Blaming Israel for anti-Semitism misses the point

A French soldier stands guard next to a jewish school in Nice January 23, 2015 as part of the highest level of "Vigipirate" security plan after the Islamist attacks in France. (Eric Gaillard / Reuters)

A French soldier stands guard next to a jewish school in Nice January 23, 2015 as part of the highest level of “Vigipirate” security plan after the Islamist attacks in France. (Eric Gaillard / Reuters)

The Washington Post (Feb 4) — The title of my recently published book is “Israel: Is It Good for the Jews?” When I started writing it, I did not know how I was going to answer that question. The more I delved into the subject, the more I read and did research, the more I concluded that the answer is yes. The recent events in Paris make me even surer.

In the long and blood-soaked history of Europe’s Jews, the death of four more in a Parisian kosher market is, at best, a footnote. But they were not the accidental victims of the terrorists’ wrath, not just merely in the way or in the line of fire. They were singled out for who they were and not for what they had done — like publish provocative cartoons. They were killed for being Jews.

Why? The conventional answer is Israel — or, to put it another way, the plight of the Palestinians. There is some truth to both of these, yet the Islamic world is not so concerned about Palestinians that it has accorded Palestinian refugees anything like equal rights in the countries where they have sought refuge or protested when whole Palestinian communities were uprooted from Kuwait and other Gulf states after the PLO supported Saddam Hussein — ethnic cleansing of a type. The Arab world weeps for the Palestinians — but only on cue and not too much.

So the supposed madness, the supposedly justifiable anger, that drives some Muslims into sharing core beliefs with Adolf Hitler, is not all that essential to the Islamic or Arab identity. Millions, maybe a billion, Muslims go about their daily business without giving Israel or the Palestinians a thought. They do give a thought, however, to their own helplessness, to the astonishingly high rates of unemployment both in the Arab world and in the minority neighborhoods of European cities. Here is where the Jew plays a role. He can be blamed.

Anti-Semitism is the most durable and pliable of all conspiracy theories. It supposedly accounts for the death of Christ and the Jewish dominance of the liberal media. It carefully noted the disproportionate number of Jews in the communist movement and in the capitalist movement. Anti-Semitism can account for the wealth of the Jews and their scientific and artistic achievements. They are — we are — a most nimble people. We’ve had to be.

Blaming Israel for anti-Semitism misses the point. For at least 1,948 years, anti-Semitism both existed and thrived when Israel did neither. The pogroms of Europe — and the occasional ones of the Muslim Middle East — took place with no Israel in sight. The Holocaust consumed 6 million Jews and not because Hitler was pro-Palestinian. Anti-Semitism infected ancient Egypt, ancient Rome, the subtle mind of T.S. Eliot and the tinkering brain of Henry Ford way before any future Israeli had pushed around any future Palestinian. Anti-Semitism does not need a reason. It needs only an excuse.

That excuse is present in contemporary Europe. Its Muslim minority is poor and inordinately unemployed. It loathes Israel for what it is allegedly doing to the Palestinians, and it hates Jews for being Jewish — supposedly rich, powerful, secretive, conspiratorial and manipulative.

The remedy — the cure — is education and assimilation. In the United States, high levels of anti-Semitism in the Hispanic population dissipate with assimilation. The Anti-Defamation League tells us that, while 12 percent of all Americans are anti-Semites, the figure for foreign-born Hispanics is an astounding 36 percent. But for Hispanics born in the United States, the figure is only 14 percent. America is adept at assimilation. Europe is lousy at it. Europe needs work.

But non-Muslim Europe needs work as well. Especially on the left, discussions and denunciations of Israel feel like a snowball with a rock in the center: Something aside from protest is being aired. Anti-Zionism may be legitimate, but it too often seems like a way of expressing anti-Semitism. Israel’s occupation of the West Bank has always troubled me, but it is governed benevolently compared with the way China oppresses Tibet — and where are those demonstrations?

In researching my book, I came away in awe of anti-Semitism. It may be more durable than most of our current religions — it is older than most — and it made me wonder when it would stage one of its periodic revivals. That now seems underway and, sadly, makes my book title almost irrelevant. The question is not whether Israel is good for the Jews but whether it is necessary. That answer, increasingly, is yes.

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Threat of violence silences Palestinian journalists

Note: “The resistance” is a Palestinian code-word for terrorist organizations.

Palestinian journalists hold placards during a demonstration in support of reporters detained by Hamas in Gaza and to ask for their immediate release in the West Bank city of Ramallah, Jan. 27, 2013.  (photo by Getty Images / Abbas Momani)

Palestinian journalists hold placards during a demonstration in support of reporters detained by Hamas in Gaza and to ask for their immediate release in the West Bank city of Ramallah, Jan. 27, 2013. (photo by Getty Images / Abbas Momani)

Al Monitor (Feb 7) — GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip — How loud is the voice you hear when you sit down to write a press report? How small is the prison cell you imagine yourself ending up in once you publish your article? The man you imagine pointing a gun at your head, is he wearing a mask? These are thoughts that lead one to delete the most important and powerful piece of information from an article. Some thoughts even lead you to delete the article entirely.

A late 2014 study by the Palestinian Center for Development and Media Freedoms found that 80% of Palestinian journalists in the West Bank and Gaza practice self-censorship of their writing.

Journalist Ghazi Bani Odeh, who conducted the survey, “The Official Media and Freedom of Expression,” told Al-Monitor that attacks and harassment, and thus fear of them, are the main causes leading journalists to censor themselves.

He told Al-Monitor, “There is no difference between the violations [against journalists] committed in the West Bank and those committed in Gaza, as journalists are equally suppressed, thus leading them to examine every word they write.”

The Internal Security forces under the Gaza Ministry of Interior sent young journalist Youssef Hammad a notice requesting him to appear at its headquarters Dec. 30, 2014. Hammad, who works for Al-Watan Radio and some local websites, told Al-Monitor of his visit: “They threatened me. They said it was the last warning and that if I ever criticize Hamas again in my articles, they will break my knees.” 

Hammad said that previously he had received a notice from the Government Information Office run by Hamas. “They asked me about an investigative report I wrote about the conflict in mosques between Hamas and Islamic Jihad in Gaza. This shows that there is no freedom of expression or freedom of the press. There is no security apparatus in the world that believes in these freedoms,” he stated.

Hammad said he tries to resist censorsing himself, “But when I remember two years ago, when the security forces attacked me at a march [I was covering] and left me with a head injury, I control myself when I write. It’s a self-defensive reflex.”

Mohammed Othman, a freelance journalist who writes for Al-Monitor, was physically assaulted and threatened at the headquarters of the Popular Resistance Committees (PRC) on Jan. 5. According to Othman, he had published a report about the killing of people accused of collaborating with Israel during the 2014 war. After publication of the report on the web, which contained information provided by a PRC​ spokesman, the spokesman asked Othman to withdraw the statements. When he refused, he was assaulted. Othman said, “Due to pressure and fear for my safety, Al-Quds TV decided not to publish the video of the interview [with the spokesman] after I was attacked.”

According to the Skeyes Center for Media and Cultural Freedoms, in January there were three episodes involving journalists being detained by West Bank security forces and two involving Gaza security, in addition to two attacks in Gaza resulting from lawlessness. One of the latter incidents involved the journalist Maha Abu Omer, who was severely beaten by an unknown man while walking down the street.

Fathi Sabah, who writes for Al-Hayat, said that self-censorship is the name of the game for every Palestinian journalist. According to him, there is a policeman in the mind of every reporter in the West Bank or in Gaza.

“I think that self-censorship is constantly present when a journalist writes about domestic affairs and deals with sensitive issues such as family honor, incest, [social] division or political, administrative and financial corruption plaguing authorities and government departments and structures,” he told Al-Monitor.

Sabah said journalists practice self-censorship amid a great deal of frustration and despair, which sometimes curbs their desire to work. This raises the issue of the point of writing: What is the point if not to make an impact or contribute to changing situations for the better.

“Journalists here fear the threats of parties, officials and families given the absence of the rule of law, the lack of respect for human freedom and the spread of chaos and lawlessness,” Sabah said. He admitted that he practices self-censorship whenever he writes about certain issues related to the resistance, especially after he received several anonymous threats by phone and on Facebook, including death threats.

Khalil Shaheen, director of the Economic, Social and Cultural Rights Unit at the Palestinian Center for Human Rights, said that journalists in the West Bank and Gaza Strip have faced actual shootings and beatings, in addition to threats, throughout the eight-year Hamas-Fatah split, leading them to apply some sort of self-control in their work.

“They stop writing about sensitive issues, and they no longer pursue investigative journalism. Moreover, there is a kind of indifference because of fear of abuse, but there are rare journalists who have always rejected any tendency toward control for the sake of adventure,” he said.

Individual self-censorship might be a choice, but it is currently a pervasive type of control. It is so prevalent that journalists who do not censor themselves might be taken for troublemakers or nonprofessional journalists.

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Krauthammer: Why did the Islamic State burn the Jordanian pilot alive?

Charles Krauthammer, a syndicated columnist and Fox News contributor is right on the money as usual.

“Does the barbarism have a logic?” for the Washington Post (Feb 6):

jordan-pilot-tributesWhy did they do it? What did the Islamic State think it could possibly gain by burning alive a captured Jordanian pilot?

I wouldn’t underestimate the absence of logic, the sheer depraved thrill of a triumphant cult reveling in its barbarism. But I wouldn’t overestimate it either. You don’t overrun much of Syria and Iraq without having deployed keen tactical and strategic reasoning.

So what’s the objective? To destabilize Jordan by drawing it deeply into the conflict.

At first glance, this seems to make no sense. The savage execution has mobilized Jordan against the Islamic State and given it solidarity and unity of purpose.

Yes, for now. But what about six months hence? Solidarity and purpose fade quickly. Think about how post-9/11 American fervor dissipated over the years of inconclusive conflict, yielding the war fatigue of today. Or how the beheading of U.S. journalists galvanized the country against the Islamic State, yet less than five months later, the frustrating nature of that fight is creating divisions at home.

Jordan is a more vulnerable target because, unlike the U.S., it can be destabilized. For nearly a century Jordan has been a miracle of stability — an artificial geographic creation led by a British-imposed monarchy, it has enjoyed relative domestic peace and successful political transitions with just four rulers over four generations.

Compared to Lebanon, Syria and Iraq, similarly created, Jordan is a wonder. But a fragile one. Its front-line troops and special forces are largely Bedouin. The Bedouin are the backbone of the Hashemite monarchy, but they are a minority. Most of the population is non-indigenous Palestinians, to which have now been added 1.3 million Syrian refugees, creating major social and economic strains.

Most consequential, however, is the Muslim Brotherhood with its strong Jordanian contingent — as well as more radical jihadist elements, some sympathetic to the Islamic State. An estimated 1,500 Jordanians have already joined the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria. Others remain home, ready to rise when the time is right.

The time is not right today. Jordanian anger is white hot. But the danger is that as the Jordanians attack — today by air, tomorrow perhaps on the ground — they risk a drawn-out engagement that could drain and debilitate the regime, one of the major bulwarks against radicalism in the entire region.

We should be careful what we wish for. Americans worship at the shrine of multilateralism. President Obama’s Islamic State strategy is to create a vast coalition with an Arab/Kurdish vanguard and America leading from behind with air power.

The coalition is allegedly 60 strong. (And doing what?) Despite administration boasts, the involvement of the Arab front line — Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates — has been minimal and symbolic. In fact, we’ve just now learned that the UAE stopped flying late last year.

The Obama policy has not fared terribly well. Since the policy was launched, the Islamic State has nearly doubled its Syrian domain. It’s hard to see a ­Jordanian-Saudi force succeeding where Iraq’s Shiite militias, the Iraqi military, the Kurds and U.S. airpower have thus far failed.

What’s missing, of course, are serious boots on the ground, such as Syria’s once-ascendant non-jihadist rebels, which Obama contemptuously dismissed and allowed to wither. And the Kurds, who are willing and able to fight, yet remain scandalously undersupplied by this administration.

Missing most of all is Turkey. It alone has the size and power to take on the Islamic State. But doing so would strengthen, indeed rescue, Turkey’s primary nemesis, the Iranian-backed Bashar al-Assad regime in Damascus.

Turkey’s price for entry was an American commitment to help bring down Assad. Obama refused. So Turkey sits it out.

Why doesn’t Obama agree? Didn’t he say that Assad must go? The reason is that Obama dares not upset Assad’s patrons, the Iranian mullahs, with whom Obama dreams of concluding a grand rapprochement.

For Obama, this is his ticket to Mt. Rushmore. So in pursuit of his Nixon-to-China Iran fantasy, Obama eschews Turkey, our most formidable potential ally against both the Islamic State and Assad.

What’s Obama left with? Fragile front-line Arab states, like Jordan.

But even they are mortified by Obama’s blind pursuit of detente with Tehran, which would make the mullahs hegemonic over the Arab Middle East. Hence the Arabs, the Saudis especially, hold back from any major military commitment to us. Jordan, its hand now forced by its pilot’s murder, may now bravely sally forth on its own. But at great risk and with little chance of ultimate success.

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Egypt’s War in the Sinai Peninsula: A Struggle that Goes beyond Egypt

By Yoram Schweitzer for the Institute for National Security Studies (INSS) Feb 3:

Egypt is in the midst of a war that can be categorized as a low-intensity conflict. This category represents a common pattern of military campaigns in the early twenty-first century: sub-conventional wars fought by armies and security services belonging to states against armies of terrorilla- fully armed and hierarchical organizations that operate among civilian populations, combining guerilla and terror warfare tactics with the logic of terrorism. The civilians provide shelter and aid, whether under duress or in solidarity, and they always suffer the bitter consequences of the conflict.

Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sisi AFP PHOTOThe Jan. 29, 2015, attacks in northern Sinai by some 60 armed men killed 32 people. The attacks included rockets and mortar fire and at least three suicide bombings. There were concurrent attacks in Port Said and Alexandria. The offensive was carried out by Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis, which in November 2014 pledged allegiance to the Islamic State (IS).

IS support for the group through funding and provision of weapons and personnel gives Egypt’s campaign in Sinai great importance. The success of the Sisi government in providing an effective response to the offensive by Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis will also affect the ability of other countries to contend with Salafist jihadi elements. Such success will also serve to hinder the impression of an unstoppable, threatening force created by IS conquests.

Egypt’s campaign in Sinai has tremendous significance for Israel since Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis has carried out attacks against Israel in the past and has declared that it will continue to operate directly against Israel. Therefore, any intelligence, operational, or political assistance that Israel can provide to the el-Sisi regime will serve Israel’s security interests.

The writer served as a consultant on counter-terror strategies to the Prime Minister’s Office and the Ministry of Defense, and as head of the Counter International Terror Section in the IDF. (Institute for National Security Studies-Tel Aviv University)

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Security Challenges Facing Israel in 2015

Israeli soldier looks through binoculars into Lebanon, near the northern Israeli town of MetulaFrontPage Mag (Feb 4) — The latest incident in the Golan’s Quneitra border illustrates the security challenges Israel faces in the year ahead. Last week six Hezbollah operatives were killed, including an Iranian Revolutionary Guard (IRG), General Muhammad Ali Allah-Dadi. The presence of an Iranian IRG general and top Hezbollah operatives on the Golan points to an Iranian attempt to build a missile base on the border of Israel.

The al-Manar website (Hezbollah’s mouthpiece) acknowledged that six Hezbollah operatives were killed in Sunday’s (January 18, 2015) Israeli air strike, among whom was senior Hezbollah commander Muhammad Issa and Jihad Mughniyeh, son of former Hezbollah operations chief Imad Mughniyeh, who was killed by a car bomb in Damascus in 2008.

Israel’s northern border is expected to heat up in the coming months and years, both in the Golan Heights facing Syria, and on the Lebanese border where Hezbollah is in control. The real existential challenge to Israel however remains Iran. The question of whether to launch an attack on Iran’s nuclear facilities is bound to rise again, especially around July, 2015, when P5+1 negotiations with Iran are expected to end following two extensions. Iran can be counted on violating the interim agreement which called on the Iranians to freeze their nuclear project in exchange for western powers easing sanctions on Iran. The Obama administration is eager for further extensions despite Iranian history of cheating in its nuclear program.

… “The interim agreement enabled Iran to dangerously move forward on R&D, into more advanced generations of centrifuges, which offset the significance of the dilution and oxidization of Iran’s stockpile of 20% enriched uranium, the centerpiece of the interim deal. Both activities relate to the speed in which Iran could breakout with weapons-grade uranium – one route was stopped by the deal, but a second route was enabled and granted legitimacy.”

Landau and Stein asserted that “The terms of the deal did not touch upon Iran’s vast stockpile of Low Enriched Uranium (LEU), already enough for six or seven nuclear devices if enriched to weapons-grade, or its work on long-range-ballistic-missile delivery systems, which continue unhindered.” Iran has protected its breakout ability while the P5+1 continue to grant Iran economic relief to the tune of $700 million a month. Iran’s weaponization work, under investigation by the IAEA for cheating, has not paid a price either by the UN or the P5+1…

Another war with Hezbollah may be inevitable, albeit, not desired by Israel. Hassan Nasrallah, Hezbollah’s leader, vowed not to bring another war onto Lebanese soil, but he also announced that he will avenge Israel’s elimination of Hezbollah’s top military leaders, and the Israeli attacks on the weapons convoys from Syria to Lebanon.

Since the second Lebanon War in 2006, Hezbollah has built a huge arsenal of long, medium and short range rockets with a GPS guidance system that could hit all strategic points in Israel, including the Hedera power station, and Tel Aviv. Israel’s Iron-Dome will be able to intercept and destroy most of the Hezbollah rockets, but not all. It is more than likely that Israel’s Ben Gurion Airport and the seaports of Haifa and Ashdod would be out of action for several days. Hezbollah will also seek to infiltrate through underground tunnels, into Israeli towns and villages. Hezbollah is not however, an existential threat to Israel, although it is a definite strategic threat.

The growing presence of al-Qaeda (al-Nusra Front) and other jihadist forces, including the Islamic State in the Golan area, guarantees that a serious confrontation with the IDF (Israel Defense Forces) will occur. At the moment these forces are preoccupied with combatting the Assad regime and battling each other. But, as soon as they can stabilize their hold on territory, one can be sure of their terror attacks against Israel.

Tel Aviv has now become the arena for a Palestinian stabbing campaign, following numerous stabbing incidents last year in Jerusalem. NPR reported (January 21, 2015) “A Palestinian man is accused of stabbing 11 people (Jews) on a bus in central Tel Aviv today, wounding three seriously, before he was shot in the leg by Israeli police, who took him in for questioning.”

The Palestinian Authority is seen as encouraging individual acts of terror against Israelis in order to stir the situation in the West Bank (Judea and Samaria) following the Palestinian failed attempt to secure membership at the UN late last year. Hamas received a heavy blow in last year’s Gaza war, and is activating its west Bank terror cells to act against Israelis. Stabbing and vehicular homicide against Israeli-Jews has become the new form of terror…

A rational analysis would rule out another Hamas war with Israel. Hamas’ infrastructure was severely damaged, and it will take a while to rebuild. The same rationale however, would have prevented Hamas from launching last year’s war. The blockade imposed on Gaza by Egypt and Israel, and the conclusion that “they have nothing to lose,” might compel Hamas to try another round of hostilities with Israel.

Lastly, there is always a possibility of a cyber-attack against Israel. In 2009, in what has become known as Stuxnet, the U.S. and Israeli scientists crippled Iran’s nuclear program by sabotaging industrial equipment, and destroying Iranian centrifuges that enriched uranium. Iran has been hard at work trying to retaliate. The Internet can now be a weapon that can damage Israel’s water and electricity systems, as well as its financial and military system. 2015 will likely witness unremitting attacks on Israel.

In the final analysis, Israel is well prepared to defend itself against the tactical threat from Hamas and the Jihadi groups, and even from the strategic threat Hezbollah presents. The one scary threat to the Israelis remains a nuclear Iran, run by fanatical Ayatollahs.

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Iranian foreign policy: the long arm

Iran is doing better than its rivals at expanding its influence in an unstable region.

20150124_MAD001_0The Economist (Jan 26) — OFFICIALS in Tehran are not shy about their aim of spreading influence abroad, nor of their apparent success. Even as the efforts of the West and its Sunni Arab allies look distinctly half-hearted, notably in their fight against Islamic State (IS), Tehran can claim, with only a pinch of hubris, to run three Arab capitals: Baghdad, Damascus and Beirut.

This week it may have added a fourth: Sana’a, Yemen’s capital, where on January 20th Shia Houthi rebels took over the presidential palace (see article). American and Saudi officials believe the rebel militia is backed by the Iranians, although they deny it in public (and boast of it in private).

The takeover in Yemen came soon after an Israeli drone strike exposed Iranian meddling in another part of the Middle East. The cross-border attack on the Syrian side of the Golan Heights killed six fighters from Hizbullah, the Iran-backed Shia party-cum-militia in Lebanon, days after the group denied that it was in the area. More surprisingly it also killed Mohammad Ali Allahdadi, an Iranian general. His presence suggests that Iran was trying to establish a presence in an area that has fallen out of Syrian government control and into the hands of rebels with whom Israel appears to be on friendly-enough terms. To its critics, Iran alarmingly holds sway from the Mediterranean Sea to the Fertile Crescent and the Gulf of Aden.

Iran’s biggest gains were handed to it by America when, after the terrorist attacks of September 11th 2001, it removed hostile regimes in Iraq and Afghanistan. Iran has continued to extend its influence, even after a wave of Sunni uprisings that started in 2011 seemed likely to weaken the Shia regime’s pull. The Quds Force, the foreign wing of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards, has exploited the region’s instability. Its tactics include assassinations and bombings overseas, and supplying arms and training to militias deemed helpful to its interests. “The Iranians are experts at taking advantage of chaos,” says Shimon Shapira, a retired military man now at the Jerusalem Centre for Public Affairs, a think-tank.

The rise of IS, a Sunni jihadist movement straddling Iraq and Syria, has only strengthened Iran. Nuri al-Maliki, Iraq’s former prime minister and an Iranian ally, was ousted in August, and American forces rode back into Iraq to rescue it from IS. But Iran has won much of the kudos. Iranian officials boast of being the ground force for America’s air strikes. Politicians—Iranian and Iraqi—talk of Baghdad being intact, and the government in place, thanks only to a ring of defences set up around the city by Qassem Suleimani, the head of the Quds Force; some call him “Supermani”.

Similarly Syria has fallen ever more under Iran’s spell. Where Hafez al-Assad, father of the current president, kept Iran at arms length, his son “sold Syria to the Iranians,” says a defected general. Mr Assad relies on Tehran for cash, advice and training for its paramilitary fighters. In Lebanon, Hizbullah’s military force rivals that of the country’s army, and it has maintained a tenuous military balance with Israel.

Not waving but drowning

Iran’s rising influence is a concern for Saudi Arabia and America. The Saudis are rich but mostly ineffectual and the Americans are reticent and often unwelcome outsiders. Whereas the Saudis are building a 600-mile-long wall along its border with Iraq to keep out IS militants, Iran has waded into Iraq to support Shia militias.

Yet Iran’s reach has limits. One motivation for Israel’s attack may have been to expose Iran’s covert activities at a time when America looks close to striking a deal with the country over its nuclear programme. In what was likely an effort to calm tempers, Israeli officials later said they did not know the Iranian general was present, but Hizbullah cadres in southern Lebanon threatened retaliation, possibly with guerrilla attacks over the border with Israel.

Iran, however, would probably not be able to sustain a significant escalation or open confrontation. Propping up the Syrian regime is reckoned to have cost billions of dollars that it can ill afford, now that oil prices have fallen and Western sanctions bite hard. Oil exports are down to less than half the pre-sanctions level of 2.5m barrels per day. Some in Lebanon say Iranian largesse to Hizbullah has been trimmed.

The growth of IS just over the border in Iraq has Iranian officials worried. Yet Sunni extremism is, in part, a consequence of Iran’s own policies. Mr Assad deliberately sought to destroy moderate rebels and stoke extremism to present himself as the only bulwark against jihadists. Disgust at the Syrian regime’s brutality has led Hamas, the Palestinian Islamist movement, to distance itself from its Iranian backers.

Moreover, Iran’s Shia allies are deepening sectarianism. Abuses by Iranian-backed Shia militias in Iraq are undermining attempts by the Baghdad government to woo the Sunni tribes whose support is needed to counter IS. And Hizbullah has lost favour around the Muslim world by moving away from its supposed raison d’être—resistance to Israel—and fighting instead to prop up Mr Assad.

Its meddling also undermines the overtures by Iran’s president, Hassan Rohani, and his foreign minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif, who want Iran to be accepted as a normal state—starting with a deal with America and other Western powers over its nuclear programme. Some in the West think a nuclear deal could be part of a grand bargain to stabilise the Middle East. But more likely Iran would simply pocket a deal on its nuclear programme and continue its current policy in the region. Indeed it is already hinting at doing so.

Some Iranian officials, who think Saudi Arabia has refused to cut its oil production in an attempt to weaken Iran, talk about making mischief there by stirring up the oppressed Shia minority in the east. “It’s not that we want to make trouble there,” says a political adviser to Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Iran’s supreme leader. “But we have sent a message that if we wanted we could have the same benefits in the Gulf as we did in Iraq and Afghanistan.”

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Why the international counterterrorism effort is weak

A very good article that details the international efforts to counter terrorism.

By Yehuda Yaakov, consul general of Israel to New England, for the Boston Globe (Jan 24):

Followers of the rebel Houthi movement marched in Sana, Yemen, to show their support. (REUTERS)

Followers of the rebel Houthi movement marched in Sana, Yemen, to show their support. (REUTERS)

In recent days, we have been forced to bear witness to a flurry of tragic events around the globe — shocking murders at a magazine office and kosher supermarket in Paris by Islamic extremists, a horrific massacre in Nigeria at the hands of Boko Haram, the capture of more innocents by ISIS, and just days ago the eruption of a coup in Yemen orchestrated by Shiite insurgents. As these stories seem to scroll across our screens with no end in sight, I am compelled to recognize the common denominator. While many advances have been made in more than ten years since the birth of the international counterterrorism effort, early obstacles created weaknesses which now hamper the fight against those who seek to beat freedom into submission. For the past decade, the main pitfalls can be found in the diplomatic and political worlds, where universal norms should be implemented but all too often are not.

As far as many are concerned, the original sin took place on Sept. 28, 2001, when the UN Security Council adopted its landmark Resolution 1373. Back then, this document was considered by the fledgling diplomatic counterterrorism community as the plan that would get the job done. And why not? The resolution was adopted as binding under Chapter VII of the UN Charter, and contained many of the elements required to cement international cooperation.

Among other worthy provisos, UNSCR 1373 required that states prevent the financing of terrorist acts, refrain from providing any form of support to terrorists, block their citizens from involvement in terrorism, deny safe haven to terrorists, prevent the movement of terrorists from their territory, bring terrorists to justice, and increase cooperation with other states in these efforts.

The road map was crystal clear, but unfortunately the road itself has been quite bumpy. Why? The state sponsors of terrorism do not intend to cooperate. We have yet to find a way to force them to do so, but a solution must be found because submission to threats and intimidation from jihadist extremists and their apologists will, in the end, undermine the foundations of democratic societies.

Beyond implementation of 1373, the international counterterrorism community has yet to address two basic yet increasingly problematic issues: defining terrorism itself and combating the dissemination of ideologies that encourage it. These two aspects have tended to cause like-minded countries to bicker as much as to cooperate.

State sponsors of terror have long taken advantage of these shortcomings. Iran, a backer of the aforementioned Yemeni Shiite insurgency, is the most blatant example; terrorist groups, namely Hezbollah and Hamas, have inflated to monstrous proportions under its tutelage while the world basically looked on.

Indeed, it took years for a group like Hezbollah to warrant the EU’s designation as a terrorist organization. I was involved in the initial effort in 2004, which culminated only in 2013 in the wake of the Hezbollah attack that killed five Israelis in Burgas, Bulgaria. The years preceding this decision were often spent debating whether a terrorist group engaged in political activity was in fact a terrorist group at all.

An identifiable line connects the failings of UNSCR 1373, and other diplomatic weaknesses, to a fatal array of attacks of varying scale since its adoption in 2001. Events in France, Nigeria, Syria, Yemen, and elsewhere are just the latest examples. It is unlikely that they will be the last.

As with all tragedies, a silver lining must be found. If there is any consolation, it is that these madmen and their ilk who seek to bring us to our knees are instead causing us to stand tall. The task before us now is to stay standing, to remain steadfast in our declared principles, and to fight back without any hesitation.

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Krauthammer: Do we really mean ‘never again’?

Charles Krauthammer is a syndicated columnist and a Fox News commentator. One of the best columnists and political commentators in the world. This might be the best op-ed he’s ever written.

Candles burn by a memorial plaque at the Birkenau Nazi death camp in Oswiecim, Poland, Tuesday, Jan. 27, 2015, after the official remembrance ceremony. (Alik Keplicz / AP)

Candles burn by a memorial plaque at the Birkenau Nazi death camp in Oswiecim, Poland, Tuesday, Jan. 27, 2015, after the official remembrance ceremony. (Alik Keplicz / AP)

The Washington Post (Jan 29) — Amid the ritual expressions of regret and the pledges of “never again” on Tuesday’s 70th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz, a bitter irony was noted: Anti-Semitism has returned to Europe. With a vengeance.

It has become routine. If the kosher-grocery massacre in Paris hadn’t happened in conjunction with Charlie Hebdo, how much worldwide notice would it have received? As little as did the murder of a rabbi and three children at a Jewish school in Toulouse. As little as did the terror attack that killed four at the Jewish Museum in Brussels.

The rise of European anti-Semitism is, in reality, just a return to the norm. For a millennium, virulent Jew-hatred — persecution, expulsions, massacres — was the norm in Europe until the shame of the Holocaust created a temporary anomaly wherein anti-Semitism became socially unacceptable.

The hiatus is over. Jew-hatred is back, recapitulating the past with impressive zeal. Italians protesting Gaza handed out leaflets calling for a boycott of Jewish merchants. As in the 1930s. A widely popular French comedian has introduced a variant of the Nazi salute. In Berlin, Gaza brought out a mob chanting, “Jew, Jew, cowardly pig, come out and fight alone!” Berlin, mind you.

European anti-Semitism is not a Jewish problem, however. It’s a European problem, a stain, a disease of which Europe is congenitally unable to rid itself.

From the Jewish point of view, European anti-Semitism is a sideshow. The story of European Jewry is over. It died at Auschwitz. Europe’s place as the center and fulcrum of the Jewish world has been inherited by Israel. Not only is it the first independent Jewish commonwealth in 2,000 years. It is, also for the first time in 2,000 years, the largest Jewish community on the planet.

The threat to the Jewish future lies not in Europe but in the Muslim Middle East, today the heart of global anti-Semitism, a veritable factory of anti-Jewish literature, films, blood libels and calls for violence, indeed for another genocide.

The founding charter of Hamas calls not just for the eradication of Israel but for the killing of Jews everywhere. Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah welcomes Jewish emigration to Israel — because it makes the killing easier: “If Jews all gather in Israel, it will save us the trouble of going after them worldwide.’’ And, of course, Iran openly declares as its sacred mission the annihilation of Israel.

For America, Europe and the moderate Arabs, there are powerful reasons having nothing to do with Israel for trying to prevent an apocalyptic, fanatically anti-Western clerical regime in Tehran from getting the bomb: Iranian hegemony, nuclear proliferation (including to terror groups) and elemental national security.

For Israel, however, the threat is of a different order. Direct, immediate and mortal.

The sophisticates cozily assure us not to worry. Deterrence will work. Didn’t it work against the Soviets? Well, just 17 years into the atomic age, we came harrowingly close to deterrence failure and all-out nuclear war. Moreover, godless communists anticipate no reward in heaven. Atheists calculate differently from jihadists with their cult of death. Name one Soviet suicide bomber.

Former Iranian president Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, known as a moderate, once characterized tiny Israel as a one-bomb country. He acknowledged Israel’s deterrent capacity but noted the asymmetry: “Application of an atomic bomb would not leave anything in Israel, but the same thing would just produce damages in the Muslim world.” Result? Israel eradicated, Islam vindicated. So much for deterrence.

And even if deterrence worked with Tehran, that’s not where the story ends. Iran’s very acquisition of nukes would set off a nuclear arms race with half a dozen Muslim countries from Turkey to Egypt to the Gulf states — in the most unstable part of the world. A place where you wake up in the morning to find a pro-American Yemeni government overthrown by rebels whose slogan is “God is Great. Death to America. Death to Israel. Damn the Jews. Power to Islam.”

The idea that some kind of six-sided deterrence would work in this roiling cauldron of instability the way it did in the frozen bipolarity of the Cold War is simply ridiculous.

The Iranian bomb is a national security issue, an alliance issue and a regional Middle East issue. But it is also a uniquely Jewish issue because of Israel’s situation as the only state on earth overtly threatened with extinction, facing a potential nuclear power overtly threatening that extinction.

On the 70th anniversary of Auschwitz, mourning dead Jews is easy. And, forgive me, cheap. Want to truly honor the dead? Show solidarity with the living — Israel and its 6 million Jews. Make “never again” more than an empty phrase. It took Nazi Germany seven years to kill 6 million Jews. It would take a nuclear Iran one day.

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After Israel boycott vote, swastikas hit Jewish fraternity at UC Davis

10479071_10152682081112689_4173428026791824978_nA Jewish fraternity at the University of California Davis was spray-painted with two swastikas Saturday, several days after the student council voted to endorse divestment from Israel.

Breitbart (Feb 1) — The fraternity, Alpha Epsilon Pi, had opposed the vote, which is part of a coordinated campaign by pro-Palestinian/anti-Israel activists across the University of California system.

CBS Sacramento reported that AEPi members believe their fraternity was attacked in retaliation for its support for Israel. The fraternity was attacked on the Jewish sabbath, shortly after the 70th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz.

Some activists claim AEPi staged the attack, the Times of Israel reports. Davis police are investigating the incident as a hate crime.

The university administration released a statement on Facebook, stating in part:

This kind of behavior is not only repugnant and a gross violation of the values our university holds dear, it is unacceptable and must not be tolerated on our campus or anywhere else.

No matter what religious, political or personal beliefs we hold, as members of a university community we have an obligation to treat each other with respect and dignity, even when we disagree.

Nothing rivals a swastika as a more potent or offensive symbol of hatred and violence toward our Jewish community members, but this odious symbol is an affront to us all. As campus leaders, we are saddened and outraged that this occurred in our community.

Photo: StandWithUs via Facebook

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Stand up to anti-Semitism on campuses: urge the University of California to do something about the increase in anti-Semitic incidents on campus. No students should feel threatened for their religion or ethnicity!