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U.S. Sanctions 2 Lebanese Charities with Hamas Ties

Sunday, October 7th, 2012

The United States is imposing financial penalties on two Lebanese charities that raise money for Hamas.

The U.S. Treasury Dept. said it was freezing any assets related to the two Beirut-based charities, Al-Waqfiya and Al-Quds International Foundation, Reuters reported. The Treasury Dept. said Al-Waqfiya and Al-Quds “exist to support the families of Hamas fighters” as well as financing projects in the Palestinian territories “intended to spread Hamas’ influence and control.”

It is not known whether the two charities hold U.S. assets; the Treasury Dept. did not provide details on any assets under U.S. jurisdiction and declined to comment when asked, the report said.

Four years ago, the U.S. Treasury imposed economic sanctions on the Union of Good, of which Al-Waqfiya is a central component. The Union of Good was accused of fundraising for Hamas-based groups in the West Bank and Gaza, and some of those funds were used to compensate families of suicide bombers.

The Mount of Olives Declaration

Wednesday, October 3rd, 2012

A thousand years ago, during the Gaonic period, the Tishrei holiday period, culminating with Sukkot, was the highlight of the year.  Pilgrims would flock to Israel to spend the holidays in Jerusalem.

In those days Israel was ruled by the Fatimids, whose empire stretched from the Levant to Northern  Africa.  The Fatimids recognized the Israeli Gaon as the leader of all Jews in their empire.

The Gaon was the head of the Israeli yeshiva, known as the Gaon Yaakov Yeshiva or the Eretz Ha-Zvi Yeshiva – the last remnant of the Sanhedrin.

The main holiday events took place on the last day of Sukkot, Hoshana Raba.  The Gaon would lead the people around the Temple Mount, and then the crowd made its way to the Mount of Olives.  After they climbed the mountain, they circled it seven times.

According to tradition, during the last three and a half years before the destruction of the Temple, the Shechina, the divine presence of God, moved to the Mount of Olives.  There, God called on the people of Israel to repent.  But the people did not repent, the Temple was destroyed, and the divine presence left Jerusalem.

A monumental stone marked the spot where God looked over the Temple Mount. The Gaon would sit on this stone as he spoke to the assembled crowd.

After a holiday sermon, he blessed the Jewish communities of the Diaspora, mentioning each by name, and those Jews who donated to the local community.  He announced new appointments (semicha) in the yeshiva and throughout the areas under his jurisdiction.

This was also the time when the Gaon pronounced a ‘Herem’ (excommunication) against those who strayed from the path.  Specifically against the Karaites, for not following the Rabbinic Kashrut laws on eating milk and meat.  In those days the Rabbinic Jews lived in the area south of the Temple Mount, while the Karaite Jews lived across the valley, in Silwan, on the south-western slope of the Mount of Olives.

In what became known as the “Mount of Olives Declaration,” the Gaon announced the dates of the holidays in the upcoming year.  This Declaration emphasized the centrality of Israel for Jews everywhere.  Pirke De-Rabbi Eliezer talks about this issue at length (ch. 8) and establishes that the calendar must be set by the Jews of Israel, regardless of their position.  “Even if there are prophets abroad and laymen in Israel, the calendar must be set by the laymen in Israel.”

Though sometimes marred by conflict, strife and hardships, the Mount of Olives celebrations were a memorable and uplifting national event.  It was a rare opportunity for Jews celebrate as a nation in their ancient capital. As one pilgrim witnessing the celebrations wrote his friend: “The congregation had the most beautiful holidays, like we’ve never seen before.”

The picture above has more information on this year’s Hoshana Raba events on the Mount of Olives.

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Cabinet Appoints Scourge of Settlers as Deputy Attorney General

Sunday, September 9th, 2012

JERUSALEM, Israel, Sept. 9th–Israel’s cabinet approved today the appointment of Shai Nitzan to the position of Deputy Attorney General for Special Assignments.

Nationalist activists and politicians say that as Deputy State Prosecutor for eight years Nitzan had a left-wing, anti-settlement, anti-nationalist agenda.

Speaking with reporters after the decision, Minister of Science Hershkowitz (Jewish Home) criticized the appointment, saying that trust has to be restored to the legal system and “this appointment does not restore trust.”

Minister of Culture and Sport Limor Livnat (Likud), however said that Minister of Justice Ya’akov Ne’eman told the cabinet that Nitzan would not deal with settlement-related matters.

Such issues, which were under the jurisdiction of Mike Blass who is retiring, would now fall under the jurisdiction of Dina Zilber, whose appointment as Blass’s replacement was approved in the same meeting.

Israel Preparing for al-Qaeda on its Borders

Monday, July 16th, 2012

As the Middle East continues to be rocked by instability and the old regional order crumbles, Israeli security forces are preparing for an increased al-Qaeda presence along the country’s borders. The past decade has shown that the al-Qaeda network thrives in failed states, setting down roots in areas where central governments no longer exercise a clear monopoly of arms or jurisdiction. From Pakistan to Iraq to Mali, adherents of the global jihadi movement are seeking a safe haven to set up training camps, plot terror attacks, and spread their fundamentalist ideology.

In Israel’s neighborhood, at least two local regions are prime al-Qaeda growth areas: Syria, which is in the midst of a full-blown civil war, and Egypt’s Sinai peninsula, a partially lawless desert province where local Bedouin tribes enjoy more power than Egyptian security forces.

In both areas, all indications suggest that al-Qaeda-affiliated forces are setting up shop.

In Syria, jihadi fighters are pouring in from neighboring countries such as Iraq (thereby reversing the traffic flow of al-Qaeda fighters a decade ago). They are mixing with local recruits to form terror cells in Syria; these have imported Iraqi-style roadside bombings on the Syrian army and vehicle bomb attacks on Syrian government installations.

The Free Syrian Army routinely denies the presence of al-Qaeda elements in Syria; admitting otherwise would serve the propaganda efforts of the embattled Assad regime.

The Syrian regime is keen on presenting all Syrian rebels as fanatical jihadis. Despite the politicized accusations by the regime and denials by the rebels, al-Qaeda is gradually establishing itself in Syria; the Israel Defense Force assumes that sooner or later the jihadis will turn their sights on Israel.

The IDF’s Northern command recently took journalists on a tour of the Golan Heights and presented a few of the preparations underway by the Israeli military to ensure readiness for the new threat.

Despite Syria’s hostility to Israel and its rhetorical and logistical support for the largest terrorist organization in the Middle East, Hizbullah, the border between Syria and Israel has been free of hostile action since the 1973 Yom Kippur War.

Now, however, as Damascus loses sovereignty and jihadis gain room to maneuver in Syria, this may change. Possible threats include bomb and shooting attacks on the border, and the possibility of rocket fire into northern Israel.

Meanwhile, in the south, al-Qaeda’s presence in Sinai is already well-established. Last month, global jihadi terrorists attacked an Israeli Ministry of Defense border construction crew erecting a barrier on the border between Egypt and Israel. The attack claimed the life of a crew member. The terror cell was quickly met by an IDF unit, which shot dead two members, as other terrorists retreated into the sand dunes on the Egyptian side of the border.

The terror cell, exploiting weapons that are hidden in caches in Sinai, used a combination of explosives, a rocket-propelled grenade, and machine guns. Some of the weapons were, and are, entering the area from Libya.

A Sinai-based al-Qaeda-affiliated organization, saying it was behind the incident, released a video on YouTube (since removed); it featured several masked men standing in front of a global jihad flag. Two of them identified themselves as Saudi and Egyptian nationals.

“To the Jews, enemies of God, know you infidels that what is coming is different from what came until now,” one of the masked men said.

The presence of global jihadi fighters in Sinai is made more complex by the network’s having members operating in the neighboring Gaza Strip, ruled by the Hamas regime.

It is easy to imagine how one attack can set off a wider conflict, as occurred in June, after the border attack, when the Israel Air Force bombed an al-Qaeda mastermind in Gaza. In response, Hamas fired over 160 rockets into southern Israel, a reaction that prompted further Israeli airstrikes on Hamas targets.

Hamas, for its part, has no problem with al-Qaeda launching attacks on Israel from Sinai, but it does have a problem with al-Qaeda challenging its rule in Gaza. In 2009, Hamas ruthlessly enforced its jurisdiction in Gaza, sending hundreds of gunmen to the south of the Strip to put down an al-Qaeda inspired movement that challenged Hamas rule .

Palestinians Lose Attempt to Sue Israelis for ‘War Crimes’ On a Technicality – International Court Prosecutors Leave Opening for Future Suits

Tuesday, April 3rd, 2012

In a key defeat for NGO “Lawfare” in the Arab-Israeli conflict, the Office of the Prosecutor (OTP) of the International Criminal Court (ICC) on Tuesday decided that it does not have jurisdiction to begin an investigation over cases related to the 2008-09 Gaza War because “Palestine” is not a state.

In January 2009, the Palestinian Authority (PA) filed a letter with the Court, purporting to accept the ICC’s jurisdiction in order to bring war crimes cases against Israeli officials, notes Jerusalem-based NGO Monitor, which was involved in the case from the outset.

The International Criminal Court (ICC), governed by the Rome Statute, is the first permanent, treaty based, international criminal court established to help end impunity for the perpetrators of the most serious crimes of concern to the international community.

The ICC is an independent international organisation, and is not part of the United Nations system. Its seat is at The Hague in the Netherlands. Although the Court’s expenses are funded primarily by States Parties, it also receives voluntary contributions from governments, international organizations, individuals, corporations and other entities.

The Office of the Prosecutor (OTP) is one of the four organs of the Court and is headed by Luis Moreno – Ocampo, the Prosecutor, who took office on 16 June 2003.

“Throughout this process, the ICC – created to punish the worst perpetrators of war crimes and mass murder – was exploited by several EU- and European-government funded non-governmental organizations (NGOs), which intensively lobbied the OTP as part of their campaign to attack the legitimacy of the State of Israel,” says Anne Herzberg, legal advisor for NGO Monitor. “The NGOs Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, Al Haq, the Palestinian Center for Human Rights, Federation Internationale des Ligues des Droits de l´Homme (FIDH), and Adalah campaigned at the ICC in support of the Palestinian Authority’s political goals. This clearly was contradictory to the spirit and substance of peace negotiations.”

On behalf of NGO Monitor, Herzberg submitted a legal brief on the case. The brief argued that the ICC’s jurisdiction is defined by the 1998 Rome Statute, which makes clear that only states can accept the Court’s jurisdiction. The Statute was adopted after years of careful diplomatic negotiations, and allowing the PA to fall under the Court’s jurisdiction would have essentially amounted to a re-writing of the Statute. In addition, the brief argued that, contrary to claims by NGO proponents of the PA initiative, the ICC was not established as a court of universal jurisdiction, and NGO attempts to transform it into such would be legally improper. The OTP used similar arguments to support its decision.

“The fact that the case even proceeded this far was clear legal overreaching, but it shows the strength of NGOs that lead the de-legitimization and demonization campaigns against Israel,” adds Herzberg.

“The OTP’s decision today is a strong rebuke to these NGOs, their political agenda, and their campaign to isolate Israel from the international community,” notes Herzberg. “International arenas are routinely hijacked for political purposes, but today’s decision was markedly different.”

This victory over Israel’s Palestinian foes may not be long lasting, and depends strictly on the UN General Assembly’s decision in the near future to recognize or avoid the recognition of a State of Palestine.

Sealing the International Court’s 8 point decision are two crucial notes, numbered 7 & 8:

7. The Office has been informed that Palestine has been recognised as a State in bilateral relations by more than 130 governments and by certain international organisations, including United Nation bodies. However, the current status granted to Palestine by the United Nations General Assembly is that of “observer”, not as a “Non-member State”. The Office understands that on 23 September 2011, Palestine submitted an application for admission to the United Nations as a Member State in accordance with article 4(2) of the United Nations Charter, but the Security Council has not yet made a recommendation in this regard. While this process has no direct link with the declaration lodged by Palestine, it informs the current legal status of Palestine for the interpretation and application of article 12.

8. The Office could in the future consider allegations of crimes committed in Palestine, should competent organs of the United Nations or eventually the Assembly of States Parties resolve the legal issue relevant to an assessment of article 12 or should the Security Council, in accordance with article 13(b), make a referral providing jurisdiction.

VIDEO: Yeshiva Student Lynchmobbed

Thursday, February 23rd, 2012

Israel’s Channel 2 reports that a young man named Elazar Aharoni and a group of his fellow students at an Ashdod yeshiva were attacked by local workers at the Mount Hermon vacation site, and in the mass brawl that ensued several members of the group were injured.

In the afternoon, prior to the closing of the Mount Hermon site, the group of yeshiva students were walking down to their waiting bus. Looking for a shortcut, one of the students asked an employee for permission to sidestep an iron fences – which prompted a debate.

“If it was anyone else, the worker, who spoke Arabic, would have approved,” Elazar told Channel 2. “But when we were walking down, we felt it was going to be an unpleasant situation, and in the end  we felt that our own flesh.”

At this point began what Elazar calls a brutal lynching. “A bunch of guys arrived from the site, jumped on us and started to beat us up,” he recalls. “I tried to escape but could not. At least seven employees attacked just me.”

Shlomi, a friend of Elazar’s who witnessed the attack, said: “Before my eyes they dropped him down and kicked him in the back and smacked him forcefully in the face.”

In addition to his bodily injuries, Elazar is having a hard time recovering from the emotional trauma. “I suffer from nightmares, and can’t fall asleep,” he says. “I’m done with the Hermon. Anyone who was there with mwe will never go near it ever again.”

Israeli Police response was: “An investigation has been launched by the Golan police station, but so far no suspects have been picked up.”

The Hermon site’s response was: “The Hermon site does not engage in law enforcement; any incident of violence, whether by a visitor or an employee is immediately reported to the police and is under its jurisdiction.”

Assassinating Terrorist Leaders: The Killing of Osama Bin-Laden As a Matter of International Law

Wednesday, May 18th, 2011
             Osama bin Laden was assassinated by U.S. Special Forces on May 1, 2011. Although media emphasis thus far has been focused almost entirely on the pertinent operational and political issues surrounding this “high value” killing, there are also important jurisprudential aspects to the case that require similar attention. Whether or not killing Osama was a genuinely purposeful assassination from a strategic perspective, a question that will be debated for years to come, we should now also inquire:  Was it legal?
             Assassination is ordinarily a crime under international law. Still, in certain residual circumstances, the targeted killing of principal terrorist leaders can be defended as a fully permissible example of law enforcement. In the best of all possible worlds, there would never be any need for such decentralized or vigilante expressions of international justice, but we don’t yet live in such a world. Rather, in our present and still anarchic global legal order, as President Obama correctly understood, the only real alternative to precise self-defense actions against terrorists is apt to be a worsening global instability, and also escalating terrorist violence against the innocent.
            Almost by definition, the idea of assassination as remediation seems an oxymoron. At a minimum, this idea seemingly precludes all normal due processes of law. Yet, since the current state system’s inception in the seventeenth century, following the Thirty Years’ War and the resultant Peace of Westphalia (1648), international relations have not been governed by the same civil protections as individual states. In this world legal system, which lacks effective supra-national authority, Al Qaeda leader bin Laden was indisputably responsible for the mass killings of many noncombatant men, women and children. Had he not been assassinated by the United States, his egregious crimes would almost certainly have gone entirely unpunished.
             The indiscriminacy of Al Qaeda operations under bin Laden was never the result of inadvertence. It was, instead, the intentional outcome of profoundly murderous principles that lay deeply embedded in the leader’s view of Jihad. For bin Laden, there could never be any meaningful distinction between civilians and non-civilians, innocents and non-innocents. For bin Laden, all that mattered was the distinction between Muslims and “unbelievers.”
            As for the lives of unbelievers, it was all very simple.  These lives had no value. They had no sanctity. 
            Every government has the right and obligationto protect its own citizens. In certain circumstances, this may even extend to assassination. The point has long been understood in Washington, where every president in recent memory has given nodding or more direct approval to high value assassination operations. Of course, lower-value or more tactical assassination efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan have become a very regular feature of U.S. special operations.
            There are some points of legal comparison with the recent NATO strike that killed Moammar Gadhafi’s second-youngest son and his three grandchildren. While this was a thinly disguised assassination attempt that went awry, the target, although certainly a supporter of his own brand of terrorists, had effectively been immunized from any deliberate NATO harms by the U.N. Security Council’s limited definition of humanitarian intervention.
            It is generally true that assassination is a crime under international law. Yet, in our decentralized system of world law, self-help by individual states is often necessary, and the only alternative to suffering terrorist crimes. In the absence of particular assassinations, terrorists could continue to plan havoc against defenseless civilians in America and elsewhere, and could do so with impunity. To be sure, they would be generally immune to the more orthodox legal expectations of extradition and prosecution. This is not to suggest that assassination will always work, but only that disallowing such killing out of hand could never be gainful.
            Assassinating bin Laden was consistent with the ancient legal principle of Nullum crimen sine poena, “No crime without a punishment.” Earlier, this core principle had been cited as a rationale for both the Tokyo and Nuremberg war crime tribunals, and was subsequently incorporated into binding customary international law. As to the foreign venue of the assassination, President Obama can find adequate legal support in certain relevant bilateral agreements with Pakistan, and also in pertinent provisions of the 1974 General Assembly Definition of Aggression. Although extra-territorial jurisdiction in any such matters would normally be unlawful, there are critical exceptions when a particular country (here, Pakistan) more or less allows its territory to be used as a base of operation for future terrorist crimes.
            By the codified and customary standards of contemporary international law, terrorists are Hostes humani generis or “Common enemies of humankind.”  In the fashion of pirates, who were to be hanged by the first persons into whose hands they fell, terrorists are international outlaws who fall within the scope of universal jurisdiction.  That bin Laden’s terror-crimes were plainly directed at the United States in particular removes any doubts about the geo-strategic reasonableness of America’s primary jurisdiction.
             Limited support for assassination can be found in the classical writings of Aristotle, Plutarch and Cicero, and even in American history.  Should the community of nations ever reject this right altogether, it would have to recognize, as a corollary, that such rejection could be at the expense of innocent human life. The existing law of nations must, at least on occasion, continue to rely on even the most objectionable forms of self-defense.
            International law is not a suicide pact. Assassination, always subject to the applicable legal rules of discrimination, proportionality and military necessity (it is vital that assassinations always seek to avoid collateral casualties) may sometimes be the least injurious form of defense and punishment.  Wherever additional terrorist crimes are still being planned, as was certainly the case with Osama bin Laden, the permissibility of assassination may be far greater.  
            In a better world, assassination could have no defensible place as counterterrorism. But we do not yet live in the best of all possible worlds, and the obviously negative aspects of assassination should never be evaluated apart from the foreseeable costs of all other options.  Such aspects should always be compared to what would be expected of these alternative choices.
            Assassination, even of a terrorist mastermind like Osama bin Laden, will almost always elicit some indignation, ironically, even by those who would likely find full-scale warfare appropriate.  Yet, the civilizational promise of universal reasonableness is unrealized, and imperiled states, including our own, must inevitably confront stark choices between employing assassination in limited circumstances, or renouncing such tactics at the expense of justice and security.  In facing such choices, these countries, including the United States, will always discover that viable alternatives to the assassination option also include large-scale violence, and that these alternatives may ultimately exact a substantially larger long-term toll in human life and suffering.

 

LOUIS RENÉ BERES was educated at Princeton (Ph.D., 1971), and is the author of many books and scholarly articles dealing with international law and terrorism.  His more than forty-years’ work on counterterrorism is well-known to America’s military and intelligence communities.  Professor Beres is Strategic and Military Affairs columnist for The Jewish Press.

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