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September 23, 2014 / 28 Elul, 5774
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Posts Tagged ‘aid’

Syria’s Chemical Weapons May Not Be in Safe Hands

Monday, December 10th, 2012

The bloodbath in Syria continues unabated. The manner in which it is being addressed by the nations of the world has something instructive to say to us Israelis who believe – rightly or not – that wholesale deaths in the Syrian style are what might await us, Heaven forbid, if our collective guard were to be let down from keeping an array of vicious enemies at bay.

Unabated might not actually be the best way to describe the Syrian slaughter, since the lust for blood on both (all?) sides is absolutely no less intense than it was when the chaos and barbarism erupted nearly two years ago.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights which reports on such matters from London puts out rather laconic-sounding updates via its Facebook page every few days. On Monday, it gave us Sunday’s numbers:

Preliminary Death toll for Sunday 9/12/2012: About 60 Syrians killed so far, today. The dead include: 24 unarmed civilians, 13 rebel fighters, 5 unidentified fighters, and not less than 10 regime forces. 24 unarmed civilians.

Earlier this week, its tally for killings to date stood at something over 40,000.

But all is not lost. The friends of Syria – or to be more precise about this, the Friends of Syria, including the United States once Secretary of State Hilary Clinton recovers from an illness – are meeting this Wednesday in Moroccoto find ways of backing the political transition in the event of President Al-Assad’s fall, and mobilising vital humanitarian aid as winter sets in” [source].

What might we expect to come out of their discussions? The track record until now is depressing. The customary mechanisms for resolving catastrophic wars like the one that has Syria in its grip have been a complete failure. The Russian and Chinese governments have vetoed three separate UN Security Council resolutions that sought to get the al-Assad regime in Damascus to reduce the violence of the war it is waging against other Syrian groups. The Russians see themselves as Very Good Friends of Syria and prove it by accusing [source] the US and other states of wanting to achieve the deplorable goal of destabilizing Syria’s family-owned government.

An LA Times article this week says Moscow:

“will not seek the ouster of Assad, as international negotiators again fail to reach a breakthrough on the crisis in Syria… Russia downplayed White House fears that a desperate Assad could deploy chemical weapons and said the greatest danger was that part of Syria’s chemical arsenal could fall into the hands of rebels. Both U.S. and Israeli officials have also voiced concern that chemical armaments could end up in the hands of insurgents, who have overrun a number of military bases. Syria’s fragmented rebel legions includes hard-core Islamist brigades hostile to the West and sympathetic to Al Qaeda.”

So the killing continues. But it appears we may be heading for some moments of truth.

This past Sunday, Israel’s man in Washington used the term “game changer” when referring [see this Wall Street Journal article] to reports that the Syrians are handing parts of their huge chemical warfare arsenal off to Hezbollah and other militant groups. Being a diplomat, he chose diplomatic language. But when Ambassador Michael Oren said he could not confirm reports that Bashar al-Assad’s forces had prepared sarin gas for use, he was understood by most people as saying that the government of Israel is indeed able to confirm those reports. (And an article today called “Israeli spies track Bashar al-Assad’s chemical weapon stocks” based on a report in the Times of London gives that some credence).

“We are watching the situation very carefully,” Oren said. “Syria has a very varied, deep chemical weapons program. It is geographically dispersed as well. Were those weapons to pass in to the wrong hands, Hezbollah’s hands, for example, that would be a game changer for us… Can you imagine Hezbollah, with its 70,000 rockets, could get its hands on chemical weapons? That could kill thousands of people.”

The Americans use different terminology. President Obama said four days ago that if the al-Assad regime used chemical weapons against their own people (as they did in 1982) that would amount to the crossing of “a red line.” It’s the same term he used many thousands of dead Syrians ago, back in August ["Obama warns Syria not to cross 'red line''].

Rand Paul to Visit Israel

Sunday, December 2nd, 2012

Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), a skeptic of assistance to Israel who also is considering a 2016 presidential run, will travel to Israel.

According to a report Friday on the Christian Broadcasting Network website, Paul will be accompanied by Christian and Jewish leaders, and will also visit Jordan.

He will meet with leaders in both countries, as well as Palestinian leaders.

The trip is organized by David Lane, a “prominent evangelical activist,” according to CBN, and will include Republicans from Iowa, the critical first caucus state in the primaries.

Paul has backed eliminating foreign aid, including to Israel, but unlike his father, rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas), who has run for the presidency in the past, he has refrained from using Israel-critical rhetoric, instead framing his opposition to aid as bolstering his policy that Israel should remain free of outside influence.

Paul has attracted conservative grassroots attention because of his budget-slashing rhetoric, but his opposition to Israel assistance has been as an impediment to winning over the party base.

Israeli Aid Missions Providing Relief to Hurricane Sandy Victims

Friday, November 9th, 2012

An Israeli delegation of trained rescue volunteers is departing to New York today, Friday, November 9, to assist victims devastated by Hurricane Sandy. The delegation is headed by Shahar Zahavi, CEO of IsraAID, the Israel Forum for International Humanitarian Aid, an Israeli non-governmental organization (NGO) that has facilitated aid and relief program across the world, including in Haiti, Japan, Turkey, Kenya and South Sudan.

The 12-person delegation will be offering rescue, rehabilitation, and communal resource services to New York residents of Far Rockaway and Long Beach, as well as the Atlantic City-Margate area along the Jersey Shore. They will also be identifying areas with vulnerable populations and allocating resources to older people and families with young children who have suffered significant damages to their homes and have no power.

Financing for the mission comes from young Israelis and from Israeli businesses, alongside partner companies in the United States, which are supplying the Israeli crew with water, food, gasoline, clothing, blankets and storage facilities to distribute to people who have been evacuated from their homes.

According to spokesperson Tova Hametz the IsraAid delegation’s mission is to “rehabilitate, rescue, bolster morale and bring physical resources in the most effective, organized and expedient way.” She added that Zahavi has much experience in relief work following his mission in Haiti after the 2010 earthquake.

According to Israel’s foreign office, a number of Israeli NGOs are working to bring relief and supplies including food, fuel and generators to both victims and emergency workers in New York and New Jersey. Among those NGOs are Israel Flying Aid and Israeli Humanitarian Aid-LATET. Those efforts have been coordinated with local police departments, the American Red Cross, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), and Jewish communities in Connecticut, New York and New Jersey.

One of the Israeli volunteers, Joel Leyden, helped organize an aid convoy from Connecticut to Long Island, bringing food and generators to first responders, fire departments, police, and to homes. He and other Israeli volunteers also passed out Dunkin’ Donuts to people waiting at gas stations.

“We wore our blue-and-white-Israeli hats to make sure they knew this aid was coming from the people of Israel,” said Leyden, according to the foreign office website.

Hurricane Sandy was the largest Atlantic hurricanes and the second-costliest after Hurricane Katrina. The October hurricane killed more than 110 people in 10 states, left more than 8 million homes and businesses in the Northeast without electricity, and tens of thousands of Americans homeless.

The Blood of an American Hero

Sunday, November 4th, 2012

I keep hearing the words of Charles Woods as he speaks of his son Tyrone. Tyrone was a Navy SEAL – who did what Navy SEALS have been doing for as long as they have existed – he went to the aid of his fellow Americans. For 7 hours, he fought terrorists at the American consulate in Benghazi. He and Glen Doherty managed to hold them off, managed to kill 60 of them, according to some reports. And in all that time, no Americans arrived to help them, to save them. No one came to their aid despite repeated requests, despite available assets.

During a recent interview, Charles Woods said:

They watched my son die. As far as I’m concerned, there are people, in the White House, whoever it was that was in that room, watching that video of my son dying, their cries for help, their order ‘don’t help them at all, let them die,’ whoever that might be, it might be numerous people, you have the blood of my son, you have the blood of an American hero on your hands. I don’t know who you are, but one of these days the truth will come out. I still forgive you, but you need to stand up.

I don’t want to point any fingers, but obviously, people in the White House were watching this happen. Real time. They – someone in the White House, or many people in the White House, watched the events unfolding, and knew that if they gave the order to stand down, that my son would die. They watched my son die.

“They watched my son die.” Those words haunt me. I cannot imagine the pain this father feels – not only having lost his son, but having been betrayed by his government. President Barack Hussein Obama is the Commander-in-Chief – even if he did not give the order to leave these heroes behind…and I believe he did give that order – but even if he did not, the one thing we agree on is that this was his responsibility. It is his hands that carry the blood of these men.

Elie told me the story of one of his commanding officers. While the officer was off-base, at meetings or whatever, there was a training exercise and a nagmash (an APC) turned over and a commander was killed. There was another officer, of lower rank in charge of the exercise but Elie’s commanding officer was the commander above that officer and so he took responsibility; he took the demotion; he took the punishment.

His advancement in the army was delayed for several years because ultimately, he felt that what happened under his command, was his to answer for. There was never a question that it was a tragic accident; there was no order that could have been given to save the soldier who died and certainly there was nothing anyone nearby could have done to prevent it from happening. You train and you train hard because in war, you’ll have to scale those hills and drive over rough terrain. That time, it went wrong.

What happened in Libya was not a training exercise and according to several reports, there was aid that could have been sent in – drones filming it, ships within range. It was not an accident but an attack. And unlike Elie’s commanding officer, the Commander-in-Chief of the United States Armed Forces did leave a man behind, two good men, in fact…and even four if you count the diplomats.

They watched his son die – and for the rest of his life, that image, that reality, that horrible truth will forever be his reality. The blood of American heroes cries out to all who will listen. Responsibility must be taken – and it starts at the very highest address in Washington down to the sewers and  streets of Benghazi because no parent should ever have to say those horrible words ever again.

Visit A Soldier’s Mother.

Arabs Stab Jewish Prayer Goer on Friday Night

Saturday, November 3rd, 2012

HaKol Hayehudi reports that on Friday evening, two Jewish men were walking to the Ma’aleh Hazeitim neighborhood after praying at the Kotel when they were attacked by Arabs.

One of the men was stabbed.

The victim is the son of one of the residents of the Ma’aleh Hazeitim neighborhood, Rabbi Tzvi Tau.

The two managed to reach the neighborhood, where the victim received first aid and was taken to the hospital.

Police arrested some suspects.

Arutz-7 reports that on Saturday night police detained 2 Jews from Maaleh Hazeitim who were protesting against the terror attack.

Rep. Maloney Presses Feds for Generators to Help Pump Out East River Subway Tunnels

Wednesday, October 31st, 2012

Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-Manhattan/Queens), spoke with U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) Secretary Ray LaHood today seeking urgent Federal disaster aid for the efforts of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) to pump out tunnels under the East River.

“The power is out in the East River subway tunnels, and Con Ed and the MTA cannot predict when power will be restored. Portable generators are needed to power the pumps to empty the tunnels, and that’s what I’ve asked from both DOT Secretary LaHood and Federal Emergency Management Agency Director Fugate,” said Maloney.

“New York City took an enormous hit from this storm and our thoughts and prayers are with all who have been affected by this disaster. I am deeply grateful to all the first responders who braved the elements to help those in need— and to the workers now in the field working to restore normal conditions.

“The storm’s combination of wind and flooding caused the largest storm-related outage in Con Ed history and the worst conditions ever in the 108-year history of the New York subway system.

“Recovery efforts are now underway but it is going to take a significant period of time to repair this much damage. I will do everything I can to ensure that all available Federal assistance is forthcoming.”

Following their conversation, Congresswoman Maloney sent the following letter to Secretary LaHood:

Dear Secretary LaHood,

Thank you for speaking with me earlier today about providing emergency federal assistance from the Department of Transportation to the MTA to help deal with record flooding in the New York City subway system. Providing this emergency federal disaster funding will greatly aid in the recovery process, by covering the costs of generators needed to address flooding in the subway system, as well as other immediate needs.

As you know, the subway tunnels going under the East River serving, Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens, and the Bronx are totally flooded. MTA can’t ascertain damage or time it will take to repair until the tunnels are pumped out, but they can’t be pumped out because there is no power for pumps from Con Ed.

Sandy inflicted widespread and significant damage to our country’s largest transit system and I deeply appreciate your assistance as we recover from this disaster.

Sincerely,

Carolyn B. Maloney

Member of Congress

Why Economic Development as a Panacea for Middle East Problems is a Myth

Sunday, October 28th, 2012
Visit Rubin Reports.
A reader asks:
“I agree that democracy and economic development are not panaceas for the Middle East, just as they are not for any other location on the planet.  But aren’t they a start?  And since it is possible to chew gum and walk at the same time, does it hurt to at least pay lip service to doing things to bring the rest of the Middle East into the 21st century? And what would those things be in your opinion?”
As you noted, both candidates in the presidential election spoke of economic development as a top priority in their Middle East policy. This sounds good to voters but is pretty meaningless.

A typical example of this meme is given by Obama in his June 4, 2009 Cairo speech:
We…know that military power alone is not going to solve the problems in Afghanistan and Pakistan.  That’s why we plan to invest $1.5 billion each year over the next five years to partner with Pakistanis to build schools and hospitals, roads and businesses, and hundreds of millions to help those who’ve been displaced.  That’s why we are providing more than $2.8 billion to help Afghans develop their economy and deliver services that people depend on.
 But almost four years later none of these massive expenditures have either changed the situation in those countries or even brought much benefit to their people.
A Western viewer might accept Obama’s claim that people just want good jobs, nice housing, and higher living standards for themselves and their children. Yet the appeals of radical ideology overcome material considerations. Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini dismissively referred to this theory shortly after he took power in Iran by remarking that the West seemed to think the Iranian Islamist revolution was about the price of watermelons but that wasn’t true of all.It does make sense to the Western mind that material conditions will determine the political beliefs and loyalties of Arabs and Iranians. Yet over the span of the last century things have simply not turned out that way in practice. This was partly due to the fact that nobody  delivered major increases in living standards except in the Gulf Arab states like Saudi Arabia and in those places it was a highly traditional and religious way of life being reinforced.Elsewhere governments mustered loyalty not by making the pie bigger but by controlling who got what. So if you had the option material well-being for the urban middle class and certain ethnic segments meant supporting the dictatorship and getting some reward. That will also apply if the dictatorship is an Islamist one, which can offer spiritual exaltation as well. And at least for some years many voters–where people have the opportunity to choose–will believe that Islamism is the best chance for a stable, just, and relatively prosperous society.

There are lots of people who would like their children to grow up to be suicide bombers or prefer piety to prosperity. Even though many don’t think that way, they might be persuaded that radicalism is the best route to better lives. And finally, when people and rulers see no real way to achieve prosperity, both the governments and the masses will turn to demagoguery, scapegoating, and foreign adventures.

Countries are not prepared for progress due to ideology, worldview, institutions, political culture, and many other factors. In particular, the presence of such large and powerful radical forces—willing, even eager, to use violence—is a huge problem. Demagoguery is potent. Such factors can override the kind of materialistic orientation and enlightened self-interest that Westerners expect and that underpin the belief that democracy can provide stable polities and ensure moderation.
It should be stressed that every country is different. In general, though, the problem with economic development is that it does not trump politics. The countries of the region can be divided into those that have oil wealth and those that don’t. The wealthy countries don’t need American programs to engage in economic development. In some cases, radicalism and instability keep getting in the way. In others—think of Iran or Iraq under Saddam–economic development is managed within the framework of an extremist regime and ideology.
It is true that the wealth of Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Qatar, and the United Arab Emirates have made them more cautious and—often in practice but not in rhetoric or domestic policy—more pragmatic. But one must be cautious here. Saudi Arabia’s wealth and the high living standards of many citizens has not made the country a paragon of democratic values at home and moderation abroad.
Saudi money has been used to spread Islamism and back radical Islamists, most notably in contemporary Syria and in Iraq a few years ago. Qatar has aligned itself with Iran and the Muslim Brotherhood, engaging in mischief as far afield as Libya. Iraq and Algeria need stability but the problem is not economic development as such but merely pumping more oil and doing something about bureaucracy and corruption.
Certainly, though, these countries do not need Western governments to promote economic development.
Radical regimes, like Libya under Muammar al-Qadhafi, Iraq under Saddam Hussein, or Islamist Iran use some of their wealth for development and much of it for projects like building nuclear weapons and subverting their neighbors.
So regarding the wealthy countries there isn’t much for the West to do in promoting economic development. What about the non-oil states? Let’s look at the specific cases. Lebanon, famous for its merchants, had a self-made multi-millionaire as prime minister who focused on economic development. But he was forced out and assassinated. Internal conflict, ideology, and engagement in foreign adventures wrecked the chance for economic development.
The same applies even more to the Hamas regime in the Gaza Strip, which is more interested in fighting Israel than in raising living standards. How can the West help when the local impetus is lacking?
This brings us to Egypt. The truth is that Egypt has a lot of people but few resources and a terrible structural and cultural situation regarding work. Here’s one example. A leading British supermarket chain opened stores in Egypt. Traditionalists, radicals, and competitors (the owners of small stores) spread rumors that the supermarket company backed Israel and was anti-Muslim. Despite the store’s efforts at denial and appeasement, the pressure became so great that it had to close and leave the country.
In a Muslim Brotherhood ruled Egypt, with Salafists engaging in anarchic violence, is U.S.-backed economic development going to make any differences. As for the Palestinian Authority, vast amounts of aid money have flowed in and despite some apparent successes—a lot of luxury apartments have been built and people kept employed in the government bureaucracy—no lasting progress has been made. A lot of the money has ended up in the political leaders’ foreign bank accounts. At any time, Hamas could take over or the Fatah-led regime turn back to a war against Israel.
Economic development sounds good but in practice it is more a way to keep Western citizens happy than to make a real difference in the Middle East. For example, when discussing his economic development policy in the foreign policy presidential debate, Obama cited his government’s “organizing entrepreneurship conferences.” And in reality a lot of the money is simply a pay-off to local regimes or a way to shore them up. It has nothing to do with real development.
The story of the battle of factions and corrupt leaders in the Palestinian Authority over awarding a mobile phone contract; how EU-financed public housing turned into luxury apartments to reward regime supporters; or the sabotage against building an improved sewer system in the Gaza Strip—even though foreign aid was paying for the whole project—are wonderful case studies in how economic development campaigns that look good in the West amount to a joke on the ground.
There are, however, three countries that could benefit from economic development efforts if they were to be focused. Those are Tunisia, Morocco, and Jordan. Tunisia, of course, is currently ruled by an Islamist-dominated regime. Whether that government will remain cautious or turn increasingly radical—pressed on by rampaging Salafists—is not clear. Strengthening the moderate forces in Tunisia, which are more proportionately substantial than in any other Arabic-speaking country, is a worthwhile effort but it might not work.
Ironically, Morocco and Jordan are led by moderate regimes threatened by a public opinion that is often radicalized due to poverty. Even there, however, this is not the sole factor. Jordan, for example, has a powerful opposition Brotherhood and a potentially radicalized Palestinian majority. The Palestinians who came there after being expelled from Kuwait in 1991 (because of the PLO’s support for Saddam Hussein’s invasion) brought in a lot of riches and business skills. Amman has become a much wealthier city but Jordanians generally don’t seem to have benefited much.
But Jordan is relatively small, weak, and doesn’t cause trouble, while Morocco is not a factor in the region’s international affairs. So the places where a real economic development effort could really make a difference get neglected. For a while, the Saudis talked about admitting Jordan to the rich man’s club, the Gulf Cooperation Council and giving a billion dollars in aid. But nothing came of it in the end.
Remember that the United States gave tens of billions of dollars in aid to Egypt without getting gratitude or popular moderation. Similarly, the United States gave or helped organize an effort for the Palestinians that constituted the most aid money given per person in history. Yet this brought neither progress on the peace process, a transformation in Palestinian thinking, or gratitude.
At any rate, while “economic development” sounds like a great idea, a fine way of making people happy, getting them to love America, and undermining radicalism, in practice it isn’t so effective.
Originally published at Rubin Reports.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/analysis/rubin-reports/why-economic-development-as-a-panacea-for-middle-east-problems-is-a-myth/2012/10/28/

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