Thursday, September 15, 2016

From Ian:

Palestinian scout instructor praised murderer of 3: Follow his path
As Palestinian Media Watch has documented, the Jerusalem Scout Commission of the Palestinian Scouts and Guides Association (English - Palestinian Scout Association - PSA), which is a member of the World Organization of the Scout Movement (WOSM), recently held a course named after terrorist Baha Alyan who murdered 3 Israelis on a bus in Jerusalem in October last year.
A 30-minute long video from the closing ceremony of the “Martyr Baha Alyan Course” posted on the Jerusalem District Scout Commission’s Facebook page shows course instructor Muhammad Al-Dahdar glorifying murderer Baha Alyan, and expressing the hope that all the 250,000 scouts in the Palestinian Scout Association “are following Baha’s path.” After this statement, Al-Dahdar explicitly says he is speaking “in the name of the Palestinian Scouts and Guides Association”:
Baha Alyan Course instructor Muhammad Al-Dahdar: “Baha remains among us, he remains in our hearts, and emphasizes to you that 250,000 scouts and guides in the Palestinian Scout Association are Baha! And if Allah wills it, they are following Baha’s path.
In the name of the Palestinian Scouts and Guides Association and the Jerusalem District Scouts and Guides Commission, I am happy [inaudible]...”

[Jerusalem District Scout Commission Facebook page, Aug. 29, 2016]
PMW: Jerusalem Scout Commission that held course named after terrorist is part of Palestinian Scouts

Anne Bayefsky: All Jews out of Palestine is not a peace plan
The Obama administration is furious about Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu’s recent objection to Palestinian plans for a state with “no Jews.” In a video posted on September 9, 2016, Netanyahu made the obvious comments that the Palestinian effort to purge all Jews from the West Bank amounts to “ethnic-cleansing” and “ethnic cleansing for peace is absurd.” The State Department responded by shooting the messenger, calling Netanyahu’s remarks “inappropriate and unhelpful.”
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas makes no secret about Palestinian intentions. As he boasted to the interim Egyptian President while on a visit to Cairo in July 2013: “In a final resolution, we would not see the presence of a single Israeli – civilian or soldier – on our lands.”
The State Department’s reaction to Netanyahu opens a window into the nature of modern antisemitism, as well as possible Obama plans to drive a permanent wedge between Israel and the United States via the Security Council before he leaves office.
Simultaneously with promoting a Jew-free state, Palestinians routinely accuse Israel of “ethnic cleansing.” A mere two days after the State Department’s scolding of Netanyahu, on September 11, 2016, Abbas crowed that Israel “is advancing settlement construction, ethnic cleansing, premeditated killings and violation of holy sites, turning it into an object of criticism across the entire world.”
The ethnic-cleansing mantra is frequently accompanied by Palestinian charges of ‘apartheid,’ ‘racism,’ and ‘Judaization.’ The common thread of such hate speech is that the facts are irrelevant. Nearly two million Arabs live in Israel with more freedoms than in any Arab state.
Dr. Mordechai Kedar: Tensions rise as PA elections are postponed
Palestinian Authority local elections, in Judea and Samaria as well as Gaza, were supposed to take place on October 8th, a few weeks from now.
At first glance, it seems as though the elections are only for choosing functionaries for the local governmental bodies in charge of technical and limited municipal citizen services. However, the closer the elections loomed, the more other substantial and basic issues began to surface, issues that go way beyond municipal frameworks to influence the general atmosphere in the Palestinian Authority (PA). Tensions reached new highs last week when it was announced that the PA Supreme Court had decided to authorize postponing the elections to an unknown date.
The PA Bar Association filed the request to postpone the elections for two reasons. First of all, they claimed that Israel will not allow voting in Jerusalem – justifiably so, of course. Holding elections in that case makes the PA seem subservient to Israel and could be interpreted as their relinquishing claims to the city. On the other hand, the PA cannot allow elections to be held in Judea, Samaria and Gaza in line with Israel's delusions – in the PA's opinion – about Jerusalem. The second reason, claimed the association, is that while voting in Judea and Samaria is under PA supervision, that is not the case in Gaza where the PA has no control and does not recognize the legality of Hamas institutions.
Hamas accuses PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas of using the courts to "undercut Palestinian democracy."

David Singer: Bibi's Claim of Palestinian Ethnic Cleansing of Jews is Certainly Justified
800,000 Jews currently live in Judea, Samaria and East Jerusalem under rights vested in them by:
* Article 6 of the 1922 Mandate for Palestine,
* Article 80 of the 1945 United Nations Charter,
* Israel’s 1967 annexation of East Jerusalem
* The 1993 Oslo Accords.
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas declared in 2010:
“We have frankly said, and always will say: If there is an independent Palestinian state with Jerusalem as its capital, we won’t agree to the presence of one Israeli in it,”
Like Hitler – Abbas made no secret of his racist plan to create a Jew-free State.
Member States of the United Nations remained silent. In voting for the Resolution they chose to march to the same tune.
Abbas repeated his evil message in 2013:
“But when a Palestinian state is established, it would have no Israeli presence in it.”
Enlightened States still said nothing.
Jews forced from their Jerusalem homes in 1948
They had said nothing after every single Jew had been ethnically cleansed from Judea, Samaria and East Jerusalem following Jordan’s conquest of these areas between 1948 and 1967.
The Israel Aid Package
But as much as Obama deserves credit for agreeing to the aid package, the subtext to this negotiation is not without worries for those who care about the alliance. The real question is why the aid is now so vital and whether this announcement will be followed by shifts in U.S. policy that will endanger the Jewish state’s security in other ways.
The unfortunate context for the 10-year agreement is another pact that also stretches out over a similar period: the Iran nuclear deal. The administration’s decision to push for an extension of the annual aid package was in large part an effort to offset the impact of their policy on Iran.
Obama’s appeasement of Iran has, at best, put Iran’s quest for a nuclear weapon on hold for a decade. But it has also ended the international sanctions that had isolated the Iranians. This means that a country dedicated to Israel’s destruction, as well as bent on achieving regional hegemony, is now more dangerous than ever. Complicating the strategic equation even further are the Obama administration’s efforts to withdraw from the Middle East, effectively leaving the field clear for both a resurgent Russia and its sometime ally Iran. That means President Obama’s signature foreign policy achievement will not only fail to stop Iran from getting a bomb but has also created a more challenging security environment for Israel.
So while it’s good that Israel is getting help coping with this dilemma, Obama is the author of the problem the deal seeks to fix.
Obama and Israel cut Congress out of the aid game
Administration sources confirmed to me that the arrangement exists and said that the Israeli government had “volunteered” to give back any money above the deal’s limits. Graham said the Israelis told him they wrote the letter promising to return any extra funds.
“You know the White House pressured them into writing that letter,” Graham said. “It is a level of antagonism against Israel that I can’t understand.”
Graham pointed out that Congress regularly increases foreign aid above the levels in MOUs when dealing with other countries. For example, Congress increased foreign aid to Jordan above its $1 billion annual allotment last year in light of that country’s refugee crisis.
A senior Obama administration official told me that keeping the levels of aid equal to the MOU was important because a critical component of the MOU is that it provides predictability for planning purposes.
“In this context, changes to funding levels under the MOU in either direction are a threat to the integrity of the MOU, impeding planning and undermining confidence in future appropriations,” the official said.
The official pointed to a July 25 statement issued by the office of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that said “it is not in Israel’s interest for there to be any changes to the fixed annual MOU levels” and pledging that Israel is not seeking additional funding.
“Israel understands that, once the precedent of changes to MOU levels is established, it would create uncertainty that is undesirable for both sides,” the official said. “Ultimately, the United States fully agrees with Israel on the need to respect the integrity of the MOU and avoid changing the appropriation level in any given year. It is for this reason that we also oppose any appropriation greater or less than those specified in the MOU.”
But even former Obama administration officials have stated that it’s actually standard for Congress to retain its right to appropriate foreign aid at levels it alone determines. Tamara Cofman Wittes, a Brookings Institution scholar and former Middle East official in the Obama administration, tweeted this week that Congress still has the right to appropriate whatever it wants.
Calling Congress: The U.S.-Israel Memorandum of Understanding
The new Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) plans to change a fundamental part of the U.S.-Israel security relationship -- missile defense.
President Obama is tying Israel's hands for the future by extracting a promise that it will not approach Congress for funds in excess of those in the MOU "unless it is at war."
What does that mean? Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Lebanon, Syria still maintain a state of war with Israel, as does Iran, Hamas, Hezbollah and sometimes the Palestinian Authority. Did the Obama Administration leave Israel a loophole for Congressional assistance? Or is it denying that Israel lives in a perpetual and evolving state of threat and often fights "wars" that are essential to the protection of its population, but are not formally declared?
"Over the next decade, [Israel] is going to need to spend more on domestic defense, research and development, because the IDF is going to be under more threat, not less. This MOU sends the wrong signal to the Ayatollahs. I am appalled that the administration would (give) the largest state sponsor of terrorism access to $150 billion in sanctions relief without any requirement that they change their behavior. Instead, it is nickeling and diming Israel." – Senator Lindsay Graham.
Will Obama Make Netanyahu Pay for Historic Aid Deal at the UN Security Council?
"... U.S. National Security Adviser Susan Rice... in her speech at the signing ceremony [of a new 10-year security assistance Memorandum of Understanding providing $3.8 billion per year to Israel for military defense], mentioned the Palestinian issue and the need to advance the two-state solution as a central component of Israel's security... [A] press statement issued by U.S. President Barack Obama ... made an even clearer link between the aid package and the peace process.
'It is because of this same commitment to Israel and its long-term security that we will also continue to press for a two-state solution to the long-standing Israeli-Palestinian conflict, despite the deeply troubling trends on the ground that undermine this goal,' Obama said. 'As I have emphasized previously, the only way for Israel to endure and thrive as a Jewish and democratic state is through the realization of an independent and viable Palestine...'
This was Obama's first public statement on the Israeli-Palestinian issue after many months in which he avoided it like the plague. It's hard to believe that this was coincidental... From Obama's words, one can understand that the aid pact is one side of the coin with regard to his legacy on Israel. The other side may yet turn out to be a move on the Palestinian issue before his term ends on January 20...
Obama's announcement and the connection he made to the Palestinian issue reinforces Netanyahu's pessimistic scenarios regarding moves the American president may make immediately after the U.S. elections in November.
Former State Department Official: Security Aid Deal Could Serve as ‘Trigger Mechanism’ for New Obama-Led Israeli-Palestinian Peace Initiative (INTERVIEW)
The signing of the new 10-year memorandum of understanding (MOU) on US security assistance to Israel might serve as a “trigger mechanism” for a new American-led Israeli-Palestinian peace initiative before President Barack Obama leaves the White House in January, a former State Department Middle East negotiator told The Algemeiner on Wednesday.
The new MOU, Aaron David Miller — a vice president at the Wilson Center think tank in Washington — said, “lays the predicate for the Obama administration that it is extremely attuned to Israel’s security needs and requirements.” This, Miller claimed, provides the administration “a certain measure of cover” if it goes ahead with a peace initiative.
Miller explained what he sees as possible scenarios.
“The most ambitious move would be a UN Security Council resolution that would effectively replace Resolution 242 and set the parameters of a settlement,” he said. “But I don’t see that happening, in large part because I don’t understand the point, and there are politics involved. If Hillary Clinton wins the election, I don’t think she wants to be shackled by what would essentially be seen, from the viewpoint of the Israeli government and Republicans in the US, as a declaration of war. She’s not Obama. I think that, as a Clinton, she would have a tendency not to want to put Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in a corner.”
Touting aid deal, Obama says true Israeli security requires Palestinian statehood
US President Barack Obama said Wednesday that while the massive new military aid deal for Israel — Washington’s largest defense package to any country in history — would help Israel defend itself, “long-term security” can only be achieved by the creation of “an independent and viable Palestine.”
Signed at a State Department ceremony earlier on Wednesday, the new package will grant Israel $3.8 billion annually — up from the $3 billion pledged under the previous agreed-upon MOU — starting in 2018 and through 2028.
In a statement released shortly after the signing, Obama described the agreement, known as the memorandum of understanding, as “just the most recent reflection of my steadfast commitment to the security of the State of Israel,” citing billions of dollars already provided by his administration over the past eight years.
“Over the past eight years, my administration has time and again demonstrated this commitment in word and deed,” he said, stressing that this deal will help Israel address its defense needs.
“Both Prime Minister Netanyahu and I are confident that the new MOU will make a significant contribution to Israel’s security in what remains a dangerous neighborhood. The continued supply of the world’s most advanced weapons technology will ensure that Israel has the ability to defend itself from all manner of threats.”
UN chief rejects Netanyahu’s claim of ‘ethnic cleansing’ by Palestinians
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on Wednesday expressed disapproval with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s insistence that Palestinians want the “ethnic cleansing” of Jews in the West Bank.
Ban responded to a question about the Israeli premier’s remark saying the UN has repeatedly said Israeli settlements “are a violation of international law” and Israel’s decades-long occupation of Palestinian territory “should be resolved as soon as possible through negotiations.”
Ban stressed the importance of a two-state solution since Israelis and Palestinians will remain neighbors and should negotiate a way to live side-by-side in peace and security.
The Obama administration last week described as “inappropriate” Netanyahu’s claim that Palestinian opposition to settlements amounts to “ethnic cleansing.”
“We believe that using that type of terminology is inappropriate and unhelpful,” State Department spokeswoman Elizabeth Trudeau said.
Liberman orders Defense Ministry to blackball UN Mideast envoy — report
The Defense Ministry was reportedly ordered to blackball United Nations Mideast envoy Nickolay Mladenov in retaliation for the agency’s criticism of Israeli demolitions of Palestinian structures in the West Bank.
Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman ordered staff to boycott Mladenov, the UN special coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, and refuse to work with him, Channel 2 reported Wednesday.
Both the Defense Ministry and Mladenov declined to comment on the TV report.
“UN Special Coordinator Nickolay Mladenov is currently in New York where tomorrow the UN Secretary General will be briefing the UN Security Council on the latest developments on the ground,” a UN official from the special coordinator’s office said.
France took part in illegal construction in Israel
This morning, the Israeli Foreign Ministry responded to criticism from French citizens regarding the destruction of illegally constructed buildings in Area C. France intervened in the matter, due to the fact that it sponsored one of the buildings that were demolished.
Sources within the Ministry wish to clarify that “the claim that is being spread by the French Foreign Ministry is wrong. France, like other countries in Europe, must coordinate with Israel before building in Area C, which it didn’t do and thus can’t complain that Israel destroyed its illegally constructed building."
In addition, the Foreign Ministry emphasized that “according to the interim agreement with the Palestinians, that was signed under the supervision of representatives from the international community and the EU, the civil responsibility for Area C sits with Israel.“
The statement continued to say that “like all law-abiding countries, Israel doesn’t allow construction without a permit. In this case, construction took place without permission and so Israel exercised its right to demolish.”
The response includes criticism not solely of France but also regarding other European nations who act in a similar fashion and states that, “Israel expects the international community to help only in legal construction and won’t give a hand in illegal provocation, the only goal of which is to create facts on the ground, in contrast to agreements signed by both Israel and the Palestinians.”
Why didn't the courts destroy the home of my granddaughter's murderer?
Dear Prime Minister Netanyahu,
I am the grandmother of Hallel Yaffe Ariel Hy'd, slaughtered by a seventeen-year-old terrorist while sleeping in her bed on June 30, 2016 in Kiryat Arba. Two and a half months have passed and I feel great pain at the loss of our beloved Hallel Yaffa, but I also feel great anger and frustration at our government's lack of action in not punishing the terrorist's murderous family.
A seventeen-year-old terrorist was brought up by his family since infancy to glorify murder, especially and specifically, of Jews. He grew up being taught that the way to reach martyrdom is by killing a Jew. This terrorist didn't get the idea of sneaking into a young girl's bedroom and murdering her in her bed on his own. He had his own Facebook page where he wrote what he was going to do and what a privilege it would be to murder. His whole extended family (hamoula) knew his thoughts because of this page and because all of his relatives were brought up the same way.
During the "Shiva" many people said that justice would be served if his whole family would have immediately been taken across the border to Gaza and his home were totally destroyed. I expected that after such a horrible crime this would be the fit punishment. I expected, at the very least, that the family's entire home would be destroyed.
The Israeli courts, Israel's judicial system, is not functioning in our reality.
But your government, Mr. Prime Minister, did nothing meaningful except for a few feeble actions like closing the road or taking away work permits. To the Arabs of the murderous Hamas village Bani Naim this was a prize not a punishment, since they now get a salary from the Palestinian Authority.
The terrorist's mother was interviewed on TV and was so proud of her son's murderous action. She was not afraid to say that.
Palestinian who killed IDF soldier in 2014 gets life sentence
A Palestinian man was sentenced to life imprisonment Wednesday for stabbing to death an IDF soldier at a Tel Aviv train station in 2014.
The Tel Aviv District Court ruled that 20-year-old Nur al-Din Abu Hashiyeh must serve the maximum possible sentence for the murder of Sgt. Almog Shiloni, citing the “extreme severity” of his actions and rejecting pleas for a lesser punishment.
The court also ruled that Hashiyeh must pay Shiloni’s family NIS 258,000 (approx. $70,000) in compensation.
The ruling also stated that Hashiyeh may not be included in any future prisoner exchange, Army Radio reported.
Shiloni, 20, was critically wounded after being stabbed multiple times by Hashiyeh at Tel Aviv’s Hahagana train station in November 2014. He later died of his wounds. As Shiloni fell, Hashiyeh tried to steal his rifle, but was warded off by a passerby, Gilad Goldman, 59, who came to the injured soldier’s assistance and attacked the stabber with his bare hands. Hashiyeh fled the scene but was arrested by police after he tried to hide in a nearby building.
IAF strikes Gaza after rocket hits south; fresh mortar fire hits north
The Israeli Air Force struck three Hamas terrorist targets late on Wednesday night, after a rocket from the northern Gaza Strip hit the Eshkol Regional Council in southern Israel.
No injuries or damage were reported from the rocket fire, and no air raid sirens were triggered, the military said.
"The IDF holds Hamas responsible for any attacks emanating from the Gaza Strip, and will continue to retaliate harshly to maintain the peace and quiet in Israel's southern communities," Channel 10 News quoted an IDF Spokesperson's Unit statement as saying.
Also on Wednesday, fresh mortar fire hit the Israeli side of the Israel-Syria border. No injuries or damage were reported.
Military officials said the errant fire was most likely a result of fighting between rebel forces and the Syrian army in the Syrian Golan Heights.
The past few weeks have seen an increase in the number of errant fire incidents on the northern border. The IDF retaliated with several strikes against Syrian artillery positions over the past week, and defense sources said the IAF is likely to retaliate over Wednesday's incident as well.
Israeli Exhibit at UN Spotlights Demand for Remains of Israeli Soldier
Israel’s U.N. Mission and the family of an Israeli soldier killed in Gaza whose remains have never been returned opened an exhibition of his art work to spotlight their message: “Bring Hadar Home.”
Lt. Hadar Goldin and two other Israeli soldiers were ambushed and killed after a U.N.-backed cease-fire went into effect in Gaza on Aug. 1, 2014.
At the exhibition’s opening Wednesday at U.N. headquarters, his mother, Leah, urged the U.N. and the international community “to take responsibility and ensure that Hadar is returned to Israel for a proper burial.”
Israel’s U.N. Ambassador Danny Danon called Goldin “not only a brave soldier, but a talented artist taken before his time.”
Danon said he will keep working for the return of the remains of Goldin and Staff Sgt. Oron Shaul.
PA on brink of financial crisis if donors don’t step in, report warns
The Palestinian Authority is nearing a financial crisis if donors do not to step in to fill a shortfall of over half a billion dollars, the World Bank warned in a report published Thursday.
The report, to be presented in New York next week to a meeting of the Ad Hoc Liaison Committee, which coordinates international donor support for the Palestinians, also said that less than half of the $3.5 billion pledged by donor states to rebuild the Gaza Strip after the 2014 war between Israel and Hamas has been doled out.
The report on the Palestinian economy urged international donor support to stave off a crisis in the Palestinian Authority and maintain Palestinian budget-cutting achievements.
“The PA’s finances remain fragile with declining budget support leading to a projected financing gap of about $600 million (530 million euros) in 2016,” the report said.
“In the short term, donor support and in particular budget support is essential to avoid a fiscal crisis leading to wider economic problems,” the report said.
Outrage as Muslim cemetery becomes terrorist pantheon
The Muslim cemetery near Herod's Gate in east Jerusalem, where some of the perpetrators of the past year's terrorist attacks are buried, has become a magnet for Palestinian radicals and a de facto Palestinian national monument.
It is adorned with Palestinian flags, and Palestinian families, including children and teenagers, flock to the site daily to place flowers on the graves of terrorists, who are celebrated as heroes. Visitors often share pictures of themselves with their fingers held in the "V" for victory sign next to the graves.
The grave of Baha Alyan, who together with another terrorist boarded a bus in Jerusalem in 2015 and shot and killed three passengers, is particularly popular.
Maor Zemach, who heads the Lach Yerushalayim ("For You Jerusalem") advocacy group that seeks to safeguard Israeli sovereignty in Jerusalem, told Israel Hayom that Israeli authorities must crack down on visitors who glorify terrorists.
"Letting this practice take place at the heart of the Israeli capital, having terrorist being honored in broad daylight without anyone lifting a finger, is just mind-boggling," he said.
The BBC’s Long Delayed — and Seriously Flawed — Coverage of Palestinian Elections
On September 8, the BBC News website produced its first article dedicated to the topic of the municipal elections that were supposed to have taken place in the Palestinian Authority-controlled areas and the Gaza Strip on October 8, but have been postponed by a Ramallah court.
Prior to the appearance of that article — titled “Palestinian court delays municipal elections after challenges” — the sole reference to those elections at the BBC had been a 14-word-long sentence in a report about a different topic.
One might have assumed that coverage of the first Palestinian election in a decade — in which the rival parties Hamas and Fatah were set to take part — would have been considered essential for the enhancement of BBC audiences’ understanding of Palestinian internal affairs.
The BBC, apparently, thought differently, and thus its audience has received no insight whatsoever into the background of the municipal elections, or the type of campaigning materials put out by the parties involved. Neither have readers and viewers been informed about stories such as Fatah’s nomination of a convicted terrorist as a candidate, or the “concealment” of some female candidates.
PreOccupiedTerritory: Empty Storefront Actually Museum Of Indigenous Palestinian Arab Culture (satire)
Passersby and workers in the downtown area of Israel’s capital have occasionally wondered about the establishment on Jaffa Road that has a perpetually empty display window and interior, little realizing it is not the location of a store, but a gallery of artifacts and documents that are the product of the Arab culture native to the Holy Land.
The Palestinian Historical Artifacts and Knowledge Emporium (PHAKE), located in a nondescript building near the bustling intersection of Jaffa Road and King George V Street, boasts that it contains a comprehensive collection of the evidence for Palestinian Arab culture as indigenous to what became Israel in 1948. PHAKE, a project of international philanthropists and collectors, opened at the location in 2012.
Curator Daral Islam told a reporter the facility gets few visitors, as it has a limited budget to advertise its activities, and that traffic is mostly walk-ins looking for a bathroom. Mr. Islam spends most of his time looking after the precious artifacts in his care, most notably a picture frame in which people claim a map of Palestine as a nation once rested, and a collection of British-Mandate-Era postage stamps with the Hebrew words “Land of Israel” or “Palestina” rubbed out.
“I actually like the quiet,” explained Islam. “I’m an academic at heart, which means I prefer to stay away from ideas that challenge my world view, so the low number of visitors keeps me in my comfort zone.” He accepted the position when he saw it advertised in an academic journal, and the 15-square-meter former storefront provides him with a cozy setting in which to read the works of scholars such as Edward Said, David Irving, Rashid Khalidi, and Mahmoud Abbas.
Assad to ‘Western Officials’: ‘We Are Happy Because You Are Sad and Vanquished’
Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad celebrated the Muslim Eid holiday with a visit to the recently recaptured Damascus suburb of Darayya, where he celebrated that Western-backed rebels, and their patrons, were “sad and vanquished” and vowed to return “true freedom” to the town.
In a video posted to the Syrian government’s official YouTube channel and translated by the Middle Eastern Media Research Institute (MEMRI), Assad derides the “false freedom” of Syrian opposition groups, which have called for free and fair elections and been the target of violent crackdowns on Assad’s part. “We have come today to substitute the false freedom which they tried to peddle at the beginning of the crisis, including here in Darayya, with true freedom, which begins with the restoration of security and safety,” he told his audience.
“This is not the kind of freedom that begins on their [the rebels’] side and ends with a fistful of dollars,” he added, “which are given to them at the beignning of every month and every terror season, or freedom that includes some new promises for positions in the new Syria in the Western sense: an enslaved and obedient Syria.”
To “Western officials,” Assad says, “you are sad and vanquished, but we are happy… because you are sad and vanquished. When you conspire against Syria every hour of every day, and then you reach the point of defeat, that means things are on the right track.”
After nuke deal was signed, Iran dissidents came to Israel to discuss its consequences
A group of high-profile Iranian dissidents visited Israel for a conference with local scholars shortly after the July 2015 signing of the nuclear deal between Tehran and major world powers, an unprecedented move that came as Tehran was being welcomed back in the community of nations.
The precise who, when and where of the conference, convened to discuss how the nuclear deal was being viewed through Iranian eyes, are still being kept secret a year later in order to protect the dissidents and their families.
But it has been revealed that they included former ministers and diplomats, former founding members of Iran’s revolutionary bodies and foundations, former student leaders, current leading pro-democracy and civil society activists, intellectuals, authors, writers, media personalities, and journalists, all of whom no longer live in the Islamic Republic.
The Iranian regime is deeply hostile to Israel. It funds, trains and arms terrorist organizations that seek to destroy Israel. And its leadership routinely encourages the demise of what it calls the Zionist regime.
While Israel has parlayed shared unhappiness with the nuclear deal into the forging of new alliances with Sunni states also opposed to Iranian hegemony in the region, the pact has also prompted dissidents uncomfortable with the West’s embrace of Tehran to turn toward Israel, according to Yossi Kuperwasser, one of the Israeli scholars who participated in the conference and who spoke with The Times of Israel.
IRGC commander tells US to leave Persian Gulf
The Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps’ Navy commander, Rear Admiral Ali Fadavi, called on the US Wednesday to leave the Persian Gulf, amid ongoing confrontations between Iranian and US ships.
The US said Iranian naval vessels have harassed US ships and destroyers in the Gulf on a number of occasions since last month, including one incident that prompted an American ship to fire warning shots.
Video of the incident involving the USS Nitze shows American sailors firing flares and sounding the warship’s horn as the Iranian boats approached. A sailor can be heard saying that the weapons on the Iranian boats were “uncovered, manned.”
Fadavi said US presence in the Persian Gulf “is the reason for insecurity and they should terminate it.”
“Their presence is the root cause of their unprofessional behavior and they should end this issue honorably to prevent any problem,” he added according to the semi-official Fars News agency.
Look, it’s Iran’s foreign minister in the New York Times!!
Someone — not the Iranian foreign minister, mind you — penned a nice little piece on the New York Times op-ed page for Muhammad Javad Zarif.
For those of you who don’t turn straightaway to the Grey Lady’s deeply predictable opinion page, here’s the gem in all of its splendor: Mohammed Javad Zarif: Let Us Rid the World of Wahhabism (yes, his name is also in the headline). Setting aside the fact that the NYT op-ed page seems to have become the modern day equivalent of Mussolini’s balcony, a perch from which dictators can honor the public with their unfiltered opinions, the piece is a fascinating window into the world of sectarianism, terrorism and hypocrisy that the Obama administration has helped wreak in the Middle East.
Of course, Zarif is right. Wahhabism is indeed a danger to the world, a scourge of extremism Salafi ideology that successive Saudi regimes have inflicted upon the Muslim (and Christian and Jewish) world. Someone did a handy little chart of ISIS laws (beheadings, stonings, whipping — that stuff), and it tracked completely with the law of the land in Saudi.
The Saudis helped create al Qaeda (not alone, of course); they have systematically used their oil riches to crowd out Sufi and other forms of moderate Islam through the funding of mosques, imams, textbooks and more. Saudi funded schools and madrasas have taught intolerance and antisemitism and extremism to susceptible young minds for decades. When we are told that women must be in the niqab (the veil showing only the eyes), that is wahhabism. When we are told the Koran forbids graven images or the touch of infidel hands, that is wahhabism. These tenets of extremist Islam have been popularized by the wahhabis.
And Zarif is right that the Saudis have used their wealth to hire lobbyists and directly to buy friends in the United States and Europe, which has surely influenced policy in their favor. But then Zarif stops, and it is in his silence where we find the hypocrisy, dishonesty and sheer Machiavellian predacity of the Tehran regime.
Saudi official warns Iran: Attack us at your own risk
A senior Saudi official, responding to Iranian criticism of Riyadh's management of the haj pilgrimage, urged Iran to end what he called wrong attitudes towards Arabs and warned it against any use of force in its rivalry with the kingdom.
Mecca province governor Prince Khaled al-Faisal, in remarks likely to be seen as a reference to Iran, added that the orderly conduct of the pilgrimage this year "is a response to all the lies and slanders made against the kingdom."
The remarks carried by the official Saudi Press Agency (SPA) on Wednesday evening follow an escalating war of words between Shi'ite Muslim Iran and Sunni Saudi Arabia since a crush at the annual haj pilgrimage a year ago in which hundreds of pilgrims, many of them Iranians, died.
SPA quoted Prince Khaled as telling journalists his message to the Iranian leadership was "I pray to God Almighty to guide them and to deter them from their transgression and their wrong attitudes toward their fellow Muslim among the Arabs in Iraq, Syria, Yemen and around the world".
"But if they are preparing an army to invade us, we are not easily taken by someone who would make war on us."
"When we desire, and with the help of God Almighty, we will deter every aggressor and will never relent in protecting this holy land and our dear country. No one can defile any part from our country if any one of us remains on the face of the earth."
‘We Misled You’: How the Saudis Are Coming Clean on Funding Terrorism
One byproduct of the Saudi focus on ISIL and Iran seems to be a more enlightened view by Riyadh toward Israel. Israel and Saudi Arabia share a similar threat perception regarding Iran and ISIL, and that old hostility need not preclude greater cooperation between the two states going forward. The Saudis stated with unusual directness that they do not regard Israel as an enemy and that the kingdom is making no military contingency plans directed against Israel. They did emphasize the need for progress on the Palestinian issue, but the tone on this subject was noticeably less emotional than in the past. The clear priority was on defeating ISIL and balancing Iran from a position of strength.
On some levels, the prospects for planned reforms are more promising in Saudi Arabia than they are in most other parts of the Middle East. Saudi Arabia has oil reserves and is not roiled in conflict: two important advantages. My visit left me convinced that key segments of the Saudi leadership are serious about their modernization plans and are pursuing it with vigor and professionalism.
There are, as I said, plenty of reasons to be skeptical of ultimate success. However, if the reform effort does work, Saudi Arabia is poised to become more powerful than before, enabling it to play a bigger role in regional dynamics including in balancing Iran and perhaps negotiating about ending the civil wars in the region. A true change in Saudi Arabia’s policy of supporting Islamist extremists would be a turning point in the effort to defeat them. Given the kingdom’s role, Saudi success can provide a model for the rest of the Sunni Arab and Islamic world on how to pursue reform and succeed. That could, in turn, help launch the reformation that is so badly needed. The region and the world have a stake in Saudi success, and should do what we can to encourage and support them on this new path.

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