Monday, June 03, 2013

Arlene Kushner: A Tribute To International Lawyer Howard Grief -- and an Assessment of Various Middle East Crisis Points

From Arlene Kushner:
June 3, 2013

A Tribute

Howard Grief,

Howard Grief, z"l, passed away yesterday here in Jerusalem.  To those of us who work closely on issues concerning Jewish rights in the land and Jewish sovereignty, he provided not only an enormous amount of historical and legal information, but a perspective. He served as an inspiration because of his tireless dedication, even in the face of severe illness. 
I dedicate this posting to him, so that all who read this should know the debt we owe to him.
An international lawyer, born and educated in Montreal, Grief made aliyah in 1989 and served as a legal adviser in international law on matters pertaining to the Land of Israel for the ministry of Professor Yuval Ne'eman, during the administration of Yitzhak Shamir.
As he did his extensive research, Grief developed the thesis that de jure sovereignty over the entire Land of Israel was vested in the Jewish People as a result of the Resolution of the San Remo Conference, adopted in April 1920, which made reference to the Balfour declaration.
He lectured and wrote on this issue extensively, and in 2008 authored his comprehensive treatise, The Legal Foundation and Borders of Israel under International Law.

And here an enlightening video in which he makes his thesis clear:

Baruch Dayan HaEmet. Receive our gratitude, Howard Grief, and rest in peace.
And here a personal note:
It's been a hard lesson, but I'm learning it: there are only 24 hours in a day.  Right now, as much as I am motivated to write these posts frequently, there are a host of other matters to which I must devote time: a significant project on behalf of Israel, conferences, etc.  And the personal: a bat mitzvah of a granddaughter, visiting with relatives from abroad.
And, not to be forgotten, kaitana savta (Camp Grandma), coming soon, which means grandchildren sleeping here and going on outings with me.  Not only a time I treasure and measure as a great priority, it is an experience that keeps me sane, provides perspective, and strengthens me for the work I do.
And so my friends, know that all is well, but that in the coming weeks my postings are likely to be less frequent than is my norm.  I will post to the best of my ability.
The Middle East is on fire:  It goes from awful to horrendous to catastrophic. 
Inside of Syria, the fighting continues with enormous intensity, most notably in the two-week long battle for Qusayr, near the Lebanese border.  Reports there are of 400 killed and 1,000 wounded since the beginning of the battle.  The humanitarian situation is said to be horrendous, with doctors having run out of supplies.
Recently Hezbollah's leader Sheikh Nasrallah declared, with regard to battling on behalf of the Syrian troops, particularly in Qusayr: 
"We will continue to the end of the road; we accept this responsibility and will accept all sacrifices and expected consequences of this position."
This was hardly an altruistic position, as Assad's Syria is Nasrallah's lifeline and source of armaments. Qusayr is near the Lebanese border and provides the pathway for the transmission of those armaments. 
Hezbollah reportedly has 11,000 fighters there now.  Qusayr had been in rebel hands, but Assad's troops are attempting to retake the city; there has been no decisive winner as the battle goes back and forth.
What is happening, however, is that the presence of Hezbollah in Qusayr has spurred rebel action in Lebanon, in retaliation.
According to the Lebanese National News Agency, on Friday night 16 mortars and rockets were fired from Syria into the Hezbollah Shiite stronghold of Baalbek, a major population center in the Bekaa Valley.
As a result, sectarian Sunni-Shiite tensions inside of Lebanon have also increased.
The other day, a spokeswoman for the US State Department said:
"We demand that Hezbollah withdraw its fighters from Syria immediately."
An exercise in powerlessnes.
Obama is still speaking obliquely about arming rebel forces, which likely would have the effect of prolonging and intensifying the war, not ending it.
At the very same time (see the same imra source cited above), Iraq is seeing the worst violence since 2008. A UN envoy describes Iraq as "ready to explode."  During May there were somewhere between 600 and 1,000 deaths (depending on source cited) and well over 1,000 injuries.
While the political issues here are complex, in large measure the violence is the result of growing sectarian tensions -- a seriously disgruntled Sunni minority (which had ruled the country under Saddam Hussein) responding to a Shiite majority and the government.
I had cited Dore Gold the other day, in an article about the impending break-down of the borders of Arab states that were arbitrarily drawn after WWI.  And here we see the handwriting on the wall, folks:  Increasing sectarian tensions, Sunni vs. Shiite.  The old borders are, in the end, unlikely to hold them, as Arabs move across those borders to join with others of the same Muslim sect.
We see this tendency in the TV sermon last Friday of cleric Yusuf al-Qaradawi in Qatar, who advised Sunnis everywhere to go fight against Assad.  Denouncing Assad's Alawite sect (an offshoot of Shiite Islam) as "more infidel than Christians and Jews," he said that, "Everyone who has the ability and has training to kill ... is required to go."
Declaring that there is no more common ground between Sunnis and Shiites, he charged Shiite Iran with trying to "devour" Sunnis.

Read: Rebels against Hezbollah: Rockets hit Baalbek region
And in Turkey (which is 80% Sunni Muslim but not Arab): Days of exceedingly serious riots, directed at the Islamist government of Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan.  Protesters clashed with riot police and set fire to buildings belonging to the ruling AK (Justice and Development) party.  Some of the worst violence took place in Istanbul, where demonstrators set up barricades, as well as in other major cities.
The rioting began when government plans were announced for the redevelopment of Istanbul's Taksim Square, which has traditionally served as a rallying point for mass demonstrations,  But it quickly morphed into something a great deal more serious.

Read: Erdogan calls for calm after days of protests

Credit: Telegraph (UK)
Security is tight as Erdogan blames the riots on "foreign extremists" and calls Twitter a "menace." 
Protests are being voiced about the excessively tough methods employed by Turkish security forces.  Other sources of discontent include limitations on alcohol, the massive Syrian refugee problem, which people believe has not been handled well, and the relationship with the Kurds.
Analysts are not in agreement as to whether this can be seen as the Turkish version of the "Arab Spring."
Speculations about delivery of those Russian S-300 missiles to Syria have been enough to make one's head spin:  Some are in Syria already, they're on the way, they are being used as a threat and aren't coming...
What seemed to me most significant as those speculations circulated was a statement by Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon, that, should the missiles arrive, "we'll know what to do."  It seemed pretty clear to me that this man was not bluffing: Israel was not about to sit still while Syria took possession of equipment that would not only shift the balance of power with regard to Israel attacks inside of Syria, but would permit the Syrians to hit commercial planes over Ben Gurion Airport. 
It was just a question of when in the process of Syria setting up those missile installations we would hit -- the key factor being taking them out before they were operational.
Prime Minister Netanyahu delivered a similar message to Putin when visited Russia last month, saying that the delivery of those missiles “is likely to draw us into a response, and could send the region deteriorating into war.” 
What seems obvious now is that the Russians also understand that Israeli leaders were not bluffing.
Now Ya'alon has told the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee that, if Russia does decide to deliver those missiles to Russia (something not yet clear), “it will happen only in 2014.”  (Emphasis added)
According to the Russian daily Kommersant, the S-300 missiles would only be delivered in the second quarter of 2014. What is more, they would not become operational for another six months because of required testing and training.
While a Lebanese paper, al-Diyar, reported that Putin has offered Assad other "effective and powerful weapons,”  but obviously not as effective as those S-300 missiles.
And Israeli sources have learned that Syria has only paid one-third of its contract with Russia. “It is not clear to me that the Russians are interested in transferring the weapons. Right now, it’s more of a threat,” said Channel 2′s Ehud Ya’ari,

Read: No S-300 for Syria this year, Israel’s defense minister assesses
OK, then, A signal lesson in being tough and resolute.
Ah that Obama and company would learn something from this.
See the comment by Avraham Ben-Zvi that "Obama is no Kennedy":
"Unlike during the Cuban missile crisis, the [Russians have] identified a profound and basic leadership void in Obama's Washington."
Read: Obama is no Kennedy
I remain aghast that in the face of all this Mideastern violence and upheaval Sec. of State Kerry remains focused on the "peace process."
But at least our Defense Minister, Moshe Yaalon, see straight.  Yesterday in his briefing before the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, he said that:
"The crux of the matter is education in the Palestinian Authority, and if I open a PA textbook and see that Israel doesn't appear on the map, or that Tel Aviv is designated as a settlement, and when a 3-year-old boy is brought up to admire suicide bombers -- you can sign any agreement and in the end it will blow up in your face."
He also spoke about the very real threat of terror coming from Judea and Samaria, which is prevented by the IDF, which has freedom to operate.  The implications of pulling back, then, are glaringly obvious.

Read: Ya'alon: No real peace without end to Palestinian incitement
Mahmoud Abbas, who functions as PA president (but is NOT president because his term of office expired in January 2009, and new elections were never held) has now appointed a replacement for Salam Fayyad, who retired as PR prime minister: 
Rami Hamdallah, the British-educated linguist professor and president of an-Najah University, and a man with no political experience or affiliations.  Guess that's one way to quell partisan fighting about which candidate would be best.

Rami Hamdallah

A man like this is going to appeal to Western governments, which is likely a key reason for his selection by Abbas, who did not consult the PLO before making his announcement.
One has to wonder what would prompt this man to take such a position and what was said to him behind closed doors.
Barak Ravid opines that "His chances of success are so low that some would say agreeing to take the post is akin to taking a suicide mission."

Read: Rami Hamdallah is a good man on a suicide mission
A expression of outrage that must be shared:
President Shimon Peres is about to celebrate his 90th birthday with a huge bash.  Outrageous enough, but that's not what's got me here.
Within the same time frame as this event, there will be other events sponsored by the Jewish National Fund (Keren-Kayemet LeYisrael).  Former president Bill Clinton will celebrate with Peres and give a talk on sustainability at the Peres Academic Center in Rehovot, which is where the birthday will be celebrated.  (The precise connection to this event and other JNF events is not clear.)
The Clinton fee for this -- which will go to the Clinton Foundation -- is $500,000. And JNF is paying it!  Got that?

Read: JNF to Pay Bill Clinton Foundation $500K for Clinton Visit
Are you incensed yet?
JNF, which takes Jewish money ostensibly so that trees can be planted and Israel can be developed, paying Clinton half a million dollars.  JNF defense is that this will promote an increase in activities. And I say, garbage.
I ask, please, that you register your protest to JNF and let them know you're not only angry, but finished donating to them.
Means of contact provided on the website: and (888) JNF-0099.
Regional offices can be located here: JNF in Your Area.
Let's end on a positive note.
"The official PA daily reported on a visit by the PA Minister of Health, Hani Abdeen, to Israel's Hadassah Hospital in Jerusalem. The daily noted that 30% of the child patients in Hadassah are Palestinians and that the Israeli hospital is training '60 Palestinian medical interns and specialist physicians who will be returning to the [Palestinian] Authority areas to carry out their work.' The hospital has a special program to train Palestinian doctors to treat cancer among children, reported the PA daily."
Read: Official PA daily acknowledges Israeli hospital's medical care for Palestinian children and training of doctors
© Arlene Kushner. This material is produced by Arlene Kushner, functioning as an independent journalist. Permission is granted for it to be reproduced only with proper attribution. 
If it is reproduced and emphasis is added, the fact that it has been added must be noted.
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