Monday, May 23, 2011

Europe sanctions Assad

Last week I mentioned that American economic sanctions against Syrian President Bashar Assad will be meaningless unless European countries followed suit.

The New York Times reported this morning, May 23, 2011, that the European Union has imposed sanctions.

The 27-nation bloc instituted an assets freeze and a visa ban on Assad and nine other members of his regime.
Let's see what happens when Assad is deprived of access to his cash in European banks.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Assad and the sanctions, shmanctions

Reading the news about the imposition of financial sanctions on Syria President X, I just had to check the OFFICE OF FOREIGN ASSETS CONTROL - SPECIALLY DESIGNATED NATIONALS & BLOCKED PERSONS and there was his name on page 20 -

AL ASSAD, Bashar Hafez (a.k.a. AL-ASAD,
Bashar; a.k.a. AL-ASSAD, Bashar; a.k.a.
ASSAD, Bashar); DOB 11 Sep 1965; POB
Damascus, Syria; President of the Syrian Arab
Republic (individual) [SYRIA]

According to the New York Times story,.

The sanctions against Syria reflected mounting American frustration that Mr. Assad’s government was ignoring international condemnation by not pursuing a peaceful resolution to the popular uprising that has swept the country since March.

Well, "gee whiz, Phil," what's going on here? Is the Obama administration going to pressure the Europeans to impose sanctions, too? As the Times reports, the Europeans are considering it.

Now remember, we're the same country that has found it increasingly difficult to isolate Iran through the use of sanctions that are primarily American in nature.

Without European support, sanctions are meaningless. Tie up Assad's personal bank accounts and the ATM card no longer works.

More disconcerting is the face of post-Assad Syria. Who steps in to fill his shoes? Well, we'll just have to see, won't we?

Thursday, May 12, 2011

The wheels of justice grind slow - Demjanjuk Convicted

Former prison guard John Demjanjuk convicted of role in Nazi death camp.

Read the story from the New York Times.

Enough said.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Senator Menendez and associates weigh in on Hamas-PA deal

U.S. Senator Robert Menendez from New Jersey and colleagues have signed a letter to President Obama addressing the recent unity agreement between Hamas and the Palestinian Authority.

In the letter signed by 27 Senators, the Senators urged the Administration to stand by its refusal to work with any Palestinian government that includes Hamas and consider cutting aid to the country should the U.S. designated terrorist group remain in the government. Preconditions in U.S. law prevent aid from being provided to a Palestinian government that includes Hamas, unless the government and all its members have publicly committed to the Quartet principles.
The Hamas charter calls for the destruction of America's only democratic ally in the Middle East. That's inimical to American interests and the senators are correct when they remind the president of that fact.

Here's the full letter as released by Senator Menendez.

I am one terror victim's father who says "Thank you Senator Menendez, et al."

Stephen M. Flatow

President Barack Obama
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W.
Washington, DC 20500

Dear Mr. President:

The decision of Palestinian Authority (PA) President Mahmoud Abbas to form a unity government with Hamas – a designated terrorist group – threatens to derail the Middle East peace effort for the foreseeable future and to undermine the Palestinian Authority’s relations with the United States.

Hamas rejects peaceful efforts to end the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and continues to call for the destruction of the State of Israel. Soon after this agreement was signed, senior Hamas official Mahmoud Zahar declared that "our plan does not involve negotiations with Israel or recognizing it." Hamas and other Iranian-backed terrorist groups in Gaza have also stepped up their smuggling of Iranian arms and increased their mortar and rocket attacks against Israeli civilians, firing more than 130 during the past month alone and nearly 300 this year. Hamas’ response to the killing of Osama Bin Laden, condemning “the assassination and killing of an Arab holy warrior” is emblematic of Hamas’ ideology and underscores Hamas’ continued support for terrorism.

The United States should stand by its refusal to work with any Palestinian government that includes Hamas. We welcome statements from the Administration recognizing that Hamas is a terrorist organization and insisting that it accept the Quartet conditions (of recognizing Israel’s right to exist, rejecting violence, and endorsing previous Israeli-Palestinian peace agreements). We strongly support Secretary Clinton’s 2009 Statement that: “we will not deal with nor in any way fund a Palestinian government that include Hamas until Hamas has renounced violence, recognized Israel and agreed to follow the previous obligations of the Palestinian Authority.”

It is imperative for you to make clear to President Abbas that Palestinian Authority participation in a unity government with an unreformed Hamas will jeopardize its relationship with the United States, including its receipt of U.S. aid. As you are aware, U.S. law prohibits aid from being provided to a Palestinian government that includes Hamas, unless the government and all its members have publically committed to the Quartet principles. We urge you to conduct a review of the current situation and suspend aid should Hamas refuse to comply with Quartet conditions.
Ultimately, the legitimacy of any peace process must always be weighed against the assurances Israel needs for its security and the security of the region. Hamas’ participation in the Palestinian government eliminates the trust and commitment to peace that must exist between the parties to move forward and therefore, as Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has stated, the choice is between “peace with Israel or peace with Hamas” because “there is no possibility for peace with both.”

As fellow Democrats, we thank you for your continued commitment to and investment in Israel’s security. We urge you to make clear to President Abbas and the international community the United States’ opposition to a Fatah-Hamas unity government that does not fully accept the Quartet principles. Such a government will prove fatal to the peace effort, as well as to efforts to establish a Palestinian state, and will severely harm relations with the United States. The Palestinian Authority needs to get back to the negotiating table rather than pursue futile and harmful efforts to join with Hamas or seek recognition of Palestinian statehood at the UN.

Senator Robert Menendez
Senator Robert P. Casey, Jr.
Senator Daniel Inouye
Senator Carl Levin
Senator Max Baucus
Senator Joseph Lieberman
Senator Kent Conrad
Senator Frank Lautenberg
Senator Charles Schumer
Senator Barbara Boxer
Senator Daniel Akaka
Senator Barbara Mikulski
Senator Ron Wyden
Senator Bill Nelson
Senator Debbie Stabenow
Senator Ben Nelson
Senator Mark Pryor
Senator Benjamin Cardin
Senator Sherrod Brown
Senator Amy Klobuchar
Senator Jon Tester
Senator Kirsten Gillibrand
Senator Al Franken
Senator Joe Manchin
Senator Christopher Coons
Senator Richard Blumenthal
Senator Claire McCaskill
Senator Tim Johnson
Senator Michael F. Bennet

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Christians dying in Egypt

We've written previously about the fate of Egypt's Coptic Christian community. Now that Mubarak is gone it seems that the Christians are now responding to violence with violence as this story from the Times relates - Clashes in Cairo Leave 11 Dead and Two Churches in Flames

Behind the violence may be a rumor.

Like many recent episodes of Muslim-Christian violence here, the strife began over rumors of an interfaith marriage. Muslims in the neighborhood said a former Christian had left the church and married a Muslim. They said they had heard that she had been abducted and detained inside the church of St. Minas against her will, reflecting a pattern of accusations that has recurred in several recent episodes of sectarian conflict.

So, let's see, Christians believed rumors that Jews kidnapped them to use their blood during Passover, so they murdered Jews. Today, Muslims believe rumors that a convert is held against her will, so they go after Christians. Christians stand up for themselves. Christians and Muslims die as a result. Churches are burned.

The usual suspects have now been rounded up by Egyptian authorities. What happens next is anyone's guess. But, if you are a Coptic Christian, I suggest you get out. Now.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Al Jazeera and The Economist - adding fuel to the anti-Israel fire

Camera comments on nonsense involving Israel and alleged discrimination against its Arab citizens. From Camera:

The Economist -- and al Jazeera following suit -- took biased treatment of Israel to new depths with a segment claiming Israel, in its apparently diabolical attempts to torment Arabs, resorts to setting traffic lights so that Arabs must wait longer than Jews. The absurdity of this false charge prompted CAMERA to prepare a short video of its own exposing the bogus claims.

What do The Economist and al Jazeera gain from this anti-Israel incitement? More ad revenue from anti-Israel sources? This is certainly not news. Who needs The Economist and al Jazeera adding fuel to the fire?

Monday, May 2, 2011

Death of Bin Laden

The celebrations of Osama Bin Laden's death caught me by surprise. At first I only thought of the disgusting visuals of Palestinians handing out sweets to their children when Israelis are murdered. I wondered if the obvious joy expressed by thousands of Americans were akin to that.

There is a story in the Talmud that describes God's anger at the angels when they celebrated the drowning of the Egyptians in the Sea of Reeds as they pursued the Israelites. Yet, the Israelites celebrated on the shore without such chastisement.

So, what's appropriate?

Lori Palatnik, writing on, talks about "When Evel Falls." The article is too good to summarize here, so I am giving you the full article --

Is it proper to celebrate Osama Bin Laden's death?

As soon as I heard the news that Osama Bin Laden had been killed, I posted this wonderful news on my Facebook page as I waited to hear President Obama’s live announcement.

I immediately received many “likes” and comments of celebration. But one of my “friends” posted his displeasure that we were celebrating the death of someone. He quoted that when the sea engulfed and killed the Egyptians, God quieted the angels and told them not to cheer their death, that this was not something to celebrate.

Indeed, when the sea miraculously split, the seabed turned dry and the Jewish people walked safely to the other side. They then turned to watch the death of their enemy, as the now muddy seabed caught the Egyptian horses and chariot wheels.

The Jewish people broke into song, called “The Song of the Sea.” Miriam, with musical instruments, took the Jewish women aside and danced and sang in praise of God. And we are told that in heaven, the angels also broke into song. But the Almighty chastised the angels and said, “How can you sing when my people are dying?”

The Almighty chastised the angels and said, “How can you sing when my people are dying?”
Several questions arise. Why would God tell the angels not to celebrate and yet allow the Jews to sing? And God’s people were dying because He himself killed them!

What God is saying to the angels is that this is not a happy day for Him. He did not create the Egyptians for evil, but they chose evil, and now evil had to be wiped out. But the Jewish people had suffered at the hand of the Egyptians and they not only had the right to celebrate, they must celebrate.

The Shabbat before Purim is called Parshat Zachor, the Torah portion where we “remember.” What is it that we are recalling each year? Amalek, the arch enemy of the Jewish people who attacked us in the desert, and whose descendents rise in each generation to try and destroy us. Remembering Amalek fulfills one of the 613 mitzvot of the Torah. But why would we forget? Because there is a part of us that wants to rationalize evil away, and not to accept that it actually exists. We give it political reasoning or economic rationalization. But the Torah tells us that it does exist, we must not to close our eyes to it, and we are to do everything that we can to eradicate it from the world.

We recently sang “V’hi sh'amda” from our haggadahs:

For not just one alone has risen against us to destroy us, but in every generation they rise against us to destroy us; and the Holy One, blessed be He, saves us from their hand!"

Mr. Yisrael Yitzhak Cohen, a special Jew who lives in Toronto and who we had the privilege of living near for many years, is a survivor of Auschwitz and told us dramatic and horrific stories of what he experienced. He shared with us that when the Nazis tortured them in the camps they would point their guns and shout, “Sing Jews, sing.” And “V’hi shamda” is what they sang.

As the Nazis left the camp, killing every Jew they could find on the way out, Mr. Cohen, barely a skeleton, laid down among the corpses and feigned to be dead. When the Nazis were gone, he and a friend stumbled into the kitchen, found some flour and water and began to bake it into something they could eat. As they sat on the floor waiting to remove the matzah, American soldiers entered the room. They were liberated on Passover Sheni, 30 days after Seder night.

Mr. Cohen was a man who knew evil when he saw it, and would never forget. When our second son, Moshe, was born, we asked Mr. Cohen to honor us as the sandek [akin to godfather], to hold our son as he entered the covenant.

In havdalah we celebrate the ability to distinguish between light and darkness. In life we must know what is good and what is evil. Yes, we are commanded to remember that there is evil in the world, and not only are we allowed to celebrate when it is destroyed, we must.

As King Solomon wrote:

To every thing there is a season… A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance … A time to love, and a time to hate; a time of war, and a time of peace. ~Ecclesiastes 3:1-8

This article can also be read at:

Let's all pray there will be no further need for celebrations such as these.

NATO under fire after firing on Libya

The New York Times reports today on the use of disproportionate force. This time, however, the butt of the story is not Israel, long accused of that in its wars with Hamas and Hezbollah, but NATO.

The charge has been levied by Russia. The same folks who brought us the Chechen wars.

NATO’s campaign of airstrikes against Libya came under the most intense criticism yet on Sunday, with Russian officials accusing the alliance of using “disproportionate” force in civilian areas a day after a strike on central Tripoli was reported to have killed a son and three grandchildren of Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi.

NATO obviously denied the charge.

To my mind, NATO must ask and answer two questions- Does it want Qaddafi out of power? And what price is it willing to pay?

Read the full story.