves into power. Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy backed the rebels with money and guns. The Western democracies stood by and did nothing. Guess who won? And guess whether that outcome led to peace or world war.

“... When Barack Obama says he will negotiate with Syria and Iran over Iraq’s future, he signals every Persian Gulf regime to cut its own deal with Iran. When his stances convince Hamas that he’s the guy for them; when Iran and Syria conclude they merely need stand defiant and wait until January 21 for any existing pressure vanishes, the U.S. position in the Middle East is being systematically destroyed.

“This does not make Obama the candidate favored by Arabs in general but only by the radicals. Egyptians, Jordanians, Gulf Arabs, and the majorities in Lebanon and Iraq are very worried. This is not just an Israel problem; it is one for all non-extremists in the region. If the dictators and terrorists are smiling, it means everyone else is crying.

“... For all those in the West who don’t like Israel, then at least help the people you pretend to like. Back the Lebanese government with real power and aid, covertly or overtly, those battling the radical forces in Lebanon.”

Rubin concludes with a passage from the move classic Casablanca:

Rick: “Sam, if it’s December 1941 in Casablanca, what time is it in New York?”

Sam: “Um, my watch stopped.”

Rick: “I bet they’re asleep in New York. I’ll bet they’re asleep all over America.”

All notes and summaries copyright © Tom Gross. All rights reserved.