04/08 Links Pt1: Memorial held for slain American Taylor Force; Inconvenient genocide; Iron Dome Turns 5
Khaled Abu Toameh: Hamas’s New Way of Poisoning the Minds of Palestinian Children
Since its violent takeover of the Gaza Strip in 2007, Hamas has been using children as human shields and “soldiers” in the fight against Israel. Children dressed in military uniforms and brandishing automatic rifles and knives have become an integral part of Hamas’s military parades and rallies.
Caught on camera, Palestinian children are taught to hate those who are perceived as enemies of Islam. This is how new generations of Palestinians are raised on the glorification of suicide bombers and jihadists.
PLO Executive Committee member Hanan Ashrawi expressed revulsion over the video, noting that the preachers’ sermons were full of intimidation and horror. This behavior, Ashrawi, stated, demonstrates the “reactionary nature” of the Hamas regime in the Gaza Strip, which would have a negative impact on the development of society and the values of Palestinians. Ashrawi also denounced the practice as a blatant violation of conventions protecting children rights.
Even the Marxist terrorist group, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), has come out against the video. The group voiced outrage at the “inhumane practices” against the children and called for an immediate inquiry into this form of mental torture and degradation. The group also warned against brainwashing the children and indoctrinating them through religious bigotry.
The Gaza City school video captures on camera the Palestinian leaders’ brainwashing and abuse of their own children.
It also captures the march of Palestinian society towards endorsing the tactics and ideology of radical Islam and groups such as ISIS and Al-Qaeda. Now the peace process in the Middle East awaits an exorcism of its own.
Caroline Glick: Inconvenient genocide
The Christian communities of Iraq, Syria, Egypt and Lebanon are well on the way to joining their Jewish cousins. The Jewish communities of these states predated Islam by a millennium, and were vibrant until the 20th century. But the Arab world’s war on the Jewish state, and more generally on Jews, wiped out the Jewish populations several decades ago.
And now the Christian communities, which like the Jews, predate Islam, are being targeted for eradication.
The ongoing genocide of Middle Eastern Christians at the hands of Sunni jihadists is a moral outrage. Does it also affect Israeli national interests? What do we learn from the indifference of Western governments – led by the Obama administration – to their annihilation? True, after years of deliberately playing down the issue and denying the problem, the Obama administration is finally admitting it exists.
Embarrassed by the US House of Representatives’ unanimous adoption of a resolution last month recognizing that Middle Eastern Christians are being targeted for genocide, the State Department finally acknowledged the obvious on March 25, when Secretary of State John Kerry stated that Islamic State is conducting a “genocide of Christians, Yazidis and Shi’ites.”
Kerry’s belated move, which State Department lawyers were quick to insist has no operational significance, raises two questions.
The Israeli Scout Movement held a memorial service for Taylor Force, the American graduate student killed in a terror attack in Tel Aviv.
The event Thursday marked 30 days — the shloshim mourning period in Judaism — since the March 8 death of Force, an MBA student at Vanderbilt University who was on a school trip to Israel to learn about the high-tech industry when he was killed.
As many as 10 people were wounded in the stabbing attack, including Force’s wife, at and near the Jaffa Port.
Force was an Eagle Scout with the Boy Scouts of America. At the ceremony, held near the site of his death, he was posthumously awarded with an Israeli Scout uniform and Badge of Honor. William Grant, deputy chief of mission at the U.S. Embassy in Israel, also attended the ceremony, which was co-organized by The Israel Project.
Force was a 2009 graduate of the West Point U.S. Military Academy and saw tours of duty in Afghanistan and Iraq.
In Response To The Criticism, Fatah Spokesman Implies: ‘Abbas’s Statements Were A Political Maneuver
Following the extensive criticism leveled at ‘Abbas, Fatah spokesman Osama Al-Qawasmeh also defended him, stressing in a press statement that ‘Abbas had never relinquished any of the Palestinian principles, while hinting that his statements had been intended for Israeli ears and constituted a political maneuver. He added that nobody should question ‘Abbas’s national positions, which are clear, unchanging, and committed to the national Palestinian principles that are part of the Palestinian national consensus. Condemning “some shrill voices” that were heard recently, he said that they expressed positions devoid of national understanding – positions that do not understand the magnitude of the challenges the Palestinian people is facing in light of the great events that are happening in the Arab region and the world, and do not understand some of the political maneuvers that the Palestinian president is making. He reminded these critics that, in the past, some people attacked Yasser Arafat for statements he had made that were intended for the ears of the international community and Israeli society. In response to such criticism, Fatah official Salah Khalaf Abu Iyad once remarked: ‘The entire world and all its leaders are allowed to make maneuvers and [employ] tactics, and only the Palestinians are not allowed to do this?’
Al-Qawasmeh stressed that, throughout his decade as president, ‘Abbas has never relinquished any Palestinian principle. Rather, he undertook the most important political, legal and diplomatic battles, rejected all the American and Israeli threats and pressures and, with the Palestinian people at his side, made important political achievements for the Palestinian cause.
The Hebrew-language media does not take too lightly any challenges that can be perceived as undermining the delicate status quo in the Jewish state — as evident in the case of Knesset lawmaker Zouheir Bahloul, who in a bid to distinguish between Palestinians who attempt to stab Israeli soldiers and those who deliberately target civilians, asserted that attackers of the first sort should technically not be labeled as terrorists.
The unanimous attitude regarding Bahloul expressed both in Yedioth Ahronoth and in Israel Hayom, usually eager to take the opposing sides of any political debate, is atypical, but underscores the blanket dismissal of Bahloul’s suggestion (which the lawmaker claims he uttered on a purely philosophical level) that an attack on civilians and in attack on soldiers may not necessarily be equal from an ethical standpoint.
Israel Hayom, for example, does not even attempt to mask its dismay with the already widely criticized remarks by Zionist Union MK Bahloul, an Arab Israeli former sports broadcaster and journalist, who made the comments Thursday in reference to the stabbing attack last month in which a soldier shot a disarmed Palestinian assailant in the head.
“Is this how a Zionist Union MK speaks?” reads the headline of the paper, which, it should be noted, is considered to be affiliated with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his right-wing Likud party. Israel Hayom’s editors choose to present Netanyahu’s own condemnation of the opposition lawmaker’s “embarrassing” comments, and highlight the fact that even Bahloul’s party members chose to distance themselves from him in response to the controversial statement.
The Israel Police said Friday they arrested a 25-year-old Palestinian man outside Jerusalem’s Damascus Gate who was carrying a large knife in his bag.
The Palestinian, a resident of the West Bank in Israel illegally, was brought in for questioning, where he told police he bought the knife and came to the area to carry out a stabbing attack on Israelis.
The suspect was not immediately named.
Damascus Gate has been the site of many attacks in recent months, including a drive-by shooting in early March. In February, three people were injured in a stabbing attack there — two border guards and a bystander who was hit by shrapnel. Earlier that month, 19-year-old Border Police cadet Hadar Cohen was killed in a shooting attack at the Damascus Gate.
An explosive device was detonated early Friday morning during a routine operation in the Gaza Strip. No injuries were reported from the blast.
Initial reports show that during a planned operation near the security fence in northern Gaza, an explosive device targeting an IDF D9 bulldozer detonated remotely.
A military source said that “the device was detonated west of the fence’s parameter”.
Last January, two explosive devices targeting IDF soldiers were detonated along the border of the Gaza Strip by a local terrorist cell.
New testimony has been received in the case of the soldier who two weeks ago shot dead a wounded Arab terrorist in Hevron, minutes after the terrorist and an accomplice stabbed and wounded a soldier.
The soldier’s commander, who is the Kfir Battalion Commander, gave testimony strengthening the soldier’s version of events in an investigation by the army’s Criminal Investigations Department (CID), reports Maariv on Friday morning.
In his defense, the soldier, who is on trial on manslaughter charges, has argued that he shot the terrorist over concerns that he was moving to detonate a hidden bomb belt thought to be under his unseasonably warm coat.
The Kfir Commander in his testimony said that if he faced a similar situation in which he was afraid a live terrorist was about to detonate a bomb belt, he would shoot the terrorist too.
Another important revelation came in the investigation from the soldier’s comrade who was on the scene, identified as Corporal Tomer, who said the soldier told him the terrorist “needed to die.”
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu issued a sharp response late Thursday night to reports that Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas plans to push forward a UN Security resolution later this month condemning the settlements.
“Abu Mazen [Abbas] is taking a step that will push negotiations further away,” Netanyahu said in a statement. “The only way to advance peace is by direct negotiations and Abu Mazen is avoiding this. The Palestinians educate their children on a daily basis that the settlements are Tel Aviv, Haifa and Acre.”
The move seemed to catch Jerusalem by surprise, as the focus of concern about activities at the UN has been centered on whether the French would bring a resolution on the Mideast peace process to the Security Council, and whether the US would veto it.
There has also been concern that US President Barack Obama, in the waning days of his tenure, might bring a proposal to the Security Council setting down his own parameters for a resolution.
According to Haaretz, the PA circulated a draft resolution this week to a number of Security Council members condemning settlement construction, and Abbas would like to bring the resolution to a vote when he visits the UN on April 22 to take part in a conference on climate.
“The Palestinians must understand that there are no shortcuts,” Israel’s Ambassador to the United Nations Danny Danon said on Thursday in reaction to reports of a Palestinian Security Council draft resolution condemning Israeli building in the West Bank and Jerusalem as an obstacle to peace.
According to reports citing Western diplomats and senior Palestinian officials, the Palestinian Authority is circulating the resolution, which has been in the works since the beginning of the year, to UN Security Council members.
The reports also state that PA President Mahmoud Abbas is hoping to bring it to a vote in two weeks.
In his statement Danny Danon stressed that “the only way to promote negotiations starts by them condemning terrorism and stopping the incitement, and ends with direct negotiations between the two sides.”
Zalman Shoval will never forget the Jan. 17, 1991. Then the Israeli ambassador to the U.S., Shoval received an urgent telephone call from James Baker, the U.S. secretary of state, summoning him to the White House immediately and asking him to “use the back entrance.” Upon arriving at the White House, Shoval was informed that the U.S. military was planning to invade Kuwait in the coming 90 minutes and liberate it from Saddam Hussein. “Tell your government,” he was told.
Shoval hurried away from the White House, but because of horrendous traffic, he soon realized that he would never make it back to the embassy in time to make the call from a secure line.
“I took a mobile phone from someone on the street and called Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir directly. I knew that normally he answered calls on that number himself, without the help of secretaries or aides. I told him, ‘The thing they promised to inform us about, it is happening in 90 minutes.’ He answered me with one word, ‘fine,’ and ended the call.”
Shoval, 85, served as Israel’s ambassador to the U.S. twice. Once in 1990-1993 and again in 1998-2000. During his terms he maintained close relationships with Prime Ministers Yitzhak Shamir and Yitzhak Rabin and later Benjamin Netanyahu and Ehud Barak. He was among the founders of the Rafi Party in 1965, and in 1970, when David Ben-Gurion resigned from the Knesset, Shoval took his seat. He also played an active role in establishing the Likud Party in 1973.
The US military on Thursday night denied reports that a covert American missile base is being constructed in central Israel.
Earlier Thursday, the Israeli Walla news website cited “security sources” as saying that a secret US missile defense base was being built.
According to the report, the alleged anti-missile base was to be staffed continuously by US military personnel and to have access to Israeli radar and computer systems.
“The US military is not building a missile base in Israel,” US European Command spokesperson Lt. Col. David Westover, Jr. told The Times of Israel in an email.
Westover did, however, acknowledge that the US does “maintain some limited infrastructure on existing IDF bases.”
Turkey’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs on Friday said “progress” had been made in the reconciliation talks with Israel and maintained that a deal to restore diplomatic relations between the two countries would be finalized “very soon.”
Turkey and Israel held a fresh round of talks Thursday in London in an effort to normalize ties after relations were partially frozen five years ago.
“The teams made progress towards finalizing the agreement and closing the gaps, and agreed that the deal will be finalized in the next meeting which will be convened very soon,” the Turkish ministry said in a statement. The ministry also revealed that the negotiations had been held in London.
There was no confirmation of the ostensible progress from Israel.
Senior sources in the Israeli security establishment accused Turkey on Thursday of playing a “double game” in rapprochement talks with Israel, even as the negotiating teams on both sides met the same day in an undisclosed location.
“There isn’t really anyone to talk with in Turkey. At this point they’re using us to pressure the Russians,” the sources said as cited by Walla.
The statement refers to how Ankara has been at a standoff with Moscow in recent months, ever since Turkey shot down a Russian fighter jet on the Syrian border last November, and Russia responded with crippling sanctions. With the loss of its top provider of natural gas Turkey began normalization talks with Israel, even as the Jewish state began moving towards developing its offshore gas resources.
The sources noted that the normalization talks were largely motivated by Turkey’s desire to buy gas from Israel, and even at the start of the talks last December sources revealed there were plans to discuss a pipeline from Israel to Turkey later on.
According to the security sources cited Thursday, the Turkish authorities have yet to close the Hamas terror headquarters in Istanbul, and according to reports the country continues to purchase oil from Islamic State (ISIS) despite global criticism.
The U.S. could be key to coordinating an effort to bring Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, the Gulf kingdoms, and Turkey to create a mechanism for regional oversight of the import of construction supplies into Gaza alongside tight supervision of reconstruction. Eventually, this could even lead to a NATO-supervised port in Gaza and a relaxation of Israel’s blockade. If this can be done in tandem with what is left of the Palestinian Authority, all the better.
In return, Hamas must agree to expose and destroy the terror tunnels reaching into Israel. Obviously, this is easier said than done. But in return, Hamas would gain much needed legitimacy, increased international aid, actual reconstruction, and a placated public who should not be living in squalor and ruin—even if it is of their own making. The regional moderates making up such mechanism would gain much-needed stability in an unstable region as they deal with a rising tide of Islamic extremism, the Syrian civil war, and a resurgent Iran. The U.S., going into a presidential election, would gain much needed quiet for a key ally while also contributing to regional stability.
The next Gaza war is not inevitable. By combining intelligence, military and technological efforts, and a discreet and concerted diplomatic push to restrain Hamas and speed up reconstruction, a fourth round of fighting can be pushed off significantly. It’s certainly worth a try.
The son of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas holds $1 million worth of shares in a Palestinian investment company with strong ties to the PA, Haaretz reported Thursday night.
The revelation came from documents obtained from the “Panama Papers” data leak, which has provided details on the offshore holdings of a dozen current and former world leaders, as well as businessmen, criminals, celebrities and sports stars.
According to Haaretz, the Arab Palestinian Investment Company (APIC), launched in 1995, is today a major financial player in the Palestinian economy, with involvement in the food, medical and automobile industries as well as public relations and a host of shopping centers.
The PA does not directly hold shares in APIC, but the Palestinian Investment Fund, with close ties to the PA chairman, holds 18 percent of its stocks. APIC’s board of directors has historically featured members with close ties to the head of the PA — previously Yasser Arafat and now Mahmoud Abbas.
At least five Egyptian soldiers, a military officer and a civilian woman were killed, and 15 injured, on Thursday in the Sinai peninsula, after armored personnel carriers exploded in two separate incidents, security and medical sources said.
Islamic State claimed responsibility for the attacks on several websites.
Several explosive devices were planted on the road in Rafah and southern Sheikh Zuwayed and were remotely detonated as soon as the vehicles passed by, the sources said.
Egypt’s military spokesman could not immediately be reached for comment.
An unprecedented debate is taking place in Lebanon over Israel’s definition in the country’s school curriculum. While Lebanon and the Jewish state are technically enemies at war, some teachers are now asking to rewrite this definition, the Beirut daily Al-Akhbar reported Thursday.
Lebanon’s Ministry of Education announced recently that it is reviewing the curriculum taught in the country’s schools for the last 19 years.
According to the report, the Center for Educational Research and Development, a national organization operating within the Ministry of Education, held discussions about the goals of the Lebanese curriculum last week. Some members of the committee for Arabic language studies expressed their opposition to the inclusion of the phrase “animosity toward the oppressing Zionist entity” within the curriculum’s general goals.
The teachers said they “do not want to involve politics in the education system that should be neutral and not subject to political perceptions.
We do not want to educate our children to hate, even if the enemy occupies our land, violates our sovereignty and overlooks our border.”
A Lebanese military court sentenced former information minister Michel Samaha to 13 years in prison with hard labor on Friday for attempting to carry out “terrorist acts,” a judicial source told AFP.
Samaha was convicted of transporting explosives to carry out attacks and assassinations of political and religious figures in Lebanon with the help of Syrian security services.
The ex-minister was arrested in 2012 and sentenced in May 2015 to four and a half years in prison, but that conviction was quashed a month later and a retrial ordered.
“The prosecution asked for the death penalty but he was sentenced to 13 years with hard labor,” the judicial source said.
Under Lebanese law, the actual time Samaha has been sentenced to amounts to around 10 years.
Russia’s support for Iran’s imperial push into the Arab world has been visible for some time. Russia has frequently played spoiler in efforts to diplomatically restrain Iran’s nuclear program and is in the process of selling Iran an S-300 anti-aircraft system that would protect Iran’s nuclear program militarily. The increased intelligence cooperation between Iran and Russia became publicly visible in late 2014, and recently this became an official intelligence-sharing cell in Baghdad that also includes the Iraqi government and Assad—both under significant Iranian sway.
American hegemony in the Middle East is thus severely eroded already, and an Iranian-Russian axis is taking shape in its place. It cannot bring peace—having neither the forces nor the inclination to do so, relying on sectarian instruments that create their own counterweight—but it can secure the key zones needed by two malign international actors, while leaving the rest to chaos and violence that is already destabilizing European politics.
During the Aleppo assault, there was an outbreak, among prominent supporters of the Iran nuclear deal, of recognition that the Obama administration is effectively supporting Tehran and Moscow in Syria. One of the stranger phenomena is that those advocates condemn the latter but hold to their support for the former, never making the connection that the one facilitated the other. Perhaps that recognition will come. Whether it will be in time to save Syria from the dire—and ultimately false—choice of the Islamic Republic or the Islamic State remains to be seen.
US Secretary of State John Kerry on Tuesday defended Russia’s efforts against those who doubted the country would play a positive roll in ending hostilities in the Middle East.
“If they hadn’t played a constructive role, we would not have had an agreement with Iran,” he told the Charlie Rose show.
“If they hadn’t played a constructive role, we would not have gotten the chemical weapons out of Syria […] we would not have gotten the cessation of hostilities or everybody at the table in Geneva,” Kerry added.
Ahead of a new round of negotiations in Geneva, Kerry reiterated his belief that Syrian President Bashar Assad would ultimately need to step down in order for peace to be achieved.
Israel continues to be a spectator as the Syrian tragedy unfolds, with occasional pinpoint interventions when immediate national security interests are at stake. The disappearance of the Syrian military threat to Israel is not, of course, inimical to its interests. But the entrenchment of Iran in Damascus, with substantial Russian help, constitutes a critical national security threat to Israel, because it strengthens the radical axis led by Iran in a Middle East from which the U.S. has largely retreated. The possibility of opening a new front on the Golan Heights is a secondary issue that also needs the attention of the Israeli military.
The Syrian arena provides Israel with diplomatic opportunities to nourish relationships with reluctant actors. Jerusalem must work under the assumption that Syria cannot easily be fixed and that conflict is likely to continue. Israel’s interactions within its strategic environment are inherently limited. The use of force, often inevitable in our neighborhood, must be carefully calibrated in light of domestic and international constraints.
Russia decided to partially withdrawal its troop from Syria due to Moscow’s disappointment over failures by pro-regime Iranian and Hezbollah forces to achieve victories against opposition forces fighting to topple the Assad government, the Saudi news-site Elaph reported Monday night.
According to the report, Russia had been concerned about air support and bombed regions where Iranian and Hezbollah troops were located to face off Syrian opposition elements and Islamic State militants. However, Russia reportedly did not receive mutual coverage on the ground.
The report added that disagreements between Moscow and its allies embattled in Syria ran so deep that Russian President Vladimir Putin announced, without warning, his plans to pull his troops out of Syria.
“The division of opinions between Russia and Iran and Hezbollah were stronger than (the Russian’s) pact with the Syrian regime, which led to the Russian pullout,” the report cited a source as saying. “In addition, the coordination between Russia and the West in arranging a ceasefire and negotiations in Syria contributed to the downsizing of forces. Iran and Hezbollah got an unhappy surprise from this coordination.”
Iran’s involvement in the conflicts in Syria and Iraq is meant not only to ensure the survival of Bashar al-Assad’s regime and weaken anti-Shi’ite militants in the region, but to ensure that Iranian weapons smuggling to Syria and Lebanon continues unhindered, according to the analysis of a senior Arab intelligence official speaking to Breitbart Jerusalem.
The issue of weapons smuggling, the official noted, demonstrates that Iran’s regional interests are markedly different from those of Russia.
“The Russians aren’t planning to become occupiers,” he said.
Indeed, they seek to strengthen their hold in Syria, their main military base in the region, but Iran seeks to wield influence over Iraq, Syria, and Lebanon. In Iraq and Syria they are the real decision-makers, hence they oppose Russia’s support for the attempts to resolve the conflict, because it may undermine their hegemony.
Iran is prodding the Syrian army to complete its takeover of Islamic State-controlled areas near the Iraqi border, he added, in order to enable a free flow of smuggled weapons.
In a ceremony to mark Iran’s National Day of Nuclear Technology, the Islamic Republic on Thursday announced the unveiling of twelve new, self-developed nuclear products in several different fields, ranging from fuel and laser technology to power plants and reactors.
Among the products unveiled at the ceremony, which was attended by Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, were new centrifuge systems and fuel rod complexes for testing reactors, according to the Iranian Fars news.
The report quoted a spokesman for the Iranian Atomic Energy Organization referring to “new nuclear achievements” in “fuel, laser, power plants and health fields.”
During Thursday’s event, Rouhani also announced the establishment of the Pasman Gor nuclear site in Anarak region, as well as the publication of three books related to nuclear technology and the Islamic Republic’s nuclear program.
The United States suggested Thursday it was open to a “new arrangement” with Iran for peacefully resolving disputes such as Tehran’s recent ballistic missile tests, while America’s Sunni allies in the Persian Gulf said Iran must stop sending forces to Syria and weapons to Yemen if it wants to normalize ties with its neighbors.
Setting the stage for President Barack Obama’s summit with regional leaders in Saudi Arabia later this month, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry met with the foreign ministers of the six-nation Gulf Cooperation Council to advance a series of proposals aimed at easing Arabs’ concerns about last year’s Iran nuclear deal and the warming of ties between the U.S. and Iran. These include providing new counterterrorism, conventional military, missile defense and cybersecurity capabilities.
Kerry raised several other ideas, including a possible partnership between the GCC and NATO to help stabilize the conflict-ravaged Arabian Peninsula. He pledged $139 million in new U.S. humanitarian assistance for Yemen to be doled out over the coming year, but his most interesting suggestion concerned the Iranian ballistic missile activities the U.S. had denounced as violations of a United Nations ban.
A moment after declaring America was united with Persian Gulf countries against the Iranian missile tests, Kerry said the U.S. and its partners were telling Iran that they were “prepared to work on a new arrangement to find a peaceful solution to these issues.” He said Iran first had to “make it clear to everybody that they are prepared to cease these kinds of activities that raise questions about credibility and questions about intentions.” Kerry didn’t elaborate further. (h/t Yenta Press)
The Israeli Air Force (IAF) celebrated on Thursday, at exactly 5:16pm, five years since the first rocket interception by the Iron Dome system.
It began with the historic interception of a rocket fired from northern Gaza towards an Ashkelon neighborhood, and since then it has performed more than 1,000 anti-rocket interceptions from 8000 launches the system has identified. These were carried out in seven rounds of escalation and two operations (Operation Pillar of Fire and Operation Protective Edge). The system’s success rate after five years is about ninety percent.
“It’s like one’s child’s birthday, where you can recall where you were and what you did on that day,” the commander of the air defense system, Brigadier General Zvika Haimovich told Ynet.
The senior officer, who was on duty as the air defense wing commander, noted that “it was only five weeks since we had received the system. We deployed it in the field on Sunday and on Thursday evening the first interception happened. I hurried out of the Defense Ministry to the area to investigate the interception, and on the way I received dozens of greetings on the phone.”
Iron Dome best Interceptions
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