.

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Yemeni arguments against MB "culture of death" also apply to PalArabs

Yemen has been at war with al-Qaeda in recent months, and on May 21 a suicide bomber killed 96. A featured article in Yemencom describes how sick the people are of Islamist terror:

During the past few months many Yemeni cities, particularly Aden and Sanaa, have seen terrorist bombings carried out by suicide bombers that booby-trapped their bodies, in an assembly line for the production of the culture of death...they carry out suicide bombings targeting a large number of civilian sites as well as military and police, security and armed forces during performance of their duties; the massacre in the capital Sanaa on the morning of Monday, May 21, 2012 is further evidence that confirms the seriousness of machine-like production of the culture of death on society and the state at the same time.

A large number of researchers in the affairs of political Islam believe that all entities and extremist groups popped up like mushrooms from the robe of the Muslim Brotherhood, but this group denies the validity of this belief. For quite some time the Muslim Brotherhood has been making up slogans of democracy and human rights and try to join U.S. and EU projects for the promotion of democracy and liberalism in the Middle East in particular and the Arab and Muslim world in general. No doubt also that there are differences in attitudes between different groups of the jihadist spectrum under the umbrella of political Islam, but they have a common desire to seek to restore the caliphate...
The author goes on to give a history of the Muslim Brotherhood and how it has been the basis for Al Qaeda and other groups, many under the umbrella of the "World Islamic Front for Fighting Jews and Christians."

It is interesting that the author describes the culture of death so well - but doesn't notice that on this day in particular, Palestinian Arab society has united in their fond memories of the "heroism" of the suicide bombers and other terrorists whose bodies were given to them today.

The culture of death is not limited to Al Qaeda. It is alive and well in the Palestinian Arab territories. Today.

Unfortunately, we will never see an Arabic-language article condemning the essentially universal Palestinian Arab love of terrorist murderers the way this article slams the culture of death in Yemen.

Documentary exposing the impotence of the UN coming tomorrow

This looks great:



From an interview with the filmmaker, Ami Horowitz:

Many conservatives in the United States are critical of the U.N. because they believe it threatens U.S. national sovereignty. Many progressives would be livid at some of the corruption you expose in your film. Which of these two broad groups (and I realize we’re dealing with generalizations and labels here) would you say U.N. Me has resonated with the most? Do you think this could be an issue where concerned Americans can unite across the partisan divide in support of substantive solutions?

Horowitz: I knew that conservatives were going to be attracted to this movie. That was the basis of our entire model. It was the liberals that were going to be the wild card. At first, the working assumption was that they would reject the movie as conservative claptrap. But once we began screenings, the opposite was true. Liberals began to change their entire viewpoint on the United Nations after seeing the movie. The only distinction between conservatives and liberals, was that liberals were so outraged by what they saw on screen, the humor got in their way. Conservatives, on the other hand, were aware of many of the issues that we discussed, so they were able to enjoy the humor far more.

Has any general ideological group, or specific individual or organization been especially hostile to the message in your film?

Horowitz: I find that Europeans generally are particularly hostile to the movie. They find the idea of a moral high ground to be an obnoxious thought. They also find that preaching against a particular ideology, for instance radical Islam, is dubious, possibly even racist. Their moral compass has been broken for years. They find that my focus on corruption and wastefulness borders on greediness.

You’ve got a gutsy, humorous approach to documentary-making, especially as highlighted by some of the segments in your trailer. I see shades of Michael Moore in places (in a good way– referring to his dead-pan humor and sense of irony, not some of his deceptive editing practices). Who are your influences and inspirations when it comes to documentary-making?

Horowitz: Obviously I am influenced by Michael Moore. Say what you will about his politics, he has taken the staid documentary genre and turned it on its head. Sasha Baron Cohen, who is not, strictly speaking, a documentary filmmaker, has an interview technique that I have emulated in many ways. I was so enamored with both of their styles, that I hired much of their teams.

(h/t EBoZ)

Jewish philosopher takes credit for Libya intervention; Arabs believe him

From Variety:
Followers of global politics will be surprised to learn that Bernard-Henri Levy is responsible for the downfall of Muammar Gaddafi, but that's the story Levy tells in "The Oath of Tobruk," co-helmed with Marc Roussel. Levy is France's media star philosopher, a peculiarly Gallic creation whose immaculate tailoring and savvy self-promotion make him the darling of celeb rags and higher institutions. With "Tobruk," he's finally been subsumed by his own ego, placing himself front and center of Libya's revolution and barely acknowledging other forces. Such self-aggrandizement will play to only acolytes at home.

[H]is nonstop theatricalized narration, interminable use of the first person, and treatment of the Libyan desert as little more than a "GQ" fashion shoot with himself as model don't make for a sympathetic portrait. Nor together do they say much about the real nature of Gaddafi's defeat.

BHL entered Libya in March 2011 together with sidekick Gilles Hertzog (Ed McMahon to Levy's Johnny Carson). His appearance was informed by 20 years of guilt, when his cry for intervention in Bosnia (the subject of his 1994 docu "Bosna") went largely unheeded. Convinced that the West must intervene in Libya, he crisscrossed the globe, using his access to the halls of power to spur leaders into military action.

According to "Tobruk," that's pretty much all it took. Interviews with Nicolas Sarkozy, David Cameron, Hillary Clinton and others are edited to reflect BHL's importance and glory, while scenes of adulatory crowds cheering him in Benghazi testify to his skills in selling himself as the embodiment of First World action. The chaotic nature of the opposition is nowhere seen, and there's little sense of what was happening on the battlefields.
I admit to being confused as to how philosophy and self-promotion are in harmony.

At any rate, if a self-absorbed Jewish figure says that he is the reason Western powers decided to act in Libya, the Arabs are more than happy to believe him.

Al Manar uses this documentary as proof of a worldwide Jewish conspiracy to foment chaos in the Arab world.

If Levy thinks that releasing such a film would have a positive effect in, say, Syria, it is possible that his own ego is now more pronounced than his analytic abilities.

Arab women writers kill anthology rather than include Israelis

If you go to Amazon, you can see pre-publication information for this book:

The synopsis from the publisher, the University of Texas Press, says:
Memory of a Promise
Short Stories by Middle Eastern Women

By Annes McCann-Baker

What is life like for women in the Middle East? As the region continues to make headlines, more and more people in the West have begun to ask this question. Unfortunately, stereotypes abound. In Memory of a Promise: Short Stories by Middle Eastern Women, female authors from sixteen nations, from Morocco to Uzbekistan, provide a look at a broad range of women’s experiences and do much to dispel notions of the region as homogenous.
Unfortunately, you will never be able to buy this book.

Here is why:

For many scholars, a fitting way to honor a deceased colleague is to produce an anthology of related work. At the Center for Middle Eastern Studies at the University of Texas at Austin, that was the thinking behind plans for a volume of fiction and other writing by women in the Middle East. The anthology was to honor the late Elizabeth Fernea, who in her years at Texas had helped build up the study of the region and who promoted the publication in translation of works from the many countries there.

In the last week, however, the project fell apart -- as the movement to boycott Israel in every possible way left Texas officials believing that they couldn't complete the work.

The anthology was to have been published in conjunction with the University of Texas Press, and 29 authors agreed to have works included. Then one of the women found out that two of the authors were Israelis. She then notified the others that she would withdraw her piece unless Texas excluded the two Israelis. When the university refused to do so, a total of 13 authors pulled out. A few others wouldn't tell the center whether they were willing to go ahead with the project, and without assent from those authors, it was not clear that the anthology would include a single Arab author. (The other authors besides the Israelis were from non-Arab parts of the Middle East.)

Kamran Scot Aghaie, director of the center at UT, said that it "would not have been academically sound" to do the book without any Arab authors, but that it wouldn't have been academically or ethically sound to exclude the Israelis. Since the Arab authors wouldn't participate, the book was scrapped.

Aghaie said that several of the authors who pulled out told him that they objected to his not telling them in advance that there would be Israelis in the volume. He said he rejected that idea -- not only for this book but for any future work.

"My view is that it's not proper to single out individual contributors for other contributors to veto. We were not willing to give any group special treatment," he said.

Further, Aghaie said that he does not believe academic institutions should be involved in boycotts of academics or writers in other countries. Aghaie said he understands the idea behind boycotts generally. He describes himself as someone who is "highly critical of the tactics Israelis and Palestinians have been using against each other." But whatever one thinks of Israel, he said, there is no reason to refuse to work with Israeli academics or authors -- or to expect other universities to assist in such a boycott -- as some of the authors expected Texas to do with regard to calls by some pro-Palestinian groups to boycott anything or anyone connected to Israel.

"As an academic institution, we cannot censor people for the country they are from," he said. And he also noted that the boycott of Israel is a boycott of Jewish Israelis, not other Israelis, whose participation does not raise objections. Even if one feels boycotts are appropriate for, say, companies that engage in particular activities, "academics need to be an exception," he said. "As a publishing press or as a program, it's not appropriate for us to single out anyone based on religion or national origin," he said. "To do so is simply discrimination, and it's wrong."

"The last thing you want to do is cut off dialogue. That's the stupidest thing one would do," he said.

Aghaie views the events of the last few weeks with sadness, but others view them as a victory.

Gulf News ran an editorial praising Huzama Habayeb, the Palestinian writer who organized the boycott from Abu Dhabi, where she lives. The editorial describes her as smiling upon finding out that the anthology had been called off.

"Habayeb’s actions are those of a resistance fighter -- never giving an inch to Israel, which has illegally occupied her homeland," says the editorial. "But there’s also a bigger issue — one whereby academics the world over need to ensure that Israel is isolated for its immoral and illegal actions in occupying Palestine and repressing the Palestinian people. The pen is mightier than the sword."

In an interview with Gulf News, Habayeb said she was thrilled that her efforts had killed the anthology.I am so proud of having the book canceled,” she said. "I am a Palestinian and to achieve this, to be able to resist the illegal Israeli occupation of my homeland is something that I will cherish forever. It is my own victory in the struggle."
Prominent, presumably liberal Arab women authors chose to have their own voices muzzled rather than allow Israeli words to be heard along with theirs.

This story once again epitomizes the difference between Zionists and anti-Zionists. Zionists want to include, anti-Zionists want to exclude; Zionists want to embrace, anti-Zionists want to hate. And this manifestation of boycotting Jews of the Middle East is pure, unadulterated hate.

Moreover, Gulf News - an Arab media outlet that publishes in English - chooses to support the suppression of free speech.

However, the newspaper's comparison of  Habayeb with terrorists is most apt, even if it is meant to be a compliment. Like a terrorist, Habayeb wants to silence Jews in the Middle East from speaking, and she is willing to sacrifice her own well-being to do so.

The director of the Center for Middle East Studies at UT astutely notes that the Arabs only want to boycott Jewish Israelis, not Arab Israelis.

Because even from Texas, despite his sympathies for Arab women, he knows bigotry when he sees it.

(h/t Phyllis)

Iran threatens Israel if US intervenes in Syria

From Al Arabiya:

Any crisis caused by a military intervention in Syria would engulf Israel, Iranian Parliament Speaker Ali Larijani warned Wednesday, the Tehran Times reported on Thursday.

Larijani made the remarks in reference to calls by certain U.S. officials for a military campaign against Syria to put an end to Syrian regime’s 14-month assault on its opposition.

“U.S. military officials probably have a poor understanding of themselves and regional issues because Syria is in no way similar to Libya, and (the effects of) creating another Benghazi in Syria would spread to Palestine, and ash rising from the flames would definitely envelop the Zionist regime,” Larijani said, according to the newspaper.

“It seems that the United States and the West are seeking to pave the way for a new crisis,” he added.
The only conceivable way that Israel would be dragged into the Syrian conflict is if Iran, through its Hezbollah and Syrian proxies, attacks. Which means that this warning is really a threat.

And while on the subject:
Iran, meanwhile, has recently blamed Israel for the violence in Syria, saying Jerusalem is deliberately sabotaging the Annan peace plan.

Speaking at a weekly press conference, Iran’s Foreign Ministry Spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast stated: “Any crime committed (in Syria) can be traced back to the (Israeli) regime’s hirelings,” Iran’s semi-official FARS news agency reported on Tuesday.
Thus creating the fiction to create the situation that Larijani describes.

PalArabs celebrate dead terrorists as heroes

From AP:
Israel on Thursday handed over the remains of 91 Palestinian militants, including suicide bombers, to the West Bank government in an effort to induce President Mahmoud Abbas to renew peace talks.

All 91 were killed over the past decades while carrying out suicide bombings or other attacks on Israeli targets, Palestinian officials said. At least one of the attacks dated back to the 1970s.
There is a huge amount of joy over this in the Palestinian Arab media, as the terrorists are called "heroes" and the PA calls them"martyrs" - with their terror acts lovingly described.

In the pro-Fatah Palestine Press Agency, a family talks about how proud they are of their daughter, 19 year old Hiba Daraghmeh, who blew herself up in a mall in Afula, killing 3 - including a Muslim. (Notably, the PA issued one of their fake condemnations for that attack.)

The bodies of terrorists from the Savoy Hotel attack were also released. Fatah also regards these as heroes.

Also being celebrated is the suicide bomber who killed 13 at the Dizengoff Center attack of 1996

The Kfar Darom car bomb attack on a bus that killed 8, including American Aliza Flatow, is also being newly celebrated.

Hamas put out statistics on how many Israelis these "martyrs" killed (163 killed, 692 wounded, they claim) and listed the major attacks they were a part of.

For some reason, I haven't seen any Arabic articles that call for peace talks to be resumed because Israel released the bodies.

Satellite images show Iran destroying nuclear evidence

From ISIS:

Satellite imagery obtained by ISIS shows what appears to be further sanitization activity at the site in the Parchin military complex where Iran is suspected to have conducted high explosive tests pertinent to the development of nuclear weapons.

DigitalGlobe satellite imagery from May 25, 2012 shows that two small buildings at the same site as the suspected testing chamber have been completely razed. There are visible tracks made by heavy machinery used in the demolition process. Heavy machinery tracks and extensive evidence of earth displacement is also visible throughout the interior as well as the exterior of the site’s perimeter.

This new round of activity has followed suspected cleanup activities in the explosives testing chamber building, which are visible in an April 9, 2012 satellite image published in an earlier ISIS report. In the April 9, 2012 image, the two support buildings are intact.

These activities raise further concerns of Iranian efforts to destroy evidence of alleged past nuclear weaponization activities. The IAEA has asked repeatedly to visit this site, but so far Iran has refused. In the May 25, 2012 IAEA safeguards report on Iran, the IAEA stated that “based on satellite imagery, at this location, where virtually no activity had been observed for a number of years, the buildings of interest to the Agency are now subject to extensive activities that could hamper the Agency’s ability to undertake effective verification.”

The newest image raises concerns that Iran is attempting to raze the site prior to allowing an IAEA visit. The razing of the two buildings may also indicate that Iran has no intention to allow inspectors access soon. In 2004, Iran razed the Lavisan-Shian site, which held the Physics Research Center (PHRC), interfering with the ability of the IAEA to investigate allegations that the PHRC was involved in military nuclear activities.

Iran should immediately allow the IAEA access to Parchin and explain the significance of these apparent cleanup activities.

I put two of the photos together to make it a bit easier to compare:



Parchin is the complex where IAEA inspectors were turned away in February, and where ISIS had previously identified likely nuclear activity.


Here is the area in Google Maps, which still shows the buildings intact:

View Larger Map




PA school principal punished over class trip to Israeli beach

From Gulf News:
Mohammad Abu Samra, the youngest known school principal in the history of Palestinian Territories, paid a huge price for dancing and allowing his pupils to dance with Israelis on the Jafa beach.

The 33-year-old Mohammad Abu Samra, principal of Al Salam Secondary School in the city of Qalqiliya, north of West Bank, was transferred after he organised a picnic for 45 pupils of grade 11 and 12 to the Jafa beach in Israel.

The pupils are now up in arms against the Ministry of Education’s decision to transfer the principal to a school more than 30km away from his home.

As Abu Samra was quite popular with his pupils, the latter went on a strike and organised several processions within the premises of the Ministry of Education, demanding Abu Samra be reinstated to the principal’s post.

He said each student who went on the picnic had to provide a parental approval, saying that they knew that their sons were heading to the beach that would have women. “It is illogical and unfair for me to be punished,” he said.

Still photos taken on the beach showed some of the pupils with women in bikinis, which was considered as a disgrace by the pupils’ families.

According to Abu Samra, the ministry, in the past, had sent a memo, encouraging schools to organise picnics to the 1948 areas. The Israeli authorities also granted the pupils and their supervisors visit permits, which usually expire at 7pm.

Speaking to Gulf News, Abu Samra said the pupils were all in the age group 17-20 years and it was extremely difficult to control them on the beach. “It is true that in keeping with the regulations of the Ministry of Education, the pupils were not allowed to swim, but how could I have controlled them once they were there?” he said.

Abu Samra said at sunset, as the Israeli permits were about to expire, he instructed his pupils to get ready to go back home. However, at the same time, a group of Israeli men and women were preparing a dance floor with a DJ around.

“On our way to the bus, my pupils were attracted to the music and I could not say no to them,” he said. “My pupils started dancing and I also joined them at the beginning to let them have fun,” he said, stressing that their dance had attracted some Israeli men and women to the beach.

“Those Israelis and a child joined us on the dance floor and I could not object or ask them to leave,” he said, adding that the dance lasted for about 10-20 minutes. “It was purely unintentional and that has affected my future,” he said.

“Volunteers shot a video and took a couple of still photos and forwarded them to the Palestinian Ministry of Education, with a complaint that the incident would imply that there was normalisation of ties with Israel and it exposed the young generation of Palestinians to Israel’s illicit code of conduct,” he said.

“I was thereafter given two choices: either be downgraded to the position of a teacher with a final warning or voluntarily seek transfer to a far-away school,” he said.

A pupil told Gulf News the school supports the principal and that they will fight until Abu Samra returns to the institution as principal. “Our principal did not commit any mistake. It was the Israelis who loved the way we danced and they came forward and shared the dance floor with us,” the pupil said.

A senior official from the Ministry of Education told Gulf News that Abu Samra should not have allowed his pupils to dance in the first place. The fact that some Israeli women shared the dance floor with the pupils further complicated the issue.

The official stressed that Abu Samra had committed several administrative mistakes during the outing. Although the picnic was licensed by the ministry, mixing with Israelis on the beach should not have been allowed, the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

“This issue has serious social and political ramifications and trips such as this should be planned and executed in a more conservative way,” the official added.
I could not find this story in Arabic, but the Gulf News in this case seems to have done a reasonable job confirming it by getting quotes from officials and from the principal.

This story reveals much beyond the surface humor. Not only that Palestinian Arab schools are allowed to regularly visit Israel on field trips - but also that they are instructed by the Palestinian Ministry of Education not to actually speak with any Israelis.

It also seems a little strange that 11th and 12th graders are between 17 and 20. But notice that even after a lifetime of anti-Israel indoctrination, they prefer dancing with Israelis to boycotting them, a bit different from what we are constantly told by the hate-Israel crowd.

(h/t Yoel)

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Some kinds of apartheid are OK

On Tuesday night, Arabs threw a Molotov cocktail through the window of a Jewish-owned house in Jerusalem and it ignited, torching the room and heavily damaging the house.



This was the culmination of two weeks of incessant harassment of the Jewish residents - where they broke many windows of both houses and cars that belong to Jews in the neighborhood.

But unlike the cases when Jews are accused of attacking Arabs - crimes that are universally condemned and referred to as "racist" - these incidents will be ignored.

The reason? The Jewish homes are in Beit Hanina, a neighborhood that is predominantly Arab. Jews had lived there before 1948 and Jews purchased the property in 1977; finally the Israeli courts recognized the purchase and allowed Jews to move in a few weeks ago, in a move that received widespread  condemnation worldwide.

The EU and the UN condemned Israel for allowing Jews to live in land owned by Jews.

You will not hear a single word of condemnation about the violent - and potentially deadly - attack on the families that live there today.

Because some kinds of violence, and some kinds of apartheid, are acceptable to the world community.

(h/t @JudgeDan48)

Russian journalist attacked after insulting Mohammed

And so it goes....
A radio host has been hospitalized after being cut 15 times by an unidentified criminal. Two weeks ago the journalist ventured to criticize the founder of Islam, the Prophet Mohammed, on air.

Sergey Aslanyan, 46, was brought to Moscow’s hospital with numerous non-penetrating knife wounds to the chest, neck and arm.

According to the police report, on late Monday evening an unknown man called to Aslanyan’s flat over the building intercom and called him outside for a talk. When the journalist stepped out of the entranceway he was knocked over the head with a heavy object, after which the assailant brought the knife into play.

Aslanyan claimed that the attacker was shouting “you are Allah's enemy!” while slashing at the victim.

Police say the abuser was a slim man of about 30, while according to some witnesses there were several attackers.

As of now the journalist is conscious and his condition is stable. His relatives and friends are free to visit him in his flat, which is guarded by police. Investigators say they do not have a primary lead, but hope to identify the perpetrator using porch surveillance camera data.

Still, Izvestia newspaper made a guess that the attack could be linked to recent statements made by the journalist in a radio show. While discussing religion in general he made some “from zero to hero” remarks towards the Prophet Mohammed.

“The Prophet Mohammed, as we know, was not a religious figure. He was a businessman, but after getting considerable financial support built plans as to how to get to the top,” Aslanyan disclosed. He also said that the Prophet “rewrote the Bible” so that “now everyone would know the Prophet Mohammed was not a market shopkeeper, but an outstanding political figure.”

According to Aslanyan, the idea of Islam was a “business project from the very beginning,” and turned out to be successful due to “handsome financing.” Besides that, the journalist, who was an external expert at this radio show, speculated that the Prophet had some sort of sexual disorder.

Reportedly, the journalist later apologized on air for the harsh statements he had made, but that did not change public opinion much.

Such statements could not but stir the Muslim community. There was a widespread angry reaction on the Islamic internet forums.

Muslims from the Republic of Tatarstan, where Islam is the dominant religion, wrote a letter to the Prosecutor General’s office saying Aslanyan’s statements had insulted them.

“These insults wound our religious feelings and come into conflict with Russian legislature, because they unleash ethnic discord and interreligious hatred,” insists Imam Seijarfar Lutfullin.

Israelis saving the world, again

From Israel21C:

Be still your beating hearts: Making medical history, scientists from Israel have been able to transform human stem cells from older diseased patients into brand-new, healthy, beating heart tissue.

This could mean that heart disease might someday be repaired by using cells from a person’s own body, eliminating the need for risky surgical implants and transplants.

Using stem-cell technology, Technion-Israel Institute of Technology researchers from Haifa showed that their lab-produced cardiac muscle cells are also capable of merging into existing heart muscles.

The news is causing a media sensation around the globe.

It will take five to 10 years before this basic science can get to the point of clinical trials, Gepstein emphasizes. People with advanced heart disease today might never benefit from the research, published in the current issue of the European Heart Journal. The advance is more likely to be applicable to people who are now 30 years old and younger.

Still, the breakthrough is monumental.

“What is new and exciting about our research is that we have shown that it’s possible to take skin cells from an elderly patient with advanced heart failure and end up with his own beating cells in a laboratory dish that are healthy and young — the equivalent to the stage of his heart cells when he was just born,” says Prof. Lior Gepstein, head researcher.

Skin cells from patients aged 51 and 61 were transformed into healthy heart muscle cells by adding to the cell nucleus three genes and valpoic acid, a small molecule. Gepstein’s team avoided a transcription factor typically used in creating stem cells because it’s thought to cause cells to develop out of control and become tumors.

The new heart muscle cells, cardiomyocytes, grew in a lab dish with existing heart tissues, and within 24 to 48 hours both kinds of tissue were beating together as one.

“The tissue was behaving like a tiny microscopic cardiac tissue composed of approximately 1,000 cells in each beating area.”

This culture was then implanted into the hearts of healthy rats, where it connected well to the existing cardiac muscle.

"Bank of Palestine" promotional materials

EoZ fan Ruchie emailed me that she was at an Arab business conference in Nazareth, and one of the promotional items being given away was this mug from the "Bank of Palestine:"


Of course, the map includes all of Israel, without any fear of controversy. Making it really hard to argue that the goal of Palestinian Arabs is not to wipe out Israel.

No doubt if you ask them about it (in English) they would say that they were merely invoking a romantic map of "historic Palestine."

Yet the only time any entity called Palestine looked like this was between 1922 and 1948, which means that "historic Palestine" was a bizarre anomaly of a territory, whose boundaries were drawn by the West, which was under British rule, and  that lasted a mere 26 years.

Isn't it weird that people who supposedly had been there for centuries define themselves this way?

Lunchtime Trumptime open thread

I'm having problems blogging on the train as my mobile provider wants to charge for using my phone as a hot-spot (or even tethering,) so I'm a little behind on blogging.

And since Donald Trump is in the news again, and I happened to pass by one of his buildings that I hadn't noticed had an interesting geometric pattern as well as a nice use of trees, I figured it is as good excuse as any for  an open thread.


Iran tries to play the fauxtography game with the BBC

From Iran's PressTV, by one of their reliable Western sycophants Peter Eyre:
As we have seen so many times before the BBC has shown a distinct lean towards Israel or in this case a clear distortion of facts when it released a picture of the recent Houla massacre in Syria.


Take a close look at their front page photograph and then compare it with the photograph taken by Marco Di Lauro 9 years earlier on 27th May 2003 in Al Musayyib Iraq and you can clearly see the lack of professionalism by the BBC.

I find it so unbelievable that the general public simply accept whatever is placed before them and in doing so accept this as being justification for going to war. Just by simply studying this photograph which are all children, you can see that each row consists of around 25 – 30 bodies and so one can assume that in this photograph we are looking at four rows amounting to at least 125 and yet there were only 49 children killed in Houla, Syria.

Can one ever imagine that this once very professional media outlet earned so much respect from the people of Britain and now it has fallen to below a sub quality standard!!
Indeed, the photo was taken in 2003, and the BBC erred. However, PressTV did not note the caption that the BBC used, and its photo is too fuzzy to read it.

Here is a better screenshot:
Apparently, anti-regime supporters in Syria circulated the photo and the BBC ran with it without confirming - something that happens a lot because of the difficulty of getting reporters into Syria. It was certainly sloppy on the BBC's part (there were far more bodies in this photo that the number of victims) but they made it very clear that they couldn't verify the photo. As soon as they found out the truth they took it down. (The original photographer is unhappy, though.)

In case you think that the PressTV article has any credibility, though, here's a small bit from later on:

I have reported before that when the Israelis attacked Lebanon in 2006 they also nuked themselves and again in 2008/9 when they hit Gaza………when will these maniacs understand that when they use the same weapons as were used in Libya the entire region becomes consumed in millions of radioactive nano particles that directly attack the human DNA.

Two articles about Zionism, from different angles

From Melanie Phillips:
Zionism is no more nor less than the self-determination of the Jewish people -- as a people, and not just as adherents of the Jewish religion. Jews are in fact the only people – as a people -- for whom Israel (ancient Judea and Samaria) was ever their national homeland. Those who deny Zionism thus deny Jewish peoplehood and the fundamental right of Jews to live as a people in their own ancestral homeland, Israel.

Unique in the world, Jews are both a people and adherents of a religion. Intrinsic to and inseparable from the religion of Judaism is the land of Israel; more specifically, the centrality of and longing for Jerusalem and its Temple. Deny that centrality and you rip the heart and soul out of Judaism. Those who deny the right of the Jews to Israel and Jerusalem deny the right of the Jews to their own religion.

Judaism is like a stool supported on three legs – the nation, the religion and the land. Saw off any of these legs and the stool collapses. Does this mean that all Jews are Zionists? Of course not, no more than it means that all Jews are religious. But just as the hatred of Jews on theological grounds has always threatened the lives and safety of all Jews including those who are not religious, so the anti-Zionist hatred of Jewish self-determination is a form of bigotry which threatens the lives and safety of all Jews, whether or not they are Zionists. And the fact that there are some anti-Zionist Jews who themselves hate the expression of Jewish self-determination in the form of the State of Israel is a manifestation of that same self-same bigotry no less for being such a tragically twisted example.

The anti-Zionist madness of our time is thus far more pernicious even than hatred of Israel, pathologically obsessive and malevolent as that is in itself. Bad enough that for so many people in Britain and the west, Israel has been successfully demonised as a pariah state on the basis of a unique systematic campaign of falsehoods, distortions and libels about its history and behaviour, untruths which have nevertheless become the unchallenged basis for public discussion.

But far worse even than this is the assumption underlying this lazy defamation, that Zionism is a creed that is itself a particularly aggressive kind of racism or colonialism. This vicious prejudice has turned truth, reason and decency inside out. The right of the Jews to their own historic national homeland has been recast, entirely falsely, as a usurpation of the ‘right’ to that land of ‘Palestinians’ – who never actually existed as a discrete people in the first place. Those Jews who are Zionists now find themselves as a result cast as racists and social pariahs – merely for asserting the right of the Jewish people to self-determination in their own historic homeland.

Those who are driven by a vicious and bigoted hatred have thus been allowed to cast the victims of their hatred as themselves hateful people. Zionist Jews are thus defamed and victimised many times over – and by those who have the gall to claim the moral high ground in doing so, from luvvies Emma Thompson and Ken Loach to the boycotters and thugs who harass and bully Zionist Jews on campus.
Read the whole thing.

And from a completely different direction, from Michael Totten:

“Are you Zionists?”

My colleague Armin Rosen and I were supposed to be conducting the interview. Instead, we were put on the defensive before we could even ask our first question.

“Of course not,” I said.

“Nope,” Armin said. “I don’t have a Zionist bone in my body.”

We were at the headquarters for the UGGT, Tunisia’s biggest labor union, in the small city of Kasserine just down the road from Sidi Bouzid where the revolution—and the region-wide Arab Spring generally—began at the tail end of 2010 when fruit vendor Mohammad Bouazizi set himself on fire to protest crooked and onerous government regulation.

Four men sat in the union office with us. Armin and I wanted to hear about what happened in the early days of the revolt against Zine El Abidine Ben Ali’s autocratic regime, but they were in no mood to share such information with Zionists.

Our translator Ahmed Medien, a young and—shall we say—more cosmopolitan journalist based in the capital, Tunis, sat with us.

“What if we were Zionists?” I said, directing my question to Ahmed as much as to our interlocutors.

“They wouldn’t talk to you,” he said.

I was annoyed and tempted to say, never mind then, we’re done here. How would they feel if I opened an interview by asking if they were terrorists? Part of me wanted to get thrown out of their office, not because I itch for fights on the job, but because I learn as much from one interview that goes off the rails as I do from six that are predictable. But I don’t sabotage interviews. That’s up to the folks on the other side of the table. And anyway, conversations like this one that merely go wobbly, rather than implode catastrophically, can also be more revealing than typical ones.

Did I lie when I said I wasn’t a Zionist? What’s a Zionist, anyway? A person who thinks Israel has a right to exist? If so, then, yes, I suppose I’m a Zionist, or perhaps just a Zionist sympathizer since I am not Jewish. But these working-class mustachios in Tunisia’s back-of-beyond have another, more phantasmagorical, definition of the notorious Z-word. I’m certainly not a Zionist as they define one. Neither is Armin Rosen.

“We are not against Jews,” said the man behind the desk in whose office we sat, “but Zionists didn’t go to Palestine to coexist peacefully with Arab nations. They went there to take land from Palestinians and kill them. This is not a country that wants to peacefully coexist. This is a country that wants war between Arab nations.”

This is nonsense on stilts, of course, and since he and his colleagues wanted to know if Armin and I support that, then, no, neither of us lied, not really, when we said we weren’t Zionists.

(h/t Mohammed the Teddy Bear)

Tunisia is moderate and even liberal compared with other Arabic-speaking countries, but the place still suffers from a heady case of Israel Derangement Syndrome. More than half the people I interviewed complained about Israel at least once even when I didn’t ask about it. Not a single one of these people—not a one—based their complaint in reality. They were jousting with a fantasy Israel that only exists in their minds.

"Human rights orgs" double-down on Tamimi

I noted last week that the EU and Amnesty International regard Bassem Tamimi as a "prisoner of conscience" and a "human rights defender" even though he was convicted of encouraging kids to throw stones at Israeli soldiers.

I mentioned that an Amnesty official visited the Tamimi family and reported, without a shred of verification, that the family's "curtains [are] burned from tear gas shot by the Israeli army into the house."

I emailed the IDF, asking if IDF allows firing tear gas into houses. The answer I received was "IDF regulations do not allow for the firing of tear gas into a house. Tear gas is used only for riot dispersal."

A reader sent my blog comments to both the EU and Amnesty's office in Amsterdam.

Amnesty's reply is priceless, as it defends itself without any evidence besides its own sterling record:

Dear Mr. XXXX.

Amnesty International regards mister Bassam Tamimi as a prisoner of conscience, who is imprisoned solely because of his role in organizing peaceful protests against the encroachement on Palestinian lands by Israeli colonists.

Therefore, in our view, he should be released immediately and unconditionally.

The underpinning of our work is solid and reliable information.

We attach much value to the checking and double-checking of all information we receive.

Hence, Amnesty reaches the above conclusions after extensive investigation of this case.

Amnesty’s strenghth is reliability.

Amnesty only acts after very thorough investigation.

At Amnesty's headquarter in London, information on human rights abuses from around the world is collected and analyzed.

Amnesty also sends research teams to investigate the human rights situation on location. During such missions Amnesty talks to victims, lawyers, local human rights activists, the government and is present at court cases.

The research is done by a team of experts, supported by specialists in different areas like international justice, media and technology.

Only when our researchers are convinced about a case will Amnesty take action. This approach guarantees that our organisation is always capable of exposing human rights abuses without error.

Through this methodology our organisation is always capable of exposing human rights abuses in a reliable way.

With kind regards,


Wim Roelofsen,
Publieksvoorlichting
Twelve paragraphs of "proof by assertion." The vignette on the Amnesty site proves every one of these assertions wrong, as Amnesty did not follow up about the "tear gas" claim and reports it as fact.

As far as Tamimi goes, the EU did not respond to my reader's query. But HRW has now added itself to the gang of people who claim, falsely, that the conviction of Tamimi was based on the testimony of a child:

An Israeli military court’s conviction on May 20, 2012, of a Palestinian activist, Bassem Tamimi, of leading illegal demonstrations violates his right to freedom of assembly, while its conviction of him on a second charge of urging children to throw stones on the basis of a child’s coercively-obtained statement raises serious concerns about the fairness of his trial, Human Rights Watch said today. The court sentenced Tamimi on May 29 to 13 months in prison, which he has already served, as well as a 17-month suspended sentence.

“The Israeli military authorities seem to have known it would be hard to justify convicting an activist for only leading peaceful protests, so they apparently used oppressive methods to produce evidence that he also encouraged children to throw stones,” said Joe Stork, deputy Middle East director at Human Rights Watch.

[Tamimi] was further convicted of soliciting children and youths to throw stones on the basis of evidence that, the court said, rested to a decisive degree on a statement obtained by police interrogators from a 15-year-old Palestinian boy whom soldiers had arrested at gunpoint late at night. They questioned the boy for more than four hours the following morning, after he had not slept, without letting him have a parent or lawyer present. In that statement, the boy said that Tamimi had encouraged youths to throw stones, but in court the boy retracted his statement and said the police had instructed him to incriminate Tamimi.
As I noted last week, the judge specifically ignored most the testimony of a minor and a young adult because she did not believe their testimony and because of inconsistencies - yet HRW is saying that the conviction was based primarily on this evidence.

Reading further, Amnesty admits that the judge noted that the 14-year old's testimony (of a relative of Tamimi's) was not coerced based on the fact that he was laughing during the interrogation and that police asked him if he wanted to sleep and he declined. Amnesty also admits that the judge noted there was corroborating evidence that Tamimi was directing children to throw stones, as he was gesturing from a roof towards soldiers while on a cell phone. So even though the court proceedings were completely transparent, including the videotaping of the interrogations and the reasoning behind the conviction, Amnesty and the EU are flatly stating that the judge is acting politically and not according to legal standards.

HRW also admits that there is regularly stone throwing at these weekly demonstrations. Yet Tamimi is a "peace activist."

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Arab Racism: The story the Left ignores

Here's a story about racism that was published three days ago, but that was ignored in the major leftist websites. Wonder why?

From The Economist:
THE multilingual, fashion-conscious residents of Beirut, Lebanon’s capital, fancy their city to be cosmopolitan. But not everyone is welcome. Black people and foreigners from Asia and elsewhere in the third world who make up the bulk of migrant workers are often turned away from the city’s smarter venues. Conscious of the bad blood this can cause, Lebanon’s government has warned beach clubs against barring entry on the basis of race, nationality or disability.

But racism is unlikely to be erased overnight, either in Lebanon or in many other Middle Eastern countries where blacks are routinely looked down on. Racist taunts are often heard on Egypt’s streets, and in Yemen, darker-skinned people, known as al-akhdam (“the servants”), who make up perhaps 5% of the population, are confined to menial jobs and tend to dwell in slums. In Libya rebel militias often targeted darker-skinned people from nearby countries such as Chad and Mali and from countries further south, accusing them of being mercenaries of Muammar Qaddafi.

Filipinos, Sri Lankans and Chinese-Americans, among others, whisper of racist slurs both at work and on Lebanon’s streets. “When black or Asian friends visit,” says a young Lebanese professional, “I’m at the airport the moment they land to make sure immigration officers don’t ask inappropriate questions. It’s a disgrace.”

Some people blame the legacy of the slave trade, which brought sub-Saharan Africans, as well as others, to the region from the 7th century onwards. But Nadim Houry of Human Rights Watch, a New York-based lobby group says that racism persists in the region because governments have been lax about tackling it. “There are racists everywhere in the world, but in many countries it is now taboo to make comments, partly because there are laws against it,” he says. “Here, even when there is legislation, it is never applied.”

Snobbery makes things worse. Millions of foreigners in the Middle East do cleaning and building jobs which locals consider beneath them. Sponsorship schemes often deny such workers basic rights. “People just see us as cheap labour,” says a Filipino university graduate who makes $200 a month in a Beirut beauty parlour. Some beach clubs have already said they will ignore the new regulation. Their customers, they say, would not tolerate having to rub shoulders with the dark-skinned servant class.
Will there be any soul-searching in the Arab world about this explicit racism? Will the "pro-Palestinian" crowd notice that Arab racism makes the bigotry of some Israelis pale by comparison? Will there be follow-up stories in the media about this, which might shame some Arabs?

No, no and no.

(h/t D)


16 year old Copt gets 3 years in prison for cartoon on Facebook

From Egypt Independent:

An Egyptian court on Tuesday upheld a three year sentence against a 16-year-old Christian student for posting a drawing on his Facebook page that mocked Islam and the Prophet Mohamed.

The Assiut Court of Appeals said that it has found Gamal Abdu Massoud guilty of defaming religion, state-run news service MENA reported on Tuesday.

Massoud published the cartoons in December, then some Muslims reacted angrily by attacking Christians and burning houses in the Manqabad village in the southern city of Assiut, home to a large Christian population.

In April, Assiut juvenile court sentenced him to three years in prison.

According to Article 98(f) of the Penal Code, “Confinement for a period of not less than six months and not exceeding five years… shall be the penalty inflicted on whoever makes use of religion in propagating, either by words, in writing, or in any other means, extreme ideas for the purpose of inciting strife, ridiculing or insulting a heavenly religion or a sect following it, or damaging national unity.”
According to reports, this was the offensive cartoon, which makes this painfully ironic.




Naturally, most news outlets following the case refused to publish this cartoon.


Wall map excludes Israel

From the JC:

An interior design company has had to "re-draw" a wall world map which omitted Israel for being "too small."

Customer Joanna Koenigsberg, of Sidcup, planned to decorate walls in her new home with panels in different designs from online company Binary Box. But two of the company's map designs, one labelled with country names and one covered in different flags in the shapes of countries, each omitted Israel, giving Jordan a Mediterranean coastline.

Ms Koenigsberg said: "I was saddened because I really liked these designs, but I can't accept this fiddling with the truth."
After being contacted by the JC, the company said it was an "error" and was not politically motivated. Aidan Stonehouse, graphic designer at Binary Box, said the sticker panel had been redesigned to include Israel.

Ms Koenigsberg said she was pleased with the response, and said the company had sent her the new designs. "Of course we have no idea how many were sold of the old ones, or who designed them, but it was a decent response. I don't feel there was any political element to the oversight."
Here's part of the map; see if you agree it was an oversight. (Notice that Lebanon is missing as well.)


"Zionists using job ads to gather information"

Hamas newspaper Palestine Times reveals the Mossad's latest plan on recruiting informants: placing ads for fake jobs in Palestinian Arab media.

According to the article, Israel is placing ads for bogus jobs with attractive salaries attractive and good benefits, just to gather job applications and resumes. The applications ask for name, address, skills, achievements and personal qualities, e-mail addresses and phone number, all of which are valuable intelligence information.

The article admits that marketers use similar tactics to gather email addresses and phone numbers for spam and other marketing schemes.

One of the proofs the article gives that the Mossad is behind the ads is that one of the ads asked where the applicant lived - and mentioned Rafah separately from Gaza, indicating that the people who placed the ad were trying to gather information about smugglers in Rafah.

While I can believe that Israeli intelligence would use methods like this to gather information, it is equally plausible that Hamas would do the same, for example in order to discover any smuggling tunnels that are not yet being taxed.

"Israelis unfurled Zionist flag on Al Aqsa Mosque"

The latest rumor started by the Al Aqsa Heritage Foundation is that Israelis who visited the Temple Mount yesterday unfurled a huge Israeli flag. This one reached AFP:
Soldiers on Monday violated the status quo on the esplanade of the mosques in east Jerusalem by raising Israel’s flag, the head of the Islamic Waqf organization that oversees the compound charged.

“More than 180 soldiers from a special Israeli army unit today raised a large Israeli flag opposite the mosque of the Rock, which is a grave provocation,” Sheikh Azzam al-Khatib told AFP.

They have lots of photos of Israelis on the Mount, but not one shows any flag.


Sheikh Azzam al Khatib declared scenes like the ones above "catastrophic."

Last year they freaked out over a Photoshopped picture of an Israeli flag on top of the Dome of the Rock.

By the way, last week's rumor was that the Jews were planting fake graves all over the area of the Temple Mount, through Silwan and to the Mount of Olives, in a land-grab. That rumor has now reached the Arab League where they condemned this alleged practice.

Of course, Muslims have been known to place fake graves in areas in Jerusalem, so this looks like more projection.

Richard Millett's review of Habima's Merchant of Venice

Richard Millett does a great job reviewing the Habima Theater's production of The Merchant of Venice last night in London.

Two points he makes are worth noting here:

There was also a pen for Palestine Solidarity Campaign activists. One PSC man had donned a mask with a big nose, but swore it wasn’t an anti-Semitic gesture.


I asked some of the PSC lot whether they saw the recent production of Richard II by the Palestinian theatre company also at The Globe. They said they didn’t as it was a matinee and they had work commitments. They must have conveniently failed to spot the Saturday performance at 7.30pm then; proof, if ever it was needed, that PSC activists don’t give a damn about the Palestinians.

PA officials attend free Israeli agricultural training

From COGAT:
From May 21 to 23rd, twenty-four Palestinian officials, mostly agricultural engineers, attended a three-day seminar on agricultural technologies, plant protection, and fertilisers in Netanya. The lectures were delivered by Israeli experts, professors and officials from the Israeli Ministry of Agriculture.

“This workshop is intended to provide information about technologies that we use in Israel to protect and improve crops in open-fields and green houses”, said Ayman Assad, from the Agriculture Department at the Civil Administration.

The seminar is one of many Israeli-Palestinian workshops planned for 2012. “Through these workshops we are improving the relationship, cooperation and communication with the Palestinian Authority”, added Ayman Assad. The Civil Administration offers full board to the Palestinian guests, including travel and meal coverage.

Sitting by the hotel swimming pool during lunch break, Najud, a 23 year-old agricultural engineer from Jericho confides: “I’m happy to learn here, the lectures are very intense and I wish we had more time to visit!”

The Agriculture Department of the Civil Administration works with Palestinian farmers in the field to find out more about problems affecting their trade. Based on this, the Ministry of Agriculture organizes seminars, lectures and training in Israel to increase the quality and output of Palestinian crops, explained Shlomo Ekaïam from the Ministry.

“Palestinians and Israeli consumers eat fruit and vegetables coming from Israel and the West Bank, so we collectively strive for the best agricultural standards”, he added.

Muhammad Saïd Lahan, Director of the Flower and Vegetable Protection and Preservation Department at the Palestinian Authority knows Netanya well: “I came here many times, maybe 8 or 10 times. It is important for our team to come because 16 of us are young engineers who need experience and more field-training.”

On Wednesday, the Palestinian delegation was taken to Beit Shean for training on open-fields.

We also organize seminars in Ramallah in our own Ministry or abroad where we are often invited”, added Mr. Lahan.
Agriwashing, again! Those Israelis have no shame!

"McDonald's Happy Meal toy insults Mohammed"

From Raymond Ibrahim at Gatestone Institute:
Saudi Arabians are angry at a McDonald's toy which they say mocks their prophet Muhammad. According to a report appearing today (5/27/12) on the Arabic news website, Kermalkom.com, the McDonald's fast food restaurant "abused the Prophet Muhammad by placing his name at the base of a toy that is being distributed as part of the Happy Meal, a toy which steps on the name 'Muhammad.'"

The toy consists of a blue superhero figurine (apparently a Power Ranger Samurai. It stands on one leg, and, when the lever is pressed, it pounds on the base with the other leg. According to the Saudis, the designs that appear all around the base, where the figurine stomps its foot, is really the name "Muhammad" written several times in circles.

The toy had been distributed a few days before Saudi children and their parents began to take note of the name. Soon thereafter, Saudi Muslims launched several campaigns against McDonald's in "response to the savage attacks on the noble Prophet," under banners like "Help your Prophet!" and "Together in support of the Prophet."

Saudis, "demanding the strongest possible punishment for the restaurant" and insisting that "they will not be silent until this is realized," further complained how such an obvious insult could pass the supervision of the management at McDonalds.

In response, "Saudi McDonald's" has withdrawn the toy from all its restaurants, "in order to safeguard against any accusations or misunderstandings."

Get ready to seethe:



And, just in case you cannot see the obvious allusion to Mohammed in the squiggle, this site makes it clear as day:

Calligraphic Mohammed

Waiting for the fatwa....

(h/t Ian)

Democracy, Egyptian-style

Egypt's runoff elections will be between the Muslim Brotherhood candidate Mohammed Morsi and former PM Ahmed Shafiq.

So supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood decided to burn down Shafiq's headquarters:

A group of protesters stormed the campaign headquarters of presidential candidate Ahmed Shafiq late Monday night, ransacking and burning the offices there.

A secretary working at the campaign offices, Heba Hamed, told Egypt Independent that the campaign workers were notified to leave before the fire started and that the intruders had been apprehended. The fire was later extinguished.

An eyewitness told Egypt Independent that some 400 people arrived from the direction of Tahrir Square chanting against feloul, or remnants of the former regime. They broke into the villa near Vini Square in Dokki that hosts Shafiq's offices, and then stole computers and documents and threw some into the street.
If Shafiq wins the runoff, it is clear that those against him will simply start a new violent revolution.

That seems to be the lesson that some Egyptians have learned from the revolution: not that democracy is the way to go, but that protests are the way to get the government you want. If it doesn't work the first time, keep trying.

Ya'alon hints Israel might be behind "Flame" malware

Wired reports on a newly discovered cyber weapon that dwarfs Stuxnet in complexity:

A massive, highly sophisticated piece of malware has been newly found infecting systems in Iran and elsewhere and is believed to be part of a well-coordinated, ongoing, state-run cyberespionage operation.

The malware, discovered by Russia-based anti-virus firm Kaspersky Lab, is an espionage toolkit that has been infecting targeted systems in Iran, Lebanon, Syria, Sudan, the Israeli Occupied Territories and other countries in the Middle East and North Africa for at least two years.

Dubbed “Flame” by Kaspersky, the malicious code dwarfs Stuxnet in size – the groundbreaking infrastructure-sabotaging malware that is believed to have wreaked havoc on Iran’s nuclear program in 2009 and 2010. Although Flame has both a different purpose and composition than Stuxnet, and appears to have been written by different programmers, its complexity, the geographic scope of its infections and its behavior indicate strongly that a nation-state is behind Flame, rather than common cyber-criminals — marking it as yet another tool in the growing arsenal of cyberweaponry.

The researchers say that Flame may be part of a parallel project created by contractors who were hired by the same nation-state team that was behind Stuxnet and its sister malware, DuQu.

“Stuxnet and Duqu belonged to a single chain of attacks, which raised cyberwar-related concerns worldwide,” said Eugene Kaspersky, CEO and co-founder of Kaspersky Lab, in a statement. “The Flame malware looks to be another phase in this war, and it’s important to understand that such cyber weapons can easily be used against any country.”

Early analysis of Flame by the Lab indicates that it’s designed primarily to spy on the users of infected computers and steal data from them, including documents, recorded conversations and keystrokes. It also opens a backdoor to infected systems to allow the attackers to tweak the toolkit and add new functionality.

The malware, which is 20 megabytes when all of its modules are installed, contains multiple libraries, SQLite3 databases, various levels of encryption — some strong, some weak — and 20 plug-ins that can be swapped in and out to provide various functionality for the attackers. It even contains some code that is written in the LUA programming language — an uncommon choice for malware.

Kaspersky Lab is calling it “one of the most complex threats ever discovered.”

It’s pretty fantastic and incredible in complexity,” said Alexander Gostev, chief security expert at Kaspersky Lab.

Flame appears to have been operating in the wild as early as March 2010, though it remained undetected by antivirus companies.

“It’s a very big chunk of code. Because of that, it’s quite interesting that it stayed undetected for at least two years,” Gostev said. He noted that there are clues that the malware may actually date back to as early as 2007, around the same time-period when Stuxnet and DuQu are believed to have been created.

Gostev says that because of its size and complexity, complete analysis of the code may take years.

“It took us half-a-year to analyze Stuxnet,” he said. “This is 20-times more complicated. It will take us 10 years to fully understand everything.”

Kaspersky discovered the malware about two weeks ago after the United Nations’ International Telecommunications Union asked the Lab to look into reports in April that computers belonging to the Iranian Oil Ministry and the Iranian National Oil Company had been hit with malware that was stealing and deleting information from the systems. The malware was named alternatively in news articles as “Wiper” and “Viper,” a discrepancy that may be due to a translation mixup.

Kaspersky researchers searched through their reporting archive, which contains suspicious filenames sent automatically from customer machines so the names can be checked against whitelists of known malware, and found an MD5 hash and filename that appeared to have been deployed only on machines in Iran and other Middle East countries. As the researchers dug further, they found other components infecting machines in the region, which they pieced together as parts of Flame.

Kaspersky, however, is currently treating Flame as if it is not connected to Wiper/Viper, and believes it is a separate infection entirely. The researchers dubbed the toolkit “Flame” after the name of a module inside it.

Among Flame’s many modules is one that turns on the internal microphone of an infected machine to secretly record conversations that occur either over Skype or in the computer’s near vicinity; a module that turns Bluetooth-enabled computers into a Bluetooth beacon, which scans for other Bluetooth-enabled devices in the vicinity to siphon names and phone numbers from their contacts folder; and a module that grabs and stores frequent screenshots of activity on the machine, such as instant-messaging and email communications, and sends them via a covert SSL channel to the attackers’ command-and-control servers.

The malware also has a sniffer component that can scan all of the traffic on an infected machine’s local network and collect usernames and password hashes that are transmitted across the network. The attackers appear to use this component to hijack administrative accounts and gain high-level privileges to other machines and parts of the network.

Flame does contain a module named Viper, adding more confusion to the Wiper/Viper issue, but this component is used to transfer stolen data from infected machines to command-and-control servers. News reports out of Iran indicated the Wiper/Viper program that infected the oil ministry was designed to delete large swaths of data from infected systems.

Although the Flame toolkit does not appear to have been written by the same programmers who wrote Stuxnet and DuQu, it does share a few interesting things with Stuxnet.

Stuxnet is believed to have been written through a partnership between Israel and the United States, and was first launched in June 2009. It is widely believed to have been designed to sabotage centrifuges used in Iran’s uranium enrichment program. DuQu was an espionage tool discovered on machines in Iran, Sudan, and elsewhere in 2011 that was designed to steal documents and other data from machines. Stuxnet and DuQu appeared to have been built on the same framework, using identical parts and using similar techniques.

But Flame doesn’t resemble either of these in framework, design or functionality.

Stuxnet and DuQu were made of compact and efficient code that was pared down to its essentials. Flame is 20 megabytes in size, compared to Stuxnet’s 500 kilobytes, and contains a lot of components that are not used by the code by default, but appear to be there to provide the attackers with options to turn on post-installation.

“It was obvious DuQu was from the same source as Stuxnet. But no matter how much we looked for similarities [in Flame], there are zero similarities,” Gostev said. “Everything is completely different, with the exception of two specific things.”

One of these is an interesting export function in both Stuxnet and Flame, which may turn out to link the two pieces of malware upon further analysis, Gostev said. The export function allows the malware to be executed on the system.

Also, like Stuxnet, Flame has the ability to spread by infecting USB sticks using the autorun and .lnk vulnerabilities that Stuxnet used. It also uses the same print spooler vulnerability that Stuxnet used to spread to computers on a local network. This suggests that the authors of Flame may have had access to the same menu of exploits that the creators of Stuxnet used.

The researchers say they don’t know yet how an initial infection of Flame occurs on a machine before it starts spreading. The malware has the ability to infect a fully patched Windows 7 computer, which suggests that there may be a zero-day exploit in the code that the researchers have not yet found.
Iran admits losing lots of data to Flame:
Iranian authorities have admitted that malicious software dubbed Flame has attacked it, and instructed to run an urgent inspection of all computer systems in the country.

Iran's MAHER Center said Tuesday that the Flame virus "has caused substantial damage" and that "massive amounts of data have been lost."

The center, which is part of Iran's Communication's Ministry said that the virus' level of complexity, accuracy and high-functionality – noted mostly by the information corrupted – indicated that there is a "relation" to the Stuxnet virus.

Iranian experts said that Flame was able to overcome 43 different anti-virus programs.

While no one knows who is behind "the most sophisticated virus of all times," the bottom line, computer experts say, is that only a state could have developed such a complex virus.
And Israel's Deputy Prime Minister Moshe Ya'alon hinted that Israel might be that state:
"Anyone who sees the Iranian threat as a significant threat will likely take various countermeasures, including, to hurt them," said Deputy Prime Minister, Minister of Strategic Affairs Moshe Ya'alon, in an interview with program "Good Morning Israel" with Golan Yochpaz. "Israel is blessed as a country rich in high technology; these tools we have open all sorts of possibilities to us."
(h/t Yoel)

Gazan union prefers unsafe water to Israeli desalination

Ma'an reports, poorly:
The union of Palestinian contractors on Monday announced a boycott a UN agency that allows Israeli firms to bid for construction work in the Gaza Strip.

The union said contractors would boycott all work for UNICEF "until they backtrack from their decision to take offers from Israeli companies and equate them with Palestinian companies."

Urging all local and official organizations to follow suit, the union said in a statement that hiring Israeli firms for projects in Gaza would reward Israel's siege of the enclave and destroy the Palestinian economy.

The decision to boycott followed a meeting between union leaders and UNICEF special representative Jean Gough.
Really? Israeli firms are bidding to do construction work in Gaza, where their workers would be in grave danger?

You have to read further to see what is really going on:
In a statement, Gough said UNICEF purchased goods and services through a competitive bid process "from qualified Palestinian manufacturers, authorized dealers and companies.

"We only buy from other providers when goods are not available."
That changes things a little. And what might these goods be?
UNICEF is building a desalination unit in the Gaza Strip. The UN has estimated that almost 95 percent of water pumped in Gaza is unfit for drinking.

"We are committed to work with our Palestinian partners to ensure that this unit can be built without delay and with the best quality materials available, so that it can benefit Palestinian children as soon as possible," Gough said.

"The final decision on the continuation of this project is in the hands of our Palestinian counterparts and stakeholder."

UNICEF spokeswoman Catherine Weibel told Ma'an that the agency had invited bids from authorized dealers and manufacturers for the project but no company had yet been hired.
Ah, so it is specialized desalination equipment that is up for bid, not "construction work." And Israel is a leader in that field.

So Palestinian Arab contractors, who don't care in the least if UNICEF pays double for non-Israeli products, are prepared to force UNICEF to bar products from Israel in their normal competitive bid process.

The Ma'an story doesn't quite capture the cynicism that is being shown here, where the health of Gazans is being politicized in order to make a ridiculous point - ridiculous because Gazans prefer to buy Israeli goods for their own families when given a choice.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Habima's "Merchant of Venice" goes on despite interruptions

From BBC:
A performance of The Merchant of Venice by Israel's Habima theatre company has taken place at Shakespeare's Globe in London amid protests by pro-Palestinian activists.

Around 15 protesters were led or carried out during the performance after unfurling banners and Palestinian flags.

The actual performance carried on despite the disruptions.

The Hebrew-language production has proved controversial since a group of high-profile stage names called for the Globe to boycott the company over its performances in Israeli settlements in the West Bank.

On Monday late afternoon there were small-scale demonstrations outside the Globe by both pro-Palestinian and pro-Israeli groups.

There was also a police presence outside the theatre, while a private security firm was employed inside the building.

About 10 minutes into the play, a banner reading "Israel Apartheid leave the stage" was unfurled from the first-floor balcony accompanied by several Palestinian flags.

Security men moved in and several people were removed, some of them saying "No violence!"

Other protesters showed peace signs or stood up with tape over their mouths.

Audience members who attempted to take photos were asked to stop by stewards.

More banners and flags were unfurled on two more occasions before the interval.

As the protesters were removed, some shouted "Free Palestine!"

After the interval, a man standing in front of the stage was ejected after shouting: "Hath a Palestinian not eyes?" in a twist on Shylock's famous speech.

Another performance of The Merchant of Venice is due to take place on Tuesday.
The idea that the protests were because Habima performed in Ariel, and not simply because it is Israeli, is  a lie. The protesters themselves admit it:
Naomi Wimborne-Idrissi, co-ordinator with the Boycott Israel Network, said: "This campaign is not an attack on individual artists, we are not censoring the content of their work nor are we concerned about their ethnicity or the language they speak.

"As with South African sport in the apartheid era, this is about refusing to allow culture to be used to whitewash oppression."
This quote also shows that contrary to the BBC's assertion that these were "pro-Palestinian activists," they are simply anti-Israel bullies.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Chag sameach!

The holiday of Shavuot starts on Saturday night, so I will not be blogging until Monday night at the earliest.

Have a Chag Sameach, and an enjoyable Memorial Day weekend for the Americans!

Video: IDF soldiers receive Purim packages from US kids

Connections Israel created a hugely successful program this year, signing up scores of Jewish schools and synagogues in North America to send customized Mishloach Manot packages to IDF soldiers and to families of terror victims on Purim.

The video was just released, and it is heartwarming to see all the drawings and letters that Jewish children wrote to support the IDF:



The best antidote to the hate that Israel receives every day is an infusion of love, and this is a beautiful way to show it.

Abbas' terror wing consolidates and reorganizes

The Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, the terror wing of Fatah, has been somewhat splintered in recent years.

They are all still loyal to Fatah's leader, though - who is Mahmoud Abbas. He's so busy with his peaceful activities that he hasn't had the time to dismantle several organizations that are part of his own Fatah party.

The groups have announced a military unification and placing all of their weapons under a single unified military council, "from Rafah to Jenin."

A spokesperson would not confirm or deny that these moderate terrorists get funding from Iran.


Latest Latma

This is the second time I've seen them spoof a song from the Israeli musical Kazabla, and it is a good one:

Aussie anti-Israel rally: "'Zionists rape female prisoners"

From AIJAC:
The recent "Nakba Day" protests in Sydney attracted some controversy due to a ruling by NSW Supreme Court Justice Christine Adamson allowing the protesters to block peak-hour traffic in the centre of Sydney's CBD. Adamson drew particular criticism for likening "Nakba Day" -- a Palestinian commemoration of the establishment of Israel ("nabka" meaning "catastrophe" in Arabic) -- to Australia Day, Christmas Day and ANZAC Day.

That said, something far more sinister took place at the protest. A video (below), posted anonymously on Youtube, depicts various scenes from the protest set to dramatic music. The video shows a number of protesters bearing Hezbollah flags, which are a common occurence at such events, despite their military wing being listed as a terrorist organisation in Australia. While the bulk of the video simply shows a few dozen people stopping traffic as expected, it takes a more concerning turn around the 8 minute mark.

At this point, an off-camera female voice begins reading what is alleged to be a "letter from a Palestinian female prisoner". A transcript is provided below, with the more shocking portions emphasised in bold.
Dear brothers, we are your sisters. Do you not hear our cries? Do you not hear our lamentations? Have the walls of our cells prevented our voices from reaching you? Or have the luxuries of your lives deafened you? Or has the pleasure of this world erased your Ghibtah [positive jealousy/ambition]? Your jealousy for your sisters from your hearts?

We are your sisters, captured in cages like animals, with zookeepers -- the Zionists. Our stomachs have been filled with children of zina [unlawful fornication] from daily rape. Our bodies are paraded naked in front of these animals while they drool over us. Our food is mixed with their faeces and our drink mixed with their urine.

Where are you, oh brothers? Where is your honour? Why have you not liberated us? Why have you not destroyed the walls of this hell we live in? Even if it means we will die with them. Wallahi [I swear to God]! Wallahi that's more honourable to us than living in there. Wallahi death to us is sweeter than being handled by them.
Crowd Members:
Khaybar Khaybar, ya Yahud! ["Khaybar Khaybar, oh Jews!" -- a reference to the Qoranic "Battle of Khaybar" -- where Mohammed conquered a Jewish town called Khaybar after a month-long siege]
Speaker:
No, not 'Khaybar Khaybar ya Yahud'.

By Allah my brothers, on the Day of Judgment, after we complain to God about the injustice we've suffered at the hands of the Zionists we will complain about our brothers who sat idle while their sisters were raped. Do not let any of us give birth to one more child of zina from the descendants of Zion. We would rather have our wombs torn out and fed to the dogs.

We beseech you by Allah to guard your honour and have Gibtah -- jealousy -- for your sisters. We are your sisters and we are calling to you to save us from this terror. May Allah [indistinct] and as-salaam aleikum [peace be upon you].
Despite the speaker's rather half-hearted attempt to curb what was overtly racial villification, there is absolutely no doubt that this "letter" contains severely vitriolic and racially charged sentiments that are inciting racist chants from the crowd.

The attempt to mask the word "Jew" with "Zionist" would be laughable if there were anything remotely funny taking place. Even putting aside the fact that the allegations of Israelis raping Palestinian prisoners are completely unfounded -- such accusations are not even made by the most hostile of the many NGOs for whom criticising Israel is their raison d'etre -- the "descendants of Zion" is clearly not intended to refer to people who choose to identify with a particular ideology.

The "letter" contains the imputation that it is worth killing Palestinian prisoners in order to kill "the descendants of Zion" -- a clear endorsement of terrorist attacks that kill innocent civilians, regardless of who the victims are, so long as some Jews are amongst their number.
AIJAC notes that the Arabic "zina" usually means concensual relations, not rape, and thinks that the speaker/fake letter writer is using the word "rape" poetically but is really complaining about Jewish men sleeping with Arab women. I find it hard to believe as the letter was purportedly written from prison, and the crowd reaction is more in keeping with the literal meaning of "rape."

(h/t Ian)