Political Theatrics | January 17, 2010
At the beginning of the new year, German weekly magazine Der Spiegel ran a controversial report claiming that the Lebanese movement Hezbollah was involved in drug trafficking to finance its “terrorist operations against Israel”. The article proceeded to allege that individuals involved in the cartel had contacts with the central nexus of the resistance movement including its Secretary-General. Needless to state, no factual evidence was cited in support of the claims as in the case of a growing list of previous smear-campaigns.
In his widely acclaimed book, ‘Resistance is the Essence of the Islamist Revolution’, director of Conflicts Forum, Alastair Crooke, argues that the West not only suffers from a “blind spot” when it comes to comprehending ‘political Islam’, but that it regularly employs an historically potent association of Islam with violence to drive in a perception of “reason capsized into madness” when depicting present-day resistance groups. As such, these groups come to symbolise everything that an idealised West isn’t; a big-toothed bogeyman of sorts. The recent allegations made by Der Spiegel touch on these historical stereotypes, and in tune with age-old precedent, they aim to influence policy patterns in one form or another.
Before examining potential policy implications, a brief survey of Der Spiegel’s coverage of Hezbollah over recent years is instructive:
“Again and again [Nasrallah] seeks to provoke: No mention is made without any incitement against Jews.” (18.08.2006); “Hezbollah’s high-tech weapons endanger Germany Navy” (15.09.2006); “Hezbollah is not Suppenküche! It is a war party that wants to destroy Israel!” (23.03.2007); “Israel must adjust to a new wave of terrorist attacks against “Jewish targets” overseas … Hezbollah [has] activated its “sleeper” cells.” (21.07.2008), et al.
These brief snippets do not even begin to take into account the derogatory imagery – bordering on outright racist – resorted to when portraying supporters of Hezbollah. If you’re on planet Der Spiegel, these individuals are nonsensical maniacs with “crooked teeth” whose sole aptitude is sloganeering, whereas their fellow Lebanese are cultured beings whose women don “Fendi handbag[s]”.
To suggest the description ‘asinine’ fits well with this variety of journalism, far from sounding harsh, it would seem more like an understatement.
In the run-up to the June 2009 elections in Lebanon, Der Spiegel put together its most daring attack to-date against the Lebanese movement by linking it to the assassination of former PM Rafik Hariri. Less than two weeks from ballot day, the German magazine’s blinding front-page headline: “Breakthrough in Tribunal Investigation: New Evidence Points to Hezbollah in Hariri Murder”, had unmistakably clear motives. Despite the rapturous outburst, Der Spiegel was unbecomingly silent after the elections; the breakthrough that was glowingly pitched mere days earlier as an outcome of “serendipity à la Sherlock Holmes and the state-of-the-art technology used by cyber detectives” was deemed unworthy of further commentary. The story had satisfied its use.
Moving on to present, the timing for the explosive drug-cartel exposé is likewise edifying. In the US, the “Israel Lobby’s War on Al Manar TV” reflects a re-energised penchant on Capitol Hill to plaster the Lebanese movement with the dreaded “T” word. 
As with most, if not all, matters of relevance to the Middle East, one can trace the causes for Washington’s disposition to the not too distant Tel Aviv. The comments of Israeli Defense Minister, Ehud Barak, over the past week have heightened the possibility of a new war against Gaza, and increased the likelihood of another “July War” against Lebanon. Whilst the editors at Ha’aretz are making no secrets of an open-inclination towards an inevitable war path, their suggestion that the Israeli political-military complex calculates war decisions on the basis of whether and when all its citizens feasibly possess gas masks is rather inane, amongst other things. All in all, the prospect of war looms large over the Middle East with Hobbes’ caveat ringing loud and clear, “the nature of war, consisteth not in actual fighting; but in the known disposition thereto”. Within this context, smear-campaigns and fear-mongering have obvious ends in mind.
Far more importantly, however, Der Spiegel’s smear-campaign against Hezbollah is aimed at policy circles within the EU. Over recent months, there has been growing momentum to adopt “dialogue” as the preferred paradigm in coming to grips with resistance movements in the Middle East. Organisations that have consistently stressed the importance of mutual dialogue, such as the Conflicts Forum, will have been encouraged, no doubt, by the positive steps taken during 2009 to shift away from a “failed” policy. 
Of the more notable exchanges, former British Cabinet member MP Clare Short visited Damascus to hold talks with Khaled Meshal, as part of a small delegation of MPs after which she underlined the need to “talk to Hamas”. Later in the same month, MP Hussein Hajj Hassan from the Loyalty to the Resistance party affiliated to Hezbollah visited Britain to take part in a symposium dealing with issues concerning the Middle East. Three months later in June, EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana met with Hajj Hassan in Beirut, marking the first time a senior EU diplomat held talks with the political party.
The end of 2009 saw further drama for Israel. Towards the close of its rotating EU presidency role, Sweden proposed a resolution to recognize East Jerusalem as the capital of Palestine. By this time, Tel Aviv had simply seen enough. Pro-Israeli lobby groups and EU allies (primarily France and Germany) frantically pushed their weight around, and heavily watered down the draft resolution which eventually called for Jerusalem as “the future capital of the two states”. 
Meanwhile, Israel’s foreign ministry, which has unsurprisingly shed all considerations for diplomatic courtesy under Avigdor Lieberman, lashed out at Sweden for putting forward the resolution. “The peace process in the Middle East is not like IKEA furniture,” remarked a foreign ministry official, in reference to the Swedish furniture chain. “It takes more than a screw and a hammer, it takes a true understanding of the constraints and sensitivities of both sides, and in that Sweden failed miserably”, he sarcastically went on to add.
Israel’s take on the happenings in Brussels – putting aside the childish rattle – was manifestly clear. The obvious lesson to be derived from 2009 for Tel Aviv, as far as EU involvement in the Middle East is concerned, was similarly evident.
One must underline at this point that despite consistent pressures exerted by Israel and co., the positions adopted by a growing number of EU parliamentarians vis-à-vis the Arab-Israeli conflict has been very honourable. Earlier on Friday, a 60-member strong delegation made their way into Gaza to assess the wide-scale damage caused by Israel’s brutal war last year, as part of a bid to mount pressure for an end to the Siege.
For Israel, this sort of involvement is clearly not welcome. And hence, the appearance of baseless slander and smear-campaigns in leading European media outlets, which aim to cast resistance movements as erratic, lawless, mafia-like entities whose “sleeper cells” and “networks” pervade across the heart of Europe. Der Spiegel’s recent claims, apart from being the usual, old vituperations, should rather be viewed in the context of a wider agenda to curtail dialogue between resistance movements and western officials.
Evidently thus, there are certain stakeholders who wish to see the EU mutate into some variant of a collectivised imbecile, which keeps a measured silence on all subjects whose implicit or explicit implications reach Israeli shores. Der Spiegel’s recent tirades have set the new strategy in motion. However, if the most recent words from Gaza are any indication, Israel will need to try much, much harder.
1. “The Israel Lobby’s War on Al Manar TV”, The Palestine Chronicle, 03 January 2010 http://palestinechronicle.com/view_article_details.php?id=15659
2. “Language – a tool to transform different into dangerous”, Conflicts Forum, 02 February 2008 http://conflictsforum.org/2008/language-a-tool-to-transform-different-into-dangerous/
3. “Jewish settlers: We’ll burn you all!”, ChamPress, 26 December 2009 http://www.champress.net/index.php?q=en/Article/view/50833
by Yaniv Reich on January 16, 2010
Where to begin? Regular readers of this blog will undoubtedly know about the severe problem of Israeli racism against Arabs in general and Palestinians in particular. But this story leaves even me incredulous.
After Ali Abunimah posted a wonderfully sarcastic comment to his Twitter feed (@avinunu) about how much settlers love to hear about the “rescue” of white women “kidnapped” by “savages”, I looked into one of the organizations that facilitated that particular “rescue.”
Meet Yad L’Achim (Hand to Brothers), a Jewish NGO whose goals, as described on their website, are to “fight with intensity for both the Russian Jewish immigrant who has become a regular at the missionary center in Afula and the Jewish woman who is married to an Arab. There are no ‘lost causes.’ Yad L’Achim will continue its rescue activities, together with its efforts at Jewish outreach, as long as the problem of missionaries and Jewish-Arab marriage persists.”
Founded by Rabbi Shalom Dov Lifshitz, this organization has a US branch, Yad L’Achim Peylei Israel, based in Brooklyn and listed with the IRS as a public charity to which one can give donations with 50% tax deductibility.
Lifshitz explains the organization’s motives in more detail on his chairman page:
“To our great sorrow, the phenomenon of Jewish girls getting involved with Arabs has reached startling proportions. . . . I’m sure you’ll find the information presented here to be eye-opening. It’s important that you not only become aware, but that you get involved. We must all raise our voices to demand legislation that puts an end to missionary activity and assimilation in Israel!
Jewish girls are not free for the taking and must not become enslaved to Arab men.”
The level of racist hatred on the website is simply mind-blowing.
The organization’s background page, for example, describes their focus on assimilation and their dedicated Anti-Assimilation Department.
This department deals with women and teenage girls who have become involved with Arab men. In most cases, these relationships lead to marriage, which then deteriorate into violence. Among the many serious problems that result from such relationships is the identity of the children. They are Jews, but are raised as Arabs. Thus, entire generations are being lost to the Jewish people.
Though it was once thought that this could not be a problem in a Jewish country, not even for the secular, the tragic facts show an increasing number of Jewish girls getting involved with foreign workers and, even more so, with Arab men. Indeed, Yad L’Achim gets some 1,000 calls a year reporting such cases.
Our Anti-Assimilation department responds to all such calls.
Military adventurism to “rescue” Jewish girls from assimilation
A number of these thousand calls per year result in “military-like rescues from hostile Arab villages and setting the women up in ’safe’ houses around the country, where they can build new lives for themselves.”
In the description of these military methods, the website explains how “Yad L’Achim’s activists literally risk their lives to rescue the women from hostile villages. These operations are organized and run by veterans of elite IDF combat units and require careful planning.”
When we press ["H", the head of Yad L'Ahim's rescue unit] for some insight into what it’s like to enter hostile Arab villages to extract Jewish women, he prefers to speak of the team effort that contributes to Yad L’Achim’s success.
A: “I’m not alone in this,” says H., a former member of an elite combat unit in the Israeli army. “There’s a whole team of volunteers who work with me. Each member of the team plays a crucial role. In some cases they receive a just few hours’ notice. They leave their families and businesses and put all their energies into getting a Jewish woman out of an Arab village, at risk to their own lives.”
Q: What’s it like in the moments before they enter the village?
A: “Before we get to that point, I’ve sat with our staff and pored over updated maps of the area. We have to be able to get in and out of the village, together with a frightened Jewish woman who often has a child or two. We’ve got to know all the routes in and out of the village and be prepared for all eventualities. Only when we have all the answers do we embark on our mission.
“Many times these preparations take place under pressure, but we have to keep our cool and act responsibly.
“On the instructions of Harav Shalom Dov Lipshitz [founding chairman of Yad L’Achim], at the moment we enter the village we all say together, quietly, chapter 121 in Tehillim, which begins, ‘I raise my eyes upon the mountains; whence will come my help?’We say the last verse – ‘G-d will guard your departure and your arrival, from this time and forever’ – out loud. This gives us a feeling of confidence that we will succeed in our mission.”
Q: Does he have a recent story he can share with us?
“Two weeks ago, the hotline at our Jewish Women Rescue Division received a call from Umm el-Fahm, the Arab town in the Galilee. On the line was a hysterical young woman who had married an Israeli Arab and was desperate for a way out. She grew up in a town in central Israel, where she met the man and, against the advice of friends and family, married him and even converted to Islam. Once she took that fateful step, she was expected to be completely subservient to her husband, in keeping with Islamic practice.
“In the hospital, after giving birth to her baby, she met a Jewish woman who could see that she was in distress and slipped her a piece of paper with the number of Yad L’Achim’s hotline. One day, an opportunity presented itself and she called. During the course of the conversation, it emerged that she had one day a month when she was allowed to leave home – the 28th, when the National Insurance Institute deposited her welfare payment into her bank account. We decided that that would be the day of the rescue.
“On the designated day, we showed up at Umm el-Fahm in three cars, one to do the rescue, and the other two to provide back-up. Based on a predetermined signal we identified the young woman, dressed from head to toe in Arab garb, with her baby in her arms. In order not to raise suspicions, she had left home with nothing but several layers of clothes on the baby.
“She entered the rescue car and we sped out of town. We took her to an apartment in a secret location that was equipped with food and clothing for mother and child, as well as warm, supportive social workers.
“Despite the difficulties and dangers, the rescue is the easy part. Then comes the rehabilitation.”
Q: Why does H. continue to put himself in danger in these missions?
A: “It’s impossible to stand by when you see the kind of danger a young Jewish woman is in,” he answers, challenging the rest of us to do our part as well in rescuing these women in distress and their children.
Is this legal? According to Tsipora Gutman, the official in charge of Jewish-Arab marriages in Yad L’Achim headquarters in Bnei Brak, the answer is sensitive but everything gets approved by Yad L’Achim’s legal department.
‘Some thing worth knowing’, according to these racists
How serious of a problem is this (in the lunatic minds of these fundamentalists)?
The website’s “Some things worth knowing” provides their answer.
“It’ll never happen to me,” we like to say. But experience shows that it does happen, in the finest of families, and young girls should be made aware of the facts before they get involved in such relationships.
Blood is thicker than water, and if the man is Muslim or Christian, sooner or later he will seek to undermine the relationship.
It’s important to understand that the Koran relates to a husband’s treatment of his wife very differently from Western norms. What a western woman would regard as a breach of her rights, Muslim women find perfectly acceptable.
It should also be stressed that children who are born to a Jewish mother and a Muslim father suffer from a serious lack of basic identity. They are Jews in the eyes of the Arabs, and stigmatized, but have no knowledge of their Judaism.
Elsewhere, the website publishes an interview with Shifra, one of Yad L’Achim’s social workers. She explains to concerned Jewish parents how to prevent their lovely Jewish daughters from falling victim to predatory Arab men.
Q: Jewish outreach workers of ours who man a booth in a major city in Israel report seeing young Jewish girls regularly entering cars of Arabs and going with them into Arab villages. Can you help us understand what leads these girls to engage in such dangerous behavior?
A: They are in distress, mostly on an emotional level. Some were victims of abuse as children, others witnessed violence at home between their parents. Many are the “black sheep” of the family and have never felt accepted at home. They grew up feeling that their parents didn’t understand them and didn’t love them. Unfortunately, such girls have low self-esteem and little confidence.
Many come from a low socio-economic background; all their friends have the latest-generation cell phones and new clothes, while they have nothing. These girls connect up with Arab men who are seeking to “have a good time” in a way that isn’t acceptable in traditional Arab society.
Even so, the girls don’t understand the danger they’re getting into?
In the beginning there’s a lot of denial. They tell themselves, “Nothing will happen to me,” “He’s not like the others,” or “Why be racist?” Things are good for them at the start, and they don’t think about the long-term. Their Arab suitors pamper them, buy them things, drive them around in fancy cars and make their drab lives much more interesting.
Q: Give us an idea of the scope of the problem. How many girls in Israel are involved with Arab men?
A: At Yad L’Achim we’re getting more than 100 calls a month for help. The phenomenon, I’m sorry to say, is only getting worse. And we know that those who are crying out to us for help are just a drop in the bucket.
Q: Tell us about the rescue operations from Arab villages.
A: These rescues are coordinated with the army, police and welfare agencies. They don’t always involve extricating a girl from a remote Arab village. Sometimes it can be a girl or a woman trapped in an apartment in the center of Haifa or Tel Aviv-Jaffa, which have large Arab populations.
In the Arutz Sheva article on one of Yad L’Achim’s recent “rescues”, the recent story is told of a Jewish mother escaping from Gaza with her children, who would be re-given Hebrew names now that they live in Israel. The organization carefully coordinated this escape with the army and with Interior Minister Eli Yishai (Shas party).
One IDF official told Yad L’Achim: “I donate to your organization regularly and I feel that it is in that merit that I was privileged to be able to participate in this rescue today.”
Ending tax-deductible support for such overt racism
Although I am no expert on non-profit tax law, I would be willing to wager that the activities of this NGO fall well outside the acceptable range of activities granted charity status by the IRS. As always, I encourage people to conduct their own research into this organization and its shady activities. And if you find out anything interesting, please leave a comment and/or write me directly. I would love to know more about this disgusting group.
January 17, 2010 | By Saed Bannoura | IMEMC & Agencies
Turkish media sources reported on Saturday that the Turkish President, Abdullah Gül, and Prime Minister, Receb Tayyip Erdogan, will not hold a meeting with Israel’s Defense Minister, Ehud Barak, who will be visiting the country on Sunday.
Barak officially requested to convene with the Turkish President and Prime Minister but they denied his request due to the strained relations between the two countries.
So far, Barak is scheduled to meet his Turkish counterpart, Decdi Gonul, and the Turkish Foreign Minister, Ahmet Davutoglu. He will be accompanied by Udi Shani, the director-general of the Defense Ministry, and the Ministry’s Political desk head, Amos Gilad, Israeli daily, Haaretz, reported.
Gül claimed that he cannot meet Barak because he is busy with the preparations for the activities of Istanbul as the capital of European Culture. But Turkish sources reported that the real reason is Israel’s recent mistreatment of the Turkish ambassador.
Israel’s vice-Foreign Minister, Danni Ayalon, from the fundamentalist extreme right-wing party, Yisrael Beiteinu party, threatened to kick the Turkish ambassador out of the country due to a Turkish TV show accusing the Israeli army of committing war crimes against the Palestinian people.
In an Interview with Israel’s TV, Channel 2, Ayalon threatened to kick out the ambassador of any country that criticized Israel and shows its soldiers as war criminals.
Last week, Ayalon summoned the Turkish Ambassador and humiliated him and also had him sit in a seat lawyer than his to look down on him while “criticizing the Turkish TV show”.
Ayalon later on apologized to the ambassador and claimed that he believed what he did was foolish, yet he said that the causes of this crisis are valid.
Press TV – January 17, 2010
A task force assigned by Iran’s president has begun their work in estimating the amount of damage inflicted on the Iranian nation during the Second World War.
The compensation commission, consisting of representatives from Iran’s main ministries and organizations, concluded their first meeting on the task in Tehran Saturday.
Earlier this month, President Ahmadinejad had called for the need to demand reparations from the West for the damages inflicted on Iran during the world war that raged between 1939 and 1945.
At the outbreak of the conflict, Iran, which had declared its neutrality, was simultaneously invaded by Britain and the Soviet Union on August 26, 1941.
Iran served as a source of oil and a transit route for American war materials to the Soviet Union — what the Allies came to call their “victory bridge” or the “Persian Corridor,” as it was known.
Britain, the Soviet Union, and the United States together managed to move over 5 million tons of munitions and other war materials across Iran to the Soviet Union.
The war had dire consequences for the ordinary citizens of Iran.
Thousands of Iranian civilians, from laborers and drivers to skilled mechanics, were forced to work the “little Detroit’s” truck assembly plants at Iran’s northern city of Andimeshk. In one year, 648,000 vehicles were built in Iran for shipment to the Soviet Union.
Severe inflation imposed great hardship on the lower and middle classes, while fortunes were made by individuals dealing in scarce items.
The country’s population also suffered food shortages, as the invading forces had bought up most of the grain intended for the Iranian marketplace.
Press TV – January 17, 2010
At least 20 people have been killed in Pakistan in the latest US drone attacks that picked up pace after seven CIA agents were killed in late December.
The Sunday attack has reportedly targeted a militant compound in an area near Miranshah, the main town in the North Waziristan tribal region. However, the identity of those killed in the air raid has not been confirmed.
The number of CIA-operated drone strikes along the Pakistan-Afghanistan border has increased after a Jordanian double agent crossed into Afghanistan from the tribal lands and struck a US intelligence center in late 2009.
Over the weekend, eleven people were killed in two drone attacks in northwestern Pakistan.
The US has carried out dozens of missile strikes in northwestern Pakistan over the past twelve months. Washington claims it is targeting militants.
But reports say the attacks have repeatedly killed civilians. Last week, Pakistani officials warned US Special Envoy Richard Holbrooke that the US drone attacks could endanger ties.
There have been nationwide rallies in Pakistan against high civilian casualties inflicted by the US operations.
Pakistan Islami Jamiat-e Talaba staged an anti-American rally on Saturday to show strong resentment at US drone attacks in the country.
Demonstrators demanded that the government take a strong stand against the US presence in the country.
RIA NOVOSTI | January 17, 2010
Ukraine’s opposition Party of Regions has warned of a possible attempt to disrupt the country’s presidential vote as three charter flights from Georgia carrying over 400 “athletic men” landed in the country.
On Sunday Ukraine will hold presidential elections. With former premier Viktor Yanukovych expected to win the first round of voting, after which he is likely to face a run-off against current premier Yulia Tymoshenko, pro-Western incumbent Viktor Yushchenko’s time in office would seem to be over.
On Friday two charter flights from with of 297 Georgian men onboard landed in the eastern Ukrainian city of Donetsk. Some of them had lists of all polling stations in the region. The Georgians, aged from 25 to 40, told border guards that the purpose of their visit was to meet with Ukrainian girls they met on social networking sites.
On Saturday another charter flight from Georgia with some 120 male passengers landed in the capital Kiev. The official purpose of their visit is unknown.
The Georgians were to “interfere in the electoral process… with an aim to change the outcome of the elections and disrupt the vote,” party member Mykola Azarov told a news conference on Saturday.
Ukraine’s central election body had earlier refused to register over 3,000 observers, sent by Georgia to Sunday’s presidential polls, citing the absence of necessary documents. The number of monitors from the Caucasus state exceeded the total number of observers sent by other states and international organizations.
A source in the Georgian opposition told RIA Novosti the visitors were related to Georgian special services and the military.
“The vast majority of them are servicemen. Some have identity documents with other names, almost all had undergone special training and have close-combat skills,” the source said.
He said they were to receive bonuses ranging from $20,000 to $32,000.
Party of Regions said it would seek visa regime with Georgia if an attempt to interfere in the elections is proved.