Tom Gross Mideast Media Analysis

Cambridge, Mass., “that notorious swamp of redneck bigotry”

April 29, 2013

Out to kill at the Boston marathon

 

* Mark Steyn: “The Tsarnaevs’ mom, now relocated from Cambridge to Makhachkala in delightful Dagestan, told a press conference that she regrets ever having gotten mixed up with those crazy Yanks: ‘I would prefer not to have lived in America,’ she said. Not, I’m sure, as much as the Richard family would have preferred it. Eight-year-old Martin was killed; his sister lost a leg; and his mother suffered serious brain injuries. What did the Richards and some 200 other families do to deserve having a great big hole blown in their lives? Well, according to The New York Times, they and you bear collective responsibility.”

* Steyn: “If I follow correctly, these UCLA profs are arguing that, when some guys go all Allahu Akbar on you and blow up your marathon, that just shows that you lazy complacent Americans need to work even harder at ‘assimilating’ immigrants. After all, Dzhokhar and Tamerlan were raised in Cambridge, Mass., a notorious swamp of redneck bigotry where the two young Chechens no doubt felt ‘alienated’ and ‘excluded’ at being surrounded by NPR-listening liberals, cooing, ‘Oh, your family’s from Chechnya? That’s the one next to Slovakia, right? Would you like to come round for a play date and help Jeremiah finish his diversity quilt?’”

* “After Maj. Hasan gunned down 13 of his comrades and an unborn baby, Gen. Casey, the Army’s chief of staff, assured us that it could have been a whole lot worse: ‘What happened at Fort Hood was a tragedy, but I believe it would be an even greater tragedy if our diversity becomes a casualty here.’ What happened at Boston was a ‘tragedy,’ but it would be an even greater tragedy if there were to be any honest discussion of Islam.”

* A note on The New York Times and Boston Globe

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* Please also see this previous dispatch on the Boston bombings.

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* You can comment on these dispatches here: www.facebook.com/TomGrossMedia. Please also press “Like” on that page.

 

CONTENTS

1. USA Today does the investigative reporting The New York Times declines to do
2. “Did we all fail the Tsarnaevs?” (By Mark Steyn, Orange County Register, April 27, 2013)
3. “Mosque that Boston suspects attended has radical ties” (By Oren Dorell, USA Today, April 23, 2013)


USA TODAY DOES THE INVESTIGATIVE REPORTING THE NEW YORK TIMES DECLINES TO DO

[Note by Tom Gross]

In the piece below, Canadian writer Mark Steyn rightly singles out The New York Times for its dismal coverage of the aftermath of the Boston terror attack.

Mark Steyn’s piece appeared on Friday. Since then, The New York Times has run another very long piece about Boston on its front page yesterday that despite its length, again manages to avoid dealing with the one real cause of the bombing: radical Islamic indoctrination of the Tsarnaev brothers in Boston. (The same piece appears today at the top of Page 1 and continues on most of Page 7 of The International Herald Tribune, a paper soon to be renamed “the international New York Times”.)

The New York Times tells us that no less than 13 reporters worked on the article – six from Boston – and yet there is barely a single word about the new radical mosque in Boston to which the brothers went. Perhaps we should not be surprised: The lead writer of these 13 New York Times reporters is Deborah Sontag – the former Jerusalem correspondent of the New York Times who was notoriously hostile to Israel and soft on Palestinian terrorism.

Sontag and her colleagues argue in their piece that if the U.S. had eased the process of the older Boston bomber to become a U.S. citizen, despite his beating up his girlfriend and being on both the CIA and FBI terrorism watch lists, the Boston bombings wouldn’t have happened.

Similarly a very long piece in the Boston Globe last week, which the paper said was co-authored and researched by an incredible 23 journalists, also avoids discussing the Boston mosque. (The Boston Globe is owned by The New York Times.)

But other papers with far less resources and prestige are doing the reporting that the Times and Globe should be doing. After Mark Steyn’s piece in the Orange County Register, I attach a piece from USA Today titled “Mosque that Boston suspects attended has radical ties” authored by a single journalist with limited help.

Yet unlike the 36 reporters for the Times and Globe, he manages to explain how several people who attended the Islamic Society of Boston mosque in Cambridge, Mass., have been investigated for Islamic terrorism, including the mosque’s first president who has been convicted of plotting a murder. And USA Today explains how its sister mosque in Boston, known as the Islamic Society of Boston Cultural Center, has invited guests who have defended terror suspects.

-- Tom Gross


ARTICLES

DID WE ALL FAIL THE TSARNAEVS?

Did we all fail the Tsarnaevs?
By Mark Steyn
Orange County Register
April 27, 2013

One of the most ingenious and effective strategies of the Left on any number of topics is to frame the debate and co-opt the language so effectively that it becomes all but impossible even to discuss the subject honestly. Take the brothers Tsarnaev, the incendiary end of a Chechen family that in very short time has settled aunts, uncles, sisters and more across the map of North America, from Massachusetts to New Jersey to my own hometown of Toronto. Maybe your town has a Tsarnaev, too: There seems to be no shortage of them, except, oddly, back in Chechnya. The Tsarnaevs’ mom, now relocated from Cambridge to Makhachkala in delightful Dagestan, told a press conference the other day that she regrets ever having gotten mixed up with those crazy Yanks: “I would prefer not to have lived in America,” she said.

Not, I’m sure, as much as the Richard family would have preferred it. Eight-year-old Martin was killed; his sister lost a leg; and his mother suffered serious brain injuries. What did the Richards and some 200 other families do to deserve having a great big hole blown in their lives? Well, according to The New York Times, they and you bear collective responsibility. Writing on the op-ed page, Marcello Suarez-Orozco, Dean of the UCLA Graduate School of Education and Information Studies, and Carola Suarez-Orozco, a professor at the same institution, began their ruminations thus:

“The alleged involvement of two ethnic Chechen brothers in the deadly attack at the Boston Marathon last week should prompt Americans to reflect on whether we do an adequate job assimilating immigrants who arrive in the United States as children or teenagers.”

Maybe. Alternatively, the above opening sentence should “prompt Americans to reflect” on whether whoever’s editing America’s newspaper of record these days “does an adequate job” in choosing which pseudo-credentialed experts it farms out its principal analysis on terrorist atrocities to. But, if I follow correctly, these UCLA profs are arguing that, when some guys go all Allahu Akbar on you and blow up your marathon, that just shows that you lazy complacent Americans need to work even harder at “assimilating” “immigrants.” After all, Dzhokhar and Tamerlan were raised in Cambridge, Mass., a notorious swamp of redneck bigotry where the two young Chechens no doubt felt “alienated” and “excluded” at being surrounded by NPR-listening liberals, cooing, “Oh, your family’s from Chechnya? That’s the one next to Slovakia, right? Would you like to come round for a play date and help Jeremiah finish his diversity quilt?” Assimilation is hell.

How hard would it be for Americans to be less inadequate when it comes to assimilating otherwise well-adjusted immigrant children? Let us turn once again to Mrs. Tsarnaev:

“They are going to kill him. I don’t care,” she told reporters. “My oldest son is killed, so I don’t care. I don’t care if my youngest son is going to be killed today ...I don’t care if I am going to get killed, too ... and I will say Allahu Akbar!”

You can say it all you want, madam, but everyone knows that “Allahu Akbar” is Arabic for “Nothing to see here.” So, once you’ve cleared the streets of body parts, you inadequate Americans need to re-double your efforts.

There is a stupidity to this, but also a kind of decadence. Until the 1960s, it was assumed by all sovereign states that they had the right to choose which non-nationals were admitted within their borders. Now, to suggest such a thing risks the charge of “nativism,” and to propose that, say, Swedes are easier to assimilate than Chechens is to invite cries of “Racist!” So, when the morgues and emergency rooms are piled high, the only discussion acceptable in polite society is to wonder whether those legless Bostonians should have agitated more forcefully for federally mandated after-school assimilationist basketball programs.

As Ma Tsarnaev’s effusions suggest, at the sharp end of Islamic imperialism, there’s a certain glorying in sacrifice. We’re more fatalistic about it: After Maj. Hasan gunned down 13 of his comrades and an unborn baby, Gen. Casey, the Army’s chief of staff, assured us that it could have been a whole lot worse:

“What happened at Fort Hood was a tragedy, but I believe it would be an even greater tragedy if our diversity becomes a casualty here.”

What happened at Boston was a “tragedy,” but it would be an even greater tragedy if there were to be any honest discussion of immigration policy, or Islam, or anything else that matters.

Speaking of glorying in blood, in Philadelphia, the Kermit Gosnell defense rested, without calling either the defendant or any witness to the stand. As I wrote last week, “Doctor” Gosnell is accused of cutting the spinal columns and suctioning out the brains of fully delivered babies. The blogger Pundette listed some questions she would have liked the “doctor” to be asked:

“Why did you chop off and preserve baby hands and feet and display them in jars?”
There seems to be no compelling medical reason for Gosnell’s extensive collection, but bottled baby feet certainly make a novelty paperweight or doorstop. “I think we already know the answer,” wrote the Pundette. “He enjoyed it.”

Unlike the Boston bombings, even the New York Times op-ed team can’t figure out a line on this. Better to look away, and ignore the story. America is the abortion mill of the developed world. In Western Europe, the state is yet squeamish enough to insist that the act be confined to 12 weeks (France) or 13 (Italy), with mandatory counseling (Germany), or up to 18 if approved by a government “commission” (Norway). Granted, many of these “safeguards” are pro forma and honored in the breach, but that’s preferable to America, where they’re honored in the breech, and the distinction between abortion and infanticide depends on whether the “doctor” gets to the baby’s skull before it’s cleared the cervix. The Washington Examiner’s Timothy Carney sat in on a conference call with Dr. Tracy Weitz of the University of California, San Francisco:

“When a procedure that usually involves the collapsing of the skull is done, it’s usually done when the fetus is still in the uterus, not when the fetus has been delivered. ... So, in terms of thinking about the difference between the way abortion providers who do later abortions in the United States practice, and this particular practice, they are completely worlds apart.”

Technically, they’re only inches apart. So what’s the big deal? The skull is collapsed in order to make it easier to clear the cervix. Once a healthy baby is out on the table and you cut his spinal column, there’s no need to suck out his brains and cave in his skull. But “Dr.” Gosnell seems to have got a kick out of it, so why not?

You can understand why American progressivism would rather avert its gaze. Out there among the abortion absolutists, they’re happy to chit-chat about the acceptable parameters of the “collapsing of the skull,” but the informed general-interest reader would rather it all stayed at the woozy, blurry “woman’s right to choose” level.

We’re collapsing our own skulls here – the parameters in which we allow ourselves to think about abortion, welfare, immigration, terrorism, Islam shrink remorselessly, not least at the congressional level. Maybe if we didn’t collapse the skulls of so many black babies in Philadelphia, we wouldn’t need to import so many excitable young Chechens. But that’s thinking outside the box, and the box is getting ever smaller, like a nice, cozy cocoon in which we’re always warm and safe. Like – what’s the word? – a womb.

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Tom Gross adds: Personally I think bringing the debate about abortion into this piece was unnecessary.

 

MOSQUE THAT BOSTON SUSPECTS ATTENDED HAS RADICAL TIES

Mosque that Boston suspects attended has radical ties
By Oren Dorell
USA Today
April 23, 2013

Terror suspects, fugitives and radical speakers have passed through the Cambridge mosque that the Tsarnaev brothers are known to have visited.

BOSTON — The mosque attended by the two brothers accused in the Boston Marathon bombing has been associated with other terrorist suspects, has invited radical speakers to a sister mosque in Boston and is affiliated with a Muslim group that critics say nurses grievances that can lead to extremism.

Several people who attended the Islamic Society of Boston mosque in Cambridge, Mass., have been investigated for Islamic terrorism, including a conviction of the mosque’s first president, Abdulrahman Alamoudi, in connection with an assassination plot against a Saudi prince.

And its sister mosque in Boston, known as the Islamic Society of Boston Cultural Center, has invited guests who have defended terror suspects. A former trustee appears in a series of videos in which he advocates treating gays as criminals, says husbands should sometimes beat their wives and calls on Allah (God) to kill Zionists and Jews, according to Americans for Peace and Tolerance, an interfaith group that has investigated the mosques.

The head of the group is among critics who say the mosques teach a brand of Islamic thought that encourages grievances against the West, distrust of law enforcement and opposition to Western forms of government, dress and social values.

“We don’t know where these boys were radicalized,” says the head of the group, Charles Jacobs. “But this mosque has a curriculum that radicalizes people. Other people have been radicalized there.”

Yusufi Vali, executive director at the Islamic Society of Boston Cultural Center, insists his mosque does not spread radical ideology and cannot be blamed for the acts of a few worshipers.

“If there were really any worry about us being extreme,” Vali said, U.S. law enforcement agencies such as the FBI and Departments of Justice and Homeland Security would not partner with the Muslim American Society and the Boston mosque in conducting monthly meetings that have been ongoing for four years, he said, in an apparent reference to U.S. government outreach programs in the Muslim community.

The Cambridge and Boston mosques, separated by the Charles River, are owned by the same entity but managed individually. The imam of the Cambridge mosque, Sheik Basyouny Nehela, is on the board of directors of the Boston mosque.

Dzhokhar Tsarnaev and his brother, Tamerlan Tsarnaev, attended the Cambridge mosque for services and are accused of setting two bombs that killed three people and injured at least 264 others at the April 15 Boston Marathon.

The FBI has not indicated that either mosque was involved in any criminal activity. But mosque attendees and officials have been implicated in terrorist activity.

• Abdulrahman Alamoudi, who signed the articles of incorporation as the Cambridge mosque’s president, was sentenced to 23 years in federal court in Alexandria, Va., in 2004 for his role as a facilitator in what federal prosecutors called a Libyan assassination plot against then-Saudi crown prince Abdullah. Abdullah is now the Saudi king.

• Aafia Siddiqui, who occasionally prayed at the Cambridge mosque, was arrested in Afghanistan in 2008 while in possession of cyanide canisters and plans for a chemical attack in New York City. She tried to grab a rifle while in detention and shot at military officers and FBI agents, for which she was convicted in New York in 2010 and is serving an 86-year sentence.

• Tarek Mehanna, who worshiped at the Cambridge mosque, was sentenced in 2012 to 17 years in prison for conspiring to aid al-Qaeda. Mehanna had traveled to Yemen to seek terrorist training and plotted to use automatic weapons to shoot up a mall in the Boston suburbs, federal investigators in Boston alleged.

• Ahmad Abousamra, the son of a former vice president of the Muslim American Society Boston Abdul-Badi Abousamra, was identified by the FBI as Mehanna’s co-conspirator. He fled to Syria and is wanted by the FBI on charges of providing support to terrorists and conspiracy to kill Americans in a foreign country.

• Jamal Badawi of Canada, a former trustee of the Islamic Society of Boston Trust, which owns both mosques, was named as a non-indicted co-conspirator in the 2007 Holy Land Foundation terrorism trial in Texas over the funneling of money to Hamas, which is the Palestinian wing of the Muslim Brotherhood.

What both mosques have in common is an affiliation with the Muslim American Society, an organization founded in 1993 that describes itself as an American Islamic revival movement. It has also been described by federal prosecutors in court as the “overt arm” of the Muslim Brotherhood, which calls for Islamic law and is the parent organization of Hamas, a U.S.-designated terror group.

Critics say the Muslim American Society promotes a fraught relationship with the United States, expressed in part by the pattern discussed by Americans for Progress and Tolerance in which adherents are made to feel cut off from their home country and to identify with a global Islamist political community rather than with America.

Zhudi Jasser, president of the American Islamic Forum for Democracy, says the radical teachings often follow a theme of recitation of grievances that Islam has with the West, advocacy against U.S. foreign policy and terrorist prosecutions, and efforts “to evangelize Islam in order to improve Western society that is secularized,” he says.

Jasser, a veteran of the U.S. Navy and author of the 2012 book A Battle for the Soul of Islam: An American Muslim Patriot Fights to Save His Faith, says the teachings make some followers feel “like their national identity is completely absent and hollow, and that vacuum can be filled by (radical) Islamic ideology, which is supremacist and looks upon the West as evil.”

The Cambridge mosque was founded in 1982 by students at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Harvard and several other Boston-area schools, according to a profile by the Pluralism Project at Harvard University. Its members founded the sister mosque in Boston in 2009.

The leadership of the two mosques is intertwined and the ideology they teach is the same, Jacobs says. Ilya Feoktistov, director of research at Americans for Peace and Tolerance, says much of the money to create the Boston mosque came not from local Muslims but from foreign sources.

More than half of the $15.5 million used to found the Boston mosque came from Saudi sources, Feoktistov said, who cites financial documents that Jacobs’ group obtained when the mosque sued it for defamation. The lawsuit was later dropped.

But Vali said the vast majority of total donors were in the United States and that “no donations were accepted if the donor wanted to have any decision-making influence (even if benign).”

Vali characterized Americans for Peace and Tolerance and its founder, Jacobs, as anti-Muslim activists who spread “lies and half-truths in order to attack and marginalize much of the local Muslim community and many of its institutions.”

“It’s the new McCarthyism in full swing,” he said.

Sheik Basyouny Nehela, the imam of the Cambridge mosque, which is located across the Charles River from Boston, is on the board of directors for the Muslim American Society of Boston, which runs the Boston mosque. The Tsarnaevs attended the Cambridge mosque.

A statement issued by the Cambridge mosque say the Tsarnaev brothers were “occasional visitors” and the mosque’s office manager, Nichole Mossalam, said neither brother expressed radical views. “They never exhibited any violent sentiments or behaviors. Otherwise, they would have been reported,” Mossalam said.

The Cambridge mosque says Tsarnaev, 26, who died Thursday night in a shootout with police, “disagreed with the moderate American-Islamic theology” of the mosque. Tsarnaev challenged an imam who said in his sermon that it was appropriate to celebrate U.S. national holidays and was told to stop such outbursts, the mosque said in a statement.

Talal Eid, a Muslim chaplain at Brandeis University, says focusing on individual radicals that prayed in a building is unfair.

“In 2011, the two brothers were right under the nose of the FBI and they didn’t find anything,” Eid said, who never met the Tsarnaevs. “How do you want me as an imam to know enough to tell them they are not welcome here? How can I figure out those people have that kind of criminal intent?”

The Muslim American Society says on its website that it is independent of the Muslim Brotherhood. However, early Brotherhood literature is considered “the foundational texts for the intellectual component for Islamic work in America,” the website states.

Jacobs says claims of moderate Islam do not square with the mosque’s classic jihadi texts in its library and its hosting of radical speakers.

Jacobs said Ahmed Mansour, his co-director at Americans for Peace and Tolerance, found writings by Syed Qutb, the former leader of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, and other jihadi texts at the Cambridge mosque’s library when Mansour went there in 2003. Qutb pioneered the radical violent ideology espoused by al-Qaeda.

Yusuf al Qaradawi, the Muslim Brotherhood spiritual leader who espouses radical views in videos collected by Jacobs’ group, was listed as a trustee on the Cambridge mosque’s IRS filings until 2000, and on the mosque’s website until 2003, when he addressed congregants via recorded video message to raise money for the Boston mosque, according to a screenshot of the announcement that Feoktistov provided.

But Vali said Qaradawi was listed as an honorary trustee years ago only because his scholarship and high esteem in Muslim circles would help with fundraising.

Yasir Qadhi, who lectured at the Boston mosque in April 2009, has advocated replacing U.S. democracy with Islamic rule and called Christians “filthy” polytheists whose “life and prosperity … holds no value in the state of Jihad,” according to a video obtained by Jacobs’ group.

Vali said Qadhi was a guest of a non-profit that was renting space at the Boston mosque and changed his views since that video was made.

But Jacobs and others say it is not only renters who express sympathetic views for terrorists. Leaders of the Boston and Cambridge mosques, and invited guests, have advocated on behalf of convicted terrorists, urging followers to seek their release or lenient sentences.

Imam Abdullah Faaruuq, sometimes a spokesman for the Boston mosque, used Siddiqui’s case to speak against the Patriot Act, the anti-terrorism law passed under the Bush administration. “After they’re done with (Siddiqui) they are going to come to your door if they feel like it,” he said according to a video obtained by Americans for Peace and Tolerance.

Anwar Kazmi, a member of the Cambridge mosque’s board of trustees, called for leniency for Mehanna and Siddiqui at a Boston rally in February 2012, in a video posted to YouTube. He characterized Siddiqui’s 86-year sentence as excessive.

In an interview with USA TODAY, Kazmi insisted that the Cambridge mosque is moderate and condemns the bombings. On Monday, the mosque e-mailed members to caution them that the FBI may question them and that they may want to seek representation.

“This kind of violence, terrorism, it’s just completely contrary to the spirit of Islam,” Kasmi said. “The words in the Quran say if anybody kills even a single human being without just cause, it’s as if you’ve killed all of humanity.”

Some notes on the aftermath of the Boston terror attacks

April 26, 2013

Erik Weissman was almost decapitated: was he also one of Tsarnaev’s victims

 

* For medical reasons, I was unable to send a dispatch earlier this week about the aftermath of the Boston terror attacks. Some of you may by now be familiar with various items in this dispatch, but because there are thousands of subscribers to this list from countries as far afield as Uruguay and Australia, many of you may not have done. I am also sending another dispatch with some articles of interest about Boston.

 

* UN official says U.S. had Boston attack coming, and blames “relations with Tel Aviv”

* Boston terror suspect now being investigated for near beheading of Jewish men on tenth anniversary of 9/11 attacks

* Bewilderment among many as John Kerry compares Boston terror victims with militant Turks

* Chechnya “to build 2nd-largest mosque in Israel after Al-Aqsa”

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* You can comment on this dispatch here: www.facebook.com/TomGrossMedia. Please also press “Like” on that page.

 

CONTENTS

1. Quote of the day
2. So this is what twitter has come down to
3. Tamerlan Tsarnaev “sought Protocols book”
4. Boston terror suspect now being investigated for gruesome murder of Jewish men
5. Israeli doctor treats Boston terrorist, victims; says “I’m used to it”
6. Fury in Israel as “idiot” John Kerry compares Boston terror victims with militant Turks
7. UN official says U.S. had Boston attack coming, and blames “relations with Tel Aviv”
8. Official Boston Marathon bombing injury toll rises to 264
9. Relative of Boston suspects alleges Russian plot to discredit Chechen separatists
10. Chechnya builds “2nd-largest mosque” in Israel after Al-Aqsa
11. Their mother was also in trouble with the law
12. Those Zionists again!


[Notes below by Tom Gross]

QUOTE OF THE DAY

“He was angry that the world pictures Islam as a violent religion.”

-- From an e-mail to a New York Times reporter by the former brother-in-law of Tamerlan Tsarnaev, explaining the suspected Boston bomber’s motives.

 

SO THIS IS WHAT TWITTER HAS COME DOWN TO...

27 People Who Think Alleged Bomber Dzokhar Tsarnaev Is Hot.

 

TAMERLAN TSARNAEV “SOUGHT PROTOCOLS BOOK”

Tamerlan Tsarnaev, one of the brothers suspected of carrying out the Boston Marathon bombings, told a relative he was searching the Internet for a copy of the “Protocols of the Elders of Zion.”

Elmirza Khozhugov, who was married to Tsarnaev’s sister, Ailina, told the Associated Press that Tsarnaev had been radicalized by a Christian convert to Islam whom he named as Misha.

Khozhugov added that Tsarnaev started visiting conspiracy websites, and was intending to buy a copy of the “Protocols,” a notorious anti-Semitic Tsarist forgery later used by the Nazis to help pave the way for the Holocaust.

 

BOSTON TERROR SUSPECT NOW BEING INVESTIGATED FOR GRUESOME MURDER OF JEWISH MEN

Boston police are now investigating whether three men whose throats were cut on September 12, 2011, in Waltham, Mass., were killed by Tamerlan Tsarnaev. Tsarnaev, who was killed in a shootout with Boston police last week, was a close friend of one of the three murdered men, Brendan Mess, his boxing partner.

But he did not know the two Jewish men murdered with Mess. In the wake of the Boston Marathon attacks, suspicion has arisen that since the 2011 murders occurred just after the 10th anniversary of 9/11, and since the other two victims, Raphael Teken, 37, and Erik Weissman, 31, were Jewish, Tsarnaev may have persuaded Mess to locate some Jews and then killed Mess too when Mess objected to Tsarnaev’s actions.

It seems from some of his YouTube and other internet use that Tamerlan Tsarnaev, like many Islamist terrorists, may have been a vicious anti-Semite.

Teken grew up in Brookline, went to Brandeis, and was buried in Israel. Last week, friends of Erik Weissman pressed the police to renew their efforts concerning the unsolved case.

Their murder was particularly gruesome. The victims were found in a Waltham, Massachusetts apartment. They had their throat slashed so violently that their heads were nearly decapitated, according to ABC News.

A Waltham investigator called the murders “the worst bloodbath I have ever seen in a long law enforcement career. Their throats were slashed right out of an al Qaeda training video,” he told ABC.

 

ISRAELI DOCTOR TREATS BOSTON TERRORIST, VICTIMS; SAYS “I’M USED TO IT”

Professor Kevin (Ilan) Tabb, the director of Boston’s Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, a teaching hospital of Harvard Medical School where suspected terrorist Dzokhar Tsarnaev is being treated, told Yediot Ahronot, Israel’s highest selling paper, that “the situation reminded me of terror attacks in Israel.”

He said that the fact that only a few meters separated the surviving suspect in the terror attack from those who were injured in the twin blasts, is similar to situations he has experienced in Israel.

Twenty-four people who were injured in the Boston marathon attack were admitted to the Beth Israel hospital, among them 16 who are in serious condition.

Tabb previously worked at Hadassah Ein Kerem hospital in Jerusalem. He added that the director of the ER room in Boston was also Israeli.

“It was very similar to what I was used to in Israel in that we had to admit many injured people in a short period of time,” Professor Tabb said. “The fact that we are treating both the victims and the suspected terrorist also reminds me of similar situations in Israel. In Israel we had an injured Israeli and a terrorist lying on adjacent beds. When an injured person is admitted to the ER, the doctor or nurse treats him without asking questions.”

Relatives of some of the people injured in the Boston terror attack criticized the decision to treat Tsarnaev in the same hospital as their loved ones.

“I don’t understand why they would bring him where my son Paul is,” said Liz Norden, who is keeping vigil at her son’s bedside in the intensive care unit at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center.

Norden told NBC she was “angry” when Tsarnaev was brought to the hospital Friday night, wounded from a gun-battle with police.

Paul and his older brother J.P. both lost a leg. “I can’t even tell you how devastating it’s been,” Norden said. “Those two (the bombers) shattered my world.”

 

FURY IN ISRAEL AS “IDIOT” JOHN KERRY COMPARES BOSTON TERROR VICTIMS WITH TERRORISTIC TURKS

There is anger and bewilderment in Israel (and elsewhere) after the U.S. secretary of state, John Kerry, compared the Boston terror victims with the armed Islamist militants killed after they attacked Israeli soldiers on the Mavi Marmara boat (which was not in fact found to be carrying any humanitarian aid), sailing to Gaza in 2010.

Israeli Deputy Defense Minister Danny Danon said Kerry’s analogy likening the families of the flotilla casualties to those affected by the marathon bombing “confuses terrorists with their victims”.

Kerry made the remarks while visiting Ankara last Sunday.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office has declined to comment in the interests of maintaining good relations with the Obama administration.

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Kerry was also criticized this week in the U.S. for his remarks, as well as bring criticized for other remarks he made in Washington in which he described the upcoming Iranian elections on June 14 (in which only a select handful of regime-approved candidates are being allowed to stand) as “normal.” Critics said that Secretary Kerry seems to believe that Iranian elections are just like American or British ones.

 

UN OFFICIAL SAYS U.S. HAD BOSTON ATTACK COMING, AND BLAMES “RELATIONS WITH TEL AVIV”

Richard Falk, the UN official who has been criticized by me and others many times for his repeated anti-Semitic comments and comparisons of Israel with the Nazis, said that the Boston Marathon bombings last week should have been expected given U.S. policies to Israel.

Falk, who was appointed in 2008 by the UN Human Rights Council as “the UN Special Rapporteur in the Palestinian territories,” despite (or perhaps because of) his record of anti-Semitism and the fact that Falk himself is Jewish, was writing in the online version of Foreign Policy Journal.

The 83-year-old Falk wrote about the Boston attacks that “as long as Tel Aviv has the compliant ear of the American political establishment, those who wish for peace and justice in the world should not rest easy.”

“He was picked by the UN for a reason, and the reason is not to have an objective assessment – the objective is to find more ammunition to go after Israel,” former U.S. ambassador to the UN John Bolton said after Falk’s appointment.

Falk was also a board member of Human Rights Watch and was finally removed last year from the HRW board after one anti-Semitic comment too many, and after he posted on his personal blog a cartoon showing a hideous-looking caricature of a Jew urinating on the U.S. while feasting on blood. It was said to resemble a cartoon out of 1930s Germany.

Falk was previously a professor at America’s prestigious Princeton University.

UN chief Ban Ki-moon initially said that he would not condemn Falk for his Boston bomb essay, since he is “not responsible” for Falk’s “independent views,” said UN spokesman Farhan Haq. But yesterday Ban backtracked and did condemn Falk for his latest outrageous comments.

The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, has refused to sack Falk despite repeatedly being urged to do so by various Western governments.

 

OFFICIAL BOSTON MARATHON BOMBING INJURY TOLL RISES TO 264

In the days following the explosions the estimated number admitted to Boston hospitals had been set at around 180. That figure has risen in recent days as people who suffered minor injuries sought care.

A spokeswoman for the Boston Public Health Commission, Katinka Podmaniczky, said 264 people had been treated in area hospitals “with injuries related to the bombings”.

She said the figure had been rising slowly in recent days. “We’ve seen it go up incrementally as people who may have been injured, but not seriously, decided that they did need some care. One of the examples would be hearing loss – ringing in the ears that people thought might go away and didn’t immediately, so they needed treatment.”

The Boston Public Health Commission said it had opened a new drop-in center to provide free counseling to anyone affected by the attack.

 

RELATIVE OF BOSTON SUSPECTS ALLEGES RUSSIAN PLOT TO DISCREDIT CHECHEN SEPARATISTS

A member of the suspected Boston marathon bombers’ extended family said they were victims of a Russian plot to portray them as Chechen terrorists operating on U.S. soil.

Said Tsarnaev, who lives in Grozny, the capital of Russia’s occupied Chechnya region, accused Moscow of sending false information to the United States to frame the suspects, ethnic Chechen brothers Tamerlan and Dzokhar Tsarnaev.

He said Moscow wanted to convince the West that an Islamist insurgency being waged across Russia’s North Caucasus had gone global, resulting in an attack on an American target.

“It would not have happened without the involvement of the Russian side,” Tsarnaev, 56, told Reuters in his home in Grozny.

“Russia needed to show the West, including the United States, that Chechens are terrorists. They needed to blacken their reputation and present these two people and the Chechen people as a whole as terrorists. This is why it all happened,” added Tsarnaev, a local photojournalist who has worked for various publications including Reuters.

Defending the brothers, he accused Russia’s FSB security service of sending “disinformation” to the United States which portrayed them as extremists, two years ago.

He echoed views expressed by others in their close-knit family who have denied that the brothers carried out the bombings.

The family is part of a Chechen diaspora dating back to the 1940s when Soviet leader Josef Stalin deported most of Chechnya’s population to Central Asia because of concerns they were collaborating with the advancing Nazi army.

 

CHECHNYA BUILDS “2ND-LARGEST MOSQUE” IN ISRAEL AFTER AL-AQSA

The report below is from the Russia Today global 24 hours TV network:

www.rt.com/news/chechnya-build-israel-mosque-039/

Russia’s Chechen Republic is funding the construction of a mosque which it claims will be the second-largest in Israel after the famous Al-Aqsa. It will be located just 10 km from Jerusalem and hold several thousands of worshippers at a time.

The location of the mosque is the Abu Ghosh village, which is partially populated by ethnic Chechens.

Construction is already underway. The mosque is being built on a street named after ex-Chechen President Akhmad Kadyrov, who was assassinated in 2004. The mosque will also be named after the deceased president, the father of the republic’s present leader, Ramzan Kadyrov.

“This will be the second-largest mosque in Israel, after the holy Al-Aqsa. Two of the towers have already been built,” Russian MP Adam Delimkhanov said after visiting the Israeli village.

Al-Aqsa, the third-holiest site in Islam, is located in the Old City of Jerusalem and the largest mosque in Israel. It sits on the Temple Mount, which is also the holiest site in Judaism.

The idea for the construction of the new mosque is to strengthen the relationship between Israel and Russia, stated Ramzan Kadyrov as he promised to visit Israel to attend the opening ceremony.

The decision to finance the construction was made after the local residents failed to collect enough money to build the mosque, the Chechen government website says. The exact cost of the project remains unknown.

The mosque will be decorated in the Chechen tradition and language/culture courses will be organized for local ethnic Chechen population.

“These people emigrated to the Middle East five centuries ago. They want to preserve their national identity and cultural identity. This is worthy of deep respect. It is important to introduce them to our traditions,” said Kadyrov.

 

THEIR MOTHER WAS ALSO IN TROUBLE WITH THE LAW

Many press reports are failing to explain that the reason that Dzokhar Tsarnaev’s mother fled the U.S. and has not returned is that she skipped bail after being arrested on shoplifting charges last year.

And Tamerlan Tsarnaev was living on taxpayer-funded state welfare benefits, refusing to take a job, allowing him plenty of time to read radical Islamic websites.

 

THOSE ZIONISTS AGAIN!

And in case you were wondering how the (unfortunately) thousands of crazy people out there could blame Boston bombings on Israel, you can find out on internet sites like “veterans today” who have posted a piece explaining how Israel was responsible for planting the bombs. (I won’t give the link to a hate site like this.)

On that fairly popular site, you can also read how the Jewish state was behind the 9/11 attacks, the London and Madrid train bombings, the Haiti earthquake and just about everything else.

[Notes above by Tom Gross]

“Why are Israelis so damn happy?” (& confirmation that Assad used chemical weapons)

April 12, 2013

Beach party, Tel Aviv

 

* OECD survey again finds that Israel is one of the happiest places on the planet

* Perhaps happiness can be as simple as a day at the beach

* Syrian air strikes deliberately targeting civilians, have killed 4,300 civilians since last summer

* Western intelligence confirms Assad crossed Obama’s chemical weapons “red line”

***

* You can comment on this dispatch here: www.facebook.com/TomGrossMedia. Please also press “Like” on that page.

There will be no dispatches next week.

 

CONTENTS

1. In first foreign trip since being re-elected, Netanyahu will attend Thatcher’s funeral
2. Peres to meet Pope Francis I in Rome
3. New poll finds drop in Palestinian support for Hamas rocket attacks
4. Bahrain becomes first Arab state to ban Hizbullah as a terrorist organization
5. Syrian air strikes deliberately targeting civilians, have killed 4,300 civilians since last summer
6. Western intelligence confirms Assad crossed Obama’s chemical weapons “red line”
7. Up to 600 Europeans said to be fighting against Assad regime
8. Egyptian doctors “ordered to operate on protesters without anesthetic”
9. “Why are Israelis so damn happy?” (Ha’aretz, April 3, 2013)
10. “Israelis happy, says OECD, despite low ranking on income and education” (Ha’aretz, April 2, 2013)


[Notes below by Tom Gross]

IN FIRST FOREIGN TRIP SINCE BEING RE-ELECTED, NETANYAHU WILL ATTEND THATCHER’S FUNERAL

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will fly to London next week to attend the funeral on Wednesday of former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher.

This will be Netanyahu’s first overseas trip since his reelection, and he may meet separately with British Prime Minister David Cameron and other international leaders while in London.

Netanyahu was personally invited to the funeral by Lady Thatcher’s children. Margaret Thatcher was a strong supporter of the state of Israel and she and Netanyahu had a warm personal relationship. She sent him a personal handwritten letter of commiseration after he lost the 1999 elections, and also encouraged him to implement much needed economic reforms to the Israeli economy, which he did when he served as finance minister.

 

PERES TO MEET POPE FRANCIS I IN ROME

Israeli President Shimon Peres will travel to Rome to meet Pope Francis I on April 30. Peres will be among the first heads of state to meet with Francis since he was elected to head the Catholic Church last month.

Earlier this week the Latin Patriarch in Jerusalem, Patriarch Fouad Twal, invited Pope Francis to visit the city where he said that “Jesus preached and healed”.

Israel’s ambassador to the Vatican met with Pope Francis in March and formally invited him to visit Israel. According to the Associated Press, the new pope said “shalom” to the Israeli representative and smiled, but did not immediately respond to the invitation.

 

NEW POLL FINDS DROP IN PALESTINIAN SUPPORT FOR HAMAS ROCKET ATTACKS

A new public opinion survey of Palestinians in both Gaza and the West Bank, carried out by the Ramallah-based Media and Communications Center, found that 38.4 percent of Palestinians now supported firing rockets at Israeli civilians – down from 74% who said they supported such attacks last year.

The poll also found slightly more Palestinians now support Fatah than the rival Islamist group Hamas.

The survey was based on interviews with hundreds of Palestinians in late March and is said to have a margin of error of 3 percent.

Despite a ceasefire, Hamas continues to shoot occasional rockets into southern Israel. During President Obama’s visit last month a rocket was fired at a Sderot kindergarten, and last week another was fired at a Holocaust memorial ceremony. Residents took cover in bomb shelters in both instances and no one was injured.

 

BAHRAIN BECOMES FIRST ARAB STATE TO BAN HIZBULLAH AS A TERRORIST ORGANIZATION

The European Union is still refusing to designate Hizbullah as a terrorist organization, even though EU governments have said there is no doubt that Hizbullah was behind the terror attack in which tourists were murdered last year in the EU member state of Bulgaria, and behind another attempted terror attack on tourists in Cyprus, also an EU member. By contrast, the Arab state of Bahrain this week outlawed the Lebanon-based Hizbullah as a terrorist organization.

Bahraini MP Abdul Halim Murad told the Al Arabiya television network that there is evidence that Hizbullah is instigating terror attacks in Bahrain.

The Netherlands is the only European Union member-state that has declared Hizbullah a terrorist organization – despite decades of Hizbullah terror attacks and attempted attacks around the world.

 

SYRIAN AIR STRIKES DELIBERATELY TARGETING CIVILIANS, HAVE KILLED 4,300 CIVILIANS SINCE LAST SUMMER

An 80-page report, “Death from the Skies: Deliberate and Indiscriminate Air Strikes on Civilians,” released by Human Rights Watch, has accused Syria for carrying out air strikes deliberately targeting civilians. 4,300 civilians have been killed in such air strikes since last summer, according to the report. These are known casualties. An additional number of unknown civilians are also been likely to have been killed.

Iranian officials are helping to coordinate many of the air strikes, but the UN Security Council has not even condemned them, due to a Chinese and Russian veto.

Last week, Syrian warplanes also carried out air strikes in neighboring Lebanon, provoking harsh condemnation from Lebanese President Michel Suleiman.

Forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad have fired mortars into and occasionally entered Lebanese territory in pursuit of rebels groups.

 

WESTERN INTELLIGENCE CONFIRMS ASSAD CROSSED OBAMA’S CHEMICAL WEAPONS “RED LINE”

Western intelligence officials have reportedly confirmed that Syrian President Bashar Assad did, in fact, cross the red-line drawn by President Obama by using chemical weapons in mid-March.

President Obama and other senior U.S. administration officials have repeatedly warned Assad that the use of chemical weapons would be met with an American response, yet there does not appear to have been any. In 2012, Obama said that the use of chemical weapons by the Syrian government would cross a “red line” and prompt “direct action” from the United States.

“In one case, we have hard evidence,” one Western diplomat was quoted as saying this week by Agence France Press (AFP) and “there are several examples where we are quite sure that shells with chemicals have been used in a very sporadic way.”

Syria is believed to possess the world’s second largest stockpile of weaponized chemical agents, after China.

Britain and France have asked the UN to investigate allegations of chemical weapons use in Khan al-Assal and in Ataybah on March 19, as well as in Homs on December 23.

The March 19 attack killed 30 and injured 80 civilians.

***

Some of you may also wish to read this spoof piece from the satirical American magazine The Onion:

‘Syrians’ Lives Are Worthless,’ Obama Tells Daughters Before Kissing Them Goodnight.

 

UP TO 600 EUROPEANS SAID TO BE FIGHTING AGAINST ASSAD REGIME

A new report by the International Center for the Study of Radicalization at King’s College London, has found that since the beginning of the Syrian conflict in March 2011, up to 5,500 foreign fighters, including as many as 600 Europeans, have joined rebel forces in the fight to topple the Assad regime in Syria.

The findings were based on research of over 450 Western and Arab sources and martyrdom notice boards on jihadi Internet forums.

The foreign fighters include at least 134 fighters from Britain, 107 from the Netherlands, 92 from France and 85 from Belgium. Other countries with fighters in Syria include Finland, Ireland, Sweden, Spain, Albania, Austria, and Bulgaria.

The phenomenon of Westerners fighting alongside radical Islamist forces in Syria was highlighted earlier this week when it was reported that Eric Harroun, a 30-year-old U.S. Army veteran, was planning to fight with al-Nusra terrorists against the Assad regime. Harroun has been charged in a court in Virginia with conspiring to use a rocket-propelled grenade while fighting with al-Nusra, which has been linked to al-Qaeda.

 

EGYPTIAN DOCTORS “ORDERED TO OPERATE ON PROTESTERS WITHOUT ANESTHETIC”

The British paper The Guardian reports that it has seen a leaked Egyptian presidential report that recommends an investigation into the highest ranks of the country’s army, after senior Egyptian army doctors were ordered to operate without anesthetic on wounded civilian protesters at a military hospital in Cairo during protests against military rule.

The findings relate to the army’s behavior during clashes in May 2012. The report also alleges that doctors, soldiers and medics assaulted protesters inside the hospital.

***

I attach two articles below.

An extensive survey by the OECD has again found that Israel is one of the happiest places on the planet.

I agree with the survey’s results, Despite some moaning and groaning by a vociferous minority, most people I speak to in Israel seem very happy – there is a good atmosphere, good food, good friendship, good family life, and plenty of beach, desert, green pastures, and sunshine.

-- Tom Gross


ARTICLES

PERHAPS HAPPINESS CAN BE AS SIMPLE AS A DAY AT THE BEACH

Why are Israelis so damn happy?
It’s thanks to both the wars and the weather, and those Friday night dinners that keep us from feeling lonely.
By Allison Kaplan Sommer
Ha’aretz
April 3, 2013

It’s happened again. An international survey has been published showing that Israelis are, compared to their counterparts in other Western countries, very happy and content people. That information confounds everyone, not least Israelis themselves.

How in the world can it be, we ask ourselves, that citizens of a tiny embattled nation, surrounded by enemies, targeted by boycotts, officially and unofficially loathed by a major portion of the world, with compulsory army service, where regularly scheduled wars and “operations” take place at least once every few years, where complaining about the “situation” is a national pastime, can feel so fine and dandy? It makes no sense.

It’s reached the point where even the stories reporting the news of these polls suggest that the Israelis taking the survey must be lying. The latest survey, as relayed in Tuesday’s report, Haaretz suggested as much, and the journalists writing the piece sounded utterly confounded:

“Israelis are among the most content people in the Western world, even though the country doesn’t measure up by many of the criteria in a study by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. ... It’s not clear why Israelis are so happy, despite a relatively poor showing on measures such as housing, income, job security, community support and education. It could be that what makes the average Norwegian happy doesn’t do the trick in Israel. Or maybe Israelis try to appear happy even when they’re not and respond to pollsters accordingly.”

While I understand the writer’s skepticism, I really don’t think people are lying to the pollsters. It just can’t be that the same results, survey after survey, among different organizations with different sample groups, time after time, are fraudulent. Nobody can lie that consistently. I think we are just going to have to make peace with the crazy fact that for the most part, Israelis are comparatively happy campers. We just have to figure out why.

A few years ago, I discussed the topic with the leading world expert on happiness, Dr. Tal Ben Shahar, who famously taught the most popular course at Harvard on positive psychology, earning the nickname “Professor Happiness” and who, despite his tremendous success in the United States, moved back to Israel with his family because he was, well, happier living here.

His explanations for the Israeli happiness factor are helpful in understanding the situation. Ben Shahar believes that the top predictor of happiness is spending time with people we care about and who care about us. With Israel being so geographically small, there is little that stands between Israelis and their close friends and family. Friday night dinners with extended family are a matter of course, even for the young and hip. And in the typical Israeli community, there are a lot of people who care about us - if anything, who care too much. Friends, family, neighbors, co-workers, the guy who runs the corner store, often feel too close, too “in our face,” and we often wish everyone would butt out of our business, but, apparently, it’s a good thing in the long run; human connection is human connection, even when it’s extremely annoying. At least this contact prevents utter isolation, which seems to be a leading cause of unhappiness.

Another Shahar-ism is that “happiness lies at the intersection between pleasure and meaning.” Even when Israelis run low on pleasure, they are never, ever short of meaning. We overdose on meaning. The national narrative means that simply living in the state of Israel and making it through any given day is meaningful. Certainly, those who believe they are helping to realize the Zionist dream believe their lives here, even the most humdrum, hold great meaning. Even more so for those who are religious and believe that their existence here is part of an active larger plan. And even on the hardest of the hard left, those who live in Israel and have not left in disgust for London, Berlin, or New York, and remain here to fight against injustice and for a better, more humane state, may feel frustrated in many ways, but still, in their fight there is certainly meaning.

Beyond Ben Shahar’s theories, there is also what I call the ‘goat’ factor. I base it on the old Jewish tale of a man upset with his family’s crowded and miserable living conditions who asks a rabbi what to do, and is told to move a goat into his home for a week. At the end of the week, he was told to sell the goat. Suddenly, he told his rabbi, his home felt so big, so clean, so spacious! He was thrilled - and happy.

We’ve got a lot of goats around here in this country: wars, missiles, terror, strife and life-and-death crisis on a regular basis. Stressful as it is, the strife also offers perspective and the ability not to “sweat the small stuff” that we face in life, and increases appreciation for a normal, boring life. Israelis don’t wish each other a fun, exciting, thrilling weekend as they leave at the end of a work week; they wish each other a “quiet” weekend. Quiet is enough to keep us satisfied.

For even more perspective, we only have to look at our neighbors. Let’s face it: everyone looks at the house next door to size up their own situation. Things may be far from perfect here, but with what’s going on in Syria and Egypt right now, things feel safe and stable in Israel. Logically, of course, having neighbors in turmoil should make us more worried - and it does. But it also makes us feel lucky.

Finally, I may be writing this too close to a two-week stay in a bitterly cold overcast European city, but there’s something about beautiful weather that can keep one’s spirits up. Looking at the OECD survey, Israelis can only envy the folks in Norway and Sweden their cushy economic situation and rich package of social benefits from the state. However, day after frosty, gray, chilly day, financial security doesn’t necessarily keep your soul warm.

So, even when the national news might be scary and depressing, we might be barely covering the mortgage or the rent, and have no idea what we will do in our retirement, a morning lingering over coffee in a sunshine-splashed café, preferably with good friends, can certainly cheer you up. I know this sounds superficial, but I do have evidence: note that the six OECD countries with the lowest suicide rates - Spain, Israel, Italy, Mexico, Turkey and Greece all happen to include regions with consistently beautiful weather and gorgeous coastlines.

Perhaps happiness can be as simple as a day at the beach.

 



HAVE A GREAT DAY!

Israelis happy, says OECD, despite low ranking on income and education
A study by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development finds that Israelis are among the most content people in the Western world, even though the country doesn’t measure up to many other criteria.
By Hila Weissberg, Nimrod Bousso and Ronny Linder-Ganz
Ha’aretz
April 2, 2013

Israelis are among the most content people in the Western world, even though the country doesn’t measure up by many of the criteria in a study by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development.

Over the past year, the OECD examined quality of life among its 34 member countries, which includes Israel, and two nonmembers, Brazil and Russia. Its Better Life Index is based on 11 criteria: housing, income, labor market, community, civil engagement, education, health, environment, personal safety, balance between work and leisure, and an overall life satisfaction index.

Despite not ranking high among OECD countries on many criteria, Israelis scored particularly well by two measures − health, where Israel came in fifth out of the 36 countries, and happiness, where it came in eighth.

The study has an innovative approach. “Which country is number 1?” the OECD website asks. “That’s up to you! The OECD has not assigned rankings to countries.” If the respondent thinks housing is more important than the environment, for example, the site weighs that accordingly.

The study’s approach reflects an outlook among economists in recent years that measures like gross domestic product and unemployment don’t necessarily gauge quality of life. In any case, if the OECD ascribed equal importance to each parameter, Israel would not do well in the study. On a scale with 10 as the maximum, Israel would average about 5.4 and rank about 25 out of 36.

It’s not clear why Israelis are so happy, despite a relatively poor showing on measures such as housing, income, job security, community support and education. It could be that what makes the average Norwegian happy doesn’t do the trick in Israel. Or maybe Israelis try to appear happy even when they’re not and respond to pollsters accordingly.

The following is a sample of the findings.

HOUSING, 28TH PLACE

The OECD’s measure for gauging housing quality mixed criteria including the average number of rooms per person, the percentage of disposable household income going to housing, and access to basic infrastructure such as running water. The data, from 2010, put Israel in 28th place among the 36 countries.

The highest score went to the United States, followed by Canada and Ireland, while Turkey came in last place, with Estonia and Hungary just above it. The average Israeli has 1.2 rooms to himself compared with an OECD average of 1.6. Canadians are best off with 2.5 rooms per person.

Despite Israelis’ dissatisfaction with housing costs, as reflected in the 2011 social protest, Israel was in the middle of the pack regarding the percentage of household spending devoted to housing. Israel placed 20th with an average of 22% of net disposable income going to housing, precisely the OECD average.
The lowest average here was Russia at 11%; the highest was New Zealand at 29%.

Israel’s Central Bureau of Statistics says Israelis on average spent 28% of their net income on housing rather than the OECD’s 22%. In any case, an informal survey revealed that 83% of Israelis are satisfied with their housing, compared with an OECD average of 87%.

INCOME, 16TH PLACE

Israel ranks 22nd when it comes to disposable income‏((about NIS 6,000 a month on average). On top here is the United States, followed by Luxembourg, Norway and France.

On the other hand, Israel ranks higher − in 10th place − as measured by household financial wealth at $47,750, based on 2009 data. This is higher than the OECD average of $36,238, and measures total financial worth, meaning the value of assets minus liabilities.

HEALTH, 5TH PLACE

Israel ranks high on all measures related to health. The most important is life expectancy, which averages 82 for Israeli men, almost two years more than the OECD average. Israeli women on average live to 84. Ironically, Israeli spending on health care is just 7.9% of gross national product, compared with 9.7% in the OECD. And 81% of Israelis say they’re healthy, compared with 70% in the OECD. By this measure, Israel ranks 7th.

HAPPINESS, 8TH PLACE

Israelis scored 8.5 out of 10 on the happiness index, despite an average or poor showing in many measures. This isn’t the first time Israelis have ranked high on well-being. A similar UN survey released about a year ago ranked Israel highly. In both surveys, the Nordic countries scored well, while nations with higher rates of economic inequality, such as the United States and Britain, scored more poorly.

An obvious explanation would be that in countries with greater equality and solidarity, people feel less social injustice and discrimination. But in Israel, this explanation isn’t convincing because economic inequalities are relatively high. Again, Israelis may try to appear happy when questioned by pollsters. Another explanation is that the sample may not have been representative.

Itzhak Harpaz of the University of Haifa’s Center for the Study of Organizations and Resource Management added: “Life expectancy in Israel is high, health is good, and we’re proud of the country’s accomplishments in science and high-tech. All of these affect how Israelis view their lives.”

Margaret Thatcher, one of the greats (& Hamas fires rocket at Holocaust memorial service)

April 08, 2013

 

Margaret Thatcher prepares for victory in the 1983 general election

 

MAGGIE THE GREAT

[Note by Tom Gross]

In many respects, Margaret Thatcher, who died today, was one of the greatest political leaders of our lifetime. She was certainly the greatest British Prime Minister since Churchill, and one of the most important leaders of the Western world.

Obviously her attitudes towards Israel and Jews were not the most significant aspects of her legacy, but they were notable nonetheless.

In January last year, I sent out a dispatch about her, which those interested, can read again here.

Among the points in it:

* “When asked about her most meaningful accomplishment, Margaret Thatcher did not typically mention serving in the British government, defeating the Argentine invasion of the Falklands, taming runaway inflation, or toppling the Soviet Union. The woman who reshaped British politics and served as prime minister from 1979 to 1990 often said that her greatest accomplishment was helping save a 17-year-old Austrian Jewish girl from the Nazis.”

* Thatcher had no patience for anti-Semitism. “I simply did not understand it,” Thatcher wrote in her memoirs. Indeed, she found “some of my closest political friends and associates among Jews.” Aghast that a golf club in her district [Finchley in north London] consistently barred Jews from becoming members, she publicly attacked her own Conservative party members for supporting the policy. “The Jews of Finchley were her people,” Thatcher remarked – certainly much more so than the wealthy land barons that dominated her party until then.

* Lord Young of Graffham, who served as a senior cabinet minister under Mrs. Thatcher (and is also a subscriber to this email list) said: “I remember years later, when we were reminiscing with her and her husband Denis, I asked her which was her most memorable overseas visit. ‘Israel,’ she replied instantly, ‘it was, Denis, wasn’t it?’”


Margaret Thatcher with Yitzhak Shamir, who also died recently, in Jerusalem in 1986

 

PERES: “THERE ARE PEOPLE, THERE ARE IDEAS. OCCASIONALLY THOSE TWO COME TOGETHER TO CREATE VISION”

Israeli President Shimon Peres said today: “There are people, there are ideas. Occasionally those two come together to create vision. Lady Thatcher was an exceptional leader, a colleague in the international arena and a friend for me personally. She served as an inspiration for other leaders, as the first female Prime Minister of Great Britain she broke new ground. She showed how far a person can go with strength of character, determination and a clear vision.

“She was a true and dedicated friend of Israel, who stood with us in times of crisis and used her influence to help us in trying to make peace. During our negotiations with Jordan in the late 1980s, she stood as a mediator and a source of wisdom for me and the King of Jordan.”

***

* Thatcher was right about so many things. For example, she was the only leading politician in Europe who opposed the single currency. As it turns out, she was right. The YouTube videos in this link are worth watching.

* Here is a comprehensive tribute to Margaret Thatcher in The Wall Street Journal by leading British historian Paul Johnson.

* The Economist magazine said today: Only a handful of peace-time politicians can claim to have changed the world. Margaret Thatcher, who died this morning, was one.

* In the 1960s, Thatcher was one of only a handful of Conservative MPs to vote for the decriminalization of homosexuality.

* So, duly vetted by MI5, Carl was chosen to work on what has been called the greatest hair in British politics (pre-Boris, that is)

* Tweet today by Jonah Goldberg: No chance of Heaven going wobbly now.

 

ADULTS AND CHILDREN RUN FOR COVER DURING HOLOCAUST DAY SERVICE

A rocket fired from Gaza by the terror group Hamas strikes the south of Israel while a community mourns for lost relatives at a Holocaust memorial service last night.


 


At 10 am this morning, all Israel paused for a two-minute siren in remembrance of those murdered in the Holocaust


 

COMMANDER IN CHIEF OF THE IDF LEADS “MARCH OF THE LIVING” IN AUSCHWITZ TODAY

Today, the “March of the Living” at the site of the Auschwitz death camp in Poland was led by the Commander in Chief of the Israeli army, Benny Gantz. Gantz, whose mother Malka was a child survivor of Bergen-Belsen death camp, walked into Auschwitz hand in hand with his counterpart, the head of the Polish army, and vowed that Israel’s army would prevent the Jews from ever suffering another Holocaust.

Gantz was joined by Tel Aviv’s Chief Rabbi Israel Meir Lau, himself a child survivor of Auschwitz, and some 10,000 other participants, many of them young people, on the three-kilometer walk from Birkenau this afternoon.

Earlier, participants watched a video message from Israeli President Shimon Peres, who said that the Jewish population of the world has not recovered from the Holocaust, and its numbers are still less than they were on the eve of World War II. “The pain, the wound, the lacking is still there. They live inside us. We live from what happened to them,” Peres said.

* Yesterday’s Holocaust memorial dispatch can be read here:

A rare BBC recording from 1945: Survivors in Belsen sing Hatikvah (& “No Place on Earth”).

 

* Thanks to Michael Warren at The Weekly Standard and all those others who linked to this dispatch.

* Thanks to former Pentagon official Michael Rubin at Commentary and all those others who linked to the previous dispatch.

* You can comment on this dispatch here: www.facebook.com/TomGrossMedia. Please also press “Like” on that page.

A rare BBC recording from 1945: Survivors in Belsen sing Hatikvah (& “No Place on Earth”)

April 07, 2013

Warsaw ghetto, 1941. Homeless children

 

An Auschwitz survivor in Israel holds the hand of her newborn granddaughter

 

HOLOCAUST REMEMBRANCE DAY

[Note by Tom Gross]

Holocaust Remembrance Day (“Yom HaShoah”) begins at 8 pm this evening in Israel. All restaurants and cafes and places of entertainment in Israel will be closed for the next 24 hours, and all broadcasts on TV and radio limited to Holocaust-related programming. Holocaust memorial services will be held throughout Israel for survivors, their families, friends and the general public. At 10 am tomorrow, a memorial siren will sound, and the country will stop for two minutes of complete silence and reflection.

To understand Israel and the Middle East, one has to also understand the Holocaust and anti-Semitism. This morning the Associated Press and Washington Post reported that there was a 30 percent rise in anti-Semitic attacks and abuse throughout the world in 2012, with France, Hungary, Ukraine and Greece showing particularly high levels of anti-Semitism – as well as much of the Arab world and Iran and Turkey.

 

BBC JOURNALIST: “THIS DAY WHEN WE REACHED BELSEN WAS THE MOST HORRIBLE DAY OF MY LIFE”

In this BBC recording, from April 20, 1945, Jewish survivors of the Bergen-Belsen death camp sing Hatikvah, only five days after their liberation by the British 11th Armoured Division. Hatikvah, “the hope,” was written in 1897 by Naftali Herz Imber as an anthem for the future state of Israel.



 

LOCAL GERMANS ARE TAKEN TO LOOK AT BUCHENWALD

* Here is rare color footage from the liberation of Buchenwald.

Local Germans are forced by allied soldiers to look at the survivors and the murdered. (Viewer discretion is advised.)



 

THE COLOR OF DARKNESS

* Article: The color of darkness: Never before seen color photographs show the liberation of Dachau, the first of the Nazis' concentration camps.

(Dachau was liberated by the United States army on April 29, 1945. It was the oldest of the camps having been established in March 1933, just two months after Hitler took power.)


 

SURVIVING TWIN A7733


* Article: Auschwitz Laboratory survivor 'A7733' launches Facebook hunt to find long-lost twin brother


A 73-year-old man appeals for information on Facebook to find the brother he has not seen in 68 years. Menchem, or Elias Gottesmann as he was known as a four year-old in 1945, was one of the few “twin children” to survive Josef Mengele’s appalling Auschwitz Laboratory, which conducted so-called scientific experiments on Jews.


 

NO PLACE ON EARTH

Last year I recommended the Polish film “In Darkness” based on Robert Marshall’s book “In the sewers of Lvov,” a true-life account of the only group of Jews to stay alive for any length of time in the sewers of Nazi-occupied Europe.

After the war, the Ukrainians annexed Lvov (Lwow) (which had the third highest Jewish population in Poland) from Poland. Lvov (now called Lviv) remains the only city in Europe where the authorities until last year were still using Jewish gravestones to pave the town’s roads and central fruit and vegetable market.

This week another film has been released about another remarkable story in the same region of Ukraine.

“No Place on Earth,” which opened on Friday in New York, shows how 30 Jewish relatives went to extraordinary lengths, and depths, to survive the Holocaust.

This group of Jews survived hiding in Ukrainian caves for over 17 months – said to be the longest stretch of time for humans to live in caves since they first left them.

Here is a list of dates on which it will be shown in the U.S. and Canada.

(I would also still recommend seeing “In Darkness” on DVD for those who have not seen it.)

-- Tom Gross

 

* There is a further dispatch with items relating to Holocaust Memorial Day here.

* Thanks to former Pentagon official Michael Rubin at Commentary and all those others who linked to this dispatch.

* You can comment on this dispatch here: www.facebook.com/TomGrossMedia. Please also press “Like” on that page.

Video dispatch 14: Jon Stewart under fire in Egypt (& Kid President meets Real President)

April 05, 2013

Kid President in the Oval Office

 

I attach seven videos -- three from this week, and four other videos that I didn’t have time to send out in the past.

You can comment on this dispatch here: www.facebook.com/TomGrossMedia. Please also press “Like” on that page.

 

CONTENTS

1. Kid President meets the President of the United States of America
2. Jon Stewart mocks Egyptian President Morsi for arresting “Egyptian Jon Stewart”
3. Destroying the World War II British military cemetery in Libya
4. BBC Hardtalk: Danny Dayan - Spokesperson of the Israeli settler movement
5. “Gay Men In The Promised Land”
6. An Israeli Jew speaks in Arabic on al-Jazeera about Jerusalem and Islam
7. An IDF spokesman on Russia Today


KID PRESIDENT MEETS REAL PRESIDENT

This video is not connected to the Middle East, but is cute.

Kid President (nine-year-old Robby Novak) and Big President, Barack Obama, finally meet face to face. The two met in the Oval Office this week to discuss how kids and grown-ups can work together to change the world.

Young Mr. Novak currently serves as ‘Kid President,’ a non-elected role in which he reaches out to millions of kids in his weekly YouTube show, which has become a viral sensation.

The third grader was invited to the Oval Office to get a briefing from Mr. Obama about the pressing matters of the day. (Footage courtesy of The White House.)



 

JON STEWART MOCKS EGYPTIAN PRESIDENT MORSI FOR ARRESTING EGYPTIAN JON STEWART

There are reports that some people close to the Egyptian government are demanding that American TV comedian Jon Stewart be arrested if he visits Egypt, after he used The Daily Show to ridicule Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi over his arrest of Bassem Youssef, an Egyptian satirist critical of his government, who is known by some as the “Egyptian Jon Stewart”.

Here is the video clip in question from earlier this week, which some Islamists found so offensive:


The Daily Show with Jon Stewart
Get More: Daily Show Full Episodes,Indecision Political Humor,The Daily Show on Facebook


And here is the first part of that clip:

The Daily Show with Jon Stewart
Get More: Daily Show Full Episodes,Indecision Political Humor,The Daily Show on Facebook


 

DESTROYING THE WORLD WAR II BRITISH MILITARY CEMETERY IN LIBYA

I have drawn attention to this video before but it is worth seeing it again. It leaves me speechless.



 

BBC HARDTALK: DANNY DAYAN - SPOKESPERSON OF THE ISRAELI SETTLER MOVEMENT

This video is from January this year, recorded shortly before the Israeli elections.

It is worth watching because the Jewish population of Judea and Samaria (the West Bank) is one of the most demonized in the world and here Dayan is given a rare chance to put their views.

(Danny Dayan’s term as spokesperson has since expired. He is a subscriber to this email list.)



 

“GAY MEN IN THE PROMISED LAND”

This is preview clip from a new documentary (“Undressing Israel: Gay Men In The Promised Land”) made by Michael Lucas, who I am told by subscribers to this list who sent the clip to me, is a lead actor in the gay adult film business.

He has used his earnings to fund this film and his next film will be about the mistreatment of gay people in Russia.



 

AN ISRAELI JEW SPEAKS IN ARABIC ON AL-JAZEERA ABOUT JERUSALEM AND ISLAM

Bar Ilan University political scientist Dr. Mordechai Kedar gives forceful responses to questions by an Al Jazeera TV anchor, in an interview that has received admiration from many, for its forcefulness. “Let’s talk about the Koran” .... “Jerusalem is not in the Koran” ... “ok, no, let’s talk about politics”.



 

AN IDF SPOKESMAN ON RUSSIA TODAY

Here an IDF spokesman gives a surprisingly forceful response to questions on Russia Today. The video is from November 2012.




Other dispatches in this video series can be seen here:

* Video dispatch 1: The Lady In Number 6

* Video dispatch 2: Iran: Zuckerberg created Facebook on behalf of the Mossad

* Video dispatch 3: Vladimir Putin sings “Blueberry Hill” (& opera in the mall)

* Video dispatch 4: While some choose boycotts, others choose “Life”

* Video dispatch 5: A Jewish tune with a universal appeal

* Video dispatch 6: Carrying out acts of terror is nothing new for the Assad family

* Video dispatch 7: A brave woman stands up to the Imam (& Supporting Bin Laden in London)

* Video dispatch 8: Syrians burn Iranian and Russian Flags (Not Israeli and U.S. ones)

* Video Dispatch 9: “The one state solution for a better Middle East...”

* Video dispatch 10: British TV discovers the next revolutionary wave of Israeli technology

* Video dispatch 11: “Freedom, Freedom!” How some foreign media are reporting the truth about Syria

* Video dispatch 12: All I want for Christmas is...

* Video dispatch 13: “The amazing Israeli innovations Obama will see this week (& Tchaikovsky Flashwaltz!)

Mavi Marmara victim to donate compensation to Hamas, Islamic Jihad (& Saudi paralysis sentence)

April 04, 2013

The Saudi Arabian paralysis sentence amounts to torture, says Amnesty International. Above, execution by beheading in Jeddah

 

* Saudi Arabian court orders a man to be paralyzed from the waist down. Amnesty International declares the Saudi punishment to be a form of torture.

* Saudi Arabia buys armed drones from South Africa after the Obama administration declined to sell it Predator or Reaper missile-firing unmanned aircraft.

* Three British anti-Israel activists raped by Libyan soldiers, while en route to Gaza as part of a new convoy organized by the Turkish nongovernmental radical Islamist organization IHH.

* The Atlantic magazine: All across Syria there is a massive and largely unreported rape crisis: “One day in the fall of 2012, Syrian government troops brought a young Free Syrian Army soldier’s fiancée, sisters, mother, and female neighbors to the Syrian prison in which he was being held. One by one, he said, they were raped in front of him. When asked if he, too, was raped, he went silent.”

* “Eighty percent of our reports in Syria include female victims, with ages ranging from 7 to 46. Of those women, 85 percent reported rape; 10 percent include sexual assault without penetration; and 10 percent include detention that appears to have been for the purposes of sexualized violence or enslavement. Gang rape allegedly occurred in 40 percent of the reports about women.”

* Former Weather Underground radical Kathy Boudin – who spent 22 years in prison for an armored-car robbery that killed two cops and a Brinks guard – appointed to a prestigious adjunct professorship at New York’s Columbia University.

***

* You can comment on this dispatch here: www.facebook.com/TomGrossMedia. Please also press “Like” on that page.

 

CONTENTS

1. “Mavi Marmara victim to donate compensation to Hamas, Islamic Jihad” (Hurriyet daily news, April 3, 2013)
2. “Amnesty slams Saudi ‘paralysis’ sentence” (Beirut Daily Star, April 2, 2013)
3. “Saudi Arabia buying South African armed drone” (Washington Free Beacon, April 2, 2013)
4. “‘Activists’ hoping to help breach Gaza blockade, raped in Benghazi” (Jewish Press, April 1, 2013)
5. “Radical jailed in slay now Columbia Univ professor” (New York Post, April 2, 2013)
6. “Syria has a massive rape crisis” (The Atlantic, April 3 2013)
7. “How Egypt’s radical rulers crush the lives and hopes of women” (The Observer, UK, March 31, 2013)


I attach a variety of articles concerning women’s issues, broader human rights issues and terrorism -- Tom Gross

***

DONATING ISRAELI COMPENSATION TO HAMAS AND ISLAMIC JIHAD

Mavi Marmara victim to donate compensation to Hamas, Islamic Jihad
Hurriyet Daily News (Istanbul)
April 3 2013

http://www.hurriyetdailynews.com/mavi-marmara-victim-to-donate-compensation-to-hamas-islamic-jihad.aspx?pageID=238&nID=44197&NewsCatID=341

One of the victims of the Israeli raid on the Mavi Marmara aid flotilla has announced that he will donate the compensation to Hamas and Islamic Jihad.

Israel apologized to Turkey for the Mavi Marmara raid in which nine Turkish nationals died and agreed to pay compensation to the families of the victims.

Activist Mehmet Tunç said he would donate the compensation to Hamas and Islamic Jihad in Palestine himself, adding that he would not touch even “one Turkish Lira” of it at a press conference today.

Tunç had been a volunteer on the Mavi Marmara ship traveling to deliver humanitarian aid to the Gaza Strip. He told reporters that nine of his friends had been martyred by the Israeli forces in a raid he called “against international law.”

Abdullah Demirel, Tunç’s lawyer, said the Israeli government had apologized for the first time in its history and that it was a “huge development.” Demirel also said they had been informed by the Turkish Foreign Ministry on the compensation issue.

Meanwhile, Deputy Prime Minister Bülent Arınç and Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu hosted the families of the Mavi Marmara victims late April 2. The ministers informed the families at a dinner about the recent reconciliation process between Turkey and Israel, which was started by an Israeli apology for the losses in the Mavi Marmara incident. The lawyers of the families were also present at the meeting.

The families have not yet made their final decision as to whether accept the compensation that will eventually be offered by Israel and withdraw from cases against Israeli soldiers, according to sources.

Arınç said yesterday that the families had said that “any words about compensation would sadden them. The core of the issue is the apology and lifting of the embargo [on the Gaza Strip]. The government’s work on compensation would be right for them as well.”

 

ORDERING THE DEFENDANT TO BE PARALYZED

Amnesty slams Saudi ‘paralysis’ sentence
Beirut Daily Star
April 2, 2013

DUBAI: Amnesty International appealed Tuesday to Saudi Arabia not to carry out a reported sentence of paralysis for a man in retribution for allegedly paralysing another man 10 years ago.

Ali al-Khawahir, 24, was reportedly sentenced to Qisas, or retribution, in the Eastern Province town of Al-Ahsa and could be paralysed from waist down if he fails to pay compensation of one million riyals ($270,000), the rights watchdog said, citing Saudi media reports.

It said Khawahir had stabbed his friend in the back in 2003, rendering him paralysed from the waist down. He was 14 at the time.

“Paralysing someone as punishment for a crime would be torture,” said Ann Harrison, Middle East and North Africa deputy director at Amnesty.

“It is time the authorities in Saudi Arabia start respecting their international legal obligations and remove these terrible punishments from the law,” she said in a statement.

Amnesty said a similar sentence of paralysis was imposed in 2010 but that it was unknown if it had been carried out.

The ultra-conservative Muslim kingdom imposes several forms of corporal punishment attributed to Islamic sharia law, ranging from flogging, to amputation and beheading.

 

SAUDI ARABIA BUYS ARMED DRONES

Saudi Arabia buying South African armed drone
By Bill Gertz
Washington Free Beacon
April 2, 2013

Saudi Arabia is buying an armed drone from South Africa after the Obama administration declined to sell the oil-rich kingdom U.S. Predator or Reaper missile-firing unmanned aircraft.

The state-owned South African company Denel Dynamics is working covertly with the Saudis to develop the Seeker 400 drone into an armed combat system for the Saudi military, the Paris-based newsletter Intelligence Online reported March 27.

The Seeker 400 is an advanced version of the company’s Seeker II unarmed surveillance aircraft.

The newsletter stated that the Saudi military would be the first customer to purchase the Seeker 400 armed drone and engineers from Denel are in the kingdom as part of the secret program.

If completed, the sale would allow Saudi Arabia to join the growing number of militaries that operate missile-firing drones–the most advanced weapon currently in use to launch precision strikes on terrorists.

Drone warfare has become the hallmark of the CIA, which is aggressively pursuing terrorists with drone missiles in Afghanistan, Pakistan’s frontier region, Yemen, the Horn of Africa, and elsewhere.

The new drone will be equipped with South Africa’s Mokopa air-to-ground missiles that are currently deployed on Algerian helicopters. The drone also can be outfitted with Impi laser-guided missiles with a range of 10 kilometers.

The drones are believed to be sought by the Saudis for use against the terrorist group al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, which is currently operating in Yemen and has conducted international operations against the United States.

Riyadh has been trying to purchase missile-firing drones from the United States but so far the requests have been denied.

The United Arab Emirates is purchasing an unarmed export version of the Predator called the Predator XP, produced by General Atomics.

According to the newsletter, the Saudis have sought armed drones for several years and want the weapons to counter Iran’s unmanned combat vehicles known as the Karrar and the Shahed 129, which are fitted with Shahid-1 missiles.

“Because it could not procure drones from China, which is allied to Iran, nor from Israel, Riyadh turned to South Africa,” the newsletter stated.

However, Saudi Arabia lacks the infrastructure needed to operate drones. The systems require satellite communications that permit remote video and communications that allow drones to be piloted.

The Seeker 400 can fly for 16 hours and has a range of 250 kilometers with a 100-kilogram payload.

Saudi Arabia’s Prince Sultan Advanced Technologies Research Institute (PSATRI), a joint project of the Saudi air force and the King Fahd University, is also developing surveillance drones for use along the southern Saudi border, the newsletter stated.
Spokesmen for Denel and the Saudi Embassy could not be reached for comment.

News reports in February revealed that Saudi Arabia is hosting a U.S. attack drone base in the southern part of the country that was revealed in satellite imagery.

These satellite images show a remote airstrip deep in the desert of Saudi Arabia. It may or may not be the secret U.S. drone base revealed by reporters earlier this week.

However, the base’s hangars bear a remarkable resemblance to similar structures found on other American drone outposts. And its remote location – dozens of miles from the nearest highway, and farther still to the nearest town – suggests that this may be more than the average civilian airstrip.

The base had been kept secret for two years until disclosed in reports by the Washington Post and New York Times in February.

The base was used for the drone strike in September 2011 that killed American-born al Qaeda leader Anwar al-Awlaki.

 

ANTI-ISRAEL ACTIVISTS RAPED BY LIBYAN SOLDIERS

‘Activists’ Hoping to Help Breach Gaza Blockade, Raped in Benghazi
By Lori Lowenthal Marcus
The Jewish Press.
April 1, 2013

Three female British nationals who had been attempting to take part in yet another effort to breach the Israeli blockade of Gaza were brutally gang raped when, blocked from leaving the Libyan border, they were abducted and assaulted. Early reports are that the men who abducted and attacked the women are Libyan soldiers.

The women were part of a ten vehicle convoy which had been wending its way through southern Europe and northern Africa towards Egypt, allegedly seeking to bring in “humanitarian” aid to Gaza. Typically these efforts to break the legal blockade of Gaza carry little of real value, any of which can be brought in through other points of entry.

This vehicular convoy was organized by the Turkish nongovernmental organization IHH, which describes itself as a humanitarian relief organization, but which terrorism experts consider a “a radical Islamist group masquerading as a humanitarian agency.”

According to terrorism financing expert Jonathan Schanzer, the IHH belongs to a Saudi-based umbrella organization known to finance terrorism called the Union of Good. Schanzer wrote that “the Union is chaired by Sheikh Yusuf Qaradawi, who is known best for his religious ruling that encourages suicide attacks against Israeli civilians.” Qardawi is alleged to have personally transferred millions of dollars to the Union in an effort to provide financial support to Hamas.

The IHH, of course, is the same “humanitarian” agency that had organized the Gaza Freedom Flotilla in late May 2010. During that effort Israeli naval forces repeatedly informed those on board the ships that they had to turn back and all goods could be distributed if they docked at the Israeli port of Ashdod. When the flotilla ships refused to turn back, Israeli naval commandos boarded the ship, where they were brutally attacked. The Israelis eventually opened fire, leading to the death of 9 aboard the ship, and injury to many more, including to the Israeli soldiers.

The “aid” convoy of approximately ten trucks left Britain on February 25, but had been detained for many days along the Libyan-Egyptian border. Egyptian border guards refused to allow them to cross into that country. The convoy was named the “Mavi Marmara” after the ship on which the Israeli and Turkish nationals had been injured during the 2010 confrontation.

The British nationals, frustrated by the long wait at the Egyptian border, went to Benghazi, hoping to make arrangements to fly back to Britain. It was in Benghazi that the five were abducted, and the three women, two of whom are sisters and who were accompanied by their father, were sexually assaulted. The father was present and witnessed the horrific assaults on his daughters.

The IHH allegedly mediated for the release of the captives, and they were released to the Turkish Consulate in Libya, where they are currently reported as safe and waiting to return to the UK.

The Libyan Deputy Prime Minister, Awadh al-Barassi, said he had been to visit the women who had been assaulted and their family was “in a very bad psychological state.”

“Sadly [the perpetrators] belong to army, but they don’t reflect the ethics of Libya army,” Mr al-Barassi said in an interview with the national Libya al-Hurra television channel.

 

RADICAL JAILED IN SLAY NOW COLUMBIA PROFESSOR

Outrage 101: Radical jailed in slay now Columbia prof
By Larry Celona and Dan Mangan
New York Post
April 2, 2013

Former Weather Underground radical Kathy Boudin – who spent 22 years in prison for an armored-car robbery that killed two cops and a Brinks guard – now holds a prestigious adjunct professorship at Columbia University’s School of Social Work, The Post has learned.

Boudin, 69, this year won another academic laurel – being named the Sheinberg Scholar-in-Residence at NYU Law School, where last month she gave a lecture on “the politics of parole and re-entry.”

Boudin’s bounce-back into respectability after her 2003 parole comes to light a week before the release of Robert Redford’s movie “The Company You Keep,” loosely based on the $1.6 million heist.

Boudin’s status of perp-turned-prof outraged the widow of one of her victims, Brinks guard and dad of three Peter Paige, who was gunned down by her accomplices from the Black Liberation Army on Oct. 20, 1981, in Rockland County.
Boudin acted as a getaway driver in the heist.

“She doesn’t deserve a job at all,” said Josephine Paige, 74, when told of Boudin’s posts. “She doesn’t deserve anything, nothing at all. I think she should be back in an institution.”

John Hanchar, the nephew of another victim of the robbery, Nyack Police Officer Edward O’Grady, said that while Boudin “has a right to do whatever she wants . . . I just hope the people that she’s lecturing are smart enough to question why [she felt] like killing people is an acceptable choice to forward their goals.”

“It’s easy to forget that violence is never the answer. Nine children grew up without their dads because of her actions,” said Hanchar, whose uncle O’Grady was shot with automatic weapons. Boudin did not respond to a request for comment.

She teaches about the issues facing convicts and their families when a person is released from prison.

Of the hundreds of students Boudin has taught, Yoshioka said, just three have expressed qualms about her criminal background, and only one “switched out” of a class because of those concerns.

One Friday, a criminal-justice conference at the school will feature keynote address by Angela Davis, another infamous radical, and later this month Boudin is scheduled to speak at Columbia Law School’s conference on child and family advocacy.

“I’m happy that she’s doing something positive with her life,” said Robert Van Cura, Rockland County’s undersheriff. But he said, “I believe there’s probably other people that are available to provide education beyond someone who is on parole for murder.”

Columbia School of Social Work Associate Dean Marianne Yoshioka, who hired Boudin for the adjunct-professor post in 2008, said she has been “an excellent teacher who gets incredible evaluations from her students each year.”

 

SYRIA HAS A MASSIVE RAPE CRISIS

Syria has a massive rape crisis
By Lauren Wolfe
The Atlantic
April 3 2013

One day in the fall of 2012, Syrian government troops brought a young Free Syrian Army soldier’s fiancée, sisters, mother, and female neighbors to the Syrian prison in which he was being held. One by one, he said, they were raped in front of him.

The 18-year-old had been an FSA soldier for less than a month when he was picked up. Crying uncontrollably as he recounted his torture while in detention to a psychiatrist named Yassar Kanawati, he said he suffers from a spinal injury inflicted by his captors. The other men detained with him were all raped, he told the doctor. When Kanawati asked if he, too, was raped, he went silent.

Although most coverage of the Syrian civil war tends to focus on the fighting between the two sides, this war, like most, has a more insidious dimension: rape has been reportedly used widely as a tool of control, intimidation, and humiliation throughout the conflict. And its effects, while not always fatal, are creating a nation of traumatized survivors -- everyone from the direct victims of the attacks to their children, who may have witnessed or been otherwise affected by what has been perpetrated on their relatives.

In September 2012, I was at the United Nations when Norwegian Foreign Minister Espen Barth Eide shook up a fluorescent-lit room of bored-looking bureaucrats by saying that what happened during the Bosnian war is “repeating itself right now in Syria.” He was referring to the rape of tens of thousands of women in that country in the 1990s.

“With every war and major conflict, as an international community we say ‘never again’ to mass rape,” said Nobel Laureate Jody Williams, who is co-chair of the International Campaign to Stop Rape & Gender Violence in Conflict. [Full disclosure: I’m on the advisory committee of the campaign.] “Yet, in Syria, as countless women are again finding the war waged on their bodies--we are again standing by and wringing our hands.”

We said after the Holocaust we’d never forget; we said it after Darfur. We probably said it after the mass rapes of Bosnia and Rwanda, but maybe that was more of a “we shouldn’t forget,” since there was so much global guilt that we just sort of sat back and let similar tragedies occur since and only came to the realization later -- we forgot.

Could we have forgotten that the unfolding human catastrophe in Syria exists before it’s even over?

***

Using a crowd-sourced map for the last year, our team at the Women’s Media Center’s Women Under Siege project, together with Columbia University epidemiologists, the Syrian-American Medical Society, and Syrian activists and journalists, has documented and collected data to figure out where and how women and men are being violated in Syria’s war. And, perhaps most important, by whom.

We’ve broken down the 162 stories we’ve gathered from the onset of the conflict in March 2011 through March 2013 into 226 separate pieces of data. All our reports are currently marked “unverified” (even those that come from well-known sources like Human Rights Watch, the United Nations, and news outlet such as the BBC) because we have not yet been able to independently confirm them.

Eighty percent of our reports include female victims, with ages ranging from 7 to 46. Of those women, 85 percent reported rape; 10 percent include sexual assault without penetration; and 10 percent include detention that appears to have been for the purposes of sexualized violence or enslavement for a period of longer than 24 hours. (We generally use this category when we hear soldiers describe being ordered to detain women to rape them; we’re not guessing at intent.) Gang rape allegedly occurred in 40 percent of the reports about women.

In mid-March, I was in Michigan, surrounded by Syrians who live here but are helping out their fellow citizens in refugee camps and health centers. Kanawati, the psychologist, told me that day that she had visited with a refugee family in Jordan and listened to one of three sisters describe how a group of Syrian army soldiers had come to their house in Homs, tied up their father and brother, andraped the three women in front of them. The woman cried as she went on to describe how after raping them the soldiers opened their legs and burned their vaginas with cigarettes. They allegedly told the women during this: “You want freedom? This is your freedom.”

The psychiatrist asked one of the three sisters, who was holding a baby, “Is that baby from the rape?” The woman changed the subject.

All the women are having nightmares, Kanawati said; all have PTSD. Now, she said, the two sisters are employed in Amman, but the mother, who does not work, is “consumed by the baby.” The brother will not speak.

This family is quietly living with trauma that reaches across generations.

Men are more than just witnesses to sexualized violence in Syria; they are experiencing it directly as well. Forty-three of the reports on our map -- about 20 percent -- involve attacks against men and boys, all of whom are between the ages of 11 and 56. Nearly half of the reports about men involve rape, while a quarter detail sexualized violence without penetration, such as shocks to the genitals. Sixteen percent of the men who have been raped in our reports were allegedly violated by multiple attackers.

Government perpetrators have allegedly committed the majority of the attacks we’ve been able to track: 60 percent of the attacks against men and women are reportedly by government forces, with another 17 percent carried out by government and shabiha (plainclothes militia) forces together. When it comes to the rape of women, government forces have allegedly carried out 54 percent these attacks; shabiha have allegedly perpetrated 20 percent; government andshabiha working together 6 percent.

Overall, the FSA has allegedly carried out less than 1 percent of the sexualized attacks in our total reports. About 15 percent of the attacks have unknown or other perpetrators.

When it comes to men, more than 90 percent of the reports of sexualized violence have been allegedly perpetrated by government forces, which can perhaps be explained by the fact that most of these attacks occurred in detention facilities. Long used as a weapon against prisoners in Syria as in much of the world, rape appears to be utilized during this conflict in horrifyingly soul-crushing, creative ways. Beyond simply raping detainees, shabiha members or Syrian army soldiers have reportedly carried out the rapes offamily members or other women front of prisoners.

Atrocities are inevitably muted when victims die, and perpetrators worldwide know this. Part of the reason we’ve chosen to live-track sexualized violence in Syria is because so much evidence is lost in war. Consider that 18 percent of the women in our reports were allegedly witnessed killed or found dead after sexualized violence. Look at this report from Beirut-based news site Ya Libnan, which describes a confession from a defected Syrian Army soldier who said he was ordered “to rape teenage girls in Homs at the end of last year.”

“The girls would generally be shot when everyone had finished,” the soldier said. “They wanted it to be known in the neighborhoods that the girls had been raped, but they didn’t want the girls to survive and be able to identify them later.”

Because there is a deleterious and under-documented personal aftermath of sexualized violence, we are also tracking its mental and physical health fallout. Ten percent of the women in our reports appear to suffer from anxiety, depression, or other psychological trauma, and that’s clearly a low estimate considering the acts described. Three percent of the women have reportedly become pregnant from rape, and 2 percent suffer from a chronic physical disease as a result of the violence.

***

When I asked Kanawati how many women she’s spoken to and treated who have survived rape, she said it’s impossible to know. She has interviewed dozens of refugees who may have been raped or otherwise sexually tortured, mostly in Homs. Originally from Damascus, she is currently the medical director of Family Intervention Specialists in the Atlanta area and has been working with Syrian refugees in Amman with the support of the Syrian-American Medical Society.

A 4-year-old girl from Homs drew this for a psychiatrist in Amman. The girl had witnessed her uncle killed by a tank, and kept repeating “Uncle, tank, blood,” according to the psychiatrist. The girl’s mother says their neighbor was raped by Syrian soldiers the same day. (Yassar Kanawati)

“Syrian families are very conservative and I always tell them: ‘ Rape is a way to break the family. The easiest way,’“ Kanawati said. “I tell them, ‘Don’t let this break you--this is what they’re trying to do.’ When I tell that to the women, however, they say, ‘Tell that to our husbands.’”

She described how women have repeatedly told her that their neighbors were raped, usually by more than one man, and how each time the extraordinary detail the women give and the trauma they exhibit tells her that the story isn’t actually about a “neighbor,” but the woman herself. More than that, the storytellers usually go on to describe how the “neighbor’s” husband then left this woman.

Sex outside of marriage, let alone the violation of a woman in an act of rape, said Kanawati, is “completely taboo.”

Erin Gallagher, a former investigator of sexual and gender-based violence for the UN’s Commission of Inquiry on Syria (and before that on Libya), spent months speaking with Syrian women and men in camps in Jordan and Turkey. She said it’s very difficult to get an accurate idea at this point of the scope of sexualized crimes in Syria and that “there are more victims out there than what we are finding.” Getting a true idea of the scope, she said, “is going to take time, trust building, and a broader, holistic approach.”

Kanawati said her sister, an ob-gyn who lives in Damascus, has carefully told her (for fear of eavesdropping), “You would not believe how much rape there is.” Her sister has treated women who say they have been raped by soldiers orshabiha militia members in the rural areas around the city.

Gallagher explained why so few victims of sexualized violence in Syria are coming forward publicly.

“The reality is that they have much to lose and little to gain by doing so at this point in time, for many reasons,” she said. “It takes a lot of courage and strength for a victim to speak up and they may be on their own with little support as they do it. In addition to the shame and isolation a victim may feel, they now are in an insecure environment due to the war. They may now be living in a large refugee camp with no privacy, surrounded by people they don’t know or trust.”

With no clear future for Syria in sight, refugees are understandably cautious about who they speak to and trust with sensitive and personal information. “If they tell someone, to whom and where does that information go?” Gallagher said. It may be hard to put their trust in a stranger when, time and again, there has been little justice for victims of wartime rape.

Add to all that the physical, psychological, and emotional trauma that victims are suffering from the war and displacement, and “it’s not surprising that victims are reluctant to come forward,” she said.

Hearing this I can’t help but think of the preface to Night, in which Elie Wiesel writes: “For the survivor who chooses to testify, it is clear: his duty is to bear witness for the dead and the living... .To forget would be not only dangerous but offensive.”

***

“The security forces and the shabiha took whole families outside after destroying their homes,” a woman named Amal told the pan-Arab newspaperAl-Hayat in June 2012. “They stripped my girls from their clothes, raped them then killed them with knives. They were shouting: ‘You want freedom? This is the best brand of freedom.’”

It’s nearly word-for-word the sentences spoken in the story above about the women raped and then burned with cigarettes.

Coincidence? Maybe. But repeated phrasing is exactly the kind of thing that helps build international cases for human rights violations. Language can indicate whether mass rape has been coordinated and systematic. Recently, a U.S.-based group called AIDS-Free World successfully petitioned to have South Africa investigate mass rape allegedly carried out by the ruling ZANU-PF party in Zimbabwe against opposition supporters in 2008. Part of their case was built on the fact that they heard that similar phrases were being uttered during rapes across the country--women were called “traitors to Zimbabwe” or told they were being “sent a message,” according to Paula Donovan, co-director of AIDS-Free World.

Gallagher, who also investigated rape in Libya, said she’s heard about such phrases being used during rape in both countries.

“I don’t think it necessarily means it was an order,” she said of Libya, “but certainly a common belief among the soldiers. They knew they had free reign. I can’t conclude if [Bashar al-] Assad and his command ordered it or have just given his men free reign. What is clear is that he and his commanders are doing nothing to stop their soldiers from committing such crimes.”

For a year, I’ve sat in circles of high-level advisors from the International Criminal Court and elsewhere debating what might tip Russia’s hand and prevent it from vetoing a vote to send Syria’s human rights crimes to the court. But now with the success of AIDS-Free World’s use of a concept called universal jurisdiction, which crosses borders to try crimes that are so heinous that they call for a sense of greater justice, perhaps it is time to consider alternatives to the ICC. Jody Williams, known for rousing the slumbering world when it came to banning landmines, has some ideas.

“We don’t need more research or more proof, we need a plan,” said Williams. “And the plan should be to ensure that there is coordinated international action to ensure survivors get help, justice is served against those perpetrating the sexualized violence, and we are all working together to prevent further rape. This will take men, women, communities, national governments, and the international community -- everyone.”

Personally, I’m hoping this is the last report I’ll have to write parsing data from a map that shouldn’t have to exist in the first place. Somehow, though, I don’t think that will be the case.

 

HOW EGYPT’S RADICAL RULERS CRUSH THE LIVES AND HOPES OF WOMEN

How Egypt’s radical rulers crush the lives and hopes of women
Tracy McVeigh in Cairo
The Observer (Sunday edition of The Guardian, UK)
March 31, 2013

The ambush came from the left, from a side street which led up the hill to Mokattam mosque. A rush of hundreds of men running down on the march of anti-government protesters, bringing a sudden clatter of rocks landing all around, the crack of shots fired and the whizz of tear gas canisters. Sticks, stones and metal bars flew through the smoke in both directions and screaming women and men ran back the way they came.

Dozens of manned police vans remained parked a kilometre away. The only sirens came from ambulances that drove through the crowds and past burning vehicles to take some 40 injured people to hospital.

One angry woman with a bleeding mouth and eyes streaming from the tear gas pulled off her headscarf and stood yelling at the other side, the supporters of the ruling Muslim Brotherhood: “You are not Islam! You are not Egypt! Where is my freedom?”

So go most Fridays in Cairo over the past few weeks as liberal Egyptians have shown their virulent opposition to the president, Mohamed Morsi, as he has awarded himself new powers and pushed through a deeply contentious new constitution. Several buildings of the Muslim Brotherhood, the group behind Morsi, have been burned. In post-Arab spring Egypt the revolution continues. But it’s women of all classes who have found themselves most alienated – written out of the jostling for power and subjected to a skyrocketing number of sex assaults, rapes and harassment.

Women who stood shoulder to shoulder with men during the 2011 Tahrir Square protests that brought down Hosni Mubarak found their position in society undermined almost immediately. The parliamentary quota for women was removed without debate and a promised female vice-president failed to materialise, amid what political commentator Moushira Khattab called “a radical anti-feminist sentiment”. Morsi threatened but stopped short of decriminalising Egypt’s practice of female genital mutilation, carried out on almost three-quarters of Egyptian girls, making it clear he would not tackle an issue he called “a family matter”.

The new constitution has swept away recognition of women’s rights and left the door open to the legalisation of perhaps Egypt’s most crippling social issue – underage marriage. Draft legislation that would allow the legal age of marriage to be lowered from 18 to 13 has been drawn up while clerics within the Muslim Brotherhood have indicated that marriage at the age of nine for girls is acceptable.

“They see women as, number one, objects of sex and, number two, to clean their floors. This is what the Egyptian ‘brotherhood’ is all about,” said Fatma, 24, an engineering graduate marching with her friends, some in burqas, some in headscarves. The women keep close together, arms linked and eyes alert for the men flying down the side of the demonstration on motorcycles grabbing and screaming at females. “They want to marry us at nine years old. Are these really the kind of men we want to run our country? Paedophiles?”

Political progress has been slow, with parliamentary elections scheduled for April now postponed with no new date. Frustrations have built.

“They are like a pack of dogs, tearing out the weakest first, raping and harassing the women and the girls, getting rid of them, and then fighting among themselves to be pack leader,” said Aya Kadry, 62.

Around Cairo hundreds of tower blocks are being built, extending the Arab world’s largest city leg by leg into the desert. This is where the vast majority of Egypt’s women are already living the constrained lives that the educated and middle-classes fear will be imposed by a radical government. Child marriage is common, the norm among the poor. Doctors are bribed to sign documents asserting a 14-year-old is 18 but most people don’t have the money so marriages go ahead without registration. Underage girls then have children who, essentially illegal, cannot have their births registered. Without papers those children cannot attend school, encasing a whole new generation in poverty.

In the poor district of Ezbet Khairallah 10 women are sitting around a metal cash box, holding the weekly meeting of their savings and loans group. Set up by the charity Plan Egypt, it encourages women to squirrel away a few coins when they can and to discuss problems.

“We do not really have time to talk to our neighbours, there is a great burden of things to do in the home and for some of us our husbands do not like us to go out of doors, although we have convinced them we should meet for this social fund because it will help all the family,” said Seham Ahmed, 38, who is taking the opportunity to show the group how to make a basic liquid soap.

“I was married at 14,” she said, thumping a stick round a battered bucket and most of the women around her nod. “Pulled out of school one day and married that night. I hope my daughters can wait a little while but it’s quite difficult for girls who are not married at an early age to find a good man later and there is a lot of pressure. And fathers want girls gone because it is one mouth less to feed.”

Asmaa Mohamed Fawzy is 21. She was engaged but her family allowed her to break it off when her best friend died in childbirth aged 16. “I liked having the ring but I was only 15 and didn’t know any better. When Aya died it was a miserable tragedy and I’m very lucky that my mum agreed with me I should not get married. I get teased and bullied. They shout I am not pretty enough, why am I the ugly one, but I do not want to die or to have children who cannot go to school. It is probably too late for me now and I’m sad I won’t have children.”

Her mother, Naghzaky Abdalla, 47, also endures being shunned by her neighbours. “When her friend died I too made up my mind. We only have one so we can afford to protect her. A neighbour had died at 15 of bleeding: the doctors wouldn’t treat her because she was married illegally and they don’t want to get involved. The girls’ bodies are not ready for childbirth and they are not ready for sexual relations which makes their husbands impatient with them.

“Three girls in our street stay indoors now for ever because their husbands divorced them. If they cannot prove they were married and they are not virgins then they cannot get married again so they are shunned. Many are divorced because of course these girls are too young to understand what marriage means, she is still a child. In our community, though, a girl should be married before she is 16, maximum.”

Mrs Gihan, 45, a community activist with strong views, is fervently for the lowering the age of marriage to 13 in law. “We must do this,” she said. “Because all the unregistered children who cannot go to school need to be helped. These girls are denied healthcare, their children are denied a future. They have already decreased the legal age of work from 14 to 12 and I think this age too should be lowered. When Mubarak listened to international pressure and raised the age to 18 it changed nothing here. If you decree a legal age then you simply criminalise and marginalise. Men leave their wives before they turn 18 and their children are seen as being born into prostitution. We will raise awareness and stop child marriage this way.”

The stench of human waste coming from the river in another poor Cairo district, Manial Sheiha, is overpowering. The streets of packed earth are quiet with only children to be seen.

Nawal Rashid opens her door but remains on one side of the deep concrete threshold that she cannot cross – or allow visitors to cross – without her 70-year-old husband’s permission. He is at work. Her three-year-old son plays behind her and she insists she married at 18 – which makes her 21 now – but her neighbours all say she was 14. “I accepted the older man to help my family as there were four other children and my parents are very poor. I am quite content and happy to have sacrificed myself for my family.”

Next door is Etab, 19. She has two children and has returned to stay with her despairing mother Nearnat, 42, her ageing father and her three siblings.

“We thought by marrying her we would get her a better life,” said Nearnat. “Now she is divorced because he was a bad man. She refuses to get married again because then her ex-husband would take the children and now her younger sister is begging me not to go ahead with her marriage. I regret that my daughter was married young because now if she leaves the house her reputation will be ruined. The community all tease me.”

Outside in the street a group of young men explain why they want to marry young brides. “Children need to have their rights but also you want to marry a girl who is much younger so she will stay young and beautiful when you are old. Also you can control her better and make sure she is not one of these girls who goes around wanting to be harassed,” said Abdel Rahman, 17. His friend Youssef, 20, agrees. “There are many girls who just want to be harassed, walking around in the streets with their eyes uncovered.”

Their views are not a surprise to Mona Hussein Wasef, 26, who works for Plan Egypt in Cairo. “For 18 days we were in Tahrir Square, side by side, men and women, educated and uneducated, rich and poor. Never have I felt so much solidarity. I was Egypt, we were all Egypt, fighting for freedom, shoulder to shoulder,” she said. She is too fearful to attend any political demonstrations these days.

“Now we have never been so far apart, men and women. In such a short time, such a gulf. Now we are fighting just for the right to walk down the street without being assaulted. It is so hard, so shocking. To see the rights we had being ripped away and lost in the power struggle. To see us go backwards.”

I WAS SOLD TO A SAUDI MAN – MY FUTURE IS RUINED

Rasmia Ahmed Emam was 17 when she was married to a 50-year-old stranger.

“My family is a big one so I had to sacrifice to support them. My dad went to a marriage broker to find a rich husband for me and she told us she had a Saudi man. He came and seemed to like me and gave my parents the money to build a roof on our house.”

But the desperation of poor families combined with the acceptance of child marriage has created opportunities for unscrupulous marriage brokers trading young girls to sex tourists. Rasmia thought she was getting married but in fact she was kept in a hotel room for two weeks before “her husband” went home.

“I felt insulted, scared. I had a nervous breakdown. My father went to the broker but we had no proof of the marriage. She offered to marry me again. I refused. All my neighbours knew I was a prostitute, all my friends abandoned me. My future is destroyed. Now three girls in my street have been Saudi wives. All men are liars.”

The phenomenon is becoming increasingly common in Cairo, says Mohammad Gazer, who has set up a charity, ACT, to warn families. “The taxi drivers bring men from the airport to the brokers. These girls are being traded and trafficked and dumped back home, their lives ruined.

“It is becoming clearer and clearer to Saudi men and other tourists that Egypt is the place for child marriage, for ignoring girls’ and women’s rights. It has got worse since the revolution and keeps getting worse every day.”

THE ARAB SPRING AND WOMEN’S RIGHTS

Libya: A guarantee of equality has been removed from the new constitution written after the revolution in 2011. There has been a rise in sexual assaults on the streets. Amnesty International claims discrimination against women “remains in law and practice”.

Yemen: Women were prominent during the 2011 uprisings but demonstrators today segregate themselves by gender. Discrimination is still enshrined in law. A quota of 30% for women in jobs in state agencies has been proposed but not yet debated. Child marriage remains legal with 52% of women marrying under 18.

Morocco: Reforms promised by King Mohammed VI are inching forward. A law that allows rapists to escape jail if they marry their victim is expected to be amended this year. Child marriage is illegal but has been on the rise over the last two years and there are moves to reduce the legal age from 18 to 16. There is only one female minister.

Tunisia: Women’s legal rights have not changed since the revolution in 2010-11 but it took street protests before the new constitution was rewritten to enshrine full equality. The ruling Islamist Ennahda party has 42 women among its 89 MPs and only 3% of teenage girls are married. Some are worried about a rise in hardline conservatism.

“With the intent of erasing Israel from the Internet” (& European goverments fund a blood libel)

April 03, 2013

A Palestinian policeman has been convicted of the murder of an Israeli man and baby after he ambushed their car; no doubt the BBC and Human Rights Watch will in future try to deceive the public into thinking this man is a political prisoner

 

* Israel is bracing for a “potentially crippling” cyberattack against the country’s major companies and websites on April 7, the eve of Holocaust Remembrance Day. The planned assault is organized by the hacktivist group Anonymous and other anti-Israeli groups with “the intent of erasing Israel from the Internet.”

* Last week, the three groups claimed they breached the Mossad’s mainframe, accessed classified information and leaked the online personal details of over 34,000 of the intelligence agency’s officers and agents worldwide. The Mossad did not comment on the matter.

* In February, the Israel Defense Forces set up an official cyber war room, meant to improve the IDF’s ability to thwart “the constant attempts” to hack into the IDF’s computer systems. The IDF officially defined cyber warfare as the fifth arena of warfare, alongside land, sea, air and space.

* The Israeli navy is preparing to defend Israel’s new Mediterranean gas platforms from boat bombs, drones, submarine vessels, rockets and missiles. Energy-rich countries have for years been searching for the best tactics to defend their offshore assets. Oil platforms off Nigeria have been hit repeatedly, and in 2004 suicide bombers launched coordinated boat attacks on an Iraqi oil export terminal.

* Palestinian nonprofit group Miftah, founded by hardline Palestinian lawmaker Hanan Ashrawi, finally apologizes for the anti-Semitic blood libel article it ran to mark Passover. Miftah receives funding from the governments of Switzerland, Sweden, Denmark, Holland, Italy, Austria, Germany, Ireland, and Norway, all of whom help Miftah to spread anti-Israeli and anti-Semitic propaganda.

* Palestinian policeman convicted of murder of Israeli man and baby.

* Israeli Arab paramedic saves Jewish baby following Palestinian terror attack.

***

* You can comment on this dispatch here: www.facebook.com/TomGrossMedia. Please also press “Like” on that page.

 

CONTENTS

1. “Israel braces for ‘potentially crippling’ cyberattack” (Israel Hayom, April 2, 2013)
2. “Israel’s navy gears up for new job of protecting gas fields” (Reuters, April 1, 2013)
3. “Palestinian nonprofit apologizes for blood libel article” (JTA, April 2, 2013)
4. “Court convicts Palestinian of murder in Asher Palmer case” (Ynet, April 2, 2013)
5. “Mimouna guest of honor: Arab paramedic who saved Jewish baby after terror attack” (Ynet, April 2, 2013)
6. “Cyprus jails Hezbollah operative for Israel attacks plot” (BBC, March 29, 2013)


ARTICLES

I attach 6 articles connected to Israel, below.

ISRAEL BRACES FOR ‘POTENTIALLY CRIPPLING’ CYBERATTACK

Israel braces for ‘potentially crippling’ cyberattack
By Ilan Gattegno
Israel Hayom
April 2, 2013

Israel is bracing for a “potentially crippling” cyberattack against the country’s major companies and websites, Israel Hayom learned Tuesday. The attack is set to take place on April 7, which this year will be the eve of Holocaust Remembrance Day.

The planned assault is part of hacktivist group Anonymous’s ongoing #OpIsrael campaign, which was launched in March in a show of solidarity with the Palestinians. As part of the campaign, Anonymous — which has since been joined by several other hacktivist groups including Sector404 and RedHack — said that on April 7 that it would “launch a coordinated, massive cyberattack on Israeli targets with the intent of erasing Israel from the Internet.”

Last week, the three groups claimed they breached the Mossad’s mainframe, accessed classified information and leaked the personal details of over 34,000 of the intelligence agency’s officers and agents worldwide online. The Mossad did not comment on the matter.

According to Shai Blitzblau, CEO of Maglan Information Defense Technologies Research, the attack is likely to target government websites as well as major banks and credit cards companies.

Israel’s financial system was targeted in a series of cyberattacks in early 2012: Two of Israel’s major banks, Hapoalim and Leumi, as well as three major credit card companies — Isracard, Leumi Card and Visa Cal — were hacked, as was the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange.

Hackers are also constantly trying to target Israel’s critical infrastructure, such as its power and water grids: In September 2012, Yiftach Ron-Tal, chairman of the Israel Electric Corporation’s board of directors, revealed that IEC sees between 10,000 and 20,000 attempted cyberattacks a day. Ron-Tal was speaking at the annual cyber summit, hosted by the Israel Institute for National Security Studies.

“Cyberattacks worldwide are becoming more powerful every day, but the [coming] attack won’t be substantially different from what we’ve seen before,” Blitzblau said. “The hackers are likely to target the top 100 Israeli websites and they will probably try introducing Trojan horses into their servers, to infect as many users as possible.”

The systems used by the majority of Israel’s banks, credit card and telecommunication companies are susceptible to denial-of-service attacks that use the availability of virtual host-servers to create massive traffic backlogs, which eventually crash the websites using their services.

Meanwhile, the military is also gearing for an increase in cyberattacks: In mid-February, the Israel Defense Forces set up an official cyber war room, meant to improve the IDF’s ability to thwart what military sources called “the constant attempts” to hack into the IDF’s computer systems.

The IDF officially defined cyber warfare as the fifth arena of warfare, alongside land, sea, air and space, in 2012.

 

ISRAEL’S NAVY GEARS UP FOR NEW JOB OF PROTECTING GAS FIELDS

Israel’s navy gears up for new job of protecting gas fields
Ari Rabinovitch
Reuters
April 1, 2013

ASHDOD, Israel – Israel’s huge new offshore gas resource offers its enemies an obvious target and gives its navy, long overshadowed by other branches of the Israeli armed forces, a big job that will require extra spending.

On patrol boat 836, circling two gas platforms in choppy Mediterranean waters, Captain Ilan Lavi flipped through pictures of the possible threats: boat bombs, drones, submarine vessels, rockets and missiles.

“We have to build an entire new defensive envelope,” said Lavi, head of the navy’s planning department who talks as knowledgeably about the financial aspects of the gas industry as he does about security. “But you can’t have a defense system that costs more to build than the gas itself.”

The discovery of large natural gas deposits in its offshore economic zone in 2009 came as a welcome surprise to Israel, transforming the energy security outlook of a country that used to rely heavily on imports. A burst of exploration followed, and by the end of 2013 18 new wells are expected to be drilled at a cost of $1.8 billion.

The government from the outset committed to helping protect the gas fields being developed by private companies.

“The gas fields are a strategic asset and Israel will defend them,” Lavi yelled above the wind and the engine roar.

“They may not be too complicated to attack, but we are aware of the threats and are prepared for them.”

The navy says it is under-equipped, however, to defend a maritime area larger than Israel itself.

Israel estimates there are about 950 billion cubic meters of gas beneath its waters, enough to leave plenty for exports. A successful attack could threaten export revenues and harm domestic energy supply.

A suitable defense system will cost $700 million to build and $100 million annually to maintain, Lavi said. That is a tough sell in a country facing sharp spending cuts and tax rises after the government overspent in 2012, he acknowledged.

“We can do it with less, but it means the system will be less adequate,” he said.

A senior naval commander, speaking on condition of anonymity, said that simply to patrol the area Israel needed four new ships and that it had already been in touch with eight or nine foreign firms.

Amit Mor, chief executive of Eco Energy and a former World Bank consultant, said Israel need not reinvent the wheel. Lessons on security can be learned from areas such as Nigeria and the North Sea and adapted for Israel’s situation, he said.

“I trust that the Israel Defense Force has the ability to provide adequate protection for the new offshore activity and that the required funding will be allocated,” he said.

THREATS AND TARGETS

It took 40 minutes heading west from the port of Ashdod to reach the two gas platforms on patrol boat 836, a fast-attack vessel equipped with high-tech radar and carrying a dozen sailors armed with M-16 rifles.

Israel’s coastline, 15 miles (24 km) away, can be seen on clear days from the two rigs, serving the Tamar and Yam Tethys fields, which are nearer to the shore than the latest finds.

Also visible is the Gaza Strip, ruled by the Palestinian Islamist group Hamas, which has fired thousands of rockets into southern Israel. The platforms are within range of the rockets, although these are not very accurate.

The Lebanese Shi’ite militant group Hezbollah poses a more formidable threat. Last year it sent a drone deep into Israel, covering more than enough of the distance needed to reach some of the gas fields.

The group, backed by Israel’s enemy Iran, also says its rocket arsenal has the range to hit anywhere in Israel, which indicates more sophisticated technology.

Energy-rich countries have for years been searching for the best tactics to defend their offshore assets, often isolated and vulnerable in the deep seas. Attacks have become more frequent.

Oil platforms off Nigeria have been hit repeatedly, and in 2004 suicide bombers launched coordinated boat attacks on an Iraqi oil export terminal.

“These incidents illustrate that terrorist organizations have become aware of the potential damage that may be inflicted through attacks on the offshore oil and gas industry,” Assaf Harel, a legal adviser to Israel’s Military Advocate General’s Corps, wrote last year in a Harvard security journal.

The two Israeli gas platforms visited by patrol boat 836 have private security teams, which were notified as it approached.

The bigger of the two, which was completed in December and began production on Saturday, receives gas from the Tamar field to the north via a 150 km (93 mile) pipeline. Developed by a U.S.-Israeli consortium at a cost of $3 billion, Tamar alone has enough gas to meet Israel’s needs for decades.

The smaller platform is for the older, nearly depleted Yam Tethys field and in time will become a sort of storage facility.

Most new drilling, like that at the Leviathan field, the world’s largest offshore discovery of the past decade, is happening much farther from land, increasing exponentially the area Israel’s fleet needs to patrol.

When the area is developed, companies including Russia’s Gazprom expect to send multi-billion dollar floating liquefied natural gas vessels to the area to facilitate exports, and these too will need protection.

A clash with other navies is not likely. Initial bellicose exchanges over the gas fields between Israel and Lebanon, which have never agreed upon a maritime border, quickly subsided.

Lavi would not discuss details of each individual threat but described a broad, integrated defense strategy based on intelligence, deterrence and maintaining a strong physical and technological presence.

“We have a response for every scenario,” he said.

 

PALESTINIAN NONPROFIT APOLOGIZES FOR BLOOD LIBEL ARTICLE

Palestinian nonprofit apologizes for blood libel article
JTA
April 2, 2013

A Palestinian nonprofit organization has removed an article from its website that accused Jews of using “the blood of Christians in the Jewish Passover.”

The Miftah organization, founded by Palestinian lawmaker Hanan Ashrawi and funded by European and Western governments, reportedly apologized for publishing the article, after first refusing to apologize and condemning the Jewish bloggers who publicized the article.

The apology was first reported by Adam Kredo at the Washington Free Beacon.

The apology expressed the organization’s “sincerest regret.”

“It has become clear to us after investigating this incident that the article was accidentally and incorrectly published by a junior staff member. The said staffer has been reprimanded and all our staff has been informed as to the disgusting and repulsive phenomena of blood libel or accusation, including its use against Jews. Dr. Hanan Ashrawi, as founder, has nothing to do with the day to day management at Miftah and was no way involved in this incident,” the apology issued Monday said.

The original article in Arabic by Nawaf Al Zaru was first exposed by the Elder of Ziyon blog. It criticized President Obama for his tribute to Passover, by holding a seder in the White House.

“Does Obama in fact know the relationship, for example, between ‘Passover’ and ‘Christian blood’..?! Or ‘Passover’ and ‘Jewish blood rituals?!’” read the article posted March 27. “Much of the chatter and gossip about historical Jewish blood rituals in Europe are real and not fake as they claim; the Jews used the blood of Christians in the Jewish Passover.”

Miftah on March 30 defended the publishing of the article in a statement on its website, calling it a “smear campaign.”

Miftah receives government funding from countries including Switzerland, Sweden, Denmark, the Netherlands, Italy, Austria, Germany, Ireland, and Norway, and from US-funded NGOs that receive government funding, NGO Monitor reported.

 

PALESTINIAN POLICEMAN CONVICTED OF MURDER OF JEWISH INFANT

Court convicts Palestinian of murder in Asher Palmer case
By Itamar Fleishman
Ynet
April 4, 2013

The Ofer Base Military Court convicted Tuesday Waal al-Araja, a member of the Palestinian security forces from Halhoul, of the murder of Asher Palmer and his infant son, Yonatan, in September 2011.

Al-Araja, who was throwing stones from a moving vehicle toward Palmer’s car on Route 60, causing the father and son’s death, was also convicted in connection with a series of attempted murders of a similar nature.

His sentence will be given at a later date.

The verdict is considered unusual in relation to stone hurling incidents where the Military Prosecution seldom files indictments for murder. The judges, Justice Amir Dahan, Justice Zeev Afiq and Justice Steve Berman noted in their decision that there has been no precedent in a similar case since the 1980s.

Al-Araja admitted to the crimes ascribed to him in both the interrogation and during the trial but claimed that he did not mean to kill the victims. In their verdict the judges noted that al-Araja was convicted of murder because it was proven that he intended to kill Jews and that he understood that throwing rocks could cause their deaths.

The verdict also revealed that at the time that the Palestinian terrorist committed his crimes, he was becoming an expert at hitting his targets and noticed the serious damages that were a result of stone hurling.

The judges further noted that al-Araja’s associates boasted of their actions, called it Jihad and later claimed that they carried out the acts because “the settlers cursed the prophet Mohammad and burned mosques.”

Asher Palmer’s father who was present at the hearing, embraced those around him and cried when the verdict was read out. The family has already announced that it plans to sue Asher and Yonatan’s killers for compensation.

The family attorney said Tuesday: “The court stated today very clearly that throwing rocks is murder, the war that Asher’s father is fighting is a very big part of this and without his dedication and stubbornness we might not have gotten this result.

“We hope this case means that similar incidents will not occur, this is terror any way you look at it and it must be treated as such.”

Police initially denied that stones had caused the accident but later concluded the incident was in fact a terror attack.

 

GUEST OF HONOR: PARAMEDIC WHO SAVED BABY ADELE

Mimouna guest of honor: Paramedic who saved baby Adele
By Itamar Fleishman
Ynet
April 4, 2013

Adele Biton, 3, critically injured in a stoning attack on her family car near Ariel in the West Bank, most likely would not have survived without the quick aid she received from a Magen David Adom paramedic who rushed to the scene. Monday her family decided to thank him by making him the guest of honor at their Mimouna celebration.

“I had been to Mimouna before, but this was the most emotional celebration ever,” said paramedic Muawiya Qabha.

Hundreds of people celebrated Mimouna on Monday in the settlement of Yakir, but Qabha was the special guest. Aharon Cohen, who blessed him, said, “We dedicate this event to the recovery of Adele, and to Muawiya, who saved her, and who we hope will save many more lives.”

Qabha was the recipient of many blessings – including one from the deputy commander of the IDF’s Judea and Samaria Division and from the head of the Shomron Regional Council, who both attended the celebration.

In keeping with tradition, Qabha was honored with mufletas. “I may be an Arab, but because of the holiday I also was without hametz. I waited an entire week to taste these (the mufletas).” After the celebration in Yakir, he continued onto the Schneider Children’s Medical Center, to visit the parents of Adele.

Adele remains in critical condition with a severe head injury, but Sunday she showed small improvements.

In addition to Qabha, honored guests, including the country’s leading politicians, were present at Mimouna celebrations nationwide: Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was hosted at the Or Akiva Cultural Center, and former Knesset speaker Reuven (Ruby) Rivlin and other Likud-Beiteinu members celebrated in Ashkelon.

 

CYPRUS JAILS HEZBOLLAH OPERATIVE FOR ISRAEL ATTACKS PLOT

Cyprus jails Hezbollah operative for Israel attacks plot
BBC news website
March 29, 2013

A Cypriot court has jailed a member of the Lebanese militant Shia movement Hezbollah for three years for plotting to attack Israeli targets there.

Hossam Taleb Yaccoub, a Lebanese Swedish national, admitted collecting information on Israeli tourists, but denied planning to attack them.

The court heard how Hezbollah paid him to carry out six missions since 2011. Israel says Hezbollah has been behind a string of attacks against Israeli and Jewish targets around the world.

Hezbollah, which has been designated a terrorist organisation by a number of governments, has denied the accusations.

Yaccoub, 24, said he had been asked to record information about Israeli flights arriving on the island, and registration plates of buses carrying tourists from Israel. He said he did not know what the information was intended for.

In convicting Yaccoub, the court in Limassol said: “There is no doubt that these are serious offences because by committing them, at the very least it potentially jeopardised the safety Israeli citizens and targets on the territory of the Cyprus Republic.”

Yaccoub was arrested days before a bomb exploded on a bus carrying Israeli tourists at an airport in Bulgaria, killing six people. Israel and Bulgaria accused Hezbollah of carrying out the attack. Hezbollah said it was not involved.

First gas from Israel’s new fields starts flowing: The strategic implications

April 01, 2013

The express drilling rig above the Tamar gas field in the Mediterranean

 

* On January 17, 2009, a team led by the Texas firm, Noble Energy Inc., discovered methane in a field (Tamar) off the Israeli coast now estimated to contain 275 billion cubic meters (9.7 trillion cubic feet) of natural gas – about half of what Europe consumes annually.

* A year later, the same team announced the discovery of monster gas field to the west of Tamar (Leviathan), which alone contains about as much gas as Europe consumes annually.

* The amount of gas discovered exceeds projected Israeli demand for at least a half century. As such, Israel will become a net exporter of gas.

***

* You can comment on this dispatch here: www.facebook.com/TomGrossMedia. Please also press “Like” on that page.

 

CONTENTS

1. Israel takes a major leap towards energy self-sufficiency
2. “Natural gas from Tamar field starts flowing” (By Sharon Udasin, Jerusalem Post, March 31, 2013)
3. “Tamar gas field has given Israel energy independence” (By Hezi Sternlicht and Zeev Klein, Israel Hayom, March 31, 2013)
4. “The strategic impact of Israel’s export of natural gas” (By David Wurmser, inFocus Quarterly, Spring 2013)


ISRAEL TAKES A MAJOR LEAP TOWARDS ENERGY SELF-SUFFICIENCY

[Note by Tom Gross]

Israel took a significant step towards energy self-sufficiency on Saturday afternoon when natural gas from the Tamar field, located 56-miles off the Israeli coast, began to flow toward the port of Ashdod through a pipeline which took four years to construct.

The natural gas will gradually replace alternatives such as diesel and fuel-oil.

Economists say the gas flow should result in significant social change and improve the standard of living in Israel.

The Minister of Energy and Water Resources, Silvan Shalom, wrote on his Facebook page that “This is Israel’s energy freedom and independence day.”

Israel will also no longer have to rely on natural gas flowing from Egypt, supplies of which have been repeatedly disrupted by terror attacks on gas pipelines in the Sinai since the fall of the Hosni Mubarak’s regime in early 2011.

I attach three articles below, and particularly recommend the third one.


AFTER FOUR YEARS OF ANTICIPATION

Natural gas from Tamar field starts flowing
By Sharon Udasin
Jerusalem Post
March 31, 2013

After four years of anticipation, natural gas from the Tamar reservoir began to flow from an offshore rig in the Mediterranean Sea into Israel on Saturday afternoon, the Energy and Water Ministry announced that evening.

Within about 24 hours from its departure from the rig, the gas will begin to arrive at the receiving station in Ashdod. Containing approximately 250 billion cubic meters of natural gas, the discovery and development of Tamar – and the subsequent find of its even bigger neighbor Leviathan – have symbolized to energy experts an opportunity for Israel to hone its energy security and freedom.

“This is a day of energy independence for Israel,” said Energy and Water Minister Silvan Shalom. “This breakthrough is the first signal for additional private companies to partake in the energy independence of the State of Israel.”

The Tamar production platform reaches a height of about 290 meters, and its weight – including the rig’s legs – amounts to some 34,000 tons.

Located approximately 90 kilometers west of Haifa is the Tamar rig itself, where the gas production wells are operating in the reservoir. A 150-kilometer-long pipeline of approximately 45 centimeters in diameter connects the rig to the Ashdod reception facility along the seabed, the Energy and Water Ministry said.

“The flow of gas from the Tamar reservoir has commenced. This is an important day for the Israeli economy,” said Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu.

Although the Tamar reservoir was discovered in 2009, the need for the gas became increasingly urgent two years ago, when the Egyptian gas supply to Israel was bombed time and time again, eventually ceasing to provide the resource altogether about a year ago.

The gas from Tamar is expected to fulfill Israel’s domestic needs for the next couple of decades, while that of Leviathan will likely be used in part for export. Although the subject of export remains quite controversial among natural gas experts, the government will vote in the near future on the conclusions of the Zemach Committee, which recommended exporting no more than 500 billion cubic meters of natural gas. The contents of Leviathan are approximately double the size of those of Tamar, and should be available within the next few years.

Having Tamar’s gas on tap will save Israel about NIS 13 billion annually on energy costs, according to the conglomerate of companies responsible for its flow. The cohort of corporations that have explored, drilled and developed the gas include Noble Energy, Delek Drilling, Avner, Isramco and Dor Gas.

“I congratulate the people of Israel on this transformational achievement, which significantly moves them toward energy independence and away from reliance on imports,” said Charles D. Davidson, chairman and CEO of Noble Energy.

“Utilizing natural gas from Tamar will provide cleaner air, save the state billions of shekels in energy costs and be an engine for economic growth,” he continued.

“The Tamar project is also a technological and commercial milestone for Noble Energy and our partners. First production and the commencement of sales have been achieved in just over four years from discovery. Building on this success, we will work with our partners and the government to sanction the next phase of development at Tamar and the domestic phase of Leviathan,” added Davidson Yitzhak Tshuva, CEO of the Delek Group. He likewise praised the fulfillment of the “blue-and-white” vision of making Israel less reliant on foreign energy sources.

“This project will change the face of the Israeli market and will ensure energy independence for the country,” Tshuva said. “This is a new era and is full of opportunities for the Israeli economy, in which one can take advantage of the natural gas on the environmental, geopolitical, social and economic level – and transform Israel into an important international player.”

From an environmental standpoint, the use of the natural gas in the Tamar reservoir will reduce carbon dioxide emissions by about 195 million tons – the equivalent of removing all vehicles from Israeli roads for 14 years, the drilling companies said in a statement.

At the ceremony two weeks ago for the changing of the guard at the Energy and Water Ministry, Shalom pledged to use the new influx of natural gas to reduce the cost of living for Israeli citizens. His predecessor, Uzi Landau – who is currently tourism minister – took pride in the expeditious accomplishment of getting Tamar online, which proved to be a much quicker process than originally expected.

To the prime minister, the timing for Tamar becoming operation was particularly noteworthy, as it fell during the Passover holiday.

“On Passover, the festival of freedom, we are taking an important step toward energy independence,” Netanyahu said.

“In the last decade, we have promoted the gas economy in Israel, something that will prove beneficial for the Israeli economy and all Israel’s citizens.”

 

GIVING ISRAEL ENERGY INDEPENDENCE

“Tamar gas field has given Israel energy independence”
By Hezi Sternlicht and Zeev Klein
Israel Hayom
March 31, 2013

After four years of exploration and drilling, as well as a $3.5 billion investment, Israel announced Saturday that the Tamar offshore gas field has finally come online, a move government officials say will diminish Israel’s dependency on foreign gas imports.
Tamar is believed to have reserves of up to 238 billion cubic meters (8.4 trillion cubic feet).

Discovered in 2009, the field, which lies some 130 kilometers (81 miles) west of Haifa, is jointly owned by American company Noble Energy and three Israeli firms: Delek, Isramco and Dor Alon.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in a statement on Saturday that the event marked “an important day for Israel’s economy.”

The Energy and Water Resources Ministry confirmed that “natural gas is now moving from the Tamar reservoir to a new naval production rig across from Ashdod, from where it will within 24 hours reach an absorption station in Ashdod.”

Energy and Water Resources Minister Silvan Shalom said, “This is Israel’s energy independence day. It is truly a historic event – Israel has received energy freedom.”

Delek Group owner Yitzhak Tshuva was quoted by Agence France-Presse as saying: “This is a very proud day for all of us. Our vision has become a reality. This is a tremendous achievement for the Israeli energy market and the beginning of a new era.”

International Relations, Intelligence and Strategic Affairs Minister Yuval Steinitz, who – while serving as finance minister in Netanyahu’s previous government – promoted legislation that paved the way for offshore drilling in Israel, said, “Pumping natural gas from Tamar will not only afford Israel clean and cheap energy, but it will also yield the state considerable revenue.”

The royalties the three Tamar partners will pay the state and Israel’s potential natural gas exports are expected to yield some 450 billion shekels (about $123 billion) in state revenue over the next 25 years, AFP said.

Israel generates approximately 40 percent of its electricity from natural gas and until 2012, Egypt provided much of those needs. That supply, however, was constantly interrupted in the wake of the Egyptian revolution, as the pipeline connecting the two countries was repeatedly blown up by terrorists. Cairo canceled its gas supply agreement with Israel in April 2012, claiming the terms of the deal were undermining Egypt’s interests.

Despite the fact that Tamar has come online, domestic electricity prices are not expected to drop. Israel Electric Corp. announced that its plan for a 6.5% price hike, slated for mid-April 2013, still stands. Tamar’s gas supplies are expected to affect the domestic consumers’ power bill in 2015 at the earliest.

Energy experts said that Tamar has the ability to meet Israel’s energy needs for decades and it is expected to save the market about 13 billion shekels ($3.6 billion) a year; as well as create thousands of new jobs and promote Israel’s position in the world energy market.
Israel’s second offshore gas field, Leviathan, which has yet to come online, is twice the size of Tamar, AFP said. It is believed to contain 450 billion cubic meters (some 15.9 trillion cubic feet) of natural gas. Once online, Leviathan has the potential to make Israel a key player in the world energy market.

The Energy and Water Resources Ministry estimated in 2012 that once Tamar and Leviathan are both fully operational, Israel would be able to export some 53% of its natural gas.

 

THE STRATEGIC IMPACT OF ISRAEL’S EXPORT OF NATURAL GAS

The Strategic Impact of Israel’s Export of Natural Gas
By David Wurmser
inFocus Quarterly
Spring 2013

In January 17, 2009, a team led by the Texas firm, Noble Energy Inc., discovered methane in a field (Tamar) now estimated to contain 275 billion cubic meters (9.7 trillion cubic feet) of natural gas – about half of what Europe consumes annually. A year later, the same team announced the discovery of monster gas field to the west of Tamar (Leviathan), which alone contains about as much gas as Europe consumes annually. There have been several other finds of smaller, but nevertheless substantial fields. In neighboring Cyprus, another field (Aphrodite) comparable to Tamar was discovered by Noble Energy, abutting and even slightly spilling into Israel’s waters. In short, Israel and its neighbor now sit atop roughly two years’ worth of European consumption.

THE GEOSTRATEGIC IMPACT OF GAS SUPPLY

Israel’s newfound energy abundance will dramatically affect its economy and resource realities, representing a major strategic change. The amount of gas discovered exceeds projected Israeli demand for at least a half century. As such, Israel will become a net exporter of gas.

While the currently known amount of commercially producible hydrocarbons does not itself make Israel an energy super-major or strategic powerhouse, Israel may have an opportunity to leverage its supply of marginally critical amounts of gas to either Europe or Asia. Unlike oil, gas neither flows to spot markets nor is sold en route to a consumer. There is no global market price like Brent Sweet Crude for oil. Gas is priced unique to each deal, nation or region. It is not globally traded as a commodity. The infrastructure to transmit gas – either via pipelines or liquefaction – is so complex, demanding, and expensive that marketing agreements and supply patterns are locked in for the long term, indeed years before the molecules even flow. Even liquefied natural gas (LNG) shipped from port to port is essentially a “locked” structure much like train lines.

The countries supplying and receiving the gas, therefore, tether their critical energy policies to the expectation of a particular supply chain, and to a particular diplomatic relationship. Since the severing of a particular source of gas is not easily replaced in an ad hoc fashion by oversupply from elsewhere, it is strategically important for a nation, even when it only represents a relatively small portion of its overall supply. Thus, even modest amounts of Israeli gas exports can carry significant strategic leverage.

The short-term inflexibility of gas trade and the difficulty of replacing disrupted supply also imply that energy prices for consumers and revenues for suppliers can be easily manipulated by marginal increases or decreases. This price sensitivity makes the question of gas supply strategically vulnerable to the geopolitical interests and machinations of third parties. Two factors – the strategic context of gas transmission structures and third-party strategic ambitions – are often as important to understanding the overall strategic significance of a specific gas supply relationship as the two dimensional question of supply and consumption for the two nations involved in the trade themselves.

EXPORTING TO EUROPE

There are five existing or proposed pipelines supplying gas to Europe from north Africa: the Trans-med pipeline (carrying 30.2 bcm/yr via Tunisia and Sicily), the Maghreb-Europe Gas Pipeline (carrying 12 bcm/yr via Gibraltar), the Medgaz pipeline (from Algeria to Almeria, Spain carrying 8 bcm, but only now about to come on-line), Greenstream (through Western Libya to Sicily had carried 11 bcm/yr but is now cut off), and finally the GALSI pipeline (which is still being planned and will run under the Mediterranean from far-eastern Algeria).

All these pipeline structures originate in the Hassi al-Riml field in Algeria. In short, three pipelines carrying almost 50 bcm/yr into Europe all originate at one point. Moreover, while the EU sought to diversify its supply of gas by building the Trans-Saharan pipeline, which would carry Nigerian gas north, even that pipe passes through to Hassi al-Riml, where it hooks up with the other three currently operating pipelines.

This makes roughly 18 percent of Europe’s gas supply extremely vulnerable. European experts – especially those energy companies along the southern littoral – are currently rethinking their dependence and diversification strategy. Europe’s grim reality could represent a unique window of opportunity for Israel to nail down long-term agreements and align export policy with a broader effort to reset Israeli-European relations.

THE LURE OF ASIA

Despite the strategic benefit Europe represents, Asia may yet emerge as Israel’s preferred export destination. While the prices the Leviathan partners could demand by trading to Asia are higher, price is only partially the reason Asia will likely emerge as the most attractive export destination.

Any Israeli gas trade with Europe would implicitly impact Russia’s domination of Europe’s gas supply. Not only would Israeli gas offer a backstop to any Russian threat to cut off supply as blackmail, but also a marginal addition of Israeli supply can create oversupply. Even light oversupply can cause prices to drop sharply in the European region – which whittles down the bottom line of Russian gas companies integrally linked to Russia’s ruling elite. In short, unless Russia manages to gain controlling interests in Israel’s gas sector, Russia will fear Israeli exports will tread on its sacred interests – a strategic challenge which Moscow will answer in ways which could give both Israel and Europe pause before proceeding.

Additionally, Europe may be vulnerable, but its current demand is largely met. Asia, on the other hand, has major gaps approaching between its anticipated demand and supply. While Europe may eventually realize its vulnerability can be addressed by buying Israeli gas, Asia already realizes it. That explains why the two most serious contenders to attempt or successfully buy into Leviathan have been Asian companies (CNOOC and Woodside).

Finally, the Leviathan partners have signed an initial agreement with the Australian firm, Woodside, to acquire about a third of the rights to the field in order to tap into its liquefaction experience, marketing structure, and capital. But Woodside is oriented toward marketing gas in Asia, and has structured the initial agreement to a schedule for building a liquefaction plant generally assumed to service trade to Asia. In short, the shape of the partnership will have a significant impact on whether the gas flows east or west.

While the export destination of Israel’s gas is strategically important, the context and geostrategic circumstances of how gas might be transmitted to either Europe or Asia must first be examined, since these latter factors may dictate the shape of the former.

EXPORT TRANSMISSION STRUCTURES VIA CYPRUS

Early discussions after Leviathan’s discovery focused on building a pipeline from Israeli fields, through Cyprus, to Greece. But the tide has shifted in the last two years. Tensions over Cyprus, the growing role Gazprom and Russia appear to be playing there, and the overall instability and potential corruption which appears to be plaguing Cypriot politics and business, reminded many how problematic it can be to place critical infrastructure there.

Moreover, the attractiveness of Cyprus diminished within the context of change in Egypt and the entry of Woodside as an equal partner in the Leviathan field. Any eastward-directed export infrastructure anchored to Cyprus would tend to rely on the Suez Canal, in essence locking what will emerge as Israel’s most vital industry into a trade route that passes through an Egypt politically dominated by the Muslim Brotherhood, which remains ideologically opposed to provisions in the 1979 peace treaty allowing Israeli passage through the Canal.

Finally, although Cyprus has enjoyed a record of stability since the mid-1970s, several key trends indicate that instability will likely rise on Cyprus:

Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan’s desire to reestablish a neo-Ottoman imperial empire under a rehabilitated “Caliphate” has driven Turkey to regard the Greek islands, the Balkans, and Cyprus to the north, as well as Syria, Iraq, Lebanon, and Israel to the south as “lost territories.”

While never having surrendered its claims in Cyprus, Turkey’s attempt to enter the European state system has been linked to the island’s apparent stability since the mid-1970s. The more Turkey reorients and aspires to assert its Middle Eastern and Islamic credentials, the more its claims in Cyprus assume importance and intensity.

THE TURKISH DILEMMA

Most recently, the Levant Basin Energy Report posited the idea that Israel could build an export pipeline from the Leviathan field to Turkey, and from Turkey to Europe. At the end of January 2013, Director General of Israel’s Ministry of Energy and Water Resources Shaul Tzemach indicated that Turkey could be an anchor customer for Israeli gas, and that the option of gas exports to Turkey was practical, despite the current reigning political tensions. As reported in Globes, Tzemach said of cooperating with Turkey, “There are quite a few geopolitical barriers, but if we know how to create the right conditions, it is possible. Gas should be used as a stabilizing factor which leads to cooperation between countries and includes multinationals and international parties with an interest in regional stability.”

Officials from Turkey, however, appear less eager. Almost the same day Tzemach was quoted, Turkey’s Deputy Energy Minister told the Turkish daily Hurriyet that even if Israel 1) fulfilled Turkish demands for an open apology for the Mavi Marmara incident, 2) compensated families of the victims and 3) ended the blockade on Gaza – all dubious in and of themselves – Israel’s resource cooperation with Greek Cyprus would preclude any energy cooperation with Turkey.

And even if such a pipeline were built, it would be subject to:

* Geopolitical blackmail on Ankara’s part.

* Sabotage: Pipelines to Turkey are bombed regularly. Indeed, it is precisely the tenuousness of pipeline supply to Turkey that led to the Turkish government’s interest in the Israeli pipeline, which it will be no more able to secure than its other pipelines.

* competitive pressure on Russia’s supply to the Turkish and European markets. It may be possible (but unlikely) to address this specific concern by bringing Gazprom into the deal in a controlling position, but bringing in Gazprom would only multiply the geopolitical vulnerability to blackmail and expose the pipeline system to Turkish-Russian and Russian-Israeli vagaries in addition to those between Turkey and Israel.

But perhaps even more important than the mercantile problem this poses to Russia, Moscow now sees itself threatened by the rise of a resurgent Ottoman Sunni empire to its south and is seeking every way possible to cut Ankara’s ambitions to size. Being on the wrong side of Russia and Iran on the issue of a facility or structure in Turkey that cannot effectively be protected from terror is a risky endeavor. And both Tehran and Moscow would be tempted towards sabotage.

THE JORDANIAN OPTION

Some in the Israeli government and political spectrum view the anchoring of an export structure to a liquefaction terminal in Aqaba on the Red Sea as an important strategic objective. Moreover, there is a powerful constituency, reinforced by international diplomatic preferences, to advance the option of lashing Israel and Jordan tightly through natural gas structures as a way to advance the stalled peace process.

Still, it is highly unlikely that this option will ultimately prevail. Israel’s recent experience with Egypt, where half of Israel’s natural gas supply was permanently severed because of the destruction of the Egyptian-Israeli gas pipeline following the collapse of the Mubarak regime, suggests Israel will view with apprehension any scheme to anchor its critical infrastructure and an emerging major portion of its GDP to a potentially unstable Jordanian regime.

Even assuming the Jordanian government does survive, political conflict in the Middle East in the age of the “Arab Spring” is increasingly expressing itself through attacks on energy infrastructure, particularly pipelines. Since Iran, Syria, and Hezbollah already have defined Israel’s gas industry as a strategic target, Israel’s government expects them to attempt to strike Israel’s export structure at any point of vulnerability. Moreover, Iran and Turkey – which have had some role in attacks on each others’ pipelines in Iraq, Syria, and Turkey – both view the successful emergence of Aqaba as a major energy transfer hub with tremendous strategic apprehension. In order to vie for control and undermine the viability of an emerging Kurdish state, both want all northern Iraqi gas and oil to either remain undeveloped or flow through their respective territories and are likely to sabotage any alternative, such as Aqaba. Israel’s Defense Forces (IDF) and the broader security establishment will almost certainly adopt the view that they cannot guarantee the protection of this critical infrastructure – which they are tasked to do – unless it is accompanied by the IDF’s direct presence.

LIQUEFYING THE GAS AT HOME

It is likely that the gas will be liquefied on Israeli territory and exported from there. Indeed, not only did the Tzemach Committee – tasked by the Israeli government to recommend overall natural gas policy, which the government may enact as law – expressed a “strong preference” for any export facility to be located on Israeli territory. Globes reported that officials from Israel’s Ministry of Energy and Water Resources have said the terminal would be built in Israel despite the bureaucratic difficulties, since “no sensible government is prepared to have its gas export installations in another country, however friendly it may be.”

Israel’s government may also seek to leverage and align gas export policy to broader foreign policy objectives by favoring a flexible export strategy that exploits the country’s geographic position to service both Asia and Europe, allowing it to contemplate a dual-continent approach. Such a plan could potentially involve the construction of LNG terminals anchored at either end to the Eilat-Ashqelon Pipeline Corp. (EAPC) structure, depending on the volumes of resource discovered in the Levant Basin.

Indeed, many Israeli officials view the importance of gas export in the context of Egypt’s deterioration – not only in terms of hostility to Israel, but in terms of anti-Western tendencies and chaos, all of which raise questions about the viability of the Suez Canal as a major European-Asian transit route. These officials see a cross-Israel natural gas pipeline as an additional anchor for transforming Israel into a major trans-ocean passageway connecting the Mediterranean and Red Seas. This would reassert Israel as a major trade and transportation route as an alternative to the Suez, and by developing the Eilat area and by extension, as Europe’s portal to Asia. The result would be to enhance Israel’s strategic value to the West.