Bombing Iran could be a real strain for Israel, reports Elisabeth Bumiller in the New York Times (“Iran Raid Seen as a Huge Task for Israeli Jets,” 2/19/12). No one’s sure they can pull it off, what with the logistics involved:
Should Israel decide to launch a strike on Iran, its pilots would have to fly more than 1,000 miles across unfriendly airspace, refuel in the air en route, fight off Iran’s air defenses, attack multiple underground sites simultaneously–and use at least 100 planes.
Everyone apparently agrees on the task in front of Israel, as Bumiller puts it: “Given that Israel would want to strike Iran’s four major nuclear sites….” Killing Iranians and spreading radioactive material over their countryside isn’t an issue for the Times, where Iran seems to exist only as an obstacle to Israeli strategic interests.
But, Bumiller reports, the job could exceed Israel’s offensive capabilities, raising the question of whether the U.S. might be “sucked into finishing the job.” A job she’s not altogether unexcited about:
Should the United States get involved–or decide to strike on its own–military analysts said that the Pentagon had the ability to launch big strikes with bombers, stealth aircraft and cruise missiles, followed up by drones that could carry out damage assessments to help direct further strikes. Unlike Israel, the United States has plenty of refueling capability. Bombers could fly from Al Udeid air base in Qatar, Diego Garcia in the Indian Ocean or bases in Britain and the United States.
Perhaps the most telling line in Bumiller’s cold, skewed accounting of the potential risks of an attack on Iran is in her peculiar notion of what would constitute a state of war:
Iran could also strike back with missiles that could hit Israel, opening a new war in the Middle East, though some Israeli officials have argued that the consequences would be worse if Iran were to gain a nuclear weapon.
War would ensue the instant Iran responded to being bombed? This is not only bizarre wording, it ignores the low-intensity war that has been waged against Iran over the past few years, including explosions at nuclear facilities, the assassination of its scientists and the arming of insurgent groups in Iran’s border areas.
If you ask an Israeli settler in or around Al-Khalil (Hebron) what calls them to live on contested land, most will speak to a religious connection to the city and the Cave of the Machpelach (“patriarchs”), where Jews, Muslims, and Christians come to revere the biblical figures believed to be buried there. A series of signs posted nearby along Shuhada Street, the once-main road and market district now closed to Palestinians, tell a story of Hebronite Jewish habitation dating from biblical times, brought to a sharp and bloody end with a 1929 pogrom, which resulted in the deaths of 67 Jewish residents and the displacement of the survivors. Citing this narrative, many of today’s settlers justify their occupation of the old city as a rebirth and continuation of this community, a story echoed in publications distributed by the Gutnick Center (a Jewish cultural center) and soldier-escorted weekly tours through the Palestinian market. The problem with this narrative is that no one, not even the survivors’ descendants, agrees on it.
On Monday, February 20th, the Jerusalem Post published an article presenting the conflict between the survivors’ descendants as a microcosm for Jewish public opinion, some of whom support the settlements and a growing number who oppose Hebron’s especially active settler community, one which Yair Keidan calls “a loaded bomb that can blow up peace altogether.” Both sides have signed petitions to the Israeli government, asking variously to maintain, evacuate, and/or halt settlement activity, and both groups claim a right to the legacy of their parent community.
“You can’t bring back the dead,” said Ya’acov Castel, a survivor from 1929, “but there are people living here now who are carrying out the dream of the Jews who lived here for hundreds of years.” Yona Rochlin, whose family went back many generations in pre-1929 Hebron, argues the opposite—pointing out that the majority of settlers are US immigrants, who have settled in a foreign city unfamiliar with the customs, language, or neighborly habits of the people they claim as spiritual forebears. Unlike the predominantly Sephardi and Mizrahi (Spanish/North African and Middle Eastern respectively) Jewish minority that coexisted with a Muslim majority for five centuries, she says that today’s settlers “came to the city to take revenge for the 1929 massacre and their main idea was to drive out the Arabs and turn Hebron into a Jewish city.”
Hebronite settlers have many claims to fame, including the first West Bank settlement Kiryat Arba (founded 1968, pop. 7200) and the only settlements within the bounds of a Palestinian city—Avraham Avinu, Beit Hadassah, and Beit Romano, which lie at the heart of the Old City and fall under Israeli military control. They are also known to be among the most violent and hardline, with many claiming allegiance to the Kahanist, Gush Emunim, and other extremist Jewish political and religious sects. Particularly infamous Kahanists include Baruch Marzel, founder of the Jewish National Front, and Baruch Goldstein, who in 1994 massacred 29 and injured over 150 Muslims at prayer in the Mosque al-Ibrahimi. Today Goldstein, who was killed during the attack, is venerated as a hero and martyr—and his tomb in Kiryat Arba continues to draw extremist pilgrims, even though his shrine was removed in 1999.
Rochlin, a politically active parent and child of conservative Jewish parents, in 1996 coauthored an open letter to the Israeli government, “Message from the original Jewish community of Hebron: Evacuate settlers,” which stated, “[Hebronite settlers] are alien to the culture and way of life of the Hebron Jews, who in the course of generations created a heritage of peace between peoples and understanding between faiths.” She sees evidence of this tradition in the fact that Muslim neighbors intervened to save her family and over 400 more when the Jewish community was attacked in 1929. Who exactly did the killing, and from where, is uncertain—but there is surprisingly little disagreement over the 19+ Palestinian families that sheltered and defended Jews. Although some Palestinian community members invited their neighbors to stay or return, by 1936 the British Mandate had relocated the remaining Jews to Jerusalem, Tel Aviv and elsewhere.
Curiously, although the Israeli Jews’ narratives tell radically different stories, many area Palestinians also know a great deal about the pogrom and mourn the loss of friends and neighbors. For Muhammad, head of the Abu Aisha family who live in the famed ‘caged house’ on Tel Rumeida, where their home is surrounded by settlement homes, it is a matter of family pride that his father is named among the Palestinians to save Jewish residents. Nonetheless, the Abu Aisha family struggles with daily harassment at the hands of settlers, who occupy land all around the home. Hajj Yussef, one of the few surviving Palestinians who responded in 1929, talks about “our Palestinian Jews,” who dressed and spoke like non-Jewish neighbors. To Yussef, like the children of his refugee neighbors, the obstacle to peace in Hebron lies not in difference but attitude and actions: “I have no problem living with the Jews, like we lived many years ago. But today’s settlers are not Palestinian Jews, they came here from abroad. And I have a problem if the Jews live in my country as occupiers and settlers.”
Open Shuhada Street, the international campaign to end Israeli Apartheid in Al-Khalil/Hebron will continue February 20th through 25th, with actions and cultural events in Khalil and around the world. Each day, we will cover a different aspect of the Occupation’s effects on Shuhada Street and the city generally.
Continue to follow www.palsolidarity.org throughout the week for more stories and analysis.
- Settlers Install New Outpost Near Hebron (alethonews.wordpress.com)
- International Solidarity Movement volunteers encounter settler attack and sexual harassment in Hebron (alethonews.wordpress.com)
- Soldiers raid community center, arrest local activist (alethonews.wordpress.com)
- Under Attack – the Golani Brigade’s war on the Palestinian population of Al-Khalil/Hebron (alethonews.wordpress.com)
- Israeli demolition ‘displaces 120′ in Hebron village (alethonews.wordpress.com)
- This Week in History: The second Hebron massacre (altahrir.wordpress.com)
- Hebron: Occupation and Sterilization (alethonews.wordpress.com)
- Settlers torch cars in Beit Ummar (alethonews.wordpress.com)
- An exclusive corner of Hebron (arunwithaview.wordpress.com)
The bombing of an Israeli embassy car in Delhi threatens India’s diplomatic maneuvers between Israel and Iran, and has put India’s discreetly nurtured ties with Israel since 1992 through a severe test. Those who are attracted to Israel’s depiction of Iran as a terrorist threat to world peace would do well to read historian Mark Perry’s account, revealing that Israel is recruiting, and collaborating with, terrorist groups in a secret war with Iran. That low-level conflict is spreading. Israel’s latest reaction should be seen in the light of Perry’s revelations.
The Israeli government’s hasty and aggressive posture following the Delhi bombing has caused offense in the Indian capital. Officials in Delhi have made plain that India will not be recruited into the anti-Iran alliance under Israeli–U.S. pressure. India will not allow “Washington, the Jewish lobby and much of Europe to push the country into a corner” over Iran. How India conducts its ties with that country dating back to ancient times is its business. Furthermore, police investigations into the bombing cannot be rushed to suit external interests. The law of the land must take its course.
What particularly irked Indian officials was that immediately after the Delhi bomb (another device was defused by Georgian police in Tbilisi on the same day), Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel sought to upstage India’s police investigations into the incident. Netanyahu described the Iranian government as the world’s “largest terror exporter” and Hezbollah in Lebanon as Iran’s “protégé.” Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman went further saying, “We know exactly who is responsible for the attack and who planned it, and we’re not going to take it lying down.”
As if that was not enough. Israel’s Energy and Water Resources Minister Uri Landau intervened with his own comment, calling “India’s support for the Palestinians at the UN a mistake,” and that he intended to “persuade” the Indians to change their stand. And Israel reportedly asked India to help sponsor a resolution against Iran in the UN Security Council, of which India is an elected member at present.
A full-scale Israeli offensive to force a complete overhaul of Indian foreign policy was under way. In the unlikely scenario of it happening, such an event would be a geopolitical earthquake. India’s reliance on oil producers who are firmly in the U.S. camp would be dangerously high. There would be other consequences in the short run. An audacious attack by Israel on Iran, with or without U.S. support, could be nearer, and so would the prospects of a wider Middle East conflict. For these reasons, India now stands between the present and the worst case scenario.
Police investigations were only beginning in Delhi when Israeli ministers spoke with such shocking certainly––the worst kind of megaphone diplomacy. For those sitting in the Indian capital, certain inferences were difficult to avoid. India had recently announced that it would abide by the UN sanctions against Iran, but would not obey additional sanctions imposed by the United States and the European Union. India would continue to buy oil from Iran, and an Indian trade delegation would visit Tehran in coming weeks.
Delhi was by no means alone in asserting an independent stance. Other countries, too, have been resisting what they consider to be strong-arm tactics by the anti-Iran bloc of nations to force reluctant governments to toe the line. The United States, the European Union and Israel are far from happy about this.
That the affair threatened India’s massive trade with Iran, and could derail India’s capacity to formulate its foreign policy, was not lost in Delhi. A number of Indian politicians and senior officials made the government’s position clear. Commerce Minister Anand Sharma said that terrorism and trade were “separate issues,” and that business with Iran would continue. A former diplomat of India and now a leading commentator, M. K. Bhadrakumar, described the Israeli offensive as a “smear campaign” that “Tehran’s agents had been going about placing bombs in New Delhi, Tbilisi and Bangkok.”
Meanwhile, police investigations, and a visit by an Israeli Mossad team to Delhi, were continuing. Indian officials insisted that there was no “conclusive evidence” to link the attack to any particular group or country. And a senior police officer was categorical in saying that there was no link between the Delhi bomb and explosions that occurred in Bangkok the day after.
The Indians are normally too polite to engage in crude public diplomacy. But when ministers of a country of under 8 million, albeit advanced and heavily militarized, try to dictate policy to a nation of 1.2 billion people, it is perhaps too much for the Indian sensitivities.
I am on record as saying that, in the challenging 1990s decade when the Soviet Union collapsed, India was hasty and ill-advised to build a “flyover” to Israel, and from Israel straight on to the United States. Over the years, Israel’s multi-billion dollar sales of weapons based on American and Russian technologies, and intelligence sharing, have given India easy access to an arms bazaar. But there is a cost. India can be vulnerable to pressure, and has ignored its interests in the Muslim world. Simply put, successive Indian governments put too many eggs in the (Israeli–U.S.) basket.
Now that India asserts its strategic interests independent of the United States and Israel, with the other members of the group called BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China, South Africa), it faces a trial of strength. The outcome will depend on whether Delhi can establish its capacity to turn away from what look like instant gains, and promises for future, to secure its long-term interests that are essential for India’s place on the world stage.
- Despite sanctions and pressure, India set to do more business with Iran (alethonews.wordpress.com)
- Iran Falsely Charged with India and Georgia Attacks (alethonews.wordpress.com)
RAMALLAH – The Palestinian Authority minister of prisoners affairs said Tuesday that Israel intends to release hunger striking prisoner Khader Adnan after his current administrative detention term.
In return, Adnan agreed to end his strike, according to Issa Qaraqe, the prisoners minister. The term will end April 17, he said.
Adnan has not confirmed he intends to end the hunger strike, but prisoners rights group Addameer said one of Adnan’s lawyers negotiated a deal with the Israeli military prosecutor freeing him on April 17 instead of in May 8.
He also received guarantees the term will not be extended, the group said.
Addameer lawyer Samer Samaan is “actively working to gain permission to visit Khader to confirm whether or not he will continue with his hunger strike,” the rights group said in a statement.
“Addameer’s main concern remains Khader’s health … Whether or not Khader continues his hunger strike, he must receive proper arrangements for observing his health condition,” the group said.
Israel’s Justice Ministry confirmed the deal to end the strike.
“There is a deal. (Khader Adnan) will stop his hunger strike. They will not extend his administrative detention and he will be free on April 17,” an Israeli Justice Ministry spokeswoman told Reuters.
A High Court of Justice session was originally scheduled for Tuesday, but it was canceled upon the announcement of an agreement.
- Raymond McCartney, former Irish hunger striker in message of support to Khader Adnan (alethonews.wordpress.com)
- Valiance in the Face of Cruelty (alethonews.wordpress.com)
- Former Irish hunger striker’s message for Khader Adnan, a Palestinian prisoner 55 days on hunger strike (alethonews.wordpress.com)
MOSCOW – Chairman of the Syrian-Russian Friendship Association, Alexander Dzasokhov, stressed on Monday that a wide-range media war was launched against Syria a year ago, pointing out that foreign sides are destabilizing the situation in Syria.
In an interview with Russia 24 channel, Dzasokhov said that the situation in Syria is complicated, but a solution to the crisis is possible, considering the new constitution of Syria and the referendum on it on February 26, 2012 is ‘an important event’.
He added that the new constitution does not mention a one-party regime, and it includes other forms of parliamentary activities and several other articles consistent with the international standards of the democratic state.
Dzasokhov asserted Russia’s calls for solving the Syrian crisis without foreign interference, adding that Russia considers Syria a “pivotal country” in the Middle East, and it is committed to its sovereignty and stability.
He noted that millions of the Syrian people took to the streets to express their support to the Syrian leadership and commitment to the national unity, but Arab and European media are ignoring that and trying to fabricate the reality of the situation in Syria.
A surreptitious WINEP project is pushing cataclysmic regime change in Syria
On February 10, subscribers to Fikra Forum’s mailing list received a bilingual (English and Arabic) letter from director David Pollock informing them:
In reaction to last week’s exclusive Fikra Forum report, Inside the Syrian Army by Ilhan Tanir, contributor Josef Olmert and I present analysis on how the U.S. and the international community should support the FSA [Free Syrian Army].
Five days later, Fikra Forum subscribers received another email with the subject title, “Leading Syrian Activist Calls for International Intervention.” In his introductory note, Pollock explained:
As the international community struggles to halt the Syrian regime’s brutal assault on its people, Fikra Forum would like to share our newest piece by Radwan Ziadeh, an official with the Syrian National Council and executive director of the Syrian Center for Political and Strategic Studies. Ziadeh calls for intervention, urging the international community to form a coalition that legitimizes the SNC as the unified representative of the Syrian opposition and acknowledges the council’s plan for the future of Syria.
At the bottom of both Fikra Forum emails was the following address:
The Washington Institute for Near East Policy | 1828 L STREET NW | SUITE 1050 | WASHINGTON | DC | 20036 | US
However, if one were to visit the Fikra Forum website, one might get the impression that the “online community that aims to generate ideas to support Arab democrats in their struggle with authoritarians and extremists” was trying to hide its association with The Washington Institute for Near East Policy (WINEP), the think tank created by the American Israel Public Affairs Committee to “do AIPAC’s work but appear independent.” In its remarkably vague “About Us” section, the only clue to its affiliation with “the think tank AIPAC built” is this acknowledgement:
Fikra Forum is grateful to the Nathan and Esther K. Wagner Family Foundation for their contribution to the launch of Fikra Forum in the memory of Steven Croft, who during his life believed passionately in the power of ideas to transform lives.
Steven Croft’s February 20, 2009 Death Notice in the Chicago Tribune tells us a little more about those passionate beliefs:
He was also philanthropically involved in local, national and international organizations including the Arthritis Foundation, AIPAC, Israel Bonds and the Washington Institute for Near East Policy.
Notwithstanding the apparent overlap, WINEP also appears to be coy about its relationship with Fikra Forum. Despite the fact that David Pollock is the Kaufman fellow at The Washington Institute, “focusing on the political dynamics of Middle Eastern countries,” there appears to be no mention there of the “unique online community” he directs “with the goal of generating ideas to produce a brighter future for Arab democrats.”
By an amazing coincidence, WINEP has its own “Fikra” (Arabic for “Idea”), which it describes as “a multiyear program of research, publication, and network-building designed to generate policy ideas for promoting positive change and countering the spread of extremism in the Middle East.” According to the Israel lobby-created think tank, its Project Fikra is:
A bold effort to counter the spread of extremism in the Middle East, the program seeks to inject creativity and new thinking into America’s engagement with youths, media, educators, and other key actors struggling for openness and tolerance in Arab and Muslim societies.
Among “the talents of Washington Institute scholars and associates” that Project Fikra brings together is David Pollock, whom it describes as “an expert on Middle Eastern public opinion and polling who worked as a leader on regional democratization and women’s rights.”
Apart from Pollock, a substantial number of Fikra Forum contributors are current or former WINEP fellows, including Ahmed Ali, Jon Alterman, Hassan Barari, Soner Cagaptay, J. Scott Carpenter, Steven Cook, Andrew Engel, Daniel Green, Dina Guirguis, Simon Henderson, David Makovsky, Joshua Muravchik, Magnus Norell, Michael Rubin, Robert Satloff, David Schenker, Michael Singh, Andrew Tabler, Eric Trager, and Margaret Weiss.
The rest of the contributors are from other pro-Israel think tanks, the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the American Enterprise Institute; Soros-funded groups such as Human Rights Watch, Human Rights First, and the Center for American Progress; various “democracy-promotion” organizations led by the National Endowment for Democracy and its affiliates; and an abundance of pro-democracy activists, bloggers and journalists they “helped nurture,” fomenting the wave of uprisings known as the “Arab Spring.”
While Pollock and many of the other Fikra contributors work for Israel’s U.S. lobby, perhaps the most interesting contributor to an online forum supposedly dedicated to Arab democracy is the aforementioned Josef Olmert. Although his Fikra Forum profile does acknowledge that the Israeli analyst was a director of the Government Press Office and advisor to former Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir and later served as policy advisor to former Defense Minister Moshe Arens, it emphasizes his role as a “peace negotiator.” Fikra Forum readers are not informed, however, that Dr. Olmert is the brother of former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert or that both of their parents belonged to the terrorist Irgun organization.
Although Josef Olmert predicted elsewhere a “chaotic transition” in which “the violence that will unfold in Syria will dwarf everything that we have witnessed until now,” he assures Fikra Forum readers that “all support that could enable the FSA to continue and intensify its operations, alongside the continuing popular resistance, will help shorten the days of the dictatorship and save the lives of many innocent Syrians.”
Maidhc Ó Cathail has written extensively on Israel’s push for regime change in Syria.
- Mr. Ghannouchi Goes to the Washington Institute (alethonews.wordpress.com)
- Israel lobby cutout urges US to provide Syrians with ‘means of self-defense’ (alethonews.wordpress.com)
- Israel Lobby Pushes for US Action Against the Syrian Government (alethonews.wordpress.com)
- JINSA: Strengthening Israel by promoting Syrian ‘Chalabi’ (alethonews.wordpress.com)
- Sanctioning Syria (alethonews.wordpress.com)
- The ‘Humanitarian’ Road to Damascus (alethonews.wordpress.com)
- Israel’s Favourite Arab Proposes ‘A Kosovo Model for Syria’ (alethonews.wordpress.com)
At 10:30 a.m. on 21 February 1973, Libyan Arab Airlines Flight 114 took off on its regularly-scheduled flight from Tripoli to Cairo.
The plane, a Boeing 727, was being piloted by a French crew under a contractual arrangement between Air France and the Libyan national airline. After a brief stop at the city of Benghazi in eastern Libya, Flight 114 continued en route to Cairo with 113 persons on board.
As the airliner flew over northern Egypt on its approach to Cairo, it suddenly encountered a blinding sandstorm which forced the crew to switch to instrument control because the geographic features which ordinarily served as landmarks could not be discerned in the swirling tempest. A short time later, the pilot discovered that he had made a navigational error because of a compass malfunction: the plane had missed an air traffic beacon, and he could not ascertain its current location. He radioed the Cairo air control tower with an urgent plea for assistance. The Egyptian flight controllers radioed back, giving him the information necessary to correct the plane’s course and warning that it appeared that the plane might have strayed over the Sinai peninsula, which at that time was occupied by Israeli forces.
The pilot immediately corrected the course, and LN 114 was heading back to Cairo when the crew noticed two military jets approaching. The crew members expressed relief, for they believed that the jets were Egyptian fighters sent to escort their plane to safety at the Cairo airport. Such, however, proved not to be the case: the two jets were in fact Israeli Phantoms, and, before the pilot of LN 114 had been able to make out the “Star of David” markings on their wings, they had directed three bursts of cannon fire into the Boeing 727, blasting it from the sky.
Flight 114 smashed into the Sinai desert only one minute’s flying time from Egyptian-controlled territory, killing 106 men, women and children aboard.
At first, Israel attempted to deny its culpability for the tragedy. However, after 24 February when the Boeing’s “black box” which had recorded the pilot’s conversations with the Cairo control tower was recovered, such denial was no longer possible. The Israeli government then did a volte-face and revealed that LN 114 had been shot down with the personal authorization of Dado Elazar, the Israeli Chief of Staff. Commenting on the decision to blow up the civilian airliner, Golda Meir, then Prime Minister of Israel, showered Elazar with praise, and exulted, “I want to tell you that I don’t just appreciate you, I admire you!”
The United Nations failed to take any action against Israel for its destruction of the Libyan passenger plane, and when the 30 member nations of the International Civil Aviation Organization voted to censure Israel for the attack, the U.S. abstained.