MORAL CLARITY: GAZA OPERATION CONTINUES; IN IRAQ— ISIS FORCES CHRISTIANS FROM MOSUL, THREATENS BAGHDAD

We welcome your comments to this and any other CIJR publication. Please address your response to:  Rob Coles, Publications Chairman, Canadian Institute for Jewish Research, PO Box 175, Station  H, Montreal QC H3G 2K7 – Tel: (514) 486-5544 – Fax:(514) 486-8284; E-mail: rob@isranet.org

 

NB: Throughout Israel’s history, IDF soldiers have fallen in defense of their country and families. This reality continues as the IDF operates in Gaza to defend Israel from Hamas rocket fire and the threat of terrorist infiltration by tunnels. Please click on the following link to view the names & photos of the 53 IDF soldiers who fell in the fight to protect Israeli civilians:

In Memoriam: The 53 IDF Soldiers Who Gave Their Lives to Protect Israel: Jerusalem Post, July 29, 2014

 

Since the beginning of Operation “Protective Edge”:

 

Over 2270 rockets have been launched at Israel.

Approximately 448 rockets were intercepted by the Iron Dome missile defense system.

9 patients from Gaza were treated in the COGAT field hospital on 23/7. They were sent for further treatment in Israel with their escorts.

970 trucks have entered the Gaza Strip via the Kerem-Shalom crossing carrying food, medicines, medical equipment and relevant humanitarian aid.

Israel has held 32 infrastructural repairs in Gaza.

 

Contents:

 

The Need for Moral Clarity on the Israel-Hamas War: Irwin Cotler, Algemeiner, July 28, 2014— The latest Israeli-Hamas war, with its evocative images of human suffering, has engaged hearts and minds the world over, particularly in this digital age of social media and instant communication.                                                      

Palestine Makes You Dumb: Bret Stephens, Wall Street Journal, July 28, 2014:Of all the inane things that have been said about the war between Israel and Hamas, surely one dishonorable mention belongs to comments made over the weekend by Benjamin J. Rhodes, deputy national security adviser for strategic communications.                                                                                           

 

Christians at the Mercy of Jihadis: Financial Times, July 25, 2014 — Just weeks after seizing swaths of northern and central Iraq, the jihadi extremists of the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant have driven out the remaining Christians of Mosul           

The ISIS Caliphate’s Coming Blitz of Baghdad: Jamie Dettmer, Daily Beast, July 28, 2013— When the minions of the self-anointed caliph in the self-declared Islamic State that now straddles Iraq and Syria blow up a mosque supposed to contain the remains of the prophet Jonah, or offer punctilious details about the kind of purdah to be imposed on women, the world takes brief notice.

 

On Topic Links

 

To the Students for Justice in Palestine, a Letter From an Angry Black Woman: Chloe Valdary, Tablet, July 28, 2014

Hamas Killed 160 Palestinian Children to Build Tunnels: Myer Freimann, Tablet, July 25, 2014

Presbyterian Church USA Criticizes Israel, Ignores Christian Persecution: Raymond Ibrahim, Middle East Forum, July 27, 2013

Iraq’s Abandoned Christians: Wall Street Journal, July 27, 2014

 

                               

THE NEED FOR MORAL CLARITY ON THE ISRAEL-HAMAS WAR               

Irwin Cotler                                                                                               

Algemeiner, July 28, 2014

 

The latest Israeli-Hamas war, with its evocative images of human suffering, has engaged hearts and minds the world over, particularly in this digital age of social media and instant communication. Indeed, the death of any innocent — Israeli or Palestinian — is a tragedy, and no one can fail to be moved by the human suffering and the humanitarian crisis in Gaza. But, while Hamas has rejected cease-fires proposed by Egypt and the UN, including a humanitarian cease-fire, it has continued its relentless rocket assaults and tunnel invasions, the proximate triggers for this immediate conflict. If we want to prevent further tragedies, it is important to go beyond the “fog of war” — to go behind the daily headlines that cloud understanding and the clichés (the “cycle of violence”) that corrupt it — and ask some fundamental questions about root causes and the basis for its resolution.

 

1. Are you aware that the Hamas charter and declarations call for the destruction of Israel and the killing of Jews wherever they may be? 2. Are you aware that the Hamas charter and declarations refer to Jews as “inherently evil,” as a “cancer” as responsible for all evils in the world and as defilers of Islam? 3. Are you aware that Hamas — not only during the present hostilities, but before them— has propagated a state-sanctioned culture of hate in the mosques, in the schools, in the broadcasting system, in the summer camps and training camps? 4. Do you agree that such statements promote hatred and contempt for Jews and constitute an obstacle to peace? 5. Do you agree that Israel, like any other state, has the right to live in peace and security, free from any threats or acts of force? 6. Are you aware that since Israel withdrew all its citizens, uprooted all its settlements, and completely disengaged from Gaza in 2005, Hamas has deliberately – and indiscriminately – launched over 11,000 rockets and missiles, terrorizing Israeli cities, towns and villages? 7. Are you aware that Hamas’ deliberate strategy of targeting Israeli civilians constitutes an armed attack under the UN Charter in violation of customary international law?

 

8. Do you agree that Israel— like any other state — has both the right and obligation to protect its citizens, and a right to self-defence against such armed attack as set forth in Article 51 of the UN Charter? Indeed, in a recent joint statement, the European Union’s 28 foreign ministers called on Hamas to “immediately . . . renounce violence,” while recognizing Israel’s “legitimate right to defend itself against any attacks.” 9. Do you agree that, while Israel has the right to self-defense, its exercise must comport with the principles of international humanitarian law, including the principle of proportionality and the prohibition against the infliction of unnecessary suffering? 10. Do you agree that Palestinians in Gaza have the same right as Israelis to live in peace and security? Are you aware of the domestic repression by Hamas of Palestinians in Gaza, of the use and abuse of Palestinian civilians as human shields and that Hamas has converted the civilian infrastructure to an underground terrorist city? 11. Are you aware that Hamas is designated a terrorist entity by Canada, the United States and the European Union, and that UN Security Council resolutions require Palestinian governing authorities to deny safe havens to terrorists? 12. Are you aware that Hamas squandered the opportunity offered by Israeli disengagement from Gaza in 2005 to divert resources from state building to the building of a terrorist infrastructure at the expense of its own people?

13. Do you agree that the cease-fire must be durable and sustainable to protect the peace and security of both Israelis and Palestinians? 14. Do you agree that a comprehensive and enduring cease-fire should include: the recognition of Israel’s right to live in peace and security; the cessation of all acts of terror and violence against Israeli civilians; the demilitarization of Gaza; the dismantling of its weapons infrastructure and the disbanding of its terrorist militias; the establishment of an international protection and stabilization force to enforce the cease-fire and to protect against the rebuilding of any terrorist infrastructure; the deployment of a massive humanitarian undertaking to ensure assistance reaches those in need; the initiation of a comprehensive program for the reconstruction of Gaza and the rehabilitation of its citizens; and the freeing of Palestinian society from the cynical and oppressive culture of hate and incitement fueled by Hamas.

 

I close on a personal note. I write not only as a law professor and MP, but as one who has family in Israel and friends in Palestine, and who has lived and worked in the region and been engaged in the struggle for peace. The overriding truth of these past 40 years for me has always been clear and remains the same. I will stand with those who support the right of peoples in the Middle East — Israelis and Palestinians alike — to live in peace and security, free from any threats or acts of force, a cornerstone of UN principle and Canadian foreign policy; and I will oppose all those, like Hamas and its patron Iran, who seek the destruction of any people or state in violation of the UN Charter and all civilized norms.

 

[Irwin Cotler is the former Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada      and the Liberal Party of Canada’s Critic for Rights, Freedoms & International Justice.]

 

Contents                                                                                                                  

PALESTINE MAKES YOU DUMB                                                                  

Bret Stephens                                                                                                      

Wall Street Journal, July 28, 2014

 

Of all the inane things that have been said about the war between Israel and Hamas, surely one dishonorable mention belongs to comments made over the weekend by Benjamin J. Rhodes, deputy national security adviser for strategic communications. Interviewed by CNN's Candy Crowley, Mr. Rhodes offered the now-standard administration line that Israel has a right to defend itself but needs to do more to avoid civilian casualties. Ms. Crowley interjected that, according to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, the Jewish state was already doing everything it could to avoid such casualties. "I think you can always do more," Mr. Rhodes replied. "The U.S. military does that in Afghanistan."

 

How inapt is this comparison? The list of Afghan civilians accidentally killed by U.S. or NATO strikes is not short. Little of the fighting in Afghanistan took place in the dense urban environments that make the current warfare in Gaza so difficult. The last time the U.S. fought a Gaza-style battle—in Fallujah in 2004—some 800 civilians perished and at least 9,000 homes were destroyed. This is not an indictment of U.S. conduct in Fallujah but an acknowledgment of the grim reality of city combat. Oh, and by the way, American towns and cities were not being rocketed from above or tunneled under from below as the Fallujah campaign was under way. Maybe Mr. Rhodes knows all this and was merely caught out mouthing the sorts of platitudes that are considered diplomatically de rigueur when it comes to the Palestinians. Or maybe he was just another victim of what I call the Palestine Effect: The abrupt and often total collapse of logical reasoning, skeptical intelligence and ordinary moral judgment whenever the subject of Palestinian suffering arises.

 

Consider the media obsession with the body count. According to a daily tally in the New York Times, as of July 27 the war in Gaza had claimed 1,023 Palestinian lives as against 46 Israelis. How does the Times keep such an accurate count of Palestinian deaths? A footnote discloses "Palestinian death tallies are provided by the Palestinian Health Ministry and the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs." OK. So who runs the Palestinian Health Ministry in Gaza? Hamas does. As for the U.N., it gets its data mainly from two Palestinian agitprop NGOs, one of which, the Palestinian Center for Human Rights, offers the remarkably precise statistic that, as of July 27, exactly 82% of deaths in Gaza have been civilians. Curiously, during the 2008-09 Gaza war, the center also reported an 82% civilian casualty rate.

 

When minutely exact statistics are provided in chaotic circumstances, it suggests the statistics are garbage. When a news organization relies—without clarification—on data provided by a bureaucratic organ of a terrorist organization, there's something wrong there, too. But let's assume for argument's sake that the numbers are accurate. Does this mean the Palestinians are the chief victims, and Israelis the main victimizers, in the conflict? By this dull logic we might want to rethink the moral equities of World War II, in which over one million German civilians perished at Allied hands compared with just 67,000 British and 12,000 American civilians.

 

The real utility of the body count is that it offers reporters and commentators who cite it the chance to ascribe implicit blame to Israel while evading questions about ultimate responsibility for the killing. Questions such as: Why is Hamas hiding rockets in U.N.-run schools, as acknowledged by the U.N. itself? What does it mean that Hamas has turned Gaza's central hospital into "a de facto headquarters," as reported by the Washington Post? And why does Hamas keep rejecting, or violating, cease-fires agreed to by Israel? A reasonable person might conclude from this that Hamas, which started the war, wants it to continue, and that it relies on Israel's moral scruples not to destroy civilian sites that it cynically uses for military purposes. But then there is the Palestine Effect. By this reasoning, Hamas only initiated the fighting because Israel refused to countenance the creation of a Palestinian coalition that included Hamas, and because Israel further objected to helping pay the salaries of Hamas's civil servants in Gaza.

 

Let's get this one straight. Israel is culpable because (a) it won't accept a Palestinian government that includes a terrorist organization sworn to the Jewish state's destruction; (b) it won't help that organization out of its financial jam; and (c) it won't ease a quasi-blockade—jointly imposed with Egypt—on a territory whose central economic activity appears to be building rocket factories and pouring imported concrete into terrorist tunnels. This is either bald moral idiocy or thinly veiled bigotry. It mistakes effect for cause, treats self-respect as arrogance and self-defense as aggression, and makes demands of the Jewish state that would be dismissed out of hand anywhere else. To argue the Palestinian side, in this war, is to make the case for barbarism. It is to erase, in the name of humanitarianism, the moral distinctions from which the concept of humanity arises. Typically, the Obama administration is hedging its bets. The Palestine Effect claims another victim.

 

Contents

CHRISTIANS AT THE MERCY OF JIHADIS                                     

Financial Times, July 25, 2014

                       

Just weeks after seizing swaths of northern and central Iraq, the jihadi extremists of the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant have driven out the remaining Christians of Mosul. After daubing their houses with N for Nazarenes, Isis offered them stark choices: convert to Islam, accept ancient taxes on minorities, or death. To underline their contempt for any interpretation of religion but their own, these Sunni supremacist blackshirts blew up the shrine to Jonah in Mosul, a prophet revered in the Koran and the Bible. This is more than a subplot in a wider tragedy. The spectre of an east Mediterranean empty of Christians is haunting, not just because it would uproot a 2,000-year-old heritage where Christianity was born. Other minorities such as the Druze fear that if the Christians are driven out they will be left alone, while secular Arabs know they will have lost a unique window on the world – a bridge between east and west.

 

This did not start last month when Isis captured Mosul. Nor is it confined to Iraq. Across the Arab world, Christians, perhaps 15m among 300m Muslims, are endangered: threatened by Islamist radicals; forced by limited opportunities to seek new lives abroad; accused of complicity in the schemes of foreign predators; and menaced by the upheavals sweeping the region and laying bare the hard-wiring of sectarianism. After the invasion of Iraq in 2003, indigenous Assyrian Christians, mostly Chaldean, endured a backlash that reduced their numbers from about 1m to 300,000. The US-led occupation, by bringing the Shia to power in the Arab heartland for the first time in centuries, rekindled the age-old schism between Sunni Islam and Shiism – and Christians were caught in withering crossfire. Revanchist autocracy against the Arab spring has piled on the misery.

 

The 2011 revolution in Egypt was followed by riots between Copts (about 10 per cent of Egyptians) and Muslims, inciting suspicion that the ancien regime – now restored to power – was trying to widen a sectarian cleft and force citizens to choose between the old order and chaos. In Syria, where Christians also make up some 10 per cent of the population and Aramaic, the language of Christ, still survives, the minority Assad regime from the outset targeted other minorities such as Christians and Druze with a subliminal narrative: stand with us because, if we fall, you will be put up against the same wall by Sunni fundamentalists. Isis has been the main beneficiary of its savage repression, and Arab and western failure to support mainstream rebels. In Lebanon, Christians who had previously ruled emerged disempowered from the 1975-90 civil war and are now divided between factions allied with the Shia, led by Hizbollah, and remnants of the old Phalange party, who have cast their lot with the Sunni. War and emigration have reduced their numbers to about 30 per cent of the population.

 

As the fires of Syria and Iraq melt the borders imposed by Europeans after the first world war, despair abounds, especially among Christians. There is nostalgia for pan-Arab nationalism, which turned into an alibi for dictatorship. There is talk of recourse to a neo-Ottoman order of outside protectors and the millet system of ethno-religious autonomy. Iran and its Shia allies such as Hizbollah self-servingly say they are the only shield of the minorities against jihadist savagery. But any real turnround will require mainstream Sunnis to reassert leadership and crush extremism within their camp. Breaking the sectarian spiral also requires pan-communal effort to rebuild states based on equal citizenship and diversity, reflected in confederal institutions, bicameral parliaments and devolved power. Whether there will be many Christians left to share in this endeavour is menacingly moot.

 

 Contents

THE ISIS CALIPHATE’S COMING BLITZ OF BAGHDAD                                   

Jamie Dettmer

Daily Beast, July 28, 2014

 

When the minions of the self-anointed caliph in the self-declared Islamic State that now straddles Iraq and Syria blow up a mosque supposed to contain the remains of the prophet Jonah, or offer punctilious details about the kind of purdah to be imposed on women, the world takes brief notice. But the group’s military campaigns have made less news in recent weeks because they seemed to have stalled. Now, according to Western military analysts, it’s time to start worrying again. Those studying the attacks by the group formerly known as ISIS see critical changes in the bombings and skirmishing by the caliph’s troops and their allies in and around Baghdad. Some experts warn that a blitzkrieg—a lightning attack—is imminent, and it will be one the beleaguered and squabbling politicians in the Iraqi capital are ill equipped to combat. But it is more likely to be a guerrilla and terrorist offensive than an all-out push along conventional military lines.

 

Until recently, Islamic militant action around Baghdad appeared sporadic, uncoordinated, and lacking a clear strategic purpose. But analysts at the U.S.-based think tank the Institute for the Study of War, who have been plotting the locations and types of attacks in the recent flurry of blasts buffeting the Iraqi capital, have noted a clear pattern developing. They say it suggests the Islamic State is building up to something big and is no longer just focused on consolidating its grip and developing governance in the lands it now controls. The institute’s analysts predict the caliphate may be readying for an onslaught, possibly timed for the end of the holy month of Ramadan on Monday or during the Eid holiday celebrations this week. The aim would not be to seize Iraq’s capital, which has a very large Shia population with every incentive to fight to the death against an organization that slaughters Shia prisoner en masse. The purpose of the Islamic State offensive would be to sow mayhem and to keep Iraq’s state apparatus from recovering from its stunning defeats in June, when it lost control of Mosul, the second-largest city in the country.

 

A sustained bombing campaign could well finish off the government of the embattled Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, who is still trying to cling to power, despite indications that even Iran, his main foreign backer, thinks it is time for him to step down. There has been a burst of attacks by bombers wearing suicide vests and also car blasts “along avenues of approach to the capital and also within Baghdad proper,” the institute notes in an intelligence update. Most significantly, the analysts say, IS has been launching coordinated suicide attacks like those on July 19 which involved half a dozen or more blasts in a day. IS has made these so-called wave attacks a signature feature in their terrorist repertoire but had not mounted one on the capital since May 13. The July 19 blasts were spread across the city touching many points of the compass—and they were deep in predominantly Shia strongholds, including Kadimiyah in the northeast, Bayaa, Jihad and Saydiyah in the southwest and Abu Dashir in southern Baghdad, where the Iranian-backed Shia militia Asai’b Ahl al-Haq holds sway. The unfolding attacks display the group’s “high level of inter-cell coordination, its reach into Baghdad proper, and its ability for multiple teams to communicate, even in the context of Baghdad’s heightened security posture since the fall of Mosul,” according to the institute’s assessment.

 

It is significant that IS seems to have no problem penetrating districts controlled by Shia militias, suggesting the group’s leadership may have infiltrated sleeper cells into the capital even before the fall of Mosul. The caliphate has maintained a drumbeat of attacks in the Shia stronghold of Sadr City despite heightened security there and the fact its location in northeastern Baghdad is on the other side of the city from the territory IS holds outside the capital. On July 16, for instance, jihadists detonated two car bombs in Sadr City in a simultaneous attack that left nine dead and dozens injured. In the immediate wake of the IS capture of Mosul in early June, alarmed press reports suggested the Sunni militants were “creeping closer” to the capital. Even last month, some intelligence analysts in the region were arguing the jihadists would not launch a conventional offensive, but would instead focus on demoralizing commando raids and a suicide-bombing blitz in Baghdad to force the Iraqi state to defend its capital rather than mount an offensive to try to retake Mosul or other territory captured by IS.

 

Now the time for the bombing blitz and commando raids appears to be approaching. “There are clear signs that what they are doing now is to test Baghdad’s defenses and to gauge the reactions from Shia militias and the Iraqi army,” says a senior U.S. intelligence official based in the region. The information the jihadists glean from these operations can help them formulate specific attack plans. What impresses the official, and other analysts in the region, isn’t just how expert and disciplined the jihadists are being in their approach to Baghdad, but they are doing this at the same time they are consolidating their hold on towns they have seized elsewhere—and they have launched a major offensive against the forces of Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad. Last week, the caliphate seized another major oilfield in Syria. On Thursday the group’s fighters targeted Syrian army bases outside Raqqa and in Hasaka and Deir el Zour. IS celebrated the assaults by posting online photos of headless bodies that the group claimed were soldiers killed in the attacks.

 

On Topic

 

In Memoriam: The 53 IDF Soldiers Who Gave Their Lives to Protect Israel: Jerusalem Post, July 29, 2014 —Israel mourns the deaths of the 53 soldiers and officers killed in action in Operation Protective Edge.

To the Students for Justice in Palestine, a Letter From an Angry Black Woman: Chloe Valdary, Tablet, July 28, 2014 —The student organization Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) is prominent on many college campuses, preaching a mantra of “Freeing Palestine.”

Hamas Killed 160 Palestinian Children to Build Tunnels: Myer Freimann, Tablet, July 25, 2014 —As the death toll of Operation Protective Edge rises, the deaths of children are firmly in the spotlight—and rightly so.

Presbyterian Church USA Criticizes Israel, Ignores Christian Persecution: Raymond Ibrahim, Middle East Forum, July 27, 2013—Days before the recent Israel/Hamas conflict erupted, the Presbyterian Church USA withdrew $21 million worth of investments from Israel because, as spokesman Heath Rada put it, the Israeli government's actions "harm the Palestinian people."

Iraq’s Abandoned Christians: Wall Street Journal, July 27, 2014 —Does innocent human life matter in the Middle East if it is Christian?

 

 

 

                            

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Rob Coles, Publications Chairman, Canadian Institute for Jewish ResearchL'institut Canadien de recherches sur le Judaïsme, www.isranet.org

Tel: (514) 486-5544 – Fax:(514) 486-8284 ; ber@isranet.org