This is a blog dedicated to a personal interpretation of political news of the day. I attempt to be as knowledgeable as possible before commenting and committing my thoughts to a day's communication.

Sunday, March 31, 2013

Accommodation and Normalization

When Israel won its third defensive war against its attacking neighbours in 1967, Jews were jubilant that they were able, at long last, to access the Temple Mount and the Western Wall, all that was left of the Second Temple of Solomon, the most important of Jewish religious heritage sites. Jordan, which had previously administered the Old City of Jerusalem, refusing access to Jews, was forced to relinquish its exclusive and exclusionary hold.

Israeli paratroopers at the Western Wall
But the State of Israel, in a gesture of generosity to Muslims, allowed Jordan to co-administer the sacred Temple Mount through the Palestinian Waqf which oversees the Dome of the Rock, a later Muslim structure built over the ruins of the Temple of Solomon, an elevated area which Muslims call the Noble Sanctuary. Muslims deny the historical heritage existence of the Temple of Solomon, and claim the area to be theirs alone.

Temple mount.JPG
East Jerusalem; Temple Mount and Dome of the Rock

It has become a common occurrence that Muslim worshippers at what they call the Noble Sanctuary will throw stones at Jews attempting to mount the Temple Mount to pray at their holy site. As a result, for the most part Israeli police try to convince Jews to desist from approaching the area. During Passover, a group of 30 Palestinian youth a few days ago, attacked, stoning Jewish worshippers approaching the Temple Mount to pray.

It is hardly surprising that Palestinian youth engage in such violent, exclusionary behaviour. They have been taught through school curricula and heard sermons in their mosques that deny the legitimacy through heritage and cultural belonging to Jews. They have been taught that the land upon which Israel sits rightfully belongs to the Palestinians, and only when Israel is destroyed will the land return to its rightful owners.

"I honestly believe that if any Israeli parent sat down with those [Palestinian] kids, they'd say I want these kids to succeed", ingenuously stated U.S. President Barack Obama on March 21 in Jerusalem, during a speech directed at a Jewish audience, aimed at eliciting sympathy for the plight of the stateless Palestinians. The fact of the matter is, Palestinians don't appear to care whether their kids succeed.

That evidence lies in the fact that their kids are taught to hate, not to be tolerant, co-operative, and interested in sharing the land, only in co-opting it. Summer camps operated by Hamas in Gaza teach Palestinian kids their version of Jewish-Arab history, and they teach those vulnerable kids how to use weapons, teaching them as well against whom they should be used when the opportunity arises. Therewith lie their future militia members.

Israeli Jews care about the future of their kids. They have from the very first striven to find useful accommodation with the Palestinians, to settle once and for all the disagreements between the two people, to have each accept their own boundaries demarcating the land each is to occupy as neighbours, sovereign and useful to one another in advancing their futures in the Middle East.

At each and every opportunity to bargain for peace, from Yasser Arafat's 2000 Camp David decision to refuse for fear of what would await him personally at the retributive hands of his own PLO militia the PLFP, and from his successor Mahmoud Abbas in 2008 -- offered a Palestinian state on all the terms that the PA insisted upon finally met by Ehud Olmert -- the Palestinians refused.

Israel is beset by violence wherever it looks -- north, south, east, west. The Arab Spring has catapulted Islamism toward the ascending opportunity it has long agitated toward. From Tunisia to Libya, Egypt to Syria, Qatar to Turkey, radical Islam has succeeded in reaching its goal of conquest, routing the previous secular tyrannies to lift up their own dictatorial theocracies upon the people.

Mahmoud Abbas has just visited Amman, Jordan, where he sat with King Abdullah and each swore allegiance to upholding the safety of the Noble Sanctuary and the Dome of the Rock against the plans of Israel to "judaize" that area, the third most holy in the Islamic pantheon of holy sites, and the first most sacred to Judaism.

The Palestinian Authority, as one of its pre-conditions for peace between itself and the State of Israel, insists on having East Jerusalem included within its preferred borders as a sovereign state, claiming it must have Jerusalem as its capital. Its plan clear enough; to exclude Jews entirely once again from approaching Jewry's most sacred religious site.

But then, that goes hand-in-hand with the insistence on the 'right of return' whereby millions of descendants of the original 750,000 Palestinians who fled the area in 1948 upon the declaration of the State of Israel.  With the United Nation's passing of Partition of Palestine, the plan that the Palestinians and the Jews would each share the area, and the Palestinians rejected the plan.

Such a return would nullify Israel as a Jewish state. This is simply Islamic conquest and the destruction of the State of Israel in yet another guise.

So much for sharing geography between equally endowed and entitled peoples whose heritage lies deep within the ancient territory.

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A Game of Musical Arms

Washington has decided to redeploy its naval arsenals, to withdraw them from the Middle East where it has been standing on guard for decades, toward Asia, where its allies in and around the South China Sea have become increasingly restless with concern over China's latest belligerence relating to its boundaries outreach. Those waters surely sit over valuable natural resources just waiting to be tapped, and why should Japan, the Philippines, South Korea or any other pretenders to ownership be availed of them, and not far more powerful China?

The vacuum that the American naval fleet has left, has suited the Kremlin just fine. While the United States has refused to become involved in the Syrian conflict -- with evidence clear enough that arms being supplied to the diversely tribal and unreliable rebel militias have been making their way to the Islamists that have joined them from Mali, Somalia, Iraq, Iran, and Libya -- a reminder of training and arming the Taliban, Russia has sent its navy squadrons to the Port of Tartus.

The United States faces off against North Korean threats to American interests, while China sits smugly back, happy enough to see the U.S. administration squirm its way yet again out of a potential confrontation with the China-backed Kim Jong Un and his restless military machine, one-million-strong and prepared to meet the enemy head on.

Russia has made common cause with Syria, with Iran and with Hezbollah and of course Qatar is in there as well, funding the Islamist cause.  This has been Russia's choice, spurning the Arab League's position, and that of Turkey, itself conflicted with its warm relations with Iran. To complicate matters just a little further Egypt, beset with its own internal strife and on the cusp of economic collapse, has edged closer to Iran.

President Vladimir Putin is now not only playing the Russian strongman for show and tell for his admiring public in Russia, but he is presenting himself as the strongman on the world scene prepared to invest hugely in acquiring arms in preparation for a massive military modernization program. The Kremlin has set aside $645-billion to be spent through to 2020 in the procurement of aircraft, helicopters and navy ships.

Shuffling the deck world-wide.

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Just More Of The Same?

"The first strike of the revolutionary armed forces of the DPRK will blow up the U.S. bases for aggression in its mainland and in the Pacific operational theatres including Hawaii and Guam."
Statement: Korean Central News Agency
A statement that is clearly measured in its conciliatory tone, geared to foster understanding between nations, and respect for the patient restraint exhibited by the Democtric People's Republic of Korea. Dignity must be recognized and indulged. Honour is at stake. One does not take lightly the offhand treatment of a serious contender to world-power status.

The Democratic People's Republic of Korea is unhappy. Pyongyang will not tolerate its dignity being imposed upon. North Korea is a peaceful country and strives toward peace. It is dissatisfied with the state of the relationship it shares with South Korea. A state of non-war through a temporary, 60-year-old armistice maintained within a Demilitarized War Zone is no way to befriend a former enemy.

The uncertainty that North Korea feels about its relationship with its national cousin is a cause of great anguish. South Korea's relationship with the United States, a country that North Korea is demonstrably convinced bears it ill will and is determined to follow through on a plan to destroy the North, is intolerable. Since South Korea has chosen the U.S. over North Korea with whom to forge a compact, the South is rejected.

No one but China feels the pain of North Korea. Difficult as it is to believe, this is the line of reasoning that some have forwarded as a reasonable explanation of the bellicose threats that have rumbled forth on cue, resulted from the UN's latest round of sanctions and the latest annual rendition of the combined U.S.-South Korea war games. These issues have prodded the North into its latest incendiary declarations of intent.

The well-advertised presence and employment of two nuclear-capable U.S. B-2 bombers dropping harmless munitions as part of joint drills simply lit the firecracker of raging irritation. The drills are rehearsals, and North Korea is obviously slated for invasion; nothing routine about them, they are offensive in nature and not defensive as claimed.

The irascible tinder-dry temperament of Pyongyang has had its chain yanked once too often. On the other hand, this is a country on the brink of financial collapse, just as it is on the brink of technological success in engineering advanced nuclear-tipped missiles. The danger of the verbal clashes escalating to physical attacks are clear and present.

Of course there is also the little matter, a not inconsiderable one, of the Kaesong Industrial Park, funded and operated by South Korea to the great financial and employment benefit of North Korea.
Over $92-million in wages for 53,400 North Koreans employed at the complex is funnelled through Kaesong. The free movement of South Koreans across the demilitarized zone into the complex continues unabated as yet.

All the furiously-engaged Dear Leader really is asking for is that the United States recognize the imperial importance of Kim Jong Un, his rule and the magnificence of his country's scientific-technological accomplishments, and their right to possess nuclear arms. For it is those nuclear arms that in fact guarantee the North's security. They stand as assurance the South will not invade, the U.S. will not attack.

North Korea, after all, looks for nothing more, nothing less than its rightful due. Is anyone listening?

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Spreading The Golden Sunshine

"This is a government that wants people in Ontario to believe that they have effectively dealt with salaries in the broader public sector. They haven't and this is the proof that they haven't, and this is the reason why we say we need a legislated mandatory wage freeze."
Peter Shurman MPP, Progressive Conservative finance critic

Ontario has seen the loss of a massive number of manufacturing jobs since 2008. The province has a 7.7% unemployment rate. Statistics Canada lists almost four million men and women over the age of 15, that are not in the labour force from a total of eleven million eligible workers. People who have lost employment through the disappearance of their manufacturing jobs have found difficulty finding new employment.

Those who go through Ontario-government-sponsored re-training programs are about 50-thousand in number out of an estimated 300,000 unemployed former factory workers, and there are no available provincial statistics to indicate how many of those re-trained workers have been successful in finding jobs. Once their search has proven unfruitful many move on to employment insurance, and after that public welfare.

Despairing at not being able to find employment commensurate with skills and expectations, many people simply drop out.

The current Liberal government party in Ontario has undergone a change in leadership but in effect, it is the same tired old gang of MPPs who are pulling the levers and making government policy. None of which appears to have successfully made much of a different in the prevailing unemployment rates. But there's good news: government itself, using tax-funded monies employs over a million people.

There are those employed in law, medicine, academics, in routine public social service, as well as business enterprises, and they do very well, thank you, for themselves. Wages and vital union-bargained extras like vacation and sick days, retirement funds and other items that make up the richness of a public service job make for a secure working environment and surely much job satisfaction.

Particularly if those public service sector workers are among the 88,412 identified through Ontario's "sunshine list" of yearly revelations regarding salaries that reach $100,000 and just go on reaching. Ontario Power Generation pays its chief executive officer $1.7 million and Hydro One CEO $1.04 million. Doctors, nurses, teachers, police, firefighters and other public servants are all included in the $100,000-or-over category of earnings.

The numbers have grown since 2008 by 38%, courtesy of the Ontario Liberal government's eye on prudence and dispensing the taxpayer's dollar. Ontario, lest we forget, is burdened with a $12-billion deficit. The number of high earners on the public purse climbed by 11% over last year. Employees at CTV, public libraries, the provincial transportation agency, the air ambulance service, all did exceptionally well.

"It is still our policy that we need to look at that (generous compensation packages), and we will take action", Ontario's brand new Premier Kathleen Wynne, of the same old Liberal government said when it was pointed out to her that some public CEOs are receiving raises larger than the average single-parent family earner will take home in a year of toil.

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Gatestone Institute

Jihadis' Exploitation of Muslim Girls

What is disturbing is that many Arab and Islamic human rights organizations have remained silent about the crimes committed against Muslim women throughout the Arab and Muslim world. By contrast, these organizations are often quick to denounce Westerners for "insulting" Islam by depicting the Prophet Mohammed. If anyone is really insulting Islam, it is the Muslim fundamentalists and jihadis who show no respect for Muslim girls and treat them as sex slaves.
What are the Muslim jihadis in Syria doing when they are not fighting against Bashar Assad's army?

According to reports in a number of Arab media outlets, the jihadis are importing Muslim girls to satisfy their sexual needs.

The sexual exploitation of girls was revealed after several Tunisian families reported that their teenage daughters had gone missing in recent months.

It later transpired that the girls had been dispatched to serve to Syria on "jihad marriages." In other words, the girls had been sent to Syria to satisfy the sexual needs of the anti-Assad jihadis.

The jihadis, some of whom are affiliated with Al-Qaeda, are probably not getting enough weapons from Arabs and Westerners to fight against Assad's forces. But what is evident is that they are in the meantime getting enough supplies of young girls to satisfy their sexual needs.

The phenomenon apparently began after a Saudi religious scholar, Mohamed al-Arifi, reportedly issued a fatwa [religious decree] allowing Muslim girls to go on "jihad marriages" in Syria. Al-Arifi has since denied issuing the fatwa.

The fatwa purportedly allows the jihadis, who abandoned their wives to fight against Assad's regime, to marry girls for a few hours to satisfy their sexual needs.

But even if there never were such a fatwa, as the Saudi scholar says, what is evident is that Tunisian girls are being sexually exploited by the jihadis in Syria.

Tunisian Minister for Religious Affairs, Noor Eddin al-Khadimi, said that Tunisians should not abide by the fatwa.

Salma al-Raqiq, a Tunisian opposition figure, said that the "jihad marriages" were a disgrace for the Tunisians.

She also called on the authorities to start dealing with the increasing phenomenon of Tunisian jihadis heading to Syria to join radical Islamist groups.

Al-Raqiq told United Press International that the phenomenon was a dangerous one. She said that young girls, including minors, have been sent to Syria to "marry" jihadis for a few hours.
The reports about "jihad marriages" follow charges that Muslim men have been exploiting the plight of Syrian refugees by "marrying" their young daughters.

Reports in the Jordanian media revealed that Muslim men from various countries have been converging on Jordan to pick young Syrian girls residing in a temporary refugee camp near the border with Syria. Nearly one million Syrians have fled to Jordan since the beginning of the crisis in their country two years ago.

A report on Channel 4 revealed this week that Syrian girls in Jordan were being kidnapped, sexually harassed and raped.

What is disturbing is that many Arab and Islamic human rights organizations have remained silent about the crimes committed against Muslim women throughout the Arab and Muslim world. By contrast, these organizations are often quick to denounce Westerners for "insulting" Islam by publishing photos depicting the Prophet Mohamed.

If anyone is really insulting Islam, it those the Muslim fundamentalists and jihadis who show no respect for Muslim girls and treat them as sex slaves.
Related Topics: Syria | Khaled Abu Toameh

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North Korea vows to double down on nuclear arsenal one day after declaring it’s in a ‘state of war’

Foster Klug, Associated Press | 13/03/31 | Last Updated: 13/03/31 10:42 AM ET
In a photo released by the Korean Central News Agency, North Korean leader Kim Jong-un waves at military officers after inspecting the Wolnae Islet Defence Detachment, North Korea, near the western sea border with South Korea.
AP Photo/KCNA via KNS, File     In a photo released by the Korean Central News Agency, North Korean leader Kim Jong-un waves at military officers after inspecting the Wolnae Islet Defence Detachment, North Korea, near the western sea border with South Korea. 
SEOUL, South Korea — A top North Korean decision-making body issued a pointed warning Sunday, saying that nuclear weapons are “the nation’s life” and will not be traded even for “billions of dollars.”

The comments came in a statement released after North Korean leader Kim Jong-un presided over the plenary meeting of the central committee of the ruling Workers’ Party. The meeting, which set a “new strategic line” calling for building both a stronger economy and nuclear arsenal, comes amid a series of near-daily threats from Pyongyang in recent weeks, including a vow to launch nuclear strikes on the United States and a warning Saturday that the Korean Peninsula was in a “state of war.”

Pyongyang is angry over annual U.S.-South Korean military drills and a new round of U.N. sanctions that followed its Feb. 12 nuclear test, the country’s third. Analysts see a full-scale North Korean attack as unlikely and say the threats are more likely efforts to provoke softer policies toward Pyongyang from a new government in Seoul, to win diplomatic talks with Washington that could get the North more aid, and to solidify the young North Korean leader’s image and military credentials at home.

North Korea made reference to those outside views in the statement it released through the official Korean Central News Agency following the plenary meeting.

North Korea’s nuclear weapons are a “treasure” not to be traded for “billions of dollars,” the statement said. They “are neither a political bargaining chip nor a thing for economic dealings to be presented to the place of dialogue or be put on the table of negotiations aimed at forcing [Pyongyang] to disarm itself,” it said.

North Korea’s “nuclear armed forces represent the nation’s life, which can never be abandoned as long as the imperialists and nuclear threats exist on earth,” the statement said.

North Korea has called the U.S. nuclear arsenal a threat to its existence since the 1950-53 Korean War, which ended in a truce, not a peace treaty, leaving the peninsula still technically at war. Pyongyang justifies its own nuclear pursuit in large part on that perceived U.S. threat.

While analysts call North Korea’s threats largely brinkmanship, there is some fear that a localized skirmish might escalate. Seoul has vowed to respond harshly should North Korea provoke its military. Naval skirmishes in disputed Yellow Sea waters off the Korean coast have led to bloody battles several times over the years. Attacks blamed on Pyongyang in 2010 killed 50 South Koreans.

AP Photo/Ahn Young-joon
AP Photo/Ahn Young-joon     South Korean Army soldiers patrol along a barbed-wire fence near the border village of Panmunjom in Paju, South Korea, Sunday.
The plenary statement also called for strengthening the moribund economy, which Kim has put an emphasis on in his public statements since taking power after the death of his father, Kim Jong Il, in late 2011. The United Nations says two-thirds of the country’s 24 million people face regular food shortages.

The statement called for diversified foreign trade and investment, and a focus on agriculture, light industry and a “self-reliant nuclear power industry,” including a light water reactor. There was also a call for “the development of space science and technology,” including more satellite launches. North Korea put a satellite into orbit on a long-range rocket in December. The United Nations called the launch a cover for a banned test of ballistic missile technology and increased sanctions on the North.

Ahn Young-joon/The Associated Press
Ahn Young-joon/The Associated Press     South Koreans at Seoul Railway Station watch a news report showing North Korean army tanks, Saturday, March 30, 2013.
The central committee is a top decision-making body of the North’s ruling Workers’ Party. The committee is tasked with organizing and guiding the party’s major projects, and its plenary meeting is usually convened once a year, according to Seoul’s Unification Ministry. South Korean media said the last plenary session was held in 2010 and that this was the first time Kim Jong Un had presided over the meeting.

The White House says the United States is taking North Korea’s threats seriously, but has also noted Pyongyang’s history of “bellicose rhetoric.”

On Thursday, U.S. military officials revealed that two B-2 stealth bombers dropped dummy munitions on an uninhabited South Korean island as part of annual defense drills that Pyongyang sees as rehearsals for invasion. Hours later, Kim ordered his generals to put rockets on standby and threatened to strike American targets if provoked.

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Jordan’s king, Palestinian leader ink deal to ‘defend’ Jerusalem

Jordan’s King Abdullah II (R) and Palestinian President Mahmud Abbas (R) signed an agreement confirming their “common goal to defending” Jerusalem. (AFP) 
AFP, Amman - Jordan’s King Abdullah II and Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas signed on Sunday an agreement confirming their “common goal to defending” Jerusalem and its sacred sites against attempts to Judaise the Holy City.

A statement by the palace said the deal confirms Jordan’s historic role as custodian of Muslim holy sites in Jerusalem, particularly the flashpoint Al-Aqsa mosque compound, and outlines coordination between the two sides.

“In this historic agreement, Abbas reiterated that the king is the custodian of holy sites in Jerusalem and that he has the right to exert all legal efforts to preserve them, especially Al-Aqsa mosque,” the statement said.

“It is also emphasizing the historical principles agreed by Jordan and Palestine to exert joint efforts to protect the city and holy sites from Israeli judaization attempts.”

“It also reaffirms the historic principles upon which Jordan and Palestine are in agreement as regards Jerusalem and their common goal of defending Jerusalem together, especially at such critical time, when the city is facing dramatic challenges and daily illegal changes to its authenticity and original identity.”

Al-Aqsa compound, known to Muslims as Al-Haram Al-Sharif, is Islam’s third holiest site after Mecca and Medina in Saudi Arabia, and houses the Dome of the Rock and Al-Aqsa mosques.

But it is also Judaism’s most sacred place of worship, venerated by Jews as Temple Mount, the site where King Herod’s temple stood before it was destroyed by the Romans in 70 AD.

It is one of the most sensitive sites in Jerusalem, and clashes frequently break out between Palestinians and Israeli security forces.

“Jerusalem is currently facing major challenges and attempts to change its Arab, Muslim and Christian identity,” the palace said.

Israel captured the eastern half of the city during the 1967 Six Day War and later annexed it in a move never recognized internationally, but the Palestinians want east Jerusalem as capital of their future state.

Jordan, which has a 1994 peace treaty with Israeli, administers the Muslim holy sites in Jerusalem through its ministry of Awqaf and religious affairs.

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Cologne Archeological Dig Revives Ancient Jewish Heritage

An archaeological dig in western Germany has unearthed myriad traces of daily life in one of Europe's oldest and largest Jewish communities.

By Arutz Sheva staff
First Publish: 3/31/2013, 6:45 PM

ultra-Orthodox men
ultra-Orthodox men
After long being sidelined for Roman excavations, an archaeological dig in western Germany has unearthed myriad traces of daily life in one of Europe's oldest and largest Jewish communities.
From ceramic dishes and tools to toys, animal bones and jewelry, some 250,000 artifacts have so far shed light on various periods in 2,000 years of the city of Cologne's history, the AFP news agency reported.

But plans to display the findings, discovered since 2007 by head archaeologist Sven Schuette's team at the 32,800 square-foot (10,000 square-meter) city centre dig, in a new museum have proved divisive.

Just over 260 miles (400 kilometers) away, Berlin already hosts a large Jewish museum, and critics argue that Cologne cannot afford a new cultural project when its financiers are already in the red.
"For a very long time, archaeologists quite simply ignored the Jewish past of Cologne," Schuette told AFP.

"Anything that wasn't of Roman origin wasn't excavated, since the Middle Ages were of little matter and Jews weren't supposed to have played any role," he lamented.

From the 10th to 12th centuries, Cologne, today Germany's fourth-largest city, was one of Europe's biggest cities, even ahead of Paris and London, with about 50,000 inhabitants.
Its prosperous Jewish community numbered nearly 1,000 at its height.

On Hebrew-inscribed fragments of slate, aspects of daily life from the Middle Ages have intriguingly come to light via school children's teachings, rules and regulations, a bawdy knight's tale and even a bakery's customer list, AFP reported.

The history of the city's Jewish quarter spans 1,000 years, from Late Antiquity to the Middle Ages, and far from being closed-off, it was open and adjoined the Roman governor's imposing palace and later the city hall.

"Excavations show that the Jews in Cologne for a very long time were on good terms with the Christians, that their cohabitation saw long phases of peace and harmony," Schuette said.
He pointed to the synagogue's gothic-style and richly decorated altar having been constructed by craftsmen, possibly French, who had been working on the nearby cathedral building site.

But two events finally sounded the death knell for the Jewish quarter – a crusader massacre in 1096, followed by its eventual annihilation in 1349 when the Christians made the Jews the scapegoat for a black plague epidemic.

Archaeologists hope to see their treasures on display in the new museum by 2017.
"It won't be a so-called ghetto museum limited to presenting religious artifacts but a museum tracing this quarter's daily life, its integration in to the Christian city, with the positive and negative aspects," Schuette told the news agency.

But the project has its detractors and opponents, he said, adding that an empty suitcase had been placed within the site recently, sparking a phony bomb alert.
"And elsewhere someone engraved a swastika," he added. 

Meanwhile the opposition conservative Christian Democrats (CDU) on the local council have attacked the plan over its cost and condemned as "madness" spending more than 50 million euros ($64 million) when the city is already deeply in debt.

"Cologne cannot allow itself to build a new museum," leading local CDU politician Volker Meertz said, also questioning how it would stand out from the Jewish museum in the German capital.
Some 2,800 people have signed a broad-based petition against the museum.

"The protest is populist. It's not baiting the far-right but it could be a platform for the far-right and political die-hards," said Abraham Lehrer, a leading member of Cologne's Jewish community.

"Social expenditure is being cut independently of the museum's construction. If it isn't built, nothing will change," he told the weekly Juedische Allgemeine Zeitung.

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Eve of Holiday, Muslims Hurl Rocks at Jews on Temple Mount

Extremist Muslims tried on the 7th day of Passover but failed to prevent Jews from accessing the holiest site in Judaism, the Temple Mount.

By Hana Levi Julian -- Arutz Sheva 7
First Publish: 3/31/2013, 12:13 PM

The Temple Mount
The Temple Mount
Israel news photo: Flash 90
Once again, extremist Muslims tried but failed to prevent Jews from accessing the holiest site in the Jewish faith, with the threat of attacks.

Dozens of Arab teens hurled rocks Sunday morning at groups of Jews who were touring the Temple Mount.

The site was open on the eve of the final day of the Passover holiday in the morning from 7:30 a.m to 11:00 a.m and scheduled to reopen from 1:00 p.m. to 2:30 p.m. in the afternoon.

But a crowd of “at least 30" Arab rioters gathered at about 10:30 a.m. and began hurling rocks at the Jewish visitors when they reached the site, the most sacred place in the world in Judaism.

All the groups were accompanied by a police escort, according to Israel Police spokesman Mickey Rosenfeld, who told Arutz Sheva that six rioters were arrested in connection with the incident.
No one was injured in the attack, he said.

According to Rosenfeld, the site remained open to Jews and other non-Muslim visitors until the end of “regularly-scheduled visiting hours, and then closed on time at 11:00 a.m.”
Rosenfeld assured Arutz Sheva the site would reopen for visitors at 1:00 p.m.

A spokesperson for The Temple Mount Movement said he was not surprised by the incident and called on police to keep the sacred site open to Jewish worshipers on a constant basis.

There have been numerous attempts by Muslim extremists to prevent Jews from accessing the Temple Mount, which is also the location of the Al Aqsa Mosque and considered the third holiest site in Islam. The site is administered by the Waqf -- the Islamic Religious Authority -- with the agreement and cooperation of the Israeli government.

Although not mentioned in the Qur'an, within Temple Mount is the site of the Holy Temple's "holy of holies" mentioned numerous times in the Torah, central to Jewish worship.

There are numerous Jewish laws connected with the manner of ascending to and treading upon the grounds of the Temple Mount, and because the precise location of the "holy of holies" is no longer known, exquisite care is taken by educated, observant Jews who visit the area.

More on this topic

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Saturday, March 30, 2013

Haniyeh in Cairo to Bemoan 'Israeli Truce Violations'

Hamas leader Ismail Haniya traveled to Cairo on Saturday to discuss "Israeli violations" of truce following Operation Pillar of Defense.

By Arutz Sheva staff
First Publish: 3/31/2013, 6:10 AM

Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniya
Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniya
AFP file
Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniya traveled to Cairo on Saturday to discuss complaints of the terrorist movement regarding Israel's compliance with the truce brokered by Egypt following November’s Operation Pillar of Defense.

Hamas spokesman Taher al-Nunu said Haniya would be discussing "Israeli violations of the truce," the AFP news agency reported.

Last week, Hamas complained to Egypt that Israel was not keeping its end of the bargain after a rocket attack from the Gaza Strip led to Israel suspending part of the truce agreement by cutting access to fishing waters of the Kerem Shalom commercial crossing.

Nunu also said that the Gaza premier would be discussing "the problem of (Palestinian) prisoners (held by Israel) and Hamas-Egypt relations,” according to AFP.

Ties between Hamas and Cairo have been tense after Egyptian forces closed down dozens of smuggling tunnels on the Gaza border.

Haniya will also seek to "clear the air" after Egyptian allegations of Hamas involvement in a deadly attack on Egyptian soldiers in the Sinai Peninsula last year, Hamas sources said.

Reconciliation efforts between Hamas and the Fatah faction of Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas are also expected to be on the agenda.

Israel launched Operation Pillar of Defense in an effort to root out the terrorist infrastructure in Gaza and bring about an end to the unremitting rocket attacks that have been launched against the Jewish state.

Israel carried out a series of targeted and highly surgical operations in order target the terrorists responsible for the attacks, all the while avoiding civilian casualties at all costs.

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Divided and Self Destructive

"If you go to Homs now, you will find that it has become three areas: the Alawi area, the Sunni area and the Christian area.
"The head of the SARC (Syrian Arab Red Cross) branch in the Sunni area was not allowed to serve the Alawite area because they could not go there, and so on."
Dr. Abdul Rahman Attar, head, Syrian Arab Red Crescent

Dr. Abdul Rahman Attar was speaking from the head office of the Canadian Red Cross in Ottawa. The connection between himself, Syria and Canada is that Dr. Attar has dual citizenship. He is a citizen of Canada and has been since 1986, having worked as a Canadian trade officer in Syria in the 1970s.

He is urging Canada, along with the rest of the international community to apply pressure to all those involved in the conflict to respect international humanitarian law.

He would ideally like, in other words, for the West to transform the Middle East from tribal antagonisms, dictatorial regimes and sectarian bitterness -- cultural traditions that have always plagued the geography, to a reflection of the values that obtain outside the Middle East. And that is the game long played by Western powers to little avail.

It is a game, in aid of the proliferation of democracy, that has mired the West and the United States in particular for far too long in Arab/Muslim conflicts. A situation where desperate and oppressed people see immediate salvation in the removal of their tyrants, only to have the iron control of their suppressed society lifted, when the heritage of tribal antipathies spring back to life through mass slaughters.

What is playing out in Syria at the moment is precisely that sinister drama. It has been seen previously in Lebanon, Iraq and in Afghanistan; is plaguing Libya, Pakistan and Tunisia, along with Somalia, Sudan and Mali, and is destined to spread its hateful malevolence where fanatical Islamism is on the rise, and that is throughout the Muslim world.

The Syrian Arab Red Crescent finds itself caught between warring factions in a cataclysm of ongoing violence that has claimed over 70,000 Syrian lives and made migrants of four million Syrians desperate to escape the spectre of death. Death strikes them through the auspices of the regime that has for so long oppressed them, and from the disparate militias that now include jihadists.

Safe passage for humanitarian aid workers like the SARC staff anxious to give assistance where it is most needed, is difficult through what are called "hot areas". "It takes us a long time because you cannot enter these areas unless you get permission from both sides. And inside the hot areas, there is more than one faction."

The north of the country is underserved by the SARC, where rebels and their Islamist partners opposed to President Bashar al-Assad's rule have staked their claim to control of the area. "Some people were a bit unhappy with the Syrian Arab Red Crescent because they have been unable to go to the north part of Syria."

And the legend of the SARC being sympathetic to the Alawite regime and working on its behalf arose from that difficulty, according to Dr. Attar. SARC staff, Dr. Attar attested, on the other hand, as a better reflection of reality, are being held in prison - including until recently the head of the agency's first aid response team.

Canada has been offering its financing of humanitarian aid for Syria within the broader international Red Cross and Red Crescent movement. Some of that $48-million does end up supporting the Syrian Arab Red Crescent and its activities. Dr. Attar would like to encourage a re-think of that arrangement. He doesn't feel peace is imminent.

"Last week I heard they have opened up a dialogue. I don't know. We must wait to see what the dialogue brings, but I don't see that", he said. The country has become too sharply divided along religious lines, he believes. As though this is a refreshingly unique and perhaps readily solvable problem that has just recently arisen.

One that the international community must respond to. So that the Arab Middle East can once again clamour their rage that they cannot be left in peace to get on with their destiny as they are meant to do, just like any other ordinary and entitled community of communities.

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Serving Children's Needs

In a community about as geographically remote as one can get, neighbours alerted local authorities that something appeared awry. A nearby resident of a home where seven young children were present without any parental supervision, complained. That complaint resulted in Chief Simeon Tshakapesh of Natuashish setting out to visit the home in question.

He took a mental health worker and staff from Child, Youth and Family Services with him.

They discovered children staggering about, vomiting, attempting to exit the home through windows. When RCMP also responded on the remote Labrador reserve, they discovered on the premises two unsecured firearms. And there was ammunition as well.

No adults anywhere to be seen. The seven children ranged in age from 9 to 12.

Only one of the children belonged in the house. The others were from other homes. When the RCMP checked they were unable to find any of the parents of any of the children. They had been left to their own devices. And they had spent the time sniffing gas, becoming ill from the effects of their self-destructive behaviour.

Eventually the parents of some of the children were located.  The children were taken into protective custody by the staff from Child, Youth and Family Services to safe homes or foster homes within Natuashish.

"It's disgusting" said Chief Tshakapesh afterward in an interview.  "Just very young kids sitting on the couch and garbage everywhere." Charges may in the offing with respect to the unsecured firearms and ammunition. That one of the children had a lighter in his possession was another item of concern.

The nine-year-old boy had been left on his own for four days before authorities discovered him inhaling gas with the six other children, all of them pre-adolescents.

Natuashish is accessible only by water or air, situated on Labrador's north coast, close to Davis Inlet. It is a new community, developed in 2002 where Mushuau Inni live.

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Another Perspective

Thinking the Unthinkable: Can Israel Remove Syria's Assad?

For two years, the world has watched Syria bleed, hoping that the community of nations might come together and take action to restore order there. In March 2012, Kofi Annan offered a six-point peace plan, which fell flat. Since then, united military action has been a vain hope, and the bloodshed has continued.

On Tuesday, 27 March 2013, the 22 nations of the Arab League authorized a resolution to approve supplying arms to the rebel forces, and yet, there is no plan for concerted action and internal divisions paralyze the League.

Meanwhile, on the same day, NATO refused a request by Syrian rebel leader Moaz al-Khatib for Patriot missiles to shoot down Syrian planes. The U.S. is overcompensating for its mistakes in Iraq and Afghanistan, and without American consent the “lions” of Europe are unlikely to arm the opposition.

Without sufficient weaponry for the rebels, Assad’s forces will continue to command military superiority, kill more Syrians, and maintain this civil war.

And so the fighting continues: As a million Syrians forage for food in makeshift shelters across the Middle East, the International Rescue Committee reports that border camps in Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan, and Iraq are swollen with more than 650,000 refugees, most of them women and children. Meanwhile, the UN’s latest tally since the hostilities began in April 2011 is 70, 000 fatalities.

Assad’s brutal war has destabilized a government in Lebanon; drawn Iran’s special forces into Syria, isolated Iraq’s government from its Sunni citizens, forced Israel to enter Syrian territory from the Golan Heights, and sent refugees to Turkey, Jordan, Iraq and Lebanon. The entire region is being affected by Assad’s war, and we all share a moral and political duty to act to remove this warlord in our midst. The message is clear: This is a Middle Eastern problem,

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s recent apology to the people of Turkey for the 2010 Mavi Marmara incident is a sign of better relations between our two nations. Jerusalem will surely make good on Netanyahu’s promise of compensation to the families of the Turkish dead, and it is certain that when it does so, Turkish-Israeli relations will undergo a renaissance. As the Middle East’s two strongest military and economic powers, these countries should work together to end Russian support for Assad. Erdogan has offered the Russians a naval base in Turkish waters previously and that offer, combined with guarantees that a post-Assad Syria would not mean the end of Russian influence and access to Syria, just might tilt Moscow away from Assad. Keeping America away from the operation also helps reassure Putin that Syria will not become Libya: an American client state.

Joint involvement of Turkey, Russia, and Israel at this stage of the conflict has distinct political advantages: First, since the Syrian opposition is based in Turkey, it is convenient for Ankara to broker an agreement between the rebels and Russia to ensure that Moscow’s concerns about Christian and Alawite minorities is fully allayed. If that means Russian armed forces wish to set up "safe zones" during a transition period that must be seriously considered. In short, consequences of removing Assad cannot be overlooked. But fear of tomorrow must not stop us from finding creative answers to stop the massacres today.

Second, unless Turkey and Israel work together to stop the killings in Syria and get more involved at this stage, the Jihadists will continue to grow in strength. As the world watches Syrians being slaughtered by Assad forces, Jihadists come to Syria for the spoils of a new Syria. Turkey nor Israel or other nations can allow that to happen on our borders. Syria cannot become a new Afghanistan.

The elements, which oppose Assad are up against disciplined troops with sophisticated military hardware. Two years of guerrilla warfare has proven ineffective to dislodge his grip on the Syrian people. If the rebels are to have any reasonable hope of victory, they will require sophisticated weapons and air support. If these components are not forthcoming from anyone, then one of two outcomes will happen: Either the rebels will fail, and Assad will continue his murderous regime, or help will come to the rebels from some other quarter. In the latter event, neither Israel nor Turkey will have any room to complain if extremists come into the picture and take advantage of the disorder there.

The U.S. and EU will not act. They are not threatened as directly as we are in the region. For all its faults, Israel has the air superiority to neutralize Assad’s air forces. That factor alone would go a long way to tipping the scales in favor of Syrian civilians who are being bombed by their own government

Assad and his family deserve an exit route to exile. After this record of violence, it is far more expedient to offer him safe asylum than to compel him to choose between continuing his campaign of destruction, and risking the fate, which befell Gaddafi and Mubarak. But a new Syria cannot solve its many domestic problems on its own. Syria and Syrians need their neighbors to help end the conflict and create a Syria that is democratic, pluralistic. The overdue interjection by two regional democracies – Turkey and Israel – helps send a message to Syrian democrats that we helped, forces Jihadists to retreat, and ends Assad’s evil hold over Syria.

How many more lives need be lost before we put aside our divisions and act in a concerted fashion for the people of Syria?

Ceylan Ozbudak is a Turkish political analyst, television presenter, and executive director of Building Bridges, an Istanbul-based NGO. She can be followed on Twitter via @ceylanozbudak

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First flight to Tehran in 34 years takes off from Cairo

The first flight from Egypt to Iran since the eruption of the Islamic Revolution in 1979 took off Saturday from Cairo Airport heading to the Iranian capital Tehran. (AFP)
Al Arabiya with AFP 

Air Memphis departed Egypt’s International Airport on Saturday heading to Tehran to mark the first direct flight between the two capitals since the Islamic Revolution in Iran, more 30 years ago.

Airport sources told AFP that the charter plane, flight 8000, which is carrying eight Iranian passengers, including two diplomats, will then fly back to Egypt’s southern city of Aswan.
The airliner launched a new line between the two countries and which basically focuses on transferring Iranian tourists to and from Egypt.

Egyptian officials said recently that scheduled charter flights between Iran and Egypt would be announced soon, but no date has yet been set.

Civil Aviation Minister Wael El-Maadawy had said the flights would link the historic cities of Luxor, Aswan, and Abu Simbel in southern Egypt with the Islamic republic.

Iran has been reaching out to Egypt since Islamists came to power in the wake of the 2011 revolution that ousted veteran president Hosni Mubarak, a staunch critic of Tehran.

Earlier this month, Egypt and Iran signed a memorandum of understanding to promote tourism between the two countries.

Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the first Iranian president to visit Cairo in more than 30 years, was given a red-carpet welcome by Islamist President Mohamed Mursi when he arrived in February.

Mursi, who hails from the powerful Sunni Muslim Brotherhood, has attended a Non-Aligned Summit in Iran, becoming the first Egyptian president to travel to Tehran since the Islamic revolution.

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Muslim "Secret" Courageously Outed

"As a community, we do have a 'Jewish problem.' There is no point pretending otherwise." — Mehdi Hasan, British Muslim journalist
How rife is anti-Semitism among Muslims? Well if you poll the so-called "Muslim world, " as Pew and other organizations have done, the answer is: very rife indeed. Take Pakistan for instance. In 2006 only 6% of the population had a "favorable" attitude towards Jews. In 2011 when that question was polled in Pakistan again, favorable attitudes towards Jews had gone down to just 2%.

Of course if you were to cite this figure, you would get an inevitable set of responses, such as claims that the figure was so worrying because "everyone knows" that Pakistan is a somewhat "challenging" country in that regard.

So take a nice moderate Arab country such as Jordan, for instance. After all, it has a peace treaty with Israel and everything.

Alas, the news is not much better. In 2006, just 1% of Jordanians polled had a positive attitude towards Jews. But there is some good news: when they were polled again in 2011, this number had soared to an amazing 2%. So if Pew could just hang in there for another couple of decades, Jordanian attitudes towards Jews might climb to the giddy heights of philo-Semitism enjoyed in Pakistan back in 2006.

Of course the problem of discussing this, or even mentioning it, is that even just citing the figures is likely to get you condemned for being "Islamophobic." It is the same with everything else in the area. If you mention that a startlingly small number of people think that Arabs, as opposed to Jews, carried out the 9/11 attacks, you will be thought of as at best somebody with startlingly bad manners. Go on to extrapolate the lessons one might draw from all this and you will be treated as some knuckle-dragging racist.

So how interesting it was this past week that a prominent British Muslim writer, for perhaps the first time – certainly in his own career – attempted to tackle this subject.

The British Muslim writer, Mehdi Hasan, described anti-Semitism among his Muslim peers in Britain. I use "peers" in both senses of the word: Hasan's piece was a candid response to the discovery, published here last week, that ex-Labour peer Lord Ahmed of Rotherham had been caught on Pakistan television blaming his imprisonment for his having, while driving and texting, run over and killed a man, on "the Jews."

Exposed on the front-page of the London Times, Ahmed's latest anti-Semitic slur was un-ignorable. Coming from someone who touts himself as "the first Muslim peer," it was undoubtedly a moment of clarity for many in Britain. In perhaps his only meaningful contribution to British public life, Lord Ahmed has revealed, at long-last, the anti-Semitic Muslim elephant in the room -- speaking metaphorically of course.
Hasan writes:
"There are thousands of Lord Ahmeds out there: mild-mannered and well-integrated British Muslims who nevertheless harbour deeply anti-Semitic views. It pains me to have to admit this but anti-Semitism isn't just tolerated in some sections of the British Muslim community; it's routine and commonplace. Any Muslims reading this article - if they are honest with themselves - will know instantly what I am referring to."
Quite a statement. "Any Muslims" reading his article will know what he is talking about.
He goes on to explain what a large number of the British Muslims with whom he speaks believe: that Princess Diana was murdered because she was going to have a Muslim baby, that 9/11 was not perpetrated by Muslims, and that the Holocaust of European Jews never happened.

This is a very striking confession. Hasan goes on to say that as he was growing up, he had always assumed that the "Jewish obsession" among British Muslims was a first-generation immigrant problem that would die out. But as he rightly points out, it has not died out. If anything, it has grown. As he says, "In recent years, I've been depressed to discover that there are plenty of 'second-generation' Muslim youths, born and bred in multiracial Britain, who have drunk the anti-Semitic Kool-Aid. I'm often attacked by them for working in the 'Jewish owned media.'"

Hasan adds that he long tried to resist writing a column about all this because he knows that, among other things, he will be accused by his peers of having become a "sell-out." He says that he feels as if all this is "dobbing-in" [telling on] the British Muslim community from which he comes. And he knows that his column "will also be held up by some of my fellow Muslims as 'proof' that 'Mehdi Hasan has sold out to the Jews.'" This response certainly came abundantly from other British Muslims online once his article was published: the publication proved its own point swiftly indeed.

But "The truth is that the virus of anti-Semitism has infected members of the British Muslim community, both young and old," he says. "We're not all anti-Semites," he adds. "But, as a community, we do have a 'Jewish problem'. There is no point pretending otherwise."

I should stress, incidentally, that the author of the important piece, Mehdi Hasan, is not a friend of mine. We have opposed one another over the years on multiple platforms. Several years ago I wrote about him here, in particular about a notorious video which came out showing him giving a sermon in a British mosque in which he referred to non-Muslims,as "cattle," among other endearments. I do not believe him to be a "moderate" or anything like an ally, but this is what makes his whistle-blowing piece even more striking: he should be congratulated for it.

Mehdi Hasan has blown the whistle on a "dirty little secret." It is high time that people from the community about which he writes wake up to what he has said and not try to deflect attention from it or aim it elsewhere.

It is also high time that non-Muslims realize that this view is not a bluff or any kind of exaggeration. What he has described is a problem. The polls and figures have long shown it. Now somebody from inside the community has blown the whistle. If this problem is not addressed, and if the attempt to tackle it from any and all directions continues to be silenced – by calls of being either "racist" or a "sell-out" -- then it is a problem that in the years ahead will only continue to grow.

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West embargoes arms to Syrian rebels over their resale to al Qaeda

DEBKAfile Special Report March 30, 2013, 2:45 PM (GMT+02:00)
Israeli military field hospital springs up on Golan
Israeli military field hospital springs up on Golan

The Western arms pipeline to the Syrian rebels fighting Bashar Assad is starting to run dry since the discovery that some of the weapons are being resold and used by al Qaeda in its conquest of southern Syrian and takeover of positions on the Jordanian and Israel borders. French President Francois Hollande for this reason reversed his government’s policy. “We will not do it [send the Syrian rebel arms] as long as we cannot be certain that there is complete control of the situation by the opposition,” he said Friday, March 29.

That day too, Ankara announced that Turkish authorities had impounded 5,000 shotguns, rifles, starting pistols, gunstocks and 10,000 cartridges in the village of Akcakale before they were sent across into Syria.

debkafile’s military sources: These steps are effectively putting in place a Western embargo on arms supplies to the Syrian rebels and not only the Assad regime. Saudi Arabia and Qatar remain their only sources of weapons.

This follows information reaching Washington, Paris, Ankara and Jerusalem in recent weeks that parts of the weapons consignments destined for the Syrian rebels, especially the Free Syrian Army, are being resold to Jabhat al-Nusra, the Islamist militia which this week proclaimed itself al Qaeda of Syria amid a major offensive for the occupation of southern Syria.

The aggressive Al Qaeda push has in fact swept beyond the important plans finalized last week for a US-led campaign to combat the Syrian chemical weapons threat.

Two weeks ago, high-resolution maps were spread out in Jerusalem, Ankara and Amman, marking out  zones inside Syria for their armies’ operations under the joint command centers the US set up last year in the three countries for combating chemical warfare.

Those plans and centers switched over last week to operational mode.

Friday, Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmed Davutoglu made an unconvincing attempt to separate the Turkish-Israeli reconciliation from the Syrian issue. However, the fact remains that it was Barack Obama, during his trip to the region on March 20-22, who brought Turkey together with Israel and Jordan for the first joint operation in history on the soil of an Arab nation under US command.

This week, the region finds itself caught up by a menace more immediate even than a chemical war:
Scarcely noticed by the world and Israeli media (busy celebrating the Passover festival), Jabhat al Nusra is about to overrun southern Syria.

Using Western- and Arab-supplied arms smuggled in for the Syrian rebels from Turkey and Lebanon, the jihadists are taking up positions on the Israeli and Jordanian borders while also assuming control over the Yarmouk River and its tributaries.

Water in the Middle East has caused the outbreak of more than one armed conflict. And indeed 50 years ago, Israel and Syria fought a war, including aerial dogfights, to dominate that same Yarmouk River. The dispute was finally resolved when the United States stepped in and brokered an agreement for the distribution of its waters among Syria, Israel and Jordan.

Alarm over Nusra Front territorial gains has accordingly taken precedence over the chemical threat in the deliberations of the joint US-Israeli, US-Jordanian and US-Turkish command centers.

Al Qaeda’s Syrian wing has even been able to obtain from Iraqi jihadists its own stock of primitive chemicals - but weapons nonetheless.

The West hesitated too long before cutting off the supply of arms to the Syria rebels; it is already too late to prevent al Qaeda occupying international border regions and seizing control of an important regional water source. Dislodging them would call for a military offensive proper - which seems to be the rationale for the large military field hospital Israeli set up this week on its Golan border with Syria.

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Friday, March 29, 2013

Humanitarian Haven for Terrorists

"The fact that Mr. Othman is considered to be a dangerous terrorist is not relevant to the issues that are raised on this appeal.
"A state cannot expel a person to another state where there is a real risk that he will be tried on the basis of evidence, which there is a real possibility may have been obtained by torture."
Lord Dyson, British Court of Appeal
"This is not the end of the road and the government remains determined to deport Abu Qatada. We will consider this judgment carefully and plan to seek leave to appeal. In the meantime we continue to work with the Jordanians to address the outstanding legal issues preventing deportation."
Statement, Government of Britain
Legal fees have so far cost British taxpayers around $1.5-million to try to have radical cleric Abu Qatada, described once by a Spanish judge as "Osama bin Laden's right-hand man in Europe", deported from Britain to Jordan where he has been convicted in absentia of two bombing plots in 1999 and 2000. If and when deported, he would be subject to Jordanian justice through a legal trial.

It has additionaly cost the state another $7-million for security agents to maintain a close watch over the man since his release on bail last February. These are by no means the only costs to the British taxpayer associated with this man. He, his wife and their five children live gratis, the London Council providing them with fairly lavish living arrangements. He originally was housed with his family in a four-bedroom home, but the owner, discovering who the tenant was, objected, and the family was re-located.

He and his family are "delighted" with the subsequent move to new accommodation as the new home has more bedrooms, a larger garden and more modern appliances. The costly rent is of little concern to this man and his family since, as he has no income, their accommodation is entirely free of charge, thanks to the generosity of the British welfare system. His brother summed up the situation: "He is really enjoying his new home and so are his family. The inside is very modern and has been done up more nicely."

The British government has been trying for over a decade to have this man removed from Britain. He first came under suspicion for preaching violent jihad, and was purported to be the spiritual guide to Mohammad Atta of 9/11 infamy. He is a Salafist implicated in violent jihad groups from Algeria to Germany.

The British government had challenged a November ruling by an immigration panel holding that Mr. Qatada would lose his right to a fair trial under European rights law on return to Jordan.
 Rehoused: Qatada has been handed a more expensive taxpayer-funded home
Rehoused: Qatada has been handed a more expensive taxpayer-funded home

"Today's decision is hugely disappointing. Abu Qatada's deportation to Jordan is long overdue, and it's utter madness that we can't get shot of this man", stated London Mayor Boris Johnson.

British law is quite confident on the matter; it cannot permit the deportation of a radical Islamic known to be a senior operative of al-Qaeda, a "truly dangerous person". Because his human rights might be abridged if information obtained through torture is used to convict him of terrorism charges.

There appears to be a new single-word spelling for the phrase dysfunctional juridical lunacy: Britain.

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 Diligence Where Due

"There is a real concern that new and evolving conflicts in the world may lure youth to engage in violent extremist activities at home and abroad. Canada, like all nations, has a responsibility to guard against its citizens travelling to areas of turmoil and participating in terrorist acts. ... We must actively work to prevent individuals from being recruited overseas to learn a terrorist trade."
Public Safety Minister Vic Toews

Algeria and Bulgaria are still involved in investigating terrorist attacks in which Canadian citizens were purported to have taken part. RCMP investigators were sent to Algeria and tasked with themselves taking part in an investigation to authenticate whether Canadian citizens were, as stated by Algerian authorities, implicated in the January natural-gas plant attack. They have since confirmed that the remains of two of the attackers identified them as Canadian.

They have divulged few other details. One survivor of the attack had described a blond, blue-eyed man speaking English with an accent identifiable as North American in origin. So one of the attackers might have been a convert to Islam. One of the men's identity was confirmed through fingerprints, leading to the conclusion that this man was known to police through a criminal record in Canada.

In the case of the Bulgarian attack against a bus carrying Israeli tourists, the Canadian citizen involved happened to be someone who had left Canada many years earlier, and had perhaps been converted to radicalism outside of Canada. What has given their recruitment great value to jihadist Islamists is their appearance as Westerners, their Canadian passports and their language.

"Is anybody there?" queried one of them, seeking out hidden foreign workers in the Algerian gas plant. Logically, a foreign worker hearing someone speak the international language of English rather than Arabic or a local or regional language or dialect more aligned as representative of an Islamic jihadist group would take from the query that a rescuer is at hand, compelling them to reveal their presence.

Bulgaria has recently confirmed that Hezbollah, the Shia Muslim terrorist group partly governing Lebanon, a creature militia of Iran, was involved in the bus bombing and the deaths of a Bulgarian driver and five Israelis. The European Union is cavilling over whether to place Hezbollah on a terror list, while the new information from Bulgarian authorities appears to be convincing Germany to list Hezbollah.

Thirty-seven foreign workers and 29 attackers met their death at the Algerian gas-plant. It seems clear enough that the original intention of the al-Qaeda-in the Islamic Maghreb-linked group was to blow up the entire gas-plant installation, with the hundreds of international workers included.  It was meant originally to be a suicide mission; the jihadists were to sacrifice their lives as martyrs to the mission.

The RCMP, having affirmed without doubt that Canadians were involved in the Algerian atrocity, will now begin a further, far more involved investigation, and this time in Canada itself. They will undertake a wide-webbed investigation that will include checking all background information about the two identified Canadians. This will include also interviewing all those known to be involved with the two men, from family members to friends to casual acquaintances.

And the search for information will include attempts to discover where, how and when they were recruited. The resulting data may prove, after an exhaustive investigation, to be revealing in its substance, informing security authorities and giving them a picture of what is happening in the circles in which such men normally move, with whom they come in contact, and where? Community centres, places of worship, prisons?

Minister Toews spoke on the occasion of a conference on countering violent extremism. Bill S-7, proposed legislation to make it a crime to leave Canada for the purposes of terrorism is also on its way through Parliament. It has now gone to the House for third reading. There is some controversy surrounding it's allowing a judge to compel testimony from anyone who is believed to be in possession of knowledge of an impending terrorist threat.

The NDP MP for Toronto-Danforth is prepared to argue the bill will exert inappropriate powers: "I am also very worried about discriminatory operation of these measures vis-a-vis Canadian communities that the government keeps identifying with extremism, and about the inadequacy of oversight and review mechanisms for use of these powers." This is the discomfort of those observing the wearing of a shoe that fits.

For their part the RCMP is in favour of the bill. Assistant Commissioner James Milizia last November was confident, he said, the legislation had adequate safeguards, and would permit police to halt extremists before they would leave Canada:
"We are seeing a consistent volume of individuals being radicalized who are looking to travel abroad to either participate in, train for, or conduct terrorist acts. The question is, once they've received training, what harm will come to either our allies or to ourselves if they decide to return to Canada? That is definitely a continuing concern for us."

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Tempest In A House

The House of Commons loves nothing so much, during daily Question Period, as a good, rollicking rumpus about the failings of the Conservative-led Government of Canada. Prime Minister Stephen Harper is rarely able to do something in the House, or outside the House, that honourable parliamentarians of the NDP, Liberal or (sole) Greens could find merit in. Their sole purpose, it seems, in being elected to the Parliament of Canada is to continually attack the party that happens to be in government.

The governing party of any persuasion has long traditionally been in the habit of persuading its caucus that loyalty to the party and the values of the party -- as exemplified by the leader who just happens also to be the Prime Minister of Canada -- when theirs is the leading party voted into power, is essential. That within the party the differences of opinion in response to situations and to governance should be muted, that it is essential to maintain loyalty.

There is a place for those Members of Parliament who believe and behave as though their personal interpretation of party values and the manner in which government should respond to situations should prevail; outside the party, as an independent. And there are indeed some Members of Parliament who do sit as independents, proud to state that they are invested in serving the interests of those who sent them to Ottawa; the voters whose riding they represent.

How useful they are then in serving the interests of the voters who chose them out of a slate of candidates, selecting the party, then the candidate in most instances, is a matter of conjecture. Surely party affiliation and loyalty is far more serviceable to the needs of constituents than opting for no alliance whatever. The current office holder as leader of the Conservative Party of Canada, Prime Minister Stephen Harper, is often accused of ruling with an iron hand.

But, in fact, all Prime Ministers have a tendency to do just that. In the current instance, two serial private member's bills in defiance of the clear and unequivocal stance that the Prime Minister has taken with respect to abortion in Canada, have been brought before the House. Both have been set aside by all parties. In the latest instance, the individual who prepared a statement on gender-selected abortions was refused the opportunity to air it.

This, then, became a cause celebre among Parliamentarians who are now huffing that the matter of free speech in the House supersedes the issue that was to be brought before the House. MP Mark Warawa has asked the Speaker of the House to rule on whether his parliamentary privilege has been denied by the whip's decision to stop him from pursuing his members' statement on his motion.

Perhaps the problem is inherent in the discomfort and sense of alienated victimhood felt by backbenchers who are proud members of Parliament, duly recognized and acclaimed by those who have voted for them, but in the larger scheme of things mere puppets whose strings are pulled to accommodate the greater needs of the party. They wish to be individualists, to take pride in their authentic vision, their version of truth, reality and justice.

They take grave affront that they must be dependent on the judgement of the party leader and those within the party chosen to be Cabinet material along with their senior MP ministerial secretaries. All others are, essentially, deadwood until such time as they are brought into play when the leader requires their acquiescence on an issue of importance to the government.

Or, as Pierre Elliot Trudeau once famously stated, "backbenchers are nobodies", the further back they sit. Like it no, lump it because it's fact.

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"Instead of receiving something useful ... the court [was] delivered a diatribe by a highly partisan and poorly trained probation officer. This is not only a waste of taxpayer's monies but a disservice to the criminal justice system."
"This is not the first case where Quebec authorities have flouted, if not outright ignored, the sentencing requirements set out in the Criminal Code -- legislation that is of federal origin and therefore applies to all jurisdictions within Canada."
Ontario Superior Court Justice Denna Baltman

Justice Baltman is clearly fed up with the state of non-cooperation between the Provinces of Quebec and Ontario through their justice systems. Presumably working in tandem with the federal justice system within Canada. She is affronted, understandably, that when asked to provide a legal document for an Ontario sentencing hearing, Quebec justice submitted a document that was seen to be "highly partisan", so "inflammatory" it defied belief.

This Ontario Superior Court Justice denounced the Quebec justice authorities in a March 19 decision in which she sentenced a Montreal man on prostitution related charges in Brampton, Ontario. According to the outraged judge, the "gross deficiencies" of the Quebec report were "all the more galling" having been submitted over a month late, and not in the language of the Ontario justice's stated choice. Both charges, in fact, instances of uncontrite unprofessionalism.

Time was lost in tending to the case because of the necessity to send the report out for translation services, from French to English. Whereas Judge Baltman had repeatedly urged and reminded the parole officer involved in the case to submit the offending report in English, causing no little disturbance within the Ontario Ministry of Correctional Services.

The case being judged was for 36-year-old Montrealer Kelvin McPherson, convicted of prostitution charges for forcing his girlfriend, 21 years of age, to perform sex acts for strangers, while he took possession of her sizeable income related to the sex acts. The Criminal Code of Canada orders that a parole officer must prepare a pre-sentencing report of basic details prior to any sentencing.

As the 2001 book The Law of Sentencing explains, the ideal pre-sentencing report must convey "background, character and circumstances of the person convicted". What the report received by the Brampton court was comprised of was a discourse describing details of the man's crime, reiterating the man's guilt as charged. It also repeated the offender's stated belief that a "corrupt justice system" was responsible for his conviction, and he was a "victim" of justice.

"Essentially", wrote Judge Baltman indignantly, "she maligned him for maintaining his innocence, a factor which should be irrelevant given his pleas of 'not guilty'." Both the defence and prosecution lawyers were in complete agreement that the report, written by Montreal-based parole officer Lisette Charland, was "improper and inflammatory".

The hearing proceeded only once the defence lawyer -- on behalf of this manipulating pimp who forced a young girl into prostitution to avail himself of her hefty fees -- had first taken steps to have Ms. Charland's "extensive commentary" properly excised. Whereupon the offender, Kelvin McPherson was sentenced to three years in prison.

Written in French or in English, perhaps Ms. Charland should be given a congratulatory medal for allowing neutrality to lapse in favour of ordinary, everyday human outrage at the nastily oppressive manipulations of a male predator who believes his criminally predatory behaviour to be beyond juridical reproach.

And the sanctimonious, legality-precise sensibilities of the others given a good stiff mule-kick in the backside.

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