Monday, February 06, 2012

6-Feb-12: Turkish delight

There was a time, not so long ago, when Israel's relations with Turkey were strikingly positive. The talk was all about regional and bilateral co-operation. Israeli tourism to Turkey was huge (not the other way round, though) and considerable numbers of students from each side (a member of our family among them) went off to study in the other country.

Today, not so much. Here's a Turkish report from January 20, 2012 on some of what lately brings pride to the Turkish breast.

Note that, although we reduced the length of the Hurriyet Daily News article below, we have not modified the original headline. Nor did we add or change a word of the text in the article.

Turkish missiles over Brussels, Paris, Berlin, Rome (and others)
The Ottoman siege of Vienna may have failed in 1683. But the Turks will soon be back at the gates (well, this time, the skies) of Europe. Much to the pride of millions of Turks, the state scientific research institute, TÜBITAK, recently reported that its scientists this year would finish an all-Turkish missile with a range of 1,500 km, and, in 2014, another with a range of 2,500 km (no typo here).
The head of TÜBITAK said the order for the missile program had come from Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. I read daily Hürriyet quoting TÜBITAK’s president, Professor Yücel Altınbaşak, as saying that “this is a most realistic project.” And I watched an engineer from TÜBITAK’s missile project group, telling state television channel TRT that “the Turkish missiles were more advanced than the U.S. or German missiles.” I felt proud.
Yet I was curious and checked the world map. Put the country which claims to maintain zero problems with its neighbors and others at the epicenter of a circle with a diameter of 2,500 km, and here are some of the cities which may in the future see Turkish missiles over their skies: Athens, Amsterdam, Barcelona, Berlin, Beirut, Brussels, Geneva, Algiers, Jeddah, Cairo, Copenhagen, Kiev, London, Milan, Moscow, Paris, Rome, Stockholm, Damascus, Tehran, Tel Aviv, Tripoli, Warsaw, Vienna, Zurich and Amman.
... The move is just another indication that Turkey does not see its future within the largely inter-operable NATO and European security structures... The big question here is why should Turkey, which boasts a modern air force with highly deterrent firepower, need ballistic or cruise missiles? With which countries within a diameter of 2,500 km does Turkey think it may, in the future, have to battle? Which targets within a range of 2,500 kilometers may it hope to hit which it cannot with a 1,000-km missile?
What justifies the earmarking of – possibly – hundreds of millions of dollars worth of taxpayer money for the Turkish missiles? Are biological, chemical or nuclear weapons in Turkey’s various contingency plans for future warfare? What’s the point of NATO membership, then? Does Turkey intend to leave the alliance? More importantly, what are the political deliberations behind this ambitious plan?
...For the moment, New York, Beijing, Seoul, Brasilia, Ottawa and Tokyo look safe and immune to future Turkish anger. But give Mr. Erdoğan another 10 years in power and Turkey might have another one with a range of 15,000 km by then...
TIME Magazine said of Turkish prime minister in December 2011 that
"No leader better personifies the dramatic changes in the Middle East over the past year than [he does]... He was hailed as a role model by ascendant Islamists in post-dictatorship Tunisia and Egypt, where he urged the building of secular democracies... Erdogan is likely to become even more central to events in the coming year with the unfolding of the Arab rebellion, the U.S. withdrawal from Iraq and mounting international tension over Iran."
Source: NPR
A pity the current wave of interest in Erdogan's Turkey as an example for the countries of the badly misnamed Arab Spring does not offer a little more attention to the much darker side of the picture. NPR carried a report two weeks ago under the heading "For Turkish Journalists, Arrest Is A Real Danger". An excerpt:
In the wake of the Arab Spring, some Muslims in North Africa are looking across the Mediterranean to Turkey as a potential model of a state that can be modern, Islamic and democratic. But some analysts in the region say that model is flawed, and they are questioning Turkey's human-rights record and its dealings with the press. Critics say the government is using Turkey's slow-moving and sometimes opaque justice system to stifle dissent. Turkish media advocates are frustrated both with the government and international media groups who in their view understate the number of imprisoned journalists. Among them are Ahmet Sik and longtime investigative journalist Nedim Sener. Their arrests nearly a year ago provoked a large public outcry, but since then detentions of journalists have continued apace." 
Journalists in fear of being arrested? Turkish missiles that can reach every European city today? And beyond them tomorrow? Erdogan's way a model for the region?

Delightful.

Sunday, February 05, 2012

5-Feb-12: Gas pipeline is attacked and blown up for twelfth time in a year

Picture from February 2011 of one of the previous explosions
Yet again, the pipeline supplying gas from Egypt to Israel has been blown up, and it looks more and more like a metaphor for relations between the two countries. Terrorists are blamed again, but it's clear that Egypt either won't or can't prevent this kind of thing from happening which means changes are inevitably on the way.

Blast hits Egypt's gas pipeline to Israel     
Latest explosion in el-Arish stops gas pumping. At least 12 other incidents recorded since Mubarak's ouster
Reuters - Published: 02.05.12, 08:20 am

  • An explosion hit a gas pipeline running from Egypt to Israel on Sunday, witnesses and state television reported. The pipeline, which also supplies gas to Jordan, has come under attack at least 12 times since Egyptian resident Hosni Mubarak was toppled in 2011. The latest blast took place in the Massaeed area west of the Mediterranean coastal town of el-Arish. Gas pumping was stopped after the explosion. Residents in el-Arish told Reuters they could see flames from their town. Security forces and fire trucks raced to the scene, witnesses said.
  • Security in Sinai loosened after Mubarak's fall as the police presence thinned out across Egypt. Egypt's 20-year gas deal with Israel, signed in the Mubarak era, is unpopular with some Egyptians, with critics accusing Israel of not paying enough for the gas. Previous explosions have sometimes led to weeks-long shutdowns along the pipeline, run by Egypt's gas transport company Gasco, a subsidiary of the national gas company EGAS.
  • Egypt said in November it would tighten security measures along the pipeline by installing alarm devices and recruiting security patrols from Bedouin tribesmen in the area.

Thursday, February 02, 2012

2-Feb-12: The BBC reports a massive terror plot but leaves out some details. Can you guess what they are?

The BBC says these are "four men". No need for us to be told more
than that, right?
Following the largest British counter terrorism operation of 2010, the BBC says four men confessed this week to plotting to kill London's mayor plus two rabbis, to blow up the US Embassy in London and to plant an improvised explosive device in the toilets of the London Stock Exchange. They will be sentenced shortly.

Under the headline "London Stock Exchange bomb plot admitted by four men", the BBC gives their names: Mohammed Chowdhury, Shah Rahman, Gurukanth Desai and Abdul Miah.

The BBC says they come from London and Cardiff.  The BBC says all are British nationals. The BBC says they were "inspired" by al-Qaeda and especially by the preachings of the recently-deceased radical extremist Anwar Al-Awlaki.  The BBC says they wanted to execute a "Mumbai-style" atrocity, and prepared for this by carrying out close inspection of Big Ben, Westminster Abbey, the London Eye and the Palace of Westminster, admitting that this was in preparation for carrying out acts of terrorism.

The BBC says the discovery of the plot was the result of co-ordinated police work by the West Midlands Counter Terrorism Unit, the national CT (Counter Terrorism ) network, the Staffordshire, South Wales and Metropolitan Police, the Security Service and the Crown Prosecution Service. It was a triumph for the electronic surveillance for which the British are famous. Though the BBC report does not say it, there's no doubt the security personnel involved deserve the gratitude of an entire nation.

Mumbai 2008
Here's something else the BBC does not say in the report we quoted above. It doesn't say that all four of the terrorists (yes, it uses the word 'terrorist' over and again, as it certainly should) are Buddhists. The reason it does not say that the men are Buddhists is that they are in fact Moslems. They are adherents of a form of Islam that ascribes religious value of the highest order to plots like the one to which they confessed yesterday.

But the BBC makes no mention of this.

The New Zealand Herald prominently states their religion in its report. London's Express, Daily Star, Evening Standard and Mirror do too. The Sun's coverage starts with the words "An Islamic terrorist gang yesterday admitted plotting horrific bomb attacks". AFP's syndicated report is headlined "Islamists admit plot to blow up London Stock Exchange". The New York Times opens its report with the words "Four Islamic militants, all British citizens, admitted involvement..." The Scotsman calls them "Islamists"; so does Reuters, Sky News, and the UK Press Association. Pakistan's The Nation does too. 

Why does the BBC avoid saying that the plotters are all Moslems, Islamists, acting in the name of their interpretation of their religion? (Al Jazeera's coverage headlined "Four UK men plead guilty" delicately avoids the issue too as does the LA Times and several other globally prominent news channels we reviewed.) How is the British public's need to understand terrorism helped by this non-accidental deletion? Is there some way to understand this plot without bringing the matter of the admitted perpetrators' religion into it? If the motivation was not religious, then what was it? Does the BBC's omission of the terrorists' religious beliefs serve the interests of the British Moslem community or do it a disservice?  

Is the battle to defeat the terrorists - and to understand what drives them - helped or hindered by the BBC?

2-Feb-12: Quote of the day: What our neighbors are capable of doing

The web has hundreds of photos like this one: a terrorist group
fires a rocket from a densely populated neighborhood
of Gaza City into Israel on January 8, 2009. [Source]. Two hundred
thousand more rockets are in place and ready to be fired
as soon as the order is given. 
There's a mind-numbing effect that sometimes follows from knowing the dimensions of an authentic life-and-death problem. What, to illustrate, will ordinary people living from the borders of Israel make of the disclosure today that  200,000 missiles are aimed at Israel by our terrorist enemies?

That's the serious, realistic and professional assessment given by the head of Israel's military intelligence, Major General Aviv Kochavi today in a formal address to the Herzliya Conference and quoted in Haaretz. APF quotes him saying:
"One in every 10 houses in south Lebanon is a storage facility for missiles or rockets or a launch pad for devices that are increasingly accurate and destructive. From Lebanon, Syria and of course from Iran, they can hit the heart of our cities, and the whole region of Tel Aviv is within their reach."
How do you even go about visualizing 200,000 rockets?

Turning to the threat from the east that tops the list of security concerns here, Kochavi said the IDF believes Iran already has more than 4 tons of low-grade enriched uranium and 100 kilograms of uranium enriched at 20%. Once this supply is enriched to the 90% level, the Iranians will have sufficient to produce 4 nuclear bombs. And then? "They will need a year from when the order is given," Kochavi is quoted saying, "to produce a weapon."

Wednesday, February 01, 2012

1-Feb-12: Raining and rocketing [UPDATED]

Getty Images picture from Gaza's Shati district today.
The men who run the place could focus on making their streets and
lives work a little better; they get more foreign aid by far than
any other aid beneficiaries on earth. But tonight's news
reminds us that when faced with the choice of making a better life
for their children or firing rockets at us - well, no need to labor the point.
It's cold and wet tonight. Israelis who don't need to be out of doors are inside. Ideal weather, in other words, for the thugs of Gaza  and their rockets. Ynet reported about an hour ago that a Gazan Qassam rocket was fired into southern Israel around 6:30 this evening, and exploded in an open space within one of the communities in the Shaar Hanegev region. For reasons of security (why give the terrorists any free and easy information?), the town is unidentified. Fortunately the report suggests no one was injured, and no property damage is reported.

The secretary-general of the United Nations, Mr Ban Ki-Moon, is due to visit the beleaguered city of Sderot tomorrow. It has the misfortune of being the closest Israeli city to our fence with Gaza, and as a result has absorbed a torrent of inbound rockets and grenades since Israel walked away from the Gaza Strip and handed control to the Palestinian Arabs in 2005. It would be good to think that visiting there will sensitize him to what it means to live next to thugs with an arsenal of rockets that numbers in the tens of thousands.

It's reported that Mr Ban will be visiting Gaza tomorrow as well. Today he spent time with the Palestinian Arab president Abbas (picture here) and with Shimon Peres, Israel's president, in Jerusalem where he opened with the right greeting: "Shalom". It seems likely - though it's not announced - that in Gaza he will meet with the leaders of the "other" Palestinian Arabs, the Hamas terrorists in Gaza.

Mr Ban managed to be in the Jordanian capital today as well. There he told the Hashemite Kingdom's foreign minister - a man with the famously unlikely name of Judeh - that the Arab world has a “generational opportunity” to create a future it deserves. In view of the things we wrote here earlier today, we're very much afraid that he's right. Large parts of the Arab world, thanks to unconscionable decisions they have made about how to raise their emerging generations of young people, are indeed heading towards a future they deserve.

UPDATE: Wednesday 9:15 pm - While writing the above, a report came in that five more Qassam rockets have crashed into southern Israel, all it seems into the same Shaar Hanegev region as the one two hours ago. We'll go off now and check this disturbing development more closely.

UPDATE: Wednesday 11:30 pm - Both JPost.com and Haaretz are reporting that the volley we reported earlier around 9 pm tonight in fact consisted of six rockets and not five as we reported earlier. Sounds of high intensity gunfire are now being reported from Sderot plus "massive" helicopter action over the city and into Gaza that started roughly an hour ago (Hebrew-language eyewitness reports here and here).

1-Feb-12: One down, 1026 to go

Click to enlarge this celebratory 2011 snapshot of
convicted (but freed) Palestinian Arab terrorists in Gaza returning to action
Yesterday, the IDF announced it had taken into custody one of the 1,027 terrorists released in the October 2011 deal with Hamas for the freedom of the Israeli hostage Gilad Shalit. The Israeli news sources that originally reported this on Tuesday seem to have published (in more than one case) the wrong name. Challah Hu Akbar published this about yesterday's confusion.

What we know about the man arrested yesterday is that his name is Mahmud Abdallah Abd al-Rahman Abu Sariya. He appears at position number 189 in the official terrorists-going-free list published by the Israel Prison Service. In May 2002 when he was 32, he and a colleague walked up to the Beer-Sheva Old City branch of an Israeli bank and placed a package on the ground before fleeing for their lives. (Hebrew report here.) That package contained a bomb that thankfully failed to explode completely. As a result, "only" ten people were injured. 

The terrorists intended to execute a massacre (16 Israelis were killed a few days earlier in a Hamas bombing attack on a club in Rishon Leziyon), and would probably have succeeded but for the incompetence or bad luck of the bomb-maker.  Abu Sariya was sentenced to 38 years in prison, and was unjustly released after serving less than nine. 

Free and at liberty to do whatever constructive thing came into his head, he re-established himself in terrorism and, fortunately, will be out of action again for some time to come. He will surely be the very last of the unjustly-freed Shalit deal convicts to return to terrorism. 

Surely the very last.

1-Feb-12: A video that reveals more about how the war against the terrorists is going than a shelf-full of analyses

View the PMW report on YouTube
The things done for and with their own children by Palestinian Arab society have long been the subject of extremely critical comment, and with justification. It's almost impossible to imagine a peace between two peoples based (as inevitably it would have to be) on some degree of painful compromise, when the Arab side consistently and continually educates its children for hatred, demonization and death. Here's a tiny example.

Palestinian Authority TV's programs are beamed into most of the homes in the territories controlled by Fatah, the terrorism-friendly political party headed in the past by Arafat and today by Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas. A week ago, on 24th January, it covered a Fatah celebration in Lebanon: the glorious 47th anniversary of Fatah's founding. (Reminder: 47 years ago, when Fatah began its chapter of the war of terrorism against us, the total number of square miles "occupied" by the hated Zionist entity was precisely zero.) If, like us, you are unable to tune in or to comprehend the Arabic commentary, Palestinian Media Watch has just published a report - with transcript, video and pictures.

The image above shows a poster that features prominently in the televised celebration. The text reads:
"Our children are our honor and glory. They were created to be fertilizer for the land of Palestine, and for our pure land to be saturated with their blood." 
What kind of future do youngsters raised to see themselves as fertilizer build for themselves? And who is at fault - because someone surely is.

The beauty and heroism of being killed for the sake of a Palestinian state-that-never-existed is a recurring theme in Palestinian Arab culture. Grasping this, you can go some way towards understanding how an entire society has been recruited to fight a war based on racist hatred of the other. It underlies the way its 'soldiers' - thousands of whom are school children and pre-teens - publicly express happiness at the prospect of dying if only (and this is the key) their death will bring pain, harm and destruction to the despised enemy.

PA TV covered another 47th anniversary event, this one in Ramallah, the PA's capital, on January 5, 2012 [see the Palestinian Media Watch report here]. The festive occasion included the participation of  distinguished political leaders whom the mainstream media consistently but unjustifiably calls moderate. The broadcast shows children singing these appalling words supplied to them by their leaders and teachers:
"You have brought up and educated generation after generation. You waited patiently and discovered your heroic children. Oh, my pure land, I shall saturate you with my blood. I shall live and die upon your green ground... I shall redeem you with my life, oh my land. Your embrace warms us. Your ground satiates us, your goodness satisfies us. I shall redeem you with my life."
Evidently unconcerned as to the indictment this scene constitutes for the society in whose establishment they are complicit, the applause that follows is provided by several prominent co-conspirators. They include PA prime minister Salam Fayyad - "a moderate politician widely respected among the international community" (source); Secretary General of the Presidential Office, Al-Tayeb Abd Al-Rahim; Secretary of the PLO Executive Council, Yasser Abd Rabbo; Laila Ghannam - District Governor of Ramallah and El-Bireh; Fatah spokesman Ahmed Assaf.

It's not possible that the leaders present at this event failed to understand the message directed at their people's children. The facts about Palestinian Arab education of their children speak for themselves.

So does the report below.

Education at a Glance 2011, a study published by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) demonstrates again that some societies have far higher levels of educational attainment than others. This news report published today ranks the 10 developed countries with the most educated populations. It's worth noting that Israel, with the smallest per capita income on the list, comes in at number 2, ahead of the United States, Japan and South Korea.

Peace cannot be made by education departments any more than war is caused by doctors. But there's a lot that can be learned by how countries implant expectations and ambitions in the minds of the continuing generations and how this impacts on the future. By and large, our side is focused on creating capable, concerned citizens with the equipment to succeed anywhere, and the evidence is out there to see. Theirs wants a young generation that will grow to become fertilizer and dirt, and the evidence for this is available to anyone who wants to look.