Wednesday, July 29, 2015

How Amnesty lies and twists the truth

Right after I posted my last article on Amnesty's latest report based on its executive summary, the actual Amnesty report about the fighting in Rafah last year was released. It took me about two minutes to identify the first lie.

An engineer corps soldier who took part in the incursion told Breaking the Silence that his orders were “to make a big boom before the ceasefire”, without being given any specific targets
The Breaking the Silence quote shows that this soldier was not in Rafah to begin with! He was talking about a completely different battle in northern Gaza.

And even his testimony shows the exact opposite of Amnesty's thesis of a bloodthirsty, vengeful IDF:

Before the first ceasefire they told us we were going in [to the Gaza Strip] to take down a house. We went down quick and got the gear we needed ready and then we asked, “Which house are we taking down?” And they said, “We want to make a big boom before the ceasefire.” Like that, those were the words the officer used, and it made everyone mad. I mean, whose house? They hadn’t picked a specific one – just ‘a’ house. That’s when everyone got uneasy. At that moment we decided pretty unanimously that we would go speak with the team commander and tell him we simply aren’t going to do it, that we aren’t willing to put ourselves at risk for no reason. He chose the most inappropriate words to describe to us what we were being asked to do. I guess that’s how it was conveyed to him. “We’re not willing to do it,” we told him. It was a very difficult conversation. Him being an officer, he said, “First of all, so it’s clear to everyone, we will be carrying this thing out tonight, and second, I’m going to go find out more details about the mission for you.” He returned a few hours later and said, “It’s an ‘active house' (being used by combatants for military purposes) and it’s necessary you take it down, and not someone else, because we can’t do it with jets – that would endanger other houses in the area, and that’s why you’re needed.” In the end the mission was miraculously transferred to a battalion with which we were supposed to go in, and we were let off the hook. After the ceasefire a bulldozer and emulsion trucks (transporting the explosive liquid) and the driller (a drilling system for identifying tunnels) came to our area, and work started on the tunnels in our zone.
All Amnesty wants you to get out of this is that some IDF officer said he wanted to make a big boom on a random house, and it is clear that this was not the mission at all. And the very idea of such a mission is so anomalous and disgusting to IDF soldiers that even when they think their commander is ordering them to do so, they refuse!

Amnesty, of course, has no problem lying and claiming that this is proof of Israeli war crimes miles away.

Meanwhile, I am looking in the full report for quotes to support Amnesty's claim in their executive summary that
Public statements by Israeli army commanders and soldiers after the conflict provide compelling reasons to conclude that some attacks that killed civilians and destroyed homes and property were intentionally carried out and motivated by a desire for revenge – to teach a lesson to, or punish, the population of Rafah for the capture of Lieutenant Goldin.
What public statements support that conclusion? Amnesty's full report supplies exactly one that does no such thing:
Israeli army spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Peter Lerner said Israel’s assaults were mostly aimed at convincing Hamas never to try it again: “When they come out of their bunkers and they look around, they are going to have to make a serious estimation of whether what they have done was worth it.” These statements indicate an intention to generate material damage as a deterrent.
Lerner's statement does not in any way indicate that the IDF intended to inflict damage as a deterrent. He was talking about damage that occurs during the course of a war where Hamas chooses to hide among civilians, necessitating the destruction of civilian buildings that Hamas turned into military targets.  Amnesty has no shred of evidence that the IDF chose a single target for non-military reasons.

And this is the quote that Amnesty is using as proof of Israeli war crimes. It betrays not only their willingness to twist the facts to reach their pre-conceived notions, but also a willful ignorance of how modern armies make their decisions.

Amnesty chooses to anthropomorphize the IDF as a vindictive person, not as an organization with multiple layers of checks and balances - and there is plenty of documentation that shows every step that goes into IDF decision making that contradicts Amnesty's blanket statements.

The organization is beneath contempt.

Amnesty's new report takes soldiers' quotes out of context (updated)

Amnesty International today is releasing yet another report that tries to prove Israel committed war crimes in last year's Gaza war, this time regarding the events surrounding the kidnapping of Lt. Hadar Goldin in Rafah - who was abducted during a ceasefire.

Just like the Gaza Platform, the upcoming report uses the services of the anti-Zionist "Forensics Architecture" team to take one-sided evidence and twist it to make it look like an impartial investigation.

At the moment, only the executive summary is available. Yet even its use of sources proves its bias.

It quotes two IDF soldiers who were interviewed by "Breaking the Silence" to prove purposeful Israeli fire into civilian areas.

An Israeli infantry officer described to Israeli NGO Breaking the Silence the events that
ensued after the Hannibal Directive was announced on the radio:
“The minute ‘Hannibal Directive’ is declared on the radio, there are consequences. There’s a fire procedure called the ‘Hannibal fire procedure’ – you fire at every suspicious place that merges with a central route. You don’t spare any means.”
Here's the entire testimony:

So I heard that the reconnaissance platoon got into a confrontation, and that it looked like we were talking about two [IDF soldiers] dead and one captured. That’s when the mess got started. The minute ‘Hannibal Directive’ is declared on the radio, there are consequences. There’s a fire procedure called the ‘Hannibal fire procedure’ – you fire at every suspicious place that merges with a central route. You don’t spare any means. A thousand shells were fired that Friday morning, at all the central intersections. The entire Tancher [Route] (the continuation of Highway 4 in Gaza) was bombed. The air force attacked places inside Rafah City, places in which we knew there were Hamas militants. Was there collateral damage to houses? I’m sure there was. It was very intense, that incident. After the area was hit by 1,000 shells that Friday morning, I saw Tancher in ruins. Everything totally wrecked.
Even the BtS soldier says that there was no intent to hurt civilians and that no civilian structures were directly targeted..

Here's Amnesty's second quote:
An artillery soldier said his battery was “firing at a maximum fire rate” right into inhabited areas.

The full testimony:
During occasions when there was a significant amount of fire [directed at our forces], or during the ground incursion to Gaza – to Shuja’iyya – I know my unit fired a lot. One of the senior officers in my unit talked about how we had fired [at targets] that were in very close proximity to our forces, how we had really saved them. He said it was an important mission and that apparently during it we had also killed a number of civilians. They said that tragically, some uninvolved civilians were apparently hit, but that it was a situation where it would either be our troops or civilians [being harmed]. He said that it wasn’t even a question, that it was obvious that our troops [came first]. They emphasized the fact that that was obviously not done on purpose.

Did he say what the mission itself was, what the role of the [artillery] battery was?
To assist them with artillery fire. If they need flare shells, or if they need smoke to conceal themselves, or, of course, if they need explosive shells to evacuate [forces from the field]. The battery fired 900 shells [that night], and the battalion fired about 1,200 or 1,500, I think. There were certain stages during which we were firing at a maximum fire rate – after Goldin was kidnapped, (an IDF soldier captured near Rafah) and in Shuja’iyya.
Keep in mind that breaking the Silence itself cherry picks IDF soldiers' testimonies already to make the IDF look as bad as possible. Amnesty is further taking the BtS quotes out of context as evidence of war crimes.

It is not a war crime, or a violation of international law, to prioritize soldier's lives higher than unintended civilian casualties. On the contrary - it is what a normal military commander is supposed to do in every army on Earth. But Amnesty does not like to tel its readers what actual international law is.

Other quotes that Amnesty supposedly claims as evidence of "war crimes" are not directly quoted in the executive summary - we just have to trust Amnesty that these quotes exist and mean what they claim they mean:

Public statements by Israeli army commanders and soldiers after the conflict provide compelling reasons to conclude that some attacks that killed civilians and destroyed homes and property were intentionally carried out and motivated by a desire for revenge – to teach a lesson to, or punish, the population of Rafah for the capture of Lieutenant Goldin.

There is consequently strong evidence that many such attacks in Rafah between 1 and 4 August were serious violations of international humanitarian law and constituted grave breaches of the Fourth Geneva Convention or other war crimes.
If they have quotes like that, why not use them in this summary? Because the quotes are not nearly as clear-cut as Amnesty wants the world to believe, and they know that reporters will trust their analysis of the quotes rather than evaluate them directly.

Interestingly, the executive summary doesn't mention the number of civilians killed in this operation. BtS said "between 41-150 Palestinians were killed, many of them civilians." That is a very imprecise number. It will be interesting to see if the Forensics Architecture team, supposedly committed to unbiased research, bothered during the past year to determine exactly how many civilians were actually killed during these three days of unbridled firepower in an urban battlefield where Hamas is purposefully hiding among civilians.

Civilians were killed in Rafah. It was tragic. Amnesty wants the world to believe that it was deliberate and they are willing to spend lots of money and effort to twist the truth to reach their pre-determined conclusions.

UPDATE: The final report does not contain a single quote that indicates that IDF soldiers intended to "take revenge." The only quote from a soldier that mentions "revenge" says the exact opposite: '“Anyone who abducts should know that he will pay a price. This was not revenge. "

Amnesty is lying.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Two Overnight Eldertoons

I had tweeted this a couple of days ago but might as well post it here too:

And I tweeted this joke on Wednesday, thanks to Yerushalimey for coming up with it:

07/28 Links Pt2: Pollard will be freed Nov 20; Latest Blood Libel: The Case Of Mohammed Abu Latifa

From Ian:

Pollard will be freed November 20, Israel's justice minister announces
Jonathan Pollard, the former civilian analyst for the US Navy convicted of spying for Israel, will be released from US jail on November 20 after serving 30 years of a life sentence.
“The decision to grant parole was made unanimously by the three members of the [US] Parole Commission, who make their decisions independently of any other US government agency,” Pollard’s lawyers said in a statement. “The decision is not connected to recent developments in the Middle East.”
In a statement Tuesday evening, Israel’s Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked also confirmed Pollard’s impending release.
Pollard was formally eligible for parole on November 21, but will be freed a day earlier — Friday the 20th — as the 21st is a Saturday, Channel 2 television said.
Under the terms of his parole, Pollard will not be able to leave the US for five years, Channel 2 said, although President Barack Obama can overrule this condition.
His lawyers, Eliot Lauer and Jacques Semmelman, have asked Obama to intervene and allow Pollard to leave the country and relocate to Israel, the Wall Street Journal reported. (h/t Yenta Press)
How to Treat Jonathan Pollard in the Age of Edward Snowden
What Pollard did was bad enough; I have no desire to sugarcoat it. But the constitutional fact of the matter is that it stopped well short of treason. The government poisoned the very proceeding in which it had promised not to seek a life term. So Pollard went away for a longer stretch than America has ever given anyone for a similar crime. No one need feel shy about calling it an injustice.
Williams himself likened the government to the witches in Shakespeare’s Macbeth. He ended his opinion by quoting the famous curse against them — “And be these juggling fiends no more believ’d, / That palter with us in a double sense; / That keep the word of promise to our ear, / And break it to our hope.” In all my years covering the courts, I don’t think I’ve read an opinion quite like it.
How ironic it is that Pollard, who went away before the rise of the World Wide Web, will emerge from prison — if he does emerge — into the age of Wikileaks. Today our university campuses are lionizing those who have disclosed our secrets in a protest against what they see as abuses by the government. They fear the very government from which Pollard purloined his packets.
So what are all those who rode the high horse against Pollard going to do when Edward Snowden and Julian Assange are put in the dock? Pollard passed his secrets to an American friend. Assange ran a Web site that made our secrets available not only to friends but to enemies. Snowden did something similar, passing secrets to the press. They claim to be acting on high-minded principles. So did Jonathan Pollard.
NGO Monitor: Questions for Amnesty on the Rafah Report and Pseudo-Fact-Finding
At a press conference tomorrow (July 29) in Jerusalem, officials from Amnesty International will market a new report, building on its error-filled and blatantly biased “Gaza Platform,” and promote claims that it can “shed[]s new light on violations of international law committed” during the 2014 Gaza conflict. Amnesty is repackaging the pseudo-research of other non-credible political advocacy NGOs, and masking the absence of substance with the illusion of “forensic” work, according to Jerusalem-based research institute NGO Monitor.
Any journalists, diplomats, and others who might be in attendance, having cleared Amnesty’s selection process used to block potential critics, should avoid taking these “research” claims at face value. Amnesty has been shown to lack any credible research methodology, as well as military and legal expertise.
Here are 10 questions that Amnesty should answer about its Rafah report, “Gaza Platform” (which forms the basis for Amnesty’s Rafah publication), and partnership with other anti-Israel political advocacy NGOs:

"The Nation" sportswriter blames Israel for US police brutality

We've already seen how Dave Zirin, "sports writer" for The Nation  who has a special obsession with Israel, disregards facts that get in the way of his hate. And how The Nation has no interest in correcting his egregious and provable lies.

He's at it again. This time he is so incensed that some NBA players are visiting Israel that he is telling them that Israel is responsible for every time a black person is assaulted or killed by an American cop.

Yes, really.

On December 12, you were one of several Sacramento Kings players to wear an “I Can’t Breathe” shirt during warm-ups. The shirts were worn to commemorate the last words of Staten Island’s Eric Garner and protest his death at the hands of the New York Police Department. It was a brave act, a link in a chain, which aligned some of the NBA’s biggest stars with the #BlackLivesMatter movement.

Of course, lethal police brutality has been directed at black Americans for as long as there have been police. But the #BlackLivesMatter movement has emerged out of a dramatic spike in this violence. Roughly 400 people were shot and killed by police over the first five months of 2015, according to a Washington Post analysis. That is more than twice the average of the past decade. Those killed are primarily black and brown, as police departments have outfitted themselves in military fashion. Finding justice for those killed has proven to be a near impossible task.

This epidemic of killings has been aggravated by the influence of Israeli police practices on US policing. Since 9/11, police chiefs and high-ranking officers from across the United States—from Ferguson to New York City—have traveled to Israel for training in the arts of suppression. As Ali Winston reported, “[a]t least 300” chiefs from across the country have gone to Israel for these workshops. Former US Capitol Police Chief Terrance W. Gainer called Israel “the Harvard of antiterrorism” after one all-expenses-paid trip. The NYPD, which took the life of Eric Garner and broke the leg of NBA player Thabo Sefolosha, now has an office in Tel Aviv.

Since 9/11, Israel has turned its repressive capabilities into an exportable commodity. It instructs on surveillance, crowd control tactics, and psychological operations like keeping lights on police cars at all times.
Zirin is not the first idiot to make this argument. Rania Khalek did the same in May, and I demolished it then:

First of all, the programs that Khalek highlights are not for riot control. One of them mentions a demonstration of "crowd control" during a terror attack - not a training session - but most of the training was for counterterrorism techniques such as intelligence gathering and operations to capture terrorists before they begin their operations; border security, mechanisms to delay terrorists on their way to a target such as checkpoints; and site security - the protection of the restaurants, shopping malls and buses that are the preferred terrorist targets, preventing bombings, securing airports and border crossings and performing mass rescue operations.

Secondly, even if Israel did offer training in riot control, it is up to individual police departments to decide on their techniques. They wouldn't photocopy Israel's manual for riot control. They take the lessons that they like and incorporate them into their own programs. One has to be thoroughly consumed with hate in order to blame Japan if someone kills another with a karate kick. (In fact, I am very surprised that Khalek didn't notice that the Baltimore police offers krav maga seminars. )

(For those interested, here is a blog post from someone who took Baltimore cop riot training in 2000, with a comment from someone who took it in 2008. Nothing about Israel, of course. )

According to Khalek's moronic logic, there is another organization responsible for Baltimore police actions:

The United Nations.

Yes, the UN offers police commander training, and one of the sessions was attended by a major in the Baltimore Police Department.  Clearly the UN is culpable for the Baltimore riots.

Do you hear how stupid that sounds?

That is how stupid Rania Khalek's argument, the same argument used by other Israel haters, is.

But it isn't stupidity that animates Khalek's half-baked theories. It is pure hate.

The Electronic Intifada readers who buy this argument, however, are truly stupid.
The same goes for readers of The Nation who buy this garbage.

Zirin also mentions that Israeli police used tear gas against Ethiopian protesters, not mentioning that the response was only to those who were throwing bottles and bricks while trying to storm a police headquarters.  He of course didn't mention that subsequent rallies by Ethiopian Jews who were rightly protesting discrimination were successful and changes are being made including Israeli police promising to hire more Ethiopian Jews. But that doesn't fit Zirin's narrative of racist Israelis.

The only person filled with hate here is Zirin. But blind, irrational, hate against Israelis is perfectly OK for people who pretend they are against blind, irrational hate.

Palestinian Statehood: Aussie Labor’s Pains Dulled – For Now (Daphne Anson)

“This weekend the ALP [Australian Labor Party, led by Bill Shorten] will hold its 47th National Conference in Melbourne. As the highest decision-making forum of the ALP, the conference will set the content and tone for a raft of key Labor policies for the next three years.  One of the most hotly contested issues to be addressed is whether to recognise the state of Palestine…. Last year the British Labour Party – along with the rest of the British parliament – voted to recognise Palestinian statehood. It is time for the Australian Labor Party to follow suit.”

So ran, inter alia, an op-ed last week on the Australian Broadcasting Corporation’s (ABC’s) Religion and Ethics site by postgraduate (“graduate student” in American terminology) Paul Duffill of the University of Sydney’s Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies. (http://www.abc.net.au/religion/articles/2015/07/23/4279347.htm)

Voilà!  Swift to lend his support to Duffill’s article was the Centre’s director, Associate Professor Jake Lynch, who added a nasty little augmentation:
“Another form of necessary pressure can be exerted from outside governments and governing parties such as Labor, by joining the growing worldwide campaign for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions. Hence CPACS' [the Centre’s] response to the call for the academic boycott, by withdrawing cooperation from institutional links with Israeli universities. That, too, is not an alternative to dialogue as often misleadingly claimed, but conceived in order to bring about propitious conditions for it.”

Sounds like gun-to-the-head enforcement to me.  But I digress.

The ALP conference meets every three years and decides on party policy, at least nominally.  The ALP is dominated by factions – a byzantine and complicated situation –  and the resolution that was due for debate on Sunday, 26 July,  spearheaded by New South Wales right-wing powerbroker Tony Burke in consultation with the party’s shadow foreign affairs minister (since 2013) Tanya Plibersek – a Left faction member who in 2002 infamously said “I can think of a rogue state which consistently ignores UN resolutions whose ruler is a war criminal: it is called Israel and the war criminal is Ariel Sharon. Needless to say, the US does not mention the UN resolutions that Israel has ignored for 30 years; it just continues sending the money”) – was supported by both the left and right factions of the party in New South Wales.  But it was staunchly opposed by the party’s right faction in Victoria, a faction which includes such prominent pro-Israel Jews as Michael Danby and shadow attorney-general Mark Dreyfus.

Reported the ABC’s political editor Chris Uhlmann last week (http://www.abc.net.au/news/2015-07-23/alp-conference-matters-more-than-most-chris-uhlmann/6642366):

 ‘In 2014, NSW Labor [on Burke’s initiative] adopted a resolution on recognising a Palestinian state.
It said that if "there is no progress to a two-state solution, and Israel continues to build and expand settlements, a future Labor government will consult like-minded nations towards recognition of the Palestinian state".  It might seem like a small step, but it is a big deal for some and is furiously opposed by the diminishing band of ardently pro-Israel Labor MPs and senators.  Expect a similar resolution to be debated, and probably passed, at the conference.  What is intriguing about this fight is that it is not a Left-Right divide. It is a NSW resolution, supported by both factions in that state.  It will be vigorously opposed by the Victorian Right, which happens to be Mr Shorten's power base.  One side-effect of Labor's growing embrace of a Palestinian state is that it is losing donations and support from the Jewish lobby, a group that once staunchly backed Labor.’

In fact, there was, at the conference on 26 July, a somewhat watered down version of what was expected.  As summarised by Sky News:

‘A future federal Labor government would consider recognising a Palestinian state if there was no progress in the next round of the Middle East peace process.  Labor factions reached a deal at the ALP national conference on Sunday on the wording of a resolution on the issue, but ditched making a formal change to its policy platform…
The motion was carried with applause.

It recognises that any resolution of the situation should be based on 1967 borders with agreed land swaps, a timeframe to end Israeli occupation, demilitarisation of Palestinian territory, agreement on a solution to Palestinian refugee issues and resolution of the issue of Jerusalem's final status.
It also recognises settlement building by Israel in the Occupied Territories may undermine a two-state solution and calls for Israel to stop all such settlement expansion to support renewed negotiations toward peace.

The conference rejected the boycotts, divestment and sanctions (BDS) campaign against Israel.
Ultimately, the motion was a compromise in the wake of the Left and Right factions putting up separate resolutions.’

Proposed by Tony Burke, and seconded by Queensland delegate Wendy Turner, the resolution goes as follows:

“The Australian Labor Party Conference:
Affirms Labor’s support for an enduring and just two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, based on the right of Israel to live in peace within secure borders internationally recognised and agreed by the parties, and reflecting the legitimate aspirations of the Palestinian people to also live in peace and security within their own state.

Deplores the tragic conflict in Gaza and supports an end to rocket attacks by Hamas and the exercise of the maximum possible restraint by Israel in response to these attacks.

Supports a negotiated settlement between the parties to the conflict, based on international frameworks, laws and norms

Recognises in government Labor retained its commitment to two states for two peoples in the Middle East and specifically

Did not block enhanced Palestinian status in the General Assembly;

Restated the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, is occupied territory;

Opposed Israeli settlements on occupied Palestinian land, recognising that a just, peaceful and enduring resolution will involve a territorial settlement based on 1967 borders with agreed land swaps;

Held that the settlements are illegal under international law.

Recognises that any resolution will be based on 1967 borders with agreed land swaps, a timeframe to end Israeli occupation, demilitarization of Palestinian territory, agreement on a solution to Palestinian refugee issues, and resolution of the issue of Jerusalem’s final status.
Recognises that settlement building by Israel in the Occupied Territories that may undermine a two-state solution is a roadblock to peace. Labor calls on Israel to cease all such settlement expansion to support renewed negotiations toward peace.

Rejects the boycotts, divestment and sanctions (BDS) campaign against Israel.
Condemns the comments of Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu during the recent elections where he ruled out a Palestinian state and further condemns his appeals to race during the campaign.

Recognises a lasting peace will require a future State of Palestine to recognise the right of Israel to exist and the State of Israel to recognise the right of Palestine to exist.

Recognises the special circumstances of the Palestinian people, their desire for respect, and the achievement of their legitimate aspiration to live in independence in a state of their own. This is a cause Labor is committed to.

If however there is no progress in the next round of the peace process a future Labor government will discuss joining like-minded nations who have already recognised Palestine and announcing the conditions and timelines for the Australian recognition of a Palestinian state, with the objective of contributing to peace and security in the Middle East.”

No joy for Lynch and his fellow BDSers, then.  Still, it was enough for The Guardian Australia in its live coverage to bleat:

“A decision by a small bloc of the right in Queensland to vote with the left on the recognition of Palestine undercut a carefully calibrated deal on a platform amendment struck between the NSW right and the Victorian right.

 The end result was the Labor conference passed its strongest ever motion on the recognition of Palestine.”

And of course there is a sidelight on this issue which does not reflect well on the ALP – the latest outbursts concerning "the Israel lobby and its quite objectionable control over Australian policy" by former Australian foreign minister Bob Carr, of the New South Wales right faction, whose speech a fortnight ago at the Australian National University (ANU), co-hosted by the Centre for Arabic and Islamic Studies, Australians for Justice and Peace in Palestine (AJPP) and Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) – the latter two being virulently anti-Israel – has been described and roundly condemned by, among others, an ANU professor present who noted Carr’s “demeaning and scoffing at members of the Jewish community” who  are active on Israel’s behalf:  ‘His tone, focus and implication was that the activity of those people meeting and lobbying the government of the day was "disproportionate" and improper”…’ : see AIJAC’s report at http://www.aijac.org.au/news/article/carr-s-offensive-anu-speech

By the way, I was amazed to see, on the multicultural SBS (Special Broadcasting Service) website, “Palestine” listed as the second item on “key issues” to be considered by the ALP conference, along with, in numerical order, asylum seekers, climate, same sex marriage, party reform, gas reservation, China free trade agreement, and Socialist objective.   No mention of what should be one of the key issues confronting any Australian party at the present time, especially a party of the left like the ALP: housing affordability.   For in this country’s capital cities, particularly Sydney and Melbourne, house prices have skyrocketed to shocking levels unimaginable even a decade ago.  This national scandal has been exacerbated by overseas buyers outbidding locals, and has condemned countless people to perhaps an entire lifetime of renting – this in a country in which short-term leases of six months to one year are the norm, where renters have few rights, and where a tight, unregulated private rental market is a landlord’s paradise.  The situation is reaching tinderbox proportions, but none of the established parties appears interested in addressing it – presumably because politicians across the political spectrum are property-owners themselves and are delighted to see house prices climbing inexorably.

It is precisely this disgraceful situation – one of immense distress to an entire generation of young people, which is bifurcating Australia into a society of “haves” and “have nots’ as never before – that should be high on the agenda of the ALP. Not the status of Palestine, and certainly not awarding statehood without due negotiation with Israel to recalcitrant Palestinians.

07/28 Links Pt1: Overwhelming Israeli Opposition Strongest Sign Iran Deal Is A Bad One

From Ian:

Overwhelming Israeli Opposition Strongest Sign Iran Deal Is A Bad One
No country has more to lose from a military confrontation with Iran than Israel — and no country has more to gain than Israel from a peaceful resolution of the Iranian nuclear issue.
And yet, an overwhelming majority in the Jewish State views the Iran deal as a catastrophic mistake, one that potentially threatens the country’s very existence. This reality alone should make you think twice about the Obama administration’s claim that it negotiated a strong deal to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon.
Critics of Israel’s position on the Iran deal are often quick to paint Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as a warmonger. But why would Netanyahu be anxious for a military confrontation? Israel would likely be the main target of any Iranian response to a strike on its nuclear program, even if the attack was conducted by the United States. With Iran’s terror proxy Hezbollah armed with an estimated 100,000 rockets in southern Lebanon, the consequences of an Iranian retaliation could be very grave for the Jewish State.
Conversely, Israel would benefit most from a deal with Iran that actually prevented the Islamic Republic from being able to obtain nuclear weapons capability. A good deal would eliminate the threat of an apocalyptically anti-Semitic regime being able to gain the means to make its genocidal dreams a reality. At the same time, a good deal would remove the need for a possible military attack on Iran’s nuclear facilities that could precipitate a bloody confrontation between Israel and Iran’s terror proxy Hezbollah.
 Jennifer Rubin: Blaming failure of a rotten deal on Israel?!
Kerry does not “fear” Israel would be blamed; he is threatening to blame Israel if U.S. lawmakers decide that the deal is not in the interests of the United States. Not only is he inciting anti-Israel fervor, but he also is repeating another canard, namely that Israel controls Congress. In doing all this, the administration echoes ancient tropes against the Jews and not-so-ancient ones against an Israeli government that won’t meekly assent to its death.
The administration sounds more unhinged with each passing day, no doubt because it is not convincing Democrats to stand with the White House in defense of a rotten deal. In particular, many lawmakers who insisted on disclosure of the possible military dimensions (PMDs) of Iran’s nuclear program are learning it won’t be in the dealIn other words, the administration caved on PMDs and the deal would go into effect without ever forcing Iran to disclose information necessary to conduct adequate inspections. (“Outside nuclear experts said understanding Iran’s past nuclear work was critical to verifying the new agreement because it establishes a baseline for what Tehran has done in the past.”) Democrats who insisted on a credible inspection process and know that it depends on our understanding of Iran’s past nuclear weapons program have a choice: Cave (as the president did, thereby sacrificing their own credibility) or insist the president go back (with additional leverage in the form of new sanctions) to obtain what Kerry once promised he would get.
No wonder the administration is throwing a fit, louder and more overtly anti-Israel with each passing day. The president and his advisers desperately want to divert attention from their own grossly defective deal — and blame Israel if it fails. Nothing could be more revealing of the deal’s weakness and the Obama administration’s hostility to Israel than the manner in which it is defending the deal.
Can @TheTimes cite examples of Bibi saying he ‘opposed’ Iran negotiations? #IranDeal
In a July 28th article (Huckabee likens Iran deal to Holocaust), Times of London Middle East reporter Hugh Tomlinson claimed that Israel’s prime minister not only opposes the current Iran nuclear deal, but actually has opposed negotiations with Iran altogether.
Here’s the relevant passage, in the penultimate paragraph of the article.
Congress has two months in which to review the Vienna accord before voting to accept or reject it. Israel, which bitterly opposed negotiations with Iran from the outset, has been lobbying Congress for months in an attempt to block the deal.
Given that serious negotiations with Iran date back to 2009, Tomlinson is in effect saying that Binyamin Netanyahu has “bitterly opposed negotiations with Iran from the outset”. Indeed, Tomlinson has made this same claim on at least one other occasion.
However, as CAMERA has demonstrated, despite some media claims echoing Tomlinson’s take on Netanyahu’s position, the fact is that the prime minister has consistently supported negotiations with Iran, albeit one which achieved ‘a better deal’ than the one the six world powers have been prepared to accept.
A Washington Official, and the Washington Post, Fabricate Israeli Praise for the Iran Deal
The Post's headline promises a discussion of Israelis who feel the deal is "good" for their country. And the article goes on to name four prominent Israeli security experts. The message for readers, then, is that even if Israel's government and the largest opposition party are united against the deal — an inconvenient reality for the deal's advocates in the American government and the media, who normally can find allies among Israeli politicians who are so often at each other's throats — at least those in the know understand how truly good the agreement is.
Except it isn't true. Let's look at the security experts named in the piece:
Tharoor first mentions Ami Ayalon, a former head of the Shin Bet, Israel's internal security service, and links to a Daily Beast piece entitled "Ex-Intel Chief: Iran Deal Good for Israel."
Unfortunately for Tharoor (and for Daily Beast commentator Jonathan Alter), Ayalon, who begrudgingly supports the deal because it is "the best plan currently on the table" and because he believes there are no available alternatives, nonetheless has said in no uncertain terms, "I think the deal is bad. It's not good."
Tharoor then cites former intelligence chief Efraim Halevy, but strangely links to an Op-Ed Halevy wrote after a framework agreement was finalized in Lausanne last April but before the details of this final deal were agreed upon in Vienna this month. In a more recent (and thus relevant) Op-Ed, Halevy described what he sees as several strong points in the agreement and concludes that it is "important to hold a profound debate in Israel on whether no agreement is preferable to an agreement which includes components that are crucial for Israel's security."
He didn't explicitly state which side of the debate he favors, although there is a sense that leans toward the idea that Israel must get behind the deal. But like Ayalon, his tepid defense of the deal, if it is even that, seems to hinge on the idea that this agreement makes the emergence of any other, better deals unrealistic. "There will be no other agreement and no other negotiations," Halevy says in his recent Op-Ed.

UN comes out against religious freedom

The statement by the UNSCO in response to Israel's stopping an anti-Jewish riot (which is being condemned in all Arab capitals) on Tisha B'Av is a masterpiece of diplomatic doublespeak:

Following tensions and incidents in the Old City of Jerusalem over recent days, resulting in a number of injuries and arrests, the United Nations Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, Mr. Nickolay Mladenov, made the following statement: 
I am concerned by recent incidents and heightened tensions in and around the Holy Sites of the Old City of Jerusalem and call upon people on all sides to maintain calm. Provocative actions and language carry the seed of violence and ultimately undermine the ability of worshippers of all faiths to have access to their respective Holy Sites. Respect for the status quo is in the interest of all and is essential for stability.

I call upon all religious and political leaders to prevent extremist elements from abusing the sanctity of Holy Sites and the different religious sentiments of all people.
It sounds even handed - but it isn't.

First of all, he calls for the maintenance of a status quo that is undeniably biased against the religious rights of Jews to pray on their holiest site. His mentioning "ability of worshippers of all faiths to have access to their respective Holy Sites" together with that statement means that to him, the Temple Mount is not a Jewish holy site but a Muslim one (or else the word "respectively" makes no sense.)

His timing of the statement after Israeli police stopped a major attack shows that to the UN, only Muslim religious rights are sacred. When he calls to prevent "extremist elements from abusing the sanctity of Holy Sites and the different religious sentiments of all people" he is not referring to the masses of Muslims who regularly and proudly harass Jews who come to the site daily, but the Jews themselves whose very presence there gives them the epithet "extremists."

Yes, the one woman who called Mohammed a pig after enduring a half hour of Muslim abuse could possibly be called an "extremist." But Mladenov is using the word in plural, meaning that he accepts the Arab narrative that all Jews who assert their religious rights should be dismissed as extremists.

So while the statement pretends to be directed at no one in particular, it is obvious from the timing, the context and the mention of the "status quo" that the UN is blaming only one side for the clashes and wants to keep the Temple Mount Judenrein.

There is an implied insult to Muslims here as well, since it is obvious that Muslim authorities cannot and do not want to curtail their extremists. Therefore his call to  prevent extremists from acting is directed only at Israel. Meaning that it is obvious to him that for Muslims, incitement and extremism is the norm, and only Jews have the ability to reason with and stop their "extremists."

His pretense of even-handedness falls apart with only a little analysis, and no Muslims are upset at his statement because no one thinks it is directed at them.

Mecca imam: Jews invented sexual harassment

There have been stories going around Saudi media about sexual harassment in the Kingdom.

Sheikh Saud Al-Shureem, one of the imams and preachers of the Grand Mosque in Mecca, put it into context by tweeting that the Jews were the first ones who committed sexual harassment.

He is referring to a story that is not from the Koran or the Hadith but rather in the biography of Muhammad.

Wikipedia explains:

In March 624, Muslims led by Muhammad defeated the Meccans of the Banu Quraish tribe in the Battle of Badr. According to Ibn Hisham, a dispute broke out between the Muslims and the Banu Qaynuqa (the allies of the Khazraj tribe) soon afterwards when a Muslim woman visited a jeweler's shop in the Qaynuqa marketplace, she was pestered to uncover her face. The goldsmith, a Jew, pinned her clothing such, that upon getting up, she was stripped naked. A Muslim man coming upon the resulting commotion killed the shopkeeper in retaliation. The Jews in turn killed the Muslim man. This escalated to a chain of revenge killings, and enmity grew between Muslims and the Banu Qaynuqa.
...and eventually to the ethnic cleansing of the Jewish tribe from their homes by Mohammed.

Apparently, his point is that if Muslims aren't repulsed by the idea of sexual harassment of women, knowing that it is a Jewish invention should do the trick.

(h/t Ibn Boutros)

ElderToons: Where human rights and Muslim sensitivities clash

Monday, July 27, 2015

07/27 Links Pt2: ICC prosecutor won’t reopen flotilla probe; UK's Irreconcilable Policy on Islam

From Ian:

ICC prosecutor says she won’t reopen probe into flotilla deaths
The International Criminal Court will not open another investigation into the deaths of 10 Turkish citizens aboard a Gaza blockade-busting ship in 2010, despite a pretrial chamber ordering the prosecutor earlier this month to reconsider her decision to close her initial probe into the case.
In response, the Israeli Foreign Ministry released a statement, lauding ICC prosecutor Fatou Bensouda’s decision to appeal the order by a three-judge panel to reconsider her closing of the investigation.
“The ICC never had any business to deal with this event to begin with,” an Israeli official said. “Israel acted out of self-defense according to international law.”
The Israeli raid on the Gaza-bound vessel in May 2010 led to a bloody clash with activists aboard the ship, leaving 10 Turks dead and a number of Israeli soldiers injured.
The incident was initially probed by an Israeli committee headed by jurist Jacob Turkel with the participation of international observers, the Israeli official noted.
There was no official word from the ICC, but a document shared on Twitter and signed by Bensouda, calling for the probe to be closed, seemed to confirm the report. (h/t Yenta Press)
ICC Urges Prosecutor to Stop Appeal on Reopening Flotilla Case
The International Criminal Court called on Chief Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda on Monday to go back on her decision to appeal the reexamination of the IDF's conduct during the raid a Gaza-bound flotilla in 2010.
In response to Bensouda's decision to appeal, Israeli officials said that "to start with, there was no place for the court to deal with this issue. Israel acted in self-defense and in accordance with international law."
Douglas Murray: Britain's Irreconcilable Policy on Islam
Two very interesting things happened in Britain over the last two weeks. What makes them more interesting is that they are wholly contradictory.
Abroad, Britain's foreign secretary, Philip Hammond, put his nation's name to the P5+1 agreement with Iran, lifting sanctions against the Islamic Republic, unfreezing its assets, lifting arms controls on the regime and much, much more, all in exchange for having potential oversight -- with permission requested weeks in advance of any inspection -- of the country's nuclear sites. Britain's signature on this deal appears to have been an accepted and acceptable outcome with no significant opposition from any senior political figure of either main political party, and very little objection in the national press.
A few days later, Britain's Prime Minister, David Cameron, gave his best speech to date on the threat of Islamic extremism at home and abroad. In that speech, the Prime Minister defined the challenge that Islamic extremism poses to Britain's way of life and cohesion as a society. He outlined the problem better than perhaps any other Western leader to date:
"What we are fighting, in Islamist extremism, is an ideology. It is an extreme doctrine. And like any extreme doctrine, it is subversive. At its furthest end, it seeks to destroy nation-states to invent its own barbaric realm. And it often backs violence to achieve this aim... mostly violence against fellow Muslims -- who don't subscribe to its sick worldview. But you don't have to support violence to subscribe to certain intolerant ideas which create a climate in which extremists can flourish. Ideas which are hostile to basic liberal values such as democracy, freedom and sexual equality. Ideas which actively promote discrimination, sectarianism and segregation."
So how does the Prime Minster's domestic speech on extremism fit with the foreign policy goals currently being pursued by the British government? The most straightforward answer is: They don't. Take that lowest rung of what David Cameron rightly sees as an ideological ladder. That is, the ideas which do not pertain to the destruction of whole nation-states but nonetheless demonstrate an extremist mind-set.
New Arab Claim on Susiya: History Begins When Arabs Settled
Even if the claim were valid, it does not mean that Arabs can build without permits, but it would allow them to use the land for agriculture.
Haaretz noted that previous deeds from a century ago are problematic because they do not clearly define land boundaries.
The claim of a document from 1881 is strange because the Jabri family was one of the heads of the city of Hebron, 12 miles away by road. Susiya was not exactly Boardwalk on the Hebron land board; it was not even on the board at all.
The southern Hebron Hills is a barren mountain desert area. A family in Hebron would have no apparent reason to buy or lease land in Susiya.
But if the deed really is true, it exposes the Palestinian Authority as claiming that history begins only when Arabs settle land.
If Arabs wants to start digging into history before the re-establishment of the State of Israel in 1948, then all recorded documents have to be honored.
For example, using 1881 as a starting point, there are dozens of recorded land purchases by Jews of land in such places as Gaza, Gush Etzion and the Silwan Valley in “eastern Jerusalem.”

US caved on requirements for Iranian possible military dimensions reporting

From the WSJ:
An Obama administration assessment of the Iran nuclear deal provided to Congress has led a number of lawmakers to conclude the U.S. and world powers will never get to the bottom of the country's alleged efforts to build an atomic weapon, and that Tehran won't be pressed to fully explain its past.

In a report to Capitol Hill last week, the administration said it was unlikely Iran would admit to having pursued a covert nuclear weapons program, and that such an acknowledgment wasn't critical to verifying Iranian commitments in the future.
Details of the report, which haven't been previously disclosed, indicate the deal reached this month could go ahead even if United Nations inspectors never ascertain conclusively whether Iran pursued a nuclear weapons program—something Tehran has repeatedly denied.

....The documents included classified and unclassified sections on the verification process that will be used to ensure Iran is abiding by the agreement. The package also includes a section on Iran's future nuclear research and development plans.

On Iran's alleged past weapons work, the Obama administration said it concluded: "An Iranian admission of its past nuclear weapons program is unlikely and is not necessary for purposes of verifying commitments going forward," said a copy of the assessment viewed by The Wall Street Journal.

"U.S. confidence on this front is based in large part on what we believe we already know about Iran's past activities," the report said. "The United States has shared with the IAEA the relevant information, and crafted specific measures that will enable inspectors to establish confidence that previously reported Iranian [weaponization] activities are not ongoing."
Omri Ceren of The Israel Project released a quick list (via email) of previous administration promises to ensure that PMDs were fully investigated in any agreement:

-- Wendy Sherman, Undersecretary of State, Dec 12 2013 -- There are three places in the agreement that speak to the possible military dimensions of Iran's program. In the first paragraph, it talks about having the comprehensive agreement address all remaining concerns. That is a reference to their possible military dimensions. It talks about the need to address past and present practices, which is the IAEA terminology for possible military dimensions, including Parchin... So we have had very direct conversations with Iran about all of these. They understand completely the meaning of the words in this agreement, and we intend to support the IAEA in its efforts to deal with possible military dimensions, including Parchin.(http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/CHRG-113shrg87828/html/CHRG-113shrg87828.htm)
-- Wendy Sherman, Undersecretary of State, Feb 4 2014 -- "We raised possible military dimensions.... in the Joint Plan of Action, we have required that Iran come clean on its past actions as part of any comprehensive agreement in three very critical ways... First... we expect, indeed, Parchin to be resolved.... Secondly, the plan says before the final step, there would be additional steps in the -- in between the initial measure and the final step, including addressing the U.N. Security Council resolutions, which require... dealing with issues of past (ph) concerns."(http://www.shearman.com/~/media/Files/Services/Iran-Sanctions/US-Resources/Joint-Plan-of-Action/4-Feb-2014--Transcript-of-Senate-Foreign-Relations-Committee-Hearing-on-the-Iran-Nuclear-Negotiations-Panel-1.pdf)
-- John Kerry, Secretary of State, April 8 2015 -- "They have to do it. It will be done. If there’s going to be a deal; it will be done."(http://www.pbs.org/newshour/bb/iran-must-disclose-past-nuclear-military-activities-final-deal-says-kerry/)
-- Marie Harf, State spokesperson, April 23, 2015 -- QUESTION: But you can’t say with definitive clarity at this point that, for example, inspectors will be allowed into Parchin? -- MS. HARF: Well, we would find it, I think, very difficult to imagine a JCPA that did not require such access at Parchin. (http://www.state.gov/r/pa/prs/dpb/2015/04/240324.htm)
-- John Kirby, State spokesperson, June 17 2015 -- And again, I'd tell you that that interpretation of his comments is incorrect. Let me, if I could, read to you what he actually said to you in your question: 'On something like possible military dimensions' – this is from yesterday – 'the JPOA refers to that and says that it’s got to be addressed in the context of the final product. And that remains true; it has to be. And we have to resolve our questions about it with specificity. Access is very, very critical. It’s always been critical from day one; it remains critical. And we defined that at Lausanne, and those are sorts of fundamental outlines, if you will.' Within that context, there is leeway to define further certain things, but not this one.(http://www.state.gov/r/pa/prs/dpb/2015/06/243942.htm)