Prepared for the |
Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations
by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
View this page at www.dailyalert.org|
June 4, 2010
IDF Identifies Mercenary Group Responsible for Flotilla Violence - Yaakov Katz (Jerusalem Post)
Satirical Music Video - The Flotilla Choir Presents: We Con the World (Latma TV)
Israelis Support Stopping Flotilla - Calev Ben-David (Bloomberg)
Higher Than Expected Natural Gas Reserves Found Off Israel - Steven Scheer (Reuters)
Western Intelligence Agency Orders Satellite Photos of Secret Syrian Site - Avi Scharf (Ha'aretz)
In Gaza, a Complex, Dysfunctional Way of Life - Janine Zacharia (Washington Post)
U.S. "Secret War" on Radicals Expands Globally - Karen DeYoung and Greg Jaffe
Israel Plows New Ground in Exotic Crops - Edmund Sanders (Los Angeles Times)
People Known as "IDF Troops" Are Our Children - Merav Batito (Ynet News)
News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
President Barack Obama told CNN's Larry King on Thursday: "The United States, with the other members of the UN Security Council, said very clearly that we condemned all the acts that led up to this violence. It was a tragic situation. You've got loss of life that was unnecessary. So we are calling for an effective investigation of everything that happened. I think the Israelis are going to agree to that - an investigation of international standards - because they recognize that this can't be good for Israel's long-term security."
"Here's what we've got. You've got a situation in which Israel has legitimate security concerns when they've got missiles raining down on cities along the Israel/Gaza border. I've been to those towns and seen the holes that were made by missiles coming through people's bedrooms. Israel has a legitimate concern there. On the other hand you've got a blockage up that is preventing people in Palestinian Gaza from having job opportunities and being able to create businesses and engage in trade and have opportunity for the future."
"I think what's important right now is that we break out of the current impasse, use this tragedy as an opportunity so that we figure out, how can we meet Israel's security concerns, but at the same time start opening up opportunity for Palestinians....You've got to have a situation in which the Palestinians have real opportunity and Israel's neighbors recognize Israel's legitimate security concerns and are committed to peace." (CNN)
See also Video: Obama Interview (CNN)
One of those killed on the Gaza flotilla was a dual Turkish-U.S. citizen, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said Thursday. Furkan Dogan, 19, born in Troy, N.Y., while his father studied in the U.S., returned to Turkey at age 2. (Washington Post)
See also Family Sees American-Born Activist as "Martyr" - Debra J. Saunders
When journalists interviewed the brother of Furkan Dogan, a Turkish American who was killed during the melee, the New York Times reported that the brother replied, "We didn't expect him to come back like this. However, we were not sorry to hear that he fell like a martyr." Be it noted, the usual way to become a martyr in the Middle East is to die while trying to kill other people. (San Francisco Chronicle)
Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) said Thursday that Israel was exercising its right to self-defense when Israeli soldiers boarded a Gaza-bound aid flotilla earlier in the week. "We should be very clear about who is responsible for the unfortunate loss of life in the attempt to break the blockade in Gaza," Lieberman said. "Hamas and its allies are the responsible parties for the recent violence and the continued difficulties for the people of Gaza. Israel exercised her legitimate right of self-defense."
Lieberman argued that the blockade exists because Hamas has continued to fire rockets on Israel even after Israel withdrew from Gaza. He called the ships "a clear provocation" that was not "an effort to improve the lives of the people of Gaza but rather an attempt to score political propaganda points." (RTTNews)
See also House Majority Leader: Israel "Rightfully" Raided Flotilla
Israel has "rightfully" invoked its right to self-defense to justify its raid on a Gaza-bound aid flotilla, and should not face UN condemnation, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) said in a statement on Wednesday. "The loss of life was tragic," but "the administration and Congress are determined to prevent condemnation of Israel at the UN Security Council."
Hoyer said the flotilla ignored "two week's worth of repeated warnings" that they would not be allowed access to Gaza, and Israeli offers to distribute legitimate aid to Gaza's people. "Let's be clear: Hamas could end the blockade at any time by recognizing Israel's right to exist, renouncing violence, and releasing Gilad Shalit," an Israeli soldier held by the militant group since 2006, he said. (AFP)
Israel's raid on the Gaza aid flotilla initially appeared as an unmitigated disaster to the Obama administration for three reasons: First, the U.S. would have to protect Israel against a furious diplomatic backlash from other countries, potentially damaging U.S.-led alliances at NATO and the UN. Second, it would undermine the U.S.-led peace process by inflaming Palestinian anger at Israel, creating a pretext for the Palestinian side to derail the fragile indirect negotiations they agreed to with great skepticism. Third, it would hurt U.S. efforts to get new sanctions against Iran passed by the UN Security Council. So far, however, U.S. officials say none of those fears has materialized. (TIME)
Abraham Foxman, the Anti-Defamation League's national director, said this week: "The U.S. should reiterate its support and understanding for Israel, that as a sovereign and democratic nation it has the right to act on behalf of its national security and express its confidence that Israel can conduct its own investigation into the matter without the intrusion of international bodies." "Was there a better way to do this? That's all interesting, but that's not what this is about," he said. "There is bloodshed all over the world, there are people killing people all over the world in deliberate hatred, and nobody is calling for investigations. At the very least the USA should stand with Israel."
The American Israel Public Affairs Committee said: "It would have been preferable if the UN and Obama administration had blocked any action implying criticism of Israel for defending itself....Nonetheless, intervention by the United States prevented passage of a Security Council resolution condemning Israel. The administration continues to express its confidence in Israel's ability to conduct its own investigation of the incident despite calls for an international inquiry." (JTA)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
During Israel's takeover of a Turkish ship in the Gaza-bound aid flotilla this week, three commandos who lost consciousness as a result of the activists' blows were dragged into one of the passenger halls below deck and were held there for several minutes before they regained consciousness and managed to join their comrades. As seen on a video documenting the takeover, the first four commandos to rappel onto the deck were attacked by activists with bars, axes and knives. The fourth commando, K., saw his team leader on the deck, with a Turkish activist holding the pistol he had grabbed from him and pointing it to his head. K. jumped from the rope and shot the activist holding the gun.
At least two commandos suffered gunshot wounds. After the incident, 9mm bullet casings were found - a kind not used by the naval commandos. The captain of the ship told the naval commando chief, Lt. Col. A., who was present on the ship, that the guns were thrown overboard before the ship was completely taken over. (Ha'aretz)
When St.-Sgt. S. fast-roped down from a helicopter onto the Mavi Marmara on Monday, he did not expect to be landing in "a battlefield" and facing off against a group of "murderous mercenaries." S. said Thursday that he was immediately attacked, just like the soldiers who had boarded just before him. Looking to his side, he saw three of his commanders lying wounded - one with a gunshot wound to the stomach and another with a gunshot wound to the knee. A third was lying unconscious; his skull was fractured by a blow from a metal bar. As the next in the chain of command, S. immediately took charge.
He pushed the wounded soldiers up against the wall of the upper deck and created a perimeter of soldiers around them to begin treating their wounds, he said. He then arranged his men to form a second perimeter, and pulled out his 9 mm. Glock pistol to stave off the charging attackers and to protect his wounded comrades. The attackers had already seized two pistols from the commandos, and fired repeatedly at them. Facing more than a dozen of the mercenaries, and convinced their lives were in danger, he and his colleagues opened fire, he said. S. singlehandedly killed six men. His colleagues killed another three. He is being considered for a medal of valor.
"When I hit the deck, I was immediately attacked by people with bats, metal pipes and axes," S. told the Post. "These were without a doubt terrorists. I could see the murderous rage in their eyes and that they were coming to kill us."
Lt.-Col. T. said he realized the group they were facing was well-trained and likely ex-military after the commandos threw a number of stun grenades. "They didn't even flinch," he said. "Regular people would move." Assessments are that members of the group were affiliated with international global jihad elements and had undergone training in places like Afghanistan and Pakistan. (Jerusalem Post)
The naval commandos who participated in Monday's raid on a Gaza-bound flotilla have no doubt: They weren't battling "activists" aboard the Mavi Marmara, but terrorists. "Everyone who was there on the ship and saw what they had prepared understands this," said Capt. A., who commanded one boarding party. The commandos are dismayed by the view that the raid was a fiasco. They think the level of casualties on both sides was very low, given the circumstances.
Within two minutes nearly half of the initial team had been wounded. The commandos actually gained control of the upper deck in about three minutes and began handcuffing the passengers. "But then there was a shout of 'live fire,' and that we had shooting casualties." Once the situation had stabilized - aided by the arrival of reinforcements - the commandos began to treat the wounded.
They then began advancing toward the lower deck and the bridge. "There was fierce resistance," said Capt. A. "There were hundreds of people on the deck. In my estimation, between 50 and 100 of them were terrorists. There was still live fire being aimed on us, but that stopped at an early stage....They would jump on us from doors and windows with batons and knives. At this stage, we all stood with guns and fired at anyone coming at us with means or intent [to harm]." However, he said, the commandos fired "very selectively," and most of the passengers who were shot at that stage were only wounded. (Ha'aretz)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met with Quartet Envoy Tony Blair Thursday and told him he's willing to examine "creative ways" to bring aid into Gaza, after the goods are examined. The prime minister stressed that every ship that may be smuggling missiles and rockets must be inspected. (Ynet News)
Israel should inform the international community that it is abandoning all responsibility for Gaza residents and their welfare. The Israel-Gaza border would be completely sealed, and Gaza would have to obtain supplies and medical services via the Egyptian border, or by sea. A target date would be set for severing Gaza's water and electricity systems from those of Israel. The customs union with Israel would end, and the shekel would cease to be Gaza's legal tender.
This isn't pleasant, but it is legal. A sovereign state has the right to close its borders, especially when its neighbors are hostile and hate-filled. Israel would also make it clear that it will exercise its right to self-defense by inspecting suspicious cargo on the high seas in order to thwart arms smuggling. That is also how the Western powers behave: They search cargo ships for nuclear weapons and missile components. And if we are shot at from Gaza, we will shoot back - with intent to cause harm. We have already proved that we can do so.
This is Israel's opportunity. Instead of arguing with the international community, it should tell it: You want Gaza? Fine. Take it. (Ha'aretz)
Palestinians in Gaza fired four Kassam rockets at Israel on Thursday evening. (Ha'aretz)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):
The Gaza Flotilla
In stopping the Gaza flotilla, what Israel did was entirely consistent with both international and domestic law. When Israel ended its occupation of Gaza, it did not impose a blockade. Indeed, it left behind agricultural facilities in the hope that Gaza would become a peaceful and productive area. Instead, Hamas seized control and engaged in acts of warfare against Israel, featuring nearly 10,000 anti-personnel rockets directed at Israeli civilians. This was not only an act of warfare, it was a war crime. Israel responded to the rockets by declaring a blockade to assure that no rockets or other material that could be used for making war against Israeli civilians were permitted into Gaza. Egypt as well participated in the blockade. There was never a humanitarian crisis in Gaza, merely a shortage of certain goods that would end if the rocket attacks ended.
The legality of blockades as a response to acts of war is not subject to serious doubt. When the U.S. blockaded Cuba during the missile crisis, the State Department issued an opinion declaring the blockade to be lawful. Other nations have similarly enforced naval blockades to assure their own security. Is it lawful to enforce a legal blockade in international waters? If there is no doubt that the offending ships have made a firm determination to break the blockade, then the blockade may be enforced before the offending ships cross the line into domestic waters. Again the U.S. and other Western countries have frequently boarded ships at high sea in order to assure their security.
Finally, we come to the issue of the right of self-defense engaged in by Israeli soldiers who were attacked by activists on the boat. There can be little doubt that the moment any person on the boat picked up a weapon and began to attack Israeli soldiers, they lost their status as innocent civilians. Even under ordinary civilian rules of self-defense, every Israeli soldier had the right to protect himself and his colleagues from attack by knife- and pipe-wielding assailants. The writer is a professor at Harvard Law School. (New York Daily News)
Israel's raid on a fleet of activists bound for Gaza has led to wild accusations of illegality. Longstanding customary international law permits states to enforce publicly announced blockades on the high seas. The Gaza blockade was known to all, and certainly to those who launched the ships for the very purpose of breaking it. Human Rights Watch argues that a blockade to strike at a terrorist organization constitutes a collective penalty against a civilian population, in violation of Article 33 of the fourth Geneva Convention. This argument won't stand up. Blockades and other forms of economic sanction are permitted in international law.
Ships that run blockades may be attacked and sunk under international law. If Israel had exercised that right, far more than nine people would have been killed. The writer is a professor at the University of Chicago Law School. (Wall Street Journal)
During the October 1962 missile crisis, we blockaded ("quarantined") Cuba. Arms-bearing Russian ships headed to Cuba turned back because the Soviets knew that the U.S. Navy would either board them or sink them. Yet Israel is accused of international criminality for doing precisely what John Kennedy did: impose a naval blockade to prevent a hostile state from acquiring lethal weaponry.
But weren't the Gaza-bound ships on a mission of humanitarian relief? No. Otherwise they would have accepted Israel's offer to bring their supplies to an Israeli port, be inspected for military materiel and have the rest trucked by Israel into Gaza - as every week 10,000 tons of food, medicine and other humanitarian supplies are sent by Israel to Gaza. Why was the offer refused? Because, as organizer Greta Berlin admitted, the flotilla was not about humanitarian relief but about breaking the blockade, i.e., ending Israel's inspection regime, which would mean unlimited shipping into Gaza and thus the unlimited arming of Hamas.
The whole point of this relentless international campaign is to deprive Israel of any legitimate form of self-defense. The world is tired of these troublesome Jews, refusing every invitation to national suicide. (Washington Post)
The more facts that come to light about the flotilla, its passengers and their sponsors, the more it seems clear that Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Ergodan's government, far more so than Israel's, must be held to account for Monday's violent episode. The Turkish accounting should begin with a full explanation from the government of its relationship with the IHH, an Istanbul-based Islamic "charity" that purchased three of the six boats used in the flotilla from the city government, sent hundreds of its activists along with it, and reportedly has ties to Turkey's ruling Islamist AKP Party. The IHH has widely reported links to Hamas, the terrorist group that runs Gaza and most directly threatens Israel. No wonder that Israel was not prepared to let this flotilla break its blockade of Gaza.
For all his denunciations of Israel's alleged brutality in Monday's raid, Erdogan was among the first foreign leaders to congratulate Mahmoud Ahmadinejad for his "victory" in last year's presidential election. He's also had no trouble getting close to Syria's Bashar al-Assad, despite the UN's investigation into Syria's role in the 2005 assassination of Lebanese premier Rafik Hariri. So much, then, for the notion that Jerusalem has needlessly junked its friendship with Ankara. That "friendship" had already been degraded by a Turkish government that appears to have an ingrained hostility toward the Jewish state, remarkable sympathies for nearby radical regimes, and an attitude toward extremist groups like the IHH that borders on complicity. (Wall Street Journal)
See also Turkey's Treachery - Judith Miller and David Schenker (New York Post)
Why does Israel maintain a blockade on Gaza and subject itself to international outcry? Simply put, we don't have much choice. After Hamas evicted the Palestinian Authority from Gaza in a bloody coup in 2007, rocket fire escalated, depopulating Israel's southern towns and kibbutzim. This forced us to supervise goods entering Gaza to prevent the import of rocket and munitions components. Eventually, we had to launch Operation Cast Lead to stop rocket attacks on our population. We now maintain a naval blockade in the hope that we won't have to fight again.
Israel could invade Gaza and unseat Hamas by force, causing large casualties and much destruction in the process. Or Israel can isolate Hamas through a blockade until it changes its policies or is replaced by the Palestinian Authority. If we allow unfettered access to Gaza, it will become an Iranian-armed missile base on our doorstep, much as Lebanon has become under Hizbullah. Egypt's position does not differ greatly from our own. This is why we maintain a blockade.
Our naval team, armed with paintball guns, planned to encounter political opponents, not a lynch mob armed with sharpened rods, knives and firebombs. The video evidence is unambiguous: When the force commander understood it was dead soldiers or bad PR, he made the only correct choice and authorized live fire.
How did our intelligence fail? Maybe we read too many e-mails from peace activists. The moral selectivism of the Free Gaza Movement is troublesome. Why are they embracing Hamas - a movement that hates Jews, Christians, secular Muslims and any semblance of liberal values - rather than acting to strengthen the moderate Palestinian leadership? Where will their moral outrage be when a Scud missile shipped into Gaza lands in the center of Tel Aviv? The writer is the Israel consul general in San Francisco. (San Francisco Chronicle)
The ease with which the world's governments condemned Israel over the flotilla incident has been something to behold. In Kim Jong Il's Pyongyang or Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's Tehran, watching this hyperventilated criticism of Israel for a shoot-out on a boat must strike them as laughable. If one's opponents save their collective status and authority for something like this, then the world is ultimately not serious about who must comply with its rules of behavior.
If the world's powers unload like this only on relatively small, isolated nations like Israel, then clearly the keepers of the world order find it easier to be blowhards than statesmen. And that means we have a problem. (Wall Street Journal)
The swiftness and scope of the international reaction to Israel's interception of the flotilla of pro-Palestinian militants is stunning. In the Arab/Muslim world where dozens are killed daily in suicide attacks by fellow Muslims, there is a sentiment of euphoria: Israel killed nine "innocent civilians" in a savage attack - it is so good for Arab propaganda. The London-based Arab daily Al-Kuds Al-Arabi said it openly: "Arabs: don't be sad; the success is huge." Considering the sterling Arab record on human rights and democracy, they really have the right to rejoice on such an occasion.
Had the ships gone through, they would have been followed by more and more bringing weapons and terrorists to Hamas, a determined enemy on record many times for declaring its intent to destroy the Jewish state. The writer is former Israeli ambassador to Sweden. (Debatt-Sweden)
Nuclear experts working for Western intelligence agencies have identified a number of glaring discrepancies in Iran's submissions to the IAEA, which suggest Tehran is making little effort to build the facilities and infrastructure that are normally required for a civilian program. Instead, Western officials have concluded that its civilian program is nothing more than a cover designed to conceal its attempts to build nuclear weapons. "The closer you examine Iran's declarations, the more you realize that they do not have a workable civilian nuclear program," said a senior Western counter-proliferation official who has assessed Iran's IAEA declarations.
While Iran has made rapid progress at developing its uranium-enrichment capability, it has no facility, nor any current plans to develop one, to adapt the two-and-a-half tons of enriched material it has so far produced for use in a civilian nuclear reactor. "If Iran was serious about developing its civilian program, you would expect it to devote as much energy to the construction of nuclear power plants as it does to the enrichment of uranium," the counter-proliferation official explained. "But the basic fact of the matter is that the civilian part of Iran's civilian nuclear program is missing. So the only logical conclusion that can be drawn from this is that all Iran's activities are designed for a military program." (Wall Street Journal)
The last time war broke out along the Lebanese border, Israel acted clumsily and lost its aura of invincibility. If there is a next time, Israel's military brass vows, things will be different. Under a strategy honed since the 2006 Lebanon war and rehearsed in microcosm in the late-2008 Gaza incursion, a new fight against Iranian- and Syrian-backed Hizbullah would see an all-out assault on the party's arsenals, command centers, commercial assets and strongholds throughout the country. It also would include attacks on national infrastructure; a total maritime blockade; and interdiction strikes on bridges, highways and other smuggling routes along the Lebanese border with Syria. Meanwhile, land forces would operate well beyond the Litani River. Israeli officials have indicated that unless the Lebanese government or the international community disarms Hizbullah, such a war may become inevitable. (Defense News)
When President Obama called for a "new beginning" in U.S. relations with the Muslim world a year ago, he picked Cairo as the setting for his speech. A year later, Egyptians are scratching their heads about why Obama came to Cairo. In meetings in Cairo this week, Egyptian civil society and political activists across the spectrum voiced their disappointment, asking, "I know they're busy, but can't the Obama administration spare any time at all for what is going on inside Egypt?"
The disappointment is understandable. As Egypt heads into controversial parliamentary elections in fall 2010 and a presidential election in 2011, the Obama administration has been tone-deaf, intent on continuing to improve relations with the increasingly brittle and unpopular Mubarak regime. It has cut democracy assistance spending in Egypt by half. Obama's Cairo speech had the admirable goal of improving relations with the Muslim world, but the manner in which the administration has pursued this goal has focused almost exclusively on building bridges with leaders and governments. Yet in Egypt, and in Iran, a gulf has opened between the government and the citizenry. The writers, senior associates at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, are members of the nonpartisan Working Group on Egypt. (Washington Post)
Israelis Wonder: Has the World Lost Its Mind? - Yossi Klein Halevi (Wall Street Journal)
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