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Media-ocrity of the Week: “It was a breach of protocol and diplomatic rules to accept the invitation without first notifying the White House,” — New York Times, Jan. 29. Upon the announcement of Netanyahu’s address to a joint session of Congress at the invitation of House Speaker Boehner, the White House complained that it was a breach of protocol and diplomatic rules to accept the invitation without first notifying the White House. In a surprising correction by the NYT, it appears that the administration had been informed well in advance of the invitation before Netanyahu accepted it. The correction, added on Jan. 30 in the online version of the article only, stated: “Correction: An earlier version of this article misstated when Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel accepted Speaker John A. Boehner’s invitation to address Congress. He accepted after the administration had been informed of the invitation, not before.” (Breaking Israel News, Feb. 8, 2015)
Obama: We're No Better than Islamic State: Raymond Ibrahim, Frontpage, Feb. 6, 2015
Folks Do the Randomest Things: Andrew C. McCarthy, National Review, Feb. 11, 2015
Chart: The Decline of Europe’s Jewish Population: Adam Taylor, Washington Post, Feb. 9, 2015
Pre-9/11 Ties Haunt Saudis as New Accusations Surface: Ben Hubbard & Scott Shane, New York Times, Feb. 4, 2015
"The major powers and Iran are galloping toward an agreement that will enable Iran to arm itself with nuclear weapons, which will endanger the existence of the State of Israel," —Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. His comments came after U.S. Secretary of State Kerry met with his Iranian counterpart Mohammad Javad Zarif in Munich, where Kerry stressed Washington's commitment to seeing the deadline met. Netanyahu took aim at Kerry and Zarif, saying that their intention to complete a framework agreement by the end of March forces Israel to take action. "From this (commitment) stems the urgency of our efforts to try and block this bad and dangerous agreement. We will continue to take action and to lead the international effort against Iran's arming itself with nuclear weapons. We will do everything and will take any action to foil this bad and dangerous agreement that will place a heavy cloud over the future of the State of Israel and its security," Netanyahu said. After meeting with Kerry, Zarif appeared to rule out any new extension to tough negotiations with world powers. (Ynet News, Feb. 8, 2015)
“They tell us, ‘We don’t want Iran to make atomic bombs’ — you who have made atomic bombs,” — President Hassan Rouhani of Iran. Rouhani asserted that the nuclear weapons amassed by the U.S., and possessed by Israel have done little to ease their worries about vulnerability to attack. “Have you managed to bring about security for yourselves with atomic bombs?,” Rouhani asked rhetorically, “have you managed to create security for the usurper Israel?” The speech appeared to be part of an attempt to counter Iranian hard-liners who have suggested that Rouhani is too willing to compromise with the U.S. on the nuclear issue after decades of hostility and mistrust. Conservative Iranian lawmakers have proposed measures that could subvert the extension of an interim agreement that took effect last year, which has frozen much of the Iranian nuclear program while negotiators seek a permanent accord. Those negotiators, from Iran and the P5+1 powers, have given themselves until March 24 to reach the basics of a permanent agreement. (New York Times, Feb. 4, 2015)
“We achieved what we were looking for: revenge for Muath. And this is not the end. This is the beginning,” — Major General Mansour al-Jabour, Jordan’s air force chief. Last week, Islamic State released a video purporting to show Jordanian pilot Moaz al Kasasbeh being burnt alive in a cage as masked militants looked on. Jordan says it has carried out 56 airstrikes on I.S. targets in revenge for the murder. According to the Major General, the strikes, dubbed Operation Martyr Moaz in the pilot's memory, targeted I.S. weapon depots and military barracks. (Daily Mail, Feb. 8, 2015)
“I guess in a way we lost a pilot, but at the same time I think the government gained a collective support for fighting them, in Jordan and from all around too,” — Adnan Abu-Odeh, a former head of Jordan’s intelligence service. “Daesh have made a big error. When you are weakened as they have been, you try to make your supporters think you are strong by being more monstrous, but this time they went too far.” (New York Times, Feb. 4, 2015)
“We said we are going to take this all the way, we are going to go after them wherever they are and we’re doing that,” — Jordanian Foreign Minister Nasser Judeh. As part of the new campaign, Jordan is also attacking targets in Iraq, said Judeh. Up to now, Jordan had struck ISIS targets in Syria, but not Iraq, as part of a U.S.-led military coalition. (National Post, Feb. 5, 2015)
"This is a war the world cannot afford to lose…But to win it, all of us must be in it, to stand as partners in the fight against today's threats and to go beyond, to build the conditions for humanity to live together in peace,'' —Jordanian King Abdullah II. (USA Today, Feb. 5, 2015)
“Finally there’s a world leader who knows how to stand up to radical Islamists. Too bad it’s the king of Jordan and not the president of the United States…The king promises a “relentless” war against the al Qaeda offshoot because he understands these are not men much impressed by Nobel Prizes or lofty speeches. He’s not alone. At a time when the president refuses even to speak of radical Islam, the president of Egypt calls for a reformation so believers could purge their faith of its extremist scourge,” — New York Post Editorial (New York Post, Feb. 4, 2015)
“And lest we get on our high horse and think this is unique to some other place, remember that during the Crusades and the Inquisition, people committed terrible deeds in the name of Christ. In our home country, slavery and Jim Crow all too often was justified in the name of Christ,” — U.S. President Obama, at the National Prayer Breakfast last week. (Washington Post, Feb. 6, 2015)
“The statement reflects [Obama’s] abiding disapproval of Western history and his fetish that Americans are always this close to mass Islamophobia — two topics where he’s far, far outside the mainstream. Instead of building a bridge, he throws a stick of dynamite. Having failed over six years to convince the nation that Islam has nothing to do with terrorism, he drags up ancient Christian history to silence his critics. He’s moving the goal posts, which is another way of saying, “Shut up, I’m right.” It’s foolish to the point of stupidity, and reveals him to be disconnected from how most people see events. Islamists’ brutal beheadings of hostages and the horrific burning of the Jordanian pilot are, for the vast majority, a sign of unique depravity coming directly from an interpretation of Islam,” — Michael Goodwin. (New York Post, Feb. 7, 2015)
“He has bent over backwards to try to separate this from Islam…Sometimes people try to keep an open mind. And when you have too open a mind, your brains can fall out,” —Deborah E. Lipstadt, Professor of Modern Jewish History at Emory University. Lipstadt said the remarks at the prayer breakfast will rightly bolster critics who insist that Obama should simply say that the United States is at war with Islam. (New York Times, Feb. 6, 2015)
“Too often, what’s missing here in Washington is a sense of perspective,” — Susan E. Rice, Obama’s national security adviser. As Obama officially rolled out a new national security strategy for his final two years in office, his top foreign policy aide denounced “alarmism” over various international crises. “Yes, there is a lot going on. Still, while the dangers we face may be more numerous and varied, they are not of the existential nature we confronted during World War II or during the Cold War. We cannot afford to be buffeted by alarmism in a nearly instantaneous news cycle,” Rice explained. The new security strategy asserts that the U.S. will continue to play a strong leadership role in the world but that it must recognize the limits of U.S. power as well. It argues that even as Washington confronts short-term threats, it should not lose sight of longer-term issues like climate change, trade, poverty, cyber-security and global health. (New York Times, Feb. 6, 2015)
“It is entirely legitimate for the American people to be deeply concerned when you’ve got a bunch of violent, vicious zealots who behead people or randomly shoot a bunch of folks in a deli in Paris,” —Barack Obama, calling the terror attack on Jews in a kosher supermarket in Paris last month an act of random violence, rather than a terror attack or an antisemitic attack. (Breitbart, Feb. 9, 2015)
“The adverb that the President chose was used to indicate that the individuals who were killed in that terrible tragic incident were killed not because of who they were, but because of where they randomly happened to be,” —White House press secretary Josh Earnest. Obama’s choice of the word “randomly” has been criticized, given that the Charlie Hedbo assassins were explicit about their ideological and antisemitic reasons for targeting a kosher grocery. Earnest’s comment didn’t help with Obama’s explanation. (Wall Street Journal, Feb. 10, 2015)
“There (sic) were not all victims of one background or one nationality,” —The State Department’s Jen Psaki, also refusing to explore the motivations of the killers who attacked Paris’ Hyper Cacher kosher supermarket. All the victims were Jewish. This is the confusion that arises among those who are unwilling to confront the character of America’s enemies. (Wall Street Journal, Feb. 10, 2015)
“President Obama absolutely misspoke – if he wants to check the facts, he should talk to his special envoy on antisemitism at the State Department,” —Rabbi Abraham Cooper, associate dean of the Simon Wiesenthal Center. Cooper, who is currently in Paris for talks with French Jewish leaders and government officials, added: “We’re talking about an explosion of antisemitism on this continent, and a convergence of antisemitic hate with terrorism. As we know, many Jews left France last year, well before the January attacks. Here in France, people in authority, especially the leaders of the country, have their eyes wide open to the nature of this problem and the seriousness of the situation. There’s nothing ‘random’ about the threats against Jewish targets, which is why the government has put 10,000 troops on the ground to protect the Jewish community.” (Algemeiner, Feb. 10, 2015)
“We complain [Obama] doesn't have a strategy in the war on radical Islam. The reason he doesn't have a strategy is because he thinks there is no need for a strategy because it is random violence. People shoot up delis, people go around in other places and do stuff. They attach an ideology afterwards as a way to make it look legitimate. He thinks, and he says it openly, this is like the fighting of crime in a city. There is no unifying ideology in the criminals of a city. You go after one after another, you use a drone on one, you arrest another, you shoot a third. But you don't have to have a strategy,” —Charles Krauthammer (Real Clear Politics, Feb. 9, 2015)
"What happened in France will happen, too, in Belgium…and from Belgium, IS will conquer all of Europe," —Letter from Islamic State to Belgian media. Less than a month after the Charlie Hebdo murders and the slaughter of four Jews in Paris, Islamic State has sent a warning to Belgium. "This," they wrote in the letter, "is only the beginning." This is Europe now, poised at a moment when, while antisemitism is at record highs in France and the UK, Muslim groups call for "anti-Islamophobia" policies and boycotts against Israel, and when Belgian police have arrested 15 people in the town of Verviers (population 56,000) and several others throughout the country, all since the Paris terrorist attacks that ran from Jan. 7-Jan. 9. (Investigative Project on Terrorism, Feb. 9, 2015)
AID WORKER IS CONFIRMED DEAD (Washington) — Kayla Jean Mueller, the last U.S. hostage known to be held by Islamic State, was confirmed dead by her relatives and the White House on Tuesday. Mueller’s parents received private communications from I.S. over the weekend, including photographs. I.S. asserted that she had been killed in a Jordanian airstrike in Syria. However, U.S. officials said it was impossible to ascertain from the photos whether she had been killed in the recent strikes as the group claimed. During her captivity, U.S. intelligence officials had assessed that I.S. didn’t intend to kill her. U.S. officials also believe Mueller was forced to convert to Islam and marry an I.S. leader, part of the reason why they assessed she wouldn’t be killed. (Wall Street Journal, Feb. 10, 2015)
HOUTHI REBELS TAKE OVER YEMEN'S GOVERNMENT (Sana’a) — Yemen's Shiite rebels proclaimed a formal takeover Friday, dissolving parliament in a dramatic move that completes their power grab in the region's poorest nation where an al-Qaida terrorist offshoot flourishes. Angry demonstrators protesting the rebels' move have raised fears of a full-blown sectarian conflict between Yemen's new rulers and the disenfranchised Sunni majority. The unrest could strengthen Yemen's al-Qaida branch, and complicate U.S. counter-terrorism operations. While Houthi rebels are bitter enemies of al-Qaida, they also are hostile to the U.S., and frosty to the predominantly Sunni Saudis. The region's Shiite powerhouse, Iran, looms as a potential key backer. (Huffington Post, Feb. 6, 2015)
NEW ALLEGATIONS RENEW OLD QUESTIONS ABOUT SAUDIS, 9-11 (Riyadh) —Some U.S. officials have been urging Obama to release secret files they say document links between the Saudi government and the Sept. 11 attacks. Now, unsubstantiated court testimony by Zacharias Moussaoui, a former al-Qaida member serving life in federal prison, has renewed the push by those who want a closer look into whether there was official Saudi involvement with the Sept. 11 hijackers. The controversy comes at a consequential moment in the relationship between the U.S. and the kingdom. Saudi Arabia has a new king, and the two wary allies are working closely to confront Islamic State, the turmoil in Yemen and Iran's nuclear aspirations. (Huffington Post, Feb. 7, 2015)
NIGER ADDS ITS TROOPS TO THE WAR ON BOKO HARAM (Dakar) — With the regional war against Boko Haram widening, Niger’s Parliament has agreed to send troops to join the fight. The unanimous vote reflects the shock produced by four attacks in Niger in less than a week, including an explosion at a market in the country’s east that killed a number of civilians. Chad, Cameroon and Benin have also agreed to contribute troops to an 8,700-member force. Attacks by the group, which is based in Nigeria, have increasingly spilled across borders in the region. (New York Times, Feb. 10, 2015)
HIGH-RANKING AL-SHABAAB MEMBER KILLED IN U.S. AIRSTRIKE (Nairobi) — The Somali government confirmed Friday that a high-ranking member of the al-Shabaab terrorist group was killed last month in a U.S. airstrike. Abdi Nur Mahdi, commonly known as Yusuf Dheeg, was killed in the Jan. 31 strike outside the southern town of Diinsoor. Dheeg was in charge of al-Shabaab’s external operations and had been involved in planning the September 2013 attack on a shopping mall in neighboring Kenya. That attack killed some 67 people. (Wall Street Journal, Feb. 6, 2015)
SIX CHARGED WITH SUPPLYING MONEY, EQUIPMENT TO TERRORISTS (St. Louis) —Six Bosnian immigrants have been accused of sending money and military equipment to terrorist fighters overseas, including I.S. and al-Qaeda in Iraq. An indictment unsealed in U.S. District Court in St. Louis said the defendants donated money themselves and in some cases collected funds from others and sent the donations overseas. It says two of the defendants used some of the money to buy U.S. military uniforms, firearms accessories, tactical gear and other equipment, which was shipped to people in Turkey and Saudi Arabia who forwarded the supplies to terrorists. (New York Post, Feb. 7, 2015)
EGYPTIAN GETS 25 YEARS FOR ROLE IN EMBASSY BOMBINGS (New York) — An Egyptian lawyer was sentenced Friday to 25 years behind bars for conspiring with Osama bin Laden in the 1998 bombings of two US embassies in Africa that left 224 people dead — including 12 Americans. While imposing a maximum sentence, a Manhattan federal judge pointed out that Adel Abdel Bary benefitted from an “enormously generous plea bargain” that should have him out of jail in eight years when factoring in 17 years of time already served. Before pleading guilty to making a threat to use an explosive device and conspiracy to murder Americans, Bary had faced life in prison on more than 200 counts of premeditated murder for the bombings in Kenya and Tanzania. (New York Post, Feb. 6, 2015)
ROTHERHAM LEADERS CONDEMNED FOR IGNORING REPORTS OF CHILD ABUSE (London) — The British government severely criticized legislators in the town of Rotherham for a culture of “complete denial” that led to a long-running ring involving the sexual abuse of up to 1,400 children from 1997 to 2013. A report into the scandal found grounds for possible criminal indictments. An earlier inquiry, published last August, found that gangs of men, mostly of Pakistani descent, had gradually seduced girls, many of them white, for years. Children as young as 11 were raped by multiple perpetrators, abducted, taken to other cities, beaten and intimidated, the inquiry found. Reports from the council’s own youth service were regularly ignored, the latest report said, sometimes out of concern that the council not appear racist. (New York Times, Feb. 4, 2015)
PUTIN OFFENDED HE WASN'T INVITED TO AUSCHWITZ MEMORIAL (Moscow) — The decision not to invite Russian President Vladimir Putin to a ceremony marking seventy years since the liberation of Auschwitz was a mistake that will have harsh consequences on the US and EU's relations with Moscow, according to diplomats. A number of world leaders took part in the ceremony at the camp in Poland. However, the Polish government initiated the decision not to invite Putin. The intentional move to exclude him from an international event meant to memorialize a central event of WWII – an event that was carried out by the Red Army, who liberated Auschwitz – was taken by Putin as an slight that undermines the Russian narrative of the war. A spokesman for the Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum, however, said Putin had no reason to feel snubbed since no heads of state were specifically invited to the Jan. 27 event. (Jerusalem Post, Feb. 5, 2015 & New York Times, Jan. 13, 2015)
NETANYAHU MAY CHANGE CONGRESS SPEECH FORMAT AFTER CRITICISM (Jerusalem) — Israeli officials are considering amending the format of Netanyahu's planned address to Congress to try to calm some of the partisan furor the speech has provoked. Netanyahu is due to address a joint session of Congress about Iran's nuclear program on March 3, just two weeks before Israeli elections, following an invitation from John Boehner. Boehner's invitation has caused consternation in both Israel and the U.S., largely because it is seen as Netanyahu working with the Republicans to criticize Obama's policy on Iran. It is also seen as putting Netanyahu's political links to the Republicans ahead of Israel's ties with the U.S., while serving as a pre-election campaign booster. Israeli officials are considering whether Netanyahu should speak to a closed-door session of Congress, rather than in a prime-time TV address. (Jerusalem Post, Feb. 9, 2015)
PALESTINIANS TO OPEN EMBASSY IN SWEDEN AS ABBAS VISITS (Stockholm) —PA President Abbas arrived in Stockholm Tuesday as Sweden readied to open the first Palestinian embassy in Western Europe. Abbas, who is visiting Sweden for the first time since it became the first European country to recognize Palestine, called on other countries to follow Stockholm’s lead. Sweden’s Prime Minister Stefan Lofven said with statehood, the Palestinians would now be held to different standards: “According to our view, Palestine is from now on a state. Therefore our expectations from Palestine and its leaders are going to grow.” Löfven announced $180 million in increased aid to the Palestinians, which will be dedicated to fighting corruption, advancing human rights and gender equality. Sweden is the only major EU country to have recognized Palestine. (Times of Israel, Feb. 10, 2015)
PA ANNOUNCES TOTAL BAN ON MAJOR ISRAELI PRODUCTS (Ramallah) —The products of six of the biggest Israeli companies will now be absolutely barred in the territories currently under Palestinian control. The Israeli companies banned under the latest dictate are the chocolate and candy company Elite; Tnuva, which produces cheese and other dairy products; the beverage companies Prigat and Jafora (which includes Shweppes and RC Cola, in Israel); and Osem, which produces snacks and soups, as well as other food products. All of the companies are located within the Green Line. (Jewish Press, Feb. 10, 2015)
U CAL STUDENT BODY URGES DIVESTMENT FROM ISRAEL, US (Los Angeles) — The University of California Student Association passed two resolutions Sunday calling on the institution to “withdraw investments in securities, endowments, mutual funds, and other monetary instruments” from several governments, including Israel, Mexico, Turkey, Russia, and the US. According to the student body, the aforementioned governments have violated the universal right “to life, liberty, and security of person; to education; to privacy, family [and] home; to own property, and… [not to] be arbitrarily deprived of property.” The resolution stated that the US “is engaged in drone strikes that have killed over 2,400 people in Pakistan and Yemen, many of them civilians.” The second resolution was devoted entirely to human rights abuses in the Palestinian territories. (Times of Israel, Feb. 9, 2015)
Chart: The Decline of Europe’s Jewish Population: Adam Taylor, Washington Post, Feb. 9, 2015 —A bloody attack on a Kosher supermarket in Paris last month has caused many French Jews to reconsider their lives in France…
Pre-9/11 Ties Haunt Saudis as New Accusations Surface: Ben Hubbard & Scott Shane, New York Times, Feb. 4, 2015—During the 1980s and ’90s, the historic alliance between the wealthy monarchy of Saudi Arabia and the country’s powerful clerics emerged as the major financier of international jihad, channeling tens of millions of dollars to Muslim fighters in Afghanistan, Bosnia and elsewhere.
Obama: We're No Better than Islamic State: Raymond Ibrahim, Frontpage, Feb. 6, 2015 —As the world reacts with shock and horror at the increasingly savage deeds of the Islamic State (IS)—most recently the immolation of a captive—U.S. President Obama's response has been one of nonjudgmental relativism.
Folks Do the Randomest Things: Andrew C. McCarthy, National Review, Feb. 11, 2015 —I don’t understand why folks are giving President Obama and his spokes-minions such a hard time over his insistence that Ahmedy Coulibaly, the terrorist who just happened to be Muslim committing terrorism that had nothing to do with Islam, was just “randomly” picking out folks in Paris to kill when he randomly came upon a grocery that just happened to be Jewish and, coincidentally, to have Jews in it, whom he randomly killed.
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