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Dutch Club Team's Israeli Player Not Admitted on Trip to UAE

Dutch Club Team's Israeli Player Not Admitted on Trip to UAE →

Over the weekend, the Dutch soccer club Vitesse abided by the UAE government’s sudden announcement that it would deny defender Dan Mori entrance. A spokesperson said officials had assured them that Mori would be allowed to come, but the day before the team was set to travel to the country for a set of exhibition games, UAE authorities informed them that the Israeli would have to stay behind. Vitesse described the situation as “very irritating” but said the “interests of the team are paramount” and that they would comply in order to “stay away from politics and religion.”

Cowards. After this demand from the UAE, there was no way to “stay away from politics and religion.” Vitesse had a choice to make. They could stand by their teammate, and refuse to travel without him. Or they could stand with the bigots and leave him behind, like so much extra baggage. They chose not to fight. They chose to stand with the bigots. That's a morally indefensible choice.

This entry was tagged. Israel Racism

Arab Spring and the Israeli enemy

Arab Spring and the Israeli enemy →

Abdulateef AL-Mulhim writes in the ArabNews (of Saudi Arabia), about the Arab-Israeli conflict.

The Arab world has many enemies and Israel should have been at the bottom of the list. The real enemies of the Arab world are corruption, lack of good education, lack of good health care, lack of freedom, lack of respect for the human lives and finally, the Arab world had many dictators who used the Arab-Israeli conflict to suppress their own people.

These dictators’ atrocities against their own people are far worse than all the full-scale Arab-Israeli wars.

This certainly matches up with what Michael Totten sees (and reports) every time he visits the Middle East. If the Arabs stopped blaming Israel for everything, they might be able to make a start on making a better life.

This entry was tagged. Israel Mideast

Azerbaijan eyes aiding Israel against Iran

Azerbaijan eyes aiding Israel against Iran →

Israel may have an ally, for a strike against Iran, in Azerbaijan.

Azerbaijan, the oil-rich ex-Soviet republic on Iran's far northern border, has, say local sources with knowledge of its military policy, explored with Israel how Azeri air bases and spy drones might help Israeli jets pull off a long-range attack.

That is a far cry from the massive firepower and diplomatic cover that Netanyahu wants from Washington. But, by addressing key weaknesses in any Israeli war plan - notably on refueling, reconnaissance and rescuing crews - such an alliance might tilt Israeli thinking on the feasibility of acting without U.S. help.

Why would they help?

The country, home to nine million people whose language is close to Turkish and who mostly share the Shi'ite Muslim faith of Iran, has four ex-Soviet air bases that could be suitable for Israeli jets, the Azeri sources said.

Relations have long been strained between the former Soviet state and Iran, which is home to twice as many ethnic Azeris as Azerbaijan itself. Tehran beams an Azeri-language television channel over the border which portrays Aliyev as a puppet of Israel and the West, as well as highlighting corruption in Baku.

Azerbaijan sees Iranian hands behind its Islamist opposition and both countries have arrested alleged spies and agitators.

Faced with an uneven balance of force, Aliyev's government makes no bones about Israel being an ally. As one presidential aide, speaking on condition of anonymity, explained: "We live in a dangerous neighborhood; that is what is the most powerful driving force for our relationship with Israel."

But, of course. Iran is being their normal belligerent, export aggression selves and Azerbaijan wants some backup. If not for Hezbollah, I think Lebanon would be in the exact same boat. Azerbaijan wants to avoid Lebanon's fate, by making sure Iran never gets a foothold inside their borders.

Israel: Coping with Its Gas Bonanza

Israel: Coping with Its Gas Bonanza →

Huh. It'd be wonderful to deal with Israel as an energy exporter. Maybe then we could tell the Saudi's where they can stick their oil?

An article in the Financial Times illustrates an important theme we follow here at Via Meadia: the geopolitical and economic shifts as the new energy realities of the 21st century sink in.

As the FT puts it,

Experts are convinced that Tamar and Leviathan will not be the last big Israeli discoveries. They point to the US Geological Survey, which estimates that the subsea area that runs from Egypt all the way north to Turkey, also known as the Levantine Basin, contains more than 120 trillion cubic feet of natural gas. Israeli waters account for some 40 per cent of the total. Should these estimates be confirmed through discoveries in the years ahead, Israel’s natural gas reserves would count among the 25 largest in the world, on a par with the proven reserves of Libya and ahead of those of India and The Netherlands. For decades a barren energy island, forced to import every drop of fuel, Israel today stands on the cusp of an economic revolution, fuelled by the vast riches that lie below its waters.

This entry was tagged. Israel

Iran: Israel Must Be 'Eliminated'

Iran: Israel Must Be 'Eliminated' →

The Wall Street Journal editorial board on Israel and Iran.

Note that word—"eliminated." When Iranians talk about Israel, this intention of a final solution keeps coming up. In October 2005, Mr. Ahmadinejad, quoting the Ayatollah Khomeini, said Israel "must be wiped off the map." Lest anyone miss the point, the Iranian President said in June 2008 that Israel "has reached the end of its function and will soon disappear off the geographical domain."

This pledge of erasing an entire state goes back to the earliest days of the Iranian revolution. "One of our major points is that Israel must be destroyed," Ayatollah Khomeini said in the 1980s.

Former Iranian President Akbar Rafsanjani—often described as a moderate in Western media accounts—had this to say in 2001: "If one day, the Islamic world is also equipped with weapons like those that Israel possesses now, then the imperialists' strategy will reach a standstill because the use of even one nuclear bomb inside Israel will destroy everything. However, it will only harm the Islamic world. It is not irrational to contemplate such an eventuality."

So for Iran it is "not irrational" to contemplate the deaths of millions of Muslims in exchange for the end of Israel because millions of other Muslims will survive, but the Jewish state will not.

The world's civilized nations typically denounce such statements, as the U.S. State Department denounced Mr. Ahamadinejad's on Monday. But denouncing them is not the same as taking them seriously. Sometimes the greatest challenge for a civilized society is comprehending that not everyone behaves in civilized or rational fashion, that barbarians can still appear at the gate.

The tragic lesson of history is that sometimes barbarians mean what they say. Sometimes regimes do want to eliminate entire nations or races, and they will do so if they have the means and opportunity and face a timorous or disbelieving world.

As much as I like Ron Paul's foreign policy positions, this worries me. A lot. Getting Iran wrong is deadly. If it is "just rhetoric", I feel like it would be appropriate for the rest of the world to send a strong signal that there's no such thing as "just words". Rhetoric matters and deadly rhetoric may need to be responded to with deadly force.

The Road to Fatima Gate

Michael Totten is one of the most intrepid reporters that you've never heard of. He (mostly) travels alone, he stays independent, he talks to the people on the street and he reports exactly what he sees and hears. He's seemingly unafraid of Islamic radicals or anyone else.

The Road to Fatima Gate is his first book.

The Road to Fatima Gate is a first-person narrative account of revolution, terrorism, and war during history's violent return to Lebanon after fifteen years of quiet. Michael J. Totten's version of events in one of the most volatile countries in the world's most volatile region is one part war correspondence, one part memoir, and one part road movie.

He sets up camp in a tent city built in downtown Beirut by anti-Syrian dissidents, is bullied and menaced by Hezbollah's supposedly friendly "media relations" department, crouches under fire on the Lebanese-Israeli border during the six-week war in 2006, witnesses an Israeli ground invasion from behind a line of Merkava tanks, sneaks into Hezbollah's post-war rubblescape without authorization, and is attacked in Beirut by militiamen who enforce obedience to the "resistance" at the point of a gun.

The Near East Report interviewed Michael Totten about his book and about Fatima Gate.

Sol Stern wrote a review for the City Journal.

And Peter Robinson, from the Hoover Institute, did a video interview with Michael Totten about the book.

I think the book is worth a read.

Political and Economic Wrangling Over the Pentateuch

It wouldn't surprise me a bit to learn that Adam already knows about this theory. But it was news to me and fairly fascinating to boot.

I just finished Richard Friedman's Who Wrote the Bible? It's a classic popularization of the Documentary Hypothesis, which claims that the Pentateuch (the first five books of the Bible) is actually a medley of four earlier sources called J (the Yahwist), E (the Elohist), D (the Deuteronomist), and P (the Priestly source). Friedman's survey of two centuries of Biblical detective work is quite fascinating. What truly shocked me, however, was learning that a bunch of liberal theologians converged on a vulgar Public Choice theory of the evolution of their most sacred book.

Friedman begins by explaining that J and E are the earliest sources. The most obvious difference between the two is that J always calls God "Yahweh," while E initially calls him "Elohim." But it's the non-obvious differences that are telling. He presents strong evidence that the author of J came from Judah, the southern Jewish kingdom, while the author of E came from Israel, the northern Jewish kingdom. J elevates Aaron and slights Moses; E does the opposite.

What's going on? Friedman explains that these two countries had conflicting religious establishments. Those in the north - or at least a major faction - were Mushite (claiming descent from Moses); those in the south were Aaronite (claiming descent from Aaron). Through this lens, J and E turn out to be thinly-veiled bids for money and power. Here's one example of how E tries to push Mushite interests:

Recall that the [Mushite] priests of Shiloh suffered the loss of their place in the priestly hierarchy under King Solomon. Their chief... was expelled from Jerusalem. The other chief priest... who was regarded as a descendant of Aaron, meanwhile remained in power... The Shiloh prophet Ahijah instigated the northern tribes' secession, and he designated Jeroboam as the northern king. The Shiloh priests' hopes for the new kingdom, however, were frustrated when Jeroboam established the golden calf religious centers at Dan and Beth-El, and he did not appoint them as priests there. For this old family of priests, what should have been a time of liberation had been turned into a religious betrayal. The symbol of their exclusion in Israel was the golden calves. The symbol of their exclusion in Judah was Aaron. Someone from that family, the author of E, wrote a story that said that soon after the Israelites' liberation from slavery, they committed heresy. What was the heresy? They worshipped a golden calf! Who made the golden calf? Aaron! [emphasis original]

--The Public Choice of the Ancient Hebrews, Bryan Caplan

You may want to click through to EconLog to read the rest of Bryan's summarization. It's all fascinating.

A Sign of Hope in Gaza?

This seems like a good sign:

Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Aboul Gheit harshly censured Hamas today (27 Dec), placing responsibility for the current situation on Hamas. At a noon press conference broadcast on Egyptian television, he said that Egypt had repeatedly cautioned against continuing the situation and that whoever did not listen (Hamas) should assume responsibility and not blame others. He added that Israel had publicly warned that continued rocket fire would lead to military action. Prime Minister Olmert said just two days ago in an Al Arabiya TV interview that if Hamas did not stop the rocket fire, Israel would respond militarily. The Egyptian foreign minister added angrily that right before Foreign Minister Livni's arrival in Egypt on Thursday, 60 rockets were fired, meant to foil Egypt's efforts to achieve quiet.

Catching Up on Gaza

On Sunday, my pastor mentioned the new violence in Gaza. It surprised me, because I hadn't read any news reports all weekend long. I spent today getting caught up on the events. Here's what I found out: Israel attacked Hamas.

Israel launched Saturday morning the start of a massive offensive against Qassam rocket and mortar fire on its southern communities, targeting dozens of buildings belonging to the ruling Hamas militant group.

Palestinian medical sources said that at least 195 people had been killed in the strikes, which began with almost no warning at around 11:30 A.M.

Medical personnel in Gaza said that more than 200 people were also wounded in the series of Israel Air Force strikes. Egypt has opened its long-sealed border with Gaza to allow in the wounded for medical treatment. Hamas said that the attacks had caused widespread panic in the Strip.

The first wave of air strikes was launched by a 60 warplanes which hit a total of 50 targets in one fell swoop. The IAF deployed approximately 100 bombs, with an estimated 95 percent of the ordinance reaching its intended target. Most of the casualties were Hamas operatives.

Why? Well, Israel's getting tired of Hamas using them for rocket target practice:

"This operation will be extended and deepened as we find necessary. Our goal is to strike Hamas and stop the attacks on Israel. Hamas controls Gaza and is responsible for everything happening there and for all attacks carried out from within the Strip. The goals of this operation are to stop Hamas from attacking our citizens and soldiers. I would like to remind the world that Israel withdrew from the entire Gaza Strip more than three years ago. We gave a chance for a new reality, and all we’ve seen is Hamas firing rockets and missiles on our citizens and carrying out attacks against Israel. We have nothing against the citizens of Gaza, but we must fight against the Hamas leadership. We are making great efforts to prevent civilian casualties... We are not preventing humanitarian aid from entering the Gaza Strip."

But what does it all mean?

Noah Pollak talks about What's at Stake in Gaza

The war that Israel joined today is superficially concerned with stopping Hamas' rocket fire, but substantially it is much more important than that. It is Israel's biggest military engagement since the 2006 Hezbollah war, and therefore it will be a retroactive judgment on that engagement.

The 2006 war re-defined the concept of Arab victory against Israel. Hezbollah is perceived as having won not because it displayed military superiority over Israel, killed more IDF soldiers than the IDF killed Hezbollah, or drove the IDF out of Lebanon through force of arms. The perception is due to a more modest metric: Hezbollah’s ability to thwart Israel from accomplishing the objectives the government announced at the beginning of the war, and Hezbollah’s ability to maintain a consistent level of rocket fire throughout the war.

Israel's job is not necessarily to topple Hamas rule — that would be a tall order, being that there is no competent Fatah force to replace Hamas in Gaza -- but to humiliate the swaggering resistance, to kill as many of its leaders and militants as possible, and to demonstrate to Hamas' allies that the IDF and Israeli government learned the right lessons from the 2006 war. This will require more strikes like those of this morning, and it will require the IDF to stop Hamas' rocket fire -- either through military dominance, or by forcing Hamas to conclude that it must cease its attacks lest its rule be terminated. The former is much more likely than the latter.

Charles Chuman answers Why Gaza? Why Now? over at MichaelTotten.com.

Israel's response is destructive and asymmetric. That is the point. Israel is proving to Hamas that it is willing and able to mount a war, regardless of Arab and international opinion, if that is what Hamas desires. Hamas and Hezbollah taught Israelis that unilateral withdrawal from territory only prolongs the violence. If Israel's enemies are willing to use violence, Israel has no qualms about using violence. If, like Syria, Israel's enemies remain non-belligerent, those enemies can exist in perpetuity. In fact, Israel might even help its enemies achieve their goals, as it has done with the Syrian regime.

A critical re-think of the situation is imperative to end this cycle of violence. The state of Israel is predicated on survival, and it has powerful allies to assist it. The Palestinians need and deserve a state, but rejection of the state of Israel is not how that state and a future peace will occur.

International demonstrations on behalf of Palestinians or Israelis supporting human rights and rejecting violence are commendable as manifestations of humanitarian concern and expressions of free speech. However, ideologies and facts on the ground must change before a solution is found.

Michael B. Oren sees both A Crisis And An Opportunity

CNN International's coverage of yesterday's fighting in Gaza concluded at midnight with a rush of images: mangled civilians writhing in the rubble, primitive hospitals overflowing with the wounded, fireballs mushrooming between apartment complexes, the funeral of a Palestinian child. Missing from the montage, however, was even a fleeting glimpse of the tens of thousands of Israelis who spent last night and much of last week in bomb shelters; of the house in Netivot, where a man was killed by a Grad missile; or indeed any of the hundreds of rockets, mortar shells, and other projectiles fired by Hamas since the breakdown of the so-called ceasefire. This was CNN at its unprincipled worst, grossly skewering its coverage of a complex event and deceiving its viewers. Yet Israel should not have been surprised.

... Nevertheless, the current round of fighting provides Israel with an opportunity to end its painful chronicle of indecision on Gaza and to embark on a lucid and realizable policy. Can Israel co-exist with a Hamas-dominated Gaza? What are the alternatives (the reintroduction of Egyptian forces, for example) to a renewed Israeli occupation of the area? To what degree will the international community accept a zero-tolerance approach to rocket attacks against Israel, and, more crucially, will the incoming Obama administration publicly endorse that stance? These and other questions might be answered in the coming days if Israel, withstanding the media backlash, dares to ask them.

I've also been checking Israellycool for updates on the situation.

Israel's Attack on Syria

About a month ago, the Israeli Defense Force bombed a target inside Syria. This is a bit of a problem for Syria.

If you believe the Syrian foreign minister, then the Israelis flew through the heart of his nation's air defenses--apparently undetected--to strike at targets near the country's eastern border. And it wouldn't be the first time that the IAF has accomplished such a feat; in 2003, Israeli jets struck a Palestinian terrorist complex near Damascus, taking advantage of confusion within the Syrian air defense system to bomb the target and escape, with no reaction from fighters or ground-based air defenses. The success of this particular raid suggests that despite a reported shake-up of the Syria's air defense organization, the system remains incapable of defeating an Israeli attack.

And, making matters worse, the IDF raid apparently included a ground attack, featuring commandos that were (presumably) ferried in by helicopter. While IAF CH-53 Sea Stallions have the range (540 NM) to reach distant targets, getting the chopper(s) and the commandos in and out of enemy territory was indeed an impressive feat. Apparently, the Syrians fared no better against the heliborne element of the mission than they did against the IAF jets. However, given the location of the target area--and initial Syrian comments about Israeli aircraft "coming out of Turkey," it's quite possible that the helicopters (and commando elements) staged from a "foreign" base.

The initial speculation was that the Israeli's were targeting a nuclear facility in Syria. More worisome was the idea that the facility was courtesy of the North Koreans.

But the real stunner in the Times report comes in the sixth paragraph, with this revelation from an unnamed member of the Bush Administration:

One Bush administration official said Israel had recently carried out reconnaissance flights over Syria, taking pictures of possible nuclear installations that Israeli officials believed might have been supplied with material from North Korea. The administration official said Israeli officials believed that North Korea might be unloading some of its nuclear material on Syria.

"The Israelis think North Korea is selling to Iran and Syria what little they have left," the official said. He said it was unclear whether the Israeli strike had produced any evidence that might validate that belief.

The possible transfer of "nuclear material" from North Korea to other rogue states is something we've written about at length, including this most recent installment. Fact is, we don't know the full extent of the "relationship" between Pyongyang, Tehran and Damascus. Clearly, North Korea has been the primary source of ballistic missile technology for both Iran and Syria; both countries have active WMD programs and an interest in acquiring nuclear weapons. But clear evidence of a nuclear transfer has never been offered, at least publicly.

The Israeli attacks looks like a major success for Israel and a major embarrassment for Syria.

Obviously, the Israeli strategy worked; the operation caught Damascus by surprise (there was apparently little reaction from Syria's air defense system); the Israelis inflicted serious damage on the target, and both the F-15I crews and the commandos escaped unscathed. Syria has threatened retaliation, but its options are limited. The odds of Syrian aircraft penetrating Israeli airspace are slim, and a missile strike would invite a devastating response, as would an attack across the Golan Heights.

Still, the Times article leaves a number of questions unanswered. We'll begin with the issue of Israel successfully penetrating Syria's air defense system. While it's happened before, the Syrian air defense network was supposedly re-organized after an embarrassing 2003 Israeli strike against a Palestinian terrorist camp near Damascus. During that raid, the Israelis reportedly exploited confusion over geographic responsibilities within the Syrian defense system. The most recent mission--which involved a much deeper penetration into Syrian territory--suggests that (a) Bashir Assad's air defense network hasn't improved, or (b) the Israelis are using more advanced measures to target the system, and render it impotent.

Then, there's the matter of that commando team. If the Times is correct, those personnel arrived in the target area a day ahead of the fighters, inserted (we'll assume) by Israeli Sea Stallion helicopters. As we've noted before, the successful infiltration of a commando team by helicopter, deep into Syrian territory, is an impressive operational feat, indeed. But getting the commandos (and their choppers) all the way across Syria (and back again), undetected, represents a monumental challenge, even for a state-of-the-art military like the IDF.

The success of the raid has given Iran serious concerns as well.

According to Strategy Page, Iran is a bit upset over the alleged "failure" of Russian air defense systems during the raid. Both Tehran and Damascus have spent billions on radar and missile systems built in Russia, with the assurance that such equipment could defend against an Israeli attack. Complaints that have made their way onto Farsi-language message boards (presumably from Iranian military officers) suggest that the IAF was able to blind Syria's defensive systems, rendering them useless. The Israeli strike package flew across hundreds of miles of Syrian airspace, strike the target and return, unmolested by air defense systems.

Iran's concerns are three-fold. First, there is logical speculation that the recent raid on Syria was a dress rehearsal for an attack on Iran's nuclear sites, although that raid would be larger and much more complex. Secondly, Tehran is footing the bill for Syria's most recent upgrade, the acquisition of the Pantsir-S1 air defense system. Iran is also slated to acquire the system, although initial deliveries were made to Damascus.

Equipped with two 30mm cannon and twelve Tunguska missiles, the Pantsir-S1 was supposed to provide point-defense for high-value targets--like that Syrian nuclear facility. The system's on-board radar can detect medium-altitude targets up to 30 miles away; the Pantsir's cannons are effective against targets up to 10,000 feet, and the missiles have a maximum range of roughly nine miles. In terms of close-in air defense, the Pantsir is supposed to be state-of-the-art, but it (apparently) proved ineffective against the Israeli raid.

Tehran's third concern? The Iranian air defense network is far more chaotic than its Syrian counterpart. In recent years, there have been credible reports about Iranian fighters sent out in pursuit of mystery lights and "UFOs," and near-fratricide incidents involving civilian airliners. If the Israelis were successful in blinding Syria's more centralized system (which covers a relatively small area), then they should have little problem in creating mass confusion within the Iranian network. Assuming that Israel eventually attacks, Iranian air defense crews could find themselves operating in a de-centralized mode, chasing targets that don't exist, and illuminating their radars with the knowledge that an anti-radar missile may be on the way.

Finally, the U.S. recently confirmed to ABC News that Israel did indeed bomb a nuclear facility in Syria.

The September Israeli airstrike on a suspected nuclear site in Syria had been in the works for months, ABC News has learned, and was delayed only at the strong urging of the United States.

In early July the Israelis presented the United States with satellite imagery that they said showed a nuclear facility in Syria. They had additional evidence that they said showed that some of the technology was supplied by North Korea.

One U.S. official told ABC's Martha Raddatz the material was "jaw dropping" because it raised questions as to why U.S. intelligence had not previously picked up on the facility.

Officials said that the facility had likely been there for months if not years.

"Israel tends to be very thorough about its intelligence coverage, particularly when it takes a major military step, so they would not have acted without data from several sources," said ABC military consultant Tony Cordesman.

Some in the administration supported the Israeli action, but others, notably Sect. of State Condoleeza Rice did not. One senior official said the U.S. convinced the Israelis to "confront Syria before attacking."

Officials said they were concerned about the impact an attack on Syria would have on the region. And given the profound consequences of the flawed intelligence in Iraq, the U.S. wanted to be absolutely certain the intelligence was accurate.

Initially, administration officials convinced the Israelis to call off the July strike. But in September the Israelis feared that news of the site was about to leak and went ahead with the strike despite U.S. concerns.

Jules Crittenden wonders what kind of stability the State Department was trying to protect.

There's the stability enforced by dictatorial regimes in places as Syria, Iran and Saudi Arabia. There's the stability places like Lebanon and Iraq are barely managing to maintain ... no thanks to Syria, Iran, al-Qaeda, Hezbollah, the Palestinians, etc., but thanks in large part to the Lebanese Army, the Israeli Defense Forces and the United States military. There's the stability of Gaza, accomplished in part when one group of Palestinian terrorists decided to throw the other group of Palestinian terrorists off rooftops, but really thanks to the Israeli Defense Forces, which make it impossible for either group to be much more than a nuisance. There's the stability of the West Bank, where they've had enough.

Anyway, so Israel gets the nod, blows up the Syrian nukes, and what happens? Nothing. Syria is hardly likely to want another humiliating ass-kicking. That leaves terrorism. ... That'd be different.

Just kidding. Except that ever since Israel introduced some stability to Lebanon, Hezbollah hasn't been quite on its game. The Lebs, meanwhile, appear to have watched and learned from the Israelis. Blowing the crap out of terrorists and those who harbor them works. It can actually introduce stability to places where stability had been wanting. So the Lebs have been taking care of business in the camps.

Just for the record, I fully support Israel's actions in humiliating Syria, scaring Iran, and reducing the threat the terrorist nutters in Hezbollah will get the bomb. Thank-you for doing what we won't and thank-you for seeing what we couldn't.