Tom Gross Mideast Media Analysis

A nice new shopping mall opened today in Gaza: Will the media report on it?

July 17, 2010

Above: a new mall that opened today, July 17. If there “are no building materials allowed into Gaza” how did they build this shopping center, or the new Olympic-size swimming pool and water park pictured below?

 

Will the Western media show these images?
All notes below by Tom Gross

Please scroll down below for photos of the new shopping mall that opened today in Gaza. I have also attached new photos and film of Gaza’s hotels, beauty spas, swimming pools, beaches and street markets -- images the BBC, New York Times and others refuse to show you.

Meanwhile, Hamas are deliberately leaving some Gazans in plastic tents, in order to fool gullible Western journalists and politicians who are brought to Gaza to witness a staged “humanitarian crisis.”

As I note below, this doesn’t, of course, mean that there isn’t poverty in Gaza too, just as there is in most places in the world. But the misrepresentation by the media of the situation in Gaza is shocking. When Time magazine reports “Please spare a thought for the starving Palestinians of Gaza. There are 1.5 million of them, most of them living hand to mouth” - or when former U.S. President and Nobel peace prize laureate Jimmy Carter says “the people in Gaza are literally starving” - these are just blatant untruths.

***

Two days ago the EU pledged tens of millions of EU taxpayers’ euros to add to the hundreds of millions already donated to Gaza this year, much of which has been misused to procure arms.

 

UPDATE, Sunday July 18, 2010:

Fox news producers who subscribe to this website contacted me for an interview about this story and are now running a report.


Some journalists who subscribe to this list have asked me for a quote. You are welcome to use the following.

Political and media commentator Tom Gross said:

“On a day when (because EU Foreign Policy Chief Baroness Ashton is in Gaza) the BBC and other media have featured extensive reports all day long on what they term the dire economic situation in Gaza, why are they not mentioning the new shopping mall that opened there yesterday?

“When leading news outlets mention the so-called humanitarian flotillas from Turkey, why do they omit the fact that life expectancy and literacy rates are higher, and infant mortality rates are lower in Gaza than corresponding rates in Turkey? Have they considered that perhaps the humanitarian flotillas ought to be going in the other direction, towards Turkey?”

 

WHAT HUMANITARIAN CATASTROPHE?

Last year, this website revealed to a Western audience pictures of the bustling, crowded food markets of Gaza that the Western media refuse to show you. Earlier this year, I reported the new Olympic-size swimming pool of Gaza (no shortage of building materials or water here) and the luxury restaurants, where you can “dine on steak au poivre and chicken cordon bleu”. (Over 300,000 people have viewed photos on that webpage since May, according to my website monitor.)

Now I want to draw attention to the fact that this morning, on the day that the EU again criticized Israel (but not Egypt) for supposedly oppressing Gazans, on a day when the BBC TV world news headlines again lead with a report about how “devastated the economy in Gaza is,” an impressive new shopping mall opened in Gaza (photos below, followed by a selection of other photos from Gaza).

Will those Western journalists who write stories about “starvation” in Gaza and compare it to a “concentration camp” report this?

Instead of reporting on the mall opening, the British-based international satellite broadcaster Sky News reported today “The humanitarian situation in Gaza remains dire.”

 

NEW GAZA SHOPPING MALL

Photos from Saturday, July 17, 2010:


More photos here.

Here is a news report in Arabic on the opening of the mall from today’s Palestine Times. (Click on each of these thumbnails to view the full photos.)

This is the official website of the Gaza mall. (UPDATE July 22, 2010: Warning note: Some browsers have reported that there may be a virus attached to the Gaza Mall site if you open it, but many others, including mine, have not found this to be the case. In any event, so many people have been directed to the Gaza mall website -- www.gazamall.ps -- from this website that the mall’s website’s bandwidth has been exceeded so currently you will be unable to access the site in any case if you open it. I have posted a screenshot below, translated from Arabic.)

 

UPDATE, July 20, 2010

More pictures of the mall here, here and here from The Palestine Times.

And this video of the mall has today gone up on YouTube. (The captions that have been added to this video are not mine, nor do I approve of all of them.)

The mall is being widely featured in media throughout the Arab world, for example here (courtesy of AP), but why the continuing silence from Western media who subscribe to AP and who continue to cover “the situation in Gaza” day after day without mentioning the economic progress there?

The mall includes a supermarket, international clothing stores, a food court, beauty products, a children’s playground, a restaurant, an underground carpark, and much-needed air conditioning. The mall is not only for Gaza’s elite. Tens of thousands of shoppers from Rafah to Beit Hanoun have already visited the site within days of its opening, according to Palestinian press reports.

“There are international firms such as Adidas and Lacoste and Paris’ top selling perfumes,” said the head of the mall’s board of directors, Salah a-Din Abu Abdo. “Nevertheless, the local traders and businessmen are those running the business. I hope that in the future we’ll get merchandise from other foreign chains wanting to open branches here.”

 

UPDATE, July 21, 2010

Yediot Ahronot, Israel’s largest newspaper, whose editors subscribe to this email list, has now covered the mall.

 

UPDATE, July 21, 2010

The National Post, one of Canada’s largest newspapers, almost alone among Western media has run a comment piece about the Gaza mall. It also refers to this (Tom Gross media) webpage.

 

UPDATE, July 21, 2010

Glen Beck today showed the mall on his show on Fox. He said that the media will gladly show you a “Palestinian with a bloody face but won’t show you the Gaza shopping mall.”

Fox News Host Sean Hannity has also now featured the Gaza mall and this page is linked to from his website, as has the Drudge Report.

It is fine that Fox have featured the mall, but why aren’t the BBC, CNN, MSNBC, ABC, CBS, NBC, NPR, PBS and others interested in a balance, rounded approach to covering Palestinian issues?

 

UPDATE, July 22, 2010

While almost all Western journalists based in the Middle East are continuing to refuse to report on the Gaza shopping mall (or the new Gaza children’s water park, or the new swimming pools and restaurants and resorts), this dispatch has now been linked to in several prominent blogs, among them that of former U.S. presidential speechwriter David Frum, Stephanie Gutmann at the (London) Daily Telegraph, Mark Krikorian and Jonah Goldberg on National Review’s The Corner, Melanie Phillips on the website of the British magazine The Spectator, Tim Montgomerie at Conservative Home (under “more here”), Charles Johnson at Little Green Footballs and Miriam Shaviv at The (London) Jewish Chronicle.

 

UPDATE, AUG. 23, 2010

NY TIMES FINALLY COVERS THE MALL (AND LINKS TO THIS DISPATCH)

At the top of this page, I suggested that The New York Times – the world’s most influential paper – show pictures of the mall and write about it. Today, the paper finally did so (on page A7) and linked to this dispatch (in the sentence “How did they build a mall if no building materials are permitted into Gaza?”)

As The New York Times writes: “‘Gaza is not poor in the way outsiders think,’ said Nida Wishah, a 22-year-old information technology student who was at the mall one recent afternoon. ‘You can’t compare our poverty with that of Africa.’”

(The New York Times-owned International Herald Tribune also ran this story together with the photo of the shopping mall I had used in this dispatch, on page 2 of the IHT August 24 edition.)

Since the existence of cafes, restaurants, crowded food markets, swimming pools, water parks, riding stables for children and other signs of prosperity in Gaza, have been revealed, there has been a noticeable and dramatic reduction in the number of newspaper reporters and commentators talking of a “humanitarian crisis” in Gaza, let alone of “starvation”.

Obviously, the political problems of Gaza remain, but that is another matter.

 

UPDATE, SEPT. 7, 2010

THE GUARDIAN: “A RIDING CLUB THRIVES IN GAZA CITY”

Today, The Guardian became the latest paper to mention the Gaza shopping mall, as well as the riding club on the edge of Gaza City where, it said, “young women wearing brightly-patterned headscarves and high heels order ice cream and fruit cocktails”.

“The Faisal riding club hosted its first showjumping tournament in July,” The Guardian’s relatively new correspondent Harriet Sherwood reports, adding that it has been open for five years and has been “doing rather well.”

“Next door is the Crazy Water Park, a swimming center with chutes and slides, [alongside] a burgeoning number of seafront cafes,” she adds.

Sherwood’s piece is a long way from the impression of dire poverty and “prison camp” conditions that The Guardian has been putting out for many years.

 

THE REST OF THIS WEBPAGE IS FROM THE ORIGINAL DISPATCH, WRITTEN ON JULY 17, 2010

BIAS IN A LEAGUE OF ITS OWN

Before I draw attention to other photos below, please let me restate again my overall position since several other commentators have misrepresented it recently:

I have consistently supported the creation of an independent Palestinian Arab state alongside Israel since I first became interested in politics. But to be viable and successful it is not only a question of what Israel will give the Palestinians, but of the Palestinians themselves engaging in good governance. There is no point in creating a new Palestinian state if it will be used as a launching ground for armed attacks on Israel, which would in turn only likely lead to a much bloodier war between Israelis and Palestinians than anything we have witnessed in the past.

In order to make sure any Palestinian state is peaceful, and respects human rights for both its own citizens and its neighbors, it is crucial for Western policy-makers not be misled into making bad policy (as they have so often done in the past) in part, at least, as a result of believing the distortions of Western journalists, who greatly exaggerate the suffering of Palestinians and consistently cover up for the misdeeds of Hamas and Fatah.

Of course, one should not forget that the media is full of stereotypes and mistakes about other issues. Yet when every allowance has been made, the sustained bias against Israel is in a league of its own.

I am not for one moment suggesting that Israeli misdeeds should not be fully and unsparingly reported on -- and indeed Israel being a vigorous democracy, such misdeeds are widely reported on in the Israeli media itself, and debated in the Israeli Knesset. But propagating the falsehoods of Fatah and Hamas propagandists has done nothing to further the legitimate aspirations of ordinary Palestinians, any more than parroting the lies of Stalin helped ordinary Russians.

Such bias, I believed, is not only wrong in itself but seriously detrimental to international efforts to bring about peace between Palestinians and Israelis.

 

MALNOURISHMENT?

These are some of the photos previously carried on the dispatch “Fancy restaurants and Olympic-size swim pools: what the media won’t report about Gaza” (May 25, 2010).

Above: The courtyard of the Roots restaurant in Gaza.

Above: A part of the restaurant’s 12-page menu, which includes a wide range of meat, poultry and seafood dishes. The restaurant is popular with Gazans holding weddings and other celebrations, UN and NGO workers, and foreign journalists.

Here are more pictures of the restaurant. (Also see more pictures of Roots further down this dispatch.)

 

EVERYDAY LIFE FOR ORDINARY GAZANS

Whereas the restaurant above is one of those popular with wealthier Gazans, the pictures below show life for ordinary people in Gaza.

These photos of Gaza are from the November 26, 2009 edition of the Hamas-controlled Gazan newspaper, Palestine Today. It is hardly the “World War II-era concentration camp” that some Western journalists and commentators have claimed Gaza resembles.

Fruit and vegetable markets

Sweets on sale in an outdoor market

A cake shop and a bakery

A children’s clothing store


Tom Gross adds: As I have written before, of course there is poverty in parts of Gaza. There is poverty in parts of Israel too. But when was the last time a foreign journalist based in Israel left the pampered lounge bars and restaurants of the King David and American Colony hotels in Jerusalem and went to check out the slum-like areas of southern Tel Aviv? Or the hard-hit Negev towns of Netivot or Rahat?

Playing the manipulative game of the BBC is easy. If we had their vast taxpayer-funded resources, we too could produce reports about parts of London, Manchester and Glasgow and make it look as though there is a humanitarian catastrophe throughout the U.K. We could produce the same effect by selectively filming seedy parts of Paris and Rome and New York and Los Angeles too.

 

MAYBE THE TURKISH FLOTILLAS ARE GOING IN THE WRONG DIRECTION?

In Turkey, life expectancy is 72.23 and infant mortality is 24.84 per 1,000 births.

In Gaza, life expectancy is 73.68 and infant mortality is 17.71 per 1,000 births.

Turkey has a literacy rate of 88.7% while in Gaza it is 91.9%. (It is much lower in Egypt and other Arab countries where Israel did not establish colleges and universities in the 1970s and 1980s.)

Gaza’s GDP is not as high as Turkey’s but it is higher than some other places in the Arab world, and it is much, much higher than most of Africa that gets 1,000th of the aid per capita that Gaza gets from the West.

(Source for above info: CIA World Factbook)

World hunger organizations report that 10-15 million children below the age of 5 die each year, and 50,000 people die daily. One-third of all deaths in the world are due to poverty.

While famine kills millions of children in Africa, India, and elsewhere, life expectancy for Gaza Arabs, at 72 years, is nearly five years higher than the world average. In Swaziland, for example, life expectancy is less than 40 years, and it is 42 years in Zambia.

Meanwhile Western governments, misled by Western media, continue to pour more and more money into Gaza for people that don’t need it, while allowing black Africans to starve to death.

As the correspondent for one of Japan’s biggest newspapers said to me last week, “Gaza and the West Bank are the only places in the world where I have seen refugees drive Mercedes.”


Photo above: India, where hundreds of millions live in poverty.

Photo above: A beach in Gaza.

 

STEAK AU POIVRE AND CHICKEN CORDON BLEU

(Repeat item from May 2010 dispatch.)

If you drop by the Roots Club in Gaza, according to the Lonely Planet guidebook for Gaza and the West Bank, you can “dine on steak au poivre and chicken cordon bleu”.

The restaurant’s website in Arabic gives a window into middle class dining and the lifestyle of Hamas officials in Gaza.

And here it is in English, for all the journalists, UN types and NGO staff who regularly frequent this and other nice Gaza restaurants (but don’t tell their readers about them).

Please take a look at the pictures on the above website. They are not the kind of things you see in The New York Times or CNN or in Newsweek, whose international edition last week had one of the most disgracefully misleading stories about Gaza I have ever seen, portraying it in terms that made it seem virtually reminiscent of Hiroshima after a nuclear blast.


And here is a promotional video of the club restaurant:

In case anyone doubts the authenticity of this video (which is up on the club’s own website), I just called the club in Gaza City and had a nice chat with the manager who proudly confirmed business is booming and many Palestinians and international guests are dining there.

 

GAZA’S OLYMPIC-SIZED SWIMMING POOL

Above: A Palestinian newspaper photo (May 18, 2010) shows Gazan children in the newly built Olympic-sized swimming pool which opened earlier in May 2010, despite continuing claims by some Western journalists and NGOs that there are no building materials and a severe shortage of water in Gaza.

***

Repeat item from May 26, 2010 dispatch:

While Western media, misled by corrupt and biased NGOs, continue to report on a “humanitarian catastrophe” in Gaza, the Palestinian Ma’an news agency reports on the Olympic-size swimming pool that opened in Gaza in mid-May 2010 (i.e. before all the recent kerfuffle about humanitarian flotillas sailing to Gaza).

“Gaza, (May 18, 2010): – Ma’an – Gaza’s first Olympic-standard swimming pool was inaugurated at the As-Sadaka club during a ceremony on Tuesday held by the Islamic Society.

“Gaza government ministers, members of the Palestinian Legislative Council, leaders of Islamic and national governing bodies, as well as club members and athletes were among those at the opening ceremony, where Secretary-General of the Islamic Society Nasim Yaseen thanked the donors who helped realize the project.

“Yaseen praised the As-Sadaka club for a number of wins in international and regional football, volleyball and table tennis matches.

“As-Sadaka athletes performed a number of swimming exercises in the new pool to mark its opening.”

 

STARVED OF WATER AND BUILDING MATERIALS?

Most Israeli towns do not have an Olympic-sized municipal swimming pool. Cities like Netanya – which have been hit by repeated Palestinian suicide attacks, car bombings, and terrorist gunmen that have left over fifty Israeli residents of the town dead and more than three hundred injured – do not have such a pool.

Nor, for example, do the Israeli towns of Sderot or Ashkelon which have been hit by thousands of Hamas rockets fired from Gaza in recent years, have an Olympic-sized municipal swimming pool.

 

BLAIR’S SISTER-IN-LAW: GAZA IS “WORLD’S LARGEST CONCENTRATION CAMP”

(This is a repeat item from the dispatch of September 14, 2008.)

In an appalling insult to Holocaust survivors everywhere, British journalist Lauren Booth said last week that the situation in Gaza was just like a “concentration camp,” and added that the “humanitarian crisis in Gaza is on the scale of Darfur.”

Booth’s brother-in-law, Quartet envoy to the Middle East Tony Blair, does not share her views. Her sister, Tony Blair’s wife Cherie Blair, once made comments appearing to justify Palestinian suicide bombs against Israeli school buses, but later apologized for the remarks.

Lauren Booth was recently issued a Palestinian passport by Hamas. Here is a photo from AFP (Agence France Presse) of Lauren Booth shopping in a grocery store in Gaza a few days before she made her Israeli “concentration camp” comments. Does it look like Auschwitz, or Darfur?



Here she is again in Gaza last week (i.e. Sept. 2008).


And here she is meeting Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh, who presents her with a special Palestinian “diplomatic passport”.


Booth writes for several British newspapers, including the Daily Mail, New Statesman, Mail on Sunday and the Sunday Times, and is often a guest on the BBC.

 

LUXURY NEW HOTELS, AND A SPARKLING NEW UNIVERSITY

(Photos, June 2010)

Here are some more Palestinian websites from Gaza:

* The Islamic University of Gaza

* The Gaza Grand Palace Hotel

* The Al Deira Hotel

(Above: The Deira hotel lobby)

(Above: The Deira hotel exterior)


This is just one of several such hotels in Gaza - a territory compared to a “concentration camp” in supposedly respectable European newspapers.

Arab journalists are more honest than some Western ones. Journalist Ashraf Abu Al-Houl reported from Gaza in the leading Egyptian paper Al-Ahram this week:

“A sense of absolute prosperity prevails, as manifested by the grand resorts along and near Gaza’s coast. Further, the sight of the merchandise and luxuries filling the Gaza shops amazed me. Merchandise is sold more cheaply than in Egypt.”

 

GETTING A FACIAL BEFORE YOUR MASSAGE

A facial runs from $20 to $75, a one-hour massage is around $40 and a monthly gym membership is around $35 at the “Rosy spa” (above) in Gaza.

 

ANOTHER SIDE OF GAZA

(Film shot, June 2010)

More images of the horrendous situation in Gaza that you won’t see on the BBC.



 

MORE AID, ANYBODY?

Never mind the economic crisis in Spain, Greece and elsewhere in the EU.

On July 14, 2010, the EU announced increased financial support for the Palestinians.

The Palestinian Ma’an news agency reports:

The European Commission has agreed an additional financial package worth € 71 million for the Occupied Palestinian Territory, topping up the € 224 million already allocated by the EU in the 2010 European Neighbourhood and Partnership Instrument, as well as a reinforcement of humanitarian aid for Palestinian refugees.

[All notes above by Tom Gross.]


Al-Qaeda has its eyes set on Gaza (& Why Egypt fears the Palestinians)

July 15, 2010

* Syria mows down its Kurdish citizens, including young girls, and the Western media is not interested. (Instead The International Herald Tribune, BBC and others lead with lies about non-existent starvation in Gaza, day after day.)

* Many of Syria’s Kurds (which make up 10% of the country’s population) have been stripped of their citizenship. They are unable to travel outside the country, to own property, or to work in the public sector. (But many of the prejudiced people that Western human rights groups employ don’t seem to care. Bashing Israel, and Israel alone, is their primary concern.)

* “Al-Qaeda, Muslim Brotherhood and jihadists around the world all have their eyes set on Gaza. They are waiting to see if Hamas manages to win the recognition of the international community.”

* “Egypt is afraid of the Palestinians on its border. The Egyptians will not allow Palestinians to enter Egypt, nor do they want to assist the Hamas rulers of the Gaza Strip in any way.”

* “Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu is still the guy who has to ‘prove’ he’s serious about peace. Netanyahu’s the one who is asking for direct negotiations between Israel and the Palestinian Authority. Yet why aren’t the Palestinians asked to explain their reasons for refusing to meet with Israel?”

* “Israel has ceded authority, Israel has trained and armed the Palestinians, Israel has allowed rejectionist terrorists to take control of territory that threatens Israel’s security. And what have the Palestinians done? Refuse to negotiate directly with Israel, refuse to change their education curriculum to reflect an acceptance of Israel’s right to exist, and they have created children’s television programs that praise the holy war against the Jewish state.”

* “It’s hard to escape the conclusion that what really infuriated the British government was not so much the alleged offense but the identity of its perpetrators.”

* Britain’s Methodist Church apparently no longer sees its prime role as spreading the word of Jesus, but instead of boycotting Israeli products. Of course, the Methodists wouldn’t dream of boycotting a country where Christianity is actually banned, Saudi Arabia for example.

 

CONTENTS

1. Islamic radicals worldwide are waiting eagerly to see if the West succumbs to Hamas
2. Can Abbas allay Egyptian and Jordanian fears of the Palestinians?
3. When will the Palestinians show they’re serious about peace?
4. The forgotten persecution of the Kurds of Syria
5. Britain’s silence over the alleged Russian forgeries is telling
6. Methodist church more interested in prevailing fashion, than Jesus
7. “Legitimize Hamas?” (By Khaled Abu Toameh, Hudson Institute, July 13, 2010)
8. “Who’s afraid of the Palestinians?” (By Moshe Arens, Ha’aretz, July 6, 2010)
9. “Palestinians always on offense” (By Abby Wisse Schachter, NY Post, July 8, 2010)
10. “The Forgotten Minority” (By Jonathan Spyer, Jerusalem Post, July 3, 2010)
11. “A Tale of Two Passports” (Editorial, Wall Street Journal, July 6, 2010)
12. “The banality of Methodist evil” (By Robin Shepherd, Jerusalem Post, July 4, 2010)


[Note by Tom Gross]

This dispatch is split into two for space reasons. The first part can be read here: Abbas says one thing to the Palestinians, another to Obama (& Spain’s gay problem).

I attach six articles below, with summaries first for those who don’t have time to read them in full. All are written by long-time subscribers to this email list.

May I remind readers that I don’t necessarily agree with all the points made in the articles that I send out, but I highlight them to add to the debate, since these views are not granted sufficient coverage in many major international newspapers and broadcast networks.

 

ARTICLE SUMMARIES

ISLAMIC RADICALS WORLDWIDE ARE WAITING EAGERLY TO SEE IF THE WEST SUCCUMBS TO HAMAS

Palestinian journalist Khaled Abu Toameh writes:

In recent weeks Hamas leaders are beginning to show signs of optimism. Since the late May incident involving the Turkish flotilla of aid ships, some Americans and Europeans have been campaigning in favor of engaging Hamas.

Al-Qaeda, Muslim Brotherhood and jihadists around the world all have their eyes set on the Gaza Strip. They are waiting to see if Hamas manages to win recognition of the international community.

A victory for Hamas is a victory for Islamic fundamentalists not only in Gaza, but in many different places, including Afghanistan, Pakistan, Sudan and Iraq.

EU foreign ministers who are planning to visit the Gaza Strip need to make sure that their tour is not used by Hamas to win recognition as a legitimate player in the Middle East.

… It does not seem that Hamas has any incentive to change its position amid increasing calls in the West to “break” the isolation of the radical Islamist movement. On the contrary, talk in the West about the need to launch dialogue with Hamas has only served to toughen their stance.

… Not only is Hamas unwilling to accept the three conditions imposed by the Quartet members, but it has now toughened its position on the issue of reconciliation with Fatah…

 

CAN ABBAS ALLAY EGYPTIAN AND JORDANIAN FEARS OF THE PALESTINIANS?

Former Israeli defense minister Moshe Arens writes in Ha’aretz:

Little noticed in the brouhaha that surrounded the Israeli interception of the “peace flotilla” that tried to break the Israeli blockade of the Gaza Strip were Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak’s remarks to the Egyptian parliament last week, as he tried to distance Egypt from the problem of allowing supplies to enter Gaza, even though Egypt shares a border with the Strip and could supply the population there with all its needs…

Egypt is afraid of the Palestinians on its border. The Egyptians will not allow Palestinian refugees to enter Egypt, nor do they want to assist the Hamas rulers of the Gaza Strip in any way. Continually voicing their concern for the plight of the Palestinians, Egyptian rulers over the years have done little to help the Palestinians in Gaza, out of fear that they may be reinforcing Hamas, which is an ally of the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood.

… The Jordanian government’s policy, as well, seems to be based on the principle of keeping one’s distance from the Palestinians. Jordan, the majority of whose population is Palestinian, doesn’t want any more to do with them. King Abdullah II sounds pathetic alarm bells every few weeks that a war in the area is inevitable unless a Palestinian state is established, but will not entertain the thought that the areas in Judea and Samaria populated by Palestinians be incorporated into Jordan as part of a negotiated settlement with Israel.

It was many years before he was born – May 15, 1948 – that his great-grandfather King Abdullah sent his British-officered and British equipped Arab Legion across the Jordan aiming to gain as much territory as possible for his kingdom... He had no intention of establishing a Palestinian state in the areas that came under his control. Instead, he annexed the areas to Jordan, granting Jordanian citizenship to the Palestinian population living there.

… In 1974, King Hussein, Abdullah II’s father, effectively renounced Jordan’s claim to Judea, Samaria and East Jerusalem …with the memory still fresh in his mind of Black September in 1970, when the PLO attempted to take over Jordan, Hussein decided that he already had enough Palestinians on his hands. Better that they become Israel’s problem…

… It remains to be seen whether Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in Ramallah, who advocates a policy that forswears violence, can establish sufficient authority among the Palestinians so as to allay Egyptian and Jordanian fears of the Palestinians.

 

WHEN WILL THE PALESTINIANS SHOW THEY’RE SERIOUS ABOUT PEACE?

Writing in The New York Post, Abby Wisse Schachter says:

Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu is still the guy who has to “prove” he’s serious about peace. Netanyahu’s the one who is asking for direct negotiations between Israel and the Palestinian Authority. Yet it is the Palestinians who, instead of having to explain their reasons for refusing to meet with Israel, continue with their demands.

Whereas the list of actual concessions delivered by Israel to the Palestinians is long, the evidence that Palestinians are serious about peace with Israel is sparse to non-existent. Israel has ceded territory, Israel has ceded authority, Israel has trained and armed the Palestinians, Israel has allowed rejectionist terrorists to take control of territory that threatens Israel’s security. And what have the Palestinians done? Palestinians refuse to negotiate directly with Israel, Palestinians refuse to change their education curriculum to reflect an acceptance of Israel’s right to exist, Palestinians create children’s television programs that praise the holy war against the Jewish state.

President Obama may find it easy and convenient to pummel Netanyahu for concessions, but that won’t get him anywhere in regards a real settlement of the conflict…

 

THE FORGOTTEN PERSECUTION OF THE KURDS OF SYRIA

In the fourth article below, Jonathan Spyer writes in The Jerusalem Post:

On March 21, 2010, the Syrian security forces opened fire with live ammunition on a crowd of 5,000 in the northern Syrian town of al-Raqqah. The crowd had gathered to celebrate the Kurdish festival of Nowruz. Three people, including a 15-year-old girl, were killed. Over 50 were injured. Dozens of injured civilians were held incommunicado by the authorities following the events. Some remain incarcerated. This incident was just one example of the repression taking place of the largest national minority in Syria – namely, the Syrian Kurdish population.

Kurds constitute 9-10% of the population of Syria – that is, around 1.75 million in a total population of 22 million. Since the rise of militant Arab nationalism to power in Damascus, they have faced an ongoing campaign for their dissolution as a community.

All this is taking place far from the spotlight of world attention. The current US Administration pursues a general policy of considered silence on the issue of human rights in Middle East countries. The Syrian regime remains the elusive subject of energetic courting by the European Union and by Washington.

As a result, the Kurds of Syria are likely for the foreseeable future to remain the region’s forgotten minority.

The severe repression suffered by the Syrian Kurds has its roots in the early period of Ba’ath rule in Syria… In 1962, a census undertaken in the area of highest concentration of Kurdish population in Syria – the al-Hasaka province – resulted in 120,000-150,000 Syrian Kurds being arbitrarily stripped of their citizenship.

They and their descendants remain non-persons today. They are unable to travel outside the country, to own property, or to work in the public sector. People in this category today number about 200,000 – though no official statistics exist for them. They are known as ajanib (foreigners).

A large additional group of around 100,000 Kurds in Syria remain entirely undocumented and unregistered.

… In March 2004, following the recognition of Kurdish autonomous control of northern Iraq, something resembling an uprising began among the Kurds of Syria.

The spark that ignited the wave of protests that month was the shooting dead of seven Kurds by the security forces following a clash between Kurds and Arabs at a football match in Qamishli, a city of high Kurdish population close to the Turkish border. Further shootings took place at the funerals of the dead, and unrest spread across the Jazira, and as far as Aleppo and Damascus. The army moved into the Kurdish areas with heavy armor and air cover, and the protests were crushed [and many Kurds killed].

… In August, 2005, and again in October, 2008, and then again earlier this year, there were clashes between Kurdish citizens and the security forces in Qamishli, with some deaths and many arrests…

***

Tom Gross adds: I have drawn attention to the persecution of Syria’s Kurds many times on this email list in the past, for example, here in 2004.

I only wish the BBC and others would devote a fraction of the substantial resources they employ in the Middle East to not only scrutinize every little thing Israel does but to pay a little attention to the hundreds of millions of people living in the 22 dictatorships (and one partial democracy, Iraq) in the region around Israel.

 

BRITAIN’S SILENCE OVER THE ALLEGED RUSSIAN FORGERIES IS TELLING

The Wall Street Journal editors (many of whom subscribe to this email list) tell me that their lead editorial (titled “A Tale of Two Passports”) was inspired by the points I made in my recent dispatch pointing out the double standards and discrepancies by Britain concerning Russia’s misuse of British passports and the alleged misuse of them by Israel.

The paper writes:

Remember Britain’s outrage at Israel over the forged U.K. documents allegedly used in the Dubai assassination of Hamas big shot Mahmoud Mabhouh? Compare that uproar with the remarkable silence over the forged British passport that the FBI says was used by at least one of the Russian spies recently arrested in the U.S.

At this stage during the Dubai affair in mid-February, the Labour government had already summoned the Israeli ambassador and announced criminal investigations amid furious statements from all political parties. It expelled another Israeli diplomat a month later. The Guardian newspaper ran some 17 articles highlighting the passport accusations.

By contrast, a week into the Russian forgery story, there is not a hint of a diplomatic row between London and Moscow. The Guardian mentioned the fake passport allegations in two articles that lacked the breathless condemnation directed at Israel. The paper’s editorial on the Russian spy-ring ignores the passport angle altogether.

… It’s hard to escape the conclusion that what really infuriated the British was not so much the alleged offense but the identity of its perpetrators.

 

METHODIST CHURCH MORE INTERESTED IN PREVAILING FASHION, THAN JESUS

Robin Shepherd writes in The Jerusalem Post:

The decision last week by the Methodist Church of Britain to launch a boycott against goods emanating from settlements in the West Bank and east Jerusalem will send a shiver down the spine of anyone with a feel for where the rancid, global campaign against the Jewish state is currently heading.

… The fact that an institution professing allegiance to values of love, truth and justice should have succumbed to an agenda of hatred, hypocrisy and barbarism is sadly emblematic of the degraded spirit of our times, and of the moral inversions which blow through them.

… In watching the discussions at the Methodist Conference which approved the boycott, there was little in the way of the visceral hatred of Israel which we have become so accustomed to seeing in academic settings or in the trade unions. Here was a group of almost stereotypically ordinary, middle-class, English Christians calmly reciting every hackneyed anti-Israeli calumny in the book.

“What is happening in Palestine today is what was happening in South Africa in the recent past,” one delegate said. Another spoke of the “66 percent of 9- to 12-month-old babies [that] are anemic in Gaza.”

Yet another described a picture, which she held up in front of her, of a small boy “with large eyes” and “deep pain” in those eyes. “This little boy lives in Gaza,” she said ominously, adding (without irony) that the conference should “speak and act for those whose voices are not heard.”

Later, the point was repeated with one speaker lamenting the position of the Palestinians who have “no one to tell of what they’re going through.”

… I spoke to the Methodist Church’s head of media relations, Anna Drew… “Don’t you realize that you’re joining a massive global campaign against Israel?” I asked.

“There isn’t a campaign against Israel,” she replied firmly. “It’s not as simple as that.”

“You don’t accept that you’ve just jumped on a fashionable bandwagon?” I asked in amazement.

“We are the first church... to do this... so we are not being fashionable,” she replied.

[All summaries above by Tom Gross]

 

FULL ARTICLES

AL-QAEDA IS WATCHING

Legitimize Hamas?
By Khaled Abu Toameh
Hudson Institute
July 13, 2010

In recent weeks Hamas leaders are beginning to show signs of optimism. Since the late May incident involving the Turkish flotilla of aid ships, some Americans and Europeans have been campaigning in favor of engaging Hamas.

Al-Qaeda, Muslim Brotherhood and jihadists around the world all have their eyes set on the Gaza Strip. They are waiting to see if Hamas manages to win recognition of the international community.

A victory for Hamas is a victory for Islamic fundamentalists not only in the Gaza Strip, but in many different places, including Afghanistan, Pakistan, Sudan and Iraq.

EU foreign ministers who are planning to visit the Gaza Strip need to make sure that their tour is not used by Hamas to win recognition as a legitimate player in the Middle East.

Ever since it seized control of the Gaza Strip three years ago, Hamas has been desperately seeking recognition and legitimacy. Until now, Hamas’s efforts have been unsuccessful.

Since the January 2006 parliamentary election that resulted in its victory, Hamas has stubbornly refused to accept conditions set by the international community. These conditions include renouncing violence, recognizing Israel’s right to exist and honoring previous agreements signed between Israel and the Palestinians.

Hamas’s position today remains unchanged. And it does not seem that Hamas has any incentive to change its position amid increasing calls in the West to “break” the isolation of the radical Islamist movement.

On the contrary, talk in the West about the need to launch dialogue with Hamas has only to toughen their stance.

Not only is Hamas unwilling to accept the three conditions of the Quartet members, but it has also adopted a tougher policy on the issue of reconciliation with Fatah. Until recently, Hamas seemed to be more willing to make concessions.

The blockade imposed on the Gaza Strip by Israel and Egypt, as well as the boycott by most of the world, had finally begun to undermine its standing among Palestinians.

For the first time in several years, many disillusioned Palestinians were beginning to question Hamas’s strategy and policies. For a while, it even seemed as if Hamas were beginning to lose its grip on the Gaza Strip, especially after the Egyptian authorities launched a ruthless and massive campaign to destroy hundreds of underground tunnels being used by Hamas and its supporters to smuggle weapons, food and cash.

Today, however, Hamas has less reason to be worried as a growing number of voices in the West starts talking about ending the movement’s isolation. Hamas believes it is winning the battle for public opinion, particularly in the mainstream media and on university campuses in North America. Those who want to talk to Hamas today will soon find themselves facing calls to talk to Al-Qaeda, Taliban and Muslim Brotherhood.

Don’t all these groups, after all, share a common goal – namely, to spread and impose their dangerous version of Islam?

 

WHO’S AFRAID OF THE PALESTINIANS?

Who’s afraid of the Palestinians?
Egypt is afraid of the Palestinians on its border, and Jordan, the majority of whose population is Palestinian, desires no more of them.
By Moshe Arens
Ha’aretz
July 6, 2010

Little noticed in the brouhaha that surrounded the Israeli interception of the “peace flotilla” that tried to break the Israeli blockade of the Gaza Strip were Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak’s remarks to the Egyptian parliament last week. Trying to distance Egypt from the problem of allowing supplies to enter Gaza, even though Egypt shares a border with the Strip and could supply the population there with all its needs, he said: “Israel is trying to shirk its responsibility to Gaza and throw it at Egypt.” He studiously ignored the fact that if Egypt had been prepared to allow supplies for Gaza to enter through the Rafah crossing, there would have been no excuse for attempting to bring supplies in by sea.

But Egypt is afraid of the Palestinians on its border. The Egyptians will not allow Palestinian refugees to enter Egypt, nor do they want to assist the Hamas rulers of the Gaza Strip in any way. Continually voicing their concern for the plight of the Palestinians, Egyptian rulers over the years have done little to help the Palestinians in Gaza, out of fear that they may be reinforcing Hamas, which is an ally of the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood.

Putting the burden on Israel is Egyptian policy. Their attitude to the Palestinians is not that different from that of King Farouk 62 years ago when he sent his army, navy and air force to squash the newly born Jewish state. Trying to gain control of as much as possible of the territory that British forces had evacuated in Palestine, he had no intention of establishing a Palestinian state in these areas. Soundly beaten by the Israel Defense Forces under the command of Yigal Alon, his army saved from total destruction only by the pressure applied on the Ben-Gurion government by the United States and Britain, he was finally left with a toehold in the Gaza Strip. And it remained under Egyptian military control for 19 years, until the Six-Day War. Establishing a Palestinian state was not seen as a priority for Egyptian governments.

The Jordanian government’s policy, as well, seems to be based on the principle of keeping one’s distance from the Palestinians. Jordan, the majority of whose population is Palestinian, doesn’t want any more to do with them. King Abdullah II sounds pathetic alarm bells every few weeks that a war in the area is inevitable unless a Palestinian state is established, but will not entertain the thought that the areas in Judea and Samaria populated by Palestinians be incorporated into Jordan as part of a negotiated settlement with Israel.

It was many years before he was born – May 15, 1948 – that his great-grandfather King Abdullah sent his British-officered and British equipped Arab Legion across the Jordan aiming to gain as much territory as possible for his kingdom. After months of fighting, his army on the verge of defeat by the IDF, he managed to retain control of Judea and Samaria and East Jerusalem, including the Old City, in the 1949 armistice agreement with Israel. He had no intention of establishing a Palestinian state in the areas that came under his control. Instead, he annexed the areas to Jordan, granting Jordanian citizenship to the Palestinian population living there.

That was the situation until the Six-Day War. Seven years later, in 1974, King Hussein, Abdullah II’s father, effectively renounced Jordan’s claim to Judea, Samaria and East Jerusalem by recognizing Yasser Arafat’s Palestine Liberation Organization as the sole legitimate representative of the Palestinian people. At that point, with the memory still fresh in his mind of Black September in 1970, when the PLO attempted to take over Jordan, Hussein decided that he already had enough Palestinians on his hands. Better that they become Israel’s problem.

There are many reasons why Egypt and Jordan have come to fear the Palestinians. Part of the responsibility rests on the Palestinian leadership, which on almost all occasions chose the path of violence – first the Mufti of Jerusalem, Hajj Amin al-Husseini, who during World War II allied himself with Hitler, and later Yasser Arafat, who headed an international campaign of terror to be followed by a wave of Palestinian suicide bombers in Israel’s cities. And more recently, the Hamas leadership in Gaza that has made rocket terror attacks against Israeli civilians its specialty.

It remains to be seen whether Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in Ramallah, who advocates a policy that forswears violence, can establish sufficient authority among the Palestinians so as to allay Egyptian and Jordanian fears of the Palestinians.

 

“WORDS, NOT DEEDS”

Palestinians always on offense
By Abby Wisse Schachter
The New York Post
July 8, 2010

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had a successful meeting with President Obama this week but it doesn’t look like it’s going to gain him much ground or goodwill. Netanyahu is still the guy who has to “prove” he’s serious about peace. Netanyahu’s the one who is asking for direct negotiations between Israel and the Palestinian Authority and yet, it is the Palestinians who instead of playing defense, instead of having to explain their reasons for refusing to meet with Israel, are the ones who remain on offense and continue with their demands.

“Words, not deeds,” was the assessment of chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat, who dismissed Netanyahu’s lip service to the peace process in an interview Tuesday with The New York Times. “We need to see deeds.”

As ever, the most effective weapon the Palestinians posses is rhetorical reversal. Whereas the list of actual concessions delivered by Israel to the Palestinians is long, the evidence that Palestinians are serious about peace with Israel is sparse to non-existent. Israel has ceded territory, Israel has ceded authority, Israel has trained and armed the Palestinians, Israel has allowed rejectionist terrorists to take control of territory that threatens Israel’s security. And what have the Palestinians done? Palestinians refuse to negotiate directly with Israel, Palestinians refuse to change their education curriculum to reflect an acceptance of Israel’s right to exist, Palestinians create children’s television programs that praise the holy war against the Jewish State.

President Obama may find it easy and convenient to pummel Netanyahu for concessions, but that won’t get him anywhere in regards a real settlement of the conflict. And Netanyahu is going to be called “hard-line” and suspicion will always be cast on his true motives regarding the Palestinians, so he might as well just argue the best position for his country that he can.

 

THE POOR FORGOTTEN KURDS OF SYRIA

The Forgotten Minority
By Jonathan Spyer
The Jerusalem Post
July 3, 2010

On March 21, 2010, the Syrian security forces opened fire with live ammunition on a crowd of 5,000 in the northern Syrian town of al-Raqqah. The crowd had gathered to celebrate the Kurdish festival of Nowruz. Three people, including a 15-year-old girl, were killed. Over 50 were injured. Dozens of injured civilians were held incommunicado by the authorities following the events. Some remain incarcerated. This incident was just one example of the repression taking place of the largest national minority in Syria – namely, the Syrian Kurdish population.

Kurds constitute 9 percent-10% of the population of Syria – that is, around 1.75 million in a total population of 22 million. Since the rise of militant Arab nationalism to power in Damascus, they have faced an ongoing campaign for their dissolution as a community.

All this is taking place far from the spotlight of world attention. The current US Administration pursues a general policy of considered silence on the issue of human rights in Middle East countries. The Syrian regime remains the elusive subject of energetic courting by the European Union and by Washington.

As a result, the Kurds of Syria are likely for the foreseeable future to remain the region’s forgotten minority.

The severe repression suffered by the Syrian Kurds has its roots in the early period of Ba’ath rule in Syria. The Arab nationalist Ba’athis felt threatened by the presence of a large non-Arab national majority, and set about trying to remove it using the methods usually associated with them.

In 1962, a census undertaken in the area of highest concentration of Kurdish population in Syria – the al-Hasaka province – resulted in 120,000-150,000 Syrian Kurds being arbitrarily stripped of their citizenship.

They and their descendants remain non-persons today.

They are unable to travel outside the country, to own property, or to work in the public sector. People in this category today number about 200,000 – though no official statistics exist for them. They are known as ajanib (foreigners).

A large additional group of around 100,000 Kurds in Syria remain entirely undocumented and unregistered.

This group, known as maktoumeen (muted), similarly live without citizenship or travel and employment rights.

The bureaucratic struggle of the Syrian regime to wish away its non-Arab population has been accompanied by practical measures on the ground to alter the demographic balance of the country.

In the 1970s, a campaign of “Arabization” of Kurdish areas commenced, on the order of president Hafez Assad. The intention was to create a “belt” of Arab population along the northern and northeastern borders of Syria with Turkey and Iraq, where most of the country’s Kurds live. The purpose of this was to prevent Kurdish territorial contiguity. Kurdish place names were changed to Arab ones, Kurds were deprived of their land and instructed to re-settle in the interior. Kurdish language, music, publications and political organization were banned. It was forbidden for parents to register their children with Kurdish names.

The vigorous policy of Arabization later largely faded into bureaucratic torpor. But for a while it produced the desired result – of a divided, demoralized, repressed and largely silent population.

This situation no longer pertains. In March 2004, following the recognition of Kurdish autonomous control of northern Iraq, something resembling an uprising began among the Kurds of Syria.

The spark that ignited the wave of protests that month was the shooting dead of seven Kurds by the security forces following a clash between Kurds and Arabs at a football match in Qamishli, a city of high Kurdish population close to the Turkish border. Further shootings took place at the funerals of the dead, and unrest spread across the Jazira, and as far as Aleppo and Damascus. The army moved into the Kurdish areas with heavy armor and air cover, and the protests were crushed.

Despite conciliatory noises made by President Bashar Assad following the 2004 unrest, nothing of substance has been done to change the conditions endured by Kurds in Syria. As a result, the situation since 2004 has been one of simmering tension between the Syrian regime and its Kurdish subjects, with occasional flareups.

In August, 2005, and again in October, 2008, and then again earlier this year, there were clashes between Kurdish citizens and the security forces in Qamishli, with some deaths and many arrests.

Syrian oppositionists speak of the emergence of a young, increasingly nationalistic younger generation, estranged from the Arab opposition in Syria as well as from the regime. As yet, no single movement has emerged to reflect this sentiment. Twelve different political parties exist among the Kurds of Syria, a reflection of the peculiar divisiveness to which regional opposition movements in general, and Kurdish ones in particular, remain prone.

For a variety of reasons, the Kurds have difficulty making their voices heard on the international stage. Their oppressors are fellow Muslims, rather than Christians or Jews, so the powerful alliance of Muslim states on the international stage is not interested. Arab states are by definition indifferent or hostile to their concerns.

And with their regular lucklessness, they now face a situation where the rising powers in the region – Turkey and Iran – and their enthusiastic smaller partner Syria all have sizable Kurdish populations and a shared interest in keeping them suppressed.

The misfortune of the Syrian Kurds is compounded by the fact that contrary to the accepted cliché, the enemy of their enemy is not their friend. This is because the enemy of the Syrian Kurds’ enemy is the west and the United States. These are today led by a philosophy which believes in accommodating, rather than confronting rivals. As a result, the systematic, half-century old campaign of the Syrian Arab Republic to nullify the existence of its Kurdish minority looks set to continue apace.

 

A TALE OF TWO PASSPORTS

A Tale of Two Passports
Britain’s silence over the alleged Russian forgeries is telling.
Editorial
The Wall Street Journal
July 6, 2010

Remember Britain’s outrage at Israel over the forged U.K. documents allegedly used in the Dubai assassination of Hamas big shot Mahmoud Mabhouh? Compare that uproar with the remarkable silence over the forged British passport that the FBI says was used by at least one of the Russian spies recently arrested in the U.S.

At this stage during the Dubai affair in mid-February, the Labour government had already summoned the Israeli ambassador and announced criminal investigations amid furious statements from all political parties. It expelled another Israeli diplomat a month later. The Guardian newspaper ran some 17 articles highlighting the passport accusations.

By contrast, a week into the Russian forgery story, there is not a hint of a diplomatic row between London and Moscow. The Guardian mentioned the fake passport allegations in two articles that lacked the breathless condemnation directed at Israel. The paper’s editorial on the Russian spy-ring ignores the passport angle altogether.

Why the double standard? One possible explanation is that Israel is a friend and ally of Britain, and friends aren’t supposed to behave that way. Then again, Downing Street also claims good relations with the Kremlin. Or perhaps the difference has to do with the recent change of government. Yet Britain’s new chief diplomat, William Hague, when still shadow foreign secretary, encouraged Labour’s diplomatic arm-twisting of Israel, a point he was eager to repeat in an interview last month with Al Jazeera, no less.

It’s hard to escape the conclusion that what really infuriated the British was not so much the alleged offense but the identity of its perpetrators.

 

THE BANALITY OF METHODIST EVIL

The banality of Methodist evil
By Robin Shepherd
Jerusalem Post
July 4, 2010

Boycott against goods emanating from settlements shows where the rancid, global campaign against the Jewish state is heading.

The decision last week by the Methodist Church of Britain to launch a boycott against goods emanating from settlements in the West Bank and east Jerusalem will send a shiver down the spine of anyone with a feel for where the rancid, global campaign against the Jewish state is currently heading.

The boycott will involve transactions of the church itself, and extends to encouraging all affiliated Methodists to follow suit. The Methodists boycott no other country.

The fact that an institution professing allegiance to values of love, truth and justice should have succumbed to an agenda of hatred, hypocrisy and barbarism is sadly emblematic of the degraded spirit of our times, and of the moral inversions which blow through them.

But who, these days, can really be surprised about such happenings in modern Europe? It is only the banality, to appropriate Hannah Arendt, of this particular evil that still has the power to shock us. For, in watching the discussions at the Methodist Conference which approved the boycott, there was little in the way of the visceral hatred of Israel which we have become so accustomed to seeing in academic settings or in the trade unions. Here was a group of almost stereotypically ordinary, middle-class, English Christians calmly reciting every hackneyed anti-Israeli calumny in the book.

“What is happening in Palestine today is what was happening in South Africa in the recent past,” one delegate said. Another spoke of the “66 percent of 9- to 12-month-old babies [that] are anemic in Gaza.”

Yet another described a picture, which she held up in front of her, of a small boy “with large eyes” and “deep pain” in those eyes. “This little boy lives in Gaza,” she said ominously, adding (without irony) that the conference should “speak and act for those whose voices are not heard.”

Later, the point was repeated with one speaker lamenting the position of the Palestinians who have “no one to tell of what they’re going through.”

There was a lecture on the Old Testament, the Jews as “the chosen people,” the children of Abraham, and the revelations of Jesus: “Jesus... never speaks of the land or owning it; he speaks of the kingdom and joining it,” said the delegate joyfully. “...He teaches us God is not a racist God [her emphasis] who has favorites. God loves all his children [her emphasis] and blesses them.”

A student of archeology from the University of Manchester protested against accusations of one-sidedness in a report on the conflict which underpinned the boycott resolution: “No conflict is ever one-sided, “he said before concluding, literally seconds later, that “perhaps it is not the report that is one-sided, but simply the conflict.”

If total illogicality, intimations about the dangers of Jews worshiping a racist God, preposterous assertions about the Palestinian cause not getting an airing in the outside world and depraved and asinine comparisons with apartheid South Africa were the stock in trade of the ordinary delegates, the church’s sophisticates were not to be outdone.

Here is the Rev. Graham Carter, the chairman of the working group that produced the initial report. He is speaking at the end of the first debate, just after having made his (pro forma?) Reference to upholding the right of Israel to exist: “We didn’t go through the list of criticizing other governments, because there was no place to stop,” he said. “We could have criticized the United States for its past unquestioning support of the government of Israel. We could have questioned our own government for the equivocality of its approach. Where would we stop? So we concentrated simply on the situation in Palestine itself.”

In referring to criticism of governments around the world other than Israel, one might have expected that this was his cue to explain why Israel had been singled out. Not a bit of it. It never appeared to occur to him that the question of gross hypocrisy might be an issue. His only thoughts about other governments concerned the sense in which they might have been criticized for complicity in Israeli behavior! But it is when he comes to the question of anti-Semitism that he meets his undoing. “I want to state quite clearly and categorically that there is no hint of anti-Semitism in what we have said or in what we intend,” he stated boldly. “If other people want to do things like that, that is their problem. It is not our problem as a Methodist church. We need to be honest about where stand and what we feel. And if we are concerned about anti-Semitism, why don’t we talk about the anti-Islam approach?” I leave it to others to judge whether there is a “hint of anti-Semitism” in what they have said or intended.

But, in so far as his comments make any sense at all, one way of summarizing the rest could be as follows: “If this campaign against Israel results in more anti-Semitism, we in the Methodist Church wash our hands of it. We’ll act, and the Jews can take the consequences.

And what’s the big deal about anti-Semitism anyway? Can’t we talk about Islamophobia.”

I did not have the pleasure of talking to the Rev. Carter, who would certainly reject any suggestion of wrongdoing, let alone that he had taken his church down the road to bigotry. But I did speak to the Methodist Church’s head of media relations, Anna Drew, whose well prepared brief offered a lesson in where things have gone so badly wrong.

“Do you have any boycotts of other countries in the world, Saudi Arabia for example, where Christianity is banned?” I asked.

“Almost certainly not,” she said.

“So why have you singled out the Jewish state?” I asked.

“We have not singled out the Jewish state,” she replied, saying that the boycott was not against Israel, merely against the occupied territories.

And so the conversation went on, going round and round in circles as Drew summoned up every ounce of conceivable pedantry to argue that singling out the policy of a particular country was substantially different from singling out the country itself, even though such a boycott applied to no other country or its policies.

“Don’t you realize that you’re joining a massive global campaign against Israel?” I asked.

“There isn’t a campaign against Israel,” she replied firmly. “It’s not as simple as that.”

“You don’t accept that you’ve just jumped on a fashionable bandwagon?” I asked in amazement.

“We are the first church... to do this... so we are not being fashionable,” she replied.

At which point, what can you really say? Overall, a church that behaves in the manner of the Methodists has buried its credibility under a gigantic dunghill of intransigence, pedantry, lies and distortions.

But let us not allow this matter to rest with a mere recognition of whom and what they have chosen to become.

If the Methodist Church is to launch a boycott of Israel, let Israel respond in kind: Ban their officials from entering; deport their missionaries; block their funds; close down their offices; and tax their churches.

If it’s war, it’s war. The aggressor must pay a price.


Abbas says one thing to the Palestinians, another to Obama (& Spain’s gay problem)

* “Why should Israelis, or Americans for that matter, believe Palestinian President Abbas’ commitment to peace in English, when in Arabic he consistently treats war as an acceptable option?”

* “The critical insight achieved by the Bush administration was that the character of that state, and of Palestinian society, are more important than final borders in achieving and maintaining peace.”

* “If the Obama administration is dedicated to a major peace effort in the coming year, the incitement issue should be at the top of its agenda. Because when direct negotiations do finally begin, the key test of Palestinian commitment to peace will not be what Abbas and his colleagues say to Americans in English, but what they say in Arabic to Palestinians.”

* Before Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan came to power, Turkey had never hosted a Hamas conference. But in the last three years, there have been seven Hamas conferences and fundraisers in Istanbul alone.

* The Madrid gay parade bans participants from Israel – the only Mideast country that respects homosexual rights. Meanwhile, Saudi Arabia beheads gays. Syria arrests them in sting operations. Iran hangs them from cranes in public squares – after first denying they exist.

 

CONTENTS

1. The two-faced stance of Mahmoud Abbas
2. Saudi Arabia beheads gays. Iran hangs them. But Spain targets Israeli gays.
3. Erdogan turns up the volume of his demagoguery
4. Erdogan poisons the minds of a generation of Turks
5. “The two faces of Mahmoud Abbas” (By Elliott Abrams, Daily News, July 14, 2010)
6. “Spanish Inquisition, Part II” (By James Kirchick, Wall St. Journal Europe, July 11, 2010)
7. “Erdogan fans anti-Israeli sentiments for political gain” (By Semih Idiz, Hurriyet)
8. “The AKP’s Hamas policy” (By Soner Cagaptay, Hurriyet, Turkey, July 5, 2010)


[Note by Tom Gross]

This dispatch is split into two for space reasons. I attach four recent articles below, with summaries first for those who don’t have time to read them in full, and the other six articles can be read here: Al-Qaeda has its eyes set on Gaza (& Why Egypt fears the Palestinians).

All the writers of these articles (other than Semih Idiz and Soner Cagaptay) are longtime subscribers to this email list:

* Elliott Abrams was the U.S. Deputy National Security Advisor handling Middle East affairs in the George W. Bush administration. He is now a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations.

* James Kirchick is a writer at large with Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, and a contributing editor to The New Republic, and The Advocate.

* Jonathan Spyer is a senior research fellow at the Global Research in International Affairs (GLORIA) Center, in Herzliya, Israel.

* Moshe Arens is the former foreign minister and defense minister of Israel.

* Khaled Abu Toameh is a prominent Palestinian journalist.

* Abby Wisse Schachter is a comment and books editor at The New York Post.

* Robin Shepherd was formerly a fellow of the Chatham House think tank in London.

* The anonymous editorial writer at The Wall Street Journal.

(The editors and senior staff at the publications in which these articles appear – The New York Daily News, New York Post, Wall Street Journal, The Wall Street Journal Europe, Ha’aretz, The Jerusalem Post, and The Hudson Institute Journal – are also all subscribers to this email list.)

 

ARTICLE SUMMARIES

THE TWO-FACED STANCE OF MAHMOUD ABBAS

In the first article, Elliott Abrams writes in The New York Daily News on the crucial yet gravely overlooked issue of Palestinian incitement to kill Israelis, and the challenge it presents to peacemakers.

Abrams points out that Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas says one thing to the Palestinians in Arabic, another to Obama and the West in English.

“I say in front of you, Mr. President, that we have nothing to do with incitement against Israel, and we’re not doing that,” Abbas claimed during his visit to the White House last month.

Yet a few days later (as I pointed out on this email list at the time), Abbas publicly mourned the death of Mohammed Oudeh, mastermind of the 1972 Munich Olympics massacre: “The deceased was one of the prominent leaders of the Fatah movement and lived a life filled with the struggle, devoted effort, and the enormous sacrifice of the deceased for the sake of the legitimate problem of his people.”

Abbas also told Arab journalists in Amman, Jordan, that “We are unable to confront Israel militarily, and this point was discussed at the Arab League summit in March in Libya. There I turned to the Arab states and I said: ‘If you want war, and if all of you will fight Israel, we are in favor. But the Palestinians will not fight alone because they don’t have the ability to do it.’”

“Why should Israelis, or Americans for that matter, believe his commitment to peace in English, when in Arabic he treats war as an acceptable option?” asks Abrams, who adds:

“At a dinner for Abbas during his Washington visit, I confronted him with several recent examples of incitement, as well as the denial that he made to the President. His reply was that of a bureaucrat, not a peacemaker: He did not deny the allegations, but said that if true they should be raised at a tripartite committee (the United States, the Palestinian Authority and Israel) that had been established by the Oslo Accords…

“Is terrorism defended and glorified by the top officials? Are terrorists who murder children branded as heroes whom schoolchildren should admire? Is war with Israel a tactic that must be set aside only for pragmatic reasons, and even then only as a short-term strategy? …

“If the Obama administration is dedicated to a major peace effort in the coming year, the incitement issue should be at the top of its agenda. Because when direct negotiations do finally begin, the key test of Palestinian commitment to peace will not be what Abbas and his colleagues say to Americans in English, but what they say in Arabic to Palestinians – about Israel, about terrorism and about real peace.”

***

Tom Gross adds: As I have pointed out on many occasions in the past, Western journalists should of course report on Israeli transgressions and abuses, but by one-sidedly ignoring or downplaying Palestinian ones, including the consistent Palestinian incitement to kill, these journalists are doing a disservice to their readers, to Western policymakers, to Palestinian democrats, and to the cause of peace.

 

SAUDI ARABIA BEHEADS GAYS. IRAN HANGS THEM. BUT SPAIN TARGETS ISRAELI GAYS.

In the second article below, James Kirchick writes in The Wall Street Journal Europe (extracts):

Earlier this month Madrid celebrated its annual gay pride festival, reputed to be the largest in Europe. It featured the usual mixture of calls for tolerance, righteous political speechifying, and raucous display of sexuality. But the Spanish capital also earned a dubious distinction this year not for anything it included, but for what it excluded: Israel.

The municipality of Tel Aviv had originally planned to sponsor a float in the Madrid parade. But Spain’s Federation of Lesbians, Gays, Transgenders and Bisexuals revoked the invitation….

By joining the international campaign to delegitimize Israel, Spain’s leading gay organization undermined its purported mission: the furtherance of gay rights. Israel is the only Middle Eastern country that even has gay pride parades, never mind respects the dignity of homosexuals. Saudi Arabia beheads gays. Syria arrests them in sting operations. Iran hangs them from cranes in public squares. (Speaking at Columbia University in 2007, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad claimed that there are no homosexuals in his country, an absurd assertion nonetheless portentous for its murderous aspirations). As for Gaza, one of Hamas’s leaders has referred to gays as ‘a minority of perverts and the mentally and morally sick.’ …”

Like so many other democratic values, when it comes to gay rights Israel is an oasis in a sea of state-sanctioned repression… Gays serve openly in the Israeli military… the government grants gay couples many of the same rights as heterosexual ones and recognizes same-sex unions performed abroad. Many Palestinian gays seek asylum in Israel…

One would be hard-pressed to find a country that oppresses its gays and treats its Jews well, or vice versa. From Nazi Germany to the modern Middle East, societies that persecute Jews will get to homosexuals eventually – if they haven’t been dispensed with already. This is a lesson that gays ignore at their peril.

 

ERDOGAN TURNS UP THE VOLUME OF HIS DEMAGOGUERY

In the third article below, Semih Idiz writes in Hurriyet Daily News, a leading Turkish paper:

Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan appears set to milk the popularity he gained in the streets of Turkey and the Middle East after the Marmara crisis in which nine Turks were killed by Israeli forces in a seriously botched up military operation.

It is almost as if he was waiting for a new crisis with Israel to be able to work the streets in order to regain some of the political ground his ruling Justice and Development Party, or AKP, has been losing over bread and butter issues at home.

He and his party executives are clearly worried that the reinvigorated Republican Peoples Party, or CHP, may make headway given the successful manner in which its new leader, Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, has been hitting at the government over topics that really matter for the average man on the street…

Turks are fickle though, and easily swayed emotionally even if this means that the bread and butter issues of vital importance to them are pushed to the background…

So we see him increasingly turning up the volume of his demagoguery, and hitting at Israel and the United States at every opportunity that presents itself. No doubt he is keeping a close eye on the “political rating meter” as he sends his crowds to paroxysms of delirious applause with his remarks, some of which smack openly of anti-Semitism and reflect a growing anti-Western tendency…

 

ERDOGAN POISONS THE MINDS OF A GENERATION OF TURKS

Another columnist for Hurriyet Daily News, Soner Cagaptay, writes:

Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan’s Justice and Development Party, or AKP, has promoted the Islamist mindset of “us Muslims” in conflict with “the bad others” through the media and also by spreading Hamas’ views throughout Turkey, whether through official Hamas visits to Turkey or through AKP-supported conferences and fundraisers.

Recent changes in media ownership in Turkey under the AKP are closely related to the spread of anti-Western sentiments in the country. Media independence in Turkey is increasingly under threat…

The AKP took over the Sabah-ATV conglomerate, which represents around 20% of the Turkish media market, selling this conglomerate to a media company of which Prime Minister Erdogan’s son-in-law Berat Albayrak is the CEO.

The AKP has also brought a $3.2 billion tax fine against Dogan Yayin, a conglomerate that owns around 50 percent of the Turkish media. This excessive fine exceeds Dogan’s total net worth – is political, because Dogan’s news outlets promote secular, liberal and nationalist views that often criticize of the AKP.

The transformation of the Turkish media is not an esoteric issue, for it affects the future of Turkish democracy and also has a bearing on Turkish views of the world…

A recent show on Turkey’s publicly-funded Turkish Radio Television, whose head is appointed by the AKP, and which is entirely funded by Turkish taxpayer money, ran “Ayrilik,” a show with an anti-Israeli stance, including one which depicts an imagined situation in the Palestinian territories where a newborn baby is intentionally killed by Israeli soldiers.

What do 18-year-old Turks think of Israel now? They hate it, and they will do so because of images depicted in shows like “Ayrilik.” …

Before the AKP came to power, Turkey had never hosted a Hamas conference. But in the last three years alone, there have been seven Hamas conferences and fundraisers in Istanbul…

[All summaries above by Tom Gross]

 

FULL ARTICLES

THE CRUCIAL ISSUE OF PALESTINIAN INCITEMENT TO KILL

The two faces of Mahmoud Abbas: He says one thing to the Palestinians, another to Obama
By Elliott Abrams
New York Daily News
July 14, 2010

“I say in front of you, Mr. President, that we have nothing to do with incitement against Israel, and we’re not doing that,” claimed Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas during his visit to the White House in June.

It is unfortunate for the prospects of Middle East peace that this denial by Abbas (who is also head of the PLO and Fatah) was just plain untrue. In fact, this two-faced stance of Abbas and his cronies – proclaiming peaceful intentions to the international community while inciting their population to hatred of Israel – is one of the primary impediments to any sort of solution to the longstanding crisis.

And yet there are countless examples of pronouncements or actions by Abbas and other Palestinian leaders that suggest a glorification of violence and terrorism and undermine the belief that they seek peace. This very month, for example, Abbas publicly mourned the death of Mohammed Oudeh, mastermind of the 1972 Munich Olympics massacre: “The deceased was one of the prominent leaders of the Fatah movement and lived a life filled with the struggle, devoted effort, and the enormous sacrifice of the deceased for the sake of the legitimate problem of his people.”

Abbas also told Arab journalists in Amman, Jordan, that “We are unable to confront Israel militarily, and this point was discussed at the Arab League summit in March in [Libya]. There I turned to the Arab states and I said: ‘If you want war, and if all of you will fight Israel, we are in favor. But the Palestinians will not fight alone because they don’t have the ability to do it.’ “

Why should Israelis, or Americans for that matter, believe his commitment to peace in English, when in Arabic he treats war as an acceptable option?

President Obama is well aware that popular incitement remains a thorn in the side of serious talks. In May, the President said that he had “mentioned to President Abbas in a frank exchange that it was very important to continue to make progress in reducing the incitement and anti-Israel sentiments that are sometimes expressed in schools and mosques and in the public square, because all those things are impediments to peace.”

At a dinner for Abbas during his Washington visit, I confronted him with several recent examples of incitement, as well as the denial that he made to the President. His reply was that of a bureaucrat, not a peacemaker: He did not deny the allegations, but said that if true they should be raised at a tripartite committee (the United States, the Palestinian Authority and Israel) that had been established by the Oslo Accords.

If peace is our goal, such a response is deeply inadequate. Abbas should handle incitement by stopping it, not seeking committee meetings – and especially not by denying that incitement occurs in the first place. Of course, it’s easy to see why, politically, Abbas and others in the PLO and Fatah leadership avoid confronting these organizations’ long involvement in terrorism, but if they cannot do so, the chances for real peace are slim. A leadership whose maps do not even show an entity called Israel is unlikely to tell Palestinian refugees that it has given up their “right of return” or that their long-hoped-for Palestinian state within the 1967 borders will not include control of the Temple Mount in Jerusalem.

In fact, the critical insight achieved by the Bush administration was that the character of that state, and of Palestinian society, are more important than final borders in achieving and maintaining peace.

Is terrorism defended and glorified by the top officials? Are terrorists who murder children branded as heroes whom schoolchildren should admire? Is war with Israel a tactic that must be set aside only for pragmatic reasons, and even then only as a short-term strategy?

Obama is right to keep raising this subject with Abbas, but Presidents have been raising it for years. As the Palestinian leadership never seems to pay any penalty for its words, America’s seriousness about the peace process is in doubt.

If the Obama administration is dedicated to a major peace effort in the coming year, the incitement issue should be at the top of its agenda. Because when direct negotiations do finally begin, the key test of Palestinian commitment to peace will not be what Abbas and his colleagues say to Americans in English, but what they say in Arabic to Palestinians – about Israel, about terrorism and about real peace.

 

SPANISH ORGANIZERS EXCLUDE ONLY ONE COUNTRY: ISRAEL

Spanish Inquisition, Part II
The Madrid gay parade bans participants from Israel – the only Mideast country that respects homosexual rights.
By James Kirchick
Wall Street Journal Europe
July 11, 2010

MADRID -- Earlier this month Madrid celebrated its annual gay pride festival, reputed to be the largest in Europe. It featured the usual mixture of calls for tolerance, righteous political speechifying, and raucous display of sexuality. But the Spanish capital also earned a dubious distinction this year not for anything it included, but for what it excluded: Israel.

The municipality of Tel Aviv had originally planned to sponsor a float in the Madrid parade. But Spain’s Federation of Lesbians, Gays, Transgenders and Bisexuals revoked the invitation following Israel’s raid on the Gaza flotilla that ended with nine dead pro-Hamas activists.

“After what has happened, and as human rights campaigners, it seemed barbaric to us to have them taking part,” the Federation’s president, Antonio Poveda, explained. “We don’t just defend our own little patch.”

Mr. Poveda chose to ignore the video evidence supporting Israel’s account of self defense. But even if Israeli soldiers were at fault, why Israeli gays should be made to answer for the actions of their government was something that Mr. Poveda never bothered to explain. His justification rings of the “collective responsibility” trope that critics of the Jewish state often invoke to attack its security measures, especially the Gaza blockade, which they claim unfairly punishes ordinary Palestinians rather than Hamas.

By joining the international campaign to delegitimize Israel, Spain’s leading gay organization undermined its purported mission: the furtherance of gay rights. Israel is the only Middle Eastern country that even has gay pride parades, never mind respects the dignity of homosexuals. Saudi Arabia beheads gays. Syria arrests them in sting operations. Iran hangs them from cranes in public squares. (Speaking at Columbia University in 2007, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad claimed that there are no homosexuals in his country, an absurd assertion nonetheless portentous for its murderous aspirations). As for Gaza, one of Hamas’s leaders has referred to gays as “a minority of perverts and the mentally and morally sick.”

Like so many other democratic values, when it comes to gay rights Israel is an oasis in a sea of state-sanctioned repression, a “little patch,” to use Mr. Poveda’s words, that he and his comrades ought to defend. Gays serve openly in the Israeli military. While gay marriages can’t be legally performed in Israel, the government grants gay couples many of the same rights as heterosexual ones and recognizes same-sex unions performed abroad. Many Palestinian gays seek asylum in Israel. And like most aspects of Israeli life, the gay scene is disputatious. This year there was not one gay pride parade but three, including one that rejected the implicitly Zionist message of the municipally-sponsored parade. As one Israeli friend joked to me, “Two gay Jews, three parades.”

The decision by Spain’s leading gay group is part of an international trend that has seen far left elements hijack what ought to be a non-partisan movement to promote individual liberty. Earlier this year, for instance, organizers in Toronto allowed an organization called “Queers Against Israeli Apartheid” to march in its parade. When I suggested to a Spanish friend that I might bring a small Israeli flag to the parade route, he wrote back, “Are you out of your mind? It’s dangerous.” Instead, I lodged my personal protest by sporting an Israeli Defense Forces t-shirt. To my pleasant surprise, no one raised a fuss.

Whatever the injustice of the Spanish Gay Federation’s behavior, it had little bearing on parade-goers, who partied as if the event they were celebrating had not been blackened by the organizers’ shameful boycott of Israel. Such passivity means that actions intended to isolate the small democracy will continue. Yesterday, Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki – one of the key figures behind the regime’s support for international Holocaust denial – arrived in Spain for a two-day visit to meet with Prime Minister José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero. The irony in welcoming a top official from a regime that murders gays while banning the only country in the region that treats homosexuals humanely seems to have been lost on Madrid.

This boycott will divide two minority communities that ought to be allies. One would be hard-pressed to find a country that oppresses its gays and treats its Jews well, or vice versa. From Nazi Germany to the modern Middle East, societies that persecute Jews will get to homosexuals eventually – if they haven’t been dispensed with already. This is a lesson that gays ignore at their peril.

 

ERDOGAN FANS THE FLAMES

Erdogan fans anti-Israeli, Anti-American sentiments for political gain
By Semih Idiz
Hurriyet Daily News (Turkey)
June 14, 2010

Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan appears set to milk the popularity he gained in the streets of Turkey and the Middle East after the Marmara crisis in which nine Turks were killed by Israeli forces in a seriously botched up military operation.

It is almost as if he was waiting for a new crisis with Israel to be able to work the streets in order to regain some of the political ground his ruling Justice and Development Party, or AKP, has been loosing over bread and butter issues at home.

He and his party executives are clearly worried that the reinvigorated Republican Peoples Party, or CHP, may make headway given the successful manner in which its new leader, Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, has been hitting at the government over topics that really matter for the average man on the street. He is also concerned that the Saadet (Felicity) Party, the other Islamist party, may steal votes from the AKP given the rising dissatisfaction among the public.

Turks are fickle though, and easily swayed emotionally even if this means that the bread and butter issues of vital importance to them are pushed to the background. It is clear that there is great public animosity towards Israel today. As for the almost endemic anti-Americanism among Turks, this is also adding grist to Erdogan’s populist mill.

So we see him increasingly turning up the volume of his demagoguery, and hitting at Israel and the United States at every opportunity that presents itself. No doubt he is keeping a close eye on the “political rating meter” as he sends his crowds to paroxysms of delirious applause with his remarks, some of which smack openly of anti-Semitism and reflect a growing anti-Western tendency.

After the Marmara incident he was not only quick to use the harshest and most insulting adjectives when referring to Israel, but also had thinly veiled warnings to Washington, suggesting openly that those who stood behind Israel were also culpable in the crimes committed by that country.

Over the weekend he went further and openly named the U.S. this time, thus revealing what lies in his heart-of-hearts. This is what he had to say while addressing an adoring crowd in Rize, on the Black Sea coast, where people are not only religious but also ultra-nationalist.

“They are asking us what Turkey is doing in the Middle East, in Palestine. Why is Turkey bothered about Gaza? But could they not be asked in return what America is doing in Iraq? What is it doing in Palestine? Could it not be asked what is it doing in Afghanistan? What are France, Britain, and Holland, and so on, doing in these places?”

Erdogan went on threateningly to say, “I am calling on the Israeli supported international media and their subcontractors at home: Turkey is not like other countries.” His only tribute to sophistication during this show of demagoguery was his reference to “the Israeli supported international media.”

Previously he had made references to the “Jewish controlled international media” but must have been warned by his advisors that this was too overtly “anti-Semitic,” and thus politically incorrect. This no doubt forced him to make a slight modification in his nevertheless anti-Semitic reference to the international media.

What is worse, however, is that Erdogan is set to raise the volume of his bellicosity in coming weeks and months, given that Turkey will, for all intents and purposes, be moving into “election mode.” We had an opportunity to talk to Hikmet Cetin, a highly respected veteran politician and former Foreign Minister, the other day.

He too expressed serious concerns that Erdogan and the AKP would make anti-Israeli and anti-American rhetoric the centerpiece of his political campaign in the lead-up to the elections in 2011. Mr. Cetin is right to be concerned of course.

Erdogan is, after all, utilizing the least sophisticated of political tools to increase support for the AKP at home, and totally disregarding what harm he may be doing to Turkey’s well established links with the West in general and the U.S. in particular – regardless of the periodic turbulence in these ties over specific issues.

There are those who say that he is in fact doing all of this intentionally, because he is trying to turn Turkey’s direction from the West to the Islamic East. We personally believe that whatever his ultimate aim and intentions may be in this respect, Mr. Erdogan will find that it is much harder to turn Turkey’s direction than he thinks.

But it cannot be denied that he and his government are providing material for those in the West who feel Turkey is in fact “drifting away.” There is truth, of course, in the contention being also put forward by some in the West today that certain countries and leaders in Europe have made it easier for the AKP to hit at the West. This is highly apparent from Erdogan’s lambasting Europe while also pursuing his populist line of demagoguery.

Some in Europe have been clinging to Mr. Erdogan and his party as the only viable reformist force in Turkey and providing him with a benefit of the doubt way beyond what is justified (even as he feeds the anti-western undercurrents in this country.) Less admiration and more attention on their part to what he is actually saying and doing at this stage should provide a wake-up call, as his latest actions and remarks appear to have done in Washington.

The bottom line is that while some may be worrying that Mr. Erdogan and the AKP are changing Turkey’s course, the truth is that it is not clear what they are trying to do, or if they even have a viable master plan for a modern Westward looking Turkey at this stage. As matters stand it appears that Mr. Erdogan is simply riding the crest of a populist conservative and Islamist wave – with nationalist overtones – which enables him to fog some seminal questions about where he is taking the country.

As for the great strides his party made over the past eight years, this may be true to an extent but it must not be forgotten that the road had already been laid for the AKP government to move on in terms of much of what they achieved over these years.

For example Turkey’s EU orientation – which Mr. Erdogan never referred to in a positive light while in the opposition – is something that was well underway. He simply went along with it continuing a reform process that had been started under the previous Ecevit government.

The much touted “zero problems with neighbors” policy, on the other hand, was always there but was called “a policy of good neighborliness.” As for the much lauded “opening up to the Middle East” this was the pet project of a host of former Turkish politicians ranging from Suleyman Demirel to Bulent Ecevit and Erdal Inonu, and not exclusive to the AKP.

It may appear to some that nothing was achieved in this country prior to the AKP. Mr. Erdogan and his party executives are working overtime to spread that impression, of course. But it is wrong and misrepresents the facts. Mr. Erdogan’s vitriolic and bellicose attitude both in domestic and in foreign policy should help open many eyes on this score too in the coming period.

 

TAKING OVER THE MEDIA

The AKP’s Hamas policy: “us vs. them”
By Soner Cagaptay
Hurriyet Daily News (Turkey)
July 5, 2010

www.hurriyetdailynews.com/n.php?n=the-akp8217s-hamas-policy-8220us-vs.-them-2010-07-02

At home, the Justice and Development Party, or AKP, has promoted the Islamist mindset of “us Muslims” in conflict with “the bad others” through the media and also by spreading Hamas’ views throughout Turkey, whether through official Hamas visits to Turkey or through AKP-supported conferences and fundraisers.

Recent changes in media ownership in Turkey under the AKP are closely related to the spread of anti-Western sentiments in the country. Turkey is a country with free media. Media independence in Turkey, however, is increasingly under threat.

The Turkish media remains free (in that it is not illegal to produce journalism), but the AKP is trying to curb media freedoms by transforming media ownership through legal loopholes. Such was the case in December 2005 when the AKP took over the Sabah-ATV conglomerate, which represents around 20% of the Turkish media market, selling this conglomerate to a media company of which Turkish Prime minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s son-in-law Berat Albayrak is the CEO.

The AKP has also brought a $3.2 billion tax fine against Dogan Yayin, a conglomerate that owns around 50 percent of the Turkish media. This excessive fine exceeds Dogan’s total net worth—is political, because Dogan’s news outlets promote secular, liberal and nationalist views that often criticize of the AKP.

The transformation of the Turkish media is not an esoteric issue, for it affects the future of Turkish democracy and also has a bearing on Turkish views of the world.

Where there is no independent media – as in Russia – there is simply no viable opposition to government. Whenever Turkey goes through a political spasm, analysts warn of the collapse of Turkey’s democracy. Despite this, Turkey has survived numerous crises in the past thanks to the balancing power of its fourth pillar.

As Turkish media becomes less free, there is a higher likelihood that it will become a tool for the government with which to shape an anti-Western public opinion. What is bad for secular liberal western Turks is bad for the West. Turkey’s free media needs to remain free because if it is all either state-owned or owned by pro-AKP businesses, anti-Western and anti-Israeli viewpoints will spread through the media, which we have been witnessing since 2002.

A recent show on Turkey’s publicly-funded Turkish Radio Television, or TRT, network is a perfect example. The debut of the series, entitled “Ayrilik” (Separation), came on the heels of Turkey’s cancellation of Israeli participation in the Anatolian Eagle exercises. TRT, whose head is appointed by the AKP, and which is entirely funded by Turkish taxpayer money, ran “Ayrilik,” a show with an anti-Israeli stance, including one which depicts an imagined situation in the Palestinian territories where a newborn baby is intentionally killed by Israeli soldiers.

What do 18-year-old Turks think of Israel now? They hate it, and they will do so because of images depicted in shows like “Ayrilik.” These are the images they have been seeing for the last seven years and this is what they’ll continue seeing. A Turk who has come of age under the AKP is now more likely than not to hate Israel and the West after seven years of such propaganda. Unlike Turks now in their forties or older who came of political age in a different Turkey, younger Turks in their twenties and thirties have more radical and negative views of the West as a result of what they see in government-controlled media as well as media owned by pro-government businesses.

THROUGH CONFERENCES

While government-controlled media promotes an evil image of the Israelis, international Hamas conferences in Turkey build legitimacy for Hamas and other extensions of the International Muslim Brotherhood movement. Before the AKP came to power, Turkey had never hosted a Hamas conference. Now, such conferences render the Hamas and Muslim Brotherhood agenda more accessible to Turks, making Hamas’ violent struggle against Israel a part of daily political debate in Turkey.

In the last three years alone, there have been seven Hamas conferences and fundraisers in Istanbul. The first one of these, held in July 2006 and attended by one of the spiritual leaders of the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood, Sheikh Yousef al-Qaradawi, was given the title “Muslims in Europe.” Qaradawi’s visit was funded by the British Foreign Office, and Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood came to talk about Muslims in Europe, exposing Turks and European Muslims to Hamas and its ideology.

The list continues: other Hamas and Muslim Brotherhood conferences in Turkey include a November, 2007 conference called “Jerusalem Day,” co-organized by nongovernmental organization the Association of Turkish Volunteer Organizations, or TGTV, close to the AKP and Islamic Association of Muslim World Nongovernmental Organizations, or IDSB. This conference, entitled “Jerusalem Day,” called for “liberating Jerusalem through jihad from the Zionists.”

Other conferences followed in February 2009, April 2009, May 2009, and July 2009. What is interesting is that the frequency of these conferences has been steadily increasing, with four such meetings alone held in 2009.

Moreover, these meetings have started to espouse a violent agenda. For instance, at the February 2009 conference, Hamas members called for a jihad centered on Gaza. The April 2009 meeting was a “Masjid al-Aqsa symposium” which called to “liberate Masjid al-Aqsa” and it was organized by the Istanbul Peace Platform, or IBP, which includes a number of NGOs close to the AKP. The symposium called on all Muslims to liberate al-Aqsa through violence, if necessary, and also claimed that Israel has plans to demolish it. The “Palestine Collaboration Conference” in May 2009 called for “continued resistance to liberate Palestine.” Conference participants included former Sudanese President Mushir Sivar Ez-Zeheb, President of the International Union of Muslim Scholars Yousef al-Qaradawi, and Hamas Representative and Spokesman in Lebanon Usame Hamdan. In his speech at this conference, AKP deputy Zeyd Aslan said that Israel “commits genocide in Palestine.”

On the other hand, the “Environment Conference” in July 2009 was organized by the Earth Centre of Dialogue Partners in cooperation with the Islamic Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, the city of Istanbul, and the Fatih University in Istanbul. The conference, attended by al-Qaradawi, concluded with the declaration of a seven-year-action plan on climate change. The conference also served as platform to bring Hamas and MB members to Istanbul.

These conferences are organized by NGOs close to the AKP government. Although they appear to be civil society initiatives, the meetings are held in city halls of Istanbul or convention centers under the control of the AKP city government, which in essence means that taxpayer funds help pay for these events.


Netanyahu “absolutely” favors a Palestinian state (& CNN fires its Mideast editor)

July 09, 2010

* In his own words: Netanyahu on CNN -- videos below. These are worth watching for those who want to understand Israel and Israeli policy, and the likely future direction of the peace process.

* JTA reports that “in an off-the-cuff remark at a Jewish gathering in New York, the Israeli prime minister hinted at openness to the idea of ceding Israeli sovereignty over part of Jerusalem.”

* Tom Gross quoted in today’s Jerusalem Post: “It was wrong of CNN correspondent Octavia Nasr to praise Hizbullah spiritual leader Fadlallah, who was among other things a Holocaust denier, on Sunday. It was right of her to apologize on Tuesday. But it was probably an overreaction by CNN to fire her yesterday over a tweet, and after she had apologized. There are other reporters who are far more prejudiced against Israel at CNN and even more so at the BBC and other networks, that deserve to be fired before Nasr was.”

* Of more serious concern than a mere tweet: British ambassador to Lebanon heaps lavish praise for Fadlallah on official British government website, sparking outrage in Israel, Lebanon, the U.S. and elsewhere yesterday.

* Fadlallah: “What martyrdom is greater than making yourself a human bomb and detonating yourself among the enemy? … There are no innocent Jews in Palestine.”

* One of Fadlallah’s last acts before he died was to issue a fatwa authorizing the use of suicide bomb attacks. He also said Jews might have been responsible for the 9/11 attacks.

(Fadlallah, above with his Hizbullah bodyguards in Lebanon in the 1980s)


(This dispatch is a follow-up to various items in Wednesday’s dispatch.)

 

CONTENTS

1. Netanyahu reaffirms possibility of an independent Palestinian state
2. A tweet too far
3. Outrage as UK ambassador pays homage to Fadlallah
4. UK official government website: “The passing of a decent man”
5. How Hizbullah’s own al-Manar TV website remembered Fadlallah
6. “Right up there with Abu Nidal and Carlos the Jackal”
7. Hamas stops entry of newspapers into the Gaza Strip
8. “CNN fires ME editor over tweet” (By Yaakov Lappin, Jerusalem Post, July 9, 2010)
9. Videos of interview with Israeli PM Netanyahu on CNN’s Larry King Live
10. Transcript of interview with Netanyahu on CNN


[All notes below by Tom Gross]

NETANYAHU REAFFIRMS POSSIBILITY OF AN INDEPENDENT PALESTINIAN STATE

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has granted very few television interviews since assuming office last year. His longest one to date (lasting a full hour) was with CNN’s Larry King. It was broadcast internationally on CNN yesterday. A number of people have asked me for the transcript of the interview, and it is attached below. For those that prefer to watch the interview, I have a posted a video of it (in five parts) if you scroll down down this page below.

Netanyahu makes a number of interesting points in it, as well as affirming that he “absolutely favors a Palestinian state” so long as it will not be used as a launching ground for armed attacks on Israelis.

It is worth taking the time to read or watch this interview since Netanyahu’s positions are so often misrepresented by supposedly informed commentators, for example, time and again on the editorial pages of The New York Times.

 

A TWEET TOO FAR

Before that, I attach a follow-up item to Sunday’s dispatch, “The secret war against Iran” (& CNN reporter mourns Hizbullah spiritual leader), and Wednesday’s dispatch, (The Obama-Netanyahu love fest (& CNN’s Octavia Nasr says sorry).

In the 24 hours after I first drew attention to it on Sunday, dozens of media who subscribe to this list, including Fox News, The Weekly Standard and others reported on the twitter comments by CNN’s Senior Editor of Arab Affairs Octavia Nasr praising Hizbullah leader Grand Ayatollah Fadlallah, who was classified by the U.S. government as a terrorist. Various activist organizations that subscribe to this list also took it up the day after I sent it out and posted it.

Nasr posted a note on the CNN website “deeply regretting” having lauded a man who she now noted “regularly praised the terror attacks that killed Israeli citizens. And as recently as 2008, said the numbers of Jews killed in the Holocaust were wildly inflated.”

In spite of her apology, CNN fired her yesterday, a decision I have some concerns about because there are far worse journalists working at CNN and elsewhere whose prejudices against Israel are much deeper than Nasr’s, and I feel that CNN may be “sacrificing” one “older female” reporter (Nasr had worked at CNN for 20 years) in order to avoid examining deeper issues about their news coverage by the likes of correspondent Ben Wedeman and others.

I attach an article from The Jerusalem Post below in which I note this.

***

See also last year’s: dispatch, Exclusive: This is CNN (& BBC-UNRWA connection revealed), about CNN’s Arabic affairs producer in its Jerusalem bureau, Nidal Rafa, who has now also been dismissed.

 

OUTRAGE AS UK AMBASSADOR PAYS HOMAGE TO FADLALLAH

The British ambassador to Lebanon on Wednesday paid homage to Ayatollah Fadlallah on her British government internet blog.

“When you visited him you could be sure of a real debate, a respectful argument and you knew you would leave his presence feeling a better person,” Ambassador to Lebanon Frances Guy wrote in her blog, which is hosted by the British government. “The world needs more men … daring to confront old constraints.”

She did not mention his Holocaust denial or his repeated support for terrorism against Israeli civilians. Her comments sparked outrage in America, in Israel, among the majority of Lebanese who do not support Hizbullah, and among many in Britain who said they were embarrassed by her comments.

Fadlallah was staunchly anti-American and linked to the bombings of the U.S. Embassy and Marine base in Lebanon which killed more than 260 Americans. In 1985 Fadlallah escaped a CIA assassination attempt.

Tens of thousands of supporters, chanting “Death to America! Death to Israel!” swarmed around Fadlallah’s coffin as it made its way through the streets of south Beirut to a mosque for burial on Tuesday. It is not believed the British ambassador was among them.

 

UK OFFICIAL GOVT. WEBSITE: THE PASSING OF A DECENT MAN

The British government removed this entry from their website overnight, but I had kept a copy of it from yesterday. It reads:

http://blogs.fco.gov.uk/roller/guy/entry/the_passing_of_decent_men

The passing of decent men

Posted 05 July 2010 by Frances Guy | 11 comments

One of the privileges of being a diplomat is the people you meet; great and small, passionate and furious. People in Lebanon like to ask me which politician I admire most. It is an unfair question, obviously, and many are seeking to make a political response of their own. I usually avoid answering by referring to those I enjoy meeting the most and those that impress me the most. Until yesterday my preferred answer was to refer to Sheikh Mohammed Hussein Fadlallah, head of the Shia clergy in Lebanon and much admired leader of many Shia muslims [sic] throughout the world. When you visited him you could be sure of a real debate, a respectful argument and you knew you would leave his presence feeling a better person. That for me is the real effect of a true man of religion; leaving an impact on everyone he meets, no matter what their faith. Sheikh Fadlallah passed away yesterday. Lebanon is a lesser place the day after but his absence will be felt well beyond Lebanon’s shores. I remember well when I was nominated ambassador to Beirut, a muslim [sic] acquaintance sought me out to tell me how lucky I was because I would get a chance to meet Sheikh Fadlallah. Truly he was right. If I was sad to hear the news I know other peoples’ lives will be truly blighted. The world needs more men like him willing to reach out across faiths, acknowledging the reality of the modern world and daring to confront old constraints. May he rest in peace.

 

HOW HIZBULLAH’S OWN AL-MANAR TV WEBSITE REMEMBERED FADLALLAH

I attach the following, from Hizbullah’s own website, because so many Western media wrote about the death of Fadlallah, without properly mentioning the negative aspects of his character.

EXTRACTS FROM AL-MANAR:

Ayatollah Mohammed Hussein Fadlullah inspired the leaders for the resistance group [Hizbullah], and served as a highly influential beacon of truth for all the oppressed peoples of the world.

From the pulpit of the Imam Rida mosque in the Bir al-Abd neighborhood (Beirut’s southern suburb), Sayyed Fadlullah’s sermons gave shape to the political currents … till the last days of his life.

… “What martyrdom is greater than making yourself a human bomb detonating it among the enemy? What spiritualism is greater than this spiritualism in which a person loses all feeling of his body and life for the sake of his cause and mission?”

… “All of Palestine is a war zone and every Jew who unlawfully occupies a house or land belonging to a Palestinian is a legitimate target. There are no innocent Jews in Palestine…They confiscate our water and freedom.”

… In an interview with Al-Manar TV on March 21, 2008, Sayyed Fadlullah stated: “Zionism has inflated the number of victims in this holocaust beyond imagination.”

(Full al-Manar obituary here.)

 

“RIGHT UP THERE WITH ABU NIDAL AND CARLOS THE JACKAL”

Con Coughlin, Foreign Editor of Britain’s Daily Telegraph, writing in the Telegraph on July 5, 2010:

“Don’t be fooled by all the tributes that are pouring out following the death in Beirut at the weekend of Sheikh Mohammed Hussein Fadlallah. The U.S. State Department’s classification of Fadlallah as a terrorist was spot on, and when you look back at his track record you can see he was right up there with other infamous terror masterminds, such as Abu Nidal and Carlos the Jackal. One of Fadlallah’s last acts before he died was to issue a fatwa authorising the use of suicide bomb attacks.”

 

HAMAS STOPS ENTRY OF NEWSPAPERS INTO GAZA STRIP

Hamas on Wednesday banned the distribution of three leading Palestinian newspapers – Al-Quds, Al-Ayyam and Al-Hayat al-Jadida – in the Gaza Strip.

Since then, Hamas policemen have been confiscating any copies that did manage to find their way into Gaza. All three newspapers have carried articles about some of Hamas’s human rights abuses in Gaza – articles of a kind that many anti-Israel Western reporters refuse to publish.

The Fatah-controlled Palestinian Journalists Syndicate in the West Bank condemned the Hamas move and called for the lifting of the ban.

However, the silence of Western human rights organizations and media freedom groups in regard to this latest Hamas clampdown, is deafening.

 

CNN SENIOR VICE PRESIDENT: OCTAVIA COMPROMISED HER CREDIBILITY

CNN fires Mideast editor over tweet
By Yaakov Lappin
The Jerusalem Post
July 9, 2010

www.jpost.com/International/Article.aspx?id=180778

Three days after posting a message on her Twitter account expressing sadness at the death of the Lebanese Ayatollah Muhammad Hussein Fadlallah, CNN’s senior editor of Middle Eastern affairs, Octavia Nasr, was fired from the international news network.

“Sad to hear of the passing of Sayyed Mohammed Hussein Fadlallah... One of Hizbullah’s giants I respect a lot,” Nasr wrote on Twitter on Sunday.

The comment touched off a firestorm of controversy.

Nasr’s 20-year career in the news network ended after CNN executives concluded that “her credibility in her position as senior editor for Middle Eastern affairs has been compromised,” according to an internal CNN memo published by the Mediaite Web site on Wednesday night.

Nasr had attempted to limit the damage caused by her Twitter message by posting a detailed message on her CNN blog, in which she expressed regret over what she described as “an error of judgment.”

Nasr added that she regretted writing “such a simplistic comment and I’m sorry because it conveyed that I supported Fadlallah’s life’s work.

That’s not the case at all.

“It is no secret that Sayyed Mohammad Hussein Fadlallah hated with a vengeance the United States government and Israel. He regularly praised the terror attacks that killed Israeli citizens. And as recently as 2008, he said the numbers of Jews killed in the Holocaust were wildly inflated. But it was his commitment to Hizbullah’s original mission – resisting Israel’s occupation of Lebanon – that made him popular and respected among many Lebanese, not just people of his own sect,” Nasr said.

CNN executives found the explanation to be insufficient.

Parisa Khosravi, senior vice president of CNN international newsgathering, said in the internal memo on Wednesday, “I had a conversation with Octavia this morning and I want to share with you that we have decided that she will be leaving the company... As she has stated in her blog on CNN.com, she fully accepts that she should not have made such a simplistic comment without any context whatsoever. However, at this point, we believe that her credibility in her position as senior editor for Middle Eastern affairs has been compromised going forward.”

Political and media commentator Tom Gross told The Jerusalem Post on Thursday that “It was wrong of Nasr to praise Fadlallah, who was among other things a Holocaust denier, on Sunday. It was right of her to apologize on Tuesday.

“But it was probably an overreaction by CNN to fire her yesterday over a tweet, and after she had apologized,” Gross added. “There are other reporters who are far more prejudiced against Israel at CNN and even more so at the BBC and other networks, that deserve to be fired before Nasr was.”

Prior to her sacking CNN issued a statement to the ADL in which it criticized Nasr’s tweet. Responding to CNN’s statement, the Anti-Defamation League published its own statement, saying it was pleased with CNN for “making clear that her action did not meet the network’s editorial standards. Nasr herself has recognized that the tweet was a mistake.

“We commend CNN for taking this as a serious matter and dealing with it immediately,” the ADL added.

 

VIDEOS OF INTERVIEW WITH NETANYAHU ON CNN

PART 1


PART 2


PART 3


PART 4


PART 5



TRANSCRIPT OF INTERVIEW WITH NETANYAHU ON CNN

Interview with Israeli PM Netanyahu on CNN’s Larry King Live
July 7, 2010

LARRY KING, CNN HOST: Tonight, a prime-time exclusive. Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on the Palestinians.

KING: We only go back -- well, almost 30 years. B.B., that’s his nickname, but I have to refer to him as Prime Minister Netanyahu because that’s formality here. Benjamin Netanyahu, the Israeli prime minister in New York, a city he knows very well, used to be ambassador to the U.N. Let’s get right to it. It’s good seeing you again, by the way.

BENJAMIN NETANYAHU, PRIME MINISTER, ISRAEL: Good to see you, Larry. You didn’t have to reveal how far back we go together.

KING: That’s right, you got a point. A few months ago, you went to the White House. It didn’t go too well. What changed yesterday?

NETANYAHU: I think there’s an underlying relationship there that people don’t appreciate. We have our ups and downs. People focus on the downs and the downs are exaggerated and sometimes distorted. But there is ups and there’s a basic bedrock of identification, common values between Israel and the United States. The president gives it expression. I give it expression. And yesterday’s meeting gave it expression. I think there is a solidity of ties between Israel and the United States that the president of the United States and the prime minister of Israel reflect in their meeting.

KING: No matter who holds the posts?

NETANYAHU: I think every prime minister, every president, has his own points, his own viewpoints, but there’s a common position of friendship and a basic alliance that is there, that really is continued by all leaders, whoever they are. That was definitely the case yesterday.

KING: Mr. Prime Minister, have there been times, though, since President Obama took office, where you felt that friendship or that tie weakened?

NETANYAHU: No, a lot of things that the public is not aware of that throughout the year and some that I’ve been in office, we’ve had continuous cooperation in the fields of security, in the fields of intelligence, in the fields of vital strategic importance to Israel and the United States. And that seems to go unnoticed or unremarked. People always focus on differences of views that we may have. They’re minor compared to the things that unite us.

We have -- Israel is the only democracy in the Middle East. America’s the world’s greatest democracy. We have both common values and, unfortunately, common enemies. The people who attack the United States and the Middle East attack Israel. The people that we are fighting are the people you are fighting. So there’s a great commonalty, a great cooperation that goes underneath the surface. And sometimes, I’m happy to say, it does come to the surface. It did yesterday. It really should be an indication of something that guides our relationship throughout.

KING: So there’s no time that you question President Obama’s commitment to your country?

NETANYAHU: No. And I think there’s no time that he questioned Israel’s unwavering commitment as a firm American ally. I would say there is no greater ally, no greater friend of the United States, than Israel. And there is no greater friend and no greater ally of Israel than the United States.

KING: There were those who were saying, though, in the past few months, until that meeting yesterday, the relationships were at the lowest they have been in 35 years. Do you buy that?

NETANYAHU: Look, no, I don’t. I think the support for Israel and the American people and the intertwining of interests and cooperation between our governments is increasing all the time. It’s obscured by the bumps on the road. But there’s no question that the road is going forward and going upwards, I have no doubt about that.

KING: All right, let’s get into some things. Mr. Prime Minister, you say that you want to have direct talks with the Palestinians. So when are you and President Abbas, the Palestinian Authority, going to sit down? When’s it going to happen? It’s so frustrating to the world --

NETANYAHU: That’s a very -- that’s an excellent question that I’ve been asking for a year and a quarter, ever since I got into office. On day one that I got in, I said President Abbas, the Palestinian president, meet me and let’s talk peace.

And I use this forum today, on the “Larry King” show, to say, President Abbas, meet me, and let’s talk peace. We all have our grievances. We all have our, you know, our questions and things that we want answered. But the most important thing is to get together, sit down in a room and begin to negotiate peace. You cannot resolve a conflict, you cannot successfully complete a peace negotiation if you don’t start it.

And I say let’s start it right now, today, tomorrow, in Jerusalem, in Ramallah or anywhere else. I’m prepared to go to a warm city like New York or a cool city anywhere. Let’s get on with the business of talking peace and concluding the peace agreement.

KING: So, forgive me, what’s holding it up? He could watch this show. We did a show some years ago with Arafat, with Yitzhak Rabin and King Hussein of Jordan, a historic show. I was in Washington. The three of them were in their homelands. It was terrific. Why can’t -- would you do that, if we had you and Abbas and we had the king of Jordan on? Could we do that now?

NETANYAHU: You’re on, Larry. From my point of view, immediately, no problem.

KING: All right. So if we worked on that, we could set it up? Because it’s -- it’s frustrating -- go ahead.

NETANYAHU: Well, I’m just saying that you’re hitting the nail right on the head. I mean, what is there to prevent a meeting between the prime minister of Israel, in Jerusalem, and the president of the Palestinian Authority, Mahmoud Abbas, who’s 10 minutes away in Ramallah, that’s when you have traffic. Without traffic, it’s seven minutes.

I really like and respect Senator George Mitchell, President Obama’s envoy to the Middle East. But I find it perplexing and unnecessary that president -- that Senator Mitchell has to travel halfway across the world to relay messages between President Abbas and myself. There’s no need for that. We should sit down. We have very serious issues to discuss. Our security, the question of where the borders will end up, the question of settlements, the question of Palestinian refugees, the question of water. All these things are crucially important.

The only way that they’re going to be resolved is if we actually sit down and negotiate a peace. I think leaders have to do exactly that. I think we have to break molds, break stereotypes, and cut right through to a solution. I’m prepared to do it. I’m prepared to lead. And I hope that President Abbas hears my call, responds to it. I think we’ll have important and steady help from President Obama. But there is no substitute for the two leaders. The leader of Israel and the leader of the Palestinian Authority, to get down together, talk peace and make peace.

KING: And we can kick it off on this show. We’ll be right back with Benjamin Netanyahu, the Israeli prime minister. Don’t go away.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: We’re back with Prime Minister Netanyahu. He is in New York. We’re in Los Angeles. What about the settlements issue? President Obama said yesterday he expected talks to begin before the moratorium on settlement construction expires which is late September. Will you extend the moratorium, by the way, if things aren’t settled by late September?

NETANYAHU: Larry, the whole settlement issue was supposed to be discussed in the final peace -- what are called final status peace negotiations, which means how to achieve a final peace. This is one of the issues we have to resolve.

Seven months ago, I did something quite extraordinary, that is, no other prime minister in Israel’s history did this. I put on a temporary freeze of 10 months of new construction in the settlements in order to encourage the Palestinians to get into the peace talks. Seven months have passed by. They don’t come in. They say, oh, we need now, another extension. And the answer is, right now, listen, we don’t need any pretext and preconditions. Let’s just get into the talks.

And one of the things we’ll discuss, right away, is issues of settlements. And that’s what I propose doing. In any case, what is important is to get down and talk. That’s the important thing.

KING: President Clinton once said to me that the difficulties in the Middle East are harder to solve than Ireland/England. That it’s so deep rooted and so frustrating. Can you explain to a waiting world why you can’t get together?

NETANYAHU: I can, and I’m offering to do exactly that. I think there’s been a persistent refusal in many Arab quarters to recognize the state of Israel borders. I think the issue of borders is important. It’s related to our security. But the issue of recognition, the basic recognition of the Jewish state that exists in the Middle East, that is the homeland of the Jewish people, that lives in peace and security with its neighbors, is something that is recognized by some.

We made peace with Egypt. We made peace with Jordan. I think it’s important to make peace with the Palestinians. And I’m prepared to negotiate that peace right away. I think it requires courage on the Palestinian side for all those who don’t really want a peace with Israel, to stand up and do what president -- the late president of Egypt, Anwar Sadat did, and to say, hey, it’s over, no more war, no more bloodshed. We’re going to make a genuine peace with Israel. I’m prepared to have a demilitarized Palestinian state live next to the Jewish state of Israel.

I think the Palestinians should not be either subject of Israel or citizens of Israel. They should have their own independent country. And we should be assured that this country is not used as a staging ground for Iranian-sponsored terrorist attacks on us. And I think this combination of state for the Palestinians and security for Israel is something that can be brought about in direct negotiations that I propose to start without any preconditions, without any pretext.

KING: Right.

NETANYAHU: Leaders don’t need excuses. They just have to get on with it and I’m prepared to get on with it.

KING: Do you -- you absolutely favor a Palestinian state though, right?

NETANYAHU: I do. And I want to make sure that it -- that we don’t have a repeat of what happened in the other two times that we vacated territory. You know, we left Lebanon, every last square inch of it. And Iran came in and used it as a staging ground to launch 6,000 rockets on Israel’s cities, 6,000.

We left Gaza, last square inch, and Iran used it to arm its proxies and fired another 6,000 rockets. So we can’t afford that happening a third time. Now, when I say that, Larry, you can now reach one of two conclusions. Either don’t make any peace attempt or ensure that the peace you do make has the necessary security arrangements on the ground to prevent this from happening a third time. That’s what I propose to do. And I think it’s possible to fashion a secure peace for Israel and a dignified peace and a dignified life for the Palestinians. I discussed this at some length yesterday with President Obama. And I’m very happy with the progress of those talks.

KING: All right. But Abbas isn’t the only leader we have to concern ourselves with. Would you sit down with Hamas?

NETANYAHU: I’ll sit down with anyone who will recognize my existence. Somebody who calls for our destruction, my destruction, is unfortunately not a partner for peace.

KING: So you would not sit down --

NETANYAHU: -- Hamas that calls -- well, you know, would you sit down with somebody who said we want to destroy the United States? Now come and talk to us?

KING: Do you think they can -- that can change at all? Do you think there’s some way -- Secretary Mitchell, Senator Mitchell maybe somewhat in between can get a little tempering of the language? I mean, we’re trying for the same result here. Nobody gets killed hopefully.

NETANYAHU: I think in the case of Hamas, it’s basically a proxy, a terror proxy of Iran. Iran openly calls for our destruction. It denies the Holocaust. It sponsors terrorism everywhere. It brutalizes its own people. Hamas, by the way, does the same thing to the Palestinians in Gaza. They don’t really have a choice. They can’t really vote the Hamas out. They can’t decide their own fate.

But look at what is happening in the West Bank with our cooperation. You know, we removed -- I removed hundreds of check points, hundreds of road blocks. And the Palestinian economy on the West Bank is just booming. I mean, there’s coffee shops, there’s shopping malls, there’s e-businesses, you name it. It’s growing at about 8 percent or 9 percent a year which isn’t bad these days.

And I’m very happy for that. And I want to add on to that a formal peace -- peace with security and prosperity. Hamas is totally the other way around. They are -- you know, they’re subjecting their own people to terrible things. And they’re using the territory to just stockpile weapons. I wish they -- I wish they’d change, and I wish they’d accept the state of Israel. But as long as they call for our destruction, there’s not much we can do.

KING: We’ll be right back with the prime minister of Israel after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: We’re back with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of the state of Israel. Your coalition, we know this, has some right wingers who don’t agree with the notion of a Palestinian state. You have some difficulties. There are always inner politics going on. Is there any way, a pragmatic way, to bring you and the Kadima together?

NETANYAHU: Well, I’ve called for a national unity I’ve formed one. I’ve formed Likud labor alliance. And I’m always happy to broaden it to people who want to serve the nation. You know, getting into the intricacies of Israeli politics would take a lot more of -- even a long program of “Larry King.” It’s a subject of encyclopedic advantage.

KING: Back to the difficulties. In May, Israeli forces stormed a ship on a humanitarian mission to Gaza. Several Turkish activists were killed. I don’t know if you’ve -- have you ever publicly said that you were wrong to do this?

NETANYAHU: Well, we were definitely sorry about the loss of life. But I’ll tell you what happened. First of all, why do we check ships that go to Gaza? Because we are concerned with the flow of -- the possible flow of weaponry into Gaza. We’ve had, as I said, thousands of rockets fired on us.

I think that what people fail to recognize is that there were six ships. Five of them were totally peaceful and nothing of substance happened. Our navy checked these ships. And we didn’t have any incident. The sixth ship was very different. It had about 500 people on it, of which about 450 were peaceful people.

But several dozen were activists of a very radical group that had apparently amassed steel rods, knives, communication equipment. They boarded differently than the other passengers, the other 450 passengers, boarded in one port in Turkey. They went through security checks. These people boarded in another port in Istanbul. They didn’t go through any security checks. They had their own communication equipment. They had their own -- their own steel pipes and things that they brought on board.

And when our Coast Guard effectively wanted to check this ship and make sure that it behaved the way the other five did, they were brutally attacked. You can see that in the films that were released. Our soldiers, our navy people were fighting for their lives.

What would you do if the Coast Guard boarded a ship and the Coast Guard was brutally attacked by people who were, you know, clubbing them, knifing them, taking weapons from them, shooting at them? What do you think would happen? How do you think the American people would respond?

KING: OK. But how do you repair the damage with a state you need to be friendly, Turkey?

NETANYAHU: Well, you’re quite right, that Turkey and Israel had an important relationship. Turkey’s a very important country in the Middle East. I think that the relationship began to deteriorate with the Turkish policy, a new policy, that basically veers away from the West and I think Israel -- what has happened with Israel as a result of that policy and not its cause.

But nevertheless, I look for every opportunity to see if we can stop this deterioration and somehow get things back to normal or relatively normal. Last week, I authorized a meeting with one of my senior ministers and the Turkish foreign minister. They met in Zurich, in the airport.

I can’t tell you that something positive came out of it. But I want to feel, as prime minister of Israel, that I leave no stone unturned in the quest for -- the quest for a broader peace, and the quest of good relations with our neighbors. And even though it may not succeed right now, we’ll keep trying.

KING: Will you meet with Turkish leaders?

NETANYAHU: Sure.

KING: We’ll take a break. We’ll be right back with more of the Israeli prime minister. Don’t go away.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: We’re very interested in your comments, Mr. Prime Minister, on the statements made by former American President Jimmy Carter. He called the incident with the ship, the attack on the ship, unprovoked and an illegal Israeli assault. He also says, there’s no way to realize a two-state solution, while, quote, “the people of Gaza remain isolated and deprived of basic human rights.” How do you respond to President Carter? NETANYAHU: Well, first of all, I think he’s wrong on the incident. I described to you what happened.

KING: All right.

NETANYAHU: We regret the loss of life, but we don’t apologize for our soldiers defending themselves. And I think that’s obvious. Secondly, I think the people of Gaza are, indeed, incarcerated by Hamas. Third, I removed all the civilian -- civilian closure that we had. That is, the prevention of free flow of civilian goods, food, medicine, anything, toys. I actually changed a policy that I inherited from the previous government. And it put both civilian closure on Gaza and a security closure.

I said we really have to be clear about our policy. Our policy is that weapons and war-supporting material don’t go in. And everything else should go in. Food and everything else should go in. So I changed that policy. And I’m glad I did it, because I think there’s clarity and there’s common sense in it. I’m sorry that not everyone can see that. But I think fair minded people can see it and, in fact, do.

KING: Does it pain you personally to have a former president of the United States be so critical of your country?

NETANYAHU: Well, I’m sorry he thinks that. I think the majority -- the overwhelming majority of Americans see things differently. I think -- I think successful presidents, including this one, see things differently. And the important thing is to -- is to be true to the facts.

The facts are that Israel was attacked from Gaza. The fact is that we had -- that Iran sends weapons into Gaza so they’d be fired on us. The fact is that this regime, Hamas, is holding an Israeli soldier that they kidnapped for four years. Four years this soldier, Gilad Shalit, has not been allowed to see anyone. They don’t allow the Red Cross to visit him. This is a complete violation of international norms. I think if anything bears condemnation, it is this -- this inhumane terrorist regime.

And I would hope that international condemnation is directed there. That’s where it belongs, and not against Israel, a struggling democracy, striving to live and to make peace with its neighbors. It should not be condemned. It should be encouraged to --

(CROSS TALK)

KING: Does it concern you, Mr. Prime Minister, that Israel’s image around the world is poor? You’re not in high regard at the U.N. You seem to be, from a public relations standpoint, pr standpoint, in trouble.

NETANYAHU: Well, that’s one of the reasons I’m appearing on “THE LARRY KING show.” There’s a difference between perception and reality. The reality is the people of Israel yearn for peace, pray for peace. We’ve not had a day’s peace, a day of complete peace, since the founding of the state in 1948. We know the cost of wars. There’s -- many Israelis have suffered it. I’ve suffered it personally. I’ve lost a brother in the war between the wars known as terror. Many of my friends have lost direct relatives.

We know the loss of war. We know the sorrows of war. We know the blessings of peace. Yet, at the same time, we forged a peace agreement with Egypt. We forged a peace agreement with Jordan. And throughout these years, we built a robust economy. Israel is a beehive of creativity and innovation. The economy is growing. It’s one of the best performing economies in the developed world.

There’s a story there that doesn’t get told, both of our desire for peace, our sacrifices for peace, and our building of a better reality. And I can envision, if we had the kind of peace I envisioned with the Palestinians, we could see what we’re seeing now in the West Bank, this great prosperity envelop the entire region.

I think Israel could make a tremendous contribution to the well- being of its Arab neighbors. I think peace could bring for our children, my children and their children, something beyond their imagination. It could be a different life, a different reality. And I’m prepared to do it. I’m prepared to move and lead my people to that peace. I need a partner on the other side.

KING: When we come back, we’ll talk about Iran with the president -- with the prime minister of Israel, right after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: Mr. Prime Minister, Iran, how much -- the word fear apply -- how much do you fear their intentions? Do you -- do you -- what’s the worst-case scenario to you?

NETANYAHU: Well, we’ve learned in history and in Jewish history to take seriously those who call for our extermination. A lot of people in the past century, the 20th century, didn’t take such calls seriously. And we know the awful price that was paid by the Jewish people and later by rest of humanity for not taking seriously these kinds of statements. The fact that after the Holocaust, a sovereign government at once denies the Holocaust and calls for the destruction of the Jewish state is just outrageous.

Do we take it seriously? Absolutely, we take it seriously. We also know that Israel was founded to defend the Jewish people. So we reserve always the right to defend ourselves.

KING: If you determined that they had nuclear capability, would you attack Iran?

NETANYAHU: You know, I’ve taken note of President Obama’s statement that he’s determined to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons. I see that sanctions have been adopted, modest sanctions at the U.N. But more robust sanctions recently by the Congress was signed by the president the other day. I hope the other nations follow America’s lead in this. Will it be enough to stop the Iranian nuclear program? I can’t tell you, Larry. I do tell you that the president has said that all options are on the table. And I do tell you that Israel always reserves the right to defend itself. That’s the purpose for which it was founded, to defend Jewish lives.

KING: Assuming -- Israel has never said it has nuclear weapons, but the world thinks it does. Why is it OK for Israel to have nuclear weapons and Iran not to have nuclear weapons? Hypothetically, if Israel has them, why is it OK for them to have them and the other not?

NETANYAHU: Well, we said we wouldn’t be the first to introduce these weapons into the Middle East. But equally, we’re not threatening to destroy any country. We don’t seek the destruction of any country or any people. We don’t say that an entire people has to be wiped off the map of the Earth. We don’t have such intentions.

And I think all nuclear proliferation is bad. But some of it is a lot worse. It does make a difference whether Holland has nuclear weapons, or the Ayatollah regime that sponsored terrorism and calls for Israel’s destruction, whether it is nuclear weapons. And I think there’s a common understanding right now, something that I spoke about 16 years ago, 14 years -- to be precise, 1996, when I was elected, 14 years ago. I spoke before the joint session of the U.S. Congress. I was just elected prime minister. And I said that the greatest threat facing humanity is that Iran would acquire nuclear weapons.

Some eyebrows were raised at the time. I can tell you, 14 years later, that most of the world’s leaders today agree with this. There is a question of the distance between understanding and effective action, and that is the ultimate test of leadership and history.

KING: Would you ban all nuclear weapons throughout the -- the world -- would you ban nuclear weaponry entirely?

NETANYAHU: Well, that’s beyond my scope. I mean, this is -- this is a worthy cause, but it’s -- it’s a very complicated issue. And I’m sure you realize that the most important thing is preventing the most dangerous weapons in the world from falling into the hands of the most dangerous regimes. And this is what we really are facing today. We’re facing the prospect that people who talk about destruction, who deny the Holocaust, who sponsor terrorism everywhere, who shoot their own citizens on the sidewalk -- you know, they lie there.

Remember that young woman lying there, choking in her own blood. These people who have absolutely no inhibitions about the use of violence and brutality would acquire the weapons of mass terror, the ultimate mass terror weapons, which is atomic bombs. That’s a very, very dangerous development for all of us.

KING: Would there be any point -- may sound ridiculous, but speaking is better than killing. Would there be any point for you to sit down with Ahmadinejad?

NETANYAHU: Well, if he wanted to change the policies of Iran. We used to have friendly relations with Iran. It actually recognized Israel. We had exchanges all the time. But, you know, tell me -- when Ahmadinejad decides to recognize the state of Israel and seek peace with it, believe me, I’ll be there eagerly waiting. But I’m afraid I don’t see that. I see the very opposite.

KING: Some more moments. We have a couple segments left with the prime minister of Israel, Benjamin Netanyahu. Don’t go away.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(NEWS BREAK)

KING: We’re back with Benjamin Netanyahu, prime minister of Israel. So thankful to give us this hour tonight on “LARRY KING LIVE.” As we say, we go back a long way. What do you make of Iraq -- no, no, well, I’m leaving “LARRY KING LIVE” in November. But I’m going to be around. We’re going to do specials. We’re going to come to the Middle East.

NETANYAHU: Oh, good. Good, I’ll -- then I’ll entertain you again in Israel. It will be a good refresher.

KING: It will be my pleasure. Don’t forget, you committed, if we can get all three leaders on together, we’re going to do that show.

NETANYAHU: You can do it anytime. You have one.

KING: OK. Are you -- well, I think we can get Jordan. If we get -- we’re fine if we get Abbas. What do you make of what’s going to happen in Iraq? Will that hold together?

NETANYAHU: I hope so. I mean, we are -- we are rooting for the success of the American effort and of the Iraqi effort to stabilize Iraq. It went through a very difficult period. We want to see a peaceful Middle East. We want to see a moderate Middle East. I think there’s a larger battle taking place between the forces of modernity and the forces of Medievalism. There’s no other word that I could use to describe this militancy that tries not merely to eradicate Israel, but to bring down any moderate government in the Arab world and in the Middle East.

In a way, there’s a -- this is the first time in my lifetime that the -- many of the Arab governments and Israel understand that there’s a great -- a great foe that threatens all of us. And that is the basis of a broader understanding. I don’t think peace should be merely forged by common dangers. It should be forged also by the benefits, the blessings of peace, economic blessings, the human blessings of every sort. But today the context of the peace is made perhaps more likely and more possible because of this common enemy that threatens Israel and Arab countries alike.

KING: What’s -- what about Hezbollah, Lebanon, that -- four years since the war with Hezbollah and Lebanon. Are you still concerned about them?

NETANYAHU: Unfortunately, yes, because it is basically an Iranian terror proxy. Look, Lebanon was the Switzerland of the Middle East. It had -- it’s a very beautiful country. It had robust economy. And Iran has moved its surrogates, Hezbollah, into Lebanon. It has piled weapons there. They fire those weapons on Israel. They undermine any attempt at moderation, any movement towards peace.

We always hoped that Lebanon -- we always said, we don’t know who the first country to make peace with Israel, which country that would be, but certainly Lebanon would be the second country. And, you know, it hasn’t happened, not because many Lebanese don’t want it, but because radical forces, pro-Iranian forces, like Hezbollah, are preventing it.

And so you have these two enclaves next to Israel, one in the south, Gaza, controlled by one proxy of Hezbollah, preventing the people there from making peace with Israel. And then another enclave in the north, in Lebanon, controlled by another Iranian proxy, Hezbollah, preventing the Lebanese from making peace with Israel, and threatening to throw the entire region into a maelstrom of violence and terror. That’s happened before. I hope it doesn’t happen again.

But Hezbollah and Hamas are basically Iranian surrogates. As long as Iran doesn’t want peace, they don’t want peace.

KING: Touch some other bases before you leave, as we have one segment to go. You’ve invited President Obama to to visit Israel. What has he said?

NETANYAHU: Well, you know, he’ll decide the appropriate time. But I have to tell you that we had a very, very, very productive conversation. And I think that when we have a chance to sit, as we do, one on one, I think it’s very, very productive for Israel, for the United States and for the quest for peace.

KING: We’ll be back with our remaining moments with the prime minister after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: Couple of other things, Mr. Prime Minister. How would you describe the relationship of your country with Secretary of State Clinton? And how do you measure her work in the peace process?

NETANYAHU: I greatly respect Secretary Clinton. You know, I worked with her husband, Bill. I got to know Hillary on her visits to Israel. She’s always a welcomed guest. I think she’s knowledgeable. I think Secretary Clinton was a very wise choice on the part of President Obama. And we’ll be happy to work with her if the president so designates, and he often does.

KING: There’s some video getting a lot of attention on the web, supposedly of Israeli soldiers dancing while on patrol in Hebron. What do you know of that?

NETANYAHU: I don’t know. I hear it for the first time.

KING: So do I. They gave me a note here and said it’s on the web.

NETANYAHU: I don’t know. If you talk to me -- if you want to invite me again, I will be able to respond to it.

KING: We’ll invite you any time. Are you ever able -- you’re prime minister of Israel. A previous prime minister was assassinated. You live in the center of a hostile world. Are you ever able to really relax?

NETANYAHU: Yeah. You know, yes. And I’ll tell you when. Every Saturday, our Sabbath, we have a day off. It’s a very good idea that this institution was brought into the world. So I have a day off. And every Saturday, I take an hour and a half, and I read from the Bible with my younger boy. He has just won the National Bible Championship in Israel and he came third in the international. It’s like the big spelling bee, you know, huge.

I relax then. I draw a lot of spiritual strength. You know, I used to teach him. He is now 15. But in the last couple of years, he teaches me. So, yes, I draw enormous reservoirs of strength and I think that is needed for all leaders, but especially for the leaders of Israel.

KING: Four years ago, the former prime minister, Ariel Sharon, suffered a stroke. He is still alive. Do you ever go to see him? What is that story?

NETANYAHU: It’s a tragedy. Ariel Sharon was one of the great leaders of Israel. He’s, in my judgment, the greatest general that Israel has had in modern times. He has contributed a lot to the country. And, unfortunately, he suffered, as you say, the stroke. We can all pray that somehow he miraculously recovers. But that has not happened yet. But I think the people of Israel value his contributions. I certainly do.

KING: Earlier in the program, you mentioned that Hamas is still holding Gilad Shalit -- I believe that’s the way you pronounce his name -- the Israeli soldier they captured four years ago.

NETANYAHU: Yes.

KING: Any late word on any efforts?

NETANYAHU: Well, we’ve had a German mediator, very able man, trying to broker the release. I’m prepared to release 1,000 Palestinian prisoners for Gilad. But so far there’s not been an official response of Hamas to this offer that the mediator has made. I have accepted it. They have not. I can only hope that they change their mind.

KING: In our remaining moments, Mr. Prime Minister, do you think -- how old are you now?

NETANYAHU: I’m 60 years old, Larry. And showing it.

KING: Do you think that in your lifetime, you will really see peace in your region?

NETANYAHU: I think it’s possible to achieve it, yes. Will we achieve it with the entire Middle East? That, I cannot say. Can we achieve it with the Palestinians? I say absolutely. I say that with conviction, because I think it’s a question of a rightness for our people’s perspective. There is already time. It’s now. I think for many Palestinians, the time is now. And I’m prepared to make that effort.

It requires a lot of courage. Maybe that’s the quality that supersedes all others. Because if you don’t have courage, everything else fails. But if you have it, then everything else is possible. We have the courage to make peace. And I hope -- I fervently hope that our Palestinian neighbors have similar courage. With the help of the United States, I think it can be done, yeah. Absolutely.

KING: Thank you, Mr. Prime Minister. Have a safe trip home. We hope to see you again very soon.

NETANYAHU: Thank you. Come and visit us, Larry. Thank you.

KING: Prime Minister of Israel Benjamin Netanyahu.


The Obama-Netanyahu love fest (& CNN’s Octavia Nasr says sorry)

July 07, 2010

* At least for now, Israel’s Prime Minister is no longer a White House pariah.

* Obama: “The bond between the United States and Israel is unbreakable” . . . “I commended Prime Minister Netanyahu” . . . “Our two countries are working cooperatively” . . . “Unwavering in our commitment” . . . “Our relationship has broadened” . . . “Continuing to improve” . . . “We are committed to that special bond, and we are going to do what’s required to back that up.”

* The new body-language coming out of Washington is remarkable, and seems to be an almost complete reversal of Obama’s policy over the last 18 months. But is it real and will it last?

* When Netanyahu visited the White House in March, Obama refused to even be photographed with him. Now his body language could hardly have been warmer.

* In March, Obama refused to eat a meal with Netanyahu. Yesterday’s meal for Netanyahu and his delegation, attended by a whole range of senior American officials (including Hillary Clinton, Jim Jones, Joe Biden, Susan Rice and George Mitchell), was said to be highly enjoyable.

* Meanwhile, first lady Michelle Obama met with Sarah Netanyahu at the White House, in what they described as a warm encounter. The scheduled half-hour meeting turned into an hour-long friendly chat, according to sources.

Above: PM Netanyahu with President Obama at the White House yesterday.

 

CONTENTS

1. Extra note: CNN’s Octavia Nasr regrets Fadlallah tweet
2. The Obama-Netanyahu love fest
3. A remarkable public turnaround by Obama
4. Video of Obama-Netanyahu news conference in Oval Office yesterday
5. Transcript: Remarks by Israeli PM Netanyahu and U.S. President Obama
6. “When Bibi met Barack (Take Four)” (Editorial, Wall Street Journal, July 7, 2010)
7. “Netanyahu hears no discouraging words from Obama” (Washington Post, July 7, 2010)

 

EXTRA NOTE: CNN’S OCTAVIA NASR REGRETS FADLALLAH TWEET

In the 24 hours after I drew attention to it on Sunday, dozens of media who subscribe to this list, including Fox News, reported on the twitter comments by CNN’s Senior Editor of Arab Affairs Octavia Nasr praising Hizbullah leader Grand Ayatollah Mohammed Hussein Fadlallah, who was classified by the U.S. government as a terrorist.

Octavia Nasr has now posted a note on the CNN website “deeply regretting” her words of praise for Fadlallah.

Nasr admits she was wrong to praise a man who she said “regularly praised the terror attacks that killed Israeli citizens. And as recently as 2008, said the numbers of Jews killed in the Holocaust were wildly inflated.”

Octavia Nasr should be commended for her swift response, unlike those journalists at the BBC and elsewhere who have said worse things in praise of terrorists and yet refused to apologize.

To see her original controversial and offensive tweet, please scroll down here to item 5)

-- Tom Gross

 

UPDATE July 7, 2010

In spite of her apology, Octavia Nasr has been asked to leave CNN. According to an internal memo, CNN senior management says “we believe that her credibility in her position as senior editor for Middle Eastern affairs has been compromised.”

CNN might now like to take a look at some of their other Middle East correspondents, who are far more biased against Israel than even Nasr was.

 

UPDATE July 8, 2010

The New York Times website now confirms Nasr has been asked to leave CNN.


[All notes below by Tom Gross]

THE OBAMA-NETANYAHU LOVE FEST

Since many prominent newspapers, such as The International Herald Tribune (which bills itself on its masthead as “the Global Edition of The New York Times”) have today woefully misreported the positive Israeli-U.S. events of yesterday (the IHT instead filled up 3 of its 6 news pages today with pieces slandering Israel concerning other matters), I attach below an unedited transcript and video of the remarkable hug-in yesterday in the Oval Office between U.S. President Barack Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. After that I attach an editorial on their meeting from today’s Wall Street Journal, and a report on it from The Washington Post.

But first some thoughts on the news conference yesterday between Obama and Netanyahu…

 

A REMARKABLE PUBLIC TURNAROUND BY OBAMA

* President Obama’s public display of support yesterday for Israel’s democratically-elected leader was remarkable when one compares it to the incredibly frosty way he treated and shunned Netanyahu on his last trip to Washington in March, which I wrote about at the time.

NUCLEAR POLICY

* Obama’s reaffirmation of the policy of nuclear ambiguity towards Israel, given what Obama said were Israel’s unique security concerns, is very significant. This is especially so in light of the fact that some Obama administration officials had been hinting at abandoning Israel on this matter, which would be potentially catastrophic for Israel’s national security deterrence. Obama said yesterday that the U.S. will work to see that Israel is not singled out at the September meeting of the International Atomic Energy Agency. Obama also made clear that Iran having nuclear weapons is what concerns America and the world, not Israel’s perhaps having them.

DIRECT TALKS

* Obama’s call on the Palestinian Authority to begin direct talks with Israel before the expiration in September of Israel’s 10 month freeze on settlement expansion, is also important. (The BBC and other media are completely misreporting this, suggesting that it is the Palestinian Authority that wants direct final status negotiations and Netanyahu that is refusing to enter into them – a complete reversal of the truth.) Of course, if the Palestinian Authority agree to direct talks, they will eventually have to make some actual compromises, as Israel has already repeatedly done, which is why the PA is trying to avoid such talks. (Predictably, within hours of the Obama-Netanyahu news conference yesterday Saed Erekat, a top aide to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, ruled out the possibility of a return to direct peace talks with Israel. This has been widely reported throughout the Middle East but not by certain prominent Western news outlets who seem to want to blame Israel alone for everything wrong in the region.)

SHARED STRATEGIC INTERESTS

* It was important that Obama explicitly affirmed at the beginning of his comments yesterday that Israel and the U.S. share “national security interests” and “strategic interests.” This comes after several months of senior U.S. officials hinting that Israeli and U.S. strategic interests were diverging. Some Obama administration officials had even gone so far as to suggest that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict was somehow responsible for the actions of the Taliban against NATO troops in Pakistan and Afghanistan.

REMEMBERING WHO ONE’S FRIENDS ARE

* For the first eighteen months of his presidency, Obama spent much effort making overtures to America’s enemies and ignoring or even insulting (in the case of Israel and some other countries) America’s friends. Now he appears to have realized that this has gotten him nowhere (indeed America’s position is in many ways weaker internationally than when he took office) and it appears he has instead decided to improve relations with one of America’s closest allies, Israel.

THE IRANIAN THREAT

* Obama appears to realize that it would be catastrophic for America and the world to allow Iran to acquire nuclear weapons, and realizes that he may have to call upon Israel’s help to keep this from happening, and this may be a factor in his decision to mend fences with Israel.

THE MIDTERMS

* It could well be that Obama’s motives in suddenly publicly supporting Israel have nothing to do with a strategic rethink by the president and everything to do with his domestic problems. Obama is concerned about what could turn out to be a very poor showing for the Democratic Party at the mid-term elections in November and realizes that he and his party need to stop alienating and attacking Israel, a country that enjoys strong across-the-board support among Americans of left and right. (During the presidential campaign in 2008, Obama also made pro-Israel comments only to retract them shortly afterwards.)

THE WORLD’S BIGGEST NEWS BROADCASTER

*At any rate, after yesterday’s performance, the BBC’s Middle East editor Jeremy Bowen, who wrote in an article for the BBC website two months ago that it was “enjoyable” that Israel and the U.S. governments were not getting along, will no doubt be disappointed.

 

VIDEO OF OBAMA-NETANYAHU NEWS CONFERENCE IN OVAL OFFICE YESTERDAY



Tom Gross adds:

Netanyahu appeared this morning on Good Morning America, and is due to appear later today on CBS Evening News with Katie Couric and will give an extended interview to Larry King on CNN (the American version) tonight, which will be broadcast on CNN International tomorrow mid-morning European time.

Videos for these media appearances will be posted here on this website after they happen.

***

In order not to report on Obama’s positive approach to Israel yesterday, the Israel-obsessed British newspaper The Independent plastered its entire front page today with a dubious “expose” about highly unreliable accusations of Israeli “wrongdoings” the paper said it was revealing. But in fact far from being new “news,” The Independent was just repeating a story that The Independent had first run in May 2007, as the media monitoring group “Just Journalism” has pointed out.

Any informed observer of the Middle East knows The Independent is a laughing stock when it comes to the truth in its reporting about Israel. Unfortunately some British MPs and BBC-types actually believe what they read in the paper.

 

REMARKS BY ISRAELI PM NETANYAHU AND U.S. PRESIDENT OBAMA

Official transcript supplied by the White House:

President Obama: I just completed an excellent one-on-one discussion with Prime Minister Netanyahu, and I want to welcome him back to the White House. I want to first of all thank him for the wonderful statement that he made in honor of the 4th of July, our Independence Day, when he was still in Israel.

It marked just one more chapter in the extraordinary friendship between our two countries. As Prime Minister Netanyahu indicated in his speech, the bond between the United States and Israel is unbreakable. It encompasses our national security interests, our strategic interests, but most importantly the bond of two democracies who share a common set of values and whose people have grown closer and closer as time goes on.

During our discussions in our private meeting, we covered a wide range of issues. We discussed the issue of Gaza. And I commended Prime Minister Netanyahu on the progress that’s been made in allowing more goods into Gaza. We’ve seen real progress on the ground. I think it’s been acknowledged that it has moved more quickly and more effectively than many people anticipated.

Obviously, there are still tensions and issues there that have to be resolved, but our two countries are working cooperatively together to deal with these issues. The Quartet has been, I think, very helpful as well. And we believe that there is a way to make sure that the people of Gaza are able to prosper economically while Israel is able to maintain its legitimate security needs in not allowing missiles and weapons to get to Hamas.

We discussed the issue of Iran. And we pointed out that as a consequence of some hard work internationally, we have instituted, through the U.N. Security Council, the toughest sanctions ever directed at an Iranian government.

In addition, last week, I signed our own set of sanctions coming out of the United States Congress - as robust as any that we’ve ever seen. Other countries are following suit. And so we intend to continue to put pressure on Iran to meet its international obligations and to cease the kinds of provocative behavior that has made it a threat to its neighbors and the international community.

We had an extensive discussion about the prospects for Middle East peace. I believe that Prime Minister Netanyahu wants peace. I think he’s willing to take risks for peace. And during our conversation, he once again reaffirmed his willingness to engage in serious negotiations with the Palestinians around what I think should be the goal not just of the two principals involved, but the entire world; and that is two states living side-by-side in peace and security.

Israel’s security needs met, the Palestinians having a sovereign state that they call their own: those are goals that have obviously escaped our grasp for decades now. But now more than ever I think is the time for us to seize on that vision. And I think that Prime Minister Netanyahu is prepared to do so.

It’s going to be difficult. It’s going to be hard work. But we’ve seen already proximity talks taking place. My envoy, George Mitchell, has helped to organize five of them so far. We expect those proximity talks to lead to direct talks. And I believe that the government of Israel is prepared to engage in such direct talks. And I commend the prime minister for that.

There are going to need to be a whole set of confidence-building measures, to make sure that people are serious and that we’re sending a signal to the region that this isn’t just more talk and more process without action.

I think it is also important to recognize that the Arab states have to be supportive of peace, because although ultimately this is going to be determined by the Israeli and Palestinian peoples, they can’t succeed unless you have the surrounding states having a greater investment in the process than we’ve seen so far.

Finally we discussed issues that arose out of the nuclear nonproliferation conference. And I reiterated to the prime minister that there is no change in U.S. policy when it comes to these issues. We strongly believe that given its size, its history, the region that it’s in, and the threats that are leveled against it that Israel has unique security requirements. It’s got to be able to respond to threats or any combination of threats in the region. And that’s why we remain unwavering in our commitment to Israel’s security. And the United States will never ask Israel to take any steps that would undermine their security interests.

So I just want to say once again that I thought the discussion that we had was excellent. We’ve seen over the last year how our relationship has broadened; sometimes it doesn’t get publicized but on a whole range of issues - economic, military-to-military, issues related to Israel maintaining its qualitative military edge, intelligence sharing, how we are able to work together effectively on the international front - that in fact, our relationship is continuing to improve.

And I think a lot of that has to do with the excellent work that the prime minister has done, so I’m grateful. And welcome, once again, to the White House. Thank you.

PM Netanyahu: Thank you, Mr. President. Thank you. Thank you.

The President and I had an extensive, excellent discussion in which we discussed a broad range of issues. These include of course our own cooperation in the fields of intelligence and security. And exactly as the President said, it is extensive. Not everything is seen by the public. But it is seen and appreciated by us. We understand fully that we will work together in the coming months and years to protect our common interests, our countries, our peoples against new threats and at the same time we want to explore the possibilities of peace.

The greatest new threat on the horizon and the single most dominant issue for many of us is the prospect that Iran would acquire nuclear weapons. Iran is brutally terrorizing its people, spreading terrorism far and wide. And I very much appreciate the President’s statement that he is determined to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons. That has been translated by the President into his leadership at the Security Council, which passed sanctions against Iran; by the U.S. bill that the President signed just a few days ago. And I urge other leaders to follow the President’s lead and other countries to follow the U.S. lead, to adopt much tougher sanctions against Iran, primarily those directed against its energy sector.

As the President said, we discussed a great deal about activating - moving forward - the quest for peace between Israel and the Palestinians. We’re committed to that peace. I’m committed to that peace. And this peace I think will better the lives of Israelis, of Palestinians; and certainly would change our region.

Israelis are prepared to do a lot to get that peace in place, but they want to make sure that after all the steps they take, that what we get is a secure peace. We don’t want a repeat of the situation where we vacate territories and those are overtaken by Iran’s proxies and used as launching ground for terrorist attacks or rocket attacks.

I think there are solutions that we can adopt. But in order to proceed to the solutions, we need to begin negotiations in order to end them. We’ve begun proximity talks. I think it’s high time to begin direct talks. I think with the help of President Obama, President Abbas and myself should engage in direct talks to reach a political settlement of peace, coupled with security and prosperity. This requires that the Palestinian Authority prepare its people for peace in schools, textbooks and so on.

But I think at the end of the day peace is the best option for all of us, and I think we have a unique opportunity and a unique time to do it. The President says that he has a habit of confounding all the cynics and all the naysayers and all those who preclude possibilities. And he’s shown it time and time again. I think I’ve had my opportunity to confound some cynics myself. And I think if we work together with President Abbas, then we can bring a great message of hope to our peoples, to the region and to the world.

One final point. Mr. President, I want to thank you for reaffirming to me in private and now in public, as you did, the long- standing U.S. commitments to Israel on matters of vital strategic importance. I want to thank you too for the great hospitality you and the first lady have shown Sarah and me and our entire delegation.

And I think we have to redress the balance. You know, I’ve been coming here a lot. It’s about time you -

President Obama: I’m ready.

PM Netanyahu: - and the first lady came to Israel.

President Obama: We look forward to it.

PM Netanyahu: So (anytime ?).

President Obama: Thank you.

PM Netanyahu: Anytime.

President Obama: Thank you very much.

PM Netanyahu: Thank you.

President Obama: Thank you. Good.

Q: Thank you, Mr. President. As far as the steps which need to be taken to move possibly - (off mike) - direct talks, do you think it will be helpful for Israel to extend the - (off mike) - settlement moratoriums set to expire in September? And if I could briefly ask the prime minister, with regards to the sanctions measures, do you think that these measures will contain or halt Iran’s nuclear program - (off mike)?

President Obama: Well, let me first of all say that I think the Israeli government, working through layers of various governmental entities and jurisdictions, have shown restraint, over the last several months, that I think has been conducive to the prospects of us getting into direct talks.

And my hope is, is that once direct talks have begun, well before the moratorium has expired, that that will create a climate in which everybody feels a greater investment and success, not every action, by one party or the other, is taken as a reason for not engaging in talks, so there ends up being more room created by more trust. And so, you know, I want to just make sure that we sustain that over the next several weeks.

I do think that there are a range of confidence-building measures that can be taken by all sides, that improve the prospects of a successful negotiation. And I’ve discussed some of those privately with the prime minister. When President Abbas was here, I discussed some of those same issues with him.

I think it’s very important that the Palestinians not look for excuses for incitement, that they are not engaging in provocative language; that at the international level, they are maintaining a constructive tone as opposed to looking for opportunities to embarrass Israel.

At the same time, I’ve said to Prime Minister Netanyahu - I don’t think he minds me sharing it publicly - that, you know, Abu Mazen working with Fayyad have done some very significant things, when it comes to the security front. And so us being able to widen the scope of their responsibilities, in the West Bank, is something that I think would be very meaningful to the Palestinian people.

I think that some of the steps that have already been taken in Gaza help to build confidence. And if we continue to make progress on that front, then Palestinians can see in very concrete terms what peace can bring that rhetoric and violence cannot bring.

And that is people actually having an opportunity to raise their children and make a living and, you know, buy and sell goods and build a life for themselves, which is ultimately what people in both Israel and the Palestinian territories want, so.

PM Netanyahu: I think the latest sanctions adopted by the U.N. create illegitimacy or create delegitimization for Iran’s nuclear program. And that is important. I think the sanctions the President signed the other day actually have teeth. They bite. The question is, how much do you need to bite, is something I cannot answer now. But if other nations adopted similar sanctions, that would increase the effect.

The more like-mined countries join in the American-led effort that President Obama has signed into act - into law, I think, the better we’ll be able to give you an answer to your question.

Q: Mr. President, in the past year, you distanced yourself from Israel and gave a cold shoulder to the prime minister. Do you think this policy was a mistake? Do you think it contributes to the bashing of Israel by others? And because of the changes now, do you trust Prime Minister Netanyahu?

And if I may, Mr. Prime Minister, specifically, did you discuss with the President a continuing of the building of settlements after September? And did you tell him that you’re going to keep on building after this period is over?

President Obama: Well, let me, first of all, say that the premise to your question was wrong, and I entirely disagree with it. If you look at every public statement that I’ve made over the last year and a half, it has been a constant reaffirmation of the special relationship between the United States and Israel; that our commitment to Israel’s security has been unwavering. And in fact, there aren’t any concrete policies that you could point to that would contradict that.

And in terms of my relationship with Prime Minister Netanyahu, I know the press, both in Israel and Stateside, enjoys, you know, seeing if there’s news there. But the fact of the matter is, is that I’ve trusted Prime Minister Netanyahu since I met him before I was elected President, and have said so both publicly and privately. I think that he is dealing with a very complex situation in a very tough neighborhood.

And you know, what I have consistently shared with him is my interest in working with him, not at cross-purposes, so that we can achieve the kind of peace that will ensure Israel’s security for decades to come.

And that’s going to mean some tough choices, and there are going to be times where, you know, he and I are having robust discussions about what kind of choices need to be made. But the underlying approach never changes, and that is, the United States is committed to Israel’s security, we are committed to that special bond, and we are going to do what’s required to back that up, not just with words but with actions.

We are going to continually work with the prime minister and the entire Israeli government, as well as the Israeli people, so that we can achieve what I think has to be everybody’s goal, which is that people feel secure. They don’t feel like a rocket’s going to be landing on their head sometime. They don’t feel as if there’s a growing population that wants to direct violence against Israel. That requires work, and that requires some difficult choices and both at the strategic level and the tactical level. And this is something that the prime minister understands and why I think that we’re going to be able to work together not just over the next few months but hopefully over the next several years.

PM Netanyahu: Thank you.

The President and I discussed concrete steps that could be done now, with the coming days and the coming weeks, to move the peace process further along in a very robust way. This is what we focused our conversation on. And when I say the next few weeks, that’s what I mean, and the President means that too.

Let me make a general observation about the question you forwarded to the President - and here I’ll have to paraphrase Mark Twain - that the reports about the demise of the special U.S.-Israel relationship aren’t just premature: They’re just flat wrong.

There is a depth and richness of this relationship that is expressed every day our teams talk. We don’t make it public. The only thing that’s public is that you can have differences, on occasion, in the best of families and the closest of families. That comes out public, and sometimes in a twisted way, too.

What is (natural ?) is the fact that we have an enduring bond of values, interests, beginning with security and the way that we share both information and other things to help the common defense of our common interests and many others in the region who don’t often admit to the beneficial effect of this cooperation.

So I think there’s a - the President said it best in his speech in Cairo. In front of the entire Islamic world, he said: The bond between Israel and the United States is unbreakable. And I can affirm that to you today.

President Obama: Thank you very much, everybody.

 

“FOLLOWING MR. NETANYAHU’S DISASTROUS MEETING WITH MR. OBAMA EARLIER THIS YEAR …”

When Bibi met Barack (Take Four)
At least Israel’s Prime Minister is no longer a White House pariah.
Editorial
Wall Street Journal
July 7, 2010

Of all the diplomatic noises heard during Benjamin Netanyahu’s meeting yesterday with President Obama, the most significant may have been the clicking cameras of the White House press pool. Unlike at their last two encounters – both closed to the media – the Israeli Prime Minister is at last being accorded the ordinary courtesies granted to visiting foreign leaders.

It’s good to see Mr. Obama finally treating a key American ally as something other than a pariah. The President even went one better, calling America’s bond with Israel “unbreakable,” cautioning Palestinians to avoid seeking “opportunities to embarrass Israel,” and rejecting suggestions that there had ever been any strain in his relationship with his Israeli counterpart.

“If you look at every public statement I have made,” he declared, “it has been a constant reaffirmation of the special relationship between the United States and Israel.” Note the lawyerly use of the word “public.”

The reality is nearly the opposite, which goes far to explain why this Administration has been able to make so little progress in advancing Israeli-Palestinian peace talks. Israel’s willingness to take the “risks for peace” invariably demanded of it has always been anchored in a sense among Israelis that whatever they might cede in territory the U.S. would make up for in security, as well as diplomatic and economic backing.

That was the case when Israel withdrew from the Gaza Strip in 2005: It received nothing from the Palestinians but got a written commitment by President Bush that the U.S. would not expect Israel to withdraw to its pre-1967 borders (themselves the product of a 1949 armistice agreement) in any future settlement with the Palestinians. Yet Secretary of State Hillary Clinton disavowed that commitment last year, saying Mr. Bush’s pledge “did not become part of the official position of the United States government.”

The same goes for the Administration’s surprise decision in May to support a U.N. resolution that demanded Israel’s nuclear disarmament while making no mention of Iran, a vote that contravened a decades-old understanding regarding Israel’s nuclear posture.

And it was no less true in March when the White House reacted with bullying fury to the news that an Israeli bureaucrat had approved a step in a planning process for a new housing project in north Jerusalem that could only be considered a “settlement” in the most expansive (and pro-Palestinian) sense of the term.

No wonder, then, that so many Israelis look askance at the prospect of making further concessions to the Palestinians. Israel is a democracy, and Mr. Netanyahu cannot simply deliver a “peace” on his own. So far, Mr. Obama’s actions have only made the political prospects of selling any prospective deal to Israel’s public – to say nothing of its fractious ruling coalition – that much more difficult.

Mr. Obama’s tilt against Israel has also been noticed by the Palestinians, who take it as reason to hope that they can hold out for even better negotiating terms. The Administration’s overwrought reaction to the March housing announcement sparked some politically opportunistic rioting by Palestinians that might have led to a third bloody intifada. As it is, since Mr. Obama came to office the Palestinians have retreated to “proximity talks” mediated by U.S. emissary George Mitchell instead of dealing directly with the Israelis, a retreat from the practice of the previous 16 years. The Palestinians are no fools: They know how to push a friendly U.S. Administration to push Israel.

Now the question is whether the 18 months that Mr. Obama has wasted will have longer-term consequences. Yesterday, Mr. Netanyahu spoke optimistically of returning to direct talks with the Palestinians in the coming weeks, and perhaps that will happen. But it’s difficult to see what progress can be made so long as Palestinians continue to insist on the “right of return” for Palestinian refugees to Israel, which contravenes the point of a two-state solution and would mean the demographic annihilation of the Jewish state. Mr. Obama could help if he continues to make it clear as President – as he did as a candidate – that there is no such right.

Overhanging all of this is the threat of a nuclear Iran, a country sworn to Israel’s destruction if it can acquire the means to accomplish it. We find it hard to imagine how Israel could live alongside a Palestinian state if that state were destined to become, under the leadership of Hamas, the tip of an Iranian nuclear spear. Mr. Netanyahu had warm words yesterday for the recent U.N. and U.S. sanctions against Iran. The trouble is that even CIA Director Leon Panetta publicly conceded two weeks ago that these sanctions are unlikely to deter Iran from its drive to acquire an atomic weapon.

Following Mr. Netanyahu’s disastrous meeting with Mr. Obama earlier this year, we noted the Administration’s habit of squeezing America’s friends while coddling its enemies. It’s good to see at least one of those friends no longer getting the squeeze. Now Mr. Obama has to get serious about the enemies.

 

“WHITE HOUSE OFFICIALS MIGHT HAVE INSTEAD FLOWN THE WHITE FLAG OF SURRENDER”

Netanyahu hears no discouraging words from Obama
By Dana Milbank
The Washington Post
July 7, 2010

A blue-and-white Israeli flag hung from Blair House. Across Pennsylvania Avenue, the Stars and Stripes was in its usual place atop the White House. But to capture the real significance of Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s visit with President Obama, White House officials might have instead flown the white flag of surrender.

Four months ago, the Obama administration made a politically perilous decision to condemn Israel over a controversial new settlement. The Israel lobby reared up, Netanyahu denounced the administration’s actions, Republican leaders sided with Netanyahu, and Democrats ran for cover.

So on Tuesday, Obama, routed and humiliated by his Israeli counterpart, invited Netanyahu back to the White House for what might be called the Oil of Olay Summit: It was all about saving face.

The president, beaming in the Oval Office with a dour Netanyahu at his side, gushed about the “extraordinary friendship between our two countries.” He performed the Full Monty of pro-Israel pandering: “The bond between the United States and Israel is unbreakable” . . . “I commended Prime Minister Netanyahu” . . . “Our two countries are working cooperatively” . . . “unwavering in our commitment” . . . “our relationship has broadened” . . . “continuing to improve” . . . “We are committed to that special bond, and we are going to do what’s required to back that up.”

An Israeli reporter attempted to summon the effusive American back to reality: “Mr. President, in the past year, you distanced yourself from Israel and gave a cold shoulder to the prime minister. Do you think this policy was a mistake? . . . Do you trust Prime Minister Netanyahu?”

Obama assumed an amused grin. “Well, let me first of all say that the premise of your question was wrong, and I entirely disagree with it,” he said. He said he had always engaged in “a constant reaffirmation of the special relationship” with Israel, and “I’ve trusted Prime Minister Netanyahu since I met him before I was elected president.”

So that business about Hillary Clinton calling Israel’s settlement action “insulting” and the State Department accusing Israel of a “deeply negative signal” that “undermined trust and confidence in the peace process and in America’s interests”? You must have imagined it.

Obama came to office with an admirable hope of reviving Middle East peace efforts by appealing to the Arab world and positioning himself as more of an honest broker. But he has now learned the painful lesson that domestic politics won’t allow such a stand.

On Pennsylvania Avenue outside the White House on Tuesday, liberal activists protested what many of them see as a betrayal. “We want to appeal to Obama to stand up for once, to get a little vertebrate in his invertebrate back and speak to Netanyahu in no uncertain terms,” protester Ray McGovern shouted into a bullhorn. Obama, he added, is “a president who by all indications is what we call in the Bronx a ‘wuss’: a person who will not stand up for what he knows is right.”

Even before Obama’s surrender to Netanyahu, Muslims were losing faith that he would be the transformational figure who spoke to them from Cairo last year. A Pew Research Center poll last month found that the percentage of Muslims expressing confidence in Obama fell from 41 percent to 31 percent in Egypt and from 33 percent to 23 percent in Turkey.

Obama snubbed Netanyahu at their last meeting, shortly after Israel’s announcement during a visit by Vice President Biden that it would build new housing in a disputed area of Jerusalem. No statement or photograph of the meeting was made public. But Israel didn’t back down, and neither did it heed administration pleas to use “caution and restraint” before the deadly raid by Israeli commandos on an aid flotilla bound for Gaza.

Netanyahu arrived at the White House to see bulldozers and piles of rubble along the West Wing driveway from a construction project on the North Lawn. Inside, he found more construction underway: Obama feverishly rebuilding the U.S.-Israel relationship. The president’s opening statement in front of the cameras contained not a word of criticism of the Jewish state.

“Well, I just completed an excellent one-on-one discussion with Prime Minister Netanyahu,” he began. For those tuning in late, he added at the end: “So I just want to say, once again, that I thought the discussion that we had was excellent.”

Netanyahu was pleased with the pandering. “Mr. President, I want to thank you for reaffirming to me in private and now in public, as you did, the long-standing U.S. commitments to Israel.”

Obama didn’t even mention Israel’s settlements until a reporter inquired -- and then he declined to say that Israel should extend a moratorium on settlements that expires in September. Avoiding any criticism of Israel, he instead directed Palestinians not to look for “excuses for incitement” or “opportunities to embarrass Israel.”

Netanyahu celebrated victory. “To paraphrase Mark Twain,” he said, “the reports about the demise of the special U.S.-Israel relationship aren’t just premature, they’re just flat wrong.”


“The secret war against Iran” (& CNN reporter mourns Hizbullah spiritual leader)

July 04, 2010

CNN reporter mourns Hizbullah spiritual leader Fadlallah in her twitter feed today (screenshot below).

***

Extreme left-wing Israeli anti-Zionist activist Yonatan Shapira spray-paints pro-Hamas graffiti on revered Warsaw Ghetto Holocaust memorial site in Poland, shocking mourners.

***

Palestinian Journalist Zainab Rashid: “Syria’s people need freedom flotillas more than Palestinians do… Gaza has no mud schoolrooms, like those in many Syrian provinces. Gaza does not have 60 students to a single classroom. Even after Gaza was besieged, food is not scarce there as it is in Syria, where many food products do not reach the markets except for those smuggled in across the Syria-Lebanon border. Gaza’s Internet services are vastly superior to the pitiful Internet services in Syria. Gaza and the West Bank have no lists of hundreds of banned websites. Until Hamas came to power, Gaza’s water and electricity situation was much better than that in Syria. The average Gaza income is higher than Syria’s.”

***

In today’s New York Times, Nicholas Kristof discovers that his previous column – which concluded that the Gaza blockade is wrong, full stop, no need for further discussion – was itself wrong. He writes today: “Visiting Gaza persuaded me, to my surprise, that Israel is correct when it denies that there is any full-fledged humanitarian crisis in Gaza… The shops are filled and daily life is considerably easier than when I last visited here two years ago.”

***

When Meir Dagan was appointed head of the Mossad in 2002, one of the first things he did was hang an old black-and-white picture, fraying at the corners, on a wall in his office at the spy agency’s headquarters near Tel Aviv. The picture is of an old bearded Jew, wearing a prayer shawl and kneeling down in front of two Nazi soldiers, one with a stick in his hand, the other carrying a rifle slung over his shoulder.

“Look at this picture,” Dagan, 65, often urges visitors to his highly secure office. “This man, kneeling down before the Nazis, was my grandfather just before he was murdered. I look at this picture every day and promise that the Holocaust will never happen again.”

Dagan, who it was announced last week will soon step down from his position, has taken various successful measures that have slowed down Iran’s pursuit of nuclear weapons.

 

CONTENTS

1. Slowing down Iran’s nuclear program
2. U.S. and British involvement too
3. Planner of Munich Olympics massacre dies, peacefully, in Damascus
4. Hizbullah’s spiritual head Fadlallah dies, peacefully, in Beirut
5. CNN reporter mourns a terrorist
6. Fadlallah: Jews exaggerated Holocaust “beyond imagination”
7. Palestinian Journalist: Syrian people need freedom flotillas more than Palestinians do
8. Egyptian Columnist: “What siege in Gaza are they talking about?”
9. “Why is the Dagan era ending?” (By Yaakov Katz, Jerusalem Post)
10. “Operation Sabotage. Our secret war against Iran” (By Eli Lake, New Republic)


[All notes below by Tom Gross]

SLOWING DOWN IRAN’S NUCLEAR PROGRAM

I attach two articles from recent days, below. Before that I attach a number of other items.

The first article concerns Meir Dagan, who after an extended eight year term judged to be among the most successful in the organization’s history, is stepping down as head of Israel’s Mossad intelligence agency.

As Dagan noted last week, only the Mossad’s mistakes tend to become known to the public, not its many recent successes.

Among other things, Dagan has successfully waged a campaign to slow down Iran’s nuclear program.

As The Jerusalem Post reports below (and as I have alluded to in past dispatches on this email list), in recent years, Iranian scientists have gone missing; equipment sent to Iran for its nuclear program arrived broken; warehouses in Europe where equipment for Iran’s nuclear program was stored before being shipped went up in flames; and Iran has been plagued by a number of mysterious military plane crashes. These are some of the key reasons that Iran does not yet have a nuclear arsenal.

 

U.S. AND BRITISH INVOLVEMENT TOO

The second article below is from The New Republic, titled “Operation Sabotage. Our secret war against Iran,” and concerns similar American efforts to disrupt Iran’s nuclear program. With the Obama administration’s diplomatic efforts to stop Iran from getting a nuclear weapon in tatters, the U.S. is also stepping up incidents of sabotage, reports The New Republic, which adds that sabotage has long been a staple of modern warfare, by the U.S. and many other countries. The British have also reportedly been involved in sabotage operations against Iran’s nuclear program.

The authors of these articles (Yaakov Katz and Eli Lake, both of whom are well-informed reporters on intelligence and security matters) are subscribers to this email list. I am quoted at the end of the first article below.

Of course, slowing down Iran’s nuclear program can only be effective up to a point, and eventually Iran will likely acquire nuclear weapons unless more decisive action is taken.

 

PLANNER OF MUNICH OLYMPICS MASSACRE DIES, PEACEFULLY, IN DAMASCUS

Mohammed Oudeh, the key planner of the 1972 Munich Olympics massacre in which 11 Israeli athletes were murdered, died yesterday in Damascus, aged 73, of kidney failure.

Oudeh, also known by his nom de guerre, Abu Daoud, was the key organizer of the attack on September 5, 1972, although he said that he was aided in financing the attack by Mahmoud Abbas, the current president of the Palestinian Authority, who was then deputy to PLO Chairman Yasser Arafat.

In an interview in 2006 with Germany’s Der Spiegel, Abu Daoud said he “regrets nothing” about the death of the Israeli athletes. “You can only dream that I would apologize,” he said.

Until his death, he was provided with security protection and a comfortable standard of living by the Assad regime in Damascus.

 

HIZBULLAH’S SPIRITUAL HEAD FADLALLAH DIES, PEACEFULLY, IN BEIRUT

Grand Ayatollah Mohammed Hussein Fadlallah, who was classified by the U.S. government as a terrorist but referred today to by the BBC’s Beirut correspondent Jim Muir as a “moderate” with “progressive views,” died this morning in Beirut, aged 74.

Fadlallah was the founder and “spiritual guide” of the Lebanese Shia terror group, Hizbullah. He was born in the Shia holy city of Najaf, in Iraq, and moved to Lebanon in 1966 after completing his studies.

He won a militant Shia following both in Iraq and Lebanon, extending his influence as far as Central Asia and the Gulf.

 

CNN REPORTER MOURNS A TERRORIST

In a twitter feed today, CNN’s Senior Editor of Arab Affairs Octavia Nasr (who often appears on CNN as an expert and commentator) writes:

“Sad to hear of the passing of Sayyed Mohammed Hussein Fadlallah. One of Hezbollah’s giants. I respect a lot”

***

(Tom Gross adds: In 2004, when Yasser Arafat died, the BBC Middle East correspondent Barbara Plett famously cried on camera, she said she was so upset. More details here . The BBC governors later sanctioned her for it although the BBC news editors defended her crying.)

 

FADLALLAH: JEWS EXAGGERATED HOLOCAUST “BEYOND IMAGINATION”

Fadlallah was reported to have said that Jews have exaggerated the number of Holocaust victims “beyond imagination.”

(Fadlallah, above with his Hizbullah bodyguards in Lebanon in the 1980s)

And as historian Andrew Boston mentions in his book The Legacy of Islamic Antisemitism:

“In his sermons, Fadlallah repeatedly refers to anti-Jewish archetypes in the Qur’an, hadith, and sira: the corrupt, treacherous and aggressive nature of the Jews; their reputation as killers of prophets, who spread corruption on earth; and the notion that the Jews engaged in conspiratorial efforts against the Muslim prophet Muhammad.”

 

PALESTINIAN JOURNALIST: SYRIAN PEOPLE NEED FREEDOM FLOTILLAS MORE THAN PALESTINIANS DO

In an article posted on the liberal website Aafaq (www.aafaq.org) , Palestinian journalist Zainab Rashid writes that the Syrian propaganda apparatus has sought to use the Gaza flotilla to divert attention from what is happening in Syria, and that “the Syrian people needs freedom flotillas more than the Palestinian people does, because of its oppression at the hands of the Assad family, and because the economic and human rights situation in Syria is worse than in Gaza.”

She writes (translation courtesy of Memri, whose senior staff subscribe to this email list): “When people hear that Syrians participated in the so-called ‘Freedom Flotilla’ [to Gaza], they get the impression that the Syrians have overcome all of their domestic and foreign problems, and that they have nothing left to do but to participate in mitigating the problems of others, and in ending the siege on them.

“… I and everyone else know that the Syrian officials’ treatment of the Syrian flotilla participants, and Syria’s official propaganda stance vis-à-vis the flotilla, are only an attempt to … divert [public] attention from the situation in Syria, from the complete deterioration in all areas, and from statements and the groaning of the freedom fighters imprisoned in the various, and numerous, bastilles [of the Syrian regime], both aboveground and underground.”

“Until the Hamas takeover, Gaza’s economic and educational situation, and its living conditions and freedoms, were much better than those in Syria under the rule of the Assad family and its oppressive security apparatuses – which have set Syria back decades, and made its honorable people one of the poorest in the region and in the world. They have strangled the freedoms, and ‘taken captive’ any who raised their voices to ask for [even] a minimum [of freedoms].

“… Gaza has no mud schoolrooms, like those in many Syrian provinces. Gaza does not have 60 students to a single classroom. Even after Gaza was besieged, food is not scarce as it is in Syria, where many food products do not reach the markets except for those smuggled in across the Syria-Lebanon border. Gaza’s Internet services are vastly superior to the pitiful Internet services in Syria. Gaza and the West Bank have no lists of hundreds of banned websites. Until Hamas came to power, Gaza’s water and electricity situation was much better than that in Syria. The average Gaza Strip income is higher than Syria’s... So who needs freedom flotillas more? The [Gaza] Strip residents, or the Syrian people?

“Prior to Hamas’ Gaza takeover, various media outlets there expressed various and even contradictory opinions, and carried out their work with a reasonable measure of freedom. Satellite television channels, radio stations, magazines, and newspapers represented all of the various factions, including the independents.

“… The Gaza residents were never massacred in prison like [Syrian prisoners were] in [2008 at] Sidnaya Prison and [in 1980] at Tadmor – or [in 1982] in the city of Hama. Their prime minister and interior minister were not assassinated, like Mahmoud Al-Zu’abi [in 2008] and Ghazi Kana’an. Gaza has no nefarious emergency laws like those that have been in force in Syria for 40 years. So who is more deserving of freedom flotillas, so that the world will notice the oppression, repression, and coercion under which they suffer?”

 

EGYPTIAN COLUMNIST: “WHAT SIEGE IN GAZA ARE THEY TALKING ABOUT?”

In his column in the Egyptian daily Roz Al-Yousuf, dated June 29, 2010, Muhammad Hamadi cites statistics from a Hamas website showing that “despite all the talk of a siege on the Gaza Strip, so many goods are streaming into Gaza that supply is greater than demand – and that as a result, produce, poultry, and beef are cheaper there than in Egypt.”

He adds (translation by Memri): “ A kilo of watermelon in Gaza costs less than one Egyptian lira, while in Egypt it costs over two lira; a kilo of tomatoes in Gaza costs less than half a lira, while in Egypt it costs 1.5 lira; a kilo of potatoes in Gaza costs half a lira, while in Egypt it costs two lira; a kilo of onions in Gaza is one lira, while in Egypt a kilo of onions is 1.5 lira; a kilo of garlic in Gaza is 10 lira, while in Egypt it is 15 lira.

“A kilo of chicken in Egypt is 20 lira, and in Gaza it goes for only 10 lira. The average price of a kilo of beef in Egypt is 60 lira – while in besieged Gaza it goes for five lira. A tray of eggs in Egypt is 19 lira, while in Gaza it is only 10 lira.”

“This comparison of prices between Egypt and Gaza, which has been under siege for three years, as they say, shows that life under siege is cheaper, more convenient, and easier...

“So what siege are they talking about? Does the siege cause prices to drop? And how are goods flowing into Gaza despite the siege? ...

“These questions are not being raised [here] in expectation of an answer from Hamas, but they are directed at all Hamas supporters in Egypt who see nothing wrong with accusing their own country of betraying the Palestinian cause and of starving the helpless Palestinian people with the oppressive siege on Gaza.

“If this is what it’s like in Gaza under siege, then the Egyptian people, who have been burned by the fire of prices and who peel off part of their limited income to save the besieged Gaza residents, [should] pray to Allah to smite them with [such a] siege, if the siege will lead to lower prices and make it possible for every common citizen to buy eggs, meat, and poultry like the Gaza residents do.”

***

KUWAITI COLUMNIST: “PRO-GAZA ACTIVISTS ARE NOTHING BUT TERRORISTS”

In a follow-up to his June 3, 2010 article on the Gaza flotilla, Kuwaiti columnist Abdallah Al-Hadlaq, who writes in the Kuwaiti daily Al-Watan, wrote another column on the issue. In it, he wrote of the “contrast between the global interest in what is happening in Gaza with the disregard for other, graver, humanitarian crises across the world” and added that “the activists working to remove the siege on Gaza were not peace activists but terrorists disguised as humanitarians, and that therefore Israel was fully entitled to defend itself against them.”

[All notes above by Tom Gross]


FULL ARTICLES

A GENERALLY SUCCESSFUL ERA

Why is the Dagan era ending?
By Yaakov Katz
The Jerusalem Post
July 3, 2010

www.jpost.com/Home/Article.aspx?id=180192

After eight years as Mossad chief, Meir Dagan is stepping down. What does this signal for the covert battle he waged to thwart Iran’s nuclear drive?

When Meir Dagan was appointed head of the Mossad in 2002, one of the first things he did was hang an old black-and-white picture, fraying at the corners, on a wall in his office at the spy agency’s headquarters near Tel Aviv.

The black-and-white picture is of an old bearded Jew, wearing a tallit and kneeling down in front of two Nazi soldiers, one with a stick in his hand, the other carrying a rifle slung over his shoulder.

“Look at this picture,” Dagan, 65, reportedly often urges visitors to his highly secure office. “This man, kneeling down before the Nazis, was my grandfather just before he was murdered. I look at this picture every day and promise that the Holocaust will never happen again.”

The injunction “never again” has characterized Dagan’s eight-year tenure as head of the Mossad. It underpins the two main objectives on which he has focused the organization: preventing Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons and waging a covert shadow war against Israel’s axis of evil – Iran, Syria, Hizbullah and Hamas.

Dagan’s work has reportedly paid off. In recent years, Iranian scientists began to disappear.

Equipment sent to Iran for its nuclear program arrived broken, likely sabotaged.

Warehouses in Europe where equipment for Iran’s nuclear program was stored before being shipped went up in flames. In 2005, Iran was plagued by a number of mysterious plane crashes, killing dozens of Revolutionary Guard Corps officers, including several senior officers. All this was attributed, in the foreign press, to the Mossad.

His successes have brought frustration for others.

Over the years, three of his deputies have resigned – angered by the government’s decision to repeatedly extend Dagan’s term in office, stymying their career prospects.

But those successes have certainly brought more funding for the Mossad. According to one former senior intelligence operative, by 2007, five years into his reign, the Mossad’s annual budget had jumped significantly.

“Whether you like him or not, Dagan is one of the greatest Mossad directors ever,” a former top Mossad official said this week. “His achievements are innumerable.”

But now the Dagan era is drawing to a close. It was announced this week that he would stepping down at the end of the year. And the race to succeed him has already begun.

MEIR DAGAN was installed into the top intelligence post by prime minister Ariel Sharon, who had worked with him in the 1970s running a unit of elite commandos called Sayeret Rimon whose soldiers disguised themselves as Palestinians and raided the Gaza Strip in search of PLO fighters.

After his appointment in 2002, he immediately set out to revolutionize an organization that had been rocked by the botched assassination of Hamas’s Damascus-based chief Khaled Mashaal in Amman in 1997, under the tenure of Mossad chief and former Labor MK Danny Yatom. Two Mossad agents were caught in the botched operation. In exchange for their release, and to salvage ties with a furious Jordan, Israel was forced to provide the antidote to save Mashaal’s life and to release hundreds of Palestinian prisoners, notably including Hamas founder Sheikh Ahmed Yassin.

After Yatom came Efraim Halevy, the Mossad veteran who had salvaged the Israeli-Jordanian relationship after the Mashaal fiasco. Some credit Halevy with rehabilitating and restoring proper practices to the battered organization; but one critical former Mossad operative sniped that Halevy preferred talks with Arab diplomats at cocktail parties in Europe over dangerous and risky operations in the Middle East. “Under Halevy, the motto was ‘don’t get in trouble,’” said this source.

If so, that attitude completely changed under Dagan, who brought a new sense of daring.

He was given one key task by Sharon – to do everything possible to thwart Iran’s pursuit of a nuclear weapon. To do that, Sharon reportedly told Dagan that he needed to recreate the Mossad as a spy service “with a knife between its teeth.”

Indeed, Dagan’s Mossad is credited with orchestrating a string of assassinations around the world: In February 2008, a car bomb killed Imad Mughniyeh, Hizbullah’s military commander in Damascus. Later that year, Gen. Muhammad Suleiman, Syrian President Bashar Assad’s liaison to Hamas and Hizbullah and the head of the country’s covert nuclear program, was shot dead by a sniper at his vacation home in the port city of Tartus. In January, the Mossad reportedly struck again, killing Mahmoud al-Mabhouh, the Hamas arch terrorist, in Dubai.

According to foreign reports, the Mossad was also behind the discovery of Iran’s uranium enrichment center in Natanz, as well as the discovery of Syria’s nuclear reactor, which was destroyed by the IAF in 2007.

Under Dagan’s tenure, relations with the CIA also peaked due to the Mossad’s success in once again providing critical intelligence and proving itself to be a major player. “There is unprecedented cooperation between the agencies today,” one top Israeli security official said recently.

The decision to consistently extend Dagan’s term was a vote of confidence in the Mossad and an appreciation of his achievements. Furthermore, one top defense official added, by extending his term, Israel was sending a message to the world regarding the severity with which it views the Iranian nuclear threat. The annual extension meant that Israel was keeping Dagan in place in case tough sanctions were not imposed and Israel might feel it had no choice but to attack Iranian nuclear installations.

If that is true, then the latest round of sanctions – albeit not as tough as Israel hoped – could be what paved the way to the announcement of Dagan’s retirement.

While Dagan’s opinions on a military strike against Iran are not publicly known, some sources claim that he believes there is still time to stop it from obtaining the bomb by non-military means.

Last year, he stirred controversy when, in an appearance at the Knesset, he was quoted as saying that Iran would not obtain the bomb until 2014, pushing back earlier assessments by a number of years.

At the time, officials explained that Dagan was referring to the stage when Iran will have the ability to fire a missile tipped with a nuclear warhead into Israel. Iran could very well develop a testable nuclear device before then, they said.

THIS WEEK’S news of his imminent departure hasn’t only set off a race to succeed him. It also raises serious questions regarding the long-term strategic thinking of Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Ehud Barak, since it means that, starting in October, all of the country’s security chiefs will step down within six months. These include Chief of General Staff Lt.-Gen. Gabi Ashkenazi, Military Intelligence chief Maj.-Gen. Amos Yadlin, Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) chief Yuval Diskin and Dagan.

One possible candidate to replace Dagan is T., who served in the past as his deputy, stepped down and recently returned to the agency. Other candidates are believed to be the head of Tzomet, the Mossad branch that directs its worldwide network of agents, and the head of the Tevel branch, which is responsible for ties with foreign intelligence agencies.

Diskin and Yadlin are candidates, too.

Predictions within the defense establishment are that Netanyahu will choose a successor to Dagan after Barak chooses a successor to Ashkenazi, who is to finish up his four-year term in February. This is because one of the generals vying for the top IDF post, if unsuccessful, could be given the Mossad directorship as a consolation prize.

WHAT IS unknown is how big a role the recent fiasco surrounding the Mabhouh assassination in Dubai, attributed to the Mossad, played in the decision not to extend Dagan’s term. A number of friendly states were angered by the use of their passports in the operation. As a result, diplomats were expelled from Britain, Ireland and Australia and currently an alleged Mossad agent is under arrest in Poland awaiting extradition to Germany, where he will stand trial for illegally obtaining a German passport reportedly used in the operation, according to the foreign press.

Either way, it is interesting to compare the international fallout following the assassination to the recent discovery of an alleged Russian spy ring in the US. According to recent reports, the FBI has claimed that at least one of the alleged spies was in possession of a forged British passport.

Tom Gross, a former Israel correspondent for The Sunday Telegraph and an expert on British politics and media, is waiting to see whether there will be a discrepancy between the way the Foreign Office in London responded to the reported use of British passports in the Dubai operation and the way it responds in the Russian case.

“I wonder what outrage the British government will express concerning the latest reports of forged British passports – this time apparently by the Russian government,” Gross said. “Will furious denunciations be made, and senior Russian diplomats in the UK be deported, or is such action only reserved for Israelis?”

 

OPERATION SABOTAGE

Operation Sabotage
Our secret war against Iran
By Eli Lake
The New Republic
June 30, 2010

www.tnr.com/article/world/75952/operation-sabotage

Our efforts to stop Iran from getting a nuclear weapon seem to be in tatters. President Obama spent his first year in office trying to resolve the matter through détente. He offered negotiations, sent a conciliatory letter to Iran’s supreme leader, and was slow to publicly support the demonstrations that followed the June 2009 elections. Last fall, the United States sponsored an International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) deal through which Tehran would have been able to swap out its dangerous spent fuel for uranium suitable to be used in power generation. But this outreach was spurned, and Iran’s nuclear program continued.

Next, the Obama team shifted to a tougher approach – namely sanctions, which were passed by the U.N. Security Council earlier this month. But Tehran has been under international sanctions for a long time now; and, as anyone who has watched Iran policy over the last ten years can tell you, U.N. sanctions are only as good as the enforcement provided by individual countries. How Russia – which has aided Iran in acquiring ballistic missiles and a nuclear reactor – will enforce these latest sanctions is anyone’s guess. Moreover, even if the sanctions are faithfully carried out, there is no guarantee they will have their intended effect. Far more crippling sanctions in the 1990s failed to force Saddam Hussein to fully cooperate with U.N. weapons inspections. Does anyone really doubt that the men in charge of Iran would let their citizenry endure economic pain in order to build a nuclear weapon?

There is, of course, the possibility that the United States or Israel will bomb Iranian nuclear facilities. But this option risks an all-out regional war. And, with Iran’s nuclear facilities scattered and buried deep underground, there is no guarantee that a strike would damage the program enough to be worth the steep geopolitical costs.

And so, the most commonly discussed options on the table range from ineffective to problematic. Yet there is one more possibility for forestalling an Iranian nuke – something that is almost never talked about publicly but that has in fact been central to our Iran policy for years. One Jewish organization leader who has frequent contact with the administration describes the line from the White House and State Department as follows: “You know we don’t have all our eggs in one basket. There are all sorts of means at our disposal that we cannot talk about.” “The clear inference,” this person explains, “is that they are talking about black ops stuff to screw up the Iranian program.”

Sabotage has always been a staple of modern warfare. In World War I, for example, the Germans rigged U.S. and Canadian weapons to explode in New Jersey. But a more complicated genre of technological sabotage dates to the first term of the Reagan administration. A special KGB unit known as Directorate T and its operations wing called Line X had – through dummy corporations and a network of black-market smugglers – managed to obtain computers, airplane parts, and sophisticated machine equipment the Soviet command economy was incapable of producing itself. Luckily for the West, however, a KGB colonel named Vladimir Vetrov was working for French intelligence – and, in thousands of pages of photographed documents that came to be known as the “Farewell Dossier,” he provided detailed information on Line X.

Starting in the early ‘80s, the CIA – with the cooperation of the FBI and military – launched a massive operation to feed Line X equipment that was modified to sabotage Soviet industrial and military operations. In 1996, former National Security Council official Gus Weiss published an account of the program, which he had helped conceive, in Studies in Intelligence. “American industry helped in the preparation of items to be ‘marketed’ to Line X,” he wrote. “Contrived computer chips found their way into Soviet military equipment, flawed turbines were installed on a gas pipeline, and defective plans disrupted the output of chemical plants and a tractor factory.”

Ever since the late ‘90s – a few years after Western intelligence services became aware of a Chinese sale of yellowcake uranium to Iran – these kinds of operations have been a mainstay of Washington’s policies toward Tehran. The operations are state secrets, not just a “secret” like the use of drones in Pakistan to kill Al Qaeda leaders, something that Obama joked about in his speech at the White House Correspondents’ Dinner. Indeed, the government takes these secrets so seriously that it is threatening New York Times reporter James Risen with jail time if he doesn’t reveal his sources for a chapter of his 2006 book, State of War. That chapter disclosed a U.S. intelligence plan from 2000 that sent a Russian nuclear scientist on the CIA payroll to Vienna to hand over flawed bomb design plans to the Iranians.

But, while such sabotage efforts don’t get much public attention, almost everyone familiar with counterproliferation says that these schemes are being directed at Iran’s nuclear program. In New York Times reporter David Sanger’s book The Inheritance, published at the end of the Bush administration, he wrote about sabotage efforts targeting Iran. David Kay, who led the U.N. weapons inspection team in Iraq between 1991 and 1992, as well as the U.S. effort to find those weapons after the 2003 invasion, says he is positive that such sabotage is taking place. “I am certain based on the history of other programs against Iraq and other possible proliferators that activities to make it more difficult to obtain and to operate items crucial to their nuclear weapons program are ongoing,” he explains. “The Israelis have been doing this for years and so have the British.” Michael Adler, an expert on Iran’s nuclear program at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington, put it this way: “It seems to be clear that there is an active and imaginative sabotage program from several Western nations as well as Israel involving booby-trapping equipment which the Iranians are procuring, tricking black-market smugglers, cyber-operations, and recruiting scientists.” Three current U.S. government officials confirmed that sabotage operations have been a key part of American plans to slow down the Iranian program– and that they are continuing under Obama.

Iran, apparently, has several entities that would be the equivalent of the old Soviet Line X. There are special units of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard that are devoted to purchasing illicit technology for Iran’s missile program, for example. Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization also has special bureaus that focus on procurement. And Iran has front companies such as the Kalaye Electric Company, which has been sanctioned by the Treasury Department for attempting to purchase specialized magnets needed for centrifuge operations.

Efforts to steer defective products toward Iran have taken a number of forms. For instance, according to a former Mossad operations officer who goes by the alias Michael Ross, in 1998, the Mossad and the CIA developed a plan to sell a supposedly helpful chemical substance – which would, in fact, gum up centrifuges over time – to Iran on the black market.

Then, there was the odd case of the Tinners, a Swiss family of engineers long believed to be a cog in the network of nuclear proliferators organized by Pakistani scientist A.Q. Khan. In 2008, Urs Tinner admitted that he had been a CIA asset. And it turns out that he played a crucial role in an effort to sabotage Iran’s nuclear program. According to David Albright – the president of the Institute for Science and International Security and the author of a new history of Iran’s illicit procurement of nuclear technology, Peddling Peril – the Tinners sold high-quality vacuum pumps to the Iranians and Libyans. The pumps are crucial for uranium enrichment because centrifuges must operate inside a vacuum seal. The Tinners’ pumps were produced in Germany, but were originally purchased by the Oak Ridge and Los Alamos laboratories. These labs, Albright says, had modified the pumps “to bug them or to make them break down under operational conditions. If you can break the vacuum in a centrifuge cascade, you can destroy hundreds of centrifuges or thousands if you are really lucky.” (A senior intelligence official confirmed Albright’s story to me.)

Sometimes, these operations do not end well. Ali Ashtari, a high-tech electronics vendor, was hung by Iran in 2008 after he confessed to bugging the equipment of senior Revolutionary Guard figures with viruses and GPS units provided to him by Israel. Ronen Bergman, the top intelligence reporter for the Israeli newspaper Yedioth Ahronoth, believes that Ashtari was an “example of how someone – the Iranians claim it’s the Israeli Mossad – tried to sabotage the Iranian nuclear project by covert means, rather than an air strike.” Adds Bergman, “Ashtari was executed, but other entities continue to sabotage the project.”

But do sabotage efforts work? In late 2008 and early 2009, the IAEA began to see a drop in the amount of low-enriched uranium (LEU) being produced at Natanz, the facility that lies at the center of Iran’s known nuclear weapons program. In the fall of 2008, its centrifuges were producing 90 kilograms a month of LEU. By the end of the year, however, the same centrifuges were producing 70 kilograms of LEU. To be sure, that number was back up to 85 kilograms per month at the close of 2009, and it has been climbing since, to around 120 kilograms a month; but those increases came after the installation of more centrifuges – all of which suggests that at least some of the machines were less efficient than they should be.

Ivan Oelrich, a nuclear scientist and the vice president of the strategic security program at the Federation of American Scientists, estimated in a study this year that the centrifuges are operating at 20 percent efficiency. “We know the average efficiency of the centrifuges is dismal. We don’t know whether it is because of the quality of the individual centrifuges or how they are linked together,” he explains. “We can’t rule out sabotage as one factor leading to these inefficiencies.” Greg Jones, a nuclear analyst at the Rand Corporation, says the Iranians “are operating just under four thousand machines, but they have installed about eight thousand five hundred. Those nonoperating machines have been installed for many months. Why they are not operating is not clear.”

Among people I spoke to, there seemed to be a broad consensus that sabotage was, at the very least, slowing Iran’s quest for a nuclear weapon. A senior administration official told me that there was evidence the Iranians are experiencing delays due to “a combination of reasons – some inherent to the nature of the infeasibility of the design and the machines themselves, and some because of actions by the United States and its allies.” Explains David Kay, “History says that these things have done more to slow programs than any sanctions regime has or is likely to do.”

However, the biggest payoff from these efforts may not come from the sabotage itself, but from the psychological effect it could have on Iran’s government. At the most general level, there are probably benefits to keeping Iranian intelligence officials paranoid and off-balance, simply because it can cause them to waste valuable time and resources. This appears to be happening. In 2007, for example, Iran’s state-run news service reported that the national police had arrested a cell of spy squirrels. The next year, Iran reportedly arrested a group of spy pigeons.

But the specific benefit of sabotage is that it makes countries wary of purchasing crucial materials on the black market. In 1982, when Gus Weiss proposed the modified-equipment operation to then–CIA Director William Casey, he said his plan was a rare espionage endeavor that would succeed even if compromised. “If some double agent told the KGB the Americans were alert to Line X and were interfering with their collection by subverting, if not sabotaging, the effort, I believed the United States still could not lose,” Weiss wrote. “The Soviets, being a suspicious lot, would be likely to question and reject everything Line X collected.” The same principle now holds with Iran. According to the senior administration official, sabotage “forces the Iranians to make machine parts themselves.” And that, in turn, can slow down the process of producing a nuclear weapon.

In the end, however, there are almost certainly limits to how much the West’s sabotage campaign against Iran can accomplish. “These programs are enough to cause the Iranians some problems, but they don’t imperil the Iranian drive to enrich uranium,” says the Wilson Center’s Adler. Indeed, Adler thinks the inefficiencies at the Natanz plant could be chalked up to the inexperience of the scientists or the poor quality of the design, rather than sabotage.

The view among most officials and observers seems to be that sabotage is helpful but not, on its own, the answer. Uzi Dayan, a retired major general in the Israel Defense Forces and a former national security adviser to both Ariel Sharon and Ehud Barak, put it this way: “At the end of the day, this approach can delay the program and slow it down. It can put obstacles in the way. But it cannot prevent Iran from achieving their goal.” “Every president since Clinton has tried covert operations to disrupt Iran’s nuclear program. Bush did it, Obama is doing it. The problem is, it’s not a substitute for sound policy,” says Henry Sokolski, the executive director of the nonproliferation Policy Education Center. “It is a holding action. What they are not facing is that you have to somehow usher this group of rulers off the stage of history. It is a tough thing to do, it’s not clear how you do it, and they have chosen not to try.”