Saturday, April 25, 2009

Sense of Humor in Middle East: Khamenei: US, Israel behind Iraq attacks

It would be funnier, if people were not dying.
Khamenei: US, Israel behind Iraq attacks

Posted: 25-04-2009 , 10:15 GMT

Iran's Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei on Saturday issued a message expressing his condolences to the Iranian nation on the terrorist operations in Iraq which killed or wounded hundreds of civilians including tens of Iranians. According to IRNA, the Iranian leader referred to the US as the main accused of the terrorist operations in Iraq, saying the US forces, under the false pretext of fight against terrorism have occupied the Islamic Iraq.

"The main accused in this crime and other crimes are the US security and military forces that have occupied an Islamic state under the pretext of campaign against terrorism and have killed or wounded tens of thousands of people so far and have intensified insecurity there," his message reiterated.

Iranians ashamed of Ahmadinejad

Abbas Djavadi is not correct about the reason for the boycott of the UN conference to support racism. The conference was boycotted because the draft summary document endorsed the previous draft, which had labelled Zionism as racism, and because Muslims are trying to make it illegal to criticize Islamist extremism.
But Dhavadi is right that Ahmadinejad is an embarrassment. He is not so much an embarrassment for the poor Iranians, who haven't got much choice, but he certainly embarrassed the UN and all the countries who applauded him.
Ahmadinejad — An Embarrassment for Iran
by Abbas Djavadi on 20/04/2009
In a first reaction to President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's speech at the UN conference in Geneva, Ahmad Moussavi from Iran wrote on Radio Farda's Facebook page: "I am ashamed as an Iranian. And I don't know what else to say."
At the anti-racism conference on Monday, Ahmadinejad accused Israel of being "racist." "Using the Jewish suffering and the Holocaust as an excuse [...] they created a racist government in the occupied Palestinian territories," he said, pointing to the post-World War II Western powers.
Life proved right the U.S., Germany, Canada, Australia, and some other Western countries that had boycotted the meeting, fearing that the Iranian president would repeat his previous accusations against the Jewish state. Once Ahmadinejad started his speech at the conference with anti-Israeli attacks, representatives of 25 other countries including all remaining members of the EU walked out the meeting in protest.

No, Ahmadinejad has not learned from the damage he inflicted in the past on his own country's international standing with his inflammatory, hateful polemics. Contrary to the expectation of some moderation in rhetoric to pave the way for more engagement with the new U.S. administration and the EU, he once again demonstrated that he is either irreparably useless as a president of an otherwise respected old nation or he simply "plays crazy," as another Radio Farda listener suggested, to gather more votes in Iranian presidential election in two months.
One has to see if it will help Ahmadinejad to get re-elected. To be sure, he has further isolated Iran from Western powers that his own diplomats have been trying hard to win as friends — powers that are crucially important for Iran's stability and economic development.
While vehemently criticizing Ahmadinejad's "hateful rhetoric," the U.S. has said that Washington's policy of engagement and dialogue with Tehran would continue. And the EU is not expected to go to war against Iran just for a repeated diplomatic disaster its president has created for his own country. But engagement and dialogue will be extremely complicated and overly slow, should Ahmadinejad really be re-elected in June.
Unless Tehran is on a total confrontational course with the West and Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has decided to be the Middle East's Kim Jong-il of North Korea, Ahmadinejad's repeated hate rhetoric may be an indication that he will not run for a second term of presidency. Khamenei has the final word on who will become president and Ahmadinejad has not officially registered yet as a cand

US in denial about Iraq

148 people (give or take a few dozen) were killed in Iraq suicide bombings in two days. Quoth Hillary Clinton:
"I think that these suicide bombings ... are unfortunately, in a tragic way, a signal that the rejectionists fear that Iraq is going in the right direction," Clinton told reporters traveling aboard her plane ahead of her unannounced visit to Baghdad.
"I think in Iraq there will always be political conflicts, there will always be, as in any society, sides drawn between different factions, but I really believe Iraq as a whole is on the right track," she said, citing overwhelming evidence of really impressive progress.
If the bombings are evidence of "progress" and the lack of electricity and the lack of oil exports and the lack of health care - then yes, there has been impressive progress. The bombings were certainly impressive. When the opposition kills a thousand people in a day, Clinton will say "Now they are really desperate!"
It is not funny. People are dying. Nobody cares. Everyone makes believe it is a holiday. And U.S. influence in Iraq and the Middle East will die with those people. Don't imagine it can be any other way. Don't think it will not affect Afghanistan, Israel, the Gulf states  and all other regional alliances. People are watching, and drawing conclusions.
But the US is sticking to the plan, no matter what:
U.S. officials say they are still committed to a June 30 deadline to move all forces outside major cities, including Baghdad. But the top U.S. commander in Iraq, Gen. Raymond Odierno, has said American troops could maintain a presence in some cities if requested by the Iraqis.
Ami Isseroff

Friday, April 24, 2009

Iraq pacification crumbles as Suicide bombings kill over 120 in two days

The myth of Iraq pacification has crumbled. As the US has withdrawn forces from Iraq, it seems the suicide bombings have begun again in earnest. Following twin bombings that killed at least 69 on Thursday, a second set of twin bombings have killed at least 60 on Friday. Meanwhile, in Pakistan, Taleban insist they want to take over that country, which possesses nuclear weapons, and found an Islamist caliphate: :

At the nearby Taliban headquarters in Imam Dehri, the Taliban spokesman, Muslim Khan, told the Guardian that their goal was the establishment of an Islamic caliphate – first in Pakistan, then across the Muslim world.

"Democracy is a system for European countries. It is not for Muslims," he said. "This is not just about justice. It should be in education, health, economics. Everything should be under sharia.".

It is not necessary to comment on any of this. Bombs speak louder than words.
Published: April 24, 2009
BAGHDAD — Twin suicide bombers struck outside the gates of the holiest Shiite site in Baghdad on Friday, killing at least 60 people and wounding scores more, according to preliminary reports from police officials.
The blasts came a day after the single deadliest day in Iraq in more than a year, and punctuated a deadly outburst of violence in recent weeks.
Friday's bombings occurred near the shrine of Imam Musa al-Kadhim, one of the twelve imams of Shiite Islam, in the Kadhimiya neighborhood of Baghdad. Like the previous bombings, the attacks appeared to target Shiites in particular.
An interior ministry official said that most of those killed appeared to be Iranians making pilgrimages to the shrine. Two suicide bombers blew themselves as they mingled with crowds gathered in front of checkpoints at the main entrance to the shrine, the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity, because he was not authorized to speak publicly. In addition to those killed, at least 125 others were wounded.
The streets around the shrine have already been hit by two other suicide bombings this year.
On Thursday three suicide bombings — one in Baghdad and two in Diyala, the restive province northeast of the capital — killed more than 80 people. In barely 24 hours, five bombings have killed at least 120 people and wounded 230.
Thursday's deadliest bombing destroyed a restaurant in the city of Muqdadiya, killing at least 47 people, most of them Iranians travelling in buses. On Friday, a morgue official said the toll had risen to 56 killed, Agence France-Presse reported from Diyala's capital, Baquba.
While violence overall remains far below the worst years of the war here, a string of attacks so far this month has raised concern that insurgents, terrorists and other fighters have regrouped themselves with the intention of inflaming sectarian tensions and weakening Iraq's government and security forces as the Americans reduce their military presence on the ground in advance of a full withdrawal at the end of 2011.
"The government was treating the situation like they'd won a victory," said Sheik Jalal al-Din Saghir, a member of Parliament from the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq, a Shiite political party. "They relaxed. We can't ignore that there were security successes, but that doesn't mean the story is finished."
The government may have scored at least one important security victory on Thursday, announcing the capture of a major leader of the Sunni insurgency, Abu Omar al-Baghdadi. But reports of his arrest, and even his supposed death, have been announced before, and some American military officials even question whether such a man exists.
Iraqi leaders say Mr. Baghdadi is the leader of the Islamic State of Iraq, an umbrella group of Sunni militant forces that includes Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia, the homegrown group that American intelligence officials say is led by foreigners.
The Iraqi military provided no further details about the arrest, and the United States military has not confirmed it.
On Thursday, Hussein al-Shami, a senior adviser to Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki, defended the government's security gains.
"The security situation is still good, but there are some sleeper cells that are targeting the softer areas," he said. "They just want to send a message to the government and the world that they are still here."
The woman who blew herself up in Baghdad's central Karada district on Thursday resembled most of the other women crowded outside a food distribution site that was catering mainly to those displaced by the war.
She wore a black abaya and, like many of the other women, was walking with a child, in her case a young girl, according to Iraqi Army and police officials who interviewed survivors at the scene.
The woman stood out, the witnesses said, only because she began nudging her way through the crowd, which had been waiting patiently for the bags of flour, bottles of cooking oil and other staples that the police were handing out. The witnesses said she tugged the child, who looked about 5 years old, along with her.
Once she reached the center of the crowd, she set off the blast, with explosives that the police believe she hid under her flowing clothes.
Afterward, a tattered black abaya stuck to a wall on the first-floor balcony of an adjacent apartment building, singed by the explosion. The sidewalk was littered with bags of macaroni and loose leaf tea that had been part of the giveaway. Flies swarmed on bits of human flesh.
One woman sat on the ground, wailing as she beat the sidewalk with the palms of her hands. She said she had lost her husband, her son, her sister and six grandchildren.
An Interior Ministry official said 28 people had died in the explosion, including 12 police officers. Fifty others were wounded.
It was not immediately clear how many of the victims were children.
At nearby Ibn al-Nafis Hospital, women who were visiting the injured moaned loudly. The patients lay on stretchers, some with burns over much of their bodies.
"I was close to the area, wondering why there was a crowd,'" said Adnan Ibrahim, 25, who had a bandage over his left eye. "After that, I don't know what happened. It felt like there was something very heavy on my face. I discovered that I lost my eye."
Ali, a man in his 30s who had been selling fruit from a small cart with his brother Haider, said his brother had noticed the crowd of women and children gathering nearby and gone to find out what was happening. Ali had stayed with the cart.
Moments later, Haider was dead, and Ali, who gave only his first name, was wounded by shrapnel.
At the hospital, Ali sobbed and struck his head against the metal door of a large refrigerator where bodies had been placed.
"It's like I lost my ribs," he said.
In the second attack Thursday, in the city of Muqdadiya in Diyala Province, a suicide bomber set off his explosives in a popular restaurant where several busloads of Iranian tourists had stopped to get snacks, to pray and to use the restrooms, the Iraqi police said.
The restaurant, Khanaqin, is in a neighborhood known as being particularly violent and in a province where Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia remains active. The restaurant has been placed off limits to tourist groups traveling from Iran to some of Iraq's Shiite holy places, but bus drivers sometimes stop there anyway, the police said.
At least 47 people were killed and 70 injured in the blast, which brought down the restaurant's roof, the police said. Almost all of the victims were Iranians.
Five other people were killed Thursday in Diyala Province when a man detonated his suicide vest as a car carrying a local Awakening Council leader passed, officials said. The leader was killed, as were four bystanders.
The Awakening Councils, groups throughout Iraq that were paid to leave the insurgency and fight on the government's side, have been singled out in recent attacks.
Reporting was contributed by Suadad N. al-Salhy, Muhammed al-Obaidi, Mohamed Hussein, Atheer Kakan and Steven Lee Myers from Baghdad, and an employee of The New York Times from Diyala Province.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Iran-Israel-Palestine: Who linked what to what and what does it mean?

According to Washigton Post, Israel tried to link the peace process to progress in stopping Iran's pursuit of nuclear weapons:
The new Israeli government will not move ahead on the core issues of peace talks with the Palestinians until it sees progress in U.S. efforts to stop Iran's suspected pursuit of a nuclear weapon and limit Tehran's rising influence in the region, according to top government officials familiar with Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu's developing policy on the issue.
"It's a crucial condition if we want to move forward," said Deputy Foreign Minister Daniel Ayalon, a member of the Israeli parliament and former ambassador to the United States. "If we want to have a real political process with the Palestinians, then you can't have the Iranians undermining and sabotaging."
But this was promptly denied:
Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon on Wednesday denied a report that Israel will not move ahead with diplomatic talks with the Palestinians until the US places more pressure on Iran to stop its nuclear weapons program. 

"We will deal with the Palestinian issue as if there is no Iranian issue, and with the Iranian issue as if there is no Palestinian issue," Ayalon said. 

But wait, it's not over yet, because US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton  insists that progress in stopping Iran depends on progress in the Israeli-Palestinian peace procress:

"For Israel to get the kind of strong support it is looking for vis-a-vis Iran, it can't stay on the sidelines with respect to the Palestinians and the peace efforts. They go hand in hand," she told the House of Representatives Appropriations Committee.
Both sides have to realize that that the linking is a fact of life, if not a policy. There is no way to make peace with the Palestinians as long as Iran will continue to support Hamas and block peace efforts. Any peace agreement, especially one brokered by the USA, would be sabotaged by Iran's tame terror groups: Hamas, Hezbollah and Islamic Jihad.
On the other hand, it is hard to imagine a coordinated Middle East effort to deal with Iran unless there is either peace between Israel and the Palestinians, or, the Arab street and public opinion as well as American public opinion come to perceive Iran as a direct threat.
Ami Isseroff

A Final Thought about the Durban-2 Meeting

A Final Thought about the Durban-2 Meeting
It should again be stressed that every country in the world--except for the 10 boycotting altogether now--Israel, the US, Canada, New Zealand, Australia, Italy, Germany, Poland, the Netherlands and the Czech Republic--is now going to endorse the meeting's Final Resolution which basically advocates a twenty-first century Final Solution.*

As Western countries in many cases advocate or implement friendly contacts with openly genocidal forces--Iran, Hamas, Hizballah, and Muslim Brotherhoods--they have just condemned the existence of Israel, a democratic state, and justified its extinction. Maybe they don't think of it that way--in most cases they don't--but they have just provided the rationale for its destruction. After all, if it is so evil, "racist," and oppressive why should it be allowed to go on existing?
Continued - A Final Thought about the Durban-2 Mee

Bombs away: 69 dead in Iraq attacks; top insurgent reported captured

What better way to mark the UN racism conference than sectarian violence? According to this story 69 are dead in two bombings, but a top militant or freedom figher, Omar al Baghdadi,  has been reported captured. As the US withdraws from Iraq, the death toll inevitably rises. But almost every report reminds us that the death toll has gone down dramatically in the last two years. Not for long. With no soldiers, you will get no victory.
Nobody knows if Baghdadi was really captured, but what is certain is that the dead people (at least 69) are dead and the bombs really blew up. Baghdadi seems to be experienced at being killed, as he was reported killed several times before:
Iraqi security officials said they captured one of the most wanted leaders of the al-Qaida-linked Sunni insurgency Thursday, an arrest that could deliver a significant blow to an intensified campaign of attacks. Two separate suicide bombings killed at least 69 people.
The officials identified the arrested man as Abu Omar al-Baghdadi who leads the Islamic State of Iraq, an umbrella group of Sunni militant factions that is believed dominated by Al-Qaida in Iraq. However in the past, Iraqi officials have reported al-Baghdadi's arrest or killing, only to later say they were wrong. The U.S. military has even said al-Baghdadi could be a fictitious character used to give an Iraqi face to an organization dominated by foreign al-Qaida fighters.
In Washington, Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman said the U.S. military was working to verify who was captured.
"I can't confirm ... the capture of a senior al-Qaida member or that it was Baghdadi," he said. But he said he had no reason to doubt the credibility of the report.
"I certainly hope that it's true," he said, adding that his capture "would be very good news."
Al-Baghdadi has been a key target for U.S. and Iraqi forces for years. But little is known about his origins or real influence over insurgent groups. Those groups have staged a series of high-profile attacks in recent weeks, apparently including the two suicide blasts Thursday in Baghdad and north of the capital in Diyala province.
Iraqi state television quoted military spokesman Maj. Gen. Qassim al-Moussawi as saying al-Baghdadi was arrested in Baghdad. Security officials also told The Associated Press he was captured.
In 2007, Iraq's government reported that al-Baghdadi had been killed and released photos of what it said was his body. Later, security officials said they had arrested al-Baghdadi. In both cases, the U.S. military said at the time it could not be confirmed and the reports turned out not to be true.
As for the attacks, they are the usual sort of thing:
In March, a 17-minute audio message attributed to al-Baghdadi called Washington's announcement of a troop withdrawal timetable from Iraq "recognition of defeat." The statement was carried on militant Web sites.
Thursday's attacks were the latest in a series of high-profile bombings that have raised concern of an uptick in violence as the U.S. military scales back its forces before a planned withdrawal by the end of 2011.
American soldiers who specialize in clearing bombs from roads boarded a plane Thursday from Iraq to the Taliban heartland in southern Afghanistan, part of the largest movement of personnel and equipment between the two war fronts.
In the Baghdad bombing, a suicide bomber blew himself up among a group of Iraqis collecting humanitarian aid in a mainly Shiite area, killing at least 22 people, the military said.
The attacker struck as police were distributing Iraqi Red Crescent food parcels in the central neighborhood of Karradah, the main Baghdad military spokesman said.
It not immediately clear who carried out the attack, but one witness said it appeared to be a woman. Women have been used in suicide bombings in Iraq, most recently during a Feb. 13 attack on Shiite pilgrims in Musayyib.
Muhanad Harbi, a shop owner near the blast site, said he saw a woman wearing a black robe wade into the crowd. He said it appeared she detonated an explosives belt.
Shanoon Humoud, 70, sat weeping amid burned food packages scattered on the ground. Her husband, her son and two grandchildren were killed in the blast.
Humoud said she was in her apartment praying when she heard the blast.
"I came down to look for my relatives who getting the food," she said. "But I couldn't find them."
Abbas Ibrahim, a 24-year-old college student, described pools of blood on the ground and the smell of burned flesh in the air.
"We regret that violence has come back to Baghdad," he said.
Some police were among the 22 people killed and 35 people were wounded, the military said.
North of Baghdad, a suicide bomber killed 47 people, including Iranian pilgrims, in a crowded restaurant, said Iraqi and U.S. military officials.
Military spokesman Derrick Cheng said 47 people were killed and about 69 were wounded when the suicide bomber detonated an explosives vest near Muqdadiyah, an insurgent hotbed about 60 miles (90 kilometers) northeast of Baghdad.
All right thinking and progressive people support the resistance, right?

Making the world 'Judenstaatrein'

Some 125 parliamentarians gathered together last week for the historic founding conference of the Interparliamentary Coalition for Combating Anti-Semitism (ICCA), brought together by a new sophisticated, globalizing, virulent and even lethal anti-Semitism reminiscent of the atmospherics of the 1930s, and without parallel or precedent since the end of World War II.

Israeli soldiers take...

Israeli soldiers take position during clashes with Palestinians following a demonstration against Israel's separation barrier in the West Bank town of Qalqilya.
Photo: AP

The new anti-Jewishness overlaps with classical anti-Semitism but is distinguishable from it. It found early juridical, and even institutional, expression in the UN's "Zionism is racism" resolution - which the late US senator Daniel Moynihan said "gave the abomination of anti-Semitism the appearance of international legal sanction" - but has gone dramatically beyond it. This new anti-Semitism almost needs a new vocabulary to define it; however, it can best be identified using a rights-based juridical perspective.

In a word, classical or traditional anti-Semitism is the discrimination against, denial of or assault upon the rights of Jews to live as equal members of whatever host society they inhabit. The new anti-Semitism involves the discrimination against the right of the Jewish people to live as an equal member of the family of nations - the denial of and assault upon the Jewish people's right even to live - with Israel as the "collective Jew among the nations."

As the closing "London Declaration" of the ICCA conference affirmed: "We are alarmed at the resurrection of the old language of prejudice and its modern manifestations - in rhetoric and political action - against Jews, Jewish belief and practice and the State of Israel."

Observing the complex intersections between the old and the new anti-Semitism, and the impact of the new on the old, Per Ahlmark, former leader of the Swedish Liberal Party and deputy prime minister of Sweden, pithily concluded: "Compared to most previous anti-Jewish outbreaks, this [new anti-Semitism] is often less directed against individual Jews. It attacks primarily the collective Jews, the State of Israel. And then such attacks start a chain reaction of assaults on individual Jews and Jewish institutions... In the past, the most dangerous anti-Semites were those who wanted to make the world Judenrein, 'free of Jews.' Today, the most dangerous anti-Semites might be those who want to make the world Judenstaatrein, 'free of a Jewish state.'"

Genocidal Anti-Semitism

The first modality of the new anti-Semitism - and the most lethal type - is what I would call genocidal anti-Semitism. This is not a term that I use lightly or easily. In particular, I am referring to the Genocide Convention's prohibition against the "direct and public incitement to genocide." If anti-Semitism is the most enduring of hatreds and genocide is the most horrific of crimes, then the convergence of this genocidal intent embedded in anti-Semitic ideology is the most toxic of combinations.

There are three manifestations of this genocidal anti-Semitism. The first is the state-sanctioned - indeed state-orchestrated - genocidal anti-Semitism of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's Iran, dramatized by the parading in the streets of Teheran of a Shihab-3 missile draped in the emblem "wipe Israel off the Map," while demonizing both the State of Israel as a "cancerous tumor to be excised" and the Jewish people as "evil incarnate."

A second manifestation of this genocidal anti-Semitism is in the covenants and charters, platforms and policies of such terrorist movements and militias as Hamas, Islamic Jihad, Hizbullah and al-Qaida, which not only call for the destruction of Israel and the killing of Jews wherever they may be, but also for the perpetration of acts of terror in furtherance of that objective.

The third manifestation of this genocidal anti-Semitism is the religious fatwas or execution writs, where these genocidal calls in mosques and media are held out as religious obligations - where Jews and Judaism are characterized as the perfidious enemy of Islam, and Israel becomes the Salmon Rushdie of the nations.

In a word, Israel is the only state in the world - and the Jews the only people in the world - that are the object of a standing set of threats by governmental, religious and terrorist bodies seeking their destruction. The London Declaration - again in a significant clarion call - recognized that "where there is incitement to genocide signatories [to the Genocide Convention] automatically have an obligation to act." This promise must now be acted upon.

Ideological Anti-Semitism

Ideological anti-Semitism is a much more sophisticated and arguably a more pernicious expression of the new anti-Semitism. It finds expression not in any genocidal incitement against Jews and Israel, or overt racist denial of the Jewish people and Israel's right to be; rather, ideological anti-Semitism disguises itself as part of the struggle against racism.

The first manifestation of this ideological anti-Semitism was its institutional and juridical anchorage in the "Zionism is racism" resolution at the UN. Notwithstanding the fact that the there was a formal repeal of this resolution, Zionism as racism remains alive and well in the global arena, particularly in the campus cultures of North America and Europe, as confirmed by the recent British All-Party Parliamentary Inquiry into Anti-Semitism.

The second manifestation is the indictment of Israel as an apartheid state. This involves more than the simple indictment; it also involves the call for the dismantling of Israel as an apartheid state as evidenced by the events at the 2001 UN World Conference against Racism in Durban.

The third manifestation of ideological anti-Semitism involves the characterization of Israel not only as an apartheid state - and one that must be dismantled as part of the struggle against racism - but as a Nazi one.

And so it is then that Israel is delegitimized, if not demonized, by the ascription to it of the two most scurrilous indictments of 20th-century racism - Nazism and apartheid - the embodiment of all evil. These very labels of Zionism and Israel as "racist, apartheid and Nazi" supply the criminal indictment. No further debate is required. The conviction that this triple racism warrants the dismantling of Israel as a moral obligation has been secured. For who would deny that a "racist, apartheid, Nazi" state should not have any right to exist today? What is more, this characterization allows for terrorist "resistance" to be deemed justifiable - after all, such a situation is portrayed as nothing other than occupation et résistance, where resistance against a racist, apartheid, Nazi occupying state is legitimate, if not mandatory.

Legalized Anti-Semitism

Israeli soldiers take...

Israeli soldiers take position during clashes with Palestinians following a demonstration against Israel's separation barrier in the West Bank town of Qalqilya.
Photo: AP

If ideological anti-Semitism seeks to mask itself under the banner of anti-racism, legalized anti-Semitism is even more sophisticated and insidious. Here, anti-Semitism simultaneously seeks to mask itself under the banner of human rights, to invoke the authority of international law and to operate under the protective cover of the UN. In a word - and in an inversion of human rights, language and law - the singling out of Israel and the Jewish people for differential and discriminatory treatment in the international arena is "legalized."

But one example of legalized anti-Semitism occurred annually for more than 35 years at the United Nations Commission on Human Rights. This influential body consistently began its annual session with Israel being the only country singled out for country-specific indictment - even before the deliberations started - the whole in breach of the UN's own procedures and principles. In this Alice in Wonderland situation, the conviction and sentence were pronounced even before the hearings commenced. Some 30 percent of all the resolutions passed at the commission were indictments of Israel.

After the commission was replaced in June 2006 by the UN Human Rights Council, the new body proceeded to condemn one member state - Israel - in 80% of its 25 country-specific resolutions, while the major human rights violators of our time enjoyed exculpatory immunity. Indeed, five special sessions, two fact-finding missions and a high level commission of inquiry have been devoted to a single purpose: the singling out of Israel.

This week's ICCA conference and London Declaration unequivocally condemned this "legalized" anti-Semitism, calling out that "governments and the UN should resolve that never again will the institutions of the international community and the dialogue of nations states be abused to try to establish any legitimacy for anti-Semitism, including the singling out of Israel for discriminatory treatment in the international arena, and we will never witness - or be party to - another gathering like Durban in 2001."

The Resurgence
of Global Anti-Semitism: Evidentiary Data

The data unsurprisingly confirm that anti-Semitic incidents are very much on the rise. Still, the available figures only show half the picture - they demonstrate an increase in this old/new anti-Semitism by concentrating on the traditional anti-Semitic paradigm targeting individual Jews and Jewish institutions, while failing to consider the new anti-Semitic paradigm targeting Israel as the Jew among nations and the fallout from it for traditional anti-Semitism. But the rise in traditional anti-Semitism is bound up with the rise in the new anti-Semitism, insidiously buoyed by a climate receptive to attacks on Jews because of the attacks on the Jewish state. Indeed, reports illustrate both an upsurge in violence and related anti-Semitic crimes corresponding with the 2006 Second Lebanon War and the recent Israel-Hamas war, which delegates to the ICCA conference characterized as a "pandemic."


It is this global escalation and intensification of anti-Semitism that underpins - indeed, necessitates - the establishment of the ICCA to confront and combat this oldest and most enduring of hatreds. Silence is not an option. The time has come not only to sound the alarm - but to act. For as history has taught us only too well: While it may begin with Jews, it does not end with Jews. Anti-Semitism is the canary in the mine shaft of evil, and it threatens us all.

The writer is a Canadian MP and former minister of justice and attorney-general. He is professor of law (on leave) at McGill University who has written extensively on matters of hate, racism and human rights. He is a co-founder of the Interparliamentary Coalition to Combat Anti-Semitism with UK MP John Mann.


Man bits dog: Egypt: Islamic leader blames Islamists for Israel's wars

That's not a typographical error and this doesn't happen that often...
Cairo, 22 April (AKI) - The Egyptian Islamic Jihad leader, Sayed Imam Abdel Aziz Sharif, has blamed Islamist movements in the Gaza Strip and Lebanon for recent wars that have resulted in pain and suffering for their people.
"Hamas and Hezbollah have lit up the fire of Israeli wars to then unload their burden on the population," said Sharif, also known as Doctor Fazel.
He expressed his views in the second part of his latest book, 'The Gaza Shirt', published from his prison cell at al-Aqrab in southern Egypt, according to a report in the Arab daily, al-Sharq al-Awsat.
He strongly criticised both groups for their actions.
"Their way of acting and governing is in strong contrast with what the Prophet Mohammed did. During his time there were many disenfranchised and oppressed Muslims in Mecca, however, the prophet never declared holy war at the beginning," said Sharif.
Sharif said what the Islamist Hamas movement did during the latest Israeli offensive in Gaza "has nothing to do with Islam" and said Islamist movements should "take responsibility and assess whether they are capable of fighting a war before unleashing it."
The title chosen by Sharif for his latest book uses the word "shirt" as a metaphor for achieving his own political objectives.
The word refers to an episode in the history of Islam, when the caliph or Islamic leader Muawiya used it as a pretext to kill the previous caliph, Uthman, and seize control of the Islamic caliphate from Ali, the Prophet Mohammed's son-in-law.
He assumed the caliphate after Ali's assassination and forced the abdication of al-Hassan by threatening further bloodshed in 661. He ruled until 680 AD.
Israel claimed its three-week military offensive against Gaza in December and January (photo) was designed to stop Hamas firing rockets into Israel.
More than 1,330 Palestinians were killed in the Israeli military offensive known as Operation Cast Lead and more than 5,400 were injured, according to Palestinian medical sources.
The 2006 Lebanon War was a military conflict between the Islamist Shia group, Hezbollah, and Israel that began in July that year and lasted for 34 days.
A United Nations-brokered ceasefire went into effect in August 2006, although the conflict formally ended in September when Israel lifted its naval blockade of Lebanon

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

IDF investigations refute major claims of wrongdoing

This is the detailed report we have all been waiting for

Annex A:
Claims against Incidents where UN and international facilities were fired upon and damaged during Operation Cast Lead
The investigation was conducted by Col. Itzik Turgeman with the objective of thoroughly examining claims regarding 13 incidents in which facilities, structures and vehicles associated with the United Nations (UN) or other international organizations were damaged.
The majority of the incidents that were investigated were detailed in the complaints submitted to the IDF by the UN during Operation Cast Lead and thereafter, while other incidents were discovered during the process of investigating.
The investigation showed that the IDF took numerous measures to avoid hitting facilities and vehicles affiliated with the UN, Red Cross and other international organizations. These facilities were marked on IDF maps in advance according to the information provided by the international organizations. Clear orders were given stating that the hitting of facilities and vehicles of this sort must be avoided. Coordination between the IDF and the UN, the Red Cross and the international organizations was done via a special Civil Administration situation room and a center for humanitarian coordination that was established in order to allow day to day humanitarian aid coordination.
Investigation shows that Hamas and the other terror organizations operating in the Gaza Strip placed the facilities used by the UN and other international organizations in substantial danger. With the knowledge that the IDF limits its operations in the vicinity of such facilities, the terror organizations intentionally launched rockets and mortar shells adjacent to them. Similarly, Hamas and other terrorist organizations located headquarters, bases, weapon storage facilities and other terrorist infrastructure close to the sensitive facilities of the UN, Red Cross and other international organizations.
Below are the findings of the investigation with regard to some of the prominent incidents that were investigated:
A. Claims about the Incident at the UNRWA school in Jabaliya ("Fahoura" School)
The incident occurred near the UNRWA school ("Fahoura" School) in Jabaliya on January 6th, 2009. Hamas operatives used a site located only 80 meters away from the school to launch mortar shells at IDF forces. The shells exploded next to an IDF force operating in the area, and represented a grave threat to the soldiers. The previous day thirty IDF soldiers were wounded by Hamas mortar fire. The mortar fire presented a very significant threat to the lives of IDF forces.
Following a confirmed and cross-referenced identification of the source of the fire, the soldiers under attack responded with minimal and proportionate retaliatory fire, using the most precise weapon available to them, with the purpose of stopping the Hamas fire. The return fire hit the Hamas operatives who were firing the mortars and stopped their fire. All of the shells fired by the force landed outside of the school grounds (contrary to claims made by Hamas). Sadly, due to the fact that Hamas was firing from a populated area, the return fire also resulted in unintentional harm to civilians in the vicinity.
Despite the fact that the incident took place outside the UNRWA school grounds, Hamas was quick to accuse Israel of intentionally hitting the UN Facility. The investigation showed unequivocally that those claims were false. This was reinforced by the UN in a press release published subsequent to the operation. Additionally, the investigation showed that a cell of five terror operatives and seven civilians outside of the school grounds were hit, contrary to the 42 deaths that were reported by Hamas inside the school grounds.
B. Claims made Regarding Damage to the UNRWA Headquarters and to a Building which turned out to be a Red Cross Pharmaceutical Storage facility in Tel El-Hawa
Two incidents were investigated that took place on January 15th 2009 during fierce fighting in the Hamas' stronghold in the Tel El-Hawa neighborhood in Gaza city. Hamas deployed anti-tank squads near sensitive facilities in the neighborhood, intending to deliver a strategic blow to the IDF (e.g. by hitting an IDF tank).
Damage to a structure that turned out to be a pharmaceutical storage facility– The investigation showed that during the battle, IDF forces came under fire from both anti-tank and small arms fire by terrorists located next to a structure that was later discovered to contain a Red Cross pharmaceutical storage facility.
The IDF returned fire towards the source of fire only after an IDF armored bulldozer suffered a direct hit from anti-tank fire. During the ensuing exchange of fire, which included the IDF's responsive firing, it appears that the structure containing the storage facility was hit. The IDF was not provided with the location of the storage facility in question by the Red Cross prior to the operation and therefore was not marked on the IDF's maps, unlike other Red Cross facilities. No one was injured during the incident.
Damage to the storage facility in the UNRWA headquarters compound – Concurrently, in the same general area, the IDF deployed a smoke screen in order to protect a tank force operating in the neighborhood from Hamas anti-tank crews who had positioned themselves adjacent to the UNRWA headquarters. The smoke screen was intended to block the terrorists' field of view. Information received by the IDF shows that the smoke screen did assist in protecting the force and prevented precise anti-tank fire against IDF forces. The smoke projectiles were fired at an area a considerable distance from the UNRWA headquarters, and were not intended to cause damage to either person or property. However, it appears that fragments of the smoke projectiles did hit a warehouse located in the headquarters, causing it to catch fire.
During the incident, claims were also made that an explosive shell or shrapnel hit the UNRWA headquarters. The investigation showed that these were shells, or shell fragments that were fired at military targets within the battle zone.
The damage caused to the UNRWA headquarters during the fighting in the Tel El-Hawwa neighborhood is the unfortunate result of the type of warfare that Hamas forced upon the IDF, involving combat in the Gaza Strip's urban spaces and adjacent to facilities associated with international organizations. These results could not be predicted.
Nevertheless, it is clear that the forces did not intend, at any stage, to hit a UN facility. Following UN complaints that an explosive shell had hit the headquarters, the forces were ordered to cease firing explosive shells in the region in question. Following the receipt of reports about the fire in the warehouse, all firing in the area was stopped.  The entry of fire-fighting trucks to the area was coordinated with the IDF in order to assist in extinguishing the fire.
C. Terrorist Use of UN Vehicles
The investigation also looked into a complaint that an UNRWA vehicle was fired on in the Tel El Hawa neighborhood on January 14th 2009. The investigation reached the conclusion that during the incident a vehicle was fired upon, which it was later claimed belonged to the UN, but the vehicle did not bear UN markings. The vehicle was traveling in an area that international organizations had been clearly informed was forbidden for the movement of vehicles. The vehicle was carrying a Palestinian anti-tank squad. It was fired upon only after it had unloaded the terrorist squad and advanced towards the forces in a manner creating a genuine concern that it was a Hamas car bomb.
D. IDF-UN Coordination
During the operation, the IDF constantly coordinated with the UN and other international organizations operating in the Gaza Strip. Coordination included the movement of 500 vehicles and convoys and the transfer of a continuous supply of food and humanitarian aid into the Gaza Strip.  Many other problems were efficiently solved in real time. However, despite the thorough coordination, the investigation showed that during certain incidents there were failures in coordination.
In one instance, an IDF force fired upon a UN truck, which did not bear UN markings, on a journey that had not been coordinated ahead of time with the IDF. The investigation showed that closer coordination of the movement of UN vehicles is required, with an emphasis on precise routes and schedules.
The investigation concluded that the IDF did not, at any time, fire with the deliberate intention to hit a UN vehicle or facility in any of the 13 incidents investigated. In one instance the IDF targeted a group of people who were present in a UN-affiliated school late at night, at a time in which there were no classes taking place in the school, following specific intelligence and relying on the suspicion that led to the conclusion that they were participating in terrorist operations. In another incident, IDF forces attacked a UN vehicle which was being used for terrorist operations.
The IDF made sure not to hit facilities and vehicles associated with the UN and other international organizations and operated with extreme caution in order not to harm more than 1800 sensitive facilities located in the Gaza Strip. The IDF also coordinated almost 500 different vehicle movements during the fighting. However, as noted, in a very small number of incidents facilities and vehicles were unintentionally hit.
In relation to the scale of fighting and the threat posed by Hamas, the damage caused to UN facilities and vehicles was relatively limited as a result of the various precautionary measures taken by the IDF. The small number of incidents where damage was unfortunately caused occurred first and foremost as a result of Hamas' doctrine.  Hamas as well as other terrorist organizations chose to fight under the cover of sensitive humanitarian facilities.
It should be noted that in one incident where it was found that a UN vehicle was fired upon in a breach of the IDF's rules of engagement, the soldier in question was court-martialed.
The IDF Chief of the General Staff, Lt. Gen. Gabi Ashkenazi, was presented with the conclusions of the investigation. Lt. Gen. Ashkenazi also emphasized the importance of avoiding harm to UN and other international facilities. Lt. Gen. Ashkenazi emphasized how important it is that IDF forces on all levels are familiarized with the locations of sensitive facilities within their assigned combat zone. He ordered that the regulations regarding safety-distances from sensitive facilities be highlighted, specifically with regard to the use of artillery. Lt. Gen. Ashkenazi also ordered that steps be taken to improve the coordination between the IDF and UN organizations working in the field, in the areas where it was lacking.
It should be noted that the incidents which were investigated by the IDF were also examined by the UN Board of Inquiry appointed by the UN Secretary General for the investigation of damage caused to UN facilities in the Gaza Strip during Operation Cast Lead. Despite the fact that the investigation by the IDF was initiated prior to the decision by the Secretary General to set up a UN committee of investigation, Israel cooperated with the UN committee and presented it with the findings of its investigation.
Annex B:
Primary Conclusions:
Claims regarding incidents involving shooting at medical facilities, buildings, vehicles and crews
The investigation was conducted by Col. Erez Katz, and looked into claims that the IDF fired on or attacked medical crews, facilities, structures and vehicles. Some of these claims were described in a petition to the Israeli Supreme Court during the operation. During the investigation, additional claims were identified and the investigation was expanded to also include these incidents.
The investigation showed that the Hamas systematically used medical facilities, vehicles and uniforms as cover for terrorist operations. This included the extensive use of ambulances to transport terror operatives and weaponry; the use of ambulances to "evacuate" terrorists from the battlefield and the use of hospitals and medical infrastructure as headquarters, situation-rooms, command centers, and hiding places.
For example, Ismail Haniyeh decided to place his central command center in one of the Shifa Hospital units, while the senior leaders (both military and political) stationed themselves in another unit.  On the ground floor of the hospital's main building, an entire wing was closed off and was solely used by Hamas terror operatives.  At the wing's entrance, terror operatives prevented entrance to all uninvolved civilians.
In other instances, Hamas terror operatives seized control sections of Al-Shafa Hospital.  Hamas also took control of a Red Crescent medical clinic in Khan Yunis, converting it into a prisoner detention facility.
In testimony by an ambulance driver published in the Italian newspaper Corriere de la Serra the driver claimed that he was forced by Hamas to extract terror operatives from the fighting zone, with the knowledge that he could coordinate with the IDF to temporarily hold fire so that he could safely evacuate the wounded.  Several instances were reported in which ambulances were witnessed carrying armed Hamas terror operatives alongside the medical crews.
This illegitimate and illegal use of medial facilities sometimes resulted in damage being caused to them.
After investigating the incidents it became clear that of the seven casualties reported during the incidents in question, five were Hamas operatives. In addition, it was determined that in some of the incidents in which medical vehicles were damaged, the vehicles were driven in a suspicious manner, without prior coordination with IDF forces and in some cases without being clearly marked (such as using flashing lights) . This caused, in some cases, the vehicle to be incorrectly identified, and aroused the suspicions of the forces that the vehicle might be used for a suicide attack.
In one example an IDF force sheltering in a structure in the Gaza Strip received a concrete warning that terrorist elements intend to execute an attack against the force. Following the warning, the force identified an ambulance driving speedily towards the structure, bypassing a roadblock. The force took a number of warning measures (including the firing of warning shots in the air) which failed to bring the ambulance to a halt. The ambulance continued to progress towards the structure and reached the threatening distance of 50 meters from the structure, at which point the force fire in towards it. Only then did the vehicle turn around and drive off in the other direction.
In a separate incident, an ambulance was identified driving towards a shelter occupied by IDF forces, late at night, without any prior coordination, clear markings or flashing lights, raising suspicion that it was a car bomb. The force fired warning shots into the air, followed by warning shots near the vehicle. When the vehicle was only 100 meters away from the force, constituting a serious threat to the force, the force opened fire on it. In this incident as well, only then did the vehicle halt, turn around and drive away in the other direction.
In two of the incidents investigated (which were both mentioned in the Supreme Court appeal), it turned out that members of the medical crew who were supposedly "hit" in the incident – are alive and well. With regards to other incidents, the investigation could not find any evidence that they took place (likewise, at the time of some of the alleged incidents the, IDF was not operating at the location in question).
The investigation looked into an incident in which a building containing a mother-and-child clinic was attacked by the IDF. It became clear that Hamas used the same building as a weapons storage facility. The attack was aimed against the weapons storage facility. The investigation further showed that the clinic was not signposted in a way that made it possible to identify that building contained a medical facility. Nevertheless, the investigation clarified that the residents of the building were given a warning prior to the attack. Given that the IDF was not aware that there was a clinic located there, there was no intention to hit it.
The investigation also showed that IDF forces at all levels were directed to take extra caution to avoid harming medical crews and facilities, and in many cases ceased to operate when there was a medical vehicle or medical staff present in their area of operation. The forces took extraordinary care, as obliged by international law and in some incidents even refrained from attacking "medical vehicles" even when it was clear that they were in fact being used by Hamas and other terrorist organizations in the fighting.  The investigation clearly showed that the forces were well aware of, and respected the special status given to medical crews, vehicles, structures and facilities. In addition, the orders relating to the use of force near medical vehicles were strengthened during the operation, making the IDF regulations stricter than those obliged by international law.
In addition, the investigation noted that the IDF operated a medical situation room in the Gaza District Coordination and Liaison, which coordinated the evacuation of bodies, the wounded and trapped civilians from the combat zone. During the operation, the medical situation room coordinated 150 different requests.
The IDF Chief of the General Staff, Lt. Gen. Gabi Ashkenazi, accepted the recommendations made by the Head of the investigation, stating that the awareness of the importance of preventing harm to medical crews, facilities and vehicles must be preserved. These issues should be practiced by all forces in "incidents and responses" drills. Finally, the Chief of the General Staff ordered an examination of the operation of the humanitarian corridor which was opened for the benefit of the local population during the fighting.
Towards the conclusion of the investigation, the IDF received additional claims relating to allegations of firing upon medical facilities and vehicles. These claims are currently being investigated.
Annex C:
Claims regarding incidents in which many uninvolved civilians were harmed
The investigation was conducted by Col. Tamir Yidai and looked into seven incidents in which it was claimed, civilians were harmed by the IDF. This is a highly sensitive matter, for any loss of human life is unfortunate.  This is especially true for the IDF, an ethical army that emphasizes the values of human life and the purity of arms. The investigation reached the conclusion that that in all of the incidents which were examined, IDF forces did not intentionally attack civilians who were not involved in the fighting.
In circumstances where there existed the risk of unintentionally harming uninvolved civilians, the IDF took many measures to minimize this risk, including the use of precise intelligence and providing warnings prior to the attack.
During the incidents in question, IDF operations did cause harm to uninvolved civilians. However, the results of this investigation make it clear that this was not intentional, but the result of circumstances beyond the control of the forces or due to unexpected operational mistakes. A significant proportion of the incidents occurred as a result of Hamas' illegitimate use of its own civilians. The Hamas took cover amongst the civilian population and used civilians facilities and structures as part of its terrorist operation against Israel.
The incidents which were investigated:
• The attack on the house of senior Hamas operative Nazar Ri'an (January 4th, 2009) - The investigation showed that Ri'an's house was attacked due to its use by Hamas for storing large quantities of sophisticated weapons. Prior to the attack, the forces took a long series of measures to avoid harming uninvolved civilians (It must be stressed that Ri'an could have been considered a legitimate military target due to his central role in the planning and executing terror attacks, was not the target of the attack. The target was the weapons storage facility located in his home). These measures included a phone call notifying of the planned attack, the firing of preliminary warning shots using light weapons, waiting a sufficient period of time to allow the residents of the house to evacuate, and the identification of a group of people exiting the house. Only at that point, after all indications led to the conclusion that the building was empty, was the house targeted. It was later discovered that for unknown reasons, Ri'an and his family stayed in the building in spite of the many warnings and lengthy period of time allowed for their evacuation. Secondary explosions were clearly visible following the attack, proving that the building was used as for weapons storage.
• The attack on the house of Dr. Abu el Eish (January 17th, 2009) – The investigation showed that an IDF force identified suspicious figures on the third floor of the building, raising suspicions that the figures were observing IDF forces in order to direct sniper fire from another building. This was a method of action used by Hamas throughout the operation. Prior to firing at the snipers and the spotters, the regional commander took a series of measures to ensure that the suspicious figures were gunmen and that no civilians would be endangered by the attack. Accordingly, the commander waited 20 minutes before ordering the attack. Unfortunately, despite all the efforts made, four women who were in the same house as the spotters were hit.

It should be noted that Israeli security forces urged Dr. Abu el Eish to leave his house and the combat zone in the days prior to the incident, but he chose to remain in his house in spite of the clear risk.

• Truck apparently carrying oxygen tanks (December 29th, 2008) – the truck was targeted after the accumulation of information which indicated convincingly that it was carrying rockets between a known Hamas rocket manufacturing facility to a known rocket launching site. The attack was carried out near a known Hamas rocket manufacturing site and after a launch. It was only later discovered that the truck was carrying oxygen tanks (similar in appearance to Grad Missiles) and not rockets. The strike killed four Hamas operatives and four uninvolved civilians. It is important to note that the oxygen tanks being carried in the truck were likely to be used by Hamas for rocket manufacturing.
• The Al-Daia family residence in the Zeitoun neighborhood in the city of Gaza (January 6th, 2009) – the incident in question was a result of an operational error with unfortunate consequences. The investigation concluded that the IDF intended to attack a weapons storage facility that was located in the building next to the Al-Daia family residence. It appears that following an error, the structure that was planned to be attacked was the Al-Daia residence rather than the building containing the weapons. The house that was actually attacked (the Al-Daia residence) did receive a number of warnings beforehand, including the preliminary firing of ammunition which causes little damage and the use of the "Knock on the Roof" special warning method. However, due to the mistake in identifying the building, the warning phone call was received prior the attack by the residents of the building containing the weapons storage, not the Al-Daia residence. This may have been the reason that the Al Daia family did not leave the house before it was mistakenly hit it. This is a highly unfortunate event with severe consequences. It was ultimately caused by a professional mistake of the type that can take place during intensive fighting in a crowded environment against an enemy that uses civilians as cover for its operations.
In addition to the abovementioned incidents, the head of the investigation looked into two incidents in which it was claimed that attacks directed at mosques lead to the deaths of uninvolved civilians. With regard to the first incident, relating to a strike against the "Maqadme" mosque in Beit-Lehiya on January 3rd, 2009, it was discovered that as opposed to the claims, the mosque was not attacked at all. Furthermore, it was found that the supposed uninvolved civilians who were the casualties of the attack were in fact Hamas operatives killed while fighting against the IDF. The second incident, regarding a supposed strike that hit the "Rabat" mosque in Bet Lehiya on January 9th, 2009 – no testimony of any IDF forces operating in the area was found. The mosque is still standing unharmed.
In all of the incidents investigated, there were no breaches of international law, and in some of them it was clear that the actions of the IDF were in fact stricter than those demanded under international law. As in any combat situation, and specifically when fighting a terrorist organization that uses its own people as human shields, the investigation discovered isolated failures, some of which lead to the harming of civilians.
The IDF Chief of the General Staff determined that even in those unfortunate incidents in which the investigation showed that the IDF operated in a way that caused harm to uninvolved civilians, the harm was not intentional and was caused despite measures that were taken to prevent it. Lt. Gen. Ashkenazi ordered that clear regulations and orders be made on the basis of the conclusions of the investigation.
It must be added that the IDF is currently looking into a series of additional claims that were made against it. Upon the completion of an initial inquiry into these events, it will be decided whether they will be further investigated, in accordance with the facts and IDF investigations policy.
Annex D:
The use of weaponry containing phosphorous components
This investigation, which was conducted by Col. Shai Alkalai, focused on the use of munitions containing phosphorous components in Operation Cast Lead throughout the duration of the operation.
The investigation found that IDF forces used two different types of munitions containing white phosphorous.
It was found that during the operation, a very limited amount of the first type was used by ground and naval forces. The munitions included mortar shells fired by ground forces (not artillery shells) and 76mm rounds fired from naval vessels. These munitions contained phosphorous as the active ingredient and are not intended to create smoke screens.
The use of such munitions is legal under international law subject to certain limitations derived from their incendiary capabilities. The investigation showed that use of these munitions was done so in accordance with these limitations – they were only fired at open areas and were used for marking and range-finding rather than in an anti-personnel capacity. In one single incident, in an open uninhabited area, ammunition containing phosphorous was used to uncover tunnel entrances.
Let it be reemphasized that no phosphorus munitions were used on built-up areas or for anti-personnel purposes.
As a precautionary measure, even though international law does not prohibit the use of such means, as of January 7th 2009, it was decided that in order to further minimize the risk to civilians from munitions containing phosphorous, the IDF would cease to use the munitions containing larger quantities of phosphorous (i.e. those not used for smoke screening). All IDF forces were directed to act accordingly.
The investigation discovered that phosphorous munitions which contained phosphorous intended for purposes other than smoke screening were used after January 7th 2009 on two occasions, by ground forces and the Israel Navy respectively, for marking purposes. These two exceptions were looked into during the investigation, which found that on both the incidents there was no breach of any of the rules of international law.
It must be stressed that the ammunition containing phosphorous used by the IDF is standard, legal and is used by other western militaries worldwide, including states who are signatories of the Third Protocol of the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons (CCW). The investigation showed that the use of white phosphorous made by the IDF was in accordance with Israel's obligations under international humanitarian law and more specifically, the obligations with regard to munitions with incendiary characteristics.
Most of the munitions containing phosphorus which were used during the operation were of a second type, and contained pieces of felt dipped in phosphorous in a manner that is not intended to cause injuries and which are non-incendiary, and are used exclusively to create smoke screens. Moreover, these are munitions which conform in full, with international law. In addition, the limitations under international law on the use of "incendiary munitions" do not apply to this type of munitions.
In this context is should be emphasized that the Third Protocol of the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons (CCW), which defines specific limitations on the use of "incendiary munitions", clearly states that smoke obscurants are not considered "incendiary munitions". Israel is not a party to the Third Protocol, but it should be noted that even states that are a party to the Protocol make use of smoke shells which contain a small quantity of phosphorous for the purpose of smoke obscuration.
The use made by the IDF of obscurant smoke shells was for military requirements only (e.g. camouflaging armored forces from anti-tank squads deployed by Hamas in Gaza's urban areas). This use was in accordance with international law, while balancing between operational and humanitarian considerations. The use of smoke obscurants proved to be a very effective means and in many cases prevented the need to use explosive munitions whose impact would have been considerably more dangerous.
After having being presented with the conclusions of the investigation, the Chief of the General Staff emphasized the importance of a clear doctrine and commands on the issue of various munitions which contain phosphorous. In addition, Lt. Gen. Ashkenazi ordered that any use of phosphorous for purposes other than smoke obscuration be treated as exceptional.
Annex E:
Primary Conclusions:
Damage to infrastructure and destruction of buildings by ground forces
This investigation, carried out by Col. Adam Zusman, focused on issues relating to the infrastructure operations and the demolishing of structures by the IDF forces during the ground operations phase of Operation Cast Lead. During the investigation the commanders of the forces that participated in the operation were questioned in relation to the issues being investigated. In addition, the investigation gathering data from relevant institutions and examined the relevant military orders.
The investigation showed that Hamas based its main line of defense on civilian infrastructure in the Gaza Strip (i.e. buildings, infrastructure, agricultural lands etc.), and specifically on booby trapped structures (mostly residential), the digging of explosive tunnels and tunnels intended for the moving of people and weaponry. This created an above ground and underground deployment in the Gaza Strip's urban areas by Hamas. During the operation, IDF forces were forced not only to fight the gunmen themselves, but to also deal with the physical terrorist infrastructure prepared by the Hamas and other terrorist organizations in advance. As part of this challenge, the forces demolished structures that threatened the forces and had to be removed – houses which were used by the enemy; other structures used by the enemy for terrorist activity; structures that prevented the forces from moving from one area to another (given that many of the roads were booby trapped); structures that were used to protect Israeli soldiers; agricultural elements used as cover for enemy tunnels and infrastructure; and infrastructure next to the security fence used by Hamas for operations against IDF forces or for digging tunnels into Israeli territory.
IDF operations which were intended to demolish booby trapped or structures rigged with explosives (and other similar operations) successfully prevented the enemy from detonating these structures while IDF forces were in them, despite the enormous efforts made by Hamas and other terrorist organizations, who rigged a substantial number of buildings to explode in the areas where the IDF operated.
The investigation shows that in all the areas of operation, the decision to authorize the demolishing of houses was only made by high ranking officers. In addition, the destruction of buildings was only initiated after it was determined by the forces that they were vacant. As a result, as far as the investigation was able to determine, no uninvolved civilians were harmed during the demolition of infrastructure and buildings by IDF forces.
The investigation showed that in many cases, the preparations made by Hamas and other terrorist organizations were responsible for the significant damage caused to houses. This was due to the secondary explosions caused by the detonation of explosive devices or weaponry placed by Hamas within the structures. This was illustrated by an incident which was investigated, in which a building in one of Gaza's northern neighborhoods was fired upon, resulting in the unexpected detonation of a chain of explosive devices planted by Hamas, damaging many other buildings in the neighborhood.
The investigation showed that the orders and directions given with regard to damage to property during the operation, at all levels, emphasized that all demolition operations should be carried out in a manner which would minimize to the greatest extent possible the damage caused to any property not used by Hamas and other terror organizations in the fighting. During the investigation it was apparent that that this issue was not stressed sufficiently in the written plans for the operation. However, the investigation clearly showed that the forces in the field understood in which circumstances structures or infrastructure could be demolished as well as the limitations relating to demolitions.
The investigations did not identify any instances of intentional harm done to civilian infrastructure and with the exception of a single incident (which was immediately halted by the relevant Brigade Commander, and was dealt with using disciplinary measures) it didn't find any incidents in which structures or property were damaged as "punishment" or without an operational justification. In all of the areas in which the IDF operated, the level of damage to the infrastructure was proportional, and did not deviate from that which was required to fulfill the operational requirements.
Overall, the extent of damage caused to buildings was a direct result of the extensive use by Hamas of those same buildings for terrorist purposes and targeting IDF forces.
The IDF Chief of the General Staff, Lt. Gen. Gabi Ashkenazi accepted the recommendation made by the head of the investigation to create clear regulations and orders with regard to the issue of demolition of infrastructure and structures as well as a clear combat doctrine. Lt. Gen. Ashkenazi also accepted the recommendation that the combat doctrine should include a definition of relevant "incidents and responses" to be distributed amongst all combat forces. Lt. Gen. Ashkenazi also accepted the recommendation to create a clear procedure of documentation and reporting for such operations. The conclusion that the extent of the demolished infrastructure and building was proportionate, in light of the operational requirements, was also approved by the IDF Chief of the General Staff.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

A strategy for dealing separately with the two Palestines

The Palestinian unity government talks chaperoned in recent months by the Egyptians appear to have failed. Cairo is now talking about forming a joint committee or "executive framework" that will be virtually powerless vis-a-vis the two existing Palestinian governments in Ramallah and Gaza. This appears to constitute primarily a way for all involved to save face without admitting total defeat. The important unity issues--a jointly-formed government with an agreed platform, ground rules for new elections, merging Hamas into the PLO--remain unresolved. In the absence of a unity government, little or none of the international aid pledged for rebuilding dwellings destroyed in the recent war is finding its way into the Strip.
Accordingly, the de facto reality all parties face for the foreseeable future is that of the past two years: three states or political entities--Israel, the West Bank and Gaza. Under these circumstances, while a two-state solution remains the only viable outcome to the entire conflict, talk of achieving it in the near future rings hollow. On the other hand, those Israelis who believe the present situation of a divided Palestine works to Israel's advantage risk cultivating, through neglect, not one but two time bombs in our midst: a militant Islamist Gaza and a weak and unstable West Bank.
Thus it behooves us to ask: Given that the current "three state" situation is not likely to change in the foreseeable future, how can we make the best of it? Before we contemplate reuniting the West Bank and Gaza, we need two separate strategies for these separate and disparate entities.
In the West Bank, we have to look for ways to ensure that moderates remain in power by implementing genuine confidence- and security-building measures that support them. This means an absolute freeze on all settlement expansion, dismantling of outposts and even--if and when the security situation permits--coordinated unilateral Israeli withdrawal from additional parts of the West Bank. While some form of final status talks may be helpful in creating an incentive for Palestinians--and US President Barack Obama's resolve in this regard is encouraging--the real work that Obama's emissary George Mitchell should prioritize is ensuring Israeli and Palestinian compliance with these conflict-management measures in the West Bank. This should be easier to accomplish with the Netanyahu government than insisting immediately on a full-fledged Israeli-Palestinian peace process similar to those that have failed since 1993.
Regarding the Gaza Strip, the situation is more clear-cut: all relevant parties must begin by recognizing that their strategies have failed. Israel's military strategy failed back in January, as did the economic boycott strategy it pursued for nearly two years with the complicity of Egypt, the PLO and the Quartet. Egypt's strategy of ensuring that Gaza is an Israeli problem just blew up in Cairo's face with the revelations about Hizballah's espionage and sabotage operations on Egyptian soil: Gaza is an Egyptian problem, too. Perhaps this explains why Israel's reliance on Egypt to mediate ceasefire and prisoner-exchange deals with Hamas has also failed. Meanwhile, Cairo's attempt to broker renewed Fateh-Hamas unification is failing because Hamas, with Iran's backing, refuses to compromise its extreme views concerning Israel-related issues while the PLO is too weak to bend Hamas to its will.
Unless and until Hamas radically changes its attitude toward Israel, Jerusalem has every reason to quarantine it from the West Bank, lest a unity government or Palestinian elections strengthen its presence there. But quarantining physically should not mean ignoring politically. It's time for Israel to signal that it is prepared to talk to Hamas unconditionally. On the initial agenda: prisoner-exchange and a long-term ceasefire. If these can be accomplished, then and only then should they be followed by a joint exploration of ways in which peaceful coexistence with Gaza can be merged with peace with the West Bank. Such an order of business, which is not necessarily incompatible with the Likud's approach to the conflict, appears more promising than the failed policies of the past two years.
If Hamas refuses to talk directly with Israel--as most but not all Hamas leaders insist--then at least Israel will have taken the initiative and cast off its intransigent image. If Hamas insists on more Arab mediation, Israel should--with all due respect for the good intentions of our Arab friends--refuse. The experience of recent months appears to indicate that the fragmented and weak Arab state system is not up to the task of dealing with militant but dynamic Arab non-state actors in ways that benefit Israel.- Published 20/4/2009 ©
Yossi Alpher is coeditor of the bitterlemons family of internet publications. He is former director of the Jaffee Center for Strategic Studies at Tel Aviv University