Wednesday, 31 March 2021
Tulips for the Holiday Table
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by Phyllis Chesler

I always order flowers on Friday morning. Roses, often—but they do not seem to last as well as tulips do. This gathering of lovelies arrived small, sweet, and bud-like and the green spears were decorously and artfully arranged. My dentist, retired, has become a passionate gardener. A friend has been gardening for all his life. Poets garden. But not I. My flowers are but words, carefully chosen, or running riot on the page.

I’ve been told that tulips are indigenous to Persia and Turkey and only got to Vienna, Antwerp, and Amsterdam at the end of the sixteenth century.  

The sheer beauty of red tulips “hurt” Sylvia Plath. In a poem with that title (Tulips), she wrote:

 “The tulips are too red in the first place, they hurt me.

Even through the gift paper I could hear them breathe.

.........

The vivid tulips eat my oxygen.”

 

Tulips do not “hurt” me nor do I think they are stealing my oxygen, although, come to think of it, they do steal my breath away by their bright beauty. Tulips are a joy—but they only last for four days, maybe five. 

 

In Still Life with Tulips, Erica Jong also describes a charged relationship with these flowers. She writes:

 “Because you did, I too arrange flowers

......

Mother, you are far away and claim

In mournful letters that I do not need you;
Yet here in this sunny room, your tulips
Devour me, sucking hungrily
My watery nourishment, filling my house
Like a presence, like an enemy.”

 Ah, and I, no poet, do hereby promise to enjoy these lovelies for as long as they so shall live. 

 

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Posted on 03/31/2021 11:25 AM by Phyllis Chesler
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Wednesday, 31 March 2021
Homage to Alexei Navalny, Courageous Russian
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by Michael Curtis


Alexei Navalny

In March 2021, archaeologists in the Czech Republic uncovered a part of chilling history, the instillation of a forced labor camp that had been built in Prague during the Communist regime which ended with the Velvet Revolution of 1989. The camp was close to the spot on a strategic hilltop overlooking the medieval city where a massive, 51 feet high, monument to Stalin had stood from May 1955 until it was blown up in 1962 under pressure from Nikita Khrushchev who was denouncing the crimes of Stalin. The camp had held “politically unreliable” individuals, often academics, intellectuals, and paid manual labor prisoners. This was the first time that Czech archaeologists had uncovered a penal institution in Prague built during the communist regime. This camp near the city Letna park was previously unknown as all mentions, footprints and evidence of the encampment were thoroughly destroyed.

At a moment when Alexei  Navalny, a prominent political activist critical of the present Russian regime, is being held in a labor camp, the Prague finding is a reminder of the Gulag system in the Soviet Union, the network of forced labor camps set up by Vladimir Lenin in 1918, and intensified by Joseph Stalin until his death in 1953, and which were officially ended by Khrushchev in January 1960. The hundreds of labor camps incarcerated more than 18 million, of whom at least 1.5 million died. They averaged between 2,000 and 10,000 inmates: the Vorkuta Gulag at its peak held 73,000 prisoners. In his magisterial trilogy, The Gulag Archipelago, Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn provided a compelling picture of the vast array of forced labor camps and prisons, the horrors of the Gulag throughout the country, and an indictment of the Soviet Union.

It is now three decades since the end of the Soviet Union. Since Vladimir Putin gained consolidated power in 1999, Russia cannot be categorized as a Stalinist type totalitarian state, but an authoritarian  one that does not resemble a normal democratic system. Though it has a sort of pseudo democratic legitimacy, it is a county that subverts democratic rules, and continues the forced labor system. Putin, the holder of a judo black belt, a symbol of guile and aggression, and master of tokui waza, match winning throwing technique, is a dictator, planning to stay in power ruling a Potemkin democracy, changing the constitutional rules to remain in power, becoming head of the executive and curbing the of the legislature and the courts. Putin has centralized the power in the country. Though Russia is officially, according to the 1993 Constitution, democratic, a federation of territories with their own rights and responsibilities, Putin in effect has eroded their autonomy and imposed on them the power of the Kremlin.

Putin on the international stage has demonstrated his policy to reassert  Russian power with military intervention in Ukraine, annexing Crimea in March 2014, acting to support the Assad regime in Syria, and in addition to orchestrate interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election mainly through the use of social media. Internally, Putin is an authoritarian ruler in whose hands power is concentrated, supported by loyalist security forces, a subservient judiciary, controlled media, legislature dominated by his party, manipulation of elections. 

The human rights situation deteriorates with bans, repressive laws, restrictions online, persecutions, and threats to, and even elimination of political and other critics. The list of individuals threatened or murdered is long and well known. Some of the more familiar are Alexander Litvinenko in 2006, Boris Berezovsky, Anna Politkovskaya, Sergei Skripal, Pyotr Verzilov, Yaroslav Belousov, Mikhail Khodorkovsky, Sergei Mokhov, Vladimir  Kara-murza, and the most well known recent serious opponent Alexei Navalny.

Navalny, now 44, who had been a World Fellow at Yale in 2010, emerged as a charismatic opposition figure, critical, in non-ideological fashion, of Putin’s autocratic rule, concentrating on the corruption of the regime, and on specific issues, income, health, education, rule of law.  He organized the largest protest in modern Russian history in 2017. He referred to Putin’s party, United Russia, as a part of thieves and crooks, accused Dmitry Medvedev, then prime minister and former president, with his yachts and palaces, of corruption, and mentioned Putin’s vast luxury Black Sea palace “gifted” to him by associates. He founded the Anti-Corruption Foundation. In 2013 Navalny was  tried in criminal court for embezzlement and received a suspended sentence, but ran for mayor of Moscow, coming in second and getting 27% of the vote. In 2016 he wanted to be a candidate for the 2018 presidential election, but was barred because of his criminal trial.

Nevertheless, he built up a following of 120,000 volunteers, but all independent candidates were disqualified from local council elections. Though the Kremlin put down protests with brutality, Navalny organized the largest protest in modern Russian history in   2017.

During a flight from Tomsk, Siberia, to Moscow on August 20, 2020, Navalny became violently ill, and was taken to a hospital in Omsk after an emergency landing. After two days there, he was flown to the Charite hospital in Berlin. German specialists found he had been poisoned by a new form of the nerve agent Novichok. His survival is a mixture of luck and quick efficient medical treatment. Speculation is that he may have been poisoned by a cup of tea he drank at Tomsk airport. Another suggestion according to a state security agent is that Novichok had been smeared on his underpants. Navalny has humorously referred to Russian history as having Alexander the Liberator (1861), Yaroslav the Wise (1019), and Putin, the poisoner of underpants.

Navalny returned from Berlin to Moscow on January 17, 2021 and was detained for violating his parole conditions because he did not report to the police while recovering from his poisoning. On February 2, 2021   his suspended sentence was increased to a prison sentence, two and a half years in a labor camp. He was sent to a penal colony, 60 miles east of Moscow, Penal Colony No. 2 in the village of Pokrow. It is said to be particularly onerous, a prison where inmates  are woken up hourly at night by guards shining a torch  in the inmate’s face, prisoners work long shifts, and are subjected to   psychological torture. Navalny’s health continues to deteriorate with the possibility of solitary confinement, a condition close to torture, for major crimes such as getting out of bed 10 minutes before official wake up call, and wearing a T shirt when meeting lawyers. Yet, though he has been removed from being a direct political threat  to Putin, Navalny can still influence millions of supporters on social media.

The poisoning and imprisonment of Navalny is only the latest exercise of Putin’s power over opponents, but  it throws light on the existence and continuation of camps, a heritage of the Gulag. Russia is a land of penal colonies:  there are estimated to be 684 work colonies, out of a total of 692 prisons, that hold  393,000 prisoners where inmates carry out menial labor in long shifts. These penal colonies consist of barracks that house several dozen inmates sleeping in rows of bunks, and they are surrounded by high walls with razor wire. 

Surprisingly, Amnesty International stopped calling Navalny a “prisoner of conscience” because of remarks he made years ago  about “migrants who are cockroaches”  that meet the level of hate speech. But nothing that he said in the past justifies his detention. He may not be a saint, but he should be honored as the exemplification of courage.  

The West must respond  to Russian inhumanity. It is understood that Russia is powerful, if not a superpower, with  large nuclear warhead stockpile, with supplies of oil and gas, the second largest in the world, highly developed communications equipment, sophisticated weapons, upgrading its equipment and objects like nuclear torpedoes.  At the same time, opposition is present especially with the rise of social media, though it is dangerous. This was shown in the case of Sergei Furgal,  of the Liberal Democratic party. He had bested the Putin candidate in election in 2018 to become governor of the Khabarovsk region, but he was arrested two years late and charged with murders supposed to have been committed 15 years earlier,  

The international community should react strongly against the inhumane treatment of Navalny, in addition to applauding his actions, for his cause of freedom.  It is evident that all charges against him are politically motivated.  The EU diplomat Joseph Borrell stated that the Navalny case was a low point  in relations with Russia.  The Bidden administration should join with Borrell and internal Russian critics to appeal, as a minimum, for the release of Navalny. Spring should not be a little late this year.

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Posted on 03/31/2021 9:18 AM by Michael Curtis
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Wednesday, 31 March 2021
Today’s Obsession With Race
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by Theodore Dalrymple

It was a common trope of the extreme right in France before the war that no Jew could really understand Racine.

This was because a Jew had no true homeland and none of the national roots (oddly enough, Racine means root in French) essential to a true, visceral appreciation of the great tragedian’s poetry. He could not feel Racine in his blood, however great his mastery of French: indeed, such mastery, if he had it, was regarded as sinister, dangerous, false, and probably treacherous.

The Woke in America are increasingly like the extreme right in pre-war France, though they are more successful in that they have needed no German occupation and no Marshal Pétain to take control of the country’s intellectual life and impose their orthodoxy.

They are just as obsessed with race and skin color as the French extreme right was with blood and roots. They believe, as did the French extreme right, that one thinks with one’s race, one’s blood or one’s skin. The brain has nothing to do with it.

The latest triumph of Woke-dom in America is the forced resignation of the deputy editor of the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), who had the temerity to suggest in a podcast that there was no longer any institutional racism in American medicine, and that constantly to harp upon such non-existent structural racism was possibly harmful or counter-productive.

He had to resign at once in ignominy, while his superior, the editor himself, issued an abject apology—which, however, did not prevent him from being suspended from the duties that he had performed for ten years.

From the reaction, you might have thought that the American Medical Association, the owner of JAMA, had discovered to its horror that it had been harboring a chapter of the Ku Klux Klan within its ranks.

This, however, is not the case; JAMA has long been as Woke as Woke can be. It cannot be accused of disregarding race in the research it publishes: here, for example, are the titles of two of the six papers posted on the JAMA Open website on March 27: “Factors Associated with Mental Health Symptoms and Black and Latinx Transgender Youth”; “Racial/Ethnic Disparities in Interhospital Transfer for Conditions with a Transfer Benefit.”

I am not commenting on the scientific value or otherwise of these papers; suffice it to say that JAMA’s emphasis on race as a variable to be researched does not surprise me in the least, and it is far from the only medical journal to exhibit something approaching an obsession with the subject.

Dr. Bradley, a black anesthesiologist with an interest in medical ethics, was reported to have reacted favorably to the resignation of the deputy editor and the suspension of the editor. He said: “The decision to remove Bauchner [the editor] potentially corroborates JAMA’s intentions to become a more culturally competent organization.”

He went on to say: “Hopefully, this signifies an increased effort to diversify the staff at JAMA, as increased diversity will provide additional viewpoints on issues surrounding ethnicity, culture and socioeconomic status.”

Clearly, the idea that institutional racism in American medicine no longer exists is not one of the permissible or possible viewpoints in the brave new world of diversity, where (to quote Henry Ford in another context) you can have any color you like so long as it’s black.

Even less permissible would be the idea that constant dwelling on obstacles to advancement rather than taking personal steps to overcome them is to increase their magnitude and ensure their survival, even growth. No such thought may be allowed even to enter anyone’s head, let alone be expressed.

Inherent in the above quotes is a curious theory of knowledge that is part Marx and part Alfred Rosenberg, the theorist of Nazism. Marx, in his “Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy,” said: “It is not the consciousness of men that determines their being, but, on the contrary, their social being that determines their consciousness.” By this he meant that you think what it is in your interest, as a member of a social class, to think.

And if you add to this the deeply racist premise, taken from the definition of racism in the Oxford English Dictionary “that distinctive human characteristics … are determined by race” and voilà, you have the idea that diversity of thought is a matter of diversity of race, and of nothing else: for among the most important human characteristics determined by race is thought and world outlook.

Another corollary is that all members of any given race think alike, except perhaps for the occasional traitor (for example, Tom Sowell and Clarence Thomas in the case of American blacks).

The reaction to the deputy editor’s podcast was as immediate as a knee or ankle jerk: The editor’s apology did not have to pass through his cerebrum; his spinal cord was quite sufficient.

And it is said that JAMA received 7,000 protests after the podcast, probably a hundred times more numerous at least than any expressions of support for the deputy editor. And in these days of intellectual mob rule, it is the most vociferous who have the right to determine what may and may not be said.

In his apology, which of course was immediately rejected as being too little and too late (the thirst for the abjection of others being unslakable), he said: “The podcast on structural racism … has been withdrawn. Comments made in the podcast were inaccurate, offensive, hurtful, and inconsistent with the standards of JAMA.”

What are the standards of JAMA? They seem to be those of the Soviet Union, in particular erasure of inconvenient records of the past. An Oxford historian told me that in the 1930s, the editors of the Great Soviet Encyclopaedia wrote to the Bodleian Library, which had a copy of it, asking it to remove a page which was in disaccord with the latest twist of Soviet ideology and policy and replace it with an enclosed page which reflected to current orthodoxy: and the library duly complied. JAMA is taking a leaf, so to speak, out of the Bodleian’s book.

Like the offending page in the Great Soviet Encyclopaedia, the podcast has been removed; it is not the subject of discussion, but of anathema, which is now the highest form of argument.

Note also that causing offense or hurt is now a supposed reason for erasure of what had been said or for censoring what can be said in the future. But, of course, only certain kinds of hurt or offensiveness are reasons for erasure and censorship: the deputy editor claimed to be offended by the suggestion that, if structural racism existed in American medicine, he must be, ex officio, a racist.

However, the offence he took was not bankable, so to speak; the very fact that he had denied the existence of structural racism demonstrated just how racist he was and how deeply ingrained was structural racism.

We are back to the days when an accused witch was thrown into water: If she sank and drowned, she was innocent, but if she floated and survived, she was guilty and therefore had to be executed.

First published in the Epoch Times.

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Posted on 03/31/2021 6:08 AM by Theodore Dalrymple
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Wednesday, 31 March 2021
Romney Appears to Have Been Awarded for Malice Toward Trump
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by Conrad Black

There is something poignantly appropriate in this dismal political year of mudslinging, attempted criminalization of policy differences, and the almost unrelieved moral bankruptcy of the national political media, that this year’s Profile in Courage Award by the Kennedys is to Senator Mitt Romney.

President John F. Kennedy’s daughter, Ambassador Caroline Kennedy, said in announcing the award: “Senator Romney’s commitment to our Constitution makes him a worthy successor to the senators who inspired my father to write ‘Profiles in Courage.’”

This is where the problems of the encomium begin: then-Senator Kennedy did not write “Profiles in Courage”; the well-known historian James MacGregor Burns was well paid by the future president’s father to ghost-write most of the book, though undoubtedly the putative author had done some research and had a reasonable familiarity with the subjects.

The book was a part of the carefully planned and executed design to bring John F. Kennedy into public life and elevate him to the presidency of the United States. He succeeded the legendary scoundrel and four-term mayor of Boston, James Michael Curley, in his congressional district in 1946, and in a very well-financed Senate campaign in 1952, despite the Eisenhower Republican sweep of the country, in an election of sociological as well as political implications, the suave and elegant Irish Harvard-man Kennedy defeated the distinguished scion of a great Brahmin family, Henry Cabot Lodge.

The book was designed to give Senator Kennedy an intellectual patina and historical gravity as he prepared to seek the vice presidential nomination at the age of 39 in 1956. He lost narrowly to Estes Kefauver of Tennessee, but had put down a marker for 1960, when, as all the world knows, he was narrowly elected president over Vice President Richard M. Nixon, though it remains a matter of some dispute which candidate would have prevailed in an uncontested count of the votes. (Technically, some ballot boxes in Chicago are still missing.)

Caroline Kennedy said that Romney “reminds us that our democracy depends on the courage, conscience and character of our elected officials.” No one would take issue with that, but the action of Romney that won him the award was breaking ranks with his fellow Republicans and voting to convict President Trump in his impeachment trial in 2020 over his telephone conversation with the president of Ukraine, Volodymyr Zelensky.

This was in fact a dishonorable vote. There were no grounds to impeach President Trump. In the course of his telephone conversation with President Zielensky and in his capacity as the chief law enforcement officer of the United States, Trump asked if the Ukrainian leader had information about the commercial activities of former President Biden’s son Hunter in the Ukraine.

He was very highly paid as a non-executive director of a natural gas company with a reputation for questionable political connections. Hunter Biden had no experience at all in that industry, and his father when he was vice president had boasted of having caused the removal of a Ukrainian prosecutor who was investigating that company.

President Trump did not ask President Zelensky for incriminating evidence against the Bidens; he asked what happened, a neutral question. The principal discussion in the course of the impeachment trial in the Senate was whether the Constitution’s citation of “bribery, treason, or other high crimes and misdemeanors” required that the other crimes and misdemeanors be of equivalent gravity to bribe-taking and treason to justify conviction and removal from office.

But it was not disputed there was a requirement for a crime, and the acquittal of President Clinton when he was impeached in 1998, effectively held that his apparently untruthful response to a grand jury question about an extramarital peccadillo did not constitute such a grave offense that it would justify his removal from office. This was all slightly esoteric in the case of the Trump impeachment, as there was not a scintilla of probative evidence that he had done anything legally exceptionable at all.

I have no standing to mind-read Senator Romney, but neither do the judges of this award. And the widespread impression was that his motive had absolutely nothing to do with any alleged misconduct by President Trump.

His sweaty, halting, and unconvincing explanation of his vote to anti-Trump Fox news commentator Chris Wallace certainly didn’t create the impression that he was casting a conscientious ballot to convict. Most observers were of the view that Romney was exacting a revenge for having been interviewed by Trump for the position of Secretary of State but passed over in 2016.

Two days before he took his oath as senator from Utah in January 2019, Romney published an op-ed piece in the Washington Post denouncing Trump for having too many ethical shortcomings to hold the office to which he had been elected.

The Kennedy award included a further general compliment to Romney’s public service, which includes a term as governor of Massachusetts and the head of the 2002 Salt Lake City Winter Olympics. He was a successful business consultant and private equity executive, and his father was a well-known automobile executive and governor of Michigan and Secretary of Housing and Urban Development under President Nixon.

There is no doubt that Mitt Romney is a capable man, but he has faced in all four directions on almost every issue from abortion to healthcare. He is a consultant who “loves data,” constantly shifts positions, and strikes poses that do not inspire confidence that he is anchored in the integrity for which he has just been so warmly commended.

As the country erupted in urban riots last summer, and the leader of Black Lives Matter in New York threatened to ”burn America down if we don’t get what we want,” Senator Romney marched in a Black Lives Matter parade in Washington. This is not easy to reconcile with the Kennedy award.

One irony in this affair is that one of the senators whom John F. Kennedy and MacGregor Burns cited for his courage was Edmund Ross of Kansas who resisted great pressure in the Senate and cast the vote that acquitted President Andrew Johnson in his impeachment trial in 1868. Johnson had exercised his right to fire the secretary of war, and he was impeached for violating an act of the Congress that was in fact unconstitutional.

His service to the country had not been well-publicized as it had not been popular at the time, and the authors of “Profiles in Courage” rendered a service in focusing upon it and the circumstances of Ross’ vote, and the motives and legal basis for it were all in stark contrast with what appears to have been an act of simple personal malice by Mitt Romney.

The award also mentioned that Romney voted to convict Trump in his impeachment trial earlier this year for inciting an insurrection, despite the absence of any evidence whatsoever that he did anything of the kind, and he only urged his rightly outraged supporters in Washington on Jan. 6 to behave “peacefully and patriotically.” Even if Romney’s motives were less odious than they appear, he was a thoroughly undeserving recipient of this award. It is a mockery of what it purports to celebrate.

First published in the Epoch Times.

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Posted on 03/31/2021 4:58 AM by Conrad Black
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Wednesday, 31 March 2021
Did Israeli Soldiers Arrest Palestinian Children For Picking Flowers?
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by Hugh Fitzgerald

Israeli soldiers arrest Palestinian children for the “crime” of picking flowers and vegetables located on a Jewish outpost in the West Bank. You can read about this highly implausible event here: “Fact Check: Did Israeli Soldiers Arrest Palestinian Youths for ‘Picking Flowers’?,” by Emanuel Miller, Algemeiner, March 24, 2021:

Did Israeli soldiers arrest Palestinian youths recently for the “crime” of picking flowers and vegetables located on a Jewish outpost in the West Bank?That’s exactly the story being propagated by the Associated Press (AP) in a piece based entirely on a video and statement supplied by the provocative NGO B’Tselem.

The story was also written up by other sites such as Business Insider and NBC News.

Even before the piece was published in the media, the Independent’s Middle East correspondent, Bel Trew, wrote in a Twitter thread on Wednesday that, “Israel arrested 5 Palestinian children aged 7-11… after they were picking flowers near a settlement in the occupied West Bank according to rights groups.”

The claims, too, are based entirely on anecdotal and partial evidence provided by B’Tselem.

There are three major problems with Trew’s statement:

  1. The correct term is “detain,” not arrest. The children were brought to a police station and later released into the custody of their families.
  2. There is video footage of the children trespassing on a Jewish farm. The sounds of farmyard animals are clearly recorded on the video, and the children are seen crouching alongside what a voice on the video describes as a parrot cage. That is the reason why they were detained. There is no evidence to back up the claim that they were held for picking flowers (or vegetables).
  3. The claim was not made by “rights groups” in the plural, but a single group, which has repeatedly made clear its anti-Israel agenda.

Unfortunately, there is a sad history of terror groups in the region using minors for attacks, which is a war crime.

Whether or not that was the case with these children, this important context informs IDF policy and goes some way to explain why the army removed the youths from the site — for the safety of all those concerned.

Here is an example of a Palestinian terror attack carried out by a teenager.

B’Tselem: Not a reliable news source

It is important to bear in mind that B’Tselem has been accused of “major omissions and distortions,” using figures that are not reliable, and failing to present definitive evidence that would justify its allegations, such as claims that Israel violated international humanitarian law during the 2014 war against Hamas in the Gaza Strip.

More recently, it produced a report in January that describes Israel as practicing apartheid — a claim so obviously false that even The Guardian was moved to call it “a deliberate provocation.”…

B’Tselem encourages and incites Palestinians, including children, to attack Israelis, both soldiers and civilians, in the hope that thereby an “incident” can be created where only the Israelis responding to the attacks, and not the attacks themselves, can be recorded. There are many accounts by soldiers wounded in such attacks that B’Tselem activists had encouraged, including that of Captain Mordi Arieli, whose personal story of being attacked by a teenager who dropped a large rock on him from a building can be seen here.

B’Tselem is a notorious group of far-left Israelis determined to undermine the Jewish state. It is not a “leading proponent of human rights” any more than CAIR is a “civil rights organization” (which is what it calls itself). B’Tselem never reports on Palestinian attacks on Jews; it never reports on violence by Arab men on Arab women; it does not report on Arab-on-Arab crime; it does not report on the plight of Christian Arabs who are threatened by Muslims in Bethlehem and Nazareth. B’Tselem refuses to report on anything that might make the Palestinians look bad or the Israelis look good. It does not report, for example, on Israeli doctors treating for free Arab patients from Gaza, the PA-ruled parts of the West Bank, and even Syria. Israeli doctors have treated many of the medically most difficult cases that Palestinian patients present; Israelis have performed surgeries on thousands of Arabs for free; pediatric cardiology is a challenging medical specialty in which Israel especially excels, and its “Israel-Heart-For-Peace” program has provided care for many hundreds. All this of no interest to B’Tselem. Nor has the group reported on Israel’s mass vaccination of West Bank and Gazan Palestinians who work in Israel, and its commitment to help the Palestinians obtain vaccines abroad, such as the Sputnik vaccine supplied by the U.A.E. that Israel helped deliver to Hamas-ruled Gaza. Israel has said any of its unused vaccines will be given to the Palestinians.

B’Tselem’s most famous big lie, that it continues to repeat, is the claim that Israel is an apartheid state. Those who report B’Tselem’s charge never allow a rebuttal from Israeli spokesmen or others who stand ready to point out that in Israel, Arabs sit in the Knesset, serve on the Supreme Court, go abroad as diplomats for the Jewish state. The chairman of Israel’s largest bank, Bank Leumi, is an Arab. Arabs and Jews study together in universities, work in factories, on farms, and in offices together, receive medical care in the same hospitals from both Arab and Jewish medical personnel. But you will hear not a word of this from B’Tselem, an organization whose only reason for being is not to protect civil rights but to blacken Israel’s image, with the aim of weakening its ability to defend itself in the court of world public opinion.

It was from the discredited B’Tselem that the original charge came that Israeli solders had “arrested” Palestinian children who had only been “picking flowers.” B’Tselem was the only source relied on by Bel Trew, the Middle East correspondent for the British newspaper The Independent, who wrote in a Twitter thread on Wednesday that “Israel arrested 5 Palestinian children aged 7-11… after they were picking flowers near a settlement in the occupied West Bank according to rights groups.” She didn’t bother to check with any Israelis. If she had, she would have found out that the children ranged in age from 8 to 13. She would have been able to see, captured on video, that the children were not picking flowers, but had trespassed inside an Israeli farmyard, for what reason was unclear; when detained, they were found next to a parrot’s cage. The Israelis reasonably wanted to get to the bottom of what they were about – perhaps they were completely innocent, but the Israelis have learned not to assume anything about Palestinian children. Could the children have been sent to harm or steal animals, or produce, belonging to “the Jews”? Or were they simply attracted to the farmyard out of curiosity? In such an unclear situation, it was not an over-reaction to detain them — they were not “arrested” — talk with them in a calm setting away from agitated farmers, figure out what had been their intentions, and then, once satisfied of their innocence, to return them unharmed to their parents. And that’s exactly what the Israeli police did.

The AP might have reported the story more truthfully thus: “Five Palestinian boys, aged 8 to 13, were detained for trespassing on a farmyard at X, a Jewish outpost, where they were found next to a parrot’s cage. They were taken to a police station for several hours, and then, it having been determined that their intentions were innocent, returned to their parents.” Bel Trew, and the AP, and especially B’Tselem, would have been disappointed. Much more damning to report the children as younger — “aged from 7 to 11 years” — and “arrested” rather than the much milder “detained.” And what better sign of sweet innocence than describing them as merely “picking flowers” (a detail invented by B’Tselem and dutifully tweeted by Middle East correspondent Bel Trew).

It’s a very little story, about a very small event. Yet it was worth Emanuel Miller’s while to expose this tiny travesty. These small events of malevolent misreporting add up, and help to create anti-Israel attitudes that honest reporting would have prevented. That’s why a small army of fact-checkers is needed to keep demanding that reporters, editors, newspapers, radio stations, and television channels correct those frequent errors that manage to blacken Israel’s image and present the Palestinians as oppressed innocents, as they are in this example, where it was falsely claimed that they were “arrested” for “picking flowers.”

First published in Jihad Watch.

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Posted on 03/31/2021 4:43 AM by Hugh Fitzgerald
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Tuesday, 30 March 2021
Nottingham men jailed for abusing vulnerable teenage girls
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From BBC Nottingham and the West Bridgeford Wire. These trials only really get reported in the local press these days. And then only the barest fact of conviction and sentence

Two men have been jailed for grooming and sexually abusing three vulnerable teenage girls. The female victims, both of whom were in the care system, were aged between 13 and 15 when they were groomed, sexually exploited and abused between February 2017 and January 2019.

Mohammed Saeed Ahmed, (below right) 22, had admitted three charges and Waqas Akhtar, (below left) 26, was convicted at trial.

  • Mohammed Saeed Ahmed, 22, of Vale Crescent South, Nottingham, previously admitted engaging in sexual communication with a child, causing or inciting a girl under 16 to engage in sexual activity and sexual activity with a girl under 16. He was jailed for three years and given a restraining order against the girls
  • Waqas Akhtar, 26, of Glentworth Road, Nottingham, was found guilty of sexual activity with a girl under 16, penetrative sexual activity with a girl under 16, two counts of engaging in sexual communication with a child, and meeting a girl under 16 years of age following grooming. He was jailed for seven years and six months

Nottinghamshire Police started investigating after concerns were raised by agencies supporting two of the girls, who later entered the care system. Officers found "significant evidence of grooming and abuse" on the men's phones not only against the two girls, but against a third who had not been previously mentioned.

A third man, Hamza Shazad, 27, of Ewart Road, Forest Fields, admitted to three counts of making indecent images of children, three counts of distributing indecent images of a child and another charge of possessing extreme pornographic images.

He will be sentenced on 7 April.

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Posted on 03/30/2021 4:48 PM by Esmerelda Weatherwax
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Tuesday, 30 March 2021
Rotherham child sexual abuse: Detective avoids sack over gross misconduct charge
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From ITV News

The first detective to face a disciplinary hearing over an investigation into child sexual exploitation in Rotherham has avoided being sacked. A disciplinary panel said he should not be held personally accountable for the "systemic failings" of South Yorkshire Police.

Dc Ian Hampshire admitted failing to properly investigate allegations made by a teenage girl that she had been raped by multiple men in the town in 2007 when he was a trainee detective, at the start of a two-day police misconduct hearing in Sheffield.

Jason Pitter QC, for Dc Hampshire, argued that his client's admitted failings in relation to the girl had 'to be considered in the context of systemic failings within South Yorkshire Police at the relevant time'. He said Dc Hampshire was a trainee detective in 2007 and was operating in an atmosphere of high workloads and poor supervision. The barrister said there was a mindset in the force at the time which regarded complainants like the girl as having inappropriate relationships with boyfriends who showered them with gifts, which he said was 'a failing culture in relation to offences of this nature'.

...the panel accepted Dc Hampshire was working in a unit with 'poor culture', creaking workloads and with very limited supervision for junior officers. He said this 'affected the conduct of all the officers in the unit' and that the detective was 'one officer in a unit that seriously failed to protect the most vulnerable', which was a matter of 'enormous public concern'. The chairman said Dc Hampshire's leaders and supervisors 'bore considerably more responsibility' for these overall failings than he did.

A disciplinary panel decided Dc Hampshire should be issued with a final written warning rather than being dismissed after hearing that his conduct in relation to the girl was part of much wider failure by South Yorkshire Police to deal with child sexual exploitation in Rotherham at the time.  I can see the fairness in that, so long as the investigation does persue the big fish responsible for the overall policy that the young trainee, as he was been then, was probably encouraged to follow. 

The hearing heard that Dc Hampshire exemplary record from the last 14 years, including being commended for another high-profile and complex investigation that involved dealing with child victims.

The Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) launched Operation Linden into police conduct in relation to the scandal - the organisation's second-biggest inquiry after the investigation into the Hillsborough disaster - but this report has not yet been published.

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Posted on 03/30/2021 4:34 PM by Esmerelda Weatherwax
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Tuesday, 30 March 2021
My Night in Abu Dhabi
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by Phyllis Chesler

I just joined an amazing, landmark literary festival sponsored by Ananke, based in the United Arab Emirates. The distinguished Sabin Muzzafar organized feminist women writers whose work in Urdu, Hindi, Bangladeshi, and Arabic is rarely translated into other languages. The same is true for so many feminist works that are written in English and which do not make their way into Arabic, etc. A loss for us all and hopefully the publishers who were in attendance will be moved to start such translations. I hope that the approximately one hundred women who are participating in this three day conference can remain connected and that this festival “has legs.”

I did a reading from “An American Bride in Kabul” and grassroots activist and philanthropist, Mandy Sanghera, interviewed me so well about my latest book, “Requiem for a Female Serial Killer;” we discussed this work at length. I dedicated my reading to Nawal El-Sadawii who recently died and who also wrote a brilliant book about a prostitute who finally killed one of her many abusers and who was facing execution.

Here’s a link to some of today’s panels.

 

https://www.facebook.com/watch/live/?v=1089873098200767&ref=watch_permalink

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Posted on 03/30/2021 2:16 PM by Phyllis Chesler
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Tuesday, 30 March 2021
The Trump-Hate Coalition Is Crumbling
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by Conrad Black

It is remarkable to see how quickly the unified opinion against former President Trump and for the alleged necessity of removing him from the White House has cracked apart since that goal was achieved. Following the inauguration, there were endless purposeful assurances that the former president would be pursued to the ends of the earth for his iniquity. Even hard-bitten Fox News commentators like Brit Hume felt compelled to toe the line and denounce claims that the election had been rigged as discredited bunkum. 

Questioning the integrity of the election result was considered tantamount to an attempt to continue the quest for insurrection, and questioning whether Trump had attempted to generate an insurrection was itself a racist offense. The president-elect assured us that the January 6 assault on the Capitol was a white supremacist attack bungled by white supremacist Capitol police. Racism, like treason with Russia four years before, was everywhere.

Andrew Weissmann, the egregiously rabid prosecutor who desperately tried to torque the Trump-Russia collusion fraud into an obstruction case, solemnly declared that the prosecution of the outgoing president would have to continue. (It was not clear what prosecution this might be since there has been none, though there have been numerous breathless revelations of visits to the Manhattan district attorney by former Trump lawyer Michael Cohen for the subornation of doubtful evidence against the ex-president.) 

Holding On to January 6 As Long As Possible

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) was warming up to engage General Russell Honoré, a well-known antagonist of President Trump’s, to investigate the January 6 episode at the U.S. Capitol. Incoming Attorney General Merrick Garland stumbled and hesitated but eventually stated that the most complicated investigation facing his department was the events of January 6. This cannot possibly be true, because even the implausible surviving head of the thoroughly discredited FBI, Christopher Wray, acknowledged in congressional testimony there was no evidence whatever that those events were coordinated or organized by elements connected to the former president.

Every informed person in the world knows that the events of January 6 were the result of a loose sequence of facts that were only allowed to aggregate into the assault on the Capitol because of the malice or incompetence of Trump’s enemies. The U.S. political system tolerated a great many interventions in the techniques for voting and counting votes in the presidential election, especially in six states that were known to be closely contested: Arizona, Georgia, Michigan, Nevada, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin. Many of these changes were not adopted by the state legislatures as the Constitution requires, but by executive or judicial action within the states. 

There were, counting the action of the attorney general of Texas supported by 18 other states, 28 lawsuits by the Republicans concerning the election. The courts refused to adjudicate any of them. Excuses and technicalities were found to avoid judging the claims. The Trump-hating media misrepresented this abdication of judicial responsibility, most contemptibly by the Supreme Court in the Texas matter, as the considered dismissal of the claims and grievances of the Trump campaign. It was nothing of the kind.

The immense and justified outrage of President Trump and his 75 million followers never led to violence or illegality and the gathering in Washington on January 6 demonstrated solidarity with the outgoing president. He urged “peaceful and patriotic” action and avoided any incitement to improprieties. A few thousand of the large number of professional hooligans in the country saw an opportunity and were present.

Because the mayor of Washington, D.C. and the speaker of the House had ignored the requests of the head of the Capitol police for reinforcements, the thugs forced entry into the Capitol. National legislatures are frequently attacked by crowds, but normally the officials responsible have the intelligence to ensure an adequate level of security. The damage was not particularly serious and the only fatalities were Trump supporters and one Capitol policeman whose fate was grossly misrepresented by the anti-Trump media. 

The most accurate reflection of the spirit of the occasion was the image of the senators hiding under their desks wearing ludicrous protective headgear: the apotheosis of the “world’s greatest deliberative body.” 

“We Are Crossing the Desert”

The most asinine legislative initiative in the modern history of the country ensued: the impeachment of the president for an incitement he did not utter to an insurrection he did not seek—and, indeed, one that did not occur—in order to remove him from an office he no longer held. It is now clear that the morale of the bipartisan McRom-OBushinton post-Reagan Washington political class was so shattered by Trump’s victory in 2016 that they obsessed on driving him from office, to the exclusion of everything else, and they were prepared to overlook anything, associate with any group no matter how disreputable, completely destroy any traditional, professional concept of responsible political reporting, and shred the Constitution. 

The FBI and senior echelons of the intelligence services were politically compromised, a massively illegal and fraudulent investigation of the elected president was conducted, two utterly spurious impeachment attempts were thrown at him and the coronavirus pandemic was invoked to produce the most seriously tainted presidential election result in the country’s history. The Supreme Court may have made the correct political decision when it declined to adjudicate the case, given how tempestuous the response would have been if it had overturned the result of the election, but it was still an abdication. They presumably acted as they did to assure that there would be no move to pack the court with Democrats, and they may now be in a position to reassert the Constitution as the controversies generated by the new administration percolate up to it.

The Trump-hate coalition is crumbling. There will be no further serious pursuit of him legally or pseudo-legally and the wheels are coming off the rickety anti-Trump coalition in all four directions. For absolutely no plausible political or humane purpose (other than to admit millions more illegal voters), the administration has opened the southern border while failing to be able to offer one truthful answer to questions about its border policy. The United States is now directly complicit with the Mexican drug and slave gangs in opening up access to the country and is deliberately importing unskilled labor to undermine the standard of living of American lower-income citizens.

The African American militants who were allowed by the Democratic big-city mayors to ransack urban America all summer and were rewarded for their murder, vandalism, and looting with the defamation and defunding of the nation’s urban police forces, are agitating and threatening with redoubled vigor. The rabid Democratic media outlets that made the campaign for the semi-comatose candidate are largely in a state of upheaval. Leading media Trump-haters such as MSNBC president Phil Griffin and CNN head Jeff Zucker have gone or are going, and despite frantic attempts to appease them, many of the great anti-Trump newsrooms are being overrun by belligerent white-hating minorities.

They drove Trump from office and then they turned on themselves and they are ruining the country. But as Adam Smith famously said, “There is a lot of ruin in a country,” especially a great country like the United States. Trump was often outrageous but was a good president.

In four years this self-destructive Americaphobic nightmare will be over and a regime led or at least supported by Donald Trump will be back. In a phrase of General de Gaulle’s in the dark days of France, “We are crossing the desert.”   

First published in American Greatness.

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Posted on 03/30/2021 6:43 AM by Conrad Black
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Tuesday, 30 March 2021
Islamic State group claims control of northern Mozambique town of Palma
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From France 24 and Associated Press via WSLS of Virginia

The Islamic State group said Monday it had seized the coastal town of Palma in northern Mozambique, after days of fighting.

JOHANNESBURG – Fierce fighting for control of Mozambique's strategic northern town of Palma left beheaded bodies strewn in the streets Monday, with heavily armed rebels battling army, police and a private military outfit in several locations.

“The caliphate’s soldiers seize the strategic town of Palma” following a three-day attack against military and government targets that killed dozens, the group said in a statement on its Telegram channels  . . .  saying it was carried out by the Islamic State Central Africa Province, according to the SITE extremist monitoring group.

Extremist militants raided Palma, a town of around 75,000 people in the province of Cabo Delgado that is home to a multi-billion-dollar gas project being built by France’s Total and other energy companies. The rebel claim said the insurgents now control Palma's banks, government offices, factories and army barracks, and that more than 55 people, including Mozambican army troops, Christians and foreigners were killed. It did not provide further detail on the dead.

The fighting spread across the town Monday, according to Lionel Dyck, director of the Dyck Advisory Group, a private military company contracted by the Mozambican police...“There is fighting in the streets, in pockets across the town,” Dyck told The Associated Press

The rebels are well-armed with AK-47 automatic rifles, RPD and PKM machine guns and heavy mortars, Dyck said.

“This attack is not a surprise. We've been expecting Palma to be whacked the moment the rains stopped and the fighting season started, which is now,” he said. “They have been preparing for this. They've had enough time to get their ducks in a row. They have a notch up in their ability. They're more aggressive. They're using their mortars.” He said many were wearing black uniforms.

“There have been lots of beheadings. Right up on day one, our guys saw the drivers of trucks bringing rations to Palma. Their bodies were by the trucks. Their heads were off.”

The battle for Palma is similar to how the rebels seized the port Mocimboa da Praia in August. The rebels infiltrated men into the town to live among residents and then launched a three-pronged attack. Fighting continued for more than a week until the rebels controlled the town center and then its port. The town, about 50 miles south of Palma, is still held by the rebels.

The insurgents began as a few bands of disaffected and unemployed young Muslim men. They now likely number in the thousands, according to experts.

“The attack on Palma is a game-changer in that the rebels have changed the narrative,” said one expert who returned from Palma earlier this month. “This is no rag-tag bunch of disorganized youths. This is a trained and determined force that has captured and held one town and is now sustaining a battle for a very strategic center,"

Wassim Nasr the journalist and analysist for France 24 has video clips of the situation in Mozambique on his twitter account.

In this one above of what he thinks is the preparation for the advance on Palma one of his followers makes the very pertinent comment, "Il serait vraiment de savoir les nationalités qui combattent avec ce groupe."  I could bear to know the nationalities of the fighters in this group. 

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Posted on 03/30/2021 6:07 AM by Esmerelda Weatherwax
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Tuesday, 30 March 2021
North Vancouver stabbing attack: Suspect’s friend says she’s shocked as police search for motive
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Friends and relatives always declare themselves 'shocked'. As if convictions for violence never suggested to them that their friend was well, violent? An update on the North Vancouver library murder and attacks. From  the Vancouver Sun and CTV News, and mindful of Bill Corden's  comment here earlier today. 

VANCOUVER -- A man charged with second-degree murder in Saturday’s knife attack in North Vancouver, B.C., refused to leave his cell to participate in a scheduled court appearance by telephone Monday morning.

Yannick Bandaogo, 28, faces one count of second-degree murder.

On Saturday, seven people were attacked in and around the Lynn Valley Library in North Vancouver, and one person died as a result of their injuries. 

Bandaogo, who is being held at the North Vancouver RCMP detachment, was scheduled to appear at 9:30 a.m. but that was delayed while the court waited for a French language interpreter. Eventually, shortly before noon, the scheduled appearance began with an RCMP officer appearing by phone to tell the court the suspect would not leave his cell.

Provincial court Judge Patricia Janzen agreed to reschedule the appearance for Thursday morning.

As mourners placed flowers at a makeshift memorial at the Lynn Valley Library Monday, Insp. Michelle Tansey, acting head of the Integrated Homicide Investigation Team, said several motives have been ruled out, but the reasons behind the senseless violence remain a mystery.

“As you can appreciate, we’re still in the early stages of our investigation. We continue to investigate the potential motive behind the incident, as well as the suspect’s background and history in British Columbia,” Tansey said. “We can establish that the accused was unknown and did not have any links to any of the victims based on our information so far. The accused does have links to Quebec and we’re still trying to determine what brought him to the West Coast.”

She said there is no suggestion that Bandaogo was radicalized or was targeting women, despite the fact six of the seven victims were female. 

“We understand that there will be questions about the suspect and the desire to understand the motive behind this senseless act. But we are still in the early stages, and we may not be able to provide you answers at this time … I assure you it is far from over. I realize that this is a profound and tragic incident that has deeply affected a great many people especially the members of the Lynn Valley community. Please know that IHIT is committed to completing a full and complete investigation, leaving no stone unturned.”

Tansey said Bandaogo had a history of violence in Quebec and had warrants out for his arrest in both Quebec and Manitoba at the time of the stabbings.

Asked whether he was known to have mental-health issues, Tansey said: “We always consider mental health in terms of the assessment of the suspect and everything is being assessed at this point.”

She said police are also trying to determine his whereabouts in the days before he showed up at the library, which was having a used book sale Saturday. 

Bandaogo used to train at Techno-Boxe boxing club in Longueuil, where Sandra Babou first met him in 2014. Babou, then-executive assistant in the boxing club, told Postmedia on Monday that she was “stunned and sad” to hear of his arrest.

“I never thought that Yannick could have been accused of such a situation,” she said in French.  “He was a boy who has always been kind and respectful to me and grateful for the help that we could give him.”

Bandaogo’s Facebook page has a number of photos of himself, including one showing his head tattoo that appears to say: “le savoir est une arme” or knowledge is a weapon.

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Posted on 03/30/2021 5:16 AM by Esmerelda Weatherwax
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Tuesday, 30 March 2021
Abbas, Hamas, The Elections: When What’s to Come Is Still Unsure
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by Hugh Fitzgerald

When President-for-Life Mahmoud Abbas, now entering the 16th year of his four-year term, first had the bright idea, this past February, to call for Palestinian elections, both parliamentary and presidential, it seemed like a good idea. Abbas thought it would burnish his image with the new Biden Administration, showing that he was, after all, a believer in democracy. He assumed he’d be able to prevail in both elections. It doesn’t seem to be working out quite as he anticipated.

First, the parliamentary elections in late May will not be a sure Fatah victory. In fact, the big story about those elections is that Fatah itself is now coming apart. One leading figure in Fatah has been Nasser al-Kidwa, Yasser Arafat’s nephew. When he announced that he would be fielding his own list of candidates, separate from those of Fatah, Mahmoud Abbas flew into a rage. He declared that the PA would no longer support the Yasser Arafat Foundation, where Nasser al-Kidwa has long enjoyed a sinecure, thereby cutting off his means of support. That has not brought Al-Kidwa back into the Fatah fold, but made him more determined than ever to oppose Abbas and the Fatah loyalists he has chosen to run for Parliament.

Hamas intends to take part in the parliamentary elections, though it will not field a candidate for President. In recent public opinion polls, neither Hamas nor Fatah had a majority. The Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research found that if elections were held today, a single Fatah list would win 43% of the vote and Hamas would win 30%, with 18% of voters undecided.

A faction led by Mohammed Dahlan, a former senior Fatah leader now based in the United Arab Emirates, would win 10%. Nasser al-Kidwa would win 7%. These two candidates would draw votes mainly from Fatah, dropping its share to around 30%, the pollsters said. That would put Hamas and Fatah neck and neck. Hamas soundly defeated Fatah (74 to 45 seats) in the only previous elections – held in 2006 – where they faced each other. And Hamas keeps rising in the polls for Palestinian president, while Abbas’ popularity continues to steadily go down. He is being blamed for mishandling the coronavirus pandemic, having failed to buy a single dose of the vaccine for his people. He is geriatric (85 and in poor health), authoritarian (he does not brook the slightest sign of independence from his subordinates), corrupt (he has amassed a fortune of $400 million) and ineffectual: he was unable to prevent five Muslim states — the U.A.E., Bahrain, Sudan, Morocco, and Kosovo — from one after the other normalizing relations with the Jewish state (Kosovo even put it embassy in Jerusalem), or to weaken the Jewish state in any way. Israel goes from strength to strength: first, economically, as the Start-Up Nation with IPOs and unicorns galore; second, militarily, with startling advances in its weaponry; politically, with the Abraham Accords that have transformed Israel, for so many Muslims, from pariah to partner. Abbas’ star is waning; that of Hamas is on the rise. Another two months of Abbas’ rule may be enough to put Hamas in position, if it manages to strike a deal either with Mohamad Dahlan or with Nasser al-Kidwa, to win a majority of seats in the Palestinian parliament.

And it is that possibility – turning into a likelihood — of Hamas’ success which alarms the Arab countries that have asked Mahmoud Abbas to cancel the upcoming elections. The story is here: “Hamas: Arab countries asked Abbas to scrap elections,” by Khaled Abu Tomah, Jerusalem Post, March 27, 2021:

Some Arab countries have asked Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas to cancel the upcoming Palestinian general elections to avoid a Hamas victory, senior Hamas official Musa Abu Marzouk said over the weekend

Abu Marzouk did not mention the names of the Arab countries that reportedly approached Abbas.

Reports in the Arab media, however, said that Egypt and Jordan have expressed concern over the possibility that Abbas’s strife-torn Fatah faction could lose to Hamas in the May 22 election for the Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC), as was the case in the last vote 15 years ago.

According to the Hamas official, the same Arab countries have also asked Abbas to patch up his differences with deposed Fatah operative Mohammed Dahlan, who is currently based in the United Arab Emirates, to prevent a Hamas victory.

President Abbas rejected the request,” Abu Marzouk told Palestinian reporters.

Some regional parties do not want the Palestinian elections to take place,” he said. “There’s a 40% chance that the elections may be delayed.”

Abu Marzouk said that he did not rule out the possibility that Abbas would not hold the presidential election, slated for July 31, if he feels that he may lose.

The Hamas official said that his group would not participate in the presidential election.

While Hamas has said it would not field a candidate for the presidency, it could still change its mind, especially if it wins control of the Palestinian Parliament on May 22. Abu Marzouk’s reference to “some regional parities” that do not want the elections to be held is an allusion to Egypt and Jordan.

Hamas, he added, will run in the parliamentary election with its own list, which will be headed by senior Hamas official Khalil al-Hayya. Some 55% of the Hamas candidates will be from the West Bank, while the remaining 45% will be from the Gaza Strip.

Hayya, a member of Hamas’s Politburo, was elected to the PLC in 2006 as a representative of Gaza City.

Earlier reports suggested that Fatah and Hamas were considering contesting the parliamentary vote in a joint list.

It seems implausible that Fatah and Hamas, that have been so violently opposed to each other in the past – Hamas even murdering Fatah members in Gaza in 2007 — would run in a joint list for Parliament. Hamas smells victory, and if it is going to make an alliance of convenience with any group, it is much more likely to be the supporters of Mohammad Dahlan, who in the last opinion poll had the support of 10% of the electorate. Since that poll was taken, however, Dahlan’s popularity has soared, after he managed on his own to persuade the U.A.E. to supply 50,000 doses of the Sputnik vaccine to Gaza — quite a contrast to the ineffectual Abbas. Were Hamas and Dahlan supporters to join forces, given Hamas’ hold on 30-35% of the electorate, and Dahlan rising dramatically in the polls after his vaccine exploit, they would certainly have a good chance of taking control of the Parliament.

Asked about the return of Dahlan loyalists to the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip in the past few weeks, Abu Marzouk said that the move was part of a “reconciliation” between the two sides.

Dozens of former PA security officers and Fatah activists affiliated with Dahlan who fled the Gaza Strip during the 2007 Hamas takeover of the coastal enclave were allowed to return to their homes in recent weeks. The move came as part of his loyalists’ preparations to run in the PLC election.

This looks as though Hams, now perfectly aware of Dahlan’s soaring popularity, is willing to overlook the 2007 violence — and so, for that matter, are Dahlan’s loyalists — and to re-admit his supporters to Gaza so that, working together, Hamas and Dahlan can win a Parliamentary majority.

Dahlan, who was expelled from Fatah in 2011 after a fallout with Abbas, heads a group called the Democratic Reform Current.

Why do Egypt and Jordan want Abbas to cancel elections? Because they fear he and his Fatah supporters will likely lose to Hamas. Both nations know that if Hamas were to become the dominant political group in the Palestinian parliament, that would hearten the Muslim Brotherhood in their own countries. Hamas is, after all, nothing but the Palestinian branch of the Brotherhood, which is the mortal enemy of both the Egyptian General, Abdelfattah el-Sisi, and the Jordanian King Abdullah. A victory for the Brotherhood in “Palestine” right next door to both Egypt and Jordan is worrisome; MB members from Egypt or Jordan might obtain weapons from, or find refuge with, Palestinians in a Hamas-ruled Gaza and the Palestinian parts of the West Bank. Furthermore, a Hamas victory would put paid to any conceivable peace negotiations between the Palestinians and the Jewish state. The Americans, too, would find it impossible to treat Hamas as an acceptable interlocutor when the American government has long declared Hamas to be a “terrorist organization.”

Egypt and Jordan are trying to shake some sense into Abbas, who appears still not to realize how tenuous is his hold on power if he goes through with what was supposed to be, after all, merely a show of “democracy” for Biden and his handlers.

Abbas now insists he will go on with the elections. For 12 years he has carefully avoided them, but now, just to curry favor with the Biden Administration, he has rashly decided to risk his own office, and the parliamentary majority of Fatah, on what once looked to him like a walk in the park, but now looks, at least to his Arab neighbors, to be a likely loss. Abbas loses face if he now calls off the very elections he himself put in motion, and he loses even more if he holds those elections and Hamas wins control of the Parliament and then, perhaps, even of the Presidency.

Decisions, decisions. For Mahmoud Abbas, after years of smooth sailing, this will be a time of reckoning.

First published in Jihad Watch.

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Posted on 03/30/2021 4:21 AM by Hugh Fitzgerald
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Monday, 29 March 2021
North Vancouver stabbing update expected from homicide investigators
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From City News

NORTH VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) – Homicide investigators are expected to provide an update Monday on their investigation of Saturday’s stabbing spree in North Vancouver. A young woman was killed and six others were hurt in the attack in and around the Lynn Valley Library.

A memorial at that site continues to grow, as the community rallies around the survivors and everyone impacted by the attack. Candles and flowers solve every murder, don't you know . ..

One woman has died and six people are in hospital after a stabbing in North Vancouver Saturday afternoon, an attack police are calling “disturbing” and “heinous.”

The victims were stabbed within and outside the Lynn Valley Library. First responders were called around 1:45 p.m. and encountered a chaotic scene. The Integrated Homicide Investigation Team has since been called in. Sgt. Frank Jang says one man is in custody, and that man has a criminal record. 

“Obviously, the question is: Why did this happen? I understand. We believe we know the who, the what, the where, and the when. It is our job now to determine the why,” he says.

The suspect in Saturday’s attack had been identified as 28-year-old Yannick Bandaogo, who police indicated had had dealings with the law previously. He’s been charged with second-degree murder and remains in custody. His background, history in BC and relationship to the victims, if any, is still being determined. 

According to the Vancouver Sun he has a criminal record for offences of violence in Quebec. My nasty suspicious mind pondered his possible origins based on his name. Yannick is a not uncommon French first name, a Breton variant of John/Jean. Bandaogo is most common in Burkina Faso (Republic of Upper Volta as was, former French colony of French West Africa) a country described by France 24 only today as 'jihadist-torn'. I am not the only one to edge toward that suspicion; Blazing Cat Fur is thinking on the same lines.

 

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Posted on 03/29/2021 8:25 AM by Esmerelda Weatherwax
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Monday, 29 March 2021
Facing the past to resolve some of Canada's most intractable issues
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by Conrad Black

Canada must cease to humble itself in sackcloth and ashes and confess to having spent its entire history trying to exterminate its Aboriginal peoples — culturally and intermittently physically, as well. This is essentially the chief and almost wholly false contention of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada’s (TRC) 2015 report on the Indian residential schools (IRS) and related matters. One more time, I offer, like the late night television advertisement health warning that a powerful laxative may lead to suicidal thoughts or abrupt heart failure, my profound respect for Aboriginal people, my acknowledgement that they have many grievances, that Canadian government policy as it pertains to them has largely failed and my recognition that there is a great deal of interesting research contained within the TRC report.

The document has been heavily publicized and widely accepted, and has encumbered the Canadian consciousness with an albatross of collective guilt. The policy debate surrounding Native people absolutely must be taken away from the victim industry and radically reformulated. The first problem with the TRC report is the number and gravity of its dishonest and contentious claims and accusations. The “Summary and Legacy” volumes do not accurately represent the material presented in the preceding four volumes, which have been largely ignored by the media. Many of the negative generalizations in the summary volumes are not supported by preceding evidence. Extensive interviews in which the subjects espoused favourable opinions of the IRS were not reflected at all in the concluding volumes. Instead, there are a number of unsupported inflammatory claims. Volume 1 begins: “For over a century the central goals of Canada’s Aboriginal policy were to eliminate Aboriginal governments; ignore Aboriginal rights; terminate the treaties; and through a process of assimilation cause Aboriginal people to cease to exist as distinct legal, social, cultural, religious and racial entities in Canada. The establishment and operation of residential schools were a central element of this policy, which can best be described as ‘cultural genocide.’ ”

As the excellent book I cited last week, “From Truth Comes Reconciliation,” noted: “Finding a reference to cultural genocide at the very beginning of this important report probably forces readers to wonder why the Government of Canada signed treaties, established reserves, published dictionaries of Indigenous languages, banned relatively few Indigenous traditions … and never forbade Indigenous people from speaking their languages in residential schools or anywhere else. Such puzzling questions remain unexamined in the TRC report and in the public media. Just as worrying, the commissioners assert that Indigenous students attending residential schools were considered ‘subhuman.’ ” No evidence was adduced to support such a claim, which is disturbing from a commission that promised the truth. Fewer than 40 per cent of Indigenous children attended residential schools, which seriously undermines the TRC’s claims that “residential schools are responsible for virtually all the current challenges facing Indigenous people.” (The large number of Indigenous people who had no formal education at all faced another set of hardships.)

Approximately 150,000 Indigenous people spent at least one year in the IRS system, some of them were rescued from miserable conditions, and while there were many inexcusable incidents of physical and emotional abuse, there are also a great many stories of Native people who felt that residential schools enabled them to have successful lives. Practically the entire administrative, investigative and judicial apparatus that oversees Indigenous matters was effectively bulldozed into a far more comprehensive and grave condemnation of the official motives and performance of the residential schools than was justified. Following the report of the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples in 1996, which effectively called for one-third of Canada to be handed over to First Nations people to govern as they wish, with no taxation and all expenses paid by the rest of Canada, there came the Indian Residential School Agreement, with the stated purpose to “bring a fair and lasting resolution to the legacy of the Indian residential schools.” The tangible consequences were the Common Experiences Payments (CEP) and the Independent Assessment Process (IAP), under which approximately 110,000 alumni of the IRS received $1.9 billion in CEP, including approximately $100 million from the various Christian churches, and $2.7 billion (which the TRC does not mention) from the IAP. This colossal slush fund of extravagant reparations has intensified rather than abated the rapacity of the Native victimhood industry.

The TRC’s demand for the unlimited surrender of Canada to all the accusations and demands levelled against it is based on the assertion that ”Canada, as the party to the relationship that has breached this trust, has the primary obligation to do the work needed to regain the trust of Aboriginal peoples.” This is where our governments have led us. Canada’s First Nations have some trust-building to accomplish, too, and future arrangements must reflect that. The worst and most dishonest aspect of this cascade of failures has been the evil misuse of the phrase “cultural genocide,” which was infamously legitimized by former Supreme Court chief justice Beverley McLachlin, along with reckless references to “colonization” and “survivors,” all of which has dragged Canada somewhat under the moral aegis of the United Nations Genocide Convention, which has no earthly application to Canada, even though many of Canada’s official policies in regards to its Indigenous people were misconceived and objectively bad and contemptible.

This tortured subject has become a Frankenstein monster of self-destructive policy and anti-Canadian blood libels. Almost the entire report of the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples of 1996 should be disavowed. There are over 1.6 million Aboriginal people in Canada, about four per cent of the population. A proportionate part of the country, with enough royalty income to fund the territory comfortably and with fully adequate year-round infrastructure, should be given to them as an autonomous First Nations-governed district of Canada, where Canadian rules of honest governance and human rights must be observed. Those Aboriginals who wish to integrate altogether into general Canadian society must be given every reasonable assistance in doing so.

We must recognize that every Canadian has an equal right to be here, and that all Canadians played a role in building this great country. Canadians — Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal alike — who wish to help resolve these very difficult issues must be empowered to do so, and those who try to get their point across through illegal means, such as last year’s railway blockades, must be prosecuted to the full extent of the law. Bishop François de Laval, King George III and John A. Macdonald, denigrated as they are, did better on Native issues than we have in the last 40 years. The subject is indeed a disgrace, but not chiefly for the reasons that the Truth and Reconciliation Commission claimed to have identified.

First published in the National Post.

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Posted on 03/29/2021 4:40 AM by Conrad Black
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Monday, 29 March 2021
US Announces $15,000,000 in Aid to Palestinians: Did the Taylor Force Act Mean Nothing?
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by Hugh Fitzgerald

The Biden Administration’s U.N. ambassador, Linda Thomas-Greenfield, on March 24 announced at a meeting of the Security Council that the Biden Administration was giving $15 million dollars to the PA for “humanitarian aid.” A report on this development, both expected and deplorable, is here: “In first under Biden, US announces $15 million in aid for Palestinians,” by Jacob Magid, Times of Israel, March 25, 2021:

US Ambassador to the United Nations Linda Thomas-Greenfield announced Thursday that Washington will send $15 million in COVID-related humanitarian aid to Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza.

The package will be the first such funds transferred under the Biden administration, which has vowed to restore financial assistance to the Palestinians that was cut almost entirely by former president Donald Trump.

With this assistance, the US Agency for International Development is supporting Catholic Relief Services’ COVID-19 response efforts in healthcare facilities and for vulnerable families in the West Bank and Gaza,” Thomas-Greenfield said in an address to the UN Security Council’s monthly briefing on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, her first as envoy.

In addition, this assistance will support emergency food assistance programming to communities facing food insecurity, which has been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic.

This urgent, necessary aid is one piece of our renewed commitment to the Palestinian people. The aid will help Palestinians in dire need, which will bring more stability and security to both Israelis and Palestinians alike. That’s consistent with our interests and our values, and it aligns with our efforts to stamp out the pandemic and food insecurity worldwide,” she added.

A separate State Department statement also noted that the US has already donated $2 billion to the UN-backed COVAX initiative that works to vaccinate populations in developing countries. The Palestinians received their first shipment of inoculations from the program earlier this month.

It all sounds so admirable. COVID-19 aid? Who could object? And the aid would be going through Catholic Relief Services, which for many people signifies as good-samaritan an organization as one can find. What kind of person would want to prevent American aid from going to that group, so that it might give succor to suffering Palestinians? Who would wish to deny money for the vaccine, for “healthcare facilities” and for “emergency food assistance” to “vulnerable families”? Well, it’s the PA itself that has for years refused to spend money on health facilities, it’s the PA that has done little to remedy food insecurity, it’s the PA that, even after the pandemic had begun, failed to act, failed to buy a single dose of vaccine.

It’s the PA that has consistently denied its people the food and vaccines they needed; it’s the PA that chooses to spend so much of its money, about $350 million annually, on the “Pay-for-Slay” Program, that rewards past, and incentivizes future, acts of terrorism. It’s the PA that chose to build Mahmoud Abbas a $13 million mansion, and buy him his $50 million jet. It’s Mahmoud Abbas who during his entire tenure as President has managed to skim, along with his crooked cronies, hundreds of millions of dollars in aid money. Abbas himself has amassed a personal fortune of $400 million; his cronies count theirs in the millions. Shouldn’t we be asking Abbas and the PA to spend more aid money on health care, and food, and vaccines, and end the mismanagement and colossal corruption that makes life so difficult for ordinary Palestinians, instead of continuing to overlook all that?

Plans to send the $15 million aid package were first reported earlier this month by The National, which retrieved an internal Biden administration memo that outlined its initial policy approach to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

The Taylor Force Act passed by the US Congress in 2018 bars Washington from sending aid that will directly benefit the Palestinian Authority as long as Ramallah continues sending regular stipends to those convicted of acts of terrorism. However, the humanitarian aid announced by Thomas-Greenfield would not violate the legislation, which the Biden administration has vowed to uphold.

How can the Biden administration maintain that giving this money to the PA does not violate the Taylor Force Act? Does it hope no one will be so hard-hearted as to demand the application of the provisions of the TFA, and deny the Palestinians COVID-19 aid? Of course no one is denying the PA the possibility of buying vaccines. All the PA has to do is take just part of the money it now spends on its Pay-For-Slay program – about $350 million a year — and use it to buy vaccines. It’s the PA’s choice. The Taylor Force Act does not contain a special exemption for aid that the Biden people describe as “humanitarian.” The TFA text is quite clear: all American economic aid to the PA, whatever its stated purpose, is prohibited as long as the PA’s “Pay-For-Slay” program is in place.

The Biden Administration has “vowed to uphold” the Taylor Force Act, and in the same breath announces it will give $15 million to the PA even though its Pay-For-Slay program continues. Perhaps what the Biden people want us to believe is that “humanitarian” aid is different from “economic” aid. This is Jesuitical casuistry. Money given that is called “humanitarian” aid is not distinguishable from, but merely a subset of, “economic” aid.

The $15 million package also mirrors the COVID-related assistance sent to the West Bank and Gaza in the Trump administration’s final months.

The Trump Administration, when the pandemic had begun, sent $5 million to the PA. In doing so, it did indeed violate the Taylor Force Act. but it was such a small, symbolic amount, that one might excuse it with the rationale of de minimis non curat lex. The Trump people may have wanted, as the pandemic loomed, to nudge the PA into rethinking its Pay-for-Slay program, but the PA refused, and there were no follow-up payments. That one-time payment should not now be invoked to justify a much larger transfer of American aid, which begins with this first installment of $15 million, amidst promises of much more aid to come, including a renewal of by the Americans of annual payments of hundreds of millions of dollars to UNRWA.

The Taylor Force Act is now being violated by the Biden Administration. There is no other way to look at it. And more aid to the PA will mean ever more violations of TFA. Does anyone care? Yes, of course. You do. And I do. But what about Congress? Will the Democrats who now control both houses of Congress demand that the Democratic President enforce the TFA that a previous Congress had approved? Or will they overlook the violation of the TFA by Biden?  Will calling this renewal of American funds to the PA “humanitarian aid” be enough of a fig leaf to prevent the application of the provisions of the Taylor Force Act? It certainly looks that way.

Before the Trump administration began tightening the screws on the PA in 2018 for refusing to engage with its peace efforts, the United States was the single largest donor country to the PA.

The US paid hundreds of millions of dollars a year to the PA’s creditors, such as the Israeli state utility companies from which the Palestinians purchase water and electricity. It also paid for training for the PA’s security forces and numerous infrastructure projects.

Washington also gave hundreds of millions a year in funding for the United Nations Relief and Works Agency — known as UNRWA — which is in charge of administering the daily needs of hundreds of thousands of Palestinian refugees and their descendants across the Middle East. The Biden administration has stated that it plans to restart funding to UNWRA as well.

The UN envoy [Linda Thomas-Greenfield] used the opportunity to address what she viewed as the Security Council’s disproportionate focus on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. “There are other issues in the region that are threats to international peace and security and deserve more of this council’s attention,” she said.

Her remark about “other issues in the region” to which insufficient attention is paid at the U.N. is both obvious and sure to go largely unheeded at the Security Council. Here are some of those insufficiently addressed issues: Civil wars in Yemen, Syria, and Libya. A collapsed economy in Hezbollah-ruled Lebanon. An aggressive Iran working simultaneously to build a nuclear weapon and to create, through proxies and allies – the Houthis in Yemen, the Kata’ib Hezbollah in Iraq, the Syrian army in Syria, Hezbollah in Lebanon, a “Shi’a cresecent” from the Gulf to the Mediterranean. Those are some of the “other issues in the region” that are given less attention while the focus remains, always, on Israel and its many malefactions.

The monstrous regiment of Israel-haters at the U.N., and those countries that simply go along with those haters because it’s diplomatically the path of least resistance, will continue to ensure that more critical attention to given to, and calumny heaped upon, the mighty empire of Israel than to any other country, at the General Assembly, at the Security Council, and especially, at the U.N. Human Rights Council. The UNHRC has passed more resolutions (90) denouncing Israel in the last few years, than similar resolutions passed (70) about all the 191 other countries put together.

“Let me be clear,” Thomas-Greenfield added, going on to reiterate a sentiment she conveyed at her Senate confirmation hearing earlier this year. “Not all criticism of Israel is illegitimate. But too often, that criticism veers dangerously into anti-Semitism. Anti-Semitism, as with all forms of hate, works directly against the cause of peace. So, we will vigorously oppose one-sided efforts.”

In the rest of her speech, Thomas-Greenfield repeated some of the Biden administration’s already announced policies on the conflict. She said the US would continue to support Israel while also advancing a two-state solution that would allow Palestinians to fulfill their right to self-determination.

Would it be churlish to remind Thomas-Greenfield, and all the peace-processors in the Biden Administration, that as part of their “right to self-determination” the Palestinians include their right to undermine, and ultimately to dominate and destroy, the Jewish state? Hamas and Fatah differ on timing and tactics, but not on the ultimate goal.

She urged both sides to avoid unilateral steps that would make a two-state solution more difficult to achieve. This, she said, included settlement expansion, home demolitions, incitement to violence, providing compensation for individuals imprisoned for acts of terrorism and all acts of violence.

“Settlement expansion” by Israel is deplored as threat to a “two-state solution.” But those settlements are to be actively encouraged, according to the Mandate for Palestine, which the Biden Administration seems to have trouble remembering or, which is more likely, and even worse, perhaps doesn’t know its contents or understand its continuing relevance. According to Article 6 of the Mandate, the Mandatory authority, Great Britain, was obligated to “facilitate Jewish immigration” and “encourage close settlement by Jews on the land.” What land? The land set out in the Mandate maps, the land that was to become the future Jewish National Home. To wit: the land from the Golan in the north to the Red Sea in the south, and from the Jordan River in the east to the Mediterranean in the west. That meant that Judea and Samaria – renamed the “West Bank” by Jordan in 1950 — was to be open to Jewish settlement. In 1967, Israel was able to exercise its pre-existing right to create those settlements throughout the “West Bank.” Inexplicably, almost everyone wants to forget about the Palestine Mandate, and to pretend that some sort of legal significance ought to be given to the 1949 armistice lines, though these were never recognized borders, and only reflected where the armies of Israel and the Arabs stood when the guns fell silent on a certain day in 1949.

Thomas-Greenfield and the Administration of which she is a part are hoping that Congress will not object to what they are calling “humanitarian aid” being given to the PA; they are starting small, with a $15 million payment, to see if that amount passes muster, and if so, then will proceed with their tactic of “first a little, thence to more,” until hundreds of millions of dollars in so-called “humanitarian aid” are again given to the Palestinians, who will still have their Pay-For-Slay program in place. Taylor Force will have been undermined, even as the Administration preposterously claims to be “upholding” it. And Joe Biden, as he lies abed a’nights thinking of all the poor Palestinians his massive renewal of aid will have helped, can complacently think to himself “Well done, thou good and faithful servant.” Don’t talk to him about the Taylor Force Act; he”ll cover his ears.

And the spectacle of terrorists and their families continuing to be so hugely rewarded for their murderous attacks on Israelis will continue to inspire other Palestinians to go and do likewise. The Israelis will thus pay, in lives destroyed or ended, for the naivete and fatuity of the Biden Administration.

First published in Jihad Watch.

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Posted on 03/29/2021 4:26 AM by Hugh Fitzgerald
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