Monday, July 28, 2014

6th Step - Dharma Talk

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Why has Israel rejected Kerry's proposal - or why has Kerry rejected Israel's self-defense?

I have wondered about Secretary of State John Kerry's proposal for a cessation of hostilities between Hamas and Israel. (7/27/2014)

Why has Israel rejected Kerry's proposal? Why has the Palestinian Authority rejected it?

After reading media reports, my opinion is that I am asking the wrong question, and that the more appropriate question is, why has Kerry rejected Israel's self-defense? Why has Kerry challenged and even rejected the legitimacy of the Palestinian Authority?

The essentially points are summed up by Barak Ravid of Haaretz, an Israeli leftwing newspaper. He calls  Kerry’s proposals “embarrassing” and an "apparent dishonesty in the negotiations."
Some quotes from Barry Ravid in Haaratz and other Israeli media:
"The draft Kerry passed to Israel on Friday shocked the cabinet ministers not only because it was the opposite of what Kerry told them less than 24 hours earlier, but mostly because it might as well have been penned by Khaled Meshal. It was everything Hamas could have hoped for.
The document recognized Hamas’ position in the Gaza Strip, promised the organization billions in donation funds and demanded no dismantling of rockets, tunnels or other heavy weaponry at Hamas’ disposal. The document placed Israel and Hamas on the same level, as if the first is not a primary U.S. ally and as if the second isn’t a terror group which overtook part of the Palestinian Authority in a military coup and fired thousands of rockets at Israel."
"The secretary of state’s draft empowered the most radical and problematic elements in the region – Qatar, Turkey, and Hamas – and was a slap on the face to the rapidly forming camp of Egypt, Israel, the Palestinian Authority, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates, who have many shared interests. What Kerry’s draft spells for the internal Palestinian political arena is even direr: It crowns Hamas and issues Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas with a death warrant."
"Kerry isn’t anti-Israeli; on the contrary, he’s a true friend to Israel. But his conduct in recent days over the Gaza cease-fire raises serious doubts over his judgment and perception of regional events. It’s as if he isn’t the foreign minister of the world’s most powerful nation, but an alien, who just disembarked his spaceship in the Mideast. For a few moments Friday one could not avoid recalling the things Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon said about Kerry, and admit that despite the fact that it wasn’t appropriate, he may have had a point.
If Kerry did anything on Friday it was to thwart the possibility of reaching a cease-fire in Gaza. Instead of promoting a cease-fire, Kerry pushed it away. If this failed diplomatic attempt leads Israel to escalate its operation in Gaza, the American secretary of state will be one of those responsible for every additional drop of blood that is spilled."

My opinion is close to Barry Ravid's opinion. If you want to explore this further, feel free to check the Israeli media on these matters.

Also see:

PS. Subsequent to my post, I have been sent the following reports regarding the Palestinian Authority:

"The Palestinian Authority is fuming at US Secretary of State John Kerry, accusing him of trying to undermine the Egyptian ceasefire initiative endorsed by Israel and the PA last week and rejected by Hamas, an Arab daily reported on Sunday."

“Kerry tried, through his latest plan, to destroy the Egyptian bid and the Palestinian remarks on it (the Abbas plan). His initiative is an alternative to ours,” an unnamed Palestinian official told A-Sharq Al-Awsat. “Kerry was in fact trying to create an alternative framework to the Egyptian initiative and our understanding of it, in a way that placates the Qataris and the Turks.”

and also:

"PA slams Kerry for convening ‘friends of Hamas’ summit

The PA leadership issues a strongly worded statement against Secretary of State John Kerry’s ceasefire proposal, saying it “crosses all red lines,” according to Channel 2.
The Paris meeting on Saturday between the US, Turkey, and Qatar representatives was tantamount to an international gathering of “the friends of Hamas,” it says.
The PA is the only representative of the Palestinian people, it says.
Kerry has been castigated in Israel and the PA for drafting a ceasefire proposal deemed to undermine the Egyptian proposal, and to represent a capitulation to Hamas. Israel rejected the Kerry proposal on Friday. Kerry then flew to Paris and met with leaders from Qatar and Turkey for more consultations, and not with Israeli, PA, or Egyptian representatives.
Israel made clear Sunday that the Egyptian proposal, for an immediate, unconditional ceasefire, is the only offer on the table."

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Tunnels Continued - Who built the Gaza tunnels?

The Gaza tunnels are an interesting phenomenon to me. I wonder if there are non-military and beneficial purposes for them?

The public attention they have received in the current conflict belies the much longer attention and interest in them by scholars and others. For instance:

"The Institute for Palestine Studies published a detailed report on Gaza’s Tunnel Phenomenon in the summer of 2012. It reported that tunnel construction in Gaza has resulted in a large number of child deaths.
“At least 160 children have been killed in the tunnels, according to Hamas officials”
The author, Nicolas Pelham, explains that Hamas uses child laborers to build their terror tunnels because, “much as in Victorian coal mines, they are prized for their nimble bodies”.
Human rights groups operating in Gaza raised concerns about child labor in the tunnels as far back as 2008. Hamas responded by saying it was “considering curbs.” FollowingOperation Cast Lead in 2009 Hamas softened its position and the Interior Ministry established the Tunnel Affairs Commission (TAC) which, “In response to public concern at a rising toll of tunnel casualties, particularly of child workers…issued guidelines intended to ensure safe working conditions.” No mention is made in the report of the conditions that would result for both Palestinian and Israeli children from building tunnels that would be used to launch terror attacks."

Friday, July 25, 2014

A What-for of Gaza Tunnels

I have wondered about the purposes and plans involving the Gaza tunnels - and their growing significance for both Hamas and Israel. And then I got an e-mail with weblinks that seemed to clarify much - especially why they now are an important part of cease fire negotiations (see last few sentences of paragraph below).

"Israeli Hebrew - and English - language media outlets reported early Friday that Hamas's offensive tunnel network - which is now known to have been composed of over two dozen attack tunnels dug underneath Israel's border with the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip - was set to be activated during the Jewish High Holidays in the form of a mass terror attack. Israeli security sources, citing information acquired in interrogations of captured Hamas fighters, described a scenario under which hundreds of heavily armed Hamas fighters would have spilled out into Israel in the dead of night and within 10 minutes have been in a position to infiltrate several sparsely populated and lightly guarded Israeli communities. Palestinian terrorists would then - per an assessment conveyed   by i24news - have sought to "kill and kidnap as many Israelis as they could." Details of plot, which were first published by the Hebrew-language Ma'arivdescribed it   as set to take place when Israelis would have been celebrating the Jewish New Year, on or around September 24. Observers noted that attack scenarios lined up with recently revealed data about the scope and nature of the offensive tunnel network. The IDF recently published a map   showing that the tunnels were created to empty out on both sides of nearby communities. Israeli military officials had already reported   that the tunnel entrances are stocked with tranquilizers, handcuffs, ropes, and other materials useful for subduing abducted civilians and soldiers. And the known cost of the infrastructure - with each tunnel costing roughly $1 million - implies that Hamas leaders were planning a coordinated mega-attack, since use of even one of the tunnels was likely to trigger an Israeli retaliation against the entire network. Revelations regarding the magnitude of the planned tunnel attack are thought to have played a critical role in the Israeli government's rejection of a ceasefire proposed late Friday by Secretary of State John Kerry, which would have prohibited   the Israelis from degrading remaining attack tunnels."

Here is the websource which also provides the links:

The Army’s Newest Drone Can Stay Airborne Forever .... provided there’s power down below. What other applications, especially civilian, might this have?

"Most military drones fall into two categories. There are long-range Air Force drones designed to orbit at medium to high altitudes for hours and hours. Global Hawk, Reaper and Predator fall into this category.
Small Army and Marine units out in the field have drones, too. But these Scan Eagles, Ravens and Shadows can only stay airborne for a few hours at most, depending on the particular machine.
PARC is something of a hybrid. That gives small infantry teams a cheap vehicle for long-term surveillance. The only downside is that the quadrotor isn’t maneuverable.
But the point is to send the automatan into the skies—roughly 1,000 feet up—and let it sit there scanning all day long with its electro-optical and infrared sensors. If someone cuts the microfilament, or it loses ground power, then the PARC’s battery kicks in and the drone lands automatically.
The lack of maneuverability might also not be a downside, given its role. An infantry unit doesn’t need to train how to fly the thing.
All they need to do is man the ground station, watching out for enemies."
How might weather forecasters use this? How might police in urban areas, on highways and elsewhere use it? What of scientist in wilderness areas? What of Park Rangers? The possibilities seem many and only limited by our inventiveness and ingenuity.
For the full article see:

A Simple and Non-violent Solution for the Seemingly Intractable Ukraine Interventions by Russia (and the Resulting Deaths and Violence)

"Let's give Putin a clear choice: Either he can (cease) subventing and enabling the bloodletting in eastern Ukraine, or we can expose the enormous global network of offshore bank accounts, dummy companies, and real estate holdings that belong to him and his criminal elite. A mafia state should be treated as such. And information should once again be weaponized as it was during the Cold War. Moscow has already gotten a head start, by leaking compromised telephone calls   between members of our State Department and between Eurocrats and NATO-allied state officials.
Investigative journalism has already yielded reams of copy on where some of the Putinist wealth is hidden, and how it got there. Much of it is in EU jurisdictions, which are subject to sanctions and/or concerted American diplomatic overtures. The U.S. Treasury Department, the CIA, and the FBI all know more about Putin's and his cronies' billions than they say publicly.
Indeed, the first suite of sanctions that the United States passed on Russia disclosed that Putin personally held assets in a Swiss commodities trader called Gunvor, in which, Treasury stated  , "Putin has investments" and "may have access to ... funds." This was newsworthy, as it was encouraging of even more thorough reporting on where therumored wealthiest man in Europe   stashes his cash. Barack Obama wouldn't have to try very hard to convince Putin that, if he so desired, he could feed the entire Western media industry enough scoops and exclusives to shake Russia's stock market and economy for months, if not years, not to mention set the cat among the pigeons of bickering Kremlin political factions.
It's simply a myth that Russians don't keep their money in the United States anymore. According to lame-duck Sen. Carl Levin, whom I heard give a press conference at Hotel Ukraina in Kiev last April, there are "billions" of dollars parked on American soil. So why haven't we frozen that money yet? It's an open secret to federal law enforcement that the Manhattan and Miami property markets now act as end points for magically transforming black or blood-soaked dollars into pristine portfolios for the kept beneficiaries of authoritarian regimes, including and especially Putin's. No less than the former head of the Duma's ethics committee, Vladimir Pekhtin, was shown by Russian dissident Alexey Navalny to have owned millions in real estate in Florida, including a1,530-square-foot apartment at 1500 Ocean Drive  . Pekhtin was also sued by U.S. contractors in the Sunshine State. Can he really be only one this easy to find?"

For the full article with details and more see:

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

A journalist trying to understand why Syrian deaths no longer seem to matter.

This is an interesting and quite disclosing article about journalism and the Gaza - Israeli conflict, the choices made by major media outlets and the public reactions. Whether his assumptions and conclusions are valid or not I can not say. However, the questions raised by Jeffrey Goldberg and insights offered are quite good. 

Here are some fundamental points.

"There is another question about media coverage that has been bothering me, however, one of proportionality. I was struck, over the weekend, by the lack of coverage of the Syrian civil war, in which the death count recently passed 170,000. By Sunday night, it had become clear that the weekend toll in Syria would stand at roughly 700 dead—a larger number, obviously, than the weekend toll in Gaza (and more than the total number of deaths in thislatest iteration of the Gaza war to date.) I tweeted the following in response to this news out of Syria: “I sincerely hope the @nytimes covers the slaughter in Syria – 700 dead in 48 hours – in tomorrow’s paper. Very important story as well.”

This was my sincere hope, and it was to my sincere surprise that Monday’s newspaper contained no information whatsoever about the weekend slaughter in Syria. The front page was devoted mainly to Gaza and Ukraine. But there was nothing inside either, and nothing on the website. As far as I can tell, the Times, as of this writing, has not addressed this most recent round of Syria carnage in an even semi-comprehensive way. It goes without saying that continuing violence in Libya, Egypt, Nigeria, Yemen, and so on, has not received much attention from the Times in recent days. (I’m singling out the Times because it is America’s best, most thorough and most important newspaper. I suppose you could accuse me of having a double standard. So be it.)"


"Why is this so? I can spend all day speculating, but one explanation for this lack of coverage is a relative lack of interest in the Syria/Iraq theater by Arabs and Muslims, or at least relative lack of interest in comparison to the obvious interest in the Gaza crisis. The American media takes at least some of its cues on Syria from the intensity of coverage in the Arab world. The Washington bureau chief of Al-Hayat, Joyce Karam, was one of the few people to notice the weekend death toll in Syria. She tweeted, in reference to anti-Israel protests in Pakistan, “Syria is essentially Gaza x320 death toll, x30 number of refugees, but no protest in Pakistan…”  

I asked her why she thought this is so. Her answer: “Only reason I can think of is Muslim killing Muslim or Arab killing Arab seems more acceptable than Israel killing Arabs.”

See here for the article: