An American reading the headline may not quite believe it: in France, many families -- apparently 15% of those that exist, or is it 15% of those on welfare -- have been receiving monthly allowances of 5,000 or 6,000 Euros. That amounts to about $100,000 a year. The amount depends on the number of children. Which families in France consist of unemployed parents and a great number of children?
15% des ménages pénalisés par la baisse des allocations familiales
1. I was invited to a discussion of the Israeli Documentary Filmmakers Forum recently. To prepare, I watched the two films that represented Israel in the American Academy Awards' documentary film category -- Dror Moreh's "The Gatekeepers" and "5 Broken Cameras" by Emad Burnat and Guy Davidi. Despite the harsh reviews they received, I recommend seeing them. They represent a perspective that needs to be dealt with.
I'll write about "The Gatekeepers" now and save "5 Broken Cameras" for another time. The sycophantic interviews of Dror Moreh in the American media did not bode well for his ability to decode the riddle of the heads of the Shin Bet. They do not say much that is deep in the film. Perhaps this is because Moreh could not deal with such minds or because he was interested not in psychological or intellectual depth, but rather in the political story in which the heads of the Shin Bet served as statistics to fill in the left wing's version of the failure of the Oslo Accords.
The theme of "shooting and weeping" has been well known since we came back to our country and had to defend it with our lives, together with the necessity of taking the lives of others. Now even the heads of the Shin Bet have doubts. This either-or quality is the bread and butter of drama: morality versus terrorism, combat versus conscience, control versus the desire for liberty. The film opens with former Shin Bet director Yuval Diskin's motto: "There's something unnatural about taking the lives of people in a single second."
His predecessor, Avraham Shalom, gives away the film's implied position: "Because of terrorism, we forget the issue of the Palestinian state." Why did we forget? Maybe terrorism was the goal from the onset, and the Palestinians actually never wanted a state? But Moreh is not showing statements that could put cracks in his narrative.
While the film pretends to present complexity, it never fulfills its promise. It shows the world as black and white, and the historical excerpts have no profound context. The Six-Day War. A Palestinian population. Occupation. That's it. There's no discussion about our historical, religious and cultural context as a nation living in this region. Not a word about our principled claim to sovereignty over it.
2. One of the film's focal points is the assassination of Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, but not as a failure of the Shin Bet; Moreh doesn't ask uncomfortable questions. He does not ask about the Shin Bet's involvement; the use of the agent Avishai Raviv, who was close to assassin Yigal Amir; or about the dilemma of planting provocateurs among the settlers. The settlers are shown in the context of madness, irrationality and menace. The Jewish underground of the time appears as a stereotype that is supposed to represent the entire settlement enterprise. It seemed that in those parts of the film, we were back in the 1980s, when there was no color television in Israel, but only black (the settlers) and white.
Moreh repeats the lie of the demonstration at Zion Square on Oct. 5, 1995 against the Oslo Accords as if those who were on the balcony had seen the photo montage of Rabin in an SS uniform. Had he read the Shamgar Commission report's secret fourth chapter about Avishai Raviv, he would have found out who distributed the photo in the media. (Surprise: It was a Shin Bet agent.) Moreh also repeats the lie about Netanyahu and the coffin that was carried during another demonstration that was said to represent Rabin. That same year, students demonstrated with coffins representing the death of higher education. The coffin at the demonstration symbolized the death of Zionism, not of Rabin, as the writing on it clearly shows. But Moreh is not looking for truth. He seeks only to confirm his version of events, and uses Rabin's assassination to show what he sees as the right wing's culpability.
This point is important because Rabin's assassination could have served as a profound mirror for decoding something in the enigmatic personalities of the heads of the Shin Bet. But Moreh is interested only in the oft-repeated, two-dimensional complaint: the occupation. Moreh's version of events posits that the killing of Yahya Ayyash, who was responsible for the murder of so many Israelis, led to a chain of suicide bombings. Those bombings, as he sees it, were our fault.
The Second Intifada, which broke out in September 2000, is explained similarly. Ami Ayalon gives a justification for it, and there is no mention of how Arafat planned it in advance, as most experts claim. There is no historical context, only the platitude "violence breeds violence," a vague equation that draws its nourishment from moral relativism and rejects the idea that a righteous person is any different from a wicked one. No distinction is made between good and evil; everything, including the victim's attempt to defend himself, is bound up in the general concept of "violence." On second thought, the film actually does decide who is good and who is evil.
Avraham Shalom, who was the head of the Shin Bet when the Bus 300 affair took place, plays a prominent role in the film. In April 1984, terrorists who hijacked a bus were captured, bound and killed. Shalom was considered the toughest of the six Shin Bet heads, and it is hard to get away from the impression that he wanted to clear himself. But nothing can clear Shalom of his statement in the film that our army resembles the German army during World War II (!).
Indeed, he qualifies the statement: He's not referring to the way the German army treated the Jews, but the way it treated the Belgians, the Poles and so on. Still, Shalom had hundreds of examples to choose from, but chose one that makes a clear statement: The Israel Defense Forces resemble the Nazi army. After such a foolish statement, can one ever claim otherwise? And as if that were not enough, Ayalon comes along and calls the targeted killings "the banality of evil." From where I sit, that's the peak of the film and a distillation of Moreh's basic assumption.
3. To understand how banal it is to drop intellectual bombshells, we should remember where the expression comes from. It is taken from the title of the book the German-Jewish philosopher Hannah Arendt wrote about Adolf Eichmann's trial in 1961: "Eichmann in Jerusalem: A Report on the Banality of Evil." For Arendt, Eichmann was a man of ordinary character, a "banal" man who participated in the greatest crime in history.
Now, here comes Ayalon's analogy. He compares Israel's adherence to the moral dictum of "if one comes to kill you, rise early and kill him first" to the banality of evil. In such a comparison, there is no choice but to see Israel's defensive surgical strikes as evil. The comparison does not stop there; it goes backward in time to Eichmann and his actions, which are the source of the expression.
So it is that two heads of the Shin Bet compare Israel to Nazi Germany. Can there be a clearer expression of the moral and intellectual bankruptcy of Israel's old-time elite? A thousand public-relations teams throughout the world can never overcome the moral failure of those to whom we entrusted our security. These awful statements are exactly what the director wanted. An analysis of the film reveals his view that Israel's actions in Judea and Samaria are equivalent to the acts of the Germans in World War II.
Moreh chooses to end the film with a highly significant scene: Palestinian detainees in their underwear. As is customary for him, he offers no explanation for the detainees' nakedness, which stems from the fear that they may be wearing explosive belts. What remains in the viewers' memories is the photograph of the Palestinians whom the wicked Israeli system has forced, in its banal arbitrariness, to undress and pass by en masse.
Thus far the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan has weathered the storm that has swept across the Middle East since the beginning of the year. But the relative calm in Amman is an illusion. The unspoken truth is that the Palestinians, the country's largest ethnic group, have developed a profound hatred of the regime and view the Hashemites as occupiers of eastern Palestine—intruders rather than legitimate rulers. This, in turn, makes a regime change in Jordan more likely than ever. Such a change, however, would not only be confined to the toppling of yet another Arab despot but would also open the door to the only viable peace solution—and one that has effectively existed for quite some time: a Palestinian state in Jordan.
Abdullah's Apartheid Policies
The majority Palestinian population of Jordan bridles at the advantages and benefits bestowed on the minority Bedouins. Advancement in the civil service, as well as in the military, is almost entirely a Bedouin prerogative with the added insult that Palestinians pay the lion's share of the country's taxes.
Despite having held a comprehensive national census in 2004, the Jordanian government would not divulge the exact percentage of Palestinians in the kingdom. Nonetheless, the secret that everyone seems to know but which is never openly admitted is that Palestinians make up the vast majority of the population.
In his 2011 book, Our Last Best Chance, King Abdullah claimed that the Palestinians make up a mere 43 percent. The U.S. State Department estimates that Palestinians make up "more than half" of Jordanians while in a 2007 report, written in cooperation with several Jordanian government bodies, the London-based Oxford Business Group stated that at least two thirds of Jordan's population were of Palestinian origin. Palestinians make up the majority of the population of Jordan's two largest cities, Amman and Zarqa, which were small, rural towns before the influx of Palestinians arrived in 1967 after Jordan's defeat in the Six-Day War.
In most countries with a record of human rights violations, vulnerable minorities are the typical victims. This has not been the case in Jordan where a Palestinian majority has been discriminated against by the ruling Hashemite dynasty, propped up by a minority Bedouin population, from the moment it occupied Judea and Samaria during the 1948 war (these territories were annexed to Jordan in April 1950 to become the kingdom's West Bank).
As a result, the Palestinians of Jordan find themselves discriminated against in government and legislative positions as the number of Palestinian government ministers and parliamentarians decreases; there is not a single Palestinian serving as governor of any of Jordan's twelve governorships.
Jordanian Palestinians are encumbered with tariffs of up to 200 percent for an average family sedan, a fixed 16-percent sales tax, a high corporate tax, and an inescapable income tax. Most of their Bedouin fellow citizens, meanwhile, do not have to worry about most of these duties as they are servicemen or public servants who get a free pass. Servicemen or public employees even have their own government-subsidized stores, which sell food items and household goods at lower prices than what others have to pay, and the Military Consumer Corporation, which is a massive retailer restricted to Jordanian servicemen, has not increased prices despite inflation.
Decades of such practices have left the Palestinians in Jordan with no political representation, no access to power, no competitive education, and restrictions in the only field in which they can excel: business.
According to the Minority Rights Group International's World Directory of Minorities and Indigenous Peoples of 2008, "Jordan still considers them [Palestinian-Jordanians] refugees with a right of return to Palestine." This by itself is confusing enough for the Palestinian majority and possibly gives basis for state-sponsored discrimination against them; indeed, since 2008, the Jordanian government has adopted a policy of stripping some Palestinians of their citizenship. Thousands of families have borne the brunt of this action with tens of thousands more potentially affected. The Jordanian government has officially justified its position: Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of the Interior Nayef Qadi told the London-based al-Hayat newspaper that "Jordan should be thanked for standing up against Israeli ambitions of unloading the Palestinian land of its people" which he described as "the secret Israeli aim to impose a solution of Palestinian refugees at the expense of Jordan." According to a February 2010 Human Rights Watch (HRW) report, some 2,700 Jordanian-Palestinians have had their citizenship revoked. As HRW obtained the figure from the Jordanian government, it is safe to assume that the actual figure is higher. To use the words of Sarah Leah Whitson, executive director of the Middle East and North Africa division of HRW, "Jordan is playing politics with the basic rights of thousands of its citizens."
But Abdullah does not really want the Palestinians out of his kingdom. For it is the Palestinians who drive the country's economy: They pay heavy taxes; they receive close to zero state benefits; they are almost completely shut out of government jobs, and they have very little, if any, political representation. He is merely using them as pawns in his game against Israel by threatening to make Jerusalem responsible for Jordanians of Palestinian descent in the name of the "right of return."
Despite systematic marginalization, Palestinians in Jordan seem well-settled and, indeed, do call Jordan home. Hundreds of thousands hold "yellow cards" and "green cards," residency permits allowing them to live and work in Israel while they maintain their Jordanian citizenship. In addition, tens of thousands of Palestinians—some even claim hundreds of thousands—hold Israeli residency permits, which allow them to live in Judea and Samaria. Many also hold a "Jerusalem Residency Card," which entitles them to state benefits from Israel. Yet they have remained in Jordan. Despite ill treatment by the Jordanian government, they still wish to live where most of their relatives and family members live and perhaps actually consider Jordan home.
Playing the Islamist Card
The Hashemites' discriminatory policies against the Palestinians have been overlooked by the West, Washington in particular, for one main reason: the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) was the beating heart of Palestinian politics, and thus, if the Palestinians were empowered, they might topple the Hashemites and transform Jordan into a springboard for terror attacks against Israel. This fear was not all that farfetched. The Palestinian National Charter, by which the PLO lives, considers Palestine with its original mandate borders (i.e., including the territory east of the Jordan River, or Transjordan) as the indivisible homeland of the Palestinian Arab people. In the candid admission of Abu Dawoud, Yasser Arafat's strongman in the 1970s, "Abu Ammar [Arafat] was doing everything then to establish his power and authority in Jordan despite his public statements" in support of King Hussein. This tension led to the 1970 Black September civil war where the PLO was expelled from Jordan and thousands of Palestinians were slaughtered by Hussein's Bedouin army.
With the threat of Palestinian militants removed, the idea of having the Muslim Brotherhood entrenched in a Palestinian state with the longest border with Israel would naturally be of concern to Israel and its allies.
The only problem with this theory is that the Muslim Brotherhood in Jordan is dominated by Bedouins, not Palestinians. The prominent, hawkish Muslim Brotherhood figure, Zaki Bani Rushiad, for example, is a native of Irbid in northern Jordan—not a Palestinian. Salem Falahat, another outspoken Brotherhood leader, and Abdul Latif Arabiat, a major tribal figure and godfather of the Brotherhood in Jordan, are also non-Palestinians. Upon President Obama's announcement of the death of Osama bin Laden, tribal Jordanians in the southern city of Ma'an mourned the terror leader's death and announced "a celebration of martyrdom." Other cities with predominantly Bedouin populations, such as Salt and Kerak, did the same. The latter, a stronghold of the Majali tribe (which has historically held prominent positions in the Hashemite state) produced Abu Qutaibah al-Majali, bin Laden's personal aide between 1986 and 1991, who recruited fellow Bedouin-Jordanian, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, head of al-Qaeda in Iraq who was killed in a 2006 U.S. raid.
The Hashemite regime is keenly aware of U.S. and Israeli fears and has, therefore, striven to create a situation where the world would have to choose between the Hashemites and the Muslim Brotherhood as Jordan's rulers. To this end, it has supported the Muslim Brotherhood for decades, allowing it to operate freely, to run charitable organizations and youth movements, and to recruit members in Jordan. In 2008, the Jordanian government introduced a new law, retroactively banning any existing political party unless it had five hundred members and branches in five governorates (counties). Since such conditions could only be fulfilled by the Muslim Brotherhood, most political parties were dissolved de jure because they did not meet the new standards, leaving the Islamic Action Front as the strongest party in the kingdom.
Both Jerusalem and Washington are aware of the Jordanian status quo yet have chosen to accept the Hashemite regime as it is, seduced by the conventional wisdom of "the devil you know is better than the devil you don't." The facts on the ground, however, suggest that the devil they think they know is in deep trouble with its own supposed constituency.
The Bedouin Threat
Despite their lavish privileges, Jordanian Bedouins seem to insist relentlessly on a bigger piece of the cake, demanding more privileges from the king, and, in doing so, they have grown fearless about defying him. Since 2009, fully-armed tribal fights have become commonplace in Jordan. Increasingly, the Hashemite regime has less control than it would like over its only ruling foundation—the Bedouin minority—which makes up the army, the police forces, all the security agencies, and the Jordanian General Intelligence Department. The regime is, therefore, less likely to survive any serious confrontations with them and has no other choice but to keep kowtowing to their demands.
What complicates the situation even further is that Bedouin tribes in Jordan do not maintain alliances only with the Hashemites; most shift their loyalties according to their current interests and the political season. Northern tribes, for example, have exhibited loyalty to the Syrian regime, and many of their members hold dual citizenships. In September 1970, when Syrian forces invaded Jordan in the midst of the civil war there, the tribes of the northern city of Ramtha raised the Syrian flag and declared themselves "independent" from the Hashemite rulers.
Likewise, Bedouin tribes of the south have habitually traded loyalty for privileges and handouts with whoever paid better, beginning with the Turks, then replacing them with the better-paying Britons, and finally the Hashemites. This pattern has expanded in the last twenty years, as tribesmen exchanged their loyalties for cash; in fact this is how they got involved in the British-supported Arab revolt of World War I, in which the Bedouins demanded to be paid in gold in advance in order to participate in the fighting against the Ottomans despite their alignment with the Ottoman Empire before joining the revolt.
This in turn means that the Jordanian regime is now detested not only by the Palestinians but also by the Bedouins, who have called for a constitutional monarchy in which the king hands his powers to them. Should the tribes fail to achieve their goals, they will most likely expand their demonstrations of unrest—complete with tribal killings, blockades, armed fights, robberies, and attacks on police officers—which the Jordanian state finds itself having to confront weekly. In 2010, an average of five citizens was killed each week just as a result of tribal unrest.
The Hashemite regime cannot afford to confront the tribesmen since they constitute the regime's own servicemen and intelligence officers. In 2002, the Jordanian army besieged the southern Bedouin city of Ma'an in order to arrest a group of extremists, who were then pardoned a few years later. Similarly, Hammam Balaoui, a Jordanian intelligence double agent was arrested in 2006 for supporting al-Qaeda, only to be released shortly thereafter, eventually blowing himself up in Afghanistan in 2009 along with seven senior CIA officers and King Abdullah's cousin.
These open displays of animosity are of a piece with the Hashemite regime's use of its Palestinian citizens as pawns in its game of anti-Israel one-upmanship.
King Hussein—unlike his peace-loving image—made peace with Israel only because he could no longer afford to go to war against it. His son has been less shy about his hostility and is not reluctant to bloody Israel in a cost-effective manner. For example, on August 3, 2004, he went on al-Arabiya television and slandered the Palestinian Authority for "its willingness to give up more Palestinian land in exchange for peace with Israel." He often unilaterally upped Palestinian demands on their behalf whenever the Palestinian Authority was about to make a concession, going as far as to threaten Israel with a war "unless all settlement activities cease."
This hostility toward Israel was also evident when, in 2008, Abdullah started revoking the citizenship of Jordanian Palestinians. By turning the Palestinian majority in Jordan into "stateless refugees" and aggressively pushing the so-called "right of return," the king hopes to strengthen his anti-Israel credentials with the increasingly Islamist Bedouins and to embarrass Jerusalem on the world stage. It is not inconceivable to envision a scenario where thousands of disenfranchised Palestinians find themselves stranded at the Israeli border, unable to enter or remain in Jordan. The international media—no friend of the Jewish state—would immediately jump into action, demonizing Israel and turning the scene into a fiasco meant to burden Jerusalem's conscience—and that of the West. The Hashemite regime would thereby come out triumphant, turning its own problem—being rejected and hated by the Palestinians—into Israel's problem.
A Pot Boiling Over
The Jordanian government's mistreatment of its Palestinian citizenry has taken a significant toll. Today, the Palestinians are a ticking bomb waiting to explode, especially as they watch their fellow Arabs rebelling against autocrats such as Egypt's Mubarak, Libya's Qaddafi, or Syria's Assad.
The complex relationship between the Palestinian majority and the Hashemite minority seems to have become tenser since Abdullah ascended the throne in 1999 after King Hussein's death. Abdullah's thin knowledge of the Arabic language, the region, and internal affairs, made him dependent on the Bedouin-dominated Jordanian Intelligence Department standing firmly between the king and his people, of which the Palestinians are the majority. A U.S. embassy cable, dated July 2009, reported "bullying" practiced by the fans of al-Faisali Soccer Club (predominantly Bedouin Jordanians) against the fans of al-Wihdat Soccer Club (predominantly Palestinians), with al-Faisali fans chanting anti-Palestinian slogans and going so far as to insult Queen Rania, who is of Palestinian descent. Two days after the cable was released, Jordanian police mercilessly attacked Palestinian soccer fans without provocation, right under the eyes of the international media.
Palestinians in Jordan have also developed an intense hatred of the military as they are not allowed to join the army; they see Bedouin servicemen getting advantages in state education and health care, home taxes, and even tariff exemption on luxury vehicles. In recent years, the Jordanian military has consumed up to 20.2 percent of the country's gross domestic product (GDP).
Government spending does not end with the army. Jordan has one of the largest security and intelligence apparatuses in the Middle East, perhaps the largest compared to the size of its population. Since intelligence and security officers are labeled as "military servicemen" by the Jordanian Ministry of Finance, and their expense is considered military expenditure, Jordanian Palestinians see their tax dollars going to support job creation for posts from which they themselves are banned. At the same time, the country has not engaged in any warfare since 1970, leading some to conclude that this military spending is designed to protect the regime and not the country—a conclusion underscored by the Black September events.
A Path to Peace?
The desperate and destabilizing measures undertaken by the Hashemite regime to maintain its hold on power point to a need to revive the long-ignored solution to the Arab-Israeli conflict: the Jordanian option. With Jordan home to the largest percentage of Palestinians in the world, it is a more logical location for establishing Palestinian statehood than on another country's soil, i.e., Israel's.
There is, in fact, almost nothing un-Palestinian about Jordan except for the royal family. Despite decades of official imposition of a Bedouin image on the country, and even Bedouin accents on state television, the Palestinian identity is still the most dominant—to the point where the Jordanian capital, Amman, is the largest and most populated, Palestinian city anywhere. Palestinians view it as a symbol of their economic success and ability to excel. Moreover, empowering a Palestinian statehood for Jordan has a well-founded and legally accepted grounding: The minute the minimum level of democracy is applied to Jordan, the Palestinian majority would, by right, take over the political momentum.
For decades, however, regional players have entertained fears about empowering the Palestinians of Jordan. While there may be apprehension that Jordan as a Palestinian state would be hostile to Israel and would support terror attacks across their long border, such concerns, while legitimate, are puzzling. Israel has allowed the Palestinians to establish their own ruling entities as well as their own police and paramilitary forces on soil captured in the 1967 war, cheek by jowl with major Israeli population centers. Would a Palestinian state on the other side of the Jordan River pose any greater security threat to Israel than one in Judea and Samaria?
Moreover, the Jordan Valley serves as a much more effective, natural barrier between Jordan and Israel than any fences or walls. Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu confirmed the centrality of Israeli control over the western side of the Jordan Valley, which he said would never be relinquished. It is likely that the area's tough terrain together with Israel's military prowess have prevented the Hashemite regime from even considering war with Israel for more than forty years.
It could be argued that should the Palestinians control Jordan, they would downsize the military institutions, which are dominated by their Bedouin rivals. A Palestinian-ruled Amman might also seek to cut back on the current scale of military expenditures in the hope that the U.S. military presence in the region would protect the country from unwelcome encroachments by Damascus or Tehran. It could also greatly benefit from financial and economic incentives attending good-neighbor relations with Israel. Even if a Jordanian army under Palestinian commanders were to be kept at its current level, it would still be well below Israel's military and technological edge. After all, it is Israel's military superiority, rather than regional goodwill, that drove some Arab states to make peace with it.
The Palestinians in Jordan already depend on Israel for water and have enjoyed a thriving economic boom driven by the "Qualified Industrial Zones," which allow for Jordanian clothing factories to export apparel to the United States at preferred tariff rates if a minimum percentage of the raw material comes from Israel. Hundreds of Palestinian factory owners have prospered because of these zones. Expanding such cooperation between a future Palestinian state in Jordan and Israel would give the Palestinians even more reasons to maintain a good relationship with their neighbor.
Both the United States and Israel should consider reevaluating the Jordan option. Given the unpopularity of the Hashemite regime among its subjects, regime change in Amman should not be that difficult to achieve though active external intervention would likely yield better results than the wait-and-see-who-comes-to-power approach followed during the Egyptian revolution. After twelve years on the throne, and $7 billion dollars in U.S. aid, Abdullah is still running a leaky ship and creating obstacles to resolving the Palestinian issue.
Washington's leverage can come into play as well with the Jordanian armed forces which are, in theory, loyal to the king. With hundreds of troops undergoing training in the United States each year and almost $350 million handed out in military aid, the U.S. establishment could potentially influence their choices.
Recent events in the Middle East should serve as guidelines for what ought to be pursued and avoided. U.S. diplomacy failed to nurse a moderate opposition to Egypt's Mubarak, which could have blocked Islamists and anti-Americans from coming to power. The current turmoil in Libya has shown that the later the international community acts, the more complicated the situation can get. An intervention in Jordan could be much softer than in Libya and with no need for major action. Abdullah is an outsider ruling a poor country with few resources; his only "backbone" is Washington's political and financial support. In exchange for a promise of immunity, the king could be convinced to let the Palestinian majority rule and become a figurehead, like Britain's Queen Elizabeth.
As further assurance of a future Palestinian Jordan's peaceful intentions, very strict antiterrorism laws must be implemented, barring anyone who has incited violence from running for office, thus ruling out the Islamists even before they had a chance to start. Such an act should be rewarded with economic aid that actually filters down to the average Jordanian as opposed to the current situation, in which U.S. aid money seems to support mainly the Hashemites' lavish lifestyle.
Alongside downsizing the military, a defense agreement with Washington could be put in place to help protect the country against potentially hostile neighbors. Those who argue that Jordan needs a strong military to counter threats from abroad need only look again at its history: In 1970, when Syria invaded northern Jordan, King Hussein asked for U.S. and Israeli protection and was eventually saved by the Israeli air force, which managed to scare the Syrian troops back across the border. Again in 2003, when Washington toppled Saddam Hussein, Amman asked for U.S.-operated Patriot missile batteries and currently favors an extended U.S. presence in Iraq as a Jordanian security need.
Should the international community see an advantage to maintaining the military power of the new Palestinian state in Jordan as it is today, the inviolability of the peace treaty with Israel must be reasserted, indeed upgraded, extending into more practical and tangible economic and political arenas. A mutual defense and counterterrorism agreement with Israel should be struck, based on one simple concept—"good fences make good neighbors"—with the river Jordan as the fence.
Considering the Palestinian-Jordanian option for peace would not pose any discrimination against Palestinians living in the West Bank, nor would it compromise their human rights: They would be welcome to move to Jordan or stay where they are if they so wished. Free will should be the determinant, not political pressure. Besides, there are indications that many would not mind living in Jordan. Were the Palestinians to dominate Jordan, this tendency will be significantly strengthened. This possibility has also recently been confirmed by a released cable from the U.S. embassy in Amman in which Palestinian political and community representatives in Jordan made clear that they would not consider the "right of return" should they secure their civil rights in Jordan.
Empowering Palestinian control of Jordan and giving Palestinians all over the world a place they can call home could not only defuse the population and demographic problem for Palestinians in Judea and Samaria but would also solve the much more complicated issue of the "right of return" for Palestinians in other Arab countries. Approximately a million Palestinian refugees and their descendents live in Syria and Lebanon, with another 300,000 in Jordan whom the Hashemite government still refuses to accept as citizens. How much better could their future look if there were a welcoming Palestinian Jordan?
The Jordanian option seems the best possible and most viable solution to date. Decades of peace talks and billions of dollars invested by the international community have only brought more pain and suffering for both Palestinians and Israelis—alongside prosperity and wealth for the Hashemites and their cronies.
It is time for the international community to adopt a more logical and less costly solution rather than to persist in long discredited misconceptions. It is historically perplexing that the world should be reluctant to ask the Hashemites to leave Jordan, a country to which they are alien, while at the same time demanding that Israeli families be removed by force from decades-old communities in their ancestral homeland. Equally frustrating is the world's silence while Palestinians seeking refuge from fighting in Iraq are locked in desert camps in eastern Jordan because the regime refuses to settle them "unless foreign aid is provided."
The question that needs to be answered at this point is: Has the West ever attempted to establish any contacts with a pro-peace, Palestinian-Jordanian opposition? Palestinians today yearn for leaders. Washington is presented with a historical opportunity to support a potential Palestinian leadership that believes in a peace-based, two-state solution with the River Jordan as the separating border between the two countries. Such leadership does seem to exist. Last September, for example, local leaders in Jordanian refugee camps stopped Palestinian youth from participating in mass protests against the Israeli Embassy in Amman; as a result, barely 200 protesters showed up instead of thousands as in similar, previous protests. As for East Jerusalem, under Israel's 44-year rule, Muslims, Christians, and members of all other religions have been able to visit and practice their faith freely, just as billions of people from all over the world visit the Vatican or Muslim pilgrims flock to Mecca. Yet under the Hashemite occupation of the city, this was not done. Without claiming citizenship, Jerusalem would remain an open city to all who come to visit.
The Jordanian option is an overdue solution: A moderate, peaceful, economically thriving, Palestinian home in Jordan would allow both Israelis and Palestinians to see a true and lasting peace.
Mudar Zahran is a Jordanian-Palestinian writer who resides in the United Kingdom as a political refugee. He served as an economic specialist and assistant to the policy coordinator at the U.S. Embassy in Amman before moving to the U.K. in 2010.
New York law enforcement authorities bust cigarette-smuggling ring funneling funds to terrorist groups.
NEW YORK – An extraordinary multi-agency policing effort came to a climax on Thursday, as search warrants executed from New York to Virginia led to 16 arrests in connection with a cigarette smuggling ring that authorities believe is the work of Hamas and Hezbollah operatives.
The scheme, which took in at least $65 million, involved Palestinians smuggling up to 20,000 cartons of cigarettes per week from low-tax states, for illegal resale across state lines.
The cost in lost tax revenue to New York State alone is estimated at $80m., authorities said. Based on previous operations, investigators believe the proceeds were being channeled to the two Islamist terrorist organizations in the Gaza Strip (Hamas) and Lebanon (Hezbollah).
“The proceeds from this alleged scheme can be used to fund a host of other criminal acts that threaten national security and public safety of Americans at home and abroad,” said James T. Hayes Jr., special agent in charge of Homeland Security Investigations in New York.
All members of the enterprise were Palestinians between the ages of 37 and 62, the New York Police Department said on Thursday.
Leading the group, the police said, were brothers Basel and Samir Ramadan, who lived in New York while running the operation.
The Ramadan brothers allegedly bought their cigarettes in bulk from a wholesaler in Virginia and stored their stockpile at a facility in Delaware. They expanded their operations by depositing more than $55m. from their illicit sales into small businesses in Maryland, according to the allegations, and the money they earned from those businesses was then used to buy more cigarettes in Virginia.
The question now facing federal investigators is where the proceeds went.
“The association of some of the suspects in this case [with Brooklyn Jewish teenager] Ari Halberstam’s killer, [terror mastermind] the Blind Sheikh [Omar Abdel-Rahman] and a top Hamas official concerns us,” New York police commissioner Ray Kelly said. “While it hasn’t been established yet where the illicit proceeds ended up, we’re concerned because similar schemes have been used in the past to help fund terrorist organizations like Hamas and Hezbollah.”
While sources say that investigators are "following the money," the US doesn't expect foreign intelligence or law enforcement agencies to cooperate such that they will have sufficient evidence against the perpetrators to charge them with committing or conspiring to commit acts of terrorism.
In 1995, Operation Smokescreen busted a similar operation that US authorities believe topped $8m. in illicit revenue for Hezbollah. The operation involved numerous local and federal agencies, including the State Department’s Diplomatic Security Service, the US Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, and the FBI.
All cigarette packs sold in New York City must bear a joint New York City and New York State tax stamp, and only licensed stamping agents are authorized to possess untaxed cigarettes and use such a stamp.
Agencies involved in the latest operation apparently used electronic and physical surveillance methods to track down the crime ring.
Syria Begins to Break Apart Under Pressure From War
By BEN HUBBARD
CAIRO — The black flag of jihad flies over much of northern Syria. In the center of the country, pro-government militias and Hezbollah fighters battle those who threaten their communities. In the northeast, the Kurds have effectively carved out an autonomous zone.
After more than two years of conflict, Syria is breaking up. A constellation of armed groups battling to advance their own agendas are effectively creating the outlines of separate armed fiefs. As the war expands in scope and brutality, its biggest casualty appears to be the integrity of the Syrian state.
On Thursday, President Obama met in Washington with the Turkish prime minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, and once again pressed the idea of a top-down diplomatic solution. That approach depends on the rebels and the government agreeing to meet at a peace conference that was announced last week by the United States and Russia.
“We’re going to keep increasing the pressure on the Assad regime and working with the Syrian opposition,” Mr. Obama said. “We are going to keep working for a Syria that is free of Assad’s tyranny.”
But as evidence of massacres and chemical weapons mounts, experts and Syrians themselves say the American focus on change at the top ignores the deep fractures the war has caused in Syrian society. Increasingly, it appears Syria is so badly shattered that no single authority is likely to be able to pull it back together any time soon.
Instead, three Syrias are emerging: one loyal to the government, to Iran and to Hezbollah; one dominated by Kurds with links to Kurdish separatists in Turkey and Iraq; and one with a Sunni majority that is heavily influenced by Islamists and jihadis.
“It is not that Syria is melting down — it has melted down,” said Andrew J. Tabler, a senior fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy and author of “In the Lion’s Den: An Eyewitness Account of Washington’s Battle with Syria.”
“So much has changed between the different parties that I can’t imagine it all going back into one piece,” Mr. Tabler said.
Fueling the country’s breakup are the growing brutality of fighters on all sides and the increasingly sectarian nature of the violence.
Recent examples abound. Pro-government militias have hit coastal communities, targeting Sunni Muslim civilians. Sunni rebel groups have attacked religious shrines of other sects. A video circulating this week showed a rebel commander in Homs cutting out an enemy’s heart and liver, and biting into the heart.
Analysts say this shift in the nature of the violence will have a greater effect on the country’s future than territorial gains on either side by making it less likely that the myriad ethnic and religious groups that have long called Syria home will go back to living side by side. As the momentum seesaws back and forth between rebels and the government, the geographic divisions are hardening.
After steadily losing territory to rebels during the first two years of the conflict, government forces have progressed on a number of key fronts in recent weeks, routing rebel forces in the southern province of Dara’a, outside Damascus and in the central city of Homs and its surrounding villages.
These victories not only reflect strategic shifts by government forces but also could further solidify the country’s divisions.
Since mass defections of mostly conscripted soldiers shrank the government’s forces earlier in the uprising, it has largely given up on trying to reclaim parts of the country far from the capital, said Joseph Holliday, a fellow with the Institute for the Study of War in Washington.
Instead, the government has focused on solidifying its grip on a strip of land that extends from the capital, Damascus, in the south, up to Homs in the country’s center and west to the coastal area heavily populated by Mr. Assad’s sect, the Alawites.
Other than hitting them with airstrikes or artillery, Mr. Assad has made little effort to reclaim rebel-held areas in the country’s far north and east.
The character of those fighting for Mr. Assad has changed, too. As the uncommitted defected, the loyalists remained. “All of these defections and desertions basically created a more loyal and therefore more deployable core,” said Emile Hokayem, an analyst with the International Institute for Strategic Studies, who is based in Dubai. “At least you know who is fighting for you.”
Mr. Assad has also come to rely more heavily on paramilitary militias that draw largely from his Alawite sect and other minorities who consider him a bulwark against the rebels’ Islamism. More recently, fighters from Lebanon’s Shiite militant group Hezbollah have added extra muscle, especially in the border region near the town of Qusair, an area dotted with Shiite and Sunni villages that has seen intense fighting in recent months.
This new focus on tightening his grip on the country’s center suits Mr. Assad fine, said Abdulrahim Mourad, a Lebanese politician and former Parliament member who visited Mr. Assad in Damascus last month.
“He told jokes, was very funny,” Mr. Mourad said. “He was very relaxed and relieved.”
In the void left by the government in the country’s north and east, rebel groups have seized swaths of territory and struggled to establish local administrations.
Although the Obama administration and its allies share the rebels’ goal of removing Mr. Assad from power, they have little else in common with the many rebel brigades that define their struggle in Islamic terms and seek to replace Mr. Assad with an Islamic state. Among them is Jabhet al-Nusra, or the Nusra Front, the local branch of Al Qaeda, which the United States has blacklisted as a terrorist group.
The war’s duration and the competition for resources have left the rebel movement itself deeply fractured. Few effective links exist between the rebels’ exile leader, Gen. Salim Idris, and the most powerful groups on the ground.
And recent months have seen increasing fights among rebels, diminishing their ability to form a united front against the government. This week, the Islamist Shariah Commission in Aleppo went after rebels accused of looting. The council sent fighters to surround the group’s headquarters and arrested some of its members, confiscating trucks full of looted goods. The haul in one neighborhood included five washing machines and a television.
Another video, circulated this week, showed a Nusra Front leader in eastern Syria standing behind 11 bound and blindfolded captives. After announcing that they had been sentenced by an Islamic court for killing Syrians, he drew a pistol and shot them in the back of the head, one by one.
Activists later identified the man as a Saudi citizen named Qaswara al-Jizrawi. They also determined that the executions took place months earlier since Mr. Jizrawi was killed in March in a gunfight between his and another rebel group that left dozens of people dead on both sides.
In Syria’s northeastern Hassakeh Province, the country’s largest Kurdish majority area, residents have taken in Kurds fleeing violence elsewhere, expanded the teaching of the Kurdish language in schools and raised militias that have clashed with rebel brigades. Many local Kurds are linked to groups in Turkey and Iraq and hope to use the uprising to push for greater autonomy.
These spreading fissures leave little optimism that Syria can be stitched back together under one leadership in the near future.
“The only real outcome I see in the next 5 to 10 years is a series of cantons that agree to tactical cease-fires because they are tired of the bloodletting,” said Mr. Holliday, the analyst with the Institute for the Study of War. “That trajectory is in place, with or without Assad.”
IF you ask someone who is in favour of "the European project" what that project actually is, he will not reply: "The creation of a large and powerful unitary state without any unnecessary interference from populations that, because of their ignorance and stupidity, see no need for it" - a reply that at least would have the merit of honesty.
No: he will start mumbling about peace and the need to avoid a repetition of World War II, as if, were it not for directives from Brussels about how large bananas must be or what are the permitted scents in soap, Europeans would once again be at each other's throats.
Actually, a forced European unity, conjured from no popular sentiment by a strange combination of bureaucratic mediocrity and gaseous utopianism, is more likely to lead to conflict than to prevent it; and the increasingly wide divergence of the interests of France and Germany is fast recalling the ghosts of the past. The French fear to be dominated; the Germans don't want to be condescended to.
Relations between the two countries, often called (between them) the locomotive of Europe, have deteriorated since the arrival in power of Francois Hollande, who was elected on the promise of doing precisely the opposite of what the Germans think the French ought to do. Hollande was hoping for an alliance with Italy and the German Social Democrats if they returned to power; but the German Social Democrats are closer in policy to Angela Merkel than they are to Hollande (indeed, they are the authors of the very policies Hollande was elected to resist); and Italy can hardly help itself at the moment, let alone France. Hollande wanted to go for a grand slam when Germany held all the cards.
Two or three rather foolish recent statements have made matters worse. Hollande called for a state of "friendly tension" between the two countries, as if the differences between them were merely academic or a matter of cafe discussion, rather than of fundamental national interest.
Germany wants austerity in countries with large deficits and the generous social protections that make their labour and products uncompetitive; France wants increased government spending to avoid the reduction in public sector employment, wages and social protections that inevitably would be brought about by liberalisation of the labour market.
Unfortunately, thanks to the currency union (to which, incidentally, the population of neither country consented), French wishes can be met by one of only two methods: either the Germans pay for the deficits of other countries or accept a high rate of inflation. Neither appeals to them very much.
The president of the French National Assembly, Claude Bartolone, recently called for a "confrontation" with Germany over this matter. In his blog, Bartolone said that he had used the word in its old French sense, a comparison of two points of view; but the word is now used much more in its English sense - that is to say, of a conflict or clash, and the second is what he was taken to mean (and what I suspect he did mean).
Then a document produced by the leaders of Hollande's Socialist Party referred to Merkel's "intransigent egoism" that considered only "Berlin's trade surplus and her own electoral prospects".
(In the minds of most of the European political class, electorates are just a bloody nuisance, getting in the way of proper policy. That is why the class is so attached to European institutions, in which powerful apparatchiks who know best can take no notice of the dummy parliament and do not have to face the humiliating ritual of elections.)
A close adviser of Hollande regretted the wording of the document, saying that "it was all regrettable, disagreeable, inopportune", but also that it was not very serious.
What he did not do was to repudiate its fundamental meaning.
However maladroit its wording, and however much such maladroitness is a sign of political incompetence, the document pointed to a conflict of interests that was far from purely verbal. Hollande was elected on a program that could not but have brought him into conflict with Germany, even a Germany governed by the Social Democrats. But without the monetary union, there would have been no such possible conflict: Hollande could have followed his own policy (albeit at the cost of constant devaluation and the eventual impoverishment of his country) without bothering Germany.
Thus the overweening ambition of the European political class has resuscitated conflict between old enemies where none need have existed.
This is not to say that either the French or the German political elites have fallen out of love with the European project, far from it. The sole question is Humpty Dumpty's - which is to be master, that's all? Unfortunately, it has proved rather a dangerous one in Europe down the ages.
He's a good guy, of course, but his analysis of what's wrong with Muslims in Europe -- those buffoonish imams from villages in Dar al-islam who arrive to see real islam done -- makes him overlook, as he must, the essential nature of Islam, as expressed, and as immutable and unexpungeable, in Qur'an, Hadith, and Sira. He sees that the atttidue of Muslims in Europe is a problem, but cannot allow himself to recognize, much less express publicly, its originws, its depth, its permanence. He helps Infidels by telling them something that they need to know -- the Muslims live in Europe mostly on benefits, benefits pocketed as their right, their jizyah. That point has to be repeatedly made, and its good to have a reflective and critical (and therefore dissident or bad) Muslim make it -- Europeans are more likely to heed him, not fellow Europeans.
So here's his appearance, good up to a point, a point he just can't go beyond, for if he did, he'd be an apostate, and that he is, as yet, unwilling to be. .
As police searched for him, and as he lay bleeding in his boat hideout, Boston Marathon bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev wrote "F*** America" on the side panel of the boat, police in Massachusetts told ABC News.
Officers said they also discovered the phrase "Praise Allah" on the boat's side panels and several anti-American screeds, including references to Iraq, Afghanistan and "the infidels."
A Massachusetts official showed ABC News what he said was a cell phone picture of the phrase "Praise Allah," written in black ink, with a bullet hole above it, believed to have been written by Dzhokhar as he hid inside the boat in Watertown, Mass.
Also seen in the picture was the faintly written word "brother," which the official said was part of a reference by the younger Tsarnaev "that was something about his brother is lucky to be with Allah first."
Tamerlan Tsarnaev was killed hours earlier during a shootout with police several blocks away from the location of the boat.
Spokespeople for the Massachusetts State Police and the Watertown police had denied the existence of the writings when first asked about them by ABC News two weeks ago.
Today, both departments referred reporters to the FBI. A federal law enforcement official confirmed reports first broadcast by CBS News that writings had been discovered inside the boat.
The discovery of writings intensified tensions between the FBI and local police when FBI agents believed some Boston officers and state police had taken cell phone pictures of the writing.
Agents demanded the phones of all officers at the scene the night of the capture of Dzhokhar be confiscated to avoid the photos becoming public before being used as evidence at trial, according to two law enforcement officials.
A FBI spokesperson said agents cannot confiscate phones without a warrant and officials said none of the police approached would agree to turn over their phones to the FBI.
Dhzokhar and Tamerlan Tsarnaev are accused of setting off a pair of bombs near the finish line of the Boston Marathon April 15, killing three people, including an eight-year-old boy, and injuring more than 260 others. Tamerlan was killed in a shootout with police days after the attack, while Dhzokhar was wounded and later captured in the boat.
[A] few optimistic observers suggest that we create a distinction between a category of ‘moderate’ Islamic countries, and a separate category of ‘hardline’ ones.
I’m sure this is a perfectly well-intentioned enterprise but for me at least, it has too many flaws to be taken seriously.
For a start, what exactly are we to mean by the word ‘moderate’? Are we suggesting that the Muslims of such places do not take the threat of hellfire or the promise of paradise as seriously as in others? Surely not.
I think what people really intend by this phrase, is ‘more like us’.
By ‘moderate’ they mean countries in which there are as many cafes as there are mosques, and where European languages are spoken by the natives.
But surely the error in all this is clear.
No adaptation to Western secular culture makes for ‘moderation’ in religious culture. Secular culture (cafes, television, newspapers), fills spaces religion doesn’t fill. But the spaces religion does fill remain filled by the same religion as existed in the 7th century.
Think of it this way – There are millions of Muslims living with us right now in the West, many of whom speak fluently the languages of their adopted lands, and who spend hours each week not only in cafes, but in Tesco, ASDA and other places we might recognise too. They are, in this respect ‘like us’. They may even live next door to us… But as the 7/7 bombers showed, this is no guarantee against the most radical religious fervour and extreme behaviour developing in those internal spaces still occupied by their religion.
Since the 7/7 bombers were born and raised in a Western environment, and still emerged as terrorists, why should the presence of a few Western characteristics in North Africa or Anatolia reassure us that such places are themselves peopled by moderate Muslims?
Islam of the most extreme variety can co-exist (or co-develop) quite smoothly with some aspects of modernity, but only up to a point. At such a point radical Islam feels compelled to demonstrate a moral supremacy over it. The perceived moral laxity of the modern world acts as fuel to the Islamist fire. Our freedom is a provocation.
Just the other week, one of the countries most often suggested as a beacon of moderation, Tunisia, saw an outbreak of Islamist violence as well as the assassination of an elected official. Another commonly suggested ‘moderate’ state, Turkey, has an Islamist government apparently determined to roll the clock back a century at a time. I seem to remember even Egypt being suggested as an example of Muslim modernity, just a few months before the ‘spring’ which set in motion the Muslim Brotherhood’s seizure of power.
Even if you call a spade a rake, it remains a spade. So let’s dispense with the lies.
From the French edition of The Local. A different form of 'grooming' so as to procure young girls.
French police have charged seven men with removing a child from her parents’ care, after a 15-year-old convert to Islam, whose father is British, left home after "marrying" a 28-year-old Muslim man “over the phone".
The charges were brought after an investigation by police in the eastern French town of Mulhouse into a shady online scheme which put Muslim men in contact with young girls, who are newly-converted to Islam. After being introduced, the men then ‘marry’ the young girls online and over the phone.
The scheme came to light earlier this month after a 15-year-old girl, whose father is British, ran away from home to live with an older Muslim man. The girl had recently converted to Islam, along with three girlfriends, aged 17, 18 and 19, without her Christian parents' knowledge after frequenting social network internet sites.
Her father informed local prosecutor Hervé Robin that his teenage daughter began wearing a burqa and voicing extreme Islamist views.
On May 6th, the girl’s father called police, alerting them to the fact that his daughter appeared to have run away. Using a signal from the 28-year-old suspect’s mobile phone, police were able to geolocate him in Valence, 500km away in the Drome department of central France, along with his new teenage ‘wife.’
The girl, who told investigators this was her second marriage, after being denounced and rejected by her first husband, has since returned home to live with her parents in Mulhouse, while prosecutors carry out their investigation.
Her ‘husband’, himself a convert to Islam, has been remanded in custody in Mulhouse, a town 100 km from Strasbourg and next to the Swiss border. Among the seven being held is a man from Moulins, central France, who is suspected of being the ringleader of the scheme.
Dr Taj Hargey is valiantly persevering with the faith of his ancestors hoping that he and a few others can bring about some sort of reformation from within. For his pains he has been threatened, abused and deemed an apostate and heretic. He has the courage to identify that these men are Muslims and that they comitted their crimes by following the teachings of their mosques. According to the Guardian they attended the Central Oxford Mosque in Manzil Way off Cowley Road, where they were well known.
The terrible story of the Oxford child sex ring has brought shame not only on the city of dreaming spires, but also on the local Muslim community. It is a sense of repulsion and outrage that I feel particularly strongly, working as a Muslim leader and Imam in this neighbourhood and trying to promote genuine cultural integration.
In its harrowing details, this grim saga of exploitation, misogyny, perversion and cruelty fills me not only with desperate sorrow for those girls and their families, but also with dread and despair.
If I were the judge in this case, I would hand out the harshest possible jail sentences to these monstrous predators, both to see that justice is done for their victims and to send out a message to other exploiters. And when I say harsh, I mean it: none of this fashionable nonsense about prisoners being released only a quarter of the way through their sentences. There is no pattern of good conduct these men could follow behind bars that could possibly make up for all the terrible suffering they have inflicted on others.
But apart from its sheer depravity, what also depresses me about this case is the widespread refusal to face up to its hard realities.
The fact is that the vicious activities of the Oxford ring are bound up with religion and race: religion, because all the perpetrators, though they had different nationalities, were Muslim; and race, because they deliberately targeted vulnerable white girls, whom they appeared to regard as ‘easy meat’, to use one of their revealing, racist phrases.
Indeed, one of the victims who bravely gave evidence in court told a newspaper afterwards that ‘the men exclusively wanted white girls to abuse’
But as so often in fearful, politically correct modern Britain, there is a craven unwillingness to face up to this reality. Commentators and poli-ticians tip-toe around it, hiding behind weasel words. We are told that child sex abuse happens ‘in all communities’, that white men are really far more likely to be abusers, as has been shown by the fall-out from the Jimmy Savile case.
But all this is deluded nonsense. While it is, of course, true that abuse happens in all communities, no amount of obfuscation can hide the pattern that has been exposed in a series of recent chilling scandals, from Rochdale to Oxford, and Telford to Derby.
In all these incidents, the abusers were Muslim men, and their targets were under-age white girls.
Moreover, reputable studies show that around 26 per cent of those involved in grooming and exploitation rings are Muslims, which is around five times higher than the proportion of Muslims in the adult male population. To pretend that this is not an issue for the Islamic community is to fall into a state of ideological denial.
But then part of the reason this scandal happened at all is precisely because of such politically correct thinking. All the agencies of the state, including the police, the social services and the care system, seemed eager to ignore the sickening exploitation that was happening before their eyes. Terrified of accusations of racism, desperate not to undermine the official creed of cultural diversity, they took no action against obvious abuse.
Amazingly, the predators seem to have been allowed by local authority managers to come and go from care homes, picking their targets to ply them with drink and drugs before abusing them. You can be sure that if the situation had been reversed, with gangs of tough, young white men preying on vulnerable Muslim girls, the state’s agencies would have acted with greater alacrity.
Another sign of the cowardly approach to these horrors is the constant reference to the criminals as ‘Asians’ rather than as ‘Muslims’.
In this context, Asian is a completely meaningless term. The men were not from China, or India or Sri Lanka or even Bangladesh. They were all from either Pakistan or Eritrea, which is, in fact, in East Africa rather than Asia. What united them in their outlook was their twisted, corrupt mindset, which bred their misogyny and racism.
In the misguided orthodoxy that now prevails in many mosques, including several of those in Oxford, men are unfortunately taught that women are second-class citizens, little more than chattels or possessions over whom they have absolute authority. That is why we see this growing, reprehensible fashion for segregation at Islamic events on university campuses, with female Muslim students pushed to the back of lecture halls.
There was a telling incident in the trial when it was revealed that one of the thugs heated up some metal to brand a girl, as if she were a cow. ‘Now, if you have sex with someone else, he’ll know that you belong to me,’ said this criminal, highlighting an attitude where women are seen as nothing more than personal property.
The view of some Islamic preachers towards white women can be appalling. They encourage their followers to believe that these women are habitually promiscuous, decadent and sleazy — sins which are made all the worse by the fact that they are kaffurs or non-believers. On one level, most imams in the UK are simply using their puritanical sermons to promote the wearing of the hijab and even the burka among their female adherents. But the dire result can be the brutish misogyny we see in the Oxford sex ring.
For those of us who support effective and meaningful integration, it is dispiriting to see how little these criminals, several of them second-generation Britons, have been integrated into our society. Instead, they saw only people from an alien world with which they felt no connection. For them, there was no sense of kinship or solidarity for people in their neighbourhood who were not Muslims.
It is telling, though, that they never dared to target Muslim girls from the Oxford area. They knew that they would be sought out by the girls’ families and ostracised by their community. But preying on vulnerable white girls had no such consequences — once again revealing how intimately race and religion are bound up with this case.
Horror over this latest scandal should serve as a catalyst for a new approach, but change can take place only if we abandon the dangerous blinkers of political correctness and antiquated multiculturalism.
Bostonians may be relieved that the week of terrorism perpetrated by the Tsarnaev brothers which began at 2:49PM April 15, 2013 at the Boston Marathon Finish Line ended dramatically on April 20, 2013 with the capture of surviving younger brother Dzhokhar. However, the nation is perplexed about why this heinous and cowardly act occurred and what can be done to prevent possible re-occurrences in America. 26 year old Tamerlan, a 6’ 3” tall aspiring boxer was mortally wounded in a hail of bullets in a shoot out in Watertown, Massachusetts early Friday morning, April 19, 2013. more>>>
Nigeria's President Goodluck Jonathan has declared a state of emergency in three north-eastern states as militant Islamists intensify their offensive against the government. The insurgency, led by Boko Haram, has killed some 2,000 people since 2009. It has spread across the mainly Muslim north and central Nigeria.
With the attacks becoming increasingly sophisticated, there is growing concern that Boko Haram is receiving backing from al-Qaeda-linked militants in other countries. Here, BBC Africa's Farouk Chothia looks at the changing nature of the conflict.
First large-scale incursion: May 2013
Boko Haram has increased its focus on smaller towns in north-eastern Nigeria in recent months after the military drove many of its fighters out of Maiduguri - the capital of Borno state, which was the group's main base. Boko Haram militants have since infiltrated nearby towns, with little resistance from the army. . .
The Bama violence came a few weeks after Boko Haram attacked a military patrol in Baga, a nearby town in which it is said to have also built a presence, forcibly recruiting youth into its ranks. . .
First 'slaves captured': May 2013
Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau released a video on 13 May 2013, saying Boko Haram had taken women and children - including teenage girls - hostage in response to the arrest of its members' wives and children.
It is unclear whether the hostages are the relatives of government officials or civilians.
Mr Shekau said the hostages would be treated as "slaves", fuelling concern that Boko Haram is adhering to the ancient Islamic belief that women captured during war are slaves with whom their "masters" can have sex.
According to a report by the Arabic language newspaper al-Hayat, Iran has obtained agreement from Syria that will allow Hizbullah to assault Israel from Syria's Golan Height’s border, as the Times of Israel reported.
Presumably the effort is a last-ditch attempt to save Assad's regime by using the tried and tested method of uniting Middle Eastern division (Syrian, Lebanese and Palestinian) against the Jewish State's existence:
“All Arabs and Muslims” are requested to join the fight against Israel, Tehran said, according to Israel Radio. [...]
The Lebanese daily al-Akhbar suggested last week that Iran had “reached a final decision” to respond to Israel’s reported strike on Syria by “turning the Golan into a new Fatah-land. The front has become open to Syrians and Palestinians and anyone who wants to fight Israel.”
There may also be some agreement with other Arab leaders on this change in policy, perhaps due in part to a concern over the recent upsurge in Islamism:
The al-Quds website wrote that Iran also discussed the issue with other Arab leaders, namely Jordan’s King Abdullah, who expressed his own “concerns” about the surge of radical Islamist groups, such as the Jabhat al-Nusra, in Syria.
This dramatic move indicates how strategically important Syria is to Iran, both being Shia states in a very divided sectarian landscape. Whilst an Islamist regime in Syria is likely to be less peaceable to Israel, it would nonetheless be an entity possessing a deep hostility to Iran’s actions in the region.
Notably, these worrying diplomatic moves have taken place amongst a backdrop of continued support from Russia for the Assad regime. According to the Times of Israel, Netanyahu is in Moscow attempting to dissuade Putin from selling Russia's highly advanced S-300 missile defence system to Syria. Such a move would gravely endanger Israel since it would seriously limit the IAF’s ability to destroy arms and WMD shipments going to Hizbullah.
And peace on you too. A lady goes into a bar and asks for a double entendre. The barman gives her one. Click on the Khasi of Kalabar below, and titter ye not. From The Telegraph with thanks to Esmerelda:
Israelis, in contrast, are like us. They are part of the West. So who does Stephen Hawking choose to boycott? Rod Liddle, from the Sunday Times via the British Israel Group:
A statement issued on [Hawking's] behalf explained that he was persuaded by Palestinian colleagues to boycott an academic conference taking place in Israel, because of its policies towards the Palestinians. Right on, Stevie!
I wonder what Hawking’s hero, the late mathematician and computer scientist Alan Turing would have thought of this. A short while ago, Hawking was a leading signatory to a campaign for Turing to be posthumously pardoned — he had been convicted of homosexuality 60 years ago.
Turing would get 10 years in prison in Gaza today, although there is a healthy penal reform lobby within the mosques who think this sentence should be non-custodial — that is, it should be changed to death by stoning followed by being doused in Allah’s cleansing fires for eternity. Indeed, Hawking is boycotting one of the only states in the region where Turing would not have been imprisoned on account of his sexuality. Peculiar, isn’t it? Unless on that occasion — as on this — Hawking was just grandstanding for a fashionable cause.
Or perhaps it’s this: maybe Hawking, who has motor neurone disease and uses a wheelchair, finds Hamas’s non-discriminatory jihadist spirit amenable. The group is determined to afford mentally disabled Palestinians a certain prominence in the fight against the Zionist entity by strapping Semtex to their bodies and cheerfully pointing them in the direction of the Israelis. Hamas will use children and women for the same purpose.
Professor Hawking has a problem, mind. He uses an astonishing speech-generation device that has made his voice recognisable the world over. Its most important component is a fiendishly clever silicon chip that was designed in . . . yes, Israel. It is not clear how Hawking will square this problem. Perhaps he will protest against himself.
Hawking should stick to physics. And stick with his own kind, as even the briefest history of Islamic time will tell.
"Vulgar, vulgar, vulgar," said the Queen's private secretary, Lord Charteris, of Sarah, Duchess of York. It might with more justice be said of Dubai. Trashy buildings, trashy bars, trashy shopping, Dubai seems to embody all that is said to be wrong with the West. But Dubai is Muslim, and Islam is not Western. Nor is it merely different and just as good in its vibrant way. We do not put women in prison for being gang raped, but those who follow Sharia, do, and indeed must. Thanks to Gates of Vienna for this chilling story.
After we posted on the kerfuffle over IRS attacks on conservative Tea Party, Patriot groups and Z Street for viewpoint discrimination, I spoke with my colleague, Lori Lowenthal Marcus, President of the pro-Israel group. We discussed the distinctions between Z Street’s legal action against the IRS versus IRS targeting of conservative groups. The latter had applied for 501 (c) (4) status as social welfare groups while the original Z Street application was for tax exempt status under 501( c) (3). We chanced to view a PBS News Hour program featuring a discussion about these important differences. The segment featured Duke Law School Professor, Richard J. Schmalbeck, an expert on non-profit tax law, and Jay Sekulow, Chief Counsel of the American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ). Sekulow is representing Tea Party and Patriot groups in litigation with the IRS. He and Marcus had met in Israel at a conference during which she explained the facts and basis for the Z Street law suit. It wa soriginally filed original in August 2010 in the Eastern Pennsylvania District Court and since transferred to the DC District Court, where it will be heard in early July. We reached out to Sekulow to see if he might consent to an NER interview about both matters.
Watch this PBS News Hour Discussion of the Tax law Issues Behind IRS Political Targeting with ACLJ’s Jay Sekulow and Duke Law School Professor Schmalbeck.
Marcus, whose day job is US correspondent for The Jewish Press knows these legal issues as a graduate of Harvard Law School and pro bono lawyer on related matters in Philadelphia. She had reached out to the House Ways and Means Committee Monday to suggest expansion of the upcoming hearings to include the Z Street IRS litigation. She was told that this might an agenda item for future hearings on IRS political targeting of viewpoint groups. Committee Chairman David Camp (R-MI) has scheduled hearings on the Tea Party and Patriots groups IRS matter for this Friday. Acting IRS Commissioner Steven Miller, who took over for outgoing Commissioner Douglas Shulman, a Bush appointee holdover, will testify together with the IRS Inspector General. Attorney General Holder has initiated an investigation into the IRS imbroglio with conservative groups on their 50 (c ) (4)) tax exempt applications. This followed President Obama’s comments at a press conference with visiting UK PM David Cameron on Monday.
A leader of one of the organizations involved, Lori Lowenthal Marcus of Z Street, said Monday that she was convinced the added attention her group got was no accident.
“I can’t believe it was just about Z Street, because it’s a tiny organization,” Lowenthal Marcus said of the group, which has been critical of President Barack Obama for being too cozy with left-leaning Jewish groups like J Street and with pro-Palestinian entities.
Z Street filed a lawsuit against the IRS in 2010 alleging that one of its attorneys was told its application for tax exemption was delayed and sent to a “special unit…to determine whether the organization’s activities contradict the Administration’s public policies.”
Z Street had applied for the 501 (c) (3) status applied to most charities, allowing for tax deductible donations.
Most of the tea party groups known to have come under scrutiny applied for 501 (c) (4) status, which allows advocacy groups to avoid federal taxes on their operations but doesn’t render donations to the groups’ tax deductible.
Both kinds of applications are processed in the same Cincinnati office.
Legal filings show that the problems for Z Street — and apparently for other Israel-related groups — stemmed from an obscure unit in the Cincinnati IRS office: the “Touch and Go Group.” One of the so-called TAG Group’s duties was to weed out applications that might be coming from organizations which may be used to fund terrorism.
In response to Z Street’s lawsuit, an IRS manager acknowledged that applications mentioning Israel were getting special attention.
“Israel is one of many Middle Eastern countries that have a higher risk of terrorism,” wrote Jon Waddell, manager of the IRS’s Exempt Organizations Determinations Group. “A referral to TAG is appropriate whenever an application mentions providing resources to organizations in a country with a higher risk of terrorism.”
“Does your organization support the existence of the land of Israel? Describe your organization’s religious belief system towards the land of Israel,” the IRS asked in a letter sent to the religious group, which asked not to be named.
“If they’re asking that of that group, what else are they asking?” Lowenthal Marcus asked.
She said basing the review for terrorism on where an organization did business was strange and ineffective.
“If their policy was to look at any organization that had anything to do with a country where terrorism exists, I don’t see how that limits anything,” Lowenthal Marcus said. “There’s been terrorism in the United States, in the United Kingdom, in Canada, in Malaysia….and in Boston. Is that now going to be on the list?”
[ . . . ]
In court papers, the IRS denied that its personnel ever told Z Street that there was a special review for groups that might be at odds with Obama administration policy. The tax agency contended that the issue was whether the groups might violate “public policy” — a legal term of art for the notion that the government shouldn’t bestow a benefit on an individual or organization engaged in illegal activity like terrorism, or in an officially disfavored activity such as racial discrimination.
“The application was not transferred to TAG because of an ‘Israel special policy’ or because Z Street’s views on Israel contradict the Obama administration’s views on Israel,” the Justice Department wrote in a brief seeking dismissal of Z Street’s lawsuit.
But note the peculiar origins of the so-called TAG group in the Bush Administration:
The TAG group was created in 2005 during the George W. Bush administration, court papers indicate. Published IRS regulations describe the TAG and its duties, but don’t say which specific countries trigger scrutiny beyond those designated by the United States as state sponsors of terrorism.
The unit appears to have arisen out of the Bush administration’s efforts to crack down on Muslim charities it alleged were funneling funds to terrorism. Several of the largest U.S.-based charities for Muslim causes, including the Global Relief Foundation and Benevolence International Foundation, were raided and had their assets frozen.
Soon after taking office, President Barack Obama took a different tack. He declared publicly in 2009 that he thought government rules were unfairly impeding Muslims from carrying through on their religious obligation to donate to charity.
A Muslim leader active in zakat fundraising said Monday he was not aware of any reduction in scrutiny of Muslim charities after Obama’s statement. “I’m told it’s gotten worse,” said Imad ad-Dean Ahmad of the Islamic American Zakat Foundation.
Other Muslim leaders said the latest headlines struck a familiar chord with them. “When the story came out [about the Tea Party groups], a lot of us said this is the same thing that has been happening to us over the past decade,” said Abed Ayoub of the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee.
Ayoub said he was unaware of any significant change since Obama’s remarks in 2009. “There hasn’t been a visible change to the guidelines and the processes within the Department of the Treasury and the IRS. It has been an ongoing battle it’s a constant struggle for us,” he said. “The Tea Party is kind of in the same boat with many Muslim organizations on this issue now.”
See our June 2009 NER Article, “Zakat and Terrorism”. Gerstein would have us believe that there may be an emerging alliance of conservative Tea Party Groups and Muslim charities whose raison d’etre is supporting the way of Allah, Jihad. Nothing could be further from the truth. That amounts to terrorism sponsoring Islamic charities attempting to horn in on the current IRS litigation by the ACLJ and Z Street and Department of Justice investigations. Bizarre.
Watch Z Street President Lori Lowenthal Marcus being interviewed about the group’s litigation against the IRS for viewpoint discrimination by Fox News’ On The Record host Greta Van Susteren.
Yesterday, in the Eastern Michigan Federal District Court, Judge Patrick Duggan struck down a complaint brought by the American Freedom Law Center (AFLC) on behalf of a Christian Group physically assaulted at an Arab Festival in Dearborn, Michigan in June 2012 for exercising their protected speech rights under our First Amendment. In the words of AFLC counsel, Robert Muise, Esq. this amounted to granting a ‘Heckler’s Veto’ to the predominately Muslim community in Dearborn to suppress Free speech through violent actions. The Judge’s ruling violated existing Constitutional case law. Muise and co-counsel David Yerushalmi, Esq. of ACFL within minutes of the Federal District Court ruling made application for appeal to the US Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals. According to co-counsel Muise, the AFCL is prepared to take the matter to the US Supreme Court, if necessary to redress this patent wrongheaded decision. This ruling by Judge Patrick may emboldens Muslim advocacy groups in America to commit violence elsewhere until voided by Federal Appellate and, if need be, US Supreme Court action. The Supreme Court has established precedents in rulings preserving protected speech rights under our First Amendment. This ruling by Judge Duggan yesterday should buttress the case for passage of American Law for American Courts at the state level.
A press release by the ACFL noted the peculiar and disturbing aspects of yesterday’s Federal Court ruling in Michigan:
A Michigan federal judge today dismissed a civil rights lawsuit brought by several Christian evangelists who were violently assaulted by a hostile Muslim mob while preaching at an Arab festival last year in Dearborn, Michigan, which has the largest Muslim population in the United States. Video of the Muslim assault went viral on YouTube. [A longer 22 minute version of the original 70 minute video was produced by colleagues at The United West had more than 1.3 million hits since its posting on June26, 2012. It was introduced as part of the evidentiary record by ACFL counsel in support of the complaint ruled on at yesterday’s Eastern Michigan Federal District Court hearing.]
Watch this TUW video of what occurred in Dearborn in June 2012 and note the introductory footage of President Obama speaking at a Dearborn rally during the 2012 Presidential campaign prior to the altercation.
The American Freedom Law Center (AFLC) filed the lawsuit against Wayne County, the Wayne County Sheriff, and two Wayne County Deputy Chiefs for refusing to protect the Christians from the attack and threatening to arrest the Christians for disorderly conduct if they did not halt their speech activity and immediately leave the festival area.
Judge Patrick J. Duggan, sitting in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan, granted Wayne County’s Motion for summary judgment, dismissing the lawsuit. The judge also denied AFLC’s motion requesting that the court issue an order preventing the Wayne County Sheriff and his deputies from restricting the Christian evangelists from displaying their banners and signs on the public sidewalks outside of this year’s Arab Festival, which will be held in June.
In the ruling, the judge stated the following: “The Court finds that the actual demonstration of violence here provided the requisite justification for [the Wayne County sheriffs’] intervention, even if the officials acted as they did because of the effect the speech had on the crowd.”
Robert Muise, AFLC Co-Founder and Senior Counsel, commented: “The First Amendment was dealt a severe blow today as a result of this ruling. Indeed, this ruling effectively empowers Muslims to silence Christian speech that they deem offensive by engaging in violence. And pursuant to this ruling, the Christian speakers are now subject to arrest for engaging in disorderly conduct on account of the Muslim hecklers’ violent response to their speech. In short, this ruling turns the First Amendment on its head.”
David Yerushalmi, AFLC Co-Founder and Senior Counsel, added: “This fight for our fundamental right to freedom of speech does not stop here. We have filed an immediate appeal of this ruling to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit. While Judge Duggan may have been the first judge to rule on this issue, he won’t be the last. Indeed, we are prepared to take this case to the U.S. Supreme Court if necessary because it is imperative that our free speech rights not be subject to mob rule. This is the United States, not Benghazi.”
Watch this interview of AFLC counsel Robert Muise, Esq.by Tom Trento of the TUW on TrentoVision about yesterday’s Michigan Federal District Court adverse ruling beginning at the 16 minute mark.
Incredible colour footage of 1920s London shot by an early British pioneer of film named Claude Frisse-Greene, who made a series of travelogues using the colour process his father William - a noted cinematographer - was experimenting with.
London Bridge and the Cenotaph in Whitehall have changed very little. The river has lost her working boats. Take particular note at 4.15 when the photographer visits Petticoat Lane the East End street market (still operating but much changed) one Sunday dinnertime.
The BBC and the nationals are suddenly starting to take an interest in the Oxford grooming (Bullfinch) trial.
They ran it like an organised business. Men who made money from abusing young girls while satisfying their own sexual gratification. In their police interviews, they said little or nothing - even when pressed.
But despite their silence, officers pieced together a harrowing picture of disturbing abuse, which was presented to the jury at the Old Bailey.
Young girls were groomed, raped, abused and sold for sex by the gang of Oxford men, who have now been convicted of a catalogue of sex offences.
Det Insp Simon Morton, of Thames Valley Police, said: "They start out at 11 or 12 as ordinary girls, in our case, and by the time they're finished they're hollow. They are shells of what they should be and the little girl in there is gone
"It's sexual atrocities, it's torture.
"You can't report it, you can't put it on TV, you can't write it down. We have had members of the press in tears in court. It's been horrendous."
I said when it started that I feared it would prove to be one of the nastier grooming trials so far.
Mohammed Karrar was the most prolific offender in the case. The 38-year-old's family is thought to originate from Eritrea, in East Africa, but he grew up in his parents' house on the Cowley Road.
The brothers separately and together subjected victims three and four to a string of violent and sadistic rapes, often leaving them injured.
After grooming them for about a year, they took them to other places around the county to be sold and raped in hotels and "brothels for young girls". Other men paid them to play out sadistic sexual fantasies and gang rape victim four. Mohammed Karrar forced victim four to have an illegal backroom abortion when she became pregnant. She was 12 years old.
The BBC is still omitting to mention these details.
The 'extreme physical and sexual violence on the girls' using knives, meat cleavers and baseball bats. They were 'humiliated and degraded' bitten, scratched suffocated, tied up beaten and burnt.
The CUSTOMERS who " would pay up to £600 to have sex with a 12-year-old girl because of her "soft baby skin",
The branding to show that the slave was his property: Mohammed Karrar, 38, allegedly pushed a metal hair clip he had shaped into an ‘M’ and heated with a cigarette lighter onto her buttock. Prosecutor Noel Lucas QC said: “He told her he wanted people to know she belonged to him.”
A CHILD was gagged, whipped, and tied up while she was made to act out "sexual fantasies" for groups of men, the Old Bailey heard this morning. Known as Girl 4 as she cannot be named, she said: "I have been horse-whipped, I have been cuffed, and I have been tied with a shirt tie."
Witness describes how Mohammed Karrar assaulted her aged 12 with "toys". "I said please don't, it really hurts." Karrar told the child: "This will help you take more."
A GANG of men has been found guilty of grooming, drugging, raping and prostituting vulnerable children in Oxford.
Seven out of nine men were convicted this afternoon by jurors at the Old Bailey on 59 charges which included child rape, sex trafficking, serious sexual assault, and arranging child prostitution.The jury returned their verdicts after more than 17 hours of deliberations following a trial lasting more than four months.
During the trial jurors heard how the girls were gang raped, beaten, burnt, sexually assaulted with knives and a baseball bat, gagged, tied up, and scratched.
Following the verdicts Judge Peter Rook told the jury they were now exempt from jury service for the rest of their lives.
Police and social workers have apologised for not protecting vulnerable schoolgirls who were sexually abused and exploited by a paedophile ring. Joanna Simons, Oxfordshire County Council's chief executive, apologised to the girls.
She said: "We are incredibly sorry we were not able to stop it any sooner. We were up against a gang of devious criminals. The girls thought they were their friends. I would like to pay tribute to the courage of the girls in giving evidence. They have been so brave."
Two sets of brothers, Akhtar Dogar, 32, and Anjum Dogar, 31, and Mohammed Karrar, 38, and Bassam Karrar, 33, were convicted along with Kamar Jamil, 27, Assad Hussain, 32, and Zeeshan Ahmed, 27.
Fighting broke out in the dock at the Old Bailey after two other defendants - Mohammed Hussain and a man who cannot be named for legal reasons - were cleared. Zeeshan Ahmed struck out at Mohammed Hussain after Hussain was cleared. He struggled as dock officers lifted him up and out of court.
The seven men found guilty of offences against the six girls were remanded in custody for sentencing next month. Judge Peter Rook told them: "You have been convicted of the most serious of offences. Long custodial sentences are inevitable. "
CONVERSE COUNTY, Wyo. (AP) -- It happens about once a month here, on the barren foothills of one of America's green-energy boomtowns: A soaring golden eagle slams into a wind farm's spinning turbine and falls, mangled and lifeless, to the ground.
Killing these iconic birds is not just an irreplaceable loss for a vulnerable species. It's also a federal crime, a charge that the Obama administration has used to prosecute oil companies when birds drown in their waste pits, and power companies when birds are electrocuted by their power lines.
But the administration has never fined or prosecuted a wind-energy company, even those that flout the law repeatedly. Instead, the government is shielding the industry from liability and helping keep the scope of the deaths secret.
Wind power, a pollution-free energy intended to ease global warming, is a cornerstone of President Barack Obama's energy plan. His administration has championed a $1 billion-a-year tax break to the industry that has nearly doubled the amount of wind power in his first term.
But like the oil industry under President George W. Bush, lobbyists and executives have used their favored status to help steer U.S. energy policy.
The result is a green industry that's allowed to do not-so-green things. It kills protected species with impunity and conceals the environmental consequences of sprawling wind farms.
More than 573,000 birds are killed by the country's wind farms each year, including 83,000 hunting birds such as hawks, falcons and eagles, according to an estimate published in March in the peer-reviewed Wildlife Society Bulletin.
Getting precise figures is impossible because many companies aren't required to disclose how many birds they kill. And when they do, experts say, the data can be unreliable.
When companies voluntarily report deaths, the Obama administration in many cases refuses to make the information public, saying it belongs to the energy companies or that revealing it would expose trade secrets or implicate ongoing enforcement investigations.
Nearly all the birds being killed are protected under federal environmental laws, which prosecutors have used to generate tens of millions of dollars in fines and settlements from businesses, including oil and gas companies, over the past five years.
"We are all responsible for protecting our wildlife, even the largest of corporations," Colorado U.S. Attorney David M. Gaouette said in 2009 when announcing Exxon Mobil had pleaded guilty and would pay $600,000 for killing 85 birds in five states, including Wyoming.
The large death toll at wind farms shows how the renewable energy rush comes with its own environmental consequences, trade-offs the Obama administration is willing to make in the name of cleaner energy.
"It is the rationale that we have to get off of carbon, we have to get off of fossil fuels, that allows them to justify this," said Tom Dougherty, a long-time environmentalist who worked for nearly 20 years for the National Wildlife Federation in the West, until his retirement in 2008. "But at what cost? In this case, the cost is too high."
The Obama administration has refused to accept that cost when the fossil-fuel industry is to blame. The BP oil company was fined $100 million for killing and harming migratory birds during the 2010 Gulf oil spill. And PacifiCorp, which operates coal plants in Wyoming, paid more than $10.5 million in 2009 for electrocuting 232 eagles along power lines and at its substations.
But PacifiCorp also operates wind farms in the state, where at least 20 eagles have been found dead in recent years, according to corporate surveys submitted to the federal government and obtained by The Associated Press. They've neither been fined nor prosecuted. A spokesman for PacifiCorp, which is a subsidiary of MidAmerican Energy Holdings Co. of Des Moines, Iowa, said that's because its turbines may not be to blame.
"What it boils down to is this: If you electrocute an eagle, that is bad, but if you chop it to pieces, that is OK," said Tim Eicher, a former U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service enforcement agent based in Cody, who helped prosecute the PacifiCorp power line case.
"U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service does not do this for the electric utility industry or other industries," Kevin Kritz, a government wildlife biologist in the Rocky Mountain region wrote in government records in September 2011. "Other industries will want to be judged on a similar standard."...
Experts working for the agency in California and Nevada wrote in government records in June 2011 that the new federal guidelines should be considered as though they were put together by corporations, since they "accommodate the renewable energy industry's proposals, without due accountability."
The Obama administration, however, repeatedly overruled its experts at the Fish and Wildlife Service. In the end, the wind-energy industry, which was part of the committee that drafted and edited the guidelines, got almost everything it wanted...