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April 30, 2016 / 22 Nisan, 5776

Posts Tagged ‘U.S.’

2 Tortured Bodies Found Dumped in Sloviansk, Ukraine

Wednesday, April 23rd, 2014

Two dead men whose bodies were marked with signs of “brutal torture” were found dumped near the eastern Ukrainian city of Slaviansk, according to numerous media reports.

One has yet to be identified.

Israeli-American journalist Simon Ostrovsky was kidnapped on Monday by armed gunmen working for the self-declared separatist mayor of Slaviansk. He is being held hostage in the eastern Ukranian city, now under pro-Russian rule. Mr. Ostrovsky, who works for the HBO-owned Vice News media outlet, has not been seen or heard from since his capture.

The second was allegedly identified in a preliminary investigation as that of Volodymyr Rybak, a member of the ruling Ukrainian Batkivshchyna party. Mr. Rybak was kidnapped last Wednesday by terrorists in Horlivka. His body was found in the Seversky-Donets River. Mr. Rybak served as a local council member in the town of Horlivka, near Donetsk.

Although the identification has yet to confirmed, Ukrainian interim President Oleksander Turchinov said in a statement to media that at least one of the bodies appeared to be that of Mr. Rybak. Turchinov called for an anti-terrorist operation to be relaunched in Ukraine.

Despite efforts by fellow journalists to determine his status and condition, journalist Simon Ostrovsky has not been seen since.

The Israeli government did not respond to phone calls and an email from The Jewish Press asking for a comment on the situation.

U.S. State Department spokesperson Jen Psaki told reporters at a briefing on Monday, that the U.S. believes “there’s a strong connection between Russia and the armed militants that we’ve seen in eastern Ukraine and Crimea and other places… what we see in the photos that have been, again, in international media, on Twitter, and publicly available, is that there are individuals who visibly appear to be tied to Russia. We’ve said that publicly a countless number of times.”

Psaki added that Secretary of State John Kerry had called on Russia to speak out against the seizing of journalists and other innocents as hostages.

Hana Levi Julian

US Has Proof Syrian Gov’t Poisoned Civilians

Tuesday, April 22nd, 2014

The United States has announced it possesses evidence the Syrian government is using chemical weapons against its own civilians.

In a statement released Monday at a State Department briefing in Washington, spokeswoman Jen Psaki said, “We have evidence of toxic chemical use in the area” of Kfar Zeita, near the city of Hama.

Opposition activists reported last week that Syrian Air Force helicopters dropped barrels of chlorine gas on the area. Video footage of the aftermath, posted by the CNN news network, showed unconscious civilians receiving medical treatment with oxygen masks.

“We are examining the accusations according to which the Syrian government is responsible for [the use of toxic chemicals,],” Psaki went on to say. “It is clear that there is a need to open an investigation into exactly what happened there. We take the reports very seriously and will work to make sure there is no breach of the agreement here.”

The spokesperson told reporters that chlorine gas had not been included among poisons on the list assembled by U.S. and Russian negotiator who last summer identified the chemical weapons to be neutralized.

Jewish Press News Briefs

Will Kerry Be On Hot Seat at Obama Meeting?

Tuesday, April 8th, 2014

Oy. He’s logged thousands of hours flying back and forth, meeting with leaders from Israel, the Palestinian Authority and surrounding Arab nations. Sleepless nights, endless days, Middle Eastern food and where has it all led?

Back to Square One by anyone’s estimation – and very likely in the eyes of President Barack Obama at the White House.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry reports today (Tuesday) to the president so both can decide what to do next about the persnickety tangle that just won’t untangle in the Holy Land.

The problem is, after the better part of a year, John Kerry may have almost nothing to show for all of his efforts and a massive bill to boot. It’s a credibility problem for him – did he read the situation wrong? Or was it simply a matter of the Western mind not understanding the typical Middle Eastern Arab mentality again? And again. And again. Ad nauseum.

Because we who live here have already seen this before in our neighborhood. There have been so many train wrecks down this gorge, we’ve lost count of the number of peace plans we’ve complied with here in the Land of Israel. Most were American.

And Mr. Kerry is another one lacking the basic understanding of Middle Eastern mentality, the Arab mind and how it works, and the way it goes in this region. Briefings on “Arab culture” don’t cut it when it comes to shuttle diplomacy here. It is just not enough when it gets to the nitty gritty.

The Europeans already know better. They make dry observations, back the Arabs (who they know they can rely on to pull out rather than comply) and then fade out before the sun sets in the West. Of course, ‘intel’ ties always continue with Israel; it would be silly to ignore the needs of national security, right?

But the U.S. has yet to learn that Arab leadership is not reliable. The Palestinian Authority talks one way in English and the other way in Arabic and its word is never its word. Peace is not a concept this entity can understand. The definition of ‘honor’ in this culture is not the same as that of the West – it is defined differently in the Middle East.

Think ASIA when you think of PA government “honor.” That is the closest analogy one can summon. It does not involve life, but death – truly. And age doesn’t count. Babies do qualify. Everyone is expendable.

John Kerry is a well-meaning guy. He really thought he could pull this off. And he did have a peace partner. Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu braved his entire coalition to make this last attempt – and almost lost his government over it. In fact, he still might. Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman and Labor leader Isaac Herzog are both taking a shot at widening the fractures so they can climb all over it when new elections come around – and they both hope it’s sooner rather than later.

The last thing Israel needed was to free dozens more terrorists, let alone open the roadblocks to create a new free entrance on to Highway 60 from the Arab side of Hevron. But that’s what Israel did at America’s insistence for the U.S. attempt at new talks with the PA, knowing it was likely to come to naught.

It would be a pity if President Obama were now to rake John Kerry over the coals for following his orders and extending his own personal good faith in the process.

Mr. Kerry is not a young man either, and the constant flights could not have been easy. The stress of struggling to deal with Arab leaders fighting your every effort to reach a compromise could not have been fun. And having to second-guess everyone’s thoughts, words, actions and decisions following each session – although that is the job for which he was trained – must have been the stuff of nightmares.

Hana Levi Julian

Government Says Aliyah Stats from US Better than Previously Stated

Wednesday, February 19th, 2014

Official statistics on aliyah to Israel from the United States have been corrected to show that there was only a tiny change for the worse in the past year from the number of new immigrants in 2012.

The Ministry of Aliyah and Immigrant Absorption and the Jewish Agency issued a report in late December that aliyah from the United States and Canada was 11 percent less than in the previous year. Figures for the United States include new immigrants from Mexico as well as Canada.

“Empirical data actually shows that the aliyah figures from North America in 2013 remained almost the same as 2012,” according to an official statement.

There were 3,504 immigrants to Israel from North America in 2013, 53 less than in 2012.

Jewish Press News Briefs

Avigdor Lieberman Warns US Jews ‘You Are Facing a Catastrophe’

Wednesday, February 19th, 2014

American Jews are facing nothing less than a demographic catastrophe, Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman asserted on Tuesday in a speech at the Jerusalem meeting of the Conference of Presidents of Major Jewish Organizations.

He quoted recent surveys that show that there are 6.1 million Jews in Israel and slightly less than 5.5 million in the United States, not including those who claim affiliation or identity with Judaism.

Lieberman emphasized that no Jew – whether in the Diaspora or in Israel and whether Reform Conservative or Orthodox – “is illegitimate and should be placed outside of the tent,” but he added. “There is a significant rise in those who have little or no Jewish content in their lives, marry outside the faith and are not raising their children Jewish.”

He pointed out, “The intermarriage rate has reached a high of 58% for all Jews, and 71% for non-Orthodox Jews, a huge change from before 1970 when only 17% of Jews intermarried.”

Attachment to Israel is markedly higher among older Jews, with only 32% of respondents under the age of 30 sharing the idea that “caring about Israel as an essential part of what being Jewish means to them.”

Lieberman then put the cards on the table and categorically stated they are stacked against the Diaspora.

“For many years, Israeli officials have called on our brothers and sisters in the Diaspora, like many of you gathered here tonight, to donate your time, energies and funds to Israel,” he said. “However, I turn to you today and say that, while we are enormously and forever grateful for your assistance, we believe it is now time to concentrate on the challenges facing your own communities, especially those emanating from the dangerous trends in the Jewish community demonstrated in the recent survey.”

Lieberman was being kind. He could just as easily have said, “You American Jews sit as armchair generals for Israel, undermine our government’s struggle by deciding how we should deal with the Palestinian Authority and the Arab world while you don’t see that the ground in the Diaspora is crumbling under your feet.”

In more diplomatic language, he said, “Above all discussions on Iran and the Palestinians, your discussions with the Israeli Government and the Jewish Agency should be focused on saving future generations.”

Lieberman stated that education is the key to fighting “assimilation, intermarriage and disengagement” but that “Jewish children are being kept from the Jewish classrooms because of the exorbitant and prohibitive costs of Jewish education in the United States.”

“On my last visit to New York, I met with a Russian Jewish family in Brooklyn,” Lieberman told his audience. “They told me that for their three children to attend good Jewish schools it would cost them around $100,000. They simply could not endure such costs. They are not alone. This situation is being replicated across the Jewish world, whether in the United States, Russia, France, Argentina, or elsewhere. If this situation persists, we will lose another six million Jews in a generation or two.”

He said that most Israeli diplomats abroad shun local Jewish schools and instead send their children to learn at international schools because the standard is higher.

“Sadly this is also reflective of the general Jewish population in places like the United States, where only around 12% of Jewish children attend Jewish schools, and when the Orthodox children are removed from the equation; it drops down to no more than a few per cent,” he added.

Lieberman proposed the creation of a global network of Jewish schools with a superior standard, and he committed the Israeli government to budget $365 million a year in matching funds for the project.

He also is looking forward to massive aliyah “The creation of an international network of Jewish schools is only the first part of my vision,” Lieberman declared. “In addition, my goal is to bring an additional 3.5 million Jews from the Diaspora in the next ten years so that the Jewish population in Israel will exceed 10 million.”

Jews are undoubtedly a major influence in American life, but the number of Jews who are Jewish “in name only” spells a dismal future for the Diaspora.

One of the most self-serving ways to deny the future is to accept the definition of a Jew as anyone who considers himself Jewish. That kind of identity is temporary, at best.

Jewish institutions and organizations maybe boasting larger numbers, but the meaning of Jewish is becoming emptier.

What Lieberman essentially told the Jewish leaders in Jerusalem Tuesday was, “Wake up. It’s later than you think.”

Tzvi Ben-Gedalyahu

Defense Minister Ya’alon: Assad Has Lost Control

Wednesday, August 21st, 2013

Against the background of the gas attack in Syria and the reports about hundreds of victims, perhaps more than a thousand, Israeli Defense Minister and former IDF Chief of Staff Moshe (Bogie) Ya’alon said on Wednesday that “the Syrian regime has lost control over the country, is present only in about 40 percent of its territory and is finding it difficult to subdue to opposition forces.”

Speaking at a ceremony welcoming the new Jewish year at the defense ministry compound in downtown Tel Aviv, Ya’alon said that “for some time now this has not been an internal Syrian conflict. We decided not to intervene in this conflict, but we drew red lines to make sure our interests are not harmed.

The defense minister expressed skepticism about the ending of the war in Syria. “We don’t envision the end of this situation, since even the toppling of Assad won’t bring about a conclusion. There are many open, bloody accounts yet to be settled by the various elements.”

“It’s a conflict that has turned global, with one axis receiving support from Russia and the other bein helped by the U.S. and Europe. Lebanon is connected to the massive Iranian support and therefore the war has been dripping into its territory as well. Inside Lebanon there are focal points of confrontation as well. But, generally speaking, the borders are peaceful and we are watching to make sure the cannons are not trained on us,” Ya’alon said.

According to rebel sources in Syria, the number of dead as a result of the chemical gas attack on a suburb of Damascus has topped 1,300, including women and children. The rebels are claiming this was a massacre of innocent civilians, who were hurt by poison gas in the area of the Guta camp, a rebel held spot outside Damascus.

A Syrian government spokesperson has said in response that those claims are unfounded, and are intended to sabotage the work of the UN inspectors who have just arrived in Syria to investigate earlier reports of the use of chemical weapons by the Syrian army.

Swedish scientist Ake Sellstrom, head of the 20-member inspection team, told news agency TT that he finds the reports of such a high number of casualties suspicious.

“It sounds like something that should be looked into,” he told TT over the phone from Damascus. “It will depend on whether any UN member state goes to the secretary general and says we should look at this event. We are in place.”

Minister Ya’alon referred to situation in Egypt as well, saying there has been relative quiet on the Israeli border with Egypt, but noted that extremist elements like the World Jihad will attempt to destabilize the border.

He warned against the recent developments in the Sinai, such as the execution by Islamist terrorists of 25 Egyptian policemen, spilling over into Israel.

“Over the past week, the Sinai border has been the hottest, and it obliges us to realign for it.”

Yori Yanover

Qatar’s Risky Overreach

Tuesday, August 20th, 2013

Originally pubished at The Investigative Project on Terrorism.

With seemingly limitless wealth and a penchant for often supporting both sides of the argument, the State of Qatar has become a highly significant player in Middle East power-politics. Recent events in Egypt and Syria, however, have put the brakes on Qatar’s ambitions. In this second part of his analysis of its attempt to influence regional politics, Paul Alster considers how much its flamboyant foreign policy, centered on furthering the interests of the Muslim Brotherhood, might be coming back to haunt Qatar.

July 3 was not a good day for Mohammed Morsi. The Muslim Brotherhood’s man was ousted from power after just a year as Egypt’s president, having lost the essential confidence of the country’s powerful military leaders. July 3 was also a black day for the State of Qatar, the country which had nailed its colors and its money firmly to the Muslim Brotherhood mast, and which suddenly found itself the target of outrage on the Egyptian street and beyond.

Morsi came to power in a democratic election, but misinterpreted the meaning of democracy. He and his Muslim Brotherhood backers – primarily Qatar – appeared to believe that having won the election, they could run the country according to their decree, not according to democratic principles as the majority had expected. A series of draconian laws, a spiralling economic crisis, and a feeling on the Egyptian street that the Muslim Brotherhood was paid handsomely by foreign forces, spurred street protests of historic proportions, prompting the military to intervene.

With Morsi gone, Qatar suddenly became “persona non grata” in Egypt.

Qatar sought to extend its influence and Muslim Brotherhood-inspired view of how countries like Egypt, Syria, Libya, and others should be. Qatar was also playing a power-game against Saudi Arabia, another hugely wealthy regional power whose vision of an even more strictly Islamist way of life for Muslims drove a wedge between the two parties.

Another seismic change hit the region just nine days before Morsi’s fall. The Emir of Qatar, Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al Thani – in power since overthrowing his own father back in 1995 – voluntarily abdicated in favor of his 33-year-old son, Sheikh Tamim.

Tamim, educated in England and a graduate of the prestigious Sandhurst Military Academy, became the region’s youngest leader, with the eyes of the world watching to see if he would maintain his father’s aggressive policy of extending Qatar’s regional influence. Few could have imagined that he would very quickly find himself at the center of a major political crisis as Egypt – a country in which Qatar had so much credibility and money invested – imploded before his eyes.

Within hours of Morsi’s departure, the streets of Cairo were awash with anti-Qatari banners accompanied by the obligatory anti-US and anti-Israel slogans. Al Jazeera – a staunch promoter of the Muslim Brotherhood view in Egypt – was vilified, its reporters attacked on the streets, its offices ransacked. Al Jazeera also had been hit seven months earlier after supporting Mohammed Morsi’s crackdown on young Egyptian demonstrators opposed to the rapid Islamisation of Egypt under the new government.

In the first part of my analysis of Qatar’s policy in the region, I focused on Al Jazeera’s huge influence on opinion in the Arab world and the West, portraying the Qatari-Muslim Brotherhood version of events in a way that the uninformed viewer might believe to be objective reporting. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Al Jazeera’s carefully crafted smokescreen as the moderate voice of the Arab world has taken a significant battering with the events in Egypt. That should serve as a wake-up call to those trumpeting the imminent launch of Al Jazeera America scheduled for August 20.

“There is a lingering perception in the U.S. –right or wrong – that the network [Al Jazeera] is somehow associated with terrorism, which could slow its progress in gaining carriage,” Variety Magazine‘s Brian Steinberg suggested last month.

Dubai-based writer Sultan Al Qassemi observed in Al-Monitor: “Qatar has dedicated Al Jazeera, the country’s most prized non-financial asset, to the service of the Muslim Brotherhood and turned it into what prominent Middle East scholar Alain Gresh [editor of Le Monde diplomatique and a specialist on the Middle East] calls a ‘mouthpiece for the Brotherhood.'” The channel has in turn been repeatedly praised by the Brotherhood for its ‘neutrality.'”

The Economist, reporting in January, reflected the growing dissatisfaction amongst many in the Arab world. “Al Jazeera’s breathless boosting of Qatari-backed rebel fighters in Libya and Syria, and of the Qatar-aligned Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, have made many Arab viewers question its veracity. So has its tendency to ignore human-rights abuses by those same rebels, and its failure to accord the uprising by the Shia majority in Qatar’s neighbor, Bahrain, the same heroic acclaim it bestows on Sunni revolutionaries.”

In June, a vocal and agitated group of nearly 500 protesters took to the streets in Benghazi, Libya – the city where U.S Ambassador Christopher Stephens and three colleagues were killed last fall – demanding that Qatar stop meddling in Libyan internal affairs.

“Much of the opposition was directed at Qatar which protesters claimed was supporting Libyan Salafists and the Muslim Brotherhood,” Middle East Online reported at the time. “Analysts believe that Qatar is trying to take advantage from a scenario repeated in both Tunisia and Egypt, where the Muslim Brotherhood, which was an active participant in revolutions, seized power,” the story said.

To the casual observer, it might appear strange that the country that was perhaps as instrumental as any in helping bring about the downfall of the hated Colonel Muammar Gadaffi in Libya back in 2011 should be the target of such vitriol. Qatar, a close U. S. ally, was the main conduit through which weapons transfers were made to Libyan rebels who eventually overpowered forces loyal to the long-time dictator.

As Libyans attempt to create a new order in their fractured country, many now believe that the Qatari regime’s Salafist sympathies contribute to a growing influence of radical Islamist groups in Libya with similar ideological beliefs to the Qatari royals. Concerns had surfaced as early as January 2012.

“But with [Muammar] Gaddafi dead and his regime a distant memory, many Libyans are now complaining that Qatari aid has come at a price,” reported Time magazine’s Steven Sotloff. “They say Qatar provided a narrow clique of Islamists with arms and money, giving them great leverage over the political process.”

Sotloff quoted former National Transitional Council (NTC) Deputy Prime Minister Ali Tarhouni as saying, “I think what they [Qatar] have done is basically support the Muslim Brotherhood. They have brought armaments and they have given them to people that we don’t know.”

And then there’s the question of Qatar’s meddling in Syria’s civil war.

“I think there are two [Qatari] sources of mostly ‘soft’ power – their money and Al Jazeera,” Amos Yadlin, former head of Israeli military intelligence, told the Investigative Project on Terrorism. “They are using their soft power to advance their regional goals. In Libya it was not necessarily a negative. In Syria they are supporting the Muslim Brotherhood [allied to the Free Syrian Army].”

“Now, what you have to assess,” Yadlin continued, “is whether the Muslim Brotherhood is better than Bashar [al-Assad], and whether the Muslim Brotherhood is better than the Jihadists and the Al Nusra Front [supported by Saudi Arabia].”

Yadlin’s pragmatic view reflects the dilemma of many considering intervention on behalf of the rebel forces in Syria. Is it better to try to arm the moderate elements of the FSA and have them replace the Assad regime? Would risking weapons supplied by the West and countries like Qatar and Saudi Arabia falling into the wrong hands, possibly usher in an even more dangerous Jihadist regime that could destabilise the region even further?

Qatar played on these fears by presenting the Muslim Brotherhood as a relatively moderate force, but many now fear it is a wolf in sheep’s clothing and no less dangerous than the Al Nusra Front terror group, which was added to the UN sanctions blacklist May 31.

Writing for the Russian website Oriental Review.org on May 23, Alexander Orlov reminded readers that Qatar was on the U.S. list of state sponsors of terrorism during the 1990s, and sheltered Saudi nationals who were later revealed to have contributed to the 9/11 atrocities. He suggests that the U.S. turned a blind eye to Qatar’s previous record in return for using the massive Al Udeid facility as a forward command post in 2003 for the U.S. invasion of Iraq.

Orlov reminds us that Qatar was a major financier of the Islamist rebellion in Chechnya in the 1990s, and that after the Islamists had been routed by the Russian army, the [now former] Qatari emir gave sanctuary to one of the most wanted leaders of the Islamist rebellion, Zelimkhan Yandarbiyev, a figure who has inspired Chechen Islamists ever since. Yandarbiyev was subsequently assassinated by a car bomb in the Qatari capital Doha in 2004.

Qatar long ago signed up to the Muslim Brotherhood cause. It believed that this alliance would promote Qatar to being the foremost player in Sunni Muslim affairs at the expense of its main rival, Saudi Arabia. Recent events suggest that gamble may have blown up in its face.

Sheikh Tamim’s rise to power appears to have created an opportunity to mend bridges with Saudi Arabia after his father Sheikh Hamad’s antagonistic relationship with Riyadh.

Saudi Arabia was a key Brotherhood supporter from the 1950s until the 9/11 attacks. Then, in a bid to distance itself from the damning fact that 15 of the 19 bombers were Saudis, Riyadh insisted that Muslim Brotherhood radicalization of the bombers was a significant factor. Qatar’s Sheikh Hamad quickly stepped into the breach and became the Muslim Brotherhood’s biggest supporter, offering Doha as a base for spiritual leader Yusuf al-Qaradawi.

It is significant, then, that the new Qatari leader’s first foreign visit was to Saudi Arabia. He arrived there last Friday, reported the Gulf Times. “Talks during the meeting dealt with existing fraternal relations between the two countries and ways to develop them in various fields,” the official Qatar News Agency said.

Tamim’s outreach to Saudi Arabia suggests that the two countries may be on the verge of rapprochement. Where that development leaves the Muslim Brotherhood, Qatar’s huge investment in underwriting the Egyptian economy, the funding of rebel forces in Syria, and Qatar’s previous foreign policy in the region, remains to be seen.

The choices Qatar’s newly appointed young leader, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani, makes over the next few weeks and months may have a significant impact on regional politics and on Qatar’s future role on that stage for years to come.

“I suspect the Qataris will draw back somewhat,” former U.S. Ambassador to Saudi Arabia Robert Jordan told Reuters. “Their infatuation with the Muslim Brotherhood has probably been dampened. They’re likely to come around to a position closer to the Saudis.”

Paul Alster

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/analysis/qatars-risky-overreach/2013/08/20/

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