Sunday, July 05, 2015

05-Jul-15: A tale of two Gazas: concrete evidence that keeps being buried

Above the ground: Gazan misery, unrepaired
destruction. For Hamas, it's win/win [Image Source]
The thuggish groups that hold sway over Gaza's miserable population have never hesitated to exploit for political purposes the third-world conditions in which life is lived there.

And why should they? Simply put, it's a strategy that works, arousing pity and sympathy for the ordinary people living in filth and destruction, with the military might of heartless Israel to blame. And done the right way, it can just go on and on, cycle after cycle, year after year, giving the inner circle of Hamas opportunity after opportunity to keep trying to inflict damage on the enemy without ever themselves paying a price.

A key element in avoiding the price: ensure the fattest of the privileged Hamas fat-cat insiders don't ever live anywhere near the fighting.

Qatar, the spectacularly rich enclave nourished by one of the world's largest gas resources, offers a pretty good choice: Khaled Meshaal and a group of his most trusted deputies are ensconced there, living in the lap of luxury. (Reports emerging this past winter suggested they were being kicked out ["Report: Qatar expels Hamas leader to Turkey", Haaretz, January 6, 2015] but these were soon exposed as disinformation. When the BBC interviewed Meshal in April, it was in Qatar.)

There has been a flurry of news and analysis in the past few days reflecting on what has and has not changed since last summer's intensive Hamas rocket attacks on Israel and the massive Israeli response:
This week marks one year since Israel's devastating war with Palestinian militants in Gaza, and despite a tacit ceasefire that has largely held, there has been little reason for residents caught up in the conflict to believe their suffering will soon end. ["Little Hope in Gaza Ruins a Year After Devastating War", AFP, today]
Though most of the Gaza Strip looks, and is, reasonably intact, there are specific quarters whee Israeli bombing of rocket launch sites - cynically emplaced in residential buildings - caused serious destruction. And these along with the puzzling shortage of new building materials, get plenty of heart-tugging media coverage, like this report typical of the genre:
[D]istribution of cement is limited to 19 warehouses approved under a United Nations-brokered arrangement that provides careful oversight over Israeli-imported cement. On a recent afternoon, 650 tons of cement sits stacked on pallets in the Shemaly Company warehouse in Shejaiya, with a UN monitor present to make sure it only goes to customers approved by Israel. When one such man comes in to pick up his allotted bags, however, he is turned away.
No deliveries are allowed today, says owner Hatem Shemaly, who adds he was previously blocked from distributing cement for 50 days. Why?
“That’s the problem, I’m really confused,” he says, unsure whether it’s Israel or the Palestinian authorities who are blocking him.
If the customer is desperate, he can go to a smaller warehouse nearby dealing in black-market cement. These bags also were imported according to the UN arrangement, or “mechanism” as it's referred to here, but then sold by homeowners who need cash for rent or food. Now anyone willing to pay three to four times the normal price can circumvent UN oversight – including Hamas.
There are 20 black-market warehouses in Shejaiya alone, says dealer Abu Muhammed, and they operate openly.
“The authorities know the reality – people are in bad need,” he says, as a man negotiates the price for his five bags with an employee. They settle on 70 shekels ($17.50) for a bag that usually costs in the vicinity of 20 shekels ($5).
Most Palestinians blame Israel for the lack of cement, since it controls the sole commercial border crossing into Gaza. It has restricted the flow of goods and people since Hamas – which it deems a terrorist organization – seized power in 2007. But Israel says it has fully cooperated with the UN on supplying building materials.
“Israel has an interest to promote the reconstruction, and it’s very important to us,” says a spokesperson for COGAT, the Israeli civil administration responsible for implementing Gaza policies. “There is no delay on our side.”
Source: "Gaza in ruins: why money, cement, and leadership are scarce", Christa Case Bryant, CSM, March 30, 2015
So on a superficial view there are some puzzling threads here: cement is being allowed into Gaza, but it's not reaching the people who want to rebuild their homes. There's an open black market in the stuff, and no one seems in a hurry to clamp down on it. And as usual, people with money are doing fine.

Below the ground: This screen shot comes from a a video
posted last Sunday on Iranian television showing a Gazan tunnel
made entirely of concrete. The men in the image are quoted saying
"they intend to use the tunnel to carry out attacks against civilians"
in Israel [Source: Jerusalem Post]
So in Gaza, who has the serious money? A report yesterday published by Ma'an, a Palestinian Arab news channel with claims to being independent, offers a peek:
Egypt destroys 1.5 km smuggling tunnel near Rafah | Ma'an News Agency, July 4, 2015 | Egyptian forces on Saturday discovered and destroyed a 1.5 kilometer smuggling tunnel beneath the Gazan border, the Egyptian army said. Egyptian security sources told Ma'an that the tunnel was found by Egyptian border guards in the Dayniya area south of Rafah. They said that eight sacks of explosive TNT material and a half-ton of C-4 -- another explosive material -- had been found inside the tunnel. Both the tunnel and the explosive material were destroyed by the army... [The Ma'an editors seem to have no problem headlining the story as being about a smuggling tunnel, and casually including a reference to colossal quantities of explosives. Ho hum]
Bottom line: there's no problem securing enough cement in today's Gaza to construct a 1.5 kilometer long, underground cement tube, if you're Hamas. And if ordinary Gazans can't get their hands on cement, it's because that's the way Hamas wants it to be.

And why, looking at the world through Islamist terrorists' eyes, would you want it to be any different?: keep the stuff to yourself to build your own aggressive capabilities, and keep the reporters and photographers busy chronicling the suffering of cement-challenged ordinary folk. Win/win, it's called.

A Bloomberg report last summer ["Gaza's Next Disaster: No Cement for Rebuilding", July 31, 2014] quoted estimates that every one of the scores of Hamas tunnels on Gaza's periphery "required 350 truckloads of building supplies". A previously uncovered Hamas tunnel on the scale of the one just destroyed was estimated by IDF sources quoted in a Washington Post article ["How Hamas uses its tunnels to kill and capture Israeli soldiers"] a year ago to have taken about two years of work, $10 million of capital, and some 800 tons of concrete. In a different world, that could have produced a substantial number of new homes, medical clinics and upward-facing lives.

By the way, did Friday's report of the massive concrete-lined Hamas tunnel found and destroyed along with the explosive materials stored inside it, make it to the news reports in your community?

Saturday, July 04, 2015

04-Jul-15: Friday's attack on southern Israel: three rockets and a volley of unchallenged disinformation

Screen shot from's coverage
Shavua tov! Following-up Friday's rocket attack on southern Israel:
A third rocket that was part of a volley of projectiles fired into southern Israel on Friday by Islamic State-linked terrorists in Sinai was found in the Eshkol Regional Council region on Saturday. Authorities initially found only two of the rockets on Friday. The two exploded in open ground inside Israeli territory near the Gaza Strip, causing little damage and no casualties. Israeli residents in the area said they heard a third rocket land. The IS-affiliated Wilayat Sinai in the Sinai Peninsula claimed responsibility for the attack. “Three Grad rockets were fired at Jewish positions in occupied Palestine,” the group said Friday evening in a statement on Twitter. [Times of Israel, today]
The reference to "Occupied Palestine" is to the Eshkol and Negev regions of the State of Israel.

No one with even superficial familiarity with international law calls them occupied or Palestine. The only voices that do are those calling for the destruction of Israel as a state, along with the people living within its borders.

Nonetheless, numerous news services - like Aljazeera, Deutsche WelleAl-Ahram, AFPFrance24, and naturally Iran's state-controlled news service - faithfully republished the Islamist tweet in today's global news torrent, making no effort to point out to their news consumers the anti-Israel Islamist propaganda nature of the entirely bogus claim.

It's a fair bet that close to 100% of their audience will swallow the "Occupied Palestine" claim without hesitating for a moment to check the facts - just like those news editors.

Friday, July 03, 2015

03-Jul-15: Inbound rocket warnings heard in southern Israel

Around 4:20 pm Friday (today), Israel's Color Red rocket warning system began sounding across southern Israel. Details are still sketchy but Times of Israel says an explosion inside Israel was detected. Ynet is reporting a rocket landing in
an open area at the Eshkol Regional Council, close to then Israeli-Egyptian border. Because of the proximity to the border, the IDF believes the rocket was possibly fired from the Sinai Peninsula and not from the Gaza Strip.
UPDATE Friday 6:30 pm: According to Reuters:
Militants [a hopelessly inadequate word that deliberately conceals more than it reveals about Islamist terrorists] in Egypt's Sinai peninsula fired a rocket into southern Israel on Friday, causing no casualties, an Israeli military source said, confirming earlier media reports. "Yes, the rocket was fired from Sinai," the source said. Israeli police said the rocket landed in an open area causing no damage or casualties.
A revised version of the Ynet report now [Friday 6:55 pm] refers to a claim of "credit" by an especially notorious group of Islamist savages:
The Islamic State-affiliated Salafist organization in Gaza, the Sheikh Omar Hadid Brigade, claimed responsibility over the firing of the Sinai-made rocket.
The intentions of the terrorists with the rockets were certainly not to hit an open area and to inflict no damage and no casualties. Their intentions were, and routinely are, murderous. This point is somehow overlooked by the editors of news reports like this one who are evidently content to have their readers walk away with the impression that this was something military or militant, whatever that means. This was an attempt to kill people - any people, just so long as they were on the Israeli side of the border. So long as editors allow their timidity and brainless devotion to "We're not comfortable being judgmental about this", most people in most people are going to remain clueless about the dangers posed to them and their communities by terrorists in general and Islamist terrorists in particular.

03-Jul-15: Misery, terrorism and money-making: a cynics' guide

From "How We Are Financing the Suffering of the Palestinians"
Click here to view the video
One factor beyond all others ensures that the Palestinian Arab cause manages to sustain its momentum nearly seventy years after the UN decision to split the compact British-occupied territory of Palestine/Eretz Yisrael into two countries: the existence of UNRWA.

An expose published a few days ago in an Arab publication, Al-Araby al-Jadeed (published in London - we were made aware of its existence by the invaluable Daily Alert), takes a sympathetic look at the price being paid by UNRWA's existence - who loses and who wins (and there are plenty of winners). Some extracts from "The Nakba profiteering cliques", authored by Samer Jaber:
  • The word [profiteering] refers to the practice whereby seemingly unfair profits are made through exploiting certain conditions of vulnerability. Profiteering does not necessarily involve manipulative or corrupt activities, but can simply occur by virtue of being in the right place at the right time...
  • The foremost of these is the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), which is a direct provider of services to refugees. UNRWA employs more than 30,000 people, including 28,000 Palestinians, and has a two-year budget of $1.4 billion for 2014-15. A large percentage of this comes from Western European and North American countries on a voluntary basis - which enables them to indirectly influence UNRWA policies. 
  • For UNRWA to sustain its funding it has to maintain the principle of neutrality, which really means maintaining the status quo..
  • [T]he decision-making ranks and most middle-line administrators are comprised of international staff assisted by local middle class personnel. The managerial ranks have developed vested interests, including high salaries and generous perks based on UN standards.
  • UNRWA has, however, been suffering chronic budget shortages - though these tend not to affect the higher management ranks. Funding shortfalls almost always seem to lead to cuts in services to refugees.
It has to be said that it's refreshing to see some core truths about this bizarre, malevolent and damaging institution exposed, and by a Palestinian Arab analyst at that.

We would have appreciated some focus on the fact that budgetary funding for the billion-dollar UNRWA colossus has come almost exclusively from Western countries, which begs the question so rarely asked: if Arab states claim the Palestinian cause is dearer to them than life itself, why are they not at the forefront of ensuring a little less suffering by their Palestinian Arab cousins? [Some background on the money aspect here.]

The question gets magnified vastly when we take account of how parts of the Arab world have stratospheric cash resources, and ruling families, wealthier than almost anyone else on the planet, who can decide at the snap of a well-jeweled finger, to underwrite the education and health services that UNRWA keeps running out of cash to deliver. A recent article in Time Magazine ["Why Qatar is Spending $200 Billion On Soccer", July 11, 2013] gives some perspective on the sheer money power of Qatar's owners:
Qatar will spend 286 times more money per capita on the World Cup than Russia will on the most expensive Olympics ever, the Sochi games. The country will spent 1,852 times more capita to stage the same event that South Africa did in 2010. [Time Magazine]
The same article goes on to quote a Qatar expert from the University of Denver who says: "The World Cup is an amazing opportunity, and Qatar will do everything to make sure it works."

Where there's a will, there's a way. And when you want to preserve misery at all costs, leverage it to ensure a ready supply of human bombs and other terrorists, there's an ever-willing cast of international figures, NGOs and the many arms of the UN who are evidently only too pleased to be of assistance - or to be exploited by others with more detailed agendas. We touched on some aspects of this just a few weeks ago ["04-Jun-15: Exploding for decades: UNRWA needs more, more, more"], and dozens more times before that. And a recent video [click here] explains it reasonably well in a mere 3m40s.

Understanding the Palestinian Arab leadership's sociopathic obsession with terror requires some familiarity with the extremely shabby story of UNRWA [some background here].

(Here's a shout-out to to UNRWA's indefatigable "Spokesperson, Director of Advocacy & Strategic Communications", Christopher Gunness, to straighten us out and indicate a more UNRWA-friendly way of looking at this.)

Wednesday, July 01, 2015

01-Jul-15: ISIS violence, terror and chaos rage on Israel's southern flank

Scene of the Cairo assassination of Egypt's state prosecutor
on Monday [Image Source]
Egypt's Sinai Peninsula has grown steadily more restive in the past two years. We have posted dozens of times during that period [see "Sinai"], tracking the crescendo of Arab-on-Arab violence and terrorism that has exacted a steady toll of lives in the desert as well as in Egypt's cities. Today, in Egypt and in its capital city, Egypt is at war.

Just two days ago, on Monday June 29, 2015, Hisham Barakat, who had served as Egypt's state prosecutor since July 2013, was killed when his secure motorcade was hit by a bomb blast in the capital Cairo [source: Aljazeera]. Barakat's appointment had come very soon after Egypt's military removed the country's elected Islamist president, Mohamed Morsi. In the course of the past two years, Barakat was responsible for a series of legal measures directed at reducing the power of the Islamists, including freezing the assets of 15 prominent members of the Muslim Brotherhood, and ordering the arrest of the group's Supreme Leader leader, Mohamed Badie.

We showed Badie embracing Hamas arch-terrorist Khaled Meshaal back in January 2012. Badie was charged with inciting violence outside the Republican Guard headquarters where 51 people were killed.

Deposed president Morsi, along with hundreds of his supporters, have since been sentenced to death by Egypt's courts in a series of mass trials. Barakat also oversaw the court acquittal of former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak.

There's some background to the events of the past few days. During May 2015, ISIS' Egyptian affiliate urged its followers
to attack judges, opening a new front in the world's most populous Arab state. Earlier in the same month, three judges were shot dead in the northern Sinai city of al-Arish... [Aljazeera
Then, right after Monday's assassination in Cairo, a visibly infuriated Egyptian president, Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, publicly pledged to escalate the battle against the Islamic "militant" terrorists. An AFP report published yesterday captured some of the anger and rising threats:
"The arm of justice is chained by the law. We're not going to wait for this. We're going to amend the law to allow us to implement justice as soon as possible," Sisi said in a televised speech surrounded by Barakat's mourning relatives. "Do courts in these circumstances work? Do these laws work? They work with normal people," said Sisi, shaking a clenched fist for emphasis. Hundreds of policemen and soldiers have been killed since Morsi's ouster by militants based in the sparsely populated Sinai Peninsula... At least 1,400 people, most of them Morsi supporters, have been killed in a police crackdown on protests. Meanwhile, thousands of people, mostly Islamists but also including secular dissidents, have been jailed and hundreds sentenced to death. Morsi himself has been sentenced to death... Outside the mosque where the funeral was held, a crowd of 50 protesters chanted: "The people demand the execution of the Muslim Brotherhood." Inside, Justice Minister Ahmed al-Zind, a recently appointed hardliner, told judges to avenge Barakat's killing. "The ball is now in the judges' court. Take your revenge using the law. Effective, swift law that doesn't take five years." Politicians and pro-Sisi media -- virtually all the channels and newspapers in Egypt -- have called for an even harsher crackdown on Morsi's Brotherhood and militants. ["Egypt's Sisi pledges tougher laws after prosecutor killing" | Agence France-Presse, June 30, 2015]
Instead, what they got today was one of the most dramatic of those Sinai days. It's an ongoing situation that is worrying at multiple levels. A brief Reuters report today ["Death toll in North Sinai militant attacks rises to 70: sources", July 01, 2015] summarizes the carnage.

Today's news reports suggest the Islamic "militant" terrorists mounted a cluster of simultaneous attacks on Egyptian army targets across the northern Sinai during the morning hours, producing a blood-bath.

Ansar Bait al-Maqdis, the ISIS affiliate in Egypt [click here for our previous posts about the havoc they have brought to the region] claimed responsibility for the attacks. Their version, not contradicted by anyone at this stage as far as we know, is that they hit some 15 army and police positions, and executed three human bomb attacks. Two of those targeted military checkpoints; one hit an officers' club in El-Arish.

A Times of Israel report says "the attackers on Wednesday used mortars, rocket-propelled grenades as well as assault rifles. Two of the checkpoints, which were apparently located in close proximity, were completely destroyed." Other reports say the terrorists succeeded in seizing Egyptian soldiers and are now holding them captive for what we presume will be barbaric purposes that have become sickeningly familiar. They also seized Egyptian army weapons and armoured vehicles.

Kerem Shalom Crossing: In April 2015, 523 laden trucks passed through
and crossed into the Gaza Strip each day, on average. It was shut down today
because of the nearby Arab-on-Arab carnage. [Image Source
Not surprisingly, the IDF has been "closely monitoring the border area with Egypt and Gaza in light of the events". Israel's Ministry of Defence took the decision some hours ago [source] to shut down Israel’s border crossing into the Gaza Strip and another into Egypt, with immediate effect:
Gates at the Kerem Shalom crossing were closed, cutting off the main conduit for goods transferred from Israel to Gaza by hundreds of trucks every day. In addition, the Nitzana border crossing, used by commercial traffic moving between Israel and Egypt via Sinai, was also closed. The Taba border crossing, used by pedestrian travelers visiting Egypt in the less-restive southern Sinai peninsula, was still open during the early afternoon. [Times of Israel, today]
Inside Egypt, there's considerable related violence underway this evening. Just in the past hour:
Egyptian security officials say special forces killed nine members of the outlawed Muslim Brotherhood, including a former member of parliament, during a raid on a Cairo apartment... [source]

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

30-Jun-15: Towards a clearer understanding of how and where they hate us in Europe

Many of the Jews we know feel there is much about which to worry when it comes to the general state of people's attitudes to the Jews among whom they live and, to an astonishing degree, the Jews whom they don't know at all.

The Anti-Defamation League, whose largest-ever study of anti-Semitic attitudes (more than 53,000 people in 102 countries) we covered here ["13-May-14: Understanding who hates us"] has today announced a follow-up. In summarizing the results today [press release here], the ADL's statement sets the stage by referring to current events:
In the aftermath of the shocking violence against Jews in Western Europe the past year, the level of anti-Semitic attitudes among the general population in France showed a dramatic decline, while Germany and Belgium registered significant reductions...
Then in exquisitely careful language it moves on to add a new quantitative layer to the existing analysis, touching on an issue that gets discussed a great deal but almost always on the basis of anecdotal evidence only: attitudes to Jews among Europe's Moslems:
For the first time, the ADL poll measured Muslim attitudes toward Jews in six countries in Western Europe finding that acceptance of anti-Semitic stereotypes by Muslims in Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, and the U.K was substantially higher than among the national population in each country.
This is a report that is likely to trigger widespread discussions for some time to come. The key findings (in our words):
  • The propensity towards racist hatred of Jews among Europe's Moslems is much higher, multiples higher, than among non-Moslem Europeans. There is no room for doubt about the width of the gap, and no reason to look at sampling errors. It's a yawning chasm.
  • Western Europeans who "harbor antisemitic attitudes" compared with Moslems in the same country who "harbor antisemitic attitudes" follow a depressingly clear trajectory: 21% of all Belgians versus 68% of Belgian Moslems; 16% of all Germans versus 56% of German Moslems; Italy 29% versus 56%; France 17% versus 49%; Spain 29% versus 62%; United Kingdom 12% versus 54%.
  • Overall, the numbers average out (our rough calculation) at 20% across all 6 countries for their populations taken as a whole, versus 58%, or about three times as hateful, when you consider their Moslem residents as a distinct and separate demographic.
It's going to be interesting to see the sense that people make of these insights.

The numbers emanating from Greece (where what remains of an ancient and historic Jewish community is a tiny remnant - about 5,000 in the entire country) are noteworthy, given the extreme, self-inflicted instability that has set in there:
Greece continues to show extremely high levels of anti-Semitism, scoring significantly higher than any other European country. In Greece, 67 percent of the population was found to harbor anti-Semitic attitudes (essentially unchanged from 69 percent in 2014).

30-Jun-15: We need to be calling them what they are: human bombs

Aftermath of today's suicide bomb [Image Source]
People died today following a blast on a Japanese bullet train. This is how one major news outlet is reporting it:
Two people were feared dead and two others seriously injured after a man apparently set himself on fire aboard a moving shinkansen bullet train in Japan on Tuesday (Jun 30)... The Yomiuri Shimbun daily said a blast was heard from a toilet stall... Media reported that the driver of the train found the still-burning body of a man after the emergency stop. Kanagawa police have confirmed that the man who set himself on fire has died. The train - a super-fast Nozomi bullet train - was travelling from Tokyo towards Osaka, reportedly with around 1,000 passengers on board, when the fire broke out near Odawara, southwest of Tokyo.
A blast, a suicide, and very bad outcomes for innocent people. This person who decided to end his life on the Japanese train is a suicide bomber in the fullest sense of those words.

Aftermath of a human bomb attack, 2001 [Image Source]
The death of the human bomb is always incidental to the principal goal
of the human bomb attack - which is murder.
As for the many, many acts of jihadist homicide perpetrated by people too-often-described as suicide bombers, those are something entirely different.

Whatever the intentions of those who do them, who engineer them, who plan them and who encourage them, lethal attacks in the nature of 9/11, 7/7, 11-M, the massacre by a Saudi inside a Kuwaiti mosque this past Friday, are never about suicide, and never were. Acts of murder is what they are about, and what they are.

The intention of those acts and of the people who do them is to kill. Often, the person doing the killing is completely indifferent to the personal outcome for himself or herself, for reasons that are worth understanding but come down to this: the killing is the reason; the death of the killer is an incidental outcome about which the perpetrators (and those who facilitated the killing by sending the killer on his or her way) have no particular concern.

This has significance. The term "suicide bomber" is used frequently in the mainstream media - almost always inaccurately and usually misleadingly - when what they are in reality describing is a human bomb, and a human bomb attack.

To the extent suicide is perceived as connoting (to whatever degree) something selfless, and for that reason possibly even something noble to an extent, we ought to forcefully reject its use to describe highly motivated killers. They are bombs.

Civilized societies that are aware a bomb is heading towards them have ways of defending themselves and dealing with the threat.

What we call them matters.

Monday, June 29, 2015

29-Jun-15: Drive-by shooting attack near Shvut Rachel tonight [UPDATE]

It's a little after 11 on Monday night here in Jerusalem and Israel's news channels are suddenly crackling with reports of a drive-by shooting attack near Shvut Rachel, with indications that three people inside a single car are injured. Our post earlier today ["29-Jun-15: Fresh reasons today to appreciate Jerusalem's alert security personnel"] described additional terrorist attacks in the Jerusalem area. This time of year has a certain sickening attraction for the many in our area who have terrorism on their minds.

Via Israel National News, we understand that three people are seriously injured including one who is unconscious. They are being treated by paramedics at the scene, and currently awaiting the arrival of an evacuation helicopter to airlift them to a hospital.

Wikipedia's entry for Shvut Rachel absurdly calls the little village of about 110 families "a city". The Rachel part of its name honours Rachela Druk of the nearby community of Shilo, a mother of 7 who was murdered in a Palestinian Arab terror attack  on the civilian bus on which she was traveling in November 1991. The prolific Yisrael Medad blogged some helpful background in 2012 about Shvut Rachel and how it has been developing.

UPDATE Tuesday morning June 30, 2015: There were, it is now clear, four Israeli victims in the shooting last night. Ynet says the injuries of one are defined as serious, and those of the three others as moderate. All four are in their twenties, and all were struck by bullets in both upper and lower parts of their bodies. Two are hospitalized at Hadassah Ein Karem, and two at Shaarei Zedek Medical Center. The IDF has thrown up roadblocks and checkpoints throughout the area and large forces, including from the elite Special Forces Duvdevan Unit, are scouring the area for leads. Though we called it a drive-by shooting last night, it appears it might have been an ambush in which the shooters available themselves of an escape vehicle.

UPDATE Tuesday evening June 30, 2015: One of the four victims of last night's shooting has died of his injuries. He is Malachi Moshe Rosenfeld z"l. Like the others in the car, he lived in Kochav Hashachar, a community of some 300 families, located in the Binyamin district, roughly half an hour's drive north of Jerusalem.

29-Jun-15: Fresh reasons today to appreciate Jerusalem's alert security personnel

The source caption reads: "The Shuafat Refugee Camp from the
Jewish neighborhood of Pisgat Ze’ev, in northeast Jerusalem.
(Miriam Alster/Flash90 )
" [Image Source]
For some background to the Arab violence of yesterday and today here in Jerusalem, see "22-Jun-15: Deconstructing the Ramadan stabbings and shootings".

Today (Monday):

Times of Israel says Border Police officers at a Jerusalem-periphery checkpoint on the edge of Shuafat intercepted a Palestinian Arab youth of 15 very early this morning. They found him to be armed with an assault weapon concealed under his clothes, and attempting to get through the Israeli checkpoint in order to fulfill his destiny.
The Border Police officer who was manning a metal detector at the checkpoint asked the teen to pass through the security check a second time, after the detector indicated the presence of a metallic object on his person. When a second inspection also showed the presence of a metal object, the officer asked the youth to remove his shirt, revealing a sub-machine gun. The youth was taken into police custody for investigation. [Times of Israel, today]
The IDF furnished this image of the Carl Gustav
gun forcibly separated from a social-climbing Arab 15 year old
this morning [Image Source]
Shuafat is a neighbourhood on Jerusalem's north side with a large and thriving "refugee camp". Those are typical Shuafat refugee shanties in the photo above.

Israel National News ["Gun-Toting Arab Teen Terrorist Arrested Entering Jerusalem"] adds that the quick-thinking young service-man, on realizing what the Arab youngster had in mind, promptly closed off the inspection area's revolving door and secured the site while calling to his commander. The two then "worked together to neutralize the teen and separate him from the weapon, a light-weight automatic Carl Gustav." It's not difficult to imagine a scenario where, to avoid unnecessary risks in the dark hours of the early morning, a terror-minded young man with a serious weapon might have been more permanently neutralized by heavy-handed security personnel unwilling to take chances. That is not what happened there today, and we can all - especially the kid with jihad fever - be glad of that.

This is how we remember ancient Rachel's Tomb
as it looked in the 1980's and 1990's [Image Source]
Separately, there was an unprovoked stabbing this morning in southern Jerusalem, close to Rachel's Tomb, an ancient place of pilgrimage for faithful Jews for, oh, about 1,700 years. According to Ynet [Palestinian woman stabs female IDF soldier | June 29, 2015], the attacker - a Palestinian Arab woman, evidently with terror on her mind as well - stabbed a young woman serving in the Border Guard during a security check at about 11 this morning. The soldier, about 20, suffered serious knife wounds to her neck. According to Times of Israel, she was conscious when taken to Hadassah Medical Center for emergency medical care. The attacker was arrested unharmed, and found to be in possession of two additional knives.

Tragically, Rachel's Tomb needs far more protection
now [Image Source]
Israel National News points out that
Rachel's Tomb, where the Jewish Biblical matriarch Rachel is buried, has been a target for terror attacks since the outbreak of the Second Intifada or Oslo War in 2000, and as a result the compound has been heavily fortified. The IDF told Knesset Members in mid-2013 that about 200 firebombs and 90 improvised explosive devices (IEDs) had been thrown at the compound since November 2012's Pillar of Defense counter-terror operation in Gaza, indicating an average of almost two bombs a day. The military said that the nine-meter (almost 30-feet) high walls that have been constructed around the Tomb compound have not sufficed to provide security, with suggestions raised at the time to build a roof to protect the site from attacks from all angles.
A February 2015 rock-hurling attack directed at children living
in Maale Hazeitim [Image Source]
Also this morning: a school bus bringing young children to their school in central Jerusalem from their homes in Jerusalem's Ma'ale Hazeitim neighborhood of in Jerusalem came under rock attack during the morning rush hour. The heroes hurling the rocks were masked, according to Israel National News. Some of them might have been in this February attack depicted in the snapshot on the right. No reports of injuries so far.

Yesterday (Sunday):

A Palestinian Arab woman was arrested Sunday afternoon attempting to cross into Israel from Kalkilya, a Palestinian Arab settlement, with a concealed shotgun. Israel's Channel 2 reported last night that she confessed under interrogation that she had been despatched by Hamas to carry out an attack against Israelis. [Source: Times of Israel] Though it's right in the middle of the areas currently controlled by the Fatah/PLO regime of Mahmoud Abbas, Kalkliya has long been dominated by the Islamists of Hamas. A YMCA to serve the town's tiny Christian population was burned to the ground by local activists and militants in 2006.

Sunday, June 28, 2015

28-Jun-15: Terror: now you see it, now you don't

The aftermath of the terrorist massacre in the Kuwaiti mosque [Image Source]
A killer, motivated by ideological passions, enters a house of worship and launches a frenzied attack that results in a great deal of spilled blood, numerous deaths of the faithful, and devastated families.

It's terrorism, right? Well, that depends on who's doing the editing.

Terror attacks in Kuwait, France and Tunisia echo Isis methods | The Guardian, June 26, 2015
Headline says it all.
Five Israelis killed in deadly attack on Jerusalem synagogue | The Guardian, November 18, 2014
The murders of unarmed Jewish worshipers are described as a "frenzied assault", the most lethal incident in the city (Jerusalem) in years. But the word 'terror' appears only when it's part of a direct quotation from comments made by two people: an eye-witness and the US Secretary of State.

Headline says it all
Israel Shaken by 5 Deaths in Synagogue Assault | New York Times, June 26, 2015
Terrorism not mentioned. The attackers are termed "assailants", the massacre is an "attack" and an "assault". The savagery is framed as part of "the rising religious dimension of the spate of violence, which has been attributed mainly to a struggle over the very site the victims were praying toward". Does the reporter see the victims as part of that "spate"? Were the men at prayer involved in a "struggle"? Are any Israelis to be considered outside that struggle? 

Headline says it all
Two "assailants" attacked worshipers (knives, axes, pistol) in a Jerusalem synagogue. "Spokeswoman Luba Samri described the incident as a "terrorist attack."" But other than as part of a quote from the police, terror goes unmentioned... except in the URL of the article itself, which suggests someone with more brains than political correctness realized what the massacre in Jerusalem actually stood for, but was then editorially over-ruled.

"A bloody assault in Tunisia, a decapitation in France and a suicide bombing in Kuwait are part of the horrifying new normal of terrorism"
Fears of Religious Conflict After Synagogue Killings | Time Magazine, November 18, 2014
Ilene Prusher/Jerusalem @ileneprusher  Updated: Nov. 18, 2014 5:34 PM
Terrorism is never mentioned other than as part of someone's quoted words. "Tuesday’s attack in a crowded synagogue where worshippers has just begun their morning prayers is the most serious attack in recent weeks. Both Israelis and Palestinians noted the choice of target and the skyrocketing tensions over Jerusalem’s holy sites – the Temple Mount or Noble Sanctuary houses the Dome of the Rock and the Al-Aqsa Mosque, and has the Western Wall at its base. Many expressed concerns that this may be morphing into a religious war more than a struggle over land."
And finally for a sense of the rhetorical acrobatics that this issue brings out in people, a commentary published by Reuters last week in the wake of a massacre at a South Carolina house of worship:
Was the massacre of nine people at the Mother Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, South Carolina an act of terrorism? Almost certainly, yes. Does this mean we should be calling the suspect... a terrorist, and prosecuting him as one? Probably not…
True to Reuters policy, its editors manage to tell the story of Friday's massacre in the Kuwait mosque as well as the November 2014 massacre in the Jerusalem synagogue with no mention of terror in either case. So does this mean we are closer to a solution? Are we better off this way? Is there anything we can learn from this? Stay tuned.
The aftermath of the terrorist massacre in the Jerusalem synagogue [Image Source]

28-Jun-15: Israeli ambulance comes under 'activist' gunfire; news reporting industry yawns

Image Source: i24news
Israel National News reports that an Arab gunman, perhaps more than one, fired on an Israeli civilian ambulance traveling the road adjacent to Beit El in Samaria's Binyamin region:
At least three direct hits from the bullets were located on the ambulance, but fortunately no one was wounded in the incident. A resident of the region told Arutz Sheva that security forces began a wide search in the region. 
A bullet through the windshield (see the photo above) testifies to the lethal intentions of the attacker/s. It's unlikely they wanted this to end with no casualties.

The first article of the first Geneva Convention, in effect since August 22, 1864, declares
Ambulances and military hospitals shall be recognized as neutral, and as such, protected and respected by the belligerents as long as they accommodate wounded and sick.
A shooter who attacked an ambulance in Fort Wayne, Indiana, was sentenced in 2013 to 60 years imprisonment. The charges he faced were attempted murder, criminal recklessness and battery by means of a deadly weapon.

As of now, Sunday morning, the attack on an Israeli civilian ambulance has been reported in non-Israeli news channels, as far as we can tell, about zero times.

Friday, June 26, 2015

26-Jun-15: A month of disasters for the infidels on at least three continents and that's just today

The Liquid Air plant in south-east France, the target of today's explosive
and barbaric attack by "suspected" "alleged" terrorists [Image Source]
For adherents of one of the world's great religions, it's a special time of year [see "22-Jun-15: Deconstructing the Ramadan stabbings and shootings"]. Here is a taste of the drama unfolding today, as reported just now by New York Times, in a story datelined rather oddly Beirut:
Terrorists attacked sites in France, Tunisia and Kuwait on Friday, leaving a bloody toll on three continents and prompting new concerns about the spreading influence of jihadists.
In France, attackers stormed an American-owned industrial chemical plant near Lyon, decapitated one person and tried unsuccessfully to blow up the factory, in what French authorities said was a terrorist attack.
In Tunisia, gunmen opened fire at a beach resort, killing at least 27 people, officials said. At least one of the attackers was killed by security forces.
And the Islamic State claimed responsibility for an explosion at a Shiite mosque in Kuwait City. Local news reports said at least eight people had been wounded.
There was no immediate indication that the attacks were coordinated. But the three strikes came at roughly the same time, and just days after the Islamic State, the militant group also known as ISIS or ISIL, called for such operations during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan... “It appears to be an effort to launch and inspire a wave of attacks across three continents, reminiscent of Al Qaeda’s simultaneous multiple attacks of the past,” said Bruce O Riedel, a former C.I.A. officer who is a counterterrorism expert at the Brookings Institution in Washington. “The Kuwait operation is especially dangerous, as this is ISIS’ first operation in a gulf state,” Mr. Riedel said in an email. “The others will be deeply alarmed.”
...[T]he quick succession of the attacks raised the possibility that the Islamic State, which has seized control of territory in Iraq and Syria, has successfully inspired sympathizers to plan and carry out attacks in their own countries.
“Muslims, embark and hasten toward jihad,” said the Islamic State’s spokesman, Abu Mohammed al-Adnani, in an audio message released this week. “O mujahedeen everywhere, rush and go to make Ramadan a month of disasters for the infidels.” [Source: "Terrorist Attacks in France, Tunisia and Kuwait Kill Dozens", Ben Hubbardine | New York Times | June 26, 2015]
The Tunisian shooters are still at large, says Sky News. whose editors manage to detail the facts as they are currently known without once mentioning the word "terror".

The Kuwaiti outrage - on a house of worship, and with at least 10 dead (something the NY Times people did not mention) - is reported by BBC News without once mentioning the word "terror", as well.

The beheading and attempted explosion at Liquid Air's plant in France, and the identification of the man arrested at the scene ["The suspect has been named as Yassin Salhi, 35" which leaves us wondering whether he's the racist thug of the same name in this 2012 news item] are reported by Independent UK without once mentioning the word "terror", or the word Islamic, Islamist, Moslem, Muslim or any other word connoting any religion, great or small.

Very well done, chaps. Does being non-judgmental in your precious manner mean we're winning this war?

26-Jun-15: Spring of hope and revenge

The spring at Ein Bubin - today [Image Source]
It's a delightful Friday - blue sky, bright sunshine, temperature in the mid-twenties (Celsius, of course), a light breeze.

The photograph above was snapped today and features prominently on the Israel National News site. It was snapped at the natural springs pool in the Binyamin district just north of Jerusalem where Danny Gonen spent last Friday, and close to where he and his companion, driving away from what must have been a lovely interlude, were flagged down by an Arab. He appeared to need help and had something he wanted to ask them.

But he didn't in fact need help, and shot Danny Gonen at point blank range, murdering him. The companion, Netanel Hadad, was injured.

Whether informally or by arrangement (we don't know), a revenge scenario was hatched by people living in the vicinity. Evidence of their act of vengeance can be seen above - converging as families on the pool and demonstratively enjoying themselves at this very moment, Friday afternoon.

The first signs of the extremist scheme were articulated at the funeral a few days ago when the mayor of Lod, a city on the south side of Tel Aviv and adjoining Ben Gurion airport, and home to the two victims, swore beside the open grave that scholarship awards would be created in the murdered man's name:
"Instead of dealing with unnecessary culture wars, we should be united against our enemies who rise up to destroy us, some of them have only one culture - that of murder and violence." ...Agriculture Minister Uri Ariel said, "Vengeance belongs to God Almighty. We say to you, the Gonen family, Lod, the nation of Israel: We will continue to build Lod, Dolev and Ma'aleh Adumim, where Danny studied. We will build our country spiritually and materially. The Ein Bubin spring will from now be named after Danny. We shall visit there, we shall plant and take root there and in all of the Land of Israel." [Ynet, June 21, 2015]
A fiendish plot: more scholarships, more education, more progress, more achievement, more swimming.

How are the vast numbers of Palestinian Arabs who align themselves with the strategy of shooting to kill Israelis when it's possible to do so [see "56% support return to an armed intifada", Palestinian Public Opinion Poll No. 54, December 2014], going to cope with that?

Actually, we fear that we do actually know.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

23-Jun-15: Rocket sirens are heard across southern Israel tonight... and almost nowhere else

Haaretz ran this photo at the height of last summer's Gazan rocket
barrages on Israel. Seeking cover in the stairwell of an
Israeli apartment building is often the only thing you can do when
those Gazan rockets come flying in, seeking Israeli victims [Image Source]
Yet another Gazan rocket was despatched in the customary Palestinian Arab manner in the past hour. Meaning it was fired off entirely indiscriminately in the general direction of anything Israeli, Did it crash into a school bus? A cow shed? A busy shopping mall? Did it drop short and explode on top of a Gazan Arab home and the children living inside?

The men who did the firing certainly don't care. Nor do the vast majority of the reporters who cover the Middle East conflict beat. A story that focuses on the malevolence of the fighting forces under the Hamas or Palestinian Islamic Jihad banner? Not worth an editor's time. And anyway, news consumers long ago learned to assume the Arab side are capable of any outrage so why bother getting worked up about it?

So who does care? Israelis. It's our side that holds its collective breath as the Tzeva Adom (Color Red) incoming rocket alert system's warning siren is heard. It's our side that has created well-functioning communities, farms, towns, cities, roads, schools, malls, hospitals, homes - and the shelters that are inseparable part of all of them. Because on our side, every injury, every death (Heaven forbid), every disruption to normal, constructive lives counts, matters, has a measurable impact.

From Ynet, posted at 10:40 tonight (Tuesday):
Rocket launched from Gaza explodes near moshav greenhouse
Alarm heard in south shortly after 10 PM; IDF says rocket was launched, but that it was unclear whether it had fallen in Israeli territory.
A rocket launched from the northern Gaza Strip towards Hof Ashkelon shortly after 10 PM on Tuesday, exploding near a greenhouse in a moshav. A Red Alert siren sounded in the area during the incident.
From Israel National News:
The IDF confirmed that a rocket launch from Gaza was identified. Reports indicate that a succession of explosions was heard. Just before 10:30 p.m. a rocket was found in the Hof Ashkelon region, having fallen in an open area and caused no damage.
Haaretz reminds readers that the same area, Hof Ashkelon, last came under rocket fire from Gaza a whole ten days ago:
The IDF's Gaza Division said it believes the rocket was launched by Salafi groups, like in the previous incidents over recent months, but that it was still not clear what launched the militants to fire. No group has claimed responsibility for Tuesday's fire yet. The chairman of the Hof Ashkelon Regional Council, Yair Farjun, said: "It doesn't matter to us who fired the rocket. Hamas is responsible and we won't let them set our daily schedule."
Times of Israel adds
The rocket landed in an open area near the Yad Mordechai Kibbutz just north of the Gaza Strip, the Israel Defense Forces said in a statement. “Forces are currently searching the area,” the army said. There were no reports of injuries or damage directly after the alarms, which sounded in the communities of Zikim, Karmia, Netiv Ha’asara and Yad Mordechai just after 10 p.m., the IDF said. Yisrael Beytenu leader Avigdor Liberman, a former foreign minister, called on the government to take action to end the sporadic rocket fire. “”Whoever is prepared to accept a drizzle — will at the end of the day get a torrential downpour,” he wrote on Facebook. “This situation is insufferable, unfathomable and must be brought to an end.” Israeli planes have attacked targets in Gaza in the past following rocket attacks. Israel considers Hamas responsible for all rocket fire emanating from the Strip. The alarms come a day after the United Nations Human Rights Council issued a report accusing both Israel and Palestinian armed groups of possible war crimes over heavy fighting last summer.
Foreign news coverage will happen, if at all, only when Israel does something military to silence the rockets. Till then, tonight's attack will almost certainly fail to reach the threshold of reportable news.

It's a blessed relief to know that no damage or physical harm was caused tonight, as far as we can know at this hour. But that, of course, was never the intention of the men with the rockets. For them, it's a numbers game. Just keep firing. Some will Fall Short as hundreds have in the past few years, and may kill or injure Gazan Arabs. From an Arab perspective that's a minor issue, with plenty of theological cover and political justification: no terrorist ever lost his job in the Palestinian Arab world for inflicting harm on his own side. Most of those rockets will fall in uninhabited parts of Israel's territory where the explosion will be so minor as to require a search party. But occasionally, (and given the numbers, this happens regularly) there will be a hit, and some injured or dead on the Israeli side, along with significant property damage. And then the rocket men are hailed as heroes. some headlines are published along with some Hamas insiders being interviewed, their bogus "resistance" is back in the news and it's all worth it.

Meanwhile, a metaphysical question: if a rocket was fired into Israel and no one was hurt, and no news channel outside Israel reported it, what are the ways in which Israel brought this upon itself? And how ought the Israeli side to be condemned for whatever response the IDF now carries out?

Monday, June 22, 2015

22-Jun-15: Deconstructing the Ramadan stabbings and shootings

Funeral of Danny Gonen, victim of Friday's shooting attack [Image Source]
Here in Jerusalem, it's difficult to escape awareness of the current state of elevated tension.

Yesterday (Sunday) at one of the most traveled entrances to the Old City, a young Arab from Sa’ir, a town in the West Bank near Hebron, executed a frenzied stabbing attack on a Mishmar Hagvul (Border Guard) service man around 10:00 am. [See "21-Jun-15: Sunday morning Jerusalem stabbing"] His victim, aged 20, has multiple stab wounds to the neck and chest, including one near his heart and underwent emergency surgery yesterday evening. Today's reports say he is "showing signs of improvement" at Shaarei Zedek Medical Center.

The knife-man's name is Yasser Yassin Tarwa. He too is hospitalized with "life-threatening injuries" after his victim managed to shoot him. And he too is getting the best medical care Israeli hospitals can offer, in his case at the world-renowned Hadassah Medical Center Ein Karem, Jerusalem. This morning, he was said to be in critical condition, sedated and on a respirator. Video clips of Arabs wailing and praising as the blood seeps from his wounds [here for instance] leave little doubt that, dead or alive, he has been ushered into the Palestinian Arab pantheon of "resistance" "heroes". It's far less likely that the medical team at the Israeli hospital where his life now hangs in the balance will get similar respect.

A Hamas website has been running this
photo of Tarwa, the perpetrator of Sunday
morning's knife attack. Those are Hamas regalia
draped around his neck [Image Source]
Times of Israel reports today that
Hamas praised Sunday’s attack, though it did not take credit for it, as photos published online indicated the assailant was a member or sympathizer of the Islamist movement. The Facebook page of Hamas website posted two photos of 18-year-old Tarwa from the town of Sa’ir near Hebron. In one, Tarwa is seen wearing a Hamas scarf and headband, and camouflage pants,,, 
Last night (Sunday) in another Jerusalem-area act of Palestinian Arab terrorism, an Israeli civilian bus traveling between the Israeli community of Adam, on Jerusalem's northern edge, and the Arab village of Hizma along Highway 437 came under rock and firebomb attack. The windshield was shattered and the driver was injured, but kept driving to ensure his passengers were spared further injury, damage and apprehension. He was rushed by a rescue team the Jerusalem's other Hadassah hospital, on Mount Scopus. The rescue vehicle came under rock and fire-bomb attack too.

And as we noted on Friday ["19-Jun-15: Reports of sniper attack on Israelis north of Jerusalem"], two young Israeli men came under fire from a Palestinian Arab shooter Friday afternoon. One of the two, Danny Gonen, 25, an electrical engineering student from the central Israeli city of Lod, died of his injuries at Tel Hashomer Hospital after being rushed there by IDF helicopter . The second victim was moderately hurt in the attack and is being treated at Tel Hashomer. The two had been traveling in their car after visiting a natural spring in the hills near Dolev, when a Palestinian Arab flagged them down, asking for assistance. Without warning, he "fearlessly" brandished a gun from a bag he was carrying and opened fire at his unarmed victims from point-blank range. A wide search is underway at this moment but he has not yet been apprehended.

Ron Ben Yishai, a respected veteran Israeli journalist, war correspondent and analyst, has some insightful observations in an article published last night. His argument (see "Not exactly a 'lone wolf' attack[Ron Ben-Yishai | Ynet | June 21, 2015is that while the term "lone wolf" tends to be used a great deal when an Arab stabs or stones or uses his car or bulldozer to run down and injure or kill civilian Israelis, the words deceive. What's really going on is more complex than that simple descriptor .

The security authorities are doing what they can. In Ben Yishai's words, the police are
flooding the targeted areas (mostly in East Jerusalem) with thousands of policemen whose very presence deters and prevents attacks. Unfortunately, not all of these police officers are patrolling the streets with bullet-proof vests and vigilance, and so on occasion a Border Police officer or a soldier falls prey to a lone terrorist.
Such attacks, he says, come against a background which includes several predictable, repeating themes.

The first and most important of them is what he calls the "religious fervor among the Muslims on the holy month of Ramadan" (Ramadan - literally "scorching heat" or "dryness", and referring to a 29-30 day period of "spiritual reflection, improvement and increased devotion and worship", began this past Thursday and continues for a month).
It is not just a matter of the sermons they hear, or of their religious inclinations, but also the lengthy fast, the extreme changes to daily lives and maintaining their day-to-day routine while not sleeping at night - all of these create a situation in which the Muslim street all over the world, including in the Palestinian Authority, sensitivity and anger run high. This psychological analysis is important because it explains a significant amount of attacks that seemingly reveal no rational reason for the murderer to choose to risk his life and his surroundings.
Next, the copy-cat phenomenon: one act of murder or terror begets another, mainly among those "already feeling anger or religious fervor, or wanted to prove something to those around them".

Then there is the inspiration channeled at them from the established Islamist terror organizations: Hamas and Islamic Jihad in particular. Though he does not explicitly say so, their messages broadcast encouragement for acts of anti-Jewish and anti-Israel violence round the clock, round the year. They provide the essential infrastructure without which the other elements would have smaller impact.

He describes his fourth factor as "the wave of Islamist zeal currently spreading over the entire Middle East." It's a zeal which evidently does not pause to observe Ramadan as this handful of headline reports from the past few days indicates:

Sunday, June 21, 2015

21-Jun-15: Sunday morning Jerusalem stabbing

Israel National News, Sunday at 10:45 am
A border policeman has been left seriously wounded after being stabbed by an Arab terrorist in Jerusalem, close to the Old City's Damascus Gate. Security forces and paramedics are already at the scene. Initial reports suggest the victim is in critical condition, and paramedics are currently attempting to resuscitate him. Reports also suggest the terrorist has been "neutralized," although it is unclear at this point whether he was killed, wounded or arrested.
The Jerusalem Post adds (just before 11 this morning) that the attacker, an 18-year-old from somewhere in the West Bank, was shot at the scene and was in critical condition. The victim, about 20 years old, received emergency treatment at the scene of the stabbing and was rushed from there to Jerusalem's Shaarei Zedek Medical Center.

21-Jun-15: State Department's report on terror: Questions, and questions not asked

Ambassador Kaidanow
[This post, like a number of others before it, has been translated to Polish ("Raport Departamentu Stanu o terrorze") by courtesy of Malgorzata Koraszewska over on the listy z naszego sadu website. Our sincere thanks to her, and great appreciation to readers of this blog in Poland.]

Tina S. Kaidanow is the United States of America's Ambassador-at-Large and Coordinator for Counterterrorism. This past Friday was one of the big days in her year. It's when she presented the State Department's annual Country Reports on Terrorism report for 2014. The latest report itself is online here. (And the reports for years going back to 2004 are here.)

The short version is that the twelve months since she presented the 2013 report have seen a stunningly dramatic increase in terrorism (but you won't see those words in the government report). We can see that by looking at such metrics as overall number of attacks, by people killed and kidnapped, and by number of "major" attacks in which 100 or more people were killed. It's a depressing litany.

How seriously should they be taken? In her remarks at the media briefing in which the report was launched [here], Ambassador Kaidanow seemed to suggest we ought to pause and think before we jump on top of the results:
While I cite these statistics, which are compiled by the University of Maryland and are not a U.S. ... Government product per se, I do want to stress again that in our view they don’t provide the full context. Aggregate totals or numbers of attacks are not really a particularly useful metric for measuring the aims of the extremist groups or of our progress in preventing or countering those activities. 
But the numbers she cites in a report with the State Department's name on the cover are worth absorbing. So is the slightly odd way she seems to walk away from any responsibility for them ("not a US Government product per se... their emphasis is a little different than ours..."):
  • Number of terrorist attacks up by 35% over previous year to 13,463
  • Number of deaths from terrorism up by 81% to 32,727. 
  • Number of people kidnapped or taken hostage in a terror attack "increased three-fold" from 3,137 in 2013 to 9,428 in 2014
  • No fewer than 20 attacks in which 100 or more people were killed. In 2013, there were 2 of them - a ten-fold increase.
If these incredible numbers and the trends they describe do not tell the whole story then, according to the Ambassador's way of seeing things, what is the story? That's not entirely clear from her remarks or the report itself. To us it actually seems that the numbers are sufficiently persuasive and articulate, moving in a clear direction, and describing a mortal threat that just keeps growing and spreading. Is there a fuller contact that would lead intelligent people to a different, less disturbing, view?

Without drilling down on this, one of the media questioners who spoke after the ambassador's presentation asked a couple of questions that seemed to get to the core of the issue. First this:
"Given the sharp rise in attacks, killings, and kidnappings, what does that say about this department and this Administration writ large, its effectiveness in fighting terror in 2014?
And then a few minutes later he moved on to this:
"Was the United States effective last year in fighting terrorism?
Then a few minutes after that, a pointed exchange from another reporter:
"Considering all of these objective metrics, how do you see a record of competence or success for this President in the area of counterterrorism? ...You keep talking about inputs and I’m asking about the outputs, the outcomes. 
AMBASSADOR KAIDANOW: Right, well, again, I’ve answered the question. If that’s not satisfactory, then we can have a conversation offline about other issues, but that’s what I would say.
And she moved on immediately to someone else's comment. But to us, those seem like precisely the kind of questions a report like this should be answering.

Iran comes in for some special attention. That's not at all surprising given the prominent role the Iranian regime takes in the field as a state sponsor of terrorism (on a vast scale), first designated as such by the State Department on January 19, 1984 and still on the list. (The others are Syria - an Iranian client - and Sudan.) Its impact comes via multiple channels,
mostly through its Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps-Qods Force. Iran sponsors terrorist groups Hezbollah in Lebanon, several Iraqi Shia militant groups, Hamas and the Palestine Islamic Jihad... Kaidanow said the department's assessment of Iranian terrorist activity doesn't measure whether the country has increased or decreased its support, and the report also does not take into account any activity in 2015. "We continue to be very, very concerned about [Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps] activity as well as proxies that act on behalf of Iran," Kaidanow said. "[T]hey are continuing their pursuit of these activities … [W]hether it's expanding, not expanding – that's a little harder to judge, but the point is they're still doing it, we're still concerned." ...Reports that the Obama administration and its partners have whitewashed reports of Iranian sanctions violations to prevent derailing [nuclear talks that are supposed to end in two weeks] have also fueled skepticism negotiators can reach a deal without too many concessions, as well as skepticism Iran will comply with any such deal reached. [US News and World Report, June 19, 2015]
At the same time, the State Department report states, with no elaboration, that
Iran remains a state of proliferation concern. Despite multiple UNSCRs requiring Iran to suspend its sensitive nuclear proliferation activities, Iran continued to be in noncompliance with its international obligations regarding its nuclear program. Implementation of the Joint Plan of Action (JPOA) between the P5+1 (China, France, Germany, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States, coordinated by the EU), and Iran began on January 20, 2014. Iran has fulfilled the commitments that it made under the JPOA...
Screen shot from the State Department report [On-line here]
How accurate is that? The Obama administration has made repeated claims that Iran has halted progress on its nuclear program. But many analysts see it differently, including a New York Times report ["Iran’s Nuclear Stockpile Grows, Complicating Negotiations"] on June 1, 2015, just three weeks ago:
With only one month left before a deadline to complete a nuclear deal with Iran, international inspectors have reported that Tehran’s stockpile of nuclear fuel increased about 20 percent over the last 18 months of negotiations, partially undercutting the Obama administration’s contention that the Iranian program had been “frozen” during that period. But Western officials and experts cannot quite figure out why. [NYTimes]
How to understand that? Consider the views of an expert published three months earlier:
It is time for the Obama administration to more accurately describe the impact of the JPOA on Iran’s nuclear program... If Iran is in fact in violation of the JPOA, what steps does the administration plan to take to bring Iran into compliance? By continuing to ignore this apparent violation, the administration will be setting a bad precedent. If violations of the JPOA are ignored, what hope do we have that any violations of any follow-on nuclear agreement will be acknowledged and dealt with? Source: “In Iran, Distrust and Verify | Has the Iranian nuclear program violated the Joint Plan of Action?” [Gregory S. Jones, National Review, March 2, 2015]
Iran itself takes a robust view of such things which it has no hesitation trumpeting: 
Iran rejected Saturday US claims that it was a sponsor of global terror attacks, saying instead it is a victim of terrorism. On Friday, the US State Department said the Islamic Republic "continued to sponsor global terror" attacks last year and supplied arms to the Syrian regime even though it was engaged in talks to rein in its nuclear programme. But Iranian foreign ministry spokeswoman Marzieh Afkham said those accusations were "worthless." "For three decades, Iran has been the great victim of terrorism and considers international cooperation to combat terrorism a priority," she said, without elaborating. [AFP, June 20, 2015]
So whom are we to believe? Are the Iranians terrorists or victims of terror? Is the US comfortable with Iranian "compliance" with the Joint Plan of Action (and so we can all move forward to a June 30 agreement with Teheran)? Or is the US trying to sound better informed than in reality it is?

Ambassador Kaidanow's ailing boss, Secretary of State John Kerry, has very recently gone to energetic lengths to claim the US knows everything it needs to know about Iran. Michael Gordon from the New York Times asked him whether ongoing concerns about "suspected nuclear design work and testing of nuclear components" by the Iranian regime had to be "fully resolved before sanctions are eased or released or removed or suspended" and whether that was "a core principle" or negotiable:
SECRETARY KERRY: Michael, the possible military dimensions, frankly, gets distorted a little bit in some of the discussion, in that we’re not fixated on Iran specifically accounting for what they did at one point in time or another. We know what they did. We have no doubt. We have absolute knowledge with respect to the certain military activities they were engaged in. What we’re concerned about is going forward. It’s critical to us to know that going forward, those activities have been stopped, and that we can account for that in a legitimate way. That clearly is one of the requirements in our judgment for what has to be achieved in order to have a legitimate agreement. And in order to have an agreement to trigger any kind of material significant sanctions relief, we would have to have those answers. [Source: State Department Briefing, June 16, 2015]
If only. 

Here's what the people from the International Atomic Energy Agency, who have been carrying out a frustrating program of site inspections in Iran for years, now say - and it tells a very different story. This is Yukiya Amano, director general of IAEA
[W]hat we don’t know whether they have undeclared activities or something else. We don’t know what they did in the past. So, we know a part of their activities, but we cannot tell we know all their activities. And that is why we cannot say that all the activities in Iran is in peaceful purposes... And our information indicates that Iran engaged in activities relevant to the development of nuclear explosive devices. We do not draw conclusions. But we are requesting Iran to clarify these issues... I think it is very important that Iran engage with us to clarify these issues. [From a PBS interview with Amano on March 23, 2015]
And here, as the deadline for an agreement rapidly approaches, Amano is again, saying that the IAEA:
is not in a position to provide credible assurance about the absence of undeclared nuclear material and activities in Iran, and therefore to conclude that all nuclear material in Iran is in peaceful activities... [Statement to the IAEA Board of Governors, June 8, 2015]
So the man with the on-the-ground inspectors says he doesn't know. But the State Department says it has "absolute knowledge"?

Smarter people than we have pointed out that what the US and the world don't know about Iran's nuclear activity makes for a serious list. For instance:
  • There's persuasive evidence that North Korea helped jump-start Iran’s nuclear-weapons program. How long that partnership been in place, and what is its status today? [Washington Post, March 29, 2015]
  • How far has Iran gotten with testing nuclear detonators [note]
  • When the Iranians paved over their Parchin complex, which IAEA said was a possible location for testing explosive triggers for a nuclear blast, what did they hide? [Fox, August 22, 2013]
Do we have the full context? And if the Administration keeps saying what it's saying about Iran's compliance, including as a part of this terrorism report, does say something meaningful about the rest of the report? It's not as if these issues don't matter. Being wrong on terrorism has huge consequences.