israel

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I find this story almost mind-blowing!

We all knew that it had to be Israel that launched this latest missile strike against Syria. After all, it is one in a series, and who else could or would launch such an attack from the sea?

As to what exactly was the rationale behind the attack, it is open to speculation:

  1. Dissatisfaction with the lack of US action in Syria.
  2. An attempt to sabotage upcoming peace talks in Geneva.
  3. As stated, an attack on a weapons convoy, bound for Hezbollah in Lebanon.

Personally, I think Israel is simply trying to provoke a response. They know it won’t come from Assad as he has all his resources tied up in fighting the rebel armies. The response they are looking for is from Iran – one that will sabotage any peace negotiations between the Americans and the Persians.

Putting all this to one side though, I still find the Israeli response to being exposed as the culprits astonishing! We didn’t expect them to apologise, of course, but we might have expected that Israeli officials would at least try to explain why they attacked another sovereign nation without provocation. Instead their response seems to have been one of indignance! Apparently they feel ‘compromised’, and they are horrified that their ally, the USA, has identified them as being responsible for the crime!

I suppose this is just the norm nowadays. High profile criminals never expect to be held accountable for their crimes, while those who expose them are invariably hunted down and made to pay – Mordechai Vanunu, Julian Assange, Bradley Manning, Ed Snowden, … Have we really reached the point though now where the Israeli government doesn’t even feel a need to try to justify its acts of war?!

Father Dave

source: www.timesofisrael.com…

Israel ‘furious’ with White House for leak on Syria strike

Israel is fuming with the White House for confirming that it was the Israeli Air Force that struck a military base near the Syrian port city of Latakia on Wednesday, hitting weaponry that was set to be transferred to Hezbollah.

Israel has not acknowledged carrying out the strike, one of half a dozen such attacks widely ascribed to Israel in recent months, but an Obama administration official told CNN on Thursday that Israeli warplanes had indeed attacked the Syrian base, and that the target was “missiles and related equipment” set for delivery to Hezbollah in Lebanon.

A second TV report, on Israel’s Channel 2, said the leak “came directly from the White House,” and noted that “this is not the first time” that the administration has compromised Israel by leaking information on such Israeli Air Force raids on Syrian targets.

It said some previous leaks were believed to have come from the Pentagon, and that consideration had been given at one point to establishing a panel to investigate the sources.

Channel 2′s military analyst, Roni Daniel, said the Obama administration’s behavior in leaking the information was unfathomable.

Daniel noted that by keeping silent on whether it carried out such attacks, Israel was maintaining plausible deniability, so that Syria’s President Bashar Assad did not feel pressured to respond to the attacks.

But the US leaks “are pushing Assad closer to the point where he can’t swallow these attacks, and will respond.” This in turn would inevitably draw further Israeli action, Daniel posited, and added bitterly: “Then perhaps the US will clap its hands because it will have started a very major flare-up.”

Channel 2 speculated that the US might have leaked word of Israel’s attack as a warning to Israel to desist from such actions. Alternately, it might be seeking to signal that it was part of the tough policy designed to prevent a flow of sophisticated weaponry to Assad. But these and other possible explanations simply didn’t justify the leak, which the TV report described as “illogical” and “foolish.”

Jerusalem’s reported anger with the White House over the leak coincided with efforts by the Administration to assure Israel that it is holding to a tough line on Syria and in the effort to thwart Iran’s nuclear program, and is maintaining its robust military partnership with Israel.

On Thursday, the US ambassador to the United Nations, Samantha Power, reiterated America’s commitment to thwarting Iranian nuclear weapons ambitions. “Let me be absolutely clear: President Obama is determined to ensure that the Islamic Republic does not acquire a nuclear weapon,” Power said at the Anti-Defamation League’s centennial conference held Thursday in a Manhattan hotel. Addressing the subject of nuclear negotiations with Iran, she said the Obama administration considers a bad deal worse than no deal and that the administration will not accept a bad deal.

Later Thursday, Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel told the same gathering that the US is testing Iran’s diplomatic intentions but remains “clear-eyed” on Iran’s role as a state-sponsor of terror and exporter of extremism.

Hagel also announced that the US will fast-track delivery of six advanced Osprey helicopter-airplanes to Israel. “Israel will get six V-22s out of the next order to go on the assembly line, and they will be compatible with other [Israeli defense] capabilities,” Hagel said, anticipating delivery in two years time. NBC News said Israel requested that the delivery of the Ospreys be expedited because of threats from Iran and Syria.

Hagel added that “the Israeli and American defense relationship is stronger than ever, and it will continue to strengthen.”

read the rest of this article here.

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It is encouraging to hear about this new reporters’ guidebook – one that makes the bold attempt to help journalists be more objective in their reporting of Israel-Palestine. It is encouraging at least because it recognises that the words we use are often laden with values and judgements of the kind that journalists are generally keen to avoid. Even so, to suggest that a mere substitutions of sensitive terms will in some way improve media coverage in the Middle East is patently absurd!

Certainly using the term ‘Security Fence’ rather than ‘Apartheid Wall’ to describe the barrier that separates Israel from the West Bank shows clearly which side the writer is on. Even so, the construction and deconstruction of political narratives is far more complex than any simple change in vocabulary. 

To write in any detail about the suffering of the Palestinian people is in itself an act that subverts the dominant narrative. And even if writers were able to discuss the violence with clinical objectivity, this would not suggest impartiality by any means! Evil scientists have performed monstrous experiments on living beings, and that fact that they can describe their results in purely scientific terms actually reinforces the horror of their acts!

What we need is not ‘objective’ reporting (whatever that is) but reporting where the agenda is not concealed. For me personally, my sympathies are with the Palestinians, and I say that unashamedly. For me to refer to the ‘Apartheid Wall’ as anything else would be dishonest!

Father Dave

at a protest in Karmei Tsur

What is the politically correct term for this? (photo: Palestinian Solidarity Project)

source: www.thedailybeast.com…

A new reporter’s guidebook released on October 23 aims to balance media coverage of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, a field that often spirals into semantic mudslinging at the cost of clear news coverage.

The Vienna-based International Press Institute (IPI) published Use With Care: A Reporter’s Glossary of Loaded Language in the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict after a year of joint work between six anonymous Israeli and Palestinian media veterans. The two sides worked on separate content submissions, which IPI then combined through several months of back-and-forth editing.

The glossary comprises some 150 terms ranging from “terrorist” to “martyr.” Each word or expression is presented in English, Arabic and Hebrew, with an explanation of why it might be sensitive to Israeli and/or Palestinian audiences. Most entries include a suggested alternative term.

For example, the guide explains why “Apartheid wall” and “security wall/fence” are respectively offensive to Israelis and Palestinians, recommending that journalists use “separation barrier” instead. Many of the entries also address unnecessary adjectives, asking that reporters drop the modifiers from terms like “innocent civilians” and “peaceful demonstration.”

Instead of “Judea and Samaria,” “eternal capital of the Palestinian people” or “united capital of Israel,” the guide recommends geographically specific terms like the West Bank, East Jerusalem and West Jerusalem.  “Israel” is recommended over both “Zionist entity” and “Jewish state.” The former is tendentious because it is perceived to deny Israeli statehood, the guide says, while the latter ignores Arab history predating the State of Israel and implies that non-Jewish Israelis are not fully part of the state.

Other terms are less obvious. “Middle East expert” is problematic, the guide says, because ideologues and activists are often referred to as experts without disclosure of their partisan views.

“This tactic is used to magnify and repeat the views that certain journalist or media wish to promote. It is dishonest and is partly to blame for the fact that audience stereotypes and viewpoints are repeatedly reinforced instead of being challenged,” the guide says. “It creates an echo-chamber effect, in which pro-Israeli or pro-Palestinian readers, viewers, and listeners believe that only their frame of reference is reasonable and enlightened, while the other side is hateful, prejudiced, and extreme.”

read the rest of this article here

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This latest scandal concerns some comments allegedly made by former British Foreign Secretary, Jack Straw, as reported by former Knesset member Einat Wilf. Personally, I find Wilf’s comments more astonishing than those attributed to Straw!

According to Wilf, during a debate in British Parliament, Straw cited two major obstacles to Israeli-Palestinian peace:

  1. The “unlimited” funds available to Jewish organizations and AIPAC in the US
  2. Germany’s “obsession” with defending Israel.

Wilf’s astonished response was ““I nearly fell off my rickety British chair” and “I thought British diplomats, including former ones, were still capable of a measure of rational thought.”

It’s not clear whether Wilf considers both of the statements attributed to Straw to be equally crazy. Or perhaps it’s not criticism of AIPAC or Germany as such that she considers self-evidently baseless but simply the idea that Israel could be responsible for the impasse?

Certainly Wilf seems to think that her explanation for the conflict – “Arab and Palestinian unwillingness to accept the Jewish people’s legitimate right to a state of their own” – should be accepted without the need for further discussion!

Father Dave

Jack Straw

Jack Straw

source: www.timesofisrael.com…

Ex-UK FM: ‘Unlimited’ Jewish funds control US policy, block Mideast peace

Jack Straw unleashes anti-Semitic diatribe at forum held in House of Commons, according to former MK Einat Wilf

Former British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw reportedly said during a debate in the British parliament that “unlimited” funds available to Jewish organizations and AIPAC in the US are used to control American policy in the Middle East.

The comments were made last week during the Round Table Global Diplomatic Forum in the British House of Commons, according to former Knesset member Einat Wilf.

Wilf was participating in the debate and posted what she said were Straw’s comments on herFacebook page.

Straw said, according to Wilf, that the greatest obstacles to peace between Israel and the Palestinians and her Arab neighbors are the “unlimited” funds available to Jewish organizations and AIPAC in the US, as well as Germany’s “obsession” with defending Israel.

Wrote Wilf: “I nearly fell off my rickety British chair today when former UK Foreign Secretary Jack Straw spoke at the Round Table Global Diplomatic Forum in the British House of Commons. Listing the greatest obstacles to peace, he said ‘unlimited’ funds available to Jewish organizations and AIPAC in the US are used to control and divert American policy in the region and that Germany’s ‘obsession’ with defending Israel were the problem.

“I guess he neglected to mention Jewish control of the media….”

Wilf told the Yedioth Ahronoth newspaper on Sunday that “It was appalling to listen to Britain’s former foreign secretary. His remarks reflect prejudice of the worst kind.” She added: “We’re used to hearing groundless accusations from Palestinian envoys but I thought British diplomats, including former ones, were still capable of a measure of rational thought.”

Wilf, a member of Knesset from 2010 to 2013 (Labor, and then the breakaway Independence party), said she repeatedly stressed in the debate that the root of the conflict lay in the Palestinian and Arab refusal to accept Israel’s sovereign legitimacy as a Jewish state. “Throughout the debate I reiterated that the origin of the conflict was the Arab and Palestinian unwillingness to accept the Jewish people’s legitimate right to a state of their own, and that as long as that willingness is absent there will be no true solution.”

read the rest of this article here

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As the ‘peace process’ crashes and burns (see here), so Israel simultaneously isolates itself even further from the international community through further acts of aggression towards a seemingly insignificant group of shepherds!

What follows is a press release from Gush Shalom – the Israeli ‘Peace Bloc’.

Gush Shalom

source: zope.gush-shalom.org…

The passion for destroying small villages ended up causing a diplomatic incident

September 21st, 2013

Israeli soldiers resorted to violence against diplomats from France and other European countries on their way to give humanitarian aid to inhabitants of a village destroyed by the IDF. Quite embarassing, just a few days after the government made a desperate plea to the European Union to relax its new guidelines , excluding Israeli organizations active in the Occupied Territories from getting European grants.

Already for many years, the occupation authorities implement the most brutal policy precisely against the smallest and weakest of the Palestinian communities. Poor shepherds who live in miserable huts or in caves, at the Jordan Valley and South Hebron Hills. They want nothing but to be left alone to live their life of poverty, but the State of Israel is sending soldiers and police and bulldozers to demolish their homes and leave them without a roof over their heads. .

Those who implement this cruel policy have the illusion that no one notices and no one cares what happens in remote, out of the way spots. When the tiny village called Khirbet Makhoul was destroyed and its residents left destitute and homeless , the world did hear about it. Immediately there arrived a Red Cross delegation and after them, representatives of the European Union – from France , the UK , Spain , Ireland and also from Australia – to support the residents and bring them tents and emergency supplies. This was a clear humanitarian duty , understandable to all . Understandable to all except those who run the occupation policy, people who seem to have long since lost any vestige of moral sensitivity .

Contact: Adam Keller adam@gush-shalom.org…

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Sharmine Narwani is no fool and if she says that Israel will be the target of a Syrian retaliatory strike, I believe her.

It makes me sick to the stomach. That’s not because I consider Israel an innocent party in the Syrian crisis. On the contrary, the ‘rock solid evidence’ that the US claims to have of Assad’s culpability in the chemical weapons attack probably comes from Israel, and the Israeli government has provoked Syria repeatedly this year with acts of aggression. It sickens me simply because this will inevitably lead to massive escalation of the conflict – to a third world war and untold human suffering.

As someone who is considering going to Damascus as a human shield, I appreciate that my chances of surviving the American assault are not great, but my chances of surviving an Israeli assault are close to zero.

Father Dave

Grass-roots activists in Damascus, working for peace

with local peace activists in Damascus

source: english.al-akhbar.com…

Yes, Syria and Hezbollah Will Hit Israel if US Strikes

By Sharmine Narwani

Informed insiders have confirmed that Syria and Hezbollah plan to retaliate against Israel in the event of an American-led military attack on Syria. Says one: “if even one US missile hits Syria, we will take this battle to Israel.”

An official who spoke to me on the condition that neither his name or affiliation is published, says the decision to retaliate against Israel “has been taken at the highest levels within the Syrian state and Hezbollah.”

Why attack Israel after a US strike?

“Israel has been itching for a fight since their 2006 defeat by Hezbollah,” explains an observer close to the Lebanese resistance group. “They have led this campaign to draw the US into a confrontation with Syria because they are worried about being left alone in the region to face Iran. This has become an existential issue for them and they are now ‘leading’ from behind America’s skirts.”

The “Resistance Axis” which consists of Iran, Syria, Hezbollah and a smattering of other groups, has long viewed attacks on one of their members as an effort to target them all.

And Israeli aggression against this axis reached a new high in 2013, with missile strikes and airstrikes unseen for many years in the Levant.

Israel has reportedly conducted at least three separate, high profile missile strikes against Syria this year, effectively ending a 40-year ceasefire between the neighboring states. The last overt violation of this uneasy truce was in 2007 when the Jewish state destroyed an alleged nuclear site inside Syria.

Then two weeks ago, Israel launched its first airstrike in Lebanon since the 2006 war, bombing a Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine–General Command (PFLP-GC) target in an entirely unprovoked attack. Earlier, four rockets had been launched into Israel from Lebanese territory, but an unrelated Al Qaeda-linked group took credit for that incident.

When asked whether Syrian allies Russia and Iran would participate in retaliatory strikes against Israel or other targets, the official indicated that both countries would back these efforts, but provided no information on whether this support would include direct military engagement.

The Russians have stated on several occasions that they will not participate in a military confrontation over Syrian strikes. Iran has not offered up any specifics, but various statements from key officials appear to confirm that strikes against Syria will result in a larger regional battle.

On Tuesday during an official visit to Lebanon, Iranian parliamentarian and Chairman of the (Majlis) Committee for National Security and Foreign Policy Alaeddin Boroujerdi told reporters: “The first party that will be most affected by an aggression on Syria is the Zionist entity.”

His comments follow a steady stream of warnings by senior Iranian officials, which have escalated in tenor as western threats to attack Syria have intensified.

“The US imagination about limited military intervention in Syria is merely an illusion, as reactions will be coming from beyond Syria’s borders,” said the Commander of the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps Major General Mohammad Ali Jafari last Saturday.

Even Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has stepped into the fray, warning the US and its allies: “starting this fire will be like a spark in a large store of gunpowder, with unclear and unspecified outcomes and consequences”.

Concurrent with these warnings, both Iran and Russia have been urging the West to avoid further confrontation and return to the negotiating table to resolve Syria’s 29-month conflict. But instead, western officials and diplomats in the Mideast have spent the past few weeks hitting up their regional sources for information on how Syria’s allies will react to a strike.

An unusual visit to Tehran by UN Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs Jeffrey Feltman (a former senior US State Department official) was one such “feeler.”

According to several media outlets, the Iranians had a singular response to Feltman’s efforts to gauge their reaction to a US strike: if you are serious about resolving the Syrian crisis, you must first go to Damascus, and follow that by launching negotiations in Geneva.

Gunning for a fight

While Israel plays heavily in the background, by turns provoking and encouraging western military intervention in Syria, it publically denies any role in this business.

Just this week, Israeli President Shimon Peres attempted to distance the Jewish state from events in Syria by insisting: “It is not for Israel to decide on Syria, we are in a unique position, for varying reasons there is a consensus against Israeli involvement. We did not create the Syrian situation.”

He’s right about one thing. Any visible Israeli military intervention in Syria will likely raise the collective ire of Arabs throughout the region. But Peres is being disingenuous in suggesting that Israel hasn’t played a pivotal role in dragging the region to the brink of a dangerous confrontation.

In fact, since its establishment as a state, Israel has possibly never been more motivated to force a military confrontation in the Mideast:

The Arab uprisings, a shift in the global balance of power, increased isolation and the waning influence of Israel’s superpower US ally have all served to remind Israel that it stands increasingly alone in the Mideast in confronting its longtime adversaries – Iran, Hezbollah, Syria and various Palestinian resistance groups.

Before a US exit from the region becomes patently clear to one and all, Israel needs to disarm its foes – and it needs the Americans to do that. For years, the Israeli establishment has regularly threatened military strikes against Iran, in most part attempting to inextricably embroil Washington in this military venture.

Forcing ‘red line’ narratives into western political discourse – whether it be the use of chemical weapons in Syria or a civilian nuclear program in Iran – has become a clever way to commit allies to an Israeli military agenda.

When US President Barack Obama last week appeared to suddenly revise his plans to launch a strike on Syria by deferring the decision to Congress, Israel went into overdrive:

Two Israeli missiles were launched off the Syrian coast in the Mediterranean Sea to raise temperatures again. Whether this was meant to be veiled threat, a provocation, or an attempt to pin the deed on Syrians is unclear. What is certain is this: Russian early radar systems caught the activity and publicized it quickly to ward off misunderstandings that might trigger counter-strikes.

This quick reaction forced Israel – under US cover – to acknowledge it had participated in unannounced ballistic missile tests. The Iranians reacted very skeptically. Chief of Staff of the Iranian Armed Forces, General Hassan Firouzabadi, said the missiles were “a provocative incident” conveniently executed as western nations withdrew from plans to attack Syria, and called Israel “the region’s warmonger.” He further charged: “If the Russians had not traced the missiles and their origin, a Zionist liar would have alleged that they belonged to Syria in a bid to pave the way for breaking out a war in the region.

On an entirely different front, Israel has been amassing its considerable army of US supporters and lobbyists to ensure a compliant Congressional vote on strikes against Syria.

All its heavy hitters have now stepped up to push US lawmakers into backing military intervention, even though polls continue to show the majority of Americans rejecting strikes.

The Israeli lobbying effort has been particularly critical to ensure there is bipartisan consensus and that Obama’s Republican opponents join the bandwagon. To ensure this, the scope of the “surgical strikes” had to be expanded for GOP members opposed to a cursory punitive strike against Syrian government interests.

Key Republicans have since piled on, and already there are soundings of ‘mission creep.’ Obama told lawmakers on Tuesday that his plan “also fits into a broader strategy that can bring about over time the kind of strengthening of the opposition and the diplomatic, economic and political pressure required – so that ultimately we have a transition that can bring peace and stability, not only to Syria but to the region.”

This suddenly sounds remarkably like President George W. Bush’s plans to remake the Middle East. And it is everything Syria and its allies have both feared and suspected from the start.

Existential for you, existential for me

If ever there was a real ‘red line’ in the region, this is it. Any “limited” or “broad” military intervention in Syria is simply unacceptable to Syria, Iran, Russia, Hezbollah, China and a whole host of other nations that want to turn the page on US hegemonic aspirations in the region and beyond.

Washington has miscalculated in thinking that an attack in any shape or form would be palatable to its quite incredulous adversaries. They are all intimately familiar with the slippery slope of American interventionism and its myriad unintended consequences.

Israel, in particular, appears to be victim to a false sense of security. Analysts and commentators there seem to think that the lack of a Syrian military response to recent Israeli missile strikes is a trend likely to continue. Or that Hezbollah and Iran would have no ‘grounds’ to climb aboard a counterattack if Syria were attacked.

But the fact is that, to date, no member of the Resistance Axis has faced a collective western-Israeli-GCC effort to strike a blow at their core. This promised US-plus-allies strike against Syria makes their calculation aneasy one: there is nowhere to go but headfirst into the fracas.

As Israel warplanes pounded Lebanon during the 2006 war, then-US Secretary of State Condaleeza Rice got one thing right. Refusing to call for a ceasefire, Rice explained that battle was sometimes necessary to break free of the status quo and emerge with a new regional order. The carnage, in short, was simply “the birth pangs of a New Middle East” – something to endure in order to reach a desired outcome.

But in 2006, conditions were not yet ripe for an all-out confrontation on multiple fronts. Today’s confrontation, however, has all the ingredients to fundamentally shift the region in a clear new direction, depending on which side emerges victorious.

What Rice did not anticipate seven years ago was that a few thousand Hezbollah fighters could shake the region beyond Lebanon’s small borders in a mere 33 days – simply by emerging from battle with Israel, leadership and capabilities intact.

The US has never predicted outcomes successfully in the Middle East and is unlikely to do so this time given that its strategic and military objectives seem even more muddled than usual. What we do know is that Hezbollah Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah has promised that the “next battle” will take place inside Israel’s borders and that he will fight proportionately this time – striking Israeli cities when Israel hits Lebanese ones.

On the Syrian front, Israel imagines a war-weary adversary. But the Syrian armed forces have the kinds of conventional weapons and ballistic missiles that can level a town in short shrift – that is not an outcome Israel has the capacity to endure.

In yet another corner is Iran, boasting a rare combination of military manpower, hardware, technology and tactical skills that Israel has never faced in any adversary on the battlefield. Russia looms large too – it may provide military intelligence to its allies or it may just use its clout in the UN Security Council to intervene at opportune moments in the fight. Either way, Moscow is a huge asset for the Resistance Axis – and will be joined by China to coach and calibrate responses to the fighting from the ‘international community.’

Meanwhile, as if unable to stop a ‘war trajectory’ once it starts, the US Senate’s Foreign Relations Committee has just voted to widen and deepen the scope of a US attack on Syria. The new goal? To “reverse the momentum on the battlefield” against the Syrian army and “hasten Assad’s departure.”

This is no different than Libya, Afghanistan or Iraq. Israelis and Americans need to understand that language and behavior threatening ‘regime-change’ gives their adversaries only one choice: to retaliate withall their capabilities and assets on all fronts. Washington just made this existential. No more games, no more rhetoric. Any strike on Syria will be ‘war on.’ In US military parlance: a ‘full-spectrum operation’ will be heading your way. And you can call it Operation “Tip of the Iceberg” out of sheer accuracy, for a change.

Sharmine Narwani is a commentary writer and political analyst covering the Middle East. You can follow Sharmine on twitter@snarwani