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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on April 16th, 2014
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

 

Brazen Hamas Billboard Links Hamas to Turkey, Qatar.

April 3, 2014    1 comment
Hamas's publicity billboard that reads, 'Jerusalem is Waiting for Men.' Photo: Screenshot.

Hamas’s publicity billboard that reads, ‘Jerusalem is Waiting for Men.’ Photo: Screenshot.

In a rather conspicuous propaganda stunt, Hamas, the terror group ruling Gaza, foisted a new billboard showing the heads of its Islamist leadership, along with the leaders of Turkey and Qatar, with a caption that implies their help has been recruited to wrest Jerusalem from Israeli control.

The billboard shows Hamas political chief  Khaled Meshal and Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh, alongside previous and current Qatari leaders Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani and Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad, with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

The billboard reads ”Jerusalem is Waiting for Men,” along with a photo of the Dome of the Rock.

The massive banner was photographed in Gaza by the Palestinian News Agency, and flagged on Thursday by blogger Elder of Ziyon.

The blogger wrote that the sign also implies two other messages.

First, the belittling of leaders of other Arab countries, especially Egypt, where Hamas gained under the Muslim Brotherhood leadership, and is now being shunned after that group, its political “big brother,” was expelled last year.

And, second, that Hamas, which played second fiddle to Islamic Jihad in last month’s shelling of Israel, is the stronger of the two groups and will be on the winning team to, one day, take Jerusalem.

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Egyptian Entrepreneur Laments Lack of Open Business With Israel.

April 3, 2014   3 comments
Cairo International Airport, where sources spied Israeli and Egyptian security officials meeting to discuss cooperation to fight terrorists in the Sinai. Photo: Cairo International Airport.

Cairo International Airport, where sources spied Israeli and Egyptian security officials meeting to discuss cooperation to fight terrorists in the Sinai. Photo: Cairo International Airport.

An Egyptian entrepreneur said he resents his country’s hostility to Israel which prevents him from openly conducting any business with the Jewish state, Egyptian daily Al-Ahram reported late last week.

“It is very unfortunate that we cannot be pragmatic and say this particular country has good quality and inexpensive commodities and we are going to import from it because it is in our interest,” said the unnamed Egyptian, who still does business with Israel on the down low. “After all these years an Israeli commodity on, say, the shelf of a supermarket would not be picked up except by a few people — if we assume that any supermarket would at all dare to carry, say, Israeli fruit juice.”

Like most Egyptian businessmen who work with Israelis, he insisted on remaining anonymous for fear of being “stigmatized as dealing with the enemy,” he told Al-Ahram.

“I really don’t understand; we have a peace deal and we cannot do business, it has been 35 years since this peace treaty was signed and still it is a big issue if someone said let us do business with Israel or let us benefit of their agricultural expertise,” he said.

Trade between Israel and Egypt dropped after President Hosni Mubarak was ousted in 2011, but government officials in Cairo say the fall was possibly a result of the subsequent political turmoil, according to the report.

Despite any current animosity Egypt may harbor toward Israel, an independent economic source told Al-Ahram that Egyptian authorities are considering all options in dealing with the country’s current severe energy shortages, not excluding the import of natural gas from Israel.

“Cooperation in natural gas has been very stable for many years despite the suspension and trade dispute that occurred after the 25 January Revolution removed Mubarak — but this is the case with trade cooperation in general, limited and stable,” said a government official.

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on March 29th, 2014
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

 

Palestinian students visit Auschwitz in first organized visit.

Visit is part of program that aims to teach Israeli and Palestinian students
about the other side’s suffering in effort to study how empathy could
facilitate reconciliation.

By Matthew Kalman | Mar. 28, 2014

A group of 30 Palestinian students arrived at Auschwitz-Birkenau on
Thursday (yesterday), in what is believed to be the first organized visit by Palestinian
students to a Nazi death camp.

The students are spending several days in Kraków and O?wi?cim guided by two
Jewish Holocaust survivors.

A news blackout on the trip was requested by the organizers. The presence of
the Palestinian group at Auschwitz-Birkenau is being reported here for the
first time.

The students from Al-Quds University and Birzeit University, near Ramallah,
are participating in a joint program on Reconciliation and Conflict
Resolution with the Friedrich Schiller University in Jena, Germany, and
Ben-Gurion University of the Negev.

The program’s aim is for Israeli and Palestinian students to learn about the
suffering that has helped shape the historical consciousness of the other
side.

Last week, a group of Israeli students visited the Dheisheh refugee camp,
located south of Bethlehem,  to learn about the Palestinian experience of
suffering during the founding of Israel in 1948 ­­– known to Palestinians as
the Nakba (“the catastrophe”).

The reactions of each group will be studied by a group of PhD psychology
students to see whether exposure to the conflicting historical narrative
helps the students to understand their enemy, and facilitates efforts toward
reconciliation and coexistence.

The Palestinian side of the program is directed by Mohammed S. Dajani,
professor of American Studies at Al-Quds. Because of the Palestinian freeze
on joint projects with Israeli universities, the Palestinian students are
participating under the banner of Prof. Dajani’s Wasatia movement of
moderate Islam.

Israeli groups regularly visit refugee camps in the West Bank searching for
cross-border understanding, but the Palestinian visit to Auschwitz is
unprecedented. It grew out of a visit by Prof. Dajani as part of a large
Jewish-Muslim-Christian delegation in 2011, after which he coauthored a New
York Times op-ed entitled “Why Palestinians Should Learn About the
Holocaust.”

Since then, Prof. Dajani has written what he believes to be the first
objective introduction to the Holocaust for Palestinian students in Arabic,
which he hopes will become a textbook used in Palestinian schools and
universities.

“Basically, we want to study how empathy with the Other could help in the
process of reconciliation,” Prof. Dajani says. “I feel I would like
Palestinians to explore the unexplored, and to meet these challenges where
you might find that within their community there will be a lot of pressure
on them not to do it or questioning why they are doing it, or that this is
propaganda. I feel that’s nonsense.”

Prof. Dajani says more than 70 students applied for the 30 places on the
Poland trip, but five later dropped out because of peer pressure.
He says the choice of Dheisheh for the Israeli students was not meant to
suggest there was an equivalence or even a direct link between the Holocaust
and the Nakba. They were chosen as the symbolic events that have deeply
affected the psyche on both sides of the conflict.

“We are seeking knowledge,” he says. “We are seeking to know what has
happened; why did it happen; how can it be prevented from happening again? I
believe it is very important to break this wall of bigotry, ignorance and
racism that has separated us from crossing over to this new realm.”

“One of my students asked me why we should learn about the Holocaust when
the Israelis want to ban even the use of the word ‘Nakba,’” he adds. “My
response was: ‘Because in doing so, you will be doing the right thing. If
they are not doing the right thing, that’s their problem.’”

Prof. Dajani, who was banned from Israel for 25 years for his activities for
Fatah in Lebanon in the 1970s and ’80s, says the student program is a
practical expression of his belief that Israelis and Palestinians can settle
their differences through compromise, moderation and human contact. He says
his own visit to the Nazi death camp had a profound effect that he wishes to
share with his students.

“I was also raised in the culture of denial, so for me, to go and see and
look and be on the ground – it was a very sad experience for me.
It had a lot of impact,” he admits. “I was shocked about the inhumanity of
man to man. How can this happen? Why did it happen? Why would man be this
cruel?

“It was shocking for me, because it showed me the deep, deep, dark side of
human evil,” he adds.

Prof. Dajani has a track record of espousing views that are unpopular with
the Palestinian academic mainstream. He is one of the few Palestinian
professors to openly oppose the call for Palestinians and others to boycott
Israeli universities.

Hanna Siniora, a veteran campaigner for Israeli-Palestinian reconciliation,
says Prof. Dajani’s initiative should be welcomed.

“It’s very important for people to see the viciousness of such acts,”
he says. “It should touch them in their humanity, in their sense of
understanding that human beings don’t do evil things like that. This has
caused a major problem in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, because the
psyche of the Israelis is so tormented by what happened to the Jewish people
that they cannot trust anybody.

“This is an educational trip. It opens the eyes and minds,” he adds.
“If there is an empty place, I’d like to come along,” he says.

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on March 23rd, 2014
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

 

Mixing Music in Istanbul: 
Turkish Jews and Their Sacred Songs
lecture/demonstration featuring
Maureen Jackson
special musical guest: Munir Beken (oud)
Monday, March 24, 7:00PM

at Center for Jewish History

15 W 16th Street in Manhattan

Admission is free – RSVP to info@jewishmusicforum.org

This lecture-demonstration explores the linked histories of Istanbul, its Jewish community, and historical musical traces of multi-religious music-making in Ottoman and Turkish society.  Author of Mixing Musics: Turkish Jewry and the Urban Landscape of a Sacred Song (Stanford University Press; winner of the National Jewish Book Award in Sephardic Culture, 2013), Dr. Maureen Jackson focuses on the Jewish religious repertoire known as the Maftirim, which developed in interaction with Ottoman court music. Her research in Istanbul illuminates the people, places, and practices that shaped an Ottoman music world, Jewish cultural life, and continuities and ruptures experienced across the 20th and 21st centuries. 
 
Munir Beken, an oud virtuoso and ethnomusicologist at UCLA’s Herb Alpert School of Music will be on hand to perform musical examples that bring to life the Turkish musical forms at the heart of Dr. Jackson’s study.

Dr. Maureen Jackson has received the Sabanc? International Research Award 2nd Prize in 2008 as well as grants from the Fulbright Foundation, National Endowment for the Humanities, and Turkish Cultural Foundation.

The Jewish Music Forum is a project of the American Society for Jewish Music, with the support of he American Jewish Historical Society and the Center for Jewish History. Founded in 2004, the Jewish MusicForum is now in its tenth season.

For more information please visit www.jewishmusicforum.org/

This event has received promotional support from the American Sephardi Federation American Sephardi Federation and CTMD.

Panel Discussion

Passing the Torch: Jewish Music Archives

and the Future of Yiddish Song

moderated by

Mark Slobin

Sunday, April 6, 11:00AM

at Center for Jewish History

15 West 16th Street, Manhattan

Admission: $10

click here to reserve tickets

 

Around 1900, East European Jews became acutely aware of the impact of modernization and urbanization on their culture: on their songs, their tales, and customs. They set in motion a wide range of projects and institutions to gather, archive, and study fading folklore. YIVO was a pioneer in this push, along with a galaxy of Polish and Russian (later Soviet) activists. Today, with the loss of the original population and the huge demographic and cultural shifts of world Jewry, the surviving archives both preserve and channel a rising tide of interest, even a hunger, for what’s called “Yiddish” music and folklore.

This symposium brings together archivists, scholars and performers to discuss the history and creation of Yiddish folk music archives, and the future of the study and performance of Yiddish song today. What is the role of Jewish music archives in fostering new scholarship and Yiddish music?

Wesleyan University ethnomusicologist  Mark Slobin will moderate the panel which will also feature CTMD artistic director Ethel Raim, Lorin Sklamberg (YIVO, The Klezmatics), Robert Rothstein (University of Massachusetts, Amherst), Gila Flam (National Library of Israel) and Lyudmila Sholokhova (YIVO).

 

The event is dedicated to the memory of Chana Mlotek, YIVO’s Music Archivist from 1978 until her recent passing at age 91 in 2013. This program is made possible with the generous support of the Mlotek family. It is co-sponsored by the American Society for Jewish Music.  

Bessarabian Klezmer:
Tantshoyz Dance Party
featuring Master Klezmer Clarinetist/Accordionist
Isaac Sadigursky
 Dance leading by Michael Alpert
Tuesday, April 22, 7:30PM-10:00PM 
Isaac Sadigursky
At the Stephen Wise Free Synagogue, 
30 W. 68th St. (btw Columbus and Central Park West on Manhattan’s Upper West Side)   
Admission $15 

CTMD’s An-sky Institute for Jewish Culture is excited to bring back clarinetist/accordionist Isaac Sadigursky for a special program on Bessarabian* klezmer. Born in Belts, Moldova, the Los Angeles-based clarinetist/accordionist Isaac Sadigursky is a major exponent of the Bessarabian klezmer tradition and its rich Ottoman/Balkan-influenced repertoire.

 

Lace up your dancing shoes for a special Tantshoyz Yiddish Dance Party as Sadigursky will lead an all-star band with dance leading by Michael Alpert. Folks new to Yiddish Dance absolutely welcome! 

 

Instrumentalists can come at 5:30PM for a special workshop (extra charges apply), and hang around for a jam session at the end of the evening.

 

Presented as part of the New York Klezmer Series, curated by Aaron Alexander.

*Bessarabia, a historic region between the Prut and Dniester Rivers, named after the Basarab ruling dynasty is geographically equivalent to today’s Republic of Moldova, inclusive of the contested Transnistrian Republic.  The region has been a fascinating cultural crossroads for centuries, fought over by the Ottoman and Romanov empires, then Romanian and later Soviet until the fall of the USSR. The region’s largest city is Chisinau (Yiddish: Kishinev).

Yiddish Song of the Week
The Internet’s leading site for Yiddish folksong!

 

Online at www.yiddishsong.wordpress.com

 

Hundreds of Yiddish song enthusiasts from all over the world participate in an online community surrounding CTMD’s Yiddish Song of the Week blog – the internet’s leading destination for information, recordings and transcriptions of rare Yiddish folksong repertoire. Blog editor Itzik Gottesman of the Yiddish Forverts newspaper and a group of leading song researchers post their favorite field recordings of important traditional folksingers such as Lifshe Schaechter-Widman, Tsunye Rymer, Josh Waletzky, Beyle Schaechter-Gottesman and many others. 

Sponsors and Credits
Major support for the An-sky Institute for Jewish Culture is provided to the Center for Traditional Music and Dance by the Keller-Shatanoff Foundation and the National Endowment for the Arts. Additional support is provided by the Atran Foundation as well as public funds from the New York State Council on the Arts, a State agency and the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs, the Scherman Foundation, Con Edison, the Hearst Foundation, the Mertz Gilmore Foundation, Friends of Cantor Janet Leuchter and the Fan Fox and Leslie R. Samuels Foundation. We are grateful additionally to the Forward Association for providing seed funding for the Institute. Photo of Isaac Sadigursky courtesy of YiddishkaytLA. Photo of Lifshe Schaechter-Widman courtesy of Itzik Gottesman.

For more information about upcoming events, what’s happening in New York City’s traditional music and dance scene, to join or to donate, go to CTMD’s website, or contact Pete Rushefsky at 212-571-1555, ext. 36 (office), 917-326-9659 (cell) or prushefsky@ctmd.org (email).

 

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on March 21st, 2014
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

 

Israel’s Peres Sends Iranian New Year’s Greeting – Happy Nowruz – to Persian Speakers.

March 20, 2014 10:43 am

by Joshua Levitt, The Algemeiner.

Israeli President Shimon Peres delivering a festive greeting for Nowruz, the Persian New Year, on March 20, 2014. Photo: Screenshot.

Israeli President Shimon Peres delivering a festive greeting for Nowruz, the Persian New Year, on March 20, 2014. Photo: Screenshot.

Israeli President Shimon Peres on Thursday spoke to the people of Iran by delivering a festive greeting for Nowruz, the Persian New Year, through interviews with Persian language radio stations, Israel Radio Persian and Radio Farda, and via his YouTube channel.

Beginning with the traditional Persian greeting, Peres said, “Iraniane Gerami, Novruzetan Piruz Bad,” or “Iranian citizens, wherever you are, Happy Nowruz.”

“The Jewish people and the Persian people, the Iranian people have a very long history and we’re going to have a long future,” he said in the radio address. “We are old cultures, we learn history, we make history and we respect history. We have a heritage of values; we are not just business peoples but two nations that respect culture, that respect human dignity. We call to live in peace and understanding.”

Ending the message he said, “Let us have a year of science and of peace, without war and threats. Happy Nowruz!”

In the interviews he granted to the Persian-language outlets, Peres spoke about his experiences and memories of his visits to Iran during the time of the Shah, when relations and diplomacy between the countries were different.

He said,”I don’t have a special message for the people of Iran because it is the same message as the people of Israel: Let’s forget wars, let our young people build a new future. Let’s talk to each other, directly, without prejudices. We still have a great deal to do to make the world better, let’s march together to this goal.”

When asked about the future relations between the two countries, Peres said, “I think Israel will become the contributing member of the Middle East, I think our children and Arab children, Druze, Christians, everybody will go to the same universities and their major challenge will be the new ideas, the new discoveries.”

“I do believe that the young generation of Iran, like the young generation all over the world will choose to live in peace, in cooperation,” he said. “Instead of fighting, let’s compete in scientific endeavor. In competition everybody wins, in war everybody loses.”

 

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on March 20th, 2014
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

Message to the Iranian People on Nowruz

Press Statement

John Kerry
Secretary of State
Washington, DC
March 20, 2014

 


 

 

I’m privileged to join President Obama in wishing the people of Iran and all those who celebrate around the world — from East Asia to the Persian Gulf region — a happy, healthy, and prosperous Nowruz.

All who celebrate Nowruz remember that it is not just an ancient tradition dating back over 3,000 years, but a time of renewal and hope. This season we reflect on the shared humanity that binds us together.

My own family is stronger today because of the presence and love of Iranian-Americans, and I am proud of the family ties that we Americans have to Iran and its people. Here in America, we value the significant contributions that Iranian-Americans continue to make, whether it’s in science, medicine, engineering, business, art, or so many other ways.

On this Nowruz, we reaffirm our belief that strengthening cultural and academic ties between our two countries benefits our two peoples. Today, I am pleased to note that the Treasury Department will issue a new General License that will enhance educational ties between Iran and the United States through exchanges and the provision of new opportunities for Iranians to study in our country.

It’s not lost on any of us that the United States and Iran have endured harsh winters in our past, but gathering to welcome Spring and the New Year with friends and family is an opportunity to look forward to what can lie ahead with hard work and commitment. And it is our hope that the people of Iran will be able to fulfill their aspirations in their own society in the coming year.

So as you gather with your loved ones around the Haft Seen Sofreh, the United States wishes you a joyous New Year filled with the hope for a better tomorrow.

Nowruzetan Pirooz!

The Office of Website Management, Bureau of Public Affairs, manages this site as a portal for information from the U.S. State Department.

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Re: Working on Happiness Week 2014?

HI all:
Here is the information about the International Day of Happiness being celebrated this year at the UN on the Day of Nowruz. See attached flyer.
The International Day of Happiness events is co-hosted by the Permanent Mission of El Salvador to theUnited Nations on Thursday, March 20, 2014.

The first event is from 10:30 AM to 12 PM titled “Happiness Happening: Impacting Communities Globally” and will be held in the UN Delegates Dining Room.

The Second event is from 3:15 PM to 6 PM titled “Social Entrepreneurs: Sharing Happiness Initiatives for the Post 2015 Agenda” and will also beheld in the UN Delegates Dining Room.
There will also be an invitation only luncheon with a panel.

This information is from Dr. Judy Kuriansky

 

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on March 14th, 2014
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

 

B’nai B’rith Attends Unveiling of Iranian Arms Shipment

 

B’nai B’rith World Center Director Alan Schneider was on hand at the Eilat Naval Base as a guest of the prime minister’s office for the unveiling of the Iranian arms shipment intercepted last week by the Israeli Navy in the Red Sea. The cache of 40 M-302 rockets, 181 122 mm mortar shells and 400,000 rounds of machine gun bullets found hidden under bags of cement marked “Made in Iran” and was destined for terrorists in the Gaza Strip to use against Israel.

 

Speaking in front of the exhibition to 70 foreign journalists, 30 military attaches and other invited guests, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu expressed exasperation with the lack of international condemnation of Iran in the face of this blatant violation of international law.

 

“There are those who would prefer that we do not hold this news conference here today. They feel uncomfortable that we show what is really happening inside Iran. They prefer that we continue to nurture the illusion that Iran has changed direction. They’re not prepared to recognize that Iran, a brutal regime, has not abandoned its deep involvement in terrorism, its systematic efforts to undermine peace and security throughout the Middle East, and its ambition to destroy the State of Israel,” Netanyahu said. “They conveniently ignore Iran’s continued criminal aggression in the mass killings in Syria; in supporting the terrorist organizations in Lebanon, in Gaza; in subversion throughout the Middle East; in dispatching terrorists to five continents; in the execution of hundreds of innocent people inside Iran every year. Above all, they deceive themselves into believing that Iran has given up its goal of developing nuclear weapons.”

 

Following Netanyahu, Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon said that the smuggled arms were “another example of the fact that the Iranian regime is actually the largest terror exporter in the world. There is no conflict in the Middle East that this regime does not nourish with weapons or ammunition, with money or knowledge in terrorism.” He accused Iran of using its diplomatic pouch to transport explosives to Iranian embassies in Asia and South America.

 

 

B’nai B’rith Mission to Nazi Concentration Camp with Members of the European Parliament

 

A delegation of Spanish Members of European Parliament participated in a joint B’nai B’rith International and B’nai B’rith France mission to the Nazi concentration camp Natzweiler-Struthof. The delegation included of former Spanish Minister of Interior and MEP Jaime Mayor Oreja, MEP Rosa Estaràs Ferragut, MEP Teresa Jiménez Becerril and MEP Agustín Díaz de Mera. The delegation was accompanied by B’nai B’rith Director for EU Affairs Nuno Wahnon Martins and the President of the Strasbourg Hischler Lodge Marcel Kohen. The mission was covered by Radio Judaica Strasbourg.

 

The camp, located one hour from the European Parliament in Strasbourg, France, is an especially poignant site of remembrance, because was not only was it used as a concentration camp, but also a death camp that employed the use of gas chambers, killing thousands Jews, Roma, homosexuals and political prisoners from around Europe. It was a very emotional visit, where the MEPs paid tribute to the victims of World War II and were able to better understand the challenges created by all forms of discrimination and Holocaust denial within the European Union.

 

 

B’nai B’rith Defends Hate Crimes Law

 

B’nai B’rith joined other civil rights groups in filing an amicus, or friend-of-the-court, brief in the case of United States v. Miller, urging the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to uphold the constitutionality of a key federal hate crimes law. The brief also called on the court to affirm that the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act, whose passage in 2009 B’nai B’rith advocated for, applies to cases in which religiously motivated violence involves victims and perpetrators who share the same faith.

 

 

B’nai B’rith Supports Voting Rights Legislation

 

B’nai B’rith joined other Jewish organizations in signing a letter to Congress calling for passage of the Voting Rights Amendment Act of 2014. The legislation would replace critical voter protections that prohibited discriminatory voting practices but have been stripped away by federal courts.

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on March 4th, 2014
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

 

 

03/04/2014 05:57 AM EST

 

Remarks at the American Israel Public Affairs Committee Conference.

Remarks

John Kerry
Secretary of State
Washington Convention Center
Washington, DC
March 3, 2014

 


 

 

Norm, thank you. Thank you very, very much. Thank you all, 14,000 strong or more. (Applause.) Howard, Howard Friedman and Executive Director Howard Kohr, incoming president Bob Cohen, incoming chairman Michael Kassen, outgoing chairman Lee Rosenberg, and Ambassador Ron Dermer and Ambassador Dan Shapiro. I don’t know where our ambassadors are. Would they – somebody ought to applaud both of them here. (Applause.) There they are. Thanks for your own, Norman.

Let me tell you, it really is an enormous pleasure for me to be able to be here. It’s a privilege. And good to see so many friends, all 14,000 of you – a little frightening to see myself on about eight, nine, ten screens up here – (laughter). The last time I spoke to AIPAC, I joined your national summit in Napa Valley. I did it via satellite. And you were in the vineyards, I was overseas – a different kind of vineyard. So today, I think I’m getting the better end of the deal because I am here with you in person, and your wine selection is a lot more limited this time.

I have to tell you, I had the pleasure of speaking to AIPAC back in the 1990s, it was a great honor, and every time I come here, whether I get a chance to talk to a smaller group during the daytime sessions or otherwise, this is a remarkably inspiring gathering – people from every corner of the country coming together to demonstrate our deep support as Americans for a strong U.S.-Israel relationship. (Applause.)

And it is no exaggeration. It’s not just words to say that every single one of you brings here such a special passion to a cause that you so fiercely believe in. And let me tell you something unequivocally: After almost 30 years in the United States Senate, I can tell you that is precisely why AIPAC’s work is in the best traditions of American democracy, and I thank you for practicing it. (Applause.)

I want you to know that in my judgment, these democratic values are stamped in the DNA of both the United States and Israel. But we also share something much deeper than that. Like no other two countries on the planet, against the deepest odds, both America and Israel confidently, purposefully set out to be examples to the world. Think about it. From its earliest days, Israel has always said it’s not enough just to be one of many in a community of nations; Israel has strived since Isaiah’s time to serve as a light unto the nations. (Applause.) And that responsibility to be a light unto the nations sounds actually unbelievably similar to something that we as Americans know is part of who we are, too.

My grandfather ten times over – too hard to count in other terms – was a man by the name of John Winthrop. And he came to what was then the New World, and he came in search of freedom, freedom to worship as he wished. He was a minister. He and his congregants were outcasts, persecuted, heading into a rough and unforgiving land with no guarantee even of survival. And on his way here, he delivered a now fairly famous sermon at sea in which he called on his community to create a city upon a hill in their new home, America.

So whether you call it a city upon a hill or a light unto the nations, it actually means the same thing: being a model to the world. It means having a home that sets a standard, a standard of dignity and a standard of freedom. So the foundation of the friendship between the American people and the people of Israel was actually laid centuries before a single stone was set under the U.S. Capitol or under the Knesset. And looking around this room tonight, it is clear that our friendship has never been stronger. (Applause.)

And I’ll tell you why. Because today, as Israel faces serious challenges to her future, it is America that will stand firmly by her side. (Applause.) I will tell you that with the leadership of President Obama – and you can look it up, you can measure it; this is not an exaggeration, it’s a matter of fact – there has been a complete, unmatched commitment to Israel’s security. The record of this Administration in providing aid and assistance, consultation, weapons, help, standing up in various international fora, fighting, I am proud to tell you, is unrivaled. And the bottom line, pure and simple, has been making sure that Israel has the means to defend itself by itself and defending Israel’s right to be able to do so. That is what we’ve done. (Applause.)

Security. Security is fundamentally what President Obama is committed to. And so too is he committed to using the full force of our diplomacy to resolve the two great questions that most matter when it comes to ensuring the security of Israel: preventing a nuclear Iran and ending the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. (Applause.)

Now let me start with Iran because I know there are many questions. I know many people – there’s been a healthy debate about the approach. We welcome that. But let me sum up President Obama’s policy in 10 simple, clear words, unequivocal: We will not permit Iran to obtain a nuclear weapon, period. (Applause.) Now, I added an eleventh word just for punctuation. (Laughter.)

But I want you to understand there are no if, ands, or buts. This is not a political policy. This is a real foreign policy. And we mean every word of what we say. You have the word of the President of the United States that Iran will not get a nuclear weapon. Now, as we said at the outset, and I say it again today, our diplomacy is guided by a simple bottom line: No deal is better than a bad deal. (Applause.) And we absolutely will not accept a bad deal. We are committed to a deal that gets the job done. (Applause.)

Why? Because we get it, we understand it. As President Obama said in Jerusalem, no one can question why Israel looks at the Iranian program and sees an existential threat. We understand it. We understand it in our gut. And we also know something else. This is not some favor that we do for Israel. This is something that is also in the interest of the United States of America, and it’s in the interest of countries surrounding Israel. (Applause.) A nuclear bomb for Iran would also threaten the stability of the region, indeed the entire world. It would produce an arms race among the surrounding countries. There is no way the world is safer anywhere in the world with a nuclear weapon in Iran, and we are not going to let it happen, period, end of story. (Applause.)

Now, to do that, to achieve this all-important goal, important for America’s security and for Israel’s security, it is crucial that we seizes what might be the last best chance to be able to have diplomacy work, and maybe the last chance for quite some time. Because the reality is only strong diplomacy can fully and permanently achieve the goal. Those who say strike and hit need to go look at exactly what happens after you’ve done that, whether that permanently eliminates the program or opens up all kinds of other possibilities, including Iran leaving the Nuclear Proliferation Treaty, not even allowing IAEA inspectors in, not living under any international regimen. That’s a possibility. Only strong diplomacy can guarantee that a nuclear weapons program actually goes away for good instead of just going underground and becoming more dangerous. Only the exhaustion of diplomacy can justify more forceful options if you have to take them in the end.

So we say – President Obama and myself and others – we say let’s seize the diplomatic moment. And that’s what we are trying to do. And the truth is it is strong diplomacy that has actually made this moment possible. And we need to give it the space to work. We need to make sure that if this opportunity were to elude us, it is not because we are the ones that close the window.

Now, I understand the skepticism. I’ve been around this city for 29-plus years as a senator, became chairman of the foreign relations committee, worked with most of the members of your board and with AIPAC and others around the country, and proud to tell you that during that time I had a 100 percent voting record for Israel. (Applause.)

And I’m not coming here to stand up in front of you and tell you that I know that Iran is going to reach an agreement. I don’t know. I don’t know what they’ll do. I don’t know if they are able to make some of the tough decisions they’re going to have to make in the months ahead. But I know that if the United States is going to be able to look the world in the eye and say we have to do something, we have to have exhausted the possibilities available to us for that diplomatic peaceful resolution. Let me make it clear our approach is not Ronald Reagan’s and the Soviets –We’re not looking at this and saying trust, but verify. Our approach is a much more complex and dangerous world – it’s verify and verify. And that’s what we intend to do. (Applause.)

Now, there is very good reason for these sanctions to exist in the first place, and good reason that we have kept the architecture of these sanctions in place. And we continue to enforce it even as we negotiate a comprehensive agreement. In the last weeks, we have announced additional sanctions with respect to individuals who have been tempted to go around it or violate it. We have not changed one piece of the sanctions architecture. And yet we are able to negotiate. Our eyes, my friends, are wide open. This is not a process that is open-ended. This is not a process that is about trusting Tehran. This is about testing Tehran. And you can be sure that if Iran fails this test, America will not fail Israel. That, I promise. (Applause.)

Now, we have taken no options off the table, but so far there is no question but that tough sanctions and strong diplomacy are already making Israel and America safer. The first step agreement, the first step agreement – it’s not an interim agreement, it’s a first step agreement – and the agreement that’s in force today didn’t just halt the advance of the Iranian nuclear program for the first time in a decade; it’s actually rolled it back. And we all remember how Prime Minister Netanyahu highlighted Iran’s 20 percent enriched uranium in the 2012 speech at the United Nations. Well, today Iran is reducing its stockpile of 20 percent uranium. And without the agreement in force today, the opposite would have been in effect. The stockpile would have grown even more dangerous, and the amount of breakout time that they have would have grown smaller. Because of the agreement, Iran will soon have to take its entire stock of 20 percent enriched uranium down to zero. Zero. Zero. (Applause.) You don’t have to be a math major to know that Israel is safer when Iran has zero uranium enriched to 20 percent, and that’s what we’ve achieved.

The same independent inspectors who also tell us that Iran has halted its advances on the heavy water reactor known as the Arak reactor, without the agreement in force today, we could not have stopped them making progress on the Arak heavy water reactor, plutonium reactor. Iran has also stopped enriching all uranium above 5 percent, and it has given inspectors daily access to the facilities at Natanz and at Fordow. You know Fordow, you’ve heard about it, that underground facility that was a secret for so long. We’ve never had people in it. But because of this first step agreement, we now have people inside Fordow every single day telling us what is happening. (Applause.)

None of these things would have happened without forceful diplomacy by the United States and our international partners. But now, my friends, we have to finish the job. Like I tell my staff, there aren’t any exit polls in foreign policy. It’s results that count, final results. And that means we have to let forceful diplomacy keep working in order to put this test to Iran.

Now, right now we are carefully – and I mean carefully – negotiating a comprehensive agreement. We are consulting with our friends in Israel constantly. The minute Under Secretary Wendy Sherman finished her last set of meetings in Vienna the other day, she went immediately to Israel, briefed thoroughly on the talks, then went to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates and continued to brief and briefed our European partners.

You might be asking: If no deal is better than a bad deal, what does the United States consider a good deal? Well, you have my word – and the President’s – that the United States will only sign an agreement that answers three critical questions the right way. First, will it make certain that Iran cannot obtain a nuclear weapon? Second, can it continuously assure the world that Iran’s program remains entirely peaceful as it claims? And third, will the agreement increase our visibility on the nuclear program and expand the breakout time so that if they were to try to go for a bomb, we know we will have time to act?

Those are the tests. Those are our standards for any comprehensive agreement. It’s that simple. And those objectives, if they’re not met, then there won’t be an agreement. (Applause.) Now make no mistake, make no mistake; we can’t resolve the answer to those questions. It’s up to Iran. It’s up to Iran to prove to the world that its program is peaceful, and the world will hold Iran accountable.

Now, if it turns out that Iran cannot address the world’s concerns, I guarantee you it will face more pressure, Iran will face more pressure, more and more isolation. And Congress will introduce more tough sanctions. And let me assure you – I know Eric Cantor is here, sitting here – I assure you it’ll take about two hours to get it through the House and the Senate and it won’t be delayed and the Congress will have to do nothing more than schedule the vote, because President Obama and I fully support those sanctions under those circumstances. (Applause.)

In the meantime, as I said earlier, we are enforcing every letter of the existing sanctions. I have personally instructed every State Department bureau and mission around the world to watch vigilantly for any signs of the sanctions being skirted. And to any country that wants to trade with Iran with these sanctions firmly in place, the United States will tell them exactly what I have told foreign leaders in no uncertain terms: Iran is not open for business until Iran is closed for nuclear bombs. (Applause.)

Now, strong diplomacy is also essential to another threat to Israel’s security: ending the conflict with the Palestinians, and in doing so, preserving the Jewish and democratic nature of the state of Israel. (Applause.) I’ve had some folks ask me why I’m so committed to these negotiations and why I’m so convinced that peace is actually possible. And they ask, “Why does John Kerry go to Israel so often?” I think I heard Steny Hoyer say he’d been there 13 times, Eric Cantor who’s been there 12 times. I’ve been there more times than that just in the last nine months. (Laughter.) And I’ve been in the Middle East more times than even that in the last months because I don’t always wind up going to Israel.

But apart from the question, I’m surprised because people ask, because apart from my affection for Israel which dates back to my first visit back in 1986, and it just strikes me that it’s the wrong question to ask, why do I go. This isn’t about me. This is about the dreams of Israelis and the dignity of Palestinians. It’s about reconciling two peoples who want at long last to live normal secure lives in the land that they have fought over for so long. It’s about answering King David’s timeless call that we seek peace and pursue it. It’s about fulfilling the fervent prayer for peace that Jews around the world recite to welcome Shabbat. It’s about parents from Tsefat to Eilat who want to raise their families in a region that accepts the nation-state of the Jewish people is here to stay. (Applause.)

Now, it’s not news to any Israeli to hear me say that they live in a difficult neighborhood. Israelis know that better than anyone. No one needs to explain the importance of peace and security to a mother who has just sent her daughter to the army or a son who is waiting for his father to come home from another mission. No one knows the stakes of success or failure better than those who will inherit them for generations to come. And I have seen all of these realities in so many different ways in my travels in Israel, from the rocket casings in Sderot to the shelter in Kiryat Shmona that I visited years ago where children had to hide from Katyusha rockets. I’ve seen it.

My friends, I also believe that we are at a point in history that requires the United States as Israel’s closest friend and the world’s preeminent power to do everything we can to help end this conflict once and for all. Now, that is why America – (applause) – that is why America helped bring the parties back to the table, where, let’s be honest, Israelis and Palestinians have difficult choices to make. And no one understands just how complex those choices are or how emotional they are better than the leaders who have to summon the courage in order to actually make them.

I have sat with Bibi Netanyahu for hours and hours and days and days. We have become good friends. (Applause.) I believe – in fact, he ought to be charging me rent. (Laughter.) I’ve seen up close and personally the grit and the guts of this man and his love of country. And I can tell you with absolute certainty and without question, Prime Minister Netanyahu has demonstrated his courage and his commitment in pursuit of peace with security. (Applause.) He knows that it is the only way for Israel to be a Jewish and democratic state; not a bi-national state. (Applause.)

As President Obama said publicly in the Oval Office today, and I quote him: “Prime Minister Netanyahu has approached these negotiations with a level of seriousness and commitment that reflects his leadership and the desire of the Israeli people for peace.”

Thus far, I will tell you also that President Abbas, and I know there are many doubters here – I’ve heard the arguments for 30-plus years, 40 years – that there’s no partner for peace, that Abbas won’t be there, that – both sides, by the way, say the same thing about each other. That’s one of the difficulties we have to try get through here. A very small needle to try to thread in terms of the trust deficit. Thus far, President Abbas, I will tell you, has demonstrated he wants to be a partner for peace. He’s committed to trying to end the conflict in all of its claims, but he obviously has a point of view about what’s fair and how he can do that. Let’s be candid. I know that some of you doubt that. But as Israeli security officials will attest, President Abbas has been genuinely committed against violence, and his own security forces have worked closely with Israel in order to prevent violence against Israeli citizens.

I’ve also spent many hours with President Abbas, and I believe that he clearly understands both the tremendous benefits of peace and the great costs of failure. He understands that in terms of his own people, his own grandchildren, the country he hopes to be able to lead, and in terms of the history that beleaguers all. He knows the Palestinian people will never experience the self determination that they seek in a state of their own without ending the conflict in a solution that delivers two states for two peoples. (Applause.)

And so does Prime Minister Netanyahu. When Bibi looks me in the eye and says, “I can’t accept a deal with Palestinians that doesn’t make the people of Israel safer,” we agree 100 percent. (Applause.) But I argue that there is a distinction between a unilateral withdrawal from Lebanon or from Gaza where nothing is resolved, and a phased withdrawal that is negotiated where everything is at least in an agreement resolved.

Now, I learned about Israel’s security on many different trips over there, but one stands out. I was – I’d been a pilot since I was in college and I was on a trip over there. I was having a luncheon at Ovda Airbase with the Israel Air Force. And the colonel who was in charge was – had flown. He was an ace from the Six-Day War. And we were having lunch at the time at Ovda and I had been badgering them to maybe let me go up and fly. And they disappeared at lunch and finally he comes back and he says, “Senator, I hope you don’t eat too much. We’re going flying.” I said, “Wow, great. This is what I’ve wanted.” And we went out, the two of us, drove out to this jet, and he trusted me. We put on our helmets, got in the jet, and he says, “The moment we’re off the ground, it’s your airplane.”

So literally, we took off, I take the stick, we go up, we’re flying around. Next thing I know in my ear he says, “Senator, you better turn faster. You’re going over Egypt.” (Laughter.) So I turned very fast and then I asked him if I could do some aerobatics over the Negev. And I turned upside down and did a big loop and I was coming down, I was looking upside-down, and I said to myself, “This is perfect.” I could see all of the Sinai. I could see Aqaba. I could see Jordan. I see all of Israel below me, each side to each side. Said, “This is the perfect way to see the Middle East upside-down and backwards.” I understand it. (Applause.)

The real point of this story is just to tell you that I can’t tell you the imprint on me, being up there and tiny – almost turning. You had barely space to turn. You get the sense of a missile from here, or a rocket from there, or the threat of war. You understand it’s impossible to ignore just how narrow those borders are, how vulnerable Israel can be, and why Israel’s security is our first priority. We understand that. (Applause.)

That is why, my friends, President Obama sent a four-star general, John Allen, one of the most respected minds in United States military to do something we’ve never done in all the history of administrations negotiating for Israel’s and Palestinians’ future and that is to work with Israelis and Jordanians and Palestinians to make the Jordan River border as strong as the strongest borders on Earth. That’s what makes this effort different from anything we’ve ever done before. With the combination of the best military experience America can offer and the best ideas in the Pentagon and the best technology that we could deliver, we believe we can deliver to Israel security that Israel needs in order to make peace, and President Obama is committed to doing that.

Now we have no illusions. We saw what happened after Israel withdrew unilaterally from Gaza and Lebanon. We all learned lessons from that, I hope. That’s why a negotiated agreement is so important. That’s why the security arrangements that we are helping to design will need to be operationally proven. We’re not doing this on a whim and a prayer. We will never let the West Bank turn into another Gaza. (Applause.)

My friends, we understand that Israel has to be strong in order to make peace. But we also understand that peace will make Israel stronger. Any peace agreement must also guarantee Israel’s identity as a Jewish homeland. (Applause.) As Ehud Barak said on this stage last year, a two-state solution is the only way for Israel to stay true to its founding principles – to remain both Jewish and democratic. At last year’s AIPAC conference, he said statehood is not a favor for the Palestinians, and let me reaffirm: He is right; it is not.

Israel also needs peace in order to create greater prosperity. All of you here know the great economic benefits of peace. All of you have already seen what Israel has already been able to build with the forces of the region that raid against it. Just imagine what it will be able to build as a result of peace with Palestinian neighbors. I’ve had the foreign minister of one of the surrounding countries – a very wealthy country and a very smart foreign minister say to me if we make peace – this is under the Arab Peace Initiative and the Arab Follow-on Committee that is following everything we’re doing very closely and supporting it – and they said if we make peace, Israel will trade more in this community within a few years than it trades with Europe today. That’s what we have available to us. (Applause.) And I believe that we need to stand together with a single voice to reject any of the arbitrary unwarranted boycotts of Israel. For more than 30 years, I have staunchly, loudly, unapologetically opposed boycotts of Israel – (applause) – and I will continue to oppose those boycotts of Israel. That will never change. (Applause.)

Every time that Israel is subjected to attacks on its legitimacy, whether at the United Nations or from any nation, the United States will use every tool we have to defeat those efforts and we will stand with Israel. (Applause.)

Finally, peace demands that Israel fulfill its destiny not just as a nation but also as a neighbor. And that begins with the Palestinians, and it extends to the entire Arab League whose Arab Peace Initiative can open the door to peace and normalized relations with 20 additional Arab countries and a total of 55 Muslim countries. The upheaval in the Middle East has shown us all that Arabs and Israelis share some of the very same security concerns. Without the Palestinian conflict to divide them, these common interests can grow into real relationships and transform Israel’s standing in the region. And I just invite you – I promise you these conversations take place. I’ve had them throughout the Gulf region, throughout the Middle East, where increasingly those countries begin to see the possibilities of mutual security interests coming together for all of them against an Iran, against terrorism, against religious extremism. This is a commonality that is a new thread in the region, and I believe it brings the potential of new possibilities.

It is also important to remember that ending the conflict means ending the incitement. President Abbas has called incitement a germ that must be removed. And he has sought our help in order to try to deal with the problem. And I can tell you that with any final agreement it will also include a larger endeavor in order to help people on both sides move beyond a painful past and promote a culture of peace and tolerance.

After all these years, my friends, it is really no mystery what the end-game really looks like. I think you know that in your hearts. We understand what the end-game is. I know what peace looks like. When I talk to Prime Minister Netanyahu and others, I think everybody shares this because this is not new. After Camp David and Oslo and Wye and Annapolis and Taba and all of these efforts, what the end-game should look like is straightforward: security arrangements that leave Israelis more secure, not less; mutual recognition of the nation-state of the Jewish people and the nation-state of the Palestinian people; an end to the conflict and to all claims; a just and agreed solution for Palestinian refugees, one that does not diminish the Jewish character of the state of Israel; and a resolution that finally allows Jerusalem to live up to its name as the City of Peace. (Applause.)

It will take hard work. I’m not pretending any of the answers – these are all narrative issues. They’re tough issues. They complicated. But there is a vision of peace, and it takes tough choices on both sides, especially over the coming days. I guarantee you that America, that President Obama and this Administration will be there every day of the week, every step of the way. And we will stand with Israel’s leaders today and with the leaders of the future. And we will ensure that our light shines not just throughout the nations, but throughout the generations.

Leaders like a fellow named Guy – I’ll leave his last name out – but he’s a young Israeli who took part in an exchange program with the State Department, sponsors that brings Israelis and Palestinians together to talk about their histories and their hopes. Guy’s grandparents fled Europe. He was born and raised in Jerusalem. He served in the IDF. And he worked as an entrepreneur in Israel’s booming tech industry. And this is what he said in that program: We respect our past, but we don’t want to live it. We are young enough to dream, to believe that change is possible, and that fear can be defeated.

I think Guy is right. Change is possible. Fear can be defeated. But those are choices we have to make now.

My friends, a few months ago I landed in Tel Aviv and it was the 18th anniversary of Yitzhak Rabin’s assassination. I went straight to Kikar Rabin, and I stood with the late-prime minister’s daughter, Dalia, at the site of her father’s murder. And we stood just steps away from where the great general, in the last moments of his life, sang the famous lyrics of Shir LaShalom: Don’t whisper a prayer; sing a song of peace in a loud voice. Don’t say the day will come; bring that day. (Applause.) That is our mission. All of us, in whatever capacity that we can, but just as important our mission is also to raise our voices for peace, and we also need to listen. We have to listen to those who first gave voice to our values, voices that still echo thousands of years later.

He almost – I think it was the first time I went to Israel. I spent a week there and went all over the country and like many first-time visitors, I climbed Masada. I climbed it with a guide – some of you may know him or heard of him, a fellow by the name of Yadin Roman. Yadin, the publisher of Eretz Israel. And our group debated Josephus Flavius’s account of what happened on the top of that mountain, the account of what happened 2,000 years before we were there.

Then Yadin, after we’d had this long debate, made us all vote to determine did it happen as he recounted or was it different. And we all voted unanimously it did happen the way he recounted. He told us to then walk to the edge of the precipice which we did, and to look out across the chasm and to shout, to shout across the ancestral home of the Jewish people. And as we stood where every new Israeli soldier begins his or her service, by swearing an oath to honor that history and secure the future, Yadin instructed us to shout, all at the same time, “Am Yisrael chai.” We shouted. (Applause.) And then I have to tell you, echoing across the chasm in the most eerie and unbelievably unforgettable way were these haunting echoes of “Am Yisrael chai, Am Yisrael chai, chai, chai.” I’ll never forget hearing the echo of those words bouncing off that mountain. It was literally like we were hearing the voices of the souls of those who had perished sacrificing their lives for Israel a thousand years ago. And we were affirming those words, the state of Israel lives. The people of Israel live.

We have to listen to those voices. Those long ago who encouraged us to build a city on a hill to be a light unto the nations, an example to the world, to ensure Israel’s survival. And we have to listen to the voices of young people whose futures depend on the choices that we, the leaders of today, make. It’s for their future that we will give new strength to the U.S.-Israel partnership as AIPAC does like no other organization in our country. It’s for their future that we will come together giving greater voice to the timeless oath and we will remember forever those words and be driven by them: “Am Yisrael chai” will be said generations upon generations into the future because of the work you do and the work we will do together.

Thank you all very much. Honored to be with you. (Applause.)

The Office of Website Management, Bureau of Public Affairs, manages this site as a portal for information from the U.S. State Department.

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on March 3rd, 2014
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

 

IRAN PULSE, Al-Monitor

Summary? Print In a telephone interview with Al-Monitor, Masoumeh Ebtekar, the head of Iran’s Environmental Protection Organization, said that many of the plans to address Tehran’s pollution were not implemented under the previous administration.
Author Mehrnaz Samimi Posted March 2, 2014.

Iran’s environment VP to Al-Monitor: ‘We lost eight years’

 

Tehran, the overpopulated and heavily polluted capital city of Iran, is in constant struggle with environmental issues. Among the most drastic and dangerous issues is the city’s ever-present pollution, which worsens in winter, causing schools and offices to close on some days, and prompting officials to caution residents — in particular children, the elderly and sick — to refrain from leaving their homes.

President Hassan Rouhani has invested his hopes in Masoumeh Ebtekar to resolve these issues. Ebtekar, 53, was the first woman to become a Cabinet member and a vice president after the 1979 Islamic Revolution. Ebtekar, who spent part of her childhood in the United States and attended an American school in Tehran afterward, became a well-known face during the hostage crisis. Due to her fluency in English, she was the spokeswoman and translator for the hostage-takers.

Ebtekar is a scientist and previously served as editor-in-chief of Keyhan newspaper’s English edition from 1981 to 1983. She has written books, articles and scientific papers on her domain of expertise — the environment — and she has also co-written an English-language book, titled Takeover in Tehran: The Inside Story of the 1979 US Embassy Capture, on the hostage crisis and in response to the book Argo.

Under former President Mohammad Khatami, Ebtekar was a Cabinet member and head of the governmental Environmental Protection Organization for eight years. In 2007, she became a Reformist council member for the Tehran City Council, where she served until 2013 while maintaining her position as a university professor.

Following the 2013 election of Rouhani — whose candidacy she supported — there were speculations about her being tapped for the minister of science position. But she again assumed office as a vice president, and returned to head the Environmental Protection Organization.

Ebtekar has received several international awards and has been recognized for her efforts in protecting the environment, though she was also widely criticized for a paper she wrote in 2008, on the grounds that she had copied the material from previously published papers. The journal pulled her paper and apologized, and Ebtekar herself admitted that she had “made a mistake.”

On Jan. 15, she was asked to speak before Friday prayers in Tehran about the topic of clean air. Shortly after, it was announced that her speech was canceled, with no explanation as to why.

I spoke with Ebtekar about serious environmental and pollution challenges in Iran, and most of all, its capital. The interview was conducted over the phone in Farsi, and the following is an English translation.

Al-Monitor:  What is the first step in addressing pollution issues in Iran?

Ebtekar:  Tracking the root of pollution in Iran creates an in-depth understanding of it. Our society is a transitioning one — one that has, in fact, transformed at great speed from a traditional society dependent on agriculture to an industrialized, oil-dependent urban one. Such a transition requires enough resources to educate people and create the type of culture required for practical urban life, which has not been provided to our citizens, at least not as much as it should have been. Citizens’ cooperation is vital in reducing the extent of pollution.

Al-Monitor:  Why, in your opinion, is there insufficient cooperation from Iranian citizens in this regard?

Ebtekar:  To cooperate, people need to trust their government. They also need to know the details of decisions and priorities. Another important element is the active presence and effective role of nongovernmental organizations, which is what we in the current administration value greatly. President Rouhani’s focus on ecological issues and related shortcomings is significant; for which I am grateful. 

Al-Monitor:  You have made 12 trips to different provinces in Iran since you assumed office in the Rouhani administration. In what way do you believe them to have been mostly fruitful?

Ebtekar:  One of the matters on which I have focused during these trips and will continue to focus on, is engaging with grassroots organizations and our need to rely on their help. People have generally become more hopeful and expect further engagement and transparency regarding data and planning, which we will provide with the hope of facilitating this cooperation and creating a fruitful mutual relationship in working on environmental issues. 

Al-Monitor:  Do you have faith in succeeding at improving the pollution in Iran’s bigger cities, most significantly in Tehran?

Ebtekar:  The problem of pollution would have been resolvable with proper planning. I had overseen the planning a decade ago, and it was to be carried out over a time period of 10 years, which, for whatever reason, did not happen under the previous administration. Targeted subsidies and planning projects aimed at further improving the polluted air situation of busy cities will hopefully help. We must have faith, and we need to trust collective thinking and cooperation.

Al-Monitor:  Are there any cities that have experienced similar problems to Tehran and have succeeded in solving them? Could you benefit from their ideas and experiences in this regard?

Ebtekar:  Tehran’s nature is one of the most beautiful in the world, particularly thanks to the Alborz Mountains, which are, at the moment, snow-capped and even prettier than usual. These same mountains, however, act similarly to a bowl surrounding Tehran and obstruct sufficient air flow, thus adding to the amount of pollution. 

Mexico City had similar problems in the past. It is also a similar city to Tehran from the viewpoint of urban patterns and structural aspects. They have managed to solve a major part of their issues, and we were making efforts to learn from both their strong and their weak points. All of these efforts were disrupted eight years ago. We need to restart the planning process and act according to the increased number of people living in Tehran. 

Al-Monitor:  You have criticized Iran’s petrochemical sector, saying that international standards are not met in refining petroleum products, resulting in nonstandard gasoline in cars, which contribute in a major way to the pollution in busy cities. What is the latest on this? 

Ebtekar:  We have no problem in communicating effectively with the current Ministry of Petroleum. [Oil Minister Bijan] Zanganeh is a very committed, precise and knowledgeable person, and we are working closely with his ministry to make up for lost time and the work on which we have fallen behind. 

Our deputies have regular meetings considering such matters. A major problem we have with standardized, or lack thereof, fuel, is rooted in vehicles and their consumption structure. Both imported and domestic cars have some serious shortcomings, of which the auto industry and importers have been warned. Some have requested an extension to correct the failures, but regardless of the amount of time they need to correct these engineering, manufacturing or design issues, we are geared up to take serious action to implement the Euro 4 standards starting this spring.

Al-Monitor:  What is your take on the proposal to resolve Tehran’s issues by moving the country’s capital to another city?

Ebtekar:  There are mixed ideas and feelings about this. There is the potential to create some other problems, even if such a proposal goes through. It’s difficult to predict the extent of benefits such a move would have.

There is, however, no doubt about Tehran’s serious overpopulation, being a city that reached its ecological resource limitations in 1996, and a city where water needs to be imported from other parts of the country, due to its drastic water shortage.

Al-Monitor:  Is biking an option for Tehran residents? Do you consider it practical enough to be encouraged?

Ebtekar:  There is one district of Tehran — the 8th District — that has bicycle lanes and safety measures for those who wish to rent a bike from the station, pay the rental fee with a credit card and leave the bike in the bike station at a metro stop.

There are some other areas of Tehran in which we are working on providing the necessary amenities and implementing safety measures for cycling — riding conventional or electric bicycles, or electric motorcycles — to become feasible. There are obstacles, though. One is that Tehran, as it is mostly inclined and not flat, could not be considered a cycling-friendly city, generally speaking. The other is Tehran’s high pollution levels, which make the city’s air dangerous to breathe on some days. On such days, being outdoors, and especially exercising, may lead to health hazards, so we strongly discourage such activities.

Mehrnaz Samimi
Contributor, Iran Pulse

Mehrnaz Samimi is an Iranian-American journalist. On Twitter: @mehrnazsamimi

 

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on February 24th, 2014
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

 

We pay a price for weakness.

The Post reports: “The U.N. Security Council on Saturday unanimously approved a resolution demanding that Syria immediately halt attacks on civilians and allow unfettered humanitarian access to besieged areas and across neighboring borders, threatening unspecified ‘further steps’ if the government does not comply. The action marked the first time Russia has agreed to a binding resolution against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s regime since the conflict in his country began nearly three years ago. China, which vetoed three previous resolutions along with Russia, joined in approving the measure.” This is a cruel joke, and for Russia which has supported Bashar al-Assad, a cynical one.

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, left, talks to his Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, prior to the opening session of the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, Wednesday, Jan. 22, 2014.(AP Photo/Michel Euler)

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, left, talks to his Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, prior to the opening session of the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland in January. (Michel Euler/Associated Press)

Mind you — to reach this empty gesture took “lengthy negotiations over the past week.” In order to accommodate the Russians, in fact, the agreement had to be as tough on the rebels as it was on Assad. (“To secure Russia’s agreement, sponsors of the resolution agreed to include specific demands for opposition fighters to cease their own violations of human rights international law, to condemn terrorism and to drop a demand that government violators be referred for prosecution to the International Criminal Court.”) The last is an abomination; if ever a pack of murderers should be prosecuted for war crimes it is Assad and his cohorts.

So now the message to rogue states is: If you use WMD’s against your own people, you might have to very sloooowly give part of your treasure trove back. And if you continue to kill thousands by other means, you need not worry about prosecution for war crimes. The complete lack of seriousness –  geopolitical and moral — is quite striking:

The United States and other strong advocates acknowledged a lack of specific enforcement tools in the resolution, which instructs U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon to report back on compliance within 30 days. But U.S. Ambassador Samantha Power and others noted that the threat of “further steps” is far stronger than language in previous, vetoed measures and said it commits the council to take action.

What happened to Power’s doctrine that the United States should use force to stop mass human rights atrocities? You need more than words, she acknowledges but actions now can be just words. No, really: “‘A resolution is just words. It is implementation that matters, and that’s what we are starting to measure right now.’ Language committing the council to further actions, she said, is a ‘significant hook, a significant commitment by the parties on the Security Council.’” You wonder if even she can believe such double talk.

And in calling for further political negotiations, this following the failed Geneva talks, the Obama administration itself signals that it has lost touch with reality. Reality, of course, does not include the fantasy that a decade of war is “ending.” It does not permit the United States to shrug its shoulders and declare it merely wants to “nation build at home.” And reality means that when you dawdle for three years, do not take swift and forceful action to back nonjihadi rebels and do not exact a price for use of WMD’s, the country will descend into chaos, sending a stream of refugees pouring into surrounding countries.

Even more troubling than the lack of a Syria policy that could pass the laugh test is the impression this certainly makes with the mullahs in Tehran. They by now consider the United States to be gullible and all too eager to make a deal that will mask Iran’s status as a nuclear threshold state. Seeing the Syrian sideshow must convince Iranian negotiators that any fig leaf will do for the United States to end remaining sanctions.

Former deputy national security adviser Elliott Abrams this week warned that we should be wary of just such a deal with Tehran. In a press call he explained, “My biggest worry is that the administration is desperately committed to the appearance of a foreign policy success and that they will therefore agree to a deal and claim that it’s a great deal, but it will not actually do much to retrain and limit the Iranian program.” If that wasn’t obvious before, surely our farcical approach to Syria would leave little doubt that the United States is unwilling to back up what it says with hard power. We seem to be systematically undercutting what credibility we have, first with the interim deal and now with our feckless approach to Syria. Abrams worries, “The more immediate problem is, there’s very strong Iranian rhetoric now suggesting that any terms like those that, for example, [Iran experts] seem to me to be talking about would be acceptable to Iran, and Iran may think that it is seeing a weakened P5-plus-1 unity, it is seeing a weakened American determination to maintain the sanctions, in which case we’re in for, at the very least, an extremely tough negotiation and, at worse, no deal.”

So there you have it. “Smart diplomacy” detached from a willingness to use U.S. power (economic and military) serves as a green light for rogue regimes to continue their bad behavior. To the extent there are any “moderates” in Iran (I personally think the notion is absurd, but let’s assume so for purposes of discussion), then our weakness only undercuts them and enhances the stature of so-called hard-liners. (“I think that you need to show that bad behavior on the part of the Iranians will hurt Iran. I don’t think that, for example, weakening our position so that we give gifts to the so-called moderate [President Hassan] Rouhani or the so-called moderate [Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad] Zarif, who just visited the tomb of Imad Mughniyeh. I don’t think that’s the way to do it. I think the way to do it is to show that we have a united front at least of the E.U.-3 plus the United States and that Iranian refusal to compromise will be punished by very heavy additional sanctions.”)

All of this suggests the administration, having lost its credibility, will find it difficult to get it back, which in turn will make the situations in Syria and Iran worse. It should also serve as a reminder to opponents on the right and left of a muscular foreign policy that refusal to confront real dangers when they are manageable results in fewer options and greater threats to U.S. security down the road. This is no way for  a super power to behave.

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on February 22nd, 2014
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

 

 The Kaaba in Mecca (photo credit: CC BY-SA Al Jazeera English, Flickr)  The Kaaba in Mecca

  Muhammad’s birthplace to be razed.

Bulldozers are set to demolish a building in Mecca situated right above the site believed by scholars to be the birthplace of Islam’s Prophet Muhammad.

The Saudi Binladin Group, which is charged with redeveloping the historical area, plans to raze a small library on the site in order to build a modern complex which would include a presidential palace and imam’s residence.

 

The demolition would take place just steps away from Mecca’s Masjid al-Haram, or Grand Mosque, which surrounds the Ka’aba, one of Islam’s holiest sites.

 

The project, whose details were published by The Independent Friday, will bring about yet more changes to the landscape of a holy city which has seen massive redevelopment, damaging ancient and sacred structures.

 

The cost of this latest redevelopment project, which has yet to be approved, was estimated by The Independent at billions of dollars.

 

“The last remaining historical site in the kingdom is the birthplace of the Prophet Muhammad, probably the most important site to the Muslim and Shia community around the world,” The Independent quoted Irfan al-Alawi, a historian and executive director of the UK-based Islamic Heritage Research Foundation, as saying.

 

“Most people are not even aware there are plans now to destroy it.”

 

The Saudi royal family has welcomed redevelopment projects in the holy city, even at the cost of destroying relics considered to be holy by pilgrims. The Saudi regime believes the relics encourage idol worship.

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on February 17th, 2014
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

from:  english@other-news.info
date:  Mon, Feb 17, 2014

[]

Syrian rebels or international terrorists?
 
Vijay Prashad* – The Hindu
*Vijay Prashad is the Edward Said Chair at the American University of Beirut, Beirut, Lebanon.
 
With Bashar Assad arguing that this is a war against terrorism, and the rebels arguing that this is a war against authoritarianism, no agreement can come of the peace talks on Syria.
Geneva 2’s mood mirrored the sound of mortar and despair on the ground in Syria. Not much of substance came of the former, as the U.N.-Arab League envoy Lakhdar Brahimi tiredly indicated that diplomacy continued despite the lack of a breakthrough. He hoped that the United States and the Russians would pressure their clients to remain at the table, from where, for three weeks, little of value has emerged. No agreement can come of these peace talks for at least two reasons. First, the government of Bashar Assad and the rebel coalition do not agree on the interpretation of the conflict. Mr. Assad argues that this is a war against terrorism (Al-Qaeda), while the rebels argue that this is a war against authoritarianism (the Assad government). Second, the rebels themselves are deeply fractured, with the Islamists in Syria who are doing the brunt of the fighting indisposed to any peace talks.
 
Mr. Brahimi hoped that humanitarian relief would be the glue to hold the two sides together. Residents in the old city of Homs and in the Palestinian neighbourhood of Yarmouk in Damascus have been under siege for two years. It was hoped that safe passage could be provided for food and medicine, but this was not accomplished. U.N. and Islamic Red Cross workers bravely avoided snipers and shells to transport food and medicines to the Syrians; children among them stared at fresh fruit, unsure of what to do with it. Absent momentum from Geneva, the options for a regional solution are back on the table.
 
Role for India, China?
 
In 2012, Egypt convened the Syria Contact Group that comprised Iran, Saudi Arabia and Turkey — unlikely partners. Pressure from the U.S. and Russia at that time closed down the Group. Today, the regional partners seek an exit from their exaggerated postures over Syria, but there is no diplomatic space for them to act. It falls to powers that are untainted by the war, perhaps China and India, to call for a meeting — a Beijing or New Delhi summit — to craft a serious agenda to pressure all sides to a ceasefire and a credible political process.
 
The war is now fought less on the ground and more over its interpretation. Expectations of a hasty collapse of the government withdraw as the Syrian Army takes Jarajir, along the Lebanon border. Islamists groups continue to fight against each other in the north, weakening their firepower as the Syrian army watches from the sidelines. The emboldened Syrian government has now stepped up its rhetoric about this war being essentially one against terrorists with affiliation to al-Qaeda. Ears that once rejected this narrative in the West and Turkey are now increasingly sympathetic to it. As the Islamists suffocate the rebellion, it becomes hard to champion them against the government. Focus has moved away from the prisons and barrel bombs of the government to the executions and social policies of the Islamists.
 
A year ago, the West and Turkey would have scoffed at talk of terrorism as the fantasy of the Assad government. The West and the Gulf Arabs had opened their coffers to the rebels, knowing full well that they were incubating the growth of the Islamist factions at the expense of the secular opposition. Turkey’s government of Recep Tayyip Erdog?an micromanaged the opposition, provided bases in Turkey and allowed well-armed fighters to slip across the border into Syria. By early 2012, it had become a common sight to see well-armed Islamist fighters in the streets of Antakya and in the refugee camps in Hatay Province. The seeds of what was to come — the entry of al-Qaeda into Syria — was set by an opportunistic and poorly conceived policy by Erdog?an’s government. It did not help that his otherwise well-spoken and highly-regarded Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutog?lu began to refer to Syria’s Alawites (Mr. Assad’s community) as Nusayri, a derogatory sectarian term. Turkey joined U.S., Europe and Gulf Arab calls for Mr. Assad’s departure well before the numbers of those dead climbed above the thousands. Nervousness about the spread of al-Qaeda to Syria has made the rebels’ patrons edge closer to the Damascus narrative. The U.S. government wishes to arm the Iraqi government with Hellfire missiles and drones to combat the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) in Iraq’s Anbar Province. Britain has said that any fighter who comes back from Syria will be arrested (last week, a Sussex man — Abu Suleiman al-Britani — conducted a suicide operation in Aleppo). The Saudi Royal Court decreed that any Saudi found to have waged jihad abroad could spend up to 20 years in prison.
 
General Mansour al-Turki of the Saudi Interior Ministry said: “We are trying to stop everyone who wants to go to Syria, but we can’t stop leaks.” The Turkish Armed Forces fired on an ISIS convoy on January 28 inside Syria, and told the government in a report prepared jointly with the Turkish National Intelligence agency that al-Qaeda had made credible threats on Turkey.
Mr. Erdog?an hastened to Tehran to meet the new Iranian leadership — their public comments were on trade, but their private meetings were all on Syria and the need to combat the rise of terrorism. What Mr. Assad had warned about in 2012 came to pass — for whatever reason — and led to a loss of confidence among the rebels’ patrons for their future. Even al-Qaeda’s putative leader, Ayman al-Zawahiri, has sought to distance himself from ISIS. These signs indicate that on Syria, the “terrorism narrative” has come to dominate over the “authoritarian regime narrative.”
 
Islamic Front:
 
The fractious Syrian opposition that came to Geneva does not represent the main columns of rebel fighters on the ground. These are mainly Islamists — with the al-Qaeda wing represented by ISIS and Jabhat al-Nusra, and the rest represented by the Islamic Front. They have no appetite for negotiation. Mr. Abu Omar of the Islamic Front said that Syria’s future would be created “here on the ground of heroism, and signed with blood on the frontlines, not in hollow conferences attended by those who don’t even represent themselves.” A U.S. intelligence official told me that when the U.S. went into Afghanistan in 2001, “We smashed the mercury and watched it spread out slowly in the area.” Al-Qaeda was not demolished in Kandahar and Tora Bora. Its hardened cadre slipped across to Pakistan and then onwards to their homelands. There they regrouped, reviving the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group, al-Qaeda in Yemen, Ansar al-Sharia, Ansar Dine, and ISIS. The latter slipped into Syria from an Iraq broken by the U.S. occupation and the sectarian governance of the current government. There they worked with Jabhat al-Nusra and fought alongside other Islamist currents such as Ahrar ash-Sham. It was inevitable that these battle-tested Islamists would overrun the peaceful protesters and the defectors from the Syrian Army — the Free Syrian Army (FSA) — who scattered to the wind in 2012.
 
The FSA troops either joined up with the Islamists, continued to fight in small detachments, or linger precariously as twice defectors who are now homeless. The barbarism of the ISIS pushed other Islamists — with Gulf Arab support — to form the Islamic Front. The hope was that this group would run ISIS back to Iraq and remove the stigma of “al-Qaeda” from the Syrian rebellion. The problem is that one of the constituents of the Islamic Front — Jabhat al-Nusra, arguably the most effective of its fighting forces — sees itself as the Syrian franchise of al-Qaeda and has largely abjured the fight against ISIS. Another problem is that the in-fighting on the ground seems to have tapered off — one of the Islamist groups, Suqour al-Sham signed a truce with ISIS and pledged to work together.
 
By early 2014, these groups found their supply lines cut off.  Iraq’s attack on ISIS began to seal the porous border that runs through the Great Syrian Desert.  Jordan had already tried to close its border since early 2013, having arrested over a hundred fighters who have tried to cross into Syria.  Lebanon’s border has become almost inaccessible for the rebels as the Syrian Army takes the roadway that runs along the boundary line.  Last year, Turkey closed the Azaz crossing once it was taken over by the radical Islamists.
 
On January 20, the rebels attacked the Turkish post at Cilvegözü-Bab al-Hawa, killing 16.  This is what spurred the Turkish Army to attack the ISIS convoy a week later.
 
As the Islamists saw their supply lines closed off, the U.S. announced that it would restart its aid to the rebel fighters.  On February 5, the Syrian Coalition chief Ahmad Jabra told Future TV that his rebels would get “advanced weapons” — likely from the U.S.  The FSA announced the formation of the Southern Front – with assistance from the West — to revive the dormant fight in Syria’s south-west.  All this took place during Geneva 2, signalling confusion in U.S. policy.       Does Washington still want to overthrow the Syrian government?  Would it live with an Islamist government on Israel’s borders?  Or, perhaps, the U.S. is eager for a stalemate, as pointed out by former CIA analyst Bruce Riedel, “The rebels lack the organization and weapons to defeat Assad.  The regime lacks the loyal manpower to suppress the rebellion.  Both sides’ external allies are ready to supply enough money and arms to fuel the stalemate for the foreseeable future.”  This is a cruel strategy.
It offers no hope of peace for the Syrian people.
 
Road ahead for Syria group:
 
A senior military official in West Asia told me that one of the most overlooked aspects of West Asia and North Africa is that the military leaderships of each country maintain close contacts with each other. During Turkey’s war against the Kurdish rebellion in its eastern provinces, the military coordinated their operations with the Syrian armed forces. These links have been maintained. When it became clear that Mr. Erdog?an’s exaggerated hopes for Syria failed, and with the growth of the Islamists on Turkey’s borders and the Kurds in Syria having declared their independence, the Turkish military exerted its views. The Iraqi armed forces had already begun their operations against ISIS. Additionally, Egypt’s new Field Marshal Sisi overthrew the government of Mohamed Morsi when the latter encouraged jihadis to go to Syria. This was anathema to the Egyptian military who acted for this and other reasons to depose Mr. Morsi. The military view of the political situation leans naturally toward the terrorism narrative.
 
It appears now that the regional states are no longer agreed that their primary mission is the removal of Mr. Assad.This view — shared by the militaries — is evident in the political leadership in Iran, Iraq, and Turkey.With Egypt, these three states would be the core of a rejuvenated Syria Contact Group.

The 2012 group also had Saudi Arabia, which might be enjoined to come back to the table if they see that their outside allies — notably the U.S. — are averse to a policy that would mean Jabhat al-Nusra in power in Damascus.

Without Saudi Arabia, and perhaps even Qatar, the Syria Contact Group would be less effective.

 
If the Syria Contact Group is to re-emerge, it would need to be incubated by pressure from China and India, two countries that are sympathetic to multipolar regionalism.
 
Thus far, neither China nor India has taken an active role in the Syrian conflict, content to work within the United Nations and to make statements as part of the BRICS group.
But the failure of the U.S. and Russia and the paralysis of the U.N. alongside the continued brutality in Syria require an alternative path to be opened up.
Egypt, Iran, Iraq, Jordan, Saudi Arabia and Turkey have indicated willingness for a dialogue — China and India need to offer them the table.

 

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on February 16th, 2014
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

 

Do ‘Syria,’ ‘Iraq’ and ‘Lebanon’ Still Exist?

based on the  original article by Jonathan Spyer that was posted by the Philadelphia-based Middle East Forum and that we re-post with a series of changes that are mainly of editorial nature.
The Tower
February 2014

www.meforum.org/3751/syria-iraq-lebanon-nation-states

For almost a century, the Middle East has been defined by the nation-states that emerged following the Allied Europeans – British and French – victory in World War I which was the end of the Ottoman Empire, and followed later by the unraveling of the resulting colonial era. Since then, strategic analyses of the region have concentrated on the relations between these states, created by bureaucratic lines drawn by the interim colonial powers, and diplomatic efforts have generally attempted to maintain their stability and the integrity of these borders. As a result, the current map of the Middle East has remained largely unchanged over more than nine decades.

But these actually never made sense and do so much less now.  The old maps do not reflect the reality on the ground, and the region is now defined not by rivalry between nation-states, but by sectarian divisions that are spilling across the old borders and rendering them irrelevant. Today, there is a single sectarian war underway across the Middle East, one that threatens to engulf the entire region.

This war has a number of fronts, some more intense and active than others, but it is everywhere defined by sectarian conflict – especially the divide between Sunni and Shia Muslims. It is most intense in the area encompassing the current states of Iraq, Syria, and Lebanon; but has also spread further afield—to Bahrain, northern Yemen, and to some degree Kuwait and eastern Saudi Arabia.

The core power on the Shia side is the Islamic Republic of Iran, the world’s leading state that accepts terror as a means to implement its plans.  Iran was the founding patron of Hezbollah, which even before 9/11  had killed more Americans than any terror group in the world. The Assad regime in Syria, Hezbollah in Lebanon, the Maliki government and assorted Shia militias in Iraq, the Houthi rebels in northern Yemen, and Palestinian Islamic Jihad, are all allies or proxies of the Islamic Republic of Iran, which is capable of rendering substantial assistance to its friends through the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) – a powerful military and economic force that possesses substantial expertise and experience in building proxy organizations and engaging in political and paramilitary warfare.

On the Sunni side, the dominant power is the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, which has been wary of Tehran, but also has struggled since 9/11 – on and off -  against the Islamists of Al Qaeda. Its allies include various groups among the Syrian rebels, the March 14 movement in Lebanon, the military regime in Egypt, the United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, Bahrain, Jordan, and sometimes Turkey. The Saudis, however, are at something of a disadvantage. They possess no parallel to the IRGC, and have problematic relations with the extreme Sunni jihadists of al-Qaeda, who have played a prominent role in the fighting on all three major fronts and who are an outgrowth of the Saudi Wahabbi movement – the kind of Islam on which the Saudi throne is based. (Here we have a clear different approach to the issue then we found in the original article – that seemed to be over friendly to the Saudis – possibly because of the way Washington is siding with the Saudis.)

How did this situation come about? Is there evidence of a clear linkage between the various forces on the respective sides? Why is this conflict so extreme in certain countries—like Syria and Iraq—where it appears to be leading to the breakup of these states? How dangerous are these changes for the West?

Focusing on the areas of most intense conflict—Syria, Iraq, and Lebanon—can help us answer these questions.

This war is a result of the confluence of a number of circumstances. First, Iraq, Syria, and Lebanon are all home to a host of different sectarian and ethnic communities. The stark divisions that exist in these societies have never been resolved. In Syria and Iraq, they were suppressed for decades by brutal dictatorial regimes. The Assad regime in Syria and Saddam Hussein’s in Iraq – were family dictatorships based on minority sectarian communities – the Alawis in Syria, and the Arab Sunnis in Iraq – while claiming to rule in the name of pan-Arab nationalism. In service of this ideology, the Syrian and Iraqi regimes ruthlessly put down ethnic and sectarian separatism in all its forms; in particular, Shia Islamism in Iraq, Sunni Islamism in Syria, and the Kurdish national movement in both countries. All were treated without mercy.

Lebanon, by contrast, is a far weaker state, which was ruled by a power-sharing arrangement between ethnic and religious groups that collapsed into civil war in 1975. The issues underlying that war were never resolved; instead, between 1990 and 2005 the Syrian army presence in Lebanon ended all discussion of basic issues of national identity. (Here we must add something the original article has completely left untackled – the fact that in Lebanon the French colonial power has sponsored a Christian – mainly Maronite – minority and allowed for its governing over the Sunni and Shia parts of the population in a  prearranged structure that fell apart with the influx of Sunni Palestinian refugees. These refugees ended up being supported by the Shia backed Hezbollah and eventually got attacked from the outside by the Israelis). Lebanon thus developed a different dynamics that is still tripartite in its Arab make up. Lebanon’s Maronite families with their French backing did not become dictators like in the cases of Iraq and Syria.

Over the last decade, the once ironclad structures of dictatorship and suppression that kept ethnic and sectarian tensions from erupting, have weakened or disappeared.

The 2003 U.S. invasion of Iraq destroyed the Saddam Hussein regime. A sectarian Shia government, based on the Shia Arab majority and conditionally accepted by the Kurds, took its place. In Syria, a brutal civil war has severely curtailed the power of the Assad regime, which now rules only about 40 percent of the country’s territory. The Sunni Arab majority and the Kurdish minority have carved out autonomous sectarian enclaves in the 60 percent that remains.

Western hopes that a non-sectarian identity would take hold in the areas formerly ruled by Saddam and the Assads are persistent but proven illusory. Remarks about Iraq made by then-National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice in 2004 sum up these hopes and the tendency to self-delusion that often accompanies them. “What has been impressive to me so far,” Rice said, is that Iraqis—whether Kurds or Shia or Sunni or the many other ethnic groups in Iraq—have demonstrated that they really want to live as one in a unified Iraq…. I think particularly the Kurds have shown a propensity to want to bridge differences that were historic differences in many ways that were fueled by Saddam Hussein and his regime… What I have found interesting and I think important is the degree to which the leaders of the Shia and Kurdish and Sunni communities have continually expressed their desires to live in a unified Iraq.

This faith is expressed also by the Obama Administration, and as a result, it has continued to support the Shia-dominated government in Iraq, led by Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. It sees Maliki’s opposition to Sunni insurgents in western Anbar province as an elected government’s opposition to extremist rebels. This fails to take into account the sectarian nature of the Maliki government itself, and the discriminatory policies he has pursued against the Sunnis of western Iraq.

The reemergence of sectarian conflict so evident in Iraq has also emerged in Syria and is, in turn, showed up in neighboring Lebanon.

Lebanon was first drawn into the Syrian  conflict as a result of the significant and highly effective intervention in Syria in support of the Assad regime by Iran’s Lebanon-based terrorist army, Hezbollah. This quickly led to retaliation against Hezbollah targets in Lebanon by elements among Syria’s Sunni rebels. Supporters of the Sunni rebels have succeeded in attacking Hezbollah’s Dahiyeh compound in south Beirut five times. The bombing on January 2, 2014,  was carried out by a young Lebanese member of an organization called ISIS (Islamic State in Iraq and Syria) named Qutaiba Muhammad al-Satem; ISIS are Islamic extremists who have been operating as a branch of al-Qaeda in Iraq and Syria.

 

 

A map of Syria showing zones of control by the regime and various militias. (Image Source: WikiMedia Commons)

While Hezbollah’s decision to intervene on behalf of the Assad regime in Syria and the subsequent Sunni reaction is partially the result of the divided nature of Lebanon, and Syria, and their unresolved questions of national identity, larger regional conflicts, also of a sectarian nature, are a driving force behind the violence.

Hezbollah’s participation in the Syrian civil war came not as a result of automatic sentiments of solidarity, but because Hezbollah forms part of a regional alliance headed by Iran, to which the Assad regime also belongs. When Assad found himself in trouble, Hezbollah was mobilized to assist him. On the opposing side, the Syrian rebels have benefited from the support and patronage of Iran’s rival, Saudi Arabia, and other states along the Arabian peninsula, including the United Arab Emirates.

This rivalry is long standing and not just rooted in theological differences. It is about power. Iran is controlled by a revolutionary regime whose goal is to become the hegemonic force in the Middle East. Although the Iranians certainly regard the Saudis as an enemy and as unfit custodians of Islam’s most holy sites, Tehran’s main goal is to assert control over Arabian Gulf energy supplies, replacing the U.S. as guarantor of resources upon which world is dependent. Tehran understands that the real source of power in the region is the Gulf itself, with its enormous reserves of oil and natural gas that are essential to the global economy. To achieve its goals, Iran must tempt or coerce the Gulf monarchies away from U.S. protection and toward an alliance with Tehran, and ironically, American perceived weakness in the face of Tehran’s nuclear pursuit makes that all the more possible.

Riyadh has emerged as the principle opponent to Iran’s regional ambitions, mainly because the former guarantor of the current regional order, the United States, has chosen to leave the field. Until 2011, the Middle East appeared to be locked into a kind of cold war, in which the Iranians, along with their allies and proxies, sought to overturn the U.S.-dominated regional order, which was based on U.S. alliances with Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and Israel. Events over the last five years, however, have created the impression that the U.S. no longer wishes to play this role: America failed to back its longtime Egyptian ally, Hosni Mubarak, when he faced domestic unrest in early 2011. It failed to support the rebel forces fighting the Iran-backed Assad regime. And it failed to back Bahrain against an Iran-supported uprising in the same year. Now, the U.S. appears to be seeking a general rapprochement with Iran.

As a result of all this, Saudi Arabia has begun to take a far more active role in the region. Riyadh and its Gulf allies have certainly helped to finance and stabilize Egypt after the military removed Muhammad Morsi’s Muslim Brotherhood government from power. It began to take a leading role in supporting the Syrian rebels. It has well-documented relations with the anti-Syrian March 14 movement in Lebanon. In December 2013, the Saudis pledged $3 billion to the official Lebanese army. They also support anti-Maliki elements in Iraq. In addition, they are seeking to create an alliance among the other Gulf states in order to oppose Iranian ambitions, with some success.

But all of the above will not work for the Saudis unless they also stretch out a friendly hand to Israel and do a “SADAT” – that is – backing the right of Israel provided it settles with the Palestinians and do this in a pro-active way by showing their readiness to bankroll a solution of the Palestinian conflict. We say this is the cheapest way for the Saudis to wrestle the region from the Iranians – but we found no such conclusion in the original article. This might be too revolutionary for the conventional mindset that believes the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is just another Middle East intractable conflict like the one in the article. The trick is to see how an opportunity is created when trying to go about two seemingly intractable problems in tandem!

The original article follows instead by saying -  “increasingly violent rivalry between Saudi Arabia and Iran, intensified by American withdrawal from the region, has helped turn a conflict that was once cold into an increasingly hot cross-border sectarian war.”

There is considerable evidence of links between Iran and Saudi Arabia, on the one hand, and their respective allies in Iraq, Syria, and Lebanon, on the other.

On the Iranian side, Tehran no longer makes any serious attempt to deny the enormous assistance they have given the Assad regime in Syria. Indeed, the Iranians have effectively mobilized all their available regional assets in order to preserve it. The commander of the Revolutionary Guards’ elite Qods Force, Qassem Suleimani, went to Syria himself in order to coordinate these efforts. Perhaps most notably, in mid-2012 the Iranians began training a new light infantry force for Assad. Called the National Defense Force, it was necessary because Assad was unable to use much of his own army, which consisted of Sunni conscripts whose loyalty was unreliable. Iran has even sent its own IRGC fighters to fight in Syria; a fact revealed by footage taken by an Iranian cameraman who was later killed by the rebels, the testimony of Syrian defectors, and the capture of a number of IRGC men in August 2012.

In April 2013, Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah was summoned to Iran and instructed to deploy his own fighters in Syria. Up to 10,000 of them are now on the ground in Syria at any given time, and they played a crucial role in retaking the strategic town of Qusayr in August 2013. Hezbollah fighters are also taking a prominent role in the battle for the Qalamun area near the Lebanese border, as well as the fighting around Damascus.

Iranian financial donations have also been vital in keeping the regime alive. In January 2013, Iran announced a “credit facility” agreement with Syria that extended a $1 billion line of credit to Assad. Later the same year, an additional credit line of $3.6 billion was announced.

Iraq has also played a vital role in supporting Assad, mainly by allowing Iran to use Iraqi territory and airspace to transfer weapons to Syrian forces. At first glance, this appears to be a strange policy. Relations between Iraq and Syria prior to the civil war were not good, with Maliki openly accusing Assad of supporting Sunni insurgents. But this has now changed. Indeed, Maliki has openly supported Assad since the beginning of the Syrian civil war. This reflects his increasing closeness to Iran, which helped ensure Maliki’s emergence as prime minister after the 2010 elections and pressured Assad to support him as well. Relations between Iraq, Iran, and Syria have only improved since.

In addition to government support, Iraqi Shia militias are now fighting in Syria on behalf of Assad. The Abu Fadl al-Abbas Brigades, Ktaeb Hezbollah, and the Ahl al-Haq group all have forces in Syria. They are playing an important role, given that one of Assad’s major weaknesses is his lack of reliably loyal soldiers. The eruption of violence in Iraq’s western Anbar province has further cemented this alliance, since the insurgency is a direct result of advances made by Sunni jihadis in Syria.

As a result of all this, the Iranian-led side of the regional conflict has emerged as a tightly organized alliance, capable of acting in a coordinated way, pooling its resources for a common goal, and fighting effectively from western Iraq all the way to the Mediterranean.

The Sunni side of the conflict is more chaotic and disjointed. Saudi Arabia is its main financier, but it lacks an equivalent to the Qods force and the IRGC, who are world leaders in subversion and irregular warfare.

Only the most extreme jihadi elements appear capable of clear coordination across borders. For example, the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, as its name suggests, is active in both countries and controls a contiguous area stretching from the western Anbar province in Iraq to the eastern Raqqa province in Syria. ISIS regards itself as a franchise of al-Qaeda, although it does not take orders directly from the al-Qaeda leadership in Pakistan. Another al-Qaeda group, Jabhat al-Nusra, is active in Syria. In Lebanon, a third branch of al-Qaeda, the Abdullah Azzam Brigades, has played a role in the attacks on Hezbollah. In addition, both the ISIS and Jabhat al-Nusra are active in Lebanon.

But there are also less extreme groups opposing the Syrian-Iranian axis. Saudi Arabia has backed the March 14 movement, which is the main Sunni opposition party in Lebanon, as well as providing financial support to the Lebanese army. In Syria, the Saudis have fostered the Islamic Front, an alliance of eight Islamist groups unconnected to al-Qaeda. It includes some of the strongest rebel brigades, such as Ahrar al-Sham, Liwa al-Islam, and Liwa al-Tawhid. It is now emerging as the key bloc among the rebels. The Saudis also dominate the Syrian opposition in exile, with Ahmed Jarba, who has close links to Riyadh, recently reelected chairman of the Syrian National Coalition.

There are no indications that the Saudis are backing Sunni insurgents in Iraq, but the larger Sunni community is certainly looking to Riyadh for help. Relations between Saudi Arabia and the current Iraqi government are very bad. The border between the two countries is closed except during the Hajj pilgrimage, there is no Saudi embassy in Baghdad, and commercial relations are kept at a minimum. Some of the Sunni tribes in western Anbar have close links to the Saudis. While they are hostile to al-Qaeda, they are also opposed to the Maliki government, which they regard as a sectarian Shia regime.

There is a third element to this regional conflict that is something of a wild card: The Kurds. A non-Arab people who have long sought an independent state, the Kurds have succeeded in creating a flourishing autonomous zone in northern Iraq that enjoys most of the elements of de facto sovereignty. Since July 2012, another Kurdish autonomous zone has been established in northeast Syria. These two areas occupy a contiguous land mass, but are not politically united. The Kurdish Regional Government in Iraq is controlled by the Kurdish Democratic Party, led by Massoud Barzani, while the autonomous zone in northeast Syria is controlled by the PYD (Democratic Union Party), which is the Syrian branch of the Turkish-based leftist PKK movement.

These movements are rivals, and each sees itself as the appropriate leader of the Kurds. But while there is tension between them, each appears to be securely in control of its respective areas. The Kurds do not enjoy the support of any state in the region, and both the Iranians and the Saudis regard Kurdish national aspirations with suspicion. Nonetheless, the Kurds have managed to accumulate sufficient organizational and military strength to ensure the survival of their self-governing enclaves.

All these factors indicate that two rival alliances are clashing for hegemony over the region. There are myriad practical links between the various combatants, and their activities have long since spilled across the borders of the various states involved in the fighting; as indicated by the presence of Iranian fighters, ISIS, and Hezbollah in Syria; Syrian rebels in Lebanon; and many other examples. Iran is the leader of one side, Saudi Arabia is the main backer of the other, while the Kurds are concerned with maintaining their areas of control and are trying to stay out of the conflict.

The most significant result of the analysis is that the continued existence of Syria and Iraq as unified states is now in question. Practically speaking, Syria has already split into three areas, each controlled by one of the three elements listed above. Iraq has also effectively split into Kurdish and Arab zones, with Sunni and Shia groups fighting over the latter.

In many ways, Lebanon ceased to function as a unified state some time ago; since Hezbollah essentially functions as a de facto mini-state of its own. The Lebanese Sunnis lack a military tradition and have proved helpless in the face of Iran’s support for Hezbollah. But now, the emergence of the Syrian rebels and the growing popularity of Islamism among the Sunni underclass may be altering this balance. This appears to be borne out by the recent surge in Sunni violence against Hezbollah, which is the result of an attempt by Syrian jihadis and other rebels—in concert with their local allies—to bring the war to Lebanon.

Taken together, this indicates that a massive paradigm shift is underway in much of the Middle East. The eclipse of Arab nationalist dictatorships in Iraq and Syria, the historical failure to develop a unified national identity in these states, their mixed ethnic and sectarian makeup, and the U.S.’s withdrawal from its dominant position in the region—with the resulting emergence of a Saudi-Iranian rivalry—have all combined to produce an extraordinary result: A region-wide sectarian war is now taking place in the areas still officially referred to as Iraq, Syria, and Lebanon.

For the West, as in the region itself, this has very serious implications. Dealing with it effectively will required an equally massive paradigm shift in strategic thinking on the Middle East, one that is capable of dispensing with previous illusions and admitting that sovereign borders once regarded as sacrosanct are swiftly becoming meaningless.

There are new borders taking shape, defined by sectarian divisions that the West ignores at its peril. Despite fantasies of withdrawing from the region, the security of global energy supplies and the maintenance of regional stability are still essential to Western interests. The West has as large a stake in the outcome of this sectarian conflict as the regional players involved. If it cannot adapt to the new Middle East that is swiftly taking shape, it will find itself on the losing side.

Jonathan Spyer is a senior research fellow at the Global Research in International Affairs (GLORIA) Center, and a fellow at the Middle East Forum.

The concluding paragraphs are why we thought highly about the article even we had to make some changes in it – and now again – we do not think the Western powers – the United States and the former Middle East colonial Powers of Britain and France have to try to keep onto the internal borders of the fictional States of Iraq, Syria, and Lebanon and Saudi Arabia, they helped create years ago, and then helped maintain by helping the dictatorial and monarchic regimes that they helped institute.

It is obvious – if the Iran led Shia forces and allies come out victorious in Syria, there will be immediate follow-ups in Bahrain and the oil regions of Eastern Saudi Arabia itself – regions with clear Shia majorities.

As we said, the self preservation of the Saudi regime, that is if Saudi Arabia wants indeed to be considered as half of the tongues that hold together the Middle East – takes them to Jerusalem/Tel Aviv/Ramallah – and this might not be what the original article intended.

That article wanted the Saudis to travel to Washington instead – but really – President Obama with the US experience in Iraq and Afghanistan is best advised to let the Arabs stew in their own pot, go for alternate energy, help China go for alternate energy as well – so they are not dependent on this imaginary Middle East source of global oil either. After all – the US has already lost the oil of Iraq and the contracts now are with China – who imagines the US thinks they will still manage the Saudi oil? The only ones still ready to hang on to strong positions in the region are the Israelis – and that is where the Saudis could find real brothers. Trying  to differentiate between varieties of Islamic extremists will not help create that devil with talent to know the difference between an Al-Qaeda Sunni who works well with the Iranian Shia and the Iraqi Sunni who still likes Saudi money.

 

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on February 15th, 2014
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

 

Green Prophet Headlines – BrightSource’s Ivanpah, the world’s largest solar thermal project, is live

Link to Green Prophet

BrightSource’s Ivanpah, the world’s largest solar thermal project, is live

Posted: 14 Feb 2014

BrightSource, Ivanpah, California, Mojave Desert, US Solar Projects, clean tech, concentrating solar energy, ISEGS, world's largest solar thermal plant, PG&E, NRG Solar, Google, Southern California Edison, renewable energy,

It has been a long, controversial and expensive road for BrightSource Energy, but their 392 megawatt concentrating solar plant is now finally delivering renewable energy to the California grid and it is the largest plant of its kind in the world.

Ivanpah Solar Energy Generating System (ISEGS), which is comprised of 350,000 garage door-sized mirrors that reflect sunlight onto boilers atop 40 foot towers, is jointly owned by NRG Solar, Google and BrightSource Energy
a company that started out at Luz International in Israel.

BrightSource, Ivanpah, California, Mojave Desert, US Solar Projects, clean tech, concentrating solar energy, ISEGS, world's largest solar thermal plant, PG&E, NRG Solar, Google, Southern California Edison, renewable energy,

In addition to offsetting roughly 400,000 tons of carbon dioxide emissions every year, the massive solar facility located roughly 50 miles northwest of Needles, California, will deliver solar power to roughly 140,000 homes via California utility companies PG&E and Southern California Edison.

Despite this enormous boost for solar energy, BrightSource Energy has taken a lot of heat from environmentalists and social activists for their five square mile solar project in the Mojave desert.

BrightSource, Ivanpah, California, Mojave Desert, US Solar Projects, clean tech, concentrating solar energy, ISEGS, world's largest solar thermal plant, PG&E, NRG Solar, Google, Southern California Edison, renewable energy,

It took months to resolve the issue of relocating desert tortoises that call the desert home, to make way for thousands of concentrating mirrors, and Native Americans complained that the project destroys sites that are sacred to them.

The Wall Street Journal reports that the towers, which reach temperatures of 1,000 degrees Fahrenheit, have scorched an astonishing number of birds.

The paper also notes that the energy produced at Ivanpah will cost four times as much as natural gas and boasts a smaller generation capacity to land ratio than conventional plants. In other words, CSP projects like ISEGS require more land than fossil fuel plants.

BrightSource, Ivanpah, California, Mojave Desert, US Solar Projects, clean tech, concentrating solar energy, ISEGS, world's largest solar thermal plant, PG&E, NRG Solar, Google, Southern California Edison, renewable energy,

Despite these downsides, the $2.2 billion plant will produce one third of all solar thermal energy in the United States, and potentially pave the way for similar projects to take flight as well.

:: WSJ

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on February 11th, 2014
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

 

Science presents a new verdict:

Camels Had No Business in Genesis.

 
The annual camel race in the desert of Wadi Rum, Jordan, in 2007. Radiocarbon dating was used to pinpoint the earliest known domesticated camels in Israel to the 10th century B.C.— decades after the kingdom of David, according to the Bible.     Salah Malkawi/Getty Images

There are too many camels in the Bible, out of time and out of place.

Camels probably had little or no role in the lives of such early Jewish patriarchs as Abraham, Jacob and Joseph, who lived in the first half of the second millennium B.C., and yet stories about them mention these domesticated pack animals more than 20 times. Genesis 24, for example, tells of Abraham’s servant going by camel on a mission to find a wife for Isaac.

These anachronisms are telling evidence that the Bible was written or edited long after the events it narrates and is not always reliable as verifiable history. These camel stories “do not encapsulate memories from the second millennium,” said Noam Mizrahi, an Israeli biblical scholar, “but should be viewed as back-projections from a much later period.”

Dr. Mizrahi likened the practice to a historical account of medieval events that veers off to a description of “how people in the Middle Ages used semitrailers in order to transport goods from one European kingdom to another.”

For two archaeologists at Tel Aviv University, the anachronisms were motivation to dig for camel bones at an ancient copper smelting camp in the Aravah Valley in Israel and in Wadi Finan in Jordan. They sought evidence of when domesticated camels were first introduced into the land of Israel and the surrounding region.

The archaeologists, Erez Ben-Yosef and Lidar Sapir-Hen, used radiocarbon dating to pinpoint the earliest known domesticated camels in Israel to the last third of the 10th century B.C. — centuries after the patriarchs lived and decades after the kingdom of David, according to the Bible. Some bones in deeper sediments, they said, probably belonged to wild camels that people hunted for their meat. Dr. Sapir-Hen could identify a domesticated animal by signs in leg bones that it had carried heavy loads.

The findings were published recently in the journal Tel Aviv and in a news release from Tel Aviv University. The archaeologists said that the origin of the domesticated camel was probably in the Arabian Peninsula, which borders the Aravah Valley. Egyptians exploited the copper resources there and probably had a hand in introducing the camels. Earlier, people in the region relied on mules and donkeys as their beasts of burden.

“The introduction of the camel to our region was a very important economic and social development,” Dr. Ben-Yosef said in a telephone interview. “The camel enabled long-distance trade for the first time, all the way to India, and perfume trade with Arabia. It’s unlikely that mules and donkeys could have traversed the distance from one desert oasis to the next.”

Dr. Mizrahi, a professor of Hebrew culture studies at Tel Aviv University who was not directly involved in the research, said that by the seventh century B.C. camels had become widely employed in trade and travel in Israel and through the Middle East, from Africa as far as India. The camel’s influence on biblical research was profound, if confusing, for that happened to be the time that the patriarchal stories were committed to writing and eventually canonized as part of the Hebrew Bible.

“One should be careful not to rush to the conclusion that the new archaeological findings automatically deny any historical value from the biblical stories,” Dr. Mizrahi said in an email. “Rather, they established that these traditions were indeed reformulated in relatively late periods after camels had been integrated into the Near Eastern economic system. But this does not mean that these very traditions cannot capture other details that have an older historical background.”

Moreover, for anyone who grew up with Sunday school images of the Three Wise Men from the East arriving astride camels at the manger in Bethlehem, whatever uncertainties there may be of that story, at least one thing is clear: By then the camel in the service of human life was no longer an anachronism.

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on February 1st, 2014
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

Remembering the Holocaust at the UN is a very important event for the UN itself, but the true feelings that were expressed at the this year’s International Day of Commemoration in Memory of the Victims of the Holocaust came from outside the UN.

The UN owes its existence to the HOLOCAUST  as it was established in order to have an institution that can insure the World against the sort of things that happened during the Holocaust – the most extreme event that showed how inhuman  human-evil can be.  Everybody chanted then – NEVER AGAIN – but these were empty words and repeatedly there were flare-ups of GENOCIDE. In recent years we saw the events let lose by the break-up of Yugoslavia – Srebrenica, Kosovo, Bosnia – all in areas in Europe with frictions between Muslim and Christian populations.

Then this sort of behavior moved South to Africa – to the areas with Muslim, Christian, and indigenous old-time cultures – to West Asia’s Arab World, and further East. Now most cases of Genocide are in black Africa and in  Muslim Asia. In the latter it happens mainly in areas where various Muslim sects are at each other’s throat – the most active place now being Syria and Yemen.

The ongoing genocide, that the UN seems to be incapable of stopping, happens in States of Color – but the “Ersatz” UN General Assembly Hall in the temporary North Lawn Building at the UN – room NL-1001 – that holds over 1500 people – had hardly in it any people of color  ….   That was my first impression when I entered, on Monday, January 27, 2014,  the hall for the UN official MEMORIAL CEREMONY titled “JOURNEYS THROUGH THE HOLOCAUST.”  ….
My understanding was that the UN ought to see in the Holocaust an occasion to point out its obligation not just to remember the past, but very much to its obligation to avoid in the present similar acts of extermination of whole groups of people – for all that variety of inexcusable reasons it faces right in front of our eyes – today.

Yes, led by the Master of Ceremonies UN Under-Seretary-General for Communications and Public Information, Mr. Peter Launsky-Tieffenthal, who introduced the UN Secretary-General’s video-message, and Antigua and Barbuda Ambassador John W. Ashe, President of the 68th Session of the United Nations General Assembly – the real host of the event – we did hear indeed all the right things that the UN had to say on this very solemn occasion. They were also supported by the presentations of the Israel Ambassador to the UN – Mr. Ron Prosor, and the United States Ambassador to the UN – Ms. Samantha Power  ….  all did a magnificent job and Dr. Launsky-Tieffenthal managed it all with great professionalism and personal charm. But naturally, nevetheless, the real imp about what happened in the past was given by the outsiders – the Keynote Speaker Mr. Steven Spielberg – the filmmaker of the “Schindler’s List” who because of what he learned while doing that movie,  founded at the University of Southern California (USC),  in Los Angeles, the Shoah Foundation as an “institute for Visual History and Education” – this in order to assure that we learn from the past in order to avoid its repeat in the future. And when he realized that genocides do continue – he saw to it that these events are chronicled as well – something that the UN itself was not able to live up to as yet.

Mr. Spielberg was then followed as speaker by Mrs. Rena Finder who is one of the people on the original Oskar Schindler’s list. She has survived thanks to Mr. Oskar Schindler and made it now her obligation to tell her story. She is one of those that inspired Spielberg to create Shoah as a tool to record the Holocaust and turn it into an educational tool so we create a better future man.

But even Mrs. Finder was not yet the highlight from our point of view. That distinction goes to four students of the New York City Bronx High-School of Science, and their teachers, who have created in the basement of the School a Holocaust Learning Center.

There were five students on the podium. They were from different grade levels – and all but one girl were people of color. They said that this study center taught them that hatred is universal and genocide is universal - it can happen here if we allow it. The reasons for such deep hatred stem from the fact that people may be different and that some do not want to allow for this reality. They learned about the importance of Compassion, Bravery and Love, and that these are also universal. Best did a Chinese looking Asian-American student who said that what he learned from this Holocaust Studies library/Museum was to honor his own heritage. Later, when I discussed my own feelings from watching the event with the Director-General of the International B’nei-Brith Foundation – an accredited NGO at the UN – it turned out that he also saw in above statement the highlight of the event. How many UN people caught this? Where were the Ambassadors from all those present genocide-perpetrator societies and Members of the UN?

The opening Session of this UN Journey Through The Holocaust was then ended with the Chief Cantor of the Renewed Main Synagogue of the Jewish Community in Vienna, Cantor Shmuel Barzilai, who did the prayer for the dead – and ended with a great rendition, with audience participation, of Ani Maamin  Beviat Hameshiah – Beviat Hameshiah Ani Maamin – which is the expression of complete hope that better days are yet to come.

Steven Spielberg then had his picture taken with the students from the Bronx – for us the highlight of the opening.

====================================

 

From above opening, a small part of the audience moved to Conference Room 3 in the UN Main Building for a Panel discussion: “A Community Saved – The Rescue of Jews in Albania” – co-organized by the Permanent Mission of Albania and the B’nai Brith International.” The number of attendees was rather small but it did include all Ambassadors from the Balkan States, some others from EU States.

Albania is a country – constitutionally secular.

According to a 2011 census the question of religion was answered:

Albanian census 2011
Sunni 56.70%
Catholicism 10.03%
Orthodoxy 6.75%
Bektashi 2.09%
Other Christian 0.14%
Others 5.49%
Undeclared 13.79%
Atheism 2.5%

58.8% Muslim, 10% Catholics, 6.9% other Christians – so it is indeed a Muslim-European State in an otherwise also  strongly Muslim region (Kosovo, Montenegro, Macedonia) – yet it is historically a State that was always friendly to all religions. Albania, like Denmark, are the two States that did most to save their Jews, and Jews in general, during the horror days of the Holocaust.  In 1938, King Zog I opened the borders of Albania to Jewish refugees fleeing persecution in Nazi Germany. ALBANIA SAVED ALL ITS 2000 Jews and some that migrated to it to save themselves. Their pride today is that no Jew was turned over to the Gestapo. The King told the Germans that he does not know Jews – only Albanians – and the simple folks harbored the Jews in their homes. The King had to flee when Musolini’s Italy invaded Albania, but the people continued to harbor the Jews. It is the Muslim and Christian Albanians – all of them – that harbored the Jews – and that is the amazing story that is evolving now – after 45 years of Communist dictatorship in Albania. 

During those years there was very little contact between the West – including the Sate of Israel – and Albania. Israel had established the Yad Va’shem and the Righteous Foundation to remember the victims of the Holocaust and to honor the rescuers – those that put their lives in great danger and did rescue Jews. Indeed – the number of rescuers seemed few – but it turns out that the system of collecting evidence made it difficult to find names of rescuers. The requirement was to get direct testimonies from people involved – and this was impossible when it came to the Albanians that were cut-off from the West. It was only in 1995, after the fall of the Soviet Union and the Albanian dictatorship, that two US Congressmen -
Tom Lantos (Democrat of California) – himself a Holocaust survivor and Ben Gilman (Republican of New York) took up the cause of getting the US Memorial Holocaust Museum in Washington DC to add Albania to the Righteous Among Nations” Section of the Museum.
That is how the collection of information was restarted and researchers went to Albania for that purpose. The cause is now spearheaded by Shirley Cloyes DioGuardi – the executive Director of an Albanian American Foundation www.aacl.com and her husband US Congressman Joseph J. DioGuardi (Republican, New York) whose family traces back to the Arbëreshë minority in Italy. (DioGuardi’s father, Joseph Sr., immigrated to the United States from Greci, Italy in the 1930s. The Arbëreshë are an ethnic and linguistic Albanian minority community living in southern Italy, especially the regions of Apulia, Basilicata, Molise, Calabria and Sicily. They are the descendants of the Albanian refugees that fled Albania between the 15th and 18th centuries as a result of the Ottoman empire‘s invasion of the Balkans. They number between 80,000[3] and 100,000 people. Their population in Italy was around 260,000 inhabitants in 1976,but many from them today are fully assimilated into the Italian society. Congressman DioGuardi is the Albanian-American Civic League’s President that he co-founded with his wife. They fought for Albanians in the former Yugoslavia and then under the Serbian domination. In 2010 DioGuardi ran for US Senate on Republican and Conservative lines and lost the general election to Kirsten Gillibrand, 63.0% to 35.1%.)

The DioGuardis stress that it was ALL Albanians – Muslim and Christian – that helped the Jews – and in private I heard him explain that he hates the effort from Saudi Muslims, or from Albanian Muslims that cater for Saudi money, to present the case as if this is evidence that   Muslims as such were helpful to the Jews – rather then the reality that is was Albanians that helped the Jews. Whatever the background – facts are facts and this is thus a shining light upon humanity when looking at the Middle East of today.

—————————————-

 

The Series of events of the 2014 remembrance of the Holocaust continued on Tuesday, January 28, 2014 with an event in the Dag Hammarskjold Auditorium in the UN library building.

This was an exhibit of photos and videos from the yearly MARCH OF THE LIVING and the event was titled “WHEN YOU LISTEN TO A WITNESS YOU BECOME A WITNESS”

This event was again chaired by the UN in the person of Dr. Peter Launsky – Tieffenthal – the Austrian diplomat who is UN Under-Secretary-General and included the Israeli Ambassador Ron Prosor. It was basically a Jewish and Israeli event – no other UN folks present. IT WAS A SURVIVORS’ MEMORY EVENT. They were the memory and the listeners. Those that listened become witnesses – so it would have been nice had the UN held this event in a larger hall and managed to fill it people. But let’s face it – this is the UN. What this was – it was a REAFFIRMATION of the Jews – WE SURVIVED AND HERE WE ARE.

Having said this let me immediately thank two UN officials – The UN Under-Secretay-General for Communications and Public Information – Dr. Peter Launsky-Tieffenthal who uses his position in order to create new education programs that will be made available by the UN Headquarters to the many UN Information Service Stations around the World. These UNIS can, and some of them might indeed, use this material and show it in their UN Member States  – but then no UNIS in an Islamic country can be expected to show the exhibit that we just saw and that will be available to them. We hope at least that some African States – the likes of South Africa and Nigeria – will avail themselves eventually of this material. Will Rwanda see it?

The second UN employee that received thanks from the audience is Ms. Kimberly Mann, Manager, the Holocaust and United Nations Outreach Programme, Department of Public Information. She is the lady that is in direct charge of these programs and relentlessly has toiled on this since inception of the program – under favorable UNUSGs and not so favorable UNUSGs. We think she would refuse advancement within the UN system if it were offered to her. She has made this program her own, and not being Jewish she is very much appreciated by those involved in the program. This woman is not a Man – but a “Mensch.” The program itself was  decided by a UN General Assembly resolutions and without Kimberly would have fallen to the wayside like most good things decided by the UN.

There was not a single accusatory word in what was said – but the event itself said it all. The records of the Holocaust will stay on and the exhibit will be shown in other places and be used as an educational tool so future generations of young people have something to see and hear. The March of the Living will continue – obviously with less and less survivors participation – but yet with large numbers of young people that have learned about the horrors and try to express by walking on foot together the Auschwitz to  Birkenau distance that they will stand up together against a repeat of this sort of human misery – the greatest inhumanity in history.

This evening at the UN we heard also Dr. Shmuel Rosenman and Mr. Shlomo Grofman, the Chairman and the Vice-Chair of THE MARCH OF THE LIVING – survivors that managed to build new great families in their own private lives, and their stories are true human heroism.

Then we saw a video presentation of “TWICE LIBERATED” – people that were once liberated from Auschwitz, built a new life, but were not able to tell their stories until joining the March of the Living with children and grandchildren and only then were able to start telling about their past. We saw not only survivors – we saw also Rescuers – and about a casual reunion between a rescued and a rescuer who met right there at the gates of Auschwitz and only back on a March of the Living visit at Auschwitz. That is indeed something for the UN – ought to be shown in Tehran!

Max Glauben spoke – he is a survivor who went back eight times on the March of the Living.

The evening was opened with poetry by Channa Semesh, a paratrooper that returned to Hungary in an effort to help organize the Jews but was caught and executed by the Nazis. Cantor Barzilai repeated his rendition of ANI MAAMIN and Performers and March of the Living Alumni, Neshama Carlebach, daughter of Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach, and Josh Nelson, performed some background music to people milling in the narrow space of the library store.

——————————–

Then on Wednesday, January 29th there iwas the showing of “Blinky and Me” – a movie by Yoram Gross – a survivor who lives now in Australia and Israel.

The movie was shown in Conference Room 2 in the UN basement.

Blinky Bill—is the Mickey Mouse of Australia. Obviously he is a Koala.  He is the creation of Holocaust survivor and nor Octogenarian Yoram Gross.

The Film Director Tomasz Magierski’s made lovingly a movie portrait of Gross’s life and career. Using as a point of entry a trip the longtime Australian took with his five grandchildren back to his native Poland,

in Blinky, the 85-year-old Gross narrates his experience of World War II from the streets of Krakow and Warsaw. Magierski frames a too-common story of horror, displacement, and survival with singular warmth: Now a dear old man, Gross is uncommonly gentle with his grandkids, who hang on his every syllable, and the unlikely creation of Blinky Bill is shown to be a direct result and reflection of his suffering. Animations and archival footage add context and texture; best are the simple sequences intercutting Gross and his grandchildren telling one of his stories—from the mouse he befriended while in hiding to the rescue of his sister from German incarceration.

This is another way of bearing witness and a practical case of passing on the story of what happened then. It also shows that there is no way to hide from the reality of those memories – something that led to the creation of the UN in 1945 but seems forgotten or suppressed by most UN member States. To put it a bit stronger – The common repression of the UN regression into pre-UN history.

LET ME REPEAT IT – THE COMMON REPRESSION OF THE UN REGRESSION INTO PRE-UN HISTORY THAT ALLOWS GENOCIDE TO GO ON UNPUNISHED.

 

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on January 31st, 2014
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

 

Davos and the Hatred of Evil

January 28, 2014 12:50 am 5 comments

Author:

avatar Shmuley Boteach

Wednesday, January 29th   2014

Iran’s Rouhani at the World Economic Forum. Photo:  Screenshot.

     At Davos, where I attended and spoke last week, there was endless talk of a deal between Israel and the Palestinians. According to Martin Indyk, the American special envoy whose panel I attended on Friday, the deal would look like this. Israel gives up the West Bank and returns to the ’67 lines, with land swaps. Israel gives up about half of Jerusalem for the capitol of a Palestinian state (Abu Mazen is demanding the entire old city).

Israel offers some sort of unspecified redress on the refugee issue.

In return, the Palestinians will guarantee not to make the West Bank into Gaza and will recognize Israel’s right to exist, albeit not necessarily as a Jewish state.

       Gosh. Why hasn’t Israel said yes before time runs out?

 

But the most painful part of an otherwise illuminating and extraordinary Forum, without question, was Iranian President Rouhani’s speech where he demonstrated an astonishing capacity to lie to one of the world’s most educated and sophisticated audiences, with few in attendance calling him out on his fabrications.

The New York Times ran a story on Sunday which showed that nearly everything Rouhani said at Davos was said 10 years earlier by Iranian president Khatami and that Rouhani’s speech was nothing but a regurgitation. Same promises of peace. Same commitment not to pursue nukes or violence. And just as, within a year of Khatami’s speech, Iran was spinning centrifuges, similarly, Rouhani told Fareed Zakaria just three days after his Davos speech that even amid the nuclear deal with the West, Iran will not shut down a single centrifuge.

None of this stopped Rouhani from being treated as el numero uno one rock star at Davos. I saw him walking through the halls with his entourage a few times. He was trailed by rushing media. Scores of participants went to say hello. He was easily the biggest draw of the entire Forum, even though, over the past three weeks, Iran has brutally hanged about 40 people in public.

Then there was the panel on Syria, which featured key players such as UN High Commissioner for Refugees Antonio Guterres, UN Under Secretary General Baroness Valerie Amos, and former UN Under Secretary General Mark Malloch-Brown. I sat in disbelief. Not one of the speakers was prepared to apportion blame for the slaughter. Not one condemned Bashar Assad for gassing children. Not one made mention of the New York Times front page story that same day which showed graphic pictures of some of the thousands of prisoners that Assad had tortured and starved to death in the most ghoulish fashion imaginable. The panelists spoke of the procedural difficulties of passing a UN Security Council Resolution against Syria without once saying that Vladimir Putin and Russia, arch protectors of the butcher in Damascus, were responsible for blocking every resolution introduced by the United States against Assad.

In her last comment of the panel, Baroness Amos actually praised Russia as having been the first to try and pass a resolution that called attention to the humanitarian crisis in Syria.

{ShmuIey writes -} I was live tweeting the panel (WEF published social media statistics that ranked my Twitter feed first that day at the Conference) and I wrote, “Gd Almighty! Did I just hear baroness Amos of the UN defend Russia on Syria at the #WEF in Davos? U got to be kidding.”

All of which leads to a conclusion I came to years ago. There is no way to make the world a better place without first hating evil. You can’t love the victims of oppression without loathing, resisting and sometimes even fighting the bad guys who oppress them. If you’re indifferent on the brutality of Iran – a country that stones women to death and hangs homosexuals from public cranes – then you have a broken moral compass. And if you’re seriously thinking of leaving Assad in power as part of a “peace” deal then you have utter contempt for his victims.

In wanting to be open-minded enough to embrace everybody we have forgotten how to hate anybody.

And make no mistake.

Hatred has its place. There can be no moral neutrality when it comes to things like children being gassed. 

How can you not feel revulsion, detestation and disgust toward Assad when seeing rows of dead children?

I am writing this column on a plane, en route to Auschwitz from Davos, where I will G-d willing participate in the historic visit of the Israeli Knesset to the death camp for the very first time, on Monday. Beyond remembering the victims and paying homage to their sacred memory, are we not meant to be repulsed by the Nazi beast that created this hell on earth? And if we don’t despise them, what will stop this from happening again?

At Davos I spent time discussing the upcoming 20th anniversary, this April, of the Rwandan Genocide, with President Paul Kagame, the hero who stopped the genocide in 1994. I told him that at the panel that I moderated between him and Elie Wiesel this past September, he had moved me deeply with his response to my question of whether he trusted the UN and the world to protect his people.

He shook his head, lowered his eyes, and said, “No, I learned after the genocide that I, and no one else, is responsible for protecting my people.”

Kagame has been criticized by the UN for continuing to fight the genocidaires who fled to Congo. He has resisted great pressure to give up the fight. But as someone who witnessed his people hacked to death in the fastest genocide in human history, he is not out to win popularity contests but to serve as guardian of his nation.

The same is true of Prime Minister Netanyahu who drew perhaps a quarter of Rouhani’s audience at Davos and could not compete with the his popularity. If Bibi would just let up about the genocidal threat of a nuclear Iran and say all the right things about peace, friendship and a new beginning he would increase his European popularity by orders of magnitude.

But he too, as the head of a nation that 70 years ago watched a third of its number gassed, learned that while it’s nice to be popular it’s even nicer to be alive.

Shmuley Boteach, ‘America’s Rabbi,’ whom The Washington Post calls ‘the most famous Rabbi in America,’ is founder of This World:
The Values Network, which promotes universal Jewish values in media, religion, and culture. Follow him on Twitter @RabbiShmuley.

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on January 27th, 2014
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

 

Auschwitz survivor Leon Greenman displays his number tattoo. (photo: Ian Waldie/Getty Images)
Auschwitz survivor Leon Greenman displays his number tattoo. (photo: Ian Waldie/Getty Images)

Denying the Holocaust: What Would Hitler Do?

By Steve Weissman, Reader Supported News

26 January 14

 

erhaps Hitler did not kill enough,” lamented the deputy mayor, castigating Gypsies in his town last summer. If, in America, a local official said the same – whether about Gypsies, gays, Jews, or immigrants – decent people would condemn him, and the whole nasty business would quickly fade away. Not here in France, where the law makes it a crime to deny, minimize, or defend the Holocaust. So, Libération has now reported that the court found Gilles Bourdeleix guilty of “a crime against Humanity.”

This sounds really big, I know, but do not be fooled. The Frenchman’s punishment was a €3000 ($4,180) fine, which the court suspended, as seems par for the course. Even if the judges come down harder, an 8-time repeat offender like the openly anti-Semitic and Nazi-miming comic Dieudonné still has not paid a cent or served time in prison.

As an expatriate American who lives by free speech, I find all this bizarre. But prevailing French attitudes also offend the country’s older values. Remember learning about the eighteenth century Voltaire, who vowed to defend to the death the right to express ideas he detested? Not here. Not now. Too many of his countrymen no longer grasp the distinction between defending someone’s rights and promoting their views.

Drawing this all-important line can be tricky – and nowhere more painful than with the organized campaign to deny the Holocaust. Though few remember, this was a political movement in part “Made in America,” where die-hard defenders of Adolph Hitler used their First Amendment freedoms to pollute American politics and peddle their poison across the Atlantic and into the Middle East.

“Hitler’s defeat was the defeat of Europe. And of America,” wrote the organizer and conspiracist Willis Carto in a purloined letter that journalist Drew Pearson quoted in his syndicated column in February 1967­. “How could we have been so blind? The blame, it seems, must be laid at the door of the international Jews. It was their propaganda, lies and demands which blinded the West to what Germany was doing.”

Unabashed in his enthusiasm for the Nazis, Carto became “undoubtedly the central figure in the post-World War II American far right,” explains his biographer, the anti-extremist academic George Michael. In 1958, Carto founded the Liberty Lobby and made it “a big tent” for everyone from Ku Klux Klansman David Duke to the libertarian Ron Paul, who used the group’s mailing list to sell subscriptions to his own racist newsletters.

Believing that Jews were “Public Enemy No. 1,” Carto railed incessantly against “the Jew-Zionist international banker’s conspiracy.” Warning of “the inevitable niggerification of America,” he backed the segregationist Citizens’ Councils in the South and helped organize George Wallace’s 1968 campaign for president. Then, after the election, he joined with the long-time American Nazi William Pierce to create what became the more out-of-the-closet National Alliance. Carto soon broke with the group, while Pierce went on to write “The Turner Diaries,” which inspired The Order, the Aryan Republican Army, and Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh.

For years, Carto has remained a non-stop propagandist and purveyor of right-wing conspiracy theories, which would-be progressives too often buy. Carto’s hate sheet “The Spotlight” was “the most influential medium of the far right.” His Noontide Press peddled such classics as “The Protocols of the Learned Sages of Zion” and his mentor Frances Parker Yockey’s “Imperium,” which became the Mein Kampf of the postwar “Fascist International.” At various times, Carto sponsored the nationally syndicated daily talk show Radio Free America and had his hand in a string of unsavory publications, including “Western Destiny,” “American Mercury,” “Washington Observer Newsletter,” “Barnes Review,” and “American Free Press.” As far as I know, only the last two are still going, and both have continued to feature the fellow-traveling Ron Paul.

Carto’s most lasting legacy lives on in the Institute for Historical Review (IHR), which he created in 1979 to shepherd his fellow Hitler fans, both open and covert, into a concerted campaign to deny that the Führer ever set out to eliminate European Jews. Most of IHR’s arguments had circulated for years, often in Carto’s “Spotlight.” With his new institute, Carto tried to give them an academic gloss and a multi-national thrust.

A featured speaker at IHR’s founding conference and a member of its advisory board was a French university professor, Robert Faurisson, who had just emerged from well-deserved obscurity with an article in Le Monde called “The Problem of the Gas Chambers or the Rumor of Auschwitz.” His argument – and that of the IHR and its “Journal of Historical Review” – was deceptively simple: that the Nazis never committed sys­tematic genocide against the Jews. No gas chambers, except to disinfect clothing and kill lice. No death camps. No Holocaust. Many Jews might have died from exhaustion, hunger, or disease, Faurisson admitted. But the Germans never set out to exterminate them.

“Hitler no more committed ‘genocide’ than did Napoleon, Stalin, Churchill or Mao,” he declared. “Hitler never ordered nor permitted that anyone should be killed on account of his race or his religion.”

Such stories, Faurisson argued, were one huge historic lie, the invention of Allied propaganda and continuing media-hype. “The principal beneficiaries of the operation have been the state of Israel and international Zionism. The principal victims have been the German people – but not its leaders – and the Palestinian people as a whole.”

On the surface, Faurisson wrote in measured tones, presenting himself as a humane, even-handed scholar in the tradition of earlier revisionist historians like Harry Elmer Barnes who had ques­tioned one-sided anti-German interpretations of World War I. But, on closer reading, Faurisson showed exactly where he was coming from. He too easily dismissed all eyewitness testimony about the gas chambers, especially from Jewish survivors, whom he unfailingly portrayed as false witnesses, telling either fantasies or lies. He dis­counted or misrepresented thousands of state­ments, documents, and other evidence that ran counter to the case he was making. He overlooked some 1.3 million Eastern European Jews that SS leader Heinrich Himmler’s mobile killing squads, the Einsatsgruppen, systematically shot or gassed in specially built vans. He offered bogus “technical proof” that the gas chambers at Auschwitz and other death camps could not have existed as survivors described them. And, he tried to explain away Nazi imprison­ing of the Jews largely as a response to some interna­tional Jewish decla­ration of war against Hitler’s Germany.

Had Faurisson never read the banned “Mein Kampf?” Did he not believe the Führer, who wrote as early as 1922 that his “first and foremost task will be the annihilation of the Jews?”

Far from presenting the complexities of even-handed historical research, Faurisson put out simplistic propaganda of an obvious kind. As if to flaunt his ideological predi­lec­tions, he had aired an earlier version of his essay in Defense de l’Occident, a journal published by Maurice Bardèche, the country’s best-known Fascist intellectual and a founding father of French negationnisme, as critics here call it.

In his writing, Faurisson also celebrated his intellectual debt to another of the early deniers, Paul Rassinier, a veteran of the Resistance whom the Nazis had deported to Buchenwald. An ex-Stalinist, a Socialist, and an anti-Semite – a combination not unknown in France – Rassinier wrote several books that Bardèche published, first minimizing, then rejecting the existence of gas chambers, and denying the death of anywhere near six million Jews. Faurisson portrayed himself as a disciple of Rassinier.

Faurisson drew as well on other prominent anti-Semites. One was Arthur Butz, an American engineering professor whose “Hoax of the Twentieth Century” was pub­lished by Britain’s neo-Fascist National Front. Butz dismissed Auschwitz as just a rubber factory for the Nazi war effort. Another was an embittered German judge and ex-artillery officer, Wilhelm Stäglish, who wrote “The Auschwitz Myth.” He wrote it, he said, to free his fellow Germans from their “national guilt complex” and subservience to “international Jewry.”

All this came together in Willis Carto’s Institute for Historical Research, which became the world’s chief sponsor of Holocaust denial. Even after Carto lost control of IHR in 1993 in a very public, litigious feud, it has continued to promote the movement, while he has made his “Barnes Review” a competing revisionist journal.

One further note. In the U.S., denying the Holocaust has never won much of a popular following beyond the far-right fringe. In France and the rest of Europe, these neo-Nazi ideas have won a far broader base, encouraged in no small measure by restrictive speech laws and criminal prosecutions, which only give publicity to people like Faurisson and Dieudonné and turn them into anti-establishment martyrs. This is a lesson worth remembering on both sides of the Atlantic, especially today, the anniversary of the day Soviet troops liberated Auschwitz.


A veteran of the Berkeley Free Speech Movement and the New Left monthly Ramparts, Steve Weissman lived for many years in London, working as a magazine writer and television producer. He now lives and works in France, where he is researching a new book, “Big Money: How Global Banks, Corporations, and Speculators Rule and How To Break Their Hold.”

Reader Supported News is the Publication of Origin for this work. Permission to republish is freely granted with credit and a link back to Reader Supported News.

 

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on January 22nd, 2014
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

 The following is by now old hat but we decided to post it anyhow – this because it is still the base for understanding the surrealism of the Syria Geneva II meeting that just started with a Montreux, Switzerland,  introductory.

The best reporting we know is that from Matthew Russell Lee reporting from the UN Security Council door:

www.innercitypress.com/syria2montreux012214.html

We believe that Iran belongs to the meeting – so do the Kurds. But Geneva I deemed that the meeting is basically between the Assad government of Syria and a “UNIFIED” opposition delegation that in reality does not exist. The Syrian National Coalition (SNC), that is headed by Mr. Jarba is a Saudi/Qatari pupp.et – they are backed only by half of the Turkey based leadership, and do not include the Kurdish held territory at all. That is the Turks’ contribution to the Syrian/Iraqi mess.
Russia – the other P2 that with the US and the UN is in the driver’s seat of these meetings has its own Islamic problem in the Caucasus and in more central parts of Russia along the Volga river – they like to back the Assad regime for their own reasons but want no part of his other backers like Islamic Mullahs of Iran.

To start making sense Iran will have to come clean on its nuclear dealings with the West – so the US will allow them participation at the Syrian table and this is what we mean by making themselves Salon Clean. Without this there is no progress in their relations with the UN and the West on any issue. They may think that  time is in their favor and might try to play as outsiders against everyone at the Geneva table.

Russia on the other hand does not have the luxury of time – this because of the Sochi winter games and surprise – their internal nemesis are training now in Syria and the US might just decide that if the Russians are not supportive of the West’s goals in the Middle East – why play their ski slopes at all? That would be a terrible set-back to ambitious Mr. Putin.

The drama is thus that nobody gives a damn about Syrian lives when pursuing  their own particular goals and our true cynicism is revealed in the greater interest we saw in the Davos World Economic Forum meeting then in any of the Middle East negotiations.

————————————————————————————-

U.N. Invites Iran to Syria Talks, Raising Objections From the U.S.

The announcement by Ban Ki-moon, the United Nations secretary general, that he had invited Iran to a peace conference to end the war in Syria drew strong objections on Sunday from American officials, who suggested that Iran had not met all the conditions for attending and that the invitation might need to be withdrawn.

At the heart of the dispute is whether Iran has accepted the terms of the talks, which begin Wednesday in Montreux, Switzerland: to establish “by mutual consent” a transitional body to govern Syria. Mr. Ban said he had been privately assured that Iranian officials “welcome” those rules and that they had pledged to play “a positive and constructive role.”

American officials said they had been in regular communication with the United Nations over the requirements Iran would need to meet to be invited, but they appeared to have been caught off guard by Mr. Ban’s hastily organized news conference. They pointed out that Iran had not publicly accepted the formal mandate for the conference, which was agreed upon in Geneva in 2012 and is known as the Geneva communiqué.

“If Iran does not fully and publicly accept the Geneva communiqué, the invitation must be rescinded,” Jen Psaki, a State Department spokeswoman, said in a statement.

Officials in Washington emphasized that Iran had made no such public statement at the time of Mr. Ban’s news conference. It was expected to release one early Monday.

If Iran has accepted the Geneva terms, it would be a sharp turnaround, since it has long insisted that it will participate in talks only if there are no preconditions. Still, such a shift would not necessarily mean Tehran had accepted that President Bashar al-Assad must leave office.

Some 30 countries have been invited to Montreux for what may be a largely ceremonial opening day of the peace talks. Two days later, Syria’s government and opposition delegations will move to Geneva to continue the deliberations, mediated by a United Nations special envoy, Lakhdar Brahimi.

Diplomats and Middle East analysts say that if there are any breakthroughs, they will take place in Geneva. The negotiations are not expected to yield major results, except perhaps to open up certain parts of Syria to the delivery of humanitarian aid, which has been long denied.

Iran’s participation has been a subject of intense diplomatic wrangling for several weeks. Mr. Ban and Mr. Brahimi have insisted that Iran, given its considerable influence over the Assad government, should be part of the negotiations. So has the Syrian government’s other major ally, Russia.

The United States has long been wary of Iran’s intentions. Tehran has been one of the Assad government’s staunchest political and military supporters, sending arms to Damascus and encouraging Hezbollah, the Lebanese Shiite militia, to join the fight on the side of Mr. Assad.

As recently as last Monday, Secretary of State John Kerry complained that Iran was, effectively, a belligerent in the conflict.

“Iran is currently a major actor with respect to adverse consequences in Syria,” Mr. Kerry said. “No other nation has its people on the ground fighting in the way that they are.”

On Sunday, Ms. Psaki added in her statement, “We also remain deeply concerned about Iran’s contributions to the Assad regime’s brutal campaign against its own people, which has contributed to the growth of extremism and instability in the region.”

Iran’s inclusion has the potential to turn the Syria peace talks into a platform for intensifying Middle East conflicts. Also represented will be Saudi Arabia, Iran’s chief rival.

Andrew J. Tabler, an expert on Syria at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, said Iran’s presence “seems to widen the circle of regional involvement.” But he also noted that Iran and the United States could be expected to hold diametrically opposed views as to whether Mr. Assad must give up power.

“Given that Iranian forces and their Shia militias are deployed on the ground backing up Assad, it means another Assad backer will be present at this meeting,” Mr. Tabler said.

Syria’s political opposition said in a Twitter message that it would not attend unless Mr. Ban withdrew Iran’s invitation.

“The Syrian coalition announces that they will withdraw their attendance in Geneva 2 unless Ban Ki-moon retracts Iran’s invitation,” the Twitter message said, quoting Louay Safi, a coalition spokesman.

The ultimatum came just a day after the coalition, facing a boycott by a third of its members, had voted to send a delegation to the peace talks. The opposition has been under intense international pressure, including from the United States government, to participate.

Mr. Ban said Sunday that he had spoken extensively with Iran’s foreign minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif.

“He has assured me that, like all the other countries invited to the opening-day discussions in Montreux, Iran understands that the basis of the talks is the full implementation of the 30 June, 2012, Geneva communiqué,” Mr. Ban said.

“Foreign Minister Zarif and I agreed that the goal of the negotiations is to establish by mutual consent a transitional governing body with full executive powers,” he added. “It was on that basis that Foreign Minister Zarif pledged that Iran would play a positive and constructive role in Montreux.”

Somini Sengupta reported from New York, and Michael R. Gordon from Washington.

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on January 20th, 2014
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

 

 

Israel Permanent Representative to the UN in New York, Ambassador Ron Prosor addressed the UN Security Council on the Situation in the Middle East on January 20, 2014 – Martin Luther King Jr. birthday – a US holiday. In his speech Ambassador Prosor  attacked the Palestinian leadership’s continuous incitement against Israel and discussed the violence and instability afflicting the Middle East region.

 

Thank you, Mr. President.

 

 

 

Before I begin, I want to express Israel’s condolences on the death of United Nations personnel in Friday’s terrorist attack in Kabul.  There is no excuse for targeting civilians and UN workers.

 

 

 

Mr. President,

 

 

 

Allow me to take this opportunity to congratulate Jordan on its election to the Security Council.  We thank the Secretary-General, Foreign Minister Judeh, Mr. Jean Asselborn, and Vice Minister Cho Tae-yul for being here today.

 

 

 

We also congratulate the new non-permanent members of the Security Council – Chad, Chile, Lithuania and Nigeria. You as Ambassadors have the privilege of representing your countries – good luck.

 

 

 

Mr. President,

 

 

 

The Middle East is known as the cradle of civilization – the birthplace of history’s greatest empires and three world religions.  The region was once admired for its stirring art, striking architecture and significant innovations.

 

 

 

Today, the world looks at the Middle East and sees a region shaken by violence.  From the Arabian Sea to the Mediterranean Sea, not a day goes by when we do not read about brutality and bloodshed or new threats looming on the horizon.

 

 

 

Amidst this sea of hostility, Israel is an island of stability and democracy.  It is a nation in which the majority governs, but the minority enjoys equal rights; a nation that embraces diversity and welcomes diverse opinions; and, a nation that leads the world in human rights and encourages women to be leaders.

 

 

 

Israel is proud of its democracy and yearns for peace with its neighbors and security in its borders.  The people of Israel are still mourning the loss of their legendary statesman and soldier, Ariel Sharon.  He was a fearless leader who knew the heavy price of war and was willing to take bold steps for peace. 

 

 

 

The State of Israel is still willing to take courageous steps for peace and is committed to serious and meaningful negotiations with the Palestinians. I would like to take this opportunity to thank the United States and Secretary Kerry, in particular, for his tireless devotion to promoting peace in our region.

 

Mr. President,

 

 

 

Twenty years ago, I recall watching King Hussein and Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin meet in the Arava desert to sign the historic peace treaty between our two countries.  At the signing, King Hussein said (and I quote), “This is peace with commitment. This is our gift to our peoples and the generations to come.” 

 

 

 

Fifteen years after his death, King Hussein’s legacy of peace lives on. Israelis from across the political and religious spectrum still admire King Hussein’s towering morality and his profound belief in the sanctity of life and the dignity of every human being. 

 

 

 

I and most Israelis will never forget the sight of King Hussein consoling the Israeli families whose children had been killed in a terrorist attack.  After learning that a Jordanian soldier had murdered seven Israeli schoolgirls, King Hussein traveled to Israel to visit the homes of the bereaved families.  One by one, he sat with the grieving parents, held their hands, offered words of condolence and hugged and kissed them.

 

 

 

King Hussein told them (and I quote), “I feel that if there is anything left in life, it will be to ensure that all the children enjoy the kind of peace and security that we never had in our times.”  This is the legacy that his son, King Abdullah, proudly continues today.

 

 

 

Mr. President,

 

 

 

Contrast this picture, with a picture from just a few weeks ago. In December, Israel once again made the heartbreaking decision to release convicted Palestinian terrorists in an effort to advance the peace process. 

 

 

 

The released terrorists were given a heroes’ welcome by the Palestinians and embraced by President Abbas.  Murderers were met with fireworks and festivities and showered with candies and congratulations.  The Palestinian Authority is rewarding terrorists with tens of thousands of dollars. The motto of the PA’s pension plan seems to be ‘the more you slay, the more we pay.’ 

 

 

 

This is coexistence? This is tolerance? This is mutual respect?  Grieving Israelis watched as Palestinians celebrated men like Abu Harbish who threw a firebomb at a bus, murdering 26-year-old Rachel Weiss and her three young children. 

 

 

 

To everyone in this room I ask – how would you feel if you had to watch your family’s murderers being celebrated?  Would you call into question the so-called ‘peaceful’ intentions of your neighbors? President Abbas could learn a great deal from King Hussein of Jordan about demonstrating his commitment to making peace.

 

 

 

Mr. President,

 

 

 

Since peace talks began in July, there have been hundreds of examples of Palestinian incitement against Israelis and Jews.  From cradles to kindergartens and from schools to soccer stadiums, Palestinian children are besieged by messages of hate. 

 

 

 

They are born in hospitals named after violent Palestinian groups, attend schools named after terrorists, and are taught from textbooks that describe Zionism as racism.  In their free time, Palestinian children play on sports teams named after murderers and watch television programs that teach that Jews are “our enemies and should be killed.”

 

 

 

Rather than condemning this incitement, the Palestinian Authority is amplifying the messages of intolerance.  President Abbas’s Fatah party regularly displays maps that erase Israel. In one map, for example, the Palestinian flag flies over the entire geographic area of the State of Israel.  This map extends from the Mediterranean Sea to the Jordan River and is entitled “Palestine.” 

 

 

 

In a speech on Christmas Day, President Abbas declared that Jesus was a (quote) “Palestinian messenger” and suggested Israel was to blame for the exodus of Christians from the Holy Land.  This is a blatant attempt to rewrite history and erase any connection between the Jewish people and the land of Israel.  Today we are witnessing a mass exodus of Christians from the Palestinian territories and the Arab world because of the constant persecution and discrimination that they face by the Arab states.

 

 

 

Abbas’s made-up maps and mythical accounts could join the fables of One Thousand and One Nights.

 

 

 

We have already lost an entire generation to incitement.  How many more children will grow up being taught hate instead of peace; violence instead of tolerance; and martyrdom instead of mutual understanding?  The international community must finally confront Palestinian leaders and publically demand an end to the incitement.

 

 

 

Mr. President,

 

 

 

The glorification of terrorists combined with unrelenting messages of hate are having deadly consequences.  In 2013, there were 1,500 attacks against Israelis, 700 of which occurred after peace negotiations began in July.  In recent months there has been a sharp increase in terrorist attacks including the murder of five Israelis.

 

 

 

Just last month, a Palestinian sniper murdered 22-year-old Saleh Abu Latif, an Israeli Bedouin civilian.  Two day earlier, a bomb exploded on a civilian bus in a suburb just outside Tel Aviv.  Had it not been for the quick thinking of the bus driver and an alert passenger, dozens of people could have been killed.  A successful attack could have had disastrous consequences for the peace talks.

 

 

 

In the face of this violence and bloodshed we have yet to hear President Abbas and the Palestinian Authority, utter a single word denouncing these attacks. They even remained silent when it was revealed that one of the bus bombers was a member of the Palestinian police force.  While most police forces have officers that uproot terrorism, this police officer was busy planting bombs.

 

 

 

The Palestinian leadership has yet to learn that real peace requires real commitment. You cannot condemn terrorism to international media and congratulate terrorists on Palestinian media.  You cannot victimize others and then insist you are the victim.  And you cannot use this forum to spread destructive messages and expect constructive results.

 

 

 

Mr. President,

 

 

 

How many times have you heard that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is the major conflict in the Middle East?  ‘You solve this conflict, you solve all the conflicts in the Middle East.’ Some in this Chamber have even repeated this fiction.

 

 

 

Really?  The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is the major conflict in the Middle East? Wow. People who say this need an eye doctor to help them see clearly – beginning maybe with the ophthalmologist from Damascus, Bashar al-Assad, who is butchering his people every day.  I’m sure that’s connected to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. 

 

 

 

Shiites fighting Sunnis fighting Alawites; extremist groups battling one another in Libya, Yemen and Tunisia; Al-Qaeda forces overrunning major cities in Iraq – all of this is caused by the Israeli-Palestinian conflict? That’s a revelation.

 

 

 

The truth is that Israel is an island of stability in a sea of tyranny.  Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., whose legacy is being celebrated today, once described Israel as (quote): “one of the great outposts of democracy in the world and a marvelous example of what can be done – how desert land can be transformed into an oasis of brotherhood and democracy. Peace for Israel means security, and that security must be a reality.”

 

 

 

I think it should be obvious that the violence and instability afflicting the Middle East has nothing to do with Israel. We must solve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict on its own merits because it’s important for us. Solving this conflict isn’t a prescription to cure the epidemic of violence plaguing the Middle East.

 

 

 

Despite what you constantly hear, the core of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has never been about borders or settlements. The major obstacle to peace remains the refusal of Palestinian leaders to accept the Jewish State in any border. You will never hear President Abbas or any Palestinian leader utter the phrase “two states for two peoples.”

 

 

 

Let me understand this – the Palestinians call for an independent Palestinian state, but want millions of their people to flood the Jewish state?  It will never happen.  It is a complete nonstarter.  Many in this Chamber are vocal about telling Israel what to do, but begin to stutter, mumble and fall silent when it comes to telling the Palestinians what they must do.  

 

 

 

Each and everyone here must tell the Palestinians that there will never be peace as long as they refuse to recognize Israel as the nation state of the Jewish people and insist on a so-called right of return.

 

 

 

Mr. President,

 

 

 

Despite what many may believe, Israel dedicates a great deal of its energy and resources to assisting the Palestinian people.  Today, more than 100,000 Palestinians earn their living in Israel and their income constitutes more than 10% of the Palestinian GDP. 

 

 

 

Israel helps generate solutions to energize the Palestinian economy.  We transfer millions of dollars in electricity, water and natural gas to power Palestinian homes, schools and hospitals.  When a giant storm struck last month, Israel delivered humanitarian aid and water pumps and facilitated the passage of fuel and cooking gas to Palestinians in need.

 

 

 

Yet for every truckload in the name of coexistence, we seem to be feeding a Palestinian opposition that challenges our very existence.  It is time for Palestinians leaders to lead.  It is time for them to set a course towards coexistence.  And it is time for them to build the Palestinian people up rather than tear Israel down.

 

 

 

Mr. President,

 

 

 

The Middle East is plagued by a reign of tyrants and a drought in leadership.  Millions of people have taken to the streets demanding better lives, better economies and greater opportunities.  The first peaceful protests in the region were in the streets of Tehran, where the government brutalizes it citizens and throws innocent people into jail. 

 

 

 

Many in the international community believed that the new Iranian president would set a new precedent.  It has been almost six months since President Rouhani took office and Iran is still persecuting minorities, imprisoning journalists, and targeting political adversaries.  The Iranian government has executed more of its citizens per capita than any other government. Last year alone, the regime executed almost 600 people, including 367 since President Rouhani took office in August. 

 

 

 

Iran does not confine its violence and extremism to its own borders.  From Buenos Aires to Burgas, Iran is the world’s primary sponsor of terror.  Just this month, Iranian Foreign Minister Zarif paid tribute on behalf of the Islamic Republic at the grave of one of Hezbollah’s most notorious murderers.

 

 

 

Rather than cleaning house, the new president believes he can sweep Iran’s atrocities under the Persian rug by introducing UN resolutions that condemn violence and extremism. Iran’s WAVE resolution may have made a splash at the UN, but messages of intolerance and violence continue to trickle down from the top.

 

 

 

Behind Iran’s smiling façade, President Rouhani and Ayatollah Khamenei continue to preach hatred and provoke hostility.  Ayatollah Khamenei recently appeared on state television and delegitimized Israel using disgusting profanity that doesn’t bear repeating.

 


The ink is barely dry on the interim nuclear agreement and Iran is already showing its true colors. This is a regime that crosses red lines, produces yellow cake, and beats its citizens black and blue.  Meanwhile, some in the international community are willing to serve Iran its yellow cake on a silver platter.  Permitting Iran to keep its enrichment capabilities today means that Iran will retain the ability to breakout and build a nuclear bomb tomorrow.

 


Mr. President,

 

 

 

Violence is encoded in the Iranian regime’s DNA.  It doesn’t take a crime scene investigator to see Iran’s fingerprints on the violence erupting in parts of the Middle East. 

 

 

 

In the Gaza Strip, Iran backs the Hamas terrorist organization that uses Palestinian schools, hospitals and mosques to launch rockets at Israeli citizens.  We are barely three weeks into the new year and Hamas has already launched 17 rockets at Israel – attacks that have closed schools and kept tens of thousands of children in Southern Israel at home.

 

 

 

The international community has yet to find the time to utter even a single condemnation of these attacks – attacks that could derail the peace process.  It has also yet to condemn Hamas for deliberately exploiting children.  Schools in Gaza have become the training ground for the next generation of terrorists. Last week, Hamas graduated 13,000 students from paramilitary camps geared at training children to fight Israel.

 

 

 

In Lebanon, Iran has helped Hezbollah hijack the Lebanese state and transform it into an outpost for terror.  For years, Hezbollah insisted it needed a private army to defend Lebanon against Israel. Today, that army has sent 2,000 fighters to butcher the Syrian people and shoot rockets into Israel.

 

 

 

Hezbollah has positioned 60,000 missiles and rockets in the heart of Southern Lebanon’s civilian population.  General Hajizadeh, a senior commander in Iran’s Revolutionary Guards recently boasted that Hezbollah has improved its missile capabilities and can now “hit and destroy any target” in Israel.

 

 

 

Hezbollah intentionally hides these missiles in the basements of homes, in the playgrounds of schools, and in the back rooms of hospitals.  In doing so, Hezbollah is committing a double war crime – first by using Lebanese civilians as human shields and second by targeting Israeli citizens.

 

 

 

The Government of Lebanon cannot continue to ignore what is happening in Southern Lebanon and it can no longer ignore its international obligations under resolution 1701.  Throughout December, armed terrorists fired shots across the Blue Line into northern Israel.  In one incident, a member of the Lebanese Armed Forces shot Israeli, Shlomi Cohen, in a ruthless and unprovoked attack.

 

 

 

It is time for this Council to hold accountable all those that arm, train and harbor terrorists. It is time to speak out against those who callously disregard human life.  As we have seen in Syria, the failure to do so has disastrous consequences.

 

 

 

Mr. President,

 

 

 

The war in Syria is approaching its fourth year and the death toll continues to climb.  The Syrian government has resorted to new depths of brutality by dropping “barrel bombs” packed with explosives, nails and other shrapnel on markets and hospitals. In just a few days, more than 700 people were killed and over 3,000 were injured. 

 

 

 

The State of Israel and the Jewish people are deeply troubled by the suffering of the Syrian people and are reaching out to help them.  While some in the region are aiding the murderous Assad regime, Israel is providing medical aid. 

 

 

 

Sunnis, Alawites and Shiites are running to Israel – the so-called “enemy” because they know that Israel will treat anyone without prejudice and regardless of ethnicity, religion or gender. And we will continue to lend humanitarian assistance to the victims with open arms and an open heart.

 

 

 

Mr. President,

 

 

 

Today, the Middle East stands at a critical juncture.  There are two roads before us.  The first is the future offered by Iran and Syria – a future of more extremism and greater violence.  And the second is the road towards equality, reform and stability.  

 

 

 

Study after study has shown the clear connection between advancing peace and advancing equal rights.  When a woman receives an education, her children are healthier and more likely to get an education. And when a woman generates her own income she reinvests 90% in her family and community.  But women can only help drive a nation’s economy if they are allowed into the driver’s seat.

 

 

 

As we begin this new year, the international community must call upon Arab leaders to choose the path of progress and abandon the road of repression.  Tell them that tyranny will fail; tell them peace is built on tolerance; and tell them that every man and every woman is entitled to equal rights and equal opportunities.

 

 

 

As Winston Churchill said: “All the great things are simple, and many can be expressed in a single word: freedom… honor…hope.”  The international community must stand on the side of human rights and human dignity. You must speak up and speak out so that the people of the Middle East can finally enjoy freedom, honor and hope.

 

Thank you, Mr. President.

======================================

 AND FROM THE UNITED STATES:

 

01/20/2014 02:46 PM EST

 


 

 

 

Thank you, Mr. President, thank you for joining us here today and for chairing this critical session. Thank you Secretary General Ban, Mr. Deputy Secretary General. And thank you also Foreign Minister Judeh for your remarks.

Mr. President, ministers, colleagues, the Middle East has often been prey to the turbulence of conflicting forces, but rarely have we seen efforts toward peace and the staggering human costs of war so vividly and simultaneously evident.

This contrast is especially striking in Syria, where diplomatic initiatives have intensified against the backdrop of an ever more brutal civil war. The best way to begin to end that war is through the Geneva II talks scheduled to start in Switzerland on Wednesday. My government has been working closely with the international community and the Syrian Opposition Coalition to prepare for that conference. We welcome the Coalition’s courageous decision this past weekend to participate in the talks, the purpose of which is implementation of the Geneva Action Group Communiqué. That document calls for the establishment, based on mutual consent, of a transitional governing body with full executive authority, including over military and security entities. It is vital that all participants in the opening ministerial and subsequent talks support that core goal. As of this morning, Iran still has yet to demonstrate its willingness to explicitly and publicly subscribe to the full implementation of the Geneva communiqué that is a minimum requirement for participation in this peace process.

Mr. President, the Syrian government’s recent and deadly bombing campaign — including the use of SCUD missiles and “barrel bombs” — in the Aleppo and Damascus suburbs provides a further demonstration of the Asad regime’s cruelty and of the fact that there is no military solution to this conflict. That is why we are so focused on a negotiated political transition of the type to be discussed in Geneva.

The urgency of diplomatic progress is highlighted by the deepening of the humanitarian crisis created by the war and by the Syrian government’s failure to implement the Council’s October 2 presidential statement. In recent days, the Syrian regime has seemingly agreed to improve humanitarian access to besieged areas, but we haven’t seen evidence of meaningful implementation on the ground. For months, communities including Yarmouk, East Ghouta, Darayya, Old City of Homs, and Mouadhamiya have been besieged and cut off from food and medical supplies. And it is not just the case that food can’t get in. People, starving people, desperate people, can’t get out. And in the very rare occasions that evacuations from besieged areas are organized, the regime has taken inhabitants away to be screened. In many cases the whereabouts of those individuals are unknown and remain unknown today.

East Ghouta is an egregious example of Syrian obstruction. This is an area where international chemical weapons inspectors were allowed access, but 160,000 civilians remain cut off from humanitarian aid. Pro-Assad snipers regularly target residents attempting to travel through checkpoints. The government has blockaded fuel supplies and residents have electricity for only a couple of hours a day. A young child even died of carbon monoxide poisoning because his family had been compelled to burn firewood inside their house to keep warm. Let us be clear: if inspectors can obtain access to East Ghouta, so too should the providers of medicine and food.

Yarmouk provides another tragic example. It has been under constant siege since July 2013. Recent reports of more than a dozen malnutrition-related deaths among children and other Palestinian residents are horrifying and should shock the conscience of all of us. We received reports from the UN in recent days that UNRWA was able, finally, to carry in a small amount of food parcels: 200 parcels that will feed 1,000 people for one month. There are 18,000 people in Yarmouk who are under siege, lacking food and medicine. It is devastating to imagine how starving people will divide up the food parcels. Humanitarian providers who managed to deliver these parcels literally had to dodge sniper fire.

Although the regime is primarily responsible for denying humanitarian assistance, some opposition groups have also been culpable in such communities as Nubl, Zahra and Fuo. This is unacceptable. The deliberate blocking or withholding of life-giving aid by any party cannot be justified and must stop now – before more innocent people die.

Mr. President, the plight of Syrian civilians and refugees is heartbreaking and makes last week’s conference in Kuwait all the more important. The United States pledged $380 million in new funds to help tackle the crisis, bringing our total commitment since the fighting began to more than $1.7 billion. We welcome the new pledges from other donor nations, as well as the international community’s renewed commitment to assist the Syrian people and the neighboring countries that are providing a safe haven for refugees.

In the brief period before Geneva II, and as the talks go forward, it is critical that we make concrete progress on humanitarian access issues. We must also do everything that we can to halt the violence. To that end, we call urgently on all parties to agree on local ceasefires and to move ahead with prisoner releases.

We commend, Mr. President, your country of Jordan for sheltering some 600,000 refugees and we recognize the enormous economic and social toll the conflict has taken on your country. Jordan has opened its doors for an emergency situation and we know that that is draining its domestic resources. The international community has an obligation to ensure that Jordan’s generosity does not become an unsustainable burden on its population.

In Lebanon, the situation has grown even more perilous, as the Syrian war has exacerbated the security, financial, and social pressures faced by the nation’s leaders. More than 1,600 Lebanese communities bear the burden of hosting more than 900,000 refugees from Syria. My government continues to help Lebanon tackle its massive challenges via the recently-established International Support Group (ISG), and we urge other donors also to provide aid that is consistent with ISG priorities.

A stable and united Lebanon, with strong democratic institutions, is in the best interests of the Lebanese people and of citizens throughout the Middle East. In that context, we encourage formation of a new cabinet to address the country’s security, economic and humanitarian challenges and to meet its international obligations.

The Syrian civil war has contributed to rising sectarian violence and political friction inside Lebanon. As has been said, the December 27 assassination of the widely-respected former finance minister, Mohammad Chattah was an outrage. The January 2 suicide bombing in southern Beirut’s Haret Hreik neighborhood killed five people and wounded many more. Meanwhile, sporadic violence has continued for weeks in Tripoli and near the Syrian border. To that end, we note Saudi Arabia’s commitment – announced last month – to provide generous amounts of additional aid to the Lebanese Armed Forces. We will continue to partner closely with Lebanon’s security services, which have a pivotal role to play in support of Lebanon’s security and its sovereignty.

We condemn the violence and urge all parties to exercise restraint, and commend the LAF for their efforts to stem the violence. The Lebanese government’s policy of disassociation from the Syrian conflict, as enshrined in the Baabda declaration, must be upheld.

It is equally vital that all relevant Security Council resolutions be implemented, including numbers 1559 and 1701, which call for the disbandment and disarmament of all militias in Lebanon. The United States strongly condemns the December 29 rocket attack that was launched from Lebanese territory into Israel.

Finally, we welcome the start of the trial before the Special Tribunal for Lebanon of four persons charged with the assassination of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri and others who were killed in the bombing. This trial is a positive step toward justice and away from the acceptance of impunity for political violence. We commend the Lebanese Government and other donor countries for supporting the court.

Turning to the subject of Middle East peace, the United States is continuing its efforts to assist the Israelis and Palestinians in reaching a final-status agreement that recognizes two states for two peoples, living side-by-side in peace and security. Secretary of State Kerry returned to the region earlier this month in support of a proposed framework that addresses all core issues. As the parties consider the difficult decisions ahead, the United States remains convinced that the benefits of peace – for both sides – can best be achieved through the kind of process in which we are presently engaged.

Accordingly, the United States reiterates its view that all parties should refrain from actions that might undermine the atmosphere required for ongoing negotiations. Steps that diminish trust, such as continued settlement activity, only feed skepticism on both sides.

Further, we are deeply troubled by the escalation of violence leading to civilian casualties and condemn rocket attacks from Gaza into Israel and the attempt to kill civilians by placing a bomb on a public bus in Tel Aviv.

We are also seriously concerned about the humanitarian situation in the Gaza Strip, and urge all parties to cooperate in expanding access for people, goods, and humanitarian supplies.

The consistent support of peace efforts by key partners is essential. We particularly welcome the European Union’s generous pledge last month to provide “unprecedented” political and economic support for Israel and the Palestinians in the context of a final status peace agreement. We are gratified, as well, by the decision of the Arab League, whose representatives met with Secretary Kerry in Paris on January 12, to reaffirm its commitment to these negotiations.

Finally, Mr. President, on Iraq, I thank the Secretary General for reporting on his recent visit and would like to commend the United Nations Assistance Mission and the High Commissioner for Refugees for their efforts to ensure the delivery of aid to the people of Anbar Province. The U.S. strongly condemns the attacks carried out by forces affiliated with Al-Qaida in Anbar and elsewhere in Iraq. Their brazen attempt at destabilization cannot be allowed to succeed. As this Council, in its recent statement made clear, “No terrorist act can reverse the path towards peace, democracy and reconstruction, which is supported by the people and Government of Iraq and the international community.” In that spirit, we are encouraged by the cooperation being shown by Iraq’s government, its national security forces, and local tribal leaders in trying to restore stability, resist terrorist aggression, and ease the hardships faced by Iraqi civilians.

Mr. President, I too note that, in the United States, today is a national holiday. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. taught the citizens of my country and people everywhere to pursue justice and the resolution of differences by peaceful means. In his words, “returning violence for violence multiplies violence, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars.” The wisdom in that warning is always and everywhere relevant, but never more so than now in the Middle East, where peace initiatives demand our support amid the anguish of continued conflict.

Thank you.

==============================================================

Statement by UK Ambassador Sir Mark Lyall Grant to UN Security Council on Situation in the Middle East – 20 January 2014  

 

 

 

Thank you, Mr President.

 

I welcome your Foreign Minister’s attendance in the Security Council today. And I would also like to thank the Secretary-General for his statement and the representatives of Palestine and Israel for their contributions to this debate.

 

 

 

As we enter 2014, we are at a moment of opportunity for the Middle East Peace Process. Entering back into direct negotiations last year was a bold step forward. It was a welcome move toward peace in a troubled area. It is the responsibility of all of us here to support the parties, led by the United States, to capitalise on this opportunity.

 

 

 

My government continues to put its full support behind Secretary Kerry and his team, and we urge the Israeli and Palestinian leaderships to continue their admirable focus and commitment.

 

 

 

This year started on a positive note with the implementation of Israel’s brave decision to release the third tranche of Palestinian prisoners. The United Kingdom firmly believes that such steps, despite their difficulty, are important to achieving a lasting peace and security.

 

 

 

However, we are very concerned by Israel’s decision to announce further settlement building in East Jerusalem and the West Bank. My government condemns these announcements and considers such actions as a serious a threat to peace. We urge Israel to avoid any further illegal settlement activity and to reverse the advancement of plans.

 

 

 

The United Kingdom has also been clear that for this process to be a success, people on the ground – both Israelis and Palestinians – need to see the real and tangible benefits of peace. We remain deeply concerned about the 663 Palestinian-owned homes and livelihood structures demolished in Area C and East Jerusalem in 2013. Demolitions and evictions are harmful to the peace process; and, in all but the most limited circumstances, are contrary to international humanitarian law.  Reports of “price-tag” attacks, including on a mosque in Deir Istiya village on 15 January, are also of serious concern. We condemn such acts and urge the Israeli authorities to bring those responsible to justice.

 

 

 

We are also concerned about rocket fire from the Gaza strip into Israel and in particular condemn the rockets fired at Ashkelon on 16 January in violation of international law.  All parties must respect the November 2012 ceasefire agreement in full. The people of Gaza and Israel will only lose from further violence.

 

 

 

There will be difficult decisions in the months ahead, but we urge all those involved to keep their shared goal in mind – a negotiated two state solution leading to a sovereign, viable and contiguous Palestinian state living in peace and security alongside a safe and secure Israel. The United Kingdom stands ready to do its part. That is why we strongly back the European Union’s readiness to offer an unprecedented package of political, economic and security support to both parties in the event that a final status deal is reached.

 

 

 

Mr President, on Syria,

 

The United Nations Secretary-General has made clear that the aim of this week’s Geneva Conference on Syria is to “assist the Syrian parties in ending the violence and achieving a comprehensive agreement for a political settlement, implementing fully the Geneva Communiqué, while preserving the sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity of Syria”.  As the permanent members of this Council agreed on 30 June 2012, and was endorsed by the whole Council in Resolution 2118 last September, this means agreeing a transitional governing body in Syria with full executive powers, formed by mutual consent, to meet the aspirations of the Syrian people. 

 

 

 

Yesterday, the Secretary-General announced that he was extending an invitation to Iran to attend the opening of the conference at Montreux on the basis that they acknowledge that the conference’s purpose is the full implementation of the original Geneva Communiqué. If they are to attend, it is now vital that the Iranian government confirm publicly and clearly that they share this understanding.

 

 

 

We have also urged the United Nations, as mandated by the Security Council in many resolutions, including resolution 2122 of October 2013,  to ensure a full role for women in the Syrian peace negotiations. 

 

 

It is important to remember these negotiations  will be a process – not a single event . We should not underestimate the formidable challenges ahead and we must not lose sight of the desperate situation Syrian civilians are facing on a daily basis. 

 

 

 

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights now puts the death toll at over 125,000 people.  In Aleppo and across all of Syria, we have seen the regime continue to attack its own civilian population with barrel bombs.  This indiscriminate bombardment is yet another war crime on the part of the regime and Assad and those around him should be in no doubt that the world will hold them to account.   The situation in Syria should be referred to the International Criminal Court.

 

 

 

Mr President,

 

The humanitarian crisis has reached catastrophic proportions.  11 million Syrians are in desperate need of urgent assistance, particularly in besieged and hard to reach areas.  This is an unparalleled crisis and the world needs to respond accordingly.  We welcome the $2.4 billion in pledges made at the Kuwait Pledging Conference last week.  My government announced a further pledge of $163 million in humanitarian assistance, bringing our total contribution to nearly $1 billion – the largest sum that the United Kingdom has ever committed to a single crisis.  This funding is going towards meeting the basic lifesaving needs of Syrians affected by the conflict, both inside Syria and in Jordan, Lebanon, Turkey and Iraq. 

 

 

 

We pay tribute to those neighbouring countries, including Jordan, for the burden that they are carrying to help alleviate the suffering of the Syrian people.

 

 

 

But increased funding can only make a difference if there is progress on access and protection for humanitarian actors in Syria – where 21 UN staff members remain in Government detention and 47 humanitarian workers have now been killed.  Progress on implementing this Council’s Presidential Statement of 2nd of October remains extremely limited.  It is unacceptable that humanitarian organisations are being deliberately obstructed by the regime from delivering aid. The regime has shown it can facilitate access for chemical weapons inspectors – it needs to show the same commitment to ensuring aid reaches those most in need. 

 

Thank you, Mr President.

 

 

 

###

Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on January 17th, 2014
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

 

Uri Avnery

January 18, 2013

           

 

                                                The Imperator

 

IN THE middle of the 70s, Ariel Sharon asked me to arrange something for him – a meeting with Yasser Arafat.

 

A few days before, the Israeli media had discovered that I was in regular contact with the leadership of the PLO, which was listed at the time as a terrorist organization.

 

I told Sharon that my PLO contacts would probably ask what he intended to propose to the Palestinians. He told me that his plan was to help the Palestinians to overthrow the Jordanian monarchy, and turn Jordan into a Palestinian state, with Arafat as its president.

 

What about the West Bank?” I asked.

 

Once Jordan becomes Palestine, there will no longer be a conflict between two peoples, but between two states. That will be much easier to resolve. We shall find some form of partition, territorial or functional, or we shall rule the territory together.” 

 

My friends submitted the request to Arafat, who laughed it off. But he did not miss the opportunity to tell King Hussein about it. Hussein disclosed the story to a Kuwaiti newspaper, Alrai, and that’s how it came back to me.

 

 

SHARON’S PLAN was revolutionary at the time. Almost the entire Israeli establishment – including Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin and Defense Minister Shimon Peres – believed in the so-called “Jordanian option”: the idea that we must make peace with King Hussein. The Palestinians were either ignored or considered arch-enemies, or both.

 

Five years earlier, when the Palestinians in Jordan were battling the Hashemite regime there, Israel came to the aid of the king at the request of Henry Kissinger. I proposed the opposite in my magazine: to aid the Palestinians. Sharon later told me that he, a general at the time, had asked the General Staff to do the same, though for a different end. My idea was to create a Palestinian state in the West Bank, his was to create it in the East Bank.

 

(The idea of turning Jordan into Palestine has a generally unknown linguistic background. In Hebrew usage, “Eretz Israel” is the land on both sides of the Jordan River, where the ancient Hebrew tribes settled according to the Biblical myth. In Palestinian usage, “Filastin” is only the land on the West side of the river. Therefore is quite natural for ignorant Israelis to ask the Palestinians to set up their state beyond the Jordan. For Palestinians, that means setting up their state abroad.)

 

 

AT THE time, Sharon was in political exile.

 

In 1973 he left the army, after realizing that he had no chance of becoming Chief of Staff. This may seem odd, since he was already recognized as an outstanding battlefield commander. The trouble was that he was also known as an insubordinate officer, who despised his superiors and his peers (as well as everybody else.) Also, his relationship with the truth was problematical. David Ben-Gurion wrote in his diary that Sharon could be an exemplary military officer, if only he could abstain from lying.

 

When he left the army, Sharon almost single-handedly created the Likud by unifying all the right-wing parties. That’s when I chose him the first time as Haolam Hazeh’s Man of the Year and wrote a large biographical article about him. A few days later, the Yom Kippur War broke out, and Sharon was drafted back into the army. His part in it is considered by many as pure genius, by others as a story of insubordination and luck. A photo of him with his head bandaged became his trademark, though it was only a slight wound caused by hitting his head on his command vehicle. (To be fair, he was really wounded in battle, like me, in 1948.)

 

After the Yom Kippur war, the argument about his part in that war became the center of “the battle of the generals”. He started to visit me at my home to explain his moves, and we became quite friendly.

 

He left the Likud when he realized that he could not become its leader as long as Menachem Begin was around. He started to chart his own course. That’s when he asked for the meeting with Arafat.

 

He was thinking about creating a new party, neither right nor left, but led by him and “outstanding personalities” from all over the political landscape. He invited me to join, and we had long conversations at his home.

 

I must explain here that for a long time I had been looking for a person with military credentials to lead a large united peace camp. A leader with such a background would make it much easier for us to gain public support for our aims. Sharon fitted the recipe. (As Yitzhak Rabin did later.) Yet during our conversations it became clear to me that he had basically remained a right-winger.

 

In the end Sharon set up a new party called Shlomtzion (“Peace of Zion”), which was a dismal failure on election day. The next day, he rejoined the Likud.

 

The Likud had won the elections and Begin became Prime Minister. If Sharon had hoped to be appointed Minister of Defense, he was soon disabused. Begin did not trust him. Sharon looked like a general who might organize a coup. The powerful new Finance Minister said that if Sharon became commander-in-chief, he would “send his tanks to surround the Knesset.”

 

(There was a joke making the rounds at the time:  Defense Minister Sharon would call for a meeting of the General Staff and announce: “Comrades, tomorrow morning at 06.00 we take over the government!” For a moment the audience was dumfounded, and then it broke out into riotous laughter.)

 

However, when Begin’s preferred Defense Minister, the former Air Force chief Ezer Weizman, resigned, Begin was compelled to appoint Sharon as his successor. For the second time I chose Sharon as Haolam Hazeh’s Man of the Year. He took this very seriously and sat with me for many hours, in several meetings at his home and office, in order to explain his ideas.

 

One of them, which he expounded at the same time to the US strategic planners, was to conquer Iran. When Ayatollah Khomeini dies, he said, there will begin a race between the Soviet Union and the US to determine who will arrive first on the scene and take over. The US is far away, but Israel can do the job. With the help of heavy arms that the US will store in Israel well before, our army will be in full possession before the Soviets move. He showed me the detailed maps of the advance, hour by hour and day by day.

 

This was typical Sharon, His vision was wide and all-embracing. His listener was left breathless, comparing him to the ordinary little politicians, devoid of vision and breadth. But his ideas were generally based on abysmal ignorance of the other side, and therefore came to naught.

 

 

AT THE same time, nine months before the Lebanon War, he disclosed to me his Grand Plan for a new Middle East of his making. He allowed me to publish it, provided I did not mention him as the source. He trusted me.

 

Basically it was the same as the one he wanted to propose to Arafat.

 

The army would invade Lebanon and drive the Palestinians from there to Syria, from whence the Syrians would drive them into Jordan. There the Palestinians would overthrow the king and establish the State of Palestine.

 

The army would also drive the Syrians out of Lebanon. In Lebanon Sharon would choose a Christian officer and install him as dictator. Lebanon would make official peace with Israel and in effect become a vassal state.

 

I duly published all this, and nine months later Sharon invaded Lebanon, after lying to Begin and the cabinet about his aims. But the war was a catastrophe, both militarily and politically.

 

Militarily it was a demonstration of “the Peter principle” – the brilliant battle commander was a miserable strategist. No unit of the Israeli army reached its objective on time, if at all. The Israeli-installed dictator, Bachir Gemayel, was assassinated. His brother and successor signed a peace treaty with Israel, which has been completely forgotten by now. The Syrians remained in Lebanon for many years to come. The Israeli army extricated itself after a guerrilla war that lasted 18 full years, during which the despised and downtrodden Shiites in Israeli-occupied South Lebanon became the dominant political force in the country.

 

And, worst of all, in order to induce the Palestinians to flee, Sharon let the barbarous Christian Phalangists into the Palestinian refugee camps Sabra and Shatila, where they committed a terrible massacre. Hundreds of thousands of outraged Israelis protested in Tel Aviv, and Sharon was dismissed from the defense ministry.

 

At the height of the Battle of Beirut I crossed the lines and met with Yasser Arafat, who had become Sharon’s Nemesis. Since then, Sharon and I did not exchange a single word, not even greeting each other.

 

 

IT LOOKED like the end of Sharon’s career. But for Sharon, every end was a new beginning.

 

One of his media vassals, Uri Dan (who had started his career in Haolam Hazeh) once coined a prophetic phrase: “Those who don’t want him as Chief of Staff, will get him as Minister of Defense. Those who don’t want him as Minister of Defense, will get him as Prime Minister.” Today one could add: “Those who did not want him as Prime Minister, are getting him as a national icon.”  

 

An ex-general, Yitzhak Ben-Israel, told me yesterday: “He was an Imperator!” I find this a very apt description.

 

Like a Roman imperator, Sharon was a supreme being, admired and feared,

generous and cruel, genial and treacherous, hedonistic and corrupt, a victorious general and a war criminal, quick to make decisions and unwavering once he had made them, overcoming all obstacles by sheer force of personality.

 

One could not meet him without being struck by the sense of power he emanated. Power was his element.

 

He believed that destiny had chosen him to lead Israel. He did not think so – he knew. For him, his personal career and the fate of Israel were one and the same. Therefore, anyone who tried to block him was a traitor to Israel. He despised everyone around him – from Begin down to the last politician and general.

 

His character was formed in his early childhood in Kfar Malal, a communal village which belonged to the Labor party. His mother, Vera, managed the family farm with an iron will, quarreling with all the neighbors, the village institutions and the party. When little Arik was injured in a fall on a pitchfork, she did not take him to the village clinic, which she hated, but put him on a donkey and led him for several kilometers to a doctor in Kfar Saba.

 

When rumor had it that the Arabs in neighboring villages were planning an attack, little Arik was hidden in a haystack.

 

Later in life, when his mother (who still managed the farm) visited his new ranch and saw a low wall with holes for irrigation, she exclaimed: “Ah, you have embrasures! Very good, you can shoot through them at the Arabs!”

 

How could a poor army officer acquire the largest ranch in the country? Simple: he got it as a gift from an Israeli-American billionaire, with the help of the finance minister. Several dubious large deals with other billionaires followed.

 

 

SHARON WAS the most typical Israeli one could imagine, embodying the saying (to which I modestly claim authorship): “If force does not work, try more force.”

 

I was therefore very surprised when he came out in favor of the law dispensing with the military service of tens of thousands of orthodox youngsters. “How can you?” I asked him. His answer: “I am first of all a Jew, and only after that an Israeli!” I told him that for me it was the other way round.

 

Ideologically, he was the pupil and successor of David Ben-Gurion and Moshe Dayan, leaders who believed in military force and in expanding the territory of Israel without limit. His military career started for real in the 1950s when Moshe Dayan put him in charge of an unofficial outfit called Unit 101, which was sent across the border to kill and destroy, in retaliation for similar actions committed by Arabs. His most famous exploit was the massacre of Qibya village in 1953, when 49 innocent villagers were buried under the houses which he blew up.

 

Later, when requested to put an end to “terrorism” in Gaza, he killed every Arab who was caught with arms. When I later asked him about killing prisoners, he answered: “I did not kill prisoners. I did not take prisoners!”

 

At the beginning of his career as commander he was a bad general. But from war to war he improved. Unusual for a general, he learned from his mistakes. In the 1973 war he was already considered the equal of Erwin Rommel and George Patton. It also became known that between the battles he gorged himself on seafood, which is not kosher.

 

 

THE MAIN endeavor of his life was the settlement enterprise. As army officer, politician and successively chief of half a dozen different ministries, his central effort was always to plan and set up settlements in the occupied territories.

 

He did not care whether they were legal or illegal under Israeli law (all of them, of course, are illegal under international law, for which he did not give a damn).

 

He planned their location, with the aim of cutting the West Bank into ribbons which would make a Palestinian state impossible. Then he rammed it through the cabinet and the ministries. Not for nothing was he nicknamed “the Bulldozer”.

 

The “Israel Defense Army” (its official Hebrew name) turned into the “Settlers Defense Army”, sinking slowly in the morass of the occupation.

 

However, when settlements obstructed his plans, he had no compunction about destroying them. When he was in favor of peace with Egypt, in order to concentrate on the war with the Palestinians, he destroyed the entire town of Yamit in North Sinai and the adjacent settlements. Later he did the same to the settlements in the Gaza Strip, attracting the enduring hatred of the settlers, his erstwhile proteges. He acted like a general who is ready to sacrifice a brigade to improve his overall strategic position. 

 

 

WHEN HE died last week, after lying in a coma for eight years, he was eulogized by the very people he despised, and turned into a shallow folk hero. The Ministry of Education compared him to Moses.

 

In real life he was a very complex person, as complex as Israel. His personal history is interwoven with the history of Israel.

 

His main legacy was catastrophic: the scores of settlements which he implanted all over the West Bank – each of them a landmine which will have to be removed at great risk when the time comes.

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