Thursday, May 19, 2016

From Ian:

EgyptAir crash debris reportedly found as officials consider terrorism
A Cairo-bound EgyptAir flight that went down in the Mediterranean Sea with 66 aboard early Thursday hours after departing from Paris zig-zagged sharply before plunging, according to aviation officials, who said terrorism was a more likely cause of the crash than technical failure.
Government officials from France, Greece and Egypt spoke at separate news conferences even as boats and ships from several countries were scouring the waters off of the Greek island of Karpathos, near where a witness reported seeing a fireball in the sky.
Ships on the scene included the British missile cruiser HMS Defender, and a Russian ship was also reportedly nearing the suspected debris field.
By midday Thursday, an Egyptian plane spotted two orange items believed to be from the missing plane, a Greek military official told The Associated Press.
The official said the items were found 230 miles south-southeast of the island of Crete but still within the Egyptian air traffic control area. One of the items was oblong, said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity in accordance with regulations.
Two other floating objects, colored white and red, were spotted in the same area, Greek defense sources told Reuters.
PMW: Fatah responds to PMW's bulletin, reiterates that it honors murderer of 24
Palestinian Media Watch reported yesterday that Abbas' political party Fatah had honored Japanese terrorist Kozo Okamoto for his part in the terror attack in Israel's airport in 1972, in which 24 civilians were killed and 70 were injured. Fatah's response to PMW's report was to immediately issue two follow-up posts, "in response to the Israeli media."
In the new posts, Fatah reiterated that it views the murderer of 24 as a hero, and added that if Israelis wants peace they must leave what Fatah calls "our land", the term it usually uses to mean all of Israel. As PMW has reported, PA policy is to deny Israel's right to exist on any part of Israel and Mahmoud Abbas himself calls all of Israel an "occupation."
The following are today's Fatah Facebook posts in response to PMW's exposure that Fatah glorified the murderer of 24:
"Responding to the Israeli media (i.e., PMW report):
44 years since the operation in the [Israeli] Lod Airport. Blessings to the Japanese fighter, the comrade Kozo Okamoto, hero of the operation (i.e., terror attack that killed 24 and injured 70) at the Lod airport.
The Fatah Movement is proud of all who have joined its ranks and the ranks of the Palestinian revolution for the freedom of the Palestinian people. We are proud of every fighter who has joined our mighty revolution. If Israel wants peace, it should get out of our land and we'll live in peace, for it [Israel] is the last occupation in the world."
[Official Fatah Facebook page, May 18, 2016]
Belgium declines Israeli teens’ aid request after parents killed in museum attack
Belgium has turned down a request for financial assistance from the daughters of an Israeli couple killed in a 2014 attack on the Jewish Museum in Brussels.

Mira and Emmanuel Riva were on vacation and touring the museum in May when Mehdi Nemmouche, a Frenchman who French authorities believe left for Syria via Belgium to fight with jihadists in 2012 before returning to Europe, opened fire on museum visitors and staff.
Along with the Rivas, a French volunteer at the museum and a Belgian employee were killed in the attack.
The Riva teens, who live in Tel Aviv, filed an application for the assistance 10 months after the attack. They applied for the usual allocation of 15,000 euros, or about $17,000, which is generally provided without question, according to French-language news reports.

Israel, Gaza and "Proportionality"
It appears that several major Palestinian terror groups have begun to prepare for mega-terror attacks on Israel.
The authoritative rules of war do not equate "proportionality" with how many people die in each side of a conflict. In war, no side is ever required to respond to aggression with only the equivalent measure of force. Rather, the obligations of proportionality require that no side employ any level of force that is greater than what is needed to achieve a legitimate political and operational objective.
Under pertinent international law, the use of one's own people as "human shields" -- because such firing from populated areas is intended to deter Israeli reprisals, or to elicit injuries to Palestinian civilians -- represents a codified war crime. More specifically, this crime is known as "perfidy." This is plainly an attempt to make the IDF appear murderous when it is compelled to retaliate, but it is simply a Palestinian manipulation of legal responsibility. Under law, those Arab residents who suffer from Israeli retaliations are incurring the consequences of their own government's war crimes.
International law is not a suicide pact. Instead, it offers a universally binding body of rules and procedures that allows all states to act on behalf of their "inherent right of self-defense."
What Israel’s New Coalition Means
Where does this leave Israel?
Herzog’s leftist critics in his own party are happy about his likely demise and Netanyahu emerges again as this generation’s unrivaled champion of maneuvering. But there’s more to be gleaned from Netanyahu’s latest proof of his political skill than those conclusions.
The mere fact that a Likud-Labor coalition was not only possible but seemed the most likely scenario for some time should awaken the country’s critics to a basic fact about Israeli politics. While the competition for cabinet seats in Israel is fierce, the great dispute that foreigners imagine divides citizens of the Jewish state isn’t the locus of political debate. The world may think Israelis are still — as they were in the 1980s and 1990s — evenly split on the question of whether to trade land for peace with the Palestinians. But the election results as well as the coalition negotiations tell a different story.
Most Israelis, including many that voted for some of the right wing parties, would be willing to make such a swap and give up territory if it meant a real peace. But outside of the far left virtually no one thinks such an arrangement is possible because of the reality of Palestinian intransigence. Neither Herzog nor Lapid — the two potential replacements for Netanyahu as head of the country — really disagree with him about whether a two-state solution is desirable or if it can be implemented. All three agree it’s a good idea. All three also agree that it isn’t going to happen because the Palestinians are still unwilling to make peace and addicted to violence.
Israeli political strife is still intense but it is about economic issues and personalities since Netanyahu remains personally unpopular even though he has won three consecutive elections and would probably be favored for a fourth if it were held anytime soon. That means Americans who think the prime minister is wrong about peace should take into consideration the fact that most Israelis share his views. Though he is blasted regularly in the international and media as a right-wing extremist, he is on the left of his current coalition and smack dab in the center of Israel’s political spectrum at the moment. Netanyahu’s government may not be loved but it does represent the country’s consensus about peace. That may be astonishing to Americans, but it should also cause them to start thinking about whether it is time for them to give up illusions about the Palestinians and peace that the majority of voters in the Jewish state have long since abandoned.
Hollande's presidency: France, israel and the Jews
Interview with Freddy Eytan, expert of France's Middle East policy, distinguished diplomat and author: "France is almost obsessive about an international conference on the Palestinian-Israeli conflict."
“Prior to his election, François Hollande, President of France, had not developed close ties with the Jewish community, in contrast with the two previous right wing presidents Nicolas Sarkozy and Jacques Chirac. As far as Israel is concerned, Hollande follows a basic policy line similar to that of previous socialist leaders such as Leon Blum and François Mitterrand. Their guiding principle is support for the existence of a Jewish state in secure and recognized borders. At the same time, the Palestinian people should have self-determination in a state alongside Israel.”
Freddy Eytan is a journalist and former diplomat. He was Israel’s ambassador to Mauritania and also served in Israel's embassies in Paris and Brussels. He is an expert on France’s Middle East policy and has published twenty books, among them Sarkozy, the Jewish World and Israel, published in French in 2009 by the Alphée publishing house in Paris.
“One key element of Hollande’s foreign policy is that he wants a strong France closely bonded with Germany in the European Union. He is suspicious of the United States and was furious with Obama for his second thoughts on overturning the Assad regime in Syria, reversing his position on the issue at the last minute. Since then relations between Paris and Washington have remained tense. In military operations, such as in Mali, Hollande prefers that France should go it alone.
Bassem Eid: To Advance the Peace Process, First Fix the PA
The Palestinian Authority (PA) is governed by a president, Mahmoud Abbas, who is now in the twelfth year of a five-year term, who routinely uses torture and arbitrary arrests to enforce his rule, and who vigorously represses freedom of speech and assembly. In an extensive survey of the situation, the veteran Palestinian human-rights activist Bassem Eid argues that peace between Israelis and Palestinians is impossible as long as the latter live under tyranny:
In considering the critical issues that are preventing progress in moving toward reconciliation between Israelis and Palestinians, there has often been a failure to account fully for the detrimental role played by the PA in abusing human rights and civil liberties. The oppressive policies of the PA have undoubtedly contributed to the alienation of large parts of the Palestinian public, and pushed some further toward extremist groups such as Hamas. These abuses . . . have hardened attitudes against the process of negotiations with Israel. . . . As the PA becomes increasingly tarnished in the eyes of the Palestinian public, so too will the peace process . . . come to be seen in an ever-worse light.
In addition to the damaging effect that PA oppression is having on the attitudes of the Palestinian population, the lack of legitimate and responsible governance on the Palestinian side is likely to undermine Israeli confidence in the negotiation process and discourage further concessions from Israel. The strategic thinking currently prevalent in Israel heavily emphasizes the concern that a lawless and unstable Palestinian state could emerge on territory adjacent to Israel’s population centers and [thus] evolve into an existential security threat. Israel is particularly concerned that a weak, oppressive, and undemocratic Palestinian government would be susceptible of being overthrown, with the likelihood that this would then lead to the territory coming under the control of extremist elements such as Hamas. . . .
Netanyahu agrees with Liberman on death penalty for terrorists in negotiations
Coalition negotiations between Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Yisrael Beytenu chair Avigdor Liberman were almost completed after Netanyahu agreed to the condition of setting the death penalty for those who commit terror activities.
Members from both parties exchanged a final draft of the agreement on Thursday agreeing on the death penalty, however both have not agreed on the specific conditions.
In a meeting that lasted less than an hour Wednesday afternoon, Liberman accepted Netanyahu’s offer of the defense and immigration and absorption portfolios and support for key Yisrael Beytenu-sponsored legislation.
Netanyahu updated Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon immediately after meeting with Liberman. A source close to Netanyahu said Ya’alon is likely to be compensated by becoming foreign minister, but Ya’alon’s office said he had not yet been offered the post.
Talks with Yisrael Beytenu began after negotiations with the Zionist Union failed to progress.
Blair, Kerry, Sissi said behind shattered effort to bring Herzog into coalition
An alliance of foreign leaders led by former British prime minister Tony Blair was key to the failed effort to secure a national unity government between Likud and the Zionist Union, Channel 10 news and Haaretz reported Wednesday night.
Chief among these foreign players was Blair, who had been seeking to jump-start the moribund peace process since leaving his position as Mideast Quartet envoy, Haaretz reported. Blair was said to have been coordinating his actions with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Zionist Union leader Isaac Herzog, US Secretary of State John Kerry and even Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi.
It was this effort by Blair to bring about a new peace-oriented ruling coalition in Israel that led Sissi to proclaim his belief in recent days that there was a “real opportunity” for a settlement between Israel and the Palestinians, the reports said.
Blair declared his intent to renew peace efforts late last year, saying his experience and network of contacts made during eight years of Mideast diplomacy would help him.
PreOccupiedTerritory: Right-Wing Coalition Dares To Represent Like-Minded Majority (satire)
Politicians and commentators across the left side of the political spectrum reacted with anger today that the right-wing majority in the Knesset has come together to represent the democratic will of the people, sources in the parliament are reporting.
Nationalist party Yisrael Beiteinu reversed a year of refusal to join the Likud’s right-wing coalition yesterday, buttressing the slim parliamentary majority that had repeatedly threatened the coalition’s ability to govern, and angering Opposition leaders who fumed at the gall of like-minded political groups to pursue interests shared by more than half of the electorate.
“This is a dark day for Israeli democracy,” warned Labor MK Erel Margalit. “Taking the Coalition’s sixty-one seats and increasing it by six through the addition of another right-wing Coalition partner only underlines the antidemocratic, fascist-like tendencies of the current government. We need an alternative to this nightmare, in which the duly elected majority does things the majority of voters probably support.” Margalit vowed to fight the strengthened coalition by fomenting disunity and open rebellion in his own party, which leads the Opposition.
“We need to put forward a serious alternative, representative of our minority constituencies, to the policies of this government,” said Opposition leader Isaac Herzog, fresh from failed talks to join the government. “Only that way can the left and center-left use that alternative to once again attract less than half the votes.”
'Netanyahu's offer to Liberman to join coalition shows that Israel favors extremism,' says PA
Avigdor Liberman joining the Israeli government demonstrates that Israel favors extremism and reinforcement of occupation and settlements over peace, the Palestinian Foreign Ministry said in a press statement issued on Thursday.
"The appointment of Liberman to serve as a minister in Netanyahu's government is an answer to the regional, international and French efforts to reinvigorate the Israeli-Palestinian peace process," the statement read.
The Mottle Wolfe Show [PodCast]: Trump and Bernie, Twin Messiahs
Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders are two sides of the same coin. The problem is that both are leading ‘messianic’ movements. Doesn’t often end well. Also Israel appoints a new controversial Minister of Defense. Raoul Wootliff joins Mottle to discuss.
Aaron David Miller: Six Stubborn, Essential Middle East Truths
Leaders change, and the Middle East can always surprise. But regardless of presidential preference and promises, there are a half-dozen verities that will haunt any leader, from Donald Trump to Hillary Clinton -- just as they have bedeviled President Barack Obama and his predecessors.
Want a perfect friend? Get a dog. Unless the United States plans to go it alone in a region where it has vital interests, enormous challenges, and a lot of enemies, it’s going to have to make do with the friends that it has. And those friends are far from perfect. In some cases -- think of Saudi Arabia and Egypt -- Washington shares few values, particularly when it comes to democratic principles. But some interests nevertheless overlap.
In other cases, such as Israel, there is affinity on values and many shared interests. Even so, serious differences remain on issues such as Israeli settlements, the terms for a solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and recent American overtures to Iran -- particularly the merits of last year’s nuclear accord.
The odds of pushing these imperfect partners to see things the American way on issues that are dear to them are pretty slim. No matter how hard we insist, they have more at stake on these issues than we do. Good luck trying to impose a deal with the Palestinians on the Israelis, or telling the Egyptians or Saudis to democratize. We’re caught in an investment trap when it comes to these partners, especially as the Middle East melts down.
Lapid Praises Egyptian Peace Initiative, Warns Against Legitimizing Iran in DC Speech
Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi’s recent push for new peace negotiations between Israel and the Palestinian Authority is “promising,” former Israeli finance minister Yair Lapid said Wednesday during a public Q&A at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies.
Lapid, who for years has been promoting a regional peace summit involving Egypt and Jordan, welcomed Sisi’s speech, though he insisted that any such summit should not impose terms on Israel. Israelis would favor such a regional summit, he said, as it could open the Israeli economy up to a market as large as the European Union.
He noted that the nuclear deal with Iran, which he opposed, had caused relations between Israel and Sunni states to warm, adding that ties in the Middle East are no longer defined by the view that “you’re either my friend or you’re my enemy.” Lapid emphasized the importance of enforcing the deal and ensuring that it doesn’t legitimize the “idea that Iran is okay now,” given Iran’s continued support for terror and ongoing human rights abuses.
Daphne Anson: "We Don't Want No Two State, We Want '48": Telling the Brooklyn Bridge
On "Nakba Day" in old New York, a long stream of American Arabs and assorted Israel-haters (including a contigent of Neturei Karta nuts) tell the Brooklyn Bridge exactly what their aims are.
"We Don't Want No Two State, We Want '48" they scream over and over.
And "There is only one solution: Intifada Revolution"
The old "From the River to the Sea ..." mantra is both seen and heard too. And how.
Declares their personable and articulate leader, they are "calling for the dismantling of the Entity Israel ...." and will never rest until every city from Haifa to all of Jerusalem is theirs.
(At least they're honest about their aims!)
Israel successfully tests shipborne Iron Dome missile interceptor
Israel has successfully tested a maritime missile interception system that can shoot down short-range missiles, dubbing it the “Iron Dome of the Sea,” the navy announced on Wednesday.
The Tamir-Adir system, which the IDF said can shoot down short-range rockets similar to those fired from Gaza, successfully destroyed “several” missiles, Col. Ariel Shir, head of operational systems in the navy, said.
Shir said that during tests carried out two weeks ago, a battery mounted to a ship shot down every one of a salvo of short-range ballistic rockets fired from the shore.
He said the test “proved the Israeli navy’s ability to protect Israel’s strategic assets at sea against short-range strategic rockets.”
A video provided by the army showed a rocket launcher installed on a ship firing at targets in the sky and later intercepting a missile.

Israel Army’s Medical Corps Adapts to Knife Intifada
Frenkel said that since October 1, his medical teams have treated more than 450 people wounded in terror attacks, including 250 Israelis (both soldiers and civilians) and 200 Palestinians. He said “many” of the Palestinians, usually attackers, were killed, and 16 Israelis, four soldiers and twelve civilians died in the attacks.
Overall, 30 Israelis and four foreigners have been killed in the past six months, alongside more than 200 Palestinians, most of whom Israel says were involved in carrying out the attacks.
“We realized that we needed two systems to save more lives,” Frenkel said, speaking in his office on the northern outskirts of Jerusalem. “One is more training of our medical staff, and the other is better care of the wounded person, both physically and emotionally.”
To accomplish the first goal, 15 doctors and paramedics have embarked on an intensive training program, including at a medical simulation center at Sheba hospital. They will then train doctors and medics in the field. When it comes to the second goal, Frenkel said they are trying to encourage more resilience.
“One of the things we learned is that emotional health and resilience are very important,” Frenkel said. “When our fighters are resilient they recover from attacks more quickly.”
A pilot program has focused on physical fitness, better nutrition, and even biofeedback, which has proven itself, he said.
“The results of biofeedback are really amazing,” he said. “You need to do 7 – 10 sessions of 20-30 minutes. It’s too bad we can’t do it for everyone.”
Nakba counter-protest 'banned' at Haifa University
Members of the Likud-affiliated Lavi student society at Haifa University sought to wave Israeli flags and counter-protest a Nakba Day ceremony held on campus by members of the Arab student groups this Sunday.
However, the university's management refused their request to counter-protest, and even threatened them with expulsion. Nakba (catastrophe in Arabic) is how the Palestinians refer to the Arab states' inability to destroy the fledgling state of Israel in 1948, and consequentially Nakba events mourn the existence of the state of Israel.
Haifa University's Lavi student society chairperson Daniel Siglov told Arutz Sheva that he does not intend to let the matter pass.
"We already asked ten days ago, at a meeting of the student groups with the student deacon, to hold an event against the Nakba ceremony," said Siglov.
"We submitted the request but the university rejected the request and even threatened that those who protest will be summoned to a disciplinary committee and even suspended from studies."
According to the student group head, the university did not even permit them to wave Israeli flags at the site of the event on campus.
Erekat: IDF in West Bank an invalid legal system
When asked by The Jerusalem Post about the compromise suggestion at a conference held by the Palestine-Israel Journal in Jerusalem, he called it “playing around with” an inherently invalid legal system, instead of trying to take apart that system as should be done.
The idea was suggested to the Post in discussions with a top defense lawyer for Palestinians about what changes might be viewed as improving the objectivity of the courts short of abolishing them – as is traditionally demanded by the Palestinian side.
Mostly, the Palestinian side sticks to the claim that Israeli military courts trying them inherently violates their sovereign rights. They say this is especially true, since Jews living in the West Bank are brought to trial in Israeli civilian courts.
But the lawyer had framed the idea as a possible improvement, since the courts would likely continue to be a reality for the foreseeable future.
Erekat responded to the compromise idea, saying, “It’s not about... the Geneva Conventions or international law. There was a law invented [by Israel], the law of getting away with it. Everyone hears and sees what Israel is doing to the Palestinians over 50 years,” he continued, repeating that “the real law” is getting away with violating Palestinian rights.
Police catch 60,000 grenade springs headed to Gaza
Israeli police on Wednesday captured a shipment of 60,000 hand-grenade springs on their way to the Gaza Strip.
The springs were found hidden in a warehouse in the community of Ami’oz on the Gaza periphery. Officials arrested a man in his twenties at the scene as he was loading the springs onto his vehicle.
The man, a resident of the Bedouin town of Rahat, was believed to be on his way to smuggle the equipment into Gaza. He is suspected of procuring the springs illegally from an Israeli factory that produces such springs for the Israeli military. Two other people were arrested as well.
Officials said the man planned to transfer the springs over to terrorists in Gaza, and suspect that he eventually planned to smuggle 500,000 such springs into the Palestinian enclave.
New textbook bodes well for Egypt-Israeli relations
A textbook introduced this semester by the government of President Abdul-Fatah al-Sisi requires Egyptian pupils to memorize the provisions of the 1979 Egypt-Israel peace treaty and delineate the ''advantages of peace for Egypt and the Arab states.''
The assignments from the ninth grade book, The Geography of the Arab World and the History of Modern Egypt, are part of a change to a more robust and positive treatment of peace with Israel than that manifested in books during the three decades in power of al-Sisi's predecessor Hosni Mubarak.
Ofir Winter, a research fellow at the Institute for National Security Studies in Tel Aviv, who recently authored a study of the book, termed it ''the first buds of development'' in Egyptian educational attitudes towards peace.
''This is not a revolution but the changes are interesting,'' he told The Media Line.
''The trend is positive but there is still a great deal to aspire to.'' Winter compared the new book to a 2002 Mubarak-era textbook, History for High School Pupils, and found more explicit support for peace with Israel than in the past and more emphasis on the economic advantages of peace. At one point the new book says peace had enabled ''the promotion of economic and social development and the repair of the country's infrastructure.''
While the 2002 textbook allotted 32 pages to wars with Israel and three to peace, the new one curtails the history of the conflict to 12 pages while allocating four to peace.
Israel may forgive half of Egypt’s $1.7b gas fine
Egypt owes Israel $1.76 billion for a 2015 court judgment that found Cairo violated an agreement to supply natural gas.
Egypt cut off talks to import Israeli natural gas after the ruling, but two officials close to the case quoted by Bloomberg Wednesday said Israel may forgive half the fine, paving theway to reopening negotiations.
According to Bloomberg, payments would be spread over 14 years and talks are still underway.
There was no official confirmation of the report, which comes as Israel has been signaling other moves to warm up to Cairo, including recently upgrading embassies in Cairo and Jerusalem.
On Sunday, Israel is expected to return two Bronze-Age wooden anthropoid sarcophagus lids to new Egyptian Ambassador to Israel Hazem Khairat at a Foreign Ministry ceremony on Sunday, four years after they were discovered smuggled into the Jewish state.
Nobel Peace Prize-Winning Obama Has Been At War LONGER THAN ANY OTHER American President
This month, President Barack Obama officially became the U.S. president to have been at war the longest — longer than Lyndon Johnson, longer than Abraham Lincoln and certainly longer than George W. Bush.
Obama acquired the highly dubious honor on May 6, observes The New York Times.
He’s not done yet, either. Far from it! With eight months left to go in his presidency, and with America’s military fighting in several places far-flung, Obama is virtually certain to be the only U.S. president to spend a full eight years presiding over combat.
The Times describes Obama’s status as America’s biggest warmonger president as “an improbable legacy” because he ran as an anti-war candidate back in 2008 and promised to end the wars Bush started after the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.
Speaking before a cadre of Hezbollah's top command, Mughniyeh then declared that Israel is a friend and a strategic ally opposite the Saudi enemy.
Mustafa Mughniyeh, who replaced Hezbollah’s slain Chief of Staff Mustafa Badreddine, has reportedly declared that Israel, at least for now, is no longer considered the enemy of the Shiite organization. According to, citing a source they say is familiar with Hezbollah’s internal affairs, Mughniyeh is planning to carry out a major attack against the Saudis.
The new Hezbollah military chief, whose father was legendary terrorist Imad Mughniyeh—killed in 2008 in a car bomb blast, reportedly said that “while my father and uncle (Badreddine) failed to kill the Emir of Kuwait, I will not fail to kill the king of Wahabia (a reference to the Wahabi faith, Saudi Arabia’s state religion, which is the most viciously anti-Shiite) and cut off the hand of anyone who wishes to turn Syria Wahabi.”
Speaking before a cadre of Hezbollah’s top command, Mughniyeh then declared that Israel is a friend and a strategic ally opposite the Saudi enemy, and therefore, from this day on, there is no more war against Israel.
He also noted that Israel was the only country that liberated the Shiites in south Lebanon from the Palestinian conquest in 1982. The PLO, which had been driven out of Jordan a decade earlier, created an independent state in everything but a name in south Lebanon, and used it as a base from which to harass Israel—leading to the first Lebanon war.
Syrian Refugee at Congressional Briefing: Israeli Aid is Helping, But More Needed from West
The aid provided by Israeli humanitarian groups to displaced Syrians can serve as a lesson for how people from different countries, religions, and political perspectives can work together to ease their plight, a Syrian refugee said at a congressional briefing Tuesday.
Shadi Martini, a native of Aleppo who today serves as a senior advisor to the nonprofit Multifaith Alliance for Syrian Refugees (MFA), became involved in relief work in March 2011, shortly after the regime of Bashar al-Assad began violently clamping down on unarmed protesters calling for democratic reforms. Martini and his colleagues organized assistance to injured civilians through an underground network, even as the regime targeted anyone suspected of assisting the Syrian opposition.
“I became a refugee for a simple reason,” Martini said during a briefing hosted by MFA. “I saw that at that point in history, it was not right for me to ignore the cries of people who are suffering injuries, and who are deprived of their ability to seek medical attention, a simple thing. But apparently, as one Syrian government official told us, ‘look, we’re not shooting them so you guys can save their lives.’ So it was obvious to us that what we were doing was very dangerous.”
Martini was forced to flee Syria when his covert aid operation was exposed in mid-2012. The Syrian civil war, now in its fifth year, has since devolved into one of the worst humanitarian catastrophes since the Second World War.
An Israeli Echo Chamber? Haaretz and the Iran Deal
"Echo chamber" — two words that Ben Rhodes uttered to the New York Times Magazine were enough to expose the media's failure. The issue has been raging in the US for over a week now, since David Samuels’s piece first appeared, but aside from some minimal coverage, it has received almost no attention in Israel. And that's very strange, because what Obama's Deputy National Security Advisor for Strategic Communications said about the gaggle of “freshly minted experts cheerleading for the deal” is very serious: "They were saying things that validated what we had given them to say," Rhodes bragged.
This was primarily aimed at the American media, but it has an Israeli aspect: Haaretz newspaper.
Those who have followed the Israeli media certainly remember how coverage of the Iran Deal looked from Schocken Street’s perspective: Haaretz did not even bother hiding that it had taken a side, and its reporters constantly echoed White House talking points in Israel. Now, in light of Rhodes's confession and the storm he caused, very serious questions have arisen regarding Haaretz's conduct in the affair, its journalistic prestige, and its professional reliability.
In response to our questions, Haaretz publisher Amos Schocken explained, "I don't have the tools to evaluate if what was said in the New York Times Magazine article is true or not," but regarding which side the paper took—here he explicitly admits:
Regarding Haaretz's position on the deal with Iran, it's no secret that we supported the American agenda of reaching an agreement. We thought an agreement was better than no agreement. We thought the position of the Prime Minister was mistaken, and that if it had any effect on the outcome, it was the enlistment of Democratic Congressmen in favor of the President. As a result of the agreement Israel obtained a window of 10-15 years in which, if it takes the right steps, it can positively change its strategic situation in the longer run as well, including among states such as Iran. (h/t Elder of Lobby)
Iran Must Fix Own Banks to Win Overseas Business, IMF Says
Iran must tackle problems in its banking system and bolster anti-money laundering and terrorism-financing laws if it wants to reconnect to the global economy, the second-ranked official at the International Monetary Fund said in an interview in Tehran.
“The best thing the government can do, and the banks can do, is to bring those standards up to international levels and try to reassure foreign partners, banks and otherwise that Iran’s banks are safe to deal with,” David Lipton, Managing Director Christine Lagarde’s deputy at the Washington-based lender, said on Tuesday.
Though most sanctions were lifted following Iran’s nuclear deal with world powers, European lenders have said doing business is risky while other U.S. trade restrictions remain in place. Shortly after Lipton gave a speech at Iran’s central bank, Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif again called on the U.S. to give adequate assurances to foreign banks wanting to do business with his country, the state-run Islamic Republic News Agency reported.
Too hot for Tehran: Glam couple flee Iran after model photos deemed 'un-Islamic'
A glamorous model couple from Iran has been forced to flee the country after the Iranian morality police declared their social media accounts were 'un-Islamic,' The Daily Mail reported.
Elnaz Golrokh, a professional makeup artist and her model husband Hamid Fadaei reportedly fled from Iran to fashion-friendly Dubai in January. The couple was reportedly released on bail after being arrested by Iranian morality police as part of Operation "Spider II."
President Hassan Rouhani has attempted to enforce "Islamic values" throughout Iran by targeting the fashion industry, which has seen a significant boost as of late due to social media celebrities and the budding world of Iranian fashion.
According to Iranian media, 170 people had been targeted in the operation through social media activity as being involved in the fashion industry, including 58 models, 59 photographers and makeup artists.
Picture of Turkish president Erdogan as Hitler projected onto Berlin embassy
A picture of Turkish president Recep Erdoğan dressed as Hitler has been projected onto the walls of the country's embassy in Berlin.
German artists projected a large photograph of Mr Erdoğan wearing a Nazi armband and Hitler's toothbrush moustache as a protest against the recent imprisonment of two journalists in Turkey.
Beside the picture on the walls of the Turkish embassy in Berlin were the words "He's back".
The group behind the image are German art activists Pixel Helper, who have posted pictures of the projection to Facebook.
"We as Germans know what happens in the early stages of a dictatorship. The similarities between the early Nazi regime and Erdogan’s Turkey right now are frightening," Oliver Bienkowski, a member of the group, told The Independent.
Douglas Murray: Boris Johnson wins The Spectator’s President Erdogan Offensive Poetry competition
I’m pleased to announce that we have a winner of The Spectator’s President Erdogan Offensive Poetry competition, and here it is:
There was a young fellow from Ankara
Who was a terrific wankerer
Till he sowed his wild oats
With the help of a goat
But he didn’t even stop to thankera.
The author of this winning entry is former Mayor of London and chief Brexiteer, Boris Johnson MP.
I am sure there will be those who claim this is a stitch-up. I am aware that Boris’s entry commits two solecisms. Amid the first deluge of entries I intemperately announced (via Twitter) a unilateral ban on this rhyme for ‘Ankara’. I also think Boris should have settled either on ‘goats’ and ‘oats’ or ‘goat’ and ‘oat’. As a classical scholar himself he must know that the rhyme is not wholly perfect and that on such occasions one must find a way around the problem and simply go with the plural both times or not at all.
Nevertheless, I am the Vizier of this competition and what I say goes. Despite trying to follow Erdogan’s example I have not snaffled all the prize money for myself. And I am quite sure – though have yet to confirm with him – that the former London Mayor will happily give his prize money of £1000 to a deserving charity. There are a number of charities whose giving details I will urge on Boris in the coming days. But for myself the appeal of Boris’s entry was there from the outset. Certainly there were better poems. For sure there were filthier ones (and may I take this opportunity to congratulate the person who got the term ‘dirty trombone’ into their entry? The discovery that something called a ‘Turkey slap’ already exists also inspired several readers to new poetic heights).
Douglas Murray - The Erdogan Prize Winner Announced!

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