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October 25, 2014 / 1 Heshvan, 5775
At a Glance

Posts Tagged ‘USAID’

US Lawmakers Meet with Cuba’s American Jewish Prisoner, Alan Gross

Tuesday, May 6th, 2014

Four U.S. lawmakers met in Cuba on Monday with imprisoned American Jewish hostage Alan Gross. The legislators visited the jailed social worker at a prison hospital due to his medical condition, which is precarious.

Gross was arrested in December 2009 while visiting Cuba to provide internet access for the Jewish community there. According to a report posted by the Havana Times he was employed at the time by Development Alternatives, Inc., and contracted by USAID, an American government agency.

Gross was subsequently sentenced to 15 years in prison for “crimes against the integrity of the State.” Cuban authorities said he was caught “carrying sophisticated telecommunications equipment prohibited on the island, working for a well-funded, secret USAID program designed to topple the Cuban government.”

Speaking to reporters in Havana following their visit, delegation leader U.S. Rep. Barbara Lee said in a brief statement, “It is in the interests of both our countries to start negotiations, not just talks. It is time for both countries to make a serious commitment to enter into negotiations without preconditions.”

For years, Cuban leader Raul Castro has been trying to persuade the Obama White House to enter negotiations to free the “Cuban Five” — spies who were caught and jailed for espionage in the United States in 1998. Two have already been released, having served their terms. One is serving a double life sentence. President Barack Obama has reportedly shown no inclination to discuss the matter with Cuban officials, and no apparent interest in a swap deal for Alan Gross.

(Likewise Obama has had no interest in discussing a deal to commute the sentence of American-Israeli agent Jonathan Pollard to time served. After having agreed to a plea bargain, Pollard was nevertheless sent to prison on a life term in 1987 on a single count of passing information to an ally. Often jailed under harsh conditions at the prison where he is held in North Carolina he is presently in extremely frail health. Hundreds of appeals to U.S. presidents through the decades have left all unmoved — including Obama, who has been approached by the current Israeli government.)

U.S. Representatives Gregory Meeks (D-NY), Sam Farr (D-CA) and Emanuel Clever (D-MI) also took part in the delegation to Cuba. They met with Alan Gross for 90 minutes, according to the report. The delegation reportedly then met with Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez.

There have been no diplomatic relations between Washington and Havana in more than half a century. But Gross, age 65, has vowed that by the end of this year, he is determined to return home to the United States, either “dead or alive.”

Kerry Riding a Loaded Freight Train to Run Over Israel

Wednesday, December 4th, 2013

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry is coming to Israel Thursday night with a one-two knockout punch that puts on the table American plans for Israel’s security in a future Palestinian Authority state.

In addition, Israel has agreed to another American project to would further pave the way for increasing de facto Palestinian Authority sovereignty in areas officially control by Israel and where Jewish communities’ future existence will be threatened.

The Obama administration repeatedly has promised it will not force on Israel an agreement with the Palestinian Authority, but in practice, that is exactly what it has done by the old trick of publicly announcing suggestions and leaving the foreign media and international community to condemn Israel for not accepting them.

The Palestinian Authority then threatens to end the “peace talks” and go the United Nations, leaving U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry’s diplomatic knife in Israel’s back.

Retired Gen. John Allen, one of President Barack Obama’s “special envoys” to the Middle East who acts as the President’s Israeli defense minister in absentia, reportedly has come up with plans based on his expert knowledge of exactly what Israel needs to defend itself.

Until last year, Allen commanded American forces in Afghanistan, which apparently gives him an excellent understanding of the Jewish state’s security needs.

A host of Israel political leaders and military officials have made it clear that Israel must maintain a military presence in the Jordan Valley in any future Palestinian Authority state.

But Israel’s leaders have said a lot of things, such as dismissing any possibility that it would release mass murderers to bring back the bodies of fallen soldiers, or the return of one live soldier, or for the privilege of sitting down face to face with Palestinian Authority officials whose idea of negotiations is that Israel can decide whether to accepts its demands today or tomorrow.

Details of Allen’s have not been leaked, but given the Palestinian Authority’s rejection of Israel’s deploying soldiers in the Jordan Valley, Allen is bound to come up with something that will sound super-sweet but will end up as poison, which can be smelled in statements from Washington.

One U.S. official said Allen “has been working closely on the ground with his Israeli counterparts,” The Associated Press reported. The official said the Americans realize that security is “paramount” as Israel contemplates taking “calculated risks for peace.”

Been there, done that.

The United States does the “calculations, the Israeli government takes the “risks” and Israeli families pay the price at the cemetery.

A U.S. official traveling with Kerry said the ideas were not a “plan” that could be accepted or rejected.

Sure.

The Haaretz daily said that Allen will tell Netanyahu of his security plans when they meet on Thursday. Kerry then will go to Ramallah, leaving Israel holding the blame bag if it dares to say “no.”

The Associated Press reported that “the American thinking is that if Israeli security concerns can be met, other issues, such as borders, will then fall into place.”

In other words, the U.S. State Dept. has come up with another formula for peace and love in the Middle East. It wasn’t long ago that the United States knew – it did not think, but it knew – that settling the Palestinian Authority-Israeli dispute would open up the locks on all of the regions problems, such as Egypt.

And Syria.

And Iraq.

And Iran.

Kerry’s arrival in Israel Wednesday night follows European Union warnings that if Israel does not agree to a peace pact, the EU will increase its boycott of settlements and will stop funding the Palestinian Authority.

Money Won’t Buy Moderation in the Mideast

Wednesday, May 29th, 2013

Originally published at Rubin Reports.

Can the Obama Administration turn radicals into moderates with money?

Way back in 1979, shortly after the Iranian revolution, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini said that people in the West didn’t understand revolutionary Islamism. “They think,” he explained, “the revolution is all about the price of watermelons. It isn’t.” In other words, this is an ideological cause not a money-making attempt where people can be bribed.

Three Examples:

1. The Palestinian Case

On May 26, at the World Economic Forum in Jordan, Secretary of State John Kerry proclaimed a new plan. He wants to find $4 billion from investors. If he does this, he claims, the Palestinian economy will be doing great, people will be employed, and there will be peace.

Actually, this is a bribe to get the Palestinian Authority back to negotiations with Israel which would also mean, of course, that the Obama Administration can claim a foreign policy success. That’s $4 billion to buy a negotiations’ process that will meet a few times and break down in deadlock, as has happened over 20 years under far better potential conditions and additional billions of dollars of aid to the Palestinians. The initiative is also intended to get the Palestinian Authority to drop plans to seek statehood at the UN; file cases against Israel at the World Court; and to try to join other international institutions as an independent state.

What should the money be spent on according to Kerry? Why on tourism! No doubt tourists are just lining up to go to the West Bank (they certainly aren’t going to go to the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip where the rockets’ red glare has a different meaning).

Notice incidentally that these are not productive investments. Perhaps he could have proposed investment in green energy. After all, the West Bank has much better prospects for solar power than does the United States.

The supposed uses to which the money would be put further signals that this is a political bribe. If this money is found Kerry said the result would be to:

“Increase the Palestinian GDP by as much as 50% over three years…and reduce unemployment by two-thirds…and increase the median wage by 40%.”

Should the secretary of state be talking on such a level of fantasy? Does a single one of his listeners believe this?

Tony Blair, to whom the tourism project was turned over by Kerry, has been the negotiator for the quartet for 11 years. Guess how many visits he has made to Jerusalem? Answer: 87. And basically he’s accomplished zero. Here is the short list of achievements that he even dares claim after 11 years, 87 trips, and vast amounts of money.

Kerry stated:

Experts believe that we can increase the Palestinian GDP by as much as 50% over three years. Their most optimistic estimates foresee enough new jobs to cut unemployment by nearly two-thirds – to 8%, down from 21% today – and to increase the median annual wage along with it, by as much as 40%….

How about their more pessimistic estimates or even their realistic ones? Kerry has chosen the worst possible plan, investment in an industry that is incredibly sensitive to political unrest.

Are Palestinians going to become hotel managers, waiters, lifeguards at swimming pools, and so on?

What will Hamas think about the influx of massive numbers of Western tourists?

The sale of alcohol?

Western women coming in wearing whatever they want?

What would happen to this investment if there was a single terrorist attack in the West Bank, much less one against tourists?

Might events in nearby Egypt and Syria affect Western tourism?

And while Israel is successful at tourism it is a developed country with far more to see. Remember east Jerusalem—the main tourist attraction—is controlled by Israel, not the Palestinian Authority. Once you get beyond Bethlehem which tourists can visit easily while spending a night in an Israeli hotel—what’s there to do in the West Bank?

Is this a good idea for a $4 billion investment?

Kerry continued:

The economics will never work properly or fully without the political process….President Abbas, the economic approach is not a substitute for the political approach. The political approach is essential and it is our top priority. In fact, none of this vision…will happen without the context of the two-state solution.

Question: If billions of dollars have not bought P.A. support for a two-state solution in 20 years why should anything change now?

Palestinians to US: We Hate You, So Please Pay Us More

Sunday, March 24th, 2013

Originally published at the Gatestone Institute.

The anti-U.S. protests that erupted in Gaza and areas under Palestinian Authority rule before and during President Barack Obama’s serve as a reminder that many Palestinians continue to loathe the U.S., primarily because of its support for Israel.

But U.S. support for Israel is not the only reason why such a large number of Palestinians — as well as Arabs and Muslims — hate the Americans with such intensity.

Palestinians who took to the streets during the week to protest against Obama’s visit chanted slogans not only against him personally, but also in denunciation of U.S. policies and actions toward the Arabs and Muslims.

In Ramallah, for instance, hundreds of Muslim fundamentalists chanted slogans condemning the U.S. for “perpetrating massacres and atrocities” against Muslims in Iraq and Afghanistan.

“America is the number one enemy of Islam and Muslims,” speakers at the anti-U.S. rally in Ramallah declared.

Palestinian Authority policemen, who are trained and funded by the U.S. and other Western countries, did not intervene even as the extremists also started criticizing the leaders of the Palestinian Authority for agreeing to meet with the “infidel” Obama.

Palestinian demonstrators in Bethlehem, who trampled on Obama’s pictures and sprayed Nazi swastikas over them before setting them on fire, also explained that they were protesting not only against U.S. support for Israel, but also Washington’s general attitude toward Arabs and Muslims.

“The Americans are the enemies of the Arabs and Muslims,” shouted a Palestinian activist standing near Manger Square. “The Americans do only what the Jews tell them to do and that is why they are against all Arabs and Muslims.”

The strong sentiments against Israel and the U.S. expressed by Palestinians are the direct result of decades of indoctrination and incitement.

Like the rest of the Arab and Islamic countries, Palestinians have been told that the U.S. is the “Great Satan” and number one enemy of all Arabs and Muslims.

Palestinians have been told by their media, leaders and mosque preachers that the U.S. is “controlled by evil Jews” who seek to humiliate Arabs and Muslims on behalf of the “Zionist Project.”

Many Arabs and Muslims hate the U.S. because it stands in the way of fulfilling their dream of destroying Israel. Without U.S. backing for Israel, they believe, the Israelis would not be able to survive for one day in the Middle East.

Today it is almost impossible to find one Palestinian who trusts the U.S. and believes it can act as an honest broker in the Middle East.

Even senior Palestinian officials in Ramallah said — in private briefings this week – that the U.S. has lost its credibility as an honest broker.

Still, much of the hate on the Palestinian street was also directed toward Obama personally. In this regard, Obama can only blame himself for the reason why he has become a hated figure in the Arab and Islamic countries.

Obama’s famous Cairo speech at the beginning of his first term in office created the impression among many Arabs and Muslims that this U.S. president was “one of ours” and would do everything they expected from him, including forcing Israel to make unimaginable concessions.

But as Obama has failed to rise to their expectations, Arabs and Muslims are condemning him as a Zionist agent and an enemy of Islam.

Now that Obama has chosen Israel as the first country to visit at the beginning of his second term, he should expect more anger and hatred from Arabs and Muslims. His statements upon his arrival, in which he repeated U.S. support for Israel, have already drawn strong condemnations from Palestinians.

But then one wonders: If Palestinians hate Obama and the U.S. so much, why not just boycott his visit and refrain from talking to any representative of the U.S. government?

The answer is simple. Palestinians badly need U.S. money. They know the U.S. will never endorse all of their demands or cut off its ties with Israel. Yet they will continue to ask for U.S. money, largely because their Arab brothers have turned their backs on them and are refusing to help.

The U.S., of course, will continue to shower hundreds of millions of dollars on the Palestinian Authority. In return, Palestinians will continue to harbor hatred for the U.S.

Russia Evicts USAID

Thursday, September 20th, 2012

The Russian government has evicted the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), according to the US State Department, accusing the organization of using its money to influence elections.

The US denied the claim.

Nearly 60 percent of the $50 million annual budget of USAID has been allocated to promoting democracy in Russia, with some of the money funding Russia’s only independent election monitoring organization, Golos, which has accused Putin’s party of voting fraud.

In a victory speech given by Vladimir Putin in March, the Russian president said his country “showed that our people can distinguish between the desire for renewal and political provocation that has but one goal: to destroy Russia’s statehood and usurp power”.

Putin has decried Russian NGOs accepting US aid as “jackals”.

Khaled Abu Toameh: What the Palestinians Want

Friday, May 4th, 2012

No matter how much the US tries to help the Palestinians, it will always be viewed by many of them as an enemy.

Last week, President Barack Obama gave $147 million to the Palestinians. A few days later, Palestinians demonstrated in Ramallah against the US and boycotted a ceremony held by the US Consulate-General. The protesters carried placards which read: “USAID go out!” and “We reject aid from those who deny our people the right to self-determination.”

USAID is the leading provider of bilateral development assistance to the Palestinians. This agency has given the Palestinians more than $3.5 billion since 1994 for programs in the areas of democracy and governance, education, health, humanitarian assistance, private enterprise, and water resources and infrastructure. The demonstration in Ramallah was held outside a hotel where US officials organized a ceremony marking World Press Freedom Day.

Palestinian Authority policemen were deployed outside the hotel to prevent angry demonstrators from disrupting the ceremony. The protesters chanted slogans denouncing US “bias” in favor of Israel. They accused the US of “covering up” for Israeli “war crimes” and blocking the Palestinian leadership from receiving UN recognition of a Palestinian state.

More than 20 Palestinian professional unions and other organizations announced a boycott of the US-sponsored event for the same reason.

Many Palestinian journalists who were invited to cover the event also decided to stay away. Their representatives accused the US of supporting Israel and working toward “normalizing” relations between Israelis and Palestinians.

In a similar show of hostility, US diplomats who visited Ramallah several months ago had shoes thrown at their vehicles.

As far as most Palestinians are concerned, the “friend of my enemy is my enemy.” Palestinians hate the US because of its continued support for Israel. The Palestinians want the US to endorse all their demands and force Israel to give them everything.

As one of the leaders of the demonstrators explained, “The US will remain our enemy for as long as it does not fully support the Palestinians.”

US threats to veto Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’s statehood bid at the UN have only intensified anti-US sentiments among the Palestinians.

The Americans can pour billions of dollars on the Palestinians every year, but that won’t change their hearts and minds, especially toward the US. The same applies to the rest of the Arab world, where the masses continue to strongly detest the US.

The $147 million that Obama released to the Palestinians will probably help pay salaries of civil servants and improve infrastructure in Palestinian cities and villages, but the aid will surely not change the Palestinians’ attitudes toward the US.

The anti-US sentiments are the direct result of incitement by the Palestinian Authority and other Palestinians against the US. Palestinians are reminded almost every day that the US, which has been providing them with billions of dollars, as a foe rather than friend, although no one seems to ask how come a foe is so generous.

US aid should be conditioned not only on transparency and accountability in the Palestinian Authority, but also on an end to the campaign of hatred and incitement, as officially agreed in the Oslo Accords, but never implemented.
Originally published by Gatestone Institute http://www.gatestoneinstitute.org

Alan Gross Revelations Could Hamper Campaign For His Release

Wednesday, February 22nd, 2012

WASHINGTON – For the Jews of Cuba, it was the ultimate Internet connection. The high-tech equipment that U.S. contractor Alan Gross brought with him to Cuba in 2009 to help connect local Jews to the Internet reportedly included a SIM card that makes it almost impossible to track satellite signals and is generally unavailable to civilians, even in the United States.

That was one of the revelations in an Associated Press report earlier this month that has exacerbated concerns Cuba will hang tough on its stated determination not to release Gross, a 62-year-old Maryland Jewish man who was in Cuba to do work for the U.S. Agency for International Development, or USAID. Gross is serving a 15-year prison sentence in Cuba for crimes described as “acts against the integrity of the state.”

Yet the AP report, apparently based on mission reports by Gross, helps reinforce the claim that Gross, his family, his employer and the State Department have made all along – that Gross’s mission was straightforward and not at all nefarious: He wanted to hook up Cuba’s Jews with their brethren worldwide.

The AP article “doesn’t change what we’re doing,” said Malcolm Hoenlein, executive vice chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations. “We never argued the matters that were raised” regarding Gross’ activities, he said.

According to the AP story, Gross understood the dangers he faced. That is evident both in his reports – he called his enterprise “risky business in no uncertain terms” in one memo – and his actions. He recruited Jewish tourists to help bring in the devices, and the most damaging evidence, according to AP, was the sophisticated SIM card he has in his possession.

Yet the story also makes clear that Gross, who was arrested on Dec. 3, 2009, hardly fits the profile of a spy, which is how Cuban President Raul Castro described him.

“Alan Gross was working as a contractor for the U.S. government to promote democracy in Cuba,” said William Daroff, the Washington director for Jewish Federations of North America.

“He was convicted by a court in a country that does not respect the rule of law. His now over two years in a Cuban prison is unjust and we demand the Cuban government release him and that the American government use all of its influence to bring him home.”

The Jewish Federations and the local Jewish Community Relations Council in Washington have taken the lead in pushing publicly for Gross’s release, including petitions and vigils outside the offices of Cuban representatives.

“It hasn’t had any impact at all, if anything it’s only strengthened peoples’ resolve,” Ronald Halber, the director of the Washington JCRC said, of the AP story. The JCRC is set to launch on Wednesday a petition at FreeAlanGrossNow.com urging Pope Benedict XVI to make the case for Gross’s release when he visits Cuba next month.

Gross is said to be ill, having lost 100 pounds of the 250 pounds he weighed before his arrest. His daughter and mother have suffered bouts with cancer during his incarceration.

Those close to the case say privately that the AP’s revelations would not be news to the Cuban authorities. However, they are concerned that making them public will inhibit any Cuban willingness to release Gross.

The AP story describes Gross’ mission as setting up hundreds of Cubans – particularly the island’s 1,500 Jews – with WiFi hotspots for unrestricted Internet access as part of the democracy promotion by USAID, a State Department program. The story depicts Gross’s interactions as primarily with Cuba’s Jews.

“He did nothing wrong other than to connect peaceful non-dissident Jewish communities to the Internet,” said Steven O’Connor, the spokesman for Development Alternatives Inc., the USAID contractor that hired Gross.

Gross’s wife, Judy, addressed the AP story’s claims for the first time on Sunday in a breakfast with congregants at Congregation Chizuk Amuno in Baltimore.

“To suggest that Alan had any ulterior motive other than to help Cuba’s small Jewish community improve its access to information through the Internet and Intranet is categorically false,” she said in prepared remarks shared exclusively with JTA.

“Unfortunately, in countries like Cuba, the free flow of information is forbidden, and therefore it should come as no surprise that Alan had to be careful and discreet while he was in Cuba.”

She added, “That members of the media and the blogosphere continue to debate and analyze Alan’s work – a discussion in which the participants openly speculate as to his motives and his actions, despite having never met the man or even spoken with him – while he rots in a Cuban prison without the opportunity to freely and openly respond, is deplorable.”

Judy Gross described her husband’s mission as setting up unfettered Internet access to communicate with Jews outside Cuba and an Intranet so the communities – some in remote areas – could communicate with one another, “allowing them to share things like recipes, prayers and even sports scores.”

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/news/global/alan-gross-revelations-could-hamper-campaign-for-his-release/2012/02/22/

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