Anti-Abbas Palestinian protesters. (AP Photo/Adel Hana)
Anti-Abbas Palestinian protesters. (AP Photo/Adel Hana)

A top Abbas advisor claims “there is suspicious and dangerous coordination” between Israel and Hamas, accusing the Jewish state of collaborating with the terrorist group in an improbable scheme to “assassinate” the Palestinian leader.

By United with Israel Staff, with files from Palestinian Media Watch

Palestinian Authority (PA) President Mahmoud Abbas’ advisor on religious affairs, Mahmoud Al-Habbash, accused Israel and the Hamas terror group of planning “an attack against Abbas” in the official PA daily Al-Hayat Al-Jadida according to a report by Palestinian Media Watch (PMW).

“[B]oth Israel and Hamas incite against [Abbas] morning and night, challenge his legitimacy, and want to assassinate him,” continued the piece in Al-Hayat Al-Jadida.

Back in October, Al-Habbash called Hamas “a contemptible tool in the hands of Israel and America,” reported PMW.

Abbas himself appeared to promote the theory that Israel is out to get him, invoking the canard that Israel assassinated former PA leader and arch-terrorist Yasser Arafat

“They can kill me in my home with bullets or with a missile at any given moment. They can also kill me with poison, as they poisoned the late President Yasser Arafat,” Abbas told Al-Hayat Al-Jadida. With regard to Arafat, scientists have debunked this conspiracy theory.

Al-Hayat Al-Jadida columnist Bassem Barhoum also pushed the myth that Israel and Hamas are in cahoots, referring to Hamas terrorists who broke into the Palestine Broadcasting Corporation (PBC) office in Gaza and destroyed equipment as a “Zionist pawn[s].”

Barhoum took the wild fantasies a step further, accusing Hamas of committing suicide attacks on Israeli civilians to “serve[] Zionism” and give “[Israel] an excuse not to carry out the stages of withdrawal from the Palestinian territories.”



NATO – ready for anything?


Would NATO be ready to deal with the level of military might on display during Exercise Vostok (“East”) in September 2018, if Russia were to deploy a similar number of troops and equipment along its western borders? Does NATO have the military strength and mobility to match such a show of force? Could Allies provide the necessary infrastructure to support a military deployment on this scale? Does the Alliance have an adequate response for the hybrid tactics that Russia would be likely to employ?

Readiness has been at the top of NATO’s agenda since 2014. But a look back over the past seven decades of the history of the Alliance shows that many of the current issues surrounding readiness, successful deterrence and reassurance are not new.

According to Russia’s senior military leaders approximately 300,000 troops – as well as 1,000 fixed-wing aircraft and helicopters, 80 ships, and 36,000 tanks, armoured and other vehicles – participated in VOSTOK 2018, an exercise unprecedented in scale since the Cold War.

© Modern Diplomacy

The way it was

It is said that, for 40 years, NATO successfully did what it was established to do. It had a singular strategic aim: to deter a Soviet invasion of Western Europe. The Allies had no doubt about the threat to their national security and that it had to be matched by the necessary forces, which would persuade Moscow the Alliance was credible.

But is our memory entirely accurate? Contrary to common belief, it is also important to note that NATO, from its outset, did not have a single purpose. In fact, the Alliance’s creation was part of a broader effort to serve three purposes: deterring Soviet expansionism, preventing the revival of nationalist militarism in Europe, and encouraging European political integration.

In the post-Second World War years, Western European nations faced a political and economic dilemma. Governments changed and had little interest in military spending – indeed, they were under considerable pressure from across the Atlantic to settle the debts that had arisen from the United States’ commitment to its European allies. Effectively, this was Peace Dividend Number One, and Allied troop numbers in Europe dropped from around 4.5 million in May 1945 to less than one million by the end of 1946.

The very establishment of the Alliance was such a strong reassurance measure that its member states were soon clamouring for further cuts to military forces, arguing that NATO provided such a strong political deterrent that a military presence in strength was not necessary. This was Peace Dividend Number Two! To some extent, the Korean War reversed that thinking because of fears that Moscow would take advantage of the deployment of large numbers of forces on the Korean peninsula to launch an attack against Western Europe. This led to the agreement of ambitious NATO force goals at the Lisbon meeting in 1952 but it soon became clear that these could not be met.

Somewhat ironically, as a consequence of the Soviet Union’s nuclear build up following its detonation of a nuclear weapon in 1949, NATO’s policy of “Massive Retaliation” was also quoted as a reason why a build-up of conventional forces was not necessary. Allies were simply not prepared to meet the costs involved and, as the Alliance approached its third birthday, it was already learning that political ambition was one thing – putting boots on the ground was something else.

NATO settled into its “New Look” policy throughout the 1950s, which aimed to give greater military effectiveness without having to spend more on defence. This, of course, demanded an absolute reliance on the nuclear capability of the United States and, with the slight exception of France and the United Kingdom, European Allies were more than content to live under the perceived security of the ‘Transatlantic Umbrella’.

Throughout the 1960s, NATO embraced détente as a political tool to enhance dialogue with Warsaw Pact countries. Despite the Cuban missile crisis, and tensions over Vietnam, a cautious dialogue was established with Moscow. “Massive Retaliation” gradually became “Flexible Response”, which put greater emphasis on the need for robust conventional forces.

A main battle tank (M60A3) of the 3rd Armored Division drives through the Fulda Gap – an area between the Hesse-Thuringian border and Frankfurt am Main that contains two corridors of lowlands through which tanks might have driven in a surprise attack effort by the Soviets and their Warsaw Pact allies to gain crossing of the Rhine River – 1985. © US Army

So, by the mid 1980s, NATO’s 16 member states could claim a military strength of over five million personnel. At the peak of the Cold War, just under three million personnel and 100 army Divisions were on the ground in Europe and committed to NATO. A further 30 Divisions and 1.7 million personnel were at high readiness. More than 400,000 US personnel were based on the European continent.1 NATO was ready, but for only one scenario.

Conceptually speaking

Large international organisations are often resistant to change. However, in November 1991, six months after the collapse of the Warsaw Pact, NATO issued its new Strategic Concept as a public document for the first time. It set a new tone and the opening words of its conclusion are significant:

“This Strategic Concept reaffirms the defensive nature of the Alliance and the resolve of its members to safeguard their security, sovereignty and territorial integrity. The Alliance’s security policy is based on dialogue; co-operation; and effective collective defence as mutually reinforcing instruments for preserving the peace. Making full use of the new opportunities available, the Alliance will maintain security at the lowest possible level of forces consistent with the requirements of defence. In this way, the Alliance is making an essential contribution to promoting a lasting peaceful order.”

This was a very clear message that NATO’s military footprint in Europe was about to reduce significantly (the best-known Peace Dividend) and signalled that the Allies intended to develop close ties with former adversaries.

Following the collapse of the Warsaw Pact in March 1991, foreign ministers and representatives of 16 NATO Allies and nine Central and Eastern European countries attend the inaugural meeting of the North Atlantic Cooperation Council in December 1991. On the same day, developments in Moscow marked the effective end of the Soviet Union. © NATO

NATO’s next Strategic Concept was published in 1999, coincident with the 50th anniversary of the Alliance. Not surprisingly, it committed the Allies to common defence and peace and stability of the wider Euro-Atlantic area. Importantly, it identified new risks that had emerged since the end of the Cold War, including terrorism, ethnic conflict, human rights abuses, political instability, economic fragility, and the spread of nuclear, biological and chemical weapons and their means of delivery. The strategy called for the continued development of the military capabilities needed for the full range of the Alliance’s missions, from collective defence to peace-support and other crisis-response operations. NATO was, in effect, asking its members to do more, militarily, across a wider geographic footprint.

NATO’s current Strategic Concept, published in 2010, lays out the Allies’ vision for an evolving Alliance that will remain able to defend its members against modern threats. It commits NATO to become more agile, more capable and more effective, urging Allies to invest in key capabilities to meet emerging threats. It highlights the need for NATO to remain ready to play an active role in crisis-management operations, whenever it is called to act.

This is an ambitious global outlook which requires firm commitment and investment by member states. But at the same time, it was agreed during a period of significant austerity; it points to the need for NATO to remain cost-effective and makes continuous internal reform a key aspect of the way the Alliance will do business in the future.

NRF – Not Really Functional?

During the Cold War, NATO had the luxury of knowing where it would be fighting, should the need arise. It made sense to maintain high levels of in-place forces and allow them to train for battle on the very ground on which they would ultimately have to fight. More than three million troops were on the ground in Europe, but more than half that number again were at a high state of readiness away from the theatre of potential operations.

A consequence of the drawdown of US forces in Europe in the 1960s and 1970s was the commitment to reinforce in-place forces rapidly and robustly should the need arise. The term “REFORGER” (Return of Forces to Germany) is now becoming a distant memory but it really should have a more prominent place in military history than it currently enjoys. In 1988, 125,000 personnel deployed across the Atlantic within 10 days. But it is not just the ability of military forces to react quickly that makes REFORGER so impressive. A deployment of this scale requires the mobilisation of civilian strategic transport assets, and the infrastructure to receive and re-deploy those forces on arrival on European soil. It is not just about military preparedness; civil preparedness is equally important.

In 1988, 125,000 personnel deployed across the Atlantic within ten days under “REFORGER” (Return of Forces to Germany), the US commitment to reinforce in-place forces rapidly and robustly should the need arise. © NATO

In addition, the Allies recognised that NATO’s flanks were a weak point. The Allied Command Europe Mobile Force was established in 1960 as a multinational immediate reaction force that could be sent at very short notice to any part of Allied Command Europe under threat. Its mission was to demonstrate the solidarity of the Alliance, and its ability and determination to resist all forms of aggression against any Ally. The greatest strength of the Mobile Force was that it was formed from national units that were permanently earmarked for that purpose, selected to meet the requirements of a particular task, and exercised regularly in that role. The Force was dissolved in 2002 in the flawed belief that its capabilities would be incorporated into NATO’s new concept of graduated readiness forces.

Thus, in November 2002, at the Prague Summit, Allied leaders agreed to “create a NATO Response Force (NRF) consisting of a technologically advanced, flexible, deployable, interoperable and sustainable force including land, sea, and air elements ready to move quickly to wherever needed, as decided by the Council.

However, it was not an easy birth. The decision was taken at a time when a number of Allies were heavily engaged in coalition operations outside the traditional NATO theatre. The concept of the NRF was (and is) that nations declare their forces for a six-month period. This raises a number of issues.

The first issue is the problem of continuity. Units are not permanently earmarked for NRF duties, so it is not a focus of their routine national training.

Second, many of the “technologically advanced” capabilities are in high demand and often unavailable. Force generation of NRF capabilities has largely been disappointing. At times, only 60 per cent of the required capability has been made available by contributing nations – often the critical enabling capabilities are the most difficult to source.

Third, funding of NRF – in accordance with traditional NATO policy – was agreed on the basis that “costs would lie where they fall”. This principle was tested when it was agreed that the NRF should be deployed in support of earthquake-relief efforts in Pakistan in late 2005. The nominated lead nation for that NRF rotation refused to bear the costs and a lengthy political debate ensued. So, the first operational use of the concept failed the “high readiness” test, underlining the need for funding reform.

Valiant attempts have been made to keep the NRF relevant. Significantly, the 2014 Wales Summit saw an agreement to enhance its capabilities in an effort to adapt and respond to emerging security challenges posed by Russia, as well as risks emanating from the Middle East and North Africa. Subsequently, a decision was taken to establish a Very High Readiness Joint Task Force within the NRF structure and to increase the size of the NRF to 40,000.

NATO’s Very High Readiness Joint Task Force – a rapidly deployable, multinational force made up of air, land, maritime and Special Operations forces – was established following decisions to improve Allied readiness taken at the 2014 NATO Summit in Wales. © EU Today

However, successfully implementing these decisions requires that contributing nations step up their commitment to provide the necessary forces. To date, that level of commitment has not been forthcoming. This undermines NATO’s credibility and calls into question its ability to deter aggression.

Keeping up standards

One of NATO’s greatest strengths during the Cold War era was interoperability: “the ability to act together coherently, effectively and efficiently to achieve Allied tactical, operational and strategic objectives.

The Alliance had for many years placed great emphasis on standardised doctrine, which was to become an essential element of command and staff training in all member countries. Tactics techniques and procedures were also standardised and units exercised frequently with their colleagues from other nations. Everything from ammunition, to fuel, to communications was compatible across all NATO assigned units. In fact, NATO standardisation was so successful that certain standards, such as aircraft refuelling connectors, were adopted by the Soviet military authorities.

NATO also had a strict programme of evaluation. Units declared available to NATO were subject to rigorous checks, often at no notice, to ensure that the standards set were maintained.

However, the 1990s saw the start of a gradual erosion of the very tight standards that had been employed until then. NATO-led operations in the western Balkans were based on the allocation of a particular geographical area to one lead nation with very little multinationalism within these areas. Similarly, at that time, little NATO doctrine was available that reflected Alliance policy for peacekeeping and post-conflict peace support, so individual nations tended to fall back on national policy and experiences.

This theme continued as NATO began its engagement in Afghanistan. The Allies adopted the concept of “Regional Leadership” whereby a “Lead Nation” pulled together a rather disparate group of nations, including operational partners that had never before been associated with a NATO operation. The Afghanistan theatre introduced additional complications. The specific requirements for operating in that theatre were such that many nations procured specialist equipment under urgent operational measures. These met national requirements but equipment and then tactics, techniques and procedures became less standardised across the theatre.

Map of Afghanistan showing the “Lead nations” of the Regional Commands of the International Security Assistance Force (7 April 2009). © NATO

Moreover, NATO-led missions and operations are increasingly being set up alongside coalition efforts. This causes confusion, both at the headquarters level and in the field, with personnel (and even theatre commanders) not sure whether they are working to national or NATO policy.

At the 2010 Lisbon Summit, Allied leaders stated that: “We will preserve and strengthen the common capabilities, standards, structures and funding that bind us together.” One can argue that NATO is failing to live up to that pledge.

Lack of commitment

Readiness is not easy to define. To judge the readiness of NATO forces, one must take a comprehensive view that takes into account both the operational and the organisational, or strategic, perspectives. At the unit level, readiness is about equipment, manning, training and interoperability. At the organisational level, readiness can be simply defined as “the ability of military forces to fight and meet the demands of assigned missions.2

Readiness comes down to one simple question: are we ready to win the next fight? But, to answer that question, it is necessary to know four things: what, when, where, and how.

In the Cold War era, this task was relatively easy. We might not have known when our military capabilities were required but we had a pretty good idea of what they would be required to do, and where and how they would do it. The unknown “when” was easily resolved by keeping the necessary forces on the ground in Western Europe at a high level of “readiness” and being prepared to reinforce those in-place units rapidly with equally “ready” forces.

Today, however, the uncertainty of the modern world (not to mention the pressure on national budgets) and the lack of an obvious and immediate threat to the territory of some of NATO’s member states, makes it difficult for them to make the necessary commitment. If Allies cannot commit to fund their defence forces properly, then it is unlikely that they will take the additional steps to prepare and commit them to NATO’s command and control.

This is why the present occupant of the White House, and his predecessor, have complained loudly about other Allies’ lack of commitment, and have attempted to define targets that might persuade their fellow heads of state and government to increase their level of commitment. Nevertheless, let us be absolutely clear on one point: the United States will not spend one cent of its defence budget unless it is in the interests of its own national priorities.

Again, though, this is not a new issue. In 1954, United States Secretary of State John Foster Dulles warned that: “If the European Defence Community should not become effective <…>, there would indeed be grave doubt as to whether Continental Europe could be made a place of safety. That would compel an agonizing reappraisal of United States policy.3

More recent, and better known, is the agreement on defence spending reached by Allied leaders at the Wales Summit, namely that the Allies will “aim to move towards the 2% guideline within a decade.” This is classic communiqué language. It leaves Allies with plenty of ‘wiggle room’ and presents an ambition that goes well beyond the attention span of most politicians.

More important perhaps but seldom quoted is the communiqué language that follows: “…. with a view to meeting their NATO Capability Targets and filling NATO’s capability shortfalls”. Because it does not set targets within the term of current governments, or even the next, it is simply passing the buck.

Stepping up readiness

At Wales, we also saw the launch of a Readiness Action Plan. The Summit Declaration states:

In order to ensure that our Alliance is ready to respond swiftly and firmly to the new security challenges, today we have approved the NATO Readiness Action Plan. It provides a coherent and comprehensive package of necessary measures to respond to the changes in the security environment on NATO’s borders and further afield that are of concern to Allies. It responds to the challenges posed by Russia and their strategic implications. It also responds to the risks and threats emanating from our southern neighbourhood, the Middle East and North Africa. The Plan strengthens NATO’s collective defence. It also strengthens our crisis management capability. The Plan will contribute to ensuring that NATO remains a strong, ready, robust, and responsive Alliance capable of meeting current and future challenges from wherever they may arise.

This is brave language. It requires an enormous commitment by Allies.

Events in the Balkans, Central Asia and the Middle East have demonstrated that NATO can no longer restrict its interests to the traditional Euro-Atlantic area. However, Russia’s invasion of the Crimean peninsula and continued activity in eastern Ukraine as well as its provocative military activities near NATO’s borders have shown that deterrence and defence remain as important as ever. So, in a world of shrinking defence budgets and changing political priorities, NATO has now committed itself do to what it was established to do and much more besides.

NATO’s strength will always be strategic. But to be credible it must have the ability and the will to defend its territory collectively as a last resort. For that, its member nations must demonstrate the necessary resolve.

While that commitment has been slow to materialise, steps are being taken to strengthen the Alliance’s readiness to fulfil its full range of obligations, and an improvement in coherence is visible.

A British Army convoy crosses the Øresund Bridge, which connects Denmark and Sweden, during a 2,000-km journey from the Hook of Holland to Norway for NATO exercise Trident Juncture 2018. Demonstrating the ability to move Allied forces into and across Europe at speed, and sustain them, was an important part of the exercise. © NATO

Military mobility is now a key focus of cooperation with the European Union. Moving Allied forces into and across Europe at speed, and sustaining them, is a significant logistic challenge involving many stakeholders at national and multinational levels.

NATO defence ministers endorsed a new US readiness initiative, at the 2018 NATO Summit in Brussels. Known as the “Four 30s”, it seeks to establish a “culture of readiness” to “provide forces <….> ready to fight at short notice, and <….> able to deploy swiftly through Europe.” The goal is to ensure that, by 2020, NATO has 30 mechanised battalions, 30 kinetic air squadrons and 30 naval combat vessels, able to be used within 30 days.

Unlike the vaguer aims for defence spending and capability targets agreed at Wales, this set of targets has a timescale that is within the term of most current NATO member governments – and therefore introduces a degree of accountability – and the targets are quantifiable.

But much more needs to be done. The Defence Planning Process should be more effective in terms of providing solid guarantees that the Supreme Allied Commander Europe will have the necessary forces and resources to do what is asked of him. This, in turn, drives the NATO force generation process that needs to be able to deliver the necessary forces quickly, without the political wrangle that has become so familiar in recent years.

Moreover, the Alliance needs to expand its relationship with member states and partner countries to develop a whole-of-government strategy to establish the relationships required to project stability successfully beyond its borders.

Finally, we might return once more to NATO’s beginnings. The following words were written in 1951. It was aimed at that time at Reserve Forces but might apply equally well to high-readiness forces in NATO’s current and future inventory:

Reserve forces must be given refresher training annually. In this respect, it is essential that a man receives his refresher training in the actual unit in which he will be mobilized. It follows from this that all reserve formations and units must actually exist in peace and that the number of reserve formations and units to be created in totality on mobilization must be reduced to the minimum; as any system for reserve, forces which depends solely on units being formed only on mobilization is totally incapable of meeting European defence requirements.

Painstaking progress towards these goals would help ensure that NATO will be ready to respond effectively to any threat, no matter what form it might take.

1 “U.S. Military Presence in Europe (1945-2016)”, U.S. EUCOM Communication and Engagement Directorate, 26 May 2016

2 “Defining readiness: Background and issues for Congress,” Congressional Research Service, 14 June 2017

3 “The ‘Agonizing Reappraisal’: Eisenhower, Dulles, and the European Defense Community”, Brian R. Duchin, 1992

Jonathan Hill is a former British military officer who served until 2006 in a number of NATO appointments, including NATO’s International Military Staff. From 2006 until 2018 he was employed as a NATO civilian in the Operations Division of NATO’s International Staff, focused on NATO’s activities in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iraq.

What is published in NATO Review does not necessarily represent the official position or policy of member governments, or of NATO.


Pakistan Equips Military With Tactical Nuke-capable Missile

By Ayaz Gul January 24, 2019

Pakistan launched a short-range ballistic missile Thursday, formally equipping the military with a nuclear-capable rocket that officials say would deter a surprise conventional attack against the country by rival India.

“This training exercise involved launching of quad salvo for desired effects. NASR is a high-precision, shoot-and-scoot weapon system with the ability of in-flight maneuverability,” the military announced in a statement.

Experts explained the weapon system’s ability to launch several missiles at once would allow Pakistan’s military to hit many targets at the same time.

Islamabad recently enhanced the NASR missile’s “flight maneuverability” and extended its range to 70 kilometers (43 miles) from 60 (37 miles).

U.S. concerned

The development of Pakistani tactical battlefield nuclear weapons has been a source of concern to the United States because their smaller size and quick deployment increases the risk of a nuclear conflict with India, say non-proliferation experts.

The Pakistani military noted in its statement the weapon system has augmented “credible deterrence” against the “prevailing and evolving threat spectrum, more effectively including enemy’s ballistic missile defense and other air defense systems.”

Pakistani officials say that the nation’s short-range battlefield NASR missile would deter the bigger neighbor India from imposing a sudden, limited assault with its massive conventional military force under New Delhi’s so-called “Cold Start” doctrine.

India buys Russian air defense system

India’s decision to buy the Russian-made S-400 Triumph air defense system has also raised alarms in Pakistan, where officials have warned the deal will “further destabilize strategic stability” and lead to a “renewed” arms race in South Asia.

Pakistan and India have fought three wars since gaining independence from Britain in 1947. The two countries have since equipped their armies with nuclear weapons, raising fears that another conventional conflict could escalate into a nuclear exchange.

The territorial dispute over Kashmir, which has sparked two wars, continues to strain bilateral ties and prevents India and Pakistan from resuming long-stalled political talks. Intermittent military clashes across the de facto Kashmir border also have become routine, causing dozens of casualties on both sides.


Iran Press TV

Israel deploys ‘Iron Dome’ after Syria warns of retaliatory strike on Ben Gurion airport

Iran Press TV
Jan 24, 2019

The Israeli military has deployed the so-called “Iron Dome” missile systems in Tel Aviv and other parts of the occupied territories after Syria warned of a retaliatory strike on the Ben Gurion airport if the UN fails to stop the regime’s aerial acts of aggression against the Arab country.

In a statement on Thursday, the Israeli military said it had set up an “Iron Dome” battery in the Tel Aviv metropolitan area and others were stationed in the southern parts of the Israeli-occupied territories near the blockaded Gaza Strip, where tensions have been running high with Palestinian protesters.

A number of reservists from the regime’s air force have also been called up to man the missile systems.

The announcement came after Syria’s UN Ambassador Bashar al-Ja’afari delivered a strong warning to the Israeli regime, which has recently stepped up its air strikes against Syrian soil.

One of the Israeli strikes targeted a civilian international airport near the Syrian capital, Damascus, earlier this week.

Speaking at the UN Security Council meeting on the Middle East on Tuesday, Ja’afari blasted the US, France and Britain — three of the council’s five permanent members — for providing “unlimited support” to their allies in Tel Aviv and thus emboldening them to act freely in Syria.

The senior Syrian diplomat warned that his country could use its right to respond in self defense to the recent Israeli air raids against the Damascus International Airport by striking Tel Aviv’s Ben Gurion airport if the 15-nation council failed to shoulder its responsibilities and act against the regime’s aggression.

On Wednesday, Russia — which has been providing military support to Syria in its counter-terrorism operations — also urged Israeli to stop its “spontaneous” strikes against Syria under the pretext of attacking Iranian military advisers, who are also in Syria at the request of Damascus on a mission similar to that of Russia.

Damascus repeatedly writes to the UN and its Security Council to brief the world body over illegal military actions that Israel, the US and their allies take against Syria.

According to RT, the Russian Defense Ministry reported that Israeli jets endangered two civilian aircraft while engaging targets in Syria on Christmas Day. It said the regime’s F-16s flew in as civilian jets were landing at Beirut and Damascus airports.

In September 2018, a Russian aircraft was mistakenly shot down by Syrian air defense systems, which were responding to a wave of Israeli air raids. Fifteen Russian servicemen lost their lives in the incident, which Moscow blamed on Tel Aviv.

Israel’s frequent air raids against Syria are considered as an attempt to prop up the Takfiri terrorist groups that have been suffering heavy defeats at the hands of Syrian government forces.

In a recent interview with The New York Times, Lieutenant General Gadi Eisenkot, the Israeli army’s outgoing chief of staff, said that the regime had carried out “thousands” of aerial assaults in Syria in recent years.

In a rare acknowledgement during an interview with The Sunday Times, he also confirmed long-running reports of Israel’s collaboration with anti-Damascus militants, admitting that it had provided weapons to them.


Indian Navy Operationalises Third Airbase in Indian Ocean Region

Sputnik News


INS Kohassa is the third naval air base in Andaman after INS Utkrosh at Port Blair and INS Baaz at Campbell Bay. The three airbases together will be of vital strategic advantage to the Indian Navy as they lie close to the Malacca Straits – the world’s busiest shipping route, fulfilling two-third of China’s energy requirements.

New Delhi (Sputnik): In a strategic move to enhance its surveillance capabilities against Chinese warships and submarines entering the Indian Ocean Region (IOR) through the nearby Malacca Straits, the Indian Navy has operationalised a new naval base located at the northern-most tip of the archipelago that forms the Andaman and Nicobar territory of the Indian Union.

The naval air base that will initially be used to operate the Dornier, Mi-8, and Chetak aircraft would be able to host larger aircraft once it is fully expanded to 100 hectares.

“Present runway length is 1,000 meters, where only a few defence aircraft can land. As India’s Environment and Forest Department has already approved the acquisition of forest land of 100 hectares north of the strip, the runway length will be extended to 3,000 meters for the operation of wide-bodied defence and civil flights”, a military official told Sputnik.

The extension work of the airbase has been ongoing for the last one year. The airbase will not only consolidate the security and surveillance over the islands, but will also assist in the rapid development of civil infrastructure which will immensely benefit the local population.

“Located in the northernmost part of the islands, the airfield holds strategic importance not only for the security of the islands but also for its overall development. With the addition of this airfield, the Andaman and Nicobar Command’s (ANC) ability to operate independently from all the regions of the Andaman and Nicobar Islands will get a great boost”, an Indian Navy statement reads.

“Not only do they provide India with a commanding presence in the Bay of Bengal, but the Islands also serve as our window into East and South East Asia. India has progressively developed Port Blair as home to amphibious platforms, naval offshore patrol vessels and fast attack craft. One of the primary functions of INS Baaz is to provide information, based on ‘airborne maritime surveillance'”, Admiral Nirmal Verma, India’s former chief of the naval staff, said about INS Baaz.

Earlier this month, Indian Navy Chief Admiral Lanba observed that since 2008, at any given time, there are six to eight Chinese Navy ships in the northern part of the Indian Ocean, indicating the growing outreach of Chinese military in the region.

“Also, two years ago they commissioned their first overseas facility or base in Djibouti. The stated aim of this deployment is to protect their trade which is flowing through this area, from piracy. They have deployed submarines for anti-piracy operations which are the most unlikely platform to be used for this role”, Admiral Lanba had said.

© Sputnik


Treasury Designates Iran’s Foreign Fighter Militias in Syria along with a Civilian Airline Ferrying Weapons to Syria

January 24, 2019

WASHINGTON – Today, the U.S. Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) took action against two Syria-based, Iran-backed militias composed of foreign nationals, an Iranian airline linked to designated Iranian airline Mahan Air and Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps-Qods Force (IRGC-QF), and an Armenian general sales agent (GSA) providing services to Mahan Air.  The Fatemiyoun Division, composed of Afghan nationals, and the Zaynabiyoun Brigade, consisting of Pakistani nationals, are IRGC-QF-led, Syria-based militias whose fighters are recruited by the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) and its Basij militia mostly from Afghan and Pakistani refugees and migrants residing in Iran.  On October 16, 2018, OFAC designated the Basij militia, along with its vast network of 20 corporations and financial institutions, for recruiting fighters, including child soldiers, for the IRGC-QF’s operations in Syria.

The Fatemiyoun Division and Zaynabiyoun Brigade are being designated for providing material support to the IRGC-QF.  OFAC is designating Qeshm Fars Air for being owned or controlled by Mahan Air, and for providing material support to the IRGC-QF, and Armenia-based Flight Travel LLC for acting for or on behalf of Mahan Air.  Mahan Air plays an integral role supporting the IRGC-QF and its proxies in Syria by transporting personnel and weapons.

“The brutal Iranian regime exploits refugee communities in Iran, deprives them of access to basic services such as education, and uses them as human shields for the Syrian conflict,” said Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin.  “Treasury’s targeting of Iran-backed militias and other foreign proxies is part of our ongoing pressure campaign to shut down the illicit networks the regime uses to export terrorism and unrest across the globe.”

“This is a regime that preys on the most vulnerable – coercing children as young as 14 years old to fight in Syria under the direction of the IRGC-QF, and perpetuating widespread suffering and displacement,” said Under Secretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence Sigal Mandelker.  “Iran continues to leverage Mahan Air and its commercial aviation sector to transport individuals and weapons needed to carry out this tragic campaign and to fuel sectarian conflict throughout the region.  We are aggressively targeting those who continue to provide commercial support to Mahan Air and other designated airlines, and any who fail to heed our warnings expose themselves to severe sanctions risk.”

The Fatemiyoun Division, Zaynabiyoun Brigade, Qeshm Fars Air, and Flight Travel LLC are being designated under Executive Order (E.O.) 13224, a counter-terrorism authority.  Additionally, the IRGC-QF, the Fatemiyoun Division, and the Zaynabiyoun Brigade are also being designated under E.O. 13553, an authority that targets serious human rights abuses by the Government of Iran.

Fatemiyoun and Zaynabiyoun: IRGC-QF-led militias preying on Afghan and Pakistani refugees and migrants, including children

The Fatemiyoun Division is an IRGC-QF-led militia that preys on the millions of undocumented Afghan migrants and refugees in Iran, coercing them to fight in Syria under threat of arrest or deportation.  Several hundred Fatemiyoun Division fighters, including children as young as 14 years old, have died fighting Iran’s war in Syria, and the bodies of slain Afghan fighters have been flown back to Iran on board Mahan Air flights from Syria.

Many Afghans from Iran have joined the wave of refugees arriving in Europe, including a number who have fled the IRGC’s forced recruitment.  Former Fatemiyoun Division fighters have reported being arrested by Iranian security forces and offered a choice between prison, deportation, or “volunteering” to train and fight in Syria with the promise of legal residency.  Afghan recruits receive little training prior to deployment to Syria, where many are thrust into dangerous front-line combat roles, resulting in significant casualties.  The Zaynabiyoun Brigade is another Syria-based, IRGC-QF-led militia, composed of Pakistani fighters mainly recruited from among undocumented and impoverished Pakistani Shiite immigrants living in Iran.

The Fatemiyoun Division and Zaynabiyoun Brigade are being designated pursuant to E.O. 13224, which targets terrorists and those providing support to terrorists or acts of terrorism.  OFAC is designating the Fatemiyoun Division and Zaynabiyoun Brigade for assisting, sponsoring, or providing financial, material, or technological support for, or financial or other services to or in support of, the IRGC-QF.  The IRGC-QF was designated pursuant to E.O. 13224 on October 25, 2007.

As a part of today’s action, the IRGC-QF, the Fatemiyoun Division, and the Zaynabiyoun Brigade are also being designated pursuant to E.O. 13553, which targets serious human rights abuses by the Government of Iran.  The IRGC-QF is being designated for being owned or controlled by, or acting or purporting to act for or on behalf of, the IRGC, which was designated pursuant to E.O. 13553 in 2011 for engaging in serious human rights abuses, including the violent crackdowns on protesters in Iran in 2009.  The Fatemiyoun Division and the Zaynabiyoun Brigade are being designated pursuant to E.O. 13553 for having materially assisted, sponsored, or provided financial, materials, or technological support for, or goods or services to or in support of, the IRGC-QF.

Qeshm Fars Air: Another commercial Iranian airline providing airlift to the IRGC-QF

Since the onset of the Syrian civil war, Iran has routinely relied upon Iranian airlines such as Mahan Air to fly fighters and materiel to Syria to prop up the Assad regime.  Mahan Air has transported IRGC-QF operatives, weapons, equipment, and funds abroad in support of the IRGC-QF’s destabilizing regional operations.  Mahan Air has also transported IRGC-QF Commander Qassem Soleimani, who is sanctioned under United Nations Security Council Resolution 2231 and therefore covered by a travel ban.

Qeshm Fars Air, which originally operated as a commercial airline between 2006 and 2013, restarted operations in 2017, and its fleet of two B747 aircraft have operated regular cargo flights to Damascus, delivering cargo, including weapons shipments, on behalf of the IRGC-QF.  Mahan Air employees fill Qeshm Fars Air management positions, and Mahan Air provides technical and operational support for Qeshm Fars Air, facilitating the airline’s illicit operations.  The delivery of lethal materiel by Qeshm Fars Air enables Iran’s military support for the Assad regime, prolonging the brutal conflict and the suffering of millions of Syrians, and has resulted in the displacement of millions across the region.

Qeshm Fars Air is being designated pursuant to E.O. 13224 for being owned or controlled by Mahan Air, as well as for assisting in, sponsoring, or providing financial, material or technological support for, or financial or other services to or in support of, the IRGC-QF.

OFAC is also identifying two B747 aircraft as property in which Qeshm Fars Air has an interest:  EP-FAA and EP-FAB.  These identifications serve to warn those who provide support to these aircraft that they could be exposed to U.S. sanctions.

Flight Travel LLC: Armenia-based GSA generating revenue for Mahan Air

Flight Travel LLC, located in Yerevan, Armenia is being designated pursuant to E.O. 13224 for acting for or on behalf of Mahan Air by serving as a Mahan Air GSA in Armenia.  A GSA is a third party that provides services to an airline under the airline’s brand, including sales and marketing, administrative services, and financial services.  Flight Travel LLC has refused to heed warnings about the risk of sanctions exposure due to commercial support to Mahan Air, and it is now the third company sanctioned by Treasury for acting for or on behalf of Mahan Air as a GSA in the last seven months.  In July 2018, OFAC designated a Malaysia-based Mahan Air GSA, and in September 2018, OFAC designated a Thailand-based Mahan Air GSA.

The designation of Flight Travel LLC demonstrates the U.S. Government’s commitment to denying foreign support for Mahan Air and other designated Iranian airlines, and reinforces multiple warnings to the aviation community of the sanctions risk for individuals and entities maintaining commercial relationships with these airlines.  In addition to GSA services such as reservation and ticketing services, the civil aviation industry should conduct due diligence for other potentially sanctionable activities that may arise when conducted for or on behalf of a designated person.  Sanctionable activities may include marketing services, procurement of aircraft parts and equipment, maintenance contracts, airline ground services, catering, interline transfer and codeshare agreements, and refueling contracts.

Sanctions implications

As a result of today’s action, all property and interests in property of these entities that are in the United States or in the possession or control of U.S. persons are blocked and must be reported to OFAC.  OFAC’s regulations generally prohibit all dealings by U.S. persons or within (or transiting) the United States that involve any property or interests in property of blocked or designated persons.

In addition, persons that engage in certain transactions with the entities designated today may themselves be exposed to designation.  Furthermore, any foreign financial institution that knowingly facilitates a significant transaction or provides significant financial services for any of the entities designated today could be subject to U.S. correspondent account or payable-through sanctions.


Identifying information on the entities designated today.

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Russia Confirms ‘Private Security Companies’ Operating Amid Unrest In Sudan

By RFE/RL January 24, 2019

The Russian Foreign Ministry says private Russian companies are training the army in Sudan, confirming their presence in the African country being shaken by mass street demonstrations by opposition forces.

Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova on January 23 said that “according to our information, representatives of Russian private security companies, who have nothing to do with Russian state bodies, are operating in Sudan.”

Zakharova’s comments followed a story in the British press alleged that Russian mercenaries were helping Sudanese authorities crack down on the protests.

Zakharova denied the press reports and said the “task” of the private security firms “is limited to training staff for the military and law enforcement agencies of the Republic of Sudan,” which is a close ally of Moscow.

Street protests have been carried out daily since December 19. The rallies were initially in protest against shortages of fuel and commodities, but they have turned into a call for an end to the 30-year rule of President Omar al-Bashir.

Britain’s The Guardian newspaper on January 23 reported that Bashir’s government was conducting an “alarming” crackdown on journalists covering the protests, with five reporters being held and dozens of others being detained before being released.

The unrest is one of the biggest challenges to Bashir’s rule since he took power in a coup in 1989.

Reuters news agency reported that official statistics from the Russian Federal Security Service show a substantial increase in the number of the Russian citizens who left for Sudan in late 2017.

According to the data, some 200 Russians traveled to Sudan in the final three months of last year, far surpassing the previous peak of 76 in any three-month period.

Sudan’s oil minister, Azhari Abdel Qader, said on January 23 that the country had received economic assistance from the United Arab Emirates and offers of support from Russia and Turkey during its economic crisis.

“We accepted it as a normal matter between friendly countries in light of the current circumstances that Sudan is going through,” he said of the aid, adding that there were offers of “fuel, wheat, and other items” from Turkey and Russia.

He did not confirm whether Sudan, a country of 41 million people, would accept the offers from Russia and Turkey.

Private Russian military contractors have been reported in other countries, including Syria in support of President Bashar al-Assad’s forces. Rights monitors said that dozens of them were killed in clashes with U.S.-led forces, although details remain scarce.

With reporting by Reuters, Tass, The Times, The Guardian, and Bloomberg

Source: https: // www.rferl.org/a/russia-confirms – private-security-forces-sudan- demonstrations /29727768.html

Copyright (c) 2019. RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave., N.W. Washington DC 20036.

Israeli protesters display photos of victims of Palestinian terror. (Hadas Parush/Flash90)
Israeli protesters display photos of victims of Palestinian terror.
Jan 24, 2019

Exclusive” research was carried by an Israeli NGO as a new Israeli law imposes sanctions on such payments.

By David Jablinowitz, United with Israel

The Palestinian Authority (PA)  spent at least NIS 502 million ($137 million)  in payments to terrorist prisoners in 2018, according to a report issued by Palestinian Media Watch (PMW), an Israel-based NGO.

PMW said that it carried out the research as Israel was preparing to implement a new law that imposes financial sanctions on the PA for its so-called “Pay for Slay” policy. The media monitor group said that it looked at the PA’s financial reports for 2018 which include its payments to the terrorists, both current and released prisoners.

PMW says that while the PA authorities do not provide details of how this money was allocated between the terrorists still in Israeli jails and those already released, the watch group made calculations based solely on what it says are “open sources,” including from the Israel Prisons Service.

The group says that the figures show that least NIS 230 million were paid in salaries to current terrorist prisoners and at least 176 million to already released terrorist prisoners. It says that it could not pinpoint the breakdown between present and past prisoners for the remaining 96 million in salaries and any other benefits paid by the PA.

PMW says it has provided Israel’s Defense Ministry with its figures. The new law was passed in the Knesset in July and is to be implemented for the first time this month.

Under the terms of the law, the defense minister must compile an annual report of the PA’s payments to current and released terrorist prisoners, as well as to the families of Palestinians killed as “martyrs,” and those wounded.

Once the defense minister’s findings are approved by the security cabinet, the Israeli Government would deduct that amount from the taxes and tariffs which Israel collects and normally transfers to the PA.

“The law that imposes monetary sanctions on the PA because of its payments to terrorists is one of the most important laws passed in Israel in recent years because it sends a clear message to the Palestinian Authority that Israel will by no means accept its support for terrorism,” said PMW director Itamar Marcus.




Netanyahu with cancer patient Ido Vaknin in his office. (screenshot)
Netanyahu Gives 3-Year-Old Cancer Patient a Tour of His Office

Netanyahu honored young Ido Rafael Vaknin’s request and welcomed the brave boy and his family to the Prime Minister’s Office in Jerusalem.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu hosted in his office 3-year-old Ido Rafael Vaknin, who is suffering from leukemia, along with his family. Ido had requested to meet with the Prime Minister and was clearly very excited about his visit with Israel’s leader!

As the boy sat down in the premiere’s chair, Netanyahu said, “Now you are the prime minister!”

Netanyahu placed a picture of Ido on his desk and said to the boy, “You want to continue sitting here, but there is one problem because I have to meet with the chief of staff and the generals. I would be happy if you stay, maybe in the future.”

Watch the sweet moments between the young boy and the Israeli prime minister . . .  and pray for Ido’s speedy recovery!


Israel’s MASA Global Summit Molds Future Jewish Leaders

Participants in the summit. Photo by Axel Angeles

Nestled in the Judean Hills overlooking Jerusalem, Kibbutz Ma’ale HaHamisha offers an oasis of serenity. Peace reigns with its neighborhood Arab villages and just over 700 Israelis call the kibbutz — renowned for its cauliflower and peaches — home. 

The kibbutz’s lone hotel, a driving force of the local economy, is a popular honeymoon destination, with a spa and stunning views of the Neve Ilan Forest and surrounding valleys. 

But in late November, 125 Jewish young professionals from 30 countries converged on the hotel for the MASA Global Leadership Summit, a four-day conference packed with speakers, activities, site visits, workshops and networking. 

What is MASA? Its staff, alumni and current participants will tell you it’s “the best kept secret” in the Jewish world. Since its founding in 2004 by the Israeli government and the Jewish Agency for Israel, more than 120,000 young adults between the ages of 18 and 30 from more than 60 countries have participated in its programs, including study abroad, internships and volunteer opportunities in Israel. Its team operates in 20 countries, where they recruit and provide resources to MASA hopefuls looking to launch careers or gain valuable personal development through the organization’s diverse offerings. 

At any given time, more than 2,000 students and young professionals are interning or volunteering across Israel at startups, hospitals, venture capital firms, schools, small businesses, media outlets and more. Many end up making aliyah, while others return home and bolster global Jewish communities. 

 “These young people here at the summit are passionate about global Jewry. You can see it in their faces, that they know change is possible.” — Sonja Vilicic

MASA offers the summit twice a year as a forum for participants to meet and learn from one another. On the first day of last November’s summit, attendees gathered in one of the hotel’s conference rooms after a hearty Israeli breakfast. They had arrived the night before, finding their way to Ma’ale HaHamisha by bus or train from around the country. Some participants were in programs in nearby Jerusalem and had a short trip. Others weren’t so lucky. A young Russian woman from Siberia, whose program entails teaching surfing in Eilat in the south of the country, complained loudly about her bumpy, late night, five-hour bus ride.  

Everyone appeared tired except Ben Baginsky, director of the MASA Global Leadership Academy. Baginsky sported a chinstrap of facial hair and a crisp button-down shirt. He paced jauntily with a microphone. 

“It’s lovely to see the names from my Excel sheet spring to life right before my eyes,” he said as Russian bubbled quietly out of headsets translating his words in real time for the Russian-speaking attendees. “What countries are we all from?” 

Ben Baginsky, director of the MASA Global Leadership Academy. Photos by Axel Angeles

Varied shouts of “good morning” rang out in quick succession. “Boker tov!” a young man called, opening the floodgates. “Sabah alkhyr!” “Buenos días!” “Buongiorno!” “Kaliméra!” “Dobroye utro!” 

Baginsky separated the attendees into five, 25-person discussion groups that would meet daily. Before officially kicking things off, he left attendees with a thought to chew on over the next few days: “What is leadership?” 

After a day listening to a variety of speakers, including one of the Israel Defense Force’s first openly gay commanders, and a principal at an Arab high school, participants split into their groups and were asked to make a short video about the meaning of leadership. 

They filmed with their phones on grassy patches; formed human pyramids and climbed trees; sang songs and ran around to answer the prompt. The evening was spent networking in the lobby, drinking wine and taking cigarette breaks in the chilly night air. 

“The mingling is really one of the highlights,” Cody Norton, 26, a Los Angeles native interning with an Israeli high-tech company through MASA, told the Journal. “One of the conference’s greatest currencies is the people here.” 

“Yeah,” Ethan Smith, 24, from Corona, Calif., agreed. “We’re meeting Jews from all over the world, learning about Jewish communities we know little about. You end up having to cross barriers like different experiences, language, and come to common understanding.” 

Participants weren’t just kept to the confines of the hotel. They were taken to different sites to see some of Israel’s most controversial issues play out on the ground. Some visited the impoverished neighborhoods of south Tel Aviv, where African migrants live in relative squalor and face racism from locals. Others took a trip to an Arab village to learn about the lives of Arab-Israeli citizens. These real-world experiences, coupled with the classes and speakers, are all designed to create well-rounded MASA leaders of the future.

“It’s in that tense zone we normally flee from where we have to find ways to bring people together and facilitate healthy discourse on divisive topics in the Jewish world. It takes courage to make a difference.”  — Ben Baginsky

On the second day of the summit, Brandon Srot, a Sydney, Australia-based psychotherapist and leadership development facilitator, stood silently for several minutes in front of the participants. Unease took over. Uncomfortable murmuring swelled. Some people shouted jokes to break up the nervous energy. Participants quietly debated how to proceed. Finally, Norton, in an attempt to bring calm, made his way to the front of the room and assumed control. 

“OK, so what do we think is going on here?” he said, standing alongside Srot, who didn’t flinch. As people responded, Norton jotted down answers.

“I think this is about us viewing ourselves as leaders, and not needing someone to tell us what leadership is,” a young man said. 

At the end of the session, Srot amended Baginsky’s opening-day question. “I want you to think long and hard about this,” he said. “What happens to your leadership when you’re in the presence of authority?”

“That’s certainly a huge part of what we’re doing,” Sarah Mali, MASA Global Leadership Academy’s vice president told the Journal. “Leadership, in my view, is more about behavior and less about authority. That conflation of leadership and authority is part of the problem in the Jewish world. We want to help the Jewish leaders of tomorrow to unseat challenges that lie before them.” 

Before joining MASA, Mali introduced the concept of adaptive leadership — pioneered at the Harvard Kennedy School, which posits that leadership and authority are entirely separate concepts — to the Jewish Agency’s Global Leadership Institute (GLI). She and Baginsky are firm believers in the idea that adaptive leadership is the key to future harmony of the Jewish world. 

During one session, Mali referenced satire as a means of adaptive leadership: to hold those in power to account, enact change and draw attention to social issues. She also highlighted grass-roots activism as another effective method of adaptive leadership. During a PowerPoint presentation, she told participants about an incident in 2017 in the Netherlands when a gay couple was brutally attacked. A journalist suggested a day where all men hold hands, walking the streets, as a show of solidarity with the gay community. 

“The community recognized a problem, saw the work that had to be done and didn’t wait for an authority to lead them there,” she said. “They made it happen.” 

Baginsky said unlocking the adaptive leadership potential in the next wave of Jewish young professionals is key in bridging gaps that divide Jews around the world.  He referred back to the session in which Srot stood in front of participants without speaking:  “During the quiet, you see how uncomfortable people are, how they can’t deal with it. Well, we want to get people to live in it, embrace it and act in it. It’s in that tense zone we normally flee from where we have to find ways to bring people together and facilitate healthy discourse on divisive topics in the Jewish world. It takes courage to make a difference.” 

It appears that MASA is helping young Jews make that difference. A 2018 survey conducted by Berkeley-based Rosov Consulting of 1,000 MASA alumni going back seven years, revealed that 13 percent of alumni go on to work in Jewish organizations, while 36 percent serve on the boards of nonprofits. Over half of the participants surveyed viewed themselves as “leaders” in their communities. 

“With adaptive leadership as a tool, we want to build a better Jewish world,” Mali said. “It’s very important that young people feel like they can make change and feel like they have something at stake in the future of their Jewish communities.” 

MASA CEO Liran Avisar

Mali brought her friend Sonja Vilicic to speak at the summit, hoping her story would inspire those with plans to return to their communities after their MASA programs. Born in Serbia, Vilicic has taken part in Jewish leadership trainings all over the world and graduated from the Melton Senior Educators Program at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. In 2013, she returned to her home country to establish Haver Srbija, a nongovernmental organization (NGO). Haver Srbija exposes non-Jews to the culture, history and tradition of the Jewish people as a step to confronting prejudices, misconceptions and discrimination. The summit, Vilicic said, offers a glimpse into the hearts and minds of Jews like herself who will go on to improve their communities. 

“These young people here at the summit are passionate about global Jewry,” she said. “You can see it in their faces, that they know change is possible. They’re here to do something about it and make change happen.” 

Boston-born Sandy Stonebraker, 27, wasn’t thinking about making change happen four years ago when she started her dream job teaching high school math in a Boston suburb. The fact that the area was practically devoid of Jews didn’t matter to her until just over a year ago, when her 10th-grade students began making anti-Semitic comments.

“The school had no idea how to handle it,” Stonebraker said. “I grew up sheltered in my community. I didn’t know how to handle it either.” 

After contemplating joining the Peace Corps, Stonebraker settled on a MASA program to better understand her connection to Judaism and help her combat ignorance in her community. Today she lives in Tel Aviv and volunteers in schools and daycare centers run out of homes with vulnerable populations in the city, mainly Eritrean and Sudanese refugees. 

“I’m a jungle gym with babies climbing all over me most days,” she said, laughing. 

The issue of migrant populations from North Africa settling in Israel to escape war and persecution is a hotly contested one. But it’s not one Stonebraker shies away from. 

“Many Israelis don’t know the hardships these people faced to get here and what they’re up against,” she said. “I think my experiences here in Israel, and then being at this conference, are all making me a better teacher. It’s making me better equipped to go back home [to Boston] eventually and combat what I saw in my school: ignorance. I don’t want people to define me, as a Jew, by hatred.” 

However, unlike Stonebraker, not all MASA alumni head home. Many stay and contribute to Israeli society, particularly those in the startup world. One of the high-tech sector’s leading pipelines of international talent, MASA programs funnel programmers, developers and more from all around the globe into the “startup nation.” 

Each year, about 1,000 MASA participants intern with high-tech companies. According to studies published by MASA, the collective contribution of interns to the Israeli economy is 150 million NIS, or roughly $27 million a year. 

San Diego native Jolene Amit, 31, is just one of those former interns. After participating in Birthright in 2005, Amit was struck by her immediate deep connection to Israel. In 2009, she signed up to come back through MASA and interned with a startup. Now, she serves as the director of global multichannel eCommerce for Syte.Ai, an emerging tech company based in Tel Aviv, which partners with retailers to provide product recognition, enabling users to shop from any image online or on social media. 

“My story isn’t uncommon,” Amit said, sipping coffee on a couch at the Syte office. “You get out of these internships what you put into them.” 

Just down the road from Syte, David Schumann, 28, originally from Germany, and Brian Goldfarb, 33, who hails from Argentina, are also climbing the ranks at an Israeli startup. Both started as fresh-faced MASA interns nearly 10 years ago at Minute Media, a digital sports platform that powers content, advertising and technology experiences for hundreds of global brands and some of the world’s biggest publishers. Schumann, a product manager, and Goldfarb, senior managing editor of “90 Minutes,” the company’s soccer brand, said MASA gave them their start in the Holy Land. 

“It was great in every way and it got us in here,” Schumann said, gesturing around the Minute Media office, complete with ping-pong tables, soccer matches airing on televisions, and hammocks on the back patio. “Having the other participants to lean on also helped get acclimated socially and helped us enjoy life in Tel Aviv.” 

“Plus,” Goldfarb added with a grin, “we both met our wives through MASA.” 

“The ‘MASA mafia’ is strong,” Schumann said. “We hire MASA interns all the time.”

With alumni gaining a foothold, the “MASA mafia” offers its leadership participants a world of possibilities. However, back at the summit in Ma’ale HaHamisha, leaders constantly reminded attendees that leadership potential always comes back to tackling difficult subjects and not backing down from discourse. 

“We want Jewish Federations finding and hiring young, energetic, creative thinking Jews with different points of views. We want [MASA] to be that pipeline.” — Liran Avisar

That notion was hammered home on the final evening of the summit. Keynote speaker, Australian born Danny Hakim — founder and chairman of Budo for Peace, an organization that brings together Jews and Muslims through the practice of karate in Israel — told participants, “It wasn’t easy, but I found an avenue to unite people who many may think have no business coming together.” 

A two-time world karate silver medalist and philanthropist, Hakim issued a passionate plea to participants: “The gap between the Diaspora and Israel is widening. This is your challenge as future leaders to address. You, the next wave of Jewish leaders, can make a difference, promoting people-to-people change through grass-roots organizing.” 

The next morning, MASA CEO Liran Avisar paid a visit to the summit to talk to attendees about what she deemed a crisis in North America.

“Look at how the continent is dealing with the Israel issue,” she said. “There was a time when the subject was discussed with nuance, where criticism was part of the debate but it was rooted in how special the connection between Jews and the land of Israel is. I think the discussion is getting farther and farther from that.” 

For Avisar, MASA’s success is contingent upon integrating a new generation of minds into Jewish leadership roles. 

“I’m focusing on the deployment of young Jews into the community, specifically in Jewish organizations, nonprofits and as volunteers,” she told the Journal. “We want Jewish Federations finding and hiring young, energetic, creative thinking Jews with different points of views. We want to be that pipeline and we’re working on more official deployment mechanisms like the Hillel affiliates we work with on campuses.” 

As the conference drew to a close, summit attendees met in private with their discussion groups. There was arguing. There was a leftist point of view and more right-leaning opinions voiced. The participants led for the most part with educators shepherding things along. 

“In those discussions I was reminded of a Rumi poem,” Srot said afterward, a smile curling his lips: ‘Somewhere beyond right and wrong, there is a garden. I will meet you there.’ ”

He paused then playfully rolled his eyes. “I should’ve told them that in the group. I wish I hadn’t thought of that just now.”

11. What a disgrace’: Netanyahu slams ‘hypocrisy and anti-Semitism’ of Ireland’s boycott bill

After lawmakers brought Ireland one step closer to becoming the first E.U. country to ban all imports from Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria, Netanyahu blasted the “hypocrisy and anti-Semitism” of the move.

By: JNS.org an World Israel News Staff

“Instead of Ireland condemning Syria for slaughtering hundreds of thousands of civilians, Turkey for the occupation of northern Cyprus and the terrorist organizations for murdering thousands of Israelis, it attacks Israel, the only democracy in the Middle East. What a disgrace,” commented Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu after lawmakers in the Republic of Ireland on Thursday voted in favor of the Control of Economic Activity (Occupied Territories) Bill 2018.

The bill would prevent Ireland from importing products from any business holders or companies in eastern Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, the Golan Heights, or Gaza—all of which are deemed to be “illegally occupied” by Israelis. The bill would also impose jail time of up to five years and considerable fines on Irish nationals who import or sell products from the aforementioned areas. The bill has additional steps to pass before it becomes law and the current Irish government is officialy opposed to the legislation.

“Israel is outraged over the legislation against it in the Dail [Lower House of the Irish Parliament], which is indicative of hypocrisy and anti-Semitism,” Netanyahu added. “The Irish Ambassador will be summoned [Friday] to the Foreign Ministry for a reprimand.”

But as Ireland debates becoming the first European Union country to ban all imports from Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria, Ireland’s Ryanair airlines declared that it was looking into expanding its operations in the Jewish state.

Ryanair CEO Michael O’Leary, who happens to be on a tour of Israel this week, called Israel “one of the most refreshing destinations,” and said “we can bring millions more to Israel; we will grow as fast as the authorities allow us to.”

O’Leary arrived in Israel on Tuesday, and met with representatives from the Ministry of Tourism and the Israel Airports Authority.

Ryanair recently announced new flights from Tel Aviv to Athens, Sofia, and Thessaloniki, and is expected to operate 28 weekly flights to Israel from 12 different destinations.

Israeli tourism has boomed over the past year, with a 200 percent increase in the number of tourists from European destinations over the previous year.


EU gave nearly $5.7 million to NGOs that promote Israel boycotts over past 2 years, report finds

JTA – The European Union gave nearly $5.7 million to organizations that promote boycotts against Israel in 2017 and 2018, a new Israeli government report found.

The money has gone to at least 10 nongovernmental organizations, including one based in Gaza, according to the report titled The Money Trail: 2nd Edition, released Wednesday by the Strategic Affairs Ministry.

The funding was provided by the European Union to the organizations in 2017 and multi-year funding beginning in 2018, for which full data has not been released by the EU. The report comes after a first report by the Strategic Affairs Ministry, released in May, on EU funding for 2016.

The report notes that it does not cover all EU funding to anti-Israel boycott organizations, but focuses on the financial support to 10 NGOs active in promoting boycotts of Israel. It asserts that the funding to the 10 NGOs is being used to promote boycotts against Israel even if it was granted for other projects due to insufficient oversight.

The report called on the EU to stop funding organizations that promote a boycott of Israel and to ensure full transparency of granted funds.

The EU responded that it does not support nor fund boycotts against Israel. It added, however, Simply because an organization or individual is related to the BDS movement does not mean that this entity is involved in incitement to commit illegal acts, nor that it renders itself ineligible for EU funding. It also said that the EU stands firm in protecting freedom of expression.

(Photo – Wiki Commons)



‘Threats from Lebanon could force us to respond’

INN – President Reuven Rivlin met today, Wednesday, with his counterpart President Macron of France at the Elys e Palace. During their meeting President Rivlin thanked President Macron for his warm welcome and personal friendship and invited him to visit Israel soon. The president noted that his visit was to mark the 70th anniversary of diplomatic relations between the two countries, a sign of the shared democratic values and the common interests which we intend to further deepen.

The meeting focused on the threat from Iran and its proxies in Syria and Lebanon. Ahead of President Macron s upcoming visit to Lebanon, scheduled for early February, President Rivlin stressed that the Lebanese state was being held hostage by a terrorist organization, Hezbollah, supported by Iran.

The president emphasized that we have no desire for conflict with Lebanon and that in an ideal world there could be good relations between the two countries, but that we cannot ignore the continued Lebanese violations of UN Security Council Resolution 1701 and the arming of Hezbollah with guided weapons. Hezbollah is creating facilities to produce and convert precision-guided missiles in the heart of Beirut under civilian cover and with Iranian support, said the president to President Macron, adding this threatens Israeli security and could force us to respond, dragging the region into escalation that could badly harm Lebanon.

The president emphasized that, as the sovereign power, it is the Lebanese government that bears sole responsibility for what happens in its country and that Israel does not distinguish between Hezbollah and the Lebanese state. He added that I expect France to exert whatever pressure necessary on the Lebanese government to display its sovereignty and rid itself of Iranian and Hezbollah involvement that could lead us to war.

Regarding the situation in Syria, the president said that Israel will not allow the build-up of Iranian presence in Syria which represents a direct threat to Israel and the entire region. So long as Iran and its proxies continue to establish their presence, Israel will act to defend its security, including acting against the transfer of advanced armaments from Iran via Syria to Hezbollah in Lebanon. The president said that it removing Iran from Syria was a shared international interest in pursuit of regional stability.

Concerning events in Gaza, the president made it clear that the State of Israel is making all efforts possible to promote contacts to de-escalate the situation and civil-economic initiatives with Gaza to prevent a humanitarian crisis and give the people of Gaza hope. Israel is not interested in escalation, emphasized the president, but will not allow its sovereignty, the security of its civilians or its infrastructure to be harmed, and will act decisively against any threat, he added. The president asked for France s help in returning the bodies of IDF soldiers Oron Shaul and Hadar Goldin ?”?, and the two Israeli citizens held in Gaza. This is a gross violation of international humanitarian law and Hamas does not even allow the Red Cross to visit, said the president.

At the end of the bilateral meeting, both presidents gave statements to the press:

President Rivlin thanked President Macron for his hospitality and stressed the partnership between the two countries: Israel and France stand together at the forefront of the fight against terrorism around the world. The deep cooperation between us is a vital force multiplier in this global effort. Just recently this cooperation prevented an attempted attack here in Paris. It is important that we deepen and broaden the partnership, which protects our shared values, between us.

Today, it is the Iranian regime and its proxies that are the key source of instability and proliferation of terrorism in the Middle East and Europe, said the president. For us, the Iranian regime is an enemy that does not mask its intentions regarding the destruction of Israel. We must take this seriously. The Iranian threat is not restricted to its nuclear program. It continues with its missile program which represents no less serious a threat, and to extend the influence of the Iranian regime across the Middle East, particularly in Syria and Lebanon through Hezbollah and others.

The president noted Hezbollah s precision missile arsenal that is deployed across Lebanon and is aimed at Israeli citizens, and the terror tunnels it dug into Israeli territory, saying If we are threatened from Lebanon, we will not stand by. Lebanon bears sovereign responsibility for all Hezbollah actions. France is a power with decisive influence in our region and it is vital that she understands that Hezbollah is part of the Lebanese system. The Lebanese president cannot wash his hands of it if Iranian missiles are fired from his country onto Israel. We have just completed the destruction of six terror tunnels that Hezbollah dug into Israeli territory in violation of Israeli sovereignty, of UN resolutions, specifically UN Security Council Resolution 1701. We say clearly to the Lebanese government and to its allies around the world: Hezbollah s aggression must be stopped before we find ourselves dragged into a conflict that neither Lebanon nor Israel want. The stability of the Middle East is important to Israel. We now have ongoing strategic cooperation with Jordan and Egypt and other Arab and Muslim countries for the good of regional stability. It is a tragedy that Lebanon is not part of this widening circle of cooperation.

The president also spoke about anti-Semitism, saying in a few days we will mark International Holocaust Remembrance Day, and unfortunately we see that anti-Semitism is once again raising its ugly head in France, particularly over the last year. Just recently, we mourned the murders of Sarah Halimi and Marie Kandel. Mr President, I would like to thank you on behalf of the people of Israel for your leadership in the fight against anti-Semitism. Your remarks that anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism are connected, and taking responsibility for crimes of the Vichy regime are a sign of that leadership. The program of Holocaust remembrance that your government has introduced into the education system is an important message and a very important step. Your government s position against anti-Semitism is particularly significant at a time when senior politicians, members of European governments, are no longer embarrassed to be anti-Semites or to rewrite history.

President Macron of France thanked President Rivlin for his words and also emphasized the good relations between the countries, saying the relations between Israel and France have deepened and strengthened over the last 70 years in many fields. When we disagree, we do so as friends and agree from time to time not to agree. The friendship between Israel and France looks to the future and proves that the cooperation between is wide-ranging and constantly expanding. The French community in Israel is the link between our countries and the young people on both sides are our future. We must invest in them. The Jewish community in France is an inseparable part of French history and I am determined to continue and strengthen our fight against anti-Semitism, which is absolutely opposed our values and everything our democracy represents. We will never accept any violence or intimidation in our country. We will do everything we can to ensure that anti-Semitism is eliminated.

We also have close security cooperation and sometimes, as I have said, we do not agree – for example, regarding the Iranian nuclear agreement. I have explained France s position on this issue many times and I want to repeat that Israeli security remains for us one of the most important principles of regional security. We believe that we must continue the dialog in order to control Iran s nuclear and ballistic missile activity. Because of that, I told the president of my concerns about the recent fire on Israel from Syria. We will continue to keep Israeli interests regarding Israel at the forefront of our mind and will make sure that our partners do the same. Regarding Lebanon, I expressed my concern about the discovery of the tunnels that were dug towards Israel and commended our intensive cooperation in the field of counter-terrorism. Regarding the Israeli-Palestinian issue, I repeated our position that a solution will only be found through dialog and mutual respect and I want to comment the president s brave and pragmatic position that we must build trust between the two sides. France will do all it can to find a solution on the ground, and when it is found we will support it with all our might. I believe that from where we are standing now, we must continue to fight without compromise against anything that threatens mutual respect. The continued building of settlements delays a solution and at the same time any boycott that aims to harm Israeli interests is unacceptable to us.

(Photo – Israel GPO)




Report: Defense officials back transfer of Qatari funds to Hamas

INN – The defense establishment recommended to the political echelon at the cabinet meeting to transfer the Qatari money to the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip in the next few days, Kan 11 reported Wednesday evening.

According to the report, senior security officials said during the meeting that the Islamic Jihad terrorist organization was the group which carried out the attack in which an IDF soldier was shot yesterday and not Hamas.

They also claimed that the Hamas terrorist organization has refrained from creating provocations against Israel in recent days.

Sources who took part in the meeting claimed that some of the ministers and even the prime minister himself listened with great interest and some even expressed their support for them.

At the same time, however, there has been no change in the decision to stop the transfer of money from Qatar to Hamas in Gaza.

According to Arab media, the Qatari envoy stated that he believed Israel would soften its position and allow the money to be transferred before the end of the week.

(Photo – Wiki Commons)

15. Pompeo: Trump to reveal peace plan immediately after Israeli elections

The U.S. secretary of state says the Trump administration has been consulting allies across the Middle East about its plan.

By David Jablinowitz, World Israel News

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo says that immediately following Israel’s April 9 parliamentary election, the Trump administration will build on the foundations already laid towards reaching an Israeli-Palestinian agreement.

“We’ve been working on this for a long time…We’ve begun to share elements of this across the region. It won’t be a U.S.-driven process,” Pompeo said, as he addressed the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland on Tuesday, speaking by satellite in a video conference.

“Ultimately, the Israelis and the Palestinians will have to come to an agreement. But we think that the foundations that we have laid and the work that we’ll do immediately following the Israeli elections will set conditions where we can have a constructive conversation,” Pompeo added.

In the past, U.S. officials have hinted about the future of the plan but refused to commit to a specific timetable of when details would be announced. Since late December, when the Knesset legislated the early election, the prevailing view has been that the process would have to wait until after the April ballot.

Even once the election takes place, the process of forming the new Israeli government coalition could take another several weeks, raising the question of whether the U.S. would wait until the new Cabinet is in place.

Last week, President Donald Trump’s Special Representative for International Negotiations Jason Greenblatt dismissed an Israeli television report on the U.S. president’s peace plan as not accurate and not helpful.

The Channel 13 report said the proposal included a divided Jerusalem and would offer a Palestinian state in up to 90 percent of Judea and Samaria, with major settlement blocs to be annexed by Israel. There would also be land swaps according to which the Palestinian state would receive land from within Israel in exchange for territory that Israel would annex in Judea and Samaria.

Greenblatt tweeted that he would “highly recommend” that people listen only to the official statements that come from him, President Donald Trump, the president’s son-in-law and adviser Jared Kushner, or U.S. Ambassador to Israel David Friedman. He did not include Pompeo on the list.

Speaking Tuesday, the U.S. secretary of state said that “it seems to me that we’re at a point in time where there are ways that we can resolve the primary differences and encourage… the Israelis and the Palestinians to come together to resolve their differences and get a solution there that has bedeviled the world for an awfully long time.”

Pompeo did not attend the Davos conference in person because of the cancelation of the trip due to the U.S. government shutdown.


PA chief Abbas owes life to Israeli doctor, reports say

By Batya Jerenberg, World Israel News

Palestinian Authority (PA) President Mahmoud Abbas could have died last May had it not been for Israeli intervention, Ynet News reported Wednesday.

Admitted to a private Ramallah hospital for a serious ear infection, the PA leader’s health went downhill quickly as he contracted pneumonia. Despite the efforts of his doctors, including foreign specialists, it was feared that the 83-year-old would not recover, the report said. That’s when the Israeli government stepped in.

First the offer was made to transfer Abbas to an Israeli medical center, whose advanced facilities outstrip those in the PA. This was refused, according to Ynet, because PA officials feared an angry response from the Palestinian street should the news leak.

Instead, Israel sent a specialist to Abbas who worked together with his medical team and managed to stabilize him after two days of intensive treatment. He was released from the hospital a week later.

The PA first claimed that the president had been admitted for minor ear surgery, and then returned for medical tests. A few days later they admitted that Abbas had a lung infection, but that he was “responding to the treatment quickly and is recovering.” The president’s office released pictures showing him walking unaided in the hospital hallway and sitting reading a newspaper, to convey a reassuring picture to the public.

Abbas, a heavy smoker, reportedly quit the habit following this scare, but health issues have continued to dog the aging leader. In August, Israel’s Channel 10 News cited unnamed Palestinians who said that when they visited him during the Eid al-Adha holiday, he did not remember who they were. Officials in the president’s office immediately rejected the claims of mental disorientation, saying that Abbas is on a full work schedule.

Ynet appears to confirm this. The site reports that Abbas spent 109 days last years flying to 17 countries, including two trips each to the United States and Russia. Last week he flew to New York to take over the chairmanship of the G77, the largest U.N. bloc.

The octogenarian’s health is of great concern to Israel, as he has groomed no particular successor and there are many in the PA who will spar for the leadership when he leaves office or dies. It is feared that this scenario will be a bloody and protracted one, and Israel has no interest in having the relatively stable security situation in the PA come apart at the seams as a result.

17. Natural gas fields give Israel a regional political boost

With the expected gas boon, Israel plans to wean itself off coal and emerge as an unlikely energy exporter — providing both an economic and political lift.

By Associated Press

A decade after discovering natural gas fields off its Mediterranean coast, Israel is starting to feel the geopolitical boost.

Its newfound riches have fostered economic bonds with its neighbors, tightening relations with Arab allies, and built new bridges in a historically hostile region — even without significant progress being made toward peace with the Palestinians.

Last week’s inclusion of Israel into the Eastern Mediterranean Gas Forum in Cairo — a consortium aiming to cut infrastructure costs and lower prices — marked the first time Arab countries accepted Israel into such a regional alliance, sparking excitement in the country that its long-held hope of finally also making “economic peace” with Egypt and Jordan was fast approaching.

“I think this is the most significant economic cooperation between Egypt and Israel since the signing of the peace treaty 40 years ago,” Israeli Energy Minister Yuval Steinitz told The Associated Press during his visit. “The discovery of significant gas fields in the eastern Mediterranean has also political value because it brings all of us … together to cooperate with each other.”

The forum, which also includes Cyprus, Greece, Italy and the Palestinian Authority, aims to emerge as a mini-OPEC of sorts and highlights how Israel has been leveraging its newfound gas reserves into a powerful tool to expand its immersion into a region that has increasingly come to see Iran and Turkey, rather than Israel, as their greatest rivals.

With the expected gas boon, Israel plans to wean itself off coal and emerge as an unlikely energy exporter — providing both an economic and political lift.

In the coming months, Israel will begin exporting gas to Egypt as part of a $15 billion deal signed last year to provide 64 billion cubic meters of gas over a 10-year period that will help turn Egypt into a regional energy hub.

The first batches will come from the operational Tamar field and later from the far larger Leviathan field, set to go online later this year. Israel already delivers gas to the Palestinians and to Jordan, with whom Israel’s Delek Drilling and its U.S. partner, Noble Energy, signed their first export agreement in 2016 — a $10 billion, 15-year deal to provide 45 billion cubic meters of gas.

Security coupled with economic benefit

“This gives Israel an additional element to its relations with its neighboring countries. When you add an economic facet to the security cooperation it strengthens the bond and gives it stability,” said Oded Eran, a former Israeli ambassador to Jordan and to the European Union, and a senior researcher at Tel Aviv’s Institute of National Security Studies.

Still, he said economic interests alone aren’t enough to fully integrate Israel into the Middle East. Arab nations without formal peace accords with Israel would need to see at least some progress on the Palestinian front before normalizing relations, he said.

Israel has peace agreements with only two Arab countries — Egypt and Jordan. But warming ties with Israel remain unpopular on much of the Arab street, and the gas exports have sparked sporadic protests in Jordan. The Palestinians, pleased at being invited into the consortium, hope to develop their own gas fields off the coast of Gaza but for now are required by international agreements to acquire their fuel from Israel.

Sameer Abdallah, a former Palestinian economy minister, said they import from Israel “because we have no alternative but once we can change that, of course we will.”

The gas appears to have helped Israel grow closer to Arab governments and other Mediterranean countries that share its concern over what they perceive as the rising power of Iran and Turkey in the region.

Just as Noble Energy was discovering the massive gas fields in Israeli and Cypriot waters, Cyprus in 2010 suddenly banned Turkish flotillas seeking to break the Israeli naval blockade of Gaza from using its shores — a stunning about-face after months of turning a blind eye to ships that were creating a diplomatic nightmare for Israel.

Cypriot officials said at the time that Gaza-bound vessels were prohibited from leaving because of “vital national interests.”

Relations have since soared. Israel now holds annual trilateral summits with Greece and Cyprus, which have become its geographical conduits to the West. The two also conduct joint military operations with Israel, and just a short flight away, have replaced Turkey as the Israelis’ preferred holiday destinations.

The countries recently said they would sign an agreement for a $7 billion project to build a pipeline to carry natural gas from the eastern Mediterranean to Europe.

Cyprus Foreign Minister Nikos Christodoulides has said he believes “hydrocarbons in the Eastern Mediterranean can become what the coal and steel was for the European community” — a reference to how in the 1950s, coal and steel brought European countries together economically and politically.

‘An economic adventure’

Eran, the former Israeli diplomat, cautioned against investing so heavily in what he called “an economic adventure.” Even with the recent discoveries, he said the joint reserves were still not enough to create a strong enough economic lever to challenge global energy providers.

Still, the upside of finally having natural resources of its own has been so appealing that the Israeli government has pushed forward even against stiff domestic opposition from environmental and social welfare activists.

Critics, including prominent opposition lawmakers, say a controversial 2016 agreement over royalties is skewed in favor of the energy tycoons. More recently, local activists have been urging Noble Energy to move its proposed shoreline gas rig farther out to sea for fear of what they call catastrophic consequences of spreading toxic water and air pollution toward their homes.

Noble and the Israeli government say it’s an irresponsible scare campaign and have countered with an aggressive ad campaign extolling the virtues of Leviathan, which it has dubbed “the national project.”

18. The IDF officer who wrecked his chances to be chief of staff

 On Jan. 15, Lt. Gen. Aviv Kochavi became IDF chief-of-staff. But there was another candidate in the running who arguably had a better operational record, i24 News reports.

Maj. Gen. Yair Golan was pegged early as a promising future leader of the Israel Defense Forces. But he wrecked his own chances with an inopportune choice of words during a speech at a ceremony marking Israel’s national Holocaust Remembrance Day in 2016.

19. Israel blasts EU for continued BDS funding despite promises

A new Israeli report shows that the European Union has continued to transfer millions of euros in 2017-2018 to NGOs that promote boycotts of Israel.

By David Jablinowitz, World Israel News

The European Union (EU) is continuing to fund organizations that boycott Israel, according to a report published Wednesday by Israel’s Ministry of Strategic Affairs.

The report, titled “The Money Trail: 2nd Edition,” follows an earlier study published by the ministry regarding EU funding in 2016 for organizations boycotting the Jewish state.

At that time, Strategic Affairs Minister Gilad Erdan urged EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini to immediately cease the transfer of funds to these organizations. Mogherini replied that there were strict monitoring and verification procedures in place, assuring Erdan that no European Union funds were being used to promote boycotts of Israel.

However, the new Israeli report shows that the EU has continued to transfer millions of euros in 2017-2018 to NGOs that promote boycotts of Israel.

The EU is denying the Israeli allegations.

“We previously analyzed the [Israeli] Ministry’s so-called ‘Money Trail’ report and came to the conclusion that allegations presented in the report are unfounded and factually incorrect,” said an EU spokesperson.

“We invited the Israeli authorities to engage in a productive dialogue on civil society as foreseen by the EU-Israel Action Plan. This offer was not responded to, but still stands. We consider it unfortunate that again unsubstantiated material is being publicized without prior dialogue and engagement,” the spokesperson added.

“Instead of hiding behind empty statements, the European Union needs to implement its own declared policy and immediately cease funding organizations that promote boycotts against the State of Israel,” Erdan said in a statement on Wednesday.

“In December 2018, the European Court of Auditors… warned that the European Council does not have adequate and sufficiently detailed information as these NGOs use these funds,” and called on the European Union to “immediately end funding for NGOs which actively promote a boycott of Israel,” Erdan said.PM

The report focuses on 10 non-governmental organizations that are said to be active in promoting boycotts of Israel. The Strategic Affairs Ministry says the information is based mainly on data published by the EU’s Financial Transparency System as well as various European and Palestinian organizations.

It identifies direct-funding transfers of €750,000 to a Palestinian organization called Al-Haq, which is accused of acting against Israel in the International Criminal Court and the United Nations Human Rights Council. In 2018, Al-Haq, along with several French organizations, urged companies involved in a transportation infrastructure project with Israel to declare their refusal to participate if the project directly or indirectly contributed to communities in Judea and Samaria.

SOS The U.S. Army says Iran is the only victor of the Iraq War — by Tim Fernholz: “The US Army has concluded that Iran was the only victor of the eight-year U.S. campaign to remove Iraqi president Saddam Hussein and replace him with a democratic regime. That’s one of the findings of a massive historical study released Jan. 17, the first major military review of the Iraq war’s lessons.”


Iran Press TV

Venezuela’s US-backed Guaido declares self acting president

Iran Press TV

Jan 23, 2019

The president of Venezuela’s opposition-led National Assembly, Juan Guaido, has declared himself interim president of the country and was immediately recognized by the United States, which is accused by Caracas of plotting to topple President Nicolas Maduro.

Addressing anti-government protesters in the capital Caracas on Wednesday, Guaido took an oath, swearing himself in as interim president.

“I swear to assume all the powers of the presidency to secure an end of the usurpation,” he said.

But Venezuelan Defense Minister Vladimir Padrino said via Twitter on Wednesday that the country’s armed forces disavow any president who is self-proclaimed or imposed by “dark interests.”

Minutes later, US President Donald Trump recognized Guaido as the “legitimate” interim president of the Latin American country, calling on other governments in the Western Hemisphere to also recognize Guaido.

Maduro cuts US ties

Shortly after Trump’s recognition of Guaido as Venezuela’s interim president, Maduro said he was severing diplomatic and political ties with the United States.

Signing “a diplomatic note,” the Venezuelan president said he would give “the entire diplomatic and consular personnel of the United States of America in Venezuela 72 hours to leave the country.”

At a rival gathering from the presidential palace broadcast live on state television, Maduro also accused the opposition of seeking to stage a coup with the support of the US, which he said was seeking to govern Venezuela from Washington.

The move by the US administration was swiftly followed by similar statements from Canada and a slew of right-leaning Latin American governments, including Venezuela’s neighbors Brazil and Colombia.

Last week, Russia said Washington’s approach to the South American country showed that its efforts to undermine governments around the world it did not favor were ongoing.

Guaido said he would be willing to replace Maduro with the support of the military and to call elections.

The opposition leader on January 11 branded Maduro, 56, as an illegitimate “usurper,” saying he was prepared to take on the South American country’s presidency on an interim basis and call elections, only a day after socialist Maduro was sworn in for a second term.

Rival demonstrations were staged in Venezuela for and against President Maduro on Wednesday.

Venezuela, which sits atop the world’s largest oil reserves, has been struggling with a worsening economic situation over the past years, which has caused civilian cross-border journeys into Colombia to purchase basic commodities and foodstuffs.

Maduro has accused the US of being behind Venezuela’s economic crisis, saying Washington is orchestrating attempts to topple him as part of a wider offensive against Latin American leaders defying the US hegemony.

In 2017, Trump said he would not “rule out” a military option for Venezuela to solve the ongoing crisis in the country.

Washington also intensified unilateral sanctions on the socialist country, announcing bans on Maduro’s wife and several of his top allies to further increase pressure on the government in early September.

Multiple sources were quoted as saying that the Trump administration could impose new sanctions on Venezuela’s vital oil sector as soon as this week to mount more pressure on Maduro.

21. Ο Ράμα είχε υποκύψει σε Ελληνίδα “διπλωμάτη”… αποκαλύπτει ο Μπερίσα!

Έναν παλιό έρωτα του πρωθυπουργού της Αλβανίας Έντι Ράμα αποκάλυψε ο Σαλί Μπερίσα, πρώην πρόεδρος της Αλβανίας και σφοδρός πολέμιος του σημερινού σοσιαλιστή πρωθυπουργού. Σε συνέντευξή του στον αλβανικό τηλεοπτικό σταθμό Κλαν (στην εκπομπή «Opinion» του Μπλέντι Φεβζίου στην τηλεόραση Κλαν.) ο Σαλί Μπερίσα αποκάλυψε ότι στο παρελθόν ο σημερινός πρωθυπουργός της Αλβανίας Έντι Ράμα είχε ερωτευθεί μια Ελληνίδα που υπηρετούσε στην ελληνική διπλωματική αποστολή στα Τίρανα.

«Είναι μια παθιασμένη ιστορία, πάνε από τότε 26 χρόνια» είπε ο Σαλί Μπερίσα και συνέχισε: «Ήταν στα 1993-94, όταν ο Έντι Ράμα ερωτεύθηκε την διπλωμάτη Κατερίνα… από το τμήμα πολιτισμού της ελληνικής πρεσβείας».

«Την εποχή εκείνη τα μέσα ενημέρωσης είχαν γράψει αρκετά για τον νεαρό ζωγράφο και τη σχέση του, είναι ένα γνωστό θέμα εκείνης της εποχής», είπε ο κ. Μπερίσα αναφέροντας ότι ο σημερινός πρωθυπουργός της Αλβανίας τότε ήταν ζωγράφος.

Αφήνοντας πολλές υπόνοιες για τον πολιτικό του αντίπαλο και το ενδεχόμενο η παλαιά ερωτική σχέση του Έντι Ράμα να είχε αξιοποιηθεί από την ελληνική διπλωματία, ο Σαλί Μπερίσα είπε ότι οι υπηρεσίες της εποχής παρακολουθούσαν την Ελληνίδα και τον φίλο της που σήμερα είναι ο πρωθυπουργός της Αλβανίας… Στη συνέντευξή του ο κ. Μπερίσα δεν διευκρινίζει αν η Ελληνίδα φίλη του Έντι Ράμα ήταν πολιτιστικός ακόλουθος στην ελληνική πρεσβεία ή κάτι παρεμφερές.

«Εάν ρωτούσαμε τις μυστικές υπηρεσίες, αυτές έλεγαν ότι η διπλωμάτης στρατολόγησε τον Ράμα, εγώ όμως δεν μπορώ να πω κάτι τέτοιο» είπε ο Σαλί Μπερίσα και συμπλήρωσε: «Μέχρι σήμερα δεν είχα μιλήσει διότι οι πληροφορίες αυτές θεωρούνταν απόρρητες, σήμερα το απόρρητο έχει αρθεί»… Σύμφωνα με όσα υποστήριξε ο Σαλί Μπερίσα, όταν η Ελληνίδα μετατέθηκε από τα Τίρανα στο Παρίσι, ο ζωγράφος τότε Έντι Ράμα την ακολούθησε στη γαλλική πρωτεύουσα και έγινε… ερωτικός μετανάστης.



U.S. Department of Defense

Jan. 23, 2019
By Jim Garamone

New Strategy Encourages Innovation, Better Intel Sharing

WASHINGTON — The latest iteration of the National Intelligence Strategy aims at encouraging innovation and sharing information and intelligence among like-minded nations, the director of national intelligence said.

Daniel R. Coats released the quadrennial strategy yesterday, calling it “our guide for the next four years to better serve the needs of our customers, to help them make informed decisions on national security issues, and to ultimately keep our nation safe.”

The strategy is built upon President Donald J. Trump’s National Security Strategy and is comparable to the National Defense Strategy released last year. The intelligence strategy will help the agencies that make up America’s intelligence community align resources – money, equipment and people – where they are most needed.

“We face significant changes in the domestic and global environment; we must be ready to meet 21st century challenges and to recognize emerging threats and opportunities,” Coats said in the foreword to the strategy.

Overall, the strategy calls on the U.S. intelligence agencies to increase integration and coordination inside the community and search for new ways to accomplish their missions. The strategy also calls on agencies to “better leverage strong, unique and valuable partnerships to support and enable national security outcomes.” Finally, the strategy calls on the intelligence community to be more transparent SOS while safeguarding information and personal accountability.

Return of Near-Peer Competition

Like the National Defense Strategy, the intelligence strategy focuses on the return of near-peer competition with Russia and China. “Russian efforts to increase its influence and authority are likely to continue and may conflict with U.S. goals and priorities in multiple regions,” the report says. “Chinese military modernization and continued pursuit of economic and territorial predominance in the Pacific region and beyond remain a concern, though opportunities exist to work with Beijing on issues of mutual concern, such as North Korean aggression and continued pursuit of nuclear and ballistic missile technology.”

The strategy warns that China and Russia are doing what they can to weaken America’s greatest advantage: its network of allies, partners and friends developed since the end of World War II. “These adversaries pose challenges within traditional, non-traditional, hybrid, and asymmetric military, economic, and political spheres,” according to the report.

China, Russia and other nations such as North Korea and Iran “are increasingly leveraging rapid advances in technology to pose new and evolving threats – particularly in the realm of space, cyberspace, computing, and other emerging, disruptive technologies,” the report says.

New Technologies

These technological advances will allow smaller nations or even terror groups to field sophisticated capabilities that could be used against the United States and its allies. The United States must be at the forefront of research into these new technologies, which include artificial intelligence, advanced automation, nano-technologies and bio-technologies. These last two have incredible potential to cure disease and improve lives, “but without common ethical standards and shared interests to govern these developments, they have the potential to pose significant threats to U.S. interests and security,” the report says.

The intelligence strategy is a living plan, and the director of national intelligence will continue to monitor developments to ensure the strategy is followed and to determine whether it needs to be changed in reaction to new developments.

Eight Defense Department agencies are part of the intelligence community: the Defense Intelligence Agency, the National Security Agency, the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency, the National Reconnaissance Office and the four intelligence branches of the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marine Corps.


Report: China, Russia, Others Developing Super-EMP Bombs

a photo of a fountain water pool is shown through electromagnetic waves of bright colors of the rainbow

By Jason Devaney    |  24 January 2019

According to The Washington Free Beacon, the countries have nuclear EMP weapons built into their military plans.

“Nuclear EMP attack is part of the military doctrines, plans, and exercises of Russia, China, North Korea, and Iran for a revolutionary new way of warfare against military forces and civilian critical infrastructures by cyber, sabotage, and EMP,” reads the report from the Commission to Assess the Threat to the United States from EMP Attack.
“This new way of warfare is called many things by many nations: In Russia, China, and Iran it is called Sixth Generation Warfare, Non-Contact Warfare, Electronic Warfare, Total Information Warfare, and Cyber Warfare.”
The nuclear bombs being developed, according to the report, could take out all electronics, ranging from computers and cell phones to entire electric grids, over several hundred miles.

The EMP attacks would involve detonating nuclear weapons far above the ground, which would then send EMP pulses to the Earth and knock offline all electronics in their path.

“A single nuclear weapon can potentially make an EMP attack against a target the size of North America,” the report reads. “Any nuclear weapon detonated at an altitude of 30 kilometers or higher will generate a potentially catastrophic EMP.

© 2019 Newsmax. All rights reserved


Intelligence officials favor diplomacy to end the perpetual cycle of violence.

JANUARY 24, 2019 
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Mossad, Shin Bet officials tackle Israel's toughest challengesPALESTINIANS WAIT at an IDF checkpoint in the West Bank late last year.. (photo credit: MOHAMAD TOROKMAN/REUTERS)

They are no lightweights. When they talk about national security, you can not only hear, but also feel from their animated expressions, that their unique experiences in the Mossad and Shin Bet have given them a much deeper understanding of the issue than most.

In a wide-ranging interview with The Jerusalem Post Magazine about Hezbollah, Iran, terrorism, the International Criminal Court and other security issues, they connected all of this to the need to give the Palestinians a peace horizon.

Their backgrounds in intelligence, which give them perspectives even different from some of their IDF compatriots in the group Commanders for Israel’s Security, are what make their views so interesting.

As part of CIS, they are campaigning for various coordinated interim withdrawals from the West Bank and rehabilitating Gaza in exchange for quiet and some interim concessions from the Palestinian side.
They also have a report arguing that the opposite approach, annexation of the West Bank, would cost the state NIS 52 billion per year, or equivalent to NIS 2,500 per Israeli.

The two were pressed that, even if arguably in the 1990s it might have seemed that reaching compromises with the Palestinians could help solve Israel’s other security issues, most experts now say that threats have evolved. In other words, the threats from Hezbollah, Iran and possibly Syria, will remain problems regardless of the Palestinian issue.

If so, then why make concessions to the Palestinians when there are so many other threats wielding more powerful weapons to use against Israel than the Palestinians?

WITH FOCUSED eyes that have seen more of the world than most, Gueron acknowledges that the issue is very complex. “I do see the Iranian threat and its proxy Hezbollah as a very serious threat to Israel. But they are not an existential threat that could lead us to cease to exist.

“The harm from a conflict with Hezbollah… could be severe and almost unlivable, especially to Israeli infrastructure.”

Showing his bipartisan attitude, he also compliments Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for his handling of the Hezbollah-Syria threats. “All that Israel is doing today to deal with these issues are the correct strategies.” But, crucially, he adds, “that doesn’t mean we need to hide from the Palestinian issue and I would not compare these issues as being on the same level.”

Gueron’s experience with threats ranged from nearly 30 years in the Mossad at all levels to fighting in the 1967 Six Day War, the War of Attrition, stationed at the Suez Canal, and the 1973 Yom Kippur War, on the Golan Heights.

He calls the Palestinian threat “an existential threat that presents a clear and present danger to the future of Israel as a majority Jewish nation and a Jewish and democratic state.
“We need to deal with Hezbollah, but what about the Palestinians? The situation is urgent. Israel has enough power and energy to deal with Hezbollah rockets and tunnels, Iran and the Palestinians at the same time,” he says.

“This sounds explosive, but the root of the debate between us and the annexationists is we want to guard ‘Medinat Yisrael’ [the State of Israel] and they want to guard ‘Eretz Yisrael’ [the Land of Israel] – and this is a big difference.

“They are ready to sacrifice the State of Israel for” thinking that they will only pay an “unrealistic low price. This is intolerable. If it were possible and realistic” for Israel to hold on to more of the West Bank, that would be one thing, “but in fact we cannot” hold onto it and the price will be unconscionably high.

If Gueron talks like a philosopher, Pellman expresses himself like a straight-talking tactician.
Pellman spent 30 years in the Shin Bet, starting from operations in the field and at all levels.

He was part of the paratrooper units that took Jerusalem during the Six Day War and was an IDF artillery commander whose units reached a point only 94 km. from Cairo during the Yom Kippur War.
Pellman also says he agreed with Netanyahu’s decision in November to seek a ceasefire with Hamas “under what were not the best conditions,” partially in order “to prioritize confronting the bigger threat from the North. I get that.”

But he also says that the state should follow that logic further of prioritizing how it deals with threats. “Israel must also reduce threats. The ability to reduce the threat in the North is very limited,” implying that even as Israel may currently be reducing Hezbollah’s attack tunnel threat, it is still exposed to the Lebanese terrorist group’s primary weapons – around 130,000 rockets.

“But in Judea and Samaria we can do a lot to reduce the threat and even remove the military and terror threat. We also have an ability to influence Gaza” more than Israel can influence Hezbollah, he says.

Further, the West Bank and Gaza multiply the threat posed by each other in a way that other fronts do not, he says. “If there is an uprising in Judea and Samaria, there is no way that Gaza will sit quietly.”

PELLMAN AND Gueron discussed with the Magazine the IDF intelligence’s and the state comptroller’s conclusion that 2014’s Operation Protective Edge in Gaza was set off to a large degree by the killing of three Jewish teenagers by West Bank terrorists and the IDF response to it, Operation Brother’s Keeper.

Moreover, Pellman says that a key point was “for the IDF to be ready for the next conflict with the North… We need a coalition of the US and others to back us so that if” Hezbollah provokes Israel a certain amount, “we will be able to act” strongly.

He says that since there has been no peace deal on the horizon or negotiations, Israel currently has no credit globally “to do what it did during Operation Protective Edge” – which was against Hamas – against Hezbollah in a future conflict in the North.

Questioned whether it’s true that Israel does not have this backing in light of the fact that US President Donald Trump has supported Israel’s uses of force almost without exception, he says, “It is unclear with Trump – look, he just withdrew from Syria.”

Also, he questioned whether support from Trump would translate into long-term support or whether it is just covering up weakened support for Israel globally and among portions of the US.

Noting that, at most, Trump will be around for six years, Pellman says that “six years is not a lot of time. 50 years is not a lot of time. But would you sell off all of our future,” maintaining policies that alienate many countries, including a large portion of Democrats?

Gueron points out that Democrats who nearly unequivocally support Israel, such as Chuck Schumer, Joseph Biden and Joe Lieberman (who is no longer a Democrat) “are disappearing” and that Israel needs backing for the use of force and for reaching a ceasefire since “it is not built for a war of attrition.”

Getting personal about what brought him to join Commanders for Israel’s Security’s campaign, Pellman says that there wasn’t any one incident in his Shin Bet work that altered his perspective. Rather, he reached the conclusion that a divorce from the Palestinians was necessary from his cumulative experiences.

He says that he routinely would “enter families’ houses at late hours of the night and would see the fear in the [Palestinian] children’s eyes and mothers holding their kids hoping that we would not take them… It was a very rough picture and an everyday picture.

This needs to be taken into account that” sometimes these searches must be carried out “every night in order to make sure there is quiet.” He says that he doesn’t criticize it, but that he wants to reach a solution where the nightly searches are unnecessary.

Moreover, he says that “if you are not already a liberal, then one incident” does not change your views. “But that when you see this volume, you ask yourself: is this the right solution?”

Gueron mentions that prior to serving in the Mossad, he had served in a special unit for guarding the Gaza border and performing searches in Gaza at a time when Israel still maintained forces throughout the territory.

Echoing Pellman, he says he still had strong memories of “going into houses and seeing scared families.”

Pellman estimates that sometimes around 3,500 Palestinians could be arrested per year – “these are astronomical numbers.”

This means that there are tens of thousands of Palestinians who have been in Israeli jails and that “each Palestinian has family members” who have been imprisoned by Israel.

All of the searches create “bitterness” among average Palestinians, he says, and it makes it harder to “end the cycle” of fighting terrorism in a way that leads to new terrorists.

Gueron also got more personal, saying that from firsthand experience as a Mossad official serving outside the country, “You start to understand two profound things: 1) the limits of force – even the US has limits, and 2) what our place in the world is.

“We think we are the center of the world. This is a bubba maiseh [fairy tale]. We are just part of the world and we need to be connected. It is complex with unpredictable challenges that you cannot see in advance.”

Israeli interests come first. But this still means a diplomatic horizon that the world can live with, even if it might be updated from past proposals. Explaining the importance of that horizon to the Shin Bet’s role of fighting West Bank terrorism, Pellman says his experience directing much of the counter-terrorism fight went beyond the IDF’s general security role.

He says the Shin Bet specializes in intelligence and tactics to “prevent terror before an incident” happens and not just to arrest and catch terrorists who have already committed crimes.

Praising current Shin Bet Director Nadav Argaman for his recent announcement that the Shin Bet prevented 480 terror attacks and a larger number of potential attacks, he says that even with the success, the volume was simply “out of control” and that “things are erupting” on the Palestinian street.

From his vantage point, this volume represented “a breakneck pace for continually collecting intelligence and knowing where and how to arrest someone before they act,” which is not sustainable, or at least will mean some attacks getting through the net.

Pellman says he worked insanely hard to keep terror down and that when he retired from the Shin Bet, “I left an area clean” of terror, but that his successor was still stuck working just as hard “as if the area had not been cleaned out.”

“The lesson I have learned from many years” in the Shin Bet is that, “the volume in the war on terror goes up, and then you bring it down… But just like mowing the lawn, the rain comes and it grows again.”

He says the only way to prevent the growth of new generations of terrorists is “to give the Palestinians a diplomatic horizon for a better future so many people will not choose the direction of terror.”

Out of the 2.6 million Palestinians in Judea and Samaria, he says he believed that there were not even 2,000 people who were inevitable terrorists.

Discussing the problem of fighting lone-wolf terror, he says, “There are no lone wolves. There is an atmosphere that gets normal people to take actions when they feel pushed into it and then fall in with Hamas.”

RETURNING TO his diplomatic horizon, Pellman lays out several things the government should do. First, he says that when responding to terrorism, the government should never use arbitrary collective punishment, but should divide between punishing the small areas that have a high density of terror and rewarding the much larger areas that do not.

Second, he says strategy must replace tactics when dealing with the Palestinian Authority. “Is the PA a burden or an asset? The country has not decided, so what does the IDF do… it just mows the lawn. What does winning look like? What do we want regarding Judea and Samaria? Just saying ‘I want quiet’ – that is not a strategic goal,” but a limited tactical perspective that will lead to “a national catastrophe.”

Regarding the PA, he says Israel should strategically and systematically commit to strengthening it since whenever it weakens, “there is no vacuum. Where the PA goes down, Hamas goes up and vice versa.”

He also says Israel must truly come to terms with Palestinian statehood, as absent a state, “how can they fully control their own public?”

In addition, Pellman slammed Agriculture Minister Uri Ariel for a period in which he blocked workers permits of Palestinians to enter Israel. His argument was, “Economics have proven that with Palestinian villages where more people go to work in Israel” within the Green Line or within Jewish West Bank areas, “the level of terror goes down.” Likewise, if a Palestinian village “gets a well-paved road instead of an unpaved dirt road, this keeps them quiet for longer.”

How about broader diplomatic and image benefits to diplomatic moves toward the Palestinians? In the 1990s, many believed that diplomatic moves toward the Palestinians would completely alter Israel’s global image and get it favored treatment from UN-type organizations that currently criticize or harass it.

But since 2015, when the PA asked the International Criminal Court prosecutor to probe Israel on war crimes allegations, under the ICC’s rules, it now can decide to go after Israel even if the PA later backs off during peace negotiations.

The two say that “everything is political” and that they are still confident that if there is reduced violence between the sides and a strengthened peace process, “there will be pressure on the ICC” to slide the case back under the table so as not to rock the boat.

WHAT IS the ex-Mossad and ex-Shin Bet official’s message to the government and the public?
Gueron says, “many agree that debating whether to annex or not is legitimate in a democratic state. On top of that, the elected government in a democracy has the right to move its agenda forward according to its ideology.

“But I do complain that if the decisions have fateful consequences, then serious work is required to understand those consequences. We know this government has not carried out research to understand the consequences. So we did the research,” he says. “This is an issue of showing responsibility. The government has rights, but it needs to act responsibly.”

Answering their own call, Gueron and Pellman handed over a summary of a 400-page report authored by a group of experts that included three ex-Finance Ministry director-generals, Avi Ben Bassat, David Brodt and Yarom Ariav, describing “all of the consequences – economic, diplomatic, social and political” of annexation of the West Bank.

“The results would be grave,” they say, including an around NIS 52 billion per year price tag, which comes out to around NIS 2,500 per citizen to the extent that the cost is passed on in various ways.

The former director-generals arrived at NIS 52b. based on adding expenditures that Israel would owe for education, health and other socioeconomic rights for the 2.6 million Palestinians and some additional security costs, subtracting estimated taxes Israel could collect.

Israel simply “does not have the capacity to swallow this without choking ourselves,” they say, and that a divorce from the Palestinians is the only path.

Though most of their emphasis is on the West Bank, they also support reducing tension with Gaza by rehabilitating it with an offshore man-made island port. Pellman says that “as a career Shin Bet man, my view is that there is no way to guarantee Hamas will not bring problematic people, containers and weapons unless there is Israeli security supervision.

“This is the position of the Shin Bet and it is correct. You need to take into account that the dream of Hamas in Gaza is to be given an opening where they can bring in weapons on an industrial scale,” and that Israel must be ready to combat that.

Although Netanyahu previously said at a Knesset hearing that the Shin Bet was opposed to the man-made island port concept and did not mention qualifications, the Post has confirmed Pellman’s view as accurate that the Shin Bet would support a man-made island port if there was full Israeli security inspection authority.

In any case, Pellman says that it should be approved as a running concept since anyway it could take 10 years to become operational. During this time, Israel would be able to continue to monitor how well Hamas stuck to an indefinite ceasefire.

He says that in a much longer time, tossing out 25 or 50 years – “until it is quiet” – possibly Israel could hand over security to the Palestinians.

Gueron surprised on this issue, saying that while he “supports the Shin Bet and I trust them professionally and some of this is based on information I don’t have, personally [this is not a CIS view]” the port is not the real issue anymore.

“Sometimes it gets too much attention. It’s only symbolic,” saying the real issues were ending the rocket fire, bridging gaps between Hamas and the PA and “major reconstruction of Gaza” with or without a port.

Summing up the most basic and concrete benefit for Israel of avoiding annexation and moving toward a diplomatic horizon, Pellman says the PA would act more strongly against terror on its own.

“Today it is a dilemma for them… struggling against terror” when they cannot explain the benefits to their public. “But if they have a bloc of territory of their own, they will finally be able to do better at explaining why” cracking down on terror from their side to protect Israelis is in the Palestinian public’s interest.


Are we going revolutionary again?

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo recently made an astonishing statement to a small group of journalists, in which he appeared to call for revolution in Iran, and pledge American support for it.  Adam Kredo reported it:

Pompeo, speaking to reporters in Riyadh, said that the Trump administration’s primary goal is to empower the Iranian people to rein in the ruling regime, which has spent a fortune on foreign wars and terror operations as its own people suffer from a collapsing economy.

While the administration has been careful to avoid characterizing its policy as regime change, it has become clear that it does supports efforts by the Iranian people to end Tehran’s expansionist march across the region, particularly in Syria and Yemen. The administration also has stated that it opposes the hardline regime and would offer its support to opposition elements in the country.

“Our effort is to make sure that the Iranian people get control of their capital, and it becomes a nation that is normal and is not conducting terror campaigns that are unrivaled any place else in the world, Pompeo said.

It may well be that the Trump Administration has always maintained it would support opposition elements in Iran, but although I have long favored such support for revolution against the regime, I haven’t seen much evidence of it.  Although the president, the vice president, the national security adviser and the secretary of state have been unstinting in their criticism of Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei and his henchmen, it has been difficult to spot concrete signs of their support for regime opponents, or for what would constitute a revolutionary change in Tehran.

Indeed, it’s difficult to find a single public statement from any top American policy-maker before Pompeo’s remarks in Cairo calling for an Iranian revolution against the theocratic dictatorship.  Yes, there have been sanctions, which I support, and several speeches condemning the regime’s support for mass murder in Syria by the Revolutionary Guards and Hezbollah, and the ongoing oppression of Iranians, but nothing like a call for the Iranian people to “get control of their capital” and turns into a “normal nation.”

Has there been a change in policy?  I have spoken with journalists who have asked this question at both State and the national security council, and they have not been told “yes.”  There has not been any public repetition of Pompeo’s revolutionary words, nor has the president said anything of the sort.  Nor, for that matter, have leaders of the Iranian opposition referred to Secretary Pompeo’s statement.

What’s going on?

I don’t think Pompeo misspoke.  He’s very close to the president, and takes care to reflect Trump’s thinking and impulses.  Ergo, I believe his remarks reflect conversations with the president.  It doesn’t surprise me that administration officials don’t confirm the policy;  they were not privy to the conversations between the president and the secretary of state, and most of the foreign service officers and NSC “experts” want a new deal with Iran, not a change in regime.  Unless there were explicit (written) instructions to support an Iranian revolution, the professionals would not endorse it.

If we are going to support the Iranian revolution, it will become clear enough in the near future.  Meanwhile, we will continue to pressure our allies to refrain from supporting the mullahs.  This seems to be working, as Reuters just reported that the Iranians stormed out of a meeting with European diplomats, who have invariably been fastidiously accommodating in such sessions.  This time, however, the Iranians were irked (and note that this was in Tehran).

The French, British, German, Danish, Dutch, and Belgian diplomats in the Iranian foreign ministry room had incensed the officials with a message that Europe could no longer tolerate ballistic missile tests in Iran and assassination plots on European soil, according to four EU diplomats.

This is a real change.  Reuters calls it “an extraordinary break with protocol, and I’m sure Pompeo and Trump were plenty pleased.

It is conceivable that the Europeans’ newly-found toughness is related to Pompeo’s revelation that the United States will be working with Iranian dissidents.  Some of them are old enough to remember that support for Soviet dissidents led to the collapse of the Soviet Empire, which was a much more challenging enemy than the Tehran mullahcracy is today. Pompeo has been doing a lot of meeting and talking of late, and he might have told the EU diplomats the same thing he told the American reporters.  Or Trump may have told them, and urged them to join in the effort.

One thing is certain:  when America moves, the world changes. as Gorbachev discovered to his chagrin.  Just as Obama’s support for the Islamic Republic strengthened it in the region, support for its internal enemies would likewise change the balance of power in the Middle East and north Africa.

In fact, it would change the whole world.  I hope it’s real.


Press Release

22 January 2019

PR (2019) 007

NATO Secretary General to attend the World Economic Forum Annual Meeting

The Secretary General, Mr. Jens Stoltenberg, will attend the World Economic Forum meetings in Davos, Switzerland, on Wednesday 23 January and Thursday 24 January 2019.


The Secretary General will be a panelist for the session “The future of the Transatlantic Alliance” and will participate in informal gatherings of the Forum. Mr. Stoltenberg will also have meetings with different high level officials in attendance.
For additional information on the event, please consult the website of the World Economic Forum: http://www.weforum.org.



It is just a matter of time

JANUARY 25, 2019

Aviv Kochavi (C) at a ceremony marking his appointment to IDF chief of staff, January 15th, 2019Aviv Kochavi (C) at a ceremony marking his appointment as IDF chief of staff, January 15th, 2019. (photo credit: AVSHALOM SASSONI/ MAARIV)

According to these reports, Kochavi set up the round in advance, jabbing Iranian troops with strikes on Damascus Airport. They returned with fire, launching a long-range rocket toward Mount Hermon. But the IDF was prepared and intercepted the rocket before it struck dozens of Iranian targets hours later in the dead of night.
The commander of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps’ Quds Force, Qassem Soleimani, one of the most prominent and influential military figures in Iran, walked right into the trap.
The Iranians have been looking for revenge since Israel carried out Operation House of Cards in May that decimated Iranian infrastructure in Syria.
Iran wanted Israel to pay a price for its airstrikes and deter it from carrying out further ones.
The missile launched at Mount Hermon carried a warhead capable of carrying several tons of explosives. Had it hit its target – an area filled with hundreds of civilians and soldiers – would have changed the rules of the game on the northern border.
The exchange of fire between the two foes revealed to the Israelis that Iran is holding an arsenal of longrange heavy missiles that can inflict significant damage on home front.
The Jewish state has warned repeatedly that it would not allow for an Iranian presence in Syria, and has admitted to carrying out hundreds of airstrikes in order to prevent the transfer of weapons to Hezbollah in Lebanon.
And while it may have been only one – that sole missile indicates that Israeli strikes have not been totally successful, and the possibility that Iranian missiles have reached Hezbollah in Lebanon remains a major concern.
Officials in the defense establishment believe the situation in Syria – especially with the Americans pulling their troops and the regime of Bashar Assad regaining control over the majority of the country – is encouraging Iran to act more brazenly against Israeli strikes.
Following the announcement of the US withdrawal from Syria, experts warned that the pull-out would give a green light to Iran to continue its activities in the war-torn country.
That could have dangerous consequences for Washington’s allies in the Middle East, especially Israel.
The withdrawal of American troops from Syria would essentially allow Iran to and their militias, including Hezbollah, to shift their entire focus toward Israel and its destruction, experts told The Jerusalem Post at the time.
When Iran entered the fight in Syria alongside Assad, Soleimani believed that he could turn the Islamic Republic into a regional super-power.
But the economic crisis in Iran – which has only spiraled even further since the reimposition of US sanctions – along with the growing outcry by its citizens and the Israeli airstrikes, have not allowed Soleimani to achieve his goals.

By launching one sole missile instead of firing dozens of projectiles toward Israel, it showed that those behind its launch (the type of rocket used needed approval from the highest officials in Tehran) was also an attempt at avoiding an all-out war.

While Israel has a multi-tiered defense system, a round of fighting between Israel and groups in the Gaza Strip last November showed that the missile defense systems are not hermetic.
Hamas and Islamic Jihad cheered their ability to challenge Israel’s fabled Iron Dome missile defense system by firing large missiles and mortar barrages at once.
And we can be sure that Iran is well aware of this.
A missile barrage against northern Israel would have not only changed the rules of the fight, but it would have led to an all-out war – something neither country can stomach at the moment.
While the military has operated under a policy of ambiguity since the 2007 strike on the Syrian nuclear reactor, in an attempt to allow for plausible deniability, Israeli officials have become more open in their claims of strikes against Iranian targets in Syria.
Former IDF chief of staff Lt.- Gen. Gadi Eisenkot was able to greatly expand the IDF’s “war between the wars” campaign, carrying out thousands of strikes against enemy targets across the region. He was crowned “the man who humbled” the IRGC’s Qassem Soleimani in an interview with The New York Times before his retirement.
And on Wednesday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu openly mocked the Iranian general, telling him to examine “the state of Iranian bases he is trying to establish in Syria” instead of “interfering in the [Israeli] elections.”
That followed a report in a Kuwaiti paper that said Soleimani told Iranian leaders that strikes deep inside Israeli territory could bring down Netanyahu in the upcoming elections.
But Soleimani has not stopped trying to finish what he started. Planes are tracked flying to-and-from Damascus and Tehran on an almost daily basis. And so, Israel will continue to operate against the IRGC commander.
The two sides are back in their corners of the ring.
While Israel keeps its eye on its enemy, bruised and battered by the repeated strikes, Tehran is licking its wounds and calculating its next step.
It’s just a matter of time.


Top political strategists offer advice.

JANUARY 25, 2019

PRIME MINISTER Benjamin Netanyahu poses for selfies with soldiers at the Shizafon military basePRIME MINISTER Benjamin Netanyahu poses for selfies with soldiers at the Shizafon military base Wednesday. (photo credit: KOBI GIDON / GPO)

That message can be helpful to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, as he seeks a fifth term in office, which is rare in any democracy around the world. Those who have worked with him said he often appears paranoid, so maybe that is part of his success.
At this point, at least according to the polls, Netanyahu and his Likud Party appear unbeatable. His Likud gets twice as many seats as any other party.
But is anyone really unbeatable? Just like in sports, where the team that is better and heavily favored sometimes loses, there have been significant upsets in politics.
So what are the keys to defeating Netanyahu? To find out, The Jerusalem Post spoke to successful veteran political strategists, including those who have worked with him in the past and those who have beaten him. Most chose not to be named, because they are either currently working for candidates or have in the recent past.
They came up with 12 keys to victory on April 9. Readers can follow what happens in the campaigns over the next 74 days to see whether the potential alternatives to Netanyahu took the strategists’ advice and emerged successful.
1. Unite behind an alternative
This will happen only just ahead of the February 21 deadline for lists to be submitted to the Central Elections Committee. But with pressure groups camping outside the candidates’ homes, it is increasingly likely that the centrist camp will unite under one candidate for prime minister.
Former Netanyahu and Kadima strategist Eyal Arad, who coauthored the August 2018 Hebrew book Killer Instinct: The Complete Guidebook for the Campaign Manager and Candidate, said Netanyahu is beatable, because polls have shown that only 35% of Israelis want him reelected, and those who do not want him reelected include a sizable number of right-wing voters.
Arad said that to be a fitting alternative, a candidate must have leadership traits that prove him or her fit to be prime minister, the ability to make Israelis feel secure and a vision that answers voters’ relevant problems in a way that gets them excited.
“Right now, there isn’t such a candidate, but that doesn’t mean there won’t be,” Arad said. “One of the current candidates can develop these three and move four to five mandates from the Right to him and motivate all the voters who want a change.”
Arad said that in the 2015 election, Zionist Union leader Isaac Herzog lost because he couldn’t give voters a feeling of security and had no compelling vision, but perhaps this election will be different.
2. Wait for Netanyahu’s mistakes
Echoing Grove, a former Netanyahu strategist said being perceived as unbeatable leads to complacency and making bad decisions. He said voters thinking a candidate is unbeatable means he has no weakness to exploit, and that itself is a weakness.
But the strategist said Netanyahu does have a weakness – his criminal investigations – and Netanyahu has made a mistake by highlighting rather than downplaying them. The best example was his January 7 “dramatic announcement” that ended up being about the probes and not about Syria, Hezbollah or Hamas.
“Netanyahu can run on his strengths of security and defense, but instead he is running on his weakness, his legal case,” the strategist said. “He has a huge electorate that loves him, but the dramatic announcement projects the wrong kind of Bibi. Even his hard-core voters don’t want a crybaby Bibi. They want a strong Bibi. I think he is making a huge mistake by running on his weaknesses.”
If Netanyahu continues making mistakes, he could prove vulnerable after all.
3. Milk the probes
A third strategist, who has been part of strategic teams that have defeated Netanyahu, said the probes have already brought his image in Israel to a record low. That could fall even further following Attorney-General Avichai Mandelblit’s expected announcement next month that he intends to indict the prime minister, pending a legal hearing that will take place after the election.
She said the right kind of candidate could use Netanyahu’s legal battles to prove he is no longer a reasonable option to govern the country. She said the candidate should counter Netanyahu’s attacks on the legal establishment, because “Likudniks don’t want democracy lynched either” and would prefer an alternative candidate who is clean.
“Bibi will lose to Bibi,” she said. “There just has to be someone to catch the ball.”
4. Divide and conquer the Right
The Likud’s satellite parties in the past tended to have a political niche. There were Russian immigrant parties, a socioeconomic party, a National Religious party, ultra-Orthodox parties and parties to the far Right.
The New Right Party of Naftali Bennett and Ayelet Shaked intends to be none of those things. When they were in Bayit Yehudi, accusations that they were making the party into a second Likud were a slur, but that is no longer the case in their new party.
The strategists said the Center must “run against Bennett and Shaked” and thereby build them up at Netanyahu’s expense. The more the New Right is seen as an alternative for voters on the Right who’d rather not vote for Netanyahu, the easier it will be to defeat him.
5. Take advantage of coalition math
When polls are analyzed, people tend to say there are this many seats on the Right and this many in the Center and Left. The strategists said it is time to tell voters to stop doing that.
Instead, the public must be told to count the seats of parties who are willing to sit in a government led by Netanyahu after his indictment. Yesh Atid, Labor and Hatnua are not willing to join a Netanyahu-led government from the moment next month when Mandelblit announces his indictment of Netanyahu pending a hearing.
Kulanu and Gesher have said they would sit in a government of Netanyahu after that stage, but would not remain in the coalition if Netanyahu is indicted after the hearing. Does Netanyahu have enough seats without all those parties?
The only parties that do not care about Netanyahu’s legal processes are the Likud, Shas, United Torah Judaism and Yisrael Beytenu, which together have about 50 seats in the polls. If that does not become 61 by April 9, the strategists said, Netanyahu is beatable.
6. Experience or freshness
These could be two different categories, were they not opposites. Both can be painted as either an advantage or a disadvantage, and will be by the different parties in the election
The two main alternatives to Netanyahu’s Likud in the polls are former IDF chief of staff Benny Gantz’s Israel Resilience Party and Yair Lapid’s Yesh Atid. Lapid has experience. Gantz has freshness.
Lapid has learned from the successes and failures of past campaigns and can exploit what he has learned. Gantz’s freshness is one of the reasons polls show Israelis view him as the second-most fit candidate to be prime minister.
Whether or not Gantz and Lapid end up running on one list, only one of them will be the alternative candidate for prime minister against Netanyahu. The strategists said that whoever it is will focus on his experience or his freshness in the campaign.
7. Countering Mr. Security
Netanyahu has persuaded Israelis that he – and only he – can make them feel safe. The strategists said a former general could make them feel equally secure, and it is possible that a leader with a general or two by his side could do the same.
The strategists said one of the mistakes Herzog and Tzipi Livni made was not offering former IDF chief of staff and defense minister Shaul Mofaz the third slot on their list, due to his poor relations with Livni.
Now there are four former IDF chiefs of staff in, or ready to be in, politics. Gantz, Moshe Ya’alon and Gabi Ashkenazi are all political assets who can be used to defeat Netanyahu. Ehud Barak is a political liability, but he can attack Netanyahu from outside politics.
“Netanyahu is called Mr. Security, but he has failed on many fronts,” one of the strategists said. “We can highlight where Netanyahu failed and how everything can be different.”
A member of Gantz’s strategic team added that focusing on security could help him, because it breaks the Right-Left focus in the eyes of the voters.
8. Countering Mr. Economy
Netanyahu boasts high economic growth and low unemployment. But he has not solved the housing crisis or fixed the overwhelmingly high cost of living.
The only general with strong socioeconomic experience is Ashkenazi, who heads the Rashi Foundation, which is dedicated to assisting the underprivileged, particularly children in the geographic and social periphery. That makes him even more of an asset.
Gesher leader Orly Levy-Abecassis will be campaigning on the socioeconomic issue against the government and could leave her mark. But her party is looking increasingly like it will run alone.
The strategists said the question is whether Lapid will be successful in painting his tenure as finance minister as a big success and use that to attract voters.
9. Countering Mr. Diplomat
Netanyahu opened many doors during the current term when he was both prime minister and foreign minister. He galvanized his relationship with US President Donald Trump to Israel’s benefit and built new ties with South America, Asia and Africa.
But one strategist said Netanyahu is vulnerable on the diplomatic issue because he has turned off American Democrats, Progressive US Jews and Europe. Lapid or Gantz can claim that they could have the same diplomatic successes as Netanyahu without his failures.
10. Ride the infrastructure
Strategists said this is Lapid’s strong suit. Sources in Yesh Atid said the three things needed to win an election are a party infrastructure, a media team and a leader who knows how to go head-to-head with Netanyahu, and their party is the only one that has all three.
Yesh Atid has a ground operation with 146 campaign teams across the country from Kiryat Shmona to Eilat, which are based in homes, and 26 regional offices. The party boasts 15,000 volunteers, many of whom have been with Yesh Atid since its inception more than six years ago.
“We are readier for this election than any other party,” a Yesh Atid MK said. “Our activists are the knife in our teeth.”
Gantz hired veteran Labor Party activist Dana Oren-Yanay to build up the party’s infrastructure of volunteer activists. She has had success in the past, but she has a short period of time to work.
11. The ex-Bibi factor
The strategists said that to defeat Netanyahu, it helps to know him well. The best way to know him is to work with his disgruntled former aides, advisers and strategists, who know his weaknesses well.
The good news for the parties is there are so many of those available. Some of them are not limited by being state’s witnesses, so they have more time to help take revenge against Netanyahu and his wife, Sara, for their past mistreatment.
Their names will not mean much to the readers, but former Netanyahu strategists are either currently working, or were until recently, with Yesh Atid, Kulanu, Yisrael Beytenu, Shas and the New Right.
12. Have confidence in success
The strategist who defeated Netanyahu said this is the key.
“We have to get rid of the concept of him being unbeatable,” she said. “Anyone can be beaten, including a magician or a king. Getting out of that concept of him being unbeatable is half the battle.”
She said Labor leader Avi Gabbay was hurting this cause by running on a campaign saying he would not enter a Netanyahu-led government. She said that slogan was conceding unnecessarily to the prime minister.
“It is possible to win,” she said. “Victory is at hand.”

25 January 2019

NATO-Russia Council meets in Brussels

NATO-Russia Council meets in Brussels

The NATO-Russia Council, which brings together all 29 NATO Allies and Russia, met in Brussels on Friday (25 January 2019). NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, who chaired the meeting, noted that Allies and Russia discussed two important topics: Ukraine and the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty. “On both of these issues, Allies and Russia fundamentally disagree, but that is exactly why it is important to talk – to address concerns, increase predictability and reduce risks,” he said.
NATO Secretary General in Davos: the transatlantic Alliance is strong

NATO Secretary General in Davos: the transatlantic Alliance is strong

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg stressed the importance of strong transatlantic cooperation and institutions at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland on Thursday (24 January 2019).
NATO Chiefs of Defence focus on NATO’s readiness and its deterrence and defence posture

NATO Chiefs of Defence focus on NATO’s readiness and its deterrence and defence posture

The NATO Chiefs of Defence concluded their two-day meeting focused on NATO’s Military Strategy, the Alliance’s Readiness and Deterrence as well as on the NATO-led Resolute Support Mission in Afghanistan, the Western Balkans, NATO- Georgia relations, and Alliance Strategic Developments and Warfare Development.

NATO Deputy Secretary General Rose Gottemoeller visits Israel

From 20 to 21 January 2019, NATO Deputy Secretary General Rose Gottemoeller paid an official visit to Israel, to discuss practical cooperation activities between NATO and Israel.
NATO intelligence chief visits Skopje for talks on defence reforms
NATO intelligence chief visits Skopje for talks on defence reforms
The head of NATO’s intelligence and security division, Ambassador Arndt Freytag von Loringhoven, started three days of talks in Skopje on Monday (21 January 2019) focused on reforming the country’s defence and security institutions.


NATO intelligence chief visits Skopje for talks on defence reforms

  • 21 Jan. 2019
The head of NATO’s intelligence and security division, Ambassador Arndt Freytag von Loringhoven, started three days of talks in Skopje on Monday (21 January 2019) focused on reforming the country’s defence and security institutions.
ASG Intel

While in Skopje, Mr von Loringhoven will hold meetings with half a dozen senior government officials, including Prime Minister Zoran Zaev and President Gjorge Ivanov.

On his first visit to the country as NATO’s intelligence chief, von Loringhoven welcomed the parliament’s final vote on the Prespa Agreement and pledged the Alliance’s full support for the country’s accession to NATO. “The Prespa Agreement is an important contribution to a stable and prosperous region,” he said, adding: “you can count on NATO’s support through the accession process and we look forward to welcoming you as NATO’s 30th member.

He further expressed confidence in Skopje’s continued commitment to defence and security reforms, calling them “an essential part of the process of accession, which will allow us to work together effectively”. NATO welcomes recent important progress on transparency, judicial reforms, and civilian oversight of the intelligence and security agencies in Skopje.

Arndt Freytag von Loringhoven is NATO’s first Assistant Secretary General for Intelligence and Security. He took up his post in December 2016, and is responsible for providing intelligence support to the North Atlantic Council, as well as advising the NATO Secretary General on intelligence matters. Prior to his appointment, he served as German Ambassador to the Czech Republic, and previously served as Vice President of the German Intelligence Service.

1. Turkey recognises the Republic of Macedonia with its constitutional name.


The ADL is becoming a threat to Jews.

Daniel Greenfield, a Shillman Journalism Fellow at the Freedom Center, is an investigative journalist and writer focusing on the radical Left and Islamic terrorism.

Jonathan Greenblatt introduced the ADL’s Never is Now 2018 conference with a full-throated defense of George Soros. It was a strange decision for an organization that had once criticized the radical anti-Israel billionaire’s defenses of anti-Semitism. But under Greenblatt, a former Obama official, the ADL had turned sharply to the left and Never is Now, the ADL’s big shindig, was a disturbing demonstration.

Greenblatt’s opening remarks at the December conference mentioned Soros twice and Israel only once.

And he did not mention Israel to defend it, but to sell out the Jewish State in defense of Soros.

“If your favorite politician is attacking George Soros,” the ADL boss warned, “you must stand up and tell them to stop. And do so even if they profess love for Israel up and down.”

Israel was less important than Soros. And that’s not surprising coming from Greenblatt, who had formerly headed the Aspen Institute, which had received funding from Soros. Instead of standing up for Israel, Greenblatt was encouraging Jews to pick fights with pro-Israel politicians if they insulted Soros.

The ADL had once condemned Soros for using Israel to justify anti-Semitism, now it was all in on Soros and out on Israel.

And it got worse.

The ADL chose to invite Senator Cory Booker to hand out an award. Booker had not only betrayed Jewish voters by backing Iran’s nuclear program, but just that summer had been caught posing with members of an anti-Israel and pro-terrorist BDS hate group while holding up an anti-Israel sign.

In September, Booker favorably quoted Stokely Carmichael at a Senate hearing. Carmichael had infamouslysaid, “The only good Zionist is a dead Zionist we must take a lesson from Hitler.”

The ADL could have chosen to invite any number of pro-Israel senators, including those who had voted against Iran. Instead it chose to invite a pro-Iran politico who palled around with BDS activists and found inspiration in the words of a black nationalist anti-Semite who praised Adolf Hitler.

So much for Never is Now.

The ADL had not only betrayed the message of Never Again, it put up on its stage a politician who had voted to protect a nuclear program meant to kill millions of Jews and who favorably quoted a racist who advocated another Holocaust.

The ADL couldn’t have betrayed the memory of the Holocaust any more thoroughly if Greenblatt had goosestepped onto the stage while singing the Horst Wessel Lied.

Never is Now 2018 sold out Jews and Israel.

The list of speakers did not include a single official from a major pro-Israel organization. Not even AIPAC. However Jill Jacobs, the head of the militantly anti-Israel T’ruah, was a featured speaker. T’ruah had rallied efforts to force Jewish charities to stop helping Jews living in areas claimed by Islamic terrorists.

While the Never is Now 2018 agenda featured an unambiguous condemnation of any  efforts to combat illegal immigration, its only Israel panel asked, “When is Criticism of Israel anti-Semitism?” while suggesting that there are “some in the Jewish community who label almost all expressions that are deemed ‘anti-Israel’ as anti-Semitic”.

While the ADL was ruthlessly unequivocal on a variety of lefty issues, such as illegal migration or the reputation of George Soros, it was willing to equivocate when it came to attacking the Jewish State.

There was no room for debate on lefty issues. But there was room for debate on hating Israel.

The panel discussing whether hatred of the Jewish State was anti-Semitic featured Jill Jacobs, a hateful opponent of Israel, and Alyza Lewin of the Brandeis Center, the token pro-Israel organization at NIN. Jacobs, along with top T’ruah leaders, had previously signed a letter urging the United States to “to take a cautious stand concerning Hamas” and called for “constructive engagement with the new Palestinian government”.

Some months after T’ruah’s leadership advocated working with Hamas, the Islamic terror group had put out its own proposal for the Jewish people, “My message to the loathed Jews is that there is no god but Allah, we will chase you everywhere! We are a nation that drinks blood, and we know that there is no blood better than the blood of Jews.”

Never is Now is meant to be a reference to the Holocaust. Not only wasn’t the ADL fighting a second Holocaust, it was welcoming in apologists for Islamist monsters who want to drink Jewish blood.

And apologists for anti-Semites of all sorts.

Appearing on an anti-Semitism panel was Jane Eisner, The Forward boss, whose social justice tabloid not only routinely spewed hate toward Israel, but toward Jews in general. On her watch, the formerly Jewish paper had defended the leaders of the Women’s March, Jeremy Corbyn, Farrakhan and a lefty politician who claimed that Jews control the weather.

The ADL had invited a radical bigot whose paper featured pieces with titles worthy of Stormfront such as, “3 Jewish Moguls Among Eight Who Own as Much as Half the Human Race” and  “Why We Should Applaud The Politician Who Said Jews Control The Weather” to discuss anti-Semitism.

Anti-Semitism, like Israel, was also a pro and con issue at the ADL.

Also on the ADL’s list of speakers was Yehuda Webster, a black nationalist activist, the son of a pastor from Guyana, who had declared, “I am very much against state-sponsored oppression in any context in America, in Israel, or in Palestine. I must stand on the side of the people who fight for liberation.”

Webster is an activist with the radical JFREJ hate group which has fought to cover up anti-Semitism on the Left. The foster son of a JFREJ funder had even been caught setting fires in Jewish schools.

“It’s important for white Jews and Israelis to recognize, yes, the Palestinian-Israeli situation is unique, but still it does play into this global system of white supremacy,” he had argued.

Webster wasn’t the only ADL speaker with a history of accusing Jews of being white supremacists. Joining him was Yavillah McCoy who had declared, “When Jews accepted a white identity in America, they participated in sustaining white supremacy.”

McCoy is associated with Bend the Arc, a radical group headed by Stosh Cotler, an anti-Israel activist.

Instead of inviting activists fighting anti-Semitism, the ADL had instead chosen two leftists associated with anti-Israel groups, who have a history of libeling Jews.

And yet the most obvious thing about Never is Now wasn’t its growing tolerance for anti-Israel and anti-Semitic views. It was how little Jewish content there was in a conference referencing the Holocaust.

There were few representatives of the Jewish community on stage. Instead the ADL brought out obscure lefty activists who, even when they weren’t openly anti-Israel or anti-Semitic, were obscure at best.

Instead of inviting activists who could discuss the rash of anti-Semitic violent attacks against Orthodox Jews in New York City or the Islamic terrorist attacks against Jewish families in Israel, the ADL invited Steph Loehr, a transgender gamer, who fights against integrating voice chat in online video games.

“In my world, the inclusivity-cost of voice chat is very real. The addition of voice chat will push many marginalized players out of the base,” Loer claimed.

The ADL doesn’t have the time and the space to confront anti-Semitism, because it’s too busy with more important things. And those things are not the threats to Jews; they are the agendas of the radical Left.

That’s why Greenblatt puts George Soros ahead of Israel.

Once upon a time, the ADL was a Jewish civil rights organization. Now it’s just another generic lefty group that pretends to care about Jewish causes only long enough to fleece some of its donors.

As the Left goes anti-Semitic, the ADL is becoming a threat to Jews.



Diversity” should include Muslimas who rebel against the hijab.

In a city I cannot name, on a date I cannot specify, an anonymous woman and I embarked on a risky drive to an institution whose address I cannot disclose. “Aisha” and I had eaten, gabbed, laughed, worked and dreamed together. I had met her family. They were lovely people. They planned to kill her. She had violated their Islamic expectations. Thus our drive to a remote safe house. In the United States. In the twentieth century.

In January, 2019, after Ilhan Omar [pictured above] was sworn in as a new congresswoman, my liberal Facebook friends celebrated her and Rashida Tlaib. They made three false claims: “First refugee elected to Congress! First Palestinian! We celebrate diversity!”

No, Omar was not the first refugee elected to Congress. Jewish refugees, and refugees from Communismpreceded her.

No, Tlaib was not the first Palestinian. Justin Amash, a male, Christian Republican, was. Newly sworn-in Donna Shalala, like Tlaib, is an Arab. She is a Catholic who supports Israel. None of the memes celebrating Tlaib celebrated Shalala or Amash.

The third lie is that celebrations of Omar and Tlaib were celebrations of diversity. At the same time that liberals were elevating Tlaib and Omar to meme stardom, they were maintaining complete radio silence about a story that was rocking the world. Rahaf Mohammed Alqunun is a Saudi teenager who, in early January, 2019, escaped from her family and was granted asylum in Canada. Alqunun described beatings, captivity, and the threat of death for abandoning Islam. She insisted that her case was not unique, and that women in Saudi Arabia “are treated like slaves.”

Also in January, 2019, the New York Times brought attention to Loujain al-Hathloul, who has “worked relentlessly to earn Saudi women the right to drive.” For her efforts, al-Hathloul has been tortured, water-boarded, and threatened with, and possibly, raped.

Narges Mohammadi and Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe are imprisoned in Iran for their human rights activism. In January, Mohammadi and Zaghari-Ratcliffe began a hunger strike. Iranian women activists like Masih Alinejad may be close to ending compulsory hijab. They’ve been protesting for decades. My liberal friends have never, as far as I know, mentioned any of these women.

If we pull the focus back and look at Arab and Muslim-born-and-raised women liberals don’t celebrate, we find Ayaan Hirsi Ali, Nonie Darwish, Wafa Sultan, Anni Cyrus, Sarah Haider, and Rifqa Bary. Islam’s defenders have not only not celebrated these women, some have made death threats against them, and liberal allies have prevented them from speaking publicly (see here and here). Hirsi Ali’s enemies prostitute otherwise honorable liberal causes to smear her and to guarantee that she will continue to require round-the-clock armed guards for the rest of her life. They accuse Hirsi Ali of being part of “patriarchy, misogyny, and white supremacy” guilty of “wars, invasion, and genocide” and associating with “white nationalists and far-right politicians” and “colonizers.” Finally, she is “not progressive.” Liberals have participated in the smearing of the Muslim-born-and-raised women mentioned above, and helped to ensure that these women and their allies, on university campuses and in much media, are non-persons. This is not diversity. It is totalitarian uniformity maintained by the threat of violence. Celebration of Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib was no celebration of diversity. It was a selective celebration of two women who align with anti-American, anti-Jewish rhetoric.

Ilhan Omar demanded that US law be changed so that she could wear hijab in Congress. Nancy Pelosi proposed the demanded rule change, in order to “ensure religious expression.” Liberals celebrated, the very same liberals who denounced Mitt Romney as a misogynist because, when asked how he would find female candidates for his cabinet, he replied, awkwardly but innocently, that he had “binders full of women.” I asked my liberal friends why they celebrated Congress’s first hijab. I received no answers. I thought of Aisha. I wondered if they know the following.

1.) Hateful stereotypes are deployed to prevent discussion of hijab.

It’s hard to talk about hijab. Stereotypes get in the way. Not stereotypes of Muslims. Stereotypes of non-Muslims. “You bigoted, racist, intolerant Americans are not allowed to talk about hjiab because you are all Islamophobes who want to harm me.”

Above a July 1, 2018 Vice article alleging that non-Muslims are violent thugs frothing at the mouth to destroy innocent Muslim lives, Vice ran an image of a sweet and lovely hijabi surrounded by evil, Islamophobic assailants. Nasty Americans and Brits ram their grocery carts into pregnant Muslim women’s bellies; they push hijabis in front of oncoming trains.

All decent people condemn real hate crimes. At the same time, one must be mindful of faked hate crimes. See hereherehereherehere, and here. These crimes were faked to silence any discussion of gender apartheid. One can condemn hate crimes against Muslims and at the same time condemn crimes committed against Muslim women in the name of Islam.

Masih Alinejad, Rahaf Mohammed Alqunun, my friend Aisha, and the unknown others like her with no access to safe houses: we speak not for these Muslim women, but with them, Muslim women whom too many choose to erase in the name of political correctness.

2.) Honest discussion of hijab does not equal an attack on Muslim women.

Not all hijabis support compulsory hijab. The My Stealthy Freedom Facebook page features images of hijabis holding signs protesting compulsory hijab. On January 31, 2018, Tarek Fatah shared an incredibly poignant video. A short, stooped Iranian woman, slowed and bent by time, climbed up a small platform in a snowy landscape. Once on the platform, she removed her hijab, wrapped it around her cane, and waved it. She was imitating the image of Vida Movahed, aka “The Girl of Enghelab Street,” who gained fame through a viral photo of an anti-compulsory-hijab protest. Movahed was later imprisoned. Prison guards in Iran are alleged routinely to rape imprisoned activists. Those who oppose free speech about hijab want to force this choice on us: love Muslim women or hate Muslim women. Their choice is false. The choice is between freedom and totalitarianism. We who support freedom love Muslim women. We support free speech about hijab.

3.) Islam’s canonical documents define hijab as the establishment of two tiers of women, one superior, to be safe from sexual molestation, one inferior and subject to sexual molestation.

No doubt my friends who celebrated Omar see hijab as just another lifestyle choice. Their tolerant celebration of Omar’s hijab, they believe, will be reciprocated by Omar’s tolerance of their choices in attire – jeans and t-shirts, say.

Dr. Tawfik Hamid is an Egyptian-born, Arabic speaking, former member of an Islamist terrorist group. In his book Inside JihadDr. Hamid quotes the Koran and authoritative interpretations of it. He states that hijab’s purpose “is not modesty or to encourage observers to focus on a Muslim woman’s personality. Its purpose, according to the most authentic hadiths and interpretations, is to create a society where superior free Muslim women are distinguished from inferior slave women … The hijab … encourages hatred for non-Muslim women who wear modern clothing.”

When Americans like Laura Bush and Nancy Pelosi wear hijab, Dr. Hamid writes, “The women seem to be operating under the false belief that the hijab is a neutral – or merely traditional – fashion statement … But the hijab is not simply a clothing accessory. It harbors deep Islamic doctrinal connections to slavery and discrimination. Western women who cover themselves are unwittingly endorsing an inhumane system.”

Dr. Hamid goes on to say that when he was an Islamist, he and his fellows despised women without hijab, and cursed them to eternal hellfire. They based this belief on the hadith that says, “The denizens of Hell … [include] the women who would be dressed but appear to be naked,” that is, women without hijab.

Hamid cites Koran 33:59, that is interpreted as dividing women into two classes: Muslim hijabis who are not enslaved, and who deserve respect from men, and non-Muslim women who don’t wear hijab. These enslaved kufars are acceptable as sexual prey for Muslim men. “The hijab … creates a feeling of superiority among the women who wear it (and their men).” Hamid cites Tafsir ibn Kathir, that interprets Koran 33:59 thus, as Hamid puts it: a hijabi would be safe from sexual harassment, “if a woman was seen without a veil, they marked her as a slave girl and could rape her without guilt … most Islamic authorities and scholars affirm this purpose of the hijab.” Hamid goes on to quote various hadiths that support the above interpretation of Koran 33:59.

The dichotomy of superior hijabis = respectable / inferior non-hijabis = sex slaves is not of the ancient past. Modern Islamic websites reinforce it with scripture and interpretation “The respectable women should not look like the slave-girls from their dress when they move out of their houses, with uncovered faces and loose hair;” “the people may know that they are not promiscuous women,” non-hijabis are “women of ill repute from whom some wicked person could cherish evil hopes,” reports Islamic Studies Info, quoting canonical scholars. “The hijab must not resemble the garments of the kuffar,” that is, non-Muslims, counsels the University of Essex Islamic Society.

4.) Hijab covers uniquely feminine evil.

Think about two features of Muslim culture that non-Muslims find it difficult to believe, never mind understand: honor killings and female genital mutilation. All three: honor killings, FGM, and hijab are linked by the same logic.

It is difficult to obtain accurate statistics on honor killings. The UN estimates that thousands occur every year, the vast majority among Muslims. In a typical honor killing, a girl is raped and her family kills her. Daniel Akbari, an Iranian-born lawyer and expert in sharia law, writes that honor killings are not random events, and honor killers are not lone wolves, acting on passion outside of society. Rather, in his book, Honor Killing: A Professional’s Guide, Akbari argues that honor killings are not just condoned, but are demanded by Islamic understandings of women.

Honor killers are often not brought to trial. If they are, sentences have often been lenient. As some courts, under international pressure, have become more strict, killers have found new approaches. One approach might be called “honor suicide.” The family informs the prospective victim that she must end her life. In 2006, a 17-year-old Turkish girl received a text to her phone from her uncle. He instructed her to kill herself. Some girls are locked in rooms with rat poison, a pistol, or a rope. Another approach is to assign the task to the youngest male in the family, on the assumption that courts are less willing to sentence young boys to lengthy prison terms. Families may be reluctant to kill, but the surrounding community’s “social pressure and incessant gossip” drive them to do it.

Not just families, but entire polities acting on sharia law punish women for being victims of sexual assault. In October, 2008, Aisha Ibrahim Duhulow, a 13-year-old Somali girl, was stoned to death for being raped by three armed men. A nineteen-year-old Saudi girl was raped fourteen times by seven men. In 2007, she was sentenced to 200 lashes and six months in jail. “Up to 80 per cent of women in Pakistan’s jails are charged under rules that penalize rape victims. But hardliners have vetoed an end to the Islamic laws,” Dan McDougall wrote in 2006.

Female genital mutilation is practiced by some, but not all, Muslims in the United States, Europe, the Middle East, India, and Southeast Asia. Various Islamic scriptures support FGM. The process, which ranges from nicks to the clitoris to its complete excision, and removal of labia and sewing up of a female’s external genital opening, astounds non-Muslims.

Approximately ninety percent of women in Egypt have undergone FGM. Egyptian physician Dr. Nawal El Saadawi described her own FGM in her book, The Hidden Face of Eve. She was six years old, in bed, when unknown persons broke into her room, grabbed her, threw her on a bathroom floor, spread her thighs apart, and mutilated her. The pain “was like a searing flame that went through my whole body … I saw a red pool of blood around my hips. I did not know what they had cut off from my body … I called out to my mother for help.” Little Nawal tried to summon her mother to rescue her from these fiends; she was horrified to recognize her mother among them. Later, Nawal saw them mutilate her four-year-old sister. “Now we know what it is. Now we know where lies our tragedy. We were born of a special sex, the female sex. We are destined in advance to taste of misery, and to have a part of our body torn away by cold, unfeeling cruel hands.”

Research shows that “religious justification is held to be the strongest argument in favor of FGM.” In other words, people practice FGM because they believe that their religion, Islam, demands it. Communities support FGM by stigmatizing women who have intact genitalia. Hirsi Ali reports that in her native Somalia’s madrassahs, “kinterleey,” “girl with a clitoris,” is a standard insult. “Severe stigmatization of girls and women who have not undergone FGM are well in place.” Any effort to stamp out FGM should focus on convincing Muslims clerics that FGM damages “reproductive health.” Note that this World Health Organization publication does not recommend that Muslim clerics be encouraged to consider how FGM hurts women and girls – only how it hurts potential breeders.

Non-Muslims are confused. How could a father murder his own daughter? How could a mother participate in the mutilation of her daughter?

The answer may be found in one of the justifications for hijab. The sight of women causes men to sin. Women are required to disguise themselves. In the logic of hijab, women caused the rapist to rape. She should have covered herself.

Recently, a Muslim preacher described a Muslima who went out in public in a jilbab, that is a long, loose coat, but allowed her face and her high-heeled shoes to be visible. This exposure, he insisted, “tortured” men, because the sight of her face and her shoes forced those men to think about sex – “even though he didn’t want to…he has to struggle with himself not to look at this woman.”  “All this would be in the book of deeds for this sister.” Allah “would give her a double portion of punishment” in the fires of hell for the thoughts that the men thought when they saw her face and shoes. “She is making these men seduced.” “She is purchasing a ticket for Jahannam,” or hell.

Sheikh Taj el-Din al-Hilali, the Grand Mufti of Australia and New Zealand, preached in a 2006 Ramadan sermon that Australian women raped by Muslim rape gangs are responsible for the rapes. “If you take out uncovered meat and place it outside on the street … and the cats come and eat it … whose fault is it, the cats or the uncovered meat? … The uncovered meat is the problem. … If she was in her room in her home, in her hijab, no problem would have occurred … the responsibility falls ninety per cent of the time on the woman. Why? Because she possesses the weapon of enticement.”

During the New Year’s celebrations of 2015/16, thousands of women and girls throughout Western Europe were sexually assaulted by Muslim men. A Cologne imam, Sami Abu-Yusuf, said that the sexually assaulted women were the guilty parties. “If they’re half-naked and wearing perfume, it’s not surprising that such things would happen … It’s not surprising that the men attacked them. Dressing up like that is like pouring oil into the fire.”

In citing perfume, the cleric echoes Mohammed himself, who said, “She is an adulteress, as she provokes the lusts of men with her perfume and compels them and whoever else to look at her.” Note the word “compel.” She, the woman, is responsible for men’s behavior. She forced men to sin by wearing perfume. These are not ancient ideas; they are the foundation of sharia law. Men, on the other hand, are allowed to wear strong scents.

Even little girls possess the weapon of enticement. In Iran, compulsory hijab begins at age 7. Hashim Almidini, an Iraqi-born Australian, featured a hijab tutorial created by an Australian cleric using his little daughter as a model. The silent, shamed daughter appears to be six years old. The cleric, though living in Australia, says that Western culture, lead by Satan, is “invading” Muslims. “Western norms” are Satan’s tool. Hijab is the key battleground between Muslims and hell. The cleric blasts his daughter for showing her neck, her earlobes, and her sock-less ankles.

In January, 2019 news broke of a Malaysian textbook that warns nine-year-old girls to wear hijab to protect the “modesty of their genitals” lest they be sexually assaulted, rejected by their friends, and bring shame onto their families. The textbook includes an image of a young girl seated in a chair, her head in her hands as she slumps in shame. Azrul Mohd Kalib posted this image from the textbook on twitter, and commented, “Not only does this put the responsibility of preventing sexual harassment solely on the shoulders of a girl, it also implies that she had it coming!” She had it coming: that’s the whole idea.

5.) In the logic of hijab, women without hijab are begging to be sexually assaulted.

If wearing hijab communicates that a woman is virtuous, godly, and chaste, lack of hijab communicates that a woman is begging to be sexually assaulted. Egyptian-born Dina Torkia is a successful Muslima fashion and beauty blogger. She lives in the UK with her Pakistani husband. In late 2018, she stopped wearing hijab. On January 1, 2019, she posted a video of herself reading social media messages she received in response to her decision. Reading the messages took forty-eight minutes. Again and again, one theme repeats: she removed hijab because she wants to be sexually assaulted. “Dina didn’t get banged enough when she was young. Now she’s opening up sexually.” “U took the hijab off next time sure would be cock riding or a porn star,” “YOU ARE A HOE,” “The choice you made is welcoming you to the cock carousel, slut.”

Samin, an Iranian activist, created an animation to support those resisting compulsory hijab. “Girls are forced to be liars … you censor yourself when you put it on” but, “If you don’t wear hijab, they think you are a whore.”

Mostly Muslim grooming gangs have been raping, torturing, and sexually enslaving British girls for several decades. One asks how grown men, husbands and fathers themselves, could commit such hideous crimes against little girls, some of whom they killed. Daniel Akbari explains. “For their entire lives these men have been taught that the women who do not wear a hijab and show skin are like whores … They also assume that only Muslim women who follow sharia rules for women’s dress and conduct, wear a hijab, lower their gaze, do not laugh or eat in public, and do not go out of the house without their unmarriageable kin men escorting them deserve respect.”

Indeed, a girl who was abused by a grooming gang said that hijab was used as justification for their abuse of her. “As a teenager, I was taken to various houses and flats above takeaways in the north of England, to be beaten, tortured and raped over one hundred times. I was called a ‘white slag’ and ‘white c- – -‘ as they beat me. They made it clear that because I was a non-Muslim, and not a virgin, and because I didn’t dress ‘modestly’, that they believed I deserved to be ‘punished’.”

6.) Hijab limits women’s entire lives, not just what they wear.

Islam demands that “hijab of the clothes should be accompanied by hijab of the eyes, hijab of the heart, hijab of thought and hijab of intention. It also includes the way a person walks, the way a person talks, the way he/she behaves, etc.”

Many Muslims interpret hijab as including the command that women not leave their homes. Koran 33:33 commands, “stay in your homes and do not go about displaying your allurements.” Islamic Studies Info teaches, “woman’s real sphere of activity is her home … she should come out of the house only in case of a genuine need.”

In her book, In the Land of the Blue Burkas, author Kate McCord describes her life lived in intimate contact with Afghan women who wear sky-blue burqas that cover them from head to foot. Afghanistan is frequently cited as one of the worst countries on earth to be a woman. The suicide rate for women is shockingly high. Some families raise their daughters as sons, until puberty forces them to assume female roles. And, of course, some desperate boys are groomed to be girls, to serve as male prostitutes.

One Afghan woman described to McCord why she would not dare to sing, even within the confines of her own home, surrounded not only by the house walls, but also courtyard walls. “‘If a woman sings and a man hears her, he will think her voice is beautiful and will lust after her. Maybe he will be on the street separated by the wall or in a neighbor’s aouli [courtyard]. Maybe he will never see the woman who sings, but he hears her voice. If that happens, he will want her. The sin is hers. She will be punished. That’s why a woman should never sing, even in her own aouli.’ The women in that gathering agreed unanimously. It’s a great sin for a woman to allow a man to hear her sing.”

The conviction that women’s voices engender sin is not a “long ago, far away” concept. Modern Muslims living in the West discuss, online, the female voice as a source of fitna. Linda Sarsour’s voice is allowed to be heard only as long as she is bashing the kufar. Were Sarsour’s voice ever used to support the White Wednesday activists in Iran, or potential victims of honor killings, Sarsour would face the same death threats as Ayaan Hirsi Ali.

7.) Many Muslims understand hijab’s secondary function as proselytizing for Islam.

Hijab is assessed as an effective way to carry out the Allah-given mission: to spread Islam to all people until no deity is worshipped save Allah (al-Bukhari 8:387). Islam is spread through jihad, but also through “da’wah,” or proselytizing. In the article aptly titled, “Hijab Activism,” Shaema Imam writes that, “With Hijab, every public moment becomes Dawa.” Clothing is used “to demonstrate what groups they belong to … The Ummah must cultivate a distinct identity.”

In her article, “The Hijab as Da’wah,” Dr. Aisha Hamdan writes, “Many scholars agree that the only reason a Muslim may live in a non-Muslim country is to conduct dawah and bring people to the true religion … In America, where Islam is the fastest growing religion (alhumdullilah), many people are coming to know what this head covering really signifies … The hijab, in effect, is an amazingly powerful tool for dawah … Once a woman begins to wear hijab she completes a large portion of her responsibility for dawah … Each time that she goes to the grocery store, the library, to work, to school, or to any other public place, she is spreading the magnificent message of Islam.” One must do this because non-Muslims “are being deluded by Satan and following paths to destruction.”

A recent convert to Islam wrote that hijabis “are a walking billboard for your religion … You could be helping open someone’s mind to submitting.”

In a March 8, 2018 post asking, “Why do Muslim Women Actually Wear the Hijab?” Saulat Pervez wrote, “Conspicuous in their head-coverings, these women have become ambassadors of the Islamic faith.”

Misbah Awan wrote in the Huffington Post that “wearing the hijab is a form of dawah … They are targeting … especially youth … It helps to avoid linking Muslims with 9/11 and terrorism. It provides a way of bringing light and warm-hearted thoughts into young minds.”

8.) Hijab is kept in place with violence, terror, and intimidation.

Many hijabis insist, stridently, that they don’t need to be liberated by anyone, and that hijab is their personal choice. This is no doubt true. What is also true is that hijab is kept in place through violence, terror, and intimidation. No one can ever know if any given hijabi is a hijabi because of her own choice.

Hijab is mandated by law in Saudi Arabia and Iran. In other countries, hijab is kept in place with varying degrees of social pressure, always culminating in death. In Egypt, street harassment of women is routine. In Iran, there have been numerous acid attacks in the midst of calls for punishment of “badly veiled” women.

Aqsa Parvez’s father killed her over hijab in Canada in 2007. She was sixteen. Bina, a 21-year-old wife, mother, and Iranian immigrant to Sweden, was killed in 2016 by her husband because she stopped wearing hijab. “‘He thought that other people were making fun of him – it was a matter of honor,’ said a close friend … a family member said, ‘We came here far from oppression, but some people have difficulty living freely.’ After he murdered her, Bina’s husband put a hijab on her face and neck.” In 2017, a fifteen-year-old Iraqi victim of an honor killing was beheaded. A hijab was wrapped around her decapitated head, which had been thrown into a garbage can.

Turkish-born, 23-year-old Hatun Surucu, the mother of a little boy, once in Berlin, Germany, “discarded her Islamic head scarf.” To her family, “such behavior represented the ultimate shame – the embrace of ‘corrupt’ Western ways.” Hatun was murdered by family members who conspired in her murder, and who said of her, “The whore lived like a German.” Her youngest brother, 18, bragged of the murder.

In 2009, in Kingston, Ontario, Canada, Mohammad Shafia murdered his three daughters Zainab, Sahar, Geeti – all teens – and Rona, one of his wives. As Michael Friscolanti put it, “the Shafia sisters were caught in the ultimate culture clash, living in Canada but not allowed to be Canadian. They were expected to behave like good Muslim daughters, to wear the hijab and marry a fellow Afghan. And when they rebelled against their father’s ‘traditions’ and ‘customs’ – covertly at first, then for all the community to see – the shame became too much to bear. Only a mass execution … could wash away the stain of their secret boyfriends and revealing clothes.”

All of these murders, and thousands of others like them, are part of a cultural pattern: honor killings justified with reference to a woman’s refusal to wear hijab. For every such honor killing that occurs, there are millions that never happen, but that are hinted at to rebellious daughters, sisters, and wives. You don’t want to end up like so-and-so.

9.) Hijab is not intended to, nor does it, create a worldview where women’s individuality is valued apart from their physical attractiveness, or where women are seen as anything other than wives, mothers, and whores, all designed to please men, but capable of damning men.

In a January 7, 2016 Daily Show appearance, Muslim activist Dalia Moghed insisted that hijab teaches Muslim women to focus on their own individuality beyond their ability sexually to attract men. That is not the purpose for hijab stated in foundational scriptures. Koran 24:31 advises women wearing hijab not to allow their ornaments to make noise as they walk. That is, it is assumed that a woman in hijab is fully bejeweled underneath her cover. Anyone who has spent any time with hijabis knows that they enter the gender-mixed rooms of parties cloaked in shapeless black from head to foot, but once they are in the area reserved for women, they remove their hijabs to reveal that underneath they are dressed in fashions worthy of the hottest runway. At such parties, women dance competitively with and for other women. The dances are undeniably erotic. YouTube features endless tutorials for hijabis on how to look hot even in hijab. These videos have millions of eager fans who lavish praise on hot hijabi YouTube stars. See for example hereherehere, and here. Linda Sarsour, America’s most famous hijabi, is never seen without a full face of makeup.

Hijab manufacturers do not market their products as promoting women’s gender-free individuality, but rather as beautiful complements to their physical appearance. One hijab manufacturer says, “In order to build a world where women have beautiful options for every occasion, we’ve designed the standard of luxury for hijab. Crafted from the finest pure silk, tulle and lace opulently adorned with bespoke embellishments, this collection channels timeless elegance.” Hijab customers praise their hijabs based on how attractive they are. “Navy is a color I always need with my floral dresses and patterned shirts,” and “Beautiful color – Perfect for Fall/Winter!! It goes wonderfully with my dark skin tone and adds elegance to any outfit,” and “Such a chic sophisticated color.”

Too, Muslim men are quite capable of objectifying women in complete hijab. Dancers at Arab parties may be covered from head to foot, but still required to perform what some call “Arab twerking,” a dance that involves highly suggestive movements with the hips and buttocks. Women in full, state-mandated cover have been sexually harassed in Saudi Arabia, including by men who follow them on the street and grab their breasts, buttocks, and groin. Videos of this harassment has been posted to YouTube and sparked public discussion. The Mosque Me Too movement has generated hundreds of accounts of Muslimas being groped, fondled, and violated in the most sacred of spaces, including during the haj. One survivor wrote, “When I visited the Jama Masjid in Delhi, the man lending modest robes to women touched my breasts.” Another, “I was ten years old and I thought my sister was gripping my hips as not to lose me in the huge crowd after jumaa prayer. But my sister was next to me and those turned out not to be my sister’s hands.” Another, “It’s a terrible situation when you are in a mosque, in front of the kaaba, where you should feel the closest to God, and the worst thing happens.”

Hijab has not solved the problem of the sexual objectification and exploitation of women. It was not designed to.

10.) Hijab’s defenders deploy cultural relativism selectively and inaccurately to shield hijab from critique.

It’s just like a nun’s habit,” they say. No, it’s not. Any given nun, from any era, violates several of the criteria for hijab. One can see her face and her hands, one can discern the outline of her form, and one can not only hear her voice, but her voice steers her church. Hildegard von Bingen, Teresa of Avila, Mothers Teresa and Angelica, and Wendy Beckett clearly did not obey hijab’s dictates about remaining silently at home, submissive to their earthly spouse. Too, there is no Catholic analog to acid attacks to force women to become nuns.

“It’s just a piece of cloth,” they say. The Confederate flag is also just a piece of cloth. We must bring the same awareness, honesty, and courage to discussion of hijab that we bring to discussion of the Confederate flag. This discussion is not Islamophobic, any more than discussion of the Confederate flag is “Confederacy-phobic.” I speak not for, but with, Ayaan Hirsi Ali, Masih Alinejad, and my beloved friend Aisha, who, in spite of the safe house that gave her temporary shelter, in the end, ended up losing so very much that she has never redeemed. The heartbreak – and love – I feel for this rebellious Muslima informs every word of this article. To my liberal friends I say, please expand your concept of “diversity” to include invisible, silenced women you will never meet –  the nameless fifteen-year-old Iraqi girl whose head, wrapped in a hijab, was tossed in a garbage can, Hatun Surucu, the Turkish mother whose relatives called her a whore, and my beloved friend Aisha.

* * *

Photo by Fibonacci Blue

Danusha Goska is the author of God through Binoculars



On the political and military fronts, Israel outmaneuvers its enemies.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu secured another diplomatic victory for Israel with the dramatic announcement that Chad and the Jewish State would be reestablishing diplomatic relations. The Muslim majority nation had severed ties in 1972 following intense pressure from Libya, its menacing neighbor to the north, which at the time was led by the dictator, Col. Muammar Qaddafi. But following a visit by Chad’s President Idriss Déby to Jerusalem and a reciprocating visit by PM Netanyahu to N’Djamena, forty-seven years of animosity instantly vanished.

Israel’s historic diplomatic achievement occurred despite intense efforts by the Palestinian Authority and Iran to torpedo the initiative, and reflects a rise in Israel’s standing on the African continent and in the Muslim world at large. Indeed, Israel has much to offer in terms of military expertise, cyber technology, water technology and agricultural technology, commodities that are in high demand in parched, battle-plagued Africa.

Upon Netanyahu’s return flight to Israel, Sudan granted permission for Netanyahu’s plane to fly in airspace controlled by Khartoum. This may seem to be insignificant but considering that Sudan was once firmly in Iran’s camp and served as an Iranian transit point for arms shipments to Gaza, the gesture was remarkable.

Following the breakthrough with Chad, Jerusalem announced that it is preparing to host Mali’s Prime Minister Soumeylou Boubeye Maiga in the “coming weeks.” The West African Muslim majority nation severed diplomatic relations with Israel during the 1973 Yom Kippur War but is now set to restore full diplomatic ties.

Muslim nations from the Near East to Africa are coming to terms with the fact that the source Mideast’s instability is not Israel and its conflict with the so-called “Palestinians” but rather Islamic fundamentalism. Shia Iran is recognized as a malign regional influence while ISIS and the Muslim Brotherhood represent bad actors of the Sunni persuasion. In this context, moderate Muslim nations like Oman, which recently hosted Netanyahu in a well-publicized visit, see Israel as an ally rather than a foe.

Palestinian efforts to isolate Israel have failed miserably and this is a reflection of a rejectionist, maximalist political policy rife with short-sighted, unrealistic goals. In the arena of diplomacy, Israel, led by its savvy statesman Netanyahu, has completely outmaneuvered and outclassed the PA’s crusty octogenarian president, Mahmoud Abbas.

In addition to its political fortunes, Israel this week scored impressive military successes. On January 20, in a rare daylight raid, Israel struck what was believed to be a weapons storage facility near Damascus. Iran, which provides Hezbollah with $800 million in annual military assistance, uses Syria’s Damascus airport as a waystation for transit of weapons to Hezbollah. Soon after the attack, Iranian Quds Force operatives launched a Fateh 110short-range ballistic missile (SRBM) at northern Israel. The missile, which is made in Iran, incorporates Chinese components and carries a ½ ton warhead. Had it landed in a populated area, it could have caused massive civilian casualties.

Israeli missile defense crews detected the launch and intercepted it with a Tamir interceptor fired by an Iron Dome battery. Israeli skiers enjoying themselves at the Golan Heights ski resort watched the drama unfold as Israel’s wonder weapon blew the Iranian missile out of the sky. As an aside, the U.S. Army recently announced that it will be acquiring two Iron Dome batteries with 12 launchers, 240 interception missiles, two battle-management systems and two radar systems to shield American ground troops from missile, rocket and drone threats. On January 20, Iron Dome proved that it is as adept at shooting down ballistic missiles fired by Iran as it is at shooting down Qassam and Katyusha rockets fired by Hamas.

Israel could not let the Iranian aggression stand unanswered. In the early hours of Monday morning, Israel launched massive and successive strikes against Quds Force munition storage sites, intelligence sites and training camps, reducing them to ash. According to the London-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, the attack caused the death of at least 21 enemy combatants of whom 12 were Iranian, six were Syrian regime soldiers and three were foreign mercenaries of unspecified nationality. An Israeli warning to the Syrians to keep their anti-aircraft defenses in check went unheeded and so, Israel was forced to destroy a number of Syrian anti-aircraft platforms. The Israeli Army released dramatic video footage showing the destruction of Syrian anti-aircraft batteries.

Syria’s anti-aircraft defenses are formidable but despite the presence of Russian SA-17, SA-22, S-200 and S-300 anti-aircraft batteries, Israel retains complete air supremacy over the skies of Syria. Syria’s main patron Russia responded angrily to the Israeli strikes referring to them as “arbitrary.” But the Russians, who assured Israel that they would keep Iran far from Israel’s borders, have not kept up to their end of the bargain. A report which surfaced in Arab media alleged that a visit by Quds Force Commander, Qassem Soleimani, to a location less than 40km from the Golan Heights triggered the Israeli reaction. Israel’s intelligence apparatus in Syria is excellent and Israeli intelligence units had apparently been monitoring Soleimani’s movements.

This was a good week for Israel both militarily and politically. Israel continues to charter inroads on the African continent while at the same time, its military stands ready to check aggression emanating from nefarious elements to the north, south and east.


Συνταγματάρχης Γεώργιος Γρίβας: Η Οργάνωση “Χ” και η μάχη του Θησείου

Ο συνταγματάρχης Γεώργιος Γρίβας υπήρξε μια από τις σημαντικές μορφές του νεώτερου Ελληνισμού. Κύπριος στην καταγωγή, εντάχθηκε στις τάξεις του Ελληνικού Στρατού και πολέμησε τόσο στην Μικρά Ασία, όσο και στην Βόρεια Ήπειρο, το 1940-41.

Μετά την κατάρρευση του βορειοηπειρωτικού μετώπου επέστρεψε στην Αθήνα και μη αποδεχόμενος την ήττα ίδρυσε, ήδη από τον Ιούνιο του 1941, μια μικρή αντιστασιακή οργάνωση, στην οποία εντάχθηκαν κυρίως αξιωματικοί. Η αρχική αυτή οργάνωση εξελίχθηκε, το 1943, στην Οργάνωση “Χ”.

Για την οργάνωση αυτή έχουν γραφεί αρκετά, κυρίως από του φανατικούς πολέμιούς της, οι οποίοι την κατηγορούν ότι συνεργάστηκε με τις δοσιλογικές κυβερνήσεις, ακόμα και με τα γερμανικά στρατεύματα κατοχής. Οι κατηγορίες αυτές άρχισαν να διατυπώνονται, κυρίως, μετά την συμμετοχή της Χ στη μάχη της Αθήνας, τον Δεκέμβριο του 1944, κατά του ΕΑΜ-ΕΛΑΣ. Ωστόσο τόσο η Χ ως οργάνωση καθαυτή, όσο και η συμμετοχή της στα Δεκεμβριανά, είναι μάλλον υπερεκτιμημένη.

Περί τα μέσα του 1943 η οργάνωση του Γρίβα έλαβε την ονομασία Χ. Πυρήνες της οργάνωσης ήταν αξιωματικοί του Στρατού. Σκοπός της ήταν, η εκδίωξη των κατακτητών από την Ελλάδα. Η οργάνωση διατείνονταν ότι δεν είχε πολιτική χροιά, ωστόσο ήταν γνωστό ότι ο Γρίβας ήταν συντηρητικών πολιτικών πεποιθήσεων.

Ο Γρίβας είχε αποφασίσει να δραστηριοποιήσει την οργάνωση σε δύο χρόνους. Αρχικά σκόπευε να προχωρήσει στην, μυστική, συγκρότηση και τον εξοπλισμό μάχιμων τμημάτων, και στη συνέχεια, να εξαπολύσει τα τμήματα αυτά σε επιθέσεις κατά των Γερμανών, υπό τις οδηγίες του Συμμαχικού Στρατηγείου.
Επιθυμούσε τα μάχιμα τμήματα της οργάνωσης να συγκροτηθούν κατά τα ανταρτικά πρότυπα του ΕΔΕΣ και της ΕΚΚΑ, σε περιοχές ζωτικής σημασίας για τους Γερμανούς, ώστε να επιτύχουν την μέγιστη δυνατή βλάβη των
δυνάμεων κατοχής.

Η οργάνωση έλαβε επαφή με τον τέως αρχιεπίσκοπο Αθηνών, τον ηρωικό πάλαι ποτέ μητροπολίτη Τραπεζούντας, Χρύσανθο, η οποία και διατηρήθηκε μέχρι την απελευθέρωση και ο οποίος διαβεβαίωσε πως η οργάνωση ποτέ δεν είχε σχέσεις με την κατοχική κυβέρνηση.

Η Χ κατηγορήθηκε ότι είχε στενές σχέσεις με την κατοχική κυβέρνηση. Η Χ υπέγραψε πρωτόκολλο συνεργασίας επτά “εθνικών οργανώσεων” (Οργάνωση Χ, ΡΑΝ, Εθνική Δράση, ΕΔΕΣ Αθήνας, ΕΔΕΜ, ΕΚΟ, Τρίαινα) με παρόντες, τον Άγγλο σύνδεσμο Ντον Στοτ και τον Δ. Σειραγάκη, εκπρόσωπο της Υπηρεσίας Πληροφοριών του Υπουργείου Άμυνας της κατοχικής δοσιλογικής κυβέρνησης στα πλαίσια του Πανελλήνιου Απελευθερωτικού Συνασπισμού (ΠΑΣ) υπό τις διαταγές του Συμμαχικού στρατηγείου Μέσης Ανατολής.

Πηγές της Αριστεράς αναφέρουν ότι πολλοί εύζωνοι των Ταγμάτων Ασφαλείας ήταν ταυτόχρονα και μέλη της Χ, ενώ υπήρχε συνεργασία με την Ειδική Ασφάλεια, η οποία προμήθευε τα μέλη της Χ με πλαστές υπηρεσιακές ταυτότητες ώστε να μην συλλαμβάνονται από τις γερμανικές δυνάμεις. Οι σχέσεις ανάμεσα στη Χ και την Ειδική Ασφάλεια έγιναν γνωστές στους Γερμανούς κατά τα τέλη Απριλίου του 1944, χωρίς ωστόσο να ληφθεί κάποιο μέτρο

Προσωπικές επαφές με τον Γρίβα και την Χ είχε και ο αείμνηστος ταγματάρχης Ιωάννης Τσιγάντες, λίγες μέρες πριν τον ηρωικό του θάνατο, σε συμπλοκή με τους Ιταλούς, κατόπιν προδοσίας, για την οποία το ΕΑΜ δεν ήταν άμοιρο ευθυνών.

Αρχικά ο Γρίβας επιδίωξε την συγκρότηση μάχιμων τμημάτων στην βορειοανατολική Πελοπόννησο (περιοχές Αιγίου, Άργους και Κορίνθου) και στην Φωκίδα. Ωστόσο οι προσπάθειες αυτές δεν ευοδώθηκαν, αφού, άριστα πληροφορημένοι οι κατακτητές, εξάρθρωσαν το δίκτυο της οργάνωσης στην Πελοπόννησο, συλλαμβάνοντας πολλά μέλη της οργάνωσης.

Επίσης η προσπάθεια συγκρότησης ένοπλων ομάδων στην επαρχία συνάντησε την σφοδρή αντίδραση του ΕΑΜ-ΕΛΑΣ, που επιθυμούσε να μονοπωλήσει τον αντιστασιακό αγώνα, καταδιώκοντας τις λοιπές αντιστασιακές οργανώσεις –όπως την ΕΚΚΑ για παράδειγμα –άσχετα αν αυτές, αποδεδειγμένα, πολεμούσαν κατά των κατακτητών.

Και σαν να μην έφτανε αυτό, όποια οργάνωση δεν ενσωματώνονταν στο ΕΑΜ, αυτόματα της προσδίδονταν ο τίτλος της «φασιστικής –δοσιλογικής».  Ακόμα και ο αρχηγός του ΕΛΑΣ, Στέφανος Σαράφης, πριν την διάλυση της δικής του οργάνωσης από τον ΕΛΑΣ και την «υποχρεωτική» του ένταξη σε αυτόν, χαρακτηρίζονταν περίπου ως «Γερμανοτσολιάς», από τους ίδιους που μετά χρησιμοποίησαν το όνομά του.

Μοιραία λοιπόν η Χ περιορίστηκε στην Αθήνα και τον Πειραιά. Ωστόσο τα τμήματά της ήταν εν πολλοίς άοπλα. Μόνο μετά την ιταλική συνθηκολόγηση, τον Σεπτέμβριο του 1943, επετεύχθη η προμήθεια οπλισμού από τις αποσυντιθέμενες ιταλικές μονάδες.

Σημαντικό ρόλο διαδραμάτισε και ο αρχιεπίσκοπος Χρύσανθος, ο οποίος συγκέντρωσε τα απαραίτητα χρήματα, αγοράζοντας, ουσιαστικά, τα όπλα των Ιταλών. Έτσι κατορθώθηκε ο εξοπλισμός 200 μαχητών, περίπου. Παράλληλα όμως ξεκίνησε και η εντατική προσπάθεια συλλογής πληροφοριών και μετάδοσής τους στο Στρατηγείο Μέσης Ανατολής.

Ο Γρίβας σκόπευε να εξαπολύσει και εκστρατεία διενέργειας σαμποτάζ κατά των Γερμανών. Επ’ αυτού όμως περίμενε σαφείς οδηγίες από το Κάιρο, καθώς δεν ήθελε να προκαλέσει τα αντίποινα των κατακτητών κατά αθώων Ελλήνων ομήρων.

Ωστόσο οι Γερμανοί πληροφορήθηκαν τα καθέκαστα και άρχισαν να αναζητούν τον Γρίβα. Αρχικά επιχείρησαν να τον συλλάβουν στις 24 Μαρτίου. Την επομένη, επέτειο της εθνικής παλιγγενεσίας, ο Γρίβας συμμετείχε, με μέλη της οργάνωσης, σε εκδήλωση τιμής, στο μνημείο του Άγνωστου Στρατιώτη.

Παρόλα αυτά η προετοιμασία της οργάνωσης συνεχίστηκε. Σταδιακά όμως η οργάνωση απέκτησε και άλλον αντίπαλο, πέρα από τους Γερμανούς και το ΕΑΜ. Ήταν η κατοχική κυβέρνηση Ράλλη. Αφορμή δε ήταν η συγκρότηση των διαβόητων Ταγμάτων Ασφαλείας.

Τον Φεβρουάριο του 1944 η κυβέρνηση Ράλλη διέταξε τους εν ενεργεία αξιωματικούς να καταταγούν, υποχρεωτικά, στα Τάγματα Ασφαλείας. Για όσους αρνούνταν να συμμορφωθούν, προβλέπονταν σοβαρότατες κυρώσεις. Ο Γρίβας τότε, κατόπιν συνεννόησης με τους αξιωματικούς που στελέχωναν την οργάνωση, αποφάσισε ότι κανένας αξιωματικός, μέλος της Χ, δεν πρέπει να καταταγεί στα Τάγματα, εφόσον η νόμιμη ελληνική κυβέρνηση του Κάιρου είχε ταχθεί κατά της συγκρότησής τους.

Η κυβέρνηση Ράλλη κάλεσε προσωπικά τον Γρίβα να καταταγεί στα Τάγματα, με την υπ’ αριθμ. ΕΠ 18525/10-6-44, διαταγή του υπουργείου Άμυνας. Όταν αρνήθηκε, πρώτα του στέρησαν τις αποδοχές και την τροφοδοσία και κατόπιν επιχείρησαν να τον συλλάβουν.

Ο Γρίβας κρυβόταν, από τον Μάρτιο του 1943, καταδιωκόμενος από τους Γερμανούς, στα Τουρκοβούνια. Εκεί τον ανακάλυψαν οι Ταγματασφαλίτες, μάλλον κατόπιν προδοσίας, αλλά την τελευταία στιγμή, ο Γρίβας κατάφερε να ξεφύγει, όπως πολλάκις θα έπραττε ξανά στο μέλλον, όταν θα τον καταδίωκαν οι Βρετανοί, αυτοί τη φορά, στην μαρτυρική Κύπρο.

Άλλη μια απόπειρα της οργάνωσης να συγκροτήσει ανταρτικά τμήματα στην περιοχή του Ελικώνα και του Κιθαιρώνα, επιχειρήθηκε, με τη βοήθεια της οργάνωσης «Κόδρος», η οποία είχε στενή επαφή με τους Βρετανούς και το Στρατηγείο Μέσης Ανατολής.

Οι Βρετανοί αρχικά συμφώνησαν να ενισχύσουν την Χ με την ρίψη οπλισμού και εφοδίων, στην εν λόγω περιοχή, αλλά τελικά υπαναχώρησαν. Στα τέλη Οκτωβρίου του 1943 έφτασε στην Αθήνα ο Βρετανός λοχαγός Ντον, ο οποίος είχε αναλάβει την αποστολή να συντονίσει τη δράση των ελληνικών αντιστασιακών οργανώσεων Χ, ΡΑΝ, ΕΔΕΣ, ΕΔΕΝ, ΕΚΟ, ΤΡΙΑΙΝΑ.

Μέχρι τα Δεκεμβριανά

Μεταξύ της 17ης και της 20ης Μάιο του 1944 πραγματοποιήθηκε στον Λίβανο το ομώνυμο Συνέδριο των αντιπροσώπων των ελληνικών κομμάτων και οργανώσεων, της νόμιμης κυβέρνησης του Κάιρου και της «κυβέρνησης του βουνού».

Στο συνέδριο του Λιβάνου φάνηκε εξαρχής η διάθεση της ΕΑΜικής παράταξης να τορπιλίσει κάθε προσπάθεια συνεννόησης, προβάλλοντας όρους που εκ των προτέρων δεν ήταν δυνατό να γίνουν αποδεκτοί.

Ενδεικτική της έντασης που επικράτησε ήταν η ομιλία του πρωθυπουργού Γεωργίου Παπανδρέου: «…Η κατάπαυσις του εμφυλίου πολέμου και η συνένωσις όλων των εθνικών μας δυνάμεων εναντίον των βαρβάρων επιδρομέων προς απελευθέρωσιν της πατρίδος αποτελεί τον λόγον της συναντήσεώς μας. Κόλασις είναι σήμερον η κατάστασις της πατρίδος μας. Σφάζουν οι Γερμανοί, σφάζουν τα τάγματα ασφαλείας.

“Σφάζουν και οι αντάρται. Σφάζουν και καίουν. Τι θα απομείνη από την άτυχη αυτήν Χώρα; Η Ευθύνη του ΕΑΜ είναι ότι δεν απέβλεψε μόνον εις τον απελευθερωτικόν αγώνα, αλλά ηθέλησε να προετοιμάση την μεταπολεμικήν δυναμικήν του επικράτησιν. Δια τούτο επεδίωξε την μονοπώλησιν του εθνικού αγώνος. Δεν επιτρέπει εις κανένα άλλον ν΄ ανέβη εις τα βουνά και να πολεμήση τον κατακτητήν, εμποδίζει με ποινήν θανάτου τους Έλληνας να εκπληρώσουν το πατριωτικόν των καθήκον. Παλαιόν παράδειγμα ο παριστάμενος συνταγματάρχης Σαράφης. Και πρόσφατον, ο απουσιάζων, συνταγματάρχης Ψαρρός…».

Στο μεταξύ ο Γρίβας, από τον Αύγουστο του 1944 έθεσε την οργάνωση υπό τις διαταγές του στρατηγού Σπηλιωτόπουλου, στρατιωτικού διοικητή Αθηνών. Με διαταγή του τελευταίου συγκροτήθηκε το 1ο Σύνταγμα Πεζικού της Χ, μαζί με τμήματα των οργανώσεων Εθνική Δράση και Εθνικό Κομιτάτο. Επίσης με διαταγή του στρατηγού Σπηλιωτόπουλου, απόσπασμα ανδρών της Χ διατάχθηκε να μεταβεί στο Πόρτο Ράφτη, όπου θα παραλάμβανε οπλισμό, που έστελνε το Στρατηγείο Μέσης Ανατολής για τον εξοπλισμό της Αστυνομίας και της Χωροφυλακής.

Επικεφαλής της ομάδας της Χ ήταν ο λοχαγός Πυροβολικού Μιχ. Ξένος. Ο λοχαγός Ξένος αφίχθη πράγματι στην περιοχή, στις 11 Σεπτεμβρίου, επικεφαλής 100 ενόπλων ανδρών. Τελικά το πλοίο που μετέφερε τον οπλισμό έφτασε στο Πόρτο Ράφτη το βράδυ της 21ης προς 22ης Σεπτεμβρίου 1944.

Ο οπλισμός εκφορτώθηκε και αποθηκεύτηκε ενόψει της μεταφοράς του στην Αθήνα. Τότε όμως επιτέθηκαν εναντίον του αποσπάσματος Ξένου δυνάμεις του ΕΛΑΣ, με σκοπό να πάρουν οπλισμό. Στην άρνηση του Ξένου να τον παραδώσει ακολούθησε συμπλοκή με δύο άνδρες του ΕΛΑΣ να πέφτουν νεκροί. Κατόπιν τούτων οι δυνάμεις του ΕΛΑΣ υποχώρησαν και ο Γρίβας έσπευσε να στείλει ενισχύσεις στον λοχαγό Ξένο.

Η κατάσταση ήδη κλιμακώνονταν επικίνδυνα. Τελικά, με τη βοήθεια και των ενισχύσεων ο οπλισμός μεταφέρθηκε στην Αθήνα και αποθηκεύτηκε στην περιοχή του Θησείου. Λίγο αργότερα τα όπλα παραδόθηκαν στην Αστυνομία, βάσει των διαταγών που είχε ο Γρίβας από τον Σπηλιωτόπουλο.

Στις 8 Οκτωβρίου 1944 ισχυρές δυνάμεις του ΕΛΑΣ επιτέθηκαν κατά των θέσεων της Χ στο Θησείο. Ακολούθησε σφοδρή μάχη, η οποία σταμάτησε τελικά την επομένη, 9 Οκτωβρίου, μετά από επέμβαση του στρατηγού Σπηλιωτόπουλου. Τρεις μέρες αργότερα, στις 12 Οκτωβρίου, οι Γερμανοί αποχώρησαν από την Αθήνα. Ο Γρίβας φοβούμενος νέες επιθέσεις εναντίον των ανδρών του διέταξε τα τμήματα της Χ να βρίσκονται σε επιφυλακή.

Παρόλα αυτά δεν αποφεύχθηκαν οι επιθέσεις της ΟΠΛΑ (Οργάνωση Περιφρούρησης Λαϊκού Αγώνα) εναντίον μελών της Χ. Τότε ο Γρίβας διέταξε την συγκέντρωση των κυριότερων τμημάτων της Χ στην περιοχή του Θησείου, που αποτελούσε το βασικό ορμητήριο της οργάνωσης.

Την 1η Δεκεμβρίου 1944 ο ΕΛΑΣ ξεκίνησε το Δεκεμβριανό κίνημα –όχι στην Αθήνα – αλλά με επιθέσεις στην Ήπειρο κατά του ΕΔΕΣ και στην Μακεδονία κατά των δυνάμεων του Αντώνη Φωστερίδη (Τσαούς Αντών). Εκ των πραγμάτων λοιπόν αποδεικνύεται ότι το Δεκεμβριανό κίνημα ήταν προαποφασισμένο από την ηγεσία του ΚΚΕ που ήλεγχε το ΕΑΜ, και δεν σχετίζονταν με την αιματηρή καταστολή της ΕΑΜικής διαδήλωσης στην Αθήνα, στις 3 Δεκεμβρίου 1944. Οι μάχες είχαν ήδη αρχίσει στην βόρεια Ελλάδα.

Το πρωί της 3ης Δεκεμβρίου ο Γρίβας κλήθηκε στο γραφείο του στρατηγού Σπηλιωτόπουλου. Εκεί ο στρατηγός του ζήτησε να διαθέσει αξιωματικούς της οργάνωσης για την επάνδρωση των συγκροτούμενων, τότε, ταγμάτων Εθνοφυλακής. Ο Γρίβας, φυσικά, συμφώνησε και διέταξε άμεσα 20 αξιωματικούς του να προστρέξουν.Την ώρα που οι δύο άνδρες συνομιλούσαν άρχισαν να ακούγονται οι πρώτοι πυροβολισμοί. Η κρίση ερχόταν.

Η μάχη του Θησείου

Ο Σπηλιωτόπουλος, στο άκουσμα των πυροβολισμών, διέταξε τον Γρίβα να επιστρέψει στο Θησείο και να βρίσκεται σε επιφυλακή, έτοιμος να αντιμετωπίσει την επίθεση του ΕΛΑΣ. Πράγματι ο Γρίβας πήγε στο Θησείο και συγκέντρωσε περίπου 90 μάχιμους άνδρες –οι 10 αξιωματικοί. Άλλο ένα τμήμα με 30-40 άνδρες είχε αποκοπεί στο κέντρο της Αθήνας –οδός Σόλωνος –και πολέμησε εκεί.

Η επίθεση του ΕΛΑΣ ξεκίνησε στις 3 Δεκεμβρίου. Σίγουρα ο ΕΛΑΣ δεν έριξε στη μάχη κατά της Χ 3.000 άνδρες, όπως αναφέρουν ορισμένες πηγές, αλλά σε κάθε περίπτωση οι δυνάμεις του υπερείχαν συντριπτικά έναντι αυτών της Χ.

Οι πρώτες επιθέσεις εκδηλώθηκαν από τον λόφο του Αστεροσκοπείου και τις περιοχές των Κάτω Πετραλώνων, της Πλάκας και της πλατείας Ψυρρή. Παρά την σφοδρότητα των επιθέσεων των δυνάμεών του, ο ΕΛΑΣ, την πρώτη μέρα της μάχης (3 Δεκεμβρίου), δεν κατάφερε να κάμψει την αντίσταση των ανδρών της Χ.

Μετά της άκαρπες επιθέσεις, ο δυνάμεις του ΕΛΑΣ ενισχύθηκαν, το βράδυ της 3ης προς 4ης Δεκεμβρίου, με σκοπό την εξαπόλυση γενικής επίθεσης με το πρώτο φως της επομένης. Ο Γρίβας κατάφερε να ενημερώσει τον στρατηγό Σπηλιωτόπουλο για την κατάσταση, όπως και το τμήμα του που πολεμούσε στο κέντρο της Αθήνας. Το τμήμα αυτό, υπό τον ταγματάρχη Παντελή Πολύζο, κατάφερε τελικά να διολισθήσει μέσα από τις γραμμές του ΕΛΑΣ και να διασωθεί.

Και οι νέες επιθέσεις του ΕΛΑΣ πάντως, κατά των οχυρωμένων ανδρών του Γρίβα, απέτυχαν. Ωστόσο η συντριβή της μικρής δύναμης της Χ ήταν καθαρά ζήτημα χρόνου. Τελικά, στις 15.00 της 4ης Δεκεμβρίου εμφανίστηκαν στην περιοχή δύο βρετανικά θωρακισμένα. Ο επικεφαλής τους Βρετανός ίλαρχος αποβιβάστηκε και συνομίλησε με τον Γρίβα, μεταφέροντας διαταγές του στρατηγού Σκόμπι.

Ο Γρίβας μεταφέρθηκε στο Θ’ Αστυνομικό Τμήμα όπου του ανακοινώθηκε η διαταγή του Σκόμπι, βάσει της οποίας έπρεπε να παραδώσει τα όπλα. Ο Γρίβας δέχτηκε, αλλά ζήτησε εγγυήσεις για την ασφάλεια των ανδρών του και των οικογενειών τους, στην περιοχή Θησείου. Οι εγγυήσεις του δόθηκαν μεν, δεν τηρήθηκαν δε.

Παρόλα αυτά, με τη μεσολάβηση των Βρετανών, η μάχη του Θησείου τερματίστηκε και το πυρ έπαυσε στην περιοχή. Ο Γρίβας με τους άνδρες του υποχώρησαν στο Θ’ Αστυνομικό Τμήμα και δυνάμεις του ΕΛΑΣ εισήλθαν στο Θησείο, δυστυχώς, προβαίνοντας σε βιαιοπραγίες κατά αμάχων και τραυματιών της Χ.

Τελικά ο Γρίβας και οι υπόλοιποι άνδρες του μεταφέρθηκαν στα Παλαιά Ανάκτορα. Εκεί ουσιαστικά έγινε η διάλυση της οργάνωσης και η ένταξη των ανδρών της στα νεοσχηματιζόμενα τμήματα της Εθνοφυλακής και του Στρατού.

Οι απώλειες της Χ στη μάχη του Θησείου ήταν βαριές –περίπου 40 νεκροί και τραυματίες, επί παρατακτέας δύναμης 100 ανδρών. Οι απώλειες του ΕΛΑΣ ήταν επίσης βαριές, σίγουρα όμως δεν ανήλθαν σε 700 νεκρούς και τραυματίες, όπως αναφέρουν ορισμένες πηγές.

Η μάχη του Θησείου ήταν η σοβαρότερη σύγκρουση στην οποία συμμετείχε η Χ και δυστυχώς ήταν μια μάχη αδελφοκτόνος, άσχετα ποιος ευθυνόταν για την πρόκλησή της.




Αποκαλυπτική για τις διεργασίες που οδήγησαν στην συμφωνία των Πρεσπών και στην εκχώρηση-πώληση της Μακεδονίας από την κυβέρνηση είναι η έκθεση του ιδρύματος “Open Society” του διεθνούς κερδοσκόπου  και πολυεκατομμυριούχου Τζορτζ Σόρος

Η έκθεση δίνει τη δική της εκτίμηση για το πώς φτάσαμε στην συμφωνία  και ποιες εξελίξεις δρομολογεί.


Η έκθεση έκτασης 28 σελίδων που τιτλοφορείται «Βόρεια Μακεδονία: Και τώρα τι;» και την οποία επιμελούνται τέσσερις συντάκτες μιλά για «ανταλλάγματα» που εξασφάλισε από τους ξένους ο Α.Τσίπρας για την ψήφιση της συμφωνίας, ανταλλάγματα που έχουν να κάνουν με την «χαλάρωση των δημοσιολογικών δεσμεύσεων», εννοώντας ως προεκλογικό «δώρο» για το κυβερνών κόμμα.

Η έκθεση προχωρά και σε «προβλέψεις» αναφέροντας ότι οι εκλογές θα γίνουν τον ερχόμενο Μάιο και ότι θα προκύψει 5κομματική Βουλή με κατά σειρά κοινοβουλευτικής δύναμης(ΝΔ, ΣΥΡΙΖΑ, ΧΑ, ΚΙΝΑΛ, ΚΚΕ).

Ως προς την ένταξη των Σκοπίων στο ΝΑΤΟ η έκθεση προεξοφλεί ότι αυτή θα γίνει μέσα στο καλοκαίρι και ότι η ελληνική κυβέρνηση θα φέρει την ένταξη των Σκοπίων στο κοινοβούλιο για κύρωση μεταξύ Φεβρουάριου και Μαρτίου.

Για τη ΝΔ η έκθεση αναφέρει πως η  διαφωνία της ήταν προσχηματική θεωρώντας ανεπιτυχή τη προσπάθεια σύνδεσης της με τη Νοβαρτις και την εξαγορά εταιρείας στα Σκοπιά  από τη ΔΕΗ. Θεωρεί δε, πως το κόμμα της Αξιωματικής Αντιπολίτευσης παίζει με τη συναισθηματική φόρτιση που έχει για τους Έλληνες το συγκεκριμένο θέμα.

Ενδιαφέρον είναι το γεγονός της αναφοράς στα ελληνικά ΜΜΕ λέγοντας πως στην Ελλάδα δεν υπάρχουν γνώστες των Σκοπιανών θεμάτων και η κοινή γνώμη ενημερώνεται από «άσχετους και κατευθυνόμενα ΜΜΕ που έχουν… χρεωκοπήσει αλλά ευτυχώς υπάρχουν «νέα, λαϊκά μέσα ενημέρωσης» που ενημερώνουν «αντικειμενικά»

Ένα ενδιαφέρον σημείο της έκθεσης είναι ότι ενώ αναφέρεται ως ημερομηνία δημοσίευσης η 14η Ιανουαρίου αναφέρεται στην ψήφο εμπιστοσύνης που κέρδισε ο ΣΥΡΙΖΑ στις 16 Ιανουαρίου ως γεγονός που έχει γίνει ήδη!

Με άλλα λόγια οι συντάκτες της έκθεσης όχι μόνο «προέβλεψαν» ότι ο Τσίπρας θα πάρει ψήφο εμπιστοσύνης αλλά το ανέφεραν σαν κάτι που είχε γίνει ήδη γίνει!



How our academies are enabling the instruments of tyranny.

Bruce Thornton is a Shillman Journalism Fellow at the David Horowitz Freedom Center.

In 1726 Jonathan Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels gave us a brilliant satire of the folly of research divorced from common sense, practicality, and reality. When Gulliver visits the Grand Academy of Lagado, he finds “Projectors” busy with research projects like extracting sunbeams from cucumbers, building houses from the roof down, and converting excrement back to food.

It’s hard not to think about Swift’s Projectors when you consider today’s loony ideas driving our social mores and even laws. And for that we can thank our universities, where most of these preposterous notions have their genesis. Multiple “gender” identities, “toxic masculinity,” “microaggressions,” and occult “racism” are just a few examples of speculative nonsense that have escaped the university asylum and now roil our politics and infect our laws.

Like most social and political dysfunctions, this degradation of the university is a product of the Sixties. Professors always have had political and ideological preferences, but in the Sixties, universities institutionalized left-wing identity politics in various “studies” departments and programs. Yet faced with aggressive public complaints that women and minorities had been ignored in academic research and teaching, administrators did not address the alleged shortcomings in their curricula from within the protocols of university disciplines like English or history. For example, the topics of black or female history, literature, or social history should be studied with the same professional methodologies and protocols that govern those disciplines. Training in those professional standards could then become the foundation of research and teaching, subject to the professional oversight and judgment of similarly trained peers.

Rather than adjusting and correcting curricula within the framework of existing disciplines, however, universities simply created separate but equal academic sandboxes to quiet noisy activists and buy (they thought) some peace and quiet. Nor did they consider the consequences of sacrificing professional standards in order to display their political correctness.

For example, this segregation guaranteed that these “studies” programs would be politicized and oriented to political activism rather than intellectual work, and that faculty would be left to their own devices in establishing standards of evaluating research and teaching. Spurning traditional professional constraints, identity-based programs were founded on ideologies like Cultural Marxism rather than on professional competence or training, or advancing the university’s mission to teach critical thinking as the foundation of intellectual freedom. Political activism became their mission rather than truth and knowledge based on evidence and sound argument. And without professional protocols governing research, these fields became prey to intellectual and political fads and fashion.

Probably the most consequential program for generating and perpetuating bad ideas has been Women’s Studies. As early as the Seventies, various goofy ideas were starting to colonize academic feminism. We can find the seeds of today’s “toxic masculinity” in the “Goddess” fad of the Nineties, the fanciful history of prehistoric Europe that contrasted a matriarchal, Goddess-worshipping, peaceful, nature-loving, egalitarian culture with the vicious Kurgans, the patriarchal, horse-riding Aryan raiders from the eastern steppes who invaded and destroyed this idyllic way of life. The Kurgans brought with them war, inequality, oppression, slavery, pollution, sexism, and all the other ills that have marred Western history to this day. Today white male Westerners are the Kurgans, their “toxic masculinity” devastating the earth and its peaceful peoples with capitalist greed, global warming, and colonial exploitation of indigenous peoples.

This fake history has reinforced another dubious notion popular among academic feminists: that men are fundamentally inferior to women, who are by nature more community-minded, nurturing, tolerant, and inclusive; while men are naturally more violent, domineering, intolerant, and selfish. Hence the complaints about “manspreading,” “mansplaining,” “white male privilege,” and dozens of other bigoted, dehumanizing clichés. Hence the despicable caricature of some Catholic schoolboys at the Lincoln Memorial accused of bullying a “Native American” who was, in fact, bullying them. When the paradigm becomes truth, print the paradigm.

These stereotypes derive from decades of women’s studies curricula that have replaced knowledge with propaganda slogans. Worse yet, they have seeped out of the academy and shaped our laws. The idea that systemic sexism reflects the “toxic masculinity” which males have institutionalized in social mores and laws, and that women need protection from these feral predators, led to Title IX anti-discrimination strictures being applied to relations between the sexes on college campuses. The result has been the star chambers run by administrators and other campus functionaries, in which Constitutional and legal rights of those accused of a tendentiously defined “sexual assault,” such as the presumption of innocence and the right to confront one’s accuser, are ignored.

Once a fringe fad of the academy, “toxic masculinity” has now been recognized by the American Psychological Association as a mental disorder requiring therapeutic intervention. As such, this dubious idea now has the imprimatur of a respected professional organization, which means that from health insurance companies to Congressmen making laws, “toxic masculinity” is mainstream and an accepted reality backed up by the “scientific” experts of the APA.

Behind this evolution from bad idea to recognized social and psychological reality, however, lies something deeper––the master narrative of modernity and its politics.

In this narrative, nature and nature’s God, as the Founders believed, no longer establishes the character and limits of human identity and action. Nature and faith have to give way to man-made ideals and the vagaries of human will. Pseudo-sciences claiming to understand human behavior “scientifically” can be fashioned to put these ideological revisions of traditional knowledge and common sense beyond debate. Those upholding traditional views of sex identity as biologically determined are slandered as superstitious bitter-enders too fearful to accept the brave new world of justice, equality, and peace that their neurotic beliefs impede. For everything tradition and common sense believe to be true is in reality a delusion used to justify the power and privilege of white heterosexual, “cisgendered” males.

This ideological prejudice can be seen in the subtle alteration of words to reinforce the idea that human will and power can recreate reality to match our desires. Take the use of the word “gender” to mean what for centuries we called “sex.” The use of “gender” to mean “sex” became common with modern feminism, which downplays natural and biological causes and focuses on social, political, and cultural ones. But “gender” properly understood is a linguistic term for identifying nouns by certain characteristics: not just sex, but also ideas like “animate” or “inanimate,” as in many American Indian languages. The significant point is that any quality can be a gender in a language; it is to a certain extent arbitrary, dependent on the different environments in which a particular language develops. As such, a language can have an unlimited number of genders.

To use the word “gender,” then, is to validate the modern beliefs that there are no limits to human identity and action created by nature or God. Sex identity and its defining characteristics are not fixed by nature, but are “constructed” by cultures according to the interests of those monopolizing power. This oppressive restriction of people’s identities should be removed, and every variation and combination of sex identity and sexual practice should be considered legitimate, protected by discrimination law and given access to federal resources, just as today Medicaid pays for sex-change operations.

Similarly, rights are not “natural,” bestowed on humans by a Creator and thus beyond the power of earthly kings or rulers, but are infinitely expandable depending on what people happen to consider good and desirable at the time. As Progressive Mary Parker Follett wrote in 1918, we shouldn’t just protect Constitutional rights, but turn our efforts into “creating all the rights we shall ever have.” And if some rights cease to be considered good––like the First Amendment’s protection of free speech and religious liberty, or the Second’s protection of the right to keep and bear arms, or the Fifth and Fourteenth’s protection of due process––they can be justly curtailed or eliminated.

In the end, however, such radical rejections of the human wisdom and obvious truths accumulated over centuries will meet with resistance. Culture will have to be reshaped, language altered and policed, laws changed to enforce the new paradigm, “science” abused to provide authority for novel ideas, and schools compelled to teach them. And most important, coercive power will have to be brought to bear against those resisting the brave new world.

And so it is that our own Academies of Projectors––the colleges and universities that once taught the traditions and skills of free thought, critical reasoning, and respect for reality––are now enabling with patent nonsense the instruments of tyranny.