Who is Changing the Regional Balance of Power?

Obama has renewed sanctions on Syria for another year. This was expected. In fact, Ian Black of the Guardian makes the point that relations between Syria and the US will remain bad for a long time to come. It can be expected that the US president will renew them every year because Syria remains at war with Israel and supports both Hizbullah and Hamas.

F35 Fighter Pilot Helmet

In short, the US is asking that Syria cede to Israel the Golan Heights, which it occupied in 1967. When Israel seized the Heights, it forced some 100,000 Syrian inhabitants to evacuate their homes and abandon their villages. Farms were  turned over to Israeli colonists, who have, not surprisingly, done well on the rich Syrian land that gets plenty of water. Israel annexed the Golan in 1981, which the UN condemned in resolution 497.

Although Washington recognizes these acts as illegal, neither Clinton nor Obama has mentioned that Israel is obliged to give up the Golan. They do not mention that the Golan issue is at the root of Syria’s support for resistance organizations and they do not link the two.  Syrians can only conclude that Washington’s true policy is to help Israel keep the Golan for eternity. Otherwise the US would not place sanctions on Syria while refusing to condemn Israel. In fact, Washington is negotiating the sale of F35s to Israel. These are Americas new and most improved fighter planes.

Patrick Seale points out the inverted logic of Hilary Clinton’s latest diatribe against Syria and her insistence that America’s commitment to Israel’s security is unshakable. He writes:

To any independent observer, the statements by Mrs. Clinton and Ehud Barak are an extraordinary inversion of the situation on the ground. It is not Israel which faces “real and growing threats,” but rather its neighbours, who live in constant fear of renewed attack from an incomparably stronger and better armed Israel.

Lebanon has not yet recovered from Israel’s devastating assault of 2006, which killed some 1,500 civilians, while Gaza — under cruel siege and denied building materials for reconstruction — still lives in the rubble caused by Israel’s invasion of December-January 2008-2009, which killed another 1,500 people, and wounded thousands more. As for Iran, it faces a constant — and publicly stated — threat of attack on its nuclear sites.

Quite apart from Israel’s nuclear arsenal of some 200 warheads, some of them deliverable by its Dolphin class submarines, the American-supplied Israeli Air Force is by far the most powerful in the region, able to attack targets up to 1,500 miles away with air-to-ground missiles and “bunker-buster” GBU-28 bombs.

As is well-known, the United States has pledged to maintain Israel’s “qualitative military edge” over any combination of Arab states, and never to acknowledge Israel’s nuclear military capability in any public statement.

The inescapable conclusion one must draw from Mrs. Clinton’s remarks is that Israel’s neighbours have no right to defend themselves, but must meekly submit to Israel’s repeated blows and to its overall military hegemony.

Here is the official White House statement about the dangers Syria poses to US security. In congress, Obama explained that “the Syrian government had made “some progress” in suppressing the infiltration of foreign fighters into Iraq. But he added that Syria’s “continuing support for terrorist organizations and pursuit of weapons of mass destruction and missile programs, continue to pose an unusual and extraordinary threat to the national security, foreign policy and economy of the United States.”

In a small conciliatory gesture, The US removed its customary opposition to Syria’s inclusion in the World Trade Organization. It had twice blocked Syria from becoming a WTO member since 2001. Netanyahu could have blocked Syria’s accession to observer status, but decided not to as this would have made Israel the sole country to oppose Syria.

How Contiguous is Contiguous?

On Jan 10, 2008, George Bush is called for a contiguous Palestine. This turn of phrase is now being used by Obama. But how contiguous is contiguous? Dan Kurtzer and Scott Lasensky, in their book, Negotiating Arab-Israeli Peace, explain that “contiguity” is not always continguous:

[since the 1990s] Washington has reinforced rather than ameliorated some of the most fundamental asymmetries between Israel and the Palestinians… The U.S. did not push back when Israel redefined contiguity of territory to mean transportation linkages between Palestinian areas instead of territorial linkages.

Sharon would often speak about “transportational contiguity.”  What he meant is if you can drive from here to there, we’ll call it contiguous, even if you have to go underground through a tunnel (whose both ends are controlled by Israel) or up in the air over a bridge (whose both ends are controlled by Israel) . This is definition of contiguity is important as more and more land in East Jerusalem and the West Bank is developed for Jewish only roads and settlements.

World View – the new radio show that I co-host on our local NPR affiliate has posted its first show. This week we discuss the likelihood of war between Israel and Hizbullah, US policy in Afghanistan, and we interview David Sanger, the New York Times correspondent on National Security issues. He talks about Iran, Korea and nuclear arms. We ask him if Iran can be contained or if it must be stopped. Listen, here.

News Round Up

U.S.-Israel Ties Remain Intact
MAY 4, 2010

A serious accusation, one rarely heard previously, was leveled against the Obama administration on Monday. The charge: It is too vigorously defending Israel.

Patrick Seale, a prominent British writer on Middle East affairs, published an article declaring that the administration “is beginning to adopt the vociferously pro-Israeli, anti-Arab rhetoric of its predecessor—the neocon-dominated administration of former President George W. Bush.” He cited a speech last week by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in which she “used unusually strong language” to warn Syria and Iran that “America’s commitment to Israel’s security was unshakable.”

Hyperbole aside, Mr. Seale’s assertion points to an important but little-noted reality. The very public feuding between the Obama administration and Israel over the Palestinian peace process has gotten lots of attention, as has the strained relationship between President Barack Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

But beyond those headlines, the two countries actually have undertaken a broad effort at military and strategic cooperation—including supplying Israel with sophisticated American military equipment—to counter threats from Iran and Hezbollah fighters armed by Syria.

While there may be public feuding between the Obama administration and Israel over the peace process, the two countries have also begun a high level of military and intelligence cooperation in other areas, WSJ’s Jerry Seib explains.

In a week when Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is at the United Nations to talk at a nuclear nonproliferation conference—an ironic appearance given that most of the world worries he’s seeking to proliferate—the level of security cooperation between Israel and the U.S. is of more than passing interest.

Israel believes Iran and Syria are creating a here-and-now threat by supplying Hezbollah fighters in Lebanon and the Gaza Strip with rockets and, possibly, missiles. But, of course, for Israel the real long-term threat lies in Iran’s potential development of nuclear arms.

In the face of those dangers, the crucial question is simply: What are the U.S. and Israel doing about them?

Actually, they’re cooperating more than most people think. It’s important to note that this cooperation isn’t designed to facilitate an Israeli attack on Iran’s nuclear facilities. Actually, it’s more the opposite. By making Israel feel its has, on its own and in conjunction with the U.S., the defenses needed to either deter or defend against Iran, the Obama administration undoubtedly hopes to reduce Israel’s inclination to launch a pre-emptive strike on Iran, which the chairman of the Joint Chiefs, Adm. Mike Mullen, for one, has openly fretted might be ineffective and destabilizing.

Beyond that, making it clear that there is a robust American-Israeli security relationship is one way of preventing miscalculations by the Middle East’s more dangerous characters.

If Iran, Syria, Hezbollah or their extremist friends think U.S.-Israeli relations are so strained that Washington is backing away from its commitment to defend Israel, the perception of a newly vulnerable Israel might well invite attacks that could spin out of control.

That’s one reason why both Secretary Clinton and Defense Secretary Robert Gates have gone out of their way in the last two weeks to publicly restate America’s commitment to Israeli security.

And in fact, officials from both countries say that military and security cooperation has weathered the political storms of recent months, and in some areas actually thrived. An advanced American radar system, for example, has been deployed to Israel’s Negev Desert, whence it can help the burgeoning Israeli missile-defense network.

A large military exercise last fall, code-named Juniper Cobra, was used to practice linking up that radar with American defense systems. The U.S. is funding the development of an advanced Israeli long-range, high-altitude system for knocking out ballistic missiles of the kind that might come from Iran. Israel is discussing purchasing the new American F-35 fighter jet, now nearing completion.

At the heart of much of this joint work is the relationship between Mr. Gates and his counterpart, Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak. Both men are veteran political survivors and hard-eyed realists, and their ties seem to have grown stronger even as political strains between the White House and Prime Minister Netanyahu have increased. The two defense chiefs met last week and emerged uttering strikingly similar statements of warning to Israel’s enemies.

U.S. officials also say there is a high level of intelligence sharing. One outgrowth appears to be a significant effort to detect and then stop arms shipments going from Iran to Syria, and potentially on to Hezbollah fighters in Lebanon.

Last fall, for example, U.S. forces stopped and inspected a ship called the Hansa India, which was carrying shipping containers that originated in Iran and were headed for Syria. …

It simply means that, as in all matters Middle Eastern, the situation isn’t entirely as it appears on the surface.

What Comes After Mideast Talks Draw a Blank?
By Tony Karon in Time

After months of arm-wrestling over terms and conditions, the Obama Administration has finally gotten its Israeli-Palestinian “proximity” back on track. …The new talks will be launched without any pageantry, however, because there’s very little optimism on any side of substantial progress toward an agreement. More likely, the various parties are mulling over what to do once it is established that no breakthrough is likely….

The Netanyahu coalition with parties even more hawkish than his own is unlikely to accept the terms of any plausible final-status agreement. And Israeli analysts warn that the large presence of settlers and their supporters in the officer corps of the Israeli Defense Force makes any attempt at large-scale evacuation of settlements — which settlers have vowed to resist — a high-risk option for any Israeli government…..

Maariv: Ron Lauder now acting as go between Netanyahu and Jordanians By Didi Remez

Ties between Israel and Jordan are at an all-time low and very tense. In the past year, King Abdullah has been making ever more frequent statements concerning the deteriorating situation of the Middle East and the risk of war. He has also been a harsh critic of the Israeli government as well as of Netanyahu’s policies.

Only last week the king warned, referring to construction in East Jerusalem, that Israel was playing with fire and mentioned that according to Israel’s peace accord with Jordan, the latter had rights to Jerusalem’s holy sites. He said that all options were on the table when it came to protecting he holy sites as well as Jordan’s interests in the city….

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu will meet today with Egyptian President Mubarak at his Sharm el-Sheikh residence…

Netanyahu will ask Mubarak to withdraw the Egyptian proposal that the Middle East be made a nuclear free zone — a proposal that is expected to come up in the nuclear summit in New York that begins today. The two will also discuss the expected renewal of the proximity talks between Israel and the Palestinians on Wednesday.

Tonight special US envoy to the Middle East George Mitchell is to arrive in Israel for the expected talks. The talks are to be conducted in rounds between Jerusalem and Israel under Mitchell’s mediation. On the Israeli side, the prime minister himself is to meet with Mitchell, along with his emissary Attorney Yitzhak Molcho. Sources in the Prime Minister’s Bureau have said that the negotiating team will be “limited and compartmentalized,” and will include only Netanyahu and Molcho, with other advisors of the prime minister joining as necessary.

Related recent developments
1.  Abdullah delivers withering criticism of Israeli polices in April 6 2010 Wall Street Journal interview.
2.  J Street leadership meets Abdullah in Amman on May 1 2010.
3.  Major General (Res.) Uri Saguy chronicles the results of Lauder’s efforts at brokering talks between Netanyahu and Assad in the ’90s.

Syria to establish first renewable energy project
2010-05-0, (Xinhua via COMTEX)

— Syrian CHAM Holding Group and the world largest wind energy company VESETAS signed an agreement to develop the first wind energy project in Syria, the Syrian Arab News Agency SANA reported on Monday. The agreement, which was signed Sunday, aims to provide abilities and skills to construct and operate wind farms with generation capacity of 50-100 MW at two sites to the south Damascus.

The project, which costs around 300 million U.S. dollars, will be funded by a group of Syrian and Arab investors, in addition to local and international financial foundations. The wind farm is to be developed by CHAM Holding Group, which was founded in 1996 and invests in various domains including the infrastructure and industry. However, the project will be technologically supported by VESTAS with its headquartered in Denmark. Mahmoud al- Khoshman, CHAM Holding Group’s Chief Executive Officer, pointed out that Syria contains a considerable wind energy potential in a variety of locations, promising to offer clean energy to meet the increasing electricity demand in Syria in an environmental-friendly manner, SANA said….

Poll: Majority of Israel’s Jews back gag on rights groups
More than half of respondents agree that ‘there is too much freedom of expression’ in Israel.
By Or Kashti Tags: Israel news

More than half of Jewish Israelis think human rights organizations that expose immoral behavior by Israel should not be allowed to operate freely, and think there is too much freedom of expression here, a recent survey found.

The survey, commissioned by the Tami Steinmetz Center for Peace Research at Tel Aviv University, will be presented Wednesday at a conference on the limits of freedom of expression.

The pollsters surveyed 500 Jewish Israelis who can be considered a representative sample of the adult Jewish population.

They found that 57.6 percent of the respondents agreed that human rights organizations that expose immoral conduct by Israel should not be allowed to operate freely.

Slightly more than half agreed that “there is too much freedom of expression” in Israel.

The poll also found that most of the respondents favor punishing Israeli citizens who support sanctioning or boycotting the country, and support punishing journalists who report news that reflects badly on the actions of the defense establishment.

Another 82 percent of respondents said they back stiff penalties for people who leak illegally obtained information exposing immoral conduct by the defense establishment.

“Israelis have a distorted perception of democracy,” said Daniel Bar-Tal, a professor at the university’s school of education, and one of the conference’s organizers. “The public recognizes the importance of democratic values, but when they need to be applied, it turns out most people are almost anti-democratic.”

CBS News: Political Satire Rocks the Boat in Syria
by George Baghdadi, 2010-04-30

A sharp political comedy is taking the Syrian capital by storm by pushing the envelop of acceptable government criticism to a point seldom scene on the stage in Arab countries.

The play, entitled “Academic Corruption,” mocks dirty politics, Syrian officials and Arab leaders alike.

All four months’ performances of the play have sold out at the rickety Ramita Theater in downtown Damascus. Such politically inflammatory speech is rarely heard by the capital city’s five million inhabitants, or their countrymen across Syria.

It’s not the first satire by 51-year-old actor and director Humam Hout, who has been on stage in the country for more than two decades, but it is without question his most daring.

The curtain rises on act one to reveal a ceremony for dozens of graduates from the “University of Corruption”.

“The bribe is not a shame – the one who doesn’t take a bribe is an ass. This is the time for the intelligent people,” boasts the narrator.

Jibes like this, aimed clearly at the nation’s leaders and others in the region, had only been heard as whispers for years. But such a joke, or a misplaced word, will no longer land them in jail.

The play, performed by a mix of amateurs and professionals, catalogs corruption through the story of the inhabitants of a poor alley thrown into scandal after a building falls over, killing 47 people and wounding hundreds more.

Abu Jamal, a resident who has just lost his house in the collapse, approaches a TV correspondent. “I will tell you everything about all the thieves in the country, because my heart is filled with anger,” he tells the reporter before a military intelligence agent strides in with a pistol in his hand.

Jamal changes his tone.

“I seize the opportunity of the collapse of this building… to extend my thanks to the comrade and all the people in charge,” he says before lavishing grand praise on the performance of the government. ….

Israel Land Fund group intends to expand Jewish East Jerusalem
By ABE SELIG, 03/05/2010

Despite immense international pressure to halt Jewish construction in east Jerusalem and in all areas over the Green Line, Israel Land Fund founder Aryeh King on Sunday presented a plan that would see nearly 200,000 new housing units created there.

Speaking at a conference at the Menachem Begin Heritage Center to discuss future development initiatives in the capital, King described a plan that would use privately owned land and property belonging to the Jewish National Fund to provide roughly 187,000 new homes in east Jerusalem, E-1 (between Jerusalem and Ma’aleh Adumim) and a chain of territory extending from Ramallah to Bethlehem.

“If Jerusalem doesn’t expand, and expand eastward, it will become the Gaza Strip,” King said.

Using a blown-up map of the city and its surrounding areas, King showed the audience where hundreds of dunams of land outside the northern Pisgat Ze’ev neighborhood could contain roughly 12,000 new housing units.

Around the southern Gilo neighborhood, King said, “there is enough similar land to build 60,000 units.”

“There are 800 dunams [80 hectares] in E-1, owned by a wealthy, Jewish philanthropist, that could prove room enough for 100,000 housing units,” King said. “The potential is enormous.”…

Maariv: Italian support for Israel wavering
Didi Remez translates| May 4, 2010
Eli Bardenstein, Maariv, May 4 2010 [page 7]

Is Israel about to lose its best friend — maybe its only friend — in western Europe, Italy?

Political officials in Jerusalem say that Rome recently relayed a message that it would not be able to continue to defend sweepingly Israel’s construction policy in the territories and in Jerusalem at international forums, as it has until now. This was stated in talks that Israeli diplomats held in Berlin, Paris and Rome. This is because Italy feels that its unreserved support for Israel has turned it into an “ugly duckling” in the view of its fellow EU members and, as a result, it is gradually becoming isolated and irrelevant in the Europe community.

For example, every time that Italy wants to raise a subject that is pro-Israel, important countries of the European Union in western Europe do not join in, and only countries like the Czech Republic and Poland, which are less important, do. In other cases, Italy is unable to influence the wording of proposals relating to Israel because it is viewed as pro-Israel from the outset. Italian officials are also concerned that continued absolute support for Israel will damage its relations with the Arab and Muslim world.

The change in the Italian position is part of a change for the worse that is taking place in many countries of the EU, which are stepping up the pressure on Israel to make progress in the peace process and to completely stop construction in the settlements. This emerges from reports received in Jerusalem……That said, it should be noted that despite Italy’s difficulty in automatically supporting Israel, just recently — in the course of a reception that the Israeli embassy in Rome held for Independence Day — Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi publicly repeated his demand for including Israel in the EU.

Nuclear Gamesmanship: Clinton vs. Ahmadinejad
Tony Karon in Time Magazine

….The U.S. narrative on the Iranian nuclear threat portrays it as a menace against which all the moderate countries of the Middle East are united. But the Egyptians are bluntly pointing out that Iran can’t be confronted while turning a blind eye to Israel. “We don’t think that there should be first-class countries that are acquiring nuclear weapons and second-class countries that are not in possession of nuclear weapons in the Middle East,” Egypt’s U.N. Ambassador Maged Abdelaziz said last week. “We say that in order to be able to deal with the Iranian issue, you have to address the nuclear capabilities of Israel.” The Egyptians, on whose support the U.S. depends for isolating Iran, want both Israel and Iran brought into an NPT-led regional conference on a nuclear-free Middle East next year, and are demanding that the U.S. sign up to the effort to make both compliant with a regime of transparency and disarmament.

When pressed, Obama Administration officials say that Israel should sign on to the NPT, although Washington has never pressed the issue. (It can’t very well advocate for Israel to be exempted from the laws it says should apply to all.) On the Egyptian proposal, the U.S. position as articulated last Friday by Under Secretary of State for Arms Control Ellen Tauscher is that “the best chance we have to achieve a WMD-free zone in the Middle East is to reach an agreement on a lasting and just peace in the Middle East.” But that could be read by many in the region as tacit endorsement of Israel maintaining nuclear weapons, which would, in the regional argument, work in Iran’s favor.

The conference will run for most of this month, and is unlikely to produce any major breakthroughs. But the first-day scorecard in the U.S.-Iran showdown produced no clear winner — and that, in and of itself, could qualify as big news…..

Weissglas in Yediot: By fighting with US over settlements, Israel is risking pressure on nuclear policy
Didi Remez | May 4, 2010
Bitter or sour
Op-ed, Dov Weissglas, Yediot, May 4 2010s

A lot has been said and written that the growing sourness in Israel-US relations—the main cause of which is the dispute on the matter of settlement in Judea and Samaria and in East Jerusalem—is liable to erode vital areas of Israel’s security.The bumpy road that the US administration was forced to walk to bring about the beginning of any sort of peace process focused entirely on the issue of freezing construction and settlement. The somewhat mocking consent to “proximity talks” may fall apart even before the talks begin because of the matter of settlement. This insistence on settlement caused Israel, precisely at a time of being tested, to face an angry and bitter administration.

When running a country, a government must distinguish between the main issue and the secondary issues, between the important and the less important. The current US administration never downplayed, from the moment of its establishment, its intent to reexamine subjects that for many years had been perceived as fundamental values in US domestic and foreign policy. It does this both in domestic American matters as well as matters of foreign policy and regional and international security.

The US administration almost goes out of its way to appease the Muslim and Arab world, less than 10 years after the Twin Towers tragedy and the warfare against fanatic Islamist forces. It is reexamining American nuclear and military policy, both in the US and in western Europe — which has always and forever been perceived as a part of the world whose security the US guarantees. It is also examining the American security arrangements vis-à-vis Russia, which at the time, in its relationship with the US, reached the brink of a third world war.

Such an administration is not to be “annoyed” unnecessarily. And since it appears that in the near future the administration may focus its attention to fundamental questions regarding Israel’s security — such as the continuation of nuclear ambiguity— you do not provoke it, not even for settlement matters.

The interest that the Obama administration has begun to show in a Middle East that is “clean” of nuclear weapons imposes on the Israeli government a supreme obligation to ensure a considerate and supportive administration, as much as possible. A “clean” Middle East should hardly trouble the Arab states, since there is no danger to their existence. It should not trouble Iran, which ignores the current administration, but it should greatly trouble Israel, for whom nuclear ambiguity is one of the most important components of its ability to deter those who seek to destroy it, and a basic condition for its security in an animosity-filled region.

The review committee of the member states of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty — a treaty that Israel, as long as the region around it does not recognize its existence, must not join — is a suitable opportunity for the administration to begin to wonder aloud—with varying degrees of intent to act—about rethinking traditional US policy toward Israeli ambiguity. Obliging Israel to joint the treaty and to accept international supervision would prevent ambiguity and ensure certainty that Israel indeed will not have the nuclear military means that are necessary for its self defense, those means whose existence we don’t know of, but as residents of the wild Middle East, we hope and pray that we do have, and a lot of them, in our warehouses.

It was recently reported that the matter was examined by the US administration together with the Egyptians. If there is anything — even a little — to these reports, Israel should be very worried. When such a vital Israeli security interest is liable to soon be placed on the American discussion table, it would be a terrible mistake to continue to quarrel with an already angry administration on settlement matters — weighty as they may be.

Translated by MEMRI

In an article in the Syrian daily Al-Watan, which is close to the Syrian regime, the paper’s editor, Waddah ‘Abd Rabbo, wondered why the Arab countries and Iran should not obtain nuclear weapons as deterrence against Israel…..

“Why Shouldn’t an Arab Country, or Iran, Obtain Nuclear Weapons as Long as Israel Possesses Such Weapons?”

“…Despite the call by Syria and other countries to prevent the spread of weapons of mass destruction in the Middle East, I wonder, and I think that this question has become legitimate: Why shouldn’t an Arab country, or Iran, obtain nuclear weapons as long as Israel possesses such weapons, takes pride in doing so, and ignores every call, Arab and non-Arab, for the elimination of WMDs?

“In other words, who threatens security and stability in our region? Isn’t it Israel, which occupies lands, kills dozens of Palestinians every day, and threatens to send Syria back to the Stone Age and to destroy Lebanon’s infrastructure?

“In the face of all the threats and the danger that Israel poses to all the Arabs, aren’t the threatened Arab countries entitled, and [in fact] obligated, to obtain nuclear weapons to deter Israel from taking its aggressive steps?”

“All the Countries in the Region Are Going to Need [Nuclear Technology]”

“The West has tried for decades to prevent the Arabs from obtaining [nuclear] ‘know-how’ on the pretext that it could threaten Israel’s security, and prevented them from obtaining advanced weapons on the same pretext…..

Rabbi Lerner’s Home Attacked by Right-Wing Zionists
Berkeley, Ca. May 3, 2010
Release dare: May 4, 2010

Berkeley police today confirmed that the attack on Rabbi Lerner’s home late Sunday June 2nd or early morning Sunday July 3rd was in fact a crime and was being investigated.

The attackers used a powerful form of glue to attach posters to his door and around the property of his home attacking Lerner personally, and attacking liberals and progressives as being supporters of terrorism and “Islamo-fascism.” They posted a printed bumper sticker saying “fight terror–support Israel” next to a carcature of Judge Goldstone whose UN report on Israel’s human rights violations in its attack on Gaza last year has been denounced as anti-Semitic and pro-terror by right wingers in Israel and the U.S.. The caricature has Goldstone talking about his being kept from his grandson’s bar mitzvah, and the caricature of Rabbi Lerner responds by saying “any enemy of Israel is a friend of mine.”

This attack and vandalism follows on a week filled with Lerner and Tikkun staff receiving hate mail, prompted apparently by Tikkun’s announcement that in case the South African Zionists had succeeded in preventing Judge Goldstone from attending his grandson’s bar mitzvah, as they threatened several weeks ago, that Rabbi Lerner would gladly hold the bar mitzvah in the SF Bay Area instead, and following Tikkun’s announcement that in light of Goldstone’s courageous willingness to stand up for human rights in Israel….

Joshua Holland, a senior writer for AlterNet, ties the vandalism at Michael Lerner’s house to the Jeff Goldbergesque charge that criticizing Israel is indistinguishable from calling for genocide. Also See Richard Silverstein on this. He points out that:

It is absolutely no accident that Alan Dershowitz singled Rabbi Michael Lerner out for special opprobrium in his most recent Jerusalem Post and Huffington Post columns.

Comments (35)

Akbar Palace said:

Obama has renewed sanctions on Syria for another year. This was expected.

Professor Josh,

I’m relieved this is what you “expected”. Sometimes I get the impression you think an American president will suddenly appear to throw Israel under the bus.

Your only hope is that a group of 19 yeshiva students hijack 4 commercial airliners and fly them into American skyscrapers.

Until then, keep waiting habibi…

May 5th, 2010, 2:56 am


norman said:

It is clear that the US is weak and not able to be effective in the Mideast , that is if not to say that the US is an enemy state to the Palestinians and Arab rights, they should not be surprised if we are hated in the Mideast ,sooner or later the boiling pot will explode,

May 5th, 2010, 3:13 am


majedkhaldoun said:

A.P. is arrogant,he reminds me of Lee Harvey Oswald,I suspect the scenario will be repated again,and the Mossad( A.P. friends) will try to assassinate President Obama,but this time they(the Israeli) will not get away with it.

May 5th, 2010, 1:02 pm


Ghat Albird said:

Netanyahu’s plan as developed by Richard Perle, Douglas Feith, the Wurmser’s husband and wife as the “Clean Break” proposal to change the Middle East the way the Israelis want included the following extract.

“ISRAEL can shape its strategic environment, in cooperation with
Turkey and Jordan, by weakening, containing, and even rolling
back Syria. This effort can focus on removing Saddam Hussein
from power in IRAQ — an important Israeli strategic objective
in its own right — as a means of foiling Syria’s regional ambitions.”


Lesley Stahl on U.S. sanctions against Iraq:
We have heard that a HALF A MILLION CHILDREN
HAVE DIED.. . I mean, that’s more children than
died in Hiroshima. And, you know, is the price worth it?

Secretary of State Madeleine Albright: I think this is a
hard choice, but the price–WE think the price is worth it.

Nothing lasts forever AP. And most probably IT will not be by bus.

May 5th, 2010, 7:04 pm


jad said:

Syrian Martyrs’ Remembrance Day -May/6/1916-
In memory of our Syrian heroes who died for all of us to live with pride and dignity, to all our Syrian martyrs: we will never forget you.
May Syria and Syrians live free, strong and proud for ever and ever.

شهداء 6 ايار .. وايام “سفر برلك”

النص الكامل لوصية احد شهداء..

كتب بعض شهداء ايار وصيتهم الاخيرة وكانت تركز في معظمها في امور شخصية ، حيث كان من المحظر عليهم ان يكتبوا في السياسة او بالشأن العام ، وننشر هنا مضمون وصية الشهيد رفيق رزق سلوم كتبها لاهله قبل اسبوعين من استشهاده مع قافلة الشهداء الذين اعدموا في دمشق وبيروت.

نص الوصية

سلام وتحية وبعد: فهذه قصتي إليكم أحببت أن أذكر لكم تاريخ سجني باختصار، وأوصيكم ببعض أمور لا بد منها، لأنني متيقن من زمن غير بعيد، أن وقت الموت قد قرب، وأنه لا بد أن تشيع بعض إشاعات لا صحة لها، لذلك أحببت أن أذكر لكم كل شيء كما وقع تماماً.

ألقت الحكومة القبض عليّ في 14 أيلول شرقي قبل الظهر بساعة، وأوقفتني بسجن الضباط وبقيت هناك خمسة أيام لا أعرف سبب سجني، ويوم الجمعة صباحاً أخذوني إلى عاليه للاستنطاق فسألوني عن تاريخ حياتي في الآستانة، وتاريخ حياتي في دمشق وعن علاقتي مع المرحوم عبد الكريم الخليل، لأنهم ادعوا بأنني كاتم أسراره، وأنني كاتب عبد الحميد الزهراوي الخاص، وأن لي قصائد وأناشيد وطنية أحض فيها الناشئة العربية على طلب الاستقلال، هذه التهمة الموجهة إليّ، وقد دفعت هذه التهم بالحجة القاطعة، وعرفت الذين وشوا بي من بيروت ومن طرابلس الشام، ثم زاد الطين بلة، أحد رفاقي المسجونين معي، وهو رشدي من غزة، فكان يتظاهر أمامنا بالصداقة، ويذهب إلى الديوان العرفي فيفتري عليّ بعض أمور لكي يظهر إخلاصه للحكومة ويخلص من الإعدام، لأنه اعترف عن نفسه صراحة ولم يبقى له وسيلة ينقذ بها حياته إلا التجسس.

ثم بعد ذلك جاء أخي العزيز شاكر إلى عاليه، وأرسلني ديوان الحرب إلى القدس لأنهم لم يجدوا علي دليلاً يثبت دعواهم، وقالوا إن الذي أمر بتوقيفي جمال باشا، وأن مسألتي تتعلق به رأساً، فحبسوني بالقدس خمسة أيام عند قومندان المركز، ثم استدعاني الباشا وألقى علي نفس الأسئلة التي ألقيت عليّ في الديوان، وتهددني بالضرب وأنواع العذاب، فأجبته نفس الأسئلة التي أجبتها في الديوان، فغضب كثيراً، ثم استدعاني إليه ثانية وحاول أن يقنعني لأقص عليه شيئاً عما قام في ذهنه من الخيالات الوهمية، فأكدت له أنني بعيد عن السياسة بعد السماء عن الأرض، وحينئذ أمرهم بأن يعذبوني، فأخذني الضابط نور الدين ومعه بايرام وجندي آخر إلى غرفة خاصة، وربطوا يدي ورجلي بالحبال، وبدأوا يضربونني ضرباً أليماً، وأغمي عليّ من شدة الضرب ثم أفقت فعادوا إلى ضربي ثانية، فأغمي علي ثانية، ثم أفقت فعادوا إلى ضربي حتى تكسرت في أيديهم عدة عصي، وأغمي عليّ ثالثة وأنا أقول لهم لا أعرف شيئاً، ثم أعطاني الضابط نور الدين قلماً وورقة، وكلفني أن أعترف، وأعطاني فرصة مقدار ساعة قال لي: إذا لم تعترف أحضر آلة لقلع الأظافر، فأقلع أظافرك وأطيل عذابك، حتى تموت وأطرحك في الوادي للوحوش، فرأيت أن إصراري بهذه الصورة يجعلهم يتوهمون أنني عالم ببعض الأمور وأصر على إنكارها، فوعدته أنني عزمت على الاعتراف، ورجوت أن يمهلني إلى الصباح لأن رشدي ضاع من شدة الألم، فأخذت وكتبت له بالورقة بأن المرحوم عبد الكريم الخليل كان كلفني من ست سنوات الدخول في جمعيته، فرفضت طلبه، وإنني لا أعلم شيئاً غير ذلك، وذكرت له في الورقة تاريخ الإصلاحات، وأني كنت من حزب عبد الحميد الزهراوي صديق الحكومة الذي رضي بالإصلاح بالرغم من معارضة كثيرين.

وبعد أن قرأ الورقة ضربها في وجهي وقال هذا لا يكفي، فقلت له أن لي علاقة بجمعية أخرى ولكنها ليست سياسية، ومقصدها تشويق الطلاب ليذهبوا إلى أوروبا ويتعلموا فيها، وليس في ذلك ما يخالف قانون الحكومة أو إدارتها، ثم ذكرت له أنني استعفيت من هذه الجمعية أيضاً، وقدمت استقالتي إلى صديقي سيف الدين الخطيب، وهذا أرسل استعفائي إلى توفيق الناطور في بيروت، وكان سيف الدين حاضراً فاعترف أمام الباشا أنني استعفيت وأن الجمعية المذكورة لا تشتغل بالسياسة، وبعد هذا الحادث بيومين رجعت إلى عاليه وبقينا نحو خمسة وثلاثين يوماً ما سألونا عن شيء.

وحضر جمال باشا فأمر أن يستنطقونا من جديد، فشرعوا يتهددونا بالضرب، لأنهم رغبوا أن نوافقهم على بعض الإقرارات فرفضنا بتاتاً، وهكذا استنطقونا وقضينا أثناء الاستنطاق من العذاب ما يشيب له رأس الطفل، وكانت الحكومة في أثناء ذلك توسع دائرة التحقيقات بواسطة جواسيسها وهم (……) وغيرهم من الجواسيس، وقضينا هذه المدة ننتظر الإعدام يوماً فيوماً، أما عن حمص فلم تسألني الحكومة شيئاً لأني قلت لهم أني خرجت من حمص صغيراً، ولا معرفة لي بأحد منها أبداً، وقد صار لي من اليوم ستة أشهر وثمانية أيام ونحن ننتظر الإعدام يوماً فيوماً، لأن الحكومة لا تطبق قوانينها، بل لها سياسة خاصة في هذه الحالة، وإلا فإنه لا يوجد جرم في الحقيقة أبدا، ولكن هذه السياسة قاتلها الله.

هذا هو تاريخ حالتي عن حياتي في السجن، وكنت أتلقى كل هذه الأمور بصدر رحب، وكنت أضحك من هذه الأوهام وأنظر الموت كما ينظر العطشان إلى الماء، لأني مؤمن بالله وبالآخرة، ومعتقد أن الآخرة أحسن من الدنيا وإذا كان في الموت فراق الأحباب، ففي الآخرة أجتمع بوالدي وأختي وأخي وكثيرين من أقاربي، ولا يؤلمني إلا أمر واحد، وهو أنكم تعبتم كثيراً لأجلي، ولم تحصدوا شيئاً من تعبكم، ولكن استشهادي هو أعظم وأشرف نتيجة تحصدونها، فتصوروا أني مسافر إلى أميركا وأني ناجح في أعمالي، وهل نجاح أعظم من هذا النجاح؟ أنتم الآن لا تدركون معنى هذا النجاح ولكن المستقبل سيعرف حقيقتي، وحينئذ ترفعون رؤوسكم افتخاراً.n>

أما من جهة المعيشة فلا أخاف عليكم، لأنكم جميعكم قادرون على تحصيل معاشكم، ولا يوجد عندكم أولاد صغار وعجز، فإياكم والحزن، لأني أكره الحزن والحزانى، وثقوا بأن روحي ترفرف دائماً فوقكم فأرى كل حركة من حركاتكم، فأراكم ولا ترونني، فإذا حزنتم أهرب من عندكم، وإياكم أن تغيروا ثيابكم أو عادة من عاداتكم، ولقد تركت لكم أثراً من بعدي. أذكر منه كتاب الاقتصاد وإذا وجدتم فرصة فاطبعوا كتاب حقوق الدول الذي نشرته في المهذب، ثم اجمعوا المقالات التي كتبتها في المقتطف في رسالات خصوصية، وإني أحمد الله لأنني عشت شريفاً وأموت شريفاً، وأما الجواسيس الذين تكلموا عني فإني أسامحهم، واكتبوا على قبري هذه الأبيات: ((وإن الذي بيني وبين بني أبي))

ثم إنني لا أنسى الجميل والالتفات الذي لقيته في بيت عمي بالشام، وأشكر جميع الأصدقاء الذين ساعدوني في سجني سواء مادة أو معنى، سلام لجميع الأقارب وعليكم أن تعتنوا بتربية أولاد أخي الثلاثة على المبادئ القومية، وعلموهم أن يعيشوا ويموتوا لأجل الوطن.

أما الدين الذي عليّ، فهو خمسمائة ليرة ذهبية لأخي شاكر، جزاه الله عني خيراً، ولا حاجة أن أوصيك يا أخي في العائلة وأن لا يكون موتي سبباً ليأسك، بل كن رجلاً كبيراً كما عرفتك، وما الحياة إلى منام أو خيال ينقضي، فلنجتمع في أحضان سارة وإبراهيم وحيث ندرك أن الدنيا لم تكن سوى منام رأيناه وانقضى وليكن الله معك.

في 22 آذار 1916

رفيق رزق سلوم

May 6th, 2010, 2:35 am


Averroes said:

Akbar Palace,

People like you keep reminding me that our quest is just, moral, and will not be abandoned even if it lasts a thousand years. Enjoy your toys while you can.

May 6th, 2010, 3:27 am


Shai said:


After reading Averroes response to your super-arrogant comment, what more do you want? Can you really not see how your arrogant approach serves no one, and only exacerbates the problem? If I was on the other side, and I’d hear someone like you, last thing I’d want to do is listen. I’d be busy planning to meet you, on the battlefield.

I always thought men who stuck their chest out farthest, had something else to hide… 😉

May 6th, 2010, 5:10 am


Ghat Albird said:

Netanyahu’s plan for the Middle East

“Forging A New U.S.-Israeli Relationship”

“Israel can make a clean break from the past and establish a new vision for the U.S.-Israeli partnership based on self-reliance, maturity and mutuality — not one focused narrowly on territorial disputes. Israel’s new strategy — based on a shared philosophy of peace through strength — reflects continuity with Western values by stressing that Israel is self-reliant, does not need U.S. troops in any capacity to defend it, including on the Golan Heights, and can manage its own affairs.” ( including the nuking of Iran back to the stone age? )

Looks like its time for killing at least 500,000 Iranian children!


May 6th, 2010, 12:07 pm


Off the Wall said:

Your statement sounds like an acknowledgment that Israel Benefits when the US is hurt. DO you really want to state that Israel Thrives on American Misery?….. I will quote your statement, I may even frame your comment and send it to MEMRI to show them how much damage they can do to the brain of anyone following their racist propaganda. Come to think of it, you may have a lawsuit on your hand.

I told you before, you should really ask for a refund from those teaching you communication skills.

May 6th, 2010, 1:13 pm


norman said:

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Syria says US sanctions on Damascus fuel hostility
By ALBERT AJI, The Associated Press
Updated 2:57 PM Wednesday, May 5, 2010

DAMASCUS, Syria — Syria on Wednesday criticized the United States’ renewal of sanctions against Damascus and warned that the penalties reinforce hostilities in the region.

The U.S. renewed the six-year-old economic and diplomatic sanctions Monday, saying Syria has made some progress containing terror networks that Washington says use the country to infiltrate Iraq but that Damascus continues to support terrorists and pursue weapons of mass destruction.

The Obama administration has reached out to Syria, trying to pry it away from the influence of Iran and encouraging it to end its support for Lebanese and Palestinian militant groups.

Deputy Foreign Minister Faysal Mekdad said the sanctions decision shows Washington “has lost its credibility” and failed to live up to its promises to Syria.

Mekdad acknowledged that privately the tone from Washington was more positive.

“What is being heard publicly from the Americans is exaggerated and what is happening behind closed doors is the exact opposite,” he told the Al-Watan daily.

The Al-Thawra newspaper, considered a government mouthpiece, called the sanctions “a disappointment” but added that Damascus was not surprised. It warned that the U.S. decision “would keep the region in a state of antagonism and wars.”

Obama’s predecessor, former President George W. Bush, first imposed the sanctions in May 2004, accusing Syria of supporting terrorism, pursuing weapons of mass destruction and undermining U.S. operations in Iraq.

The recent U.S. outreach has included high-level diplomatic contacts with Damascus and a decision to send an ambassador to Syria after a five-year absence.

But the ties suffered a setback after Israel accused Syria last month of sending Scud missiles to Lebanon’s Hezbollah militants. Syria denies sending any weaponry to Hezbollah. The Shiite militant group and Lebanese government officials have also rejected the accusation.

Addressing the Israeli claim, the U.S. said last month that it was increasingly concerned about what it described as the transfer of more sophisticated weaponry to Hezbollah.

On Wednesday, the commander of the U.N. peacekeeping force in southern Lebanon told the An-Nahar newspaper his forces had no evidence that Scud missiles had been sent to Hezbollah.

Maj. Gen. Alberto Asarta Cuevas told the Lebanese newspaper it would be difficult to hide such large weapons systems from the 12,000 peacekeepers and three Lebanese army brigades that patrol the area near the border with Israel.

Hezbollah says it has rockets and missiles capable of reaching anywhere in Israel, but the group is not believed to keep its longer range missiles in the U.N. force’s area of operations, where the international patrols closely watch for suspicious activity.


May 05, 2010 05:51 PM EDT

Copyright 2010, The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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May 6th, 2010, 1:39 pm


norman said:

Syria warm to Israel, officials say
Published: May 5, 2010 at 12:52 PM

JERUSALEM, May 5 (UPI) — Despite allegations of Scud missile transfers to Hezbollah, Israeli relations are a priority for Damascus, senior Israeli intelligence officials said.

U.S. and Israeli officials are wary of Syrian activity in the region following allegations that Damascus transferred Scud missiles to Hezbollah fighters in Lebanon. Despite the nomination of a new U.S. envoy to Damascus, U.S. President Barack Obama renewed a state of emergency regarding Syria this week.

Brig. Gen. Yossi Baidatz, the head of the Israeli army’s intelligence research division, told lawmakers in the Knesset that he felt Damascus was still interested in peace, Israeli newspaper Haaretz reports.

“A political settlement with Israel is high on Syria’s list of priorities and intelligence shows a will to reach an agreement — but on their terms, meaning a return of the Golan Heights and American involvement” he said.

Meanwhile, Haaretz added that unnamed Israeli defense officials believe Syria transferred M600 rockets to Hezbollah recently.

The report says the M600 is based on the Iranian Fateh-110, which can carry a 1,000-pound warhead more than 175 miles.

Haaretz warns, however, that senior Israeli defense officials have backed down on the Scud allegations, saying it is unclear whether Syria could have transferred such a large missile across national borders undetected.

© 2010 United Press International, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

May 6th, 2010, 1:43 pm


Husam said:

Scuds story did not pan out nor was it accepted as logical, so now they throw in another story..oops, not Scuds…M600…yeah that’s what they did. Lets see if this sticks on the wall. Of course it will, 97% of the media is owned by pro-israeli groups.

Unfortunately, the only way Americans will wake up is when things are really bad, worst than what they are now. They will begin, in larger numbers, to question the fraud.

May 6th, 2010, 2:01 pm


Ghat Albird said:

“Give credit where credit is due”.

Some “special/chosen people” excel at brainwashing having been
at it for centuries.Witness a statement made by the President of
the USA.

As recorded and noted by the ex-President of France:

“This confrontation [between the forces of the Apocalypse and
Israel] is willed by God, who wants to use this conflict to erase
his people’s enemies before a New Age begins”.

U.S. President George W. Bush (in a 2003 conversation with
French President Jacques Chirac)

May 6th, 2010, 2:33 pm


Ghat Albird said:

Harry S. Truman’s take on Jews.

“The Jews, I find, are very, very selfish. They care not how many Estonians, Latvians, Finns, Poles, Yugoslavs or Greeks get murdered or mistreated as D[isplaced] P[ersons] as long as the Jews get special treatment. Yet when they have power, physical, financial or political neither Hitler nor Stalin has anything on them for cruelty or mistreatment to the under dog.

Isn’t that just perceptive? According to news reports that while Jewish settlers were burning the mosque of the village of Yasuf near the city of Nablus in the West Bank they were writing on the walls of the village “WE’LL BURN YOU ALL”,

Paraphrasing the phrase German Nazis used to write on Jewish homes in the 1930s,

May 6th, 2010, 4:38 pm


why-discuss said:

Taking example on the Western media frenzy in printing lies and rumors about ‘rogue states’ ( i.e resisting to US and Israel pressure), I wonder why the arabic media do not carry similar ‘rumors’ on Israel that may bring attention especially if Israel denies them.


– ‘European scientific experts say that they suspect Israel is developing a new chemical gaz that it will infiltrate through the ground into Gaza. That chemical when drunk will make women unable to have childen.

– Military US officials, that cannot be named because of the sensitivity of the issue, are adamant that Israel is using the Dimona nuclear site to test new nuclear short effect bombs that have an immediate yet limited effect. They fear Israel may use it in the next round with Hezbollah.

– Dr Uri Mechtel, a renowned surgeon, has declared that the hospitals in Jerusalem are letting the arab-israelis wait undefinitely in the emergency rooms without treating them. Several arab-israelis has succumbed while waiting. He protested to the ethical committee of the Hospital but his request was ignored.

Bad taste? yes! More to add ….

May 6th, 2010, 4:54 pm


Husam said:

Why Discuss said:

“Taking example on the Western media frenzy in printing lies and rumors about ‘rogue states’ ( i.e resisting to US and Israel pressure), I wonder why the arabic media do not carry similar ‘rumors’ on Israel that may bring attention especially if Israel denies them.”

Very good point. But, which Arabic Media are you refering to?

AND MORE IMPORTANTLY why would would they spread “rumors” when the “truths”, the “footage” and the live “reporting” gets you nowhere!

May 6th, 2010, 5:32 pm


Alex said:

Ghat, please do not post any quotes about Jews. This is the same thing I would have asked Akbar Palace if he posted similar quotes (and there are many) about Muslims. we need to leave religion out of it

You can criticize “Settlers” or “Israel” or “Zionists” as much as you want, just like Akbar has been critical of “Baathists” or “Syria”.

May 6th, 2010, 8:12 pm


Alex said:

Husam and W-D

Here is a real story (not a rumor) about Israeli misconduct, coming from an Arab country as you just requested : )

But of course nothing will come out of it.

Dubai official tells Wall Street Journal new names bring to 32 number of people identified as wanted in senior Hamas man’s death. International investigators probing whether one suspect is Zev Barkan, who is being sought by police in New Zealand in separate case

Officials in the United Arab Emirates have identified five new suspects in their probe of the January killing of senior Hamas figure Mahmoud al-Mabhouh, a person familiar with the investigation told the Wall Street Journal.

The new names bring to 32 the number of people identified by Dubai police as wanted in their probe of the killing.

The person also said that international investigators believed a man identified earlier this year as a suspect could be sought by New Zealand in connection with passport fraud there. Separately, the person said international investigators were probing whether one suspect identified earlier was Zev Barkan, a man being sought by police in New Zealand in a separate case: .

In 2004, two Israeli citizens were sentenced by a New Zealand court to six-month jail terms for their role in attempting to fraudulently obtain a New Zealand passport. Barkan was sought by the police in connection with the case but fled the country and is believed to be still at large.

“Several agencies believe it is the same man,” the person familiar with the investigation told the Wall Street Journal.

The 2004 case led to a diplomatic incident between New Zealand and Israel, after Wellington officials said Barkan had been an Israel government official who served in embassies in Vienna and Brussels.

About a year later, Israel apologized to New Zealand for the involvement of its citizens in the incident and the relations between the two countries were restored.

Dubai police commander Dahi Khalfan Tamim said early last month that the investigation had revealed that there were residents in Gulf who had worked for the Israeli Mossad agency.

“Elements in our society have been hired for Israeli goals,” he said, refusing to elaborate.

The British secret intelligence service (MI6) suspects that airline staff working for the Mossad may have copied thousands of British passports, some of which were used in the assassination of Mabhouh in Dubai, the News of the World tabloid reported recently.

According to the report, British authorities are also concerned about security searches carried out on British officials attending a terrorism conference in Israel last September.

May 6th, 2010, 8:17 pm


Hassan said:

Schenker’s latest analysis on the Syrian delivery of Scuds to Hezbollah.

I wonder if Landis will ever speak out about Syrian recklessness?

It’s Not the Scuds, It’s Support for the Resistance
By David Schenker
BitterLemons International
May 6, 2010

In late March, reports emerged in the Kuwaiti press that Syria had transferred Scud missiles to Hizballah. One month on, news of the Scud transfer continues to reverberate in Washington and the Middle East. A congressional resolution condemning Syria has been drafted and the confirmation of the Obama administration’s ambassador-designate to Damascus has been delayed. Meanwhile, tensions on the Lebanese-Israeli border have spiked, once again raising the specter of war.

Despite the fact that no authoritative evidence has been presented showing that the transfer actually occurred, in many ways the reports appear credible. First, the Israeli accusations were tabled by two unlikely officials — President Shimon Peres and Minister of Defense Ehud Barak — who are well-known supporters of Israeli-Syrian peace negotiations. Likewise, although Washington has not officially confirmed the transfer, several statements — including one from Chair of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence Dianne Feinstein and another off-the-record statement by a senior administration official to the Wall Street Journal — have lent weight to the allegations.

At the same time, the transfer of Scuds to Hizballah would be entirely consistent with the reckless and provocative policies pursued by Syrian President Bashar Assad in recent years. Despite the risks, for example, Damascus for years openly facilitated the movement of insurgents into Iraq to kill Americans and destabilize its neighbor. And Syria — which proclaims that its “foreign policy depends on supporting the resistance” — has a track record of providing top-shelf weapons to Hizballah, including the Russian-made Kornet anti-tank system and its own indigenously-produced 220mm anti-personnel rockets. In this regard, the Scuds — if transferred — would represent a change of magnitude but not of kind.

Not surprisingly, Damascus and Beirut — which increasingly is parroting the Syrian line — have denied the Scud reports. Indeed, in a recent interview with the Italian daily La Stampa, Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri derisively likened the Scud claims to faulty US intelligence on Iraqi weapons of mass destruction (WMD).

Meanwhile, in typical fashion, Hizballah has neither confirmed nor denied the Scud transfer, preferring, in its own inimical way, constructive ambiguity. Hizballah’s reaction in fact has been quite similar to the way the organization responded last year to reports that Syria provided it with the IGLA advanced anti-aircraft system, a weapon many analysts believe the Shi’ite militia has indeed obtained.

The Scud crisis is to some extent a tempest in a teapot. An antiquated system, the Scud is more a psychological than strategic threat to Israel. While the missile is capable of carrying WMD warheads or a heavy payload in excess of 1,000 pounds, it does little to expand the already impressive arsenal that Syria has helped Hizballah to acquire. Likewise, this heavy weapon would seem an anathema to the successful highly mobile insurgency tactics employed by the organization since its inception. On April 15, an article in the Kuwaiti daily Al Rai laid out why Hizballah — irrespective of whether the transfer occurred — does not consider the Scud to be a significant upgrade to its armory.

According to the anonymous Hizballah official interviewed, while the Scud has a range of 1,000-1,500 kilometers, the fire prep time is a lengthy 45-60 minutes, and it is only accurate to five kilometers. (Reports in the western press suggest the weapon in question, the Scud D variant, is accurate to within 50 meters). Meanwhile, the official said, Hizballah already possesses the Iranian-made (Syria-provided) Fatah-110, which takes “less than four minutes for an experienced hand” to launch and is accurate to within 5-10 meters. Of course, the payload capacity and range are less, but 250 kilometers, the Hizballahi says, “is the distance required for precise strikes in all the land of occupied Palestine”. The Fatah-110 is also WMD capable.

Given the negligible strategic benefit the Scud constitutes for Hizballah — as well as the logistical headaches involved with establishing an infrastructure for the nearly 40 feet tall weapon and its challenging liquid fuel rocket — and the minimal additional detrimental impact for Israel, the real question is: why have the reports emerged now? Some analysts in the region, including senior officials of the militia, suggest that the government of Israel invented the issue to distract from its current bilateral problems with the Obama administration. Based on Washington’s sympathetic response to Israeli claims, however, this explanation isn’t particularly convincing.

More likely, Damascus and Tehran engineered the Scud crisis to divert US-led efforts to build an international coalition to sanction Iran for its nuclear endeavors. Indeed, the timing of the reports is eerily reminiscent of Hizballah’s cross-border operation on July 12, 2006, which occurred the same day the P-5+1 meeting in Paris was slated to refer the Iranian nuclear issue to the UN Security Council. The kidnapping/killing of Israeli soldiers sparked a war that effectively purchased Tehran nearly another year of unfettered enrichment activity. (While it’s impossible to know with any certainty, the new diversion initiative might have been what was discussed at the February 2010 meeting in Damascus between Assad, Hizballah leader Hassan Nasrallah and Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmedinezhad).

Today, though tensions remain high, both Israel and Hizballah do not appear interested in an escalation. And until the next war, it will likely not be known whether Hizballah in fact obtained the Scuds from Syria. Nevertheless, for Washington the crisis is a useful reminder that Damascus, whether innocent or guilty of this particular transfer, continues to provide the Shi’ite militia with increasingly advanced capabilities that will make the next war even costlier for Lebanon and Israel. But for Washington, the Scud issue should prompt more than just a temporary refocusing on the well-intentioned but poorly implemented United Nations Security Council Resolution 1701, which calls for Syria to end weapons transfers to its Iranian-backed allies in Lebanon.

That the Assad regime is upping the ante with Israel via Hizballah at the very moment Washington is working to deepen its diplomatic engagement with Damascus should give the Obama administration pause. If this unhelpful Syrian behavior continues, the Obama administration will likely arrive at the same conclusion the Bush administration reached in 2004: that Damascus actually is — as it so vociferously claims to be — a regime dedicated to supporting “the resistance.” One year into President Barack Obama’s tenure, it may be too early to declare the Syria policy a failure. But the administration’s decision earlier this month to renew sanctions against Damascus just might suggest a growing appreciation in the White House as to the nature of the Syrian regime and perhaps for the limits of diplomatic engagement with this self-defined resistance state.

David Schenker is the Aufzien Fellow and director of the Program on Arab Politics at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy.

May 6th, 2010, 8:34 pm


Alex said:

I love it! … Israel’s friends have a well established procedure to make their anti-Syria cases:

1) make the accusers appear credible:

“Despite the fact that no authoritative evidence has been presented showing that the transfer actually occurred, in many ways the reports appear credible. First, the Israeli accusations were tabled by two unlikely officials — President Shimon Peres and Minister of Defense Ehud Barak — who are well-known supporters of Israeli-Syrian peace negotiations.” … and “and another off-the-record statement by a senior administration official to the Wall Street Journal — have lent weight to the allegations.”

2) Make anyone who denies it not credible:

“Not surprisingly, Damascus and Beirut — which increasingly is parroting the Syrian line — have denied the Scud reports. Indeed, in a recent interview with the Italian daily La Stampa, Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri derisively likened the Scud claims to faulty US intelligence on Iraqi weapons of mass destruction (WMD). “

So .. Shimon Peres is now considered trustworthy?? … lol

And that “off-the-record statement by a senior administration official to the Wall Street Journal” … could it be the other trustworthy and 100% neutral … Dennis Ross?

And finally … Saad Hariri is now a bad guy? He was only a hero when he used to help Schenker and Israel’s friends in criticizing Syria after former Bush ambassador to Lebanon Jeff Feltman suggested it to him in their daily meetings?

It seems Israel’s friends and American right wing lunatics want to lead us to another bloody war. They are the top real war criminals and terrorists on this planet today. Ahmadinejad only talks .. they organize, cooperate and lie all over the place hoping to achieve their next mass killing “success” .. it is the only thing they will succeed at. Their large strategy will be defeated again.

Dear David … if after ONE YEAR you want President Obama to give up on Syria and consider his policy a failure (even though there was partial success in Iraq and Lebanon, and you know it), why should the Syrians and the poor Palestinians continue to believe Israeli intentions and stick to their peace negotiations with Israel that started OVER 20 YEARS ago without seeing the day Israel finally respects IN FULL the tens of UN resolutions that make it clear it is in constant violation of the will of the international community?

May 6th, 2010, 8:59 pm


Ghat Albird said:

ALEX said:

Ghat, please do not post any quotes about Jews.


What do the members of the ADL call themselves? Zionists..Israelis… settlers or is the word Jew only to be spoken or written by Jews?

The US has as yet to deny its citizens the use of the word Jew. Until it does i have the right to use the word Jew whether you like it or not.

If the ADL believes that it has the right to define its existance as Jewish it must be appropriate for others to use the word Jew.or else whats the justification for its existance?

By the way ALEX the “settlers”, “israelis” and “zionists” in the rogue state of Israel are they by chance, mormons, hindus, buddists, gypsis, moldavains or are they not all Jews?

Nothing last forever.

May 6th, 2010, 9:47 pm


Joshua said:


I second Alex’s request. It gets very repetitive and offensive. You have made your feelings about Jews clear.

May 6th, 2010, 10:24 pm


Ghat Albird said:

Medvedev to make landmark visit to Syria

Two-day trip on May 10-11 will be first ever visit to Syria by any Russian or Soviet head of state.

MOSCOW – President Dmitry Medvedev will travel to Syria next week, the Kremlin said Wednesday, the first visit by a Kremlin chief as Russia seeks to tighten ties with Cold War-era allies in the Middle East.

“Russian President Dmitry Medvedev will visit the Syrian Arab Republic on an official visit on May 10-11,” the Kremlin said in a statement.

May 6th, 2010, 11:54 pm


Akbar Palace said:

Communication Skills NewZ

10. Off the Wall said:

Your statement sounds like an acknowledgment that Israel Benefits when the US is hurt.


These are the unintended consequences. To anyone with half or even a quarter of a brain, it is in Israel’s best interest to support the US. And Israel DOES support the US and has the closest voting record to the US in the UN. Israel also has great economic exchange with the US in the medical field, technology, defense, etc. And for all intents and purposes, the US is Israel’s sole ally as well as the home to half of the world jewish population.

Terrorism (aka “resistance”) has always hurt the Arab cause. However, the governments of Iran, Syria, the PA, and their supporters (like Professor Josh) believe that terrorism will win. They believe enough terrorism will make it easier for Western governments like the US to pressure a single country like Israel, rather then “take-on” a billion and one-half Muslims. If Pat Buchanan, Ron Paul, and the Leftists had their way, Israel would have already been left to fend for herself.

DO you really want to state that Israel Thrives on American Misery?

Clearly, American misery doesn’t help Israel. A strong America is good for Israel. That is why Israelis aren’t trying to bomb the US.

May 7th, 2010, 1:34 am


Husam said:

Alex, Joshua:

I think if you want to leave religion out of it…then take out “religion” from your Syria Comment heading on top right corner.


I think what Alex & Josh mean is nothing is achieved by launching a negative campaign against Jews, it will be interpreted has hatred. Some Jews are good, some are bad, some are even worst like every religion, race, etc…

What bothers me, is that when Muslims get bundled up or Islam gets attacked as the source of all evil, you don’t see the same amount of referees throwing the red flag so fast.

May 7th, 2010, 1:47 am


Ghat Albird said:


I very much appreciate your comments.

Whats so puzzling is that Israel demands and is enforcing its views that it an it alone has the right to call Jerusalem its capital [meaning excluding other religions]
and is not sensitive about its intention to have an exclusive ethnic/religious state comprised of only one religion that no ONE has the right to call it by its rightful name.

As repeated over the years “nothing lasts for ever.”


May 7th, 2010, 2:22 am


norman said:

I do not know if i should jump in , but it looks to me that generalization is not good , not all Jews are rich or cheep , not all Arabs and Muslims are terrorists and not all Christian follow Christianity and are peace loving , many of them are murderers ,

Ghat , Husam , I understand your frustration about the western media, bundling all of us as terrorists ,dirty accusing everybody who is fighting Israel supremacy in the Mideast as terrorists , watching Fox news makes more angry than watching Al Jazeera and seeing dead bodies by American made Israeli bombs

Still , there are many good Jews who fear GOD,good Arabs , and bad Arabs , i think Mubarak is worse than Netanyahu , at least netanyahu stabbs in your face while Egypt Mubarak stabbs in the back ,

By the way these organizations who use Jewish in their names do that so they claim antisemitism if they are to be criticized ,

May 7th, 2010, 2:31 am


Alex said:

Ghat albird, Husam

First I’ll speak as a moderator:

“religion” in Syria Comment’s heading never meant anyone is welcome to attack the followers of any Middle Eastern religion. This blog’s rules are clear. If anyone feels like exposing what he or she perceive as some sick trait that ALL followers of some religion share, this is simply not the place to do that. There are many other blogs that are full of comments by people who hate Jews, Muslims, shia Muslims, infidels and crusaders. Syria comment’s comments section is read by a large number of leaders, diplomats, journalists, analysts … Please help us keep it pleasant enough. Respecting the rules of this blog is not optional.

Now I’ll write my personal opinion:

I understand your frustration with the attitudes and behaviors of a large percentage of Israeli Jews. I was shocked when I read that 94% of them supported their ugly army’s war crimes in Gaza. And I also realize that THEY (right wing Israelis) are forcing everyone to think that they represent Judaism. That makes it difficult to avoid criticizing Jews when you criticize the endless sequence of crimes committed by Israel … “the Jewish state”

But what applies to 94% of Israelis does not apply to the remaining 6% and does not apply to the over 70% of American Jews who voted for Obama and who support a land for peace agreement. Did you read what a large number of European Jewish intellectuals have been saying or writing to express their disapproval of Israel’s actions?

Please try harder to find a more reasonable and more fair approach to expressing your opinions without generalizations.

It is really not fair to generalize.

May 7th, 2010, 5:30 am


Shai said:

Alex, Ghat,

Please understand that the minute we bring religion into the equation, we lose all moderates as well. It is simply too powerful to resist, and we automatically fear a total attack on us, because we’re Jews, or because we’re Muslim, etc.

After the 9/11 attack, I found it sickening to watch Muslim leaders needing to defend Islam, because so many were quickly generalizing about all Muslims. While it is so easy to generalize, it is also so dangerous. Who’s to say we won’t have more Holocausts, if we allow generalizations to go unchallenged.

I don’t think I’ve ever been as impressed with a nation, as I am with Germany, as I watch the thousands and tens of thousands stand up to Neo-Nazis and say “We will not accept you!”

I agree with Norman, when certain pro-Israel organizations call themselves “Jewish this-and-that” they are doing so, amongst other reasons, to protect themselves of harsh criticism, by calling it whenever it appears anti-Semitism. Personally, I hate seeing the word Jewish in those groups, precisely because of the harm they have to our religion and to generalizations against it, when they express their often extremist views.

May 7th, 2010, 6:48 am


Shai said:

The Headline today on Ma’ariv (mainstream newspaper in Israel) says: “Heads of The Defense Establishment: ‘Immediate Negotiations with Assad'”.

This is super-important. It will be difficult for Netanyahu’s government to disregard this urgent call. It seems there are enough wise-men in Israel’s Security, Defense, and Intelligence apparatuses that recognize the danger in continuing along Israel’s current path of arrogance.

(Alex, a note about the infamous “94%”: While it is true that in the opening hours of Operation Cast Lead, the first poll taken did show historic and overwhelming support, with each day that passed, the numbers dropped. More grew critical, though not enough. If I had to guess, I would say that Israel over the past 4-5 years has been split along approximately 70% against return of land and rights to the Arabs, and 30% for it. Our next “War” should be over converting 20% over to the other side. They were there, just a decade and a half ago, and they will come back. I am absolutely sure of it.)

May 7th, 2010, 7:01 am


Ghat Albird said:

I am taking this opportunity to extend thanks and appreciation to SC for allowing me to participate on its forum. And to request a consideration of the following.

“Are not the long term goals of Israelis to create and maintain a strictly “Jewish” [religion] state? If so. Is it not logical then that they are the ones that are responsible for bringing the word “Jew” into any and all discussions?

Congratulations on the visit of President Medvedev with President Assad.

May 7th, 2010, 12:59 pm


Yossi said:


You ask an excellent question and I agree with you (as does Alex) that because (many/some) Jews simultaneously wish to be considered members of a religion AND ALSO a people with self-determination rights, in Israel/Palestine, they invite your criticism.

And indeed a lot of the information you have provided has been thought-provoking, e.g., the control over the American Federal Reserve. (How does that happen and what does it mean?)

However, you must understand that 95%+ of “Jews” are simple people who would like to get along and raise their children in safety and prosperity. They are not part of any scheming, that more powerful Jews might be engaged in or have been engaged in. Indeed, the Jewish masses always pay the prices for such scheming/overplaying their positions, as history taught us.

Also, consider that the evidence that you bring almost invariably deals with Ashkenazi Jewish elites. The Mizrahi/Oriental Jews were never a part of this story, as a collective. In Israel, they have been co-opted into defending/building the state (which is fairly reasonable for them to do, after they were kicked out of the their countries and had nowhere else to go), but in the US, they have nothing to do with the overbearing control over government that you often describe.

So that’s another distinction that you usually fail to make. In short, your criticism should be direct to a thin layer of Ashkenazi elite in the US and Israel.

Finally, you do monopolize discussion in an internet forum that is supposed to be about Syria. I would hope that Syrian endeavor does not being and end with endless consideration of Jews in America or elsewhere. This will not move Syria forward, naturally.

May 7th, 2010, 3:15 pm


Alex said:


I agree with Yossi, that AIPAC has only 100,000 members, most American Jews have nothing to do with power games that some a minority of American Jews love to play.

But I am unhappy with the silence of the majority. I hope they, being clearly anti war, would be more active in trying to stop the next war. Nothing less than their active opposition to AIPAC’s massive machine will do. J-street is 100 times smaller than AIPAC

In Israel, I tend to agree with Shai’s 70/30 split … 30% of Israeli Jews still value peace to some extent, the other 70 % are bad news… Many of them spoiled and arrogant, just like their current government. The large number of Russian and eastern European Jews who grew up in a totally failed communist system and moved overnight to the middle east’s very successful mini-superpower got the worst symptoms of sudden power corruption… Just like some of those who win the lottery and wake up new millionaires. The difference is that they attributed their sudden success to the fact they are Jews … The Jewish people living in the Jewish state are successful, unlike the Russians they lived with before.

Then the Bush admin pampered all Israelis for 8 years … And now Obama is expected to take away from them that unlimited love and understanding,… it won’t go too well.

May 7th, 2010, 9:07 pm


Husam said:


1- You said (post #19) “we need to keep religion out of it”, period. In (post #29), you made it more clear. I agree, and thank you. I despise generalisations too.

2- You said (post #34): “Then the Bush admin pampered all Israelis for 8 years … And now Obama is expected to take away from them that unlimited love and understanding,… it won’t go too well.”

Alex I can’t understand, for the life of me, why you keep playing with this Bush-Obamania-Palin Presidency when you know fully well, as most of your comments seem to agree with, that Washington is controlled? It is has nothing to do with unlimited love of Israel, and everything to do with the same master who puts them in/out of office in the first place. I am sure you read most comments on SC as a moderator; Just yesterday I quoted what Woodrow Wilson said:

“A great industrial nation is controlled by it’s system of credit. Our system of credit is concentrated in the hands of a few men. We have come to be one of the worst ruled, one of the most completely controlled and dominated governments in the world– no longer a government of free opinion, no longer a government by conviction and vote of the majority, but a government by the opinion and duress of small groups of dominant men.”

Clearly contrary to what you stated, Obama has “taken nothing away”, actually as other commentators on SC posted, US & Israel today are more strategically united than ever. What we are seeing is change of style, but the owner is one!!!

May 8th, 2010, 3:07 am


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